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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Notable Notebook Pages

This week Flavorwire brings us notebook pages from the private musings of such luminaries as Jack Kerouac, Frida Kahlo, Mark Twain, Charlotte Bronte, David Foster Wallace, and more. And for those of you who love lists, you haven't seen a To-Do list till you've seen Thomas Edison's. Cotton picker and electric piano (apparently, "invent them" is the meaning) are just two items of more than twenty such ambitious projects. Melville wrote in green (pencil? ink?). And Einstein kept a travel diary. Who knew!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Lydia Davis at Lannan

I always enjoy the Lannan Foundation reading and interview series, but never have I enjoyed an episode more than the recent one featuring Lydia Davis. If you are as wild about Lydia Davis as I am, you will not want to miss this.

Reading Style

Most of my life I have been basically a serial reader; that is, I have read books one at a time, one after another.

Then I had kids and I became a simultaneous reader. Stealing moments here and there left me less time to read, so I would start various books and leave them in various locations, in reach when I could manage a moment. Still, I only read one of each kind of book at a time: one fiction, one non-fiction, and one poetry book, usually.

I still do this, except that recently I have started reading multiple poetry books at once. Instead of reading 5 to 15 pages of poetry from one poet in a single sitting, I now tend to read 5 or so poems each from 2 or 3 poets. This is a new strategy for me, and here's how it developed.

I was reading Rusty Morrison's Whethering, and I was admiring her technical virtuosity, the line breaks, the repetitions, and I wanted to let the techniques sink in, so I studied the poems and wanted to think on them rather than plowing ahead to the next set of poems. So I picked up Alicia Suskin Ostriker's The Book of Life to read in the meantime. And it was so intense that I didn't want to lose the emotionality of it by reading it too fast.

As it happens, I've been reading Karen An-hwei Lee's Phyla of Joy for over a month now, prior even to beginning the Morrison book, and I've been reading that one so slowly because Lee and I have so many of the same shared obscure obsessions (selenographia, blindness, invisible blue lines, celadon) that I get overwhelmed by that and have to put the book down.

And then I wanted to read something whimsical because of the weight of all the other books, so I picked up Carol Guess's Doll Studies: Forensics, which wouldn't seem to be whimsical when you consider that her poems are all based on dioramas of crimes scenes as portrayed using dolls by artist Frances Glessner Lee, and then photographed and researched by Corinne May Botz. It's Guess's word choice that constantly surprises me and gives this deeply disturbing book its whimsical quality. There isn't a poem in here that doesn't surprise me with word choice or imagery.

And reading these books concurrently is really working for me in a way I hadn't known it would. The aesthetics of the different poets bouncing around in my mind at once is giving me new ways to appreciate each artist's work, and new ways to see their work and my own.

(And for completeness, let me just add that in non-fiction, I'm just finishing up Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue, and for fiction I'm reading Nathan Englander's The Ministry of Special Cases.)

Word Play a la Bryson

Fun stuff from Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue (the British edition).

Palindromes are at least 2000 years old (who knew!). Ancient Greeks put this one on their fountains: 'Nispon anomimata mi monan opsin', which apparently translates as "Wash the sins as well as the face." (p. 224)

Some fun anagrams cited by Bryson include:
circumstantial evidence = can ruin a selected victim
a stitch in time saves nine = this is meant as an incentive
William Shakespeare = we all make his praise
mother-in-law = woman Hitler
(p. 227)

Feel free to share your favorite palindromes, anagrams, or other sorts of word play. I love them!!!!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Wave Your Money Goodbye

Wave Books is having a warehouse sale: 50% off on poets like Dara Wier, Joshua Beckman, Dorothea Lasky, James Tate, and Laynie Browne. Among others. Check it out!

(And Christian Hawkey, Caroline Knox, Joe Wenderoth, Rachel Zucker, Matthew Rorher, Sawako Nakayasu--okay, I can't afford to look at this site anymore!)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Interesting Interviews

Here are a couple of interviews worth reading.

First, Ploughshares blogwriter Jamie Quatro interviews four poets about first drafts and writing processes. The four poets are Traci Brimhall, Amy Gerstler, Andrew Hudgins, and Timothy Liu.

Also, Hunger Mountain blogwriter Claire interviews speculative fiction writer Cynthia Kraack, and here it's the questions that are particularly interesting. You might want to think about them yourself.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Writer's Diet

Want to know if your writing is flabby or fit? Paste a paragraph or so into Writer's Diet and have it analyzed.

This is really for prose, and more specifically, for academic writing. But it might come in handy some time.

