Hi all! Survived the latest round of medical testing (no results yet) and came home from the hospital to a flurry of literary news!
First of all, you can now pre-order my latest book, Field Guide to the End of the World, from Moon City Press (and distributed through University of Arkansas Press.) It’s also on Amazon already, squeee!
The other news was that the finalists for the 2016 Montaigne Medal have been publicly announced and The Robot Scientist’s Daughter is on the list, along with poet-friend Maggie Smith’s latest book. It’s nice to have poetry books in a list of finalists for a prize on “thought-provoking books” of any genre.
The third is to keep an eye on Orion’s social media feed this week for a post from me on their visual series “Poetry in the Wild,” curated by their poetry editor Aimee Nezhukumatathil.
Part of how I survive so many medical tests is a plan to have good things going on right before (also, the doctors wisely gave me a generous portion this time of pre-medications to prevent any allergic reactions – good work, doctors!) A few days before the test, we had an early birthday celebration with my little brother and his wife, which was a lot of fun, and Glenn took me to an Aimee Mann/Billy Collins concert down in Tacoma’s beautiful antique Pantages theatre.
Here’s a picture of Aimee laughing at Billy Collins’ reading and check out this little bit of video of Aimee turning one of Billy Collins’ poems into a melancholy breakup tune:
If Billy Collins and Aimee Mann can’t cheer you up, I don’t know what will!
I’ve had to get used, lately, whether I like it or not, to living in the liminal spaces – in other words, the in-between. We have sold our house, but haven’t yet found a new one (lost the 18th or 19th bid – I’m starting to forget how many we’ve lost in this crazy market.) I’m turning 43 at the end of the month, a month which has gone mad with flowers – cherry trees, iris, dogwood, rhododendrons, azaleas and lilacs all blooming at the same time – and with heat – three days above 85 out here in the supposedly chilly and damp Pacific Northwest has made us all wilt a bit, even the sunlovers. And I’m getting another (hopefully definitive but slightly dangerous) test next week, a couple of days before my birthday, that hopefully will give us more answers in the mysterious world of the scary health stuff. I am trying not to talk as much about the cancer scare going on, but I notice when I don’t talk about it when I’m awake, it shows up when I’m asleep. I literally had a dream in which I spoke the line “I can’t do that, I might have cancer” – an unspoken background in my mind right now that’s leading me to only making tentative future plans, because…well, we don’t know yet.
Except I AM thinking of the future in a positive way – visiting the Skagit River Poetry Festival in May, making our annual pilgrimage this summer up to Port Townsend, even thinking about AWP 2019 in Portland. I’m thinking of my book launch in September, at least a little, already (Where would it be fun to read this time? Should we have a party?)
But I notice I’m pickier about what I commit to. I’m quicker to throw down a book if it tries my patience, if I’m not really enjoying it. I’m conserving my energies each week for one outing that’s good for my spirits – a visit to Open Books to talk poetry, or down to the Japanese gardens to watch the different trees and shrubs open up to bloom.
I spend more time photographing light and color, especially birds and flowers.
I’m making small efforts to be healthy, too – eating the most beautiful produce in the stores – asparagus, strawberries and blueberries, new lettuces. I’ve been making a tremendously delicious soup out of barely-cooked fresh peas, fennel, and a little honey and salt thrown together and immersion-blended into a bright green shot of spring flavor and eating (drinking) it almost every night with dinner. (So different than the dim brownish split-pea soups of our seventies childhoods.) I’m reading old poetry books I loved in the past at night, finding the poems I loved the most when I first started writing.
Is this how you live within limits, within a space where your end goal is no longer clearly defined? You throw yourself into the things that make you feel the most alive, not just happy, but the most “you.” What would you miss if everything were going to be taken away? That’s what I’m trying to hold onto right now.
Here’s the cover reveal for Field Guide to the End of the World – now upcoming in September 2016 from Moon City Press! The artist is Charli Barnes, and I told her I wanted a combo of vintage science-y field guide books and graphic-novel-sci-fi-futuristic – I think she did a great job!
And here’s the first blurb for the book, from one of my poetry superheroines, Matthea Harvey:
“In Field Guide to the End of the World, Jeannine Hall Gailey allies herself with the mutants of the world—from zombie stripper clones to teen girl vampires—but unlike them, she is haunted by the possibility of the world and the self coming to an end. Wry, heartsick and shot through with black humor (Martha Stewart’s “Guide to Apocalypse Living” dispenses advice on “storing munitions in attractive wicker boxes”), these poems about transformation and extinction mournfully remind us via post-apocalypse postcards, notes and instructions, “we were not here first, we will not be here last.”
