Archive for September, 2010

On the Last Poem from the Summer

I have revised (and in many cases, sent out) every poem I wrote this past summer, except for one.  This poem has been especially frustrating to me because I really want it to work.  Still, when I read through the lines, I’m seeing a lot of boring language and clichés.  Worse yet, I’m really not sure if an audience will make the connections I want them to make in this particular piece.  I’m writing a poem about playing in the abandoned strip mines as a kid and the connections to growing up (aka the changes in a female body).  I know that may not make a lot of sense to those of you reading this post, but I do think the poem can work — it’s just not working right now.

So, when a poem is not working, I often find myself reading other poets who explore similar themes.  I have lots of ideas about landscape — but I’m wondering: who writes about the female body in an honest way without diving into clichés?  Any recommendations?  Maybe you have written a poem that does this that you would like to share?  Sharon Olds’ work comes to mind, but I am drawing a blank on any others…Suggestions are welcome.


Can One Overdose on Poetry?

Autumn is in the air.  I woke up early this morning, got ready to go to work, and with one step out my front door, I said Yep, October is just around the corner.  Outside of the cool weather and overcast conditions, there was the smell of Autumn — like someone is burning leaves.

I’m recovering from a busy weekend, including a Sunday afternoon spent in Pittsburgh where I attended the Small Press Festival.  For me, because I am so secluded, it’s always great to meet up with people who share my love of literature, and especially poetry.  However, this event was more than simply talking with other poets — I got to meet the great Ron Mohring, founder and editor of Seven Kitchens Press.   (Ron even got to put up with Anthony talking baseball, which is wonderful, because my poor fiance always looks lost at what he calls these “artsy” events).  I got to meet R.J. Gibson, author of the great chapbook, Scavenge,  has been published by Seven Kitchens Press.  I briefly talked with Laura from Weave Magazine, and also chatted for quite a bit with the lovely people from Caketrain.

So, I guess this brings me to the heading of my post: Can one overdose on poetry?  I hope not — I picked up 7 books, 2 chapbooks, and one literary journal.  As much as small presses need my money right now, I need to spend so time catching up on my reading!

Where I Will Be This Weekend

Okay, maybe not the whole weekend.  But on Sunday, Anthony and I are making a trip down to Pittsburgh to go here.  Hopefully, I will see some of you there!

CFS: Haiku

Broadsided Press recently released a call for submissions looking for a Haiku Year-in-Review.  The deadline is November 1, 2010.  Check here for complete guidelines. What’s really cool about this contest is that readers will get to pick the winner!

(Oh, and while you are at Broadsided Press’s site — you should take a look around.  It’s a really cool place to visit!)

Why I Don’t Quite “Get” the Prose Poem

In the last week or so, I finished two great collections of poems.  The Real Politics of Lipstick by Mary Carroll Hackett was a terrific exploration of women and their relationship to the world around them.  The other collection, Money for Sunsets by Elizabeth Colen was a great read about sexuality and danger even in the most everyday places.

So, I’ve been re-reading both books again and again, savoring specific lines and images.  For example, my favorite poem in Colen’s collection is “80 East” where the narrator states: “You’ve been sleeping since/Salt Lake — crescent lashes rimming your lids below the Ray Bans you/refused men when I took over the wheel.  I squinted from the bones of/light sliced off passing cars’ chrome.  You said you’d take the blame if/we became wreckage on the plains.”   What lyrical language used to describe a road trip!

So, what is the problem, you may ask?

No problem really, except that both of these wonderful collections are prose poems collections.  And I admit, dear reader, that I don’t quite get the prose poem.

Many times, poems are defined by the poetic line.  But the prose poem is not — in fact, my students would call a prose poem a paragraph, and yep, that’s right.  So if a prose poem isn’t really defined by the line, what is the definition?  Or does the prose poem, like so much else in literature, have only a fuzzy definition.  Perhaps the prose poem is not that concerned with the line, but wants to focus on the poetic language.  Then, where does the prose poem overlap with flash fiction?  Is it more concerned with language and less with plot and character development? 

I have too many questions, really, about prose poems. Too many questions that will not be answered today, so I guess I will go back to re-reading both of these great collections.

Or maybe, I should try writing a prose poem myself!