In fact, I just ran an academic paper that is due Friday and found out that my verbs are flabby and my prepositions need toning. Hmmmmm. And all I need to do is buy the book by website author Helen Sword to fix that problem....

The in-depth analysis shows counting of the number of word by parts of speech per paragraph, and I apparently have too many "be" verbs for the program's taste, and I use throw-away words like "that" and "it" too often. There's also a suggestion that I could cut away some nouns (well, long nouns--just by counting letters, such nouns are deemed unworthy--content be damned). There'll be nothing left if I follow the suggestions on this website!

Give it a try and see if your writing rates better than mine. Then let me know.

(Oh, and shout out to Diane H. N., from whose Facebook page I learned of this website.)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hello Hello Hello

So I'm reading Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue (the British edition, which make this linguistics-for-everyone primer even more fascinating; the American version is called The Mother Tongue, for starters) and I ran across something I had not known. Although I did know that "good-bye" is a shortening of "God be with you," I was unaware that "hello" is from the Old English 'hal beo thu', or "whole be thou."

Do you not love this? Hello hello hello. And again hello.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fiji Island Mermaid Press

So I've been thinking recently about the urge to create something, and the urge to share this creation with an audience, and the relationship between these two urges, especially as the ego is involved. If you read my blog regularly, you'll know where this angst is coming from.

And I came accross this "Free For All" at Fiji Island Mermaid Press. Here eight artists offer mini-books that you can print out and fold up and have for your very own for free. This morning I printed out and assembled How To Draw Jean-Paul Sartre With Genuine Human Dignity by Marc Snyder. And it's delightful. And it's generous, to offer these pieces for free. And they are whimsical.

(I found this press by being amazed by artist Marc Snyder's work at the current issue of Brevity Magazine. If you like his work, check out his illustrations accompanying each piece at Brevity. )

So that's what I'm thinking about, the crossroads of generosity and devaluation that can unfairly come as a result of generosity. How to make sure your work is taken seriously while getting an audience for your work. And things along those lines. And I have no useful conclusions thus far.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wining, Dining, & (Off-)Rhyming

Black Lawrence Press (one of my favorites) has a submission call out for poems with accompanying recipes for an upcoming anthology, Feast: Poetry and Recipes for a Full Seating at Dinner. How fun is that! Here's what they want, in their own words:

Guidelines: Black Lawrence Press welcomes established as well as emerging writers to submit a poem and an accompanying recipe to Feast. Both a poem and a recipe are required for the submission to be considered.

A few notes:
1) The poem should evoke the spirit of a toast, which has been historically shared as an expression of celebration, goodwill or honor. We would like these “poem toasts” to link to some of the following wider themes: the value of celebration, good company, the enjoyment of food, and commiseration.
2) There is no word limit.
3) The recipe should be appropriate for 6 – 10 servings, and be tagged for one of the following sections: cocktails, appetizers, main courses, or desserts.

Multiple submissions are allowed!

Deadline: June 30, 2012

See their website for a better description of the project and its goals.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

More Erasure by Ruefle

More erasure by Mary Ruefle, this time at Wag's Revue. It's called "Eyes for Everything."

For everything. Eyes. Yes.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lockward's Online-Submission-Friendly List

Diane Lockward at Blogalicious has once again updated her list of print journals that accept submissions online. Check out her helpful list.

Poems for Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day tomorrow (or the day after, depending on what time zone you live in). I'm posting this now lest any of you have forgotten; this should give you time to remedy that.

In the meantime, The Poetry Foundation has put together a list of poems about mothers (almost all written by women, go figure). And what I like even better is their interviews with two poet-moms, Marilyn Nelson and Adrian Blevins. And they have a video of Daisy Zamora reading a poem about mothers.

Now I offer two poems about mothers that are some of my favorites:


Bridge, Mother  by  Terese Svoboda

Mother burns on the other side of the bridge.
Mother burns the bridge and is safe on the other side.
Mother is not on the bridge when it burns.
When Mother says Burn, the bridge burns.
We can’t get to the other side—
the bridge is burning.

Mother is the bridge that we burn.
She is how we get to the other side.
We can’t burn the bridge without her.
Mother burns and we burn, bridge or no bridge.
She is the other side.
Nothing burns the bridge, and then it burns.


When we were the poorest,
mom paid my weekly allowance
in birds. That one is yours, she whispered

 so as not to disturb it.

If you clean the oven
I’ll give you that red one.

In a few months

I owned all the birds on the street,

blue jays, finches, a lame owl

cowled in the clock tower.  

We had to walk farther each Saturday
to find a new fountain or thicket

so mother could pay me what she owed.

