Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Edgar Allan Poe Room at NYU

When I was a weirdo kid, I was pretty into Edgar Allan Poem. I haven't read much of his work in a long time, but since he was one of the first "adult" poets I read, I have a soft spot for him. So, when I found out that NYU had turned one of his homes into a study room at the law school dedicated to him, I had to check it out on my lunch break.



Edgar Allan Poe lived at 85 West 3rd Street from 1844 to 1846, when he moved up to the Bronx. (I'm definitely planning to check out that cottage, probably this fall!) At that residence, he wrote "The Cask of Amontillado" and revised "The Raven."

Unfortunately, NYU tore down the building, and rebuilt the facade about half a block away, with the original bricks and some minor interior elements kept intact, as part of the creation of their law school. The room, which is open to the public on Thursdays between 9am and 11am, includes the window frames, a selection of bricks, a curved part of the staircase bannister, and a laylight from the original house.



It also features a timeline, reproduction of the raven, and a case with a bit of Edgar Allan Poe memorabilia, as well as some bottles and pottery from a tavern that was located near the house. The bottles were discovered during the excavation for the new building.




Although it's disappointing that they couldn't retain more of the original, I know that history must move forward, and I do appreciate that they've created a small tribute to the house and the author in the study lounge that is now there. They still host events there a few times a year, which hopefully I'll be able to check out the next time they have one!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Writer Wednesday - Michael Dunbar

Michael Dunbar is a graduating senior at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. He has been writing and performing music for nearly a decade. Right now, he's on a road trip across the US with his bandmate, Collin Garcia, where they are engaging in musical dialogue with historic epicenters of American music, including Chicago, Memphis, and New Orleans. After reading this interview, you can read more about their trip and see some great images on Michael's website, Suitcase and Guitar.


Who are you? I'm a singer/songwriter. I have been playing music for nearly a decade, now, and I'm blessed to have music be a part of my daily life. I'm a bit of an introvert, but my favorite songs are about human experience. I think that's what inspired me to head out on this cross-country road trip. It's about the journey and the people on it as much as it is about the destination.

Where can you be found online? Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work? If so, how would you describe it to a stranger you've just met while on vacation? The primary outlet for my writing is suitcaseandguitar.com. There is a Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter by the same name that mirrors the blog. The blog documents my travel partner's and my experience on the road. It includes photos, videos, and nightly blog entries.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen? I've always loved to write. Even as a kid I worked on several novels. In college, I tried my hand at academic writing by penning a thesis about a piece of classical music. Still, my favorite kind of writing is the kind I get to do on suitcaseandguitar.com. It's observational as well as personal and reflective. I especially love traveling (although I'm terrified of airplanes), so a road trip was the perfect writing project for me as I graduate college.

Why do you write? I write to feel connected with other people. Writing allows a writer the luxury of time: time to articulate thoughts and measure words. I write songs, poems, and prose, and all of them work the same way, for me.

Your writing inspires me. Who inspires you? Lately I've been reading The Land Where the Blues Began by Alan Lomax. He journeyed deep into the Mississippi Delta in the '40s in order to interview and record blues musicians. I am inspired by both his easy yet sophisticated writing style as well as the pioneering work he did.

In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? Thanks to the incredible generosity of the Holy Cross Summer Research Program, I've been given that "all-expenses paid trip" around the country. Granted, it's not quite "all-expenses". I'm chipping in quite a bit of my own money, but the grant has made the trip possible. Someday, I hope to travel overseas, but it's important to me to see my own country, first.

What is your favorite place on earth? I love the place I was born. New Hampshire is where I come from, and New Hampshire is where I'll come back to. My roots are there, and I take a little of New Hampshire with me wherever I go.

Anything else you'd like us to know? Look for new original music throughout the project, as well as the final musical product at the end of July! We're especially excited to be recording at the grave-site of blues legend Robert Johnson on June 9 with New England Music Awards Producer of the Year Brian Coombes!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Yearly Goals Check In

Way back in January, I set myself a few New Year's resolutions, and since we're exactly halfway through the year, I thought I should check in on them. The goals were: read 45 books, send out 52 submissions, become better with money, get back into some healthy habits, and visit historic house museums. Here's how it's going, six months in.


Read 45 Books:
So far, I've read 13 books in 2015, which Goodreads tells me is 9 books behind where I should be. This hasn't been a banner year for reading, especially considering that two of the books on my list are comic books and two are art books, but I've found myself pretty taken in by nonfiction lately, so that's been an interesting shift. We'll see if I can manage to catch up before December. If not, it's okay, guys. It's okay.

Send Out 52 Submissions:
Okay, so I'm almost on track with this one, since I've sent out 19 submissions (I should be on 26 by now). But, I also sent out all 19 of those on one evening in January and haven't sent out any others. So, anyone want to have a poetry date soon? So much for weekly goals.

