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October 2006
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every other day


13 OCT 06

Ear

Saturday afternoon (14 October, 3 pm) I'll be in Manhattan at the Ear Inn, at 326 Spring Street (west of Greenwich Street). By subway: take the C or E train to Spring Street, or the 1 or 9 to Canal Street, or the N or R to Prince Street. I'll be reading with Maggie Schwed and Karen Garthe.

Maggie Schwed's poems have appeared in Raritan, Rattapallax, Nimrod, Ekphrasis, and other journals, as well as in the anthology Chance of a Ghost. New work is forthcoming RealPoetik. She has
reviewed books for The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, and The Chicago Review and currently reviews for Pleiades. She lives and works in New York City.

Karen Garthe's book Frayed escort was the winner of the 2005 Colorado Prize for Poetry. Her poetry has appeared in Fence, Volt, Ellipsis, New American Writing, American Letters & Commentary, Columbia Poetry Review, Chicago Review, and Colorado Review. Originally from Baltimore, she lives in New York City and works for the World Monuments Fund, an international heritage preservation organization.

See you there.

 

11 OCT 06

Thinking about ink

I've been thinking about ink. Mostly I've had a lot of other things on my mind. When I need to stop thinking about the things on my mind, I sometimes visit a site called inventors.about.com. I recommend it. It's a place where you can find out how a polygraph works, read a little about the life of Garrett Morgan (he invented the gas mask and the traffic signal, among other things), or enjoy some sentences like these about the crayon:

The brand's first box of eight Crayola crayons made its debut in 1903. The crayons were sold for a nickel and the colors were black, brown, blue, red, purple, orange, yellow, and green. The word Crayola was created by Alice Stead Binney (wife of Edwin Binney) who took the French words for chalk (craie) and oily (oleaginous) and combined them. Today, there over one hundred different types of crayons being made by Crayola including crayons that: sparkle with glitter, glow in the dark, smell like flowers, change colors, and wash off walls and other surfaces and materials.

I think everything at this site is written by Mary Bellis, herself an inventor and filmmaker. This morning I went to see what she would have to say about ink. Kind of relaxing somehow to float across the wealth of information concerning methods of writing through the ages:

The earliest means of writing that approached pen and paper as we know them today was developed by the Greeks. They employed a writing stylus, made of metal, bone, or ivory, to place marks upon wax-coated tablets. The tablets, made in hinged pairs, closed to protect the scribe's notes. The first examples of handwriting (purely text messages made by hand) originated in Greece. The Grecian scholar Cadmus invented the written letter--text messages on paper sent from one individual to another.

...


The Chinese invented and perfected 'Indian Ink.' Originally designed for blacking the surfaces of raised stone-carved hieroglyphics, the ink was a mixture of soot from pine smoke and lamp oil mixed with the gelatin of donkey skin and musk. The ink, invented by the Chinese philosopher Tien-Lcheu (2697 B.C.), became common by the year 1200 B.C. Other cultures developed inks using the natural dyes and colors derived from berries, plants, and minerals. In early writings, different colored inks had ritual meaning attached to each color.

...

The writing instrument that dominated for the longest period in history (over one-thousand years) was the quill pen. Introduced around 700 A.D., the quill is a pen made from a bird feather. The strongest quills were those taken from living birds in the spring from the five outer left wing feathers. The left wing was favored because the feathers curved outward and away when used by a right-handed writer. Goose feathers were most common; swan feathers were of a premium grade being scarcer and more expensive. For making fine lines, crow feathers were the best, and then came the feathers of the eagle, owl, hawk, and turkey.

Quill pens lasted for only a week before it was necessary to replace them. There were other disadvantages associated with their use, including a lengthy preparation time. The early European writing parchments, made from animal skins, required much scraping and cleaning. A lead and a ruler made margins. To sharpen the quill, the writer needed a special knife (origins of the term "pen-knife"). Beneath the writer's high-top desk was a coal stove, used to dry the ink as fast as possible.

