Friday, March 31, 2006

100th Post!

I’m pretty much over the VCCA thing now. I’m leaning towards putting myself on the waiting list. I notified the two people who wrote my letters of recommendation about the VCCA decision. They both feel for me and offered me some insights and encouragement to not let it bother me. One of them indicated that at some artist colonies certain artists may have a friend or friends on the artist colony decision panel, and so they get in whenever they apply. I think this practice is highly unethical and unfair. Basically, both recommenders said to me that artist colonies get tons of applications from very talented and creative people, and so they have to turn away many qualified applicants. They also said that there can be a myriad of reasons behind a decision such as conflicting requested dates.

I may apply again to the VCCA, or I may look into other artist colonies. I don’t remember seeing any that are nearby when I did some research online. Ideally, I wouldn’t want to travel beyond West Virginia, Maryland, or North Carolina.

I have a few newly revised poems that I think are ready to go out into the world. I’ll probably send out some submissions on Monday.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


I returned from the conference in Dallas yesterday to be greeted with two pieces of bad news regarding my poetry. First, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) did not accept me for a one-week residency to work on my first book of poems in June or September. I was very disappointed and a little surprised. My two references felt that I would definitely get in. The VCCA letter said that the summer period is their most competitive because of the academic calendar. The letter suggested that I consider being put on a waiting list in case there are cancellations and/or reapplying for a different time of year. I told my wife that I probably had the misfortune of applying to the VCCA when someone like Rita Dove decided to attend the VCCA. It took me a lot of time to get all of the applications pieces together and make three copies of everything. Then there is the $25 application fee. I also had to line up two poetry experts to write recommendation letters to the VCCA. I’m a little pissed about all of the wasted time and effort. I’m not sure if I want to try the waiting list. I feel a little insulted about the notion of being on a waiting list. The VCCA was part of a recent feature article on artist colonies in Poets & Writers, so I expect it will be more competitive to get into in the future. The other piece of bad news was that The Florida Review rejected me. Normally the rejection would not sting, but with the VCCA disappointment it did sting.

Sometimes I feel that I have more than my share of bad news when it comes to my poems. I sometimes wonder if I will ever have much success/recognition at it despite all of my efforts. I wonder if I am destined to have bad luck when it comes to poetry. At least I feel better about the latest bad news than I did yesterday. By the end of the week I’ll be over it. The only things I have control over are trying to write and revise better poems and then send them out into the world.

Sometimes I think the motif of my life is disappointment. This applies beyond poetry.

Dallas was okay, but I am glad to be home. It is not as fun to fly to a conference when you have just gotten back from Italy earlier in the month. I learned a few things at the conference about how to put the hospital benchmarking data into Access and create more customizable reports than what is currently offered in the Action O-I software. After the initial time investment in setting up the database, it should make my life a little easier.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Go See Inside Man

Okay, so I lied about not blogging again until March 30th, but this will be a brief post. My wife and I saw the movie Inside Man yesterday. I highly recommend it. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in some time. The plot is interesting and surprising. I was able to guess some of the plot components, but guessed wrong about how Clive Owen’s character leaves the bank through the front door and what he takes with him. The dialogue in the movie turns from playful to serious to hilarious throughout the movie. There are a lot of big name actors in the movie, which I think gives you an idea of the quality of the movie: Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Clive Owen, and William Defoe. Finally, Spike Lee directed the movie.

Synopsis: A tough detective (Denzel Washington) matches wits with a cunning bank robber (Clive Owen) as a tense hostage crisis unfolds. Into the volatile situation comes a woman named Madaline (Jodie Foster), a mysterious power broker who has a hidden agenda and threatens to push a tense situation past the breaking point.

I had a good revision session on a poem this morning and made some headway on finishing a stanza in a new poem.

