Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
You haven't heard much from me in the last week or so because I fell into a novel. Not one I'm reading, one I'm writing -- much deeper waters. I started this thing about five years ago as a novel. It had morphed from a travel memoir to grow characters and a plot, and then I started to like some of the characters. Not all. But some. But it was insane to be writing a novel and trying to finish two poetry manuscripts, several plays, earn a living, contributing-edit a zine, help moderate an online poetry workshop, and do one or two other things like take out the trash and make an occasional sandwich. So I put it aside, promised my agent I'd send the first promising 60 pages I finished and --- voila! Five years went by.
Suddenly I hit the holidays, my father's death, a slowdown in work, a few other personal roadblocks of major proportions, and the only thing that could interest me were these crazy people stuck in Italy on an art history tour gone horribly wrong.
(Write that down -- I can use it in the query letter!)
The image you see is where I am currently stuck. In the Pantheon in Rome, having an epiphany about how wrong my life has gone and how if I find an eye big enough -- say as big as the oculus in the Pantheon -- I might be able to see a way out of it. My character is an accountant. I have been an accountant. He yearns for beauty. I will reveal no more, but the Pantheon is surely a great place to contemplate the need for beauty in one's life.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Adam Deutsch, of the new Cooper Dillon Books, wrote to let me know that they read poetry book manuscripts - both chapbooks and full-length - outside of contests. He writes:
"We're a fairly new press, releasing our first titles right now. We've
just put out a chapbook by Gary McDowell's /They Speak of Fruit/, and
have a chap coming from Jill Alexander Essbaum and a full-length by Nate
Pritts coming in the next month or so.
".. we don't run a contest, and do not plan to. Our reading
period is closed right this minute, but it'll reopen April 1st and run
until August 15th (or so). There will be a reading fee of $10/or
buy-a-book, but a portion of fees will go to a local San Diego charity.
Details will be found at CooperDillon.com
closer to the opening of the reading period."
My Non-Contest Poetry Book Publishers page has been updated to include Cooper Dillon Books.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
One site that has an archive worth listening to is Artful Dodge.
Fringe Magazine has short interviews on the blog, longer ones in each issue. , which is now going to appear twice a year, will have interviews.
The Poets Q&A at From the Fishouse is especially interesting, because the poets answer in audio.
Anyone have additions? I just love reading and better yet hearing poets talk about their craft and practice.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
I'll be reading my poem "Carlo and Me" as part of the Emily D. festivities heard on Radio Station WGDR, Community Radio from Goddard College in Vermont.
The two-hour show, "Woman-Stirred Radio," is hosted by Merry Gangemi, writer, activist, editor and producer. It airs from 4-6 pm Eastern time. This Thursday's show, Dec. 10, Emily D.'s birthday, is devoted to the poet of Amherst, with the first hour of readings of poems inspired by Dickinson, and the second hour a discussion of Dickinson's life and work.
Please listen in! I'll be reading at about 4:55 pm Eastern time (1:55 pm Pacific, 2:55 Mountain, etc.) For those who can't listen on Thursday, I'll post a link to the archived show later.
Happy Emily D's birthday!
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Thursday, December 03, 2009
That led to the discussion of how writing books seldom pays the rent, except for maybe six or seven best-selling writers. What they used to call "mid-list" books (now probably referred to as "instant remainders") seldom make money much for anyone, not the author, nor the publisher. They were published as statistical experiments, to see if among them might be the nugget of a surprise bestseller. Usually those are the books I buy, the ones on the remainder table, discounted and worn without having been adopted. For some reason, my favorite reading often comes from these piles. That gives me hope as a writer. Someone spent all that time and got very little money in order to reach and affect someone like me. There's something amazing in that.
All of which brings me to confess that ridiculous: I'm working on a novel I started four years ago, and have no time to engage in such an unremunerative activity. I have plenty on my literary plate already, but talking to another writer and editor convinced me that I should undertake this quixotic journey hopefully, by setting myself a schedule. Say, one page per day. Or four pages a week. Or an hour a day. Find some piece of time and give it to tht activity with discipline.
After studying ballet for most of my life, I can appreciate the importance of discipline in art. Here's my villanelle on the subject. Some find it dismal, I find it hopeful, because if you love practicing your art, you wouldn't want to stop until the end.
Ballet Teacher’s Catechism
– for Rosalie
You’ll practice every day until you die.
When years of sweat have dried, call it Art.
Eight en croix, thirty-two on each side.
You kids only like the easy part.
When years of sweat have dried, call it Art,
glittering threads whose weft you never see.
You kids only like the easy part.
You don’t understand the work of simplicity.
Glittering threads, the weft you never see—
beauty is woven on a loom of pain.
You don’t understand the work. Behind simplicity
is a dancer with a one-pointed brain.
Beauty is woven on a loom of pain.
Only repetition can make a movement pleasing.
The dancer with a one-pointed brain
trains sinew and bone past habit and reason.
Only repetition can make a movement pleasing.
Eight en croix, thirty-two on each side.
To train sinew and bone past habit and reason
you’ll practice every day until you die.
-- from Femme au chapeau
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
I mean, really, we all have printers. Have you never printed out an online poem you like to carry around and reread? Paper will never die, but if perfectbound magazines sitting dusty on a few library and bookstore shelves give way to lots of people clicking a paypal to pay a dime for a downloadable chapbook or zine, would that be such a kick in the pants to poetry? I think we're seeing a proliferation of poetry, thanks to the Internet. Look how iTunes is ruining the music business. Hello? Is anyone taking notes? More people are listening to music than ever. Let the payment mechanisms sort themselves out.
Oh, and blogging is ruining journalism. The Kindle will ruin books. Please just embed my digital media under my fingernails now and give me the virtual visor. I'm ready for the new-new technology and would carry my entire library on a flash drive if I possibly could.
