Hello, Dear Readers–
I’ve been away too long! The past few weeks have been filled with poetry-related excitement. Here’s where I’ve been:
- Participating in a Mother’s Day reading at an outdoor sculpture garden. Along with six other Bellingham poets, I read poems celebrating mothers while the sun shone, the rhododendrons bloomed, and the visual art luminesced. Since most of my own poems about motherhood involve vomit and being an unwitting casualty of the Mommy Wars, I had to go looking for poems more appropriate to the occasion. I found wonderful pieces to share by May Sarton, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Martha Silano.
- Studying Martha Silano’s collections Blue Positive and The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception. The latter, especially, in addition to being a delightful and thought-provoking read, fascinated me for the way Silano manages to arrange the poems into a sequence that somehow–brilliantly–interweaves pieces about motherhood, faith, aliens, sex, cosmology, and consumer culture. I went to school on the structure of this book, since at the same time, I was also…
- Reworking my book-length manuscript to include some of the poems I wrote during NaPoWriMo. Realizing that the sequence of poems I’d come up with for my manuscript last fall was actually a tangled mess, I struggled mightily to find a new arrangement that makes any kind of sense out of my poems about theodicy, origin myths, the food chain, and cognition. Adding to the urgency were two May deadlines for first-book competitions–one of which I’d already submitted the Messy Manuscript to a few months back, but withdrew to substitute the New and Improved.
- Receiving acceptances by two literary journals! Getting my first acceptance by a paying market is a thrill–I’m a professional writer now! The complicated part was completing the mountain of paperwork attendant upon becoming an independent contractor with the State of Texas (via the public university where this literary journal is housed). In addition to signing up to receive the honorarium check, I also may have agreed to donate organs and possibly acquired licensure to drive a hazardous-materials rig. I’m not sure–the accountant I had to hire is still figuring out what I committed to. (In any case, my apologies in advance to Reno King, whose tax dollars are probably at work here. If it’s any consolation, the accountant is very deserving.) More details as press time approaches!
- Attending the Skagit River Poetry Festival. This is the west-coast sister of the Dodge Festival, held every two years in charming La Conner, Washington. During the three days, I took in readings and panel discussions by Jeremy Voigt, Christopher Howell, Chris Dombrowski, Linda Bierds, Rachel Rose, Mark Schafer, Marie Howe, Bob Hicok, Ellen Bass, Lorna Crozier, Jericho Brown, Caroline Forché, Tony Hoagland, and Nikki Giovanni. It was a feast of beautiful and nourishing words. And on the final day, I attended a terrific writing workshop with Tony Hoagland, whose book What Narcissism Means to Me (in addition to having the world’s funniest title) gave me permission, when I first read it four years ago, to engage in serious play with poetic voice.
- Learning how to levitate. Actually, this was completely effortless; the gift of walking on air was given to me at the Skagit River Poetry Festival, by a small-press editor I deeply respect, who asked, out of the blue, to see my book manuscript. So I’ve spent the past week re-re-reworking the thing to submit there. In the immortal words of Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes, not the Reformation), “Further bulletins as events warrant”!
It’s good to be back here with you, blogger friends!
Cheers to you,
Just in case you haven’t yet had your fill of hearing me rave about how much I enjoyed spending National Poetry Writing Month with you all, you can read this interview of me by writer and editor Andrew Shattuck McBride, in which I say that some more. I also say a few words about writing projects, prompts, and process.
So what did you poets do to celebrate all your new writing from in April? Me, I took a loooong nap. And then I started in on revising a few poems. And then, out of nowhere, little whispers of a new poem started showing up. I’ll keep going with that and post it soon. I hope you, too, are still enjoying the effects of that wild and productive month.
My thanks to all of you who read, inspired, and gifted me with such generous responses on my poems this past month. I feel like you’ve been on a long road trip with me, and you don’t even mind that I talk too much while I drive, that I eat more than my share of the Doritos (or the artisanal small-batch, fair-trade, non-GMO dried kale chips, depending on where we last filled up), and that we somehow ended up in Philly even though I’d originally said we’d be going to Charlottesville.
