Monday, April 30, 2007

Writer Mama

Here's a great blog by Writer Mama Christina Katz.
 
I purchased her Writer Mama book and I've completely dog-eared it.  It's not really meant for poets, but offers a lot of great advice for freelance writers (or as she calls them "freelance journalists"-- sounds more professional).  It's full of great advice and a bit of inspiration.  She did a fantastic job organizing it and putting it all together.  If you are a mom/writer who is interesting in looking into more freelance work or other projects other than poetry, this may be the book you need to read...
 
 
Above, I've linked to a post about rejection from her blog, which begins--
 

"Let's assume you get past your fear of rejection to the point where you are sending out enough writing to garner plenty of rejection.

This is great!

Why would I say that?

Because once your writing is rubbing up against the folks who may wish to buy rights to your work, you actually have a chance of being published."

Read the rest here.

 

 

 

NaPoWriMo & Thoughts about Writing a Book

I didn't blog *too* much about this, but I wrote 30 poems in thirty days.  Yes, a poem a day.  I saw Deborah Ager did this as well.  Her thoughts about the outcome is similar to my thoughts.

The main thing I learned (though I knew this) is that if I *need* to write a poem, I can. 
 
I hadn't mentioned this, but one thing I realized at the Field's End Writers Conference was I realized if someone *wants* to write a book (novel, book of poems, memoir, etc), they can.  There is nothing stopping you except you.  I heard stories from ex-lawyers who were now publishing books, Malachy McCourt wrote his first book at 66.  Last year, I remember a Karen Joy Fowler who wrote THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB said in her own words that of her writing group, she wasn't the best, she wasn't the most educated, she wasn't the one who wrote the fastest, she was just the one who continued to show up and write.  She was persistent and she persevered. 
As for poetry, I thought like Deborah I'd list the titles of my new poems from April 1 - April 30th (If there's 2 stars by it, then it has possibilities and may go on to be a "real poem" -- did you hear that Pinocchio, a real poem!-- if there's only one star then it's a maybe and if there's no star(s) then I it's the bottom of the barrel, the sludge in the coffeepot)
 
I've said in these next two years I am going to explore new genres and write in new ways.  If I don't write a book it's not for any reason except that I let myself off the hook and didn't want it bad enough. 
 
 
1)  Plot Driven**
2)  When it is spring*
3)  In Your Living Room, After a Walk From the Coffeeshop We Wonder About God*
4)  Morning Run at Mount St. Helens*
5)  After Leaving the Water on in the Upstairs Bathroom or Warped Sonnet for a Mermaid** 
6) Reading Poetry at the Beach* 
7)  Poet Dreaming (this ended up as my bus poem) **
8)  The End of Lent * (maybe or maybe 1/2 a star)
9)  Everyone is starting to notice *
10) The Closest Voice to Prayer **
11)  Say Anything * (Needs a lot of editing but gets extra credit for mentioning John Cusack)
12)  Song of the Sixth Sin *
13)  Air & Angels** (one of my favorite poems b/c it was written after Annette Spaulding-Convy's reading on the ride home, how we used a penlight to see how fast we were going because we thought the dash light was broken --it wasn't, just dimmed).
 
14)  Maybe the Numbers Don't Succeed *
15)  Thoughts on My Lacking Spirituality ** (I'm currently working with and revising this one)
16)  Ode to Everything **
17)  What I Will Tell the Readers *
18)  Still My Life
19)  Goodbye Stranger ** (and yes, I wrote this listening to Supertramp)
20)  Cake *
21)  Submission Guidelines** (I like this one, I stole most of it...)
22)  Large Optimistic Bowl **
23)  After a Life of Eating Dangerously *
 
Note: these next poems I'm still too close to so I can't really tell if they are genius with a capital G or garbage with a capital G--
 
24)  Outside the lilacs are blooming,
25)  Longish Prayer for Fall
26)  On Predicting Violence
27)  Untended Garden
28)  A Guitar to Get Lost in
29)  Trying To Rewrite the Ending
30)  The End of Language
 
Wishing you all future poems...

Final Weekend of National Poetry Month

Well kids, we've made it.  Another poetry month has come and gone (Am I the only one feeling thankful?)  Note to the poetry organizers-- if you have an event, schedule it in October, not April, not in the flurry of words, of poets running from event to event.  I am friendly and kind, but I am not social.  I prefer my desk to a stage, prefer my chaise to stackable chairs. 
 
My final two events of the month--
 
Saturday, April 28th, Field's End Writers Conference--
This is a fantastic writer's conference in a beautiful location, Kiana Lodge.  Kiana in the language of the Suquamish people means "Garden of the Gods," which it is.  There was wild salmon for lunch with red potatoes, and raspberry cobbler for dessert. 

But it's more than just food (though isn't that what I always remember), it's about writing.  It tends to be more prose writing, but I was one of two poets welcomed to talk about poetry (the other was Priscilla Long.)  My session was Not a Vacation Planet: Writing Poems that Matter.  We talked about our passions, about writing about the things that really matter to us and how our passions create art if we allow ourselves to follow them.  
 
