Saturday, June 30, 2012
Friday, June 29, 2012
I have note entered a lot of contests - I maybe average one to two entries a year so I'm one one who has a lot of personal experience with the contest circuit.
One of the two pieces that I'm talking about was an interview in Ploughshares of Mary Biddinger by Victoria Chang. I've met Victoria at a reading in Kansas City I believe in 2008. I've read two of her books Circle and Silivinia Molesta. I enjoyed both but was much impressed by Circle as a first book. Biddinger I've never met or heard read but I have her book Saint Monica which I was so in love with I I can hardly contain myself in wait for her next book O Holy Insurgency. She is the queen of Catholic poetic culture.
The second piece that I read was a blog post by Susan Rich. I've never met Susan either but have her book The Alchemist's Kitchen. One thing that I've appreciated about Susan is that she is a poet who not only has a strong social consciousness but will on occasion allow it the gently permeate her work.
So insight of interest did I glean from these two sources? Rich pointed out, "...all the poems that were sent on to me were quite competent. However, competent is not enough to win a contest. The poems that startled me, that made me want to read then and re-read them, the poems that could not be nailed to a chair in terms of their meaning." Her advise specifically was to, "Choose to send your poems that take risks."
Mary Biddinger said she loves "Poems with teeth... poems that aren't afraid to use their teeth." For Biddinger, she would rather see "a manuscript that makes a few missteps, but dose so with bravery, versus a highly-polished competent, yet safe collection."
If you take to heart what these two poet/judges have to say on the subject, it comes down to being willing to take the risk. I suppose this really should come as no surprise because it really is the poem that stands up and dares to be different that gets noticed. I can recall shuffling through pages of work in the past and pulling from it the pieces that seemed the most polished. I will try to not make that mistake again.
firefighters search door to door for bodies
Consumer confidence declined in June
S & P 500 caps best June since 1999
Tatum puts critics under their spell
China's first female astronaut returns
earth adds leap second
Hillary Clinton attacking
man plagued by porn-induced headaches
Thursday, June 28, 2012
It's Thursday - 9 days since my last confession. Nine mostly hot days. Today stretches the concept of hot as it reaches 105. I am not amused.
- I confess that I missed confession Tuesday and hope that by making it up on another "T" day I can be afforded special dispensation.
- I confess that special dispensation seems redundant to me. If you receive dispensation isn't it speal in itself?
- I confess that I am sipping on a diet cream soda and fruit punch flavored Vodka. (I didn't use much Shannon) My defense is rooted in triple digit heat.
- I confess that any time the San Francisco Giants beat the Dodgers is a good day but when they beat the Dodgers and move into a tie for first place is crazy assed exciting!
- I confess that I had a bad case of methodical today. I suppose this was not really a bad thing because I had a lot of really detail orientated stuff to deal with at the office today.
- I confess the heat was so bad today that spending the night at work didn't seem all that bad... but alas I did come home.
- I confess that I was pleasantly surprised by the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Health Care Act.
- I confess that even with the horrible heat, most of the people that I have come in contact with the past couple of days have not been grouchy but rather very respectful and courteous.
- I confess that I need to write yet tonight, therefor I'm confessed out for this week.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Did some office work I carted home today. Also some writing as well as other tasks I had on my calendar for today. Read a little of the poet Marilyn Kallett. The poet Joy Harjo calls Kallet a romantic sensualist. I've heard Kallett reading live at Rochkurst University a few years ago. Returning to her work was an experience as she is a bit of a break from much of what I've been reading lately. Bring some variety into your reading experience can be a good thing. By the way, I'm reading How To Get Heat Without Fire.
Thought for the day: In the United States, though power corrupts, the expectation of power paralyzes. - John Kenneth Galbraith
The Mag 123
Friday, June 22, 2012
On another front, rejection letter from Indiana Review arrived. Second this week. Week ago I did have a piece accepted though. According to to my Duotrope Submission Tracker my acceptance ratio is 7.9% which it tells me is above the average rate. There is that to be thankful for.
Had a breakthrough idea related to manuscript this week and for that I'm pleased. All together it's been a good week. Very busy at the office but I can usually count on that.
Before I retire for the night I feel compelled to say a few words about the number thirty-eight. Poets normally deal with words but at the moment it's the number thirty-eight that pretty much sums it up.
It was thirty-eight years ago on the 22nd of June, that my wife Cathy and I were married. We dated for three years prior so really our lives have been entwined for essentially 4 decades. No one lives 4 decades without trials and tribulations and we have had ours; but I cannot think of having gone through my life without the partner I've been privileged to have by my side.
Through numerous endeavors over these years I have been blessed by her support, her faith in me, and her gentle encouragement at times when I have needed it the most. I'm not an easy person (I'm a poet for God's sake) at times. She has tolerated the many flavors of idiosyncrasy that I tend to embrace. Overlooking faults and bring out and celebrating the best in me at times when I have trouble seeing the best myself.
