Radio Free Gertrude

Here's my call-in radio show call-in station.  Please note my fourth cup of coffee.  Please also note that telephone.  Children, that's called a "land line."  It's an ancient artifact from the days in which people didn't need everything to be confusing and realized it was totally gross to have your phone with you in the restroom.

Here’s my call-in radio show call-in station. Please note my fourth cup of coffee. Please also note that telephone. Children, that’s called a “land line.” It’s an ancient artifact from the days in which people didn’t need everything to be so terribly confusing and realized it was totally gross to have your phone with you in the restroom.

So, on Friday, I called in as a guest on Katrina Murphy’s excellent radio show, Questions That Bother Me So.  I must thank Katrina for what was, all in all, a totally awesometacular experience (I’m thinking at some point that the archives will pop up here, so keep an eye out) (keep an eye out — that’s a really, really weird thing to say, isn’t it? I mean, if your eye was out, you wouldn’t really be able to see, would you?) (that’s not a tangent, as it keeps with the theme — I mean, if any questions bothers you so, it should probably be that one).

I have to admit that I love talk radio, especially live talk radio.  There’s something about the cadence of the human voice, the magic of language happening in real-time, that’s absolutely captivating.  That is, it is as a listener — while there is a fascination with how you are the human whose voice is cadencing over the Interwebs and the air, and it’s your language that’s happening in real-time, I have to admit that, as a participant, I was a little terrified.

This could be due to the fact that I prepared for my on-air appearance by drinking five cups of coffee and attempting to lure my overly vocal feline companions into other rooms by plying them with treats.  Or it could be due to the fact that I spent all morning obsessively repeating to myself the following mantra: for God’s sake don’t say um and don’t say like, for God’s sake, please.  Or perhaps I was nervous because I was wearing owl pajamas and Muk-Luks, as I often do, because I am a grown woman, which of course I knew no one could actually see, but perhaps they could just sense it.

This is what I suppose Alice B. Toklas was doing when I was talking, when she wasn't creeping out the neighbors or eating a table or something.

This is what I suppose Alice B. Toklas was doing when I was talking, when she wasn’t creeping out the neighbors or eating a stack of firewood or something.

Thankfully, I was in very good hands, and Katrina calmed my nerves immediately.  Gertrude Stein, who’s part Siamese and really loves to talk about that, did make her way into the living room, but somehow managed not to meow and to only bite me once.  Alice B. Toklas, thankfully, held to her belief that watching whatever the neighbors are doing and chewing on cardboard boxes is way more interesting than anything I’m up to.  And I found myself letting go of my fear and just having a great time talking to someone — which is also, I think, why I love talk radio so much: it’s like eavesdropping, at its best, on a really juicy conversation.

Gertrude Stein decided to help me with the poem I needed to read.

Gertrude Stein decided to help me with the poem I needed to read.

I think that part of my nervousness, too, has to do with the fact that in conversation, I’m not very focused.  That’s because everything is interesting.  Seriously.  I could talk for three hours about the Statesboro formal wear store, Frills and Fancies, on the corner of Main, Main, Main, and Main, and then for six more hours about how, in Statesboro, there’s a corner of Main, Main, Main, and Main.  Every single detail — from the revolving mannequin in a feathered prom dress to the fact that their Hunger Games-themed prom window display seemed to be made Hunger Games-themed only by the edition of an old-fashioned big screen TV — is interesting to me.  That’s largely why, I think, I was drawn to writing in the first place: in writing, every such detail has a place.  It has a weight and a significance and it works with other details to build an entirely new world.  And I think, too, this lack of focus is why I was drawn in particular to poetry: it’s a form that, by its very nature, demands focus.  It’s a way I learned to sift through the details I collect every day and weigh their significance.  It’s how I learned to learn from them, and how I learned to focus enough to find the words to show other people what I’ve learned.

And if I end up with a collection titled Frills and Fancies, well, now you know why.

Gertrude and I.  Sigh.

Gertrude and I. Sigh.

AWP: Traditions, Revisions, Permissions (Or I’m Okay, You’re Okay, Let’s Skip The Dance Party)

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ Annual Conference and Bookfair (henceforth known as AWP) has been over for, like, a while now, which means it’s time for the tradition of Very Belated Wrap-Ups of Events that Probably Don’t Really Need Wrap-Ups, Or at Least Wrap-Ups by Emma Bolden, Since There Are Far Better and More Timely Wrap-Ups Out There in the Intertubes, Let’s Be Honest to continue.  But first, a disclaimer.

DISCLAIMER: I hate AWP.

