Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Update 2

I am at the airport and the flight is supposed to be on-time.

Flipping miracle?

See you all in NYC.


It's 4 degrees (F) out. The wind rocked the house all night, but there isn't that much snow. I'm not sure yet what the road conditions are, ice and drifting-wise.

Here's the forecast, courtesy of Channel 8 in Grand Rapids:

Bitterly cold air will grip the region today, along with strong winds. Blowing and drifting snow will cause huge travel challenges today, as Arctic air pours into the region. We're only expecting another 1-3 inches of additional snow, which will taper to flurries by early afternoon. Partial sunshine will return this afternoon. Afternoon temperatures will recover only into the teens, with wind chills below zero much of the day.

If the planes are flying at 1 p.m., I may make it yet.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It's a Long, Long Way to NYC

Here's the situation. We are under a winter storm warning. It's pouring rain and 40 degrees. My yard is flooded with rain and melted snow. In two hours, all that water is going to freeze and then it is supposed to begin snowing. The temperature is supposed to drop to single figures by 5 a.m. When all that cold, cold air comes pouring across the lake, "POOF!" lake effect snow. And the snow is supposed to be blowing around in 40-50 mile per hour winds.

My flight leaves at 1 p.m. tomorrow.

I am still trying to come up with something sensible to say on Thursday.

I am a moron and if I get out of here tomorrow it will be a flipping miracle.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Signing at the AWP Conference

I will be signing copies of my new poetry collection, Figured Dark, at the University of Arkansas Press booth on Friday, February 1 from 4-5 p.m.

Be sure to stop by and say Hello!

Getting Ready for AWP

I spent the weekend working through my presentation for the AWP Conference. I still have more to do--focusing and fine-tuning--but it appears that I will have something to say. It always seems like a good idea to write an essay or make a presentation when I sign up and a not-so-wise idea a week or-so before the day of reckoning.

In class, we have our first workshop today.

Here's St. Nicholas, noting that everything is going to be "Okay."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Snowy Day

We have over two feet of snow in the yard, with temperatures in the very low double figures--10-teen, 11-teen. Under the moon and scattershot clouds, the dogs went leaping through the drifts this morning, like dolphins in a frothy sea.

Pardon me. I have gone Homeric.

It could be that they were only three dogs in the snow, looking for a place to pee.

Wait--that rhymes with "sea."


I will have more to report later. I am cold here, but alive.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Progress Notes

I will be spending time in Jack Ridl's poetry class today, working with a few of his students. The poet David James will also be there. This will be fun.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Slogging Through the Drifts, Creeping Through the Trees

Woke up this morning to a foot of fresh snow. Although I have a 12 mile commute to work, I didn't have any real problems getting there, thanks to 4-wheel drive. It is supposed to keep snowing throughout the day, then turn colder with lake effect snows for the next several days.

Not to go all Dr. Zhivago on you, but snowy days are good for writing. At least, they seem to match my morose, snow-bound writing temperment. The problem is (as always) finding the time to write while working full-time and teaching as an adjunct.

Yesterday in class, we discussed Flannery O'Connor's short story, "The Turkey." The seeming inscrutability of O'Connor's God threw everyone, but my students are so young. I am reminded of Garry Wills' response in What Jesus Meant (Viking, 2006) to that banal question, "What Would Jesus Do?"

"He's God," Wills answers, "and you're not. You have no idea what Jesus might do."

I paraphrase.

I think of Flannery O'Connor's Jesus--furtive; creeping through the trees.

"Something Awful," indeed.

NOTE: The painting is "Christ in the Garden of Olives" (1889) by Paul Gauguin. Funny, how much Jesus looks like the artist. I think Paul was trying to tell us something.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekend Update

Sorry to have been such a bad blogger recently. I've been so busy at work and (with the new semester) at school, I haven't set aside time to write. If I am not writing, I am not blogging, either. That has to change this week, because I must finish up my presentation for the AWP Conference.

I am also hoping to be able to announce a few upcoming events (readings, etc.) in the next ten days or so.

I can tell you that it is cold here, very cold. Our high yesterday was 12 degrees, and because the wind is from the West-Northwest, we've had quite a bit of lake effect snow. On my way into town this morning in a near blinding squall, my friend (above) swooped low over my car--perhaps 20 feet above the snowy pavement. It could be that he thought the Subaru was a peculiarly large vole.

I always take such sightings--owls, coyotes, eagles--as signs of something or other. I think the eagle's appearance meant that is it time to get back to work.

