Monday, July 29, 2013

Not Writing Poems, But Immersed in Poetry Just the Same

79º ~ the sound of cicadas drilling the air comes through the open windows, all bright sun and sweet breeze, a few more days of this before the heat returns to lock us in

As my constant readers know, I haven't been writing poems this summer, having hit one of those fallow times that I'm learning to live with as I age. In the meantime, I haven't abandoned poetry all together. I am, in fact, continuing on with all my other non-writing work as a poet. Here's a brief list, numbered for my own organization, but in no particular order:

1. I'm prepping to teach my first-ever graduate level class. This fall, I'll be on the faculty for the University of Arkansas at Monticello's new low-residency MFA. I'm teaching Contemporary American Poetry, and I'm psyched! So far, I've built my syllabus and written my first lecture. It's an online course, so writing a lecture means more than making notes. It means trying to translate the energy of a spoken lecture onto the page. I do this by abandoning MLA conventions and using indents, bold font, white space, and asterisks liberally. (Having taught online at PTC for five years has been a big help!)

My first lecture is "a brief history of Western poetry" and starts with Aristotle's Poetics, travels through the centuries hitting the high points, coming to land on the Romantics for quite a while, before pausing on Dickinson and Whitman, and then ending up in the 1970s when all hell breaks loose and American poetry finally begins to resemble America. The class reading begins with a brief look at some of the key poems of the 1960s and 1970s and then sinks deeply into the 80s through today.

My next project for the class is to lay out the beginnings of the readings. We are using A. Poulin, Jr. and Michael Water's anthology Contemporary American Poetry, and it is a bear trying to narrow down what we can do in one semester. *Have you ever tried to define "contemporary"in terms of poetry? It's one slippery sucker of a fish.

2. I've been keeping up with reading books of poetry and commenting on them here. Just search "What I'm Reading" and you'll get a list of posts. However, I've also just been asked to write a review for an online journal, so the post I wanted to put up over the weekend has been waylaid, as it will appear as a formal review later. I'll let you all know when and where.

3. I spend quite a bit of time each day keeping up with the blogs and Facebook. Yes, some of this means losing a bit of time to cat memes and outrageous political moves that make my blood boil, but for the most part, I've been reading about what others are doing, leaving comments of support and congratulations, and checking in on the ever-overly-reported death of poetry. The latest reports are that poets no longer put any feeling in their poems and are all about showing how smart they are with linguistic tricks. (Insert dramatic sigh here.)

4. In relation to my posts about the current state of poetry publishing, I've been brainstorming ways to get poetry into my community. I have two ideas that seem viable so far. A) I will contact both of the local papers (one daily and one weekly) and see about doing a column. There are many iterations of what this column could be, and I'm open to whatever might happen, although there's a strong chance those contacts may not go anywhere. B) I am contacting some local poets to ask for poems I can publish as broadsides to hang up in coffee shops, libraries, bookstores, galleries, etc. around town.

5. In two days, I'll start the August Poetry Postcard Project. Well, truth be told, I already wrote my first poem on the back of one of my collage postcards and mailed it because one of first seven names is someone who lives in Singapore. This is the 7th year for the project, in which poets sign up with names and addresses to write a postcard-sized poem a day in August and mail them off to the next 31 names on the list. A giant poetry chain letter, and you've got one day to sign up if you're interested!

6. I participated in a manuscript exchange with a fiction writer! This was awesome, as I got to read a great novel and exercise some different brain matter, and I got some helpful comments back on the angry sister poems that I wrote this past spring.

And now, I have to get on with the keeping on. The poems will follow when they must.

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