On Peony Moon, Michelle McGrane is running a terrific series on books published in 2009, asking poets to list their three favorites. A great composite reading list, available for browsing, just in time for gift-giving season. Nice. Very nice.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Along with the Vintage feature is an interview with me about the poems on the Fringe blog (accessible from the magazine's first page). The interview was conducted by Poetry Editor Anna Lena Phillips.
Fringe is a fascinating read. Here's one reason why, from their Manifesto:
"We worry about the state of modern literature. We worry that it’s too realist, monolithic, corporate, print-bound and locked in its own bubble.
"That’s why we founded Fringe. Fringe is the noun that verbs your world. We publish work that is political or experimental in form or content and define both “political” and “experimental” broadly. “Political” can mean work that incorporates or comments on current events or it can mean literature and art that further personal dignity and advocate human rights. We regard “experimental” work as work that breaks with the canon, takes formal risks, or explores a strange or impossible point of view."While some journals claim the experimental as territory, it too often seems to equate with the unintelligible. Not the work in this zine, which is consistently thought-provoking -- though the thoughts may not always be pleasant -- and surprising in ways that make you want to write something in response. At least that's how it works for me.
Pick something of your own that surprises you, and send it to them.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
And that is just one sample of why you should read Jilly Dybka's Poetry Hut Blog.
Kelli Russell Agodon has a wonderfully honest and inspiring blog, History of a Manuscript, about how long it took her to win the wonderful White Pine Press Poetry Award with her new book. Read it and keep licking those stamps (and writing the checks). But first read my blog, above, about getting something more for your entry fee than just a chance to win.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Then there are the miscellaneous perks: a cash prize for a runner-up. Possible publication of a second manuscript if one is found worthy. One of the oddest perks I saw was Gival Press, which recruits the previous year's winner to be the judge of the next contest, presumably for a fee.
Whatever the perks offered, when you crunch the numbers of running a book contest, it becomes clear that not offering some kind of perk is a bit stingy. Though some contests are presumably run to support a magazine and publishing a full slate of non-contest-selected titles, some aren't. One wonders what they do with the money, when printing costs are quite low these days, even in small quantities. One hopes they lavish it on advertising and book tours for the winners.
Interesting to pick and choose based on the perks factor.
Then there's also the lesser-competition factor. I'll save that for my next post.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I've been reading Eliot Khalil Wilson's The Saint of Letting Small Fish Go, a beautiful and brilliant debut book. The poems are well-crafted, full of feeling, often tender, and filled with stunning metaphorical aptness. I sometimes feel the strain behind a poem's reaching for the surprising metaphor; never in these poems did the metaphor or simile strike me as gratuitous. This is poetry that has earned its imagination, lived itself out before coming to the page. Here's the title poem, published at Slate. And a poem that just knocks me out, White Slip on the Paris Metro at From the Fishouse (you can hear him read the poem).
Eliot Khalil Wilson, an Arab-American, brings an interesting cultural mix into his writing with a subtlety that makes the shifting cultural landscapes fascinating. I learned about his work from my editor, Bryan Roth. I'm really glad I got the book and just hope Wilson's writing more books!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
ReadWritePoem has the potential to be a really addictive hangout for poets, a virtual Poets House that anyone in any town can go and find something cool to do in: do a writing exercise, read something, play, discuss, even make a New Year's resolution (I just made a big one).
I mean, where else can you find out about The Lumberyard's Roark Prize in Poetry, the prize for which is an entire issue dedicated to your poems? Not CRWROPPS, not Poets & Writers, and surely not on Facebook.
They have virtual book tours, Makeover Mondays and revision strategies, micropoetry (tweet a poem, anyone?).
I get the idea that if you can come up with it, they can find a corner for it. So take a look: right now it's a giant poetic thinktank. Later come the Modernist Wars, Poville, Zinger Poker and other Facebook-style frivolities.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Tonight I encountered the inevitable consequence of the increasingly new way to submit poems, using online "submission managers." Concomitant with online submitting is getting rejections via email, which means even on your cell phone. Tonight I was having drinks with friends and during a quiet moment in the conversation, checked my email and found a batch of poems had been rejected by a zine. Now, the note was cordial, signed by an editor and all, but I really missed that envelope bringing a piece of paper that had a signature scrawled on it. Maybe if I had to send out all those rejection letters, I'd do it by email too. I'm just thinking, if it can be made a little easier via email, perhaps a little something more personal can be said. Using a little of the time saved.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I also googled my father and discovered something he never mentioned to any of us (maybe my mother knew but has forgotten). He patented a device to launch liquid fuel rockets. You can see his drawing and abstract still on file at the Patent Office.
In other news, I never did blog about a lovely review my book Femme au chapeau received from Cheryl Snell at Library Thing in February. Thanks, Cheryl!
And if I did mention it, well, it's worth two mentions!
Friday, November 06, 2009
This Sunday, Stein will interview Bryan Roth again. The topic on Sunday will be the work of Stephen Dobyns, author of ten books of poetry and twenty novels.
You can listen in online using the link on this page -- at 5 pm Pacific Time, 6 pm Mountain Time, 7 pm Eastern. Roth is an excellent editor, has studied with Dobyns, and is fascinating on the topic of modern poets and poetry. It should be a great half hour.
Dona Stein, a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, is the author of three chapbooks are Children of the Mafiosi, Heavenly Bodies, and most recently, Entering the Labyrinth, poems written while she was living in Greece.
Last night I had the pleasure of becoming reacquainted with an old friend, poet Eric Halliwell. He has been living for many years in Guatemala, and was in town visiting friends. By chance, it turns out that he has a poem in the current issue of Umbrella, the zine for which I am a contributing editor for poetry. Eric told me this poem, "Like Picasso, Who Never Had to Pay for Anything," is one of only a handful he has published, though he has many, many more completed. He should send out lots more, judging by this one!
