Archive for January, 2011

Dear AWP,

I’m sorry that I won’t see you this year.  It seems as if my time is too cramped, my life too busy.  The spring semester is always crazy — and this spring I am attending two other conferences. You always seem to get pushed out of the way.  I really would like to meet you face-to-face someday — I’ve heard  so much about you.

But, you are a bit expensive.  And I’m just a country girl, afterall.  I would get lost in the crowd.  I may even huddle in my hotel room, afraid to face the multitudes of writers. I don’t know the politics of AWP, and I’m not sure I would understand the inside jokes. 

Still, I would love to meet some people on my blogroll.  Or listen to some poets who just don’t make their way out to rural Pennsylvania or Western New York.  Maybe next year.  Maybe.

Sincerely,

Karen J. Weyant

P.S.  To everyone attending this year’s conference: Safe and happy travels! I’m looking forward to hearing the updates and stories (and the poetry loot — don’t forget the loot!] I have preordered many of the books making their “debut” at AWP — so hopefully they will arrive in my mailbox soon.

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Revisiting Gwendolyn Brooks

I don’t know how old I was when I first read a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks — 12, maybe 13.  I don’t know where I even found the poem.  But I do remember the specific poem, “a song in the front yard,” and I do remember reciting my favorite stanza:  “I stayed in the front yard all my life./I want a peek at the back/Where it’s rough and unattended and hungry weed grows/A girl gets sick of a rose.”

Of course, I didn’t know about symbolism or other poetic devices at the time.  I just liked the music in her words.  And I loved the last line “A girl gets sick of a rose.” 

I still love Gwendolyn Brooks.  I teach “We Real Cool” whenever I can, and many other of her poems have been added to my favorites list.  This past year, I made a resolution on my GoodReads reading group to read more collections from “classic” poets.  Brooks is one of the poets whose work I know; however, I never read one of her collection in its entirety. That’s why I read her Selected Poems published by HarperCollins.  This collection offers segments from her many books including A Street in Bronzeville, Annie Allen and The Bean Eaters.  This book also contains a mini biography of Brooks’ life along with a tribute by Nikki Giovanni titled “Remembering Gwen.”  In short, this is a collection that gave me a chance to revisit old favorites, while discovering new works.

Wednesday Break

So, this is what I feel like.  My week started off with me braving 13 degrees BELOW zero temperatures.  I’m lucky that my car started.  I’m also lucky that it’s warmer out now — a balmy 28 degrees.  Still, I think that I am coming down with something.  I managed to avoid getting sick over the holidays, and usually that is a tradition with me.  So, now I am getting sick during school.  Not good.

What is good, however, is some news I received at the beginning of this week.  River Styx, one of my favorite literary journals ever, accepted one of my poems, “All My Boyfriends Wore Beer Labels for Nicknames.”  The responses from last year’s submission blitz are trickling in…

Traveling Through the Big Muddy

One of my goals (aka resolutions) for this year is to find and read journals that are new to me.  Since I am a bit secluded here, I often rely on blogs and websites for insight about literary journals, both print on online.  This is how I found the Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley

As the title suggests, Big Muddy caters to the work of those who live by the  Mississippi River.  Of course, we all know how vast of a region that really is, and how different literature from this region will be.  From what I have read so far, I believe that Big Muddy really showcases these differences.  This particular issue published the winner of the Mighty River Short Story Award which was a fictional piece titled “Missus Finn” by Kel Munger and the Wilda Hearne Flash Fiction Award which was a short work titled “Facets” by Erica Lehrer.  I especially found “Facets,” a story that tells the tale of a narrator who contemplates putting her brother’s ashes in a diamond, a fascinating (if not somewhat disturbing) read.

Besides the many prose pieces, Big Muddy had its share of poetry as well.  I really liked “Cairo Fishmongers” by Mark Vogel and “The Hill Woman’s Rant” by Kathryn Kerr.  From this particular issue, I gather that Big Muddy seems to favor narrative poetry, which is my favorite kind.  In general, all of the work was dedicated to such a strong sense of place that I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the many lives narrated in the included published pieces.

Will I ever send poems to Big Muddy?  I’m not sure yet.  The journal does show preference to the areas that make up the Mississippi River area.  Still, the guidelines in the front of my copy read, “While preferences is given to regional topics, all submissions are encouraged and appreciated.”   Besides, I live two blocks from the Conewango Creek, which flows into the Allegheny River, which travels to Pittsburgh and meets up with the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River which flows to the Mississippi.  (See I am part of the Mississippi River Region! 🙂 )  More importantly, I found a sort of kinship with many of the people depicted in the poems, especially those poems that described rural life.

I don’t always enjoy the literary journals that arrive at my doorstep, even the “big name” ones.  But I am looking forward to my next issue of Big Muddy.

Updating

The new year has begun, and I have noticed more hits from blogs I don’t recognize or know (and more spam responses, but WordPress catches and trashes those — thanks goodness!).  Of course, it’s always wonderful to expand one’s readership! If you would like to be on my blogroll, please let me know, either by leaving a comment or dropping me an email at KJWeyant@gmail.com. I will then add your name!

2011 Firsts

So school has started.  With the start of school comes new faces, new books, new syllabi…I have been teaching for over ten years now, and I still have trouble sleeping the night before I face a brand new class of students.  I’m glad that now I can settle into a life of routine — an imperfect routine, nevertheless, but a routine. 

