Sunday, April 20, 2014

Introducing a young poet

Earlier this month, I was contacted by longtime Atlanta journalist and columnist Richard Eldredge about two student reporters with the city's teen newspaper, VOX, who wanted to shadow a poet for a day. Since I don't teach, I thought the best way for the budding young writers and poets to see Atlanta's scene in action was a meet-up in Decatur for open mic night at Java Monkey. 

Richard brought two students – Mac and Agustin – and we met early for dinner and had a long conversation about our favorite poets, influences and their love of the craft. Java Monkey Speaks had a packed house that night and the brilliant Gypsee Yo was featuring, so you couldn't ask for a better "teachable moment." I also encouraged Mac and Agustin to send me a poem using a prompt I gave them. The prompt was to write a poem in response to one of their favorite songs or pieces of music. Agustin sent me the poem below (under his pen name) and it totally knocked the top of my head off. He's 17! Let me repeat that - 17!!! I also posted the song by Calle 13 that inspired him to write the poem below. I would love to hear you comments and I know Agustin would too! 

American Baby
By P.S. Goya

Either I’m nobody, or I’m a nation.
Like the stalactites that crawl into their crystal-helix shapes,
I crawled, American baby, from the Strait of Magellan where the fish
Gargle their lugubrious songs, to the dehydrated Line where the Texans,
Those American wannabe’s, flung their broken Spanish at me.

I crossed the Frontier, and for a while I stayed with Fruit-pickers,
Developing into a character that cannot be defined by American citizenship.
My hair crawled far away from my scalp, my feet forgot their Aztec dances,
Memories became the packaged boxes in the attic of a house too busy to care.
The melanin in my skin, disgusted, evaded me in mirrors.

I wanted to dream, baby, so when they told me about Visas, I listened,
And soon enough I began speaking from my Nose just like the gringos,
And recited the stories of Bush and Cheney so they’d give me my Green card.
I forgot about my Mother, whose scarred back is the spine of the Andes,
Who incubated me in the smoke of a patient volcano for two centuries…

I didn’t remember myself until the age of 17,
When, burned out from singing W.A.S.P. songs, I recalled the tune of my own people.
The heats and smells of Acapulco, the poverty and the richness of the tongue,
And I had also forgotten the cacao that is in the eyes of sweet-faced strangers…
It all came back to me.

I am an American baby, but the U.S., my friend, is not America.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

First anniversary of "Render"

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the publication of my poetry collection, Render, by Sibling Rivalry Press. To mark the occasion, SRP is offering the book for just $10. If you haven't read Render yet, this is the perfect opportunity to support not only my work but the efforts of one of the best small presses operating today. Click this link to buy your copy.

It's been a life-changing year since the publication: I lost my father and maternal grandmother, had a big upheaval at work, saw my month-long sabbatical in London go down the toilet, got to read my poetry in Bryant Park in NYC and in LA, my novel Remain In Light was runner-up for Georgia Author of the Year in Fiction, both Conquering Venus and Remain In Light were acquired by SRP (which will publish the final book, Leaving Paris, late next year… if I can wrangle the storyline in time), Render was picked as a Best Book of 2013 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and selected by the American Library Association for its 2014 Over the Rainbow Book List, and wish-fullfillment extraordinaire in the form of Kate Bush performing her first live shows in 35 years this autumn and me (miraculously) getting a ticket.

I have to thank, again, Bryan and Seth at SRP for making this journey so smooth and exciting and being the classiest of class acts all the way around. I adore both of you.

So what's next? The aforementioned Leaving Paris and then I'll turn my attention to the next poetry manuscript. The new collection, which will come out at some point in the next few years, is all of my London and Paris poems. There's also a musical connection to the work, so I plan to add a few "remixes" and "alternative versions" of poems dating back to Better To Travel. The collection already has a title, which is under wraps for now, but there's a clue in the image at above.

I want to thank everyone who has supported me and my writing this past year. Your words here at Modern Confessional, on Twitter and Facebook mean so much to me.

P.S. The eBook of Slow To Burn is still in process. It will be available before the end of April. A great way to close out National Poetry Month.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Electronic Corpse is alive… alive!

I'm happy to have contributed a few lines to this inventive new anthology edited by the brilliant M. Ayodele Heath. For the last several years, he's been engaging poets on Facebook to create exquisite corpse poems by offering up form and first lines. Ayodele has collected those creations into Electronic Corpse: Poems From A Digital Salon.

This anthology features collaboratively created poems by 84 contributors of all experiences and geographies – from state poets laureates to casual journalers; from Pennsylvania to Georgia to South Korea, India and South Africa. The anthology has three sections: collaborative poems, poems from the most frequent contributors and a step-by-step guide for the reader. What sounds like a very straight-forward book of poetry is a complex, unique and layered book.