We stood on a bridge.
Our soldiers were marching away,


and trying to sound brave.
Their numbers were staggering.

I invented a mathematics

to understand them.
I subtracted them from summer

 and it was winter. Most of our houses

were gone, and the birds too.
The university had been bombed

with my father inside, attending a reading

by some Polish poets.
The poems were so sturdy, he said,

 they held up the dome of the ceiling.

And for mothers of sons, I also want to recommend Sharon Olds's "My Son the Man."

Friday, May 11, 2012

NYT's Two Cents on the Cento

The New York Times blog has published a cento by David Lehman, plus an explanation of what a cento is (in their words, "A cento is a collage-poem composed of lines lifted from other sources -- often, though not always, from great poets of the past. In Latin the word cento means ''patchwork,'' and the verse form resembles a quilt of discrete lines stitched together to make a whole. The word cento is also Italian for ''one hundred,'' and some mosaic poems consist of exactly 100 lines culled by one poet from the work of another to pay tribute to him or her").

The Invention of the ZeroIn this age of the sampling crazy, the cento suddenly seems new again. A poem that samples from other people's words (though not from poems) that I particularly love is Richard Kenney's  astonishing "A Colloquy of Ancient Men" from his book The Invention of the Zero. In this long poem pieces of quotations from Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Charles Darwin, Joseph Conrad, Isaac Newton, Max Planck, Herman Melville, Neils Bohr, Fred Hoyle, Mark Twain, and a few others are juxtaposed to great effect. (Here I am recommending yet another intertextalization of poetry and science. At least I know what I like!)

So, anybody up for a cento or another collage-like piece of writing? It's a different creative muscle to stretch.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Publication Conundrum

So I heard from my publisher that he is closing down his press. I had heard rumblings but I guess now it's official. He says I can do whatever I want with my book, including e-publishing, which I guess means I have his permission to try and publish it elsewhere. This is not likely though, is it? Nobody wants to re-issue a book of someone without any reputation, like me, do they? I guess I should look into e-publishing, but I have no idea where to begin.

My other thought is to just let this book die a natural death. I spent years writing it, and when this press awarded it their prize and I withdrew from other publishers I had submitted it, I was told by three presses that I had made it to the finalist stage in their competitions, and one even encouraged me not to withdraw but to think about my choice. So I think my book is overall a pretty strong piece of work. But there are new manuscripts coming out daily from talented poets, so maybe mine should just gracefully disappear.

I don't know.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ruefle's New Erasure Online

Gwarlingo has published Mary Ruefle's new erasure, Melody: The Story of a Child, online here. In full. Don't miss it. Hauting and droll as ever, her erasures are.

Read about Mary Ruefle in particular and erasure in general at Gwarlingo here.

Aliases of the Super Moon

Did you see the super moon last night? If you want to know more about the full moons, here's an article at about the unusually named moons this year, including the Full Worm Moon, the Full Buck Moon, and the Full Hunter's Moon. There's also an explanation of each name, plus a brief recounting of who came up with these names (largely the Algonquin tribes plus some European settlers to the US).

These names will get a poet thinking, that's for sure.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Proposals for Japan Writers Conference Coming Due

Here's a reminder from the Japan Writers Conference. I have deleted the email addresses of the conference coordinators, but if you want to get a hold of them, please email me and I will send you their contact info.

Hello. We hope you’re enjoying the Golden Week holidays.

This is to remind those of you who are thinking about presenting at the Sixth Annual Japan Writers Conference that we need to see your proposals soon. The deadline is June 1, 2012, less than a month away.

The Conference will return to Kyoto this year, to the Imadegawa campus of Doshisha Women’s College on November 10th and 11th, 2012. As always, it will be free and open to all who wish to attend.

All published writers, translators, editors, agents and publishers who would like to lead a session are invited to submit proposals. Those who have presented at past conferences are welcome to submit new proposals and we welcome proposals from new submitters.

Please forward this to any friend or colleague who might be interested. If you know someone the conference organizers might approach—either living in Japan or planning to visit Japan next autumn—please send us your suggestion. If you have contact information, that would be a great help.

Briefly, a proposal needs to include a brief bio, including some publication credits, the type of presentation you wish to make, a title, a summery of 50 words, a longer abstract (150 words) and any special requests you might have. Standard sessions are fifty minutes long, but if you have something special in mind, please let us know and we will accommodate if possible.
Presentations on all genres and all aspects of writing and publishing are welcome.

