Wednesday, December 30, 2009

1999 - 2009

While there is some debate about when the decade actually ends, which leads to some complicated thinking about the nature of 0 and 1 and calendars and who started counting when...I'm taking this time to reflect on the end of the 200_'s.

In the fall of 1999, I entered the MFA program at the University of Arkansas, and that made all the difference. [Brief backstory: I graduated from undergrad in 1989 and spent most of the 1990's moving cross country five times. My 20's were fraught with relationship drama the likes of which I hope never to see again, and by the time I was nearing the end of the 90's I'd all but stopped writing. Finally, I ended the relationship and applied for grad school.]

The program at Fayetteville is four years, so that's a good part of the decade. In my time there I experienced many highs and lows and found out that workshop really wasn't for me. However, the blessing of four years with much writing time paid off. I saw my first publications in national journals and filled in many gaps in my reading. I also had the good fortune to solidify several friendships that continue to enrich my poetry life today.

After grad school, I met the man I'd later marry and the drama of my relationship days gradually subsided, which turned out to be a wonderful thing for my work. I'm the kind of writer who thrives on stability...a routine...and the constant support of people who love me even if I get three rejections in one day! In June of 2006, Blood Almanac arrived on my doorstep two weeks before C and I were married. Wow!

Now, as we reach the beginning of 2010, my second book is making its way around the publisher's circuit looking for a home. I am not a prolific writer, but I am persistent...perhaps plodding...a bit of a tortoise, I guess, rather than the hare...although I envy the hare its bursts of productivity. I've settled into a teaching job that might not have been my first choice, but that provides the stability I need and a steady income (praise be!). If you look at the sidebar for older posts, you will see that something finally clicked this fall about the balance of teaching and writing and what I want this blog to do. I'm so thankful to say that I'm perched on the precipice of 2010 with much more confidence and joy than I've ever known before.

Thanks to all of you who stop and read this blog! I hope to see more of you in the new year.

2010 Poetry Readers Challenge Group

Thanks to Karen Weyant for posting about this group that has formed over at Goodreads. Here's what Karen has to say: "... for those of you on Goodreads — a 2010 Poetry Readers Challenge Group has been started. The object is to read at least 20 books of poetry in the year 2010 and complete brief reviews of these books."

I joined the group and posted a list this morning. One of my resolutions was to do more with Goodreads and She another thanks to Karen for prompting me to get going on that.

Two Poems to Read ASAP

38º and overcast, dreary, light rain/mist

Here are two poems that I absolutely love this morning.

Katy Didden's poem "Nest" made the best-of on Verse Daily. (I might have posted this back when it originally appeared, but it is definitely worth a re-read.)

This week's poem at Linebreak continues their great run. Check out Michelle Bitting's "Little Red Car" and click to listen to Arkansas alum Brian Spears read it.

I met Mary Biddinger's 3 poems before 2010 challenge yesterday. First, I forced an ugly duckling set of lines into the world...the usual result when I try to write on a deadline, but all that ugliness disgusted me, so I turned to my inspiration cards and voila...a new draft emerged. This is the card I used yesterday. The draft is called "Assets & Heirs."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What I'm Reading: A Brief History of Time & Lie Awake Lake

39º and bright, shining sun

Due to the huge stack of books waiting to be read, and the drafting I want to do today, here are two mini-mini-reviews, rather than my longer take on books of poetry.

I can't remember where I first read about Shaindel Beers' A Brief History of Time, but I do remember her being referred to as a Midwest poet or a rural poet or something along those lines that peaked my interest. Beers' book is not a book that romanticizes the rural, working-class world, but one that forces us to look at the ultra-real details of a life begun in rural poverty, a life that progresses into the educated, urban, middle-class and all the mixed feelings that progression evokes. Race, class, & gender are at work in nearly every poem.

