Monday, October 31, 2011

The Only Poet who Doesn't Like Halloween

42º ~ near perfect weather predicted all week, highs around 70º, a little rain perhaps midweek, ahhhh autumn in Arkansas, what we wait for during the broiling months

This morning I have a little poetry news to report and then an explanation, of sorts, about my apathy for Halloween.

First, I spent my writing time this weekend polishing off the fellowship application I wrote about a week and a half ago.  Wow, time slips by so quickly.  I'm glad I started early.  The deadline for this opportunity is November 15th, but I try to practice what I preach with my students and avoid the procrastination blues.  I'm glad I did, since letting the draft sit for 10 days and then overnight after revisions on Friday, showed me two typos on Saturday morning, both missing words.  It really is true that when you read over something you've written, your brain fills in the blanks.  For me, I have to read out loud and sssslllllloooooooowwwwwwllllly to discover my errors.  My students can attest that I sometimes don't take this kind of time with assignment details!  So, on Saturday morning, I did the final touch-ups and then hit 'send.'  I LOVE being able to apply and submit online, saving me time for the real work of the writer, reading, writing, and revising.

Second, I have a new poem out today in Waccamaw, Dan Albergotti's fabulous journal.  You can read "Cautionary Tale of Girls and Birds of Prey" along with many other fine poems and some great fiction, essays, and interviews as well. Check it out!

And third, a brief explanation of why I don't like Halloween.  The costumes.  It's all about the costumes.  When you are a creative type, people expect great things from you on Halloween.  If you doubt me, just cruise through the blogosphere or over to Facebook and check out the pictures posted from Halloween parties that occurred this weekend.  The costumes are amazing and witty and intricate and unique.  I just don't have it in me.  I think this may also be linked to my avoidance of performing in any type of theater production.  My creativity just doesn't extend to 'becoming someone / something else' in the flesh and I always feel heaps of self-judgment when I try.  No, I'm more comfortable staying at home and dishing out the candy to the munchkins.  That's where you'll find me tonight. 

by Joe Lercio, via

Friday, October 28, 2011

Draft Process: Tongueless, I Conjur Her at Will

46º ~ some grayness to the beginning of this day, leftover clouds from yesterday's rain should clear shortly, the intensity of autumn is upon us, wearing new thick flanneled pants and a sweatshirt, the electric heater kicks on and off

Wow!  I'm thrilled with today's draft process, Dear Reader.  (I confess, a crowing opening like this scares the humble Midwesterner within.)  Still, it was a breakthrough kind of day.

As I puttered through my morning routine and saw C. out the door, I was thinking of drafting and thinking of my sickly speaker, wondering if she had more to say.  Yes, indeed.  As I waited for the coffee to brew I started wondering how the speaker wound up in the hospital/asylum where she now lives.  Hmmmmmmm.  Then, shazam.  I had a line:  "My mother brought me here."

I ran into the office to jot it down in the journal, and as I wrote, I realized that the speaker doesn't have a mother.  (Just that instant knowledge about the character rang true.)  And I remembered a poem I wrote a while back, "Body Sewn Together with Twine and a Dull Needle," which appears in The Collagist.  In that poem the speaker talks about "a woman [she] called mother by mistake," and I knew I had my answer.

The opening of the draft now looks like this:

A woman I called mother by mistake
brought me here when the fever

made me shiver even in a scalding bath.
The water lapped the edges, spilled ...

Slowly, it has been dawning on me that while this series about the sickly speaker began in August, I have, in fact, written several precursor poems pointing in this direction.  The above mentioned poem in The Collagist is one.  Another is "Lament at the End of a Long Convalescence" recently published by Connotation PressThis makes me wonder if there are others.  I will have to review some older material and see.

Now, I arrived at the "whole draft" pretty quickly today, and the breakthrough was that I didn't rely on a word bank or reading to get inspiration.  Once I had that spark while standing in front of the coffee maker, I was on my way.  It was interesting, though, I did keep reminding myself to use the dense, rich, intricate language of Lucie Brock-Broido, and to keep reaching for the truth about the speaker.  The poem took a few wrong turns, but I think I was able to identify them fairly well.  Time will tell, of course.

