Wednesday, November 26, 2008

sent text

9:53 am: Going to mediation now--hopefully last session--light a candle for me!

10:04 am: Train delays. be there as soon as i can.

11:57 am: "I....don't remember what day it was..."

12:00 pm: Every day's a new day!

12:03 pm: Piped in @ ann taylor! retail therapy---session went well

12:07 pm: Thx--it went well--mascara intact.

12:14 pm: size 6 jeans are the best revenge!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

over the river

Last Thanksgiving, in the wake of the news that my marriage was ending, I took the kids to visit with my brother David, his wife Jennifer, and their family in State College, PA. Not only was it great to talk with them, but we also had a wonderful dinner at Jennifer's parents' house in Williamsport. After dinner, David and I took Bobby and his cousin Davey on a walk to the Little League Hall of Fame, just a few blocks from the house.

On the drive home at the end of the weekend I popped in a CD that had come with an issue of Paste magazine Bob had picked up somewhere. It was a compilation of contemporary music that spanned the sort of alt-Americana-singer-songwriter-pop-rock genres I favor. I kept coming back to one song, "All in Good Time" by someone named Ron Sexsmith. I'd heard the name on WFUV but couldn't place him, and in fact always got him mixed up with another singer-songwriter with a similar name, Martin Sexton. As I played the winsome tune over and over, I let the lyrics sink in:
But in these hours of serious doubt
Through the coal black lonely night
Something told me, “it’ll work out”
Something deep inside
Was comforting me

All in good time
the bad times will be gone

I was far from believing that things would ever get better. I didn't see the point in hoping for a future where "it'll work out." I didn't believe "everything happens for a reason," "God has a plan," "something better is in store," or "when a door closes a window opens," or any of that. But still there was something about the combination of Ron's music and voice and optimistic message that stuck, and somehow buoyed me, just for a few minutes. It wasn't until later that I learned that he had gone through a divorce with children himself, and had grown up in a "broken home" after his father left the family. Something struck a chord and I felt the songwriter's voice "deep inside...comforting me" like an old and trusted friend.

This year, Thanksgiving will be different. Bobby is riding to State College with my friend Jeannie and her Boston terrier, Otis, to spend the holiday with his bestest cousin, Davey. Stella will be with Dad and his family, and I'm taking a bus to New Jersey for a peaceful dinner with my Uncle Phil and Aunt Cheryl. And I am thankful for family, for love, for my kids' thriving and having a good time, for quiet time, for the tentative optimism of a new political era in the face of economic woes. I'm thankful that I have been able to keep on, do my job (for the most part), take care of my family, not give up despite very strong urges to do so. Most of all, I'm thankful for the faith that has returned to me, for the people who have been praying for me to get back there, and for the someone who has pointed me back in that direction.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

why ron sexsmith should be a superstar

Not because he has a voice like Wings-era McCartney. Not because he is praised not only by McCartney himself, but by Elvis Costello, Chris Difford, Elton John, and many other greats. Not because he has put out over a dozen amazing albums since 1995 and still hasn't achieved the international fame he deserves. But because he writes lyrics like this:

From the ashes of a broken home
I sent a message to the great unknown
And through the music on the radio
You came to set me free
This is how I know you hear me

This is how I know our trials are not in vain
This is how I know we'll rise and love again
This is how I know
This is how I know

"This Is How I Know,
" from Exit Strategy of the Soul

(Now if only I had a Canadian cell service provider, I could download a ringtone of that song.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"the new phone books are here! the new phone books are here!"

Not really, but I did just receive first round galleys of Saint Nobody from my beloved Red Hen Press, and I'm giddy as Navin R. Johnson in The Jerk! Thrilling, exciting, and scary! Can't wait to see the cover...I promise a peek when I do.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

the one o'clock poets strike again...


The One O'clock Poets
read from their anthology, This Full Green Hour
Tuesday, November 18
7:30 pm
Perch Cafe, 365 5th Avenue (between 5th and 6th Streets)
Park Slope, Brooklyn

Please join us!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

in case you were wondering

Say you found my blog by googling my name. Say you heard my name through a mutual acquaintance. Say you were curious about me and thought you would check me out online. Say you read some of my poems, saw my students' comments on Ratemyprofessor, went to my department's website, saw my public Facebook listing, and read my postings as a guest blogger on the Best American Poetry blog.

