Sunday, November 29, 2009

A new 'do

For a week now, I've been inspired by Martha Silano's interview with Susan Blackwell Ramsey over at the Best American Poetry Blog—especially Susan's description of "braiding my enthusiasms through poems..."

During the same week, I churned out a batch of prose poems—primarily for the entertainment of my colleagues at work. The prose poem is an unfamiliar territory for me, but I was captivated by its history in the surreal. Then I was wondering how I could take them up to the next level, and the image of braiding has resonated with me.

Now I want to go back and thread more consciously the images of corporate numbness and
Bulgakov-inspired insanity. (Witches—I need to get the witches in.)

I'd best to get work.

If you haven't had a chance yet, check out
Martha's posts at The Best American Poetry.

Friday, November 27, 2009

New blog on the block

Susan Rich is cooking up some delicious posts over at The Alchemist's Kitchen, something to help tide us over while we wait for her new book.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is my favorite holiday, a day for sharing company and food and giving thanks. Over the past few days, I've read quite a few posts of gratitude. Here is mine:

I'm thankful for my family, and for our health.

I'm thankful for the roof over our heads and food on our table. I'm also thankful that our children have learned to cook so well. We will all be preparing today.

I'm thankful for my job.

I'm thankful for my silly cat, and thankful that he hasn't eaten anything dangerous in the past three months.

I'm thankful that our friend has found a probably bone-marrow donor match. I'm very thankful about that.

I'm thankful for the hummingbird feeder and for thyme in the garden.

I'm thankful for writing and reading and inspiration, and for the community of writers that I get to share all this with.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Loading the canon, 2

While in Bowling Green, I sat in on a panel discussion of editors. The theory was that other lit mag editors would attend. But the organizers recognized that other people might come to hear what editors were looking for. And lo, we did.

Right away, someone asked whether editors still had the feeling of reading a submission and saying, "Wow! This is amazing!"; the flip side being just so much slush.

The response from the panelists was unanimous. They all felt the Wow! on a regular basis, and some editors told of going to editorial meetings and needing to fight for the work that wowed them. That gave me a more immediate picture of why I sometimes receive rejection notes that say, "Made it to the final round." Still a disappointment, but it's possible that someone went to advocate for it. Someone thought it belonged.

However, one editor said that he was looking for writers or work that might eventually become a part of the canon. (Oh, no pressure, though.)


I've just been trying to write the best poems that I can, and suddenly they're supposed to be canon fodder?

I haven't sent anything out since, feeling now more than ever that everything must be scrutinized again. As if that will help. As if I feel ready for that level.

And then again, there are plenty of other magazines. But who, when presented with a high bar, wants to lower it? William Stafford—but who else?

Back to the poetry board...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From Mid-America

Pick up a copy of the Mid-American Review, if only for "Listening to the Dead," by Karin Gottshall, or "For I Will Consider My Houseplant Magda," by Hannah Gamble.

I was reading my copy on my way home from the
Winter Wheat festival in Bowling Green, Ohio. It was a full-on adventure of sessions and readings.

Friday, I made squish art, wrote about objects and photographs, and sat in on a panel of editors, hoping to gain some insight into what editors are looking for (more on that later). After a little jaunt to the main street and dinner at the Easy Street Café, I heard Bruce Cohen and Khaled Mattawa read.

After a night of loud partying by my neighbors at the motel, I got an early start on Saturday, with a session on writing from the body (or what your gut tells you).

Then I sat in on a "poetics of place" session that was really about incorporating the syntax and rhythm and music of poetry in your prose to heighten your reader's experience, and the examples were rooted in a specific place, in conveying a specific place. This is probably the closest to a graduate-level class I'll ever get, and I was way out of my league, but it was invigorating to try to follow the conversation.

Next up, I led a session on "Writing Poems in a Series," and I learned a lot—about presenting a session and about different series that are out there. I'm still digesting it.

The last session, led by Alan Michael Parker, included some group poetry Mad-Libs and the art of the slow reveal. Mr. Parker also read on Saturday night, and provided some illumination on the true nature of prose poems.

Sunday was a driving and flying day. I'm back in my usual travel patterns between home and work and slowly integrating the weekend and its learning and writing into my now.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

As promised,

a picture of the car:
My daughter: "That is so not you."

My sister: "OMG. I would give more than you could know to see you driving a cherry-red Mustang..."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Welcome to Bowling Green

It was a crisp, sunny day, so I walked around town a little before the Winter Wheat sessions started.
I liked this fancy clock tower. It's on the courthouse.

I also liked these dancing trees.

Town! I love these little towns with old buildings and wide streets and lots of light.

The cemetery right next to the campus, but the iron fence provided no visible entrance.

(When I looked at the map, I thought, "Of course, I'm going to teach my first class at a campus with its own cemetery.)

Cowgirl came to Motor City and got her a Mustang

A candy-red mustang! The woman at the rental car counter said, "I'm going to give you a free upgrade. You're going to like this car."

Like the car? I don't even like to drive that much. But it was fun, and a lot fancier than my usual ride.

And then I made it from Detroit to Bowling Green with no missed turns.

What? No pictures? It was dark last night, and this morning, it looks cold. But I'll venture out soon. Sessions begin in the afternoon today.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

And then my husband said,

"Of course you're going to take your computer."

"No, I wasn't planning to."

"Well, you'll want to show everyone how you use OneNote."

Good point.

The computer's coming along. If the wi-fi works as advertised, I'll check in from Bowling Green.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Here and gone--to Ohio

Has it really been that long since I posted? I plead work deadlines and poetry readings, rather opposite ends of the spectrum.

Now, for my next adventure, I'm off tomorrow to Bowling Green, Ohio, for Winter Wheat, the Mid-American Review Festival of Writing. On Saturday, I'll be leading a session on one of my favorite subjects: writing poems in a series. If you're in the neighborhood, stop by and harvest all the goodness of Winter Wheat.

I won't bring my computer with me, but I will bring my camera (it's on the list), and I hope to have some pictures when I return west.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A clean sweep

Last month, somewhere past the exit to Bakersfield, I suddenly felt like throwing out all my poems—everything, except for the poems in the manuscript (and I'm even going to pitch one of those, to rewrite later or just plain throw away).

Recently, over on The Word Cage, Mary Biddinger asked about
throwing away old poems. In her post, she drew a distinction between "outgrowing the poems" and "no longer meaning them."

If I can make that distinction for myself, I think I'm trying to outgrow my poems. For the most part, I still mean them, but I'm trying to open the way I approach a poem, to grow. And I felt that these old (some of them embarrassingly old) poems didn't reflect that. They were keeping me in the past.

So I spent yesterday dragging almost all of them into an Old Stuff folder, even filing away my OneNote drafts. I felt cleaner, lighter.

Then I dashed out to the store, brought home a pumpkin, and carved it up quickly.

This morning is November 1, which is one of my favorite days. Now it's time for me to take the plunge and start some new work, explore where my poems might go.

Do you ever feel like starting over? Does that make you feel exhilarated or scared—or both?