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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Who Said That?

Brainy Quote website has a poet quiz for you. See if you can identify the poet with the quote. I got 76%, which qualified me as the very lowest-scoring quote master. First four were easy and then......(but I think the questions are randomized so that may not be the case for you)......

Give it a try, and report your score!

Friday, June 29, 2012

If You Read Anything Today, Read This

If you read anything today, read this. The Farrar, Struus, and Giroux blog Work in Progress has published poet and author Sarah Manguso's "How to Have a Career: Advice to Young Writers." Young or not, all writers who are trying to achieve some sort of success (however you measure it, and this articles suggests a way to measure it) should consider these highly practical, very specific pieces of advice. This is not another "Read as much as can" kind of advice. This is how to make your life's work your life and still be able to eat.

Includes such gems as:

-Be relentless. All over the world, people are working harder than you. Don’t go to events; go to the receptions after the events. If possible, skip the receptions and go to the afterparties, where you can have a real conversation with someone.

-Run and do calisthenics instead of paying for a gym membership.

-Stay healthy; sickness is a waste of time and money.

-Avoid all messy and needy people including family; they threaten your work. You may believe your messy life supplies material, but it in fact distracts you from understanding that material. . .

-Don’t give favors to people or institutions that lack authority or consequence. Publishing or showing work where no one will see it or giving a reading where no one will hear it is a favor. Learn graciously to decline. The world will catch on that you are a valuable commodity.

-When you find great work, help it along; expect nothing in return. Bringing great work to the world is your job, whether you or someone else created it.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stallings Interviewed by Gylys

Here's a great interview of poet A. E. Stallings by poet Beth Gylys. The link is to the Poetry Daily Prose Feature, but the original interview comes from Five Points.

Stallings discusses a few of my obsessions: motherhood and writing, and formal writing. Below enjoy an exchange from the interview.


Gylys says: In an interview in Valparaiso, you said, "I do need some sort of difficulty, though, to catch myself off balance, to make me keep my wits about me, to keep the right brain from knowing what the left brain is doing, as it were (or is it vice versa?)." I love this idea that form somehow confuses you enough to free you at the same time. I often talk to my students about this need to find ways to get out of our own way. . . .

Stallings replies: I do believe that form is not about having control, but about giving up control, or the illusion of control, to the poem. A rhyme might give you permission to say something that you might have hesitated to say, or might not even have thought to say. It opens up the possibilities, for me, rather than closing them down. I find that I do have to have some sort of surface difficulty, usually, to get purchase on a poem. But not so much difficulty that it becomes an exercise in cleverness. I try to let the poem make its own rules. But I suppose all poets do that in their own way.

Call for Submissions: Cancer Survivors

The following is an entry from the CRWOPPS online list. It's an online journal looking for submissions from cancer survivors.


The Survivorʼs Review, a not-for-profit online journal encouraging the creative expression ofcancer survivors, is seeking stories, essays, and poems by those who are intimately familiar with the cancer journey.

If you have written a piece that explores the heart of what it means to be a cancer survivor or caregiver, please consider submitting your work to us.

Submissions accepted at: www.survivorsreview .org/

Our word count is flexible, but most of our features range from 100 to 1,000 words. Please visit our site and contact us with any questions.

Submissions received by July 15, 2012 will be considered for publication in our next issue.

Question: Who is a cancer survivor?
Answer: Anyone living with a history of cancer from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Recent Reading Binge

Today my new trimester starts for my online studies, and before I delve into it and disappear from here, I want to tell you what I've been reading lately in my simultaneous reading binge.

One book I read these past few weeks was Brent Goodman's The Brother Swimming Beneath Me, which had two recurring themes: the death of the poet's brother as a young man, and the poet's coming out and living as a gay man. It was good timing for me to read this book, as I've been thinking about how to organize a manuscript myself, and seeing how Goodman did not gather all the poems about each of his major themes into separate sections, but rather alternated them throughout the first few sections of the book, confirmed my plan to structure my manscript that loosely and recursively.