My four favorite poems from the collection are:
"Elegy for a Past Life"
"Rebuttal Evidence" that begins this way
Because I've been loving in my own way all along,
just today, on the drive home from work on that stretch of 12

that still slices through the cornfields...
"Overview of the Carbon Cycle"
"What Will We Do With You? This Bone Has Almost No Flesh Protecting It--" (my favorite) begins
But I am like any porcelain doll, waiting to be destroyed
by a hammer. Brothers do these things
to incite the cries of their sisters. They think

This is power
. Someday they will learn that power

is smiling gleefully up at the anvil.


I read about Beckian Fritz Goldberg in an interview with another poet, exactly whom I've now forgotten. It turned out that I had an anthology with several of Goldberg's poems in it, which I read and which inspired me to check out Lie Awake Lake. In this book there are poems that beautifully weave the landscape with the body of the speaker. The poems illuminate loss and grief and, from time to time, joy and celebration.

I once had a student who did not like the use of questions in contemporary poetry, but one of my favorite poems of Goldberg's does just that (and I must confess I like to question in my poems as well). Here's the start of "Question As Part of the Body"
The essential question --
what do we ache for, what do we need, how do we get it?

or rephrased: How do
we not die?

How do we not see question as

part of the body?

Pain as. Light as.

Other favorites include:
"Fourth Month"
"Blossom at the End of the Body"

And I'll leave you with "Reliquary"

The lid sighed backward
it was a perfect fit

with the scent of laburnum and saints

as if the box, open,

addressed the physical world

the box being a snapdragon

in the hands
of the blossom thief: the boy in

the hands of a future

looking inside

what if he saw tonight

the firecracker thrown in the corner store
busting open a box of chili powder

smoke and red dust

and suddenly we're all breathing in

desire and repulsion

because the open takes
something from us, but

Mr. Eros, yo
ain't got a finger to stand on

not like a female saint
whose thumb is a shrine,

upright and petrified and guarded
by glass, permanently

testing the inner

Support poetry! Buy or Borrow a copy of these books today!
Shaindel Beers
A Brief History of Time
Salt Publishing, 2009

Beckian Fritz Goldberg
Lie Aw
ake Lake
Oberlin College Press, 2005

Blue Moon Forthcoming & A Question about Lyric Poetry

New Year's Eve will feature a blue moon, which has nothing really to do with color (or poetry for that matter). Read all about it here and prepare for more craziness than usual on the night in question.


Sara Tracey's blog has a link to her poems currently appearing in Arsenic Lobster, which are awesome and should be read posthaste, and a great video about students of today in higher education.


True Confession: I have neither read Little Women nor seen any movie version. After watching last night's PBS biography, I am now an ardent fan of Louisa May Alcott.


Over Xmas, I read the latest issue of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics (Issue 12), which features a look at lyric poetry in its Poetics section. The questions posed to a selection of poets and critics were these: "What happened to the lyrical poem in contemporary American poetry? Why is it disappearing? How has the lyric lost prominence?"

Being most inclined to the lyric, I was a bit stunned by the questions; as it turns out, I was not alone. Most of the responses included some argument against the questions themselves. Greg Orr's answer rocks! He discusses the foundational documents of different cultures that define the nature of poetry and points out that "In China and Japan both these documents stress the connection between individual feeling and the world that surrounds the self... ." Orr goes on to point out that the Western world does not have such foundational documents for the lyric and discusses Plato, Aristotle, and Wordsworth's "Preface," all three of whom I'd thought of as Orr outlined the Eastern documents. Orr does admit that the lyric may be out of fashion. Really? What say you, gentle readers?

Carolyn Moore discusses the need to break up long sequences of lyrics with some narratives or dramatic monologues, especially at readings. She gives me much to think about and a new reason to re-read the manuscript and check out how many pure lyrics I've strung together.

There are many more responses that add to the discussion, but I'll leave it up to you to buy the issue or find it at your library if you want to read along. I'll leave you with this from Noel Pabillo Mariano, "[P]oetry as a whole is undergoing a transformation where genres are being broken."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Welcome Back

After several days of being with the extended family at my in-laws, lots of fun, storytelling, and general good times, it is nice to return to our own home and fall back into our routines. The sun is spilling over my left shoulder onto my desk (an oak dining table with a honey stain) and I'm surrounded once again by books and journals and more to read than I can accomplish in the brief time of the break that remains....but that's a blessing.

