Category Archives: readings

Setlist: First Sundays, 11/3/2013

autumn leaves
Despite an absolutely gorgeous autumn Sunday afternoon in Bloomington and the inevitable discombobulation that comes with the clocks having “fallen back” the night before, we had a nice little audience at Boxcar Books today for the First Sundays reading. I read a selection of poems from “Chasing Angels,” my manuscript-in-progress about a fictional rock musician; it was my first attempt to construct an entire setlist solely consisting of “Chasing Angels” poems and I was fairly happy with the narrative arc and the way the poems hung together.

I’d left the manuscript untouched for quite a while – a couple of years I guess – feeling frustrated and tired of it, and was pleasantly surprised when I dove back into it last night to find that I was interested in it again. Sometimes you have to let writing sit and marinate by itself for a while before working on it does anyone any good, you know? Now I’m thinking of getting it back out and fiddling with it some more; it’s way too long to send it out as it stands now, but hopefully with new perspective I’ll be able to ruthlessly yank out the poems that aren’t as strong. By spring 2014 I’d like to start sending it around. Don’t tell, y’all. It’ll be our little secret.

I’m also, because I enjoyed reading the poems so much today, having wacky ideas of constructing some kind of a semi-theatrical staged reading of a big chunk of the manuscript. I know, that’s crazy talk. It wouldn’t be that big a production – I certainly wouldn’t try to memorize it all, I’d have the pages in front of me – but with musical interludes here and there and some slides behind me and maybe some interesting lighting. I don’t know. I’m not necessarily the most dynamic of performers and I don’t know if I’d want to watch me on a stage for 45-60 minutes solid, even with multimedia and music and awesome boots on my feet and whatever… well… watch this space next year and see if anything develops!

Anyway, here’s what I read today (a 15 minute set):

  1. The Roar the Day After
  2. Sweet the Morning After
  3. The Smoke
  4. Curfew
  5. That Conversation
  6. First Earthquake

Many thanks to Nancy Long, the Bloomington Writers’ Guild, and Boxcar Books for hosting this monthly series!

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Upcoming: First Sunday Reading & Open Mic

Bloomington, Indiana folks (and those nearby) – I’ll be reading poems this coming Sunday afternoon (3-5 pm) at Boxcar Books, a nice independent bookstore in downtown Bloomington. Expect some poems from “Chasing Angels,” the manuscript I’ve been working on forever about a fictional rock musician – and maybe some other stuff as well.

Doris Lynch, one of the other featured readers, is one of my favorite Bloomington poets. And if you write (poetry, fiction, whatever), feel free to bring a little something and sign up for the open mic!

Flyer for First Sundays reading


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Useful Detours: D.A. Powell’s reading at Butler University

Sometimes roadblocks and road closures force you to detour in ways that turn out to be useful.

That isn’t a metaphor. Honest. So, I found out a while back that D.A. Powell would be reading in Butler University’s Visiting Writers Series, and knew I had to be there. Butler is on the north-ish side of Indianapolis, and since I drive like a little old lady, I always allow two hours to get there – it’s really not a bad drive at all, but far enough that I really have to want to go to a concert or a reading in order to make the effort. For a while there, I was driving an aging car that was actively trying to kill me (that’s an exaggeration, Mom) so the necessity of renting a car to get much of anywhere meant I got to places like Butler even less frequently – but now I have a sturdy reliable car, and I love driving, so yay for mini-road trips.

A few days ago, Indianapolis shut down two major thoroughfares through the city, I-65 and I-70, to do some major roadwork. For someone who lives 50-60 miles south of Indy I don’t actually spend that much time there, and I don’t know the roads all that well. So I puzzled over the detour maps for a while trying to figure out the best way to Butler, because of course my usual route is via I-65. Which was, you know, shut down. I decided the best thing would probably be to take I-465 about halfway around and then take 38th Street towards Butler, but between the construction sending people on all kinds of crazy detours and the fact that I would be getting into town around the tail end of rush hour (the reading was at 7:30 and hell if I was gonna be anywhere near late), I was afraid traffic would suck. So I allowed a full hour extra.

Traffic was fine, people. You wouldn’t even have known the construction was going on. I’m sure if I hadn’t planned ahead and had gotten into town only to find my exit closed I would have panicked, and if I’d tried to take back roads and cut through downtown or something I would have gotten lost (yes, I have a GPS; yes, I would have gotten lost anyway; I’m talented like that). But I was parked in the parking lot behind Clowes Hall at, um, 6:15 I think.

But then I sat in the car for a while poking at my phone, looking at Twitter and email and weather radar – and turns out if I’d left 45 minutes later, I would have been whomped on the way there by a badass thunderstorm, maybe even a couple of them. Wind, torrential rain, maybe even hail. I would have been cursing up a storm and hating my life. As it was, it sprinkled on me about ten drops as I walked from the car into the venue. So, go me. Hooray for detours and alternate routes!

