Monday, February 28, 2011

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

56º ~ skies wavering between cloudy and clear, a strong wind earlier, easing off now, Bradley pears blooming on campus, tulip trees getting their blush on around the neighborhood, pollen returning to coat the cars after the rain

Anyone following along on Facebook knows that I've had some acceptances lately, but just to keep things even, the universe also saw fit to send along some rejections as well.  "And there you have the facts of life." 

First, let me start with an acceptance that has gone unannounced for a few weeks as it isn't a standard journal acceptance.  A few weeks back, Nic Sebastian was kind enough to accept one of my poems for her project in reading OPP (Other People's Poems) over at Whale Sound.  I sent in a set of poems that had appeared online in the past (the requirements of the site), and I'm delighted that Nic chose "The Interior Weather of Tree-Clinging Birds."  This poem appeared originally in the print-only journal Copper Nickel (one of my faves!) and then later in the online anthology Other Voices InternationalThe poem is a touchstone for me and now bats lead-off in the manuscript.

When Nic accepted the poem, she invited me to be part of a group read of the poem.  This means that not only does Nic read the poem (and she has one of the most amazing reading voices) but also two others.  I submitted a recording and Nic also received a recording from Mary Rose Betten, someone with whom I was unfamiliar.  When you listen to Mary Rose's reading, you'll see that she has a background in drama.  Both she and Nic do such a wonderful job with the poem.  I've commented before about the power of reading out loud the poems of others and how it requires a concentration that benefits me as both a writer and reader; however, I was surprised that listening to two other versions alongside my own was also incredibly informative.  I heard how a word like "memory," a word that can be pronounced as two syllables or three, changes with each reader and how that small change adds something new to the poem.  I also heard how important my choices about line breaks and punctuation were, as the poems performed matched the reading in my head fairly closely.


Now, to the two more traditional acceptances:  I must confess, Dear Reader, that I have been Submitting Like a Man, and guess what?  It turns out, it does pay off.  A few weeks back, I received solicitations from two different journals, one from an editor I've come to know via blogging and another one that was completely out of the blue.  Here are the two stories.

First, blogger-friend Kathleen Kirk emailed to request a batch of my fairy tale poems for consideration at Escape Into Life.  (If you haven't checked out this incredible online journal of poetry and art and so much more, you need to click over there right now.)  As many of you know, I'm a bit of a slow writer & reviser, so while I have nine poems in this series so far, I only had a handful that I felt were ready to send.  In the past, I might have sent a "thanks for the thought" email and failed to follow through.  However, with the recent discussions of submitting like a man in mind and Kathleen's encouragement to toss in a few older poems, I sent her a mix.  I'm so thrilled that she accepted four poems: two from the fairy tale series and two from the saint series of days gone by. Woo hoo!  Many thanks to Kathleen and all the fine folks who make EIL happen.

Second, about the same time Kathleen emailed with her request, I received an email from Eric Smith, one of the managing editor of Cellpoems.  I've subscribed to Cellpoems for quite a while.  This groovy project is both an online journal and a text message delivery system.  The editors only accept poems that are 140 characters or fewer, and each poem is texted to a wide and diverse audience as well as published on the website.  While I've loved the project, I never considered that I could work on such a minute level.  Then, Eric emailed with some kind words about a few poems I had in a print journal recently, and he asked me to consider submitting.  Again, I was ready to let the opportunity pass me by; however, Eric's email contained this sentence "If you have any super-short poems, aphorisms, monostitches, or leftover/homeless lines, I hope you'll consider sending them our way."  Leftover lines!  Everyone has those!  Maybe I could do this.

I flipped through my journal and my barely breathing drafts and sure enough I found some lines that could be worked upon.  I must admit, Dear Reader, that I've become a bit addicted to trying to create something meaningful in 140 characters.  Even the spaces count!  As I revised each of the fragments into a short-short poem, I had to question every strike on the keyboard.  Asking myself whether a certain article, preposition, or adjective was truly necessary took my attempts at concision to a whole new level.  What a great lesson for all poets to learn.  Even if Cellpoems would have rejected the selection I sent in, the act of attempting this was worth it. Happily, I received word today that not one, but two of my super-short poems have been accepted.  Woo hoo!  Many thanks to Eric and to the other editors at Cellpoems!

Finally, I'm thrilled about these acceptances, of course, but there is a little voice nagging at the back of my head.  The little voice is saying something about not really "earning" these because one editor is an online friend and the other sought me out based on previous work.  I'm wondering how much gender there is in that little voice.  Is "networking" a bad word?  Does it devalue the work itself?  And then I think of all those DWG poets (dead white guy poets) who were all closely interconnected (I'm thinking of the Romantics in particular) and who exchanged letters and social visits with the editors of the major journals of their day.  And then I think about the fact that I've had requests for poems a couple of times in the past and those requests did not lead to publication.  Hmmmmmm...I'm going to keep working through this, and you can bet that I'm going to keep Submitting Like a Man!

Award Season Rolls On

62º ~ sky working to clear itself of the stormclouds from last night, a clean breeze and daffodils blooming

While the actors and actresses practiced their acceptance speeches before last night's Oscars, I received another blogging award.  Erin Coughlin Hollowell dubbed me a Stylish Blogger on Friday.  Sadly, my exhaustion won out over the weekend, and I'm just getting to my acceptance speech today.

I'd like to thank my wonderful husband, my amazing parents, all my friends out there (you know who you are: wink wink), my two beautiful cats, and my high school English teachers for making my work what it is today.  Oh, and I must thank Erin for recognizing my accomplishments alongside the accomplishments of so many other great bloggers.  (Cue exit music.)

