what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout
I was feeling lousy Wednesday morning and so stayed home from work--and
I'm really glad I did, because I was here to take a phone message for Jim
(it woke me up!) and pass it on to him, then wait impatiently for him to
let me know what the call was about. You see, the call was from a woman from Truman State University Press, and it's kind of unlikely that a press would call simply because a book he'd ordered was in stock or suchlike so I suspected that something interesting was up. I was right.
Jim has won the 2002 T.S. Eliot prize for poetry. His book, Human
Cartography will be published this spring by Truman State University Press. And he wins $2,000, but it's finally getting it published--and as a "prize
winner"--that's the main part.
This goes to show that perseverance does pay off. Jim has been trying to find a publisher for this mss for about six years--maybe longer--and he's had lots of encouraging comments and nibbles, nibbles, nibbles, but no bites. And then a prize. And not only that, a prize with a recognizable name and a prize that was open to all poetry manuscripts, and not just first manuscripts--so it's a real coup that this is his first book.
I think I'm more excited than he is--he's in shock. I think he really was
beginning to think it never would happen for him. It has been hard to keep
the faith but he kept writing and submitting.
And the funny thing is, just the night before, Tuesday evening, we broke the wishbone from our Christmas turkey, then argued about whose side got the wish because it was hard to tell--it almost split down the middle. My wish had been for his book to get published. Heh. We both won.
Wow--and adding the $6,000 fellowship he got from the Washington State Artist Trust Fellowship, well, he's actually made big money on poetry this year! I can't tell you how unusual that is! I mean, money from poetry. It is to laugh.
They're rushing to publishing the book and working toward having it out by April. This April, not April 2003 or 2004, which would be more usual. They've already given him the ISBNs (Cloth 1-931112-15-0; Paper 1-931112-16-9), and he busily working on locating artwork for the cover, which they delegated to him, saying he knows the mss best. So we've been digging through art magazines this weekend. I think he has found something wonderful, but time will tell whether he can get permission for it, and if the editor will like it.
In other good news, the company he works for, which was going to be sold to who knows whom to do who knows what with, is no longer, for now at least, on the chopping block. We hope this means there will be a little more stability there for a while and no more layoffs.
So I spent Wednesday evening and Thursday emailing our local friends for an impromptu party Friday night. Jim's getting tired of me remarking on this, but this is the first time he has ever let me throw a party for him (he hates birthdays). I bought way too much food and friends brought more, but we had a great time. Tamar made lemon drop martinis, Dixielynn brought killer gingerbread, Zach busily shared himself by dozing on peoples' laps, Sophia panicked, dashing through the crowd at top terrified-cat speed, and so many of our friends showed up it was wonderful. Our parties always go by in a blur for me because there are so many distractions (I'm trying to have a conversation when someone new arrives and I have to get coats put away, and drinks in hand and introductions and such so I do a bad job at all of them), but it's so wonderful to see so many of our friends in one place at a time. It really was a fun party, for us at least. I'm grateful so many of our friends were able to show up.
If this is all news to you and you want to email him congratulations, here is Jim's address.
last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing
I have been obsessing on Two Loons for Tea all over again. I can hardly wait for their new album, which is in the final mixing stage.
last week's listening § next week's listening
Helen Humphreys is another novelist I know, so I was anxious to read her new novel, Afterimage. I'd liked her first, Leaving Earth, and her poetry quite a lot. Afterimage is a story inspired by the 19th-century pioneering photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron. It is about a young maid, Annie, hired by Isobel the photographer, and her estranged cartographer husband, Eldon. Annie find herself involved both in Isobel's photographs as a model and Eldon's dream of Arctic exploration, torn between the two of them. Despite finding Annie rather too much a 20th-century personality, I really enjoyed this.
The recent issue of Quill and Quire announced that Rohinton Mistry's new novel will be out this spring, and so I thought I had better read the copy of A Fine Balance that one of the faculty lent me about three years ago. I've been holding off reading this since everyone kept saying that although it was quite wonderful it was depressing. I kept waiting until I was ready for a depressing novel, and I guess this is the week that I could handle it. And I loved it, but yes, it's depressing. This is the story of five people in a city in India who come together due to odd life circumstances and live together precariously happily for a while but the turns of fortune push them apart again. The novel follows the strands of each of their lives: Dina, who manages to break away from her domineering brother to marry for love; the son of privilege who resents being sent away from his loving parents to get a better education; the uncle and nephew from a family of untouchables who had been able to rise to the position of tailors and who came to the city to make their fortunes. Fortune does not love these people--it does horrible things to them and those that surround them. Some briefly wonderful things but long-term horrible things. As they say, it's depressing but still worth reading and the characters and the telling of their tale are both wonderful.
last week's reading § next week's reading
After looking for cover images for him I started idly ego-surfing, and found this statement in the announcement about my reading at Trent University last November:
Graham's sweeping success in the literary scene comes as no surprise; she possesses the remarkable ability to dance through lines, leaving her readers heaving under the weight of their seduction. Blood Memory reaches into the personal experiences of women in the past, their stories, their laments. Graham has created a species of poetry that reveals a complete account of the raw human experience.