CFS: Sex-Food-Death

One of my favorite literary journals, Slipstream, has opened its call for submissions for a theme issue on Sex-Food-Death. What a way to put a theme issue together!  Submissions of poems will be accepted until March 1, 2011.  Take a look at the guidelines found here.

On Why We Stop Writing

Yesterday, my colleague, Deb, and I had a brief conversation at the copier (if you work at a college, you probably understand those brief, but often insightful conversations that happen at copy machines — if only our meetings could go the same way….) about the field of art.  Deb tells her students in her art classes, that 95% of those who get MFA’s in art quit “doing art” five years later.  (Deb — I know you read my blog, so if I am misquoting you, please let me know!)  That’s a lot of people who quit.  Now, according to Deb, these are not people who are not making money from their art.  This percentage represents people who have stopped doing art all together.

Wow.  That seems like such a high number for such a passionate field. 

Yet, I have heard similar things about MFAs in writing.  I may be speaking out of turn here, because I don’t have an MFA.  However, I have heard (and no, I don’t know where or if these stats matter or count or are accurate),  that 90% of students who get MFA’s have stopped writing five years after graduation.

If this statistic is accurate, I’m wondering a few things.  First, what does it mean to stop writing?  Does it mean, to stop publishing?  Stop writing on the job?  Stop writing for a publish or perish college institution?  Or does it mean, stop writing literally– never pick up a pen or pencil, never touch a keyboard, never read another literary journal to get insight or inspiration?

If it does mean that students who graduate with an MFA often really do STOP WRITING, then I guess I have to ask, why?  Do they get overwhelmed with life?  with work? Do they end up in field that does not support or appreciate creative works?  Do they crave that university setting that will give them more time to write, and then end up doing the crazy adjunct stint (speaking from experience here — I did very little writing when I was an adjunct).  Do they get discouraged about the world of publishing and its rejections? What happens?

This post full of questions comes at the end of a long day of teaching and attending meetings.  It also comes right after I received a rejection in my email for my second chapbook manuscript. I am not upset by this rejection.  Deep down inside, I know the manuscript is uneven.  But I also know that here at JCC, I am a big fish in a small pond and that my colleagues support me no matter what.  I also know that Anthony supports me, and I know that my family (in their mixed up, baffled way) supports me.  Heck, I just realized that Charly, one of our new kittens, supports me.  She insists on sitting on my lap when I type!  (I also caught her chewing on my manuscript the other day, but perhaps she is telling me something I should know…)

Maybe people just stop working in the field of art because of lack of support.  And for some reason, I find that the saddest reason of all.

Three Poems I Am Lovin’…..

Because of the move and a mail mixup [insert long story here] I just received my copy of Shenandoah’s issue dedicated to writer Flannery O’Connor.  Todd Davis has the opening poem titled “The Girl Who Taught A Chicken to Walk Backwards.”  The ending lines have been running through my head all weekend: “at some point we must take a step backwards/to see whether we’re frying in the fat of our sins/or whether love, when we try to own it, must become/beautifully misshapen.” 


The Cimarron Review has post some audio clips of poems.  I love the work, “Gladetown Cemetery” by poet Jack Christian.  Read/Listen to his poem here.  Christian’s poetry is new to me; I did a quick google search but couldn’t find out whether or not he has a book out.  If anyone knows, please let me know.


Last, but not least, I have been reading Sherry O’Keefe’s  fine chapbook, Making Good Use of August.  Sherry and I “met” through the blogging world and we did a quick chapbook swap.  Sherry’s whole chapbook is wonderful, with thoughtful nods towards sense of place and people, but I was especially taken with the title poem “Making Good Use of August”.  You can read it/listen to it here.

CFS: Theme Issue on Food

The Cream City Review has announced its theme issue for the fall: Food! According to the journal’s website, “We will accept submissions of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that incorporate this theme, as well as non-themed submissions, via our online submission manager. As always, our theme is purposefully nebulous, providing flexibility for how writers might consider “food” in a surprising manner.”  Submissions for this particular theme issue will be accepted until November 1, 2010.  See the website for more details.

CFS: Disaster, Theme Issue for Witness

The theme issue for the 2012 issue of Witness is disaster.  Check out the call for submission page here.   Submissions for this special issue will be taken from September 1, 2010 to April 1, 2011. 

Witness is also taking general submissions for their new online issues.  The first online issue will be published in May 2011.  Again, check out the website for more details.

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