I got word yesterday that Birdfeast nominated my poem Lines written in a Japanese noodle shop watching a building being demolished for a Pushcart. Ok, everyone knows that of the thousand kajillion Pushcart nominations that deluge the writerly world every November, approximately 0.00013% result in winners. But that's not the point. It's simply gratifying to have a publication you admire tell you your work is worthwhile, which is all the payback poets ask for.
Otherwhere, list season is upon us. Kids are making Christmas lists. I'm augmenting my wish list at Amazon and Etsy, even though I'm the only soul to see it. With November approaching its close, soon I'll have a list of 30 poems I wrote this month. And best of all, everyone's book lists. Mine almost never includes a book written in the current year. I leave that to the professional reviewers who get paid to spend days reading new books sent to them for free. Well, this year Jessy Randall's wonderful Injecting Dreams into Cows (published 2012!) will be on my list, so I consider my new dues paid.
I gave up on a book yesterday. Except in cases of truly terrible writing, it always seems a betrayal. Or an insult. Or a waste of money. In this case I abandoned Herta Müller's The Hunger Angel, which started out well. But after some pages in the labor camp, I grew fatigued. For days I hauled the book back and forth to work, but always found something more interesting to do than get down and read. I haven't abandoned it completely, just for now; I think I may have had enough "bad old Europe" in books recently.
Instead I picked up Kent Haruf's Plainsong, set in eastern Colorado. I saw it recommended on Good Reads and found it used in Philly last month but didn't know the plot. When I started to read it I thought it might as well have been written in 1952, but I looked in the front flap and it was 1999. It is enormously engaging, and my reading cramp has dissolved.
Just yesterday a German colleague asked me what "to go on a tear" meant, and that's exactly what I did on Amazon for other day, shopping for books for my son. It's difficult to find books that appeal to him, much less that he'll stick with. He loved the James Daschner 'Labyrinth' series, so much so that I convinced him to read the third book in English instead of waiting who knows how long for the German translation to come out. Anyway, I found six books for him, in German no less, and am even more excited to receive them than I would be if I'd ordered them for myself.
Today I wore a bandage, which can be very fashionable. The point is to wear it where people can see it, so they wonder where you got it, how much it cost, if maybe they too might not . . . ?
The budget route is to wear a bandaid. In this season, beige is of course less in than white, but it's also sportier and at the same time more subtle. One is also less likely to suffer a so-called "wardrobe malfunction."
Most important in donning either of these accessories is remembering the element of mystery they bestow upon the wearer. Take heed, and decline comment.
"Like Sherlock Holmes, Heydrich plays the violin. (He plays it better than does the fictional detective, however.) Also like Sherlock Holmes, he conducts criminal inquiries. Except that where Holmes seeks the truth, Heydrich just makes it up." - Laurent Binet, HHhH
Yesterday was the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the day/night the nazis incited people in Germany to vandalize and burn Jewish shops and synagogues, and to attack Jews. The nazis were absolute maniacs, really.
I wouldn’t have remembered the date (in fact I forgot) except this morning we went to take some photos of Frankfurt’s ‘Stolpersteine,’ and found a grouping with melted wax all around, and realized someone must have burned candles there yesterday in memory. Stolpersteine, which literally means stumbling stones, are somber, subtle plaques laid in sidewalks in front of houses of Jews who met their deaths at nazi hands. They’re tactile obituaries. You can see my small album of them here.
As long as we’re on the topic, I finished the non-fiction novel HHhH and thought it was terrific. It’s hard to recommend to just anyone because it’s best to be a little familiar with the figure of Reinhard Heydrich and his assassination to appreciate. But even Wikipedia could equip a reader sufficiently.
The story is horrible and serious, but the narrator/author navigates you through with a light touch. Believe me, I loved the book, but that would be my one complaint - while most of the time it worked well, the author occasionally erred on the side of the flip.
As meta-fiction the author is very in the book, which pretty much goes ‘here’s this event I’ve been obsessed with my whole life, which happened in my favorite country on earth, and the two or three guys who are my heroes, who set off to kill Heydrich, the devil incarnate, and how they succeed, and it’s all worth it despite the horrendous consequences, and I’m going to try to tell the story while being extremely self-conscious about it.’
It’s surely hard to find balance with the meta-fiction approach, but there were times I thought he hit the wrong note. Like he didn’t know when to stop yapping. Anyway, I’ve probably just turned any potential readers off to this book. Oh well, it was great, and I’m happy to keep it all to myself anyway.
Four years ago a good friend came over in the evening and we planned to stay up all night watching the election. By 11 pm, it was only 2 pm in California, and with every half hour our struggle to stay awake lost more drive, and we were none the wiser on the election's outcome. This time I'm going to bed on time, and hoping for the best. A German colleague told me yesterday it really doesn't matter who's president because the president's power is quite limited, but even if that were true, it is important to vote if only to say what kind of world you want to have.
Anyway, happy November. I insanely joined in the poem-a-day writing mania. So far my five poems have been -
Postcard to a Nemesis / Fitting Room Mirror / Tracks / Scant Snow / Salem
Today I'm shooting for a poem about tea, like one of my Tea Leaves fragments, some of which are in my chapbook.