Monday, January 27, 2014

Another Contributor Post, A Cool Subscription Drive, and More

35º ~ a wicked wind brings the cold in close beneath the layers and sinks it deep...many sympathies to friends and family in the north country...brrrrrrrrrrr

Last year, I was thrilled beyond measure when the North American Review published "Having Been Outside the Body," one of the early fever poems from the sickly speaker series. The editors have given me a chance to say some words about the poem and the project on their blog, and the post is up today.


I mentioned this in November or December, and it is happening NOW. Hayden's Ferry Review is having a super cool subscription drive. Several contributors to the most recent issue provided paper airplanes with handwritten work, in my case with a spontaneous, never-to-be-published poem. If you want my airplane/poem, subscribe on February 3. (I made 5 planes...all with the same poem.) Other contributors and corresponding dates are provided on the link.

Image belongs to HFR, but that's my poem/plane
front and center, nose-dived in, on dusky blue paper.

Holy Poets, Batman! Next week, I host Jericho Brown at the Big Rock Reading Series at PTC. Tons to do before the big event, but looking forward to it in a BIG way!


It is official. I can read mass market fiction on an e-reader, but I have to have a hard copy book for poetry, literary fiction, essays, etc.


For everyone's health and safety, I'll be getting up at 5:00 a.m. from Monday - Thursday only. Last Friday, I was in near zombie mode. Still, I LOVE the quiet and the words at that hour.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Draft Notes: Little One Records the Family History

31º (feels like 22º) ~ oh wicked wind chills why have you sunk so far south?

I have no confidence in the poem I wrote this morning. Zero. None.

However, I am dancing in my seat because I did write a draft. After all, that's what I'm waking up so early to do, no? I have been spending my morning time sending out submissions of both individual poems to journals and of the fever book to publishers. I have been reading books of poetry and journals and blogs when I can. Yet, I really mean for this time to also serve as drafting time.

So, this morning, I started by collecting words from my edition of Emily Dickinson's Selected Letters and from a collection of poems I've been reading. As the words built in my journal, I had an idea and I turned the page to draft a poem. A little waft of hope rose up in me as I've been away from drafting for far too long. Alack & Alas! That draft turned into vapor.

So, back I went to my gathering of words, and slowly, torturously, phrases began to build. There were many false starts in the journal. Then, I felt like I had the beginnings of a solid body for a draft, so I turned to the computer. After I'd typed out what looked like the first stanza (which was tight and singing), the second stanza foundered. So, I put the cursor in between and hit enter a few times to create some open space. I fiddled. I cast about in my word bank. I began to despair.

And then, I heard what came next and how to keep the lines tight and singing rather than lumbering and foundering. Now I have three stanzas of what I think constitutes a whole draft. It features "Little One," the youngest of the angry sisters, and it begins this way.

When our lives are transcribed
into the permanent record,
Little One omits the foreign
courtship... .

I suppose I was in a reflective mood and pondering this idea of both genealogy (family trees in the family Bible, that sort of thing) and how we script our own stories, how much we leave out, how much we cast in the best light possible.

I really have no idea if this one will survive during revision, but at least it is there. And now, the sun is struggling to lighten the gray mass of cloud-cover, which means I must turn my attention to other things.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

5:30 a.m. Wake Up Call

38º ~ beautiful sun for the past few days and onward, even as temps fluctuate up/down/up/down/&etc.

5:30 a.m., yes, it works! I started the new semester with a new wake up time, and for a week and a half I've been getting in at least one hour at the poetry desk before going in to school. See, I've proven over and over that I can't be trusted to focus on poetry after about 4:30 in the afternoon, when my brain has become crammed with all things student-related or committee-related or house-related.

Yet, just like every "how to" article has ever said, getting up an hour earlier provides a brief time of "uncrammed" brain. I learn so slowly, but I learn.

In any case, I've been successful at sending out submissions this week and even making a few minor revisions to poems I thought long since "finished." I've read one book of poetry (split over two mornings) and made my mini post about it on Facebook, and, more importantly, I've felt much more balanced than last semester. All of this equals a much happier me!

Now, maybe I can coax a few poems out into the light.


In other news, at PTC, I'm preparing for our spring lineup for the Big Rock Reading Series, and it is going to be phenomenal.

We start in February with Jericho Brown. Ah, yup, Jericho Brown! If you live in the area, Jericho will read at 6:00 p.m. on February 6th. All the details are on the FB event page, or you can email me for details.

In March, we have a trio of local writers/editors talking about how to make a living with an English degree. We will have Annie Bergman of Heifer International, Bobby Ampezzan of the Democrat Gazette, and Eliza Borne (who should have an accent over that "e" but blogger is bad that way) of the Oxford American.  Woo Hoo.

And in April, in conjunction with the Arkansas Literary Festival, we have fiction writer, Adam Prince, and poet, Charlotte Pence.


And now it is time to go out into the world and cram my brain with school-stuff and house-stuff and stuff that may be the future makings of a poem-stuff.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Contributor Spotlight Up at Hayden's Ferry Review and an Update

35º ~ cold rain overnight, iced down the trees and plants, kept the skies gray all day, rumors of 60º on Saturday

Today, I have a contributor spotlight up at Hayden's Ferry Review. In this spotlight, I talk about the sickly speaker series and about the two poems in HFR, "Left a Refugee Here in a Sterile Country" and "I Have Gone Shimmering into Ungentle Sleep." All thanks to Sam Martone and the other folks at HFR for the opportunity.