What I love about this conference is that they choose *nice* writers.  Have you ever been to an event where it feels as if it's just about of egos dressed in black shoes?  Well, these are the writers you hope to run into in an elevator because they are the people you want to have conversations with (you also hope the elevator breaks because you want to talk with them longer).
 
Here are my favorite quotes from the conference:

 
"My own writing is a daily struggle for faith."  Debra Dean
 
On why she became a writer after being an actor, "Because you don't need someone to hire you first before you do it."
 
Though she wasn't there, there was a great Sharon Old's quote:
"I was a late bloomer, but anyone who blooms at all is very lucky."
 
What makes a writer?  "The ability to survive disappointment..." Debra Dean
 
"Recognize that become a writer is supremely foolish and that it will break your heart, but realize the best hearts have been broken and mended."  Debra Dean
 
"If you get stuck while you're writing, do more research."  Susan Wiggs
 
"Let your book be only about one thing."  Susan Wiggs
 
"Grassroots are only observed by worms and corpses."  Malachy McCourt
 
"My school was a holding pen for future convicts."  Malachy McCourt
 
Of Bainbridge Island & Ireland--
"The rhythm of the sea drives people nuts--islands are full of literate people and lunatics."  Malachy McCourt
 
"Conservatism is a form of brain damage."  Malachy McCourt
 
In regards to growing up in Limerick, Ireland--
"A dysfunctional family was a family that could afford to drink, but didn't."  Malachy McCourt
 
"Growing up, a lie was a dream that might come true.. . Never let truth get in the way of a good story."  Malachy McCourt
 
By the way, if you couldn't tell, Malachy is hilarious and wonderful to listen to.  Meet me in the broken elevator...
 
____________________
 
Sunday, Poetry Reading with Billy Collins-- (3 p.m., Bainbridge Island)
 
I'm not even sure how to begin this.  Let's just say it was an unusual reading. 
 
If you've been to a Billy Collins reading, you know, they are usually full of people and usually quite funny.  We were in a high school gymnasium that was full, but not as many people as his last reading.  Linda Bierds gave him a generous introduction and Billy walked up to the stage looking well rested.  I'm not sure why I noticed that except that the last time I saw him, he looked tired. 
 
To me, Billy looks like Gene Wilder in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory sans the hat and cane.  I always think of Gene Wilder when I see him, and try not to.   He read some poems I haven't heard before, "Oh, My God!" about how teenage girls pray when they talk-- "Oh my God!"  (The teenage boys in the back row laughed at this one...)
 
But Billy seemed a bit subdued.  Maybe his timing was off.  The audience laughed, but not that deep belly laugh that usually fills a Billy reading.  Maybe he wants to move away from that poet/stand-up comedian bit, I'm not sure. He read some poignant poems as well as some funny poems.  Maybe the audience didn't know what to expect, I'm not sure, but as it said, something was off for me though I enjoyed hearing him, especially his older poems. I felt like I could be the woman at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert yelling "Play Free bird!" though in my mind what I was really saying was, "Read Marginalia!" or "Read Nostaglia!" 
 
He had one quotable moment--
"I was reading a book about how to write fiction, so I must have been in a spiritual slump." 
 
Other than that, he read poems such as Forgetfulness, Tension, a series of Haiku from a new book called SHE WAS JUST SEVENTEEN (a title that took me a few minutes to get--think about it...) 
 
The bleachers were hard and I found myself doing these weird arm stretches or hugging myself so my back didn't hurt.  Maybe this is why when he finished reading and it was time for the question and answer period, people rumbled out of their seats like cattle.  It was as if everyone thought they were going to be branded and took off.  It was quite awkward--Billy still standing at the mic, the so-called art supporters and poetry-loving community stampeding out the door.  I stayed seating along with the other poets around me hoping the audience would either disappear or sit down again. 
 
Billy said something like "You can ask a question or be follow them out..." The noise of feet on bleachers was so loud that he said something like, "Maybe we should call it a day..." and the reading was over.  (It was 4:24 p.m.)  I was a little bummed there was no Q&A and a little embarrassed at our arts community escaping a reading so obviously.  But that was the end of National poetry month and a final image of how America treats its literary arts-- people fleeing a poetry reading.  Yes, April is the cruelest month...  Welcome May: National Better Sleep Month, National Good Car Care Month, National Photo Month, National Salad Month, National Egg Month, National Barbecue Month, Revise Your Work Schedule Month, Date Your Mate Month, National Hamburger Month, and Fungal Infection Awareness Month.  May the poets kindly step aside...
 
And to Peter P. who recently had a question on his blog about whether poetry readings should be entertaining or not-- I think the main thing to remember is --just make sure they aren't too long. 
* * * * *
 

You had me at Sonnet.

Friday, April 27, 2007

National Poetry Month - A Recap

I haven't been posting much.  National Poetry Month has been sideswiped me, has put me into a spin. 
 