May the Muse be with you!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Song Lyrics, Self-Medicating, and Status of My Poetry Manuscript

I wonder if any of you do this. I intentionally don’t read the song lyrics that come with CDs. I’ve found in the past that I will come to really like a song and think the words say one thing when in reality they say something else. Almost always I prefer by version of the song lyrics by far. My theory on why this is the case is that I’m listening to somewhat ambiguous stimuli. Where I can’t fully hear what the exact words really are, I fill in the gaps myself. Hence, I am bringing myself to the song and inserting my preferences and what I find interesting into the song.

Overall, I’d say my default setting is to be a melancholic person. I’ve often wondered if I like coffee so much and prefer heavy metal music over other types of music I enjoy as a way to pump myself up to a more normal level of functioning. I’ve never quite gotten why so many people like drinking alcoholic beverages. I like the occasional imported beer now and then or a glass of wine, but I really don’t fully understand the draw to alcoholic beverages. I guess people who have different brain chemistry than I do enjoy the calming effect of alcohol on them. It slows things down and relaxes them (it generally just makes me sleepy). It also lessens inhibitions, makes socializing easier, and brings out more of who you really are under the surface. A good buzz can also be pleasurable versus overindulgence that leads to vomiting, the spins, and an awful hangover. I think some people also seek the oblivion that can be found in alcohol. Okay. But I assert that for me coffee is superior to alcohol. I want the energy and focus to do more in life and do it better, stronger, faster (like the Bionic Man). I want to be more fully present in life and achieve more rather than relax or seek a temporary oblivion. I’d even say for me that I usually prefer to drink water with lemon over an alcoholic beverage. Alcohol can be extremely addictive, cause blackouts, can damage your liver, and lower your concerns about practicing safer sex. Coffee is mildly addictive, can cause headaches from withdrawal, can cause stomach problems, can make your heart race and some believe cause heart problems. So, moderation in all things is best. I suppose we all have our drug of choice. For me, it’s coffee.

Last night after revising a poem I looked through all of my revised poems that come up to a level of quality that I feel comfortable including in a book. Based on a 12 point font size in Times New Roman and assuming that a page of poetry in most poetry collections comes out to about 35 lines per page, I estimate that I have13 finished poems coming in at 32 pages. Three of the 13 poems are long poems between 4 and 6 pages. Hence, I believe that I have half of a book-length manuscript ready at this point. I’d like to have a full manuscript ready by the end of September.

I’m flying to a work conference in Dallas on Monday, so I don’t expect to be blogging again until March 30th.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I often begin writing a poem with a collection of odd notations that have come out of conversations, dreams, overheard remarks on the street…. Very often I throw out these beginning notes once I’ve finished the poem; but again they are devices which enable me to get at something I don’t already know. I can’t tell you why a certain overheard remark seems significant and another one doesn’t except that when I’m in a state of attentiveness, waiting to write a poem, I can tell intuitively what’s going to help me write it and what isn’t.

--John Ashbery

Monday, March 20, 2006

No Sunday Morning Writing

I didn’t do any writing yesterday like I normally do on Sunday mornings. I’ve been behind on my sleep ever since I returned from Rome, so I elected to stay home and sleep in yesterday. I plan to do some writing after work today to make up in part for not writing yesterday.

I keep expecting to hear some news from the artist colony I applied to or receive some acceptance/rejection news. I’m supposed to learn the artist colony decision by the end of the month. The academic year will be coming to a close next month, so I guess I should receive some acceptance/rejection news for sure next month. There is so much waiting involved with sending your work out.

I have a five-section poem that I’ve been revising that probably needs one more round of revision. After that I should be comfortable with moving the poem into my electronic FINISHED! file. Revision on this poem has been interesting because I’ve encountered a conflict between what is factually true versus what’s the most poetic way of saying something. If I add a line to remain true to the facts, it slightly undermines the eloquence of the poem. The poem is better without that extra line. I’ve used a lot of facts elsewhere in the poem, so I think I am obligated to continue working with the facts. I’ll just have to come up with a better line or learn to live with the factual line I’ve already written.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.