Concurrently I also read Hayden Saunier's Tips for Domestic Travel. (Both this book and Goodman's are from Black Lawrence Press, and I got them in my half-price buying binge a month or so ago.) I had read a single poem of Saunier's some years ago, and put her book on my 'to-read' list based on it, and on websearching more of her work. Saunier lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a county adjacent to the one I grew up in, so that may account for some of the affinity I feel for her modern pastoral tone. Reading through her book, I kept expecting to find the poem that had originally turned me on to her work, and finally I came upon it--the last poem in the book!

My third simultaneous read was Bhanu Kapil's Incubation: A Space for Monsters. I'm not sure if I would call this poetry or avant garde prose; it occupies that space so prevalent these days between them. This text was in many places a very difficult read, much different from the two books above with their narrative structures (although this one was also narrative, but disjointed, and though I love that style, I was confused a good deal of the time). However, I enjoyed the book despite (or perhaps partially because of) my disorientation. As a major theme is the disorientation of the immigrant as other, so the tone and confusing organization was an effective device, as well as a hugely familiar to me given my life circumstances.

The last book of poetry I read along with the others was Craig Morgan Teicher's Brenda Is In The Room. This is another case of a me having read a single poem and on the strength of it (in this case the title poem) putting the poet's book on my to-read list. Teicher's straightforward logical tone couldn't differ any more from Kapil's dense and cryptic lines or from Saunier's higly lyrical style, but that's one of the pleasures of reading several books concurrently--noticing and reveling in the differences. I happen to love the pared-down quasi-rational tone employed by Teicher, the suggestion that lines are organized logically and then suddenly a surprising statement appears, and you wonder how you got there from the careful progression of previous lines. I try to use this kind of affect myself. So I loved most of this book, although Teicher ended with a long poem meant to invoke A. R. Ammons' long works (as stated within the poem repeatedly by the poet), but it didn't work for me at all. The rest though, was a pleasure.

To be thorough, while reading these books of poetry, I also read as fiction Primo Levi's If Not Now, When? and Lousie Erdrich's Shadow Tag, and for non-fiction Alice Walker's Anything We Love Can be Saved.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Most Like an Arch, This Poem

If you go to a children's science museum, chances are that there will be an interactive display for building an arch. There will be a base block which forms the outline of the arch, and loose blocks of various shapes that have to be stacked up and fitted together around and over the top of the base block till they lean tightly together, in a symmetrical outlay with the keystone piece in the middle. Once you have that configuration, you can pull out the base block and the arch will stay together, standing, remarkably stable and without any kind of adhesion holding it up other than the weight of the individual blocks pressed against one another.

Yesterday I was editing some poems, taking out as much of the excess wording and imagery as I could without causing the poem to collapse, and it occurred to me that what I was doing was like building an arch. The foundation, the original impulse around which the lines were placed, could eventually be removed entirely if each line was chosen and placed correctly so that its weight and position was necessary yet not excessive in its contribution to the poem. Everything else had to be deleted, leaving on the essential elements which leaned on one another, but didn't stand alone and demand their own attention.

Then, when all the excess was pulled out, if the poem remained standing, I got the feeling of pulling the base block out of an arch and with astonishment seeing the arch still remain. When you have that feeling, you have a poem.

(The title of this post is a play on John Ciardi's poem entitled "Most Like an Arch This Marriage.")

Issa and Hass

Gwarlingo's "The Sunday Poem" is always a treat, but this week it features a video of Robert Hass reading haiku by Issa, which Hass translated. The video focuses on the humorous aspects of Issa's haiku, and is a real pick-me-up in 2 1/2 minutes.

Gwarlingo also includes a brief biography of Hass, a favorite poet of mine, and of Issa. I didn't realize how little I knew about Issa till I read this info at this site. For example, I didn't realize that he had disputes with his biological and step families, nor that he had written over 20,000 haiku, with over 200 about fireflies and 90 about cicadas, and many more about other small beings inhabiting our planet.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Need a peek into the future? Here's an oracle you can count on: Biobilomancy Oracle, curated by poet Reb Livingston.