I've said this before--every poetry related event does not need to be scheduled in April.  It's sort of like smoking a hundred cigarettes in a row to stop liking cigarettes.  I'm not saying, I don't like poetry or poetry events anymore, what I'm saying is I need a breath of air, this room has become a little smoky...
 
However, with that said, these are the events I truly enjoyed this month:
 
POETRY RECAP!
 
April 12th-- Went to Port Townsend to hear Annette Spaulding-Convy & Susan Rich read.  These are two of my favorite poets.  Both of them come prepared and are quite polished.  There is no sifting through pages or binders for poems.  They have thought about the audience beforehand and are ready. 

Annette read poems from her wonderful chapbook IN THE CONVENT WE BECOME CLOUDS, the winner of the 2006 Floating Bridge Press Chapbook prize.  These poems are always enjoyable to listen to and were inspired by Annette's experience as a Roman Catholic nun in her 20's. 

Susan read from CURES INCLUDE TRAVEL, her new book published by White Pine Press.  These poems share Susan's experience as a world travel and activist.  They are very moving and precise.
 
I highly recommend both of these books.
 
APRIL 13th (Friday the 13th)--

Secret Writers Meeting-- Because it's secret, I can't give out too much information.  And when I say secret, maybe I mean private.  And when I say "meeting," maybe I mean celebration.  There were chocolate ├ęclairs.  Candle wax dripped across bamboo hardwood floors (not intentional dripping and the floors were fine.)  There were giant orange rings.  At at one point we were at the beach.  There was a message in a bottle.  There were strong winds.  There were petals of magnolias.  A new beginning and a goodbye. 
 
APRIL 22nd--
 
Peter Pereira & Alice Derry reading in Poulsbo--
 
Alice Derry was a treat to hear read because she doesn't read often.  I was most moved by her poems about her relationship with her daughter.  I arrived about 5-10 minutes late and missed her first couple poems, but the others offered so much.
 
Peter read second.  He always delivers such wonderful readings!  He read from his new book WHAT'S WRITTEN ON THE BODY (Copper Canyon), another book I highly recommend.  He read a couple poems from each of the sections.  Truly, an enjoyable day.
 
I must say, it was the most unusual reading during the open mic as one of the readers became so nervous that he almost passed out. I at first thought he was moving into performance poetry as I thought he was going down on one knee to be dramatic, but then realized he wasn't well.  Thankfully, Peter (yes, there's a doctor in the house) was able to step up and help him (the rest of the audience looked on like cardboard people not knowing what to do).  He ended up being fine, just a little stage fright it seems and we all got the chance to see poet as hero, (as if we didn't know we're all superheroes behind our books).
 
After the reading, I went to another poets house to do some writing exercises.  I got a good start to a poem that ends with the image of Buddha's hand (the fruit). We'll see where it goes.
 
TWO PUBLICATIONS--
 
I received the newest issue of 32 POEMS!  It's pretty fantastic.  It's one of my favorite journals and another on my list of "Journals You Should Have a Subscription To." 
 
Another on that list of "Journals You Should Have a Subscription To" is RHINO.  I just received my issue and love it.  There's a fabulous poem in there by Martha Silano, if you get a chance to check it out.
 
So, that's my poetry month in a handful.  It doesn't seem like much, but there were a lot of readings I had wanted to go to and missed-- like Jeannine Hall Gailey & Natasha Moni at the Seattle Poetry Festival.  And maybe that the problem with this year's National Poetry Month, I ended up feeling guilty not going to events I wanted to because there were stacked one on top of the other.  I missed this year's San Carlo reading to see Peter.  I will miss Burning Word tomorrow to teach at the Field's End writing conference.  I will see Billy Collins on Sunday in a gymnasium.  I will roll out of poetry month with smoke burning from my fingers and I will roll into May ready to relax.
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Robert Pinsky Gets the Best Gigs....

First he was on The Simpsons, now he's on The Colbert Report with Sean Penn in a "Meta-Free-For-All." Happy Poetry Month!

Rare Film Clips Of The Poet Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton reading "Her Kind"

New Poet Laureate for Washington State!

From the Seattle Times (Link above)

Gregoire marks poetry month by creating poet-laureate post
By DAVID AMMONS

AP Political Writer

OLYMPIA — Washington state will soon have its own poet laureate.

Gov. Christine Gregoire this week marked National Poetry Month by signing legislation that creates the new post of poet laureate. Forty other states and the United States have poet laureates, typically a published poet who composes for special events and promotes poetry and literacy among children and the citizenry through lectures, workshops and readings.

The governor and state Arts Commission will appoint the honoree after getting recommendations from a special screening committee. The laureate must be a state resident and would hold a two-year appointment.

It's not a get-rich position, since the state budget provides only $30,000 in startup costs for the first two years, including a stipend and expense money for the poet-in-chief. Other states typically give an honorarium of between $2,000 and $5,000 a year. Future financing will come from private grants, donations and endowments, rather than the state budget.

Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle, noted that in old England, poet laureates were paid with a butt of wine — 126 gallons — and suggested that the state Wine Commission donate some good stuff.