Be Better with Money:
This one has actually been a small success for me. I haven't done too much paid freelance work, but I am hoping to improve on that soon. I did write one paid article, and I've sold a few things on eBay, so it's not all lost, but I can definitely work better for a side hustle. However, I did manage to get a job with a 40% pay increase, and for the past two months, I've been on a cash budget, which has really helped to reign in my spending. I consolidated my retirement accounts, and opened a high-interest online bank account to save for an emergency fund and for travel. So far, so good!

Healthy Habits:
I did rejoin Weight Watchers after the marathon, although I haven't been great about losing weight, after an initial 5 pound weight loss. I'm planning to try it for the rest of the summer, and if I'm not down at least a bit more by September, I'll probably stop. Unfortunately, as part of being better about money, I quit my gym, so I'm slowing figuring out how to work out on my own. Fortunately, I've been much better about eating out, and I started walking to and from the express train, which helps in that arena. Together, R. and I have both been much better about cooking dinners, even though our dinner share ended when I took the new job. It's definitely a work in progress, but I'm getting there! As for writing every morning, it just hasn't happened yet. We'll see, guys.

Visit All the NYC Historic House Trust Houses:
I can pretty much guarantee I am going to fail at this before the year is out, but I've had such a blast checking out the houses I've visited so far! I've got recaps on the Wyckoff Farm House and the Morris-Jumel Mansion up already, and I hope to post about the Old Stone House and the Poe Room (not a Historic House Trust house) soon!

Did you make any New Year's resolutions? If so, how are they going?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Take Your Base 5K 2015

This weekend was busy, but tons of fun! On Friday, I pinch-hit for an LNL interview, and got to meet two really interesting poets whose work I've admired for a long time now. One of the best parts of working for them is having the chance to meet so many great writers!

On Saturday, I woke up early and headed down to Coney Island, where Danielle, Nora, and I ran the Take Your Base 5K. We ran it last year, too, and I think that—like the Freihofer's Run for Women and the Putnam County Classic—it's becoming a race I want to run year in and year out. Traditions are pretty important to me, and I like having a routine, and so I'm excited to have a few races that I like to run every year. This one is probably the most fun of any of the races I run, so I was really excited to get out there, and it was a blast!





Even though the day was grey, I would have liked to spend a little time on the beach, but alas, after a great finish on homeplate and a Nathan's hot dog, I had to be on my way. That afternoon, R. and I were heading to our friends Caitlin and Tej's wedding celebration!

The couple got married a few weeks ago at city hall, so they had a small, self-catered reception at their house. It was a blast, and they made some of the most delicious food I've had in a long time, including grilled paneer and papri chaat! It was tons of fun to catch up with everyone over such a happy occasion.




The happy couple!

After the party, it was even more food and friends! We headed to a friend's apartment for an incredible dinner of feta and watermelon salad and duck cassoulet. The cassoulet was so rich and delicious that I wanted to eat it forever. We brought over a salty honey pie, so it was quite the evening of rich food. But even better than the food was the conversation, which went until 1am. It was great to catch up with them, and really closed out a lovely day in the perfect way.


On Sunday, we decided to take it a little easy after such a busy day. We tried to go to the Morbid Anatomy Museum's flea market, but the line was literally around the block, so we just made a nice long walk to Target for a few things, and then headed home to catch up on some reading and work.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Writer Wednesday - Jasmine Dreame Wagner

Jasmine Dreame Wagner is the author of three collections of poems: Rings (Kelsey Street Press, 2014), Rewilding (Ahsahta Press, 2013), Listening for Earthquakes (Caketrain, 2012), and an e-chapbook, True Crime (NAP, 2014). Her newest chapbook, Seven Sunsets, launches on Monday, and she's playing a show at the Palisades in Brooklyn to celebrate. If you're around, you should definitely stop by!


Who are you? My name's Jasmine Dreame Wagner and I'm a poet, artist, and musician. I'm the author of Rings (Kelsey Street Press), Rewilding (Ahsahta Press), Listening for Earthquakes (Caketrain), True Crime (NAP), and two forthcoming chapbooks: Ask (Slope Editions) and Seven Sunsets (The Lettered Streets Press). My collection of lyric essays on silence, noise, and violence will be published by Ahsahta Press next year. I'm also a songwriter and a musician—I'm currently at work on my first studio record for voice, chamber orchestra, and jazz quintet.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen? I've been chronicling my life online for as long as I can remember, first on a personal website I built for school and on Livejournal, then on each of the social media sites as they rose and collapsed (Friendster, MySpace, etc.).

What I refer to these days as my "blog" is my Tumblr, though for a while I was using Twitter like a blog, too. I would tweet jokes along with book/music promotions and the minutiae of the mundane details of my life but I always approached tweeting like writing a poem with formal constraints. When I started, I was inspired by Weird Twitter—the Twitter underworld where pranksters (who I imagined as graveyard-shift pharmacists and gothic teenage girls) masked by avatars would tweet puns mixed with non sequiturs, political rants, and emotional appeals—but I never went full-anonymous myself.