What is bibliomancy? Here's Livingston's description: "Bibliomancy (sometimes referred to as stichomancy) is the use of books in divination. The concept is that literature contains “truths” and speak to matters of great importance. This Oracle selects passages from its database using a random generator. The idea being that meaningful texts are offered via synchronicity. The relevant message finds you. You only need to be open to receiving it."

Basically, you ask the Oracle a question, and then a random generator chooses a quote from a trove that Livingston has assembled, and which you are to apply to your question in whatever way seems appropriate to you.

Good fun! Try it out.

Pressfield's Turning Pro

Jocelyn K. Glei at the blog 99% has an interesting review/commentary on the book Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work by Stephen Pressfield, who's also the author of War of Art.

In this new book, Pressfield apparently contrasts the professional/artist with the amateur/addict, and shows how the latter spends energy making drama of the elements that ought to go into making art, investing energy in the yearning and longing to follow one's passion instead of foregoing that waste of energy and simply making the art.

Pressfield uses addict in a much more general sense than is usually meant. Here are some quotes from the book:

The addict is the amateur; the artist is the professional.

Both addict and artist are dealing with the same material, which is the pain of being human and the struggle against self-sabotage. But the addict/amateur and the artist/professional deal with these elements in fundamentally different ways.

(When I say "addiction," by the way, I'm not referring only to the serious, clinical maladies of alcoholism, drug dependence, domestic abuse and so forth. Web-surfing counts too. So do compulsive texting, sexting, twittering and Facebooking.)


Displacement activities.

When we're living as amateurs, we're running away from our calling - meaning our work, our destiny, the obligation to become our truest and highest selves.

Addiction becomes a surrogate for our calling. We enact the addiction instead of the calling. Why? Because to follow a calling requires work. It's hard. It hurts. It demands entering the pain-zone of effort, risk, and exposure.


When you turn pro, your life gets very simple.

The Zen monk, the artist, the entrepreneur often lead lives so plain they're practically invisible. Miyamoto Musashi's dojo was smaller than my living room. Things became superfluous for him. In the end he didn't even need a sword.


Looks like it could be a useful read in fallow periods. I'll add it to my list for those discouraging times.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sample Query Letters

Sample query letters provided by Writers Market. (I know I've been bombarding you with posts recently. Not to worry; new semester starts on Monday and back into my cocoon of silence I will go.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Poets & Writers Favorite Lines

Some favorite lines of the people at Poets & Writers. What a good idea--to photograph the actual pages the desired lines appear on instead of just quoting them. Check it out.

Where the Hell is Matt? 2012

Updated Where the Hell is Matt? And he has a baby!!!!!

Tentative Manuscript

In order to distract myself from my frustration and despair over my first book's publishing woes, I decided to concentrate on getting my next manuscript in shape. I have enough poems, enough that I can cut some of what I decide are the weaker ones, so I decided to get to work ordering them.

This was a different kind of challenge for me, as my first book was built around a structure that I recognized only a few poems into the manuscript, and so ordering was automatic. My chapbook ordered itself easily too, as it was quite coherently about a very few subjects.

But this time I have a bunch of disparate poems, albeit featuring a number of my obsessions, but these poems are more divergent in style than my previous ventures, wildly so. So what to do?

I re-read the sources I had researched earlier on organizing a manuscript (which you can access here and here and here). So many good ideas about how to think about organization of a manuscript, and I settled on having the ending of a poem suggest the beginning of the next  poem. Which is not too surprising given that my first book featured a cycle of poems which were linked by word pairs, one from the previous poem and one from the following poem, until the last poem circled around to the very first poem. This string of suggested relations will be more subtle though, but I hope effective.

So I quickly got 15 poems all lined up and linked up and I was feeling pleased with myself, when I hit a wall. It wasn't that the fifteenth poem couldn't link to a next poem (there were a few options); it's more that it didn't feel right. So I stopped for the day.

The next time I picked up the first fifteen poems, I still liked the organization, and I realized that the fifteenth poem ended on an almost ironic imperative to keep going, and it suddenly pleased me to put a section break there, so that the reader couldn't keep going.

