Saturday, December 3, 2011

How About Midnight on Connecticut Avenue?

The Steiny Road Poet had so much fun partying with Gertrude Stein at the Stanford in Washington Art Gallery that she has begun stirring to the pot to create an opportunity for other poets to share the fun.

Gertrude Stein’s birthday is coming up February 3. Shh—138, born in 1874 and still influencing other artists as the Insight & Identity: contemporary Artists and Gertrude Stein exhibition proves. The S. R. Poet is asking Stanford in Washington to bring poets in for a workshop where they can learn about Stein and her work, get a curator’s tour of the exhibit, write poems inspired by the exhibit and Stein, and then present these new poems at a birthday bash for the first Modernist. Why should Woody Allen get all the buzz?
Stein wrote a book entitled To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays. The image here is taken from the cover of this book and this book is part of the collection belonging to Hans Gallas. Gallas is a co-curator of Insight & Identity exhibition and he said he wants to participate in the workshop and birthday party.

Stay tuned for more details. Thanks to Wanda Corn, 2011 has truly been the year of Gertrude Stein, so let’s keep the momentum going!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Partying with Gertrude Stein

On October 27, 2011, The Steiny Road Poet had the pleasure of attending the opening of Insight & Identity: Contemporary Artists and Gertrude Stein,  an exhibition mounted by The Stanford in Washington Art Gallery at 2655 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.

The show curated by Adrienne Jamieson (MaryLou & George Boone Centennial Director, Stanford in Washington) with Dyana Curreri-Ermatinger (Director of the International Art Museum in San Francisco) and collector-writer Hans Gallas was mounted to coincide with Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories,  curated by Wanda Corn and currently on exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, after its opening at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

The show brings together work by Stein and inspired by the work of Stein. The exhibition includes first edition books, paintings, and art objects that include dresses, buttons, and wall hangings. One of the paintings in the exhibition comes From Suzanne Bellamy’s series Conversations with Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein,  a series of 12 prints. The S.R. Poet came home and realized she has one of those prints entitled “Ritual and Deep Rhythm.” In the Stanford in Washington exhibition is the second print in the series. Here is what the painter had to say about this one and No. 4, which came to the S. R. Poet as gift.

No.2 COLLISIONS : “Lying Under the Whole of Gertrude Stein.” This print tells the story of their meetings and business transactions. Rejecting the manuscript of The Making of Americans, perhaps not ever reading it, Woolf wrote various letters to friends parodying Stein’s weighty work, body and presence. Here Alice faces the backdrop of their own Parisian life as Gertrude hurtles through the air on her magical manuscript and Woolf deftly avoids being crushed. The subsequent Hogarth printing of Composition As Explanation testifies to a shift in position over the value of Stein’s work and worth.

No.4 RITUAL and DEEP RHYTHM concerns the different ways each writer draws upon forms and myths from the ancient and matriarchal worlds. The work of Gloria Feman Orenstein on Stein’s use of the Seder ritual and Jewish iconography sits here with Woolf’s involvement with the work and ideas of Jane Ellen Harrison. As with all the Conversations, this theme shows how there can be deep points of connection between these two women artists if certain doors are opened.

The invitation to the opening encouraged costumes inspired by the 1920s, particularly Paris in the Twenties. Wanda Corn dressed and spoke as Gertrude Stein. Hans Gallas dressed as Pablo Picasso. Professor Corn’s students came in an array of flapper, Hemingway and Salvador Dali costumes. An honored guest was Gertrude’s nephew Julian Stein.

The S.R. Poet was pleased to meet cartoonist Tom Hachtman who generously presented her with a copy of his book Gertrude’s follies, an irreverent look at the life and times of Gertrude Stein and her faithful companion, Alice B. Toklas. Hachtman’s cartoons were regularly published in the Soho Weekly News starting in 1978. Some of his work also appears in the Seeing Gertrude Stein exhibition.