When it came time for a title, I tried to come up with one on my own to no avail.  Since I've made the practice of using bits of lines from others (mostly L B-B), the titles all have a similar feel.  I tried on several of my own making and was not happy.  Going back through my notes, I realized that I had used Rilke's Poems from the Book of Hours once and I returned to it.  After much searching, I finally seized on a line from "Put out my eyes, and I can see you still," "and tongueless, I can conjure you at will."  Rilke's book is a meditation in conversation with God, which actually works fairly well with my speaker, even though she is not concerned with God.  She is, however, in conversation with people who are not with her, so the meditative quality and the lack of response parallels Rilke.  In any case, I changed the line a bit and came up with this:  "Tongueless, I Conjure Her at Will."

I do have one worry about the draft.  As many readers know, there are previous drafts in which the speaker communicates with her mentor, who is a woman.  Right now, I see that mentor as distinctly different from this new woman who has entered the narrative.  Given that I'm not naming anyone, if this "pseudo-mother" remains, I may have to work to distinguish the two.  This is also problematic because they aren't with the speaker, so their own voices aren't present and distinct.  Hmmmmmm.

Oh, and there are chrysanthemums in the poem, so I thought I'd show you all a picture of the mums I planted a few weeks ago.  Here is a moment when my life helped with my art.  After I planted the mums and the blooms all opened beautifully, I couldn't resist running my hand over the flowers.  When I brought my hand away, I smelled the scent of the mums on my fingers and was amazed at the intensity.  I had either forgotten their smell or never taken the time to notice it before.  In a totally organic way, the flowers and their scent fit perfectly into today's draft, and if I hadn't taken that moment in the sun with those blooms, it might not have happened.  Wow!

Until the next time, be happy, be well.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pounding the Pavement for Poetry

55º ~ the high today only 57º, always struck by those days when the temperature begins near its high and sinks, rain in the offing, 'spooky' weather

Yesterday, I was not at the desk of the Kangaroo because I was 'pounding the pavement for poetry' as I told my boss.  One of my goals at school for this year has been to increase our creative writing program. 

These are not my feet.  Courtesy of
 Program may not be the best word here, since we are a community college and do not have an official program in creative writing per se.  However, our school has grown in leaps and bounds in terms of numbers enrolled and we have about a 70% base of students who plan to transfer to one of our state's four-year institutions.  Creative writing fits into their plan as a humanities elective that will help them in that transfer.  However, many of our students have had little experience with creative writing and are unaware of what an introductory workshop class entails.  I really believe that a lack of knowledge leads many of them to choose Intro to Music, Intro to Theatre, Intro to Visual Arts, etc. instead of Creative Writing I.  Notice that even the title of the class is "different."  (Caveat:  I love all of those other intro classes and mean no disrespect!)

Our entire division (fine arts & humanities) set out on a quest to increase our visibility on campus last year (2010 - 2011) and to increase the knowledge among students about the electives we offer.  With the transient population of a community college what this means is an on-going information blitz.

In doing my part yesterday, I went to the different ENGL classes (Comp I, Comp II, and World Lit) being offered on MWF between 9 and noon to spread the word about my offerings for spring 2012.  I'm on the schedule to teach Intro to Poetry and Creative Writing I on MWF, and I want those classes to make.  If history is any indicator, the creative writing class should be fine; however, we need to get some buzz going about the Intro to Poetry course.  I taught it online last spring and had a great time but want to see if we can make it work as an on campus class as well.  Technically, this is an 'academic' course involving the study of poetics and including a research paper; however, I also allow students to workshop their own work if they would like.

It was fun to get to pitch the classes, and I am thankful my boss groups all the ENGL classes on the same floor of the same building so I wasn't running up and down the stairs/hills of campus.  As one might expect from gen-ed classes, the majority of the students were underwhelmed by my presentation.  Yet...yet, in each group there were those two or three people whose eyes lit up, whose body language changed, whose hands reached up for the offered fliers I brought.  All this makes me eager to see what waits for me in the spring!

