New Poems Up at Bellingham Review and Pontoon

I’m honored to have two poems published this month! “Amanda Bubble Crafts a New Creation Story” appears in Issue 71 of Bellingham Review; my thanks to former Editor-in-Chief Brenda Miller, current Editor-in-Chief Suzanne Paola Antonetta, former Managing Editor Ellie A. Rogers, and current Managing Editor Louis McLaughlin for including my poem. When you visit, please check out the gorgeous essay “He Worked as an Electrician. He Enjoyed Television. (His Obituary Was Plain.)” by Spokane poet Maya Jewell Zeller!

In addition, my poem “What Was Good about Going to Church” has been selected for this year’s issue of Pontoon, the journal of poems by Washington-state poets who submitted chapbook manuscripts to Floating Bridge Press. My thanks to everyone on the editorial committee at FBP! For the first time, Pontoon is now online, allowing wider access to readers. Here’s my poem, and here’s the first page of the Table of Contents (be sure to click through all four pages to read the whole issue). I hope you enjoy!

Readings During National Poetry Month

Hello! I get to join two amazing lineups of poets for April readings in the Seattle area. I plan to read some bird and horse poems, some Amanda Bubble poems, some mythological persona poems, and possibly a new prose poem about a goat named Derrick. Please come if you can!

April 6, I’ll be part of a Floating Bridge Press reading at the Fremont Library featuring Dennis Caswell and Michael Schmeltzer. Their manuscripts were among the finalists for last year’s Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award, and somehow my manuscript, Amanda Bubble Is Nearly on Fire, was also one of them. Dennis Caswell’s 2012 collection Phlogiston was published by Floating Bridge, and Michael Schmeltzer’s poetry manuscripts have had near brushes with winning a number of highly competitive awards. I’ve had the pleasure of reading with Michael twice this past year, and this month, I’ll get to read twice with Dennis!

…because on April 16, when I read at Edmonds Book Shop, the lineup again includes Dennis, along with Bethany Reid (one of my other favorite poets to read with and author of Sparrow, one of my favorite poetry books of 2012), Erika Michael, and David Horowitz, editor at Rose Alley Press and author of the brand-new collection Cathedral and Highrise. So much poetry to enjoy!

Here are the relevant particulars:

Monday, April 6: Floating Bridge Press reading at the Fremont Library, 731 N. 35th St., Seattle, 6:30 p.m. (here are directions and map)

Thursday, April 16: Poetry in Edmonds at Edmonds Book Shop, 111 5th Avenue South, Edmonds, WA, 6:30 p.m. (here are directions and map link)

Please help me to spread the word, and I hope to see you around during Poetry Month!

Amanda Bubble Has Had a Really Good Year

A few years ago, I invented a persona named Amanda Bubble, in whose voice I’ve written a couple of dozen poems. Gradually, hers has become the most frequent voice in my full-length manuscript (the latest iteration of which I’ve given the working title “Amanda Bubble and the Wild-Caught Gods”). Like me, she asks a lot of questions about God, ethics, and poetry. Unlike me, she’s young (probably late twenties), sassy, and frustrated about not being able to write novels. I’m having a lot of fun with her voice, which I imagine includes frequent uptalk at the end of her sentences? And those sentences, sometimes fragments, like she’s just tossing off remarks.

Amanda Bubble has had the good fortune of making a lot of friends in the past year. Four of her poems have been published in two different issues of Clover: A Literary Rag, and another in the 2013 Floating Bridge Review. This year, Floating Bridge Review has chosen another for the forthcoming issue. She has received many kind compliments from audiences at readings, and most exciting of all, she’s become the star of her own chapbook manuscript. (She likes that very much, but is just a little uncomfortable with all the attention?)

That chapbook manuscript, titled “Amanda Bubble Is Nearly on Fire,” was one of five finalists for this year’s Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award, open to Washington-State poets. I’m thrilled that I’ve been invited to give a reading with another finalist, Michael Schmeltzer, and the winner, John Whalen, at the Seattle launch of his winning chapbook, Above the Pear Trees.

That reading will be Monday, September 29, 7:00 p.m. at Richard Hugo House in Seattle.

I’ll also be reading a couple of Amanda Bubble poems at a multi-author reading from the current issue of Clover: A Literary Rag on Sunday, September 21, 4:00 p.m. at Village Books in Bellingham.

If you’re in the area, please come to one or both of these events and enjoy the celebrations!

Gratitude for Words of Encouragement

Joannie Stangeland’s latest collection of poetry (Ravenna Press, 2014)

Many, many thanks to Seattle poet, editor, and winemaker Joannie Stangeland for her write-up of Impossible Lessons as her Saturday Poetry Pick yesterday! Her lovely words are here.

In a wonderful coincidence, I’ve been reading her new book, In Both Hands. The poems there are haunting, replete with precise images of beauty and loss. I’m falling in love with, and going to school on, these incredible poems.

Be sure to read another recent post of Joannie’s, in which she describes her current writing projects.

Poetry Readings This Week

Heather Curtis, Jennifer Bullis, Shannon Laws at Village Books, Fairhaven

Heather Curtis, Jennifer Bullis, Shannon Laws at Village Books, Fairhaven

I get to do two readings in the next four days. With five other poets! Please join us for one or both of these events:

Saturday, April 5, 7:00 p.m. at Village Books, Bellingham. This will be the Bellingham launch of Anacortes poet Heather Curtis’s first collection of poems, Upon Waking. To join Heather in celebrating her book during National Poetry Month, Village Books has invited Shannon Laws, author of the poetry collection Madrona Grove, and me to read with her.