--William Butler Yeats


Recently I’ve received some compliments about my job performance, and a promotion is in the works for me. I was thinking yesterday how I am doing much better at my regular job versus my poetry endeavors. I was thinking that I am a businessperson who writes poetry rather and a poet who works in business. I talked to my wife a little about this. She pointed out that if I devoted as much time to poetry as I do my regular job that I would probably be met with different results. Hmmm….. This makes me think that I should structure my life so that I do more writing and reading of poetry.

I typically get a poem or two out of big vacation trips, particularly if they are overseas. Nothing on this trip absolutely stands out as a poem opportunity. Perhaps it would be nice to try writing a poem about visiting the room where Keats died and seeing a lock of his hair.

I’ve noticed that when I expect to get something in the mail regarding poetry it rarely shows up. It always seems that when I least expect to get some poetry news that it shows up.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Italy – Part 2

March 8th: St. Peter’s Basilica & the Vatican Museums – I came down with a cold this day and was feeling lousy. I forced myself to go with the tour group though. I just had to see the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s Pieta. The Sistine Chapel is smaller than I thought it was but still quite impressive. I find Rome’s ancient history more interesting than the Catholic history.

March 9th: Assisi & Orvieto – Visited these two beautiful towns in Umbria. In Assisi I enjoyed seeing the tombs and relics of Saint Francis and Saint Clare. In Orvieto the Duomo church was very striking with its striped stone. Still not feeling so hot on this day.

March 10th: Free day – Went to the Catacombs of Priscilla and returned to the Trevi Fountain area for lunch and gelato. Starting to feel better on this day.

The flight home on March 11th was rough towards the end. I kept coughing and couldn’t rest. Thankfully there were movies and video games to occupy me.

During the past few days I’ve received rejections from Cimarron Review and Poetry (sent in a submission for Poetry’s humor issue). I’ve entered some more poetry contests.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Italy – Part 1

Here’s a rough itinerary of my trip to Italy.

March 4 – 5: Departed from Washington (Dulles) and flew to Paris. From Paris to Rome.

March 5th: Illuminated Rome by Night – Took a bus tour of the city and did some walking around the city. Saw the Colosseum, Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Trevi Fountain. I was very tired and kept nodding off on the bus.

March 6th: Ancient Rome & The Monuments of Rome (guided tours): In the morning saw the Colosseum up close, the Arches of Constantine and Titus, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and St. Paul’s Basilica. In the afternoon saw the Piazza della Rupubblica, the Piazza Colonna, the Column of Macus Aurelius, the Pantheon, and the Piazza Navona.

March 7th: Free day – Visited the Spanish Steps and the Keats Shelley Museum that is right next to the Spanish Steps. Keats died in this room from TB. The bed pictured here is not the actual bed he died in. That’s Keats’ death mask under glass. The museum had locks of hair on display from Keats and Shelley, and it had lots of letters from various Romantic poets on display.

(Can't get the picture to upload to Blogger. Will try again later.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Back from Rome

This will be a quick post since my lunch hour has already expired. I came into work yesterday and was greeted by 146 emails to hack through so that I could actually do some real work today.

My wife and I had a good time in Rome overall. I came down with a cold on Wednesday, which slowed me down, but I forced myself to see things and rested when I could. It was unusually cold in Italy, even for this time of year. We found the food a little disappointing. Perhaps our food expectations were too high.

More on Rome later. In the meantime, some quotes.


Let us have wine and women,
mirth and laughter,
Sermons and soda-water
the day after.

--Lord Byron

To stay the same is to become a diminished thing.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Frank Bidart on Robert Lowell:

Crucial to the texture of a Lowell poem, throughout his career, are…images or actions or things that resist a single meaning, that haunt because, dense with meaning, they also elude meaning. Autobiography promises that the walls of a house will dissolve; the veil that separates us from what is real will be at last lifted. In a Lowell poem, what the reader is offered—with at times startling candor—is an invented world dense with the luminous opacity of life.


I won’t be blogging for about a week. I am taking some much needed vacation and going to Rome!