Okay, that’s a little extreme.  I usually hate AWP, but I also usually hate doing things like picking out fruit and vegetables at the grocery store (I mean,

This is the map of AWP I made while I was waiting for a panel.  I accidentally skipped a letter because apparently being a writer and working with the alphabet every day doesn't guarantee that you actually know the alphabet, at least not in order.

This is the map of AWP I made while I was waiting for a panel. I accidentally skipped a letter because apparently being a writer and working with the alphabet every day doesn’t guarantee that you actually know the alphabet, at least not in order.

really, why is this so difficult?  Why isn’t there a central method for testing for fruit and vegetable freshness?  Why must I smell mangoes and thump other fruit?  And why can’t I remember which fruits must be thumped?) that are ultimately very good for me.

Maybe the problem is that I came late to AWP.  I never went when I was in graduate school, and so I started attending AWPs when I already had a job in academia and enough rejection slips to Dementor-suck all the joy from my tender, hopeful heart.  Perhaps it’s for this reason that AWP has always left me feeling overly exhausted and inadequate and like I would never make it anywhere, ever, so much so that I wished I could just throw all the swag I got at the Bookfair out of the airplane window and then go back to school for something else, like gardening or slothology.

Or maybe it’s the kinds of panels I attended back in the day, when my mailbox regularly belched out rejection slips (that’s a disgusting image but it was totally necessary) and I stood and looked at them and despaired, knowing they meant that I would never, ever, ever get a job with more than a three-year contract and less than seventeen thousand classes.  Maybe I chose panels based on my desperation, based on my desire for someone, anyone, anywhere, to unfold in front of me the map with the pathways to “Acceptances Instead of Rejections!” and “Permanent Job with Insurance!” and “Not Endings Up in Someone’s Attic Dressed All in White with Ten Thousand Cats and Their Ten Quadrillion Fleas!” marked clearly.

At this point in my life, I know there is no such map (there is no such map, right? Right? And, um, if there is, can you get me a copy?) — or, at least, no universal map.  There’s just the path we each tread, in our own lives, in our own ways, to our own lives and ways.

At previous AWPs, though, I didn’t know that, and so I hung desperately on every word from every member of every panel, every writer I passed hustling from table to table in the Bookfair, every man and woman handing out business cards and manuscripts and cocktails and questions.  What I ended up with, what exhausted me so much, was a series of directions that I could never follow: you have to go to these parties, these conferences, these retreats; you have to get these residencies and publish in these magazines and get this kind of job at this kind of institution and wear this kind of Chucks while you’re doing it; don’t publish chapbooks, publish full-lengths; publish your full-length before you apply for a tenure-track; on Mondays you wear colored shoes, Tuesdays shirts with cute slogans, Wednesdays pink … It was overwhelming.  To say the least.

But this year, things just felt different.  There were a lot of writers, and all of the writers were — well, different.  From each other.  Sure, the majority of us were probably academics, but there were people with day jobs, people who wrote for money, people who did nothing that had anything to do with writing for work.  There were people who went straight to the full-length and others who started their writing careers through e-mail lists.  Suddenly, there were many, many maps, and many, many people being more honest about the maps they used, how they got where they are and how they earn the money they need to stay there.  At one panel, Steve Almond mentioned that the old adage that time is money is especially true when it comes to writing: you work to finance the time you need to write, and, as a writer, you have to do what you have to do.

I think, perhaps, that’s what made this AWP feel so different to me.  In the end, that’s the one thing about which everyone agreed: the writing is what’s important.  Not the press, not the position, not the invitations to attend secret and exclusive hotel room parties or to sit with The Plastics for a trial week.  It was all about the work, the real work we all come home to do, the real work in which we all find our homes — and, as I flew back to Georgia, I found myself smiling as I flipped through my notes.  And if I could make a cake made of rainbows and smiles, we could all eat a piece and be happy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUFT35S7Jb4

Sometimes things are exciting …

… and when things are exciting, dear denizens of the Blogosphere, I like to share them with you.  One of the best things about the Internet, besides the seemingly endless and ever-regenerating number of photographs of cats wearing fruit on their heads and of sloths Photoshopped into the middle of the Crab Nebula, is that the Internet gives us the ability to share in IRL experiences we wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend IRL.  For people like

This is a photograph of me reading.  I'm taking off my reading glasses but it looks like I'm doing something dramatic and meaningful. In fact, forget the part about the reading glasses.  This is a picture of me doing something dramatic and meaningful.