And say you were still curious. Who is this Amy Lemmon person I've heard about who lives in New York? you wonder. So here you are on my blog, trying to read between the lines of my cheerleading, kvetching, and kvelling, clicking on my photo, looking for any clues to what makes me tick.

First of all, thanks for reading. I'm flattered that anyone would spend time with my maunderings, since I know how busy you are. Now let me make your sleuthing a little easier with a few facts that aren't in my "About Me" profile.

-I grew up in Ohio and led a relatively sheltered life until my twenties, when I moved to the east coast then back to Ohio for graduate school, where my "liberal education" was completed. Or so I thought until I moved to NYC.
-I was raised in a politically and religiously conservative environment. The political I've diverged from significantly. The religious--well, I have diverged, but I still have respect for the faith of my fathers (and mothers). I'm working on my own version. Stay tuned.
-I grew up feeling like my family were the only people with our particular brand of beliefs. This dovetailed nicely into my already well-established sense of alienation from my peers stemming from hyper-sensitivity and an inability to discern "kids being kids" making fun and teasing from kids really hating me, which finally began to dissipate when I went to college and discovered beer.
-I once had ambitions to be a musician. I started piano lessons at six, played violin at ten, picked up oboe and trumpet in high school, was voted "Most Musical" in my senior class. Then, in college, after one term as a music education major, I switched to English because the music department building was just too far a walk from the main campus. That, and practicing so much made my neck hurt.
-Instead of being a musician, Reader, I married one. I moved to NYC in 1996 as a newlywed because my husband played jazz and got a full scholarship to grad school. I was finishing my PhD in English from the University of Cincinnati at the time.
-Twelve years later, I still live (with my kids) in the same two-bedroom apartment in Queens that I moved into less than a month after my wedding.
-I am in the middle of a divorce. Not a "messy" divorce, and not an "amicable" divorce, but just a plain old emotionally draining, heart-wrenching, soul-search-inspiring, therapy-requiring, do-what's-best-for-the-children intoning, financially discouraging, thoroughly depressing yet apparently necessary divorce.
-I did not expect to be getting divorced less than a dozen years after saying "I do." This does not mean I thought my marriage was perfect. It's just that throwing in the towel wasn't my idea. Although I'm starting to warm up to it.
-The whole divorce experience has thrown me for a loop. It has painstakingly laid a crunchy layer of chaos over my baseline neuroses and occasional hysterical tendencies that is quite astonishing in its power to thwart any plans, goals, or good intentions I might have.
-No matter how sideswiped I've been by the crunchy chaos, I have never for a minute considered keeping my kids from their father, or doing anything to damage their relationship with him. I know how much that would hurt them. (Okay, so one time I said "Daddy is an a*****e" in front of my son. But it was raining and there were no cabs and I had been late picking him up from after-school chess and felt like a total failure as a mother. And the kid had asked why I was upset.)
-I am grateful that my kids' father is still around a lot, even though it makes separating from him excruciating at times. It's good for the kids, who adore him, and heck, I can use the free childcare.
-Here's a secret: I have come to believe that maybe, just maybe, all this is part of a Plan, and that Somebody is in charge of the blueprints. I just have no idea what the deal is, where I fit in or what I am supposed to do. I am trying to be okay with not knowing, and just trust and have faith. You can imagine how hard this is for me.
-I am ambivalent about the public nature of my presence here. I want to blab to the world but feel anxious when strangers (such as you, dear reader) find me, especially when it has something to do with someone I am dating.
-Oh--did I tell you that I have been dating? No? Sorry. Forgot to mention that. (Actually, I haven't mentioned it on purpose. It's private, and as you know this is a public forum.)
-I find "dating" to be an odd and antiquated term, a bit "dated" if you will, because the experience post-divorce has felt for me more like hearing a carousel and letting the captivating music and smell of peanuts and popcorn lead me off the paved path only to get sucked into a wind tunnel while simultaneously trying to squeeze into a wetsuit in anticipation of being dropped into a deep, dark, cold ocean when the tunnel abruptly ends. But sometimes, sometimes, I catch that carousel and let it spin me 'round and 'round, intoxicated. (Maybe my memory is going, but I do not recall it being quite this way the last time I was single, in my twenties.)
-I have a tendency to be a bit of a drama queen. Let's just say I have a close relationship with my inner Eloise.
-I find music to be incredibly healing. For a broken heart, or a broken home, I highly recommend Ron Sexsmith. Or K D Lang. Or practically anyone Canadian.
-I do not wish to spend the rest of my life without a partner. Conversely, I do not want to be with someone just so I can have a partner. I want the (or a) right person. I want it all!
-I feel guilty for not blogging enough about my kids lately, especially about the T21 community and special needs advocacy. I wonder if I seem completely narcissistic to the casual reader.
-My extended family (I am the eldest of six children) is precious to me, but I don't always feel as if I fit in.
-My friends are invaluable. Simply put: I would not be here without them.
-My relationships with most of my friends are complicated. This is probably because I have the most satisfying and intimate friendships with people who are as complicated as I am.
-Sometimes I need a break from my friends, and my friends need a break from me. I am trying to teach myself that this is Okay and does not mean that I should not be friends with anyone. (I'm starting to realize that the same principle might just apply to romantic relationships, too.)
-I am, quite often, my own worst enemy.
-I love, I love, I love. It's my nature. Sometimes it hurts and it ain't pretty. But I can't seem to live any other way.
-I'm procrastinating right now. Papers, papers, papers. I have a tendency to hype up the negative aspects of my life when I am overwhelmed with work, as I am now. (In this economy, people who are employed should not complain. So I'm not. About work, anyway.)

