Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Days, Slow Days: Links



28º and the solid, snow-white sky mirrors the solid, snow-covered ground; no melting

On Monday, we received 5 inches of snow followed by 2 inches of freezing rain followed by another inch and a half of snow. The rain did melt down the snow blanket some, but the snow following built it back. There was no wind at all. So, we had a perfectly even coating, save where the trees caught some of the snow on the way down. Yesterday, there was sun, but the temp only reached 35º for a few hours late in the day, so little melting occurred. I can't remember snow lingering like this during the 5 years I've lived in Little Rock. I find that school closings and the weather condition has slowed me to a sluggish pace.

But on to the links.

Rarely do I fall in love with poems on both Verse Daily and Poetry Daily on the same day, but today I did. Check out Lucia Perillo's wonderful poem "The Wolves of Illinois" on Poetry Daily today for a foray into the power of certain namings. Also, check out Peter Richardson's "A Mid-Wife's Late Sabbatical" on Verse Daily. The formatting of the poem struck me first. How did he achieve that wonderful inward bowing of the line breaks? Of course, formatting doesn't make a poem, and I was glad to find I enjoyed the content of the poem just as much. Some great images and sounds in there.

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Martha Silano blogs at Blue Positive and has a great post up about the value of editors and rejections.

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Stephen Mills, blogging over at Joe's Jacket, has a fine post about the non-ending debate over the worth of an MFA/PhD. I concur with almost all Mills says and think I'll stop reading any more articles/blogs about the whole subject.

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On a non-poetry note, thanks to The Rumpus for this link to a great set of pictures of some baby pandas. Sometimes you just need some baby panda love. What I love about the group shot (16 baby pandas held by 16 men) is the wide variety of expressions and postures. I could look at this for hours.

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Yesterday, I spent part of my snow day working on this year's NEA grant application. This will be my third submission for an NEA. The application comes around every two years, and every two years, I go through the same set of emotions. I begin with cautious optimism. Then I open the application forms and my heart rate increases alongside my blood pressure. I feel stressed. Why? Partially, I believe, because of the forms that are so governmental; my body goes through the same physical changes when I open TurboTax each February/March (why must the NEA be at the same time?). In any case, the NEA forms and directions are filled with warnings about following the directions precisely. I get so caught up in filling in the blanks exactly that when it comes time to pick the poems, my mind is a mess. (This is definitely a multi-day process in order to get some clarity.)

From another point of view, the stress lessens after I remember all the things I learned two years ago. Yesterday, it took me an hour (an hour!) to remember that I had saved all the documents on my computer from 2008. Of course I needed a new manuscript this year, but I could at least use the '08 docs as a guide. That helped immensely. I felt like I was having to relearn a foreign language every few years. Perhaps I'll remember sooner in 2012.

As for the stress of picking the poems, here is where I hesitate. How do you, Dear Reader, select 10 pages of your own poetry? Obviously, we want those 10 pages to be our best, but how to decide on "best"? Do you only select poems that have been published in lit mags or in your book if you have one? Do you only select poems written most recently (as indicative of your current project)? In 2006, I included 10 poems from Blood Almanac. In 2008, I included 3 of those poems and 7 new ones from my new manuscript. This year, I have 1 poem that overlaps with 2008, but the rest are new. All 10 have been published, and this year I also paid attention to the arc of the manuscript, a mini-chapbook, if you will. Is that a good strategy?

What I do know is that I will send the application off this weekend, having returned to cautious optimism. Then, because the announcement of results does not arrive until November/December, I will forget about the fellowship on most days. On days when I do think of it, I will remember that the odds of winning are like the lottery. There are hundreds of applications and a relative handful of winners. Judging poetry is subjective. There's always 2012.

10 comments:

Luke said...

Choosing 10 (or 15, or 20...) is the worst. I've been agonizing over the same issue with fellowship applications. Ultimately, I landed on the same idea, the 'mini-chapbook', maybe not even so grand, but at least some semblance of a narrative thread lurking behind the individual poems. I figure it's easier for these committees to remember you if there's some sort of commonality in your work (in terms of subject matter more than technique, there, I tried to show some diversity). Anyway, that was my take on it.

Best of luck with NEA 2010. For me, those big names and government forms are still too scary for me...maybe 2012...

LJ

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, L. Glad to know I'm not alone!

Kristin said...

I quit applying for NEA grants with the last cycle, where I found the computerized forms didn't want to communicate with my computer. I admire your persistence.

I like the idea of a mini chapbook. I like submitting poems that go together, that show how I've woven my favorite themes and images into a variety of poems. Some years, I've wondered if I should show that I can work equally well in forms and in free verse--but I usually rule out that idea in favor of choosing my absolute best work that all fits together.

So, here's a philosophical question. This year, I'm not applying because I don't have time to wrestle the forms into submission. But really, it's because I don't need the money. I've always been most motivated to apply in years when that chunk of money would have really helped.

Here's the question: Do those of us who don't need the money have any sort of obligation not to apply, so that the starving artists are more likely to get money that will likely mean more to them?

Or is the award really not about the money but about the recognition?

Something to ponder during these winter storms howling your way. It's a chilly 45 degrees here in South Florida this morning. Nothing compared to the pain of the mid-Atlantic to New York region of course but rare for us.

Sandy Longhorn said...

K., such great questions! I have to run to class, but I'll be thinking about them all day.

The snow is rare for us as well and nothing compared to those folks with 3 feet and counting.

Enjoy the lapse into chilly temps.

mariegauthier said...

The NEA is far too lofty a goal for me right now--fingers crossed for you!

V. Wetlaufer said...

I found you through Stephen Mills, and then I realized, "Hey! I really liked her book! Cool!" I love the internet for allowing me to stumble randomly across poets I enjoy.

Good luck on the NEA. Those forms are crazy.

Sandy Longhorn said...

V. Wow! Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words about the book.

Sandy Longhorn said...

M., your comment got wrapped up in my email loop. Perhaps I aim too high with the NEA, but as the cliche goes...you can't win if you don't play, and the money would definitely come in handy in terms of my writing life.

Stephen S. Mills said...

Sandy,

Thanks so much for posting a link to my blog post about MFA programs. I really appreciate it.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Glad to do it, S.!