Everyone is Polish on Pączki Day

So, it is Fat Tuesday.[1] Meaning it is almost Lent.[2] In Milwaukee. Meaning it is Pączki Day.[3] And the office fun committee made sure those special Polish pastries[4] are available for staff in the lunch room.

Not from Milwaukee? Not Polish? A member of the fun committee smiled and said, “Everyone is Polish on Pączki Day.”

NOTES
[1] Fat Tuesday, also named Mardi Gras/
[2] On Lent, fasting and feasting/
[3] For a primer, OnMilwaukee provides a word on pączki and seven Milwaukee locations to enjoy the treat.
[4] Here is the correct pronunciation of pączki:

Putting the finishing touches on a new book design

Constellarium_Cover_Final
Since the publisher posted the following on Facebook last night, I guess it is alright to unveil a new book I designed:

Jordan Rice’s debut poetry collection, CONSTELLARIUM, a finalist for the 2015 Orison Poetry Prize, is now available for pre-order at a discounted price! Order now and be among the first to receive the book when it’s released in April.

“Constellarium is a bold announcement of a new poetic voice to be reckoned with. These poems make us stare down shame and celebrate transition, celebrate the body inside. Jordan Rice does not flinch from what society would have us try to look away from, instead she carefully constructs a book in which we are forced to reckon, layer by layer, with her being. Let us be thankful that such a voice exists, that it is brilliant and shattering, and here to take us all on her journey.” –Fatimah Asghar

The process of cover design is exciting. Especially when the title of the project is constellarium.

There are so many stories behind the cover design that would be fun to share. Like, for example, how the kidlingers enjoyed the image of cetus — how cetus does not look like any image of a whale they have ever seen in a picture book. And how the eldest kidlinger is writing a report about rhinos.

And how a species of rhino has been reported extinct. And we wonder if these old drawings are accurate. And that maybe the cetus represented in the book cover art is correct. But maybe that species of ceti (is that the correct nominative plural of cetus, Latin students?) is now extinct.

Maybe these behind-the-scenes stories are more interesting to me than you.

See if you can find cetus in the cover art by pre-ordering Jordan Rice’s Constellarium!

Amazing readings, beautiful community

“Amazing readings, beautiful community,” tweeted one of the poetry marathon attendees Saturday night. Indeed it was a good night to visit Woodland Pattern Book Center to hear poets share their work. To be exact, 150 area poets shared their work.

I participated in the 9 o’clock hour. Featured poets included: Matt Cook, Tom Erickson, Peter Burzynski, Franklin K.R. Cline, Carmen Murguia, Peter Whalen, Bob Koss, Jane Lukic, Michael Wendt. One of the highlights of that hour was to hear a Czesław Miłosz poem read in Polish.

Each poet is afforded five minutes to read. The poems I selected earlier in the day loosely fit the motif of something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. They were all short poems. One of the poems was a spare two lines. So, I read it slowly. In truth, I try to read all poetry at a slow pace. It is a technique I picked up from some of my favorite poets in Western North Carolina.

After the 9 o’clock hour readings concluded, one of the event coordinators commented that she likes this part of the marathon. She said that the poets are warmed up at this point and the poetry really engages the audience. While milling around after the reading, a board member of Woodland Pattern asked me if I was a visiting professor. I smiled. It is a question I get asked a lot after a public reading.

Old, New, Borrowed and Blue

How does a poet select poems to read at a poetry marathon? I have been asking myself and my wife that question all week. Tomorrow is the annual poetry marathon at Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee. Something like 150 poets will be at the all-day event.

As I peruse a collection of publications I am a little startled to realize that there is a decade or more of work published in various journals and reviews.[1] Some of the publications are regional to North Carolina while others are national.

My work does not have a lot of Milwaukee-area credentials and I am not well-known to this region (forthcoming work is to be published by a Milwaukee publisher). Even so, I feel like an outsider at the Woodland Pattern poetry community. This is familiar territory.[2]

During a conversation with my wife this week an idea formed. Selecting poems based on the wedding adage was the plan: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. This developed into an engaging exercise of finding poems to fit that motif. Looking forward to sharing the results tomorrow night — between 9 and 10 p.m. — at Woodland Pattern Book Center.

NOTES
[1] A SHORT LIST OF SEVEN PUBLISHED POEMS:”Saturday Night, Coffee House,” Rapid River, 2004; “Reading ‘My American Body’ by W. K. Buckley,” Rapid River, 2005; “Narrative Kernel,” Rapid River, 2005; “Last Bus,” H_NGM_N, 2005; “The Last American Chestnut Tree,” The Blotter, 2006; “Loneliness Visits,” .ISM Quarterly, 2006; “Last Night at the New French Bar,” Crab Creek Review, 2010
[2] A good friend and poet, Barbie Angell, once told me that I am on the cusp as far as a poet and writer is concerned. Meaning, that I am on the border or threshold of the academic (published) poetry scene and the street (unpublished) poetry scene. So, being a stranger to the Milwaukee poetry scene is familiar place for me.

