Monday, August 27, 2012

Busy Days

90º ~ bright sun, high humidity, small breezes ~ while no one wants a hurricane, I'm crossing my fingers that Isaac's rains reach this far inland and west ~ we have gone beyond dry into dessication

Those busy days I told of in the week before school have come true and been complicated by a terrible cold.  I swear the sickly speaker haunts me.  Honestly, I eat vegetables.  I eat fruit.  I drink water by the gallons each day.  Ok, I could maybe exercise a bit more.  Still, my immune system seems bent on failing me.  Sigh.

Here are some events unfolding during the days of classes and of sniffles:

Cold and all, I was honored to be the guest speaker at last Thursday night's reception launching the University of Central Arkansas' new Arkansas Writers MFA Program.  Stephanie Vanderslice, the director of the program, kindly invited me to give a short poetry reading at the end of the night's program.  It was a delight to meet some of the faculty members I hadn't yet met, to reconnect with those I know, and to meet the students in the inaugural class.  The festivities made me nostalgic for the Fall of 1999 when I entered the MFA program at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville

At the reading, I just did a few poems from Blood Almanac, then some saints and tales from The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths, and finally four sickly speaker poems.  It was awesome to have the chance to hear her voice out in the world for the third time.  I read a few of her poems in March at the University of Northern Iowa and a few at AGS in June, but I hadn't completed the sequence then and so was unsure of her outcome.  It felt much better reading her poems last week now that I know what happens to her.


Heron Tree, the online journal I'm helping to edit, will begin accepting submissions on Saturday!  We will read from Sept 1 through December 1, so please polish up the best you've got and send them our way.  At this time, we accept all forms of poetry but do not read for fiction, non-fiction, or drama.

As editors, we created a list of poems that inspire us and make us say, "Yes!"  Hopefully that will help you get a sense of our aesthetic before we accept our first poems.  Poems will begin being published online in January 2013, with a new poet published weekly.  In the fall, we will offer a print annual as a print-on-demand publication.

I'm super excited to see what comes over the transom and to try out my new role as a co-editor.


The Big Rock Reading Series is underway at Pulaski Tech.  Our first event will be Tuesday, Sept. 18, with poet and singer/songwriter Marck L. Beggs.  Like us on Facebook or check out our blog for more information.

If you live in central Arkansas, I hope you can make it out on the 18th!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Furious Versions

73º ~ rain, cloud cover, cooler temps, relief, actually got out and put on my favorite old sweatshirt

Today's title references Li-Young Lee's poem "Furious Versions," which appears in The City in Which I Love You.  Section 6 begins:

It goes on and it goes on,
the ceaseless invention, incessant
constructions and deconstructions
of shadows over black grass,
while, overhead, poplars
rock and nod,
wrestle No and Yes, contend
moon, no moon.

The poem is an ars poetica but also covers the way we are constantly revising our own realities.  I love it as a metaphor for living and for working on individual poems and larger manuscripts.

This morning, I've spent a good chunk of time making line edits in the former weather book and tweaking the order I mentioned here.  Once I felt like I had the order down, I re-built the Table of Contents.  I know some folks like to code their titles so that MS Word or another program will build the ToC for them.  Truthfully, that's more than I can keep track of as I input the poems in the file, so I end up retyping it.  After all these years, I have a template with the right tabs to help me along.  In the end, I'm fond of this retyping as I get a different angle on how the sections & order are working. 

Today, this retyping also helped me name the sections and eventually helped me come up with my new title.  There are still weather poems and elegies in this new "furious version" but there are now fairy/haunting/cautionary tales, saints, and cartography poems.  The good friend who helped me reorganize, also helped me search for a new title.  Combining some of my own ideas and hers, I've come up with The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths.  I don't know yet if this will stick, but it is clear that In a World Made of Such Weather as This will no longer serve. 

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons, here's a page from a Russian children's book that suits the mood of the work done on the mss. today.

Click for link

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Whatever Happened to that Weather Book?