"Creating a poet laureate for Washington honors the role played by poetry and poets in the creative culture of our state," the governor said.

The prime sponsor, state Rep. Mary Skinner, R-Yakima, called the poet laureate "the state's official spokesperson in verse," with the mission of broadening the popularity of poetry and providing verse for public occasions.

"This is an exciting day for the literary arts in Washington," Skinner said.

She and Yakima poet and veteran journalist Ed Stover presented the governor with a poem written for the occasion.

The legislation, which passed after 12 years of efforts by sponsors, takes effect in 90 days. The choice for poet laureate could be announced this fall.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

WINNERS!


Sorry to have been away, this National Poetry Month should be called National Let's-Have-Every-Poetry-Event-Stacked-On-Top-of-Each-Other Month.

But I've put all the names for the poetry drawing in a hat for both of my blogs and here are the winners--



Inscribed/signed copy of my book SMALL KNOTS: January O'Neil

Inscribed/signed copy of my chapbook GEOGRAPHY: Ivy Alvarez

5 poetry broadsides from The Making of Peace series with poems by Jane Hirshfield, Lola Haskins, Martha Silano, Alisa Gordaneer, and Lisa Suhair Majaj: Valerie Loveland

Jeannine Hall Gailey's chapbook BECOMING THE VILLIANESS: Michael Wells

Bonus Prize-- Selected poetry broadsides from The Making of Peace series: Poet With a Day Job, Melissa Fondakowski


If the above winners could email their mailing addresses to me at: kells (a) agodon .com (of course, change the (a) to @ and smoosh the email address all together), I will mail out your prizes.

Congrats!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Seattle Poetry Festival


Jeannine Hall Gailey, Peter Pereira, & Martha Silano will be there. As will Heather McHugh, Mary Jo Bang, and others... View the full list here.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Poem (and Poet) of the Day

I've been busy with poetry things--it's National Poetry Month and we have poetry wrapped around our waists, worn like a scarf, poetry hats, and poetry bracelets. It's everywhere breathing hot and heavy on our necks.

Fancy Meeting You Here--
Today while having a lazy day spent PJ-clad and in bed reading magazines, having that little extra time to read all the things I normal skip over I fold open the May calendar in Oprah magazine. The calendar is full of interesting quotes on Having Faith this month and there on May 6th is a quote by my poet-friend Nancy Pagh!

Nancy is the WA state poet who just published NO SWEETER FAT and there's a quote from that book in Oprah magazine! Here's the quote, "I would like to live my way into being/someone who stands back up/and runs toward that holy forest." Nancy Pagh

It's from her poem "I Believe I Could Kneel" from No Sweeter Fat (Autumn House Press) which I'll include below--


I Believe I Could Kneel


I believe I could kneel
in so many quiet places
where the pale sponge of moss
would surely reach above
my hips as I sank down and down
as the deer must in their beds
kneeling once, then once again
to lower themselves front and back
before closing their glistening eyes.

I think I am the kind of person
down on one knee and shifting my weight
my whole life long
but capable of sinking far, and deep,
to the bottom of something
that might replace the religion I discarded
or make me really live in this body
or waste my life.

I would like to live my way into being
someone who stands back up
and runs toward that holy forest.


Nancy Pagh

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84

From MSNBC News-- (full story & link above)

NEW YORK - Kurt Vonnegut, the satirical novelist who captured the absurdity of war and questioned the advances of science in darkly humorous works such as “Slaughterhouse-Five” and “Cat’s Cradle,” died Wednesday. He was 84.

Vonnegut, who often marveled that he had lived so long despite his lifelong smoking habit, had suffered brain injuries after a fall at his Manhattan home weeks ago, said his wife, photographer Jill Krementz.

The author of at least 19 novels, many of them best-sellers, as well as dozens of short stories, essays and plays, Vonnegut relished the role of a social critic. He lectured regularly, exhorting audiences to think for themselves and delighting in barbed commentary against the institutions he felt were dehumanizing people.

“I will say anything to be funny, often in the most horrible situations,” Vonnegut, whose watery, heavy-lidded eyes and unruly hair made him seem to be in existential pain, once told a gathering of psychiatrists.

A self-described religious skeptic and freethinking humanist, Vonnegut used protagonists such as Billy Pilgrim and Eliot Rosewater as transparent vehicles for his points of view. He also filled his novels with satirical commentary and even drawings that were only loosely connected to the plot. In “Slaughterhouse-Five,” he drew a headstone with the epitaph: “Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.”




Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Gratitude Journal

I haven't done a gratitude journal for a while now, though in my own life, I'm saying thanks daily.

Here are some things I'm feeling thankful about--

1) Our new coffee pot (it has a timer! who knew?!)
2) The evergreen clematis blooming on the way to my front door.
3) The mixed up tulip bulbs-- 3 red, one yellow
4) Our cherry tree in full bloom
5) The Man Who Wouldn't Plant Willow Trees

Willows are messy trees. Hair in their eyes,
they weep like women after too much wine
and not enough love. They litter a lawn with leaves
Like the butts of regrets smoked down to the filter.