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
At Flatmancrooked, there's an interesting interview with Shya Scanlon about serialized novels on the Web. Mr. Scanlon is the author of a serialized novel that has been mentioned in the same sentence with Dickens. But a good question is raised: why the Web? Reading long amounts of text online is, as we know, often painful. People stop reading. Print lulls you into focus. Why is that? Is it the relatively different postures, the light emerging from the screen, the action of turning pages that keeps a reader going?
Serialization is an interesting idea, but how do you sell installments online? Or do you just give away your work, as we bloggers do, hoping something will be returned per the laws of the universe?
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
And thanks to Miriam's blogroll, I found a blog about fashion that's actually readable and interesting. The Thoughtful Dresser (Linda Grant) also writes about books and has this delightful subtitle on her blog: Because you can't have depths without surfaces. Too right.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Recently, they put us through a laborious server upgrade, which cost me about seven hours in tech support calls, for some of which I had to wait more than thirty minutes in line. Now they have an unexplained, long outage and don't even bother to put a message on their telephone line explaining the situation and calming jittery customers.
Aplus.net, are you listening? I'm taking suggestions for a new multiple-domain hosting service with good tech support that costs less than $14 a month. And works with the Mac OS X.5.7 operating system.
Anyone have ideas? You have my attention!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Carpe Diem Press combines great graphic design talent with economical prices and in-house proofreading -- and even copy-editing, if you want to pay for that service. They're in the process of building their site. The best way to find out more is to get in touch and ask for a quote and samples. I love their logo, a little guy jumping up and down. He looks to me like he's uttering a barbaric yawp!
My poem "Apple Pie Order" appeared on Your Daily Poem, a lovely site dedicated to the idea that "poetry need not be boring." Aimed at general readership, the editors of YDP look for poetry that combines accessibility and high standards of craft. Check it out.
Friday, October 23, 2009
There are other goodies in the new issue of poemeleon, this issue's theme being Gender. Take a look.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Thank you for submitting your work to Meridian. While your work was carefully considered, we are unfortunately unable to accept it for publication at this time.
CAREFULLY considered? Ridiculous. How carefully could it have been given due consideration in three days?! I sent the batch of poems on October 17. I received the note on October 20. Now, of course, they might have a grudge against me. Or they might have been overwhelmed with work and this is supposed to be a form rejection.
But "carefully considered"? I picture the editor in his/her slippers and robe, sitting before the fire carefully looking over my poems and thoughtfully scratching his/her chin. To take or not? One? Several? None? Just how carefully were these poems considered, one wonders.
You have to remember, in most cases at literary journals, it's undergrads who are reading the incoming submissions. So, okay, the undergrad who happened across my submission actually read all four poems all the way through. Perhaps they even kept them around for a day and a half before deciding not to take any.
But can that really be described as "carefully considered by the editors"? For one thing, editors is plural. Could the poems have been passed around in the three days (and I'm stretching it -- it was more like two and a half days) they had possession of them.
These are not my worst poems, at least I didn't think so in sending them. I was aware of Meridian's reputation and tried to send some of my very best work. I don't think this "careful consideration" will incline me to try again, not that they encouraged that.
Just saying. Sometimes you don't really know to whom you're sending. You'd think University of Virginia would take a little more care.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
For those of us in the San Francisco area, it's Litquake time again. There aren't that many multi-day, multi-event poetry festivals around the country, and this is one of the biggest, in terms of the number of events. I'm sorry I had to miss the Litquake Ball, which I'm sure was a very cool bash.
Friday, October 09, 2009
I understand the economics of contests -- understand it all too well -- and the dismal sales of poetry books. But there has to be a better way to sustain small presses than essentially running contests as the only way of generating revenue. For one thing, it comes too close to a gambler's version of vanity publishing. For another, it sustains the closed system of poetry-for-poets and pretty much nobody else paying any attention to it.
Let's see some thinking outside the box. Someone's bound to invent a new way to get poetry out there and published and read! Most of all, read.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
In other bloghopping news, I got an email from Copper Canyon Press to let me know that they should be on my resource page, Non-Contest Poetry Publishers. Silly me, how could I have missed one of the big poetry publishers? Thanks, CCP, for letting me know. Consider it done.
Monday, October 05, 2009
For example, my poem, A Pot of Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, appeared in the journal's fourth year, the Hunger issue. It's still in the archives, as you can see from the link. I wonder if anyone reads the archives, but the poem certainly stands a chance of having a longer life than many in the dusty print journals I keep in boxes in my garage. Bravo, Jana Harris, Linda Malnack, and Roberta Feins, for SOG's longevity and consistently good quality of work!
Grantmakers who fund literary arts should pay more attention to what's happening online. The paradigm shift is giving zines a better shot at having a greater impact on our literary culture, and thus the larger culture, than print. There. I said it. Now don't throw dingbats!
Digging into the possibility of finding funding for the arts during the most severe economic downturn I've ever experienced during my career as a fundraiser has been an -- are you ready? -- encouraging experience. From the National Endowment for the Arts down to local governments, there is a resurgence of the idea that arts are central in our lives and our communities, and must not be casualties of the general diminishment of funding for a healthy and equitable society.
I will be preparing a resource page on my website for poets and writers to seek individual grants. But I think now I will also include sources of funding for literary organizations and ventures. We have to think like entrepreneurs. Perhaps by finding ways to give poetry, literature, and art to our communities, we can support our individual work as well. Stay tuned.
Monday, September 28, 2009
As a contributing editor at Umbrella, I have had a look behind the scenes in editing a journal. But I would say that Umbrella, as an independent magazine, is an elegant and economical operation under Kate Bernadette Benedict's guidance. To steer through a university-affiliated magazine, you must often get past an army of first readers, many of whom might be just starting out in poetry. You must make it through a sometimes not impartial process -- though this is controversial, and many journals are moving to ensure that their blind judging of contests is squeaky clean -- and you must be simply lucky, given the numbers.
