Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Success Is All Smoke

Smoke is all there’s been in my life . . .

Success has got no taste or smell.
And when you get used to it,
it’s as if it didn’t exist.

            from Almod√≥var’s All About My Mother
That’s what the successful older actor, Huma (fem. version of "smoke" in Spanish), says in the movie, which I recently re-watched. And I have to ponder it, here, in New York, which has got to be one of the most success-driven places on the planet. What counts as success for an artist? Getting to do the work you want to do and getting paid for it? Getting paid well for it? That might be an answer. Of course, we poets rarely get paid for anything. And yet we persist. Why do we do what we do? For glory? For the sheer joy of it? Someone, a new friend, recently asked me why I called such things as guilt, regret, indecision—all subjects of poems in my fourth book—vices. And I replied, It’s because they take me out of the moment—out of the present enjoyment of life. And that amounts to a certain kind of failure, I suppose. So perhaps I am at my most successful when I am most present: walking the dog in the morning and really breathing in the air, noting the season by the stage the trees are in, watching the sunlight filter through the branches. Or when I’m at my “desk,” which might be a subway car or a park bench or an actual desk—these days, the dining room table.

And yet I persist, as do so many others, in wishing for that other kind of success: the kind where people I don’t know know me. The kind where I get invited to give readings and talks for real money, knowing full well that to be a successful poet, in the deeper sense, may have little or nothing to do with such public strivings. As Christopher Hitchens wrote, paraphrasing Nadine Gordimer,  “A serious person should try to write posthumously.” And for that, it is not necessary that anyone know me/you now.

Here's a quote I used to have over my desk. It's by another favorite artist of mine, Mark Twain, who said:
"Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion."

Yet I write this on the heels of a book party for Whirlwind, my fifth book (a number I find hard to fathom), and the publication of my new poems and Q&A featured in December’s Poetry. What is success? That I have persevered. That I keep challenging myself to write new kinds of poems. That I don’t care where the culture is moving. I still believe deeply in poems, in paintings, in music, in dance, in human connection. So as much as I toot my own kazoo like all the other New York—American—poets clamoring for some attention from a public that is mostly oblivious to poetry, I know that “All is vanity and a striving after wind.” But wind is all we’ve got. And some times, however briefly, it does have a piquant taste and even a sweet smell.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Force of Nature: Gerald Stern

That’s what I thought when I heard Gerald Stern, 87, read from his two newly published collections (of poetry and prose) last night at the Neue Galerie, the most elegant book party I have ever attended, hosted by his wife, the poet Anne-Marie Macari. And it’s why I’m glad I’m not a tennis player who has to retire at 32, or a dancer who might be lucky to dance till s/he’s 45 (except for flamenco dancers, the true poets of dance, who draw down duende and can dance till they die).

“[C]ould I be the one / who carries the smell of dead birds in his blood, and horses?” That’s how Gerry’s poem “Nietzsche” (which he read) ends—a sentence that goes on for 12 lines, beginning with him walking through “the Armstrong Tunnel” in Pittsburgh, I surmise, and then gathering momentum, returning to the bleeding horse: “the snorting and the complex of / leather straps,” that brings with it the grief over the dead with whom Gerry can no longer talk (“Stanley” [Kunitz] and “Paul Goodman”), until that final image, when Gerry becomes the human, all too human Nietzsche intervening and sobbing over the flogging of the horse. Intervention, as Gerry said to us, which is all we can hope to do.

Surely, that’s what Gerald Stern’s poems have done for me and for so many other readers, students, fellow poets. He’s intervened in our lives with his hamish poetic voice (years ago with the dead skunk he has to stop for in his poem “Behaving Like a Jew”) that is truly like Emerson’s all-seeing eyeball with its sweep of history, of misery, of personal friendship, of books that live and breathe for him. As generous and capacious an imagination and person as you could ever hope to encounter. What a privilege to be on the spinning globe with him.

