Oh, November, how full you have been!

The biggest part of the month, of course, has been the annual gathering of the family at our place for Thanksgiving. As a blended family that isn’t terrifically religious, it was fairly easy to split up the holidays when Will Dearest and I got hitched – his family would get Christmas, and my family would get Thanksgiving. When my brother lived in FL, it made the most sense for our little household to get our bags packed and head down for a long weekend, and we’d all share a dinner together there. But then my brother moved up here, found the love of his life, and they had kids, and travel became a little less simple across the board. Now it’s much easier for our parents to fly up here and our auntie in NJ to drive up. Also there are perks to this arrangement – when my family comes into town, it means that Will’s family, who are all local, can join us too. It’s a mighty bit of something, a table for 18 (when all the kids are accounted for), and I’m pleased to make it.

The nicest thing about this year was that the cousins are all in the same age range, and all pretty much out of the parallel play dynamic. So there were four of them, and they were all able to really sort of meet each other this year. And by “meet,” I mean to say, run around the open-layout apartment, squealing at each other and giggling their little heads off. They had so much fun, I’m tempted to set up a play date for all four of them at our house again.

This beautiful sort of coming together is the highlight of autumn for me. I look forward to it, really, from August*, when I start the planning. I really like looking across the big tables that we set up in the living room/office, and looking at everyone together over the meal. I love that things have worked out so everyone is together, when we’re a little scattered and living our own separate stuff all the rest of the year.

So coming back together has been a big part of things this month. Can we talk poetry for a minute? Because it’s happened there for me, too.

For a little over a year, I’ve been handling odds and ends of our local poetry reading – just bits and pieces, the blog, the occasional booking, nothing huge. We decided last year that we would really split up the responsibilities so that they’re easier to shoulder than they have been in the past. Jacquelyn handles the booking now, and she splits up the hosting with Skipper Jane, and I do the bits and bobs. What I generally don’t do is spend a lot of time at the reading itself. A few years ago I stepped back from the reading, and from reading out in general, because I really didn’t feel like I had a lot of poetry to tell – I’d been working on fiction** for the most part, and didn’t want to present old material*** at the open mic. Over the last year, I’ve started to come out a bit to the reading to hear other people read, but haven’t read much, myself, saving those moments for when I have something new that I feel is worthy of bringing to the community. Basically, I’ve been quiet, scribbling in my notebooks and reading novels voraciously, occasionally coming out to play in a quiet way.

And mostly that’s been fine. But something happens when you stay quiet a while: you stop getting asked to come out and play. Which is to say, before a few months ago, I hadn’t actually been asked to come out and feature anywhere in a really long time. Syd, who lives with Jaquelyn, got me a little drunken one night4 and asked me to come out to feature at his reading in New Hampshire, and something sparkly and shiny happened with that: I got back some confidence that I wasn’t aware that I had lost along the way. I am grateful like whoa to Syd for pulling me back in.

And then by the time October hit, I hadn’t been out and about any more than before. Also, at the time, some stuff got churned up at the house that had me reeling and weird and in a need to do something other than furiously clean, so when I was asked to do some more readings, I thought about that feature in New Hampshire, I thought about how four years ago I made a commitment to myself to start saying Yes more often (that’s a whole other story for a whole other time), and said Yes to four offers to read across three weeks, only thinking for a hot moment about the part where I’m a less than confident cat on any given day. I said Yes, and figured I could panic later.

And panic, of course, I did. But I did it while walking the bike trails and memorizing new poems. I did it in the car and in the shower while re-memorizing some old poems. I became a full-time mutterer, trying to get the words to stick, and mostly doing a pretty good job of getting them to stick. I drove to Boston twice, one for a reading benefit for Join the Conversation, and once for the Crooked Treehouse reading. I walked with Man Cub5 up steep Vernon Hill for the Round Room Women’s Reading, and I drove with Will out behind the Tofu Curtain to Northampton Poetry at Hinge.

And it was so good to be invited back to the table. It was wonderful to be in the room with people I mostly only catch up with on line and to bring them my stories, and have them accept them well and generously. And the poems that I was most worried about, the newest, most untested work, the stuff that I wasn’t sure would hold up well to my older (flashier) work, was accepted just as well as the others. Hello, relief, how are ya?

All of the shows, also, were really special in their own rights. The benefit was great, not just for the benefit itself, but also for the location at the new Hi N’ Dry Studios – at their last location, I had one of the best experiences of my life, recording with Eric Darby. Coming back, even to a new location, and being surrounded by all that familiar gear and rugs was a tremendous boost (the new space is pretty osm, btw). The house readings were warm and welcoming as can be; it is an honor to be brought into someone’s circle like that, to share food together, to sit on someone’s couch or kitchen floor, to meet their pets, to be part of the fabric of where they live. It’s a very special thing, and a little bit sacred, even. Both shows made me feel very well taken care of.

The shiniest little gem this month, tho’, was the show in Northampton. And not just because the crowd (dude, there were many people in that room!) is seriously warm and welcoming, and comes armed with really great poetry. But because it was a serious bit of coming back together. Craig, who runs the reading, and I hadn’t seen each other in years and years – two venues ago, when I used to host a reading that he would come to read at; that’s a long time in poetry years, yo. It was a treat to be able to reconnect, to talk about science fiction over a glass of wine, to meet the scene that he’s so well cultivated and brought together in a spirit of kindness. I was proud to be hyped up a little to the audience, and proud to be able to deliver on it to them, a lot that because of the touchstone of a friend I hadn’t seen in a really long time.

All this to say, I am grateful. I am grateful, and energized, and deeply appreciative that I have been able this month to not only set a table in my own house, but to have been invited back to tables in others’ houses and home bases. All this to just say Thank You.


*And then again in the second week of November, when I realize that it’s almost the date and I haven’t done nearly as much prep as I was hoping to have done.
**I’m still doing that, actually. This book, dear dog, this book. I have some 40pp left to write, I think, and I am just stoppered up like whoa. I’m hoping that at some point I’ll just pop like a shook soda can or something, and all the words will come out. In order.
***Poems so old they fart dust: I have them.
4I might have actually been pouring that night; neither of us can remember clearly. But in any case, Syd is wily, and took his moment when he saw it.
5Turns out Man Cub really likes a house reading. Mostly because a) potluck (!), and b) other people’s pets. In any case, he’s a pretty good date!