Posts Tagged ‘Poetry!’

Tally Marks

It’s official.  I’ve been reviewing my files from the past few months.  I wrote 20 poems this summer.  Eight of them have been revised and are out and about trying to find homes in the poetry world.  However, I still have 12 that need work.  I hate to say this, but I think two of them are lost causes.  While I like the images found in both poems, I can’t help but shake the “so what” feeling about the overall theme and ideas.

Goal:  Revise at least 10 of these poems by the end of August.  Since school has started out fairly smoothly, I think I can do this.

Canning Season

Thanks to Ron, who posted my poem “Canning Season”  on his blog about working class poems.   A number of people who have read Stealing Dust have cited this poem as one of their favorites, so I am glad that with this post, my poem will reach a wider audience. 

Chautauqua and Some Notes on the Workshop

Today marked the end of the first week at the Chautauqua Institution, a place where I take writing workshops every summer.  This past week, I worked under poet Neil Shepard in an advanced poetry workshop, and I have to say that it was the most invigorous  “poetic workout”  I have had in a long time.  I’ve been a bit down with my work, mostly because I can’t seem to really get some of my poems “just right.”  (And no, I don’t think that is because I am a perfectionist).  This workshop was geared towards advanced writers and we worked on everything from literary allusions to line/stanza breaks to content to imagery.  All in ONE WEEK!  I am walking away thinking about my own work in a variety of new and different ways.  I especially enjoyed the extra feedback about the form of my poems.  I know that I tend to go crazy with enjambment (Sharon Olds, anyone?), so what Neil and the members of my group had to say was very beneficial.

There was something that did happen this week, however, that left me thinking about the workshop/audience format.  I will not provide links to other sites about pros and cons of the workshop format — we all know what people are saying.  However, I am wondering, if we are the best judge of our own work.  In my experience, often what people say in a workshop setting simply echoes what I am thinking down deep inside about a particular piece of work.  Many times workshop members can articulate the questions and concerns about a specific line or image or conclusion.  This week, however, something different happened — I was going to take out a specific image in one of my poems that, to be honest, I didn’t really like.  However, every one in my group including Neil thought that it was a great image.  Am I being too critical about my work?  Should I be sending out more pieces than I do? (I tend to want to be 100 percent sure about a poem before I send it out — that takes a long time).  Should we always have readers for our poems before they get sent out?  These are some of the questions I have been thinking about this afternoon as I weed through my drafts in order to settle down to do some more revising. 


Lowering the Body at Weave

The lovely editors at Weave have posted my review of Stephen Murabito’s Lowering the Body.  Full Confession: (which I already confessed to the Weave editors) Steve was my professor when I was at Pitt-Greensburg (eons ago) and even then, I remember him working on his writing between classes, grabbing every spare minute he could to get a few words down.  And he didn’t have a lot of spare time.  At this point in his career he was teaching, running the writing center on campus, and overseeing the literary magazine. Plus, and my memory is a bit fuzzy here, I think it was while I was an undergrad that he became a father of twins! I always think of Steve when I complain about not having time to write, because he certainly made time.

I haven’t been in contact with Steve in years, but I have kept up with his writing.  Lowering the Body  is his third full length collection of poems and I think it’s his best.  However, The Oswego Fugues and The Communion of Asiago are also great reads.  All of his books are published by Star Cloud Press.

Around the Web Updates

It’s July 1st — and you know what that means.  Many online journals are updating their sites with new material.  Take a look — Gently Read Literature’s July edition offers some exciting reviews including book reviews about two collections I just have to read: Usher by B.H. Fairchild and A Brief History of Time by Shaindel Beer. Also,  Broadsided Press offers a poem by Benjamin Grossberg and artwork by Jennifer Bevill.  Check it out!

Book Review Blues

I just read Matthew Thorburn’s post on book reviews, and I can relate to so many points he has mentioned, especially the allure of free poetry books!  I am relatively new to the world of writing book reviews.  I started simply because I wanted to be a bigger part of the poetry world and to be honest, I’m a great reader and a pretty good writer, so I thought I could contribute by writing poetry book reviews.  And last year, I did pretty well.  But this year, I am behind, and I’m not sure why. 

Well….actually I know one good reason.  I am now tackling many collections where the form and style of the poems included are not familiar to me.   Let me make this clearer.  In the past, I’ve written book reviews where I could put the poems in some kind of context.  For example, if I reviewed a book that contained a lot of poems about nature, then I could talk about that book in the context of other poets who use nature images as central motifs and metaphors in their work.  Or, if I reviewed a newest collection of a poet whose work I already knew, then I could talk about that newest book in the context of what the poet had already published.  

But now, I have a pile of books by my computer where most of the work is really new to me.  New styles, new themes, new poets. No contexts.  So the reviews I am writing are coming out like awful five-paragraph theme papers.  Yuck. 

But it’s back to work.  No matter what I say, those reviews are not going to get written when I am busy writing on my blog.

Off to Pittsburgh

Tomorrow, I am heading to Pittsburgh to attend the Working Class Studies Association annual conference.  The conference schedule looks great — readings by poets Judith Vollmer (Judy is an old professor of mine), Jan Beatty, and Terrance Hayes; conference panels about class issues in academia; and sessions dedicated to working with class issues in the actual classroom.  My own paper is focused on working-class landscape in contemporary poetry.  As always, I picked a broad topic — I found out just how broad the topic really was when I sat down a few weeks ago to put my thoughts together.  To look at working-class landscape is to try to look at ALL working-class landscapes — factories, mining towns, lumber mills, service industries restaurants.  Plus, we must not forget that the homefront is often a working-class landscape!  So, finally, I had to edit my paper to discuss just factories and coal mining towns.  And then, I had to narrow down those two landscapes to specific regions of the United States (Coal mining in the East is, of course, very different than coal mining in the West). Finally, I had to mention only a few poets.  Really, the paper topic is more dissertation material than conference paper material!

I’m also looking forward to some down time.  Things have been a bit crazy since school finished, and I haven’t had a lot of time to work on my own writing.  I’m hoping to hang out in my hotel room at least one night and work on some revisions of some new work.