Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gratitude, with snow and statuettes

I'm thankful for Martha's reading on Thursday--quite the party and quite the poetry! And I'm thankful for dinner with Bonnie on Wednesday, a celebration complete with Champagne and snow.

Today, I am thankful for no small potatoes, but the fabulous hash browns my husband made because four-fifths of us were together and it was a good reason to cook breakfast.

I'm thankful for the time I spent with my son while driving him back to Olympia.

I'm thankful for the snow in Olympia, how beautifully it was falling.

I'm thankful for the Oscars and the red carpet and the dresses--also the costumes and sets in the movies.

Take... (I think it's a high number by now.)

Open the door. Open my heart.

Friday, February 25, 2011

O, wealth

No one makes furniture for the money.

You make furniture because you love to make things, you love the materials, and you want a great place to sit.

No one makes wine for the money.

You make wine because you love to make things well and you enjoy drinking wine.

No one makes poems for the money.

I write poems because I love the music, and I'm not a musician. I love the images and the light in the images and the many shades blending, and I'm not a painter. I love a story, and I'm not a novelist. I love creating a new world, an egg with a creature inside it, and I'm not a god nor a chicken.

I am waiting for the mail. My ship is in the Hebrides, tides writing their own charts.

I am also ga-ga over Martha Silano's new book, The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gratitude, with a confession

I'm thankful for the sunny days and blue skies we've been seeing.

I'm thankful for the season's first crocuses.

I'm thankful my kids (apparently) made it safely to their grandparents' house in Arizona. I haven't heard otherwise.

I've been doing a little art, and I'm thankful for the courage to try even though the results never come close to what I saw in my head before I started.

I'm thankful that I've been able to spend a lot of time writing lately. My husband has been cooking dinners--and he is a wonderful cook--so that I can have those extra bits of time to work on poems. Thank you!

And I confess that I'm a little nervous. For the past eight or nine months I've been exploring poetry in a different way--longer, more fragmented, or denser and metered. Or prose poems. Sometimes long and dense and metered. Big projects of aggregation, building up and taking away.

It's been really fun, but not one of those poems has been accepted. They are all out for consideration, but… So sometimes I, having always craved approval, wonder whether any of them will get published, ever. (Then I think, "That's negative energy. Be positive," and I practice being positive.)

But I know that these are the poems I want to be writing now, and on my good days, I think "Publish, shmublish." Would I want to change what I'm writing to fit some mold? Even if I thought it would work? No way.

That's where gratitude comes in again. I'm thankful for this confidence to explore what I want to explore, to write crazy new ways even if they don't make sense--or even if they aren't crazy enough.

I'm thankful for this journey.

Open the door. Open my heart.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Another deadline: The Smoking Poet

I don't smoke, but I do help out as poetry editor for The Smoking Poet, an online journal that rolls up fiction, nonfiction, interviews, cigar reviews, good causes, and poetry.

The deadline for our Spring issue is February 28.

In brief:

Email a group of two to six unpublished poems in the body of your email—no attachments—to the attention of Poetry Editor, and include a bio statement of no more than 100 words (please resist being cute and keep it professional). Subject line should read: Poetry—Last Name.
Or check out the full guidelines.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Punctuation--it's what I'm sayin'

A while ago, Kelli posted about her pet peeves as an editor--that she has none. She is a kind and generous person, and she says:

While I like people to use semi-colons correctly, I will not reject a poem or story because the writer got it completely wrong. We will accept the poem/story and write to the writer to let him/her know we have some punctuation issues we need to fix, but would still like to publish his/her work.

I admire that--and I'll admit right now that, while I hope to be a kind and generous person, I know I'm not when it comes to punctuation.

Sure, I make mistakes, too. I'm not perfect. Every once in a while, I've realized that in the process of revising I've introduced some error. And I'm mortified.

As an editor, I'm quickly distracted by inconsistent punctuation, inconsistent capitalization, inconsistent dashes, mix-ups between it's and its, and mixed-up homophones (there/their/they're, hear/here, heel/heal). Technically, those are spelling mistakes, and I look closely to make sure it is or isn't an intentional play on words--which would be fun.

But honestly, if a writer doesn't care enough to check his or her work before sending it, why should I care enough to read it?

Quick interjection: If a poem is pushing punctuation, using it unusually (but consistently that way), or not using it at all, that's great. Recently, I've been reading some poems by Mei Mei Berssenbrugge in which she uses punctuation only when a stop comes inside a line. If the stop coincides with the end of the line, she doesn't add punctuation. It's different, but she's meticulously consistent. And many fine poets, including W.S. Merwin, have decided not to use punctuation at all for very good reasons.

Before you think I'm only whining, I'm going to give you another good reason to attend to your punctuation: Chances are extremely good that an editor isn't going to have the time to do it for you. Your poem will be posted or printed as-is, warts, misplace apostrophes, and all.

What are your thoughts on this? If you've read this far, do you even care? Am I a dowager or a dinosaur (or just too damn nit-picky)?

What do you think?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday, with sun and gratitude!