What a party! Not only was the food delicious (Alice Toklas would have surely approved) but everyone was willing to talk about Gertrude Stein. How rare is that?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Birth of a New Book: On a Bed of Gardenias: Jane & Paul Bowles

The Steiny Road Poet is pleased to announce that Kattywompus Press of Cleveland Heights, Ohio,  will publish On a Bed of Gardenias: Jane & Paul Bowles by Karren LaLonde Alenier. This is a chapbook that is comprised of the poems from which How Many Midnights, her new work-in-progress opera libretto, is drawn. On a Bed of Gardenias is the love story of the two unconventional writers who Beat writers (e.g. Allen Ginsberg) say are their precursors.


Getting a book of any size published by a reputable publishing house is very difficult. So the Poet would like to share her story about how her manuscript was invited by Kattywompus publisher Sammy Greenspan. For full disclosure, Kattywompus, a press that was founded by Greenspan in 2010, took over the Greatest Hits chapbook series from Jennifer Bosveld’s Pudding House Press where Karren LaLonde Alenier Greatest Hits 1973 – 2002 was originally published in 2003. So now, it is possible to find the Poet’s Greatest Hits chapbook at Kattywompus. 

The Poet met Greenspan and her associate editor Bonné de Blas at the Associated Writing Programs bookfair in Washington, DC, January 2011. In casual conversation at The Word Works AWP book booth, de Blas told the Poet about Kattywompus, including the fact that this publishing house now retained all rights to the Greatest Hits publications. Surprised, the Poet went to check out the Kattywompus display where the Greatest Hits chapbooks were standing in a vintage suitcase.


In another old suitcase were the brand new books from Kattywompus and included among those chapbooks was Ode to Oil by Philip Metres, a poet the S. R. Poet had encountered through Word Works Washington Prize-winning author Fred Marchant at the 2010 Split This Rock festival. However, the first thought of the Poet in looking at Metres’ book was how interesting, poetry about crude oil—in another life, the Poet had worked on the audits of the major petroleum producers for the newly formed U.S. Department of Energy back in the 1980s.

Then Greenspan located Alenier Greatest Hits and the Poet offered to recite “Leo on Seesaw,” her number one greatest hit poem, which she has recited to good effect in places as far flung as a classroom in Xian, China, and this poem is the center piece of her first opera Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On. After the recitation, the Poet told Greenspan and de Blas that she had a work-in-progress poetry manuscript about Jane and Paul Bowles. So this is how the invitation came about and Greenspan waited patiently while the Poet tried to decide what portion of the full-length Bowles manuscript she would send Kattywompus and part of that decision had to do with some problematic found poems.


Most writers want to know the behind-the-scenes story of any press who publishes them. Kattywompus writes a blog that, by all standards, seems to tell the naked truth about how they conduct business. For over-the-transom submissions versus invited manuscripts, Kattywompus charges a reading fee and this practice prevents the outstanding writerly resource Duotrope from listing  Kattywompus. Duotrope’s policy does not allow a member press to charge a reading fee to prospective authors. The fact is many reputable literary publishing houses are not listed at Duotrope, but have other credentials like being a member of Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. CLMP’s policy states that its members “do not charge authors a fee to publish their works.” All of this discussion hinges on the definition of vanity publishing, that is, authors who pay to get their work published. Vanity publishing usually means the work being published has not been vetted by the publisher and that it is a service-for-hire that anyone can buy.

The Steiny Road Poet is proud that Kattywompus editors, who are meticulous in their editorial process, stand behind On a Bed of Gardenias: Jane & Paul Bowles. Toward the end of 2011, the Poet expects that the Kattywompus website will make On a Bed of Gardenias available for purchase at $12 per copy plus postage. While there is no requirement from Kattywompus for their authors to sell their books, the Poet, for a limited period, will be happy to reserve, for anyone who emails her,  a discounted copy at $10 plus postage. Most likely the book will be available in January 2012.

Here is the poem, from which the title of the chapbook is drawn. It was originally published in The Innisfree Poetry Journal.


Because the hotel manager floated
scores of our favorite flower on the surface
of the swimming pool, Jane and I decided
to visit the Taxco market and buy enough
gardenias to cover our bed.
…......……......………………….At siesta careful
not to arouse staff sleepyheads, we carried two
baskets of blossoms in several trips
into the hotel and up the stairs. When the bed
became a sea of creamy white, we undressed,
lay down, drowned our senses.