I have one more draft to write before Friday, and we are hosting a small New Year's Eve celebration this year, so I better get it written in the next three days!

Just a few links to get back in sync with my world, and more to come tomorrow or the next.

Reb Livingston has this great post about turning 37 and how every year in her 30's has gotten better. Heare! Heare! I concur with much abandon. While this post is non-poetry related, it stuck to me today b/c in about two weeks I'll be celebrating a birthday that will mark the beginning of the end of my 30's. It's been an amazing decade!

Of poetry note: Karen Weyant has two great lists: best poetry books of 2009 and best chapbooks of 2009. Check out these lists. I've got a bunch of new titles to scribble down on my to-read list.

Until the morrow! May you continue to enjoy the holidays in whatever fashion works for you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Cat Who Stole Christmas

52º and unending rain

I wanted to wish everyone Happy Holidays with a great picture of our decorations; however, what you get instead is this picture of Lou-Lou, the cat who stole Christmas. Lou-Lou's favorite activity is knocking things off shelves and counters. No ornament or light would survive her desire to play.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Draft and Process Notes

54º and steady rain, backyard puddle/pond in existence

I've been trying to keep to Mary Biddinger's challenge of 3 new poems before the new year.

Today, I drafted my second of the three. It is a Kwansaba, with many thanks to Saeed Jones for his post about this form. This is a new form for me. According to Jones' post, the Kwansaba was created alongside the creation of Kwanzaa and is a poem of praise. The form requires a seven line poem, each line of seven words, with no word longer than seven letters. Jones blogged about using this form with a workshop for school children. After working with Writers in the Schools at the U of A for four years, I still think about what assignments would work well for K-12 students, and this one seems like a sure thing. I may even use it in my college-level creative writing class this spring. (Jones' post contains one of his own Kwansabas, and I hope you'll take the time to check it out.)

In any case, I sat down with the intention of drafting today, in order to meet Mary's challenge, but I needed a focal point, something to get me started. I'd printed off the above post to take up to school with me in January, and it was sitting there on my desk, so I decided what the heck? Casting around for something to praise, what did I settle on but THE PRAIRIE...big surprise there! I thought I could just zip through seven lines and be done. Check another draft off the challenge list. Not so. As Jones hints at in his post, the form requires you to slow down and weigh each word, each letter almost and justify its existence in the poem. It also requires you to zero in on some SPECIFIC part of the thing/person/etc that you are praising (I typed prizing there This is one of the reasons I think this will work well in class. Another benefit for me is that the poem is so short that when I was finished with the draft I wanted to write more, more, more just like it. (Of course, knowing that there's a long road of revision ahead!)

I used this inspiration card (see this post and this one) for my draft.

Now, to the more troubling reflection that sank in afterward. I was reminded of my post from October about Ren Powell's experience using an Arabic form while writing poetry in English and some of the negative reactions she got. For awhile I felt a bit shaky about writing a Kwansaba, as if I needed to ask permission to use a truly African-American form. But to whom would I address my request? If I don't celebrate Kwanzaa, am I entitled to use this form? If I'm not African-American am I? Still, it's a praise poem, and nearly all of us can find something to praise. Also, if we're ever to break down the idea of the canon, shouldn't we each experiment with forms from different cultures?

I think I'm experiencing a bit of that privileged, white guilt that some of my students feel when we study race, class, and gender issues in composition.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Read This Poem

56º and overcast/spitting mist

Hurry over to Linebreak and read this week's poem "Encomium: Highway 49 South" by Joe Wilkins or click to listen to Matthew Henriksen's reading of it. The editors of this online journal get it right time after time after time. Enjoy!

New Poems Now Available

50º and overcast/murky

In what may be record turn-around time, Juked posted my poem "The Wisdom of the Dead" today, after accepting it on Saturday (see below). Hope you'll give this journal (and my poem) a read.

