Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Where's an Old Dog Go Next?

Weather is local (both in time and place); climate is global, revealing itself over years, decades, centuries, millennia. No reason to assign the recent unbroken heat wave to global warming, but when week after week, temperature and humidity in Philadelphia resembles what is more typical of New Orleans, Houston, one can’t help but wonder. I have no AC. Would not turn it on if I did. After a while, one becomes acclimated—to a certain degree—to the heat. I can even enjoy it at times in a way I can never enjoy feeling cold. But it alters one’s bodily rhythms and thought patterns. No use to fight it. I’m not English—and they got it wrong about the dogs. I move more slowly, my thoughts are more languid and for the most part, I stay out of the noon day sun.

July and August are dog days for blogs. I’m so much a reactive thinker, that with others on vacation and my own heat induced disinclination to hunt for stimulating fare, the Barking Dog reverts to the usual repostings and citings of links. The first summer this worried me. Going on four years, and no sense that I’m approaching a dead end, I take it in stride. But I do notice changes in the Dog, and in my ideas of where I want to go with it.

Some superficial stuff first. I gave up on reviewing New Yorker Stories a while back. Mostly, they bored me. When they didn’t bore me to read them, they offered me little to think about and bored me after the fact. Not that I reviewed that many—but when I did, there were a steady stream of visitors who sought out those reviews. Without them, I’ve lost maybe 100 visitors a week. Maybe another 100 posgts became more openly political, and more yet as my interest shifted from fiction to poetry—though that connection would be hard to demonstrate.

My first attempt at poetry was in the second grade. The assignment was to write (2? 3?) sentences. I became absorbed in the effort to translate into words an image in my mind I saw as clearly as the rows of desks and blackboards and ticking clock in that room. I still have the scrap of paper I wrote it on. The teacher (her name was Webber) sent it home to my mother as demonstration of my lack of staying power. I failed to complete the first sentence… having been hung up by the inability to spell “silhouette.” My interest in writing poetry isn’t new, but it's been sporadic, having episodic eruptions in very early adolescence, late adolescence, my mid-20’s, and now and then here and there through my life. But when I had my little kitchen epiphany in 1987—at the age of 46--that from that time on, writing would be my primary objective and reason for living—what I had in mind (though that too, began with a poem) … was fiction. I continued to write poems.. but on the side.

I turned my efforts to finishing a series of short stories—testing various voices, styles—building my confidence. This was while I was working through various temp agencies: word processor, radiographic transcriptionist--writing on the el to and from jobs, at lunch hour. I started my first novel—nine years in the making.

Early confirmation came first with poetry. Then short stories. But long, long waits and many rejection between. I’ve racked up more than 1600 rejections in the last 24 years. Pieces sent again and again cause I continued to believe in them.

Something began to change in 2008, partly because of this blog. But more important--discovering the incredible poetry scene here in Philly. Going to readings. Hearing CA Conrad—whose influence and power can’t be understated, and the New Philadelphia Poets and… and … and…

I began to write again like I’d never done before. Poetry. Like returning to a first love. Closing in on 100 new poems in 2010. I post some here, usually as Works-in-Progress, then take them off when I send them to publishers. I’m developing my own ideas of poetics, feeling out the direction I want to go. (also re-writing my second novel… as though in verse)

… and that’s where The Dog is going… politics included. If you’re curious, interested—stick around! If not…

This has been the best year of my life--in terms of creative effort, and personal... if not sexual … satisfaction.
Like the song says… You can’t always get what you want, but maybe sometimes, you just might find …


  1. There should be a long line outside your flapping tent door, Jacob. Number it another of the deformations of Capitalism that a virile, handsome, brilliant, talented, smart, bold, creative, aware, astute, loving man like yourself can't get laid. If it's any consolation (and I don't expect it to be), I'm offended on your behalf.

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