And tomorrow, I have a blissfully clear calendar for drafting day!  Wahoo!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Improved Lighting Reading Photo Recap

54º ~ amazing fog cover out there this morning, shrouded leaves and gray light

I had an amazing time in Fayetteville Saturday night at the Improved Lighting Reading Series, held at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street.  I was fortunate to read with three other lovely & amazing writers:  Tony Presley, Amanda Auchter, and Mark Spitzer. 

Matt & Kaveh, co-founders of the series


surprise visit from beautiful niece Katie!

Tony not only writes, he sings & plays, too!

Matt puts a hex on the crowd

Matt introduces me

me (thanks Laura!)


Friday, October 21, 2011

Draft Process: The Ashes of My Familiar

45º ~ beautiful slanting light, harder to get out of bed in the mornings as the sun rises later and later, a gentle teasing of the leaves all there is to show for wind

This morning as I puttered through my habits, I kept the idea of drafting a poem at the forefront of my mind.  I mulled over my sickly speaker, trying to find out if she had more to say.  As I mulled I realized that to continue working with the same speaker, there would need to be some new development in her situation.  I also realized that, eventually, she would have to get better or die, I suppose. 

This brought up the fact of Lou-Lou's death a few week's ago.  Some of you may remember that these poems began in response to all of our trips to the vet these past few months, translating from veterinary medicine into human medicine as a way of working through. 

So, I was wondering about death and my speaker, and it dawned on me that someone could die in the same institution and she could comment on it.

Having done all of this pre-thinking, meant that my normal word gathering business was skewed a bit.  I did read some Lucie Brock-Broido, but this time, just the notes section from The Master Letters, and I did collect some words.  However, since I knew what direction I wanted the poem to go, the words suggested lines much earlier in the process, so I gathered fewer words than usual.  Given this shift in process, the poem came out much more sporadically and involved much more crossing out of lines.

I find this interesting and am trying not to judge which is the 'better' process.

As I drafted, I began with the death of a woman down the hall from the speaker.  This morphed into the woman in the next room, and finally, came to rest with the death of the woman housed in the speaker's room before her, her "pretty predecessor" as she says int he draft.  The poem, in couplets again, begins:

Another woman kept this room before me,
I am sure.  There is a husk of her temper yet

that rides the air.  When I breathe in the burnt
remains, a strengthening returns.  Rest assured,

A glass-making furnace in lieu of a crematorium, click for link

With this draft, I did not have a title pre-selected from a line from a L. B-B. poem.  Instead, the poem took several twists and turns (a few of them wrong and needing correction) as the relationship between the speaker and her predecessor developed.  Here, I had to struggle against "The Yellow Wallpaper" again, as I didn't want to repeat Charlotte Perkins Gilman's amazing work.  Still, that story is embedded in my DNA (a result of repetitive teaching), so it bubbles up into my work. 

Once I had the draft in some form with what I felt had an opening, middle, and closing, I turned back to L. B-B. in search of a title.  Since I've titled the first dozen poems in this way, I felt compelled to do so again.  In "Rampion" (mentioned last week), I found the line "One day I will be buried with the ashes of my familiars."  I cut that down to "The Ashes of My Familiar," and hopefully the poem will show that the familiar is not of the animal variety but the human one.  Still, I think I may have zeroed in on that line as a result of Lou-Lou's death and cremation.  That is how my life finds its way into my art.  So be it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Asking the World for Money: Or, Poets as Orphans

45º ~ our highs won't get out of the 50s today ~ heat on briefly this morning, A/C on two days ago ~ bright sun today after the day and a half of rain & clouds ~ the world cleansed

What I've been doing this morning is probably my least favorite activity of being a poet, even beneath recording rejections.  Today, I've been working on a fellowship application; in other words, I'm about to ask the world for money to help support my art. 

This particular fellowship is open to writers of any genre and it has caused me to really think about the position of poets in practical terms.  For one thing, the application asks about advances received.  Ahem, Billy Collins, Rita Dove, etc., ...  probably not applying for this fellowship.  Still, the question applies for the prose writers out there applying.  For this question, I crafted an answer about why such a thing doesn't exist for most poets. 

