Archive for October, 2009

Home, Again

What can I say?  My visit to Clarion University was nothing short of fabulous.  It’s been ten years since I have been back to Clarion — and it’s amazing that nothing has really changed in the town itself.  Even the little coffee shop where I read looks exactly the same (the name has changed, but yep — nothing else has!).  I also got to see faculty members I have not seen in years.  Simply wonderful.

The best part of the day, of course, was meeting students.  Besides visiting two classes, I also spoke to a group about my hodgepodge of a career, and my life as a poet.  My presentation (which was pretty informal) spoke about marketing oneself, and I talked quite a bit about blogging.  I was a bit surprised — the students in the audience were in their late teens and early 20’s (I think) and most really did not know a lot about blogging.  I guess Facebook really is taking over the world.

And my reading was fantastic — I think I spoke to a room of over 40 students.  I received a lot of compliments — and even sold a few more books (many of the students already had my chapbook from class.  Poet Philip Terman used Stealing Dust in his classes).  One student came up to me after the reading and said “That was awesome.” 

Okay — so this post is coming out like a me, me, me, shameless plug me posting, so I will stop here.  For those faculty members who may take a look at my blog, and for students who may now google my name, special thanks and warm hugs are being sent to you from Western New York.  I truly had a great time!  With the warm Autumn weather holding out, and the beautiful drive through rural Pennsylvania, it really was like going home again.



Autumn is Fading…

We have had a beautiful week in Western New York, but as I am looking out my office window, I am noticing that the leaves are almost gone and the blue sky is slowly fading to Snow Belt Gray….

I was hoping that the beautiful weather would continue  because I am traveling a bit this week.  On Thursday and Friday, I will be visiting my Alma Mater, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, for a reading at Michelle’s Cafe on Main Street in Clarion.  A professor at Clarion University is using Stealing Dust for his class and I will not only be reading, but also visiting classes to talk about working class literature and poetry.  The full news release is here.  If you happen to be in Western PA, please stop by and say hi —

CFS: The Indiana Review

Am I Blue?  Not really.  But The Indiana Review’s  note on its blog looks interesting.  The Indiana Review is currently looking for “art, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for a special feature on Blue in its Summer 2010 issue.”  Take a look at the guidelines here.  The deadline is December 1.

Just in Time for Halloween

I’m reading Dracula: The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt.  I know what most of you are thinking.  Great, another vampire book.  But this book is a sequel to the classic  by Bram Stoker, and yep, you guessed it —  Dacre and Bram are related — Dacre is actually Bram’s great grandnephew.  I was against reading this book for many reasons — I really don’t like it when contemporary authors mess with the classics.  They can mess with classic authors (see my post on Emily’s Ghost), but not the actual works.   But, the reviews have been good, and so far, I have enjoyed what I have read.  The book picks up 25 or so years after the original Dracula ended, and includes almost all of the main characters.  In fact, the two authors conclude that they based their book after Bram Stoker’s notes — so I guess in some ways, it’s a book that Bram Stoker never got to write.  I doubt that Dracula: The Un-Dead will go down as classic literature — but it’s a fun read.  And of course, it’s perfect for this time of year.

Late for Work

I picked up David Tucker’s poetry collection, Late for Work, because of the words on the back cover:

David Tucker has been writing Late for Work throughout his twenty-eight year career at top city newspapers.  In his poems he follows reporters hustling for stories and captures the beauty of everyday life lived between breaking headlines.

I was interested in what a reporter/poet would have to say about life at a newspaper —  In another life, many years before I started teaching, I was a reporter for a small town newspaper in Western Pennsylvania.  I only stayed at the job for about two years — mostly because of the pay (or lack thereof) and the simple fact that it was a position with no real chance of advancement.  Still, it was a great experience, and I do keep in contact with some of the people I worked with.

At first I was disappointed that all the poems in this collection were not about newspaper work.  But I quickly got over the disappointment.  Yes, Tucker does captures moments of news and the lives of  reporters striving for stories.  But many of his poems are glimpses of everyday people and everyday life.   In fact, I read this book twice to see how he worked a reporter’s life into poetry of the rest of the world.  The final poem in the collection, “Today’s News,” is simply stunning.  In this poem,  the poet states, “Working these long hours/you forget how beautiful the early evening can be.”   I can relate to this — news is often ugly, and when I worked at my small town newspaper I saw this ugliness everyday.  To make it worse, I often knew the people involved in the news and the ugliness.  But this last poem reminds us that no matter where we work, and how discouraging a day at the job can be, that there is still wonder in the world.

Lost in the Land of Assessment

Well, it’s more like I am lost in the land of statistics.  Right now, JCC is working on its accreditation process and I don’t think I have ever seen so many numbers in my life.  I’m in charge of writing part of the document for accreditation and it’s frustrating.  I write a paragraph.  I look at the statistics.  I write a paragraph explaining the statistics.  I feel unsure about said paragraph.  I call our assistant dean in the research and planning department.  She explains the statistics.  I go back and erase my paragraph.


And then I repeat the process.   I suppose I should be rather proud of myself. I have worked on this for over a week and I now have five paragraphs that make sense. 

Overall, I am starting to believe that there are those of us who just are not supposed to do administrative work. 

The moral of this story?  Poets, although they should be assessed, should never be accredited.


The White Stuff

So, our first winter storm has hit Western New York.  I woke up to snow.  Not a lot — just enough to turn all the colored leaves white.  I tried to convince my colleagues that it was actually pretty outside.  Trust me.  They were not convinced.

In other news, I have a weekend free from grading, so I really want to settle down and send out some poems.  Actually, I also want to settle down and write some poems.  I have been trying to revise the same five poems for weeks now, and it’s not going so well.  I need some new material. 

At Poets’ Quarterly

The brand new Poets’ Quarterly is live!  Take a look at the debut issue which features a review (from yours truly) of Jehanne Dubrow’s From the Fever-World. (And if you haven’t read her first book, The Hardship Post, you are really missing out!)

On Coal Mountain Elementary

Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press, 2009) by Mark Nowak is one of those books I really want to write about, but have a hard time doing so.   It’s not so much a book of poetry, but a collage of words and photographs.  The book is a collection of reports and mini-memoirs of mining disasters in China juxtaposed against the memories of those involved in the Sago Mine Disaster here in the United States.  Nowak also includes poems based on lesson plans involving coal mining history and communities.  Regular readers of this blog know my fascination and allegiance to workingclass people.  Coal mining, of course, is part of this world.  I used to pride myself on my knowledge of coal mining, but Nowak’s book humbled me. 

Tonight I discovered that Mark Nowak has now started a blog that provides updates on mining disasters.  For my readers who are interested in such issues, take a look at his site.  It’s a fascinating resource.

Two Books

I don’t care how busy I am this week.  I simply don’t care.  I am going to make time to read these two spectacular books that came in the mail today: My Kill Adore Him by Paul Martinez Pompa and Hold Everything Down  by William Notter.  So yes, lessons may not be planned, papers may not be graded.  I just have to read these two books.

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