And what a funny, yet apt place to toast this Jewish poet, while eating spoonfuls of schnitzel. It reminded me of the way I feel, standing under the Arch of Titus in Rome. We have survived. And Gerald Stern reminds me once more (pace Frank O’Hara) why I’d rather be a poet.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Color of Ties / The Ties of Color

In the Town Hall Debate last night, the first—and for me—only visual shock was to see Barack Obama wearing a red tie and Mitt Romney wearing a blue tie. Just when I thought that the “red party” was the Republican Party and the “blue party” was the Democratic Party, they went and did a switch on me. Here’s what came up when I did a search: 

Red state is Republican, Blue state Democrat
Blue-tied Romney sparring with red-tied Obama (photo from USA Today)
A state is considered blue if the voting history trends to the Democratic party and red if it trends towards the Republican party. These colors are selected because they are on the opposite ends of the color spectrum. In other countries, the color scheme is rversed, where red is the color of the liberals and blue the conservatives. The exact use of this color scheme emerged in the 2000 elections, due more to general agreement among commentators than anything else.—Charlie

Red=Republican. Blue=Democrat.
There isn't any deep meaning. [my emphasis] It just happened that way in the media broadcast of the 2000 presidential race. After that, it became the accepted, albeit unofficial nomenclature of politics. As Wikipedia describes it:

"Early on, the most common—though again, not universal—color scheme was to use red for Democrats and blue for Republicans. This was the color scheme employed by NBC—David Brinkley famously referred to the 1984 map showing Reagan's 49-state landslide as a "sea of blue", but this color scheme was also employed by most newsmagazines. CBS during this same period, however, used the opposite scheme—blue for Democrats, red for Republicans. ...
"But in 2000, for the first time, all major electronic media outlets used the same colors for each party: Red for Republicans, blue for Democrats. Partly as a result of this near-universal color-coding, the terms Red States and Blue States entered popular usage in the weeks following the 2000 presidential election. Additionally, the closeness of the disputed election kept the colored maps in the public view for longer than usual, and red and blue thus became fixed in the media and in many people's minds. [2] Journalists began to routinely refer to "blue states" and "red states" even before the 2000 election was settled. After the results were final, journalists stuck with the color scheme . . . . Thus red and blue became fixed in the media and in many people's minds [3] despite the fact that no "official" color choices had been made by the parties.

 The quote goes on and on…

What I find interesting is the assertion that “there is no deep meaning” in it. But of course there is. Since the ‘Teens of the 20th century, the Red Party has been associated with the Communist Party. To be called a “Red” was the same as being called a Communist. And Communists, as we all know, are associated with the Left. And Democrats, though becoming more and more Centrist, began on the Left even if they’ve moved to the Middle.

So what’s going on here? It’s taken me years to adjust (and I still haven’t or hadn’t adjusted) to thinking of the Red Party as the Republican Party. Interestingly, this color code-switching nearly coincides with the demise and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, one of the last bastions of so-called “Communism.”

Is there a deliberate emptying out of signified tied to the signifier of color?

With last night’s reversal: the Democrat sporting a bright red to go with the bright red carpet, the Republican sporting a royal blue tie to match the sky blue walls, I’m perplexed. Perhaps it was Obama unconsciously signaling to his constituents that he was still on the Left. And Romney signaling he was still the party of the rich. Their people must decide these things beforehand. Imagine if both came out wearing the same color tie. . .

The only thing constant was the two wives of the two candidates as well as the first woman commentator on PBS in luscious hot pink: pink being the color the most closely identified with women and femininity and sex. According to the InternetSlang dictionary, PINK means "Vagina."http://www.internetslang.com/PINK-meaning-definition.asp

What’s a girl—oh, I mean a woman—to think.

Monday, October 15, 2012

What Is It About the Dodge Poetry Festival

Okay. It's pretty cool to read to a packed auditorium of poets and poetry lovers. To share the stage with so many luminaries like Natasha Trethewey, Terrance Hayes, Eavan Boland, Jane Hirshfield, and the inimitable Patricia Smith who took the photo below. To yatter on about poetry, my influences, going public with private feelings. To read from my new book and all my others. To sell books and sign them.