...

Articles written by hand had resembled printed letters until scholars began to change the form of writing, using capitals and small letters, writing with more of a slant and connecting letters. Gradually writing became more suitable to the speed the new writing instruments permitted. The credit of inventing Italian 'running hand' or cursive handwriting, with its Roman capitals and small letters, goes to Aldus Manutius of Venice, who departed from the old set forms in 1495 A.D. By the end of the 16th century, the old Roman capitals and Greek letterforms transformed into the twenty-six alphabet letters we know today, both for upper and lower-case letters.

...

The fountain pen's design came after a thousand years of using quill-pens. Early inventors observed the natural ink reserve found in the hollow channel of a bird's feather and tried to produce a similar effect, with a man-made pen that would hold more ink and not require constant dipping into the ink well. However, a feather is not a pen, only a natural object modified to suit man's needs. Filling a long thin reservoir made of hard rubber with ink and sticking a metal 'nib' at the bottom was not enough to produce a smooth writing instrument. Lewis Waterman, an insurance salesman, was inspired to improve the early fountain pen designs after destroying a valuable sales contract with leaky-pen ink. Lewis Waterman's idea was to add an air hole in the nib and three grooves inside the feed mechanism.

...

Laszlo Biro had noticed that the type of ink used in newspaper printing dried quickly, leaving the paper dry and smudge-free. He decided to create a pen using the same type of ink. The thicker ink would not flow from a regular pen nib and Biro had to devise a new type of point. He did so by fitting his pen with a tiny ball bearing in its tip. As the pen moved along the paper, the ball rotated picking up ink from the ink cartridge and leaving it on the paper.

Biro first patented his pen in 1938, and applied for a fresh patent in Argentina on June 10, 1943. (Laszlo Biro and his brother Georg Biro emigrated to Argentina in 1940.) The British Government bought the licensing rights to this patent for the war effort. The British Royal Air Force needed a new type of pen, one that would not leak at higher altitudes in fighter planes as the fountain pen did. Their successful performance for the Air Force brought the Biro pens into the limelight. Laszlo Biro had neglected to get a U.S. patent for his pen and so even with the ending of World War II, another battle was just beginning...

 

9 OCT 06
On the second Wednesday of every month, there's a poetry reading at The Barron Arts Center in Woodbridge, New Jersey. The series is called PoetsWednesday. It was started in 1978 by Edie Eustice--it's the longest-running poetry series in New Jersey and Edie is still making it happen, in league with poet Deborah LaVeglia. When I went there originally, Joe Weil was also a co-curator.

Joe Weil is the first real poet I ever met.

               Joe Weil

The very first time I read a poem in front of an audience was at the PoetsWednesday open mic. It was a pretty daunting experience. I happened to look up from my papers and into the bored eyes of a kind of cool guy (cooler than me, at least) and had a convincing physical feeling of defeat (I really thought I might pass out). Somehow I managed to finish the (too long) poem and get off the stage (the only time there was an actual stage there, something about a St. Patrick's Day play). I have no idea what could have possessed me to try again, but I did, a second and then a third time. As I was leaving on that third night, Joe Weil said to me (sounding quietly surprised), "You're a good poet." And I don't think anything that anybody's said to me about my work since has had such a profound effect.

A couple of years after that, I was invited to be a featured reader at PW (my first time as a featured reader and they even paid me), opening for Therese Halscheid. In a couple of days (Wednesday the 11th), Therese and I will team up again there. I'm really looking forward to it.

The PoetsWednesday open welcomes poets of every stripe. If you're anywhere near Woodbridge on Wednesday evening, come join us.

Directions are here.

 

7 OCT 06

How has your first book changed your life?

37.  Ada Limón

Lucky Wreck cover


How often had you sent out
Lucky Wreck before it was chosen in the Autumn House contest?

