What is your creative space?

An open window to creative space

The window is open on a warm late May day and a cool mountain breeze  moves the curtains like papery fingers. Occasionally, I glance at the Japanese maple outside or the grape vine wildly clinging to a handmade, crude trellis of found pine limbs….

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UPDATE: This blog post is available as part of an audio podcast.

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E-book: This blog post will be featured in a forthcoming e-book. More details coming soon.

Are you dad enough?

Rebuttal to TIME Magazine’s recent cover image and story. [12]

What do you think about all the reaction to TIME magazine’s recent cover featuring an attractive blonde mother breastfeeding her son? [1] [2] [3] [4] The fact that a nurturing mother evokes such outrage is amusing to me. [5]

This public response to a magazine cover begs the question (at least in my mind): would TIME ever run a story titled “Are you Dad Enough?” and cover the nurturing aspects of fatherhood? [6] Another question that comes to mind is: when was the last time you saw a father portrayed as a responsible father on the cover of TIME magazine? Or any other mainstream periodical for that matter? Has the model of a loving father vanished from the landscape of American culture? [7]

Plenty of examples of fathers are portrayed on television, but I’m not talking about the Tim Allen “Aarrrgghh, Aarrrgghh, Aarrrgghh” type dads who think going to a sporting goods store is fatherhood. Nor am I talking about the According to Jim beer-guzzling, television-watching, misogynists who seem to mess up everything and then Cheryl has to come in and fix the problems before the end of the show. [8] This portrait of American dads is degrading to those fathers out there who manage to change a child’s diaper, wash the dishes, do the laundry, fix a plugged tub on a Sunday morning when everyone needs a bath before church, [9] play trains with the younger children or stick ball with the older ones, and, in general, serve and sacrifice for their family. [10] I know plenty of fathers who are working crumby jobs just to feed their families and take care of their homes. They sacrifice their own dreams and aspirations because that’s what dad’s ought to do.

Now there are plenty of derelict dads out there who sit around and play video games all day, try to be cool with their kids and consider their children cultural objects. They are poor examples of fatherhood. Dear boy-dads, grow up. You are fathers now. You are no longer cool, hip, or awesome. Fatherhood is a difficult, thankless but ultimately rewarding vocation. Fathering a child only takes moments. Fatherhood is a lifetime commitment. Join the ranks of nurturing, responsible fathers and own it with dignity and grace. [11]

NOTES: [1] In my opinion, the reaction to the “Are You Mom Enough?” TIME cover is a combination of paleo-puritanism, meso-feminism, and neo-idiocy. [2] “Mika Brzezisnki… suggested on the air that the cover was needlessly sensational…” in the article TIME Magazine cover of breastfeeding mom sparks intense debate on “attachment parenting” [3] “Time magazine staff writer Kate Pickert defended the cover” saying “I think that we knew it would be a provocative cover but we’re thrilled that lots of people are responding to it… We’re happy to see that we’ve sparked a great conversation.” Read more: Breast-Feeding Time Cover Mom Responds to Critics [4] “There is no doubt that the TIME cover strikes the public as shocking. But, as Pickert points out, the women featured are at one extreme end of this always-controversial discussion.” Read: Jamie Lynne Grumet, Breastfeeding Mom On ‘TIME Magazine’ Cover, Illustrates Attachment Parenting [5] It is no longer shocking. At least, not to me. But maybe that’s because, as a culture, Americans are desensitized to shock. What really shocks us, as Americans, any more? [6] Can you imagine a bare-chested attractive father on the cover of TIME magazine? Okay, maybe a bare-chested Brad Pitt with his children might sell magazines. The truth is, magazine publishers need to sell magazines and a female with suckling will sell more copies to the over-sexualized masses than a cover of the opposite proportions. Think of the last few covers of TIME magazine that featured a male figure. Almost all of those covers feature men of power and influence. Has there ever been a magazine cover featuring a nurturing father? [7] If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might propose that there is a war on true, masculine fatherhood in America. But I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Just thought I’d beat you to the punch before I get pushed into that corner and painted as a FoxNews-watching/ditto-head/wing-nut. Which I am not. [8] The only role model on television I can recall that resembles those two characteristics is Heathcliff Huxtable of The Cosby Show. [9] Not that I’m using personal examples to boast of more “real” dad credentials, but fatherhood is about serving and sacrificing. [10] That is where the “amen,” “hell-yas” and other forms of applause is supposed to go. Read this post again and respond accordingly. [11] This post started out as a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek imagining of a bare-chested father on the cover of TIME magazine, but became a rant. Apologies for the sudden fury. And blessings to those who actually read the small print. [12] PHOTO CREDITS: Though I created the mock TIME magazine cover, I found the retro father with children photo on this Tumblr page.

Asheville Wordfest – a reflection and a video

Asheville Wordfest – Reading at The Altamont Theatre, May 4, 2012

It was truly an honor to be invited to read a few poems at this year’s Asheville Wordfest. When I received the invitation I thought it was a mistake. So, I direct messaged the director using Twitter saying: “my twitter acct is wonky today. i received something from you re: wordfest… how can i help?” Previously, I had helped with audio during a previous Wordfest featuring the poet Li-young Lee. She direct messaged me on Twitter with a note of confirmation. So, I began selecting poems for the event.