If you want to know more about me, ask our mutual acquaintance for my email and I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Thank you again for your time. Have a good day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

welcoming the godfather

It's been years in the making. Lee Gutkind, dubbed "the Godfather behind Creative Nonfiction" by Vanity Fair, is our writer-in-residence this week at FIT. I've had the pleasure to welcome Lee to two of my classes and introduce a lecture he gave yesterday on the public and private voices in creative nonfiction.

Tomorrow, he's reading from his own new work:

Room D211
Fashion Institute of Technology
7th Ave @ 27th Street

Books for sale. New subscribers to Creative Nonfiction magazine will get free back issues. A fantastic time will be had by all.

no visible injuries

Just received a text message from an unfamiliar number in the 914 area code (Westchester County):

im ok no visible injuries just want todeal with some emotions

I felt strangely relieved, although the message was most likely sent by mistake, by a perfect stranger. I texted back, "Who is this?" but got no response.

Meanwhile, CBC Radio 2 is playing an interview with their reporter Melissa Fung, who was just released after being held hostage for four weeks in Afghanistan. Her captors said they were part of the Taliban, but she later learned they were "just" a family who practices kidnapping as a profession.

However, the Taliban's attacks on civilians continue. (I'd like to know why this is only showing up in the Canadian media, nothing in the U.S.)

Melissa Fung is physically improved, but still suffering from sleepless nights after her ordeal. The two Afghan schoolgirls have been blinded by the attack, and are too afraid to go to school. But the misdialing Westchesterite is unscathed, or at least among the walking wounded, recovering in the suburbs of the Tristate area.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

poppies for remembrance

In the U.K. and Canada it's Remembrance Day. Here in the States we call it Veteran's Day. But first it was Armistice Day, a commemoration of those who gave their lives, and a celebration of the end of the War to End All Wars.

Two poems for the occasion: "In Flanders Fields," by Lt Col. John McCrae of the Canadian Army, and "Dulce et Decorum Est," by Wilfred Owen, one of the best of the Great War poets. Both men died in 1918, just months before the armistice.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

here i am baby

Presenting today's solo living room dance selection, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered."

Pity my poor downstairs neighbors.

levitas and gravitas from phil ochs

Lest we take ourselves too seriously...

Love Me, I'm a Liberal

I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
Tears ran down my spine
I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
As though I'd lost a father of mine
But Malcolm X got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I go to civil rights rallies
And I put down the old D.A.R.
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don't talk about revolution
That's going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
I'm glad the commies were thrown out
Of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
As long as they don't move next door
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

The people of old Mississippi
Should all hang their heads in shame
I can't understand how their minds work
What's the matter don't they watch Les Crane?
But if you ask me to bus my children
I hope the cops take down your name
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I read New Republic and Nation
I've learned to take every view
You know, I've memorized Lerner and Golden
I feel like I'm almost a Jew
But when it comes to times like korea
There's no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I vote for the democtratic party
They want the U.N. to be strong
I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts
He sure gets me singing those songs
I'll send all the money you ask for
But don't ask me to come on along
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old union hymns
But I've grown older and wiser
And that's why I'm turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Phil Ochs, 1966

A timely commentary on this song on Kim Ruehl's Folk Music Blog here.

(Listening to Pete Seeger sing "We Shall Overcome" right now...)

