Archive for July, 2012

Monday Morning Delirium

My beach reading (and guilty pleasure reading) for this past weekend was a teen dystopian novel (first in a trilogy, of course!) titled Delirium by Lauren Oliver.  In some aspects, this book has a lot in common with Matched by Ally Condie.  (I talk a bit about Matched here). In Oliver’s world, citizens are “cured” of love (by the government) so that they will be happy and safe.  Indeed, the government controls much, if not most, of the citizens’ lives including education and occupations.  Delirium focuses on a young “ordinary” teenager who looks forward to the day she will be cured.  Why?  Because she has been led to believe that her own mother committed suicide because she could not be cured of love.

Of course, there is a teen romance thrown into the mix, and yes, political messages abound — but what I found really interesting about this book was that poetry has been banned.  All poetry. What was the reason?  Because the government believed that poetry was dangerous. 

We complain a lot that people don’t read poetry in today’s world; thus, that is why I find it incredible and intriguing that a writer would think to include a government that was afraid of all things — poetry.

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July Poetry Pick: The Swamp Monster at Home

I admit it. Sometimes, I buy a book by its cover. This was one of those times. I knew nothing about Catherine Carter’s book The Swamp Monster at Home.  In fact, I didn’t know Carter’s poetry at all. But when I stumbled across this cover (along with the great title) while reading the Louisiana State University Press page,  I knew I had to try her work.

Sarah Lindsay, in one of the backcover blurbs, invites the reader into this collection by writing “Welcome to the domain of the swamp monster.”  This domain, it seems, is a world where myth is revised, where folklore becomes reality, where the unusual doesn’t seem so strange.  For instance, in “The Book of Steve” she imagines that Adam was with Steve, and not Eve, in the Garden of Eden.  In “Hook Woman” Carter retells the urban folklore tale about the hookman invading the domain of teenagers  in parked cars.  And in “The Fairy Your Parents Forgot to Ask to the Christening” she takes another look at the dismissed fairies in fairy tales.

My favorite poems, however, are the works where Carter looks closely at the natural world to reveal the unexpected or unusual.  For example, the last poem in her collection, simply titled “Swarm”  depicts a scene where “a thousand/specks came arrowing out of the west.”  Yet, while the narrator waits for catastrophe, she only gets this knowledge: “I didn’t know then that swarming /bees don’t sting, and working bees hardly/sting, and bumblebees let you stroke/their black satin as they drink the blooms.” 

Much like my discovery with Bruce Snider, I was happy to find out that The Swamp Monster at Home is Carter’s second book.  Her first collection of poetry, The Memory of Gills, was the winner of the 2007 Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry.  This collection is now on my Christmas list (It’s not too early to start Christmas lists, is it?)

In One Month…

I will be back in the classroom.  I promised myself that July would be school free, and I have kept that promise.  But, when August rolls around, I have to start preparing for the new semester, especially when I am teaching a class I have never taught before.

In the meantime, I have been working and revising poems.  This summer I have “finished” seven poems (I won’t get into the debate about whether or not a poem is ever really finished), and I have at least five more that are in the works. I wanted to write twenty poems during the summer months, so I still have my work cut out for me.  However, yesterday I did send out a submission packet, something I haven’t done in a month.  It felt good.

Great Poem Saturday

What makes a poem great?  Of course, we can search high and low for an answer to that question and there’s not going to be just one right answer.  The newest issue of Poetry East celebrates a few great poems by publishing poems and commentaries by a few of today’s contemporary poets.  For example, James Armstrong talks about Percy Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” while Kathleen Rooney talks about a segment from Christina Rossetti’s The Goblin Market.  I was also pleased to see Stephen Crane (many people forget his poetry) represented by his poem “In the Desert” with a commentary by Neil Carpathios and some of Emily Dickinson’s lesser-known poems.  Although I couldn’t find the perimeters listed in the editor’s note, I guessed by the table of contents that the celebrated poems had to be published before 1900.

What would I pick as a “great poem”?  Of course, there’s so many to choose from, but if I had just one choice, it would be  “The Cry of the Children” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  You can read the full poem here.   Of course, Elizabeth Barrett Browning is primarily known for the Portuguese Sonnets, but because of my working-class background, I am attracted to the historical importance of this poem and how it records the evils of child labor in Victorian England. Yes, today’s readers may see the language as a bit melodramatic, but I was surprised that when I incorporated this poem in my British Literature reading list, how many of my students liked it and believed that it was an important poem — not just in EBB’s (if I may abbreviate her name) time but today’s world as well. 