Well, I had sent many versions of a manuscript out for years, but Lucky Wreck was probably out to about twelve places when it was picked. The truth is, it always depended on how much money I had to spend on the contests. It was like, "Drinks or a contest? Cab home or a contest?" constantly running through my brain.

What do you remember about the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?

I woke up and my boyfriend at the time had brought them home and left them on the kitchen table for me. I had a huge event at work that day, but I kept sneaking into the kitchen and reading it while everyone else was talking about "the future of the company." It was so exciting. I kind of wanted to wear it around my neck. But I didn't. Yet.

Were you involved in the cover design?

My mother, Stacia Brady, painted the cover painting specifically for this book. I adore it and it's hanging in my kitchen right now as I write this. She's doing the second one too. She's a rock star.
 
Before your book came out, did you imagine your life would change because of it?

Oh of course. I thought I'd be richer, smarter, prettier, happier, thinner, more responsible, a better friend, a better daughter, I'd win an academy award and I would be suddenly fluent in six or seven languages. And I'd have a tiny dog, on a tiny leash, that ate tiny food.
 
How has your life been different since?

Well Barbara, what's great is, I don't have to pay rent anymore, the new poems practically write themselves and I'm having the best sex of my life. And my bathroom never gets dirty. But truthfully--some nice people have asked me to read and have given me generous reviews, but mainly my boyfriend and I broke up and I lost ten pounds.

Were there things you thought would happen that didn't? Surprises?

Well--the guy with the money hasn't showed up yet and I thought he was coming. And no one's bought the movie rights yet. Life hasn't gotten easier--but it's still fun to say, "Yes" when people say, "Oh, you're a poet? Do you have a book out." I mean, that's hot.

What have you been doing to promote the book, and what are those experiences like for you?

Since the book has come out I've done quite a lot of readings in hopes that it will help launch it into the world (not just fling it into the air). I love doing readings and traveling and meeting people on the road. It feels like I'm a grass roots politician or a traveling salesman. Reading in places like Spokane, Washington, is so much fun. Staying in people's houses--getting homemade meatloaf. I did a couple of readings at people's homes too. That was fun. I rode a roller coaster before my reading in Santa Cruz and I recommend it highly to everyone.

Your second book will be out later this fall--what are your plans for it? Are you going to do it all again?

Yes, I hope to do a lot of readings, although I can't really take that much time off work this time around. But yes, I do want to do it all again. I'm very excited about that one. It's wild and different and has a crazy guy who hangs out at the beer distributor. I'd love to read everywhere if I could. I'll read at your house. Can I come over?
 
What advice do you wish someone had given you before your book came out? What was the best advice you got?

Let's see: "Always check your ticket at Off Track Betting before you leave the counter" and "Stop dating bartenders." I try not to take too much advice from my friends--once you start doing that you end up naked in a Las Vegas hotel room wondering where all your money went.

But truthfully--my father told me not to listen too much to reviews especially if they're good. My dear friend, Jennifer L. Knox, taught me how to banter between poems--and I think it brings people into the reading more.

Can a person really be taught to banter between poems? Any tips for the banterless?

Mmm. Well, not if you're trying to banter like someone else. But I DO think that you can learn how to explain just the smallest bit about a poem that might offer something unique to the audience; something as simple as, "I wrote this while I was really craving fried chicken," or "oops, I spilled some wine on this page," can be a enough to at least open a tiny door--something that makes you human.

How do you feel about the critical response so far and has it had any effect on your writing?

I've only gotten two reviews so far, they were both very generous. I don't think it's had much influence on my writing. I've always written for an audience, even when that audience was just my best friend Trish and I was reading stuff to her in the laundry mat. Now I know my audience is a little bigger, but I still want to be writing like I'm going read it at the laundry mat and try to make it interesting enough to be heard over the machines.
 
Do you want your life to change?