Since I haven’t read my poetry publicly in more than a year, I was a bit anxious about the invitation to read at this year’s Wordfest. Last year was a busy year of readings at bookstores, [1] a literary salon, [2] and a featured guest at the Mountain Xpress poetry show. [3] Then employment for me became tricky and I endured the challenges of a transition to a new job, lay off, unemployment, and another job transition with a three-hour round trip commute. I kept writing new poems, but the new out-of-state job prevented me from participating in the active literary scene here in Asheville.

There were more than a hundred new poems I wrote last year to consider for the Asheville Wordfest poetry reading. I selected four or five new poems, but I didn’t feel confident enough in their craftsmanship to read publicly. One manuscript I have been developing for awhile had the strongest work that best fit this year’s Wordfest theme, “HOME: Place and Planet.” I started it when I took a writing workshop taught by Ashveille Wordfest Director, Laura Hope-Gill, a few years ago.

Two practices help me decide what poems to read. First, it is my practice to put a poetry manuscript in a presentation book with sheet protectors. That way pages don’t fall to the floor during a reading. You can usually purchase presentation books of that nature at office supply stores. I select a variety of poems on various subjects or themes. Further, it is my practice at an actual poetry reading featuring multiple poets to listen closely to the other poets. While the reading takes place, I select poems that speak to other poets’ work as a way to have a literary conversation. So, I brought four working manuscripts hoping that I might find a poem that might play off a poem read by Ronald Reginald King, DeWayne Barton, and Katherine Soniat.

As I walked to the podium after a very generous introduction by Laura Hope-Gill, I still hadn’t decided what poem would complete my reading. I knew the poem I would lead off with and I knew the one to follow, but the third and final poems I hadn’t quite decided. Improvisation is something I am developing in public readings, because each night the audience is different, with individual needs, interests and mood. A bar room poem might work in one setting and audience, but not work another night with a different audience. So, after I clumsily introduced myself, I knew by the time I finished reading the second poem where the narrative of the poem selection would lead. For better or worse, the reading was videocast and a recording is available. Here’s a link to the video [link here].

When I sat down next to my wife after completing my reading, I noticed a couple mentions on Twitter regarding the live videocast. One person [4] tweeted, “Goosebumps: poem dedicated to Jenny.”

NOTES: [1] As a member of the Rooftop Poets, I read with Barbara Gravelle and Brian Sneeden at Accent on Books in February. Barbara Gravelle and I read at the May 2011 Poetrio at Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café. That was my last public reading until last Friday night, May 4, 2012. [2] After a very successful book launch and poetry event, the Rooftop Poets presented Poet’s on the Roof: A Literary Salon. [3] The Mountain Xpress invited Brian Sneeden and myself to read on behalf of the Rooftop poets as featured poets at the 2011 Mountain Xpress Poetry Show [4] @anorawrites

Tomorrow night – Juniper Bends Literary Reading

The afterglow of Asheville Wordfest 2012 has barely faded. In truth, I’m still recovering from the rich, full weekend, but excited to announce tomorrow night’s literary reading.

Friday, May 11th at 7:00 p.m. the Downtown Books and News (67 North Lexington Ave., Asheville, NC) hosts the Juniper Bends Literary Reading featuring poets and prose writers: Abigail DeWitt, Anne Maren-Hogan, M. Owens and Mesha Maren. More details on the Juniper Bends Literary Reading Facebook events page: link.

How does one prepare for a poetry reading?

It’s less than two hours before the event and I find myself pacing the house with loose leaf pages of poems wondering if I’ve chosen the correct poems for tonight. I’ve been preparing for tonight’s reading all week. Reading poems I’ve written (and avoiding making additional edits). Selecting the poems I plan to bring to tonight’s reading at The Altamont Theater. I’ll read at the Asheville Wordfest event Voices of the City alongside Katherine Soniat, DeWayne Barton, Ronald Reginald King, Ekua Adisa and Roberto Hess. But I can’t help wonder, what do these fine poets do before a poetry reading? What rituals do they observe the day before an event like tonight?

Asheville Wordfest 2012 – poems that open conversations

It’s true. There is only one article I read from the pages of O: The Oprah Magazine. It is the interview between Maria Shriver and the poet Mary Oliver. [1] “I consider myself kind of a reporter. . .” Mary Oliver says. I think that’s the same sentiment Wordfest director Laura Hope-Gill expresses in this week’s Mountain Xpress article where she describes poetry as “citizens’ journalism.” [2]

“Poetry is a short line between different cultures,” says Laura Hope-Gill. “It can heal the cultural divides that still plague our city. It opens conversations that we need to have.”