How much is too much?

In the blue fluid of the pool Jane Bowles poked
her head, short curly hair winking red,
through the fragrant corollas—a swoon
of flower boats.
……………………Could a husband and wife, sheath
and knife, be joined in everlasting memory
on a perfumed spread of gardenias? She
with her women; me, Paul Bowles,
with my men.

Could I recreate those hours we lay

In New York I furnished everything in white:
sofa, chaise longue, Ottoman, coffee table,
lamps, a polar bear rug. Then I sprayed
the drapes, and every pillow, every throw
with ambergris mixed with crushed
petals of gardenia.
…………......…....….Come back
from Taxco, I wrote to her. 

What price paradise?

Copyright © 2007 Karren LaLonde Alenier 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Experiencing Japanese Butoh & Nepalese Quilts

Entertainment and cultural enrichment may enter one's life in unexpected ways.

This summer the Steiny Road Poet was invited by her itinerant poet friend James Hopkins to see colorful quilts made by Nepalese mothers who are trying to provide education for their children. Quilts for Kids Nepal is a project James started to empower these mothers to improve the lives of their children, who are otherwise sent out on the streets of Kathmandu at age seven to beg.

In this dance video, one sees some of these quilts as well as the mesmerizing movement of Butoh. This is a stylized dance originally in protest of long held traditions. In this video, however, the slow execution of body movement allows plenty of time to see the quilt being used by the dancer.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Opera as Habitat

 Like a bride after her reception of hands and hugs, strawberries and champagne, the Steiny Road Poet will toss the coveted bouquet to the virgins as a way of imagining How Many Midnights, the opera love story about Jane and Paul Bowles on which she is working with composer John Supko.
In this toss: music that breathes

Supko will provide computer screens to the singers and musicians. Every performance will be slightly different though statistically similar.

In this toss: music that breaks through artificiality

If a jazz band working improvisationally can sit in the window of time that is defined by the present moment, then HMM produced by Supko’s guided chance will also work with that time that is now and therefore avoid the collision with sounds that happened yesterday.

In this toss:  opera that renews the past

In the party scene where Jane Auer first meets Paul Bowles, Supko, using Markov chains, recombines the chords of Coleman Hawkins version of “Body and Soul.” 
In this toss: a scale-able opera

If Kabuki Theater tickets can be purchased by the act, HMM can be scaled to a given amount time or offered in shorter scenic productions. Supko would like this opera to be thought of as an installation for an art museum.

In this toss: opera with fragrance

In a true habitat, there are objects you can see, touch, and hear. HMM will have an optional element of fragrance similar to the spice market of Marrakech.

Note: How Many Midnights is a work-in-progress experimental opera by John Supko (music) and Karren LaLonde Alenier (words). Stay tuned for notices of public performances in 2012 that will sample the opera before its premier.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Hilary Tham Documentary

The first person who publicly spoke the lines of Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On was the Steiny Road Poet's dear friend Hilary Tham. Hilary's decision to participate in the first reading done on snowy February day in 1996 was something she thought about carefully. How could a Chinese Malaysian take the role of Gertrude Stein, she asked aloud. I was sure she would be a rock solid actor and she was. Just as she was a friend of deep importance to me and so it is that I visit her grave every June to celebrate her life.

This year brought new rewards when the Steiny Road Poet suggested that Perry Lindstrom meet Hilary's family and some of her poet friends at her gravesite. Perry has been talking for some years about making a film about Hilary. Kim Roberts gave him that suggestion.

The gathering included Joe Goldberg, his three daughers (Ilana, Shoshanna, Rebecca), three of his granddaughters, Hilary's youngest sister Choy and her Hong Kong-based youngest brother Chee Lung and four poets.

Thus there were poems written by Hilary read as well as poems about Hilary by Karren Alenier, Mel Belin, Judy McCombs, and Miles Moore. We also created a new work made of lines and titles drawn from Hilary's work. We made King David Memorial Garden sing with Hilary's words.

