I've performed more than 50 feature readings over the past handful of years and I obsess over the set-list each time. Without question, the hardest part is always trying to decide on the opening poem. It's usually pretty clear where I want to end up and I have a good idea of how we're going to get there, but it's difficult to figure out how to begin. How to break the ice.
I assume editors go through the same thing when organizing an issue. So I have to admit that I was thrilled to get my contributor copy of the latest Crab Creek Review and find that my poem is "ice-breaker" for this issue.
I simultaneously felt like the snooty concierge at a fancy hotel and the senile elderly greeter at the Walmart doorway. That might be the new most accurate description of myself. Consider my bio updated.
On the cover: a couple of Sylvias (Plath and Beach).
Inside the cover: a couple of things that make me cry and a bunch of wonderful writers.
I have to admit that I like discovering new (to me) writers, this way. The poems that stay on my mind, make me keep an eye out for that poet's name and it's cool in a geeky way to be able to feel like you have a little something in common, when you notice their work somewhere else, down the road.
It's also cool to end up in an issue with a poet, whose book you already own and like (Jenna Le), a poet whose blog you've been following for awhile (Tara Mae Mulroy), and a poet whom you've never met even though you occasionally hear his name mentioned by mutual friends (Fernando Perez).
One of the things I love about CCR is that the contributor notes also include brief comments about their poem. Some of the poems that made me skip to those notes on the first read-through, for a closer glimpse:
Marc Vincenz - "Disappearance at Las Almedras"
She's white-washed white almost ceramic,
laid-out-for-dinner in that dandelion dress.
Jenna Le - "On Being Asian American"
this rubber duck
at a novelty store,
Rebecca Ellis - "Hazel's Poem"
(based on notes her grandmother kept on a desk calendar during the winter her grandfather died)
Henry asked for water
but wouldn't drink. Talked
Linda Dove - "Less Contained, Prayer"
All night she dreams their mouths pock
the surface as if it's raining inside the pond.
Tara Mae Mulroy - "Daughter"
After the funeral, she ground the buttons
of her mother's favorite cardigan into a dust
Cynthia Neely - "Units of Measurement"
waiting for affection. Waiting
for anything. Live with wolves, you learn
Fernando Perez - "Anatomy of a Feather (in memory of Jeremy Spohr)"
Darkness left behind tonight. The moon
behind. Lamp light like pebbles.
Kelli Russell Agodon also interviews Kathleen Flenniken about her plans as the new Poet Laureate of Washington State:
"Just because you don't like Country Western or Opera doesn't mean you don't like music - so why do we give up on poetry so easily? Your poet is out there somewhere."
Indeed. Just like "the truth" in The X-Files.