The first thing I must do is clean up my desk, which is strewn with notes, books, stray poems and journals.

To paraphrase Adam Deutsch, "Goals, baby. Goals."


NOTE: No, I did NOT take this photograph! I doubt that I could get close enough to an eagle to take one like this. And besides, it is(was!) too darn cold to get out of the car.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Progress Notes

I just learned that my chapbook manuscript was a semi-finalist in a contest. Not bad for its first venture into the world.

I am eager to get back to this project after the AWP Conference.

I have a busy day at work.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, Osip Mandelstam!

It is sobering to pause from time to time and remember the poets who wrote out of true necessity, and at great personal risk.

Born on January 15, 1891 in Warsaw, Osip Manelstam grew up in Saint Petersburg and travelled widely as a young man. His books include Stone (1913) and Tristia (1922), a book of essays, On Poetry (1928), and his Collected Poems (1928). Among Russian poets, Mandelstam was associated with the Acmeist movment. Following the publication of poems critical of Stalin, he was arrested in 1934 and sentenced to internal exile in the Eastern Urals. After his release in 1937, he was rearrested in 1938 and sentenced to five years hard labor in Siberia. He died in a transit camp near Vladivostok on December 27, 1938.

Here's something from Number 372 of Mandelstam's Last Poems:

If our antagonists take me
And people stop talking with me;
If they confiscate the whole world--
The right to breathe & open doors
And affirm that existence will exist
And that the people, like a judge, will judge;
If they dare to keep me like an animal
And fling my food on the floor--
I won't fall silent or deaden the agony,
But will write what I am free to write,
And yoking ten oxen to my voice
Will move my hand in the darkness like a plough
And fall with the full heaviness of the harvest...


The Michigan Primary

Because Hillary Clinton is the only major candidate on the ballot, the Democratic primary in Michigan is relatively meaningless. If you are voting in the Republican primary, have a nice day.

Monday, January 14, 2008


I will be making a presentation at the Ann Arbor Book Festival/Writers' Conference on Thursday, May 16, 2008, and may also be on a panel on Friday, May 17.

As soon as I have more details, I will let you know.

Whatever happens, this will be fun!

Today's Selections

Today at Hope College you can go see the Detroit Tigers on their "winter goodwill tour" of Michigan or you can go see Senator John McCain. You can't do both, since the events are occurring (almost) simultaneously.

You could also stop by my classroom at 4 and hang out.

We'll be talking about "creativity."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

National Book Critics Circle Awards

Congratulations to the finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards, which were announced tonight in San Francisco. A complete listing can be found at Critical Mass, the blog of the NBCC. I am embarrassed to note that the only finalist I have actually read (in any category) is Claire Tomalin's biography of Thomas Hardy, published by Penguin Press. I liked it.

The finalists in poetry are:

Mary Jo Bang, Elegy, Graywolf
Matthea Harvey, Modern Life, Graywolf
Michael O'Brien, Sleeping and Waking, Flood
Tom Pickard, The Ballad of Jamie Allan, Flood
Tadeusz Rozewicz, New Poems, Archipelago

I suppose I will be pulling for Mary Jo Bang in this category, because I met her once and rather liked her.

I've also met Matthea Harvey (she was a Fellow at Bread Loaf in 2002), and have read her previous books.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Announcement! Reading at IUSB on February 28

I am happy to anounce that I will be reading at Indiana University in South Bend on Thursday, February 28 at 7:00 P.M. I am very excited about this reading; looking forward to seeing old friends and new.


Last night's weather: Thunder, lightning and snow.

This is about the best I've felt since Christmas Eve. Beware of the nasty cold that is going around this winter!

Had a long, good conference call yesterday with poets Robert Thomas and Dr. Roy Jacobstein about our upcoming presentation at the AWP Conference on Religion and Poetry.

I am looking forward to getting back to writing and blogging this weekend.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Poem from The Divisible Field (2008)


A three-headed dog named Cerberus guards
the opposite shore of Styx, ready to devour
living intruders or ghostly fugitives.

