i’m here to tell you an old story

I first heard of the poet Cornelius Eady on Monday, June 18, 2007, at the Fine Arts Center in Provincetown. It was the first day of a fiction workshop with Pam Houston. We were upstairs, sitting around a table, and Pam opened the workshop by reading us a poem…

I’m here/to tell you/an old story…

This is the beginning of the poem “Gratitude” by Cornelius Eady. In the section below, which comes a bit later, you can see the way Eady lays the poem on the page…

I own/ this particular story/on this particular street/At this particular moment./This appears/to be/my work./I’m 36 years old,/and all I have to do/ is repeat/ what I notice/Over/ and over,/ all I have to do/ is remember.

“Gratitude.” From the collection The Gathering of My Name. Eady is the author of eight books of poetry. His most recent, Hardheaded Weather, is a collection of new and selected poems–with a title and a cover perfectly suited to these days of snow and ice. “Gratitude” is also included in Hardheaded Weather.

Click here to listen to the poet read “I’m a Fool to Love You.”

the third residency

Already the third of five has come and gone…

Time’s a goon, right?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010: As usual, the 3:oo general meeting kicks the residency off. At 3:15 we each meet with our class. This is my critical thesis semester–5000 words. (And the reason I’m so b e h i n d with e v e r y t h i n g is I’ve been writing it.) At 4:30, the first lecture: “Story, Image, Idea” from Clint McCown: the story should be told from as far along the action as possible/find the poem in your character’s story/If you want to send a message, use Western Union. Dinner at Positive Pie, then the student reading sign-up, and a faculty reading.

Thursday, December 30, 2010: Staying at Betsy’s Bed and Breakfast this year, which means gloriously delicious pancakes! At 10:00, the third in a series of lectures on “A Fiction Writer’s Vocabulary” from Jess Row: we make it to IRONY. At 1:15, the first workshop with faculty Abby Frucht and Clint McCown.

Friday, New Year’s Eve: my semester review with Dave Jauss at 8:00 am. Ellen Lesser‘s lecture on “Redemption in End-Times America”: “Will we have created something before it all gets swept away? It won’t save the world, but it could be our own sweet chariot.” 1:15 workshops. More lectures and readings. Then an auction and champagne…

Saturday, 1-1-11: Happy New Year! At 10:15, student lecture on exposition, a panel, then another student lecture by Heather Sharfeddin on what happy endings have done to us…more lectures and readings. Our choices of advisors due to the office by 3:00. Advisors posted around 7:00 pm. Connie May Fowler, it is!!!

Sunday, January 2, 2011: Connie’s lecture at 8:45 on uncovering the good and evil in all of us. Cool exercise where we each wrote a “good” thing we had done on a white index card and a “bad” thing we had done on a pastel index card. The cards were put in two separate hats. Then we drew one from each hat and wrote about a character who had done both. At 10:00: Advisor Group Meeting. Lectures. 2:15 workshop.

Monday, January 3, 2011: 8:45 panel on publishing. At 1:15, Doug Glover‘s “A History of Western Philosophy in 45 Minutes.” Really. And he almost did it. At 2:30 Joshilyn Jackson talked about various ways to begin a novel. More lectures and readings. My meeting with Connie. Barry Lopez at 7:00 pm.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011: 8:45 workshop. Early-ugh. At 11:15 Rich Farrell’s great lecture on emotion with a close look at Lorrie Moore’s “Dance in America.” At 4:45, Abby Frucht spoke on book reviews. “Join the NBCC!”

Wednesday, January 5, 2011: 8:45: Barry Lopez lecture on authority. Lectures. Readings.

Thursday, Janurary 6, 2011: Informal Talk with author and graduate Lisa Carey. Workshop. Gary Lawrence’s great lecture, “To Link or Not to Link? Is That the Question?” with a focus on Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine.

Friday, January 7, 2011: 8:45 Informal Talk with the wonderful poet Lynn Emanuel. I first heard Lynn read in 1999 at the Napa Valley Writer’s Workshop. Then the last workshop. The last lecture. The last reading. Graduation. Celebration. At 5:00, three of us head out of Montpelier in the sleet and snow with our destination Hartford, Connecticut. You know the rest of the story

invite the thing down

Miciah Bay Gault, Managing Editor of Hunger Mountain, was inspired by a note George Saunders wrote on one of her stories to discover what was “unique and iconic” to her. In her engaging Editor’s Note to Hunger Mountain 15, she describes Ray Bradbury’s “writing practice of word association, in which he scribbled long lists of nouns.” It was a practice he did quickly and without thinking. From Bradbury:

I leave you now at the bottom of your own stair, at half past midnight, with a pad, a pen, and a list to be made. Conjure the nouns, alert the secret self, taste the darkness. Your own THING stands waiting ‘way up there in the attic shadows. If you speak softly, and write any old word that wants to jump out of your nerves onto the page…Your Thing at the top of the stairs in your own private night…may well come down.

In Hunger Mountain 15, Miciah brilliantly invited 21 writers (Michael Martone and Paul Lisicky among them) to share their lists, their “raw bits of writing, meant to invite the Thing down.” While you’re waiting for your copy to arrive, I invite you to leave your own list in the comments below. I’ll start us off…

[Hunger Mountain 15: The Thing at the Top of the Stairs. And I haven’t even mentioned the fiction or the photography.]

as i was saying

Friday night I settled into my bed at The Whetstone Inn with the latest issue of Hunger Mountain. I wanted to read Robin MacArthur’s essay, “Abandoned Landscapes.” Robin lives in Marlboro only minutes from where I was at the moment. What fun to read that essay when I was in the grips of her landscape, I thought.

I could hear Robin’s voice as I read. Last summer, she delivered this essay as her graduating lecture at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She wrote:

I was born amidst three hundred acres of land in Southern Vermont that my family has owned for three generations, on a road that carries my name. I grew up throwing hay bales, tapping sugar maples, building forts in the woods… This landscape is how I know the world and myself in it, and, undeniably, part of who I am.

Robin’s essay discusses the fiction of Willa Cather, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway. It’s one of the best essays on landscape I’ve ever read. Order a copy of Hunger Mountain today and let me know what you think. In my next post, yet another reason to order a copy of this issue of Hunger Mountain.

I’ll close with Robin’s words:

Our obsessions are the keys to our art; if we pay enough attention to them, we will find ourselves on the road to originality, resonance, truth.

leaving montpelier

So for the last ten days, I’ve been in Montpelier, Vermont, at my third residency at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. More about those ten days later.

Yesterday evening around five, Jodi, Jenna, and I left Montpelier in the middle of a snow storm–the Hartford Sheraton our destination.

Not so fast. In fact, not fast at all. Ice covered the interstate, and we crawled along at forty miles an hour. I placed a 911 call to report a single car into an embankment. Then two more accidents. We would have done better on skates.

We gave up around Brattleboro, where we slid off the interstate for a steak dinner and to reassess. Jodi lives in nearby Marlboro, and she suggested we stay the night there at The Whetstone Inn. She called her friend Jean, who welcomed us into her 220-year-old inn around nine last night. We shuffled in the front door through five inches of newly fallen snow.

After standing outside in the snowy silence trying to get a cell phone signal to let my husband know where I was, I settled into my twin bed with the latest issue of Hunger Mountain.

My flight is boarding. More to follow…

How We Spend Our Days: Jean Thompson

Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” On the first of each month, Catching Days hosts a guest writer in the series, “How We Spend Our Days.” Today, please welcome writer … Continue reading