Sunday, May 28, 2006

I half expected to find an e-mail from the managing editor in my inbox today. Nothing. Maybe on Tuesday after the long weekend there will be a response.

I have four poems I am working on simultaneously right now. Two I am revising and two I am trying to finish so that I have first drafts to tinker with. The progress is frustratingly slow on all four poems. I did come up with a new title for one of my poems, which I think is a vast improvement. It only took me about 90 minutes to come up with the new title…. Such is the life of a poet. I may need to take a break from writing and focus on reading instead if this frustration continues; maybe my mind needs a break from writing poetry to replenish itself and see things in a new light.

Friday, May 26, 2006

I’ve Got a Bad Feeling about This

A certain literary magazine (no, not Yemassee) accepted one of my poems, and they have not sent my contributor copies yet. The contributor copies were supposed to have been mailed in April. I e-mailed one of the managing editors in late April and inquired about the contributor copies. I was told rather tersely that they have not been mailed yet.

The literary magazine recently revamped its web site, and parts of it are still under construction. On one of the under construction pages there is a list of what appears to be contributors to the issue. I don’t see my name among them. I e-mailed the same managing editor this morning inquiring again about the contributor copies and pointed out that I don’t see my name on what appears to be a contributor list. I sent the e-mail read receipt. I know the e-mail was delivered and read this morning. I haven’t heard back yet.

I’m probably wringing my hands over nothing and should just relax. There was probably a delay at the printer, and they are probably mailing the contributor copies soon. The web site is still under construction. I don’t know for sure if what I was looking at was a contributor list. If it was, maybe my name just hasn’t been added yet….

Still, I’m probably a little paranoid because my first acceptance ever didn’t pan out. When I inquired with the editor around the time I was told the contributor copies were supposed to come out I was eventually (after several e-mails) told some b.s. story that the editor tried emailing me to confirm my acceptance. When I didn’t respond back, she assumed I wasn’t interested. She also took this opportunity to say that some other people looked at my poem (after it had been accepted) and pointed out what they believed to be some issues. I interpreted all of this to be that the editor either changed her mind or messed up in some way and was not willing to own up to it, so she invented a story to save face and make herself feel better. At least later that same year the poem was accepted by another literary magazine without incident.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Poetry I’m Reading These Days

Dynamite on a China Plate by Jay Leeming: A quirky debut book with a mix of surreal, humorous, and serious free verse poems as well as some prose poems. Imagery is very important to this poet. Some of the poems are about family, romantic interests, and music. The best poems in the collection have an odd perspective on the world, or the material is presented in an odd or original way. Review. About the poet and how to purchase his book.

So It Goes by Eamon Grennan: Just started reading this book by an Irish poet living in the United States and teaching at Vassar College. I am very drawn to his work. I see similarities to my poems in how they have a dense quality, and I feel a kinship with the poet’s tone and perspective on the world. I very much admire his lyrical strengths and would like to write more like him in this respect.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I love poetry. I mean, I love what the words can do. I love the language, the music that happens. I’m not going at this because I want something in particular to happen. I do it because I love what I can make with it.

--Joy Harjo


On Friday I received a rejection from Willow Springs. I am starting to get low on the number of literary magazines still considering my poems, so I am sending out six more submissions this afternoon.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


So many cars have driven past me
without a head-on collision.
I started counting them today:
there were a hundred and nine
on the way to the grocery,
a hundred and two on the way back home.
I got my license
when I was seventeen.
I’ve driven across country
at least twelve times;
I even drive
late Saturday nights.
I shall not want.

--Marilyn Nelson


A Dream of Jealousy

Walking with you and another lady
In wooded parkland, the whispering grass
Ran its fingers through our guessing silence
And the trees opened into a shady
Unexpected clearing where we sat down.
I think the candour of the light dismayed us.
We talked about desire and being jealous,
Our conversation a loose single gown
Or a white picnic tablecloth spread out
Like a book of manners in the wilderness.
“Show me,” I said to our companion, “what
I have much coveted, your breast’s mauve star.”
And she consented. Oh, neither these verses
Nor my prudence, love, can heal your wounded stare.

--Seamus Heaney

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Every new poem is like finding a new bride. Words are so erotic; they never tire of their coupling.

--Stanley Kunitz (R.I.P.)


Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment.

--Carl Sandburg

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I received a rejection on Friday from The Baltimore Review. Fortunately, two of the four poems I submitted were accepted by Yemassee.

I finished revising today two more poems. I will probably submit them to some places in the near future. I estimate that I have about 60% of a poetry manuscript together at this point. I want to have more than enough for a poetry manuscript in case some of the poems don't work with each other.

