Thursday, September 17, 2015

Self-portrait at 46

Poetry readings and workshops

Karen Head and I will do another Call & Response reading for Poetry Atlanta and Georgia Center for the Book on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 7:15 p.m. at the Decatur Library. We'll be reading our poetry round-robin style selecting poems on the fly to find common themes, moods and imagery. It’s a fun, experimental and unexpected evening of poetry because we have no idea what's coming next. The event is free and open to the public.

If you're interested in learning more about the craft of poetry and you live on the southside of Atlanta, you might want to sign up for my fall workshop at the Peachtree City Library on Saturday, Sept. 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This is a generative workshop and we'll specifically be discussing and writing confessional and prose poetry. More details and registration information at this link.

The reissue of Better To Travel is taking a little bit longer than expected. It was supposed to be ready for the Decatur Book Festival, but it's now looking like October. There will definitely be copies available during the 11th annual Voices Carry reading on Nov. 30. And you might want to mark that date on your calendar since it's going to be a fantastic lineup: Theresa Davis, Michelle Castleberry, Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor and Cecilia Woloch. You'll be sick of turkey and relatives by then, so come out to the Decatur Library to hear these fine poets.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New poetry & interview at Atticus Review

Many thanks to Atticus Review and Michael Meyerhofer for featuring me as Poet of the Month. You can check out a new interview and four new poems at this link. I'm extra excited that the Kylie Minogue poem finally found a home.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Mid-summer update

If you happen to be in or around Denver or Aug. 4, drop by Red Rocks Community College for this special event. I'll be reading with David-Matthew Barnes, Stina French and Pamela Gates Trayser at 4:30 p.m. in the community room followed by a meet and greet. Many thanks to David-Matthew and the Theatre Arts and Dance Department for hosting us. I've never been to Denver, so I'm excited to read with these fine folks and check out the city. Tattered Cover bookstore is at the top of my "must-visit" list.

I'll be back at the Decatur Book Festival this year reading on the Poet's Stage at Java Monkey Speaks. I should have copies of the reissue of Better To Travel on hand. More details soon.

Many thanks to Vanessa Daou for asking me to contribute to her feature in aRUDE Magazine called "Music, Photography and the Making of Icons." I wrote about Kate Bush's iconic cover for The Dreaming album photographed by her brother, John Carder Bush. You can read the story at this link and check out the contributions by some other fantastic writers and musicians.

Atticus Review is publishing four new poems of mine soon, along with a Q&A conducted by poetry editor Michael Meyerhofer. Atticus has published some of my favorite poets and writers, so I'm thrilled to be part of the family.

My old stomping ground, Java Monkey Speaks, celebrated its 14th anniversary in June and has been getting a lot of love from the local media. Atlanta's NPR station WABE 90.1 FM did a great profile on Java Monkey at this link and another on my favorite rockstar poet Theresa Davis at this link. Kodac Harrison and I are discussing a fifth Java Monkey Speaks anthology to coincide with the 15th anniversary next summer. 

I've made a few tweaks to Leaving Paris over the summer, but it's been largely – and strangely – off my plate for weeks while the boys at Sibling Rivalry Press read it and make suggestions. I'm starting to think about cover photography and looking ahead to next year's book tour. The fundraiser to help me go on the tour is still open and you can make a tax-deductible donation at this link

The trip to London and Paris has been pushed back to October and November, but I'm excited because I'll be in London for both the lighting of the Oxford Street holiday lights and Bonfire Night.

More soon!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Better To Travel redux

The reissue of my debut poetry collection, Better To Travel, will be published by Poetry Atlanta Press this autumn. Here's a sneak peek at the cover mockup.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Reading at Seat in the Shade series

Watch me read from my poetry and discuss my work with fellow poet Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor at the opening of the annual Seat in the Shade series at The Globe in Athens, GA. Many thanks to Melisa and the University of Georgia College of Education for having me and Ron Braxley for filming the event. It was a fantastic night!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Arrivals and departures: 20 years of Paris

June 13, 1995: Arrived at Gatwick...
Twenty years ago today, I set foot on European soil for the first time. It was the summer of 1995. I was 25.

I was a chaperone for a group of high school seniors on their graduation trip to London and Paris thanks to the invitation of one of my best friends, Joy Thomas. The roundtrip flight, two weeks of hotels, dinners, shows and sights cost $1,200. You can't even buy the plane ticket for that now. I jumped at the chance to go. I'd been dreaming of visiting London since I was a kid. But it was Paris that gave me something that I didn't know I needed to find.

On June 17, I checked into a little hotel called the Bel Air on rue Rampon in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. I was exhausted, a little hung over and really wanted nothing more than a working air conditioner. There wasn't one. I opened the window. Such a simple little act – letting in some air  – changed my life.

Paris, 1995
Across rue Rampon was an apartment with a long wrought iron balcony full of flowers. The doors were always open and the interior was lined with bookcases crammed with tomes. There was a big desk with an old typewriter, what appeared to be manuscript pages, and even more books. But I never saw the owner. For a solid week, the doors were always open, but the writer was never at work at the desk. So I invented her in my head: A Parisian widow disabled by agoraphobia, who never leaves her apartment and works as a book editor. At night, she spies on the guests of the hotel with her binoculars. She meets a young American writer who is staying in the room directly across from her apartment and they become embroiled in a mystery filled with unrequited love, strange apparitions, murder and a terrorist bombing. That was the genesis of what would become my novel Conquering Venus, the first book in The Venus Trilogy.