I’ve been a little under the weather (did I finally get a bug from my AWP trip?) the last couple of days, but still managed to put in another offer on a house today (this one a little bit of a fixer-upper, which we may still lose to an all-cash offer, because that’s the market these days.) Our spring has been so beautiful it was tough to spend a day resting indoors, but at least I got some poetry judging done for an undergrad contest and had some reading time. Wishing you all a wonderful week!
Since AWP hit us both like a truck, and we jumped right back into the stress of work, high-pressure house bids (losing, sadly, a dream house in a dream neighborhood) and scheduling medical tests as soon as we got home, we decided we needed a bit of a real break, so we took a day to go up and visit the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. We also got to visit one of our favorite towns, La Conner, WA, where you can find a cute sunhat and a gluten-free cookie (thanks Seeds!) in between trips to the tulip fields. We saw bald eagles and my beloved snow geese in flight (no pics this time, sorry, but they are just amazing!) We got to play tourist in a place we could definitely see ourselves living someday. (Did you know National Geographic listed the Skagit Tulip Festival as one of the top ten spring trips in the world this year? Yes, it’s that good. I missed this more than anything when we lived in California.)
The weather has been just beautiful, in the seventies and sunny. It makes every day feel a little bit like a pleasant respite. Today we had nothing scheduled so we slept in. I got to walk slowly and notice the rustle of hummingbirds in the flowers beside me, the scree and flap of stellar jays and red-winged blackbirds, rabbits in the grass, a heron overhead. When the Northwest hands you sunny weather in April, so you can actually see the blooms and mountains that hid throughout March and February, you pretty much have a pass to go out and enjoy it. Plus, I have my 43rd birthday AND a scary medical test coming up at the end of the month, so I thought it’s a good time to shore up my reserves. I am looking forward to coming back to town (hopefully!) to visit the Skagit River Poetry Festival in May. The tulips will be gone but the town will be full of poets!
Back in Seattle from AWP, and time for the post-AWP reckoning! Here are a few pics from my first day back in my hometown, during which an osprey hung over my head for a few breathless moments, and the pink cherries came out to say hi. It was a very nice welcome back. Tomorrow we might sneak off to see some of Skagit Valley’s tulips before they’re gone.
First of all, I wanted to let you know that thanks to my husband Glenn there is an audio recording (with visual cues like the panel slides and photos from the panel) available from the AWP Panel “Women in Spec” (with me, Lesley Wheeler, Sally Rosen Kindred, Margaret Rhee and Nancy Hightower talking about women in speculative fiction and poetry publishing, inspirations, and more ) available now on YouTube.
Second, the AWP 2016 reckoning: how do you decide if a conference like AWP is “worth going to?” For me, I’ve been paying my own way since the first AWP I went to (ahem, over 15 years ago,) so there is a financial cost (usually around $1500 for tickets, meals, hotel, registration, etc.) and there’s a personal cost, for everyone – we all have limited energy and time – and for me, due to my health and mobility problems, a little bit of an extra pain factor there. For instance, I woke up with yet another respiratory thing yesterday, probably picked up on the plane home, and my physical therapy eval yesterday indicated being on my ankle so much – mostly from springing up and down to hug people – probably set that sucker back at least a week in terms of healing. I’m under strict orders to put the ankle up and ice it and wrap it. (But will I stay wrapped and prone long? Probably not!)
What is worth it? I was so enthusiastic about this particular panel (watch to see why) this year I probably would have tried to make it there even in worse circumstances. I was happy to meet and say hi to many of my publishers and lit mag editors – it’s good to actually meet the people publishing your work in person. I think one of the main reasons people go to AWP is to see old friends, friends from other parts of the country you’ll never see otherwise – and I did, which was great. I was really happy to be invited to so many wonderful parties (I made it to only one, due to travel snafus on both ends of my journey to and from LA, but I got to hang out with some of my favorite people and have actual conversations there, which was really nice.) And I’m familiar with and like (parts of) LA, which makes the trip a little less onerous. (I always recommend people get out in the city they’re visiting for AWP at least once – a museum, the local food, a cool neighborhood with galleries and shops to visit, and in the case of LA, the blue sunny sandy ocean.) I actually wrote a poem at this AWP, which might be a first.
Here’s things I wish – I wish I’d been able to say hi to more people, spend more time in the bookfair and pick up more books (and how is the bookfair always so exhausting? They need fifty times more hydration centers than they ever have, like iced coffee fountains, maybe), go to more readings. There were a few panels I wished I’d attended. I wish I’d had time to visit more galleries (LA’s art scene is actually pretty cool) and spent more time relaxing on the beach. Was it perfect? No (See previous recap.) But I think it was worth it, after all, as Prufrock would say.