Sunday, December 30, 2007

Random googling on my name

Sometimes I have to see what surfaces when I type "Carlson Elephant House." This is how I discovered I'd had a poem on Verse Daily. Or that I'd gotten a good review for The Elephant House. Or that another review is in the works... Yesterday my search pulled up more than a tire or boot from the meta-ocean. The Elephant House made it to the 30 book list of "Some Recently Published Books of Poetry You Might Want to Read"! Thank you John Hewitt and the Writer's Resource Center. Woo-hoo.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

And then there are great readings

So from the worst venue, to the best. I asked Matthew Thorburn to read with me (I'd loved his reading at the Center for Book Arts). After a book exchange he decided I wasn't a random loon and I set it up no less than three times at Book Culture which went through, count 'em, three events coordinators. But it was all worth it... Enough people filled the seats, the book store provided wine and nibbles, and the gracious Kelly Amabile--the new events person--made us feel most welcomed and did lots of promo. Jeanne Marie Beaumont introduced us, delightfully, and Matthew read his thoughtful lovely poems. He takes time with them, they broaden. And although we write quite differently, we share some streaks of humor and subject matter. Go buy his book of poetry, Subject to Change.

I enjoyed reading this time. More than I ever have. I'm finally getting more relaxed up there on the singular side of the podium. My aunt Sonya bought a copy of my book, which really touched me, not a lot of poetry books among her political bios. I read some of my new shaped poems, showing them first, like a picture book. It was so lovely seeing faces I know and love among the audience and some I didn't, and they seemed like they were enjoying themselves.

Matthew had a good time. We enjoyed meeting his wife. See his blog. Thanks for doing this with me Matt. Here's our Book Culture interview, I think Matthew reads less junk than me...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Reading with the stars and curry

I've had terrific readings and then there are the ones that are funny later. The Phoenix Reading Series at the Bengal Curry restaurant offered blasts of door-opening chill, take-out customers, fluorescent ambiance, and a chugging soda machine. Luckily, I was reading with Margo Berdeshevsky and Yerra Sugarman. Alicia Ostriker (really good poet) sat in our audience along with Michael Graves the organizer (selling his book) and three attentive guys who also came for the open mike. See this story about the readings.

Yerra (middle of photo) read from a long sequence about an aunt, coma, and holocaust. There were lines of heartbreak that made me want to read them to figure out how she wrote it.

Margo (on left) turns out to be a childhood friend of my painter friend Jada Rowland. I heard how she fell through the ice in a pond near Jada's home on Staten Island when she was 7... She is still taking risks, she explores the role of myth and healing in the face of disasters from war and nature--she volunteers and reports in these places. Like Jada she used to be an actress; she read with enough passion that even the poori customer looked up.

After all that really good heavy stuff, I decided to drop some levity. I read my new shaped poems, many of which are with a twist. The three guys waiting to read brightened up, although with such a small audience it felt odd to mention lust. Alicia chuckled.

Best of all, I traded books with my fellow readers and the three of us had dinner with Alicia. Even if our waiter blundered our orders at Elephant & Castle the conversation about poetry, teaching, travels, and our lives, was a delight.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Wow! Alimentum wins design award!

I've been co-designing, with Peter Selgin, each of the five issues to date of the wonderful journal Alimentum: The Literature of Food. It won in the in New York Book Show 2008 category of General Trade / Quality Paperback! I get to go to the swanky reception March 11th, 2008. Too cool. Fun magazine, with poems, stories, non-fiction, interviews, and things that are clearly undefinable but always about food. Buy one, makes a great holiday gift too.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Witching Hour at the New Museum Opening

It is not often I choose to be in the hottest spot in town and raise the age average just by being there. Last night after an annual dinner with my college buddies (Bœuf bourguignon, shooting pool, sipping port, and spinning vinyl 70s albums) in the burbs, we got a ride from our friend Len to the opening of the New Museum in downtown Manhattan. After waiting on line at 2 a.m. for free standby tickets, we were in.

The coat checker looked at us and said "you're up late, aren't you?" Did she say that to anyone under 30?

The inaugural show, "Unmonumental," celebrated collage, found objects, and unusual juxtapositions, such as a crotched yarn dumbell curving into a clay grip or glowing fluorescent tubes piercing sofa beds...

The dealers were long gone, but the crowds when we were there had to be 90% emerging, as in young, artists. The people--dancing and laughing--were more fun to watch than the artwork, much of which fell into the art school project camp with a few notable exceptions. I loved the Louise Nevelson (sans black spray-paint) inspired fountain of chair and loveseat frames, the 7 points-of-view video story (tip your hat to Rashômon), and the slowly melting life-sized naked wax woman candle--haven't we ALL had days like that.

Jim noted that even if you didn't like a piece you had to admire an obsession that makes an artist sew thousands of buttons onto a mattress.

I made friends with a trio of artists who desperately wanted some gum so I shared my Orbit mint mojito with them and we bonded. I was yelled at by a museum guard for taking their photo as they stood in front of the elevator doors. "She must be new, they are all new, you should be able to take a photo of your friends when there is no art showing," said the guy. We all chewed our gum vehemently in agreement.

On the top floor a man served bags of red candy and all down the stairs red hots and Swedish fish were ground into the new white floors and a thousand eager finger prints grayed the doors... Target, a huge sponsor, somehow made their red logo artsy and cool in the skylight lounge.

Len, who works with museums, was delighted with the architecture--open with skylights--and mission, "there is no permanent collection, you know," he gestured, "ephemeral pieces like the melting wax woman drive traditional curators and collectors crazy."

We got to bed by 4 a.m. When we finally crawled out, the first snow had powdered fire escapes and rooftops.


Jim and I with our bags of red candy

Len with Target logos