Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Amy Leigh Davis Confronting Desires & Truths

Interview with Amy Leigh Davis  -
Kansas City area poet & author of

 The Alter Ego of the Universe, Finishing Line Press, 2011

"Where does a person confront these things, these desires, these hidden truths, if not in a story or a song or a poem?" A.L.D.

MW: Amy Leigh Davis just published her first book of poetry with Finishing Line Press. She has attended the University of Missouri in Kansas City and was the recipient of the Crystal Field Scholarship for poetry. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Amy for several years now and she has graciously agreed to my interview about her work and book titled The Alter Ego of the Universe. 

Thanks Amy and congratulations on the publication. I imagine the publication has been pretty exciting, has it sunk in yet or are you still pinching yourself and trying to process everything?

ALD: Thank you. Getting published has invoked a plethora of emotions. For me, the feeling of excitement stems from a private feeling of fear that lies beneath the surface. Often I am torn between how I am expected to feel and how I really feel. I’ve still yet to put my finger on it, as they say.  I’ve had surprises come my way.  Dealing with a book contract and sales and promotions was not something that I dreamed of when I was sitting in my room, tapping beats and iambs on my desk, or journaling thoughts and images and trying to make a connection between the two. I’ve learned that by stepping into the realm of publishing I had to accept the possibility that I might fail.  But I am stubborn and know what I want. So, the same trust I put into my work, I put into the business of it. Also, I constantly had it in my mind that the editors at FLP accepted the manuscript for a reason. I am guessing that reason is that someone read my manuscript and thought, “Okay, this is worth our time and money.” 

MW: When I first read your book I was struck by a pervasive view of life itself throughout the pages. You deal with loss, disappointments, growing up… maybe a bit too fast. With motherhood, which may hearken back to growing up too fast. Was there anything in particular that you learned about yourself while writing this book and were there any cathartic elements to writing it?  

ALD: Good question. I mulled over the scope of the manuscript after I had completed several poems in which I was thoroughly pleased. I realized, in attempting to organize the book, that there were dominant themes that I certainly didn’t plan. I discovered things about myself not just as a writer, but as a person. I have a belief that there are indeed, two opposing forces that exist in the universe. I could never have perceived that about myself if I hadn’t written the manuscript. I didn’t want to be just a “good writer.” I wanted to express my experiences in a way that hadn’t been expressed (on a literary level) before.

As for the poems about motherhood, I felt this pressing urge to express the unexpected aversion a woman feels toward motherhood. There is this cliché that becoming a mother is the wonderful, delightful experience. For me, it was a life-alternating experience that came during a precarious time. I had been accepted at Columbia College in Chicago for the undergraduate Fiction Writing program, which I had been writing under the influence of for a couple years through a certain writer instructor. She and I developed this wonderful student-teacher bond that I am still moved by to this day, though we have grown apart. In March of 2006, we flew to Chicago to visit the college and meet some of the students and faculty.  I fell instantly in love with way the ground trembled when the El passed overhead. As we walked through the blustering, windy streets she gave me advice on how to live and survive on my own; “Keep moving, don’t make eye contact with strangers, whatever you do, don’t get attached to any one person, don’t get married, and don’t get pregnant.”    

So, that summer, I discovered I was pregnant. I had been communicating with a realtor in Chicago, because I didn’t want to stay in the dorms. So when I realized I was pregnant, I considered many options. I cried off and on. I became aware that whatever decision I made was going to affect the kind of person I was. I didn’t enjoy being pregnant until after it was over. In “Still Life” the speaker is pregnant and clearly feels trapped.  I didn’t (and still don’t) enjoy the aggravating issue that I will never again sleep like I did before my daughter was born; that blissful, blind sleep of youth. This kind of comes out in “Song for the Runaway Mother,” which is a poem that involves a mother who leaves her child in the night, yet still cannot escape or break that spiritual connection. Would I ever leave my own child? No, never. Do I regret having a child? No. She is a beautiful, clever creature whom I would die for.  But do I wonder about “what could have been?” Do I think, despite the good things that are present in my life, about that ultimate escape, that now forbidden dream? Absolutely. Where does a person confront these things, these desires, these hidden truths, if not in a story or a song or a poem?

MW:  One of the things that I especially liked about this book is how active it is, lots of movement in these poems; a variety of places and situations. Have you always lived in the Kansas City area or have you moved about when you were growing up? I’m just wondering how much influence areas outside of Kansas City contribute to your writing? 

ALD: My mom moved my brother and me to Kansas City in 1985 or 86.” But before that, our lives were constantly uprooted. My father devoted his life to the service. He was gone overseas often; he started his career in the Navy, and then became a Marine. We lived in government housing projects. It is interesting that people talk about “the projects,” but they don’t ever attribute this to military children, as my brother and I were. We live in North Carolina, Washington D.C. and Virginia. I mention these places in “Custom Shades” and “Dad.” What is interesting about these poems is that they were prompted by photographs by Homer Page. I felt an emotional cadence with these images, but I was having difficulty translating that into language. I found myself digging open wounds to bring color, movement and life into those black and white images. This was very risky, because I was making a connection between a street girl in New York in 1949 and myself. By the end of that poem, I imply that she and I are theoretically one and the same.  As for “Dad,” I completely invent a character and give that character some elements of my heart. Some people assume that this character is me, but that isn’t the case. For example, I’ve never sat on a bus in a strange city, I imagined that I was and imagined how that would make me feel, given certain circumstances.