-Robert Graves, The Greek Myths

As one comes to wolves. Song of canine bodies
circling through the pines. Aria of bone-gnaw,
of driven snow in Caucasus, of sweet, sweet marrow.
Song of lip-curl, of incisors, of gritted teeth and snarl.
Whimpered song of bitch-and-den, song of musk,
of tongued pups, of burrow thick with steam.
Song of fire, circle-song, beaten onto skins. Song of meat,
of shearling, of bloody coals and cinders, song of hellish fleas.
Ballad of hound-hunger, of want; song that calms the dog.
In the stony deep, Oh! Are lesser gods, the stink of sulphur,
and the spirits of the dead. The hound is chained or else
the hound runs loose. I have sung my way through darkness
and wait upon the shore with open palms.
Oh, dog, dog, dog. What song must I sing to get by thee?

-Greg Rappleye


"Cerberus" (above) is by William Blake

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

...And a Nice Review from Jan Worth!

Poet and novelist Jan Worth, known around the blogosphere as "Macy Swain" of "Night Blind," has a wonderfully nice review of Figured Dark in East Village Magazine.

You'll find it here .

My thanks for the kind words.

Figured Dark is "Highly Recommended"

My great thanks to Anne Haines for pointing out this review by poet Louis McKee of Figured Dark, which appeared in Library Journal on December 15, 2007. The review was picked up The University of Arkansas Press, which reprinted it here.


Today is the first day of class. I have my syllabus and class schedule ready to roll.

I love the first day of class.

Monday, January 07, 2008


Back to my day job in a serious way this week and another semester begins.

I'm teaching composition.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Supply and Demand: The AWP "Gray Market"

The decision of the AWP to not allow "walk-in" registration at the upcoming conference in New York has already created a "gray market" for conference credentials on both Craig's List and the AWP's own discussion forums.

Now watch the prices rise.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

From "One Poet's Notes"

Here's what Edward Byrne had to say: This afternoon I learned that the 2008 Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference meeting in New York City at the end of this month (January 30-February 2) has been sold out, and the AWP reports no more passes will be issued after more than 7,000 attendees already have registered. I am not sure of the complete reasoning behind this decision, but I am positive the AWP will have to amend this policy or face harsh criticism from members, many of whom planned to participate with on-site registration as has always happened in the past. Indeed, a number of those members already have made reservations for transportation and lodging, and I cannot see the AWP turning away those people. Since the conference is less than four weeks away, this issue must be resolved quickly by the AWP.

This Just In; and a Protest Sent to AWP

I'll bring a few of these along with me to the AWP Conference. The Divisible Field is a 31-page chapbook reprint of poems that appeared in the special anthology issue "A Day's Work Done," Volume XXII, No. 1 of the Legal Studies Forum, a law review published at the West Virginia University College of Law. Professor James R. Elkins is the editor of Legal Studies Forum.

My eternal gratitude to him.

These are beautifully done.

I will have more to say about this issue of Legal Studies Forum.


I am very upset that the AWP Conference in New York City has "sold out" (their words, not mine) and that no on-site registration will be allowed. This last-minute change in policy--made with no prior notice to anyone--obviously discriminates against the "paycheck-to-paycheck" writers (like myself), students, and friend's-sofa-sleeping, young, adjunct faculty-types whose attendance is NOT reimbursed by their employer-college.

As I understand it, this means I will not be able to register Marcia on-site as a "spouse" at AWP and will not be able to buy a registration for my daughter (a student at Eugene Lang College/The New School in NYC).

I've e-mailed my protest to AWP and hope you will, too.

Friday, January 04, 2008

No Heat

Well, Happy New Year to me.

We have no heat. Our boiler, which dates (my guess) from the 1960's, isn't working.

It's 19 degrees outside.

Inside, let's just say there is no need for the refrigerator.

I also have some good news. More on that later.


2:55 p.m.: Boiler/Furnace fixed--for $96.

Better than the $4 G's it would take to replace it.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Common Cold Virus

Couldn't sleep last night, courtesy of my friend here.

This is annoying.

Kelly Caldwell, if you are out there, please e-mail me. I lost your address!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Michigan Wins!

In an amazing game, the University of Michigan Wolverines beat the Florida Gators in the Capital One Bowl, 41-35.

Congratulations to Lloyd Carr for going out a winner.

Good Luck Guaranteed

Liam and I just finished making a big pot of black-eyed peas (b.-e.'d peas, green onions, cilantro, garlic, basil, diced ham shanks, two shiny dimes for two lucky boys). All part of a good-luck New Year's dinner.

I am trying to make up a bit for our disastrous Christmas non-dinner.

Happy New Year!

I hope you all stayed up to see the ball drop.

Not me. I was asleep by 9:30.

This is a nasty cold.