All in all, to succeed with a poetry manuscript, you need all the help you can get. I'm very grateful to Bryan Roth for working with me on my current manuscript, and will continue to avail myself of professional assistance. Now, with no sense of failure, but rather a sense of increased optimism, tempered by a realistic look at the landscape.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
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
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.
Friday, September 18, 2009
I felt a little like Stoppard’s young Shakespeare (but not in a good way) when I worked with poetry book editor Bryan Roth of Red C Services on my new manuscript, Gods of Water and Air. “Good title!” Dona Stein said on her radio program, Poetry Show, on which they discussed Bryan’s editing of my book.
My manuscript’s current title was one of my devising, but not as a title. It was buried in the midst of a poem. I didn’t notice it until Bryan pointed it out, after convincing me that Artist House, the title I had been using, didn’t get there. It took some work to get me over that hurdle. I had been clinging to it harder than young Shakespeare to his Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter. The title was given to me, in a similar way as the imagined Shakespeare derived his titles, by a friend who commented on my manuscript. I will be forever grateful for that title, as it formed a bridge to the new one and a way of thinking about the themes in the collection. But, as Bryan said, it’s essentially a “label title,” carrying no poetic resonances, just flat and accurate. Flat and accurate doesn’t win contests.
We worked on many of the poem titles in the same way. We often started with a faintly sardonic editorial note: “Best title?” I quickly learned that this did not mean it was possibly the best title. Then we mined good lines from poems for title possibilities. Suddenly, where I had been a title pauper, I had a wealth of choices. Some were good enough for books or book sections, others just for the poem from which they emerged.
I once wrote an essay for Avatar Review on the art of selecting a good title. To research the subject, I thumbed through the many books on craft in my library, and found just one that had a chapter on titles, Michael Bugeja’s The Art and Craft of Poetry. Michael had this to say about label titles: “A descriptive title depicts content, a suspense one sparks interest, and the label variety is just that -- a word or two as on a can of vegetables: ‘Beans’ or ‘Creamed Corn.’”
Perhaps I should go back and reread my own essay. I need to work harder to find good titles. I will also listen more carefully to my editor when I get that question, “Best title?” When he says, “Good title!” I’ll know we’re there.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Following the experience of hiring a professional editor, I'm thinking a lot about this process. I have another manuscript in development, and am evaluating what I learned from the editing of Gods of Water and Air. One of the big questions we considered was the structure of the book. I've considered two basic ideas for structure: grouping sections around themes or interweaving all themes into every section and using a different organizing principle than thematic for sections (formal or technical dimensions, chronological sequence, etc.)
The suggestion I resonated with the most was the idea of thematic grouping. It's immediately clear to the reader, a tried-and-true structural device. While it might be tempting to try a more subtle approach, when you have to make it past harried screeners to even be a contest finalist, subtle structural approaches might not be your best gambit.
Within each thematic section, getting the poems to talk to each other, relate in some sort of fluid sequence, was then the challenge. An outside editorial eye can be invaluable for this, by spotting abrupt shifts that break the flow, suggesting rearrangements, deletions, even places where new material might be beneficial. I actually wrote some new poems to expand one section because it wasn't quite large enough to be a section, but the theme was a strong one.
More fine-tuning remains to be done on this aspect of my manuscript. And how that relates to the question of titles. Stay tuned for talk of titles.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
I've been working on a new book manuscript. With contests in mind, I've elected to have it professionally edited by a poetry editor. As it turns out, he'll be interviewed on a poetry radio show tomorrow. Bryan Roth, Executive Director of the Colorado Poets Association, will use my manuscript and one or two poems from my new manuscript to illustrate the principles of editing a book-length poetry collection.
The show is Dona Stein's half-hour Poetry Show. It airs Sunday on krfc 88.9, streaming live at 5pm Pacific Time, 6 pm Rocky Mountain Time (where it originates). It should be a good discussion of editing and revising poetry. This opens to a link for listening in:
Friday, September 11, 2009
Fringe has a new fall issue up. "The noun that verbs your world" continues to publish work that sizzles. I love the prose poem in this issue, "Things I Thought I'd Never Say," by Kat Gonso, just hilarious.
Caketrain's chapbook contest is still open, accepting submissions for 2010 publication until October 1.
Oh, yes, I'm all about the contests now. And the contradictions.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
September 13, 2009
October 11, 2009
November 8, 2009
December 13, 2009
Kit Kennedy and Joan Gelfand
Yes, Kim Addonizio is featured this Sunday! And my friend John Amen, publisher of The Pedestal Magazine, will be featured in October. He's a great reader and also a musician. Connie Post, past Poet Laureate of Livermore, has taken over coordinating this series from David Alpaugh. She will obviously uphold the terrific tradition.
Connie herself will be reading September 16 at Newpoint Coffee House in Sausalito with Becky Foust and Janell Moon.
Poetry on Craigslist? You heard it from Wired, and I heard it from Mike Chasar's blog, Poetry & Popular Culture. Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist, has adopted a haiku approach to fighting spammers and con artists who attempt to hijack Craigslist. Buckmaster drops in a haiku or two to alert the would-be spammer that their too-numerous posts have been detected and deleted. In their place might appear one of Buckmaster's brief poems:
a wafer thin mint
that's been sent before it seems
one is enough, thanks
I really like that one. Subtle, imagistic, and discouraging in just the right way. And Buckmaster has avoided altogether the major dilemma of the modern poet: publication. He has his own public square from which to quietly declaim haiku, if one can ever declaim a haiku. Well-placed, unmistakable, able to gather a crowd. Better than a microphone at Union Square, I'd say.
