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!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rain and a discount on Gods of Water and Air - email rachel@dacushome.com

I can't claim that my twelve potted roses have been dessicated over the past three years, but California surely has been dessicated. I've worried about friendly trees and watched lawns become weed patches. So early this morning, the sound of a steady, soaking rain (as we used to call it back when we had rain) was pure Chopin to my ears. It induced in me a kind of quiet I haven't felt for months. A wish to just sit and think my thoughts.

May the rain dancing around California continue! North and South are for once united, sharing a group wish for moderate (not flooding) downpours. Feeling generously hopeful at the sight of every cloud.

And while it's wet and smelling of petrichor and fertile soil, I'm feeling generous. For a few days, I'm offering my book Gods of Water and Air, my collection of poetry, prose, and short drama, at a deep discount to anyone who wants a print version.

For today through September 30, it's $10 + $2 shipping for Gods of Water and Air. Email me if you want one: rachel@dacushome.com. 



Friday, September 19, 2014

The Land of Totuaba

I'm excited that my memoir essay of camping in Baja California with my bipolar rocket scientist father and family is now published online at Halfway Down the Stairs. This issue of the journal has a rich selection of poetry and prose, and I'm honored to have had my story selected.

"The Land of Totuaba" is an excerpt from my memoir of an unusual childhood with a father who blew up rockets for a living and in a port town in southern California. The manuscript, Rocket Lessons, is still in my trunk, waiting to become my second prose book. My then-agent advised me to hang onto it and simply write my first book! The ways of the publishing industry are unfathomable to outsiders.

Here's a poem from Rocket Lessons that my agent made me take out of the memoir, which then found its way into my new book Gods of Water and Air, which has a whole San Pedro section.

-->
Our New Neighbor

A knobbed mob of water, the Pacific rang
my doorbell in the night and ran.

When I got up, she let fighting cats stand in
and pranked me with the cannery's whistle.

With a sob and a whoosh, she dangled trinkets
over our back fence and showed me her green silk

underwear. A crazy lady in a frilly robe,
the sea was our new neighbor.

Dockside cranes pulled at her flanks,
hauling up surprises. Automobiles,

fish, furniture and anchors trailing seaweed
sputtered out of her. A constant breeze

chopped her green speech and sudden
surges mangled fishing boats and surfers.

Our crazy neighbor lulled me to slide
into her curls, to roll on soft swells.

Neighborly, she pulled me in-
to her doom bed and closed a cold lid.

Then the father who had thrown me in
fished me out. From that day, the air burned.

When I rode her treeless hills and looked back to land
through her glistening I felt

the family's undertow, that was the sinking
lull and downward sea drag.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Permission to be a poet

It's something only you can give yourself: a space to create, sweet as ripe cherries. To find it, buy it with love for your creative self, wrap it in ethereal sheets of time, and then unwrap it as though you deserve every crinkle of the delicate paper and every silky ribbon of ink. You give yourself permission to NOT write a word. Not even think. To drift, a poet in poet time with the willingness to do absolutely nothing if that's what comes. To think about writing without necessarily saying anything is permission. Here's a poem about it from my book Gods of Water and Air.
 
-->
Life

I had a beautiful bowl of cherries
to paint, stems perfectly arranged, the jade
bowl offsetting the pale red fruit.
I ate them. Such is the fate
of so much art. But only the serious kind.
At least this artist won’t starve.
Looking at a half bowl of cherries
I still want to create. Maybe a painting
of the pits in another bowl, so much life
gone by. Or perhaps a poem about the greed
of the painter for sensuous delight, story
of artists and their models through the ages
and also the story of the art
that was never made
while they became their own
works of art. Jade bowl. Stems.
Hungers ripe and aching.
Summer’s half moon warmth.
Tender flesh. (Note to self:
They were so ripe and cold.
Put cherries on the grocery list.
The dark ones this time.)

I'm offering a 10% discount off the Amazon price of Gods of Water and Air during September. Write to me if you want one!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Gods of Water and Air Celebrates One-Year Anniversary! Woo-Hoo!!!

I'm happy to celebrate the one-year anniversary of my collection of poetry, prose, and short drama, Gods of Water and Air. Thanks to Karen Kelsay and Aldrich Press (an imprint of Kelsay Books) for creating a beautiful print book from my manuscript and supporting it! And thanks to all of you who bought a copy and read it. I'm going to make my book a little cake for its birthday, which I'm calling September 4 (the day I got my first copies). Here are the candles -- I wish it to reach more of you in this coming year! You can get it at Amazon, or if you order from me directly (email me at rachel@dacushome.com), I'll offer a 10% discount from the Amazon price for this month.