Friday, September 28, 2007

Don't Forget! Greg Rappleye Reading with Dan Gerber

Please don't forget the reading tonight at 7:00 P.M. at the Grand Haven Area Arts Council, 1045 Columbus Street in Grand Haven. Admission is free, coffee and dessert will be provided and books will be available for puchase and signing.

This will be fun. If you are in the area, please come to the event.

I have a great deal of running around to do before the reading.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Congratulations, Genius!

Congratulations to poet and short story writer Stuart Dybek, who has just been named the recipient of a $500,000 "Genius Grant" from the MacArthur Foundation. Stuart taught for many years in the MFA Program at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, and was always an inspiration to Michigan-based writers.

Monday, September 24, 2007

White Poets and Race

Major Jackson has a fascinating essay in the current (September / October, 2007) issue of The American Poetry Review. In "A Mystifying Silence: Big and Black" he asks why contemporary white poets do not write about racial issues in America.

Jackson writes:

"Whatever the reason, the mystifying silence around race highlights white American poets' unsettling and conspicuous unresponsiveness and ambivalence toward a very important aspect of social life in America, one given heft by our founding documents, our history of immigration and war, and by our being a beacon for so many disenfranchised peoples across the globe who arrive here with the hope of interweaving into the fabric of our democracy. At least Robert Penn Warren and the other Fugitives took a stand and compellingly wrote poems and novels, albeit at time reprehensibly, from the position of being white male Americans. We knew where we stood regarding the race question, which could allow us to substantively engage the tradition of white southern identity in American letters, and thus, each other quite candidly."

Jackson cites Sharon Olds, Ed Pavlic, Henry Taylor, C.K. Williams, Tony Hoagland and T.R. Hummer, along with several others, as exceptions to the silence of contemporary white American poets on racial issues. Here I think he is being somewhat generous; a gesture that does, in an odd way, underline the validity of his thesis.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Busy Work

I spent the day working on an application to an arts colony for next summer. I could use some time away to concentrate on the hummingbird manuscript. I am also thinking of ways to set up some readings here-and-there in support of my new book, cooking dinner, reading the New York Times, and glancing through Jean Valentine's remarkable new book of poems, Little Boat (Wesleyan University Press, 2007).

Anything to keep my mind off the sorry spectacle of the football game, in which the Detroit Lions are being soundly spanked by the Philadelphia Eagles, 56-21.

I was going to write "my Lions," but please; I have nothing to do with them.

Friday, September 21, 2007



Friday, September 28, 2007 at 7:00 P.M.


DAN GERBER is the the author of three novels, a nonfiction narrative on the Indianapolis 500, the short story collection Grass Fires (Michigan State University Press, 2003), and seven previous books of poetry. His work has been widely published in a variety of magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Poetry, Outside, The Nation, The Georgia Review, Fourth Genre and Tricycle.

From 1968 through 1972, Dan and Jim Harrison edited and published Sumac, the legendary literary journal. Dan was the recipient of the Michigan Author Award in 1992, had work selected for The Best American Poetry 1999, and in 2001 received The Mark Twain Award for distinguished contributions to Midwestern Literature. Dan's most recent collection of poems is A Primer on Parallel Lives (Copper Canyon Press, 2007). A collection of biographical essays titled A Second Life, was published by Michigan State University Press in 2001.

GREG RAPPLEYE has written three full-length collections of poetry, including A Path Between Houses, (University of Wisconsin Press, 2000), which won the Brittingham Prize, and Figured Dark, which won the University of Arkansas Press Poetry Series (University of Arkansas Press, 2007). He has also published two chapbooks: Eros, Psyche and the Death of Narrative (Candle Creek Press, 2006) and The Afterlight (LSF/ West Virginia University Law School, 2006).

His work has received a Pushcart Prize, the Mississippi Review Prize in Poetry, the Paumanok Poetry Prize, the Greensboro Review Literary Award for Poetry, and the Arts & Letters Prize in Poetry. He was a Bread Loaf Fellow in 2002. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in a variety of literary journals, including Poetry, The Southern Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Arts & Letters, Prairie Schooner, Marlboro Review, and Bellingham Review.




Thursday, September 20, 2007

Progress Notes

No one is keeping track but me, of course, but I did manage to finish Project #3 and get it out the door yesterday. I also ordered books, and they should be here in time for the reading. I have some publicity matters to work on for the reading and an application to get in the mail before October 1, but am otherwise in pretty good shape, po-biz-wise.

I would much rather be writing poems.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


There is a front blowing through this morning.

No rain; the clouds haven't yet obscured the stars, but the wind is up and tossing the trees. Aside from the sound of wind and trees, the sound of an occasional car, of tires hitting the rumble strip along the highway, a half-mile distant.

