Archive for March, 2012

March: Revision and Rejection

I’ve written two new poems this month.  Just two.  I’ve spent March revising, revising, revising.  And once again, I didn’t quite make my goal of submitting to ten journals per month — I was only able to submit to nine (I just could not squeeze in that other journal!).  And I hate to say it, but it has also been a quiet month on the journal front.  I have received four rejections, but no acceptances. 

Still, I feel like it has been a productive month.  I had two readings.  Plus, I read 15 collections of poetry (and I have a huge stack waiting to be read…). Finally, I sold quite a few chapbooks. 

JCC’s Spring Break starts in a few days. The weather is a bit cooler than it was, but I can’t wait.


RIP: Adrienne Rich (1929 – 2012)

American poet and essayist, Adrienne Rich, has died.  I have loved both the poetry and prose of Rich since I was an undergraduate.  Here is a link to one of her most famous works (and a personal favorite), “Diving Into the Wreck.”

March Poetry Pick: The Pattern Maker’s Daughter

A few years ago, poet Sandee Gertz Umbach and I took a workshop together at Chautauqua.  At that time, Sandee, who is from the Johnstown, Pennsylvania area was working on a series of poems about the Johnstown Flood.  I’ve since lost touch with Sandee, but was super excited to see her smiling face, with her first book, The Pattern Maker’s Daughter, at AWP (via Lori May’s blog).  And I was even more excited to see that her book is from Bottom Dog Press, one of my favorite publishing companies.  And then…I got to see her again at ASA!

The Pattern Maker’s Daughter is an exploration of the Johnstown area.  Johnstown, Pennsylvania has become synonymous with the infamous flood of 1889. Yet, what most people don’t know is that Johnstown has been haunted by many other floods, including floods that took place in the years of 1936 and 1977. Sandee, through her book, explores the human side of these historical floods, focusing mostly on the flood of 1977.  For example, in “Johnstown Flood 1977, The Day After” a lone speaker conveys her world as a place where “Death and Disease slowly unearthed, bodies hid unturned/on the river banks.”

However, I don’t want to suggest that this poetry book is a book of floods.  It is true that the people of the Johnstown area may be haunted by its history, but to solely define any given place by disaster is problematic (And I’m very happy to say that Sandee does not do this!) Instead, Sandee weaves personal narratives between her works about the area’s floods — works that display working class/blue-collar resilience and hope.  Some of these works explore domestic life including “Last Light” where a young persona sits outside and listens to “a chorus of housedresses shifting/Brillo sliding across the stainless.” Other poems take a look at the work of those in factories, sometimes taking on wishful tones as in “Prosperity, 1952” where an unnamed narrator explains that “When times were good and the mills hot, my Dad worked the crane/and raked in the overtime. On 191 David Street, the fridge was full/of sirloin and salmon. Mom said that’s when Dad was his biggest/on top of the rig all day, double chipped ham sandwiches for lunch.”   However, my favorite poems are the poems that explore the lives of women on the factory floor.  I especially love Wendy who is found in the poem “The Bra Factory” and is described as “the quietest 36C the plant has ever seen”. 

Stories often are cornerstones of working class poetry and readers will certainly notice the strong narrative strands that run through this book, but I was also pleased to see other works, more lyrical poems.  In one poem, “Part of This Earth” the persona likens herself to the physical space around her: “Digging in childhood holes, I see/roses grown from thin patches/seed scattered over the cracked/alley-yards, school children picking/at slim violets”.

For those of you interested in sense of place or working class poetry, this book is for you.  Mixing both narratives and lyrical poetry, Sandee is able to explore blue-collar identity without falling into cliché.  Check out Bottom Dog Press for this collection and other great works!

ASA Recovery

Like most people, when I get home from a conference, I feel both exhausted and rejuvenated. Exhausted because I’ve spent three days running from session to session, meeting new people, greeting old friends, but rejuvenated from the celebration of both knowledge and art.  But rejuvenated because I got to read with my poet heroine, Paula Bohince (she’s great! and her new book is coming out very soon!). I also saw poets Peter Oresick, Jesse Graves, Richard Hague, Lori Jakiela, and Sandee Gertz Umbach read.  Plus, I met plenty of new poets and writers.  (And I sold six chapbooks!!!!)

