Mountain Xpress: Feature Story about Asheville Bloggers

[An abridged version is crossposted on BlogAsheville]
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This week’s Mountain Xpress ran a cover story about the local blogosphere. Screwy Hoolie, Edgy Mama, Modern Peasant, 1000 Black Lines, DEMbloggers and nine other bloggers were mentioned.

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The story, Something To Blog About, is a good overview of the Asheville blogosphere, but (as always) the newspaper sends you to the blogs for the rest of the story.

The article reads:

Looking at 1000 Black Lines, the first impression you may get is that of an old photocopied ‘zine gone 21st century. Poems, essays, random journal entries, images and links to curious items of interest artfully litter the site.

So as not to give the wrong impression, the article was not about 1000 Black Lines. It was about Asheville’s community of bloggers. But this coffeehouse junkie does enjoy the perception of an artfully littered new media ‘zine.

Poem Review: “Old Soldier” by Charles Simic

About four months ago I wrote a review of a poem by Charles Simic for an editor, but I have not received word as to its status. So, here’s an abbreviated form of the review.

A couple months ago, my son and I planted seven white pine saplings along the east side of the property. As a three-year old, he doesn’t really “plant” trees but rather roams the near vicinity in search of new wonders to discover. Each dandelion must be plucked and examined and each twig must be picked up and relocated. A chestnut branch, which had fallen during a recent storm, particularly interested his imagination. With chestnut branch in hand, my son defended the homestead from cardinals, squirrels and a trespassing cat.

As I recall my three-year son chasing a yellow rubber ball across the backyard and waving his chestnut branch over his head, I think of how new readers of poetry need to wade into the greater pool of literature by first enjoying what will get their feet wet. This doesn’t diminish the quality of Simic’s work but rather supports the notion that if a poet can speak to the children he will be able to guide them into a broader, deeper appreciation for poetry. The Academy of American Poets recently cited, in their 2003-2004 annual report, that 68% of their active members became interested in poetry before the age of 18.

“Old Soldier” opens with a list of credentials and a storyteller’s wink of wit. The image of this warrior wanting to impishly pull the tail of “a cat lying in the grass” suggests a mischievous tone for Simic’s 22-line poem. The mother figure introduces a contrast of gentleness and the serene garden solitude against the “flying cinders” of aerial bombardment. What’s interesting about the mother figure is that she doesn’t leave the soldier alone but takes him “by the hand.” It’s tempting to wonder if this is a historical account or merely a narrative. Vernon Young, a contributor to the Hudson Review, suggests that Simic writes “by the fable; his method is to transpose historical actuality into a surreal key.“

Simic tells that the soldier’s sword was cardboard and only lacked a horse–particularly a horse which pulled “a hearse/With a merry wave of his tail.” The last lines are striking in that they suggest a ten-year old boy who chooses a funeral horse for his military campaigns instead of a warhorse. Ripe imagery presents numerous literary interpretations.

Malaprop’s Gig Tomorrow Night!

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I was downtown tonight working on the final touches of a poetry reading manuscript and I thought it was pretty cool to see where Malaprop’s hung the event poster–next to the “featured artist” exhibit. Usually posters compete for space on the double glass doors entering the bookstore, but they placed it alone–minimum visual competition (outside of gazing past it to the rows of books and posted art).

The gig starts at 7 PM. I open the event. If you want to hear me read, then don’t show up at 7:30 PM (I’ll be done by then). For those of you coming from out of town–parking is a bit tricky, so come early in order to secure a good space. If you’re late, please stick around and listen to Kimberly, Vanessa and Pasckie or enjoy a cup of java, chai or a good book.

Poetry, a gift

Tonight I was discouraged to recieve yet another rejection letter. Maybe I should have sent him an invitation to Thursday night’s gig at Malaprop’s instead of six poems.

“Chin up,” I say to myself. “Review the poems,” I tell myself. “Make sure they are a gift to the people who will attend.”

A poetry reading is like an art gallery portfolio review. You want to pick your best 12 to 15 pieces and include a couple talking points per painting. This enables the audience/curator to understand the piece in context. It also allows room for conversation after the reading/viewing.

I read today that it’s the poet Philip Larkin’s birthday. It is reported that it took him three years to complete his 50-line masterpiece “Aubade.” His literary legacy can be found in 4 small books (consisting of 117 poems).

This encourages me, for I have been working on a poem for almost four years. Many poems have been created in that period and maybe they will be collected in four or five small books.

Small books often capture my attention. I guess that’s why I like graphic novels and small books of poetry like Simic’s Wedding in Hell or Flynn’s The Lost Sea.

I also read that Thoreau published Walden on this day. It took him five years to get rid of all 2000 copies. I thought of how I’d like each book I create/publish to be a gift. If it takes three years to compose a poem and five more years to circulate copies, it will still be a rewarding gift.

Unfortunately, an editor did not know he received a gift. Instead, he rejected the gift I sent him–finding no room in his poetry review for it. His lose really–not mine.

Poetry Performance–Be Prepared

Malaprop’s Gig in 3 days!

It’s odd to think that I’ve spent the last four weeks preparing for a short block of time –20 minutes. That seems to be the nature of poetry. I’m sure there are some poets who perform public readings that don’t plan what they will say or read. I find that approach insulting to people who come to hear good poetry.

It is the responsibility of a poet to respect the audience by preparing himself/herself for each performance. So, I carefully select a series of poems–a performance manuscript. Some of the poems have been published. Other’s have not. I read the series outloud to hear how it sounds–how it flows. I make further adjustments. And more adjustments.

All the while, I watch the countdown to Thursday night… 7PM… Malaprop’s Cafe.

Density of Poetry

Malaprop’s Gig in 4 days!

At supper tonight, a friend was telling me that she is looking forward to attending Thursday night’s poetry/music gig. But she couldn’t understand why I chose to read/write poetry.

“Why not stories?” she asked.

I told her that I do write in other genres but I chose poetry as my concentration because it required deep thought to write and read. Not that prose is easy to write, but poetry buries textured truths in metaphor which require those who seek it to search deliberately. What may be investigated in a novel is compressed in 32 lines of a poem.

The German word for poetry is Gedichte or Dichtung. The definition of poetry in German encompasses the idea of compression or density–to condense a thought or theme. The English understanding of poetry embraces beauty and harmony–graceful elegance.

My hope is that in four days I present condensed ideas in a lyrical framework.

Bonfires at Pritchard Park

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Feel free to download a full-size poster I designed for The Traveling Bonfires.
(measures: 11″x17″, resolution: 200 dpi, file size: 631kb):
[Download Poster Here]

Bonfires for Peace at Pritchard Park

Saturday, Aug 6, 2005
3pm to 10pm
Downtown Asheville, NC

Dashvara, Large Lewis, Phuncle Sam, Sunshine

Another BlogAsheville Meetup

Wired. That’s the best way to describe it. I’m drinking Good Earth decaffeinated chai in hopes it will help me wind down a bit.

Over two hours ago I enjoyed yet another BlogAsheville meeting. This time it was in regards to an interview with a Mountain Xpress writer who is composing a story about the local blogosphere.

Screwy Hoolie, Edgy Mama and Modern Peasant were there answering questions and just having an all around good time discussing blogging and other related (or unrelated) topics. DEMbloggers made a showing later in the evening with much to discuss regarding blogging and politics. Seems like each of us Asheville bloggers had much to talk about and thouroughly enjoyed each others company. I’d go into detail about the conversations but I’ll let you follow the links and find out for yourselves.

It’s 5 o’clock GMT… the chai is gone… I’m listening to the BBC news on NPR…