After the Storm (Song Series #18)

We almost didn’t make the visit; it stormed in the morning. But the day shook off the rain and we headed east, miles of wet vineyards glowing green in the new light—my bearded beloved, my wee boys & me.

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Out in Greenport, at the house of our good friend V. Hansmann (poet, essayist, and host of the Cornelia Street Reading Series), we ate grilled corn-on-the-cob.

“What’s your favorite word?” I asked.

The 3-year-old jumped on it. “Dump truck or cement truck,” he said, “or magic wand.”

“Observations,” said the 7-year-old.

“Three words,” said my husband. “Good night, boys.”

“Bioluminescence,” said V.

After dinner we walked down the street to the harbor, where the hundred-year-old carousel is still spinning. It was built upstate and then after WWII it belonged to the Grumman plant, where my grandfather built airplanes, and it could’ve been lost when the plant shut down, but Grumman gave it to this little port town.

August opens: Gold light. Third life for a carousel. Observations; bioluminescence; magic wand.

After the Storm

Vocal & viola: Jen Hinst-White

Guitar: Rob Hinst

Written by Shovels & Rope

 

Ain’t it funny
How time just seems to run
What the hell have you been doin’?
Not too sure, guess mostly movin’…
I’ve been spinnin’ for so long
Now I guess I’m spun

Like the widest river
Like the brightest morn
There is hope where you can’t see it
There is a light after the storm

—Shovels & Rope, “After the Storm”

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Quetzals, Ecclesiastes, and Slinky Dresses (OR: Date Night Photos)

“Tell me what you’ve been thinking about lately,” I said to my husband.

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Date Night Photo: Exhibit A

(This is—a friend pointed out to me recently—a classic Jen HW question. I like to hear people’s deep thoughts: what they’re wrestling with, who and what they love, what they’ve always wanted to do with their lives. You’d be amazed how deep you can go with party small-talk if you add a few extra degrees of How so? Why?)

So Rob (husband) and I were out on a date and I asked him this question and he surprised me. Which still happens once in a while, after all these years.

“Pretty often,” he said, “I think about the meaninglessness of everything.”

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Lucky (Song Series #17)

95% of my days are a quotidian mixture of laboring at my desk and the care and feeding of hurricanes.

(Pictured here: Hurricane #1 and Hurricane #2, along with a rare eye-of-the-storm moment)

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I’m pretty tired, usually, but it’s a lucky life.

Last week, though, felt like I’d been picked up and dropped into some other plane of lucky.

I was up at the Bennington Writing Seminars, hearing electrifying readings and lectures and also getting some much-needed space for writing (while my generous husband, mom & in-laws wrangled the kids at home)…

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And then, on the evening of the summer solstice, I got some news: I’ve been offered the lavish gift of a Sustainable Arts Foundation fellowship  at Rivendell Writers’ Colony in Tennessee: a fully-funded, two-week retreat this fall, to work on my brand-new second novel. No hurricane-wrangling. Just reading and writing. I’ve never had two solid weeks for reading and writing in my entire life. I’m floored and so grateful. 

Coincidentally, my creative-co-conspirator Elijah Burrell and I had just worked out our little version of Radiohead’s song “Lucky.” It was one of the songs we figured out for a show we were playing at Bennington. So—in honor of feeling pretty lucky right now—

“Lucky” (Radiohead cover)

Vocals: Jen Hinst-White & Eli Burrell

Guitar: Eli Burrell

 

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Playing with Eli Burrell at Bennington College, June 17, 2017. Photo: Laura Gill.

 

PS Just to make it all a little more ridiculous: On a rainy walk off the End of the World at Bennington College, Vermont, I found the three biggest 4-leaf-clovers I have ever seen. OK, to be honest—I have a strange knack for finding 4-leaf-clovers, and the where’s-Waldo part of my brain was probably scanning for them. But I felt pretty lucky to be in that meadow at all.

 

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Orexia (Review Series)

Each month I review a new book for ImageUpdate, which is put out by the fabulous people at IMAGE Journal. Here’s the latest.

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Orexia by Lisa Russ Spaar

Temples exist, possibly, not because the Holy is holier there, but to make us awake to it. A singular hour—one with a lover who is going on a journey, for example—draws up all our attention. Maybe this is why “Temple” and “Hour” appear so often in the poem titles of Lisa Russ Spaar’s new collection Orexia, a word which means “desire, appetite.” Discrete spaces, including bodies, are important in these poems. In “Temple Tomb,” a reimagining of John 20:11-18, the speaker is shocked by the physicality of the man who appears to her: “What did your body ever have / to do with me?” In “Temple Dictionary,” Spaar does heavy work in a space no bigger than a violet pressed in a dictionary: “genital lapels held in tiny, kama sutric / kimono foldings, obeisant // to the word “thesis,” a setting down. Down. / Forgive me, O once-alive. // I believed to press love / would be to make love.”

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Said Not Said (Review Series)

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Each month I review a new book for ImageUpdate, which is put out by the fabulous people at IMAGE Journal. Here’s the latest.

Poems of Violence and Mercy
Said Not Said: Poems by Fred Marchant

“Imagine a fishbone lodged in your throat. / Imagine it kicks and squirms. / You cough, you hack, you try to heave it out…” writes poet Fred Marchant in his new collection Said Not Said. “[Y]ou try as you may to discern meaning / in the situation. You feel the bone stirring again.” Maybe every good book has a fishbone lodged in its throat. In this one, it might well be violence itself.

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You Again? (or: AWP Serendipity: It’s a Thing)

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Major Jackson speaking at the fantastic Folger Shakespeare Library panel on Keats and Countee Cullen.

Given the legions (10,000? 15,000?) who attend the annual AWP conference (Association of Writers & Writing Programs), it should feel like a faceless sea.

So how is it that, for every hour I spend there, I run into somebody I know? I’m not even especially well connected. I’m a very wee creature in the AWP zoo.

I think it’s just the AWP Serendipity Thing.

Consider this quote from Julia Fierro, on today’s panel “Second Time Around: On the Sophomore Novel”:

“I had to give up all hope of publication to write that first book [Cutting Teeth] in a pure way. I had a certain level of honesty. I enjoyed writing it.”

—Julia Fierro

This way-of-being that Fierro describes seems to me not only a good way to write, but a good way to approach AWP. I think many writers feel a kind of anxious urgency to Hurry Up and Network! here. And I understand that. It’s a huge conference, it costs money, and it’s brief. So you pick up on a lot of anxiety, observing people going booth-to-booth in the book fair or approaching Big Name Writers after panels.

That Hurry Up and Network! approach just feels to me like 1) a lot of pressure, 2) not fun, and 3) a surefire way to miss real, warm, human interactions….

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Social History: Poems (Review Series)

Each month I review a new book for ImageUpdate, which is put out by the fabulous people at IMAGE Journal. Here’s the latest.

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Making Meaning from the Past
Social History: Poems by Bobby C. Rogers

“We were there to visit the ruins, the shabby places my father had lived during the Depression,” writes Bobby C. Rogers in the title poem of his collection, Social History. The speaker is six at the time of the visit. Only later in life does it seem odd: his father, a sharecropper’s son, fondly talking with the landlord of the farm where his family spent years “tenanting and deeply in debt.” Did his father aim “to gild the past with a shine like the sweet glaze on a fruit pie fresh from the fryer grease”?

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