Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pushcart nomination!

Thank you, Cindy Reynolds, Editor of Kaleidowhirl, for nominating my poem "A Raft" for a Pushcart Prize! I'm delighted, and especially happy that it came from this excellent zine, one which I have had the pleasure of guest-editing for an issue, and of reading for every issue. Smart choices of work, paired with beautiful images make this a zine you should bookmark. And not just because Cindy was so kind to me.

So I have that lovely glow to add to my thankfulness today, Thanksgiving day. Jon Carroll, SF Chronicle columnist, today has a column on gratitude and its healing power. It's a keeper, the kind of thing to re-read when you hit the low points that make you forget why you live and write.

Happy Thanksgiving! And while we're being grateful, let's raise a toast to all editors and small presses.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rocket Kids and Other Fictional Matters

A funny thing: I started this blog to promote what my agent hoped would soon be my forthcoming memoir, Rocket Lessons. On the way to the publishers (many), I discovered I am primarily a poet with a bad fiction habit.

Like any addict, I don't know how I found myself again working on a novel that's been hidden in my trunk for a few sober years. I suppose it was the Austen Influence -- perhaps my 13th re-reading of Northanger Abbey (my book club made me do it). That novel reads like a series of gossipy letters, fascinatingly detailed gossip with wit and a rather dry wisdom about the follies and fantasies of youth. It gave me ideas.

Of course I also pulled out my short stories and began to send them around. This is just to garner nice quotes from people who don't want to publish my fiction. I think it's rather like an Austen drawing room: editors sometimes like to amuse themselves by their excessively inventive wit in civil rejection.

I do have some short story publishing credits. But what should I do with them? They're like mismatched socks. You hate to throw them away, in case the mate shows up.

Do any of you poets have a secret fiction life? Do you sneak away from the seriousness of po-biz to slip unorthodox prose to editors who have no idea what level of Emerging Poet you might be? To be again just an over-the-transom sub with delightful delusions of fame and fortune, hearing in every contest entry the strike of literary lightning? Sadly, I cannot claim the excuse of youth.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanks and poetry

With the American day of declared thanks approaching, I find myself thinking about poetry of praise and thanksgiving. Contemporary poems on such topics are increasingly rare. I've been looking and collecting, and here, in no particular order, are poets I've found to be writing on these themes fairly consistently from book to book:

Mary Oliver
From the blurb on this website:
"IN AN INTERVIEW with poet Mary Oliver published a few years ago in Giving Their Word (University of Massachusetts Press), Steven Ratiner remarked that 'poets of praise' are 'almost an endangered species' and that the 'happiness necessary to write in praise of life is almost considered a weakness in the art world's very definition of modernity' ... Oliver has never bothered to follow poetic fashion. Instead she has persisted for over 40 years in simply doing what she does well: practicing loving attention to the natural world."

Naomi Shihab Nye
She is that rarest commodity, a poet whose work merges politics with praise. It's hard to define her work as one of thanksgiving, until you consider that everyone who ever encounters this poetry uses the word "heart" in connection with it. The deepest praise, I think, is that which is fully conscious of every aspect of the praised. It requires a capacious heart like Nye's to write a poem about Kindness from an encounter with vicious bandits.

Pattiann Rogers
Unusual also is the ability to blend science and thanksgiving, but I read and reread Rogers' work for that marvelous feat of juggling and expansive comprehension of the spiritual resonances in the physical world. Rogers has a poem called "Supposition" about what might be the physical effects of an act of praise, and this is my favorite part of the poem:

Suppose the molecular changes taking place
In the mind during an act of praise
Resulted in an emanation rising into space.
Suppose that emanation went forth
In the configuration of its occasion:
For instance, the design of rain pocks
On the lake's surface of the blue depths
Of the canyon with its horizontal cedars stunted.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Circle Widens + Bloghopping

Cheryl Snell put up a nice notice about my book, Another Circle of Delight, on her blog Shiva's Arms. Look for Cheryl's books there, including the forthcoming Shiva's Arms, a novel. I always like novels by poets. It's almost always a guaranteed good read when prose is written by someone who loves words. As I recall, it was poet and writer Annie Dillard who defined the difference: if you love sentences, write prose; if you love words, write poetry. I could be wildly misquoting, but I think she said it in her fantastic book about writing, The Writing Life. Hardly a writing day goes by that I don't think about that typewriter bursting into flames.

Kate Evans has blogged about the Bay Area oil spill and its impact on bird life. This tragic and, it seems now, avoidable event makes us all sad. An article in the SF Chronicle somewhat offset that melancholy, however, when it cited the great increase in numbers of birds along the Pacific Flyway in recent years. Decreased burning of rice fields, increases in wetlands and other kind acts toward nature by humans are responsible for the resurgence. Unfortunately, that brings lots more birds into the spill zone, which as Kate's item points out, is enlarging daily.

Suzanne Frischkorn has a new poetry book coming out in Autumn of 2008. The book is Lit Windowpane, from Main Street Rag Press. Yay, Suzanne!