Here are the rules:
The Stylish Blogger Award Rules
- Make this a post & link back to the person who gave you the award
- Share seven things about yourself
- Award five great bloggers
- Contact the bloggers to tell them they’ve won!

I'm so excited that Erin passed this on to me so that I can name some more wonderful bloggers, to add to the ones I already celebrated with the Memetastic Award.  (Yes, of course, I know these are like silly chain letters, but I have found some new & wonderful blogs this way, so I'm all for it!)

Another five great bloggers:

Marie Gauthier: A View from the Potholes (one of my favorite blog titles)

Susan Rich: The Alchemist's Kitchen

Drew Myron:  Off the Page

January Gill O'Neil:  Poet Mom (tireless energy, this woman!)

Nancy Devine:  Nancy Devine

Seven Things about Me:

1.  I inherited a sweet tooth from my father, along with soft teeth.  My dentist is grateful for the work.

2.  While I have no problem getting up in front of a group of students or reading from my own work, I have the worst case of stage fright imaginable when it comes to acting.

3.  The details in the poem "May" from Blood Almanac are true; my sisters never really forgave me as it meant we had to get rid of our pool.  This poem gets the most response when I include it at readings.

4.  I am obsessed with the Midwest and Iowa in particular, the land of my birth, but I have no desire to live above the snowline, now that I've lived in the South for ten years or more.

5.  When I'm working on poems, I can't listen to music with lyrics.

6.  I spend most of my time in sweats and don't care if Oprah has a problem with it.

7.  I am a creature of routine and as I age I am less and less adaptable.  This is not something of which I'm proud.

Many thanks, again, to Erin for passing on the award.  May the circle continue to expand!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Draft: Hard Won

43º ~ the sky still mixed gray and white in the wake of last evening's storms, one small splotch of blue directly in front of me (Update: the blue in front of me expanded to fill the whole window while typing this post, I face the west, woo hoo, good omens)

Oh, Dear Reader, today's draft was a battle hard won. 

I did say my mantra last night and I was happy thinking about the drafting time today.  It was a long week at work, with lots of grading going on in the afternoons and evenings.  I've been fighting off a sense of exhaustion along the way, and all that is normal for this time of year.  Also normal is that my ability to concentrate is beginning to fray a bit.  So, last night and this morning while I would remind myself that I was going to draft a poem, I couldn't sustain the concentration to think on what I might have to say.

I know this may seem forced to some of you, this prescribed writing time.  All I know is that more times than not, it works for me.

This picture of my desk tells the story of the day.

I began with coffee, as always.  The paper is green because I'm recycling a bunch of fliers from school.  I started by printing out all of my fairy tale poems, which are stacked to the left.  I did this in part because I was curious how many I have: 9, but also in part because a poet-editor friend has asked to see some for possible publication and I have promised to do submissions this weekend.  Here, I may have gotten completely off course by thinking about what's going on tomorrow instead of today.  However, I did remind myself that I have two poems that are more general and don't have the "Fairy Tale for Girls Who..." type of title, but they are clearly part of the same project.  Hold that thought.

Next, I listed all the titles in my journal and thought for a bit about doing another tale.  Nothing sparked.  I thought about the week and why my brain was so jumbled, too much happening in this wild world.  A line or two formed: "It's happening again/ the world unraveling... ."  I admit I drafted a full poem then, but I wasn't happy with it. 

Unsatisfied, I decided to read some poems.  You see the latest issue of Barn Owl Review there at the bottom of the pile in the picture and Traci Brimhall's book Rookery.  I'm looking forward to both of these reads; however, I started with the journal, and the poems were amazing but I couldn't sink into them, still fretting about a draft. Maybe I needed to stick with poems I knew by heart from poets I'd lived with a long time.  So, I called up "The Colonel" by Forche and "Sonnet XVII" by Neruda and did a word bank.  I turned to my random number generator and formed pairs.  I couldn't believe it...NOTHING!  This exercise has rarely failed me and I began to wonder if my tank was simply EMPTY.  I turned to Brimhall's book and read the first poem.  Wow!  I couldn't wait to read this book, but I knew I needed to read it when not trying to write.

Still struggling, I pulled out two inspiration cards and out of desperation simply listed all the images I saw.  One of the cards featured a painting of a bull kicking wildly and with its head thrown back.  There were a lot of allusions to other countries and to the southern US, but nothing struck me.  And then, I wrote, "And so, why not, another tale."  But this time, I didn't force the form of the "once there was a girl."  Instead, I let myself write about one of my doubts; there are no witches and no prince-charmings in my tales.  As I said before, this has been worrying me.  And now, there is going to be a movie based on Little Red Riding Hood and making the wolf a werewolf...I think.  I've seen the commercial a dozen times this week and I'm still not sure how the tale is being twisted there.

With the images of that beautiful blonde woman in her dramatic red and all the danger hinted at in the commercials, I started the poem that I'm calling "The Contents of Our Fairy Tales."  It begins:  "No witches.  No wolves. / The blood of the cow slaughtered / and dressed is enough for fright." 

Enough.  The draft and I are a bit scarred today.  Only revision will save us, and that's for tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday Jumble with a Wee Rant

45º ~ sun trying to beat back gray clouds ~ according to the fortune tellers, the clouds will win and storms will break out later today and all day tomorrow

Not much time to write this morning, as it's been a jumble of a day so far and I've got quite a bit of grading and prep work and online class work to attend to in one hour.

So, here's a list of the jumble, detailing how I spent my poetry time this morning.

~ paying the bills, both household and personal (normally I do this at night so as not to interfere with my poetry time, but a deep exhaustion seems to be setting in these days...Midterm anyone?)