Here's a favorite poem by Hilary Tham:


An Englishman is visiting his mother's grave
with flowers. He sees Mrs. Wei
spreading a feast of roast chicken,
moo shu pork, noodles
before her father's grave.
"When's your father coming out
to eat that food?" he asks.
Smiling, Mrs. Wei answers,
"Same time your mother
come to smell flowers."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Pleasures & Pains of Collaborating

Engaging in collaborative projects is not easy or necessarily fun.

It is a serious matter that not only puts on trial one’s ego, but also tests the very essence of who one is as an artist. Since her first opera project that came to successful conclusion in New York City, the Steiny Road Poet has learned a tremendous amount about risking her time and talents with other people. No matter how stressful personal relations can be during a collaborative project, one hopes for the greater good.

Here are lessons learned (or relearned) from Anne Becker’s project Pleasures of Collaboration: Poets, Dancers and Musicians at Play which culminated in a final improvisation performance on June 17, 2011, under the sponsorship of the Takoma Park Arts and Humanities Commission of Maryland.

--Improv is a fickle process.

If the first attempt to combine poetry, music, and dance creates something magical, don’t expect that to be repeated unless you hire a seasoned theater director and that director gets a new set of professional performers. Short of capturing what came to be “Jane Bowles at Camp” on video footage, what the Steiny Road Poet remembers about the first session on her piece was its simplicity. There was the poet delivering her lines, the large red and white umbrella, the dancer who engaged with the umbrella, and the two itinerant poets who traveled in and around the dancer. The itinerant poets, one dressed in an eye-catching costume with turban and shaw, made the shaw a river behind the dancer who was hidden from view by the oversized umbrella. What was seen of the dancer was minimal, though full of little sparks of mischief. The music included the sonorous flow of the cello, the insistent voice of the flute, an underlying strumming of guitar, and an occasional accent of drums.

The second attempt of what became “Jane Bowles at Camp” felt lifeless since the itinerant poets never came on stage that night and so the third attempt, where the piece was actually named, drove the Poet to change what she read. She added a lot more text, which caused one of the collaborating poets to get upset with the new information. It was a good discussion, but by opening night, the producing poet Anne Becker asked the Steiny Road Poet to go back to the original text. That was gladly done. 

The Steiny Road Poet is eager to see what was captured on film by the Takoma Park cable TV technicians, but she feels certain that the stage was overly busy with too many people on stage. Maybe this is something that could not be helped. The Steiny Road Poet has to be pleased that so many of the performers wanted to play in this piece.

--Pay attention & find out who your collaborators are.

It’s easy to get caught up in the process of creating a new piece and working with artists from various disciplines and then suddenly realize, you don’t know anything about your collaboration partners. The more you know about your partners, the easier it is to understand where they are coming from and how to negotiate what you feel is needed to make a piece a successful collaboration.

Another thing that happened to the Steiny Road Poet was she recognized that she had seen and talked with one of the musicians who perform in a new music concert that the Poet had reviewed. Also she had an impromptu collaboration with a dancer at a garden party back in the 1980s that was much along the lines of Anne Becker’s project. The odd thing was the Steiny Road Poet did not immediately recognize this person until the dancer struck a certain pose, at which point the Poet realized she a copy of a photo taken of this dancer at that garden party at the finish of that long-ago collaborative dance.

Maybe what needed to happen with the Becker Project was that a blog should have been created to provide biographical details of the performers and to post what happened at each session. The Steiny Road Poet, like other participants, did not attend every session and therefore, lost opportunity to hear all the introductions and get to know everyone.

--Go by the book. Don’t assume that collaboration partners will agree with you.

At the eleventh hour, the Steiny Road Poet made a short video (hours of work) based on early development of a piece that changed dramatically by the time it reached the public stage on June 17. The Steiny Road Poet thought the piece was fascinating and would show a potential audience member how our process worked. The poet of said piece was surprised about the early footage, but one of the dancers was upset that the Steiny Road Poet had moved forward without getting everyone’s permission to air the video on YouTube. The Steiny Road Poet, as asked, removed the video from public view.

--Do what it takes to support the leader of the project.

