Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Good blog reading for writers this week

I've been reading around some of my favorite blogs, from Indiana Review's blog on Five Marks of Oft-Rejected Poems, to Erica Goss at Sticks and Stones writing about the Open Mic Experience (both reader and audience sides). One of the things I LOVE doing as a writer is reading what other writers have to say about their process -- whether it's writing, revising, publishing, reading, promoting, or reading. And this holiday season seems to bring out good reading and writing. Even ideas for gift giving, such as Kelli Russell Agodon's week-long blog posts about Gifts to Give Writers and Readers (the link is to the post that includes The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems, which is on my holiday wish-list). And the always inspiring Blogalicious by Diane Lockward has an article for poets on how to use prompts -- a topic on which Diane is an expert, not only by virtue of her wonderful Poetry Newsletter, but her complex and fascinating book on writing from prompts, The Crafty Poet. It's a season that makes me want to read more, and of course, want to buy more books!


Monday, December 15, 2014

My poem "Better Angel" Appearing at Antiphon

I'm delighted to have a new poem, "Better Angel," up in the current issue of Antiphon, an online literary journal based in England. Described as "providing a showcase for the best in contemporary British and international poetry," Antiphon presents its issues in four "acts" -- a dramatic conceit I find engaging, as a playwright. The idea that each issue builds a story, reaches a climax, and has a conclusion is satisfying to me.

Also satisfying to me is the concept of an international English-language journal. More and more, we write as one world and understand each other, though our versions of English may vary a bit, as poets. Antiphon's archive provides a trove of great reading from poets writing in English from everywhere, and all issues free.

This great journal is edited by Rosemary Badcoe, moderator of the on-line poetry forum Poets' Graves and also an editor of Matter magazine, and by Noel Williams, who is also Associate Editor of the poetry magazine Orbis.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Poetry & Prose -- a Discount for the Holidays!

Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, and Christmas share a common theme: divine Light. When the short days and winter weather keep us more indoors, it's natural to turn within more too. Poetry is such a joy at this enclosed season! I have a wonderful stack of books on my table from recent readings and friends' publications. I've so far spent two solid days just reading -- what a real writer's treat.

For holiday gift giving (through December 31), I'm offering you and your giftees my book, Gods of Water and Air, at a discount from Amazon's discounted price -- just $11 for 130 pages of poetry and prose on art and ballet, growing up a rocket kid, breaking away, relationships, nursing a parent with dementia, and finding the Light in daily life and hardships.

If you'd like a copy at this newly low price, email me: rachel@dacushome.com! I wish you happy and peaceful, Light-bright holidays. Here's a poem from the book:

-->
As Yearning Is Red

Sudden as a hat is ripped away
by the wind, he was over my head.
Long, black legs scissored together
as he plowed the seamless sky
with a beak like a boat’s prow.
His wings rowed lazily.

There’s little reason to look up
when I walk. I passed as he paused
to float on a thermal.
I was heading downhill
and he was gliding
down to the creek.
We were nearly eye level.
I had a precarious feeling,
as if my marching feet
had risen off the ground.

His wings rippled several times
as he held onto the wind.
They rippled again:
a lace bedspread shaken out.
He was white as yearning
is red and still as night’s
first sip of moon.

Then the luminous being was gone,
leaving me ruffled and aired,
forever feathered,
able to lift
on the beat of a breath.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I Have a City of Gratitude on My Head

I am very grateful for a writing life. The city of gratitude for poetry and poets on my head is bigger than the Beach Blanket Babylon lady's San Francisco hat. Like the BBB hat lady, I mentally wear a city of poets, writers, and literary projects for whose support and connection I'm immensely grateful. This year, I'm especially grateful to:

* John Amen and The Pedestal Magazine & Ann Wehrman's review of my book, Gods of Water and Air.
* Ami Kaye and the staff of Pirene's Fountain -- very excited to get the new issue containing a lot of fantastic poetry and my two poems based on Motown songs.
* Dan Veach and The Atlanta Review -- I had a real homecoming experience in the launch reading held in Berkeley (Part 2 of the video coming soon!) on November 23 for the new issue. Being invited to read my poem published in a past issue put me among a stellar group of poets I'm so happy and grateful to have met.

