30 December 2009

A New Year and New Poems in Print

For the past year and a half I worked on a collection of poems about the stars. The story goes that each constellation was released from the sky for a single evening and landed somewhere in New York City. Each poem tells the story of one constellation and how it adapts to (post)modern life. I named the collection of poems “Digital/Pastoral” to reflect the present setting of these ancient narratives. Some of the poems (stars) are coming out in a variety of journals in print and online.

Five of them can be found in the January issue of Collective Fallout. http://collectivefallout.com/

Two will appear late this month in a brand-new online literary journal called Crash. http://cra.sh/about

Another of the constellation poems will appear in the Spring issue of New Mexico Poetry Review. http://newmexicopoetryreview.com/

And very exciting for me, my poem “Polaris” will be published in a lovely handmade journal from the United Kingdom called FuseLit. There isn’t a set release date for the Tilt issue yet, but rumor has it set for sometime in February. http://www.fuselit.co.uk/

Please take a moment to check out my poems and more importantly, the fantastic journals in which they appear. I feel honored to see nine of my “Digital/Pastoral” poems going to print at the start of 2010. It was a long journey of writing, revising, submitting, receiving rejections (again and again and again) and finally seeing them published.

My work is also forthcoming in a future issue of these great magazines:

Lines + Stars http://www.linesandstars.com/ and
Knockout Literary Magazine http://www.knockoutlit.org/ (from Seattle!)

27 December 2009

Post Holiday Gifts, Rebecca Brown and G.I. Joe



When I was young the day after Christmas was reserved for showing off the gifts that I had been given to my friends and vice versa. Sometimes we were allowed to play with the new toys and sometimes we only got to look.

* * *

I have been reading Rebecca Brown’s collection of short stories Gifts of the Body. The narrator of the interwoven pieces is a home healthcare worker who helps people dying of AIDS. The stories illustrate the early 1990s in which people were still dying quickly. Wonder drugs and cocktail therapies had not yet emerged to extend the lives of the men and women who had contracted the HIV virus.

* * *

I got several gifts this year in order to bring me into the new century. My partner got me a cell phone. I used to brag that I had never owned a mobile phone, that “I didn’t want or need one, thank you.” I could have gotten by without it, but now I like being able to call people regardless of where I am. And texting, yet another way to communicate…

* * *

Each of Brown’s stories are gifts that the body can give: “The Gift of Sweat,” “The Gift of Sight,” “The Gift of Mourning.” Often the stories turn on the title and skew the perspective of the reader toward something unexpected. Gratefully, Brown’s stories aren’t a series of clever gimmicks or tropes. Each is grounded in her stark language and the deft experience of someone who has worked in the home-health field firsthand.

* * *

One of the Catholic Church’s corporal works of mercy is to visit the sick.

* * *

I am always uncertain of what kind of gift to bring someone who is staying in the hospital for more than a few days. I ask them if they need any toiletries, food or things from home. I shy away from plants. Is there a need to give someone in a hospital something that they need to care for?

* * *

When I was eight, I got G.I. Joe walkie-talkie headsets for Christmas. The idea that I could communicate with my friends at a distance without using my hands seemed futuristic. In the days after Christmas I had to share my gift with others in order to use it.

* * *

Sometimes I wonder where the men that I knew are—those who died from AIDS or AIDS-related illnesses in the 1990s shortly after I came out. These men, most of them my father’s age or older, served as mentors to me.

* * *

If I put on that headset again, could reach out to them somehow?

23 December 2009

Book Notes on Blind Date with Cavafy by Steve Fellner



Steve Fellner’s poems are funny. Some poems I laughed out loud at, nodding my head in agreement with his observations about human nature. Other poems caused me to curl my lips at their wry invective. Fellner's poems are smart and they know it.

Fellner’s work can intimidate because they require the reader to know a bit about Cavafy, Catullus, Socrates and Li Po. The largest barrier to the average reader of Blind Date with Cavafy is the knowledge base needed to get the joke. This collection of poems was written by an English major with sass.

I admit it, these poems intimidated me. If they were people, each would be better read, wittier and dressed in more expensive clothes than me. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if the poems in Blind Date were telling a joke or making one at my expense. And that’s okay, because Fellner’s cleverness isn’t a one line zinger repeated over and over again.

His poems are original and often surprising. The descriptive language in “Synesthesia,” a poem about a neurological condition that cross-wires the senses, is stunning: …friends begging him / to be ruthless about their new hairdos (The perfect cross / between the smell of burnt tapioca pudding and undercooked / pot roast)…

What I love most about Fellner’s work is that it has opinions. His poems don’t hesitate to tell the reader exactly what they think, but they manage to be loud without shouting. They are solid poems that work on the page without gimmick. Blind Date’s work doesn’t scream, “Look at me! Look at ME!” Instead, they approach the reader with an arched eyebrow and say, “Oh honey, you gotta see this shit to believe it.”

Blind Date with Cavafy was published by Marsh Hawk Press in 2007. This year, a book of poems by Randall Mann has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. The book’s title: Breakfast with Thom Gunn. I can’t help but wonder if Breakfast took its cues from Blind Date and if so, what Fellner’s poems have to say about that.

12 December 2009

New Places to See My Poems In Print

I am pleased to announce that two of my poems are in the Fall 2009 issue of Connections magazine. In fact, my poem "The Four Last Things" is on the homepage for the magazine. Please take a look.

You can check out the magazine and download a free PDF version of it here:

http://www.csmd.edu/Connections/magazine.html

More about the magazine from the website:

"Connections magazine is a regional literary journal published twice a year that features the very best poems, stories, artwork and photography of Southern Maryland. Also included in each issue is featured material from visiting writers. Publication readings take place in December and May each year."

07 December 2009

Finding Poetry on the Roof at Dawn



The weather this week has been very cold and clear. The Pacific Northwest is not known for its sunny winter climate. I have been sitting in the light for a few minutes each day and giving thanks for this small blessing, sun in a season that usually brings abundant rain.

Advent is the season of waiting before Christmas for many Christian denominations that follow a liturgical calendar. The period before Christmas cuts across the bustle and noise of the holidays with its silence and quiet anticipation. I have been rediscovering the canticles or prayers at the beginning of the book of Luke. I haven’t picked up a bible in over a decade and am now struck at how beautiful some of the language can be.

The “Canticle of Zechariah” (Luke 1:68-79) is a prayer spoken aloud by John the Baptist’s father. The lines, “In the tender compassion of our Lord / The dawn from on high shall break upon us, / to shine on those who dwell in darkness” have stayed with me for days. In my head the words have mixed up and condense themselves into the beautiful image: “The dawn shall break upon us with tenderness and compassion.”

When I woke up this morning the sun had just begun to touch the neighbor’s roof. Inside that brushstroke of light more than twenty starlings gathered to catch the warmth. Their black feathers took on a myriad of tones, each reflecting the sun. Dawn had broken upon them with tenderness and compassion. The roof line, the sun and the birds were all a canticle to morning.

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