They are always out of kilter. Thirsty as drunks,
They'll sink into a sewer with their roots.
They have no pride. There's never enough sorrow.
A breeze threatens and they shake with sobs.

Willows are slobs, and must be cleaned up after.
They'll bust up pipes just looking for a drink.
Their fingers tremble, but make wicked switches.
They claim they are sorry, but they whisper it.


by A.E. Stallings

Who Inspires You?

I'm meeting with 4 writer friends on Friday night and one of our topics is who inspires us as writers. When asked this question, I was surprised that the first two people who came to my mind were painters, not writers-- Frida Kahlo & Georgia O'Keeffe.

I had to stop and actually think what writers/poets inspire me most. Two of my favorite poets were Denise Levertov & Jane Kenyon. I'd put them near the top of my list. Also I'm inspired by Richard Hugo, William Stafford, and William Carlos Williams. Pablo Neruda is always near the top of any list I write.

Currently in the living world, the following people have inspired me recently, Naomi Shihab Nye, Spike Lee, and Barack Obama.

I am trying to choose just one person. So, tell me, who inspires you?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal

Someone recently shared this on the women's poetry listserve I'm on. I had to share it too--


The poet Naomi Shihab Nye wrote up this Albuquerque Airport experience and sent to exactly two friends, who passed it on to friends, who passed it on and on . . .


Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal

by Naomi Shihab Nye



After learning my flight was detained 4 hours, I heard the announcement:

If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,please come

to the gate immediately.



Well -- one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress, just like my

grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. Help, said the

flight service person. Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the

flight was going to be four hours late and she did this.



I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly. Shu dow-a, shu-

biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick, sho bit se-wee? The

minute she heard any words she knew -- however poorly used - she stopped

crying. She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed

to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the following day. I

said no, no, we're fine, you'll get there, just late, who is picking you

up? Let's call him and tell him. We called her son and I spoke with him

in English.



I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and

would ride next to her -- Southwest.



She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and

found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for

the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them

chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours. She was laughing a lot by

then. Telling about her life. Answering questions.



She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies -- little powdered

sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts -- out of her bag --

and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not

a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from

Argentina, the traveler from California, the lovely woman from Laredo --

we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There are

no better cookies.



And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers --

non-alcoholic -- and the two little girls for our flight, one

African-American, one Mexican-American -- ran around serving us all

apple juice and lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar, too.



And I noticed my new best friend -- by now we were holding hands -- had

a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green

furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a

plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.



And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, this

is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in

this gate -- once the crying of confusion stopped -- has seemed apprehensive

about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those

other women, too. This can still happen, anywhere.



Not everything is lost.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Article about the MFA Program at PLU: The Rainier Writers Workshop


Here's a recent article about my MFA program (Pacific Lutheran University's Rainier Writers Workshop) featuring a great poem by Kathleen Flenniken.

Snapshots After Easter

The End of Lent--

After not eating chocolate & sweets for forty days, I realized the chocolate I remember in my mind tastes better than the chocolate of real life.


Easter Everywhere--

We have no less than 5 huge chocolate bunnies in our house (one missing its ears) and bowls and bowls of candy. My eyes are bigger than my stomach.



Poe-try (the lowdown on Dean Young & Tony Hoagland's Poetry Reading)


I found this on someone's blog (Anhedonia: The Poetry Life) and thought it was both interesting and entertaining. She wrote a report of the Hoagland/Young reading to her friend Aaron--

Tony Hoagland's wearing a bright-colored, button-down shirt -- swimming pool blue -- and a vest, brown, maybe corduroy. He's looks cute, wise, and sweet but shorter than I ever would have thought he was.

Dean Young's sporting a vest, too. Like a suit vest with the satin along the back ... and jeans ... he looks a little like a displaced cowboy. Maybe a banker who lost his pants and shoes but still had to show up in something at the banquet. Something ... I like it.

It's quite wonderful, Aaron ... I look around me now and everyone's reading poetry. This makes the world soften to me. At least right now. I will enjoy completely this coming hour or so.

Dean Young looks exactly as he does in his author photos. And so does Tony Hoagland, just shorter. I wish you were here. But I know each of us have glorious days coming, many of them, and we will likely enjoy some of them at least in the same time zone.

And I wonder why this girl sat down right next to me when there were lots of empty seats ... so now I battle for the elbow room I need to write this and now have that need to do that hide-with-hand thing ... hiding what you've written while you write so no one can read it.

Li Young Lee is also here. I saw him read in Kalamazoo at The Little Theater. I think I told you about it -- how sensual I felt after hearing his long and lux poem about furniture and erotic visions. He was beautiful that night and even the smirks from a clique of former colleagues could not stiffle me, or ruin me that night. It was like some post-coital moment ... unwieldy and wondrous. And I wrote so much that night ... a curdled and commingled love and fear and passion in the upper right corner of my heart and the lower left of my spleen. I know this reading will be at least that but maybe more.