In crafting that answer, I realized that in my day-to-day poetry life I am doing the work of both the artist and the agent.  "Well, duh!" you might say.  Of course, I've known this forever; however, today, I had to quantify what I do with my time.  Do you know how long it takes to submit one's work to publishers?  I spent four hours going through submission guidelines and preparing my manuscript/letter/check/SASE/etc. on Sunday.  On Monday, I spent 20 minutes at the Post Office getting the packets mailed out (including wait time in line).  Add to this the time spent sending out individual poems.  It adds up quickly. 

While I know that an agent isn't the 'magic bullet,' and I do acknowledge that prose writers have to court editors and research the market as well, not to mention going through the torturous process of landing an agent in the first place, I do think the poets are at a disadvantage here. 

Granted, no agent will work for free, and the whole system is based on advances and royalties, neither of which I know much about, unless you count the nominal prize attached with Blood Almanac's publication.  So, I'm not advocating to change the system, just to acknowledge it.

In the meantime, the application also asks for the normal stuff: bio, details of the work, financial situation & use of funds, reviews of past work, sample of current work, CV, etc. 

I've just spent a good half hour updating my CV.  Luckily, I do a pretty good job of keeping the list of publications up to date, as I've developed a habit of including updating my CV when I record acceptances and when the work is published; however, there are lots of things that have happened in the last six months that I hadn't included:  creating the Big Rock Reading Series, taking over managing editor duties for a student magazine on campus, reading here & there, etc.  Whew. 

Finally, there is the general sense of discomfort of blowing one's own horn that follows the whole process.  The application requires one to jump up and down, shouting "HERE I AM! HERE I AM! I AM WORTHY OF YOUR PATRONAGE! PLEASE, SIR, I WANT SOME MORE!" (Money that is, not porridge.) 

Mark Lester as Oliver Twist

This, my friends, is hard and perhaps harder for having to claim that what I do is worthy of financial support, which is not a message poets receive from the world that often. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Improved Lighting Reading Series 10/22/11

48º ~ the left over residue of a dreary rain, but I found it lovely, the temperatures are courtesy of a cold front "sweeping in from the Canadian plains" (according to our local gurus)

Many thanks to Matt Henriksen for inviting me up to Fayetteville for a reading on Saturday and to Katy Henriksen for designing this beautiful poster.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Bleck!

56º ~ reached the upper 80s yesterday and will do so again today, then Tuesday = a high of 65º, mercurial, temperamental, etc.

Dear Reader, this poet is empty.  I've got nothing today, nothing but a long to-do list at school and very little motivation.  Can we please rewind and have another Sunday?  I used mine up with grading and didn't get my day of rest.

To provide a little boost for me and a little reading material for you, I direct you to the new issue of the Valparaiso Poetry Review, available online.  In it, you will find a host of wonderful poets like Doug Ramspeck, Joannie Strangeland, Brian Simoneau, and others.  Along the way, there is the last of the saint poems:  "The Summer Saint."  I hope you enjoy it.

Until the next time...Bleck!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Draft Process: Long Sliding Toward Oblivion

52º ~ a squirrel with its jaws pried wide open around some treasure cautiously descends the tree in the neighbor's yard, bright morning sun begins to make its way over my shoulder, the revival of Wednesday's rain remains, no breeze to speak of

It's been a wild week with the death of Lou-Lou, the hosting of another successful reading for the Big Rock Reading Series, and the inevitable collection of papers to be graded.  This afternoon, there is an appointment at the auto-shop for the 60,000 mile maintenance & oil change on my Honda.

Still, I put my butt in the chair this morning.  Knowing that I might struggle I bit, I wanted the most help possible, so I returned to Lucie Brock-Broido's The Master Letters, a book which has been fruitful in suggesting titles, but which is also jam-packed with words that ricochet around my brain and make sparks.

Here's a picture of today's process.

