Archive for January, 2013

Winter Thaw

Warm temperatures and rain are melting the ice and snow away.  Although I’m sure we will be back to winter weather soon, I’m enjoying the thaw, watching the dirty mounds of snow melt, leaving behind road salt and patches of mushy, brown earth.

Since December 1, I’ve had a streak of publications, including works in Caesura, Spillway, Escape Into Life, Strange Horizons, The Country Dog Review, and most recently, Cold Mountain Review.  I will have to be satisfied with these for a while, because I haven’t been sending out a lot of work, and more importantly I have not written a new poem in 2013.  I have, however, been reading a lot!  And I’m really looking forward to the new poetry books and short story collections that will be out in the new few months.

I’ve also been working on a batch of short stories.  I have discovered that my writing process for attacking the short story is actually much like the way I work with poems.  I write a draft, go back, edit paragraphs and sometimes pages, rearrange, and then take a break, letting the work breathe for a few days before I read through the draft again.  Right now, I have four short stories in progress.  I would love to have at least one “finished” enough to send out in the next month or so.

Still, I’m not forgetting poetry!  Based on Diane’s recommendation, I recently purchased Wingbeats: Exercises & Practices in Poetry edited by Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen (It’s less than $10 on Kindle!).  I have already started reading some of the prompts and tips, and am sure they will help kickstart some new work soon!


January Poetry Pick: Natural Causes

natural causesThe elegy is a poem of mourning. When I teach the elegy, I tell my students that this poem can mourn any kind of loss: a person, a time, an event, or something more abstract, like happiness or innocence. In Brian Brodeur’s most recent collection, Natural Causes, he explores loss in its many shapes and forms, focusing on the fragility of what we hold most dear (forgive the cliché).

Brodeur opens his collection with his title poem, “Natural Causes” where a narrator describes a loss that occurs while at his first job at Sunrise Acres.  The poem starts innocently, enough.  Indeed, the narrative is humorous, with the narrator visiting a patient named Miss Ahearn who shares apricot brandy in a Dixie cup and actually slips him the tongue after inviting him for a kiss.  Still, the poem turns more serious when Miss Ahearn dies, and the narrator visits her body, explaining the last moment with her, “I kneeled beside her then, let myself stare/as I touched her hand, surprised it was still warm.” Later, this same narrator leaves this job, explaining, “It’s always seemed to me a kind of hell:/to be remembered, yes, but only in fragments/a stranger recollects.”

This opening poem readily prepares the reader for the work that follows. Most poems are narratives focusing on loss in one aspect or another.  These narratives are told through different personas and thus take on different voices. Sometimes, we read about narrators who are watching  the world.   For instance, in “The Boy Without Arms” the narrator observes a boy maneuvering society with “his sleeves cut off, his hands dangling/directly from his shoulders, stiff unfinished.”  In another poem, “On Suffering”  a narrator hears a story on NPR about a Tutsi woman who is attacked and raped, and after being stabbed in the abdomen, gives birth to a baby who dies when attacked by wild dogs.

Still, in other poems, the narrator is an active part of loss. The anchor poem in this collection (and my personal favorite) is “When Everyone I Loved Was Still Alive.”  The title suggests a poem of lyrical musings, but instead, what the reader gets is a personal narrative, where the narrator tells of a single childhood memory of finding a dead Canadian goose and bringing it home to his mother, hoping she would have the power to fix it.  Instead, alarmed by the germs from the dead bird, she buries the carcass and “drew a scalding bath” to rid her young son from “goose-rot.”  A few days later, the narrator explains, he digs up the bird, “shocked to see its body/flat and black, its wings and waddled feet/a mass of feathers I couldn’t get untangled.”  The poem ends with a question that certainly goes beyond the story found in this poem: “Why couldn’t I leave the goose carcass in peace/let it rest there on its bed of sunken cattails/where it chose to lie, if the goose could choose.”

For those who want to read more of Natural Causes, take a look at its page located at Autumn House Press.  And if you have never checked out Brodeur’s blog, How a Poem Happens, you should visit his site here.

Arctic Blast

Here in Western Pennsylvania/New York, we are bundling up to get through the coldest weather we have had this winter.  In the last few days, I have been waking up to single digits with blowing wind and snow. I’m cold and grumpy. My colleagues are cold and grumpy.  My students are cold and grumpy.  I’m lucky that I just got a new battery in my car; otherwise, my car would be cold and grumpy too!

