Playing catch-up again. This game is becoming all too familiar.
Thursday: I ran an errand for Poets House that routed me right past Ground Zero, and it’s still shocking for me to see. I’d like to think people here haven’t gotten used to it, either. I passed by the memorial and the little church where we did an impromptu a cappela performance when I visited NYC with choir in high school. It’s bizarre to think that I spend almost all my days within walking distance of places I visited with awe so long ago. Kate and I went to lunch at Whole Foods to commemorate her last day at Poets House (SO DAMN SAD). The weather was absolutely gorgeous. I think the temperature was somewhere in the mid sixties, and the sun was shining. I was wearing a skirt and snagged some gelato before leaving Whole Foods…talk about pretending it was summer. Kate claimed the weather was New York City’s way of saying “No, wait! Don’t leave, I’ll be nice!” Eventually we also were sent on a trek to find the food for the Poets House intern and volunteer party that was happening after work. We ordered some tacos at a Mexican restaurant and then wandered around a little bit until they were ready. We stumbled upon an adorable cupcake place called The Little Cupcake Bakeshop that had all these amazing and crazy flavors, like French toast, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and blue velvet. Kate ordered two dozen cupcakes for the crew as a parting gift. I think it was this stop that really made me start to think about red velvet cake and start to formulate the plan for my chapbook. I’ve also decided to throw my relatively clean eating habits to the wind when I get home and really pursue my suppressed love of baking.
But I digress. The cupcakes were a hit. We watched a short movie clip of Stanley Kunitz talking about Poets House and its history, which was incredible to see. I also loved hearing Lee Bricetti, the big cheese at Poets House, talk about Stanley, because she knew him well. She described the garden that he created at the end of his life as a “paradise he had made out of nothing.” I guess that’s also what he and Elizabeth Kray accomplished with Poets House. He explained why they’d decided to leave the possessive off of “Poets House,” saying that some things are meant to be shared, and never possessed. I love that. Leave it to a poet to actually think about what the tiniest element of punctuation actually means, and decide to use it in a different way. Being conscious of things like that is so important to a poet. Many of the interns read their work. I was especially blown away by Kate’s work (not that I didn’t know it would be amazing) and Katie Naom’s poetry. Katie is a fellow Michigander who studied poetry at Sarah Lawrence and then at The New School. She’s definitely one to look out for. I read my poem “The night I didn’t go to the psychiatric hospital,” which I wrote shortly before school began this year. If you pick up a copy of The Cauldron this year, you will be able to read it! I’m so shy about reading my own stuff. It’s really hard for me to take myself seriously because I’ve been raised to be so humble, I almost don’t know how to appear confident. It’s something I’m working on (one of my official program goals: work on my people skills. This seems to go along with that.)
Friday: It was so bizarre not having Kate at Poets House. I mostly looked for poems about rivers all day for a curriculum that Poets House is helping to create to teach kids about rivers and river conservation. Friday was the day the idea of centering my chapbook around red velvet cake really named itself in my mind. I’m so relieved to have thought of something, because inspiration really had not struck otherwise. Red velvet cake has become such an obsession of mine that now I can’t even imagine myself doing anything else. I have now been to four different bakeries and tried four different kinds of red velvet. So far the red velvet cake from Sugar Café has been my favorite. The cupcakes from Billy’s Bakery (which is really close to my house) are my favorite cupcakes…the cream cheese frosting is a perfect mix of creamy and fluffy. Like I said, throwing caution to the wind.
Saturday: After doing whatever I always seem to do to eat up a bunch of time on Saturday morning, I headed out to Poets House to do some writing for my chapbook. I swear, I almost died for that trip. The wind was bad in Chelsea, but down by the Hudson it is absolutely treacherous…not only was I in pain from the cold, I could barely walk straight because the wind was almost knocking me over. It ended up being worth it, though, because I got what I think is an incredible poem out of the day. I had found an article in Women’s Health entitled “Food: a Love/Hate Relationship.” That I knew would be perfect for found poetry and would fit in with the rest of my chapbook. It took around two hours to finish it, and I can’t even begin to convey how excited I am about it. When I was explaining it to Brittany later, I kept saying “the poem I did earlier” or “the poem I made earlier,” because it seems weird to me to say that I wrote it. That’s the best part about found poetry, the fact that it’s all right there, and all you have to do is find it. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop being astonished by it.