So much to think about….but now, it’s on to the rest of the semester…In another week, I’m on spring break!


Blog Silence

Tomorrow I will be traveling to the ASA Conference in Indiana, Pennsylvania.  As I have mentioned before, I am super excited about this trip — I have never been to an ASA Conference before and I love multidisciplinary conferences.  I’m also super excited to go to the conference for another reason — I am going technology free.  Yep, no laptops, no access to computers.  (Okay, I’m bringing my cell phone — but trust me, it’s a very old model.  I can barely send text messages on it!)  Lately, because of work, I have felt tethered to my computer, so I’ve decided I need a break from technology — thus, my blog will be silent until I get back, and I won’t be responding to emails.  However, I will be back on Sunday!

Have a great week, and for those of you in the East, enjoy this great weather!

CFS: Court Green’s Theme on Sex

Every year, the literary journal, Court Green, seeks submissions for a specific theme and this year’s theme is sex.  (Wow, I can’t wait to see the blog hits and spam on this particular entry) Submissions will be considered until June 30, 2012. Please check here for guidelines.

Springing Ahead: The Poetry Edition

My students have a bit of Spring Fever and to be honest, I think they caught it from me.  Since the weather has warmed, I’ve been in a tizzy, and falling behind on my poetry related goals.  But I’m slowly getting back on track.

As I mentioned before, March has been my month of revision.  I have yet to draft a totally new poem.  Instead, I have been cleaning out my files, getting rid of duplicate poems and duplicate ideas. Surprisingly, I have found some really good drafts that never made it to any sort of “final poem.” 

In other news, I have been catching up on my reading.  I have to admit that I’ve read a lot of poetry collections that have not really impressed me — I mean they were solid collections, but nothing stood out.  But recently, I read three collections that really were fantastic.  I want to write reviews on all three, but time constraints will probably prevent me from doing so.  And speaking of reviews, Rattle has a copy of Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt — if you want a free copy in exchange for a review, please contact the editors!

Finally, in a few days I will be leaving town to attend the annual conference of the Appalachian Studies Association.  This is the first time that I have ever attended this conference, so I’m really looking forward to the trip.  Plus, I will be reading with Paula Bohince, a poet I really admire.  While JCC does not have Spring Break until the start of April, I’m going to consider this trip a precursor to the real thing!


Springing Ahead

Here is my obligatory cat photo of the month. Lola is happily basking in the sun of our Florida Room. Yesterday, because the weather has been so warm, Anthony and I caved in and opened our cats’ favorite room in the house.  There’s not much poetry going on in this household right now — too busy enjoying the outdoors. 

CFS: The Broken City & the Future

The Broken City is now accepting submissions for the theme: The Future.  Take a look here for complete guidelines.  Submissions will be considered until June 1, 2012.

Marching Along…

I have declared March the month of revision.  I have yet to draft a new poem thus far this month, but have revised eight (eight!) others and have sent them off to (hopefully!) find new homes.  I really want to reach my goal of submitting to ten journals this month, and I feel like I have a good start. 

…And speaking of revision.  Yesterday, I received a rejection note in my inbox.  Now, like many of my readers, I’m rather used to the form rejection, but I have to admit that I never know quite what to do with rejections that comment on the strengths of my poems.  This comment basically said that they liked the energy and images found in two of my poems, but after rigorous review (a paraphrase of the note), the editorial staff  decided that the work was not right for their particular issue.

Now both poems have been rejected before, and one has even been rejected with comments before.  So, do I go back and revise these poems?  If I do, there is a chance that I could revise myself out of a good poem. Should I just send them off again as is?

Sometimes, revising itself isn’t the hardest part.  Sometimes, deciding what to revise and when is worse.

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