Wednesday, August 01, 2012

pink matter

Revision is kicking my ass, and this song is helping me through the rough spots. It's an elixir of a few of my favorite things: Andre 3000 and Frank Ocean (artistic Southern boys), haunting melodies, allusions to space, sex, and an esoteric, violent sensei who must be Pai Mei. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

see them go

I am revising. I don't need one poem; I need all poems. But I only have room for one today.

The Calling

And the word came--was it a god
spoke or a devil!--Go
to that lean parish; let them tread
on your dreams; and learn silence

is wisdom. Be alone with yourself
as they are alone in the cold room
of the wind. Listen to the earth
mumbling the monotonous song

of the soil. I am hungry, I
am hungry, in spite of the red dung
of this people. See them go
one by one through that dark door

with the crumpled ticket of your prayers
in their hands. Share their distraught
joy at the dropping of their inane
children. Test your belief

in spirit on their faces staring
at you, on beauty's surrender
to truth, on the soul's selling
of itself for a corner

by the body's fire. Learn the thinness
of the window that is
between you and life, and how
the mind cuts itself if it goes through.

by R.S. Thomas

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Emptiness of Being a Man

I watched Midnight in Paris today. It was delightful to see Dali and Stein and Hemingway and Picasso on the screen. Paris seemed a little antiseptic, a little too clean, but still, it was beautiful, and it made me want to go back. It also made me sad, and this made me want a poem tonight. I opened my anthology, and this is where I landed: Joao Cabral de Melo Neto is speaking of what it means to feel empty.

The Emptiness of Being a Man

The emptiness of being a man is not like
any other: not like an empty coat
or empty sack (things which do not stand up
when empty, such as an empty man),
the emptiness of man is more like fullness
the swollen things which keep on swelling,
the way a sack must feel
that is being filled, or any sack at all.
The emptiness of man, this full emptiness,
is not like a sack of bricks' emptiness
or a sack of rivets', it does not have the pulse
that beats in a seed bag or bag of eggs.

The emptiness of man, though it resembles
fullness, and seems all of a piece, actually
is made of nothings, bits of emptiness,
like the sponge, empty when filled,
swollen like the sponge, with air, with empty air,
it has copied its very structure from the sponge,
it has made up in clusters, of bubbles, of non-grapes.
Man's empty fullness is like a sack
filled with sponges, is filled with emptiness;
man's emptiness, or swollen emptiness,
or the emptiness that swells by being empty.

(translated by Galway Kinnell)

Friday, December 30, 2011

late, as ever

So, I won. I don't know what to say about that right now: I don't think I ever will. I owe a few folks interviews, and I'm procrastinating on a deadline, but I need a poem right now. How about this one?

Poem Written in A Copy of Beowulf

At various times, I have asked myself what reasons
moved me to study, while my night came down,
without particular hope of satisfaction,
the language of the blunt-tongued Anglo-Saxons.

Used up by the years, my memory
loses its grip on words that I have vainly
repeated and repeated. My life in the same way
weaves and unweaves its weary history.

Then I tell myself: it must be that the soul
has some secret, sufficient way of knowing
that it is immortal, that its vast, encompassing
circle can take in all, can accomplish all.

Beyond my anxiety, beyond this writing,
the universe waits, inexhaustible, inviting.

--Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, October 14, 2011

National Book Award Finalist

That one, my friends, deserves all capital letters.

The little-book-that-could has been nominated as a finalist for the National Book Award. I never thought this would happen. I actually thought that I'd spend the rest of my writing days sending my book-children out into the world to be admired by a few, scorned by a dozen, and muttering to myself in this Blogger corner.

Whenever I speak to audiences about my fiction, inevitably I'm asked about rejection. How many times did you face rejection, they ask. And I tell them: many times. My first novel was dead in the water for 3 years, three years of submission and rejection, and I had exactly one story published during that time. I was working at the University of New Orleans during the years following Hurricane Katrina. Driving through New Orleans East for work, through that wasted landscape, the houses rotting and spray-painted, the empty streets, the waste from the flood still sitting where the water deposited it when it receded subdued me so thoroughly I didn't write a new sentence for 3 years. Fine, I thought, I'll shut up now. I told despair: You win. I began looking up the pre-requisite courses I'd need to enter a nursing program, began plotting my return to school, my leave from writing.

And then Doug Siebold of Agate Publishing said yes to Where the Line Bleeds. Two years later, my editor at Bloomsbury Publishing said yes to my second novel Salvage the Bones. And now, the folks at the National Book Foundation have said yes.

So many can tell you no, I tell my audience, but you only need one person to say yes.

Say yes: read Salvage the Bones.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My second novel, Salvage the Bones, is out today. The cover is beautiful, isn't it? I always imagined that I'd do an interview for the novel, and a special picture would accompany it: me, hair wild, wearing a tank top and cut off jean shorts, barefoot, Mississippi green wild all around me, holding a leash while a dog, big and red, stands at my feet, mouth open, teeth white. Both of us, grinning. I'm getting generous reviews and given several good interviews, but this hasn't happened yet. I'm still hoping.

This is the story of a girl growing up in a world of men, a tale about her brother and his pit bull, a novel about a family in the maw of Hurricane Katrina. This is about tragedy: this is about hope.

Go now. Buy it. Read it. You'll love it.