Wow. What a question. Do you work for a pharmacutical company? But yes, I've been thinking about that a lot. I need more time to write and more time to read. I'd like to eventually make a shift away from the corporate world and maybe go live in a yert somewhere. I'd like to live by the water somewhere and have some kids--and maybe get that tiny dog. I've got to figure some stuff out first though.
 
Is there something you're doing now that you think will bring about a change that you seek?

I sure hope so. I've put my dreams up to the "giant magnet" and hopefully the "giant magnet" will hear me.

Do you believe that poetry can create change in the world?

Yes, I do. Art does change the world. It makes it livable. There are poems I have read in my life that have given me hope when I didn't think hope was possible. I have heard a poem read out loud that inspired me to dedicate myself to the world again. I have had a poem heal my heart; I've had a poem break it. I've had a poem--in a pretty straightforward way--save my life.

I believe that anything that allows us to give thanks in a simple and humble way, is saving the world, daily.

:

a poem from Lucky Wreck by Ada Limón:


Little Flower Funeral

How well you do! How good you are!
Little flower, little dirt eater, little time passer.
And when you die, little flower, how lovely
the time will be then; we'll all take turns
twisting your body around our fingers and our
opposable thumbs. We'll put you in our hair, little flower,
because you've died for us and that's nice of you, and
truthfully we’ll understand you better then.
We'll tell stories of your bravery at longevity around
the camp fire and how you grew even when you
swore you wouldn't go on. Little flower, we’ll
love you more when you die, don't hate us
for not telling you sooner.


. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .

 

5 OCT 06

How has your first book changed your life?

36.  Christian Hawkey

The Book of Funnels

From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Mon, 7 Aug 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

Dear Kate,

Thanks for getting in touch. Intrigued by the question, and would be happy to chat with you. I am leaving on Saturday for a slew of readings/festivals in Slovenia, Austria, and Berlin. Back on the 28th. I'm sure we can squeeze in a chat before then, or (more likely) even while I'm bouncing around Europe.

Warm regards, Christian

:

From: Kate Greenstreet
Date: Tue, 8 Aug 2006
To: Christian Hawkey

Dear Christian,

Thanks for getting back to me. I've really been enjoying your book. Don't know if you've had a chance to take a look at the interviews--I ask everyone similar questions to start, then I often have an additional question or two after I read the responses.  

When I was looking for your email address online, I saw that you've just received one of those Creative Capital grants. Congratulations! Your project sounds fascinating. I wonder--you'll be doing homophonic translations, but are you also a German speaker?

I'll attach the basic questions in a Word doc. It might be interesting to answer while you're overseas, especially if this trip is evidence of how your life has changed. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

thanks again, 
Kate

:

From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Wed, 9 Aug 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

Kate,

It might be easier for me if we do this one at a time, and therefore let a conversation develop. I'd like that. Voila my first response:

How did your manuscript happen to be picked up by Verse? Did you win a prize?

No, I didn't win a prize. I had entered the book in the Verse Prize (now Wave Books) the year before, and although I was a finalist, I didn't win. The next year I decided not to bother again--and not to bother with prizes in general. I had just moved to Brooklyn. I was broke. I couldn't afford to write another $20 check. I put The Book of Funnels aside, and started working on another book. I was happy. It was snowing. A year went by. Then a miracle happened: I got an email from the editor of Verse, Matthew Zapruder, saying that he was going through the next Verse Prize manuscripts and noticed that mine wasn't there. He started thinking about it. The book. He missed it. He started thinking about why he missed it, why he remembered it. He said: if it's still available, I want to publish it. Strangely, his email arrived the night before I had a job interview for a full-time, tenure track position at the Pratt Institute. I got the job. It stopped snowing.

Christian

:

From: Kate Greenstreet
Date: Sat, 19 Aug 2006
To: Christian Hawkey

Christian--sorry for the delayed reply! I like your one-at-a-time idea (and your first response). So where did you move to Brooklyn from?

k

:

From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

I moved from Western Massachusetts, from a town called Chesterfield which is located in the hills above Northampton. I was renting a huge, 3 story, 9 bedroom Victorian monstrosity, but only living, during the winter, in one heated, ground floor room. I burned a huge number of poems in that wood stove--& still froze.

