Sunday, March 29, 2015

Whirlwind Spring Break

67º ~ sunny end to a thrilling (if tiring) Spring Break 2015

With the advent of Spring Break one week ago, I found myself face to face with teetering towers of business papers, books, pamphlets, journals, etc. This happens every spring. I tend to get so caught up in teaching and writing that I just keep tossing whatever arrives onto my desk, trying to keep the most pressing matters toward the top, trying to keep pressing on with the grading, the reading, the writing, etc. This year, my piles of paper were even more exciting with the arrival of The Alchemy of My Mortal Form.

My wonderful editor, Tayve Neese, at Trio House knew I had several events over the break, and even though the book was not supposed to debut until AWP, Tayve made arrangements for me to receive a box early. THP has been nothing short of stellar in the process of bringing this book into the world.

**Note, I will not have my stock of copies to sell here on this site until around April 15th. If you aren't going to AWP, where the book will be available at the THP table (#240), watch this space for a big announcement for when you'll be able to buy directly from me.

On Tuesday of the break, I made the short drive to Searcy, Arkansas, to visit with Dr. Nick Boone's poetry writing students at Harding University. Talking with students about poetry and the writing life is one of my favorite things to do. These type of events often involve a kind of organic "reading" and "Q&A" smushed together, which highlights the best of teaching and public reading for me. Dr. Boone has invited me to Harding several times in the past, for which I'm grateful, and this time, he particularly wanted me to talk about persona poems via the new book. While others have heard the poems read in public in the past; this was the first official cracking of the spine. Delightful.

On Thursday, I flew to Raleigh, NC. First, I had the pleasure of appearing in Al Maginnes' American Lit class at Wake Technical Community College. Again, this became a loose reading with commentary on the writing life and with questions from the students. Even though it was Friday and the students had a paper due, there was a full house of bright faces. Al managed to snap this picture where I prove once again that jazz hands (or hand in this case) are essential to teaching.

Al and I are both alums of the MFA at the U of Arkansas and via poetry and mutual contacts have become poetry siblings. Al and his wife Jamie graciously open their home to me when I'm in the area and I have the added pleasure of spending time with their dynamo of a daughter.

Thanks to Jamie for grabbing this picture of Al & me at brunch on Saturday before I went on to my next event.

Richard Krawiec (aka Jacar Press aka the publisher of book #2, The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths) has begun hosting a series of workshops in the Raleigh, NC, area in which two writers appear, each presenting a 90-minute workshop to a group of around 25 awesome and engaged writers. I did an exercise on how to use fairy tales as inspiration for new poems and fodder for creating original, personal mythologies. Betty Adcock then schooled us all in revision. (I'm pretty sure that Betty has more poetic knowledge in her left pinky finger than I have in all ten fingers together.) After the workshops (which are given for a very reasonable fee), there is an open reading. I was thrilled to be paired with Betty and to have a chance to meet this rock star poet in person.

Betty Adcock and me (hyped up on my first authentic Turkish coffee)

Thanks to those who helped make the workshop possible, to those who took pictures, and to those who attended. It was a fantastic day.

And biggest thanks to Chuck West who holds down the household while I'm away and tries to reassure the cats that, no, I haven't been eaten by a bear. It's always great to come home to you!

I am safehome now with my feet kicked up, thankful for this amazing life I live and all of the opportunities that have come my way recently (opportunities I worked quite hard to create and of which I'm proud, thank you very much). I'm just realizing that this whirlwind Spring Break has been a great pre-cursor to AWP, which is coming up in just 10 days.

In the meantime, there will be grading and prepping to accomplish and I'm certain even more paper will enter my life one way or another. Amidst it all, there will be poetry. Always, poetry.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Draft Notes: A Prose Poem?

47º ~ yesterday's bright sun obscured by heavy clouds bearing rain from the gulf, 30% of the snowcover remains, all manner of yard birds congregate and feed

Shhhhhhh, dear reader, I may have written the barest draft of a poem today, a prose poem no less. Shhhhhh, let's not startle it out of existence.

Here's some photographic evidence of the journey.

To elaborate: I have been obsessed with a topic of late, unsure how to proceed. Poetry didn't seem to be working, so I thought maybe it was time for a short story or a novel. I've spent quite a few hours lately making false starts, which may explain my silence here.

This morning seemed like a new beginning in a lot of ways. I'm finally feeling a little bit healthy (but I've said that before, so knock wood), and I got to collage a new journal yesterday, since my most recent one has been filled. With the new "green&brown" journal at hand, I started with the idea of doing an erasure, without thinking of any subject matter at all. I recently finished reading the latest issue of Orion, so I flipped to the first page and started circling phrases and words at random, but in an order that would create meaning, thinking of a linear erasure poem. That failed. Utterly. Next, I flipped to "It's Natural" by Julia Alvarez, the lead essay in the Lay of the Land section. This time, I just skimmed the article, circling away at any and all words & phrases that seemed concrete and interesting. After I finished with the article, I picked a phrase as a starting point and drew arrows to connecting words. (If you are familiar with how I use word banks in my journal, you will see the similarity.) And thus began the poem, a prose poem nonetheless, and on the subject of my current obsession. Who knew?

In the house of charm swept into a vase, yet another old aunt is taking notes...

The only words I added to this are "In the" and "is." The segments would be ... house of | charm  | swept into a vase | yet another old aunt | taking notes.

I've written the occasional prose poem in the past, but I was a bit surprised when the draft came out this way, so I got out my Allison Benis White and an Oliver de la Paz to refresh myself on prose poems. I also posted a question on prose poems to a group on Facebook for more feedback. I do confess that after the first full sentence formed from Alvarez' essay, I then began drafting on my own adding some of my circled words here and there, generating most of the remaining text myself. Sometimes, a poet just needs a push-start.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Readings & Signings & Events...Oh My!

52º ~ constant percussion of roof melt accompanies a bright sun, we rebound

Well, friends, while I was sleeping these past two and a half months due to ill health, a gazillion events have been planned. I sat down this morning to organize my calendar and almost fell off my chair. Yes, The Alchemy of My Mortal Form is now listed on Amazon and is available for purchase there; however, it will be about a month before I have my author copies to sell, since the official launch of the book will be at AWP (April 9 - 11). If you want to order from me, wait for an announcement on this page after AWP, around April 13th. If you want to attend a reading or signing, here are some places I'll be.

March 28th, I'll be in Raleigh to do a workshop for Jacar Press. I'll have copies of Blood Almanac and The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths there. No Alchemy though. The workshop is sold out, but there will be a reading afterward with Betty Adcock and me. Details here.

Thursday, April 9 2:30 - 3:30 - signing copies of The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths at the Gazing Grain Press table at the George Mason University Booth.

Thursday, April 9  7 - 9 p.m. - Trio House off site, details to come

Saturday, April 11  Noon - 2 p.m. Signing at Trio House Press table 240.

Saturday, April 18, 7 p.m.  Impossible Language reading at Story Booth in Memphis, TN, with Angie Macri, and John Reed 

Saturday, April 25, Arkansas Literary Festival poetry panel / reading, time and place to be announced

Saturday, May 2, possible reading in Fayetteville AR, watch for details

And somewhere in there, I need to have my official Little Rock launch. Whew! It's a good thing I'm starting to feel a bit better health-wise.