75º ~ had to do a double-take before typing that temperature, highs topping out at 90/92, blessings

Longtime readers of the Kangaroo know that before I started on my fever journey, I had finished manuscript #2, the weather book.  The weather book has been a long, rambling journey without the direct focus of the narrative sequence of the fever.  The weather poems/elegies began in the long shadow of the publication of Blood Almanac and cover six or seven years.  The manuscript was once titled Glacial Elegies and then In a World Made of Such Weather as This.  Several great poet friends read the book in different incarnations and offered wise suggestions for strengthening, and the manuscript received several semi-finalist nods and a few finalist placements.  Still, no publication.

In the meantime, I also wrote a dozen prairie fairy tale poems, as well as a few autobiography/mapping poems.  These were just gathering dust on the desk once the sickly speaker took over and the fever poems became my focus.

So, yet another good poet-friend volunteered to take a look at the mss. and the tales/mapping poems and see if they belonged together.  I had a strong suspicion that they did, but since I was so focused on the sickly speaker, I hadn't sat down and reassessed.  Thanks to this poet-friend, the mss. has a new iteration and now includes the strongest of the tales/mapping poems and cut out just a few of the weaker weather poems. 

For the moment, I'm feeling positive about the changes.  Still, I need to sit with things for a bit and see what shakes out. I've also realized that with the new version, the weather title no longer really works, so I spent the morning brainstorming new possible titles.  One of the techniques I love to use for this is  On Wordle, you can input a text and the program creates a graphic based on frequency of word use.  Here is how the current version of the mss. looks.

Based on this, I was able to add four or five options to the title list I'd created by simply reading through the entire mss. and looking for lines that jumped out as titles.  I'll keep you all posted.

In the meantime, the fever book is "resting" until the weekend, when I hope to revise a few last poems and then give it a thorough going over, testing for weak spots.

This whole journey would not be possible without the strength & support I get from you all.  Ever thanks for reading! My poetry cup certainly does runneth over!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Introducing: Heron Tree

91º ~ the killer trip-digit temps seem to be easing off the horizon ~ amazing how different the low 90s feel, a great breeze today and only one or two hours when the sun conquered the breeze

Friends and Fans of the Kangaroo!

It is my great delight to announce my newest adventure in poetry, helping to edit Heron Tree, an online poetry journal, which will be the first publishing venture of Heron Tree Press.  My dear friends Rebecca Resinski and Chris Campolo have made this all possible and I am thankful and excited beyond belief.

Here's a glimpse at our announcement.

I hope you will all include us when you begin submitting your September poems! 

And spread the word!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gathering Forces

96º ~ heading up to 99º but looks like Friday - Monday should be down around "normal" = 90º - 92º ~ most of the state is listed as in "extreme drought" so the small pop-up thunderstorms we've been seeing offer little hope of changing our course

Next Tuesday, C. reports back to school, and next Thursday, I do as well.  There are gathering forces all around the desk of the Kangaroo.  We are trying to take care of our left-over to-do lists and trying to soak up these last few days of calm.  I've already been back on campus several days in the past week or two so this isn't a clean-cut transition.

from Wikimedia Commons

I've always felt that this time is much like New Year's Eve for others; it's a time when I reflect on my goals for the upcoming year and time when I huddle in and sleep a little extra.  I have to say that this year looks to be quite topsy-turvy with lots of changes on the horizon.  There will be some major changes at school and some new adventures in poetry.  I'll be updating you on those poetry-related adventures just as soon as I can (nope, not book related at all).  I bring these things up now to say that I will most likely have to re-evaluate what time I have for the blog.  I'm thinking that my new goal will be to post twice a week.  I'll most likely have to give up posting my draft process notes as time for writing will shrink in the days to come.  I've already whittled away at my blog feed and created a "favorites" folder to try and prioritize my time in the blogosphere as reader.  All of this makes me sad, but until the world rewards poetry as it rewards corporate raiders (or until I win the lottery) something has to give.

But not quite yet...

Today, I've worked on submissions, but I confess that lately, I've felt like I'm slugging through slowly drying cement when trying to focus on the business side of poetry.  I'd rather be writing or revising.  (Which leads me to think of those bumper stickers that say something like "I'd rather be surfing" or some such.  Imagine if there were one for writing.  Some turned heads for sure!)

