Archive for November, 2010

The Homestretch

Thanksgiving Break is nearing its end, and the final weeks of the fall semester are looming before me.  Then, of course, I face the craziness of the holidays, and do I dare say it?  2011 is right around the corner.  Last year, I posted a look ahead for 2010: read my lists here and here.  I would like to do the same this year, and have already begun my list.  So far, the following poets have collections (chapbooks or full length) coming out in 2011:  Erica Wright, Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Mary Biddinger, Martha Silano, C Dale Young, Jeannine Hall Gailey, and Geri Doran.  Now, I admit that my scope is rather limited, so please, if you have a collection coming out, or if you know of another collection being published in the upcoming year, please let me know!!!!


First Snow

Today, on the Weather Channel, I heard that parts of Western New York/Pennsylvania have been in a “snow drought” — that is, we have waited longer than usual for our first snowfall.  I believe that is true.  I remember the first snow as early as the first weeks of October, and more often than not, our first snowfall usually arrives way before the first of November.

But this year, November 27 marks our first snowfall.  I looked out our window this morning to see a light dusting of white on the ground.  As I write this, our cats are sitting in the window, fascinated by the flakes falling from the sky.

And speaking of drought, I have had a “poetry drought” this fall semester.  I have sent out a record number of submissions, but have heard nothing — not even a form rejection, until yesterday, when I found out that my poem, “Splintered” will appear in the Naugatuck River Review.   Hopefully this is the beginning of some kind of end for this poetry drought.

Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving has always been a quiet holiday for us, and this year it doesn’t seem like much is going to change.  A bit of eating, a bit of visiting, and because I really need to get caught up on my sleep, a whole lot of napping.  I have a pile of books to read, some poems to revise, and yes, papers to grade.  But I’m thankful for so many things, and when the sun is shining and the weather is warm, it’s easy to remember all the blessings in my life.

Wishing all my readers a safe and happy holiday.


Fans of The Scrapper Poet know how much I love Seven Kitchens Press.  Besides the recent publication of chapbooks from two of my favorite poets, Gabriel Welsch and Todd Davis, Ron Mohring (editor) has just announced the upcoming publications of several chapbooks in the ReBound Series, including Collin Kelley’s work, Slow to Burn.  Congrats to all.

And Mary Biddinger is doing a different kind of rebounding — stop by her blog and wish her congratulations.

(Note to audience: WordPress has been a bit wacky today — I can’t provide links.  When I have more time, I will go back and make corrections!)

Why I Love Tawni O’Dell

Because she is blue-collar.  Because she is from western Pennsylvania.  Because I love her novels, especially Back Roads.  Because she is the only author I ever sent a “fan email” to.  Because I love what she has to say about the struggles of women authors in today’s literary landscape.  (Thanks Brandi, for the link!)

At the Rookery

In a recent interview published in the Boxcar Poetry Review, poet Traci Brimhall said this about her new book, Rookery, and its title: “One day in a coffee shop I was trying to write away from personal narratives, so I started riffing off the definitions of rookery (1. Colony of rooks, 2. A  group of breeding sea mammals, 3. A tenement house) and ended up with these short prose poems about betrayal, family, pain, violence, and God.  I liked the idea that you could start with a word and it could contain everything.”

And after reading Brimhall’s first collection, I have to say that I agree.  Rookery contains haunting poems of struggles between love and loss, life and death.  I know that I often use the adjective “haunting” to describe a poet’s work, but in this case, I could find no other word. Brimhall’s poetry takes the reader through surreal dreams and real tragedies, spiritual experiences and sexual encounters.

Brimhall constructs her books out of elegies, prayers, aubades and nocturnes.  Many poems cradle the violence of our world.  For instance, in “Elegy with Mosquitoes, Peppermints, and a Snapping Turtle,” she chronicles the actions of a father who shoots a turtle:  “When I pointed to the snapping turtle’s snout/peeking above the surface, my father/got his rifle and aimed for its head//Its body didn’t jerk, but a slow red stream/uncurled in the water.”   Another poem by Brimhall, “Fiat Lux” starts off with a disturbing conversation between two sisters: “My sister asks what ate the bird’s eyes/as she cradles the dead chickadee she found/on the porch.  Ants, I say, knowing the soft, ocular//cells are the easiest way into the feast of heart/liver, kidney.” As violent as these scenes are, Brimhall’s words are soft, lyrical, almost dreamlike.  As a reader, we almost feel as if we are glimpsing a surreal world where what is in front of us, isn’t quite real.

While many of Brimhall’s poems unfold a story before us, others paint pictures of a specific scene.  Once again, dark images haunt her world. For example, “Aubade with a Broken Neck” portrays a narrator who explains: “The first night you don’t come home/summer rain shakes the clematis./I bury the dead moth I found in our bed/scratch up a rutabaga and eat it rough/with dirt.” 

 Brimhall’s collection is one of the best I have read this year.  I know this because long after I put her work down, I am remembering images.  And at night, I am dreaming of dead birds, of drownings, of women who speak in strange tongues.

Drafty Weekend

In my creative writing class, we have entered into the poetry unit of the course, and my students have drafts of three poems due Thursday.  We have not entered form yet — I really want them to look at image and active language instead of worrying about rhyme scheme.  Since I have not drafted anything new in weeks, I am taking on the challenge to have three poetry drafts completed by Thursday.  So far so good — I have one draft done. 

Holiday Shopping at Main Street Rag

I love Holiday deals — and Main Street Rag has a great page of specials! Check out the chapbooks and collections of short stories and poems.  I have already placed an order.

Dear November,

This morning I scraped you off my windshield — along with the first hard frost and stray Maple leaves crinkled at the edges.  I haven’t found my gloves from last winter, and I really did not want to break out my winter coat, but I did.  I don’t mind the winter when it finally comes, but those cold mornings filled with my breath and numb fingers make me want my summer days back.  I love Autumn, but somehow October went by in a flurry of fog and soggy leaves.  I can’t help but think that a first snow will make everything clean and beautiful.

****This little post above is the closest I have come to writing a poem in the last week or so.  I’m behind with my grading.  I’m behind with my drafting.  I’m behind with my emails.  I’m even behind with reading blogs. Here’s hoping that November will be kind and I can catch up!