~ reading the blogs and keeping up with the poetry world at large

~ fuming about all the terribleness in the world these days, but most especially what is going on in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio.  Mostly I feel personally attacked every time some politician goes on the air and claims that teachers & public workers are the cause of the deficit.  Here at the house of the Kangaroo, we're a two-teacher family, one of whom belongs to a union that does in fact employ collective bargaining and one of whom teaches in higher education, and guess what?  We're not getting rich anytime soon!  No hot tub, no Lexus, no trips to the south of France.  (Ok, we did go to Jamaica, but that was one vacation in five years and we flew coach.) In fact, we aren't even able to put that much away for savings at the end of every month, and we don't even have children.  So, yeah, we're the problem, not those tax breaks politicians on both sides of the aisle are handing out to big business right and left and not the lobbyists who make those tax breaks inevitable.

~ finally, in desperation, I opened my "In Progress" folder and worked on some revisions and polishing of drafts.  I've resolved to send out some February submissions this weekend.  The VIDA count continues to make its way through the blogs, so I just want to remind all my women writer friends to SUBMIT like a MAN!  (I plan to do so on Saturday.)

And now, it's off to slip into my teacher skin and continue to leech wealth from our economy.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What I'm Reading: A Witness in Exile

64º ~ far too warm for this early in the day at this time of year ~ storms on the horizon ~ solid gray skies ~ a breeze that smells of rain

I am thrilled to write today about my friend and fellow Arkansas MFA grad Brian Spears' first book A Witness in Exile.  It seems I've developed a bit of a pattern to reading a book of poetry.  I start with the cover and front matter, then move to the back matter and back cover, and then to the first poem.  Yes, I read from front to back, in order, the first time I read the book.  If poets and their editors spend so much time on the order of a book these days, then I'm going to find out why. 

What an honor then, to find my name among the acknowledgments among some major league poetry sluggers.  Wow.  Thanks for that, Brian.

A Witness in Exile is a book about the celebration of place and the struggle of one son with his family.  Much will be made of Brian's biography, having been raised a Jehovah's Witness, who was excommunicated from the church and thus from his biological family as well.  While the book isn't divided into sections, I definitely found the arc.  We begin steeped in the South, mostly in southern Louisiana & NOLA where Brian was raised, and then on to Florida, where Brian currently lives.  Towards the end of the place poems we get a handful from the West, which matches another part of Brian's biography, having been a Stegner Fellow at Stanford after finishing at Arkansas.  These place poems compose the first half of the book.  The second half deal with family, with Brian's relationship to his daughter, from whom he was separated by divorce, and with Brian's relationship to his father and the church. 

The first poem in the book is a prose poem titled "Pastoral" and begins in the heat and humidity of southern Louisiana with the speaker as a boy fishing in Gar Creek.  The poem ends with a sentence that sets the theme for the entire book: "The walk home is never long enough."  Here we are introduced to the fact that the speaker is uneasy with his home, his origins.  In another poem toward the beginning of the book, "One Day the Ruins of the Galleria Mall Will Shelter Armadillos," Brian expands on that theme.  He writes, "and this is what it means to be / American and lonely" and later "[We] have / no river gods to transform us into / laurel trees so we can escape the lusts / of ... never mind."  The speaker expresses, here, that we have come too far from our original myths for them to offer any hope or solace. 

Of all the place poems, "What Change Must Come" encapsulates this 21st century relationship to the land, America, and home.

Here is a bit from the poem:

The places I love most
all teeter on knife-edge:
New Orleans wants to drown
and sink into swamp.
San Francisco to slide 
and buckle into itself.
Fort Lauderdale dares the air
to whirl it down, and now,
to submerge it whole.

While I am most drawn to Brian's poems of place (and this is no surprise as that's my own focus), he handles the most closely autobiographical poems with the same deft craft and brutal honesty.  In "Lament," the speaker states, "It is not poetic, your leaving / of church and family; / it is pathetic the way you slip away."  Some of the most haunting lines in the book arrive in these poems when the speaker must reconcile his being cast out by not only the church but also his father.  It is hard to do this justice with an excerpt, but I'll leave you with this one and encourage you to read the book for the full impact.

from "Tell it slant"

Tell how you deserted faith and church
and with it family, how now you revel
in uncertainty, recoil from absolute.
Tell it slant, but tell it.  Tell it.

(PS: I love the ghosts of Dickinson and Bishop in this poem.)

Support a Poet/Poetry
Buy or Borrow a Copy of This Book Today!
A Witness in Exile
Brian Spears
Louisiana Literature Press, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Draft: Fairy Tale with Maps

60º ~ good sun coming up over my left shoulder, some clouds and a small wind, a chance of rain, but spotty coverage predicted, caught a picture of the first daffodil bloom yesterday, all the windows are open keeping the cats happy

It's Friday, Dear Readers, and I'm happy to report another successful Friday Draft day.  It's been a bumpy week with lots going on up at school.  We're in week six, so that's not entirely unexpected.  Still, there was a lot brewing in my head last night that had nothing to do with drafting poetry.  I practiced my Thursday night mantra:  I am going to write a poem tomorrow morning.  I am going to write a poem tomorrow morning.  I am going to write a poem tomorrow morning.  And you know what? It made me so happy to know that.

As I was drifting off to sleep I thought I might try for another fairy tale and suddenly had an image of a girl and a bunch of maps.  There it was: "Fairy Tale for Girls who Gather Maps." I leaned over and grabbed my cell phone to email myself the title so I wouldn't forget.  I was too tired to get up and write it down.

