The Girl I Used To Love Lives In This Yellow House

And then it was May. The last few months have been quite the marathon, in no small part due to the Inauguries. After the leisurely wonderland of Vermont, I came back to Oregon and dizzied myself trying to squeeze a poem a day around the obligations of humdrum, ordinary life. I woke up in the wee hours to write before work, stayed up bleary-eyed in hotel rooms trying to compose poems after traveling all day, and faced more than a few occasions where I thought it might be best to throw in the towel altogether. If nothing else, the project reminded me that I am, at heart, a stubborn fool.

I still have a list of words I wanted to use--and Trump is picking up new favorite terms every day--but I'm happy that the 100 days are over. (If only the administration were as short-lived as this project was.) Maybe I'll revisit some of those other words at a later date, but for now I'm taking a much needed rest from poem-writing and turning instead to seeing whether the Inauguries have the making of a manuscript in them. It feels strange to try to split up and rearrange the poems into a book, but folks keep encouraging me to get these babies out beyond the blog, so I'm giving it a shot.

In the months since my last post, I've amassed quite the list of shout-outs that have remained shut-in while I was engrossed with writing the Inauguries. So, at long last...

Cheers to Peter Kahn, Ravi Shankar, and Patricia Smith, for editing The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks. The anthology riffs on the Golden Shovel form created by Terrance Hayes, which borrows a line from one of Brooks' poems to form the final words in the lines of a new poem. The anthology is a great way to get acquainted with a wide range of contemporary poets or to revisit your favorite Gwendolyn Brooks poem. My poem in the anthology draws on a line from "Riders to the Blood-Red Wrath," which is not my favorite Brooks poem, but how I could I resist the lure of a line like "the national anthem vampires at the blood"? (And what is my favorite Brooks poem, you ask? Depends on the day, but "The Mother" and "Beverly Hills, Chicago" are probably the top two contenders.)

Hurrah for Laura Madeline Wiseman for editing Bared: Contemporary Poetry and Art on Bras and Breasts. The anthology includes some of my favorite poets: Sarah A Chavez, Susanna Childress, Denise Duhamel, Leslie Adrienne Miller, Stacey Waite... Too many brilliant folks to name them all. I've got two poems in the anthology--about breasts, not bras. One's an oldie but goodie from The Body Is No Machine, and the other, "No Jeremiad," is brand new to the world.

Hosannas to Mary Ann Miller, editor of the new journal, Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry , and Jeremy Schraffenberger, who interviewed me for the journal. Mary Ann was the force behind St. Peter's B-List: Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints, and she was kind enough to think of me for this first issue of Presence. Jeremy's questions helped me to revisit the process of writing and revising No Confession, No Mass, and I suspect some of his questions about the efficacy of poetry as protest led me in the direction of the Inauguries.

And bravi to Mary Vermillion and all the folks at Mount Mercy University, who gave me such a warm welcome when I visited in April. Mary live-tweeted the Q&A, during which I read the first drafts of a couple of poems from No Confession, No Mass. The drafts were awful, but that was the point, and it was the first time I've ever read a shaggy early draft aloud to a room full of strangers. (I highly recommend it for its humbling properties.) Mary's colleague, Joe Sheller, wrote a generous blog post about the reading, as well as its aftermath, when I mistook Joe for a ghost. (It was a long day, and the students and I had been talking about paranormal investigators. Yes, let's blame it on that.) I also got to chat with Mary a bit about the memoir she co-wrote with her husband, Ben, about his gender transition, and I am eagerly awaiting its publication. Best of all, the students at Mount Mercy were thoughtful and inquisitive and bold--it was a true pleasure to talk with them. A few asked questions that prompted me to reveal my fears and qualms about writing non-fiction. (It turns out I'm fond of the veil, however thin, that fiction and poetry allow me to draw over my life.) But because I find it hard to refuse a challenge, especially a self-issued one, while I'm on my post-Inauguries mini-hiatus from poetry, I'm trying my hand at some essays on race. Time will tell whether I can get over my unease enough to send these out into the world, but for now, at least, the writing feels necessary and surprising, so I'll follow it where it takes me.
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Published on May 17, 2017 18:00 Tags: bras, breasts, essays, golden-shovel, gwendolyn-brooks, inauguries, mount-mercy, presence
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