Also in the mail today, my contributor copies of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics Issue 12. I'm excited to read this issue not only because of the other great poets (including Angie Macri, my colleague at PTC, and Eva Hooker, my first official poetry instructor), but also because of the exploration of the current state of the lyric. Along the turn-around time theme, my poem in Redactions, "Voice Box" was accepted by this journal right out of the gate, within days of submission.

My thanks to the editors and staff members at both journals for their support of my work and of poetry at large. (Please help support the literary arts by subscribing to a journal or requesting your library subscribe.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Austen Zombies

32º and sunny

Okay, I know I'm way behind the curve here. I saw the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies make a splash on the blog world several months ago and ignored it...zombies not really being my thing. However, when my husband heard that Natalie Portman is making the movie, he rushed to tell me about it...Natalie Portman being his thing in a major way. To his credit, he also knows I love Austen's work, so he figured this was a home run...a movie we would both love.

I really hadn't planned on reading the book, but yesterday we were out picking up a few things at a big box store and they had the book on sale. Last night I cracked it open and began to read. Now remember, I hadn't really read anything about the book, so I had no idea what was really going on. In other words, I was expecting an adaptation. Then, I began to read. After three chapters, I realized that most of this was very close to the original. The geek in me insisted on pulling the original off the shelf and checking to see just how close it was. I'm pretty sure the emotion that I felt was shock when I saw that it was indeed nearly 90% original text...word-for-word...with Seth Grahame-Smith adding the occasional zombie fight scene here and there and weirdly excising a few sentences here and there. (I still am dumbfounded by this appears rather random to me.)

Ok, so finally figuring out what was going on, I read the book description and sure enough it is described by the publisher as "an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem." Several other blurbs make it clear that it is the original with scenes added, and some blogs/sites go on to say that this is only kosher because the book is out of copyright and in the public domain.

I get all that, but as I read along, I was still bothered by this "mash-up" and bothered with myself for being bothered. After reading seven chapters, I couldn't continue because of all the thinking going on inside my head.

Here's one voice in my head, the voice of the college-level English instructor: I want some way to tell the difference at a glance between Austen's sentences and Grahame-Smith's. Perhaps different color print? I want to know who authored what. Of course, after several chapters, I could pretty much figure this out, but I worried about those readers who weren't as familiar with Austen's voice. Do they understand what is happening at the author level? How does all of this contribute to our students and their lack of recognition that plagiarism is a serious issue? I know this is fiction and copyright is not at issue, but if I'm standing up in front of my classes insisting that they put quotation marks around exact phrases and include signal phrases to identify the source...what does this type of mash-up say to them?

Here's another voice in my head, the voice of the educated-at-a-liberal arts college person: People have been mashing up bodies of work for as nearly as long as art has existed. It happens in music quite often...although there have been law suits about "sampling" when copyrights are involved. Then, there's parody and adaptations...happens all the time too. What am I getting so worked up about?

Here's another voice in my head, the voice of the writer: I am angry on Jane Austen's behalf. She is the one who worked and reworked that novel into existence (and didn't even get to put her name on it when it was first published...harrumph!). Now, Grahame-Smith is reaping quite a financial benefit: my copy is marked as the 20th printing (# of books / printing??? = ? royalties) and the sale of movie rights. This doesn't seem fair. But then, since the original is out of copyright, and they put her name on the cover along with Grahame-Smith's then all is okey-dokey, no?

The voice of the writer, again: Would I want someone doing this to my work two hundred years from now...okay, okay, I'll be dead and won't know, presumably, and I write poetry of all things..., but still. I get adaptation and taking characters and reshaping them into something new, Tennyson's "Ulysses" for example. But, this just isn't that.

Finally, I really don't want to be a downer. I want to be able to see the fun in it all. I don't believe Grahame-Smith is claiming to be a writer of literary fiction, so what's the harm? Isn't the exposure of Austen's work to a new audience a good thing?


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Special Sunday News

49º and sunny

Had a "good news" email yesterday from J.W. Wang, the editor of Juked. He and the rest of the journal's staff have accepted one of my poems for publication. Woo hoo! If you haven't checked out this journal, you should. It exists both online and in print.

