Poetry Calling

Last night we had a big crowd for the Omission Summer Poetry Tour's stop at Baked & Wired (which serves all your standard coffeehouse fare...plus sweet tea so rich it should carry a warning label...plus bacon cupcakes). The work was great; as I told the audience, this felt like a snapshot of What's Being Written Now, and I was honored to be part of that constellation. Our host Diana Khoi Nguyen was every bit the charmer I expected. Justin Boening read before me, and is pictured below. His PSA chapbook (selected by Dara Wier) is gorgeous, and I'm looking forward to it. My vision of "area poets" got a little bigger, as I learned Miriam Bird Greenberg had spent the summer tending to a grandmother who lives mere miles from my family's house in Vienna, and John Fenlon Hogan is here to stay awhile. 


Afterwards we wandered down to Mr. Smith's, one of those venerable Georgetown institutions with the crumbly brick and the peacock-hued stained glass, where we snagged two tables in an outdoor courtyard. I wouldn't want to be there on a Friday night when the Jager-bombs are 4 for $10, but on a Monday night it was kind of awesome thanks to inexpensive house IPAs, a basket of curly fries for the table, and a surprisingly tasty vegan Israeli couscous dish with spinach and "sundry" tomatoes (how that snuck on the menu is a mystery). All of which took a backseat to the conversation, the kind of totally indulgent poetry-talk--on blurbs and contests and conferences and feuds--that I crave but rarely find outside AWP. I had fun eavesdropping on the post-Columbia MFA conversations, a program whose dynamics seem so very different from my time at American University. 

Not surprisingly, I woke up this morning wanting to write. There's about five calls for poems that are uppermost on my radar, on topics ranging from perfume to gravy to politics. Like many poets I'm both lured in by the Los Angeles Times' call for "op-ed" poems and turned off by the condescension of the tone ("if you have an opinion that can only be expressed in rhymed iambic pentameter or lively doggerel, in a haiku or limerick, now's your chance to express it"). 


I've also been inspired to dive back into blogs. Leslie Pietrzyk has an epic recount of her travels through small-town Georgia, which I must re-read before I embark on the Georgia Poetry Circuit in spring 2014, which takes me to nine colleges around the state for readings. Gotta brush up on my Flannery O'Connor before then, too. I found out from Victoria Chang's blog that she has a third book out, The Boss, courtesy of the new McSweeney's poetry imprint. You can subscribe to said imprint, $40 for four "issues" (a.k.a. books). I'm assuming these are poems in series with the ones she wrote for VQR a few issues back--fragmented views of a dystopian workplace--which has me intrigued. And I'm not going to link to any one post on "The French Exit," because they're all so damn good; Elisa Gabbert keeps one of the most interesting and substantive blogs among poets these days, even when (like most of us now) she only updates once a week. 

There's a lot to do. I must be a little more settled, because creative ideas are simmering to the surface again. but there's a LOT to do. Luckily this life is long...and also I have enough kale and watermelon in the fridge to skip grocery shopping for a bit.