Archive for June, 2011

New Work at Glass

The newest issue of Glass: A Journal of Poetry is up and live, and my poem “The Summer I Stopped Catching Bees” joins many other wonderful works.  I have been a fan of this journal ever since Sandy Longhorn introduced me to an issue through her poem “Flood Plain.”  If you enjoy what you read, consider submitting — their reading period opens back up in September.


Chautauqua Season Starts

…and the summer is rolling along.  I’m taking my first class of the season under the direction of poet Shara McCallum.  The focus of her workshop?  We are exploring the intersection of poetry and history. It’s a topic that I think a lot about, considering that my poems usually have such a strong focus on place.  I’m looking forward to getting some good drafts completed.

To Business Card or Not To Business Card

In this day and age, I should know the answer to the question that I will post today, but I don’t.  So here it goes:  How many poets out there have their own business cards?  If so, did you make them on your own or did you get them printed through your workplace?  My college doesn’t readily hand out business cards (to be honest, I don’t think that too many of my colleagues ask for them), and it’s only been in the last year or so that I ever really thought I would need them.  But at two conferences I’ve been to in the last few months, I’ve had several people ask for my business card and I have been a bit embarrassed when I said, “I don’t have one…” 

To further complicate the issue, I don’t feel that being a poet is really part of my job (in spite of the recent award from the SUNY system and the fact that I teach creative writing at the school), so I feel a bit embarrassed asking for business cards from my college when in fact all I want are cards that have my name, blog, and email address.

Any thoughts on the business card dilemma?  Advice?

In the Gothic Midwest

I love gothic literature (traditional gothic, Southern Gothic — it doesn’t matter), and I love literature from the Midwest, so when I discovered the new journal, Midwestern Gothic on Mary Biddinger’s blog, I knew that I had to order a subscription.  And I was not disappointed.

The first issue of Midwestern Gothic features both poetry and short stories, and I enjoyed the poetry very much.  Mary Biddinger has three poems published in this issue and I always love her work.  I also liked the poems “Iowa Gothic” by Dan Lewis and “His Wife Called Him Moose” by Paul Scot August.

While I liked the poems found in this issue, I really loved many of the short stories.  “Home Fire” by Geoff Hyatt depicts a relationship between two troubled brothers, while “Splits” by Lindsay Hunter showcases a young girl who watches and learns about sexuality from her mother who remains convinced that “you can’t get pregnant if you do the splits and hold your breath for one whole minute after the boy makes his deposit.”  My favorite piece, however, is a work titled “Cotton Mouth” by Thomas Horan which features a cast of characters that could have stepped out of a short story by Flannery O’Connor.

I know that I have a lot of readers out there who consider themselves Midwestern writers, so I believe this journal is for you! Take a look at the guidelines.  As for me — more good news: I ordered a full subscription which started with issue one.  The next issue is on its way to my doorstep very soon!

Working-Class Monday

My students often view poetry as obscure and “too hard to understand.”  Nick Coles, however, advocates that poetry rooted in the everyday experience is meaningful — he reviews two great working-class poetry collections on the Youngstown’s working-class studies blog.   I haven’t read Jeanne Bryner’s newest collection yet, but I did a quick review of Jim Daniels’ From Milltown to Malltown here.

Festival Wrap Up

I just got back from the 8th Annual Writers’ Festival at Chautauqua, and I have to say that this year’s festival was one of the best! I workshopped under Denise Duhamel and had a very lively group.  I got to meet a lot of writers and teachers of creative writing (that was a plus — I don’t get to talk to a lot of people about the teaching of creative writing, and I was able to hold conversations which revolved around such issues and questions as “Do You Have a No-Vampire Clause in your creative writing syllabus”?)

As always, the festival activities gave me a lot to think about — both in my own writing and my own teaching.  But one thought is really sticking with me.  George Looney, poet and co-director of the festival, told us, “Remember, you are all on the fringe.”  (I may be paraphrasing his speech a bit).  His words certainly rang true throughout the festival — I mean, where else (except with a group of writers) will you have engaging conversations about semicolons and commas?  About abstract nouns and concrete nouns?  About the shifts in point of view in a poem?  About the use of verb tense? 