I'm having less success trying to get the next section going, and this may not be the organization that I end up with, but it's where I'm starting. And while the first read-through of poems I hadn't read in awhile made my proud of my work, subsequent read-throughs have me despairing that none of it is any good. Which is a feeling I'm more familiar with, anyway.

And so goes the writing life, sandwiched between the working life, the family life, and the life life.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pop-up Madness

Flavorwire has outdone themselves this time, with a collection of pop-up books for adults (but not that kind of book for adults, don't worry).

My favorites are the alphabet book by Marion Bataille, and CERN's explanation of the Large Hadron Collider, in pop-up book form, though there's something to be said for the Lego pop-up Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion in Kyoto), and I've got to admire Shawn Sheehy's linoleum block prints in 3D.

And while we're being visual, see what Book Riot deemed the most interesting book covers at the Book Expo America 2012.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

One Secret of the Universe Revealed

Sometimes I post things on this blog just so I'll be able to find them later, when I figure out what I want to do with them. This is one of those times. (Thanks, Hershey, for posting this on Facebook).

A little digging around reveals this to be the work of artist Kentaro Nagai, who has done all twelve signs on the Chinese zodiac using the continents as his medium. Found at the culture website, Pink Tentacle.

And here, you can watch the continents move and form the various animals, at Graflex Directions.

Erasure in Taiwan

Asymptote has interviewed the editors of the Taiwanese poetry journal Xianzai Shi (Poetry Now) about their 9th issue (Feb. 2012) themed "Cross It Out," which featured erasure poetry. The erasures were initiated in an exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum. Read about the various ways poets chose their source materials (including news reports, advertisement, and Jacques Derrida), as well as how crossing out an alphabetic language differs from erasing a logographic language. As Hsia Yu points out, "After crossing out an alphabetic language, you leave behind the sound; after you cross out logographic languages, you leave behind images. How would you want to translate sound? How would you want to translate images?"

Translation and erasure are further compared by Ling Yu, who says, "Between crossing out a language and translating a language, there is a subtle connection; Translation is sometimes just crossing out."

Besides exhibiting their work in a venue devoted to visual arts and thus further emphasizing the visual nature of erasure, the poets created a space where visitors could also experience making erasures for themselves. Some of these pieces were featured in the erasures issue of their magazine.

Having not thought before about the visual aspect of erasures culled from pieces written in a logographic language, I was intrigued by this article. Surveyors of erasure should enjoy this interview.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Making Math News

So I wondered why my website had a sudden bump in views, and I looked around to find out. It seems a very old poem of mine has just made Math News over at MathNEXUS.

Thanks, MathNEXUS!

Prose and Form and Reentry

HTML Giant has a collection of quotes on prose poetry, as well as prose versus poetry.

A couple of years ago I struggled with a desire to write a prose poem and no idea how to do it. It's good to know I'm not the only one:

‘My own formal literary education has not accorded much regard to what in English are referred to as ‘prose poems,’ and I am not at all sure what the genre is supposed to entail.’ (W.S. Merwin)

‘However, if a poem can be reduced to a prose sentence, there can’t be much to it.’ (James Schuyler)

And yet the form has its proponents:

‘There is a shorter distance from the unconscious to the Prose Poem than from the unconscious to most poems in verse.’ (Michael Benedikt)

‘A poetry freed from the definition of poetry, and a prose free of the necessities of fiction.’ (Russell Edson)

I did eventually write a few prose poems. Well, actually, after much research, I realized that I had already written some prose poems and not even known it, as I had expected the form to be a single paragraph block that I recognized from many prose poems I had read.

It's good to try new forms. This week I finished a cento, and I really enjoyed it. I was stymied in my writing because of just finishing my first semester of online study which coincided with my first semester in many years back in the classroom as a teacher, and poetry fell by the wayside (as did this blog). And so I hadn't been writing much and was having trouble getting back into it, and as usual, pursuing a form with its structures and its strictures was the right way for me to edge back in. A cento, with its collage form of other people's lines, was really low-risk but still creative and got me revved up.

Now I have an idea for a poem to write the usual way.