This is a photograph of me reading. I’m taking off my reading glasses but it looks like I’m doing something dramatic and meaningful. In fact, forget the part about the reading glasses. This is a picture of me doing something dramatic and meaningful.

myself, whose bodies periodically refuse to work and who are, let’s face it, always like two and a half at the most seconds away from dressing all in white and living in somebody’s attic (because really, what’s the fun if it’s your own attic?), this is the definition of a blessing, a word that can so often feel insincere and general gives me a queasy case of agita, but which, in this case, absolutely applies.

Another part of The Great Blessing of the Internets (ugh, there’s the agita again) is that it allows people whose bodies periodically refuse to work, perhaps because they’re never much more than two and a half seconds away from Emily Dickinsoning up some unsuspecting nuclear family’s attic, to share with others the times they make appearances In Real Life.  Such is the case with my reading in the Indian Springs School Visiting Writers Series, which you can hear here.

The first reading in the recording isn’t mine, it’s Kate Greenstreet‘s.  If you listen to it, you’ll see why my knees were positively shaking because, seriously, how do you follow that?  You’ll also see why I’d ordered a copy of Young Tambling, her newest collection from Ahsahta Press, before I’d even left the building that evening.  I’ve been hungrily devouring the poems and people, this is one of Those Books — by that, I mean this is a life-changing book, the kind of book that leaves a reader wowed and restless and with a completely new way to look at poetry, books, art, life, everything.  That’s because, in many ways, the book isn’t really a book.  I mean, yes, it is a series of pages with words printed on them sewn together and bound.  But it doesn’t solely exist in that form, in that bound structure.  Greenstreet’s reading shows this: she re-orders the text and the text slips seamlessly into a new narrative, a new sequence of development.  Each re-ordering creates a new story, a new series of images, a new work of art.  Like she writes in the end of the collection, next to an insanely amazing oh my God seriously photograph of this book in a different incarnation, as pages of

This is a photograph of Kate Greenstreet's Young Tambling. It's been Instagrammed because its unfiltered awesomeness would make the Interwebs EXPLODE, and then where would Al Gore, astronaut sloths, and fruit-hatted cats be?

This is a photograph of Kate Greenstreet’s Young Tambling. It’s been Instagrammed because its unfiltered awesomeness would make the Interwebs EXPLODE, and then where would Al Gore, astronaut sloths, and fruit-hatted cats be?

typeset and photographs arranged (and, presumably, re-arranged) on the wall:

Although I was thinking in two-page spreads, at some point I realized that I wasn’t actually (physically) making a book.  I was making a

big rectangular piece of temporary art.

Which is SO RIDICULOUSLY INSANELY AMAZING OH MY GOD I CANNOT EVEN TALK ABOUT IT.  It’s like she’s created a work of code-based electronic poetry without the code.  Which, seriously.  AMAZING.

And there are MORE EXCITING THINGS, the first of which has to do with my actually leaving the house and going to another location, specifically Boston, where I will be talking about writing and working and how those things go together at AWP 2013 (HOLLAH).  I’ll be moderating a panel on the academic job market with three lovely friends and colleagues, Hannah De La Cruz Abrams (you should totally read her book, The Man Who Danced with Dolls, which is so beautiful I can’t even talk about it and is one of the few books I immediately read again after finishing), Sarah Domet (author of 90 Days to Your Novel) and Jared Yates Sexton (author of An End to All Things).  The panel’s called Navigating the Track: The Writer and the Nontenured Position.  It’s at noon on Saturday in Room 104 and should be pretty awesome.  You can find more information about it on the AWP Website, here.  Keep scrolling ’til you find it.  I’ll also be a’signing books at the Toadlily Press Table in the Bookfair on Friday at 11:30 am.  Come and find me and say hello!  I will probably desperately need some coffee too, so if you’d like to bring some my way, that would be great.

And, last but certainly not least, if you want to read about piranhas and writing teachers and taxidermy and trash cans, you can check out my post on Creative Sweet, the Creative Writing area Blog from Georgia Southern University’s own Department of Writing and Linguistics.  While you’re there, you should also read the absolutely perfect post from Laura Valeri about what it’s like to teach creative writing at GSU, or anywhere, really.  And our student intern, Christine Lengel, has done an amazing job with posts herself, including this post about what it’s like to study creative writing at GSU, or anywhere, really.  And you should totally just subscribe to the whole Blog, since there will be news about our amazing students doing amazing things as well as other amazing posts from the other amazing folks who teach here.

See?  EXCITING THINGS.  And God bless Al Gore for inventing the Interwebs so we can all share in them.

That Was The Week That Was: Week Forty-Two

My dearest Denizens of the Blogosphere, this post is late.  I figured that I hadn’t posted a late post in a while, and I don’t want to disappoint you, so here is the part of the entry where I point out that said entry is late and apologize unnecessarily for said entry’s said lateness.  Though gloom can hold little power over me, for lo, I write to you on Academic Thanksgiving Break Eve.