Friday, May 12, 2006

I received notification yesterday that I was not one of the finalists for the 2006 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize for Poetry. The letter states that they received over 2,300 poems from 46 states, the District of Columbia, and seven foreign countries. The winner was Eric Leigh of San Francisco for his poem “Last of the Midnight Lullabies.” It was odd that among the four honorable mentions that two of them were also from San Francisco: Karen Carissimo and Melissa Stein.

I have not received confirmation from Yemassee that they received my acceptance email and Word attachments. I plan to try and contact them via telephone to confirm that they received my email.


Fortune Cookie 5/11/2006:

Do not desire what you do not need.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Randall Jarrell (1914 – 1965)

Randall Jarrell said, “It is terrible to be alive,” and “Man is born in chains and everywhere we see him dead.” These dire themes and others, such as loneliness and loss, resonate throughout his poetry. In 1965, at the age of 50, he attempted suicide and later that year was struck and killed by a car while walking along a highway—reopening the unavoidable question of suicide. It might have been that his self-protective poetry finally deserted him during a mid-life crisis, leaving him defenseless against the harshness of life as he saw it. In his own words, “I don’t know whether you’d guess it, but I have an even, cheerful, and optimistic disposition: what I write is therapeutically the opposite.” His dear friend Elizabeth Bishop said, “I like to think of him as I saw him once after we had gone swimming together on Cape Cod; wearing only bathing trunks and a very queer straw cap…seated on the crest of a high sand dune, writing in a notebook. It was a bright and dazzling day. Randall looked small and rather delicate, but bright and dazzling too.”

--From Poetry Speaks

Peter Sacks on Randall Jarrell

Much of [Jarrell’s] poetry searches desperately for some egress from the prison of exclusively personal experience and identity—via the use of personae, fairy tales, Chekhovian significant detail, translation, or by the way of crying out for the kind of violent but passive metamorphosis (“change me, change me!”) that does not require a greater strength or effort of will….at best, Jarrell’s intuitive sympathies and his sad, almost fixated love for the fugitive sweetness of life and for the marred innocence of dream, yield poems of stubborn fidelity to imaginary or lost worlds evoked with a crystalline grace.

--From Poetry Speaks

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Poetry I’ve Been Reading:
1) Becoming the Villainess by fellow blogger Jeannine Hall Gailey (An interesting take on the condition of women through the lens of mythology and comic book characters. A real page turner for a collection of poems. The collection is both playful and serious.)
2) My Brother Running by Wesley McNair (The title long poem is very good. Not as crazy about the rest of the book.)

There’s some interesting reading at Sycamore Review about what goes on behind the scences when it comes to submissions.


