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My love affair with coffee shops: Episode 23

My husband and I spend Saturdays in coffee shops. We’ve done this since we met in grad school in northern Virginia, where there are lots of independent coffee shops with award-winning (literally) baristas, the likes of which set Louis CK adrift in the mire of profanity. Murky Coffee in Arlington was just an easy place for us to date, to talk about our writing, to make fun of strangers, to read really pretentious books. Plus, we were poor and couldn’t afford dinner out. (Too bad it closed after the owner was sued for tax evasion. At least, that’s what we heard.)

Nowadays, it’s the one time every week I set aside to slog through the ugly side of poetry. First, I wring out ideas/lines/images (read: mostly junk) from my brain–I literally dump them in list form into a word document and name it “poem ideas” with a number. When that list gets too long, I start a new word document, and by now I have like forty of these. Then I catalogue this week’s rejections in duotrope and also in yet another word document, cause I started keeping track this way before duotrope existed and can’t quite kick it, even though rationally I understand it just doubles my work.

Then I avoid poems for a while. I check facebook, read friends’ blogs, look up recipes, and panic when I realize the coffee shop closes in an hour. I end with an incredibly focused round of submitting–it’s not pretty. It’s more like mopping up the blood of the person you just stabbed, as the sound of police sirens gets closer and closer.

On rare days, I write a (really bad) draft of a (really cliché) poem. Most days, I leave feeling pretty uplifted by (1) the piddly amount I got done, (2) the delicious-even-though-gluten-free cookie I ate, (3) and the beautifully firm yet airy foam of my decaf latte.

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Reading at River Poets

This Thursday, I’m pleased to be participating in my first River Poets reading. The River Poets are based in Bloomsburg, PA, and host featured readers, open mics, and other really awesome events, like last week’s Dead Poets Night. 

I’m always heartened to find organizations dedicated to promoting and supporting the arts and other creative efforts. And Mary Lou and Marlin of River Poets are two people I keep bumping into at readings, art shows, and poet-friendly coffee shops all over PA. Thanks so much to both of them for inviting me to share my poetry.


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