Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day

Best tip on learning how to deal with rejection: become a Cubs fan. I've mentioned this several times in the last year, but being a Cubs fan is a sure way to become accustomed to the ups and downs of sending work out for publication.

Today was Opening Day at Wrigley Field: Cubs v. Brewers. It was a brilliant game through the 8th. We went into the 9th 0-0, where we promptly gave up 3 runs. Sinking low, beginning to despair, until, what's that, a rally, a tie 3-3 at the end of the 9th. A quick run by the Brewers in the top of the 10th doused the momentary rush of glee. Alas, we lost.

Still, I'm glad it's baseball season again. Every day is a new chance to win, and today, I did have a win. Marck Beggs accepted two poems for the next volume of the Arkansas Literary Forum. Thanks to Marck for the support and for the publication in support of Arkansas writers. Check it out, and get ready for the chance to play again tomorrow.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Thank You SIUC

Just arrived home from my trip to Southern Illinois University Carbondale, which was spectacular on all counts. The lovely Allison Joseph invited me to be this year's judge for the Roxana Rivera Memorial Poetry Contest, sponsored by SIUC's Creative Writing and Women's Studies Programs. The contest included entries from both undergraduates and graduates at SIUC, and I have to say making a final decision was made difficult by the number of strong entries. Congratulations to all the winners!

Both Allison and Jon Tribble excel at hosting, making me feel at home the moment I arrived. Many thanks to Jon for rescuing me from the Google Map directions, which had me exiting at Lick Creek and traversing the back-country hills for about 20-minutes before I broke down and dialed for help.

Thanks to all of the students, faculty, and staff who showed up for the ceremony and reading! I was glad to have met the wonderful poet Judy Jordan and fiction writer Jacinda Townsend, as well as students, Krishna Pattisapu, Amie Whittemore, and Travis Mossotti. I also got to reconnect with students Jason Lee Brown and Andy McFadyen-Ketchum, both of whom I met at AWP Atlanta.

All in all, this was one of the best trips I've made for the poetry side of my life. Thank to you all!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New Poem Available Online

Hey all, check out the latest issue of The Dirty Napkin. I've got a new poem there; the poem was written in an assignment exchange with poet-friend Angie Macri, so some thanks belong to her. Each issue features a picture of one of the poems written out by the author on a napkin of their choosing. This serves as the cover art, which I think is kind of cool. Check out 1.1's cover of Jane Mead's poem if you get the chance. As for my poem, "On the Fabric of the Human Body," it looks like you will need to subscribe to hear the audio.

We're in the midst of a major remodeling project, so not as much writing going on as I'd have liked. Still, the break is definitely a necessary thing.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

What I'm Reading: Poetry March 2008

Spring Break! Finally a bit of time to sit and read, sit and think, sit and write. The first thing I grabbed this morning was the March 2008 issue of Poetry. I cracked the beautiful spine and began with the first poem "Nights on Planet Earth" by Campbell McGrath. McGrath is a poet I've struggled with in the past. Often, there are poets others are enthusiastic whose poetry I cannot get into. So, I was surprised today, when I immediately fell in love with this 3-part poem. Then, to my surprise, the magazine followed up with a mini-Q&A with the poet about the poem. While the poem stands alone, and I admired it before I read McGrath's comments on it, the comments were insightful and illuminating, opening the poem up again in a different light.

I glanced through the rest of the issue, and it turned out, there is a Q & A with each poet. Nice.

This journal is usually hit or miss for me, but I always find one or two poems that I feel justify the reading of each issue. In this case, many of the poems were hits for me, and I'm so glad to have the time to enjoy them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reality Check

Well, I intended this blog to be about the world of contemporary poetry and the writing life. Here is a reality check. Sometimes there isn't any time to write. Teaching at a community college means a load of 5 classes per semester and most of those classes are composition classes with a few lits thrown in. For those of you who don't know, comp classes are grading intensive. For example, I spent 10 hours of my weekend grading papers. Little chance of writing there.

If you want to write and think that teaching is the way to go, understand this: unless you have a tenure-track job in an MFA/PhD program where you teach 2/2 or 3/3, you might not get the kind of writing time you are looking for until the summer.

Off-topic reality check: today is the end of year 5 in the Iraq War, beginning of year 6. By all accounts the number of soldiers killed in the war will reach 4,000 within the next days/weeks. When I began training to teach, I never would have predicted that I'd be in the position to have a former student killed in combat in a protracted war. It hasn't happened yet, but the odds of it not happening at all aren't looking very good.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

UCA ArkaText

I've just returned from my appearance at the University of Central Arkansas and want to say a big thanks to Terry Wright, the Department of Writing, and all the students and faculty who attended my events.

The connection to the audience is one of the most important things for me, and being able to give a reading and just talk with others interested in poetry, gives me such a boost. Everyone was warm and welcoming and gracious to a fault, even when I flubbed the name of the department. What more could a writer ask?

Monday, March 10, 2008


Well, we had a snow day Friday, and I promptly fell victim to the cold my husband has been fighting for the past week. I spent Saturday/Sunday sleeping, for the most part. I apologize for the lapse!

My appearance at UCA has been rescheduled for this Thursday, 3/13/08, which makes me happy. I really do love getting out and talking to other writers/readers.

On NPR this afternoon, during a discussion of the current candidates for the presidency, one of the guests talked about expertise, given how much air time the topic is getting for the candidates. This is what stuck with me. He cited several studies that apparently show that it takes ten years to acquire any kind of expertise in say chess, baseball, etc. Two things came to mind at almost the same time: teaching and writing. I've been teaching since the fall of 1999, and I think the 10-year rule is bearing itself out there for sure. In fact, it might be more like 20 for me. I'm only beginning to feel sturdy in my approach to teaching composition, lit, and creative writing.

Writing is a bit more difficult to age. I've been writing my whole life, so do I just count the years since my MFA program? Probably. It's when I learned how to make writing a serious part of my life and to pursue publication. Does having published a book make me an expert? I'm not so sure of that, either. It certainly has taught me a lot about perseverance and the business side of writing; however, every time I sit down to start a new poem, I sometimes think I'm starting from scratch with the blank page.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

For Every 20 Rejections

there is one acceptance. Today's came from diode, a newish online journal that will be publishing my poem "What Makes the Body Universal" in May. The editor, Patty Paine, said some really nice things in her email, which always adds extra delight to the news.