Today, I am so grateful for the sun. We've had a mild winter, but sun and blue sky still makes all the difference. I felt my spirits lifting. Lovely!

I'm also grateful for the cat sleeping on my legs, my fluffy pink robe, writing time, and the delicious dinners Tom has been making.

And I'm grateful for the longer days. Now, it's light when we leave the house in the morning and when we return.

Open the door.

Open my heart.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chapbook season--and the deadlines approach!

Yes, it's time to send out your manuscripts.

If you reside in Washington State, the Floating Bridge Press deadline is February 16. Here are the details:

  • Washington State (USA) residents only.

  • Simultaneous submission OK. Individual poems may be previously published.

  • Maximum 24 pages of poetry (does not include title page or table of contents).

  • Title page and paginated table of contents. Please include page number and title of manuscript on every page. Standard three-hole punch on left side.

  • Author's name must not appear on the manuscript. Include a separate page containing title, author's name, address, telephone, email, and acknowledgements of previous publication, if any.

  • Manuscripts are judged anonymously and will not be returned. Winner receives $500, 15 copies, and a reading in the Seattle area.

  • For notification of manuscript receipt, include a SAS Postcard (optional).

  • For results notification, include a #10 SASE.

  • All entrants will receive a copy of the winning chapbook, and individual poems will be considered for inclusion in Floating Bridge Review, the annual Floating Bridge Press journal.

  • Reading Fee: $12.00 check or money order, payable to: Floating Bridge Press.

  • Deadline: Postmark between November 1, 2010 – February 16, 2011, inclusive.

  • Winner to be announced in May 2011. Reading in September 2011.

  • Mail To: Floating Bridge Press, P.O. Box 18814 Seattle, WA 98118.

  • Questions? Send email to
  • No electronic submissions at this time, please.

And if you live anywhere and are writing in English, the Tupelo Press Snowbound Series chapbook contest closes February 28.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Trying and trying again, plus gratitude

Today, I am mostly and gladly grateful that my daughter starting to recover from her really bad cold (bad as in four days of school missed and counting).

I'm also grateful that I received a poem acceptance yesterday, especially glad because I wrote this poem for a friend--in 1995. That's a lot of years of revising and tweaking and sending and rejections and more revising and a title change and all of that over and over again. And now that poem has found a home.

Finally, I'm grateful for a week off in the sun and for another year and for time back at home with my family, even when I'm dispensing cough drops and soup.

Open the door. Open my heart.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tharp habits

During my vacation, I read The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, by Twyla Tharp.

The book is meant to apply to all art forms, all creative endeavors, but I found Ms. Tharp's dance stories and movement examples especially invigorating. They brought back memories of standing in the studio, at ballet class or at rehearsal, choreographing, teaching phrases to the generous women who danced with me--and it reminded me of the time I auditioned for Twyla Tharp (longer story, there).

In the section on scratching for new ideas, Ms. Tharp advises to always scratch in new places for new ideas. At first, I thought that sometimes I like to revisit my tried-and-true sources. For example, I've learned that reading Lynda Hull's poems lights a creative fire for me. Then I realized that it's the difference between a new idea and a rejuvenation. One is the spark for new work, and the other is the inspiration that helps me start.

I liked Ms. Tharp's advice in "Accidents Will Happen" to pick a fight--to create your own accidents. This is an intentional way to keep you on your edges, an idea that is again explored in the chapter on skills. I'll admit that this chapter flummoxed me some--on the one hand, you need your skills at their peak, the very best, but you also need inexperience, so that you're forced in new directions. That all makes sense--you want skills, and you want new directions--but I found the juxtaposition unsettling. Maybe that's the point. (I liked the stories about standing behind the best dancers and copying their moves, and the general advice to copy the experts--but honestly, I don't know if I want to copy anyone right now. I'm 51, and I want to learn from the best, but I don't want to copy. Talk to me in a week or a month.)

In that same chapter, Ms. Tharp suggests that readers take an inventory of their skills. That sounds like a good plan (haven't done it yet--but I was on vacation). She also provides a 20-questions exercise that could also fit in the section on "spine."

Then I suffered a crisis of confidence. It was in the Waipio valley, and I thought, "Maybe I'm not a writer! I'm not looking at every plant and transcribing it into a poem. I'm not seeing so many shapes in the clouds." And if I'm not a writer, what? I've already ruled out visual artist, musician, and dancer and choreographer. Then I convinced myself that this is ridiculous, and I reminded myself that I've spent years learning to let go of the constant need to look at every experience as a poem and to live in that experience as completely as possible instead, to trust that the experience will return when I need it.

I'm still working through the idea of spine. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense: Pick a concept and make sure that all your efforts fit with it. On that other hand, I've heard that poems work best if you can not know what they're about for as long as possible--and I believe that. So although Ms. Tharp says, "Once you accept the power of spine in the creative act, you will become much more efficient in your creativity," I don't think that for me it's about efficiency. I do think that spine is a critical tool in revising and even more so in choosing poems for a manuscript.

I spent the rest of the week trying to figure out what the spine was for the poems I'm working on right now. Still working…

The book includes much more. I recommend it, and I'm confident that I'll return to it.