Poetry in unlikely places, my favorite. On my bookshelf sits a row of one of my favorite po-publishing experiments, the poetry gumball. Instead of a Bazooka bubble gum comic, you get gum and a short poem. Three of mine are in those little packages. Ah, to reach the masses. At least the gum-chewing ones.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
This, also just in from tv-land: a new episode of Law and Order features poetry. Really bad poetry. Which is what you'd expect. I am so not giving you a link to that show.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Wilson's, a first book, is subtle and wide-ranging in topics and images. He has traveled, benefits from a layered heritage as a Lebanese American, and writes with generous humanity about a wide range of people and generations. It's a quietly rich book, one that takes you to ordinary places and then sweeps aside the curtain to reveal their luminous outlines. Bruce Smith's blurb on the back is apt: "He sounds the nation, our history, our work, our desires and weeps for those hwo have yet to be wept for."
I knew Duhamel's book would be a treat after I read her Mille et un Sentiments and had to stop doing so sitting alone at cafe tables, because I was laughing my head off and people were looking at me as if I were a crazy lady. She's a crazy lady and unafraid to show it in verse. Few poets can be hilarious, but right here and now I nominate Denise Duhamel for Poet Laureate. We need to know poetry can be both deep and funny.
Can't wait to get Emanuel's book, two books combined in one volume. From the little I've read I can see she's compelling and original, often hair-raising, in the way that Emily Dickinson defined as the recognition of a poem: the top of your head feels like it's coming off.
What are you reading?
Friday, August 28, 2009
Another take, a more filmic one, on this evolving form is Dave Bonta's Moving Poems. The site has a stunning video poem by expatriate Burmese poet Kyi May Kaung, with striking scenes of puppets and dancers miming puppets, scenes that heighten the intensity of the poem.
Both are now in my blogroll. I'll be checking them often to see what's happening with this new form. And (slight plug) I may be doing another recording for Blue's Cruzio Cafe. The link above takes you to the page where my reading of my poem "One Night Light" is animated by JJ using Patricia Wallace Jones' wonderful artwork.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Adding Susan Schultz's blog (Tinfish Editor's blog) to the blogroll today. Good reading. I liked today's entry: Chant 15 (way after Whitman).
Monday, August 24, 2009
Bloghopping: added to my blogroll recently Shannon Cain's The Literary Activist and Vince Gotera's The Man With the Blue Guitar.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
This idea strikes me as curious in two ways. First, it's closing an already pretty tightly closed system, that of literary magazines based on college campuses. That kind of journal already has an inbuilt self-referential momentum. Students who read through slush piles are working to please professors who direct programs and publications that will shape their future careers. That would surely influence my thinking and choices, were I in their position. And it would incline me to select friends of my teachers for publication.
Of course, networks exist around all magazines. It's human nature. But the college publications have this potential to narrow their esthetic focus because of the way the system works. If you eliminate all the readers and slush piles, then you will have a laser-beam focus on the choices of two or three editors who pre-select poets for inclusion. That's interesting, more like an independent litmag. But also like a club. Curious.
The second curious thing -- this idea would possibly narrow the audience. Most readers of litmags are those who have received contributor's copies or who aspire to be in the litmag. Eliminate the latter and you might reduce sales. It's curious to me, the idea of narrowing the universe of potential readers. Poets complain that no one in our culture reads poetry. Narrowing the potential readership could help pull poetry further in the direction of obscurity. Or maybe that's already the dynamic. It's been argued that by maintaining American poetry an academic art form, based in colleges and universities, subject to the choices of editors whose livelihood and magazines do not depend on sales but on subsidy, we have created an art form that all but eliminates the general audience.
Friday, August 21, 2009
- WHEN she rises in the morning
- I linger to watch her;
- She spreads the bath-cloth underneath the window
- And the sunbeams catch her
- Glistening white on the shoulders,
- While down her sides the mellow
- Golden shadow glows as
- She stoops to the sponge, and her swung breasts
- Sway like full-blown
- Gloire de Dijon roses.
- She drips herself with water, and her shoulders
- Glisten as silver; they crumble up
- Like wet and falling roses, and I listen
- For the sluicing of their rain-dishevelled petals.
- In the window full of sunlight
- Concentrates her golden shadow
- Fold on fold, until it glows as
- Mellow as the glory roses.
- D. H. Lawrence
Love poetry is so hard to write. If Lawrence weren't a first-rate poet, how could he have written such a beautiful love poem? I will be re-thinking his work and getting reacquainted with it.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The listserv comment that sparked a discussion was on the abrupt and callous tone of a major litmag's posted guidelines. I took a look and found the predictable long, demanding rant about what this journal insists on from poets submitting, what they will not tolerate, yada-yada. Very little mention of what, if anything, the poet can expect out of this transaction.
At the same time, I received an email rejecting my poetry manuscript, one I had submitted with an entry fee, and it was addressed to a file number.
About ten minutes later, I received a personally addressed email apologizing sincerely for the glitch in sending out a notice that addressed me by number instead of name.
Now, how hard was that? My reaction to reading the guidelines was, "Submit again to you? Hell no!" My reaction to the press that rejected my ms. but took the trouble to amend a careless email with a short, personal note (no doubt generated by program, rather than hand typed), was "Sure, I'll try again, and maybe even buy one of your books!"
I will let the editors and publishers decide which is the best approach. I guess if you're selling enough books and issues, you can afford to be callous toward those who submit -- who also happen to be your buyers.
Welcome to my blogroll, Shannon Cain, The Literary Activist! Who got me started on this rant.
I repeat, in case an editor out there isn't paying attention: YOUR SUBMITTERS ARE YOUR CONSUMERS. They buy your stuff -- or don't. Offend them if you want.