The invitation to read my poems at this year’s poetry festival is something I don’t take lightly. I spent the last few nights reviewing poems I’ve written during the last year as well as poems composed during the last decade. The PR/marketing side of me wants to chose poems to read that promote a certain manuscript I’m developing or maybe only read published poems. It’s a promotional game poets play when they read their work publicly. They casually mention that “the next poem I’m going to read was published in the Atlantic Monthly…” or the American Poetry Review or some other notable journal as away to promote their ascendancy of poet extraordinaire.

But my thoughts returned to the idea Laura mentioned in the Mountain Xpress article. I looked through pages of my poems last night searching for material that addresses the idea of healing cultural divides or opening conversations. Selecting poems that fit the general theme presented a bit of a challenge, but there are subtle threads of those ideas in several of the poems I’ve written during the last few years.

Tonight, however, I’ll put aside the task of poem selection and venture to the Vanuatu Kava Bar for Poem-ing the 28801 [3] featuring Barbie Angell, Ten Cent Poetry, Jonathan Santos and Jadwiga McKay.

NOTES: [1] Dear Oprah, you stole my idea, but I’m not filing charges [2] A short line between different cultures [3] Wordfest 2012: Poem-ing the 28801

It’s here… Asheville Wordfest 2012 begins tomorrow

“It’s a good time to come together at the table of poetry,” says Laura Hope-Gill, the director of Asheville Wordfest, in a recent article in the Asheville Citizen-Times.[1] I’m very excited to be part of the local Asheville poets who will be reading during the festival. I’m also excited to listen to the guest poets attending this year’s poetry festival. Some of the guests include Arthur Sze [2] (author of The Ginkgo LightArchipelago and other books) and Matthew Shenoda (author of Somewhere Else and Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone of which A. Van Jordan writes, the poet “uses a quiet language to bring some of the most striking lyrical intensity.”).[3]

This year’s Wordfest includes a memorial reading for poet Carol Novack. On a rainy evening last summer at the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar was the last time I saw her. She was with friends and admirers reading selections from Giraffes in Hiding.

This morning I received an email from the director of Asheville Wordfest with the official schedule for the Asheville Wordfest 2012. It is listed below for those who have not received the schedule:

Wednesday

• 9-11 p.m.

Open mic hosted by Caleb Beissert. Vanuatu Kava Bar, 15 Eagle St.

Thursday


• 7 p.m. “Poem-ing the 28801,”

with Barbie Angell, Ten Cent Poetry, Jonathan Santos and Jadwiga McKay at Vanuatu Kava Bar.

Friday

• Noon, informational luncheon with Lenoir Rhyne University graduate studies program director Paul Knott, who will talk about the Masters in Writing program. Chamber of Commerce building, 2nd floor, 36 Montford Ave. RSVP required to Sara Landry at 258-6136 or Sara.Landry@lr.edu.

• 5-7 p.m., MadHat Reception honoring Carol Novack. Refreshments.

• 7 p.m. “Voices of the City,”

Katherine Soniat, DeWayne Barton, Ronald Reginald King, Matt Mulder, Ekua Adisa and Roberto Hess.

• 9 p.m. “An Evening of Translation,”

with Erik Bendix, Caleb Beissert, Thomas Rain Crowe, Nan Watkins and Luke Hankins.

Saturday


 • 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., “The Poets of Press 53,”

with Terri Kirby Erickson, Joseph Mills and Kathryn Kirkpatrick.

• 1-2 p.m. The Carol Novack Memorial Reading,

with Terese Svoboda, Marc Vincenz and Jeff Davis, Asheville Wordfest co-founder and host of Wordplay.

• 3 p.m. “Fixing to Tell About Jack,”

a celebration and benefit for Ray and Rosa Hicks Fund, featuring storytellers Sheila Kay Adams, Gwenda Ledbetter, Vixi Jil Glen, David Novak, Connie Regan-Blake and Ted Hicks. $12; additional donations welcomed.

• 5:30-6:30 p.m.The Poets of the Asheville-Buncombe County Schools Poetry Slam.

• 7-9 p.m. “Our Honored Guests,”

with Sara Day Evans, LeAnne Howe, Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, Arthur Sze and Matthew Shenoda

• 10 p.m. until late. “Late Night Open Mic.”

Sunday

• 10:30-11:30 p.m. “Children’s Poetry and Children’s Poems,” hosted by Barbie Angell..

• Noon-1 p.m. “Morning of Spirit,” with Tracey Schmidt and James Davis of Logosophia Books, Michael Ivey on guitar and Matthew Cox from Shantavaani on tablas and hand drums. An open mic will invite people to share their own spiritual poems.

• 1:30-2:30 p.m. “Voices of the City,” with April Fox, Eric Steineger, Lisa Sarasohn and Meta Commerce.

• 3 p.m., “Poetrio,” with Maureen Sherbody, Mark DeFoe and Jessie Carty. Malaprops Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St.

• 5 p.m. until whenever, “Poetic Wine-Down,” Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, Grove Arcade.[4]

NOTES: [1] “Asheville Wordfest celebrates poetry of all stripes, May 2-6″ [2] The Poetry Foundations bio of Arthur Sze [3] Matthew Shenoda’s web site [4] Asheville Wordfest 2012