In the vein of keeping it real, the poem that was accepted is one tough cookie. It survived 30 rejections and lived to earn this acceptance. In all honesty, I was just about ready to retire this one, so I'm doubly grateful to the folks at Juked for giving it a home.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

No Good Synonyms for "Blood"

44º and mostly sunny

After a shaky start to the day, I've had a great revision session this morning. I had a poem swap this past week that yielded wonderfully helpful comments, which is always exciting. However, today, I remembered the real work of revision. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Lots and lots of reading aloud. (The cats are no help here. They think I'm talking to them and that I actually want them to congregate on my desk. ~~ Printers are expensive cat toys!)

Several thoughts that occurred in the process:

1. I really, really wanted to "finish" these four poems. My friend provided such great insights into their strengths and weaknesses, surely I could figure out the "right" changes to make. No matter how much I believe that writing is a process, sometimes the idea of "product" takes over.

2. After tinkering and toying with each poem until it had been spun into something new (a true re-seeing of what I wanted each poem to be), I hit a wall. That's four walls this morning. I realized that at a certain point with each poem I couldn't go any farther. I had to put the poems down and let them rest/breathe/rise/age/whatever metaphor works for you. I didn't want to. I wanted to keep pushing each one, and yet, instinctively, I knew that to continue to mess with the poem would mean its downfall. (I am not a patient person...this pause in the process is hard for me.)

3. I did learn from the past (this last fall, when I ignored a good friend's comments and sent some ugly duckling poems out into the world), and I really opened myself to the criticism I wanted to resist.

4. There are no good synonyms for "blood," when you mean the bodily fluid that circulates in our veins.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Smörgåsbord Dessert

Today's the start of a new journal! Always a cause for celebration, although I'm not sure why. Writing is mostly about the process for me, and I struggle with the idea of things being "finished," be they individual poems or manuscripts. Still, it feels like an accomplishment when the last page of a journal is filled up and a new one is begun.

For anyone curious, I use the Moleskin blank journals with the soft covers, 80 pages each. The journals come with a blank black cover. I clip something interesting and paste it to the cover to make each one unique. Here's a picture of the new one.

Yes, I date my entries.


The mail carrier just arrived with my copy of Nate Pritts' first book Sensational Spectacular, which I won in a Goodreads giveaway. Awesome man that he must be, Pritts also included a bound copy of his chapbook [uniquely constructed self], available as a PDF here. The chapbook is a collection of centos gathered from student papers. I can't wait to read both!


Non-poetry related, but thanks to The Rumpus, I found this link to an elementary school in Norway with an outdoor fireplace for the kids.


Back to Brendan Constantine's discussion on the definition of art over at Red Hen Press' blog, here's a quote from today's installment:
If anything is certain it is this principal: behind every great work of art, there is an artist ignorant of much art, a person who cannot possibly have studied every ‘good’ or useful expression before. All art can be legitimately argued or improved. It is ‘up for grabs,’ or, as Paul Valery is often quoted, “A [work of art] is never finished, only abandoned.”

And this is perhaps the one that resonates with me the most:
Perhaps it is because there doesn’t seem to be a line or rule for determining when art occurs.


Finally, Dave Bonta over a Via Negativa has a post up about blogging and writers and the instantaneous publishing that can occur online. Bonta touches on many topics that have been floating around in my brain lately, particularly about the practice of placing drafts on blogs and some of the journals now including that as "previously published" in their guidelines.

Here's Bonta:
Many print and online magazines will not consider previously blogged material for publication, causing the more ambitious writers to avoid posting drafts of their work, except possibly in password-protected posts. The irony is that in many cases a poem posted to the author’s blog can reach more readers than it would receive in all but the most widely circulated magazines — even online magazines, which are all too often poorly designed, practically invisible to search engines, and lack any kind of feed.
On the other hand, self-publishing alone does not advance a literary reputation, which is essential if academic advancement is at stake. One solution is for literary bloggers to publish each other. The same tools that enable the easy publication of a personal weblog can be used for any other kind of online periodical. Authors (and readers) can organize formal or informal networks through interlinking and the use of social media tools. We can rise together rather than compete for pieces of an ever-dwindling publishing pie.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Long and Short of It

Check out this new journal, Misfit, which will publish poems of 60-plus lines and poems of 7-minus lines. The very short next to the very long. I love it. I'm not sure I have anything that works for their requirements, but I plan on keeping up with what they publish in the spring.