A couple of things might have led to this idea.  One is a poet friend who might be putting together a panel for AWP next year on fairy tales in contemporary women's poetry.  Another is a poet-editor friend, who recently asked to see the fairy tales for her publication, when they are ready (thank you K.!).  Yet another is an email exchange I had with Matthew Nienow about his poems in the new Passages North, one of which, "The End of the Folded Map," questions what might be lost in our new reliance on GPS systems.  In our conversation, he mentioned a recent obsession with maps, and I mentioned that my father had been a truck driver in my youth and I'd learned to read a map almost before I'd learned to read.  The last thing is that today is the birthday of two of my best friends, which always reminds me that tomorrow is my dad's birthday.  I noticed this just as I sat down to draft (thank you Facebook!).

After I sat down, I started by reading through the poems in my "In Progress" folder and tinkered with a few, gathering steam.  I need to do some serious revision b/c I've got quite a collection that might be just about ready to see the light of an editor's desk. After letting the drafts sink in for a bit, I felt the new draft edging its way forward, so I got out my journal. As always, I began with my tried and true opener, "Once there was a girl."  I wonder if this is becoming too repetitious as the poems gather in number, but I want something like "Once upon a time," so I'm sticking with it for now. 

Once there was a girl, the daughter
of a man who drove a truck
the long length of a long country.

There you have the opening tercet and the poem unfolded gracefully, I have to say.  While there are some bits of autobiography in the poem, most of the details are changed in some way to heighten the poem.  For example, my dad only did a few OTR (over-the-road, covering most of the country) hauls, and most of those occurred before I was born or when I was too young to remember.  By the time I was forming memories, he had taken a Midwest route that had him on the road Monday - Thursdayish and was home most weekends.  That's not the story the poem wanted, so I changed it up.  The father in the poem brings the girl a map after every trip.

After drafting the poem, in which the girl goes from being quite young to being 16 and able to drive, I was a bit concerned b/c there isn't as much of a Midwestern focus to this one.  The poem does reference how the father's routes led him "out of their flat, middle land," but that's about it.  I'm going to have to think about this a lot as the poem enters revision stage.  Another thing I'll need to consider is whether there really is a fairy tale here.  Right now, there's no magic in the poem yet, no being consumed by fire or swept away by a tornado.  I'll have to see how that shakes out.  Still, the poem wants what the poem wants.

I'm also wondering if I can even call these "fairy tales" since there are no overt witches or spells.  I've been going for something more subtle but still with elements of magic realism.  Hmmmmmmmm.... .

(Aside: several folks have commented on how much they enjoy these process notes, thanks!, and I just have to say that they are fascinating to me.  It is really hard to recapture the entire process of what goes into making this new thing, this poetry.  Always, always, there's an indescribable element.  I confess, I'm not trying very hard to describe it for fear of losing it.  I wonder if this is how the ancient alchemist's felt as they discovered modern chemistry?)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What I'm Reading: The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception

57º ~ cloudy skies and some wind trying to get things started, everything gray and drap, mid-February

If you followed along with my AWP reports, you'll know that I was lucky enough to have a brief breakfast and book swap with Martha Silano.  I can't remember how I first found Martha's blog, Blue Positive, but it's one of my favorites.  Martha let us all follow along on the blog during the production of The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, so it was a double delight to hold the finished product in my hand.  (The link to Saturnalia will show that the book is in production; however, it is available for sale NOW.)

By chance Martha's book wound up on the top of my backpack at the airport, so I read the first 4/5 of the book ten days ago.  Last night, I reread the poems I'd dog-eared from that read and then polished off the last section of the five.  Wow, what a great way to end a long and slightly stressful day.

Two words sum up this book for me: domestic and divine.  To elaborate, these are poems about the domestic life of a busy mom-wife-woman-friend and include the daily details of meals, cars, jobs, and brand-named products, all the trappings of our 21st century lives.  However, these domestic details are constantly brought to bear on the divine or vice versa, and what I mean by the divine is much larger than just religion.  I mean the cosmos, spirituality, religion, and aliens; we mustn't forget the aliens. 

The first section of the five into which the book is divided is titled "What I Will Tell the Aliens," and each section is titled based on a poem within.  This first section features a speaker attempting to name "My Place in the Universe" (the first poem in the book).  The section sets up the idea of this one speaker as one of the 6 billion plus people inhabiting this earth and the knowledge that there is so much more going on beyond our singular lives.  The whole book reminds us that our little blue planet is just one dot in the larger universe.

Here's a bit from "What I Will Tell the Aliens"

Give me an alien, and I will give it
a story of unfathomable odds,

or erections and looting.  Show me 
an alien and I will show it the sorrows

of the centuries, all wrapped up
in a kerchief, all wrapped up

in a grandmother's black wool coat.

This brief excerpt showcases Martha's strengths as a poet.  Her speakers are real, honest-to-goodness, struggling human beings, and they talk to the reader as if sharing a drink with a good friend.  The poems are filled with humor, sarcasm, wit, and they always push the reader to answer the question: Who are we?  What are we doing with our lives?

Here's just a sliver from "After Reading There Might be an Infinite Number of Dimensions"

... .  I'm wondering how we don't
fall to our knees, knowing a hardened pea

lodged in the throat, can kill, knowing
liquids are banned on all commercial flights.

Leaves fall.  The baby sucks her middle fingers.
Meanwhile, the refrigerator acquires

an unexplainable leak. 

Just looking back at all the poems I have marked in the book, I could go on and on with this brief bits, but I'd be short changing both you, Dear Reader, and Martha.  This is a book with poems that are begging to be read and reread. 

I also vote this book BEST COVER of all the books spread out on my desk waiting to be read right now.  Seriously, the cover alone is worth the price of the book, but the poems will prove your time well spent.

My all-time favorite lines from the whole book come from "No Refunds, No Exchanges."  Here:  "And yet I'm no girdle / on this galaxy's expanding waistline."  I'm still smiling from this poem, this poem of optimism in the face of a life that might crush us at any moment.