D.A. Powell reading at Butler University podium

D.A. Powell reading at Butler University

The reading itself was, of course, fantastic. Powell read a couple of poems from Chronic (including the title poem, which knocks my socks off every time) and then the bulk of the reading was from his newest book, Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys. As always, listening to the poems (and Doug is a terrific reader of his own work) made me consider the poems differently than just reading them on the page – it’s like when you hear a song live after listening to the studio version a bunch of times, how just a little bit of changed phrasing makes a line stand out in a way that you think “wow, was that line even in there before?” And of course it was there all along, but hearing it in the moment, it’s different.

I’ve taken a couple of summer workshops with Doug Powell and besides being a phenomenal poet (which anyone who’s up on their contemporary poetry already knows), he’s also one of those teachers who can change a poet’s life. The thing about his workshops is: they were terrifying. Because I got pushed hard enough to write past anyplace I’d written before, and to tackle terrifying material. And at the same time, he created a space of absolute support and safety within the workshop, which made it okay to be terrified. Does that make sense? It might sound crazy if you’re not a writer, maybe. It’s not like I run around trying to get terrified for fun. I don’t like scary movies, I’m not crazy about rollercoasters – but being pushed to one’s creative brink like that is fucking exhilarating.

I haven’t been writing lately, and thinking about it now, I think it’s because I have backed away from letting myself be terrified. To be honest, real life has been terrifying enough on several occasions in the past couple of years, and I haven’t felt any desire to step out of my safety zone  when I didn’t absolutely have to. It’s hard to write when your life is busy being literal.

But I need to quit that safety zone like the bad habit that it is. I need to get back on the verbal tightrope. I just do.

On the way home I turned on the SiriusXM “Soul Town” station, which gave me some Sly & the Family Stone, some Al Green, some Stylistics, some Gladys Knight, and so on. Along the way I pulled into a gas station and scribbled out about half a poem, then bought an ice cream sandwich and drove the rest of the way in the dark, words bumping around inside my head in a way that I have been missing lately. Didn’t realize how much I’d missed it.

Also, it occurs to me that maybe nobody should ever try to write more than half a poem. I pretty much only get in trouble when I try too hard to finish them. From now on, I write half-poems. Terrifying? You bet. And hooray for that.


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Setlist: 4th St. Festival, 8/30/2013

Fourth Street Festival t-shirt designI’m going to start using this blog to keep track of which poems I read at readings. Maybe it will be interesting to other folks, maybe not… we’ll see!

The Spoken Word Stage at this year’s Fourth Street Festival was a lot of fun; I especially enjoyed sharing the stage with Indiana’s current poet laureate (and former classmate from way back in undergrad days) Karen Kovacik, storyteller/movement artist (and former dorm-neighbor from way back in undergrad days) Nell Weatherwax, and local group Five Women Poets, of which I was a member for several years. In the “it’s the little things that count” department, one of the organizers thought to install a clock on one of the poles holding up the canopy, within sight of the microphone used by the readers. Super helpful, as I’ve become one of those awful people who relies on her cellphone to check the time instead of wearing a watch, which makes it a lot harder to discreetly check on how you’re doing for time as you read!

Anyway, my setlist, which clocked in at just about 25 minutes:

  1. What This Poem Will Do
  2. Ten Years
  3. It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Mortality
  4. Lucky
  5. Sleeping in Space
  6. The Roar the Day After
  7. Free Hot Breakfast, Free Dreams
  8. Seventeen/Forty-Seven: Darkness and Magic
  9. Relax with Song of the Whales
  10. O


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Reading reminder & silent auction

October trees in Brown County

October trees – Brown County, Indiana

For those of you who are local-ish to Bloomington, just a reminder that I will be reading TONIGHT at City Hall, along with Shana Ritter, Doris Lynch, and Sue Swartz. Details are in my post from a few days ago.

I spent this evening, while watching Twitter updates about what was evidently an incredibly good Springsteen show in Hartford, going through poems – reading a bunch of them to see which ones seem right together, reading them aloud a couple of times to practice and to time them, planning a setlist. I think that I will read four poems in the main set: Exhume (a creepy poem that feels appropriate for the end of October), Opening the Hive (a vaguely Sylvia Plath-inspired poem in honor of the Plath Symposium on campus this week), The Simple Math of Breathing (a nice uplifting sort of thing), and In Praise of Cheesy (which will hopefully end my short set with a smile). In case we have enough time to do a second quick read-around, I have a few extras picked out too, including one I’d entirely forgotten about until tonight.

Whether or not you’re able to get to the reading, here’s something to check out – the Bloomington Writers’ Guild is hosting a silent auction as a fundraiser (they need money to pay the filing fee to get non-profit status). Up for bidding are books and chapbooks by local Bloomington writers, including yours truly, and a couple of CDs by local musicians as well. Bidding will open at 6:00 pm EDT today (Friday, 10/26) and closes on Monday, October 29 at 6:00 pm – that’s not much time, so if you’re interested, make sure you check it out! You can view items and place your bids at

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Poetry at City Hall

Photo of Anne Haines, Sue Swartz, Doris Jean Lynch, and Shana Ritter

Clockwise from top: Anne Haines, Doris Jean Lynch, Shana Ritter, Sue Swartz

This coming Friday evening – my first poetry reading in quite a while! I’ll be reading some older stuff and some newer(ish) stuff – I haven’t sketched out a setlist yet, so who knows, I might throw in “Queen of the Supermarket.” 😉 (that’s an in-joke for my Springsteen pals) We’ll be reading for a fairly long stretch before taking a break, so I’ll probably aim for the lighter, less focused-attention-demanding material.

