I'll be reading my poetry with local poet Kathryn Kerr tomorrow night at Re:Verse, the reading series at TheatresCool in downtown Bloomington, if any of you "locals" want to attend! There's an open mic afterwards, so you can read, too.
I'm very glad of our "eat local" and "shop local" and "good to go" (environmentally responsible, sustainable commuter challenge) local programs for healthy, socially aware living. Going to area theatre and literary readings is a way to "listen local" and support your homegrown artists. Likewise, with the visual artists. "See local." Let's do it!
In this case, Kathryn and I like to appear together now and then to prove we are not the same person. Our names are so similar, and we both write poetry, and we've done some of the same things--Illinois State Writing Project at ISU, AWP Conferences in Chicago, college teaching, chapbook publication--that sometimes people think we are each other. And, of course, we are both "local poets."
Coincidentally, I just finished Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout, which I read for my local book group. The New York Times book review of it is titled "The Locals," as it's about people in a small town in Maine. I loved this book, a tender look at the tough lives of regular people. I've been wanting to read it for a long time and was glad the library had the hardback with a leaf on the cover.
It's like Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson, in being a novel-in-stories or short-story-cycle held together by a central character whose life intersects with other lives in the town, and in revealing the "quiet desperation" of many lives, and the quiet joy. It helps you understand your neighbors better, and yourself.
Also by chance, I read a short article by Augusten Burroughs this morning (thanks for posting it at Facebook, Sarah Sloat!) that connects with these two books in presenting the common, shared unhappiness of people, that some unhappiness is part of a normal life and that we can't all always be relentlessly cheerful despite the current trend to be always, always, always "positive." "How to Live Unhappily Ever After" appears to be an adapted excerpt from Burroughs's newest book, coming out this month.
But I imagine our local poetry reading will have a mix of humor, tenderness, beauty, awe, intense observation of human and animal life, ordinary speech, and, perhaps, "local color."
"You must change your life," said Rilke. So that's what I keep doing. I worked as an actor and director in Chicago, wrote for an encyclopedia, edited two poetry journals, shelved and retrieved materials in several libraries, walked beans, and was an assistant professor of English. Now I serve as Poetry Editor and Editor at Large for Escape Into Life, an online arts magazine, write & edit as a freelancer, blog "eight days a week," study the random, tend perennials, and listen to birdsong.