If you’re not familiar with Academic Thanksgiving Break, let me explain: it’s a holiday stretching from 4 days to 11 days, depending upon whether one’s academic institution celebrates its love of football throughout the fall.  If one’s Academic Thanksgiving Break is only 4 days long, this means that you have celebrated Fall Break earlier this semester, in which case I don’t even want to talk to you.  If one’s Academic Thanksgiving Break is 11 days long, this is the first break one has had since the semester began, and one will greet it with frizzy hair, a grizzled face, a strange maniacal facial expression, and endless murmuring of the word “rubric.”

Regardless of its length, Academic Thanksgiving Break is a time to celebrate gluttony, sloth, grading, and ganglion cysts.  Typical festive activities include: marathon pajama-wearing, watching marathons of America’s Next Top Model one will not admit to watching when one greets one’s academic colleagues after break, the posting of aggressive anti-colonialist links on Facebook, lapsing from vegetarianism and/or veganism, trying to figure out how to maintain momentum when the semester picks back up, and picking up on household projects abandoned in August, such as arranging the books on one’s bookshelves in order of the spectrum.

In other words, I am PSYCHED.  And my bookshelves are about to look amazing.

Let us take a look at my photos from Pre-Academic Thanksgiving Break, so that next week, the pure profusion of pajama and cat photographs can act as a beautiful testament to the glory that is Academic Thanksgiving Break.

Day 313: I bought this ring last summer as a kind of engagement ring to myself. It’s a moss agate, which might be my favorite stone. There’s something about this stone that reminds me to take time and reflect, and to write it all down. Maybe it’s the idea that this stone represents, the illusion that life has been preserved inside of stone, which reminds me of memory and what good writing does: preserves the beautiful and the ugly, stills and focuses the eye so that it can be fully seen.

Day 314: This weekend, I traveled to St. Augustine with two colleagues for the Other Words conference. It was an absolutely amazing trip, and I came back with a new and awe-filled respect for my colleagues and their minds and their devotion to the written word — and an equally awe-filled sense of grateful humility that I’m allowed to work with them.

Day 315: Before heading back to the Boro, we headed to the Fountain of Youth, where I learned many important things, such as the fact that giant ground sloths once roamed Florida and that shipwreck recreations are awesome (though admittedly actual shipwrecks are not).

Day 316: Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas turned to their traditional method of toy-drowning as a way to protest my overnight absence.

Day 317: Back to the Boro, back to the grind — both in terms of teaching and writing — and back to night drives.

Day 318: Since the time changed, it’s been getting midnight-dark really, really early — so early that this is how campus looks when my last class on Tuesday begins. It is pretty beautiful, though — college campuses always look different at night, strange and mysterious, especially to a faculty member, since it feels like at this time the campus isn’t ours.

Day 319: I’ll openly admit it: when it comes to Christmas, I am a Scrooge. To an extreme. I don’t know why, but the first strains of Christmas carols set my teeth on edge every year. And what is with the fact that we’re celebrating Christmas before Halloween all the sudden? Even my favorite gas station, with the most delicious and thirst-quenching stock of delicious and thirst-quenching Diet Coke, has betrayed me.

Day 320: I just so happened to look up at this tree at the right time and from the right angle to catch sight of this cardinal. I don’t know that I’ve seen one since I moved to Georgia, though they were always winging around my backyard in Kentucky. This little guy soon flew off after his lady friend, but I was glad to have caught a glimpse of him.

When I took that last picture, I couldn’t help but think of a Dickinson poem, and since I figure my blog is nowhere near obnoxious enough, I’m posting it here.

It’s one of my favorite poems, because it’s so very true, and one of my least favorite poems, because it’s so very true:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

The Four-Month Grind: Stats and Averages

The end of an era … kinda.

This year has been, without a doubt, one of my most productive years in all of the many, many years I have lived (as my birthday nears and I come closer to adding another number to said years, I felt the need to add another “many” here).  I’ve just finished four solid months of writing a poem or a something a day, and I’m kind of shocked to be able to say that I actually, really, truly and honestly never skipped a day.  I’m even more shocked to be able to say that I actually, really, truly and honestly sometimes wrote more than one poem a day — sometimes up to four?!  It’s as if some kind of super-productive zombie interested in eating ink and paper instead of brains took possession of my body for four months.*  A lot of it also had to do with the support of my colleagues and friends and fellow writers, both my fellow Grind members and the Georgia Southern folks, especially those who wrote along with me through NaPoWriMo, and I can’t even express how grateful I am to all of them.

