I finally got around to SAMOVAR AND ZEEMAHOOLAH this past week. Just a beginning. I found my notes for the book, which, according to the notes, I’ve been keeping since sometime in the 1980s. Well, now that I really think about it, I’d say the story began in about 1975, on a trip we took to see friends in Poughkeepsie, New York. It was on that trip, whenever it was, that my now dead son, Gene, invented the name Zeemahoolah; I remember that clearly. I can’t be specific about anything else about when I began this project but I do remember that.

There is a moral, an admonition, in this story. Date your notes! If I had put dates on the notes I’ve taken over the more than 30 years for this story, I’d know exactly when I did what. Why is it so difficult to remember to date notes?

But I did find the file folder full of notes for SAMOVAR AND ZEEMAHOOLAH and it was full of things I had forgotten. So now it’s off to work on this story that I’ve been toying with in my imagination for apparently more than 30 years.

As I mentioned last Monday, I actually did send BROKEN WING to my agent on Monday. I expect it’ll be at least a month until I hear anything and then I think the news will not be good.

Otherwise, it was a hectic week of running to and fro, a private reading from HAPPY LIFE for a men’s reading group, and an appearance on a local radio station, WDEV, to plug HAPPY LIFE, and on Thursday, March 1st, I had a poem on The Writer’s Almanac again.

I am sincerely hoping that this week yields some real work on SAMOVAR AND ZEEMAHOOLAH.
More next week.

Sincerely, David Budbill

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Another blown week. I still haven’t started on SAMOVAR AND ZEEMAHOOLA. It’s so easy to get nothing done–especially for writers. Writers are famous for avoiding their work. When Hayden Carruth was alive, and my friend and neighbor, we used to write letters to each other every day. We only lived 20 miles apart and we often talked on the phone, but neither of those are real ways to avoid your work. The evidence of our obsessive avoidance is now in special collections at Bailey Howe Library at the University of Vermont in Burlington. Hemingway sharpened pencils, dozens of pencils, every morning, as a way to avoid his work. Everybody’s got a way.

You can also get a haircut, buy a new chain for your chainsaw, buy dog food, have tea, go to the coop, get gas, go to the bank and hardware, have more tea–all of which I did in the first three days of last week.

On Thursday my wife, Lois, a painter, and I traveled three and a half hours south of here to SUNY Adirondack for the opening of her show, IMPROVISED!, at the art gallery there. Thursday evening, the evening of Lois’ opening, I gave a reading from HAPPY LIFE in the gallery surrounded by Lois’ paintings. Although Lois and I have both been doing what we do for more than 40 years, this is the very first time we’ve ever done a gig together. We’ve always made a point of trying to keep our lives separate from and independent of each other. We’ve been so successful at it that often people exclaim, “I didn’t know you two were married!”

For a little introduction to Lois’ work go to: http://vermontartguide.com/exhibitions/?p=1348. To see a very interesting video of Lois at work and talking about her work, with music by William Parker and Hamid Drake, go to: http://www.loiseby.com/RETN_Video_Interview.html Scroll down, then click on the arrow on THE ARTIST.

There is also a blog put up by John Greenwood about the reading itself at: http://rainingiguanas.blogspot.com/2012/02/artist-evening.html

I’m going to deliver BROKEN WING to my agent today, and I’ll do it electronically; it’s the modern world.

On Thursday, March 1st, Garrison Keillor will read another one of my poems on The Writer’s Almanac. This time it’s “March” from JUDEVINE. If you can’t tune in and you want to read the poem, email me and I’ll send it to you.

More next week.

Sincerely, David Budbill

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Well, I’ve actually taken a week off, sort of. I’ve written letters, read, commented on and blurbed a long manuscript of poems, given a reading at a nearby college, talked with an MFA candidate about her thesis on “place”, hired a new webmaster and started remodeling my website, and so forth. Some week off.

I’ve also gone over the text for PARK SONGS: A Poem/Play a number of times and signed off on it. It’s off to the designer. It’s due out in September, on the first anniversary of the Occupy Movement.

PARK SONGS will appear in a very small format, 4 inches by 6.5 inches. It’s meant to fit easily in your pocket.

I have a hardcover book of my very first favorite poet’s poems that’s that size. The book is POEMS by William Cullen Bryant, © 1895, and yes, it is falling apart.

PARK SONGS is totally different from my last three books. Filled with the forgotten, neglected and abused people who are all around us all the time, it’s kind of an urban JUDEVINE. However in this new book there is no narrator, no David, only the characters themselves speak about themselves and to each other.

Here’s the catalogue copy for PARK SONGS: A Poem/Play:

A “tale of the tribe” (Ezra Pound’s phrase for his own longer work), PARK SONGS: A Poem/Play is set during a single day in a down-and-out, mid-western city park where people from all walks of life gather. In this small green space amidst a great gray city, the park provides a refuge for its caretaker (and resident poet), street preachers, retirees, moms, hustlers, and teenagers. Interspersed with blues songs, the community speaks through poetic monologues and conversations, while the homeless provide the introductory chorus—and all of their voices become one great epic tale of comedy and tragedy.
Full of unexpected humor, hard-won wisdom, righteous (but sometimes misplaced) anger, and sly tenderness, their stories show us how people learn to live with mistakes and make connections in an antisocial world. As PARK SONGS: A Poem/Play engages us in their pain and joy—and the goofy delight of being human–it makes a quietly soulful statement about acceptance and community in our lives.