Yesterday, I remembered how long it has been since I stepped into a river, and I very nearly wept.

Life, this vastly mysterious process
to which our culture inures us
lest we become useless citizens!

-Jim Harrison

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Great Reading

Cornelius Eady gave a wonderful, brilliant reading last night at the Knickerbocker Theater at Hope College. I particularly enjoyed* the poems from Brutal Imagination (Putnam Adult, 2001), a collection told in the "voice" of the imaginary black man accused by Susan Smith of kidnapping (and subsequently killing) her children in 1994. As you may recall, Smith was later found guilty of having killed her own children by drowning; leaving them strapped into their car seats and driving the car into a South Carolina lake. But I was so tired after the reading, I wandered out of the theater, pulled myself into the car and drove home; without saying goodbye to anyone, without getting any books signed, and without introducing myself to Eady or his wife, though we (nominally) had dinner together––at opposite ends of a long table.

At a certain point in the evening, let's just say I lose my charm. Or perhaps I lose the ability to pretend I have any.

And 4 a.m. until 8 p.m. makes for another long workday.


*This is not the right word..."appreciated"? or "was struck by"?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cornelius Eady Reading!

If you are anywhere near Holland, Michigan, tonight, don't forget that poet Cornelius Eady is reading in the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers' Series at the Knickerbocker Theatre at 7 p.m. The reading will be preceded by a performance by Hope College Jazz Ensemble beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Admission is free.

Here's a little infomation about Eady from the Visiting Writers' Series webpage:

Eady is a playwright and the author of six books of poetry, and his work also appears in many journals, magazines, and anthologies. His most recent collection of poems, "Brutal Imagination," which was a National Book Award finalist in 2001, is comprised of two cycles, the first of which is narrated largely by the black kidnapper invented by Susan Smith to cover up the killing of her two small sons. Eady's poetry, including two award-winning plays, has garnered heaps of praise from critics and readers alike.

Novelist Bebe Moore Campbell has noted that "Eady fuses headlines and history with language that is a field holler, a blues shout, a hip hop rap that combusts inside the soul and keeps on burning." Eady is co-founder, with poet Toi Derricote, of Cave Canem, a summer workshop/retreat for African American poets.

The DIA Art Foundation has said that "Cornelius Eady's poems are joyous, incantatory, and experiential. [His] work is a glossary of earthly objects and human events, and his linguistic responses provide pleasure even when they are provoked by injustice, or by pain, or by loss."

Happy Birthday, William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams was born on September 17, 1883, in Rutherford, New Jersey. Williams graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and worked for many years as a physician in Rutherford. He was familiar with Ezra Pound and the work of T.S. Eliot, but came to dislike both. In addition to his own poetry (collected in two volumes by New Directions) and the long poem, Patterson (also available from New Directions), Williams wrote an autobiography, short stories, novels and plays. He was a mentor to Charles Olson, and a hero to poets like Allen Ginsburg. Several of Ginsburg's letters to Williams are included in the text of Patterson.

Williams died on March 4, 1963.

Here's a poem from Volume I (1909-1939) of the Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams (New Directions, 1986):


Quit writing
and in Morocco
raise a beard

Go without a hat
like poor Clew
who braved

the desert heat.
Or if you will
like Herb

sit on a hotel
balcony and
watch your ship

while the girls
bring wines
and food

to you privately.
The language?
Make money.

the language.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Progress Notes: More Dux

While working on the third project, I was most happy to be handed a fourth. James R. Elkins, the editor of The Legal Studies Forum, a law review published at the West Virginia University College of Law that often features the work of lawyer-poets (as well as interviews and critical work about lawyer-poets), asked to look at a some of my recent work, and is going to publish 21 of my poems in a special issue of the journal that should be available in early 2008. He is also going to publish those poems in a stand-alone chapbook format that should be available around the same time.

I had a similar group of poems published in Volume XXX of the Legal Studies Forum (No. 1 & 2), in 2006, which became my chapbook, "The Afterlight." These are really lovely journal issues; The Legal Studies Forum has featured the work of Simon Perchik, Ilya Kaminsky, Evie Shockley, Lawrence Joseph, Lee Robinson, Seth Abramson, Rachel Contreni Flynn, and other well-known poets who also happen to be trained as attorneys. It is an honor to be back among its pages, and a thrill to have a new chapbook on the way.

Now I must think of a title.

I am also working on some readings, and the publicity machine is coming to life for the reading with Dan Gerber on September 28.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Progress Notes, Redux

Project #2 went into the incredibly competent hands of the United States Postal Service yesterday at noon.