Monday, August 17, 2009
But poetry is a very different animal than prose. I noticed yesterday that I would put down the pen, let the pages riffle in the wind, sip my iced tea and people-watch while wrestling with my subconscious for le mot juste. Again and again. I became aware that it might take five minutes or more for a few possible words to stream through my mind, and then another five to decide which one I wanted to use. I don't usually allow myself that kind of time -- and it's esthetically unappealing to dream while staring at a screen.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
In other bloghopping news, the Aroostook Review has a nice interview with Dorianne Laux, plus four of her poems -- plus three poems from my colleague and Editor-In-Chief at Umbrella, Kate Bernadette Benedict. Treats in store when you click on the links.
And yes, I have not tweeted in more than 48 hours, but now that I've discovered FriendFeed, a way to manage all you online addictions, that may soon change.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
The review remarked on several serendipitous conjunctions that occurred in an anthology compiled democratically, each poet selected her own poems to include, with the poems in alphabetical order by the poet's last name. So it was happenstance that my ekphrastic poem ended up on a page facing Barbara Crooker's ekphrastic poem "All That Is Glorious Around Us." Barbara and I agree that this is a nice coincidence, giving the two poems a stage from which to speak to each other and to their respective paintings in, as the reviewer says, very different ways. Sometimes life likes to make its own poetry.
Blogging in Afghanistan? Yup. I found out on Twitter, naturally, that Nasim Fekrat has helped created an Afghani blogosphere, despite the country's problems. According to the article on Foreign Policy: "On his groundbreaking blog, Afghan Lord, Fekrat hopes to tell that to the world. Writing in Farsi as well as self-taught English, he has taken it upon himself to show Afghanistan's softer, more genuine face. Until recently, he feels, this face was nearly impossible to find."
The world is losing its borders, thanks to the Internet. When I visited with a friend who had spent several years teaching in China, he reported the same thing. The Internet is changing the world. It increasingly works no longer from top-down governments. It's becoming more and more a from-the-bottom-up, democratic surge of younger people making a new global culture.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
This practice of non- or slow response is unprofessional and disrespectful to poets. Another example of the degradation of the art form, in my opinion -- and what's worse, by its very practitioners. Rather than ding the journals that have sloppy practices, I'd rather praise the editors who uphold reasonable professional standards.
So I'm hoping you can help me compile this list of good places to send work!
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
I, too, notice a nagging disparity in the prominence of men and women in literary arts. It seems to me to reflect the persistence of male chauvinism in American society, though I do believe this old-generation attitude is waning. It just isn't waning fast enough, I think. So the emergence of organizations of women writers is a natural occurrence to redress the disbalance. It will be interesting to see how this organization develops and how much energy is behind it.
Equality and freedom seem to be key issues around the globe right now, bubbling up in countries like Iran, which is undergoing a transformation of its culture from the bottom up -- and that is involving women taking leadership roles. Women tend to lead differently than men. They often lead by example and by collaborative efforts. It will be interesting to see how a woman President operates, when the day comes that America is ready to give that kind of respect to a woman, to allow her to lead the country.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Though I be old, clasp me one night to thy breast,
And I, when the dawn shall come to awaken me,
With the flush of youth on my cheek from thy bosom will rise.
Translated by Gertrude Bell (1868 – 1926)
The translation is a little creaky, but I like the idea. I think Iran will soon awaken because of having clasped for even a night (or a month or more) the idea of liberty. Dawn shall come.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Not at all. It rather seems that this is the beginning of a new Iranian revolution. And those are never the work of a week, a month, or even a year. Recall our own American Revolution. Seven years' effort was required to give birth to a new nation. For a wonderful documentary series on our Revolution, rent Liberty! from PBS.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
In other signs, more the standard kind, Publishers Weekly is for sale. This publishing industry giant is on the auction block, and it seems to me another omen of the transformation of print publishing into online content. My Sunday San Francisco Chronicle has taken another tack: it's shrinking. I mean literally. The paper that used to doorstop my breakfast table to the point that I wondered if it might tip the table is now a dainty, tabloid size thing. It's hardly larger than the annoying ad wrappers I get in my mailbox. Meanwhile, the Chron's online presence is swelling. They've added a new virtual daily paper you can subscribe to as a subscriber to the print version. If any newspaper is going to figure out how to survive, my guess is it will be the Chron, which is perched at the edge of Silicon Valley.
Will someone please figure out how we should read magazines and journals if we don't want to sit at a computer all day? I know, I know: Kindle. But it's still a screen. Paper has to have an afterlife, post-Internet. We like paper, it's tactile, it pages, we can read it longer without eyestrain. It can support cool fonts. Need I elaborate?
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I think of poets like B.H. Fairchild, who worked as a machinist and writes compellingly of the world of work and workers in Art of the Lathe and Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest. I think of Paul Hostovsky, who works in the nonprofit world interpreting for deaf people. His poetry is often centered on that work, opening up marvelous windows into places many of us wouldn't otherwise encounter. (Though I do as a fundraiser, working with a school for young deaf children.) And of course I think of Walt Whitman and his drive to be among common people, any people, working people. I wonder what connection to the insurance business Wallace Stevens' unconscious made to his dazzling language.
By the way, if you work in a nonprofit organization that needs funds (there's a redundancy!), you can go to my professional fundraiser website, Rachel Dacus Resource Development. Free estimates on grant projects.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Not a lot else on my brain today, having just returned from a week of vacation no superlatives can describe, except to say our luck on this trip was characterized by low humidity and temperatures in the mid-80s in Washington, D.C. in July -- an event everyone assured us was a fluke.
Happy summer vacation, wherever you are!
Saturday, July 18, 2009
#Iranelection has been moving fast again since Rafsanjani spoke against the government at Friday prayers. This morning if I looked away for long, 32 or more tweets had scrolled on this topic. This one especially interested me:
@WomenOfIran: Challenging old traditions: #women stood in front of men in prayer lines on Fri http://bit.ly/esU7W #iranelection #iran. The link takes you to a photo. Changing of the old order!
