The Storm Before the Storm, and the Actual Storm: Everyday Magic, Day 819

IMG_5891 2Driving home from teaching Curvy Yoga tonight, I was delighted by the flashes to the north and south. A parade of storms was circling its wagons. Because I love a good storm (good thing too, considering I live in Kansas), I drove foot loose and carefree, despite Wagner’s dramatic “Tannhauser” blaring dramatic build-up on the radio. Barely to the southern edge of Lawrence, Ken called: a blinding rain was here, and I would be driving right into it. I told him it was dry where I was but he assured me that the road to our house, just three miles away, was barely visible for him a moment ago.

There’s nothing like listening to Wagner while lightning illuminates a vast, dark grey monster you’re driving right into at highway speeds. I was surprised at how quickly (in a flash, so to speak) my happy storm anticipation turned into wheel-gripping apprehension. By the time I turned onto our road, I realized I was in a lucky pocket, arriving between waves, skirting the fingers of intense downpour.

Now, some hours later, I’m writing in the dark while big wind pours across the land, the rain sheets down, and rapid-fire lightning powers from all sides. The weather radio makes it buzzing sound to say something is upon us. The dog in the back room, the one with few windows and my sleeping son, claws anxiously at the door. The cats rumble across the living room floor, attacking each other and then forgetting their attack in the hunt for another hair tie to kill.

Usually, Ken is out of bed, checking radar for any hook-shaped blotches threatening tornado or hail, but this time it’s me, occasionally pausing to run to the porch and feel the wind, watch the soft gray edges of the traveling clouds, and listen to tens of thousands of raindrops make ground fall. The storm of the storm, unlike the storm before the storm, is the real thing. As I wrote in one poem in Stephen Locke’s and my book, Chasing Weather, you’ve got to respect that.

Respect the Storm of the Storm

Watch like your life depends on it.

The first wave pushes the blackbirds

over the seam of the darkening west.

Uplifting wind multiplies and divides the world.

Flags tatter themselves in its speed. Then sirens.

From the overhang of your porch, wait

for the imprint of lightning to open your eyes.

Surrender to the wide yawning of thunder, the tendrils

trailing the supercell, and the one sweet songbird

at once unaware and aware. Follow

the storm of the storm, not the storm you expect.

When the rotation makes landfall, go inside swiftly.

Rush the stairs to the basement, grabbing the small cat

and photo albums on the way. Call the neighbors

from the crawl space. Press the anxious dog to your chest.

Turn up the weather radio and let the tone of danger

vibrate through your beating heart.

Obey the hunter you once were thousands of years ago.

Sending the Book to the Publisher for Design: Everyday Magic, Day 446

I just hit the “send” button on the email to my publisher, releasing into the wilds between my novel after 16 years of writing and revising every speck and inch of this story. The Divorce Girl, the novel I’ve been writing in my head since I was about 15, is coming out this summer, thanks to Ice Cube Books.

It’s an astonishing and simple thing to give the work of a good part of a lifetime over to its ending as one kind of work and beginning as its own thing. The manuscript is finished being in-process at this moment and since I’ve lived over 36 years with it in-process in one way or another, I’m feeling a little sad, a lot happy, and eerily calm. Writing this book has been a life practice, a way of transforming the dysfunctions of my wacky childhood into material I could learn from, a meditation on where I came from, a love story about New Jersey and the girl I was (fictionalized into someone far taller and brighter than I was). Now the practice is on its way to becoming a thing, a vessel that will carry words and stories, images and rhythms, from the interior to the exterior.

This is not to say that a book is a stagnant thing. Having done readings far and near for some years, I love how, in the reading of a book, the story gains new dimensions, and I learn other things it has to say to me between its layers of words. But a published book is outrageously different than a book in process, kind of like going from land to sea, or earth to cosmos, or simply my little mind to readers’ minds.

So in sending the manuscript along, I’m letting that manuscript go, knowing it will return to me in another form, and also knowing that this particular chapter of my own story is finished, and I’m onto an empty and bright new page.

How Many Poets Laureate Does It Take To Screw In A Lightbulb?: Everyday Magic, Day 229

We’ll find out very soon because starting this weekend, the poets are coming: 20 poets laureate from Alabama to Alaska, and South Carolina to Colorado. As anyone who knows me surely knows by now, for better or worse, I’m the main organizer of Poet Laureati: A National Convergence of Poets Laureate, happening in my hometown of Lawrence, KS. Sun-Mon., March 13-14. For about a year, I’ve been churning out emails, fielding calls, building webpages and badgering all of my facebook friends about this event, all in an effort to make something out of nothing.

Ted Kooser, who is donating his time to read at our event. Thanks, Ted!

By nothing, I simply mean “no money,” and by something, I mean an event that has some kind of meaning for those of us reading, speaking, listening or hanging out within the swirl of readings, workshops, receptions and visits. We tried to find funding, but everywhere we looked, the cupboards were bare. So what was to be had to spun out of air, and spun out of air it was. Thanks to lots of local sponsors who donated making and distributing posters, featuring us on their websites, airing us on the radio (Thanks, K

PR!), sending us information to their members and customers, we succeeded thus far financially — meaning we raised enough $ to give the poets laureate coming at least a very small stipend to cover part of their travel expenses — and it looks like we’ll succeed when it comes to imagination, inspiration and invention.

Karla Morton, one of the state poets laureate coming. Guess what state.

We also ended up editing and having published (Thanks, Ice Cube Books!), an anthology — An Endless Skyway: Poetry from the State Poets Laureate of America, which will be launched at this event.

Now that it’s all upon me, it’s hard to believe that about a year ago, some of us Midwest poets laureate sat at a table at Tellers, conjuring up an event and a book, but also reminding ourselves that it might be too much to do both or either. Yet here it is: poetry on the hoof and wing, aiming itself toward Lawrence, and ready to land soon.