Friday, September 25, 2009

Gumball Poetry at Poetry & Popular Culture

Mike Chasar's excellent Poetry & Popular Culture blog has a guest entry up on Gumball Poetry, my little contribution. Writing it made me nostalgic for the audacious idea of combining poems and gumballs, one of the most original approaches to popularizing the art I've ever heard of. Alas, Gumball Poetry, and its cool poem-in-a-gumball machines, are defunct. We can only hope that someone will revive this idea. In the meantime, I still have three poem-gumballs sitting on my shelf.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Editing my poetry manuscript - on the Radio

Editor Bryan Roth used my poetry manuscript, Gods of Water and Air, as the text for a half-hour discussion of editing an entire poetry collection. Structural unity, titles, principles of organization, the need for professional editing, are all discussed. And four of my poems were read on air to illustrate these topics.

Here's a link to the page of my website where you can listen to the radio show. The sound files are posted in seven tracks to accommodate the high quality sound files, so you have to click on each link to hear the sections in sequence:

Bryan Roth on Dona Stein's Poetry Show

Thank you, Bryan, for selecting my manuscript for this discussion! And for an edifying and exciting experience of working with an editor on a manuscript -- not to mention for pointing out to me the title I've selected for the manuscript, found within one of my poems.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Editing a poetry manuscript & contests

Why would a poet, whose business is language, seek outside help with putting together a poetry manuscript? For me, the answer is complicated, but I can readily think of a one-word answer: contests. David Alpaugh, in his essay "What's Really Wrong with Poetry Contests?" cited discouraging statistics. Your manuscript, in each contest, may go up against 500 others, each more carefully groomed than the next. A misspelling, inexact punctuation, or grammatical error in the first few pages could be enough for the initial screener to toss it aside. That reader may have 50 manuscripts to review and be itching for an excuse. Never mind subtler issues, such as poor poem titles, a poem's draggy opening, too much telling, a poor close.

Thinking of these landmines, I decided I needed help with my manuscript, Gods of Water and Air. When Bryan Roth, Director of Colorado Poets Association and a freelance poetry editor, began to go over the manuscript with me, poem by poem, line by line, I realized how much of an edge I was getting on those 500 other manuscripts that will join mine in the next contest. I felt a lot better about those fees, suddenly.

In terms of contests, there are no guarantees. But at least I know I've eliminated about 100 reasons for a screener to toss my pages aside.