Check out this hot number!

It’s the latest South Dakota Review, with a very cherry cover that I find kind of sexy. I have two new poems in the issue, but even better, there are two mentors in this issue: Katherine Riegel and John Tribble.

When I was in grad school (and acting a fool), Katherine, then a lecturer at SIU, steered me towards James Tate and in particular his hilarious, weirdly-about-identity poems “I Am a Finn” and “I Am Still A Finn” (you can hear a reading of these and other Tate poems here, courtesy of Indiana Public Radio). Katie consistently suggested I read up on the American surrealists, which got me, eventually, back to Kenneth Koch and Frank O’Hara and thus a little closer to knowing my own poetic history/inheritance. Katie, if I never said thank you, I’m saying thank you.

As for John Tribble…It is hard to imagine SIU’s Department of English, and in particular the Crab Orchard Review, without his vision and guidance. John is a tireless advocate for poets and all things poetry. He grows the culture. And he has such an astounding breath and depth of knowledge on so many subjects…I’ve often wondered if he ever sleeps.

Also in the new SDR, fiction by Ira Sukungruang. His excellent memoir Talk Thai: The Adventures of Buddhist Boy, is a must read. I devoured it last summer; among other things, it inspired me to think more critically about the cultural-social forces that have shaped my sense of writing, who I want to be, why I write poems, how I write them, what I expect from poetry and what I hope it can become…

It will be near 80 degrees today here in Madison. And sunny. This afternoon I’ll get a few hours, courtesy of the sitter, to work on new poems. I’m excited; I think I finally have a frame for the manuscript I’m working on (alternately called Youth Process or Selected Rejected). One must always tend to whatever a poem–or series of poems–is signalling. But after American Busboy (which unofficially sold its first press run!), I don’t think I can ever write another book of poems without something to focus an overall arc. As I stand back and look at these newer poems, they clearly have something to do with love–love in fits and starts, love denied, love trying hard to break free of its routines and feel alive.

Hugo said in the Triggering Town that a poet must be willing to risk sentimentality. I guess I’m finally giving that a shot…