The process of collaboration is hard and made more so when the workshop period is at night when people are tired. Therefore, when thorny things happen, like someone losing patience with the process, misunderstanding what someone has said, unable to express him/herself clearly, it is vitally important that things do not get out of control. It is probably a good idea to ensure that every collaboration project includes some seasoned veterans who are levelheaded. What everyone should want is to see the project come to successful fruition. This cannot happen if any of the partners, including the leader, are not allowed to vent in a controlled situation. By “controlled situation,” the Steiny Road Poet means that no one should be allowed to leave the workshop space mad. The Steiny Road Poet knows that an angry exit causes many partners to lose face.

Finally, everyone should be asked to sign an agreement that lays out the scope of the project and the ground rules. The agreement should also contain a release that allows for photographs and videos to be taken which would promote the final performance. Any such products should be sent to the project leader for review and approval. This would also include images being use on blogs. Those who aren’t comfortable with this advance permission probably should not participate in the project.

Other Remarks

The Steiny Road Poet enjoyed the process and experienced wonder or amazement more than fun. She finds these kind of projects educational but not necessarily recreational. Would she do it again? Probably, yes. She has the utmost respect for Anne Becker and thinks she is an outstanding creative leader.

Photo by: Joshua Prentice

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Looking for the Real Thing

How does a writer bring a character in her work alive?

The Steiny Road Poet brings this question up because she realizes that it is not enough to say, as she said in her previous post on Found Poems, that to create new poems about such an artist as Paul Bowles, she does more research.

The obvious research is to become intimate with an autobiography, biographies, letters of one’s interest. Less obvious is to read the books that influenced your subject. Therefore, the Steiny Road Poet is reading Andre Gide’s Les Faux-Monnayeurs (The Counterfeiters) and its companion journal because Bowles read Le Journal des Faux-Monnayeurs on his trans-Atlantic crossing when he ran away from college in 1929 to Paris. Le Journal tells how Gide wrote his 1925 novel that was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1947. What excites the S. R. Poet is that she sees Gide’s complex story about sex-in-all-sorts-of-categories illuminating Bowles’ hard-to-understand sexual identity.

What remains to be realized is whether the Poet’s research will yield a worthy poem.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Watch out for Found Poems!

Just a few words on found poems.

Do not ever use source material that is under copyright unless you know the author and have a good relationship with that person.

Recently the Steiny Road Poet spent several months trying to find out who held the copyright to the letters of Paul Bowles as published in In Touch: The Letters of Paul Bowles. It turns out, the copyright was granted by Bowles to Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. It took a couple of months for the copyright contact at the publishing house to get around to reviewing the request and when the Poet got her letter of permission, it said, “We have no objection to your use of the material listed above in your unpublished manuscript, on condition that the material is printed without alteration…”

Are you laughing out loud? If not, maybe a definition of found poetry is needed.

Here’s how Wikipedia defines found poetry:

Found poetry is a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry by making changes in spacing and/or lines (and consequently meaning), or by altering the text by additions and/or deletions. The resulting poem can be defined as either treated: changed in a profound and systematic manner; or untreated: virtually unchanged from the order, syntax and meaning of the original.”

So how does one remedy this situation because clearly the permission the Steiny Road Poet got was completely useless? She sits down and does a whole lot more research. Then she replaces the eight found poems with brand new poems. So far there are four!

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Word or Two on What I Saw But Didn't Write About

While the Steiny Road Poet has not really emerged from her winter funk, she is feeling burdened by plays and films she saw in recent months that she made no comment on. Here is her top down list.

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs by monologist Mike Daisey

Daisey is an am
azing performer whose face can tell any story. The Poet is into Apple computer products as he is and she gets his shtick about Apple using cheap Chinese labor to line the pocketbooks of Apple's Steve Jobs and company. Because she has been to China recently and she has been reading the modern accounts of Chinese workers, she says Daisey didn't really give that story as much umph as he needed to. Does he really think American audiences can't handle what deprivations those Chinese workers suffer? And why didn't he suggest bringing the work back home to the States? Still, if you have the time and the money,  the Poet says don't miss Daisey at DC's Woolly Mammoth Theatre. The Poet saw him in The Last Cargo Cult and she thinks he knows what he is talking about but most of all he is an outstanding performer.