Friday, November 07, 2008

when first we laid eyes i swore to no compromise

Thanks to WFUV I remember why I love the Decemberists. Nothing like a solo living-room dance-and-sing-along to a tragic Romeo-and-Juliet story to rev you up for another round of paper grading!
Check it out so you can dance, too:


Keep the lighthouse in sight
Godspeed to you
Keep the lighthouse in sight
Godspeed to you
Put out the light
And hope that I make it alive

Jenny Lewis

Thursday, November 06, 2008


I wouldn't even trust you
I've not got much to give
We're dealing in the limits
And we don't know who with
You may think that I'm out of hand
That I'm naive, I'll understand
On this occasion, it's not true
Look at me, I'm not you

I would like a place I could call my own
Have a conversation on the telephone
Wake up every day that would be a start
I would not complain of my wounded heart

New Order, "Regret"

contemporary gothic reading tonight

Gothic: Dark Glamour
Contemporary Gothic Literature
Thursday, December 6, 2008
6-7 pm
The Tile Gallery at the Museum at FIT
Seventh Avenue at 27 Street
New York, NY

FIT students, faculty and staff read selections from Anne Rice, Margaret Atwood, Sylvia Plath, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and more.

(including Moira Egan)

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

we did it

I say with our President-elect, God bless the United States of America. Amen.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

election '08

I'm not even gonna try to pretend I want you to vote for "the candidate of your choice." Like everyone else, I want you to vote for the candidate of my choice. Maybe our choices are the same. Maybe not.

I love Trig Palin, but I have serious issues with the way his mom "wears him around like a Coach bag," as a friend's teenage daughter has said. The fact that Gov. Palin and I share a bond as parents of children with T21 does not at all endear me to her politics, any more than my admiration for McCain's POW experience sways me in his direction. Good people in the wrong place can be bad for a country.

Vote. Pray. Love.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

blue fifth review

The Fall 2008 Issue of Blue Fifth Review, edited by Sam Rasnake, is now online.

This issue features new work by...

Melissa Buckheit, Rachel Lehrman, Kenneth Pobo, Amy Lemmon,
Susan Terris, Steve Meador, Robert E. Wood, Laurel K. Dodge,
Karen Head, Scott Owens, Yun Wang, Collin Kelley, Amy Riddell,
Marge Piercy, Tammy Ho Lai-ming, Felicia Mitchell, C. S. Reid,
J. Alan Nelson, C. E. Chaffin, Deborah Vatcher, Leslie Marcus,

and more

Saturday, November 01, 2008

dos princesas

Stella Bella with Bobby's friend Islam's little sis. Backdrop courtesy of Astoria Flower Shop.

the power of the juxtaposition of opposites in sparking memory, provoking thought, and stirring the emotions; or, how to wallow in pop music

My fave radio station WFUV is doing a show right now they call "Point-Counterpoint." The concept is to play songs that either contain a an argument between opposites (e.g., "Should I Stay or Should I Go Now" by the Clash) or work in pairs to counter each other, the most obvious pairing perhaps being Neil Young's "Southern Man" and "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynrd Skynrd.

The last set included four tunes about various stages in relationships. Starting with Chicago's "Beginnings" and Roy Orbison's "It's Over," it concluded with "(Just Like) Starting Over" by John Lennon and "Overs," a Simon and Garfunkel song I was not familiar with.

John and Yoko's Double Fantasy was one of the albums that presided over AOR radio during my adolescence. I even recall hearing "Starting Over" at the skating rink once. Hearing it now, I feel a pang--it's about a long-term relationship that renews itself. In fact, it sounds like an anthem for mid-life parents, "Why don't we take a trip we used to in the early days"--perhaps before kids and mortgages and parent-teacher conferences and IEPs and bus schedules and the barrage of grown-up responsibilities and the dull, steady accumulation of irritations and resentments.

"Overs," which is quite obviously about a couple parting, is at least as sad. "No good times, no bad times, / There's no times at all, / Just the new york times." This is a story of love grown, not cold, but tepid. "We might as well be apart / it hardly matters." Why do some relationships work, and other fail? When do you give it the old college try, and when do you say enough is enough and call it quits? If after one union ends you make a commitment to another, who's to say that won't turn out just as badly down the road? Where do the dreams of beginnings go? Wherefore the resolutions, the vows, the promises? Where are the snows of yesteryear--oops, sorry, wrong century.

Longing, nostalgia, questioning, grief, resignation, hope, fear: when one is a poet, I suppose it is all grist for the mill.