Onward with Project #3!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My Horoscope, Or, Timing is Everything!

Today a once in a lifetime opportunity could fall in your lap, Greg. Career energies are intensifying for you now. You might soon be on an accelerated path to advancement. You're a hard worker, but you're not always comfortable promoting yourself. Be bold about sharing your expertise. And don't be afraid to brag about your accomplishments, either! Someone influential might express interest in you if you're loud enough.

Progress Notes

My second project is finished and will be in the mail at noon. Godspeed this one!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What's New?

I am continuing work on the three relatively large poetry-related projects that I must finish this week. One is already out-the-door, the second is almost finished and the third is yet to be done. I should make it, though. Once all of that is complete, I have to get to work promoting my reading with Dan Gerber, set to take place on Friday, September 28 at the Grand Haven Area Arts Council.

My class is going well. We have our second workshop this afternoon. On Monday, Cornelius Eady will be on Hope's campus for a reading in the Visiting Writers' Series. I am very much looking forward to meeting him.

I am also looking forward to getting back to writing poems, which is the part of all this I originally set out to do, isn't it?

That explains why I haven't been a very dutiful blogger in the past week.

What's new with you?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Eagles, Raptors, Owls

There is an interesting article today in our local newspaper about the resurgence of the eagle population in Western Michigan. There are now nesting pairs in the Grand River flats, along the lower Muskegon River, in Mona Lake and (most amazing) a nesting pair on Spring Lake. I haven't seen any over our house (we're approximately a mile west of Spring Lake; a mile east of Lake Michigan) but will be keeping my eyes open. I remember 15 years ago making a special trip into the wilds of the Au Sable River to see one of the few breeding pairs in the lower Peninsula. There are now an estimated 480 breeding pairs in Michigan.

The general raptor population (hawks, falcons, ospreys, etc.) has also made a stunning local comeback. It is not at all unusual to see several hawks on my way to work in the morning. Last Tuesday afternoon, a Cooper's hawk was standing on the bank of my neighbor's pond, hunting frogs.

We also have a large barn owl who spends several hours every now-and-then in one of our white pines.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Secret Agent

I have a secret project I am working on. All of the tools have arrived. If I told you what it was, I would have to kill myself. that how that saying is supposed to go?

Don't ask! I cannot respond to guesses. It's too secret. I may have to go to an undisclosed location to finish this task.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dame Edith Sitwell

Happy Birthday to Dame Edith Sitwell, born on September 7, 1887, in Scarborough, Yorkshire. Sitwell was the daughter of "the aristocratic but eccentric" Sir George Sitwell, 4th Baronet, and Lady Ida Emily Augusta Denison, daughter of the Earl of Londesborough.

Along with her brothers Osbert and Sacheverall, the Sitwells formed the most famous literary family of the 20th Century. The trip of Edith and her brothers to the United States in 1948 was one of the most important literary events (important because of the writers it drew into close social proximity, often for the first time) in the immediate post-war years. Edith Sitwell was a prolific writer, and her work (in addition to poetry) includes a book on Alexander Pope and two widely read books on Queen Elizabeth II.

Sitwell is perhaps most remembered for her distinctive mode of costume, which (with its long dark dresses, wimples, and her many-ringed fingers), often suggested a medieval sorceress.

Dame Edith Sitwell died at the age of 77 on December 9, 1964.

Here's a poem by Dame Edith that seems appropriate, given the aristocratic but eccentric hour of the day:


Cried the navy-blue ghost
Of Mr. Belaker
The allegro Negro cocktail-shaker,
"Why did the cock crow,
Why am I lost,
Down the endless road to Infinity toss'd?
The tropical leaves are whispering white
As water; I race the wind in my flight.
The white lace houses are carried away
By the tide; far out they float and sway.
White is the nursemaid on the parade.
Is she real, as she flirts with me unafraid?
I raced through the leaves as white as water...
Ghostly, flowed over the nursemaid, caught her,
Left her...edging the far-off sand
Is the foam of the sirens' Metropole and Grand;
And along the parade I am blown and lost,
Down the endless road to Infinity toss'd.
The guinea-fowl-plumaged houses sleep...
On one, I saw the lone grass weep,
Where only the whimpering greyhound wind
Chased me, raced me, for what it could find."
And there in the black and furry boughs
How slowly, coldly, old Time grows,
Where the pigeons smelling of gingerbread,
And the spectacled owls so deeply read,
And the sweet ring-doves of curded milk
Watch the Infanta's gown of silk
In the ghost-room tall where the governante
Gesticulates lente and walks andante.
'Madam, Princesses must be obedient;
For a medicine now becomes expedient--
Of five ingredients--a diapente,
Said the governante, fading lente...
In at the window then looked he,
The navy-blue ghost of Mr. Belaker,
The allegro Negro cocktail-shaker--
And his flattened face like the moon saw she--
Rhinoceros-black (a flowing sea!).