If I had to describe the trappings of my online persona, I'd say, it's a mix of red-lipstick selfies, photos of the city, the woods, and abandoned things, updates about shows I'm playing or readings I'm giving, and deeper commentary about life and art. For example, I blogged about hiking up to the bat hibernacula at the Roxbury Mines and responded to Cynthia's Ozick's rant about young people and ambition in The New York Times. My poems are personal, political, and saturated with images, just like my blog.

It was around the time that HTMLGiant and other folks on the literary internet started to rave about "The New Sincerity" that I came to a critical realization about my poems and my online habits: In my "literary writing," aka, my poems that became my book, Rings, I was using (and abusing) formal verse to examine post-industrial decay. I felt an insane pressure (from who? my professors?) to keep the personal out of my work. Architecture was a worthy subject; my bangs and woes were not. So instead of writing poems about my personal life, I would blog and tweet about it. But technology requires form—it also creates new forms as it evolves. Literally: You've got 140 characters, fill in the box. That's formal verse. Why was I confessing in formal verse in one place (online) but not in another (my poems)?

The poems in my forthcoming chapbook, Ask, were created by cutting and pasting directly from my tweets, conversations, and from anonymous questions received on Tumblr and Ask.fm. The poems also engage with other internet forms, for example, OkCupid profile fields and the way that Tumblr text cascades as posts are blogged and reblogged. Ask is a collection of poems. It's also an archive and an autobiography of a brief period of time where I was a sad adjunct, blogging about Lana Del Rey and New York City's changing landscape, a time when I spent a lot of time talking to people online.

Why do you write? I write to connect. I write to remember, to understand. Through writing, I've learned that I don't really understand a thing until I can write it down clearly. I also write to preserve. Over the course of my short lifespan, I've seen landscapes and populations completely transformed and I feel an overwhelming desire to fix what I saw.

Photo credit: Jonathan Schwarz

Your writing inspires me. Who inspires you? Oh, there are many writers, artists, and musicians who inspire me. I'm awed by women who create large bodies of work in multiple fields, especially Laurie Anderson, Patti Smith, and Yoko Ono. Books that inspire me: Joan Didion's White Album. Chris Kraus's I Love Dick. Anne Carson's Glass, Irony, and God, Men in the Off Hours, Decreation, Nox. Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space. My editors at Ahsahta Press, Caketrain, and The Lettered Streets Press inspire me by creating and supporting great works of literature that are also beautiful aesthetic objects. My friends and collaborators inspire me most of all: Sondra Sun-Odeon, Charlie Rauh, Mia Theodoratus, Dana Maiden, Mira Lew, Jonathan Schwarz, Matt Sargent, Meghan Maguire Dahn. I recently saw a great show at Postmasters Gallery with my friend Hannah Berthelot—Eddo Stern's Vietnam Romance video game installation and Ada Karczmarczyk's Way to Conversion videos—and I immediately ran home, inspired to make things. I become inspired by moving my body through space, by taking long walks through the city or the woods, by practicing movement like yoga and piano.

In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? To the moon! But that's probably pretty expensive, right? If the moon isn't in the budget, then Antarctica. I love cold climates. I have to admit that I have a very romantic idea of what it would be like to approach Antarctica's looming ice wall from the prow of ship, a white cashmere scarf wrapped around my face, the tassels blowing the in wind. I would be wearing sunglasses and white Gore-Tex ski gloves! The ice would glow blue and white above the choppy waves! Penguins! I can hear the orchestral arrangement booming in the background. Arriving there would probably be totally different, but a girl can dream. 

Photo credit: Jonathan Schwarz

What is your favorite place on earth? I'm an East Coast girl—I grew up between Connecticut and New York—so my favorite place would be either the city or the woods. In New York, I always know where I stand. Figuratively, because people are straight with you in the city (you know who cares about you because they act like it and you know who doesn't care because they don't have time to pretend), but also literally. In New York, my internal compass knows due North. One can get lost in the woods—a frightening feeling, but one that can also be freeing. The air smells good around a bog and the chirping of tree frogs and cicadas, underscored by the low drone of bullfrogs and outlet brooks is one of the most soothing soundscapes in the world. The summer air in Northwestern Connecticut smells like orchids and fresh hay. There is an intense green canopy of trees that tents over the winding backroads like you're driving through a tunnel of jade. In the woods, there is an intense sensory experience that's completely different from the colliding architectures and smells of the city, where so many cultures, styles, and ideologies have accreted, bricked and piled atop each other, backlit by the blues and reds and oranges and pinks of a Hudson river sunset.

Photo credit: Jason Alexander

Anything else you'd like us to know? On Monday, June 29th I'll be performing at Palisades in Bushwick, Brooklyn, accompanied by Charlie Rauh on guitar and Mia Theodoratus on harp. Also performing will be Metal Mountains (Helen Rush, Pat Gubler, and Samara Lubelski) and sun riah, on tour from Oklahoma. I'll be celebrating the release of my new chapbook, Seven Sunsets, newly out from The Lettered Streets Press. Join us!