Thursday, May 29, 2008


No Regret

When life gets easier
and the corners of my mind
stop spinning from frustration,
I will shine like city lights
off in the distance
of a desert night.

----- I will laugh with my head back
----- so my white teeth show
----- the color in my cheeks.

When life is less bitter
and the hobgoblins of little minds
fade into the background static,
I will ring like wedding bells
on a pristine afternoon
with a tone clear and warm.

----- Everyone is holding hands
----- and the air is swirling
----- with apple blossoms and honey bees.

When everything is going right
and the black clouds of despair
are brushed away like dusty cobwebs,

----- will you run with me
----- down highway 64
----- to the county line, and beyond,
----- peel the past from our foreheads,
----- let the wind catch our innocence,
----- and listen to the steel belts play
----- a back-beat rhythm
----- to a traveling tune?

When it is all over,
and the pain no longer covers
my eyes with a jaded veil,

----- I will cast my bitterness
----- into the fiery furnace
----- and ride the sooty smoke
----- like a drunken Phoenix
----- into the topaz-blue sky.
---------- And as I look down
---------- at my pallid reflection
---------- will I say, without doubt
---------- that I had a good life?
from The Broad River Review 36 (Spring 2004) 21.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

British Blue Collar, or Why I Love Watching Eastenders

I've never liked watching soap operas. I remember growing up and being subjected to them by my babysitters. General Hospital. As the World Turns. The tediously slow storylines. Years later I tried watching Days of our Lives in college when I had my leg in a cast from a skiing accident. Call it experimentation; I didn't inhale. Truth was I couldn't get into stories about rich people's "struggles." People always seemed to dress nice, had perfect complexions, perfect teeth, and lived in big houses. The settings were also so fake. Outdoor scenes always seemed to be shot on some sound stage with fake snow and plastic trees.

A few years ago I happened upon a BBC show called Eastenders. I had trouble sleeping, and was flipping channels at 11pm, drinking a beer and eating a few pickled sausages. PBS was rebroadcasting the British soap, albeit six years behind. I was instantly hooked. Being an English teacher, I was drawn into the British dialect and colloquial phrases often used around Albert Square. I also found a down-to-earth quality in the characters and storylines. What American soap opera is about blue-collar workers struggling to survive in a middle-to-lower class neighborhood? Sure, the whole show is filmed on a studio lot, and I've never been to England, but there is a sense of realism and community that I'm drawn to. Not everyone dresses to the nines, some characters have wrinkles and don't bleach their teeth white, and some characters are just plain homely, but that's real life.

My favorite family is the Slaters. If the story were cast and filmed in the States, I would imagine the Slaters as country rednecks in the truest sense, but not in a malicious way, similar to the old television sitcom Roseanne. Hard-working, hard-drinking, blood-is-thicker-than-water kind of family. They fight amongst one another, but will stand up for family, almost in a clannish way (like they did for Little Moe). In fact, the first episode I watched happened to be the one where Kat reveals to Zoe that she is not her older sister but her mother by way of their pervish uncle Harry. Now, I am hesitant to compare that to the hillbilly stereotypes of Appalachia where it is thought that through inbreeding we all are our own grandparents or something, but there it is nonetheless.

My wife bought me a book about Eastenders off of Amazon UK. Though published in 2003, the book has already spoiled some of the upcoming story lines for me (seeing that PBS is currently showing episodes from 2002). I already know that Janine will marry Barry the used car salesman then die, and that Zoe and Anthony don't end up together (I was so rooting for them in a Romeo and Juliet, or Hatfield and McCoy kind of way). Call me a pansy for watching soaps, but I challenge anyone to find an American soap opera as edgy or as gritty as Eastenders. So, sod off!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