Also, thanks to Leslie Pietrzyk for her recent post at Work-in-Progress about finding a writing buddy to help keep yourself honest about your goals.

I did draft some lines yesterday that may or may not make it into poem form. Feeling a bit like the Tin Man as far as writing poetry is concerned these days. Perhaps better things await today.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Defining Art

The blog over at Red Hen Press has an interesting post today from Brendan Constantine: Your Cheatin' Art. Sparked by a comment from a review of the movie The Road, Constantine examines how we form our ideas of what is art and what isn't.

Here's the excerpt that interests me the most:

Rather, if you are like many who believe that art is a field of study like medicine in which all efforts represent a movement toward a heightened understanding, toward a cause or cure for consciousness, then it may be necessary to assign values of legitimacy. Perhaps only in my opinion, art doesn’t ‘evolve’ in a single direction, its movements are not only progressive, but regressive and sometimes it doesn’t move at all, thus it perpetuates itself.

Constantine goes on to discuss the idea of an artist being "credentialed," a word that causes a shiver of unease to run up my spine, even thought I went the MFA route. The beginning of the blog promises more to come in the next few days, and I plan to follow the conversation down whatever winding path it leads.

Blogger Help

I have a Blogspot question for any other users. How do you get the option for someone who leaves a comment to be alerted to follow-ups?

I have the comment moderator option switched on and email notification to me when someone posts, so I'm not worried about me. However, on some other people's blogs, when I leave a comment I have the chance to click a button to be notified of follow-up comments. How do I set this option for someone commenting on my blog?

Any help appreciated.

OK, here's the picture

So, it's not that daring after all, unless you're me. Here's the new hair cut, with bangs...that was the dare to myself. I spent a long year in Fayetteville growing out my bangs and now they're back. I love it.

The thing is, later in the day yesterday, I got some good-ish news in an email, so maybe the new haircut really did bring me good luck. Now if only that luck would cover the lottery drawing tonight as well.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Beware the Vagaries of Holiday Postings

Since August, I've been consistently posting here on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday because of my teaching schedule. I became so comfortable with my routine that I must admit I'm a bit lost without it. My husband, who teaches at the high school level and therefore has a few more days to go, was confounded when I announced my plan to start the day at my usual time and not sleep in (today being the first day I might have done so). Still, I'm happy to be up and about and at the desk. However, beware, dear & kind readers, I cannot predict with what irregularity you will find me here, or perchance with what verboseness, it could go either way.

Today, there is much to say, all culled from the wonderful blogs I follow. You'll see my blogroll to the left. If you have favorites not listed there, please recommend.


This short, memoiresque post from Saeed Jones' for southern boys who consider poetry reminded me that a well crafted piece of writing, no matter how brief, creates a satisfaction that is felt almost bodily upon completing the read.


For all fans of the place where poetry and James Bond intersect, Linebreak features a poem "James Bond Suite" by Amit Majmudar read by Amy Watkins. There's playfulness here and yet a real commitment to poetics as well, which can sometimes be lost to pop culture, I think.


Thanks as well to Johnathon Williams of Linebreak for the link to this article in The Huffington Post. I'm coming into this conversation midstream, but the article is by John Oaks, co-publisher of OR Books, a new publisher that seeks to eliminate the middleman in publishing. Oaks and his fellow founder of the press, Colin Robinson, plan to print-on-demand and sell only direct to the consumer via their website. This eliminates wholesalers and bookstores. I could care less about the wholesalers, but the elimination of my local, independent bookstore is a thing I fear. On the other hand, the OR Books publishing model would be a great leap forward for environmental massive number of books stored in large warehouse spaces (think of the savings on paper and energy to heat/cool/humidity control the warehouses). Print-on-demand requires intense marketing because it eliminates the ability to browse, of course. There are lots of issues here, but something to ponder, definitely.