Monday, April 7, 6:45 p.m. at Seattle Public Library, Fremont Branch. Sylvia Byrne Pollack, Michael Schmeltzer, and I will participate in this reading organized by Floating Bridge Press.

Hope to see you there!

Cheers,
Jennifer

Readings During National Poetry Month

I’ve been invited to participate in three different poetry events in April, all within the span of 12 days! I’m very excited to get to share poems from Impossible Lessons, as well as some new material, at the following readings:

Saturday, April 5, 7:00 p.m. at Village Books in Bellingham. This will be the Bellingham launch of Anacortes poet Heather Curtis’s first collection of poems, Upon Waking. To join Heather in celebrating her book during National Poetry Month, Village Books has invited Shannon Laws, author of the poetry collection Madrona Grove, and me to read with her.

Monday, April 7, 6:45 p.m. at Seattle Public Library, Fremont Branch. Sylvia Byrne Pollack, Michael Schmeltzer, and I will participate in this reading organized by Floating Bridge Press.

Thursday, April 17, 7:00 p.m. at Cafe Zippy in Everett. I’ll be the featured reader at Everett Poetry Nite, which includes music and open mic.

More details to follow!

Cheers,
Jennifer

Reflections on AWP, Part 1

I had a wonderful time attending my first AWP Convention in Seattle the week before last. I went to readings and panel presentations, and made delightful and informative forays into the book fair.

Here, in no particular order, are some thoughts, impressions, and pieces of information I came away with after my three days at the temporary center of the literary universe:

1) There is more than one way to write an ekphrastic poem. I used to think that ekphrastic poems need to be about the work of art they refer to–or at least about the event, scene, or figure that the work of art portrays. In a panel session exploring ekphrastic poetry, I learned some ways to work beyond this conventional definition:

  • The poet can allude to, but not announce, the poem’s relationship to the work of art.
  • The poet can immerse in the work of art, and the work of art can trigger the writing of the poem, without the poem describing the work of art.
  • Images usually suggest stories, and the poet can write a poem that resists the narrative intentions of the image by inventing an alternative story.
  • If, as Edward Hirsch asserts, poems inspired by art are “imaginative acts of attention,” then the way a poet pays attention to one work of art can inform how s/he pays attention to another work of art. In this way, a poem can respond, either explicitly or implicitly, to more than one work of art.

2) It is possible to live quite comfortably on trail mix and espresso for three straight days. Because when tantalizing conference sessions and readings and book displays cram the schedule from 8 a.m. until midnight, who has time to sit down to a proper meal? Well, I am exaggerating a little; I did supplement my trail-mix diet with a Chipotle burrito and a couple of breakfast sandwiches ordered to-go. Also, some very kind friends from Bellingham (thank you, Judy and Luther!) fed me apples and yogurt, and offered me additional high-quality proteins, after a late-night reading. Next time I go to a multi-day conference, I intend to carve out time to try at least a couple of good local restaurants. Or, at the very least, increase the chocolate-chip-to-almonds-and-dried-fruit ratio of my homemade mix.

3) I need to be very, very patient about getting a full-length poetry manuscript into print. Contrary to what the annual “Debut Poets” feature in Poets & Writers Magazine tends to indicate–i.e., that most first-book manuscripts are submitted to just a few publishers before being chosen for publication–the presenters of a panel session on book contests that I attended emphasized that finding a publisher for a poetry manuscript can take many years. As in ten to twelve years. As in multiple times being named a contest finalist, but never being chosen as the winner (a phenomenon known as Bridesmaid’s Syndrome: always the bridesmaid, never the bride). HOWEVER, refusing to be discouraged by these statistics, I took heart from several points made by the editors and poets making up this panel:

  • Having one’s manuscript chosen as a finalist, even when the final judge doesn’t select it to win, does get the attention of the press’s editors and can result in publication outside the auspices of the contest. Panelist Dora Malech, for instance, saw two of her collections published after being named a finalist at two different presses, three years in a row; even though her manuscripts didn’t win these contests, she developed relationships with the editors who eventually chose her work.
  • Prize money attached to a contest is nice, but it won’t solve your financial problems, or even necessarily cover the travel expenses you incur to promote the book.
  • Winning a contest can, nevertheless, attract reviews and publicity that less frequently accompany the publication of other poetry books.
  • 50-65 pages of poems is the new ideal for a full-length collection. (This is because paper and printing costs have continued to rise, and the recession has made book buyers even more price-conscious than before.) While some poetry publishers allow manuscripts of up to 90 or more pages, Joseph Harrison, editor at Waywiser Press, quipped, “I’ve never seen an 88-page manuscript that needed all 88 pages.”
  • Another conclusion I drew from this panel session is that I am UNBELIEVABLY FORTUNATE  to have a substantial chapbook in print. Thank you, Lana Hechtman Ayers of MoonPath Press, for turning me into the published author of a beautiful little book. You are my Fairy Godmother.

In Part 2, which will follow soon, I’ll elaborate on these further points:

  • The chapbook abides as a thing of beauty.
  • There is a place for politics in poetry, so long as the poetry is not sacrificed to the political message.
  • Editors and publishers are actual people, and I had the pleasure of meeting several very fine ones.

Thanks for reading!
Jennifer