Support a Poet/Poetry
Buy or Borrow a Copy of This Book Today!
The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception
Martha Silano
Saturnalia Books, 2001

Monday, February 14, 2011

The One that Got Away, or Tried To

71º ~ Yep, we made it to the 70s!

Dear Readers, one special book tried to get away!  Many apologies to the wonderful Lynne Knight for leaving this off my list from earlier today.  Lynne works for Anhinga and designed Blood Almanac.  She has a brand new book of poems out, and I got my very own signed copy at AWP!

Carol Lynne Knight from Apalachee Press

Books, Books, Books

44º ~ a bit of spring weather this week with sunny skies and highs in the 60s all week ~ sympathies to my northern companions where the snowbanks remain ~ and oh, a flock of cedar waxwings have arrived to dine on the privet berries

Today, I've got a list of books I brought back from AWP and a few that have arrived in the mail recently.  Looking forward to returning to my reviews, possibly later this week, but Monday for sure.  (All the covers link back to the press website.  Consider buying directly from the source to put more money in the pockets of those who work so hard for poetry.)

In the mail: books by two fellow U of Arkansas grads.  Woo Hoo!

Matthew Henriksen from Black Ocean
Brian Spears from Louisiana Literature Press

From the AWP bag:

Alison Stine from U Wisconsin Press

Dan Albergotti from BOA

Martha Silano from Saturnalia
Traci Brimhall from Southern Illinois U Press

Jake Adam York from U Southern Illinois U Press

Joy Katz from Tupelo

Aimee Nezhukumatathil from Tupelo

William Trowbridge from Red Hen

Patrick Hicks from Salmon

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I'd Like to Thank the Academy...

36º ~ Praise be we're on our way to the upper 50s ~ brilliant sun and a warm wind working through the snow still on the ground (maybe two inches left in places) ~ MUD

No, it's not the Oscars, but I was thrilled to discover that Tawnysha Greene gave me my first blog award last night.  Tawnysha's one of those amazing people who publishes in three genres!  If you aren't reading her blog yet, skip this post and go there now.

The Memetastic Award started with Jillismo and has passed from blog to blog, and one of my duties as a recipient is to send the award on to five other bloggers.  Only 5!  I could have listed 10!  In no particular order, those five are:

1.  Kristin Berkey-Abbott.  A great poet who blogs about poetry, literature, and the wider world in general.

2.  Josh Robbins.  Wonderful poet and editor who posts whole poems and links to books, along with recaps of his writing life.

3.  Karen Weyant.  Lovely poet from above the snowline who gives voice to her blue collar roots and blogs about a life among her books & teaching.

4.  Luke Johnson.  A great poet just emerging on the scene with a blog full of links and new discoveries.

5. Martha Silano.  Lovely poet and new AWP friend who has a new book out and blogs about all things poetry and writing related.

The other requirement is that I list five facts, four of which are lies.  Guess which one is true!  (Mom, you aren't allowed to tell!)

1.  When I was eight, I fell into a grain bin at a friend's farm and had to be rescued by the local volunteer fire department.  I was sad that it never made the news.
2.  I once wanted to join the circus to do a combination trapeze and snake handling act.  I had my music and costume all picked out.
3.  I have a birthmark on my shoulder that is shaped like a quill pen.
4.  I got so many parking tickets at the University of Arkansas that I'm afraid to go back and visit even when I park on city streets.
5.  The year after I graduated from the College of St. Benedict, my family doctor became my patron and paid me to do her errands but also to read and write, even including a book allowance in my salary.

Let me know if you have any guesses for which of the above statements is the true one and I will reveal the right one tomorrow.  Stay tuned...

***Requirements of the award:

–link back to the blogger who awarded you.
–display the graphic from award creator.
–post 5 facts, four of which must be lies.
–pass the award on to 5 other bloggers who must follow these rules.
–link the post back, so Jillsmo can follow its trajectory.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Maurice Manning Reads at AWP 2011

Again, the start of this is shaky, but the sound seems good.

Luke Johnson reading Poinsettias at AWP2011

Sorry that the quality isn't spectacular and there's a bit of a Blair Witch element at the beginning. I'm still learning about my camera and YouTube.

More on Submitting Like a Man

19º ~ in Waterloo, Iowa it is 21º, the kangaroo is not often colder than her parents in the winter, brrrrrrr ~ still, the sun is back today and a promise of 42º for a high, so we'll take the slow climb out of the freeze

After a great drafting session yesterday afternoon (see previous post), I came to the desk this morning and printed out the new poem but didn't feel it calling for more attention.  So I turned to the two rejections in my inbox: one for the book and one for a group of poems.  Sure, I felt the twinge of disappointment but I'm well versed in that by now.  I opened up Excel and set to recording the episodes as business transactions.

The poems that were rejected brought to mind this post from a few months ago: Submitting Like a Man.  In December, I read a post by Kelli Russell Agodon about women not resubmitting work quickly enough when editors requested more.  So, when I received a "good rejection" from a certain journal, I sent another batch of poems quite quickly.  Today, the new poems came home with a "rejection" stamp on their foreheads and another note to try again.  I'll wait a few weeks and then follow that advice, although that quiet voice still lurks, whispering "you're being a pest; you're going to annoy them; you're not supposed to submit so often, &etc."

In trying to silence that voice, I was reminded of the recent conversation spurred on by VIDA's "Count."  VIDA = Women in the Literary Arts and is a wonderful advocate for women writers all around.  They have set to counting the number of women being published and the number of books by women being reviewed compared to those numbers for men.
This report came out last week, just at the beginning of AWP and since then, there have been many responses.  Two that I think are particularly interesting are in The New Republic and The Southern Review Blog.  However, the post over at Her Circle Ezine is awesome, as well.