When you get to the top

When you get to the top

Some days, I walk to Grand Avenue — or rather, The Shops of Grand Avenue — in the afternoon. It breaks up the work day. Offers exercise. Occasionally lunch. Or coffee.

This week is the Annual Poetry Marathon

Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 East Locust Street, Milwaukee, WI 53212

Woodland Pattern Book Center’s 22nd Annual Poetry Marathon & Benefit is almost here and I have done a horrible job promoting the event.

This is the second time I will be reading poetry at the Woodland Pattern Book Center. If you are so inclined, you may sponsor me as I read poetry during the 9 -10 PM portion of the marathon. Details on sponsorship is here.

Or join the event and hear some of the poets in the area and beyond. Last year, if I recall correctly, some of the poets drove from as far as Madison to read at the marathon. Hope to see you there.

Spitting poetry at Grassroots

Day five

Several expressions are used in open mic circles when a poet or a singer songwriter is introduced to the audience. One of those expressions is, “Welcome, So-and-so to the stage. She going to bless the mic with her poetry.” Another expression often heard is, “Ya’ll give it up for What’s-his-name who is here to spit some poetry at you tonight.”

Last night I had the opportunity to read some recent, unpublished poems at the Grassroots open mic in Racine. That was the first time I have read at the Racine Arts Council ArtSpace Gallery (last summer I read some old poems at a Grassroots open mic at George’s Tavern). The poems seemed well received by at least a few people who talked to me at the end of the evening.

There was a time in my life when I used to read my work at open mics and other gigs at least once or twice a week. But those were different times and in a place far from here. Yet, the exercise of public speaking/reading returned quickly. There was fear in my mind that those skills had atrophied.

I will be reading at Woodland Pattern Book Center’s 22nd Annual Poetry Marathon & Benefit. It is a fundraising event. Your support is appreciated. It will be my second time reading at Woodland Pattern. For those interested attending and supporting the event, I will be reading on January 30th at 9 p.m. with a group of other poets — more details on that coming soon. If you would like to sponsor my reading, feel free to leave a note in the comments section or email me.

My breath — a smoke signal

DSCN5088[sqr-basic-vintage-HKfilm]Yesterday’s afternoon walk was a bit chilly. Air temperature was around 10°F with wind chill of -7°F. Especially at the corner of Broadway and East Wisconsin. It was practically a wind tunnel. Crossing Water Street was not much better. But I finally made it across the bridge and to the River Walk. 

The river was not quite frozen. And for the most part, very few people are out for a wintery stroll. One woman pulled her faux fur lined hood over her head and quickly shuffled out of the Wells Fargo building to a waiting SUV. A couple guys, both dressed in thick dark coats, waited for a bus. There was a man waiting at the street corner smoking a cigarette. He wore a red flannel jacket and no gloves.

Funny how cigarette smoke is so distinct in the frigid air. The subtle distinctions between Camel Turkish Gold 100’s, Marlboro Red, Newport Menthol Blue and Chesterfield Bronze is almost as unmistakable as the scent of a fajita or a falafel. Wondered why he had no gloves.

There was a Tranströmer poem I tried to recall as I walked along the River Walk. My breath, thick clouds, attempted to signal a line of the poem. What was it about? A train? A couple in a hotel? Something about night? Or was it a horizon? The frozen river surface does not help. And forty minutes in the cold temperature sent me back to the warm harbor of the office building.

What is the best recipe for perfect hot toddy?

DSCN5084[edit]

So, the highways and roads were a bit slippery with tonight’s snowfall. Traffic was slow due to multiple auto accidents and road conditions.

But it is Wisconsin. And it is January. And it warmed up to 13°F — which is better than this morning at -8°F.

Glad to be off the roads. Time to warm up with a hot toddy. Awhile back I read this article from The Guardian on how to make the best hot toddy. My tonic is pretty simple: 2 ounces of boiled water, 1 ounce Knob Creek, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, a pinch of nutmeg and 3 cloves.

But what if I am out of cloves?

Here is the big question for tonight, do I substitute nutmeg and cloves with a stick of cinnamon?  What is your recipe for the perfect winter night hot toddy?

Rainy river walk

20160108-133453.jpgIt is difficult to believe that it is winter in Wisconsin. The weather reports offer that snowfall is in the forecast for this weekend and sub zero temperatures. But for now, a lunch time walk along Milwaukee’s River Walk is a damp pleasure.