Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Practice, Practice, Practice!

As everyone knows, that's way you get to Carnegie Hall, and I am proud to announce that my husband, brilliant bassist (and fabulous dad) Bob Bowen, performed there last night with the Lee Konitz New Nonet.
It's the legendary Lee's 80th birthday celebration, and Bob shared the stage at one point with Steve Swallow, who joined the Nonet and traded solos with Bob.
(New photo posted 7/13/07)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A New Vision

Stella is wearing her glasses! In May we went to the opthalmologist and sure enough, she has astigmatism. We got the glasses three weeks ago and, let's just say the princess was not amused. Even though she loves to steal Mommy and Daddy's glasses and put on sunglasses, it was nothing doing here.

A couple of times she tolerated a couple of seconds; mostly, she threw them across the room. (these things cost three hundred bucks! We gave it a rest for awhile.)
The strategy has been to try and get her to tolerate them while watching Noggin or a favorite DVD movie.

Right now--ta-da!--she is watching Lady and the Tramp and they have stayed on five whole minutes. In fact, I just saw her push them up (rather than yanking them off). Here's to some new clarity!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Stepping Up

Yesterday we spent the morning at a school ceremony for Stella--I haven't posted many details about her new placement, but it's been quite a journey. She has been transferred to District 75, not a geographical district but rather a dedicated special education program that has locations in each borough of NYC.
The first placement notice we received was for the "main site" of Q75 (i.e., the District 75 headquarters for the borough of Queens). We visited, got a thorough tour from Mr. Rose, the Guidance Counselor, and were hooked. Not only did the population seem much more at Stella's level, but they have music, dance, and drama classes in addition to all three types of services (speech, physical, and occupational therapy). A glimpse into the music room, where a ponytailed young man played a guitar and sang with a class of children with autism, told us this was the right place.
We signed the placement, and she was set to start May 21. We put her on the bus, then drove to the school to meet her and help with the transition. Unfortunately, Stella's bus didn't take her to the "main site." Unbeknownst to us, she'd been actually placed in the "annex," located in yet another remote neighborhood of Queens. Worst of all, the school itself did not even know Stella was supposed to be there! Fortunately, by the time we arrived, she had been placed in a classroom and was actually making pancakes (she loves to cook) and having a great old time.
Several weeks on, we are grateful about her new situation although there are minuses (not only is there no music, dance, or drama at this location, but the have NO THERAPY for her), a big plus is her teacher, Ms. Tubbs. They are working with her temper and stubbornness (maybe next they can help her parents with theirs) and bringing out her strengths. And, thank the good lord, they have a SUMMER PROGRAM.
So it seemed a little odd to be going to the main site for this ceremony. She'd only been there a few weeks and here she was in a white baseball cap with "mortarboard" attached. It was a great thing, though, and I only cried a tiny tiny bit. Some images.
I promise I will post photos of Stella in her purple striped halter dress with Snoopy logo as soon as they are downloaded. For now, some word-pictures:
the auditorium with scaled-down stage, ponytailed music teacher guy playing guitar and singing with each class
utter pandemonium--crying, running away, going off in all directions--in short, a normal preK/Kindergarten graduation
after the handing out of certificates: two older students (middle school age) performed a 50s-style dance, complete with twirls, dips, and the Twist
a classmate's family--mother in traditional sari, father in the Queens male uniform: Bluetooth, baseball cap, black camp shirt
Two adorable boys in navy suits
one class (all boys) wearing signs depicting various occupations--firefighter, teacher, elected official (!)
all the parents, some with younger kids in strollers or in tow--none of us set out to do anything but have a "normal" family, we did what our parents did--what went astray?
cake and cookies in the lunchroom--light periwinkle painted walls, colorful posters of the food groups, "Feed Your Brain"
the teachers and paraprofessionals--who are these people and why do they do this amazing work? Infinite patience, more than I have, I must admit--and they get so little compensation financially. Such gratitude.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


It's official. I am through, done, finito, with entering poetry book contests. I will politely wait to hear from the contests I have already submitted to, and would be overjoyed to get good news from any of those esteemed publishers, but I will in the meantime be pursuing other avenues for getting the book into print. Which is perhaps what I should have been doing all along.

I have been publishing poems in national magazines for 21 years (my first publication was in Rolling Stone), and working on poetry what I would call "seriously" for 17. The current manuscript has been circulating for going on five years now. In that time I have revised, added, subtracted, re-ordered, culled, and reculled. Gotten feedback (often paid for it), taken it all under advisement, revised and retooled again.

I have spent literally thousands of dollars on entry fees. Saint Nobody has been a finalist and semifinalist many times in some very good competitions. Many of the individual poems have been published in magazines and anthologies, and several of them have won prizes. I have been told by experienced and esteemed editors that the book is ready for publication, that they only wish they could publish every great manuscript they get (Which after awhile begins to sound like the literary equivalent of "You're beautiful, don't change.")

Yes, that sort of feedback is all very nice. Yes, I feel good about supporting small presses and other publishers of poetry collections, but it's really time for some satisfaction. ("I can't get no...") Fortunately, I work at a "teaching institution," so I was able to achieve tenure without book publication. But there are many, many other opportunities that are only offered to poets with books. It's a benchmark of legitimacy, a bottom-line token that you are a "real" writer.

I am not railing against editors, presses, or anyone involved in publishing poetry. Nor do I think they should not charge fees. Having been part of the screening process for a contest for two years now, I understand the hard work that goes into the endeavor. I also understand the limited audience for poetry, and the costs involved, and I am grateful that anybody publishes books of poems at all. I enthusiastically cheer my friends when their books come out, go to their readings and book parties, buy and read the books, which I love and value, as my credit card bills will attest!

However, I am not getting any younger, and it is getting to the point that not having this thing out there is affecting my writing--which is the most dangerous problem of all. I have a solid book of poems waiting here, and I am willing to read anyplace, talk to whomever, contact reviewers, to do whatever it takes to sell my book once it's published. I do not feel that I personally have enough time and money to be wasting it (yes, it feels at this point like a waste) on this discouraging process. I am starting to feel like a sucker. It's time for a new strategy.

Sorry if this sounds sour, or even bitter. They did used to call me "Sour Lemmon" in grade school, after all.

I am going to go eat some chocolate now.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

West Chester Poetry Conference

Here I am, my fourth West Chester conference. This year I am in the critical seminar on Auden, and I chaired a panel celebrating Auden's centenary (yes, Wystan is 100!). Go here for the website. So much to tell...I promise to post a little bit when I get back.
Much more to say about Stella's school. For starters, there are no therapy services at the location where she was placed (which is not the school we had originally visited and approved). We are looking into the next steps.