What seems to be rising to the surface is that men outnumber women in the slush pile and in solicitations.  I may be oversimplifying, but it leads me to wonder, why aren't women writers submitting their work in the same numbers as their male counterparts?  (This presumes that there are an equal number of women writing for publication as there are men, and the numbers of women enrolled in writing programs seems to support that presumption.) 

I suspect that there is some social programming at work, as we women are trained by society to put others first, every...single...time. 

As many of you know, Dear Reader, I am not a mother.  This was a choice I made over many years of contemplation and then over several years of discussion with C.  Neither one of us has the drive, the deep desire to parent, so this is a good choice for us, and yes, it allows me more time to write and to submit than my fellow women writers who are mothers.  Still, I fight the sensation that I'm being selfish when I use my writing time to actually write or submit instead of focusing on my students, my pets, my husband, and my house, which is in a state of perennial disarray.

I also think that there is an economic fact at work.  Participating in the business of writing takes money for technology, office supplies, books, conferences, and so much more.  If women are trained to put others first in terms of care-taking, we are also trained to put them first economically as well, and there is proof that we have not yet earned salary equity either. 

I do hope that these things are changing with a new generation of young women writers coming of age in this new century.  Until we know the results of that, I want to encourage, no, to challenge, all of my women writing friends & colleagues to SUBMIT LIKE A MAN!  Flood the market with your wonderful work.  Send and send and send again.  Also, try your hand at writing reviews of women and men alike.  Send letters to the editors of your favorite journals either thanking them for the diversity in their pages or pointing out the voices that might be missing.  Consider voting with your pocketbook; support journals and presses that show diversity and equity. 

In the end, there should be room for us all.  In the end, our literature should reflect all of our people, our times, and our concerns.  As Whitman says, "[We] contain multitudes."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Friday Draft: Fourteen Hours Early

30 degrees ~ pure white snow + brilliant sun = blinding light, some melting in direct sunlight, refreezing sure for tonight

Dear Readers, my regular programming is all fouled up in the wake of AWP and two snow days.  I did spend the better part of yesterday and this morning catching up on prep work for my online classes.  Now, I need to map out unit two of my on campus classes.  So glad I didn't plan the whole semester, given this wild weather ride we've been on.

Still, I found myself this afternoon with energy to spare, a rare occurrence on a regular Thursday.  I decided to work with one of the poems I started drafting on the plane ride back from AWP.  I didn't write a poem last week b/c I was in DC and I've been feeling a little itchy about it.  Also, it looks like I'll have to go in to the office for a few hours tomorrow morning to take care of some business disrupted by snow, and that will knock out my regular drafting time.

It's still brutally cold here, and my office is one of the colder rooms in the house, so I'm on the sofa with my hot water bottle, two cats, a space heater, and my laptop.  All very unusual for drafting.  I credit the fact that I did come up with a complete draft to the fact that the lines I jotted down on Sunday had so much energy going for them already.  I did in fact title the poem "Cautionary Tale for Girls Caught Up in the Machinery" and it begins:

Once there was a girl who dreamed of tools

 Like most of the other Midwestern girl tales I've been working on, there are gender issues, parent-child issues, boundary issues, rural issues, and what I hope are some subtle sexual awakening issues.  Not to terrify anyone, but the girl in this poem gets "pulled into the belly of that greasy beast" (a tractor) as her transformation moment.  What can I say?  News of horrifying farm accidents permeated my childhood and young adulthood.  Those images do not fade.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snow Days, Snow Days

24º ~ dim light all day as we've been living inside the snow globe, tapering off to flurries now and then it should be over for the time being

No school today and now no school tomorrow.  Here's the reason why.

It's hard to read, but that's 6.5 inches and climbing.  That might be the grand total from the deck of the kangaroo. That's certainly enough to shut a town like Little Rock down.

I've spent a good portion of the day getting caught up on school work and still have a bit more to do tomorrow, but I'm hoping a return to more normal poetry patterns soon!

Monday, February 7, 2011

AWP Notes and Reflections

34º ~ two inches of snow and still falling, no wind, so beautifully covering each tree branch, down to the smallest, must be some ice/hoarfrost in there too ~ BUT, we are having school, roads are wet and slushy but temps to rise all day, so hopefully no ice

This AWP report may be a bit more quick than I'd like as I have three long days ahead of me at school, putting on our Division's portion of the Student Success Fair.

~On the plane, read Copper Nickel 15 and loved poems by Natalie Eilbert, Kyle G. Gargan, Traci Brimhall, Josh Robbins, Suzanne Frischkorn, Anna Journey, Ashley Tolivaer, and Susan Grimm.  Yep, that means I loved almost every poem in the issue.  Go and subscribe to this awesome journal ASAP.  The art is awesome too.

~Thursday night, lost luggage, a quick cab ride, and arrival at the Omni.   So tired from all the travel delays, I just went to the Omni bar for a burger and sent out an invite to anyone who could find me.  Luckily, Josh Robbins was free and joined me for an hour.   We talked book strategies and shored up each other's patience, as we are both waiting for the HAPPY CALL. 

~Luggage arrived at midnight, the kindest valet ever brought it to my room. 

~Friday morning, began at the bookfair, meeting old friends and finally getting to do a real-time meet with some FB and blogging friends.  Many of the pictures from the last two days were taken here.  The one major problem with arriving a day late is that I felt rushed everywhere and I didn't get to see as much of the bookfair as I wanted.

~Friday morning panel: The Houghton-Mifflin reading to honor Michael Colliers as the poetry editor.  Here were Andrew Hudgins, Linda Greggerson, Leslie Harrison, Rodney Jones, and Maurice Manning all reading.  I have video clips of Rodney and Manning and hope to figure out how to post them soon.  Let me just say SPECTACULAR.