:

From: Kate Greenstreet
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2006
To: Christian Hawkey

And what made you decide to move from Chesterfield to Brooklyn? Did you grow up in Western Massachusetts?

:

From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

Work. One glance at the "Help Wanted" section of the local newspaper--home care attendant, delivering pizza--is all it took. Actually there is a company in Northampton that makes periscopes for submarines, and I tried to get a job there. I also tried to get a job working for a recreational ballooning company. I even offered to work for free, thinking that I could somehow work my way up onto the balloon, into the air, but no go. Submersion. Elevation. Brooklyn allowed me to touch ground--touch concrete. & this neighborhood, Ft. Greene, is a huge relief: Western Massachusetts is incredibly white, incredibly homogeneous, and Ft. Greene is one of the more diverse neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

:

From: Kate Greenstreet
Date: Thu, 1 Sep 2006
To: Christian Hawkey

So you were able to get a tenure track position at Pratt right after you moved, but couldn't get any kind of teaching job in MA? Or did you not want to teach at that point?

:

From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

Kate,

My response is both a question & invitation: I need a little more flecks of gold from you in order to continue this conversation--want, instead of a play-by-play, a play of ideas. Otherwise my brain logs off (of itself) (the sense, last night, just before falling asleep, that the dream world, which was rising up, gathering clarity, or lowering itself upon me, gathering clarity, was the surface of a computer screen, and my first impulse, and not without excitement, was to look for the cursor). Question: as a blogger, and as one clearly passionate about poetry, what is your relationship to technology, and how do you see it altering--enhancing, filtering, unfiltering--poetry, if at all?

Christian

:

From: Kate Greenstreet
Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2006
To: Christian Hawkey

Christian, my relationship to technology is something like this:

:

From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

Hooray! I couldn't agree more. It's not simply the fact that we can converse in images, but rather your choice of images leaves nothing unsaid. Below, my own way of answering the same question:

:

From: Kate Greenstreet
Date: Sat, 2 Sep 2006
To: Christian Hawkey

nice photo! i'm reading you.

:

(later)

Our power has been on and off a lot in the storm, causing me to notice more acutely than usual my reliance on technology. Coming from being a painter, a low-tech artist type, I bought my first computer 10 or 12 years ago, not knowing why (and it was a significant investment!)--I just felt it would be important to me somehow.

Now a computer is essential in the way I make a living and the internet has made it possible for me to continue to educate myself and to communicate with people I'd never know otherwise. It's a pretty sure bet that I wouldn't be about to have a book of poetry coming out if I hadn't bought that first computer, because I never would have known how to move thru available channels of opportunity. It wouldn't have occurred to me that I could.

I'm the designated tech person in my small household but it still feels a lot like running as fast as I can with a live sheep in my arms. (I am also the person who decides to go on a book tour instead of fixing the leaks, so practicality is still not my long suit. Or is it strong suit.)

But speaking of opportunity, how was your trip? Are you still thinking about it?

:

From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Tue, 5 Sep 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

Kate,

I partly ask about technology because I work on a typewriter. No real special reason. I just like it. It's a black IBM Selectric II & looks (to me) like something Spock, eyebrows raised, always turned to & started fiddling with on The Enterprise while the crew tried to act like it was being hit by Klingon missiles by fake-stumbling around. I brought it (the typer) with me during the swing through Europe & because of the 220 voltage, & because of the cheap converter I was using, the machine would, every few seconds, lightly shock me when I touched the keys. I started writing, for the first time, short poems.

