(1) Apologetics. | (2) St. Thomas the Apostle. | (3) St. Thomas Aquinas. | (4) Thomas Merton. | (5) Palm Sunday. | (6) 11.22.63 | (7) Digging in the dirt. | (8) Wormy compost. | (9) Reconciliation. | (10) Countdown to Spring Break! | (11) Forgiveness. | (12) “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” by Stevie Wonder. | (13) Cheesecake. | (14) Pan-fried fish. | (15) Ecclesiastes. (“A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil.”) | (16) Teavana. Which is to say: loose-leaf tea. | (17) John Shelby Spong. | (18) Bart Ehrman. | (19) Fr. Ray. | (20) Gratitude. | (21) Re-emergence. | (22) Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. | (23) Capers. | (24) The smell of strong coffee. | (25) J–’s faith and hope and love. | (26) Neckties, still. | (27) A springtime cold snap. | (28) Sunrise. | (29) Simple prayers. | (30) Li-Young Lee, in particular his classic poem “Persimmons.”
My rating: 5 of 5 stars. Muscular is a thing in Midwestern prose. There’s a long tradition. Craig Bernier’s sentences are governed by this unmistakable cadence. But it’s the stories, how they are governed. Where is a kind of why. Craig Bernier knows this. Lucky for us. Bernier wants his stories to make sense to you. One might think that is something all storytellers aspire to do, but it’s not. He takes a great risk that too many of our story writers refuse to take: to say what they mean, to write about real people whom nobody else notices. And he makes a beauty of that risk.
In my Senior Practicum class this week, we’ve been talking about “Life After ASFA,” particularly how ASFA-CW students can keep up the creative momentum once they graduate and go off to college, etc. One of the things we discussed was how a lot of the “writing life” happens when you’re not actually typing: when you’re reading, thinking, living, traveling, eating, loving, learning, failing, succeeding, striving, lounging, even sleeping. Etc. Yes, writing takes discipline, and there’s merit in getting words on the page. But it’s more than that, too, much more, in fact. It takes time, effort, and energy for a set of sustainable creative preoccupations to develop. Continue reading
My in-box bore a gift on this rainy Friday morning: a link to this lovely review of Americana via the Alabama Writers’ Forum and reviewer Jim Murphy, a fine poet and scholar in his own right! It’s always nice to be read at all, but to be read generously, closely, and well is almost more than any poet can expect these days. After all, there’s a lot of poetry out there. Count me happy to have contributed my one voice in the eight millions…and (as ever) ecstatic to have had it heard!
I have a cool day job: I direct the creative writing program at a specialty magnet school in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s poetry semester, which is always a good time: students take an advanced poetry workshop then augment that with a “lyrical forms” class, which surveys all sorts of texts and concepts that are critical to an in-depth understanding of poetry from the poet’s perspective. My students can attest that I think there’s a very useful compare-contrast exercise to start off any such dive into a deeper consideration of what poetry is and what it can do. It’s so useful, in fact, that I have a habit (one for which I won’t apologize or seek any rehabilitation) of starting almost any poetry class I’m teaching with this simple, seminal set of questions… Continue reading
The fine folks at the Nitty Gritty Magic City Reading Series have invited me to read alongside two of my inimitable colleagues at ASFA, Kwoya Fagin Maples and Ashley Jones. This’ll be the first time I’ll be reading from Americana, and I’ll have copies of the book available for purchase at the event. Fun times. Here’s the details and coordinates:
- Where: Birmingham Museum of Art
- When: Friday, October 16 @ 7 p.m.
- Why: Poetry!
My first inclination toward Vegas is to call it what it is: lowest common denominator sensualism. Excessive. Gross. Way, way too crowded. Way too smoky. Way too expensive, bright, loud. Oversexed, obsessive. Mindless and meat-headed. My second inclination is to leave it at that and never go back there. And I probably won’t go back. But I’m glad I went the once. I went there to reconnect with old friends, and that alone made enduring the excess worth it. As a man of a certain age, one who’s settled hundreds of miles away from his boyhood stomping grounds, the opportunities for concentrated catch-up time with chums from schooldays are few(er) and far(ther) between. I’m also an American. And a writer. I like to think about our foibles. And our marvels. And I like to think in metaphors. Continue reading
(1) Unlearning no. No can be useful. Don’t get me wrong. But usually it’s debilitating. Almost always, actually. | (2) A little dog called Marilyn. | (3) Pearl Jam. | (4) Cut grass. | (5) Goya products. | (6) Which is to say: Adobo… (7) Sofrito… (8) Sazon (a unique seasoning) con Azafran… (9) Sazon (a unique seasoning) con Culantro y Achiote… | (10) Which is to say: ghosts. Culinary ones. But all kinds. | (11) Which is to say J–, medium, necromancer, exorcist, and etc. | (12) The fact that it is much easier to move me to tears now. | (13) How May 2015 has somehow become this trip into the Underworld. Shades of the past. Wherein I get right and get ready to move on. | (14) This dream I had, of my dad, where I walked with him into the Appalachian mountains, my favorite place on earth (really) and all we did was talk about how beautiful everything was. (Okay. Yes. I’m crying right now.) | (15) Talking to people I’ve dreamed up, people I can imagine being real. | (16) Stew beans. | (17) Fried pork chops. But I mean, fried. Like submerged in angry oil. | (18) Plantains. | (19) Abundant starches. | (20) Filling your (my, her, his, our?) belly. | (21) How all good food is peasant food and how everybody knows that and how it’s always been true and it always will be. The mouth and the stomach (and etc.) are two places that connect us to everything that lives. How…well, right: how “all of that” works, how it animates us. | (22) Astral Weeks. On a Sunday afternoon. | (23) I said cut grass, right? But. I really like it. (I like it having been done. Will you cut my grass? Please?) | (24) This bittersweet season. Any teacher knows what I mean: light at the end of the tunnel, long goodbye. | (25) My mother. Who I choose to believe is animating this particular bittersweet season, in order to facilitate #13 above. Because she loves me and (still, always) knows exactly what I need. Now she’s just, you know, putting her thumb on the scale. | (26) “Daughter.” | (27) A Bolognese simmering on the stove. | (28) Sunlight. | (29) Silence. | (30) My sisters.