Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Poet as Rock Star

Good day! After much consideration I have made the jump to Blogspot. This is not to take away from my "private" public journal, but only to focus on (mostly) literary things. Such as:

1. I have recently completed a draft of the novel good enough to circulate. This does not mean I'm perfectly happy with everything, only mostly that there were a few deadlines too good to miss. The work will continue after my month (November) of respite.

2. The month of respite will be used for the purposes of a) catching up on reading, as I am still off by 17 books from my goal of 150 books read this year. That leaves me with one book roughly every three days, a feat I'm fairly certain can be mastered as long as does not take over my life anymore than it already has, and b) to get back on my goal of constructing one (1) collage per month. Collage has been known, actually, to focus my attention back to a writing project that is giving me trouble. But that will not be its charge this month. Purely for the visual ecstasy of putting pictures of Britney Spears next to underwater Jacques Cousteau panoramas will I put glue to board and scatter my workshop with old Bust magazines and ancient medical texts, etc. I've a great one that deals primarily with disorders of the eye. There are many disorders of the eye.

3. The premier issue of Knockout is available and features: Marvin Bell, Timothy Liu, Todd Boss, Charles Jensen, Mabel Yu, Brent Goodman, Carol Guess, Carl Phillips, Alberto Rios, Robert Bly, Kimberly Lambright, Billy Collins, Charlotte Innes, Joseph Massey, CAConrad, Gerard Wozek, and others, with translations of Yuan Zhen, Ouyang Jiong, Han Wo, and Zhao Luanluan. It's really fantastic.

You should pick up a copy at (I do not actually know if that link will work, but I am not a bells and whistles kind of girl. If you're going to read here you may have to get used to your keyboard's fancy cut and paste functions). Also, half the proceeds will go to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, "an organization established to help those affected by the civil war in Sudan."

I received my issue early (yesterday), as I carpooled to Seattle with one of the founding editors to see

4. Matthea Harvey read at Open Books. Her new collection, _Modern Times_ came out recently and I'm sorry to say I hadn't read it yet. While I'm a huge fan, apparently the bookstores in my town are not quite as hip to her hot poetic stylings. My favorite of the evening "Dinna'pig" nearly didn't make the final cut due to blushing.

It was entertaining as well to see how a professional manages herself at a reading. I mean, I'm always entertained by how writers, who are by law odd creatures who often fear the light of public space/public discourse, navigate an event at which they are required to be "on." Perhaps I will save my list of "types" of public reading faces for another post. What I will say is that Matthea Harvey is a model for what a good writer should do.

a. She did not read with an affected voice. Now there is a time and place for this, but I (for one) think these times and places should be more limited. Matthea read with (what I think) was a normal speaking voice. A bit on the deadpan side, but then that suits her work well. There is something about delivering lines like "Ma gave Dinna' Pig his name so that no-one would forget where that pig was headed. She liked to call a spade a spade, hence her children: Mistake, Mistake 2, and Goddammit" that just might not be as effective if affective.

b. She was very good looking. Notably this is not something a writer can change much about themselves. But a pretty face to me makes for a prettier reading.

c. No Q&A. While I was disappointed, I could think of a bevy of inane questions to drill her with about her brilliant work, it is a good tactic. If the audience asks no questions, there is less likely to be that nagging feeling on the plane that you have said something stupid. Note: ala Hillary Clinton style, one May plant questions ahead of time in the audience that one already has a handy answer to.

d. When signing, Harvey was able to squash that uncomfortable space where the devotee shifts his/her weight from one foot to the other while trying to think of something to say other than, "I really like your work." She did this by picking something out about the person to engage Them with. In my case she mentioned that a lot of her favorite people shared my name and I mentioned that I refused to say my first name when I was a child because it sounded like someone falling down the stairs. Regardless, I was still able to say something silly along the lines of, "I really loved hearing you read."

e. I would like to institute a system kind of like groupies in rock and roll. Mind you, if I end up having them I will not engage with them in questionable ways, I'm more thinking of following around poets I admire from town to town, reading to reading. Never mind that I may hear the same poem fifteen times. I've heard Sleater-Kinney play "Dig Me Out" live at least 30 times and it has never depleted my love for the song. On that note

5. Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney fame is now blogging for NPR about, well, primarily about music, but so far she's covered everything from people carrying their cats, etc on their shoulders, to her father's retirement, to the season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Good gig, right? It's only been about a week, so you can catch up easily if you start reading now. She's at

6. I went to the dentist today. While I will try to keep this primarly a literary blog, hell days may seep in and nothing sends me through flames quicker than a bright light and a man with a drill standing over me.


Carol Guess said...

Charming post and welcome to blogspot.

As for Miss Matthea, I wanted to know a bit more about her emphasis on animals in the new book. Wondering if a zoo loosed its contents in Brooklyn or if animals have replaced imaginary babies as her new obsession?

I, too, was impressed with her delivery -- it lacked the obnoxious upswing-at-the-end-of-the-line that I often hear at poetry galas. I'm also in awe of her ability to engage sentimentality without becoming, herself, sentimental.

Anonymous said...

Great first post! I look forward to more to come.


Anonymous said...

I liked Ms Colen's sense of humor and look forward to reading more.

Josh said...

As with most blogs, this leads me to want to talk about myself, especially given the natural ease with which you recount your goings on.

I'm special damn it. I'm a poet (that doesn't poe) and a rock star (that doesn't rock) but with through the magical window that is the blogosphere, I can pretend to be both and neither while wasting everyone's valuable time (as most of these are consumed on the clock; I myself am currently there). But E, I miss ya hon', and this is a welcome addition to my daily agenda.

ejcolen said...

I think it was a robot zoo that loosed itself.

ejcolen said...

Josh, I only hope I can live up to your daily amusement, as this will likely be a much less-frequent endeavor.

Puff Dog, I'm delighted and hope I can live up to the liveliness a little more than I did on the second post.