This has been a pretty cool weekend. I wasn’t able to fly out to California for the San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival, which would have been a joy to attend, but other good stuff has been happening.
On Friday, Martin Ott and I were notified by Sarah Freburger, a member of the editorial team for Collier’s Magazine, that they would like to publish two of our poems on their website. We’re excited by the possibility of appearing in a national magazine with a long pedigree and a tradition of seeking social justice, though we’re still waiting to work out a couple of details before we sign all the paperwork.
Also on Friday, I was contacted by Karina Basso, assistant managing editor for Rock & Sling, a literary journal of witness, published twice a year at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. The “literary journal of witness” part means that they’re interested in discovering my relationship between faith and the poem they accepted, “Just the Facts Concerning Jack Frank Buck”; I’m not sure how I’m going to respond to that request, but I’m glad they mean the concept of faith in general, not any particular narrowly-construed “faith.”
On Saturday, Rock & Sling contacted me again, this time editor-in-chief (and Spokane poet laureate) Thom Caraway accepting my poem “He.” Again, they’d like 300-500 words on the intersection of faith and my literary creation. Hmm…
But maybe the most rewarding experience this weekend were the events surrounding the eighth installment of the 2013-2014 Mark Webster Reading Series, a platform for MFA students in their second year of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. I was lucky enough to read my poetry in conjunction with the fiction of Blair Austin. Blair took the stage first, delivering two pieces: first, a dramatic monologue of sorts in the voice of a football announcer from a parallel universe; after that, a shorter story about a pack of feral dogs hunting two boys. Blair’s a great performer with a masterful grasp of verbal nuance, so I was a bit nervous knowing I’d have to follow his act. Fortunately, his second story was in more of a minor key, which provided a better segue-way into my own work.
Once it was my turn, after a wonderful introduction by my friend and colleague Kenzie Allen, I think I acquitted myself well enough. Raquel and I had practiced my set a few times in the preceding week, so I kept her tips in mind and I knew the performance should come in right under the twenty-minute limit. I read “Stash,” “Weather Report,” “Wait Till Your Father Comes Home,” “Soar,” “Last Straw,” “Ground Stood, Value Assessed,” “2020 Vision, “and “Weird.” Everyone was congratulatory afterward, and a number of folks offered positive comments, especially about the last three poems. The one pisser was discovering on Saturday that I’d also read “Wait Till Your Father Gets Home” for my first-year MFA reading last April. I really dislike repeating myself, especially since I have plenty of other poems that might have deserved some attention. But at least I had revised the poem since last year, so it wasn’t a total repetition.
It was a great night in general. First I got a drink and some appetizers with Webster series hosts Chris McCormick and Marcelo Hernandez Castillo and with the night’s introducers, Chigozie Obioma and Kenzie. Then came the show. Then Raquel and I got some pizza with Blair, his partner Camilla, Marcelo, Nina Buckless, Zach Braun, Jide Odebayo-Begun, Lauren Clark, and a little later, Dan Hornsby. Then I walked Raquel home and went to the 8-Ball Saloon, the local dive bar, where I saw Chris and Jia Tolentino and had some drinks with Denise Dooley, Nora Byrnes, Phoebe Rusch, Emily Nagin, and Kat Finch. I wish I’d run into Kenzie and Chigozie at the 8-Ball too, but I guess they got there early and left before I arrived.
Anyway, once again, thank you to everyone who played some role in making this a very cool few days. It’s a huge relief not to live and write in a vacuum, to know that I fit somewhere, at least contingently. Thank you.