As soon as I warm up, I will be back to my regularly scheduled blogging!

Strange Horizons

My first speculative poem has been published!  In this week’s edition of Strange Horizons, you can read “Watching for Aliens Over the Allegheny” which combines my interest in ufology with my love of the Alleghenies (where I live) in Pennsylvania.

Country Dog Weekend

The newest issue of The Country Dog Review is now live!  I’m thrilled that two of my poems have been published along with great work by Justin Hamm, Leah Mooney, Molly Spencer and Tasha Cotter.  Check out all the work here.

CFS: Ghosts

Witness has just announced their annual theme for their Spring 2014 issue.  From now until March 31, editors are inviting submissions of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for the theme of ghosts.  Sounds a bit spooky!  Click here, where you will be directed towards the Submittable page, for more guidelines.


Weekend with Kindle

I admit it. I’ve been a bit resistant to the whole E-Reader craze.  However, Anthony got me a Kindle Fire for Christmas, and I have to say that I’m in love with this little device.  Since the holidays, I’ve already read four books on my Kindle, including the wonderful Fire on Her Tongue: An eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry edited by Kelli Russell Agodon and Annette Spaulding-Convy.  Right now, I’m currently reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63, a book I’m really enjoying. 

Amazon offers daily deals with some great Kindle books for only $1.99.  I’ve downloaded some wonderful novels including The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and When She Woke by Hillary Jordan.  Still, my best Kindle find so far has been a true crime book titled Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America’s Heartland.  The description of  this book on its website says the following:  

On a moonlit night in December 1900, a prosperous Iowa farmer was murdered in his bed–killed by two blows of an ax to his head. Four days later, the victim’s wife, Margaret Hossack, was arrested at her husband’s funeral and charged with the crime.

This beginning summary sounded vaguely familiar and interesting, so I downloaded the book and started reading.  Much to my surprise (and delight!) I discovered that this book is about the real life case behind the play Trifles by Susan Glaspell, a play I teach on a regular basis.  Now I knew that Trifles was based (loosely) on a real life murder, but this book not only presented the investigation of the case but gave a lot of information about the life of women on the Great Plains during this time period.  A young Glaspell, as a reporter, is also featured prominently in the book.  Kindle allows the reader to highlight and make notes, and I know that I have found a lot of good background material for the next time I teach Trifles.

Still, I am not giving up on the print! There’s part of me that is amazed that my Kindle can hold as many books as what I have in my whole house.  Still, bookshelves are bookshelves for a reason: to hold books, and not Kindles.


CFS: American Odes

River Styx is looking for American odes.  However, the editors, according to the website, do not want “rah rah patriotic paeans to America.”  Read what the journal is looking for here in the guidelines.  Submission deadline is January 31, 2013.

Hello, 2013!

So, 2012 saw the arrival of Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt, winner of Main Street Rag’s 2011 Chapbook Contest.  This past year was also the year that I tackled the 100 rejection goal — a goal I failed miserably.  I didn’t even get 100 submission packets out the door.  By my tally marks, I only sent 56  submissions out.  Out of these submissions, I received 33 rejections and 15 acceptances.  I had to withdraw 4 submissions and I still have 4 submission packets out for consideration.

For those of you wondering about my exploration in other genres, I’m still writing.  I have written two short stories (flash fiction — both stories were under 1000 words). I sent both out, and got two rejections notes (included in the tally above).  However, I’m doing more reading of short stories.  I learned to write poetry by reading poetry, so I’m assuming that it works the same way with fiction. Right now, I’m reading What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us by Laura van den Berg, a collection of short stories about lives revolving around extraordinary things (Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, etc).  It’s a wonderful read!

Goals for the new year?  I know that I have several friends who are hinting that I get a full length submission packet ready to go.  I’m trying, I really am.  But for now, I’m going to keep it simple.  Writing Resolution One: Post one poetry book review per month.  Writing Resolution Two: Once again, try for another year of 100 rejections.  At the very least, I want to beat my goal of 33 rejections from last year.  And, in doing so, hopefully, I will send out more submissions! Writing Resolution Three: Continue my exploration into other writing genres.  I would love to post more about what I’m doing with short stories, but the process still feels so very new to me.

Happy New Year Everyone! May all of you be happy and safe and productive (if you want to be productive, that is) in the months to come!