I have read that “The Cry of the Children” has gained new life in British Lit classes, and I’m happy about this, because I definitely believe this poem needs to be read and studied by today’s readers.

CFS: Watershed

Watershed: The Journal of the Susquehanna is seeking poetry, nonfiction, and short fiction for its next issue. Watershed is an annual print and online publication seeking to promote the region’s culture, history, literature, and art. While contributors need not reside in the Susquehanna River region, the work must evoke the Susquehanna and its hills, valleys, and, most importantly, its people. Although the website says submissions will be accepted only through June, Jerry Wemple, editor, has assured me submissions will be accepted until September 15, 2012.  Click here to submit.

A Week of Metaphors

Yesterday, I finished up a week of workshops with poet Marjorie Maddox.  The class’s main focus was poetry of place, which of course, is the focus of much of my work.  I’m always looking for new and exciting ways to explore sense of place.

And this week, I found lots of ways!  (The weather is too nice for blogging inside, so I won’t go into details here)

My weakness in poetry (next to playing with those line breaks — darn those enjambments!) is metaphor.  Now, I know what you may be thinking — how can a poet wrestle with metaphors?  Well, believe it or not, I have been able to write poems relatively metaphor free (I’m including similes in my definition of metaphor).  I tend to focus on image and strong verb use.  Often, when I try to write metaphors, they either come out too close to clichés or simply too bizarre with no logical connections.

But, this week, Marjorie gave us a lot of great (and challenging) writing prompts.  I feel more confident with exploring metaphor and even more confident with putting them in and even revising them out in the writing process.

I’m leaving this post with a link to a great poem by Bruce Snider titled “A Drag Queen is Like a Poem”   Now, there is a metaphor!

CFS: Hobble Creek Review’s Gulf Coast Issue

The Hobble Creek Review is now accepting submissions for its Gulf Coast Issue edited by Jeff Newberry.  Please see the guidelines here.  And while you are visiting the site, take a moment to stop and read Hobble Creek Review’s summer issue which is brand new!

Heat Wave

I don’t have to tell most of my readers that it has been hot, hot, HOT! Rumor has it that thunderstorms and a mini cold front are supposed to move through the area today and cool things down a bit.  I hope so.  I have a hard time writing when my fingers stick to the keyboard.

This past week I drafted two poems.  I’m also preparing to take a class with Marjorie  Maddox at Chautauqua.  I’m rather excited about working with Marjorie — I discovered her work some time ago when I picked up a book she edited (along with Jerry Wemple) titled Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania.  Many anthologies come and go from my bookshelf, but this particular title is here to stay.  The focus of her workshop?  Poetry of place.  Yep, one of my favorite subjects!

CFS: Nature Red In Tooth and Claw

Spillway is currently accepting submissions for their next issue, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw.  Submissions will be accepted during the months of July and August.  Please read the guidelines listed here.

Hello, July!

Exactly six months ago, I made a New Year’s Resolution to try to get 100 rejections in the year 2012.   This, of course, would mean that I would write more and submit more.  In fact, I wanted to submit to at least 10 journals a month.  For those of you who readily follow my blog, you know that I have struggled with this goal, and this past month has been no exception.

Since the year is half over, I should have about 50 rejections (and 50 dollars in my rejection jar!)  But I’m not even close. As of today, I have 18 rejections.  I don’t want to dwell on rejection count, but this resolution has made me learn a lot about my own writing process.  I’m not a fast writer.  Yes, it’s true that I write everyday, but the writing comes in different forms including working on revisions and writing reviews.  I’m also my own worst critic.  I worry about everything from putting commas at the end of endstopped lines to writing the same poem again and again.  While I never want to send out junk, I should probably not worry so much about the little things.

So, with all of this said, it’s on to July!  To be honest, all I want to do today is take a nap.  Why?  This past week, I spent an exhausting, but fulfilling week, as the professor in JCC’s Young Writers’ Studio where we visited Chautauqua listening to different literary speakers including Billy Collins, Meg Wolitzer, and Dame Julie Andrews.  Yes, you heard that last name correctly.   Apparently, Julie Andrews is still very popular with teens my students’ ages.  Who would have thought that Mary Poppins would still be so famous!

I’m looking forward to returning to a more regular writing schedule where I will have time to revise the bits and pieces of poems that are piled in my journal.