August 26, 2009

A windy toon o' cloods an' sunny glints

I got back to Amsterdam last week from Edinburgh, where I used to live. If Megan reckons the weather is bad in Amsterdam (see post below) she should think back to her time in Scotland and realise that things can be much worse, although I will concede that no light is as gorgeous as Scottish light. And it was worth stomping through the rain to see friends and sample some festival events. In the wind-blustered tents of the Edinburgh International Book Festival in Charlotte Square, I watched Tom Pow read from his book of new and selected poems In the Becoming, which I had the privilege of editing earlier this year. It was wonderful, having worked on the book by email, to hear Tom reading the poems aloud, bringing to them new resonances: they've somehow settled differently in my head now. Alan Spence, the "Glasgow Zen" poet, also read at that event and reminded me just how much I respect the haiku and tanka forms. A couple of days later I went to the launch of poet Sam Meekings' fantastic debut novel Under Fishbone Clouds and caught up with Jane McKie, whose second collection, When the Sun Turns Green was published earlier this year. Sadly, however, I just missed the second Westport Book Festival, a free, fringey counterpart to the EIBF run by lovely people. I am determined to attend it next year.

I took some copies of Versal 7 with me and am delighted that Edinburgh now has three retail stockists of Versal, as well as being in the Scottish Poetry Library. Edinburghers can now buy copies of Versal 7 in the fine establishments of Fruitmarket Gallery, Word Power and Analogue.

August 19, 2009

Poets with healthcare

A few years ago when I came Stateside, my father asked me to join him on his weekly indy radio show to talk about the Dutch healthcare system. My father is Tony Garr, a major advocate in Tennessee for healthcare reform. He's one of those advocates who spends his days talking to folks who've lost their care or can't get it, and his nights flying to Washington to talk to politicians about how things could change. He's been doing this work since before I was born. He's also nearing retirement age. These days must feel to him like the last best chance he has to help realize a fair and affordable system for all.

Mark Wallace, a poet I recently met when he and K. Lorraine Graham came though Amsterdam, just blogged French system anecdotes from Paris-based poet Joe Ross. Reading these, and comparing them to my own Dutch experiences (which have also been positive), I began thinking about how many of us Americans out "here" must feel exiled from our homeland in many ways, though of course the state of exile itself is by no means our situation:

1. Love exiles - My friend Martha McDevitt-Pugh began an organization several years ago called Love Exiles, calling attention to the unequal marriage rights in the USA (and elsewhere) for (transnational) queer couples.

2. The Bush years - I left America in September 2000 and watched the country seemingly fall apart from my (safe?) vantage point in Glasgow, first, then Amsterdam. I saw much of the political fire get drained from even my most activist friends; I saw my parents and their friends grapple at the last strings of all they'd fought for in the 60s and 70s (and not just in terms of legal rights, though of course those were threatened - but watching them fight for human kindness, forgiveness, the values that came out of the Civil Rights Movement, etc.).

3. Healthcare - At least in Europe, American "expats" can participate in public healthcare systems that are not only affordable, but also very, very good. In the Netherlands, it is mandatory that every resident have healthcare. I have been very sick here and hospitalized several times; the care I have received has been nothing short of excellent. I would not be covered Stateside, and would be drowning in debt by now.

For me, at least, none of this adds up to any real sense of exile (and by real I mean danger) because when I want to go back to the States, I will. And I'll still be queer, and left and a Crohn's patient. But I wonder to what extent my "freedoms" here in the Netherlands have impacted my abilities to do what I do now: write, begin a literary organization and journal, make a living from texts and translation (and at that, freelancing it). I hate the weather here, but I am in this country's debt.

August 08, 2009

Real news in the komkommertijd

I'm going to break into the cucumber time with some news

though there's news everywhere, and perhaps "silly season" is a thing of the past and COME ON why has the health care debate in the States turned so vicious

Versal is now available at two bookstores in Seattle: Left Bank Books and Pilot Books, thanks to the wandering Kai (or Sir Kai as poet Aleida Rodríguez dubbed him) who, I believe, is currently on an island off the coast of Washington State helping his friends build a house

I don't recall the last time I had plans a year in advance but I'll be in Denver in April 2010 attending the AWP conference: brushing shoulders with the American lit world (oh, home) and spending quality time with Robert. We've upgraded from having just a table (which we'll have again) to being part of a joint reading (bringing you some live Versal action) and a panel about literary mags (more on that later). I hear AWP's a real boozer

That's it, really. It's quiet around Versal right now. The editors are scattered around, orders are slow, and I'm getting a fraction of the emails I normally receive. So for Versal anyway it's komkommertijd. I suppose we'd better keep up on the blog a bit more though, if a blog is to be a blog (what.)

Course come September we'll have lots to tell. Submissions open September 15, y'all