Your time right now is 4:00 while mine is 6:00. Real time.

So many (I mean a good 30 out of a total of 60-70 people) women have super-curly, untamed hair ... why is that, Aaron? So many "literary" women now have super-curly hair ... it is a strange and tiny trend.


Later I will write about the fascinating things they both had to say about the craft of poetry and the writing life in general ... but here is a little taste.

Hoagland said people come to poetry for different reasons, and the main two reasons are to seek a truth and deep meaning while the others come to it for a love of language and a desire to have fun with it. He said, and I agree, that the Truth-seeker readers (me) need to do more of what the Language-lover readers do (you?) and vice versa. Tonight I plan on some big fun with Dean Young's Embryoyo!

Friday, April 06, 2007

It's Official...

I'm able to share my good news.

I won the Atlantic Monthly Student Writing Contest for my poem "When Killer Blue Irises Spread." The contest is for graduate students enrolled in colleges throughout the US.

This was the last year I could submit, so I'm thrilled to have been chosen. (Note to curious readers--of the three chances I had to submit--I missed the first deadline, was rejected the second, and as it turns out 3's a charm.)

Here's a list of all the winners in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction as well.

My poem will be in the summer fiction issue.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Happy National Poetry Month - Free Poems!


In honor of National Poetry Month, I'll be giving away a signed/inscribed copy of Small Knots and Geography, as well as a five small poetry broadsides from The Making of Peace Poetry Series with poems by Lola Haskins, Martha Silano, Alisa Gordaneer, Lana Hechtman Ayers, and Lisa Suhair Majaj and also a copy of Jeannine Hall Gailey's chapbook, Female Comic Book Superheroes (I'm sure we can get this signed as well! . . .J9?)


If you'd like to have your name in the drawing, please leave a comment below. I'll take all the names on April 14th and put them in a poet's hat and post the winners here on April 15th (TAX DAY!) Someone should get good news on tax day.


If you already have a copy of my book or chapbook, you're still welcome to be in the drawing, I'd be happy to inscribe it to someone else if you win.


So, leave me a note in the comments and I'll drop your name in the hat.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

More Writing Prompts for National Poetry Month

These were posted on the Woman Poets Listserve by another wonderful Kellypoet, Kelly Madigan Erlandson

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH: WRITE EVERY DAY!



1. Write a really ugly poem.


2. Quickly pick out 12 words from the titles of books on a nearby bookshelf. Use them in a poem.


3. Write a poem with an invented biography for yourself.


4. Take a 1-2 page poem from a book and re-type it backwards—from the very last word in the poem all the way to the very first, keeping the lines the same lengths as they are in the book. Use this as the starting point of a poem, picking out the word formations that are particularly interesting to you.


5. Write from the number six.


6. Write to your pain: "Dear Pad of My Thumb, Will you kindly stop hurting? It is very hard for me to stir a pot or write a poem when you hurt like this..."



7. Let your pain write back to you: "Dear Liesl, if you would lay off the text messaging and playing minesweeper it would help me a lot, then you can write your poem or stir pot...".



8. Write to your hurting country, city or community, as a variation on the theme. Take the dialogue as far as it goes, then distill the essence. See if you can arrive at a fresh insight about what ails you and yours.


9. Wow! You've been at this over a week straight! Let your hand draw an abstract shape. Write about it.


10. Speaking as a fortune teller, tell a fortune. The first line is: You will take a strange journey ...... Finish the prediction/forecast by describing the journey and giving instructions or advice or even warnings for the journey.


11. Write a poem of at least 40 lines that is a single sentence.


12. Take fairy tale and rewrite it from the viewpoint of another character. For example, use the wolf to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood.


13. Write about a family secret.


14. Write an apostrophe to some abstraction (e.g., "To the End of the World" or "To My Birth").


15. Write about someone waiting for something.


16. Write about a color without naming the color—or its kin, e.g., no fair using "crimson" "scarlet" or "ruddy" instead of red.


17. Take any object out of your bag or pocket or purse. Speaking in first person AS THE OBJECT, answer the following questions (in any order): What is your favorite thing?

What are you scared of? What is your secret? What is your wish for the future?



18. Take someone else's poem and select one word per line, writing them out in a list.
Then write your own poem using these words in the same sequence, one per line.



19. Write 100 words (any kind of words) about your kitchen table.



20. Write a poem in which the form contradicts the content.



21. Write a piece at least 50 words long using only one-syllable words.



22. Take a common object, such as a flowerpot, boot or paperclip, and write about it as if you've never seen such a thing before (e.g., you're from the future and have just excavated it, or are from another planet).



23. Take the name of a favorite poet and anagram it. Use this to begin a poem.



24. Pick a word from today's headlines and write a definition poem for it.



25. Write the poem you cannot write.



26. What Work is For You: Write about a job you have had, whether you loathed it or loved it. Write from your own experience but go beyond the literal! Keep the poem in the present tense, and BE SURE THERE IS A PHYSICAL ACTION INVOLVED such as scrubbing floors, dissecting chickens, helping someone use the toilet. Keep your poem in couplets, tercets, quatrains, or sestets—your choice.