I've really begun to like the idea of mapping as I go.  So that when two words wind up on the page together and suggest something (this is the hard part to explain), I circle them or draw arrows or lines & whatnot so I don't lose the energy of that combination as I continue to sink into the draft.   I included the book as well so you can see that I mark up the poetry I read.  In fact, the more marks the higher on my list of favorites. 

Today's draft "Long Sliding Toward Oblivion" gets its title from a line in Brock-Broido's poem "Into Those Great Countries of the Blue Sky of Which We Don't Know Anything."  It ended up being an epistolary poem to the sickly speaker's unnamed, female mentor (playing off Emily Dickinson's & Lucie Brock-Broido's letters to an unnamed 'master').  It begins:

Dear Madame—

There is news.  A range of mystics has arrived.
They shuffled me off to a sepia room,

a soft sieve for my fevered breath.

So, my speaker continues to suffer from fevers and weird sleep issues and her mentor continues to remain at a distance, leading to a bit of pleading in the tone.  

One cool thing that happened in the drafting was this.  I had gathered the word 'dormant' and then later the word 'rumor' and they landed near each other on the page of my journal.  Seeing them together I loved the idea of a 'dormant rumor' so I circled them.  The idea seemed to fit the sickly speaker whose illness remains a mystery to her and her doctors (as far as she knows...with a first-person point-of-view, we really don't know what the doctors know).  Then, Brock-Broido has a poem called "Rampion," and I had forgotten the definition of that, so I had to look it up.  It's a Eurasian plant with edible roots.  When I saw the phrase 'edible roots' in the definition, I grabbed that too, loving the sound of it and the feel of it on my tongue.  Seriously, say it out loud a few times.  Wonderful collection of vowels and the hard consonants of the 'd' in 'edible' and 't' in 'root.'  So, I wrote that in the journal and then *SMASH* I saw the two phrases come together so that the speaker says:

...I sup / on the edible root of a dormant rumor, 

Moments of making like this remind me that I love being a poet.  Silly, maybe, but there you go.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quick Pic: BRRS Alison Pelegrin

62º ~ a bit more cloud-cover than usual, 30% chance of rain, running the sprinkler to guarantee it

I haven't received the official photos from last night's reading yet, but here are a few I snapped.  It was another great success, and I can't say enough about how wonderful Alison Pelegrin is as both a poet and a human being.  If you run a reading series, you should book her!  I know the Big Rock Reading Series is the better for having hosted her.

the crowd begins to form
photo by Tim Jones

Alison signs books for her adoring fans

my friends chat in the after
photo by Tim Jones
 Now it's off to school to start grading a new set of papers newly arrived in my inbox.  Ah, the life of a teaching poet.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Personal Poetry Updates

61º ~ sunrise on the east side of the house, still dawn on the west, predictions for beautiful fall weather (temps in the upper 70s) hold for the week

Amidst the turmoil of illness and the sadness of death (of our beloved cat, Lou-Lou), the world of poetry churns on.  Here are a few announcements.

I'll be reading in Fayetteville, AR on Saturday, 22 October, for the Improved Lighting Reading Series.  These readings take place at the fabulous Nightbird Books on Dickson Street.  We start at 7:30 that night, and I'm thrilled to be reading with Amanda Auchter, Tony Presley, and Mark Spitzer.

If you are in the area, please stop by.  There will be Earnestine giveaways of some sort.  :)

Having done my MFA at the U of Arkansas in Fayetteville, I'm super excited to be invited back to my favorite college town in one of its prettiest months.


Saturday, I received my contributor's copy for the latest South Dakota Review, which is under the new leadership of Lee Ann Roripaugh, the first woman editor and only the third editor in the history of this wonderful journal.

This issue is AMAZEBALLS and you must get a copy ASAP to read poems by Adam Clay, Mary Biddinger, Bruce Covey, Matt Mauch, Heidi Czerwiec, me, and so many more (not to mention the fiction and nonfiction, too!).  Also, I love the new larger format.  So weighty in the hands.


Tomorrow is our second event in the Big Rock Reading Series.  Wahoo.  I simply cannot wait for Alison Pelegrin to get to town and unleash her poetic powers on the PTC audience.  I'm not sure they know what's about to hit them.  If you are in the area, the reading starts at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night.  All information here.