I also didn't remember that this poem was online.
last week's writing § next week's writing
About the Phonosnout
February - April 1981
[I have a temporary, maternity leave replacement job at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, and I am a travel clerk, sending astronomers to Chile, Hawaii, Russia, and type papers called things like "The Age and Size of the Universe". I like the people I work with a lot, and like working on top of another mountain.]
1224. The rest of the dream
February 18, 1981
arriving at the valley, which is long and narrow--travel through the tunnel screams echo along the tunnel end of the valley, a kind of taboo place, I am drawn there by the screams, past strange animals chained along the path near the tunnel mouth. Inside there is a boy, a girl screaming, and a woman, presumably looking after them. (Are they just now entering the valley?) The boy is causing the girl to scream. Someone, not me, rescues her, and I go to talk to the boy, though uncertain why I do. We leave the tunnel. Later--One of the social things at this place is the baths. I am there with the usual crowd and play in the water for a while. I see a man (new to this part of the valley?) I had never seen him before in the valley but knew him (presumably in my life previous to coming to the valley) and was drawn to him, not only by his looks and "perfection" but by my knowledge that he was dangerous. He knew I recognized him and sent another man to head me off. Later (night) I am walking through the village to visit friends, prof and wife (young) and see a secret meeting on a patio above, with first man leading. Young boy comes, shows me where to listen, fills me in on their plans to leave the valley (by balloon, rocket?).
1225. Neile the canary
February 23, 1981
I have missed some time, partly because part of that dream has come true--the part about the man (Stephen?) sending another man to head of off--at least this is my interpretation of the man who arrived. I have written nothing for four days, and have let my resolutions slip--my schedule has been thrown off missing two days' exercise and four poems, which I will make up in rewrites. Yet even now I am the cat that has swallowed the canary, happy and ready for my next adventure--only I may be the canary myself, happy to be swallowed. Poem for the occasion--about the black swallow, and two pairs of eagles (to come). 
1226. False Movement
March 4, 1981
I write because March 4th is a good day to begin again--the sun and the rush of my day and my madness. I am down to earth, featherless but happy. Movie tonight False Movement delightfully about people looking for angst and a write in particular creating it in his life. Rather the man wanting to be a writer and believing that creating angst, falling into the depth and darkness of things would lead him there. A false movement and so he will never arrive.
1227. Tigh Na Mara
March 14, 1981
Here I am, up-island, at the house by the sea again with Brenda, wondering if I have made a discovery. It is good to be here, to have left things behind, to move. After days of sun, it is windy and grey here, and this is all right. A fire in the stove and all, blackberry tea. Brenda is reading her Bible, dinner is simmering, and we'll go for another walk before dark. I have also decided to call my book Tigh Na Mara--it would work, tie in the images Harold sees as being central in it. Scots-Gaelic, which is also appropriate. This may work! House by the sea. Even inside you sense it. 
1228. Another slide
April 5, 1981
Another slide and here I am wanting to remember a dream I had last night. I had a man and children and we were puppet-king and family and on display. I can still recall the emotional bonds between us all. There was some kind of magic and some kind of future, knowing, as if our story was a book already written, or a history. The kind revelled against something minor, a matter of pride but a right rebellion, necessary in its time, and we were in the water, my three children just babies. The two boys disappeared, but there was that sense that they would turn up again. I managed to save the girl, and the three of us went into hiding somewhere, though we kept being spotted like animals in a zoo. The emotions stay with me so strongly--my strange love for my husband, watching my children drown, though knowing that some time in the future they would reappear, and that I would have more children. 
1. I'm not entirely sure which men I'm talking about here anymore.
2. Obviously, I didn't call the book that.
3. The image of being in the water is one of the core images that started my first novel, Bryony's Needle, (revisions still never completed and submitted anywhere) though it doesn't appear in the novel now. I still would like to write the novel of this dream. It has haunted me still. I'm amazed to discover it was this long ago that I dreamt it!
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