~Lunch with my good friend Al Maginnes, who brought along Brett Ralph, who I'm now happy to call my friend as well.

~Friday afternoon, more bookfair time, more shaking hands and getting hugs, more pictures.

~Friday afternoon panel: The Hollins Reading. I went to this to hear Luke Johnson read and also got to hear Jeanne Larson, David Huddle, Madison Smartt Bell, Jill McCorkle and Karen Salyer McElmurray.  This was a cool reading as each panelist read one short piece of their own and then read from selections of other graduates of the program.  A true retrospective of the past 50 years.  I also have a video clip of Luke reading "Poinsettias."  Watch for it in the near future.

~Friday afternoon drinks with Charlotte Pence and Adam Prince, joined by Chelsea Rathburn and Jim May, and a few other folks.  Adam and Chelsea were my contemporaries at Arkansas, so it was wonderful to get a chance to catch up.  Interestingly enough, they both married spouses who published my poems (Charlotte in Grist and Jim in New South) before we all made the connections.

~Friday evening, Tupelo Press reception at a cute little French restaurant across the street from the hotel.  Getting to see Marie Gauthier in person was great after knowing each other so long on blogs and FB, along with all the great readings by Tupelo writers.  Lovely end to the day.

***Many people comment on what a big PARTY AWP is.  I'd just like to say that that isn't my AWP.  I'm not built for the long nights, even with not drinking anymore.  My body & brain reached a point at the Tupelo reception where I knew I had to go back to the hotel and crash.  Yes, this is a FUN conference, but it is also IMPORTANT for the writers as we re-connect, meet new folks & new journals/presses, go to panels that provide ideas to bring back to our home institutions, and it provides us support and inspiration for the year.  It is a party, but a party with a purpose.

~Saturday morning was bookfair and a chance to meet up with Martha Silano (another blogger friend) to swap books and stories.  We bumped into Kathleen Ossip, who is a friend of Martha's and I was glad to be able to tell Kathleen how much I like her work. 

~Saturday morning panel:  Outreach for Forming a Literary Community on a Community College Campus.  EXCELLENT.  I'm filled to the brim with ideas and thank each panelist for what he or she brought to the table.  Expect a longer post about this soon, as I'll be doing a presentation on it back at PTC.

~Saturday Lunch at the bookfair, more handshaking and story-exchanging, more fermenting of links and inspirations.

~Saturday afternoon, meeting with Patrick Hicks.  We were supposed to swap books, but I was out of mine.  So, I owe Patrick a copy and got to bring home his newest book from Salmon Poetry, This London. Patrick and I are FB friends, and it turns out he graduated one year before me from St. Ben's/St. John's.  After much conversation, we finally figured out which key ENGL class we had in common (S. Mara's contemporary lit class... Tim O'Brien!) and we drafted a plan for a proposal to read at CSB/SJU in the next two years or so.  It was great to revisit the past in this way and solidify a friendship with a brother Johnnie.

~Saturday afternoon, Diet Cokes with Al Maginnes and guess who should wander by all bleary eyed from just waking from a nap: Brett Ralph.  Al and I did some Fayetteville reminiscing, with him telling stories from the 80s and me from the 90s/00s.  We have lots of mutual connections.  Al is definitely one of my friendly faces, an AWP touchstone.

~Saturday afternoon, another quick trip to the bookfair to check in with Mary Biddinger and run a panel proposal idea by her for AWP 2012.  I think Mary should be voted QUEEN OF AWP as she seems to know everyone and be everywhere and run on limitless supplies of energy.  And she's an awesome, generous, and kind person. 

~At this point, Dear Readers, I hit another wall and also felt a bit sick, so I had to cancel on the evening plans which included dinner with my Anhinga family.  I just couldn't do it. 

~Desperately sad at all the people I didn't get to see, and there were many, especially Tara Bray and Kristin Berkey-Abbott.  Ah well, that's why they have AWP every year. 

~Sunday, VERY early, out to DCA for my flights home.  After all the drama of earlier in the week, everything went smoothly Sunday.  My cab driver was a wonderful man from Ethiopia who was at the end of his shift, and I think talking to keep himself awake.  It turns out he loves poetry.  He told me that in his country poets are revered as the most talented writers.  You know, fiction and short stories, well...anyone can make up a story, but poets, they have big messages in the fewest words, wrapped in images.  WOW.  Best cab ride of my life.  I was just sad that I didn't have a copy of Blood Almanac to give him.

~Oh, I did get stopped to have my backpack searched as it was too cluttered for the x-ray machine.  My power cords looked a bit suspicious.  It was cool to see them swab my electronics and stick the swap in the sniffer machine.  All lights went green for good and I was off to my gate.  On the way home, I read issue two of Booth, a journal from Butler University and one I plan to read again.  Very nicely done.  I also managed to draft the beginnings of two poems, one of which is a new Cautionary Tale...this one for "Girls Caught Up in the Machinery."  Lots of good energy there.  Woo Hoo.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.  I'm off to school early, still making the transition from that other-worldly time & space of AWP back to reality.  I SIMPLY CANNOT WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR! 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

More Photos, Practically Non-Verbal

48 degrees ~ dark now, the computer says cloudy skies, but I'm not going out there to check, too tired ~ MORE snow tomorrow morning, although melting fast, but another whopper of system headed our way on Wednesday...I smell another snow day or two

Here are more AWP photos.  I was going to try and post, but in trying to comment on a FB status, discovered my ability to think, spell, & type are seriously compromised by post-AWP exhaustion.  (And I was only there 2 days instead of the 3!)  I do know this:  I plan to sleep soundly tonight!