Today's submissions were sparked by both a rejection and an acceptance this week.  All of the work I'm currently sending out is from the fever series, so it's been quite interesting to see what sticks where and what needs to go back to the drawing board.  I have to say that the rejection was quite wonderful and praised the project as a whole, so that was nice.  Still, I'm wondering if the narrative arc will prevent some of the individual poems from finding their own homes.  Time will tell.

The acceptance was fantabulistic!  It's from a journal I've been submitting to for several years, a journal I read from cover to cover every time it comes out.  I first sent in a set of five fever poems in June and the editors requested a larger sample in July, so I sent in five more.  They just accepted two poems from the second batch I sent in.  Wahoooooooo!

Both of these events were on my mind this morning as I revised two poems that had been among those rejected this past week and gathered together a new submission packet.  I study and re-study the poems that "make it" and try to figure out how to shore up the ones that didn't.  I'm often surprised at the fact that there is more pruning to be done.  I'm not drastically changing the poems, just clipping away a little extraneous language here and there.


Many thanks to those of you who have offered support and friendship all summer long.  I'm looking forward to seeing what this new year brings!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Draft Process: 11 General Orders of a Mystic and a Note on the Mss. as a Whole

84º ~ past noon and still in the 80s?, thank the rains for that, just a small drizzle, not enough to crack the drought, but the clouds are doing their job with the sun & the temps  (yesterday, we stayed at 85º until 2:00 p.m. when the clouds broke and the sun came out, went up to 102º in less than two hours)

The happiness of the day? 1) A morning so cloudy and drizzly that I slept in b/c the sun did not provide the usual alarm and 2) I spent several good hours with the fever manuscript and drafted one last poem.

I began my poetry time today by re-reading the fever manuscript from start to finish.  I'm happy to say that I only found one word to tweak within all of the poems that have been substantially revised.  I have perhaps six remaining poems that need to be scrutinized more fully.  It was a relief to get back to the sickly speaker and re-engage with her story.

As I got to the end and moved into what I had labeled as the appendix containing the five definition poems, I realized that I might want to provide some links from within the body of the book to the appendix.  I'm thinking of those footnotes that refer to a specific page in the back of the book.  Maybe?  Right now the appendix section feels like it's sort of floating at the end, and I know in many textbooks this is the case, so it might work as is. 

After reading through the whole thing, I turned to drafting those last two poems I mentioned previously.  It turned out that the image I dreamed up of what I thought would be the final poem had already been covered in what is the existing final sickly speaker poem, so all is well.  That meant turning to the general orders poem for the mystics.  As I drafted it, I had the two previous general order poems up as well.  In the mix, I decided to change all of the titles so I have "11 General Orders of a Nurse," "11 General Orders of a Whitecoat," and "11 General Orders of a Mystic."  While I like the use of "Sentry" for the nurses, I thought it would be forced to use "11 General Orders of a Sentry," "...of an Officer," and "... of a Civilian Consultant."  Who knows, I may change my mind.

The mystic poem did not come easily, nor did I expect it to given the time away from the desk; however, I kept bringing myself back to religious words and images and re-reading some of the mystic poems to remind myself of their roles.  The draft begins:

Make of your body a camouflaged shell.

Carry the sacred and the sacramental at all times hidden within.

The orders for the nurses and the whitecoats all begin with imperatives about tending the "fever body," so I liked the parallel with starting this one with the body again, but this time it focuses on the mystics' bodies.  The poem also gets at the tension as the mystics all work slightly outside the whitecoat/nurse system and sometimes fulfill missions for the unseen mentor.

As I drafted this last poem, I also revised the two previous general order poems and printed out copies to add to my wall of manuscript (pictured above).  I decided to create two appendices:  Appendix A: General Orders and Appendix B: Glossary. 

I'm absolutely thrilled with where the manuscript stands (53 pages...51 poems, 2 title pages - one for each appendix).  This manuscript began almost a year ago exactly and this is the fastest I've ever written this many poems and felt this strongly about them all.  My goal for the fall will be to fine tune and revise (especially those last few poems drafted in June that I haven't had time to really work with).  I'll be sending out individual poems and seeing what happens there.  I suppose I'll shoot for the spring to begin sending the manuscript out as a book, unless some major crack exposes itself in the meantime.