NOTE: The painting is "Sitwell Family" (1900) by John Singer Sargent. That's Edith in the red dress, Sir Osbert on the far right, Sacheverall next to him on the floor. The painting hangs in Renishaw Hall, the Sitwell family home.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Good Morning

There is no better, more insistent alarm clock than the collective efforts of three dogs that have to go pee.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Oh Oh.

Time to be more friendly!

My horoscope for today:

Taurus (April 19 - May 19)
Realize that you may be putting certain restrictions on your life without really even knowing it, dear Taurus. It could be that you have said no to people in certain situations and now they are simply not asking you anymore. Perhaps your hermit-like attitude is starting to wear on people so they don't even bother trying to get in touch with you. You will sink further into the background unless you take conscious steps to turn this trend around.

It is Here!

In my mailbox yesterday was an advance copy of Figured Dark, my new book from The University of Arkansas Press. It looks so good! What was particularly sweet was the reaction of the staff at the Post Office--all of whom I know well from trooping in there, day-after-day, putting manuscripts into envelopes and sending them off, collecting rejections, etc.

They were all pretty excited; we've been through a lot together on this one.

I also had a chance--how convenient the arrival of this book!--to bring my copy to the semester's first meeting of the English Department. Doubly sweet.

Here's what the blurbers had to say:

“Oh the fine, brawling, pungent observation of these poems: ‘the smog-brown sea,’ ‘the baggies-drooping sea’; Homer would be exhilarated and appalled. Greg Rappleye revives the language and revives our powers of seeing. Figured Dark is shot through with light. ”

—Linda Gregerson, author of Waterbourne and Magnetic North

“Rappleye’s poems in Figured Dark come from an imagination without peer. There is nothing predictable about them. As Pound urged his heirs to, Rappleye does make it new, plumbing the palpable ordinary, with a dazzling diversity of images, and through a window we've not looked into before.”

—Dan Gerber, author of A Primer on Parallel Lives and A Voice from the River

Figured Dark is a lovely book, heart-stopping, at moments, for its directness. The poems feature a conversational and lyrical plainness. Greg Rappleye fires and tempers metaphor, talk, cultural and literary allusion, and emotion so skillfully that readers can look through to the heart of the matter—the odd details of living and what goodness remains after death's insinuations. ‘What does the body want? / To be a crucible says the body,’ the poet writes. Figured Dark is crucible.”

—Carol Frost, author of The Queen's Desertion

"Incisively funny, with the mature wisdom of acceptance, the speaker of these poems is so easy to identify with because he is our stand-in, the ordinary man, the almost-innocent with his eyes wide open. On a simple nature walk or on a highway watching a wrecked semi release its load of hogs into the night's chaos, he sees comedy in the wildly disparate: In one poem, G-d is the programmer of an all-night radio station; in another the fall of Odysseus is coupled with the fall of Brian Wilson, and there is our thoughtful witness on a bridge between the two worlds, 'accounting for loss among the many, many stars.' Take a trip with Rappleye. In the darkness, you will find some light; you, too, will be held 'captive to some small happiness.' "

-Steve Orlen, author of The Elephant's Child: New and Selected Poems, 1978-2005

Monday, September 03, 2007

He's Back!

Despite its many aspects of "Goofy Goes on Vacation," the trip to Rhode Island went well. I enjoyed the time with my son and there is something about delivering your child to college––even an adult child––that is exquisitely bittersweet. Providence is a beautiful city and Elliot is very happy to be there.

I suppose one can learn many things on a road trip. What I learned is that I am too old for road trips. We left Grand Haven on Thursday at 9 A.M., spent the night in Dubois, Pennsylvania (we went out on I-80) and then spent Friday night in Providence. Saturday morning after dropping my son at school, I drove back across Massachusetts and New York on I-90 to Fredonia. Yesterday, I got on the road at 8:00 A.M. and back to Grand Haven at 3:30. The weather was fine and––other than Friday afternoon in Connecticut and the guy who flipped me off in Providence for making an emergency lane change (sorry about that!) the traffic was not a problem.

But I am so tired! While I was driving, there was a great deal of discussion on NPR about the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac' s On the Road. I had to laugh and laugh. Yeah, keep driving, Dean. I'll just be in the back taking a little nap.

Let's not talk about the weekend performances of the Detroit Tigers (bad) or the University of Michigan's football team (far worse). I almost put the Subaru into a ravine outside of Utica when I heard that score.

And Hannah, Happy 21st Birthday!