Thanks to editors of Halfway Down the Stairs, Ithacalit, The Same, Valparaiso Poetry Review, where my poetry and prose appeared in the last 12 months or so. And to editors at Prairie Schooner, Verse Wisconsin, Crab Creek Review, Blue Fifth Review, and so many others who have selected my work in the past.

My city of gratitude is so big it requires helpers to hold prop up on top of my head!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reading for Atlanta Review in Berkeley this Sun. Nov. 23

I'm very excited about participating in a launch reading this coming Sunday for the new issue of Atlanta Review, published and edited by Dan Veach, poet, editor, author of Elephant Water, musician/composer, and orchid grower extraordinaire. We will read from the new issue, as well as from past issues. I'm reading my AR poem, "Ode to My Purse."

Who knew that so many AR poets lived in the Bay Area! I guess poet Kathleen McClung had an idea, as she conceived of the reading and found Dan willing to come all this way, and then she generously made the arrangements. Once the ball was rolling, more AR alums turned out to be nearby. There will be refreshments, as well as the great refreshment of wonderful poetry.

Here are the particulars -- please join us if you can!

POETRY READING   Sunday, November 23, 2014  3:00--5:00 p.m.
Fellowship Hall, Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian-Universalists
1924 Cedar Street (corner of Bonita),  Berkeley, CA

If you don't know Atlanta Review, here's why you should -- from the journal's website:

ATLANTA REVIEW is an international poetry journal devoted to bringing surprise, wonder and delight to readers around the world. Its unique blend of quality and human appeal have made it one of the world’s best-selling poetry journals. Here you’ll find Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners galore, but also poems that touch the deepest feelings of the writer and the reader. Atlanta Review is a haven for our common humanity, the things that unite us across the boundaries of nation, race, and religion. It is a voice we need more urgently than ever in today’s world. Every Spring Issue of Atlanta Review includes an International Feature with poets from a different country or continent. Each Fall Issue includes at least 20 Publication Prize winners from our International Poetry Competition.


 

Sunday, November 09, 2014

How to stay sane as a writer

That's perennial question, along with its corollary: Should writers be sane? Or is crazy really better for the work. If there's one thing that drives every writer and poet I know crazy it's the topic of publishing. Publishing is like hunting dragons -- you're not even sure they exist, you know you need some magical arrow that's not in your quiver, and really you don't have a killer's heart. Especially the poets. It's such a contradiction to be the introvert who grew up turning inward, turning to the page, and be expected to do things like:

* Give readings
* Build an author platform (my brother the musician built himself a backyard stage -- I wish building my platform were that easy!)
* Doing (getting) interviews
* Contributing to the writing community by giving of your (nonexistent) time and energy

And all the other recommended author stuff. Having just completed a final-ish draft of my novel, I again read all the books and articles. They all say: Become an extrovert! Reading these lists, I feel slightly overwhelmed. I just want to stay here on my deck, ignoring the beautiful view of trees waving their branches in a soft breeze, ignoring the birdsong that spills out like Mozart improvising, and write words that take me into my own imagined world, where I imagine being a lot of people I'm not. How crazy is that.


Saturday, November 01, 2014

A Saturday Morning Poetry Habit

I've developed habits. Some are not so good, like eating bites of dark chocolate in bed late at night. My white duvet covers are evidence of why this is not a good habit. Other habits are useful, though. Reading, writing, revising, and submitting poems every Saturday morning turns out to be an excellent habit. I have Saturdays to myself and being home alone seems to agree with my Muse. The minute I hear the door shut I get whims, ideas, even some days epiphanies.

Habits have tremendous power, as do thoughts. I like this comment on the power of habits:
Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviors. Keep your behaviors positive because your behaviors become your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.
                                          – Mahatma Gandhi


I've deliberately formed this Saturday morning writing habit, which fell out of a whim, which became a thought, which turned into a behavior, which has now become a habit. Even though I'm writing a novel -- which is like trying to eat your way through a mountain, a ridiculously huge undertaking and one that makes you constantly ask yourself what possessed you to start -- I can't let poetry fall out of my life. If I do, I have discovered, I can't write all the other things I'm supposed to write in my working and creative life. The juice just isn't there. So, Saturday morning.

It's not much, it might not be enough some weeks, and yet I never find on Saturday morning that I am out of ideas. The power of habit seems to unlock the door of imagination as well.