Some Things I’ve Learned about Poetry and the Poetry Business
· Like athletes, it is a good idea to warm up before trying to write. Examples: Listening to a poetry CD, reading poetry, journaling, or thinking about the poetry writing tasks you have ahead of you to accomplish before you sit down at the desk.
· Keep some form of a journal. This will help you notice things in life, improve your memory, and give you more conscious knowledge at your fingertips. A journal is also a way of learning about yourself--learning about the interior you. Keeping journals over the years is an interesting record of your life that you can read later on and see how you’ve developed as a person.
· Keep to some kind of writing schedule that works for you. The idea here is to make writing a habit and to have the muse expect you to show up on certain days or at certain hours. If you do this, the muse will usually have something for you during your “appointments.” What works for me is to write about every other day and for three to four hours every Sunday morning. Writing every other day keeps me from burning out on poetry and allows me to enjoy other aspects of my life.
· Use your subconscious to solve creative problems. If you get stuck on a poem, give your subconscious “marching orders” to come up with a solution to the problem. If you are patient, your subconscious will eventually supply an answer. This is what I call needing a “creative solution” to a problem because you’ve wracked your brain already trying to solve the problem with your conscious knowledge and failed.
· As a conscious solution to a problem in a poem, the answer is often already suggested earlier in what you’ve already wrote. Perhaps you need to reuse a previous image or metaphor in some manner. Perhaps you should use repetition on something you already said. Perhaps you need to perceive better the form or the narrative arc the poem is suggesting and continue the poem using that.
· Have interests outside of poetry so that you have something interesting to bring to your poetry. Examples: philosophy, history, Tarot cards, drawing, mutual funds, and travel.
· Your powers as a writer will be commensurate to your powers as a reader. In other words, read and think about what you are reading. Read as much poetry as you can, but also read widely in other things.
· Related to reading, expand your vocabulary as much as possible. This may include learning the vivid and interesting names of specific trees, flowers, fish, rocks, constellations, insects, etc.
· Get yourself a good dictionary that has multiple definitions for a word and contains etymological information on words. The American Heritage Dictionary and Oxford English Dictionary are two good examples. I’ve found it helpful to have a good dictionary and thesaurus on my computer so that I can look up words quickly. If your computer dictionary will pronounce the words for you, all the better.
· Be patient and stubborn when it comes to your writing and trying to publish. Do whatever you can to keep writing and submitting regularly while minimizing your frustration and impatience. Put another way, never give up.
· If you keep writing you will get better at it. You get out of writing what you put into it.
· However, sometimes you do need a break or respite from writing so that you can get over writer’s block or fertilize your subconscious in order to write future poems.
· Learn creative techniques such as brainstorming, listing, tree branching, etc.
· Revise. Revise. Revise. Be obsessive about revising. Be obsessive about revising the small things but also be willing to take risks in revising large things and see where that takes you. Be mindful that sometimes a revision can damage a poem and what you had earlier was better. Try to learn to love revising. It can be as interesting as the rush of creating the first draft.
· There seem to be as many ways to go about writing as there are writers. In Rilke’s Advice to a Young Poet, Rilke says that no one can help you. You have to find your own way that works for you.
· Some helpful quotes from famous poets/writers that rattle around in my head: “Make it new.” “Poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” “No ideas but in things.” “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”
· Read as much poetic theory as you can stomach. I find it can be dry, but it is usually very helpful.
· In this day and age, submit to literary magazines simultaneously, especially early in your career. With so many MFA programs and English majors out there, there are a lot of talented people submitting poems. Submitting poems is as much a statistics game as anything else. You increase your chances by submitting your work to more places. However, don’t submit to more literary magazines at one time than you are willing to write immediate letters or emails to notify them that one of your poems has been accepted by another literary magazine.
· Always be researching places to submit your work. I like to thumb through as many current literary magazines as I can get my hands on, and I like to read any poems offered on a literary magazine’s web site. The idea here is to seek out places that seem receptive to the kind of poems you write.
· Cover letters should be brief, professional, have your contact information, list the work you are submitting, and tell a little about yourself. Follow strictly the most current submission guidelines you can find. If possible and appropriate, address the poetry editor by name in your cover letter. It is probably a bad idea to list more than 3 to 5 of your previous publications.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Finally, Some Good News!

Yemassee accepted TWO of my poems. The acceptance e-mail did not stipulate, but I believe they will appear in the Fall issue due out in November 2006.

In other poetry news, I learned on Friday that I was not among the finalists for the Gulf Coast poetry contest.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

I was having a crappy day yesterday about life in general. On the way home I thought, “I bet to put the cherry on top of today that I will find negative poetry news in the mailbox.” Sure enough, I found a SASE informing me inside of the winners and finalists of the GSU Review poetry contest. Needless to say my name was not among them.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Poetry can put a microphone to a situation. One of the things poetry does at its best is to be true to some small detail of a place and a time and a political situation, not offering a solution but offering a way into—I hesitate to use the word verity because it sounds so grandiose—but offering a way into the core of the tragedy, the heart of the matter.

--Paul Muldoon


Justice: When you get what you deserve.

Mercy: When you don’t get what you deserve.

Grace: When you get what you don’t deserve.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

“Flashy” Poems

By making us stop for a moment, poetry gives us an opportunity to think about ourselves as human beings on this planet and what we mean to each other.

--Rita Dove


I’ve been thinking the last couple of days about something my poetry coach said. She remarked that my poems aren’t typically “flashy” and need the right kind of reader to appreciate them. By flashy I believe she means that I don’t have a lot of exquisite/beautiful language in my poems or really out there metaphors and similes. I also don’t use a lot of words like sourgum, lily, or plush—beautiful diction.

I build a lot of my poems with nouns and verbs and few adjectives and fewer adverbs. I remember being taught to write poems this way, to use adjectives sparingly and adverbs almost never. My poetry coach is encouraging me to use more adjectives in my poems and take more risks. It is difficult for me to be “flashy.” A few years ago I was far less happy as a person, so I was much more in touch with the subtleties and strength of my feelings, which I think helps you write flashier poems and take more risks in your work. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve lost my edge as a writer, but I do not want to go back to being as unhappy as I used to be for the sake of my writing. Then there is my hospital finance job that very much encourages me to always be rational, use common sense, communicate plainly and efficiently, be organized, and be very reality-based. Since I need to be like that Monday – Friday from 8:00 – 5:00 week in and week out, it is very difficult to switch that off and write flashier poems that might have a better chance of getting readers’ attention when I send them off to literary magazines. Anyway, I am trying to be more mindful about using adjectives and taking more risks in my work.