On a poem-high, I trekked back to the house to meet up with Brittany so we could go see Lydia’s dance show, The Joffrey School’s contemporary and jazz program’s “Winter White.” We got a little turned around, and ended up literally running into the auditorium right before they shut the doors. I’m so glad we made it, because the show was breathtaking. I liked it even more than the version of Swan Lake we saw last weekend. A lot of it was pure visual art—like a number where a girl was wearing a gigantic, flowy white skirt that dancers dressed in black (Lydia was one of them!) danced around her and did different things with the skirt to make it flow and wrap in interesting ways. It’s crazy to think that these people are all so young and they’re so talented. It got me thinking about horseback riding. To be honest, I think whenever I see someone doing something they’re passionate about lately it makes me think of horseback riding, and miss it.
After the show, Brittany and I went to Times Square to find a place to eat. We tried a few places but passed them up due to ridiculously long wait times. Eventually we landed on “Chevy’s,” a Mexican restaurant. We were seated right away and the food was delicious. I think we had originally planned on going dancing somewhere, but we were so caught up in conversation we both eventually accepted the fact that we didn’t want to budge from our seats. The restaurant was packing up to close by the time we left in the wee hours of the morning. The Coldstone a couple doors down was still open, and we ducked in there to get some ice cream (we couldn’t resist, despite the frigid outdoor temp). Now THAT was an experience. Club music was blaring as we started digging into our ice cream. Brittany observed that we could officially say that we went “out,” because that Coldstone was basically a club. I don’t disagree—some guy tried to dance on me. It was a bizarre experience. Welcome to New York City.
Sunday: I went to the gym in the morning to run four miles for my half marathon training. I’d never run over three miles before, so I was kind of nervous about taking that step. Much to my surprise, I finished the four miles strong in only forty-five minutes! Not bad for someone who’s never run that far before. I can’t begin to convey the feeling that gave me…I can’t imagine how it’ll feel to finish 13.1 miles! …and that’s exactly why I’m doing it—for that feeling. And to prove to myself and to everyone around me that I can conquer anything.
Sunday night, I met up with Victoria (from Poets House) to head out to Hoboken, New Jersey for a concert. At the intern party on Thursday, she had been telling me about this concert she was going to, and how she had an extra ticket. I asked her who it was, and when she said it was the lead singer of Say Anything doing a solo tour with an acoustic guitar I was disproportionately excited—I just started listening to Say Anything before leaving for New York, and their music has become a sort of soundtrack for my time here. When she invited me to come along, there was no way I was going to pass it up. I never knew it’s so easy to get from New York City to New Jersey, but the PATH train took us to Hoboken in around fifteen minutes. We had dinner at the bar and chatted until show time, then headed in to the adjoining room that housed the concert venue. It was small, and standing room only—anywhere we were, we’d be close to Max Bemis.
Of the few concerts I’ve been to, this one definitely took the cake. That’s probably because I knew all the words to almost every song, and emphatically sang along with them. Max Bemis is fantastic live, too. My favorite Say Anything songs tend to be the acoustic ones, so it was the perfect situation for me to see the lead singer with an acoustic guitar. Downside of the night: my coat got stolen. I will not elaborate, other than saying the bar is going to reimburse me. Therefore, nothing that deserves dwelling of any kind. DEFINITELY nothing that could’ve ruined my amazing night! I can’t exactly pinpoint what it is I love about Say Anything—maybe it’s the lyrics, which are painfully honest and somehow can be quite bizarre at the same time, maybe it’s the gigantic variety in their songs, maybe it’s Max Bemis’ energy. They just have it for me, like bands tend to have for different people. Like writers have for different people, too. I would compare Say Anything to Gerald Stern, if I had to relate them to someone in the current poetry world. Energy, momentum, honesty, a touch of strange, and a lot of impact.
Monday: I slept. A lot. I did so much sleeping. I probably did other things, too. But mostly sleeping. Oh, and I went to GAP for maybe five minutes.
Tuesday (today…though the blog will say it’s Wednesday, because clocks pretend that it’s the next day when it’s past midnight): Freezing this morning. I have another coat, it’s just not quite as warm as my other one. I spent most of today looking up contact information for area elementary schools and middle schools that might want to make a trip down to the children’s room at Poets House. There are people on top of people in New York City, so there are schools seemingly on top of schools. I think the importance of the children’s room at Poets House can be a little underestimated. Or, at least, I know I might have underestimated it at first. Seeing all those schools and realizing how many kids Poets House can affect really struck a chord with me. I know I owe my love of poetry to an elementary school that required the weekly memorization of a poem and a mom who instilled me with a love of reading. That’s where it all begins—and I’m helping Poets House get them there!
I also conquered a mountain of laundry today. I should get a medal.