Proposal Guidelines

When planning your proposal, keep your audience in mind. Your listeners will be writers and others (translators, editors, publishers, and agents) concerned with creating the published written word. While teaching, literary studies and private self-expression are certainly worthy activities, they are not the focus of this Conference. Ask yourself as a writer or other word professional these questions:

What information do you have which could be useful to others?
What writing, rewriting, editing, or marketing techniques have worked for you?
What topic would make for a lively and enlightening discussion?
What publishing or other professional opportunities do you know about?
What will an attendee take away from your fifty-minute session that he or she will find worthwhile?

You may submit more than one proposal.

The only qualification one needs to be a presenter is to have published. You need to have written, edited, translated, or otherwise worked on writing which has made it to the public eye. That is, published.

Proposal Deadline and Format

Using the following format, please send your ideas for a presentation by June 1, 2012. Send your proposal in the body of an email (no attachments) to both these addresses:

*****Deleted by me (Jessica); email me if you need this info*****

In your subject line give your name, “JWC,” and the date.

In the body of the email, give:

1. Your name (or names)
2. Contact information (email, telephone. These remain confidential.)
3. Your publications (Need not be complete, but give names of journals and genre for short pieces; title, publisher and date for books; venues and dates for plays, and so on)
4. Title of presentation. (20 words or less)
5. Type of presentation (short lecture with Q&A, craft workshop, panel discussion, reading with Q&A, etc.)
6. Short summary of the presentation (50 words or less)
7. Abstract of the presentation (150 words or less)
8. Personal and professional biography (50 words or less. Make mention of your publications, as this will be part of the Conference program)
9. Anything else, such as special equipment needs or questions.

Your proposal doesn’t have to be a “finished” document to submit. There will be time to shape and polish your ideas for a presentation. But there are a limited number of session slots available and if you are want one, please let us know soon. Several people have already submitted. One more time, the deadline is June 1, 2012.

John Gribble
Bern Mulvey
Co Co-ordinators,
2012 Japan Writers Conference


Friday, May 4, 2012

Poetry & Science

Two of my favorite things, poetry and science, are coming together in the Poetry Northwest Science Issue & Spring Symposium. I wish I could be in Seattle for this event on May 9th and 10th; those of you who are, don't miss it! Featuring readings by Katherine Larson (who recently won the Yale Younger Poets Prize for her book Radial Symmetry--if you don't know her work, check her out reading here on the PBS Newshour and interviewed here by PBS) and Richard Kenney, a perennial fav of mine, and the intriguingly titled panel, "Model Realities: Science in Poetry & Poetry in Science,"it's going to be a great event.

I'll just have to comfort myself with the print issue though. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Angry Poets

I was just listening to the Lannan Foundation's sponsored reading by and interview of W. S. Merwin with Michael Silverblatt (of the podcast Bookworm, which I listen to religiously). In this reading/interview, I heard W. S. Merwin say something about anger. Quickly skiming through the program I can't find the part I want right now, and I haven't got time today to listen to the entire program again, so I will just paraphrase. Basically, W. S. Merwin said that of all the passions, anger is the one most dangerous to poets, to poetry; that poetry written in anger tends to be bad poetry.

For me, this is true. I don't even think I can write when angry. My thoughts enter into their self-spooling loops and I can't think straight when angry. And so, another motivation for me to learn to give up my anger, to forsake it.

What about you? How does anger affect your writing?

Guest Blogger's Big Poetry Giveaway Results!

And now a word from our guest blogger, Mari L'Esperance!


Thanks, everyone, for participating! I've used a random name selector to choose the two winners:

- Carol has won a copy of my poetry collection _The Darkened Temple_ (2008 U. of Nebraska Press)!

- Michael has won a copy of Yusef Komunyakaa's _The Chameleon Couch_! (2011 FSG)!

I'll be emailing the winners shortly with the news and to get snail mail addresses for mailing your winnings.

Congratulations to both winners and a VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU to Jessica for hosting me on her blog so I could participate in the Big Poetry Giveaway for National Poetry Month! —Mari

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Big Poetry Giveaway Results!

National Poetry Month has once again drawn to a close. I hope everyone celebrated in ways that stimulated their creativity and pleased their souls.

I'd like to thank the 23 people who participated in the Big Poetry Giveaway here at my blog. Don't hold your breath any longer--the results are in! Using a random number generator, I have been able to determine the winners of the two books of poetry I'm giving away this year.

And they are:

Renee, who has won a copy of my book, The Insomniac's Weather Report,


Jessica (not me, a different Jessica!), who has won the California anthology, Yuba Flows, featuring (among other poets) the very talented Judy Halebsky.

Congratulations to Renee and Jessica, and thanks to everybody for participating!

PS Renee and Jessica, you each should have received  an email from me inquiring about a physical address to send your book to. If you haven't, please let me know.