Monday, April 2, 2007


Having spent the last five or six years more-or-less in continuous travel, I have found that one of the unmistakable luxuries of sedentary life has been an increase in regular interaction and correspondence with teachers, friends, and writers that just wasn't possible to maintain on the road—with it's preponderance of dropped calls, misconnections, foiled mail drops, and the like. Take the past 24 hours as a case in point:

Sometime yesterday afternoon, I had a long and rambly conversation with Derek Fenner covering upcoming Bootstrap Productions projects, shipping details concerning the anthology, and penciling in some dates for a trip we are planning this summer to California via Amtrak from Denver (Boulder and Fort Collins). The hope is to plan a Bay Area book release party for For the Time Being in early July. We'll see if this works out.

Derek's call was quickly followed by a call from Andrew Schelling who has just returned from a remarkable, two-month trip to Northern India. Highlights of Andrew's trip include a six week stay in the Himachal Pradesh hill town of Bir. During Andrew's visit, Dzongsar Khyentse (or Khyentse Norbu), the Bhutanese Rinpoche and director of The Cup and Travellers and Magicians, held a 10-day conference on Buddhism and the arts in which Andrew was invited to hold a day-long regna writing workshop and to give a well-attended poetry reading. Andrew also took a two-week solo trip to a stark and barren winter-time Ladakh. From what I can gather, winter in Ladakh, unlike the tourist-infested summertime, is lonely and barren. Andrew said he spent a lot of time writing and walking as well as traveling to a few far flung monasteries in the Indus River Valley. At one of these monasteries, perched on the side of a mountain at 14,000 feet, the main shrine room contained a ten-foot golden statue of Milarepa, the nettle-eater himself.

Indus River Valley, Summer 2005

After talking to Andrew, I called Ryan Gallagher, who was at home and had just returned from a two-year-old birthday party somewhere in greater Lowell. What a contrast. I managed to distract Ryan from reading a book of poetry. We talked for a long while about my On Going manuscript. As a poetic journal and a travel journal and also a book of poems, there are a number of considerations that have to be made regarding the layout and design, particularly in regard to where the place names and dates fit in. I was throwing out some initial ideas—some which may work, and others which simply won't. It was a good and productive talk, and besides Ryan has a great phone voice!

Today, all this great correspondence was follow up with more of the same. Shin Yu Pai emailed me to inquire about how far Old Lyme, CT (where she is on retreat) is from Somerville (2 hrs. 11 mins. if you're wondering). Maybe, just maybe, she might be able to make it up for this weekend's reading. I've never met Shin Yu, so I'd be especially excited to have her up. Shin Yu also asked if I might introduce the poet Rick Benjamin to Jack Collom. Of course, I agreed to do this because this gave me an excuse to call Jack, one of my favorite people in the world and just possibly the world's most interesting living eco-poet.

So I called Jack, and Jack answered enthusiastically as he always does. We talked about the anthology and my work and new projects that he has going. I was able to tell him that Tyler, Ryan, Derek, and I (each independently) chose his poetic journal from 1982 to open For the Time Being. It's just a fantastic piece, which is followed by his essay on observational writing. He seemed really pleased by this, which makes me happy, because I don't think Jack has gotten the type of praise and critical attention he really deserves. If you've ever met Jack, you know that he is always writing. He's the consummate writer—ever restless, always experimenting, open to all forms and styles of writing, excluding nothing in the process. Jack really gets ecology, too. He embraces all of it, gets it all in and lays it all out. He's fantastic. Anyway, he told me a great story about how he received a grant last summer to stand on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder and hawk poems. He set up a little booth on the mall and wrote poems for people about whatever subject they wanted, like a portrait painter or something. Who does this stuff?? Jack's great. He also relayed that his 15 year-long collaborative correspondence poem with Lyn Heijinian has drawn to a close and will be published sometime this fall.

After all this, I exchanged quick, email niceties with Joe Massey, who thanked me for including him in such a "meaty" project as For the Time Being. I responded by telling him that I really hope the project lives up to his meaty-ness standards!!! The whole thing made me think of roast beef, so I went home and tried to find all the meat references in the book, but sadly enough, there really aren't that many!!! (Didn't Lisa Jarnot do a Hot Whisky broadside about MEAT?)

It's taken awhile, but all this correspondence and momentum is refreshing and enlivening. After a number of years on the road, the taste of poetic community is oh, so sweet. Good night.

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