27. Write a poem in a received form in such a way that the form is concealed.


28. Imagine a drink or food dish that would bring you fully alive. Write the recipe.


29. Begin with, "This is not the last poem I will write…"


30. Elide (strike out) the Junk: Take a piece of junk mail and black out most of the words so that what remains is a poem.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Upcoming Writing Conference

Field's End Conference


The Field's End Conference, "Writing in the Garden of the Gods," will be held on April 28 at Kiana Lodge on the shores of Agate Passage in Poulsbo, Washington. The conference includes workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as panels and a book signing. This years' participating writers include poet Kelli Russell Agodon; fiction writers Debra Dean, Clyde Ford, Priscilla Long, Garth Stein, and Elsa Watson; creative nonfiction writers Robert Dugoni and Katherine Ramsland; and Ten Speed Press editor Veronica Randall. The keynote speaker will be creative nonfiction writer Malachy McCourt.

The cost of the conference is $150; the registration deadline is April 20.

Visit the Web site for further details and conference information.

Second Hand News - Pitt anthology series features 40 years of poetry

The real story--

I have this anthology on my wish list and hope to buy it soon. It looks terrific.

Pitt anthology series features 40 years of poetry

By Regis Behe
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, April 1, 2007

Poetry is not the most popular of art forms. Sure, there are hundreds of thousands of would-be poets, numerous online sites and communities devoted to poetry, and readings in most major metropolitan areas.

But when it comes to the arts, poets are like forgotten cousins. They don't have image problems because, save the occasional Maya Angelou sighting, they don't have images. They're anonymous, hidden in plain sight, riding buses and bicycles to and from work, raising families in the suburbs. They are teachers and academics, waiters and waitresses, nurses and gardeners.

And for 40 years, they've sent their manuscripts to the University of Pittsburgh Press. Celebrating four decades of publishing, the press has just released "American Poetry Now: Pitt Poetry Anthology Series." The collection features poems by two former U.S. poet laureates, Billy Collins and Ted Kooser. There are poets only poets and diehard enthusiasts know, such as Bob Hicock and Daisy Fried. There are poets who live in Pittsburgh, including Jan Beatty, Anthony Butts, Jim Daniels, Toi Derricotte and Lynn Emanuel.

"I've always tried to have a very catholic approach to what I do," says series editor Ed Ochester, who has been with the press for 29 years. "There are lots of people doing different kinds of things, all of which are excellent in their own kind. ... I try to be open to what we do and what we read."

One of the things Ochester is most proud of is that the University of Pittsburgh Press goes against the academic conceit that poetry must be serious and ponderous, of great weight and importance, in order to be significant.

In the collection's introduction, Ochester argues otherwise. Instead of teaching Edmund Spenser's "Faerie Queene," it's better to lure students to poetry with newer, more contemporary works. When he spent time as a visiting poet in high schools, he noted that students "were interested and often wildly enthusiastic when presented with contemporary poems that spoke to their concerns in their own language."

"The poetry that is often being promulgated in secondary schools and colleges is not bad stuff ... but in general, it's always the stuff that's been approved and looks a little bit old to the young people reading it," Ochester says.

That's why Ochester believers there are fewer people attracted to the form, despite its influence over everything from adverting copy to rock and hip-hop lyrics. Poetry, despite being framed and presented as a staid, ponderous art form, is supposed to entertain. He notes that Chaucer and Shakespeare wrote what was considered to be, at least in their lifetimes, entertaining works.

"There's been, for whatever reason, a notion that somehow poetry is very serious, mysterious," Ochester says. "That it may be a great genre for literature, but it's beyond a simple person like myself. That's historically nonsense. Poetry was one of the forms of literature and forms of entertainment, in the past and in the present. Anyone who thinks that poetry is essentially an elite art in the sense that it has an extremely limited audience is wrong, in historical terms and in terms of many of the best writers who are writing now."

And many of those are writers who have found homes with the Pitt press. Many of them, such as Collins and Kooser, were relatively unknown to the public at large, their relative fame happening after years of hard work. One of Ochester's points of pride is the number of manuscripts that have "come over the transom," completely unsolicited. Works by Hicok and Fried came to Pitt this way, and Ochester is especially proud that the press is not only self-supporting, but also does not charge a reading fee.

Ochester also revels in publishing poets like Denise Duhamel, who were summarily rejected by other presses.

"It was because what she was doing looked, to a lot of presses, to be so wild and so unusual and so readable and so much fun," Ochester says. "I think they didn't want to do it on that basis."

Ochester also points to the number of poets with Pittsburgh connections who have been published by the press. Noting poetry presses at Carnegie Mellon University and the independent Autumn House, Ochester believes that the confluence of poets and presses makes Pittsburgh one of the premier centers of poetry in the country.
But he's quick to add that every poet with local ties published by the press has earned publication.