Thanks to you, I’ve learned a lot along the way. This has been my first time to participate in National Poetry Writing Month, and in gratitude to you and as reminders to myself for Aprils yet to come, I want to recap these highlights:
- Poems, poems, poems! By my rough count, I wrote 22 new ones. Even though this is far fewer than most of you who committed to April’s NaPoWriMo, Poem-a-Day, or 30/30 challenge, this has been my most prolific writing stretch in twelve years. I also got six or eight other snippets and starts out of the effort–partial drafts that weren’t ready for prime time, but that I hope to develop into full poems. (Stay tuned for my first one from this batch, tentatively titled “I Want a Megalith.”)
- New and wonderful sources of inspiration. I discovered that prompts abound on the web. Though I sought and found poems in my usual sources–walks, others’ poetry, a quiet voice that drops words and lines on my head to reward me for doing household chores–the daily deadlines of NaPoWriMo often required a more e-caffeinated start. In addition to the thought-provoking daily prompts from Maureen Thorson and Robert Lee Brewer, I found brilliant and original exercises created by Danielle Mitchell and Rachel McKibbens.
- The afterparty ROCKS. Nothing prepared me for the lively, high-humored amazingness you people hand me, and each other, in your comments and posts. In the course of three weeks, I received a business tip from Marilyn Cavicchia, Editor and Poet, to sell my horse-hair ponies on Etsy; was initiated, also by Marilyn, into the sacred rite of post-Easter roasting of Marshmallow Peeps; was provoked to make a proposal of marriage (still unanswered–you’re breakin’ my heart over here, Judy!) to ChocoalteIsAVerb; and was featured on Vince Gotera’s vibrant and encyclopedic poetry blog. And best of all has been…
- The inordinately supportive, positive comments you have been making on my poems. They have been so lovely. In the last week of April, I received eight rejection notices (plus another one this morning) from journals and book & chapbook competitions, but arriving as they did while I was basking happily in the glow of your generous words, their sting was largely blunted. I’m especially thankful to Andrew Shattuck McBride, who–in addition to taking off the top of my head, in the best Dickensonian way, with such poems as this, this, and this–knows how to give one hell of a peptalk. Thanks to his and your encouragement, I’m energized to start a new round of revising and submitting this month. Seriously, friends, you are only egging me on when you do that.
- Resetting priorities. Participating in NaPoWriMo has broken my unhappy addiction to news websites and fostered, in its place, a radiant enthusiasm for your writing and art sites. ChocolateIsAVerb’s word-collages, DadPoet’s video-readings, Cupcake Murphy’s OddGoodTrue-ness, Doug’s “Bad Poems,” Arna Baartz’s SilverPoetry, Reno King’s poetic blues stylings, Mick Axelrod’s performance-vibe poems, Vince Gotera’s and Catherine Pritchard Childress’s poems, plus those I’ve already mentioned above, and many others, have brightened my days and strengthened my soul. As wise nutritionist Danielle Mitchell says at LitNivorous, “You are what you read,” and thanks to all your sharing of your creative gifts, I am growing better-nourished by the day.
- A further nutritional discovery: even when I put protein powder into my antioxidant berry smoothie, the Kentucky Bourbon still makes it delicious. This I discovered seeking brainfood when,this April, I was awake poeming at late hours. But it was friend, colleague, and writer Jeffrey Klausman who introduced me to the Bourbon recently, and long ago to the practice of writing poems. (Next time I wake up hung over and surrounded by inky shreds of paper, Jeffrey, I’m blaming you.)
- Note to self for next April: arrange childcare beforehand. When I rashly jumped, a week late, into NaPoWriMo, I failed to anticipate that my six-year-old was going to be at school for no more than eight and a half days for all of April. Spring Break encompassed the first nine days of the month, and parent-teacher conferences the last five. In between came the stomach flu. Hence all those late-night writing sessions. For next year’s NaPoWriMo, I’m going to save up my royalty money (ha!) and hire a nanny for a couple hours each day so I can write during my son’s school breaks without losing so much sleep. This, in turn, will reduce the need for late-night protein smoothies flavor-enhanced with Bourbon. It’s a win-win.
While I catch up on sleep over the next few months, I’ll return to my pre-NaPoWriMo blogging schedule of one or two posts per week. I intend to keep working on and posting new poems, just at a more leisurely pace, as well as myth-book reports and the occasional metaphysical screed.
Also in my plans is to catch up and keep up with all of YOUR blogs. This road trip with you has been a blast, and it’s not over yet.
Oh! Now I know why we ended up in Philly. It’s to go birding with DadPoet!
With my gratitude to you,