Besides first days of new classes, I also faced other “firsts” this past week.  I got my first two rejections of the year.  I sent out a lot of submissions this past fall, and only heard back from four journals (two acceptances, two rejections).  So, I guess editors of a few poetry journals must have waited until after the holidays to clean off their desks.

However, I did get some good news in the mail this week.  Because of a mailing mishap, I received my contributor’s copy of Harpur Palate a bit late.  But I have to say that it was worth the wait.  My poem “Ways of Writing About Rust” joined other works by such fine poets as Sara Tracey, Doug Ramspeck (note to self: please pick up a collection by Ramspeck), and Stephanie Kartalopoulos.  While I have not read the prose pieces in this issue, I have to say that the poetry selection was wonderful.

Brit Lit & New Bookcases

For most of the week I have been back in the office — JCC has had advising days, assessment days, clean your office before classes start days (okay — that last day was not an “official” back to work day — but I need to go through the two big piles on my desk so I can at least find my textbooks for the new semester).  I have also put the finishing touches on my British Literature II course for the spring semester.  It has been years since I have taught this class (7 years — to be exact — I looked it up!) As many of you know, this kind of class is a survey class — a bit of everything from Romantic poetry to today’s British literature.  It’s almost impossible to fit everything in that I want to teach.  So goodbye, The Importance of Being Earnest (I just couldn’t fit it in…) and hello “The Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti (good stuff here).  And of course, there’s so many others..Tennyson, Arnold, Woolf, the list goes on and on…

The other big news of the week?  I purchased two brand new furniture store bookcases.  For years, I always got my bookcases from Big Lots or Kmart , and I put them together myself.  The only problem is that no matter what I did — they always sort of leaned to one side.  So I finally splurged.  The new cases house my complete poetry collection, and although I don’t have any official count of how many poetry books I do have, it has to be over 500.

So now it’s back to the books — and not the bookcases.  Classes start Tuesday, and I still have some reading to do before the first day.

How to Make a Poem

Happy Monday! My review of  Making Poems: Forty Poems with Commentary by the Poets edited by Todd Davis and Erin Murphy  is up on Rattle.  For those of you who teach, you will find this book to be an excellent resource for exploring the genesis of poetry.  Even if you don’t teach, you would enjoy the fine work by 40 contemporary poets, including Jim Daniels, Julia Spicher Kasdorf and Greg Rappleye. 

A Weekend with The Real Warnings

I knew poet Rhett Iseman Trull as an editor, first.  I picked up a copy of her journal, Cave Wall, a year or so ago, and loved its contents.  Then, somehow, I found out that she was a poet, too [insert sarcasm here — I don’t know why I’m always surprised to find out that editors are often writers, too!]  So, I asked for her collection, The Real Warnings, winner of the 2008 Anhinga Prize for Poetry, for Christmas, and it has now officially become the first poetry book I have finished in 2011.

The Real Warnings is a collection that explores the bizarre, and often brutal, boundaries of love.  Sometimes, Trull uses lyrics for this exploration.  However, her narratives are my favorite.  Sometimes her stories have autobiographical overtones; other times, figures from popular culture and fairy tales saunter in and out of her works. In one poem, “Introducing My Brother in the Role of Clark Kent” the narrator talks about her brother’s love story with a woman who has “secrets/glinting in her eyes like kryptonite.”  In another poem, “There was a Moment on the Way Home When Hansel Left Gretel” a narrator takes on the voice of Gretel, asserting her strength, explaining “I’m the one who has killed for us, who still hears/the witch’s bones snapping in the fire.” 

In the middle of this collection, Trull includes a section titled “Rescuing Princess Zelda” that explores the lives of  patients in a mental institution.  In this part of the book, we are introduced to such characters as Josh, May and Casey.  In one poem, patient Josh has a crush on a “girl from Duke who, to earn credit/for her abnormal psych class, visited/every week.”  In another poem, we learn about May “who struts around all day/in shirts ripped off at the midriff, who flings/her long flamingo legs over the side/of the rec room’s single arm-chair and tells us/adventures of her life before.”

Of course, I am going to recommend The Real Warning to any reader of contemporary poetry.  But, I am also going to make a quick plug for Cave Wall, one of the best journals being published today. 

Cat Vs. The Manuscript

As many of you know, I am in the process of putting my first full length manuscript together.  It’s frustrating and daunting, mostly because I want to put all my poems in chronological order (I write a lot of narrative poems).  It worked with Stealing Dust, but I know that with a bigger collection, I have more room to play.  I’ve been looking at other full-length collections, and I realize that most poets do not place their works in chronological order, even if they write narrative poems.  So, now, I have been busy organizing my poems according to theme and tone.  That has helped.  But then, I realized that certain symbols and images appear again and again.  In the past I have mentioned that dead birds show up a lot in my writing, and I have at least four poems in this collection with dead birds.  Furthermore, there’s a lot of splinters, dust, makeup stains, cigarettes,and heels floating around in my works.  Do these images all go together?  I hope so.

As for the picture above, I promised myself that The Scrapper Poet would not become a “cat blog” but I had to post a picture of Lola helping me compile my manuscript.  She likes my dead bird poems.

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