The Atlanta launch is now confirmed for Saturday, May 3, at 4:15 p.m. at {Poem 88} in West Midtown. I'll be reading with Jon Goode, C.G. Brown, Dan Veach, Robert E. Wood, Rupert Fike, Sharan Strange, Theresa Davis, Teri Elam, Christina Springer and more. You can RSVP at the Facebook invite at this link.  

Friday, April 04, 2014

Creating a Poetry Collection

I'll be giving a talk and reading my poetry on Tuesday, April 8, 10:30 a.m. at the Smyrna Public Library to celebrate National Poetry Month. The event is called "Rendering Render: Creating a Poetry Collection." I'll talk about how I put the collection together as well as reading some selections. Books will be available for purchase. Refreshments and door prizes, too! The library is located at 100 Village Green Circle, Smyrna, GA 30080.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Big Poetry Giveaway 2014

I'm taking part in the 5th annual Big Poetry Giveaway during National Poetry Month. The event was created by poet Kelli Russell Agodon (find out more at her Book of Kells blog) and is a fantastic way to connect readers with poetry. You can see the full list of participants at this link.

I'll be giving away a copy of my collection Render (honored by the American Library Association and named a Best Book of 2013 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) and a copy of Megan Volpert's new collection, Only Ride, which has just been published by Sibling Rivalry Press.

If you want to win either of these books, leave a comment on this blog. Winners will be chosen at random on May 1.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Rainbow Book Fair & National Poetry Month

Me at the Rainbow Book Fair with, from left, Jim Elledge,
Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Perry Brass and Michael Kimmel

I spent this past weekend in New York City at the Rainbow Book Fair. Sibling Rivalry Press was a sponsor and hosted the opening night event on Friday at Cornelia Street Cafe, which was standing room only. Some great readings by Sean Patrick Mulroy, Perry Brass, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, JP Howard and Charlie Bondhus. I was recruited to read two of Dean Kostos' poems and read my Kate Bush poem (see the previous post). It was lovely to see so many familiar faces at the reading, as well as enjoying dinner with publishers Bryan Borland, Seth Pennington and the lovely Vanessa Daou.

On Saturday, the weather was dismal but there was a fantastic turnout for the book fair. I sat on a panel with Jim Elledge, Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Michael Kimmel and Perry Brass called "Investigating Queer Boyhood," which was well-attended with great questions and observations from the audience. I also read during the Poetry Salon. It was great to hear Michael Klein, Amy King, Matthew Hittinger and so many other poets reading their work. Sibling Rivalry sold a ton of books (I sat at the table for a bit to sign books and meet readers) and the table was constantly busy with people stopping by to browse and talk about the press. After the fair, Vanessa and I dashed through the cold and rain for dinner at a cafe near the hotel. It was fantastic to spend time with her and catch up on our projects.

Today is April 1, which means National Poetry Month has begun. I am behind schedule on getting the Slow To Burn ebook ready, but it will be available by the end of the month. If you're looking to write some poetry, the Poem-A-Day Challenge kicks off today hosted by Writer's Digest and Robert Lee Brewer. You can find out more at this link.

I'll be spending my National Poetry Month writing fiction as work on Leaving Paris continues.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kate Bush Appears on Night Flight, 1981

Midnight in the forbidden living room,
past my parents’ bedroom, closing doors quietly
behind me, unknowingly opening a path 
from which I will never veer, even later
when I become older, succumb to any zeitgeist.

I turn on the TV and she somersaults
across the screen, startling the rolling vertical hold
into stillness, her siren voice makes me fumble
in the dark for volume control, I put my hand
against the screen, feel the static in my fingertips,
a transference of energy in 1981 that delineates
past and present, a woman who calls herself Cathy,
wants to come in through the window.

But she wasn’t coming through, I was going in,
my link to her a series of hot boxes where she
would appear without warning over decades
like the Virgin, her songs a catechism, her name
a prayer I chanted at the backs of retreating lovers,
divorcing parents and death, and even in her absence,
the music never faltered like I did,
songs willing pills back into bottles.

Twenty-seven years ago I put on my armor,
never had a ring put on my finger, blew kisses
across the ocean, for inspiration and strength,
for God to keep her even when he wasn’t keeping me,
and even now, when I am driving or dancing,
walking in Los Angeles or London, the song remains
the same, her name an utterance: Kate, Kate, Kate.

This poem appears in the HomeGround Anthology, 1982-2012 and Assaracus literary magazine. Republished here to mark the occasion of Kate Bush announcing her first live concerts in 35 years. And, yes, I got a ticket. 

Collin Kelley: Modern Confessional

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