The book will also have photographs by R. C. Irwin, whose absurdist and nostalgic work provides the set design for PARK SONGS. R.C. Irwin teaches at San Francisco City College.

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I thought sure I’d complete the rewrite of BROKEN WING this week, and be ready to send it off and turn to my next project. As I keep saying, the best laid plans of mice and men . . . . I guess I can take comfort in knowing that I’m just about done. I’m reading through it for the last or next to last time and will surely be done with it and on to SAMOVAR AND ZEEMAHOOLAH sometime this week.

I have no hope for BROKEN WING. I think, also as I said earlier, this is a story that will be in a file somewhere when my daughter, Nadine, inherits my work. But every writer has to have a few of those manuscripts somewhere.

This week Tod Davies, publisher of Exterminating Angel Press, and I settled on the cover for my new book of poems, PARK SONGS, which will be out in September. More about that soon.

I wasn’t able to work last night since I had to watch at least part of the Super Bowl and, of course, all of DOWNTON ABBEY.

Speaking of the Super Bowl. The pre-show lasted for 5–yes, that’s five–hours. Why? The longer the pre-show the more commercials you can get in. This is serious Capitalism, folks.

But more importantly, every Sunday evening at 9:00 I’m at me telly to watch the latest installment of DOWNTON ABBEY. As I’ve said earlier, I love serials, which is an upper middle class way to saying I love soap operas. I’m incredulous that I like this show so much. The shocking thing for me–this working class guy from the streets of Cleveland who has always fought for the underdog–is how in love I am with so many of the aristocracy, and with the downstairs people too, of course. I’m getting more and more involved with the incredibly beautiful Lady Sybil Crawley (Jessica Brown Findley) and Tom Branson (Allen Leech) the chauffeur and Irish revolutionary. They seem to me to embody the entire DOWNTON ABBEY story since it’s all a story about class conflict anyway. There is an amazingly touching scene in Season 2, Part 2 when Sybil is out at the garage talking with Tom and he says something disparaging about her family and she tells him in no uncertain terms how much she loves her family. It’s wonderful because she obviously loves them, yet she loves Tom too, but how can she have both! Argh!

More next week.

Sincerely yours, David Budbill

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It was another week of sloughing through my rewrite of BROKEN WING. This has become a major rewrite, in fact, I’ve never rewritten a piece of prose this much or this substantially. Poetry, yes, over and over, again and again, but not this much with a piece of prose. But! I’m going to finish the rewrite this week. What I thought would take a week, is going to take six weeks.

Hampshire College and I this past week locked down the date for their production of a staged reading of excerpts from THINGY WORLD! or HOW WE GOT TO WHERE WE ARE, a play I was commissioned to write in 1989 by then Vermont Secretary of Natural Resources, Jonathan Lash, who this past summer became President of Hampshire College. The date is March 13th. If you’re in the Amherst, MA, area, come by. The reading is free and begins at 7:30 p.m.

Through archly satirical send-ups of Television Network News, advertising and a Game Show, THINGY WORLD! or HOW WE GOT TO WHERE WE ARE exposes America’s self-centered, all consuming materialistic way of life and how it has created a culture of waste and destruction which in turn has helped create climate change and global warming. The play also exposes the ways in which racism and the inequitable distribution of wealth are integral parts of “the environmental crisis.”

The play takes place in 1991–immediately after our great victory in Iropistan–on a TV Newsroom set with Tina Newsworthy and all the O.W.O.W. TV News Fantasy 90 reporters and staff, including weatherman–Barometer Bob, Periodicals Reporter–Luigi Magazini, and Fine Arts and High Culture Reporter–Nigel Fitchingfield. They give us the news, special reports from The All American Toy Fair, two exclusive interviews with The President as he discusses the great victory in Iropistan and what it means for the Free Market Economy, an exclusive interview with Mimi Mebaby, Editor-in-Chief of Self Now magazine and so on. The play then moves to the set of THINGY WORLD, everybody’s favorite Game Show–where “you get what you want if you want it bad enough and where we always say ‘The one with the most toys at the end, wins!'”–and starring game show host, Stan “The Man” Fanofferly–with Lily White, Big Guy, Martha Greed and The THINGY WORLD! singers and dancers. The play then returns to OWOW-TV for The Noontime News: What’s New in the News Behind the News at Noon. There are numerous commercials, of course, for, for example, the Elegante Magnifico–“a Luxmobile for you”–McKing Burger, Coaxie, the Operation Iropistan Commemorative Knife and Rifle Barrel, etc. plus a public service announcement.

Finally, I hate to say it, but HAPPY LIFE fell off the poetry.org best-seller list this week. I guess 25 weeks in a row isn’t too bad, especially for somebody who almost never goes out to hustle the book. And–who knows?–maybe I’ll climb back on sometime in the future.

Until next week, I remain,
Sincerely yours, David Budbill

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