Photograph 51

Anna Ziegler's Photograph 51 explores the unrewarded life of British geneticist Rosalind Franklin. This play at DC's Theater J is a story that will appeal to feminists and anyone who believes in ethical workplace practice. The Poet doesn't believe Republicans will sympathize with the protagonist in this male dominated cast where mostly what the men want from Rosie or Ms. Franklin (they refuse to call her Dr. Franklin which is what she prefers) is her sexual favors since it was much easier to steal her painstaking work that led to Nobel Prizes for others. In real life Franklin perished from cancer and her so-called colleagues got the Nobel after she died. Nobel Prizes only go to the living. The Poet thinks Ziegler is quite inventive with how she keeps the audience engaged in a play with many talking heads.

Probably you will have to wait for the DVD appearance of  the Korean film Poetry directed by Lee Chang-dong and starring the long absent, but formerly well know star, Yoon Jeong-hee but keep this at the top of your list. The Steiny Road Poet saw the film when it opened in NYC and with a Korean scholar who explained the joke scene and how many of the performers are local people and not professional actors. Even so, the film hardly needs the extra gloss. It's a story about a grandmother raising a teenage boy who gets into very serious trouble with his friends and how she if forced to handle this.

Other Films (good for Friday night entertainment):

The Lincoln Lawyer -- The Poet loved this street-smart bad-ass lawyer played by Matthew McConaughey who shares a daughter with a district attorney Marisa Tomei.

Limitless -- Who doesn't want to be the smartest person possible? This movie starring Bradley Cooper with a more secondary role by Robert de Niro shows the pitfalls of finding the magic smart pill.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Getting Ahead of the Curve

The questions are these:

Is it better to know ahead of every other rejectee that your work was not selected in some competition you entered


Is it better to sit blissfully in the dark and hear the news when it is officially announced?

The Steiny Road Poet has accidentally, not once but twice, within the last two months learned ahead of the curve the outcome of competitions where her work was under consideration.  The only advantage she can see is that she, unlike other artists not selected,  did or will recover from her disappointment well before the announcement was or will be made public.

Life for the artist after all is one rejection after another. Some of us, because we came from dysfunctional families where we were loved imperfectly or not at all, have lots of rejection training. Still, we want our creations, our artistic babies, welcomed into the world and given the opportunity to be loved.

So how do the beans get spilled in advance so that someone like the Steiny Road Poet finds out without trying to know the outcome? In one case, she was discussing business with someone she has never met before and they start telling each other personal details that led to the do-you-know-my-friend-so-and-so game which then innocently led to the info that so-and-so just had her work selected by a big New York City performing group. The Steiny Road Poet knew exactly what was being said without losing a beat on the business conversation. However, she immediately called the NYC performing group and got verification that their selections had been made. Of course, they wouldn't say more but it was a fact that no communication had come across to the S.R. Poet. In the second case, she was having a conversation with a friend. In talking about about recent non-selections, the friend mentioned casually that a small piece of hers was selected by a DC area group and oh, it was really nothing but it made her feel good anyway. Again, the S.R. Poet recognized instantly that her own work had been passed over but not officially rejected since no announcements have been made yet. The Poet is very happy for her friend and told her so.

Now back to the drawing board and maybe the Poet needs to start practicing how to throw a curveball.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Who Stole Langston & Is This News?

The Steiny Road Poet meant to post yesterday February 8, 2011, when The Washington Post finally made mention of the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) Convention and Bookfair in what basically turns out to be a gossip column called "The Reliable Source. The Poet had been thinking what a big oversight The Post had made in not covering any aspect of this writers’ gathering where prominent writers from across the world, but particularly American writers gather to discuss ideas, literature, politics, and more as well as present new and old books of importance.

In case you, my Dear Readers, do not subscribe to the venerable institution of print news and, in particular The Washington Post, in a nanosec, here is the story that continues to unfold, two days running, into a polemic against the always generous Andy Shallal, owner of Bus Boys & Poets, a restaurant in Washington, DC. Poet Thomas Sayers Ellis says he stole the cardboard cutout of Langston Hughes that Shallal had had made for Bus Boys, which is named after the poet who had been a restaurant bus boy in Washington, DC, when his first book The Weary Blues was accepted for publication by Knopf. After highjacking the Langston cutout, Ellis paraded it through the AWP Bookfair at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. Ellis accuses Shallal of not paying poets fairly for their public readings at Bus Boys.