It's pouring rain here, and it's my older son's birthday morning. He's in the other room putting together a model ship he wanted for his birthday, happily at work. I just noticed my pajamas are inside out--slept all night in them that way. I feel like I'm coming out of a long period of automatic pilot and back into the world. And what a world it is.

Friday, June 15, 2012

On Ocelots

I heard this funny joke on the radio, but it's not very nice, so if you think you might be offended, just stop reading this post right now (Mom, that means you!).

Also, you may have heard this one before; apparently it's been around awhile, but I only just heard it.

Okay, so now that I've already ruined it with disclaimers, here it goes (Mom, this is your last warning; stop reading!)

How do you titillate an ocelot?
You oscillate its tits a lot.

(Well, Mom, you can't say I didn't warn you.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Murakami Bingo

Murakami Bingo over at the New York Times Sunday Book Review Online.

So go, already. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

FB Lit Memes

A friend showed me this fun Facebook Page filled with literary memes, including the following:

Enjoy the rest at the site!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Congrats to Mari

Friend and poet Mari L'Esperance is interviewed by J. P. Dancing Bear on Outofourmind's Posterous. You can listen here, by clicking on the 6/9/12 show (hover over the number, and when it becomes an arrow, click on it, and you can listen without going to iTunes).

Mari also co-edited a forthcoming anthology with Tomás Q. Morín called Coming Close: Poets Pay Tribute to Philip Levine as Teacher and Mentor (University of Iowa Press, 2013).

Congratulations, Mari, on many things, poetic and otherwise!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Please Alice Notley Tell Me....

For all the writers/women/parents (and you only need be one of the three, or none even, to appreciate this), I recommend Rachel Zucker's "Please Alice Notley Tell Me How to Be Old" at the Ploughshares blog. There's a line I deeply want to quote to you, but it will be so much better if you read it in context and discover it yourself. So, go now, before I lose all self-control and ruin it for you!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

SE Asian Speculative Fiction

This is directly cut and pasted from the website of Lontar: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction.

LONTAR is now open to unsolicited submissions.

The editors of LONTAR are looking for quality literary writing with elements of the fantastic, which is in some way connected with the cultures, traditions, mythologies, folk religions, and/or daily life in Southeast Asia. While we are happy to look at works by writers outside of the region, we want to actively encourage Southeast Asian writers to submit your work.


Check out their website for submission details.

Breaking Lines to Break Hearts

I've said a number of times that poets should really subscribe to Diane Lockward's free weekly enewsletter, which you can do at her blog.

If you already subscribe, then skip the rest of this post.

If you don't already subscribe, see some of what Diane offers in her newsletter below. This week, Diane gets some tips from poet Wesley McNair about line breaks. (I happen to love line breaks. I think hard and long about where to break my lines, so I love this list. And of course I love lists. My favorite tip is  #4.)

Okay, here's Wesley McNair's list:

Ten Tips for Breaking Lines in Free Verse

1. Break your lines to suggest the mind at work shaping the poem, because every poem is a process of thought.

2. The poem is also about things that happen. Break to increase your reader’s anticipation about what will happen next.

3. Break to suggest your poem’s mood. For an openness of expression, try a long, end-stopped line. To create uncertainty or suspense, combine short lines with a long sentence, revealing and concealing as you go. For a mood of agitation or excitement, try a variable line-length with a jagged margin.

4. Break to create a tension between the line and the sentence, remembering that the interplay of the two is the central drama of free verse, each having a different purpose. Charles Simic: “The line is Buddha; the sentence is Socrates.”

5. Think of your poem as a musical score, in the way Denise Levertov recommended, using lines to emphasize vocal rhythm and the pitch of intonation, and line breaks as short intervals of silence or rest.

6. Break so your reader sees how to say your poem.

7. But don’t forget the wordlessness around the poem, which can be made articulate by a line break or by an artful arrangement of lines.

8. Break mainly on nouns, verbs, and the words that describe them; they carry the sentence’s essential meaning.

9. In your line breaking imitate the stresses of meditation and feeling, which are present in every earnest and intimate conversation and are the true source of the line break.

10. Believe these tips and don’t believe them. Let the feeling life of your poem be the final authority.