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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Potential Poems

For a few weeks I've been working on a poem that has such potential. And that's all it has at this point--potential. The idea is so good; it fits so well with the theme I am working on, but it is based on a phenomenon not well known, so it takes some explanation before the imagery makes any sense. As a result, each draft I write is too prose-y, with too much explication. This is not a new problem for me, but none of the ways I have solved it before are working this time. Which is the beauty of poetry: each new poem has to be solved in an original way.

But it's really frustrating.

So today I had an idea to go look at an old failed poem for ideas, and when I opened up the folder of old failed poems, on the top was a poem that had come so close back in the fall but had a fatal flaw (this was not the poem I was looking for though). Too bad, I thought to myself, rereading this failed poem; it came so close, except for that--

Wait a minute! I know how to fix that now. And suddenly I saw a way around the old problem; it required a radical fix but it would solve everything. Forty-five minutes later, I had finished that abandoned poem. But still hadn't made any progress on the poem I had been stuck on first this morning.

So maybe it's time to put it away. Maybe in some months the solution will be as obvious to me as the solution to fall's failed poem was today. Maybe it's time to let my unconscious mind cogitate on the matter.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Catching Up

First of all, free posters for National Poetry Month from the Academy of American Poets over at Sign up now!

Next, poetry news about me: lots of close, but no. In fact, since the beginning of the year, four journals have written to say, liked your work, aren't going to publish it, please send more. That brings the list of journals I need to send more work to up to seven. And here's the question: I had heard that you should respond to such requests within a month, before your name is forgotten, before staff turnover (especially in the case of university-based journals which can be student-run), but then recently I read that it was only good manners to wait six months, so as not to overwhelm editors dealing with stacks of submissions. Both opinions were given by poets who publish regularly. So, what do you think?

My manuscript is also a semi-finalist for a prize that would be a big deal for me; it's not likely I'll win; who knows if I'll even make it to the finals, but here's hoping.....More on this when the news becomes public.

Finally, today is the day I have been waiting for. I am alone at home. This has not happened since before Christmas. Sadly, I need to be alone to really concentrate (I say sadly because it happens so rarely, such an elusive thing). And I have plans to write poems and to clean out a closet and to prepare a few lesson plans and to finish my final problem set for my masters in linguistics. It may not sound thrilling to you, but I am so pleased to have a quiet day to do all this. Yay! And if I get it done, tomorrow I will take the time to go to a student's art show. So, off I go!

(Oh, and did I mention, I'm having a good hair day, a really good hair day, here all alone, with no one to appreciate it. The universe has a sense of humor.)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Snowstorm, Revisited

An older poem of mine, Snowstorm, is currently featured Kara Daly's website. The poem originally appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal, and later was in my book The Insomniac's Weather Report.

Thanks, Kara, for reviving a seasonally appropriate poem!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Update: Homes for Long Poems

I've been periodically updating my post of last summer, Homes for Long Poems, since the original date of posting. This is just a reminder for people interested in placing longer poems in journals that plenty of magazines have been added to the list in the meantime, so check it out now and again. Cheers.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Storytelling Pods

I love storytelling podcasts (you know the kind, people tell true stories from their lives, without notes, not a reading, a telling). I've always loved to hear people's stories, but living in Japan, I especially now enjoy the treat of hearing stories in English via podcast. Well, let's be truthful--there are days I could listen to someone read the phone book if only it was read in English. But storytelling podcasts are the best antidote to my yen (ha ha, get it?!) for my native tongue. When the gap between the weekly The Moth podcasts had me going into withdrawal, I went on the hunt for more podcasts with archives I could satisfy my craving with.

I found quite a few storytelling podcasts out there, and quickly realized that some are better (much much better) than others. So today I will share the best of the storytelling podcasts (that I've found thus far--if you have any I've missed to recommend, do not collect $200, do not pass go--tell me immediately!)

1. Obviously The Moth is the gold standard in storytelling podcasts. If you haven't listened to any before, start here. Even if you have listened to some before, this is still the place to go so that you are never disappointed.

2. The Monti Podcast is North Carolina-based storytelling series hosted by Jeff Polish. They have a Signature Series, for which a storyteller must pitch a story in order to receive an invitation to a themed event, and they have the StorySLAM, where audience members show up and put names in a hat to see if  they get time onstage. I don't know if the staff coaches their storytellers, but the quality is as high as other shows that do. And there are plenty of stories in the archive to keep a listener happy. Finally, each podcast is a single story (or at most two) so you can skip one if you are not interested, in contrast with shows that are a full hour per podcast. Oh, and the music is all written by the amazing Django Haskins and performed by The Old Ceremony--worth listening just for that!

3. Porchlight: A Storytelling Series, with the hosting duo of  Arline Klatt and Beth Lisick, who do coach their storytellers (they remind the listener frequently of chances to take classes and get some coaching), is based in San Francisco. Great stories in two formats: scheduled storytellers at themed shows, and the Open Door, an open mic event. Scheduled shows have six storytellers each with a 10-minute story, all in one podcast, while Open Door participants are limited to 5-minute stories. This show has an eleven-year history, and while not all eleven years are archived, there are plenty to keep your ears happy.

4. While not as slick a show as the ones above, The Story Collider has the advantage of being all stories about science all the time. Okay, that may not strike you as an advantage, but if it does, as it does me, this is the podcast for you. They podcast a single story a week, and it's well worth the wait.

5. Finally, RISK!, Kevin Allison's podcast, is great, but only for the not-faint-of-heart. This show gets graphic, down-and-dirty, shocking, etc. I've heard things on this show that never would have occurred to me as possibilities in real life. So if you have any qualms about anything intimate or violent or perverse, this is not the podcast for you. On the other hand, if you are up for the possibility of such things, this is a one-hour podcast that will leave you laughing, crying, and shocked. (There are also classes, both traditional and online, offered for potential storytellers by this organization.)

So those are my recommendations as of now (all of which are available on iTunes, as well as at the sites linked to above). Let me know if you can add anything as good.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hirshfield: Why Write Poetry?

Jane Hirshfield, one of my heroes, answers the question "Why write poetry?" for the Psychology Today blog. One of the astounding things she says is, "What we want from art is whatever is missing from the lives we are already living and making. Something is always missing, and so art-making is endless."

Check our the entire (brief) interview.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year

In Japan, New Year celebrations last for three days, during which time you are supposed to get yourself to a shrine to ensure good luck for the forthcoming year. So we went one morning at 7 am when the shrine was just opening. All the way there my husband drilled my sons on the proper etiquette of the shrine--we are not true believers and, like many Japanese, go only for the tradition of starting the new year properly; thus we go rarely and are not well-schooled in how many times to clap, where to stand, etc., and have to be reminded each time. It's especially important this year that my younger son do everything right, as he has his entrance exam in two weeks and needs all the good luck he can get.

So there we were on our way and my husband asks my sons what the first thing they should do when praying is (after the hand-washing, bell-ringing, bowing, and clapping, that is). They get the answer wrong. "You have to start out your prayer by telling the gods your name and address," my husband corrects them.

"What?!" I say. "The gods don't know our names and address?" What kind of gods are these anyway, I'm thinking.

"Everybody is coming to the shrine these days. It gets confusing. You have to remind them," says my husband.

I am incredulous. "You have to remind the gods of your address and phone number? Really?"

"Not your phone number," says my husband. "That would be silly."