The Steiny Road Poet stands firm behind Andy Shallal and is OK with the gossip column "The Reliable Source" because it is fun but she takes The Washington Post to task for not giving appropriate coverage to the AWP Convention that included such writers as 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winner Jhumpa Lahiri (Conference Keynote speaker), 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Diaz, and former U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan as well as such topics as the revolutionary changes involving print into digital formats for books, journals, and newspapers. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Finding Happiness at 2011 AWP DC

If anyone mentioned that he or she had never seen the Steiny Road Poet happier than the four days she spent at the Associate Writing Programs (AWP) Convention & Bookfair, this would be absolutely true. She has found that passing The Word Works scepter to Nancy White, a former winner of the Washington Prize, has made this literary organization suddenly leap into the future -- we are now taking manuscripts for the Washington Prize electronically. We have a gorgeous new logo. We updated our Internet name to We are sending electronic newsletters. We are saving money with print on demand production of our books. And we bought an expensive piece of real estate at AWP -- a booth with two big tables -- and covered all the costs by selling lots of of our beautiful books!

One particular high point was the celebration reading of selected Washington Prize winners as a scheduled event of the AWP catalogue. There were around 60 people in the audience to hear Nathalie Anderson, Peter Blair, Fred Marchant, Brad Richard, Jay Rogoff, and Enid Shomer. Fred moderated and created a warm community feeling for the program that included more than the usual nods to Nancy and the Steiny Road Poet. And it was February 3, 2011, Gertrude Stein's 137 birthday! Fred chose to read poems by both Nancy & S.R. Poet, including Karren Alenier's "Stein Writes It All Down."

The last day of AWP, the Steiny Road Poet paused for photos with friends Deborah Ager and Reb Livingston, with whom she also had photo opps at the 2009 AWP Conference in Chicago.  How things come full circle.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

More Allen Ginsberg Than You Would Want to Know

The Steiny Road Poet entered 2011 with just a few more pages to read of Bill Morgan's I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg. It's a funky biography by a man who worked closely with Ginsberg and on Ginsberg's vast archive of works.

Morgan's bio of Ginsberg is funky because it is not totally objective. Still, Morgan's spin on Ginsberg doesn't get in the way of the documentation which is extensive. The Steiny Road Poet walks away from this record of years that she could not put down understanding a much bigger picture of the Beat poet whom she personally experienced as a tremendously generous person and, much more surprising, filling in gaps in her understanding of what happened in America from 1950-1990 and how it affected her.

And no, she didn't know that Ginsberg had more than a passing acquaintance with Paul Bowles. Those familiar with Bowles and the Beats have seen the 1961 photo of them together in Tangier. She knew from Paul Bowles himself that he had visited with the Beat writers when they visited William Burroughs in Tangier. However, Bowles was careful to say, and said it in the interview the Steiny Road Poet and two journalists did with him in 1982 (see Conversations with Paul Bowles p. 128), that he was not involved with Beat writing.  In 1961, Bowles invited Ginsberg to spend a week with him at a house in Marrakech. (In I Celebrate Myself, Bill Morgan claims the house belonged to Bowles—see p. 333, but that may be confused with the house he owned in Tangier.)  In 1993, Ginsburg made one last trip to see Bowles. Bowles, who died in 1999, outlived the younger Ginsberg by two years.

What led to Ginsberg's death was Hepatitis C that he had contracted in South American in 1960.  More surprising is that he did not contract the AIDS virus over his life time of multiple sex partners and this bio does not skimp on the outrageous sexual adventures of this son of a high school teacher. Another surprising fact about Ginsberg is that he always went after straight men. His life time partner Peter Orlovsky was a straight man who had many girl friends but Peter came from a family challenged by mental illness. Eventually mental illness and severe drug addiction plagued Orlovsky and his relationship with Ginsberg.  

Articles on Ginsberg by Karren Alenier
Photos of the Beat Poet, Allen Ginsberg
Howl: Absorbing Poetry through Film
Howling in the Nation's Capital
Playing the Hydrogen Jukebox