Thursday, April 14, 2005

Two new articles of mine running today. Here are some "bytes" from each...links to the complete stories are to the right under "Journalism."

Chalk and Cheese
An Unlikely Literary Friendship Between Poets Kay Ryan and Dana Gioia

"When you're involved in some intense kind of solitary creative activity, you wonder if you're not at some level slightly insane," says Gioia. "It's wonderfully reassuring to meet another writer and discover that he or she shares your insanity."

"For most of the world," Ryan reflects, "writing, especially writing poetry, might be a nice hobby or recreation, but not a primary passion or the deepest engagement with life. It's wonderful to have someone as a friend for whom it is essential and central."

Both describe the other as "down to earth" and both say that they laugh a lot in each other's company. Both also express having felt themselves to be outsiders in the literary world at one point, having developed themselves as poets without the shaping hand of an academic institution. Ryan says, "I think that all genuine poets are outsiders, really. I don't think you can be taught. If your writing resembles something else, then that's already been done. The very definition of poetry is that something eternally true is articulated in a way that makes it seem as if it was just invented."

When asked to describe Gioia's work, Ryan says, "I think Dana writes very elegant poetry that is deeply grounded in his experiences and informed by his noble heart." One of the words that Gioia uses to describe Kay's poetry is "spiky," which delights her. "

Social Capital: John Crowley's Pub Crawl
When it comes to the consumption of alcohol, I am scornfully referred to as a lightweight by my friends. This means that what most people consider a refreshing little cocktail will soon have me giddily revealing my intimate secrets before leaving me with a nasty headache.

So when I first heard through a friend about the Petaluma Pub Crawl (which is the only way one gets invited), I was reluctant. The word "crawl" seemed to suggest a debased state of gravity by night's end.

I would have left it at that if said friend didn't then invite me to subscribe to Pub Crawl founder John Crowley's e-mail newsletter. What I could not figure out was how the topics posted in Crowley's "PC News," such as updates on local open-space purchases, links to articles about important social issues and details about the businesses of local Petalumans, had anything to do with getting out on a Saturday night for drinks.

I decided I'd better talk to this John Crowley fellow to solve the puzzle. Crowley, a software engineer, hails from a pub-owning family in Dublin, where pub crawling is integral to the social scene, and where the crawling refers not to being on one's knees, but to moving to where one's friends are on a given evening.

"Pubs in Ireland are extensions of your living room," he explains. "Since you can't invite all your friends back to your home, you meet in a public place for a good time to socialize."
It was in his Petaluma living room some four years ago that the idea for a pub crawl came to Crowley. One weekend, when his wife and two children were traveling, he found himself watching television.

"I thought: what a horrible existence. So I sent an e-mail to all the people I knew in Petaluma to meet for drinks. They all showed up."


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