Lynne Knight, amazing designer of Blood Almanac, has a new book of her own out!

Simmons Buntin of & Katy Miles of Hawk & Handsaw

Josh Robbins!

Matthew Guenette enjoying the bookfair with Keith Montesano

The Big Board: three days and two hotels worth of events.

January Gill O'Neil, Poet Mom!

Kathleen Ossip (L) & Martha Silano (R)

Book Swap!  A wonderful perk at AWP!

Eduardo C. Corral!

Patrick Hicks, CSB/SJU grad '92...finally figured out we had one ENGL class in common, the most important one!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pictures Now, Words Later

38 degrees with fog, a dreary mist all day

Exhaustion are a FEW of the many photos.  The narrative will arrive later.  I saw several great panels about creating literary community at a community college, so I'm super psyched to bring those ideas back to my peers.  Also, got to catch up with lots and lots of folks within the poetry world.

Charlotte & Adam Prince (Adam, fellow U of A grad)
Jim May & Chelsea Rathburn (Chelsea, fellow U of A grad)
Mary Biddinger, wielding her charge machine
Adam Clay, fellow U of A grad, waving off the paparazzi
Jake Adam York, signing Persons Unknown, which promptly sold out!
The great gateway to the bookfair.
Al Maginnes, fellow U of A grad, although before my time
Marie Gauthier of Tupelo Press

Brian Spears, fellow U of A grad

Allison Joseph models Traci Brimhall

Stacy Kidd & Amy Letter, fellow U of A folks

Luke Johnson signs his book.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Kangaroo Has Landed

31 degrees ~ clear skies in Washington DC, saw the Monument in a perfect reflection during my cab ride

Dear Readers, the long journey is over.  I am arrived.

Here's a picture of the temporary digs of the Kangaroo.  Lovely hotel. 

The brief details.  Delayed out of Little Rock, pushed to a later flight out of DFW, flight to DCA left on time, all smooth until landing...45 minutes on the tarmac waiting for a gate and then a lost piece of luggage.

I had my brief moment of panic and was reassured by the folks at the airport.  The ride to the hotel was beautiful, including the above mentioned view of the Washington Monument.  DC is beautiful at night.

Got checked in and touched base on the homefronts.  Considered some evening events and called a few folks.  Decided I was pushing it and just went down to the bar for a burger & fries, letting the world know said details via FB and text.  Happily, Josh Robbins was free and joined me for a nice conversation.  Oh, and Earnestine made her debut!

At the end of our conversation, good news!  My bag was found and should arrive at the hotel sometime in the night.  While I would have enjoyed having to buy new clothes, I'd have been upset to have to spend the time doing so while at AWP!

I'm still sad to have missed such great events today, but there are plenty more tomorrow and Saturday.

I'll be trying to remember to take pictures (of things & people more interesting than a generic hotel room) and will keep you all posted about my happy days at AWP.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Kangaroo Travel Updates

23º ~ darkness

Well, friends & neighbors, the Kangaroo has been delayed again.

I've just printed my third set of boarding passes in under 24 hours.  Third time's the charm?

At least this time, the airline called at 8:30 p.m and not 12:15 a.m.  Still if these flights don't work out,  if I'm not in DC by tomorrow evening, I'm going to cancel on AWP this year and eat the cost of the registration, hotel deposit, and hopefully re-use my airline ticket at a later date.

I know that the AWP Board cannot be expected to foresee a winter storm of massive proportions, but could we all agree that the statistical likelihood of massive numbers of writers being hindered by weather only goes up the closer to January the conference is booked?

I actually don't think the choice of location was the issue this year, as DC has had fine weather all day today by all accounts.  It's the sheer number of other airports, interstates, trains, shuttles, & etc. that have had delays and cancellations. 

I'm almost afraid to go to sleep again, expecting to be jarred awake by another flight cancellation.  Yes, my power of positive thinking seems to be fading.

Good night.  I hope you are warm & safe & happy wherever you are tonight.

We Apologzie for the Inconvenience

21º ~ bone-chilling temps out there with added wind chills, but a bright sun doing its best to represent

As you might be guessing, my flight to DC for this morning was canceled.  No, Little Rock did not receive any winter weather.  We had a massive onslaught of cold, cold rain yesterday morning, but it all dried up before the freezing temps arrived.  When I made my reservations, I had a choice of connecting cities.  I immediately ruled out all except Atlanta and Dallas Fort Worth, thinking they'd be my best shot in the winter.  DFW was cheaper, so I ended up watching the delays at DFW with dread yesterday.  Still, by the time I went to bed, I thought everything was working itself out.

12:30 a.m.:  I woke to the insistent ring of my cell phone and a computer telling me that my morning flights were canceled.  I spent a half hour, dazed and half asleep, on the phone rescheduling for tomorrow.  Same Bat Time; Same Bat Channel.

As I tried to go back to sleep, I was upset and then upset with myself for being upset.  Yes, it's a disappointment to miss one whole day of the conference, but it really isn't anything major.  If I get there, I'll still see good panels, readers, and good friends.  If I don't get there, I'll still have connections to those good friends and there will be panels and readings next year.

It also helped that there was no person or corporation with which to be mad.  The representative from American Airlines was great, and the only culprit was NATURE.  I learned at a young age not to mess with serious weather and that very little is worth risking bodily harm to try and travel in ice and snow.

Now here's what we have at the house of the kangaroo:

One carefully packed bag, just waiting to see if we will make it to DC or not.  I worked so hard to have everything at school ready for my absence that I only had a little bit of work to do with emails and whatnot this morning.  I'm about to catch up on blog reading and then go forage for some food, since part of my planning was to not buy groceries this week!

Still hopeful that Earnestine and I will make it to DC tomorrow!