Eve of 2014

Much to reflect on and be thankful for as 2013 draws to a close.

  • The chance to speak to the workshop students of poet Adele Ne Jame, who teaches at Hawai‘i Pacific University. I read from the introduction to Poems and Essays from an Ordinary Room, a collection by Lawrence Levin that will be published by El León Literary Arts in the coming year. Included in the book will be photographs by brother Wayne Levin. Check the Talks page in a day or two to read more about my visit.
  • Meeting with Michael Duckworth, head of the University of Hawai‘i Press, and Rebecca Clifford, managing editor of the Journals department. One happy consequence of that meeting is that UHP will be participating in the 2014 annual meeting of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.
  • Lunch with friends and writers Phyllis Young and Tom Farber. We talked about the writing they were doing and about mutual friends. The same week, I had a holiday lunch with office mates Frank Stewart, Sonia Cabrera, and Noah Perales-Estoesta. We were joined by writer Shawna Yang Ryan, who told us about the manuscript for her new book, set in Taiwan.
  • Receipt of "Welcome to the North Shore: A New Metaphor for Story-making," the printed version of a seminar given by writer Steve Heller, head of the creative writing program at the Los Angeles campus of Antioch University. I found "Welcome to the North Shore" fascinating and will be writing more about it in the days to come.
  • The near completion of our winter 2013 issue, Bright as an Autumn Moon: Fifty Poems from the Sanskrit, a collection of translations by poet and translator Andrew Schelling.

Below is part of a message I just sent to my friend Gary Mawyer, a fiction writer and editor in Charlottesville, Virginia. We had been talking about "(Sub)Mission Creep," which ran in Chuck Klosterman's New York Times column, The Ethicist. I started off by talking about writing and ended up by talking about music.

Tremendous hard work goes into these things [writing books]. More than cash, I think writers want validation of their efforts. You're probably right that Random House could not have given you more profits, but it could have given you the cachet of being published by a NY house—very valuable if that is what you want.

In this day and age, writers are happy with alternatives.

One thing I've done in the last few weeks is discover a whole new side of music. I know it has existed for decades, but for me this is something new and exciting: young singers and musicians who are making their own videos and creating audiences for themselves. This is very much like self-publishing except for one thing: their songs are covers, not original music. If their followers like what they are doing, this popularity can be leveraged into contracts with music companies and their original music can be sold.

What I like so much about these videos is the freshness, artlessness, and talent of the performers. One young guy, Sam Tsui, is what we call hapa haole in Hawaii: a mix of Asian and, I'm guessing, haole parentage. Here is Sam in one of my favorite videos.