I’m pleased to be reading with three other poets who’ve also received Individual Artist Grants from the Indiana Arts Commission: Doris Lynch (who’s also a librarian at the local public library – yay, librarian poets!), Shana Ritter (who I’ve known for ages; she was a member of Source: Women Writers, a group I started in the mid-eighties and which met regularly for many years) and Sue Swartz. All three are terrific poets, so it should be a fun evening.

The reading is also planned to promote & celebrate the Bloomington Writers’ Guild, a relatively new addition to the local literary community.  In conjunction, there will be an online auction of books and CDs by local Bloomington writers and artists. You’ll have to act fast; the auction opens at 6 pm Friday evening and closes the following Monday. I’ll try to post a link to the auction site, but it should be available from the Writers’ Guild website once the auction is live.

Now I just have to figure out what to read and, more importantly, what to wear….


Poetry at City Hall: In celebration of the Bloomington Writers’ Guild and the Indiana Arts Commission. With readings by local IAC Individual Artist Program grant recipients: Anne Haines, Doris Jean Lynch, Shana Ritter, and Sue Swartz. There will be poetry, mingling and meeting, and sweets from Sweet Claire Gourmet Bakery. For more information see the Writers Guild website:

Friday, October 26, 2012 :: 7:00 – 8:30 pm :: City Hall Atrium, 401 N. Morton St., Bloomington, Indiana

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4th St Festival – Spoken Word Stage CANCELLED

Due to the anticipated tropical deluge-formerly-known-as-Isaac, the Spoken Word Stage at this year’s 4th St. Festival has been CANCELLED.
The festival is still planning to go on, just not the spoken word stage (and perhaps not the music/performance stage either; they haven’t decided yet). It’s a bummer, but totally understandable.

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Upcoming: 4th St. Festival

4th St Festival logoThanks to the organizing efforts of Tony Brewer and the Bloomington Writers’ Guild, last year saw the inauguration of a cool new event here in south-central Indiana – the Spoken Word Stage at the annual 4th Street Festival of Arts & Crafts (Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day Weekend).

I say “cool” event, but last year, it was about 102 degrees and the “stage” consisted of a microphone in the middle of the street with some chairs in front of it for the hypothetical audience – all in full sun. Needless to say, it was not the largest audience I have ever read in front of. In fact, it was probably about the closest I’ve ever come to actually passing out while reading. It was a great idea, though, and I’m pleased to have been asked to read again this year. We’ll have a canopy over us this time, as well as some shade for the audience, so we shouldn’t see a repeat of last year’s heat-stroke special. (Although Tropical Storm Isaac may deliver us some rain right about then, which – while desperately needed; we are still officially in an “exceptional drought” condition – would be kind of a bummer. But hey, canopy!)

So if you are in or near Bloomington, Indiana – stop by! The 4th Street Festival (located, oddly enough, on 4th St. between Indiana and Lincoln) is one of my favorite events every year anyway; it features arts and crafts from Indiana and around the country, much of it really nice, as well as music and dance performances in addition to the Spoken Word Stage. There are a bunch of great folks slated to perform – here’s the schedule:

SATURDAY, Sept. 1, 10am – 6p
11:00 Jenny Kander & Friends (poetry)
11:30 B-ton Storytellers Guild (storytelling)
12:00 Cardinal Stage Company (theatre)
12:30 Ross Gay (poetry)
1:00 Shana Ritter (poetry)
1:30 Reservoir Dogwoods (poetry)
2:00 5 Women Poets (poetry)
2:30 Anne Haines (poetry)
3:00 4th Wall Ensemble (hybrid)
3:30 Tony Brewer (poetry)
4:00 Matthew Jackson (poetry)
4:30 Fig Tree Fellowship Radio Players (audio theatre)
5:00 Women Writing for (a) Change (Beth Lodge-Rigal) (poetry)

SUNDAY, Sept. 2, 10a – 5p
11:00 Eric Rensberger (poetry)
11:30 Joseph Kerschbaum (poetry)
12:00 Cardinal Stage Company (theatre)
12:30 Elsa Marston (children’s fiction)
1:00 Antonia Matthew & Friends (poetry)
1:30 Joy Shane Laughter (fiction)
2:00 Michael Mlekoday (poetry)
2:30 B-ton Storytellers Guild (storytelling)
3:00 Arbutus Cunningham (storytelling)
3:30 Free Range Poets (poetry)
4:00 Erin Livingston (poetry)
4:30 Patsy Rahn (poetry)

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