The first telegraph was invented by some guy in Spain. He ran the wires--one for each letter of the alphabet--between two towns, & then asked human beings to hold the end of each wire. When an electrical current was sent down a given wire, the corresponding human would shout the corresponding letter. Wish I knew what the first message was. Bell, on the first telephone, said to his assistant, who was holding the phone in another room, "Watson! Come here! I want you!" Always found that kind of hot.

Christian

p.s. My semester is getting underway & I may not be able to keep this up any more--sadly. I hope you can post our picture conversation. & I very much look forward to reading your book. What's it called?

:

From: Kate Greenstreet
Date: Thu, 7 Sep 2006
To: Christian Hawkey

:

(later)

I believe that typewriter is still burning somewhere in Northern California. (Sculptor Leopoldo Maler's uncle was a well-known Argentine writer who was killed because of the inflammatory content of his political essays. The old Underwood is the same kind that the uncle used.)

I'd like to have asked you about the art on the cover of The Book of Funnels but, if we're out of time, I'll just ask this last question (usually my first): what do you remember about the day you first held a copy of your finished book in your hands?

Kate

ps: My book is called case sensitive. Out from Ahsahta next week.

:

From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Sat, 9 Sep 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

I felt--what's the word?--honored to be holding this object in my hands, this object we call a book. The name on the cover could have been anyone's name; I barely recognized my own, as my own, which made me think of our names as objects that, once copied & reproduced within a given cultural space (the cover of a book, a space commanding both authority & authenticity), dissolve into empty, weirdly meaningless signs. Fortunately I've always thought of myself in this way (the daguerreotype applies here; note what "the leg" is standing on) & therefore the poems, too, no longer seemed like my own, but someone else's--not that someone else wrote them, but that someone else, reading the poems, will write them (& in whatever order they read the poems, write a new book). Then I ate a haggis & got pished.

Nice chattin Kate. May The Duck be with you. christian

:


:

a poem from The Book of Funnels by Christian Hawkey:


Green Solitude


No such thing as exit for the man lost
In the middle of a cornfield.
No such thing as field.

A disinterested wind wanders up,
Unravels the silk
And moves on.

It's late summer. The ears have burst.
He passes and suddenly the stalks
Are discussing his absence,

A conversation that follows him, barely overheard
That makes him stop
And turn around.

John Clare wrote of a green solitude
After the hustling world was broken
Off; no one followed

On his way home through the fields.
He laid his head down to the north
To show himself

The Steering point of the morning.
When he woke, it was winter,
The stalks

Cut down and covered in snow.
There were no dreams.
Only a voice

That he knew was near, not his own,
And he listened, for a minute,
To the cold wind

Before finding the road again, and the sound
Of his listening was the landscape
Advancing at his approach.

. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .

 

3 OCT 06

how it added up *

Disposition. Dispose. To distribute, put in place. The disposition of assets is the offering. A state of readiness. "He hath a person, and a smooth dispose To be suspected." (Shakespeare) Cause to turn, deal out, give a bent. Stay tuned for a live performance.

 

1 OCT 06


Her email address sounds like sunkist. I thought of making a print for her, a monotype that looks like a packing crate label with oranges & lemons and a quintessential California woman, wearing a scarf perhaps or a straw hat.

Recently I've been exploring my family tree in Iowa. My
grandfather was a pioneering urologist at the U of Iowa. He always dressed like an orderly, he was often mistaken for one. Turns out there's a doctor who is doing a few chapters on him. The roads are fine for now but there is rain coming next week. The hill on Hwy 17 gets a lot of wrecks in the rains. I drove a couple from Iowa today, Des Moines. We got into some slow traffic and the guy said that I had the patience of a saint. The rush hour traffic in Des Moines lasts about 15 minutes. I told him I know all the slow areas and I know they will end soon so I just accept it.

Sometimes I drive people to a retreat facility--there are several locations in the area for that like Land of Medicine Buddha, Bosch Bahai, Rain Dance, Costanoa. I drop them off, drive away, and wonder what they will be like if I meet them again.

. . .

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