But what makes the Dodge special is the chance to change lives. Literally. I could feel that happening on Friday, the day devoted to high school students. I had finished up by early afternoon, was standing outside in the sun, when 4 young women sheepishly approached me. I recognized one of them. She'd been in the front row of the auditorium when I'd read earlier that morning. They came over to tell me how much my reading, my presence had meant to them, particularly when it came to reading certain poems. Now I had shied away from reading from my new book, Whirlwind, on that day, a book devoted largely to my divorce, though I must have read one poem from it at the end. Mostly, though, I read from early books, including my first book, Heart Work, which Sheep Meadow published way back in 1995. Now that I think about it, before any of these girls had been born. What moved and transformed them was my poem "If My Mother" about getting my schizophrenic mother to sign herself into a hospital. It made me realize all over again how difficult it is for individuals everywhere, particularly young people, to feel comfortable talking about such things. That there is still a stigma attached to mental illness, just as there is to alcohol and drug addiction. Perhaps even more so. One of them also was moved by "Passing" from Burn and Dodge, which talks about racial passing and my own experience of passing as Irish because of the way I look in combination with my Irish-sounding surname when I lived in Carroll Gardens in the late Eighties and early Nineties, when it felt unsafe to reveal myself in what was then a working class Italian neighborhood. I can sniff anti-Semitism the way I'm sure some folks can sniff racism.

The emphasis at the Festival was often on a more narrative or lyric confessionalism, for lack of better terms. I don't really recall anyone there from the more language-based or experimental sector of the poetry world. And while I'd argue that strict schools of poetry have pretty much gone away, there was a noticeable tendency to feature the popular, even populist poets. That's not to say they're facile. Far from it. Terrance Hayes read all new work every time I heard him and the poems were dizzying in their complexities. Dorianne Laux read a startling, brilliant new poem that jumped from Paul Simon and Grace and Graceland to the diamond mines in South Africa to those "diamonds on the soles of my shoes." And Jane Hirshfield always dazzles with poems that conjure the unsaid, the silences, as much as the said. But there was no Sharon Mesmer or Charles Bernstein or even Lyn Hejinian present.

It was thrilling, yet odd to get 6 minutes, really, to read to a packed house on Thursday night. And so I chose to read 2 poems, one from either end of the poetry spectrum: "Desire and the Lack"--as language-dense as possible--and "To the Furies Who Visited Me in the Basement of Duane Reade"--a poem of narrative hyperbole.

I do hope I get asked back.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Poetry of the Shofar / The Shofar of Poetry

After a long hiatus, I'm back, to post on Whirlwind, my blog about poetry, the arts, and whatever else passes through me.
Each year, Jews the world over listen to one of the crudest of instruments. In the midst of abundant prayers, we people of the book, the word, the Torah, the ones who value interpretation of what is written, listen to the orchestrated blasts of a ram’s horn. It strikes me as a paradox, though quite poetic, to do so. It is a mitzvah to hear the shofar being blown. It’s also a commandment. And yet. The shofar blast is the place beyond words, beyond meaning we can articulate, beyond time. Did the shofar blow at the moment of Creation, which is what we are celebrating every year? Did the Jews in the desert hear the shofar when Moses communed with God on Mount Sinai? I don’t know. But I do know that there is something in us, verbal as we Jews certainly are, that yearns for what lies beyond words. What even words can’t say. And so we turn to the animal. The ram. Sign of the akedah: the binding of Isaac by his father Abraham, a story we read from the Torah on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. Sign of the prohibition against child sacrifice. Sign of the mystery. Sign, perhaps, of the wound in creation. The sound of suffering. The sound of liberation
 [The photo, by the way, is of Antelope Canyon, in Arizona. 
   It's how I picture the inside of a shofar.]
For me, the shofar is like poetry. We go to poetry to be moved. To hear language that is encantatory, even revelatory. Metaphors and images that leap in ways that are not entirely rational. But surrounding every poem, each line of verse, is the white space: the shofar of silence that punctuates the sound of words and phrases. Silence we feel more deeply because the words all point to the ineffable. If poems are prayers, then the shofar is the space in between our prayers. The shofar of space. The shofar of time.