"I've always been a little bit leery of publishing local people just because it looks parochial," Ochester says. "But the fact is that everyone we've published has also published successfully outside of Pittsburgh."

While Ochester is proud of the poets he's published, he's not about to anoint any of them as being for the ages. In the introduction he writes that the answer to the question "Where are the greats poet of today?" is "We don't know yet." Only time, Ochester thinks, will reveal who will be read in 50 years and beyond.

He does, however, think that some of the most inventive poets working today are published by Pitt press.

"I think of people are like Dean Young, Bob Hicok, Denise (Duhamel) , Daisy Fried, Virgil Suarez," Ochester says, noting that he won't name Pittsburgh-based poets, because he'd have to name them all. "All of these people have sold very well for books of poetry. And while they are not well-known, they are known to fans of poetry. I would say among those people, who are relatively young, are going to be the next poets who are extremely well-known."

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Brad Pitt Anthology Series Features 40 Years of Poetry

It seems others are getting into the poetry-biz:
Brad Pitt has just released "American Poetry Now: Brad Pitt’s Poetry Anthology Series."

Full article below--


Poetry is not the most popular of art forms. Sure, there are hundreds of thousands of would-be poets, numerous online sites and communities devoted to poetry, and readings in most major metropolitan areas.

But when it comes to the arts, poets are like forgotten cousins. They don't have image problems because, save the occasional Maya Angelou sighting, they don't have images. They're anonymous, hidden in plain sight, riding buses and bicycles to and from work, raising families in the suburbs. They are teachers and academics, waiters and waitresses, nurses and gardeners. Until now.

And for years, fans and other actors have sent their manuscripts to Brad Pitt. Celebrating four decades of life, Brad Pitt has just released "American Poetry Now: Brad Pitt’s Poetry Anthology Series." The collection features poems by two former movie mates, George Clooney and Matt Damon. There are poets only actors and diehard enthusiasts know, such as Erza Buzzington and Christina Cabot. There are poet-actors from Pittsburgh, including Michael Keaton, Ted Danson, Shirley Jones, and Jeff Goldblum.

"I've always tried to have a very catholic approach to what I do," says series editor Brad Pitt, who has been writing for 29 years. "There are lots of people doing different kinds of things, all of which are excellent in their own kind. ... I try to be open to what I do and what we read."

One of the things Pitt is most proud of is that the anthology goes against the New York conceit that actors who write poetry must be serious and ponderous, of great weight and importance, in order to be significant.

In the collection's introduction, Pitt argues otherwise. Instead of teaching Angelina Jolie "Faerie Queene," it's better to lure her to poetry with newer, more contemporary works. When they spent time visiting in high schools in New Orleans, he noted that students "were interested and often wildly enthusiastic when presented with contemporary poems that spoke to their concerns in their own language. Of course, they were also very interested in Angie, too."

"The poetry that is often being promulgated in secondary schools and colleges is not bad stuff ... but in general, it's always the stuff that's been approved and looks a little bit old to the young people reading it," Pitt says.

That's why Pitt believes there are fewer people attracted to the form, despite its influence over everything from adverting copy to rock and hip-hop lyrics. Like acting, poetry, despite being framed and presented as a staid, ponderous art form, is supposed to entertain. He notes that Chaucer and Shakespeare wrote what was considered to be, at least in their lifetimes, entertaining works. (Jolie laughs when he says this.)

"There's been, for whatever reason, a notion that somehow poetry is very serious, mysterious," Pitt says. "That it may be a great genre for literature, but it's beyond a simple person like myself. That's historically nonsense. Poetry was one of the forms of literature and forms of entertainment, in the past and in the present.

Anyone who thinks that poetry is essentially an elite art in the sense that it has an extremely limited audience is wrong, in historical terms and in terms of many of the best writers who are writing now."

And many of those are writers who have found homes with Brad Pitt. Many of them, such as Clooney and Damon, were relatively unknown to the public at large, their relative fame happening after years of hard work. One of Pitt’s points of pride is the number of manuscripts that have "come over the transom," completely unsolicited. Pitt also revels in publishing actor-poets like Jeff Goldblum, who were summarily rejected by other presses.

"It was because what he was doing looked, to a lot of presses, to be so wild and so unusual and so readable and so much fun," Pitt says. "I think they didn't want to do it on that basis."

Pitt also points to the number of poets with Hollywood or New York connections who have been published in this anthology. But he's quick to add that every actor-poet with local ties has earned publication.

"I've always been a little bit leery of publishing local people just because it looks parochial," Pitt says. "But the fact is that everyone we've published has also published successfully outside of Hollywood."

While Pitt is proud of the actor-poets he's published, he's not about to anoint any of them as being for the ages. In the introduction he writes that the answer to the question "Where are the greats poet of today?" is "We don't know yet." Only time, Pitt thinks, will reveal who will be read in 50 years and beyond.

He does, however, think that some of the most inventive poets working today are in Hollywood and secretly writing poetry in their rooms.
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