The fact that I've been living with that Parisian widow, Irène Laureux, and that young American writer, Martin Paige, for twenty years boggles my mind. Their story continued in Remain In Light and will conclude in Leaving Paris, which I just sent off to Sibling Rivalry Press a few weeks ago. Irène and Martin are as real to me as many of my friends. They talk to me, they choose where they want to go (and that was certainly the case while I was writing Leaving Paris) and what they want to do. Sometimes, I feel like they are writing me – that I'm the fictional character being made up in their heads.

Irène's balcony on rue Rampon, Paris. 
Irène and Martin told me it was time to let them go, so at the end of Leaving Paris they set off on a journey that surely wasn't my idea. For now, Irène and Martin have gone somewhere I cannot follow, but they have left me with Diane Jacobs and Bernard Sullivan – the wisecracking, loudmouthed, mismatched pair of detectives who have their own stories that need to be told.

Later this summer, I will make another trip to London and Paris to bookend the 20 years that changed my life and gave me three novels when I never thought I'd be able to write one. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to meet so many incredible people – real and imagined – while I've been writing these books. I plan to list them when I write the acknowledgements for Leaving Paris while sitting at the window of that same hotel (now called Le General) on rue Rampon in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. A city of both darkness and light. I will be 45 years old.

I will open the window – to let in some air – and I have a feeling (call it synchronicity, fate, destiny, divine intervention) that's where I'll find the roadmap for the next 20 years of my life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Examining Vanessa Place: Genius, opportunist, ignorant or next-level trolling?

So much has been written across the literary blogosphere and social media about the Vanessa Place controversy since my last post on May 17 that I can't possibly link them all here. Go ahead and Google her name and you'll spend the better part of a day trying to digest it all. However, I will link you to Atticus Review, which has just published a series of essays on Place.

Of particular interest to me was Jay Sizemore's essay defending Place and her appropriation of the Gone With the Wind text. Jay writes that those who signed the petition to have Place removed from the AWP panel selection subcommittee should be "ashamed of themselves." I signed the petition. I am not ashamed.

I signed the petition not out of coercion or "groupthink," but because Vanessa Place has lost her credibility to fairly adjudicate or make selections for an organization that claims diversity as part of its mission. It goes beyond racism – real or perceived – but is about her ability to be objective, especially after a large number of writers who have denounced her failed art project are sure to be on panel applications under review for next year's conference in Los Angeles.

I don't believe Vanessa Place is racist. I do, however, believe she is a tone-deaf, ignorant, opportunist. And thanks to Jay's essay and another bit of Place appropriation that happened today, I've come to the conclusion that she is also next-level trolling the poetry world for her own self-promotion. Someone pointed out that Place appropriated, without attribution, a Facebook post from poet Adam Fitzgerald, who announced he had a poem chosen for The New Yorker. Most of the people "liking" and responding to her post believed she had a poem chosen for publication. What could possibly be the point of that? Maybe her art is just trolling to see how much of a reaction she can get. My response: don't feed the trolls.

You can tell from interviews and other posts that Place is one of those who believes all publicity is good publicity, so she's flying with it. Jay claims in his essay that Place is smarter than us, yet she has been unable – or maybe just unwilling – to clearly articulate her appropriation of racist images and text in an attempt to make us see our internalized racism. Her explanation that tweeting out the entirety of Gone With the Wind is to provoke the estate of Margaret Mitchell to file a lawsuit against her – forcing the estate to claim the racist text – was not only late, but ridiculous. The Mitchell estate will never rise to the bait and since Place is also a lawyer, she knows better.

Maybe Place's zeal to mirror back racism has blinded her to her own white privilege. Maybe she sees herself as an ally, but she's critically misunderstood the mood of the nation, and especially writers of color. Frankly, they don't want to hear black voices coming from the mouths of white women (or men, if you're Kenneth Goldsmith – another conceptual poet working to get some extra ink by reading the autopsy report of Michael Brown). Neither do I.  There are plenty of opportunities for white poets to write and engage about race – appropriating a person of color's voice to do so is not the answer.

I've seen a few tweets and Facebook posts about trying to get a petition going to have Place banned from speaking at universities. For the record, I will not support that effort and will stand against it no matter how offensive or opportunistic I find Place's work. If there are students and professors who want her to come and speak, she should be allowed to do so. Having Place removed from a committee where she has tainted her credibility to be objective is one thing; trying to have her voice banned from college campuses is something else. Let Place go to the campuses to defend and debate her work with students who are interested in doing so. I'd like to sit in on one of those to see if she actually can.

I was debating with Jay about his essay on Facebook earlier this evening. During one of his responses, he called Place "quite intelligent." My reponse:  If by intelligence you mean attention-seeking, button-pushing troll then, yes, she's a goddamn genius. Until a couple of weeks ago, most of us had never even heard of Vanessa Place or only read a smattering of her published work. Place has plenty of supporters, her profile in the poetry community is off the scale – good or bad – and more people are reading her work than ever before.

Judging from the tweets on her second Twitter account and the things she's posted on Facebook, it's never been a better time to be Vanessa Place. And maybe we've all been suckers for indulging her.

Collin Kelley: Modern Confessional

Welcome to Collin Kelley: Modern Confessional, the website for poet, novelist, playwright and journalist Collin Kelley.