We think that we, as humans, are given something that the animals are not given. But it is only humans who need the gift. The animals already embody it. Thus we take up the shofar and blow: Tekiah, Teruah, Shevarim . . . blasts, toots, wails, blares, laments.

I go to synagogue each fall to pray: to recite the words in melodies my ancestors sang but also to stop and hear what lies beyond the limits of speech. What points to the void. Or the transcendent one. The shofar.

A footnote: Tonight I went to hear a program honoring John Cage at 100. It was an alternation, a dialogue, of music between Cage and Pierre Boulez. It was the first time I had heard Cage’s 4’33” (1960) performed. It is 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Well, there is never complete silence. Just the instruments and musicians were still as was the conductor. Perfectly still. But the sounds, the clicks, the paper rustlings, throat-clearings, all the ambient noise in the audience at Columbia University’s Miller Theater, where I was, including all the buzzing in my head, as in everyone else’s heads, I suppose, continued. This, too, was a shofar of silence.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Blogging for Best American Poetry

I'll be blogging for Best American Poetry while I'm in France for the next few weeks, so catch me there:


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bilbao in my dreams

Yesterday was a day of meeting Bilaoans, including several poets! In the photo below, I've just finished a terrific lunch with my Bilbao Greeter, Marivi Puente (great that her last name means "bridge"). The man with the beard and sungasses is the poet Javier Arnaiz; the middle two are the restaurant owners, and Marivi is on the far left. Later in the day I met another poet named Santiago Liveral and we exchanged books.


What an amazing idea/experience this Bilbao Greeters is. Www.bilbaogreeters.com. I found it by chance on the internet.


But I must get this word down: Tzakoli, which sounds like "chokoli." that's the white wine I'm drinking in the cafe Iruna down the block from my hotel, a place with photos of Hemingway on the walls.


The main thing I want to say is why I'm an hispanophile and an italophile (and it remains to be seen if I'll become a francophile): relationships with other people count more than anything. Bilbao has an ongoing cafe/bar life that is as true for twenty-somethings as it is for eighty-somethings.


What has happened to NYC? Where I'm lucky if I see a friend every 3 months. And I hear my experience is not dissimilar from many others.


It's difficult to post from a place where I'm too busy living, though it was interesting to see how quickly the conversation turned to money and the fact that no one in Spain buys poetry books. Sound familiar?


But there is a group called Noches Poeticas that puts on performance evenings in various spaces, including bars: an evening that intermingles poetry with music and theater. As supposedly, everyone is rapt during the poetry recitations. Perhaps Bob Holman's Bowery Poetry Club comes the closest to achieving that idea. They've finished their programs for the summer, but I'd love to return some day to jam with the locals.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Declarations for the 4th & 5th of July

"That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent natural rights . . . among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety."
You probably think that Thomas Jefferson wrote these words, but actually, they were written by a neighbor of George Washington, George Mason, and then revised by Jefferson for the Declaration of Independence. I'm reading a terrific biography of Washington by Ron Chernow. Food for thought: At what point is it acceptable for someone to be considered the author of the words that s/he's edited? Talk about issues of intellectual property right at the get-go of this country's founding.