And there have probably been 50 or more tweets since I began typing this.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Summer's such a good time to change it up in your writing, experiment, push yourself. Because it's going against the grain already, just to be writing in summer, let alone challenging your muse to give it up. Karen Weyant has an interesting exercise at Scrapper Poet from her "jailbreaks" workshop. ReadWritePoem is always good for a jumpstart - this week's is Fun With the Dictionary.
Word lists seems to be popular prompts, so of course I've written a poem about word lists. I was always a bad student. I would take an exercise, stand it on its head, turn it into a poem or play and present the result to the teacher. If it were a multiple choice test I would make a prose poem out of it. I should write The Rebel's Guide to Better Grades. They always gave me A's because they had no idea how to comment on what I had done. But if I wrote that book, all you parents would have to hate me. All of this bad student history is in my memoir, Rocket Lessons. If anyone knows of a publisher interested in a bad attitude rocket kid, let me know.
And of course, childhood, as Rilke said, is a great touchstone for poetry. Here's my prompt: write down five confusing things that happened to you before you were nine. Pick two and combine them in a poem. You can do the same with five awful things, five surprising things, etc.
Speeding you the Muse!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Plus, Amy has just guest edited Issue #2 of Ekleksographia (and I am just so impressed with myself that I could spell it).
They keep arresting journalists in Iran, which I find mordantly funny. As if the news weren't getting out by every citizen with a camera cell phone and a clue about secure networks. Journalists are all well and good, but when the government shuts down mainstream communications networks and arrests journalists, where is the news? And that's where we are with news from Iran. Vive la revolution en journalisme! (Sorry, it's just been Bastille Day.)
Since we're political today, check out truthout. Another different kind of journalism. Interesting opinion piece today on the idea of taxing the wealthy to keep everyone healthy.
See that tab thingie to the left of the screen? Click on it to check my recent tweets.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
If you live near San Francisco and you care about fashion, you must check out SF Style, the guide to glorious street fashion. If it's happening here, you'll be wearing it in two years. Right now, over-sized hair accessories. I'm just reporting the facts, folks. Grab a great big bow or feather and slap it up there. They say: This trend has been building steam for a while now, and we predict it is soon to hit critical mass and implode.
Wouldn't that be explode? Maybe not, in SF.
Of course I found it on Twitter - where I find everything lately - along with Happen_in_SF_Bay which keeps me apprised of every event in my vicinity, right down to the nearest coffeehouse music event. Assuming I wait until the last minute to plan my Saturday nights. I feel so young again! As long as the party doesn't go past 11.
Monday, July 13, 2009
A strong woman is a woman determined to do something others are determined not be done. boiter: limp; fig: de raisonnement, be shaky, not stand up very well; boiteux, -euse (chaise, table, etc.), wobbly; fig: raisonnement, shaky; être boiter d'une personne, to have a limp. That's so funny, something missing from paradise. So many lovely pigmentations!
Pasternak experienced this sense of the objectivity of a work of art -- the feeling that the force that produced the work is above and beyond the artist who is responsible for the work - when he wrote MY SISTER. Prepared by such a life and following so safe a course, he was not disturbed at the approach of death. But if there is some crisis at hand, shouldn't your divine counselor be with you? Baba took him on his lap, loved and kissed him for a few minutes.
Designed as an arrow in the heart of forever.
~ Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharoah, saying, "I would make mention today of my own offenses."
Ranajit Guha has written insightfully about the manner in which "the Muslim" has becomes the preferred villain in early-nationalist writing, an intellectual device for focussing proto-nationalist resentment with the present condition while simultaneously not transgressing the ground rules of colonial discourse.
~ They thought they would find the "goodness of Jah" in one so deceptively named, the copycat of the true substance. ~ He had chosen to reject and not draw near what might have been his true base of authority, the Living Word, the Word which Samuel represented.
But it isn't always possible to start from the small and work into the bigger picture. I need you to help me remember. I have seen the general dare the combers come closer. Designed as an arrow in the heart forever.
This is the exercise:
Grab the book nearest you. Right now. * Turn to page 56. * Find the fifth sentence. * Post that sentence AS YOUR STATUS. AND POST these instructions in a comment to this status. * Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST book.
Thanks to Deborah Joy Shore, Michael Creighton, Bryan Roth, Marjorie Altman Tesser, Max Reif, Melanie Huber, K.R. Copeland, Patricia Wallace Jones, Carig Bryars, Cati Porter, David Dacus, and Tony Paterniti, for allowing me to take your sentences and play around with them. Not everyone gave attributions, but some of the sentences were from: a short story collection by Steven Saylor; Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God; the Langenscheidt Pocket French Dictionary; Letters: 1926 by Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetayeva and Rainer Maria Rilke; Growing Up With God by Sheila Kalchuri; the Bible.
Here's the next exercise, for those who want to play some more. Take this prose poem and rearrange the sentences. Let's see what the alternatives might be!
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Red Fez a whimsical eclection of fiction, poetry, books, comics, and something called the Poem Dervish (random selections), with each section organized by theme.
We're so in need of more literary criticism! Especially for poetry. It seems to be dying with print and attention span. So finding Daniel Casey's Gently Read Literature is such a pleasure -- thoughtful essays on contemporary poetry and litfiction. Currently up is James Reiss' review of B.H. Fairchild's newest, “Usher.” I became a Fairchild fan when someone gave me a review copy of “Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest.”
I'm always late to find out about trends in software, so forgive me if you already know about Scrivener, but it's worth mentioning in case. Best feature: the virtual corkboard. You can throw away those index cards!
And did I say I woke up this morning BFF with Emily D.?