With glee, I announce that I won a free copy of Nate Pritts' book Sensational Spectacular from Goodreads. 200 people registered, and only 5 were chosen...lucky me!


With glee & glee & glee, here is a list of the three books that I ordered through Inter-Library Loan at school and that came in yesterday, just in time for the break:

Ruin by Cynthia Cruz, Alice James Books, 2006
A Brief History of Time by Shaindel Beers, Salt Publishing, 2009
Lie Awake Lake by Beckian Fritz Goldberg, Oberlin College Press, 2005


On a totally non-poetry related note, I'm going to have something daring, for me, done with my hair today at my hairdresser's. I need some new luck in 2010 and thought this might spur it on. If I'm brave, I'll post a picture.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Recapping the Weekend

Someday, perhaps, someone will invent a personal weather machine that allows the operator to choose his/her weather of the day. After all, sometimes one wants a gray day to bury oneself in a book under the covers in front of a fire and sometimes one wants the sun to spark some hidden fire long dormant. Today, it is the latter for me and the former for the sky. We are mismatched.

Friday, I had the good fortune to share lunch with a fellow writer-teacher and talk shop. We shared some laughs and came up with a few ideas for the next semester. I am the type of person who figures that the people I admire (as I do this friend) have mastered the art of being; I am always stunned to realize that we share some of the same uncertainties and many questions. It's good to be reminded. Thanks, H.

After lunch, the husband and I left town for the night to visit close friends in Hot Springs. As I look at my time off for the holiday break, I tend to get a bit possessive and guarded. I'm glad now that I didn't put off our friends' request to visit. Enjoying good food and good conversation goes a long way to recharging the batteries.

Sunday saw some solid revision work on several newish poems. What startled me most was the really deep revision I accomplished on a poem that's been bothering me for several months. When I was able to step back and allow a major part of the poem to shift its place on the page and another wimpish part to vanish altogether, I made what seems to be a better poem. Time will tell.

No new drafts today, but the idea of drafting...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Two New Books

Still feeling like I'm all over the map as the week winds up. This pattern repeats at the end of every semester. I see a clear field of writing time in the distance and I want to leap with deer-like agility into it. Yet, every semester I forget that there will be days of gangly legs and stumbling about. There are always loose ends that need tying up both at school and around the house (which is fairly well frayed by the end of the busy teaching weeks). So, today through Sunday there will be many small tasks to be crossed off the to-do list. Trying to be more realistic about my goals, I hope to start drafting again on Monday.

I also have two new books that arrived last week. Can't wait to dig into these:

Kristin Berkey-Abbott
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Pudding House Press, 2004

Suzanne Frischkorn
Lit Windowpane
Main Street Rag, 2008

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Review of Blood Almanac

Many, many thanks to Justin Evan's for posting this review of Blood Almanac on his blog today. His words brought on a serious blushing fit, here at the home of the Kangaroo. Justin won a free copy of the book during my blog-birthday give-away. So glad it landed in his hands!

Justin also edits a great online journal, Hobble Creek Review. Hope you'll send him some poems if you are place-minded (location, location, location!)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Scattershot Monday

No new drafts in a few weeks. The end of the semester grading has me distracted. Even though I have time in the morning to write, I find myself looking over at the stack of papers waiting to be graded. I just can't focus with them sitting there. Happy news, I should be done grading by Tuesday afternoon if I keep up the pace. Woo Hoo! My writing goal for December is to complete 3 new drafts before New Year's.


Given my current inability to concentrate, I've been blog surfing for over an hour and found the following tidbits.

***Friend and fellow U of Arkansas alum, Bill Notter, has a poem up on Verse Daily from his just published book Holding Everything Down. Hope you take the time to check it out.

***Thanks to Rus Bowden (via Facebook) for the link to this great poem "What the Elephant Sings" by Lois Marie Harrod in Canary. I'm unfamiliar with Harrod's work, but I'll be looking into it.