A habit, once formed, can be difficult to break. That's power! Maybe I should just buy a chocolate-colored duvet.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Life's too short not to have chocolate for breakfast

Among my Saturday morning delights is poeming, as my friend Ace calls it. I set aside this morning each week because I have the house to myself and it's not a workday, therefore no guilt possible. Some people clean their houses on Saturday; I clear my brain of metaphors by getting them on paper. The house can wait. Some do laundry; I rinse myself with the air on my deck while catching images and essences. The poetic flow is much harder to set than the spin cycle.

And chocolate can really jump-start a poetry session.

By the way, there is a website called Creativity and Chocolate. What's it about? That other thing that makes me happy on a Saturday: fashion! And here's a poem about another thing that makes me happy.


Kisses

Nissa speaks in kisses.
A dog’s mouth isn’t made for English,
so she sounds her vowels with swipes
of tongue – that best pink instrument.
She covers the face, the lips
from which my voice emerges
and patiently investigates
the curves, tasting the salt
of meaning behind my ear,
pressing on the place
that looses my giggles,
which I am sure she knows
as her real name.

~ From Gods of Water and Air, Rachel Dacus (Aldrich Press 2013)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bloghopping: Word Garden + My Poem at Your Daily Poem

I'm happy to report that I have a poem featured today on Your Daily Poem. My "Apple Pie Order" (from my book Femme au chapeau) is a poem very close to me. It's about my 91-year-old mother and was a gift to receive and then be able to give to her on a birthday. Thank you, Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, for featuring my poem today, and for your great inspiration to bring more poetry into our daily lives!

Now to my latest bloghopping. The generosity of blog writers amazes me. People review books, post poems and sections of their novels, and tell me about their lives, and so I get to enter he gardens of writers I might never otherwise meet.

Kate Campbell's Word Garden has a lot of the things I love -- poetry, fiction, flowers, and birds -- and most specially today it features a thoughtful review of a wonderful book by a friend of mine. Grand Slam by Alan Kleiman is one of the most playful, wild, and enjoyable chapbooks I've ever read. From its original cover art by artist John Newsom, to its evocations of baseball, kisses, barbecues, and marshland views, this book is a total kick. Grand Slam is reviewed on Kate's terrific blog today, along with a generous essay on the art of the humble chapbook. Enjoy the read -- and order Alan's book too!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blog tour - writing process questions answered

Last month, I was tagged by Erica Goss to participate in a virtual blog tour of writers. The goal was to answer four questions about my current writing process. What a great exercise for inquiring into the springs of my creative life. Here are my answers.

1. What are you currently working on?
A messy poetry manuscript loosely organized around the title Arabesque. Like the ballet pose and Islamic calligraphy, it dips and swerves, echoes in rhythms and themes and has no straight lines. I'm also deep in revising my time travel novel involving the great Baroque sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini. The time travel device is a gold pen. Seems suitable for a writer. And points to my process of explorating meaning through traveling back into memories.
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I seem to be working a territory of affect I don't see out there a lot: poetry and prose that curves around and into epiphanies, joy, and ecstasy. I'm interested in the marvels that hide in plain sight, in the quotidian of daily life and landscape, and that if attended to can spur sudden music in the soul. I feel a continuity of that pursuit in the Romantic poets of the 19th century, but hope I can express it in 21st century language. My concerns are similar.

3. Why do you write/create what you do?
Poems present themselves to me through compelling images and a sense of how they are connected to my internal processes at levels below awareness but which can be reached into and brought out by writing. It's a compulsion to self-discovery through delving into the images and memories burned most deeply into me. These images present themselves in terms of a resonance that lets me know there's rich material in them and I should explore. As Rilke said, childhood and dreams are great sources. They are for me, especially childhood. The dreamlike lens of poetry refocuses memory in a fresh way that yields self-discovery. I assume I'm not that different from anyone else and that my experience in the form of writing will resonate with some readers. So I go ahead and undergo this sometimes laborious but rewarding process.
4. How does your writing/creating process work?
 See above! The why and the how are for me intertwined.

This was a great exercise in examining how and why I write, and I'm going to tag a few of you to follow suit with these, if you feel like it. Thanks, Erica, for inviting me!