Alison is a good friend and an awesome poet.  She has two full-length collections from the University of Akron Press:  Big Muddy River of Stars and the HOT OFF THE PRESSES Hurricane PartyI've read both and YOWZA.  Also, I definitely think Hurricane Party should win some kind of design award for this cover.  Spectacular.

In the meantime, I also received two out-of-the-blue emails from poets who had read my work in other journals and wanted to let me know what they'd enjoyed about the work.  I've written here before about my own mission to reach out to those writers whose work speaks to me whenever I'm reading a journal or book.  Being on the receiving end of such emails reminds me to double my effort in the future.  It really is spectacular. 

One of those sending an email is also an editor for a long-standing and extremely well-respected journal.  He asked me to send in some of my work.  As we all know, there is nothing guaranteed about this kind of solicitation, but I wanted to mention it here for those who wonder if this kind of thing really happens.  Yes, apparently it does.  Apparently it is true that editors read other journals and seek out the work of those writers they admire.  (I hear tell that if you write fiction, this sometimes applies to agents as well.)

So thank you to the two people who took the time to email me last week about my poems.  It was a hell week on a personal level, and those emails dropped into my inbox at the perfect time.


Until next time, friends and fans of the Kangaroo, be safe, be happy, be content.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What Loss Looks Like

62º ~ beautiful fall weather abounds, a lack of rain, dry weather predicted throughout the fall & winter, squirrels are squirreling & the light is slantwise

Our Lou-Lou lost her fight with myelofibrosis on Friday.  And so, yes, Dear Reader, we are without a cat in the house for the first time in over seven years.  It's a quiet, empty feeling.  Most of you may remember that Libby died in June from hydrothropic cardiomyopathy.  Both of these deaths were unpreventable and proved just how little we can control in this world.  While Libby was fairly young at seven and a half when she died, Lou-Lou's death was even harder to bear as she had just turned three in July.  Her disease, where the immune system turns on the bone marrow and the red blood cells, usually strikes in cats between kittenhood and three years old.

Perhaps I share too much; however, in the telling of the details there is a way through the sorrow (for me).  I know that others prefer to grieve in silence. 

Many thanks to all who sent condolences on Facebook.  As I said with Libby, I am surprised at how much those small words "So sorry for your loss" help ease the grief. 

Finally, here's a picture of the desk to show what loss looks like for me.

There has been a lot of tossing things on the desk at random: receipts, journals, money, bills, clothing, half-hearted to-do lists, etc.  Yesterday was spent in lethargic repose; today I have a bit more energy to tackle some of this. 

Knowing that the poetry is out there waiting to be read, waiting to be written, is perhaps one of the most helpful things of all.

Monday, October 3, 2011


47º ~ rumor of frost in the northern counties of the state, low 80s for the projected highs all week, delirious fall weather

Today's title references 'hanging on by one's' rather that some statement about fashion and polish.  It also references an emotional state of hanging on rather than one of being overwhelmed by physical tasks.  We just don't know what is going to happen with Lou-Lou's health and that is difficult to say the least.  All of this emotion for a cat, and I struggle to imagine the magnitude of emotion for a close friend or family member suffering serious health issues.  Yes, I have been so lucky in my 40 years on this planet, but I see that the suffering will arrive at some point or other.  This is what my cat has to teach me.

The opposite of what I mean!


In the meantime, I did get some submissions out the door yesterday, although I did not follow my wonderful, orderly process, as detailed here.  Instead, I haphazardly sent out to several places that have special calls for which my poems my be a fit.  I also chose to send two groups of poems to non-simultaneous submission journals (well, one asks that the write wait six weeks before sending on to other mags).  It's odd, that normally I feel constrained by the non-simul. sub. journals, but yesterday it helped me feel like I was making some small progress in the face of chaos.

Rest assured, I have not abandoned my process method or simultaneous subs (as I still believe in them the most).  I have a stack of poems waiting to be sorted and my spreadsheet printed and ready to go.