In other news Timothy Green, the editor of Rattle, sent out a call for audio files of poems from back issues. Check out the Rattle blog. Each day features a poem from a back issue (currently the Summer 09 issue...older issues will begin in the spring) sometimes with audio. This spurred me to learn how to record an mp3 of my own work. I'm happy to say that my poem "Self-Portrait: November" from Rattle 19 will appear on April 6, 2010, and you'll be able to hear my reading of it on the blog as well. Many thanks to Tim for promoting work from back issues and working to create a great poetry community at


The papers are starting to tear up b/c I've left them alone too long this morning. Poor, sad papers. I must away, then, with my purple pen and begin again to whittle away the stacks.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pride and the Fall

Yesterday, while sending out announcements about the new issue of Blackbird, I was overcome by a spate of self-doubt about the line between promoting my work and bragging. The digital world is amazing for sharing news quickly, but I am unsure of how much is too much. A kind and good friend pointed out the fact that if I didn't make such announcements, very few people would know where to find my work. She asked something along the lines of this: How is getting the word out about a new poem bragging?

Here is my reply:
Bragging? Remember, I'm a puritan/protestant/Midwestern closed-mouth. We keep these things to ourselves, darn it, lest we alert the universe to our success and the universe sends a tornado, a drought, or a plague of locusts to wipe us out!

So, I go about my life always watchful for the dreaded "fall."

Today, little danger of too-much pride, since I'm about to tackle the tower of final papers waiting in the corner for their grades.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Little Poem Appearing Now in Blackbird

This morning I woke up to an email announcing the publication of Blackbird 8.2. I wasn't sure in which issue my poem would be appearing, so I clicked on the link to check and see. Yep, I was there...right after...gasp...Larry Levis...I had to do a double-take. My little poem was sitting right there in the shadow of one of the giants of my poetry world. I never got to meet Levis, but I know people who studied with him and were changed by him, and his work has influenced me in ways I can't even count.

After I caught my breath, I read the list of poets appearing in the issue more carefully and almost came undone again. There are too many to list here, but I'll give you the highlights with annotations.

Sherman Alexie--one of the first writers whose work inspired me after my undergrad years when I began reading on my own
Larry Levis--see above
Alison Pelegrin--fellow Arkansas MFA, in fact one of the first people I met in Fayetteville, she welcomed me with all her Southern grace and charm, her poems make me wish I were truly southern
R.T. Smith--who published the second poem I ever had accepted at a national journal in Shenandoah
Gerald Stern--uhm, enough said
Katrina Vandenberg--also an Arkansas alum, but graduated before me, always delighted when our paths cross at conferences, and a huge admirer of her work
Jake Adam York--well, I've written before about how much I like Jake's work, and in this issue he packs a wallop, also one of the great editors of Copper Nickel, my newest favorite journal

That is just a hint of the issue, and I haven't even looked at the prose yet.

I am so humbled to be included with these amazing writers. Thank you to the editors for plucking my poem from the submission pile and finding value in it.

If you have the time and the inclination, please check it out.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Three Books from 2009

Given all the listing of books from 2009 going on around the blog world, I started thinking, inevitably, about what I would list. I decided to list the first three books that stuck with me, books that easily came to mind when I paused to ask "what did I read this year that I absolutely loved?" There are still several weeks left in the year and several books still on the shelf...but there's always 2010. (Listing is a fickle thing, at best.)

Here's a list of the three:

Illustrating the Machine that Makes the World by Joshua Poteat
If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting by Anna Journey
Mistaken for Song by Tara Bray (disclaimer...Tara and I are close friends)


Today, several blogs caught my eye, and I feel compelled to tell you, gentle readers, about them.

Check out Delirious Hem's super-cool adventskalendar 2009. Each day of December from the 1st to the 24th features a new poem. Click on the number "1" to hear a poem by Marianne Morris. It doesn't seem like "2" is active yet today, but I'll be checking back.

Rachel Dacus over at Rocket Kids has a fun post about the ever changing technology of publishing, which also features a link to T.R. Hummer's post on the same subject. Dacus is new to me, and I'm glad I discovered her blog, if only for the line "Please just embed my digital media under my fingernails now and give me the virtual visor."

Read on!