Recently, a former Stonecoast mentee contacted me with welcome news. Her book was approaching its publication date, and she wanted my address so the publisher could send me a complimentary copy. Last week, I headed to a café uptown to hear another former Stonecoast mentee give a reading from her fresh-off-the-press poetry collection. I had been lucky to work with both of these talented poets on their MFA theses, which they developed into the books now moving out into the world. I confess to beaming like a proud godparent.
A final wave from my board as I await the “Dancers, put on your shoes” opening.
It may have been one of the craziest things I had ever done. The week before I was to leave for the Stonecoast summer residency, I enrolled myself in an intensive tap workshop, as part of Tap City, and I also signed on to perform Tap It Out in Times Square. I would be adding my two feet to the chorus of some 300 others in, as the press release states, “a pre-choreographed orchestral collage of a cappella unison rhythms, contrapuntal sequences, individual riffs, movements and grooves . . . that promotes tap dance as pure music.”
What that meant in terms of time was that I was signing up for more than 25 hours of tapping, including class, practices, rehearsals, and four performances, during the week of July 8th. My morning workshop class was with a teacher who has a reputation for toughness, one whom I had found demanding and a bit intimidating in the past. Yet I knew that she had a lot to teach me and that I had a lot to learn.
Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway, by Alexandra Oliver
On September 10, 2013, the Canadian press Biblioasis will be bringing out my second full-length book of poems, Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway. The title comes from a poem of the same name, in which I recall meeting, as an adult, an elementary school bully in the supermarket.
Over the past twenty years, I have run into other members of the same gang at parties, reunions, and weddings. One, whom I encountered in a university coffee bar in 2003, died last year after a terrible illness. I can’t say I was happy about it. Life had dealt her a bad hand.
But before I talk about tormentors, I want to talk about books and how I came to make this one. Continue reading →
In my dream I am in a bar where people are drinking micro brews beneath the great horns of a mounted moose head. Now everyone turns to look at the door. There are angels out there, knocking.
One of them comes in and places a strange cup on the mahogany bar. It looks like he’s sculpted it out of mud. He asks the bartender to fill it full of wine, and the bartender doesn’t argue. You don’t argue with angels.
People turn to poetry at moments of personal and communal importance: tragedies such as 9-11, weddings, the dedications of monuments—and, yes, presidential inaugurations.
In recent years, our shared national confidence in the power of poetry to move us in public situations has been flagging. Richard Blanco gave a vibrant delivery of his inaugural poem, developing a moving image of the sunrise unfolding over various parts of the continent and U.S. citizens until it led back to the image of his own parents. But it seems that, for many of those who have talked to me about the poem over the past week, something was missing.
It’s that time of year when the world makes lists: best-of, top-this, best-that. In the tradition of fostering reflection, the Stonecoast Faculty Blog has come up with our own end-of-year list, our Literary Moments of 2012 (in no particular order). Have some literary moments of your own? We’d love to read them—just leave them in the comments below.
No Pulitzer Awarded for Fiction
Pencils dropped last April when the Pulitzer judges did not award a prize for fiction. The Pulitzer judges have withheld an award for fiction 11 times, the last time being in 1977. Three finalists were identified for the 2012 prize: Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace.”The three books were fully considered, but in the end, none mustered the mandatory majority for granting a prize, so no prize was awarded,” said Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes in an Los Angeles Times article. The event sparked snarky commentary on the Twitter-verse. Said Glen Weldon, NPR writer and author of the forthcoming Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, on his Twitter account, “PULITZER BOARD TO NOVELISTS: ‘MEH.’”
“Sunset/Dead Sea” by Tracy Hunter courtesy of Flickr
By Kazim Ali
I went to Israel and the Palestinian Territory of the West Bank in the summer of 2011. Vocabulary matters. Some people in Israel refer to the West Bank territories as “Judea and Samaria,” after the ancient Biblical kingdoms that existed in those regions. Some people in the Territories refer to Israel colloquially as “Forty-Eight,” meaning the Palestinian lands taken in 1948.
Wanting to learn more about the region, the people who lived there, and the complicated conflict between them and among them, I traveled with an organization called the Interfaith Peace Builders for a week and a half and then for another month I stayed in the area. I went as a fact-finder and a journalist, writing a series of blogs throughout my six-week trip for TheHuffington Post.