Thursday, July 21, 2011

Somehow It Seems Sufficient

Holy Toledo ~ The 2011 Napa Valley Writers Conference is about to start! Feels like I'm in the batter's box, waiting to get called to the plate.
Last few days have been all about prep: arranging classrooms, writing introductions, finding my suitcase, cleaning my dress-up outfits. Tucked into one of the side pockets of that suitcase, was a much creased piece of paper, notes scribbled all over it, with lines and arrows and exclamation marks*, and this poem from Major Jackson's inspiring craft-talk last year.

(I love how the whole poem rolls down the page, with the slow, intense weight of a running stream, pushed by the commas and colons, the only punctuation until the final period.)

Gravelly Run

I don't know somehow it seems sufficient
to see and hear whatever comings and goings is,
losing the self to the victory of
        stones and trees,
the bending of the sandpit lakes, crescent
round groves of dwarf pine:

for it is not so much to know the self
as to know it as it is known
    by galaxy and cedar cone,
as if birth had never found it
and death could never end it:

the swamp's slow water comes
down Gravelly Run fanning the long
   stone-held algal
hair and narrowing roils between
the shoulders of the highway bridge:

holly grows on the banks in the woods there,
and the cedars' gothic-clustered
   spires could make
green religion in winter bones:

so I look and reflect, but the air's glass
jail seals each thing in its entity:

no use to make any philosophies here:
   I see no
god in the holly, hear no song from
the snowbroken weeds: Hegel is not the winter
yellow in the pines; the sunlight has never
heard of trees: surrendered self among
   unwelcome forms: stranger,
hoist your burdens, get on down the road.

                                  ~ A.R. Ammons

* and directions to the Martini House on the back

Friday, July 15, 2011

Parking Ticket Appeal

I am somewhat of a parking zone scofflaw, I admit that. I'll race onto campus, getting as close to my office as I can (because, yes, I'm running a tad late) by sliding into the 30-Minute Zone behind the Library. Then, when I go for coffee at the campus cafe, I'll re-park in something more legal. If I remember that is. Sometimes it can be an hour or two before that gob-smacking moment when I realize I've got to move my car before the Parking Demon slides a ticket under my wiper.  Mostly I make it, because the budget cuts are making for fewer and fewer Parking Demons. Sometimes I fail. And then I'm faced with whether to make an appeal or not. I mean, there's no denying that my car was in a 30-minute zone for 4 hours, but still one has to try, right? At least it delays the painful moment when I have to cough up the $45 for my space-cadet law-breaking ways. Plus I think a good story might persuade them to drop the fine. What do you think....will the explanation below get me off the hook?

"Although I had every intention of returning to my vehicle within the allotted time, I was held up by several extenuating factors. First of all, the meeting I was already late to had relocated to The CB Cafe; I had to scoot, flying like a mad Banshee down the steps leading from Darwin to CB's. I didn't trip, or fall or break my leg, but I think I was moving so fast I must have slipped into another dimension of the time/space continuum. Well, whatever it was, it was warped. At CB's, my  mates were chowing down on pesto-ciabattas and everything bagels, and gulping crazywild mugs of freeflowing coffee. It was a scene, I tell you, like that scene in the Outer Worlds bar in the Star Trek movie; loud, convivial, everyone wearing masks. I forgot all about my Blue Bomber Honda in the EarthZone. Captain Quigglesbottom finally marshaled us into the Return Capsule; we got back just in time for lunch. Only to find a ticket on my patient car. :-(  I ask, that considering the stress of this unusual experience, this ticket be dismissed."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Readings & Lectures ~ it must be July!

Join our internationally acclaimed faculty of poets and fiction writers for a series of public lectures and readings during the 31st Napa Valley Writers' Conference, which is hosted and sponsored by Napa Valley College.

The eight poets and fiction writers who serve as conference faculty are united by critical acclaim for their work. In fiction, Adam Haslett’s Union Atlantic has been called “the first great novel of the new century,” while Michelle Huneven’s novel Blame was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Critics’ Circle Award. Daniel Alarcón’s novel Lost City Radio prompted Granta magazine to name him one of America’s top young novelists, while Lan Samantha Chang, director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, recently publishedAll is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost, which National Public Radio called “a full and resonant story of the pains and perils, falsehoods and truths of trying to be an American artist . . . unforgettable.”

The poetry faculty includes Jane Hirshfield, whose collection After was shortlisted for England’s T.S. Eliot Prize and selected as one of the top books of 2006 by the Washington Post. D.A. Powell’Chronic and Major Jackson’s Leaving Saturn were both finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award, while David St. John, author of nine volumes of poetry, was a finalist for the National Book Award for Study for the World’s Body: New and Selected Poems.

Morning and afternoon lectures on the art and craft of writing will be held at the Napa Valley College Upper Valley Campus in St. Helena. Evening readings are scheduled for various venues throughout the Napa Valley. The full schedule of readings and lectures is as follows:

Sunday, July 24
7:30 p.m.: Wine reception and reading with poet D. A. Powell and fiction writer Daniel Alarcón at the Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave., St. Helena
Monday, July 259 a.m.: Poetry lecture by Jane Hirshfield, Upper Valley Campus
1:30 p.m.: Fiction lecture by Adam Haslett, Upper Valley Campus
7:30 p.m.: Wine reception and reading with poet David St. John and fiction writer Lan Samantha Chang, Rubicon Estate, 1991 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford
Tuesday, July 269 a.m.: Poetry lecture by D.A. Powell, Upper Valley Campus
1:30 p.m.: Fiction lecture by Daniel Alarcón, Upper Valley Campus
7:30 p.m.: Wine reception and reading with poet Major Jackson and fiction writer Michelle Huneven, Robert Mondavi Winery, 7801 St. Helena Highway, Oakville
Wednesday, July 279 a.m.: Poetry lecture by David St. John, Upper Valley Campus
1:30 p.m.: Fiction lecture by Lan Samantha Chang, Upper Valley Campus
6:30 p.m.: Wine reception and reading with poet Jane Hirshfield and fiction writer Adam Haslett, Educational Center for the Performing Arts, Napa Valley College, 2277 Napa-Vallejo Highway (Highway 221), Napa
Thursday, July 289 a.m.: Poetry lecture by Major Jackson, Upper Valley Campus
1:30 p.m.: Fiction lecture by Michelle Huneven, Upper Valley Campus
Admission to evening readings costs $10. Admission to the daytime lectures is $25 apiece, $90 for the four-lecture series in either poetry or fiction, or $175 for all eight lectures. Tickets for all public events may be purchased at the door by cash or check. Students with valid student IDs will be admitted free of charge to all lectures and evening readings, along with conference supporters and community housing hosts.

For more information about the conference and the reading and lecture series, visit or