Reading Perforation: A Lexicon, at the Woodstock Poetry Society, I was worried, because I worry, that it would take too long, with all of its categories: it's written as a series of definitions, in alphabetical order, topically related to the main character's ear injury. I'd never read it out loud before.
I read it fast, emphatically, and it went quickly, like a mercy, but sits in the air--hangs there--really, which was gratifying. After all that's happened this year the last entry has a real grip on me, a weight I didn't count on. And that's all you can ask for: recognizing gravity when you weren't sure it was there. That's gravy, really, after you've taken so many hours to turn so many words. Sometimes I think a good piece has a rubik's cube quality in the process of trying to get it right.
The poet I read with, Iris Litt, is a wise, wise commentator. Her poems have the airy gesture of something written on an occasion, but then they slap you in the face with some hard truth. She's quite direct, her words spoken plainly; she doesn't try to stitch any fancy trim onto anything with high-handed introductories; doesn't refer to some other poet as the source of inspiration (Written after a po-wem by Catullus, intoned the scholar). She instead will say, conversationally, "And this is a mother poem." Or, "This is a mother poem. You know those poems." Her manner conveys the slight impatience of someone used to walking wherever she needs to and trusting that her sure steps will allow her to avoid the maddening and mediocre, and the slightly wistful hope of someone with good politics, and a facile ease with undertone and context. Then, as she reads the line or image that is meant to throw you out of your seat and into the bewildering ether of a Big Leap, she leans on one slim leg a bit and just puts a little more air into what she's about to say. Her poem AOL and Cho does that in the 7th line, then again in the last one--read the whole thing in New Verse News and see what you think.
Earlier, at the Stone Ridge Library Fair, I sat at the local authors booth (and first noticed how Nina Shengold. very smartly avoided that editorial conundrum of where to put the apostrophe by avoiding it altogether, so both authors and booth are nouns of equal weight--and that makes me, I know, a complete four-eyed geek). But the thrill of being there was being in the company of Kim Wozencraft, Shengold and Laura Shaine Cunningham (also Marshall Karp and the adorable Dakota Lane). We have all landed here, for various reasons, some, I think, more domestic than artistic. Yes it is beautiful in the Hudson Valley, and yes it helps to look out on trees and that soft mountain sky and all the birds, birds birds birds. And maybe the fact that there are so many spiders and snakes helps as well. But I think the "local" frame is external to us all: our stories take place everywhere from the Pacific Northwest to Texas to Florida to here. We talked about the risk, actually, of writing within your current setting: without the bridge of years' distance, can you really write about a place from inside your imagination?
We decided, optimistically, that you can try. That is all you can ever do.
And today Rags to Riches, a great filly, tried. And though she stumbled in a way that looked like instant tragedy there was no tragedy: she duked it out with big, burly Curlin in the homestretch and won the Belmont by a nose because she just refused to give up. A European trainer dismissed all the fuss over it being such a rare occurence, stating that in Europe, they really don't make such a big difference between the fillies and the colts. She's a strapping, fierce, winning horse that happens to be a filly, he said. Now let's just hope she doesn't get injured.