Exhortation from the restroom of the Hungarian Pastry Shop. Who’s in?
(That title is from Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five; it may be off-tone to use a title from Slaughterhouse Five for a blog post. But.)
I haven’t been here in so long I wasn’t sure of my password. Now the semester’s over and all this happened, more or less:
Over the last few years, I sent every poem in both of my (as yet unplaced) manuscripts‚—that’s seventy-four poems— to FIELD, a journal I’ve long loved. FIELD rejected all of them except three from the very last batch I sent, which are in the current issue. I’m really happy to see some poems from the new ms. finding homes in the world, and happy to be in good company at FIELD.
Over the last month, I’ve been to New York City and back to attend the Poetry Society of America awards ceremony. One-hundred years ago, I lived in Morningside Heights while I earned my first Master’s degree. During my visit, I stayed way, way uptown so I could bum around in the old neighborhood. I visited what I think of as my first coffee shop (where I grew up and where I went to college, there was no such thing)—i.e., the first place I ever went with my writing notebook to write: the Hungarian Pastry Shop. They still have the smallest tables and the best apple strudel ever.
at the Hungarian Pastry Shop, Amsterdam between 110th and 111th
I visited the MoMA, where I saw my favorite Jackson Pollock, Full Fathom Five. I saw my favorite Franz Kline: Painting Number 2.
Franz Kline, Painting Number 2, 1954
I saw the water lilies… my favorite part of which is the right-most territory of the painting, where the beauty trails off into murk.
Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1914-1926
And I saw my all-time favorite Matisse, “View of Notre Dame,” which I love for its abstraction and its unfinishedness. Especially for its unfinishedness.
Henri Matisse, View of Notre Dame, 1914.
I saw my dear, dear friend, one of four crucial Lauras in my life. Late in the last century, we found each other being highly introverted on the edges of a room at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. These many years later we shared loves and losses and BLT’s at a diner at 103rd and Broadway. A gift. Alas, we were too busy enjoying each other to take a photo.
Then, later, I took a cab way, way downtown and met, in person, poets whose poetry I’d admired from a distance for years. I dressed up and wore the bling-y-est earrings I’ve worn since the last century. I shared some Real Talk with other poet-moms about motherhood, and poethood, and mother-poethood. I talked with another Laura Jensen fan about Laura Jensen (another of the four crucial Lauras in my life). I listened to these poets read their poems. You should read them, too:
Victoria Chang, winner of the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award, read one of her obit poems, which have been appearing here and there in journals recently. Here is the one she read at the awards ceremony.
Kevin Prufer read his poem, “The Newspapers,” winner of the PSA Lyric Poetry Award. Every time I read it, I lose my breath at the end and need a minute.
Jennifer Chang won the William Carlos Williams Award for her book, Some Say the Lark (Alice James). I adore this book, and have been waiting for it since I read Chang’s poem, “Dorothy Wordsworth,” years ago. Happily she read this poem at the ceremony, along with another of my favorites from the book, “We Found the Body of a Young Deer Once.” This one’s a poem about friendship, a subject I believe doesn’t get enough attention in contemporary poetry.
Elizabeth Knapp, winner of the Robert H. Winner Memorial Award, read her very timely poem, “Fourth of July.”
I listened to Billy Collins award the PSA Frost Medal to Ron Padgett, whose acceptance speech was mainly a list poem comprised of the names of all those who have been a part of his poetry life. It was a reminder that we are all standing on each other’s shoulders.
And I read my own poem, “Interior with a Woman Peeling Oranges, Snapping Beans.”
That seems like at least a year ago now. It seems like it all happened to someone living in another body, not the one I inhabit. But the photos and the memories are proof.
I missed my kids (and they might’ve missed me?). I missed my cat and she definitely missed me. And I am glad I went, even though it’s always easier (at least for me) to stay home with one’s nose to the grindstone. Shout-out to my mom who made it all possible by coming down to stay with the kids and keep the wheels turning en la casa del poeta.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing all the mom stuff, applying for jobs, helping my students with their final essay of the semester, snuggling with my cat, looking side-eye at the news, reading Jorie Graham, looking side-eye at the laundry, reading Jenny Molberg, getting shook by an earthquake (wha–?), writing a panel proposal for AWP19, looking side-eye at The Winter That Will Not Loose Its Grip on the Midwest, reading Ghassan Zaqtan, Driving People Places (this always deserves its own category), soaking in the tub, looking side-eye at the (generally empty) refrigerator, reading more Jorie Graham (“I think I am in love with silence, that other world.”), editing book reviews, grading, grading, grading, grading, and grading. Submitting final grades. Collapsing.
Also, it was 84 the other day, so, BYE, winter.
All this happened, more or less, and I am tired, and a little dazed, and a lot grateful.