Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

May 15, 2017

off to Natchez, Mississippi, for the second half of May

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 8:01 pm

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As longtime readers know, each May or June I try to take an extended (10-14 day) “writing vacation” in a picturesque, off-the-beaten-path area rich with local culture and history. With my job amping up the workload each year and with the steady stream of KSE music releases each year, I need a block of time when I can work on nothing but poetry all day, every day. Last year I was staying on Bayou Teche in central Louisiana and had a wonderful and very productive time. This year, I have found a cottage one block from the mighty Mississippi River in beautiful and historic Natchez. I’ve been on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (don’t forget, my most recent poetry book was called DOWN AND OUT IN GULFPORT AND BILOXI!) and in Northern Mississippi, but I have not been to the Natchez/Vicksburg area, and with a lifetime of listening to Mississippi blues music and reading Faulkner and Twain and the like, I feel as though I have the area in my blood.

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My drug of choice for writing is strong tea, and I wake up to a stout pot of tea and sit outdoors as the sun rises (last year on the bayou, this year next to the Mississippi River) and soak up the environment….then work on poetry for 6-8 hours, then explore the local culture in the mid-afternoon through early evening, then come back home and edit what I wrote earlier in the day. That’s the usual schedule….and since there IS NOT a racetrack nearby (I often find areas near a dog or horse racing track for my writing vacations, but not this year), I may well get MORE done this year than other years….although for me a racetrack is a great writing and editing environment.

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The recent KSE album (played just this week on Free Form Freakout in Minnesota and listened to worldwide) FLORIDA NOCTURNE REVISITED, which mixes my poetry with the sound sculpture of FOSSILS, consists of pieces written in 2012 during a writing vacation in Central Florida, and this summer, I’ll be issuing an album of my reading the five chapbooks I wrote last year in Louisiana on the Bayou.

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Somehow being in a different environment breaks loose the poetic plaque from my writing arteries and gets it flowing in my aesthetic bloodstream. I have notes and outlines and structural plans for each of the five extended pieces I plan to write during this getaway, so in a way the skeleton is there….I’m just fleshing it out and breathing life into it. And of course, it’s all about BREATH, isn’t it, when we are talking about poetry and the poetic line and the stanza.

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My getaways are relatively low-budget—-for the last few years, I’ve tried to save money by going to places I do not need to fly to (and thus, also do not need to rent a car in) and renting rooms or cottages with their own kitchen so I can cook. A box or two of poetry and art books, stacks of Document Records 1920’s blues and gospel/preaching CD’s, lots of jazz, some volumes of Swedenborg’s ARCANA COELESTIA, a pile of recent issues of the London Review of Books given to me by an academic friend, and as always a volume of Paul Blackburn—-that’s all I need for my own creative cocoon. I am computer-free and internet-free (I do not have a smart phone), unshackled from the “grid” which more and more seems like something out of a William S. Burroughs or Philip K. Dick novel.

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For me, poetry is a functioning construct, an assemblage made up of language-charged pieces, and if those pieces in the construction are not battle-tested and “real” and smelling and tasting of life-as-it-is-lived, then for me the end product is not going to be worthwhile. The ultimate litmus test for a poem I produce is….is this something I would want to read and spend time with and ponder and live with? In a sense, I am producing poetry which I feel NEEDS TO EXIST, BUT DOES NOT PRESENTLY EXIST. When something needs to be done, and it’s not being done–or not being done adequately–you are often forced to DO IT YOURSELF TO GET IT DONE. That’s as good a reason as any for artistic creation.

Thanks to those who have read my chapbooks or listened to my poetry and poetry-and-music albums or attended one of my readings over the years. I hope you find this year’s creations, growing out of my time in Mississippi, to be interesting and worthwhile

See you all again at the end of May.


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