Love you Cath!! Looking back all these years later I might have done a lot of things with my life different, but not you. I would do this all over. Here's to a long life together!
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Monday, June 18, 2012
You see I've reached that point where I realize that even that killer piece I wrote last October that has been published has to stand alone and what I write today and tomorrow has to be fresh and unique. Even if writing in a themed manuscript (especially if) you have to create from a fresh perspective.
I guess what this really comes down to is the fear that my writing will become irrelevant. We all have to have fresh ideas or at least fresh approaches. It's one thing for a poet to find his or her voice, but that voice must be able to find a range of fresh ideas.
So in those few moments when you first pick up your pen, what do you do to take your mind to some new direction? Any tricks that you have to keeping your work fresh? I'd love to hear from others struggling with this and especially those who have fought this demon and are now secure in their writing as the pen and the paper first meet.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.
I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face
Michael A. Wells
Friday, June 15, 2012
spoke of logistics only in passing.
You bathed in tepid water.
The phone rang twice - I did not get up.
In the morning you left early-
left a note by the coffee maker
expressing your gratitude for the time
that filled the void.
I held the note for a while...
quite a while I think
but I don't really know time.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
After work I drove home, picket up Meghan (daughter) and drove back into the city to a gallery showing of work by the Kansas City area artist Jennifer Rivera. It has occurred to me that walking around taking in artwork after a long day or series of days is a great way to unwind. A glass of wine and paintings and it takes the handcuffs off your mind. I would say in this case it was therapeutic.
Jennifer's artwork is extraordinary with textures and colors that can be nova star brilliant or the darkened minor keys in a Shostakovitch symphony and the many points in-between. There were three pieces on display that I especially enjoyed.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
It's been three poetry drafts, one finished poem, a car breakdown and a car repair since my last confession
This weekend our Mercury Sable broke down on the was home from run out to fetch carryout dinner. I was able to get the car pushed out of the way of traffic and with the help of a very nice man in a pickup with his teenage sons. They then kindly offered a ride home- a distance of maybe three miles. Fortunately I was able to return to the car later and it started and was able to safely return it to the home.
I confess that my future son-in-law who is a wizard with all things mechanical especially cars determined that the problem was the alternator and the next day replaced it with one from a junk yard - thus saving us boo-coup bucks. Okay, he's not like a Harry Potter type wizard but just a cool.
I confess that that this weekend I received word a poem I wrote maybe four years ago found a home. Of course I'm always delighted to get an acceptance letter but this one was special because this is a poem that came so easily and was one I always believed in. It was one of those rare instances that the poem almost writes itself.
I confess that I found myself looking at an e-reader tonight when we were out shopping. I also confess that I like real books better. I do have Kindle and Nook on my PC and while I have used them I have been a very slow accept them. Poetry books I want to hold in my hand.
It's late and I still need to write yet tonight so until next week - be safe...
Sunday, June 10, 2012
The notes, lists, inventory of thought and miscellaneous,
my refuge for information is all there. I've come to depend
on a singular place; vertical and standing put.
My mind tends to meander more horizontally
these days and often drifts off path.
When I need to refer to something important
it is that assemblage of what-not
stapled to the weathered wall that I count on.
Michael A. Wells
Saturday, June 09, 2012
No it’s not yet July but for some reason this song has been looping through my mind this morning. Thank you Chicago! I suppose it could be worse, after all I am a big fan of Chicago but I generally don’t like anything to loop through my mind. Certainly that is the case this morning. We have an Ozone alert today so it’s probably not a great day to be at the park anyway.
Instead of the looping, let me turn to my journal and look for a few tid bits from this past week and maybe I can get this out of my head.
- “The writer, when he is also an artist, is someone who admits what others don’t dare reveal.” - Elia Kazan
- “All my life famous people have been dying from a distance/up ahead just over the curvature I see the tops of them on approach/the distance is narrowing”
- “a fan chops the humid air/throwing it back in my face…
- “This free market thing/how is it working for you?/Mowing the lawn is getting pricey”
Thursday, June 07, 2012
The announcement of the newest poet laureate offers some contrast to many of the past. Natasha Trethewey is by no means the first woman laureate but she joins a rather short list women who have held the post. It is equally noteworthy to me that she is quite young as poet laureates go. At 46 she is actually older then I had thought her to be, still many laureates enter the office in their 70’s or 80’s.
Yet another significant aspect of Tretheway’s selection is the regional flavor her work brings. She is from the South and much of her work is laced in history and people and times in the South. Merwin and Hall for example were poets that had geographical ties but there work could probably be described as more universal.
While universality in poetry is a good thing, some times there are stories to be told that are more parochial. That need to be part of the national dialogue. That without, we as a nation are not whole.Natasha Trethewey is a powerful voice that has been informed by a unique life story.
I’ve read some of her work over the past couple of years and heard much more in her own voice on NPR and the Poetry Hour on PBS. From some of the talk on Facebook I gather she has flown below the radar of more poetry readers then I would have guessed. That being the case, her selection is even more significant because she a voice that is worthy of being heard.
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