When I was a girl growing up in Brooklyn, July 5th was always a very busy, exciting day. I would get up early and comb through the detritus of the streets (this at a time when everyone had their own stash of firecrackers that they'd set off) for firecracker wrappers. For several years I collected these wrappers and organized them into pages in a scrapbook. I've photographed two of them. The one with the Apollo spaceship on it is from 1970. I loved the bright colors, the stylized artistry. Most of the fireworks (and I have to assume that the artwork as well) were made in Macau. I'd love to hear from anyone else who has such a peculiar collection. Of course, I have to wonder, What kind of a patriotic display is it if the fireworks are all made in China?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Where will all the artists go? Or why Manhattan is in danger of becoming less fascinating . . .

Ripples, 2011, Dorothy Simpson Krause
I went to a fascinating event last weekend (yes, I'm blogging but I still ruminate for several days over what I might write like an old-fashioned writer): Two young musicians guitarist Ben Kaplan and composer Peter Flinthttp://peterflintmusic.com/ played together for free in a little exhibition space called 571 Projects http://www.571projects.com/. Kaplan played guitar and synthesizer and Flint played accordion also electronically altered. They played the kind of Reichian/Glassian Bang-on-a-Can new music that I love. So about 20 of us sat there sweating and rocking to the music, while glancing around at these mixed media pieces based on the painter's time spent in the Everglades. But what was particular poignant was to learn that this space, which had been there for 3 years, if I recall correctly, was due to close at the end of the summer. Why? Because the building, which sits off the corner from the Chelsea Piers, that is, in prime Manhattan real estate land thanks to all the artists' galleries, was being demolished to make way for high-end condos. Big surprise, right? It's what always happens. Except there are those of us who remember what it was like when New York was a place where young artists—dancers, writers, painters, theater performers, musicians—were able to move and live, working at peripheral jobs while still pursuing their metier. This has all become less and less possible. As the terrific raconteur Fan Lebowitz puts it in her Martin Scorsese documentary, Public Speaking, to paraphrase: If a city is nothing but rich people, it's not a very fascinating place. She uses the word fascinating as the camera pans over  the seedy, but somehow authentic, Times Square (with its FASCINATION parlorhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/christianmontone/4830837185/lightbox/), which she mourns has become a cleaned-up tourist spot one is ashamed to be seen passing through. I'll save my trip to Brooklyn for a future post.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chromophilia, or Color-love

I just finished reading a terrific little book. Actually, I'm embarked upon reading it a second time because it so perfectly captures one woman's obsession with the color blue as a way to read her world. Maggie Nelson's Bluetshttp://www.wavepoetry.com/collections/authors/products/bluets  is written in the form of numbered  "propositions," a la Wittgenstein, but they are as lyrical and as far-reaching in style and subject matter as possible: from disquisitions on fucking: "There is a color inside of the fucking, but it is not blue" to discussions of Platonic, Newtonian, even celestial optics, as well as questions of God as light or darkness: where abstruse topics such as "the idea of agnosia, or unknowing, which is what one ideally finds, or undergoes, or achieves, within this Divine Darkness." And, of course, there are nods to William Gass, Goethe: "We love to contemplate blue, not because it advances us, but because it draws us after it."

And threaded throughout—yes, with a cobalt blue thread—is the lover's despair, not unlike Anne Carson's The Beauty of the Husbandhttp://www.amazon.com/The-Beauty-Husband-Fictional-Tangos/dp/0375707573, though this thread is subtler, less central though perhaps the initiating emotion.

Color. She rejects yellow—as being the least pleasing of colors when alone (is that why Jews were associated with yellow?) and green.

Poets who are drawn to color—though what poet isn't? Mallarm√©, for one. And Rimbaud. And of course Lorca: "Green, green, I want you green." And Kim Addonizio, whose poem "What Do Women Want?" opens "I want a red dress." http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16213

"What does your poetry do?—I guess it gives a kind of blue rinse to the language" (John Ashbery).

Several, actually nearly 10 years ago, I published a book of ekphrastic poems called Serious Pinkhttp://www.marshhawkpress.org/Dolin.htm. While it is mostly documents my love affair with painting, there's also a long collage of a poem called "Ode to Color." Most of what's there is what others have said about color, not because I have nothing to say, but because I wanted to make a patchwork quilt, a coat of many colors, about color.