Finally, I have tried to skim the blogs and keep up as best I can, although I know I'm missing much.  I did catch on in the middle of a discussion about Annie Dillard's policy on seclusion.  Here is Shawn Smucker's original piece, citing Dillard's statement on her website.

I’m sorry. I’ve never promoted myself or my books, but I used to give two public readings a year.
Now I can no longer travel, can’t meet with strangers, can’t sign books but will sign labels with SASE, can’t write by request, and can’t answer letters. I’ve got to read and concentrate. Why? Beats me.

Apparently, this caused quite a lot of commenting and Dillard-bashing, leading Andi from to post this response.  My favorite part of Andi's post is this:

Plus, whose to say she isn’t helping us, her community of writers, with her very writing? Like Shawn, my favorite writing text is hers: The Writing Life. In those pages she has given me more wisdom than she could ever give in an email.

I completely agree and have no problem with Dillard's seclusion.  She is fortunate that her amazing writing talent has been recognized and celebrated to the point where she can choose seclusion.  And even if we aren't able to financially sustain ourselves on our writing alone, we can all probably take a lesson on turning off the noise for a bit.

However, on the flipside, I will say that I gain much from my internet community, and I love to talk with writers of all skill-levels.  These relationships nourish me and encourage me in times of doubt.  I hope to always be able to engage in those relationships, yet I recognize that when one rises to the level of superstar of Dillard's proportion, the requests for one's time might become burdensome.  I would hope, then, that my writing will provide its own dialogue with my readers as Dillard's does with me.

Here is one Dillard quote that lights the fire within:
"The secret of seeing is, then, the pearl of great price.  If I thought he could teach me to find it and keep it forever I would stagger barefoot across a hundred deserts after any lunatic at all."

That's what writing is for me, an attempt to discover the secret of seeing, a staggering after wisdom in whatever guise it chooses.

So be it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Camille Dungy Reading: 3 Photos

72º ~ that wonderful October mellow sun, the air a bit too cool for all windows open

Many thanks to Camille Dungy for posting pictures from her trip to Little Rock in September, as my pictures from that night did not turn out.

The beautiful Camille Dungy with me.

Camille Dungy & my former PTC student, Toby Daughtery

Camille Dungy & my former AGS student, Jessica Otto, also a former student of CD

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Draft Process: Small Forgotten Fevers

61º ~ bright autumnal sun shining on the slant, small breezes move the smaller branches

Dear Reader, today, I did not feel much poetry, but the old B-I-C (butt-in-chair) rule did not fail me.  I am uncertain of this draft, but I am happy to have written some few lines in the midst of stress and chaos. 

Sticking with my tried and true method of drafting since early August, I picked up the nearest text and began.  Today's draft is brought to you by work from the recent issue of Copper Nickel, one of my top 5 favorite lit mags in the whole wide world.

I word-gathered from work by Laura Eve Engel & Adam Peterson, Elizabeth Cheever, Zachary Sifuentes, Ann Fisher-Wirth, and A.E. Watkins.  At first, I thought I'd found a title/jumping off place when I matched two words in my journal: rivalry & miracles.  So I started trying to draft "A Rivalry of Miracles" and my sickly speaker remains, never fear.  However, after eight lines, I needed to use the phrase 'a rivalry of miracles' in the draft and I no longer felt like it served as well as a title, so I moved it.  Then, mid-draft, I was sort of stuck, so I went back to the poems and scanned for possible titles or guidance.  In A.E. Watkins' "from Allerton in Winter" section IV, I found "some forgotten fury."  I love the alliteration there, and as my sickly speaker always has a fever, I changed 'fury' to 'fever,' and thus today's draft:  "Some Forgotten Fever."  It begins:

Here the bed is made of iron,
flat & straight.  My cursive spine

breaks the line.  To sleep, I turn

Like the other poems in this series I've ended up writing, this draft is in couplets; however, there is much more enjambment going on here and the lines are shorter than before.  Perhaps my own sense of urgency is filtering through. 

In the meantime, I am wary of sticking with this process so long.  What say you: should I abandon the process of word gathering and stand on my own as it were?  Should I move on from this sickly speaker?  Or should I let it all ride and see where it takes me?