And I suppose, with the state of the world, that these discussions may not seem that important.  Still, it’s nice to take time out of everyday life affairs to focus on these small details in writing — and make choices as if these “small” choices could change the world.


SUNY Chancellor’s Award

I hate to be in the limelight, and I hate to promote my own work.  Yes, I do know that I post links to my poems, but it still feels awkward to me.  So, I almost didn’t post this recognition, mostly because, well, it sounds a bit self-serving.  Yet, I wanted to thank those who support my work.  So, here it goes.
In May, at a special faculty recognition meeting, I received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.  I’m only now posting this bit of great news because JCC just published the official news release.  I found out about the nomination back in December and I was stunned.  While my creative work is valued at JCC, I’m not in a publish or perish college, and indeed, teaching creative writing is only a very small part of my courseload.   I can’t say that I didn’t think my colleagues paid attention to my work — many of them purchased Stealing Dust and were always eager to hear my stories of readings — but I didn’t think they would take the time (it is a long process) to nominate me.
In a world where many writers (especially poets) feel undervalued, I feel very lucky to have a job where my colleagues and students appreciate my work.  I also feel very lucky for the support I have outside my little college community.  When I was nominated for the award, I was asked to find poets and scholars outside JCC to speak and write brief letters on my behalf.  So at this time, I would to thank poets Todd Davis, Jeannine Hall Gailey, Sandy Longhorn, Jerry Wemple, and Gabriel Welsch for taking time out of their busy schedules to write a few kind words about my work.
I feel lucky and grateful to be part of such a supporting network of writers — both at JCC and in the poetry world at large.  Although I am uncertain about what my future will be in the writing community, I know that I have found a readership that is important to me.

Quick Return

No, I have not been swallowed by the summer.  I have been trying to catch up on my writing — four new poems in the last week, which is pretty good considering I have been suffering from a dry spell.  I have also been doing some final proofing for some upcoming publications as well as working on a review or two.

Finally, I have been trying to prepare for my poetry workshop sessions at Chautauqua.  This Thursday through Sunday, I will be attending the Writers’ Festival where I will be working with poet Denise Duhamel.  I’m really looking forward to sitting down and chatting with a group of writers.

Guilty Pleasures for the Summer

I have a stack of poetry books next to my bed, but for me, summer is also the time for guilty pleasure reading.  (Some people may call these books “beach reading” but the nearest beach around here is Kinzua — not sure if that even counts).  Here is my list.

  1. Books by Philippa Gregory   I just got done reading The White Queen, but I understand that her newest book, The Red Queen, is going to be out in paperback very soon. 
  2. Books by Jodi Picoult  I haven’t read all of Picoult’s work, so I figure this summer is a good time to catch up, especially when the local library has all of her novels.
  3. Books by Stephen King.  Okay, I admit it.  I haven’t been too impressed with King’s most recent books (I read The Dome last summer and had to drag myself through it…) But hey, it’s a good time to read his classics.  I love Salem’s Lot.
  4. Books included in any number of young adult series. I read the first book in the Twilight series and couldn’t complete the series.  But there’s a lot of really good young adult fiction out there.  This past year, I read The Hunger Games series, and right now I’m eagerly looking forward to Carrie Ryan’s final book in her Forest of Hands and Teeth collection.  I also want to finish Jeanne DuPrau’s Books of Ember series.  And finally, inspired by my 10-year-old nephew who can’t get enough of this author, I want to finish the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan.
  5. Books that retell fairy tales.  Right now, I am reading Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright.  It’s not bad — I think there was a movie made after this book.  I also think that vampires are on their way out, and werewolves are on their way in.  At least, that is what my students tell me.

CFS: Poems for the Poet’s Market

I just found out this bit of information from Bernadette’s blog: The Poet’s Market will be accepting submissions for poetry for its 2013 edition.  Take a look at Robert Lee Brewer’s blog for guidelines, deadlines, and more details.  In spite of the many sources on the web, I still think The Poet’s Market is a great resource for writers — especially for those just starting out in the field of writing.  I’m eager to see the new changes to the series.