On Publishing Poetry

"I think for a lot of young writers, in particular, especially those coming out of MFA mills (and especially the programs that don’t quite “get” contemporary poetry, which is to say most of them), I think the transition to becoming a practicing writer can be a daunting, even crushing task. It’s when most people stop writing. They find that the context they had for poetry in school no longer exists in the “real” world and don’t know how to build one out of whole cloth. These are the people for whom contests exist, and it’s why I think they’re ultimately damaging. For one thing, the odds are preposterous. For another, unless they actually know the work of the judge, and know who the judge is, there is no way to ascertain if there is any reasonable expectation of even being competitive. They send in their money and their manuscript, they hope and they can feel crushed if they lose, sometimes again & again & again. Where if they would just get together with their friends and publish one another, they would be making enormous headway much more quickly. And their books would be reaching the right audiences. Which is (again) why it’s far better to have a volume published by Pressed Wafer, if you’re a New England poet, than in the Yale Younger Poets Series."

-- from Ron Silliman's Blog

I loved this exerpt so much I had to pirate it from a fellow blogger friend of mine (I hope you don't mind, Carol). I can relate to coming out of college and finding that my inspiration doesn't come as easily as it did, where I was once surrounded by like-minded souls, that academic atmosphere. I have had to find it in other places, maybe not whole cloth so much as in patches and swatches.

I have even thought about getting my MFA in Creative Writing sometime in the near future, not to have the title but to further develop and challenge my writing. Otherwise, I feel that my writing might inbreed and turn sterile without some fresh genes infused into it. Plus, I would get a 10% raise as a teacher for holding a masters degree. That's the selling point to my wife and family, who may see my poetry writing as a hobby.

As for looking to poetry groups for fostering and inspiration, they are great when you can find people that nurture and help feed you, and visa versa. When you get a room full of writers together, the air seems denser from the weight of everyone's ego (come on, you know it's true! I've been guilty of feeling self-important, too). I have also learned from experience that I have to have a tough skin when it comes to sharing my work, regardless of whether it is an editor, a judge in a writing contest, or my own peers, taking criticism with a grain of salt. I can choose to use that salty criticism for seasoning and consideration, despite how much it stings, or I can toss it over my shoulder like it was spilt on the table. Either way, I have to tell myself that I love what I do and that's why I do it. Publishing is just the final step in the writing process. One must take it or the other steps are futile.

A Poem By Andrew Hudgins

Southern Literature

She hunched in the back seat, and fired
one Lucky off the one before.
She talked about her good friend Bill.
No one wrote like Bill anymore.

When the silence grew uncomfortable,
she'd count out my six rumpled ones,
and ask, noblesse oblige, "How ah
your literary lucubrations

progressing?" "Not good," I'd snarl. My poems
were going nowhere, like me -- raw,
twenty-eight, and having, she said,
a worm's eye view of life. And awe --

I had no sense of awe. But once
I lied, "Terrific! The Atlantic
accepted five." She smiled benignly,
composed and gaily fatalistic,

as I hammered to Winn-Dixie, revving
the slant six till it bucked and sputtered.
She smoothed her blue unwrinkled dress.
"Bill won the Nobel Prize," she purred.

If I laid rubber to the interstate,
and started speeding, how long, I wondered,
how long would she scream before she prayed?
Would she sing before I murdered her?

Would we make Memphis or New Orleans?
The world was gorgeous now, and bigger.
I reached for the gun I didn't own.
I chambered awe. I pulled the trigger.

from Locales: Poems from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, 2003.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Todd, NC

Elkland, once a boom town of Watauga County,
where the railroad from Abingdon ended
to drop off passengers and load timber.
The giant engines spun on a turntable
to head back the other way.

Hotels, stores, banks, and taxi service
sprung up like mushrooms in a narrow valley,
shared by the South Fork of the New River.
Loggers and saw mills made their truck ready
to be hauled back the other way.

With the forests stripped of their hardwoods,
the Virginia-Carolina came less frequently
until, nothing to haul and no one to bring,
like locusts they swarmed to other prospects,
to make their living in other ways.

The railroad gone, the tracks were taken up,
its steel sold cheaply to the Japanese,
just like New York’s Sixth Avenue El,
scrap metal turned to weapons of warfare
used against our own Pacific Fleet
to send our boys to a watery grave.