I'll leave you with a poem about red that's inside that larger poem—red being a color to counteract all this blue, red being a color that has duende in it, red being the color, according to a study, that if a woman wears it on a first date, is a sign she will sleep with the man right away. I'm not convinced by that reading of red, but I do know I was told, if you wear red for a poetry reading, you won't trip up on your lines. And that I have found to be true:


A man in a red GEORGIA baseball cap wearing 
       a sweatshirt with a red bulldog over his heart,
       sitting in a subway car, the smell of his poverty much too strong

but I stay out of weakness and pity: 
       his dark skin has gone through fire
       and his hands and arms and who knows how much more of him

wear the ropy scars: I watch him, not wanting to stare,
       as he draws out of a pocket dangling from a long rope at his waist
       a red-plastic compact he opens: inside, a red plastic brush

on its obverse the mercury pool he dips and dips his face towards
       as though to stanch the fire (who knows what he sees)
       he shuts it opens it shuts it then like a black Narcissus he has to re-open

and stares. Maybe it solidifies him, all I know is I'm mesmerized too and steeped
       in my own pool, trying to think only of color, see this portrait in red.                     


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Writer's block or why it's okay to be a mess at all times

At a recent book party, someone asked me what I was working on and I said that I hadn't been writing much for the last year and a half. I guess that's what others would call writer's block. But, of course, that's not entirely true. If I look at my notebook, at least my main poetry notebook (and yes, I do write by hand, preferably with a fountain pen in a physical notebook), I might find very little there. And yet, there are now all these other little notebooks I carry around (usually 3 1/2" x 5 1/2") in bright colors or patterns, as in the photo of some I bought at MOMA (I started buying Moleskin once they started doing something other than basic black). There I scratch away, particularly when in transit, in fact, mostly when in transit so that for the last several years, I have found myself writing by not writing sequences of aphorisms (prose poems?) connected to place.

The most comical aspect of this project is that I've been getting these aphoristic sequences published as creative nonfiction. As someone who has always only written poetry, I feel like I'm a prose writer-in-drag, that is, a poet tricked up as a writer of creative nonfiction. In fact, my New York Aphorisms will be published later this year from Fourth Genre, which only publishes nonfiction. You could another sequence here:http://www.kenyonreview.org/kr-online-issue/2011-summer/selections/andalusian-wind/.

So perhaps that is the secret to writing without writing: to write with the left hand (if you're a righty), to write someplace else all the time believing that you're not writing at all. And I've had this experience before: the sensation that I'm not really writing, and apparently, it's not a unique one. Playwright Jon Robin Baitz, author of Other Desert Cities, was recently interviewed by Alec Baldwin on his radio podcast Here's the Thing .http://www.wnyc.org/shows/heresthething/2012/jun/04/ At the very end of the show, Baldwin asks him if he's working on anything new. Baitz balks at an answer and Baldwin persists, "You're scribbling . . ." And Baitz, "Yeah, I'm supposed to be doing things. I'm a mess at all times."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The most private thing I'm willing to admit

The other day, while rushing into a midtown office building to keep an appointment, the security guard at the desk asked where I was going and when I told him, he raised what turned out to be a camera eye at me as I went gliding by. "Hey, did you just take a picture of me?" I asked. And he, "Yes." Now I'm already around the corner at the elevators, "But you didn't even ask." And he: "I'm not supposed to." Why does this exchange bother me? Perhaps because, along with a steady erosion of our civil rights has come a steady erosion of any sense of privacy. Now, the fact that I'm writing this on a blog would seem to indicate that I've tossed all sense of privacy to the wind as I go whirling along here, but that is far from the way that I see it. Ironic? A bit. But I do believe in privacy. I do I do I do.

So, as a poet, who has certainly written poems about her life, what do I mean by privacy? Privacy means I don't have my photo taken without my permission. Privacy means I choose which words of mine are seen/read by others. Privacy means no one but the person I'm speaking to is privy to my conversation. Privacy means I don't get frisked by the police because I am about to ride the NYC subways.