Someone asked me, why Rocket Kids? Because I believe a good poem should have a good fuel mix. If it doesn't have enough thrust, it won't get over.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
A key issue for me is mobility: carrying my entire library in my purse. I would give away the feel of paper for that in a hot minute. But fortunately, I don't have to. I prize the esthetic appeal of holding and reading a bound paper book. I love fonts! And their history. Have you rented the movie "Helvetica"? If you write, you should know about type.
But mobility and maneuverability have become far more important to my writing process lately than esthetics of print. For example, yesterday I delved into a long and fascinating essay on Emily Dickinson's fascicles, paired with a detailed medical definition of fascicle as muscle tissue, skipping over to the poems themselves, and made notes about further investigation -- on my iPhone. I also carry a paper notebook in my purse -- still write first drafts by hand -- along with at least one poetry book.
But without the ability to surf the Net on my phone, yesterday's couple of hours in waiting rooms would have been creatively unproductive. Sure, I might have read a book. But I couldn't have pursued all the wily ideas that book (What We Carry by Dorianne Laux) engendered. One of her poems led me to Emily D., and then the idea of the fascicles. I was, after all, stuck in medical offices! So the connection between her bundles of poetry and muscle sinews was resonant.
I don't see why one technology need be jettisoned because another arrives. Here we are discussing books on a listserv! Which is a pretty old technology in Internet history. The future of publishing may just be choices, enriching and broadening the audience for poetry.
Now, can someone please invent an iTunes-like mechanism for downloading a reading of a single poem? Or do I have to do everything?
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Non-Contest Poetry Book Publishers - updated list
How much we have to spend to support a career in poetry! And why can't publishers of poetry books publish books a wider audience will want to buy? So often there's a lot of whining about low sales -- this is true everywhere in publishing but especially in poetry -- so why not look at what you're offering and make it fit the market better? Just a thought to consider.
Elsewhere, lively discussion of the ampersand (&) over at Dave Bonta's Via Negativa. I just love it when someone mentions the sensuality of a punctuation mark.
May your poetry day include lots of sensual punctuation.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
PLUS -- a recording! This new thing in zines is what makes Internet publishing superior to print, in my view. A poet reading adds textural dimensions of breath, persona and pacing to what's on the page. I'm with Camille Paglia that it's a tragedy that we have lost the enrichment of context in poetry critcism.
I work on my readings. Could use one of those cool Snowball microphones, however. The built-in mic in MacBook will not do. Ambient noise abounds.
In case you wondered, the word qarrtsiluni is an an Iñupiaq word that means "sitting together in the darkness, waiting for something to burst."
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Good summary of the current situation and the possibilities for the coming week by blogger Black Hat Journalist. I'll be following this blog.
And a new Wikipedia entry for Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman gunned down Saturday, June 20 in Tehran, allegedly by a Basij gunman. Lighting a candle tonight in her memory.
Women of Iran - "lioness" is a Farsi word that comes to mind when I see the images of protesting women and read about Zahra Rahnavard, Moussavi's wife, taking a leadership role.
Someone on my poetry listserv posed the question of the emotional content in poetry and its equation to "importance" of a poem, citing a craze for emotionalism with linebreaks that's become a trend among teenagers. While I like to think that anything is fair game to interest youth in our lovely art form, that kind of verbal emoting may so far debase any art form that it defeats the purpose. This has been an emotional week for me, watching singular events unfold in a country I haven't till now thought much about. The only poetry I have dared to work on is far, far from these themes.
I thought of Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads, and this statement that connects poetry to our common humanity:
To this knowledge which all men carry about with them, and to these sympathies in which without any other discipline than that of our daily life we are fitted to take delight, the poet principally directs his attention.
And at the same time, I thought of this, also from the Preface:
Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.
Spontaneous, yes. Overflow, certainly. The wisdom is in recollecting it from tranquillity.
One young girl in Tehran yesterday was standing up for her answer when a Basij sniper peered down at her from a balcony. For some reason, he decided to aim straight at her heart and he was a good shot. She died in her father's arms while an amateur videographer captured the tragic event on film and uploaded that video to the Internet. The film rocketed around the world via a new use of technology whose power we are just discovering as Iranians discover their use of it to get out word of these events.
The girl's name -- I've read that she was only 16 -- is Neda, which means voice or call in Farsi. It has in 24 hours become a rallying cry for the cause of freedom. How remarkable an event this is, helped to unfold by people like us, fingers poised over our keyboards, alone in our offices and rooms, expressing our thoughts and feelings about such events in often brief but moving posts. Here's one I just grabbed from Twitter. It touched me deeply:
Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it. --Mahatma Gandhi #neda#IranElection
Saturday, June 20, 2009
The picture emerging from her messages and those of others is of massive police force meeting the planned protest at 4 pm, scattering protesters into side streets where fighting has occurred with rock-throwing, and protesters being badly beaten. Police have used water cannons, tear gas and something acidic sprayed from helicopters. Shots have been fired and at least one body was carried away. Moussavi has addressed the crowd saying he is prepared for martyrdom.
An estimated 2,000 people had been arrested before today. It seems this crackdown is sparking a heightened, emboldened resistance. Why am I reminded of being in Berkeley during the anti-Vietnam War protests? Excessive police force is always a poor response to protest. As Gandhi said: "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."
Opened the Divan of Hafiz again today - this is a tradition well-known in Iran, seeking advice from Hafiz - and this is what I first read:
Tis the ambush-place: and very swiftly thou goest. Be sensible: do not go swiftly lest from the broad king's highway, should ascend the dust of thee.
Be brave but be safe.
Friday, June 19, 2009
I think of the Persian poet Hafiz and his Divan, so I opened it at random and saw this:
If the Sultan's justic asketh not the state of the oppressed ones of love,
For those corner-sitting, it is necessary to sever the love of ease.
Hey, don't blame me -- I didn't make this up. Blame Hafiz, who as a friend recently said, nails it again.