In the meantime, I have been successful at making poetry time happen each morning this week. I've spent it sometimes reading and sometimes working through a pile of papers having to do with submission opportunities. In fact, I've submitted some poems from The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths to places looking for previously published poems. My next project is to figure out what poems I have that are ready for submission and send a few out there to see what happens.

Monday, classes begin at PTC, so I must make hay while the sun is shining.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Central Arkansas, You're Invited!

36º ~ a cold rain, perhaps snow this afternoon, the wrath of winter is upon us

I've spent the morning, creating this postcard invitation for the Little Rock launch of The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths.

If you live near Little Rock, consider yourself invited! All of the details can be found in South on Main's event on Facebook, or you can message me for more information. There will be jazz from 7 - 8 p.m., and then the reading and signing at 8! I'll have books for sale (cash or charge) and I'll be happy, happy, happy to sign for those of you who have already purchased from Jacar, too. Of course, Blood Almanac will make a showing as well.

If you haven't had a chance to dine at South on Main, the restaurant associated with the Oxford American, this is a great time to remedy that situation. If you have been there, then you know the food will be stellar. Not up for a full meal that night, rest assured, the bar is charming and well-stocked, as well.

Speaking of the book, many thanks to Jessie Carty for posting her thoughts here.

Slowly but surely, this "little book that could" is making its way in the world. Wahooooooooo!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Angry Sisters Make Their Debut & Some Miscellany

36º ~ thin gray cloud-cover, temps trying to rise to 50º ahead of the Arctic blast that will send us to near 10º tomorrow night (might not seem cold to those above the snowline, but remember, it's similar to your dips below zero)

The angry sisters have made their poetic debut! I have two poems out in the new Arsenic Lobster, a journal I've long admired. "Penance Assigned to the Adulterers" is from the very beginning of the angry sisters series, so they don't actually make a named appearance. "The Angry Sisters Experience a Conversion" is from the beginning of their story. I can't place the draft notes for the former, but the latter post is here.

I hope you'll read the whole issue, as it is chock full of wonderful and amazing poems.

With this publication, while I have a few accepted poems still waiting to make it to print or online publication, I have zero poems out for consideration. ZERO. This has not been the case for me since sometime around the turn of the century. And while I don't condone the making of resolutions for I have a tendency to perfectionism and can beat myself up quite badly for failing..., I do see the need to get back in the swing of things. Roughly half of the sickly speaker manuscript remains unpublished in journals, and I have a good half dozen more angry sisters poems that could be sent out.

So here are my two goals for the spring semester:
1. To make submissions a part of my weekly routine again.
2. To make drafting a part of my weekly routine again, being open to whatever subject matter may be coming next.

That being said, I foresee this blog becoming a weekly item as well.  There is simply too much to do in too little time. I've already shifted my reading responses to Facebook. My "What I'm Reading" posts have been a great delight to me, and I've seen them as part of my duty as a poet, sharing the work of others. However, having taken on teaching at the graduate level, on top of my community college, full-time gig and working on Heron Tree, something's gotta give, as they say. So, I've started a series of "mini reading logs" on FB. There, I try to summarize a book of poems in 1-3 sentences and provide a brief excerpt. In this way, I retain a list of what I've read an my reactions (albeit a bit less stable and less searchable than on the blog platform), and I'm still sharing the work of other poets.

Also coming up in the next few months will be all things The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths, including a long weekend of readings in North Carolina with Jacar Press, a Little Rock launch of the book, and AWP (no reading scheduled, but I'll have copies for sale out of my backpack, no worries).

As for Heron Tree, we've been on a hiatus from posting new poems each week, but we will return late Sunday night (1/5). We are in the midst of reading our fall 2013 submissions, and I'm reminded again of how much I have to learn as an editor and how much being an editor informs my view of the poetry world. Time and time again, pre-Heron Tree, I read comments from editors in articles and interviews. Every time, editors proclaimed that they really did read the submissions with great anticipation of finding publishable material there; every time editors talked about submissions from poets who clearly hadn't read the journal and figured out its aesthetic; every time editors talked about sloppy work being submitted, containing typos and grammar errors that got in the way of accepting the work. And, every time I read these comments, I wasn't quite sure I could believe them. I knew I should believe them, but without the experience, I wasn't 100% there. Now, I am.

We read blind (which I highly recommend to all editors) and break our reading up into "packets" of anywhere from 10 - 20 poets at a time (each poet assigned a number, and each poem numbered sequentially from there: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.1, 2.2, etc.). As I open each packet, I begin to read with nothing less than joyful anticipation. After going through one whole submission cycle last year, and being about half way through our submissions this year, I now know the feel of a Heron Tree poem. The Heron Tree poem combines the tastes of all three editors, as we must reach a unanimous decision for publication. I try to read every poem in the packet with clear and accepting eyes. I want to find poems to publish. I do! However, I now see how easy it is to tell within a line or two, or after the first stanza, if something is really, really not right for us. This cuts down on reading time, but it also lets the air out of my joyful anticipation. Lest I be too hasty in my decision, I've got my two co-editors, the publishers of Heron Tree, to catch a poem that might slip through my fingers. In this way, I believe we are careful, attentive readers, giving each poem a chance to make us say "YES!"

All of this is to say, trust it when editors make comments as I outlined above. They aren't just saying these things to fill space. If you want to publish poems in a certain journal, follow the age-old advice: read the journal to be sure your work fits, revise & revise & revise, proof & proof & proof, and send only your best work, being careful to abide by the guidelines.

I report back to work on Monday. The graduate workshop I'm leading starts online on Wednesday, and my PTC classes begin on the 13th. Here's hoping for a calm and productive semester for us all!