I guess, in a lot of ways, it feels like it’s not entirely my accomplishment: it just happened, and kept happening because the people around me are amazing and, well, I’m really stubborn.  However, even if it doesn’t feel like my accomplishment, it’s still my writing — and I’m the one who has to take the next step (or, rather, the next series of steps, which will probably lead me to more steps).

The question I’m facing now is this: what happens now?  It seems like a simple question but it’s really one of the most difficult ones with which I’ve ever been faced: what does happen now that the zombie is gone and I’m just plain old Emma, sitting here and staring at pages and typescript that’s starting to not even look like words?  Now that the manic pace of production has slowed, what’s next in the process?

Really and truly and actually and honestly, though, I think perhaps the answer might be simpler than I thought.  I think perhaps the answer is just this: the process.  What’s left is what’s left.  What’s next is what I do with it.

First, of course, comes the processing part of the process: putting together the puzzle of what I’ve produced and what needs to be further processed.  I thought I’d share my results on the blog through a series of stats and averages, so here goes it:

Even cats with literary namesakes are apparently not fans of literature, when it really comes down to it, and when they really want their owners to stop reading and/or writing to fetch them some treats.

The Grind Daily Writing Series Stats and Facts

Player: Emma Bolden

Poems Drafted: 128

Essays Drafted: 3

Various and Sundry Bits and Bobs and Pieces of Prose (Typed): 9

Ill-Advised Trips to the Gas Station to Purchase Chocolate, Which Was Nearly Always Kind of Old and Nasty: 9

Preferred Beverage: Diet Coke

Average Hours It Took Me To Get To Sleep Because I Drank Too Much of My Preferred Beverage and/or Was Thinking About Poems and Bits and Bobs and Pieces of Prose: 2

Average Number of Nightly Feline Arias Performed by Gertrude Stein in Protest Over the Fact that I Either Was Not Asleep or Had Just Moments Before Fallen Asleep: 3

Average Cups of Coffee Consumed Every Morning: 3.75

Poetry Manuscripts Drafted: 2

Essay Collection Drafts Completed: 1

CILANTRO! Every year, you ruin me with your will to DIE.

Average Hours a Day Spent Shopping for Shoes on the Interwebs Rather Than Writing Poems: 0.75

Cartons of Ben and Jerry’s Consumed: 2 (Red Velvet Cake and New York Super Fudge Chunk)

Memoirs Outlined and Begun: 1

Number of Abandoned Projects Returned To: 2

Average Number of Times I Said “Why in the Name of Everything Holy or Unholy Ever Am I Writing About Jellyfish All the Time I Mean Really?” Out Loud and Confused My Cats: 3.8 a day

Number of Times Alice B. Toklas Accidentally Trapped Herself in the Closet, Bathroom, and/or Screened-In Porch: 12

Number of Times I Decided to Write Found Poems to Justify My Watching Reality Television Programs: 4 a week

Print-outs of the work I’ve typed, shoe-shopping, Del-Rey-listening.

Chapbooks Drafted: 1

Container Garden Plants Planted: 16

Container Garden Plants Surviving Even After I Forgot to Water Them: 15

Preferred Beers: Innis and Gunn (Original) or Shock Top (Raspberry Wheat)

Preferred Wine: Pink Moscato from the Rite-Aide**

Preferred Albums to Play Over and Over Until I Think My Neighbors Were About to Call the Police and Report Me for Being Kind of Creepy: Born to Die, Lana Del Rey; The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond; The Execution of All Things, Rilo Kiley; BlackoutBritney Spears***; Birdy, Birdy; Elton John, Elton John; Les Miserables: Complete Symphonic Recording; Collected Works, Simon and Garfunkel; Chess in Concert starring my future husband Josh Groban.

Average Number of Times A Week I Took the Nonsensically Long Way Home in Order to Sing Along to One or More of the Aforementioned Albums as Loudly as I Could So My Neighbors Wouldn’t Make the Decision to Finally Call the Cops on Me: 1.74

Bizarre Drawings Made to Serve as Notes for Poems: 36

Volcano notes. Crazy, crazy volcano notes.

Number of Days Since the Grind/NaPoWriMo I’ve Worked on My Writing and/or Wrote Something New Despite the Fact I No

Longer Have To: 5. In other words, every single one.

Surety that I Need a Daily Writing Routine After All So Um Oops: Infinity.  Plus one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*For a far better and far, far more lucid description of what The Grind is like, please do travel to my good man Ross White’s blog for his entries about how it started and why in the name of God we do this to ourselves.
** People, this is a NO JUDGEMENT ZONE, okay?
*** Seriously.  NO JUDGEMENT ZONE.