But in our era, that's an impossibility. Every time I enter my bank and use my ATM, I am being photographed. Every time I search online for a product, I will be barraged with ads offering me similar products, at least for the next few weeks. Has my phone been tapped? I'm probably too uninteresting and unthreatening for anyone to bother. However,  I know that because I am a white woman, my chances of being frisked by NYC cops is probably nil. And my chances if I were a black or Latino man, well . . . are much much higher.

There's a difference between the photo I choose to post and the ones that someone takes of me without my permission.

There's a difference between what, from my private life, I choose to fashion, transform, into a poem and someone else chooses to steal and use.

It's not only the lack of privacy; it's the lack of much conversation about it. Or at least, not enough conversation. Whatever happened on 9/11, it has had one overwhelming effect, helped along by the medium I am using at this moment to communicate: the balance between security and privacy has shifted heavily in the direction of security. Perhaps, in this medium, it's the balance between the marketplace (the right to sell) and privacy has also shifted in favor of the former.blog/technology-and-liberty/civil-liberties-digital-age-weekly-highlights-682012

The title of this post is taken from one of the profile questions to a popular dating site. It's a hopeful sign that many people still balk at answering the question.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What is it about electronic readers

Someone gifted me a Kindle. It was never something I would have bought for myself. I'm trying to figure out why I resist reading from it. [Full disclosure: I am still one of those people who gets The New York Times delivered, who rides the subway with a newspaper folded in her hands. Who holds the smooth pages of The New Yorker as she reads.] A year or more ago, I bought and read Sara Bakewell's How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer.http://www.sarahbakewell.com/Montaigne.html I was travelling and it seemed like a good way to read the book instead of lugging along a huge hard cover. And I did read it, but I can barely remember the book and the pencil markings, scratchings, I like to make in a physical book are, of course, not there. "Clippings," as Kindle calls them, are a different thing altogether. What brought me to thinking about this, while walking the dog today, is why I'm reading for at least 6 months a really terrific book: Ann Patchett's State of Wonderhttp://www.amazon.com/State-Wonder-Ann-Patchett/dp/0062049801. I'm engrossed in reading it when I pick it up, but then put it down for months. For some reason, because I bought it for my Kindle (pace Ann, who is the only major writer I know of who also owns a bookstore), I don't feel compelled to enter and remain in the world as well. And a different world it is, set mostly in the Amazon jungle with characters that have enough staying power.

I also downloaded the "sample" of my own last book, Burn and Dodgehttp://www.amazon.com/Burn-Dodge-Pitt-Poetry-Series/dp/0822960052, just to see what that would look like. All you get is the first 6 lines of the first poem, which is, aptly, "Regret."


        Here's another sin you're sunk within
    owl-necked looking back
to where you might have been
        or what you could have done
   to deep you from the muck
you're stuck standing in.

Okay. Okay. I liked seeing my words on a screen, despite the fact that I had to change the font size so the lineation of the poem wouldn't change. But what I really want is for readers to hold the volume in their hands. And what I want as a reader is to feel the heft of paper, to smell the smell of new paper, to throw a pencil in to mark my place and to use to pencil in whatever notes I care to make. That said, I do intend to finish reading the book on my Kindle. And when I travel this summer, I probably imagine myself bringing the Kindle along, or else borrowing my son's ipad.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


It's my first post, on this evening when Venus is transiting across the sun. 
I'm speechless. But isn't that what all images and poems do: bring us to the point that transcends language. 
It's the transition from Venus as an evening star to Venus as a morning star, so the scientists say.
I have no idea what this blog will be. Let it be a place for wonder. For poetry. For transitions planetary
as well as personal. The blog takes its name from my new book Whirlwind, which will transit into print this October.
As Bob Dylan says, I was in a whirlwind, now I'm in some better place. Let this be that better place.