Then there’s the poem “Revolution.” This developed out of a trip to Canada. Certain words are repeated, which mirrors the revolution of night and day. In this poem, there is constant movement. The world itself is constantly moving. You’d be surprised how much you notice about nature when you’re in the mountains without television or radio, or no deliberate access to human civilization.   

MW:  The Alter Ego of the Universe or title poem is kind of playful and fun. But there are some serious elements to this manuscript. You deal with loss and disappointments pretty straight forward. How did you happen to select this poem for the title?  Oh, and who is Big Dude? 

ALD:  It is playful. I’m glad you got the light-hearted tone, because I wrote the title poem as a joke. Sometimes the best things that are written originate from this odd sort of humor. As anyone with one ear can tell, this poem has a distinct rhythm, almost like a nursery rhyme ballad. But one thing that a ballad is good at doing is recounting a story because it makes the story easy to remember. So I revised the poem, keeping that playful rhythm, but then investing in a story. That story I chose to tell is an ancient one; a creation story. Creation stories often explore the nature of man. I used theories such as The Big Bang and Evolution to explain “The Alter Ego of the Universe.”

I chose this poem for the title because I noticed certain concepts like chaos, time and  opposing forces seem to be a theme that govern the life of many of the poems represented in the book.

Oh, and I have no definite answer as to who Big Dude is. I imagine he is what the deists would call “The Supreme Architect.” He is only concerned with the creation and equilibrium of natural forces and does not intervene with human affairs. This is the reason why the story/poem ends with the “the fish walk out of the sea.” At the poem’s conclusion, the Universe’s alter ego has taken over, so to speak.                                               

MW: Contractions is one of the poems I really love.  I suppose because, and as a male this is going to sound awkward but I think (emphasizing “think”) it has to be pretty spot on. I mean I am a father of four and I was in the delivery room for all of my children, so maybe you can cut me a little latitude on this.  It also seems so Plathian to me… another reason to like it.  But I digress… this is one of a couple of poems in your book that addresses motherhood. Song for the Runaway Mother is another… you are the mother of a beautiful little girl, how has motherhood impacted your writing?

ALD: A great deal. Motherhood has made me reinvest myself not only as a person, but as a writer. This might even be odd to say, but I might not have been as good of a writer had I gotten everything I wanted in the beginning. It is a good thing that I ended up living and working in Kansas City. Some people will make these proclamations about “how to write” or “how to become a writer.” I’m beginning to think its all crap and nobody has any idea what it takes or how one goes about becoming a writer. It is the work that matters and the life that creates it. Writing isn’t something you need a degree to do. There is no doubt that I benefited from attending creative writing courses locally. I benefited because it opened my eyes to the criticism involved and the objectivity that exists in the literary world. I learned a great deal about poetics and prose elements and forms. I learned how to critique my own work, which is how I work now. I write and revise, write and revise until I surprise myself or discover something that I didn’t expect to be there.  

MW: I’ve found not only in this book but over the years of exposure to your work that you are masterful with word combinations.  A great example, in the poem Honey you write, “The sound/orchestrates the thousands/like an angry violin. /The bloated queen/ is the demanding composer.”  I will forever think of angry violins when I see a swarm of bees. Do you have any favorite word combinations like this from your work?  Do you find these come to you with relative ease or do you have to work hard to cultivate them? 

ALD: This is hypersensitivity I think, which is common in contemporary poetry.  Plath or possibly even Wallace Stevens might be the gods of this. Sensory perceptions are amplified. Interestingly enough, working in form allows me to make connections between words that I wouldn’t ordinarily have made. Lately, with new work, I have found that I am at my best when making sense out of illogical assertions. 

MW: The cover art for your book is very eye catching and I feel like is must have been a really good fit for the title poem. Who designed it and how did this come about? 

ALD: Ala’n Clevenger. She is the wife of a friend and a friend of mine. I had seen her paintings and a statue of a woman that she made out of hardware. I admired the originality. Though I am not an artist, it seemed she had invented a genre all her own.

I thought of her work instantly after reviewing options for the cover art.

When I asked her if she would be interested in illustrating a cover piece, she said yes and asked to read the manuscript. We met and talked about some themes or elements that I thought were important, but really, I wanted her to have the freedom to interpret the collection in her own way. She painted three original pieces for the cover art.  In addition, I considered using the sculpture. (She calls it a “statue.”) She sent me sketches and samples, and each time I was shocked by her vision. I think it worked out well and it was a great collaboration.  

MW: What’s been the general reaction to the book so far? 

ALD: The feedback so far has been positive, which is surprising. Usually someone somewhere can always find something negative to say. And I know myself there are poems in collection that are stronger than others, but so far nobody has officially stepped forward to point out anything overtly negative.

I do want to share one particularly, special feedback I got because I feel it really captured the true essence of who I aspire to be as a writer.  This is from Ralph Acosta,

Well, to me it's more than just "She's a good writer." I've wondered a long time what "poetry" is, and reading yours I think that what it is to me is that ability to concisely encapsulate experience so that someone else can see it in a new way, or for the first time. It's as though you have the ability to take someone by the arm, and say "move over here, and let the light hit it just right, and you can see ... WOW! Yeah, I never noticed that before!" I guess there are all sorts of poetry, but it's this sort of ability to enhance someone else's experiential life, to allow them to see the world through your eyes in such a condensed way, that I most admire.

MW: Amy, you dedicated this book to the memory of your brother Denny Davis who passed away not long ago. I wanted to mention this because I sense he was a pretty big influence on you growing up.  

ALD: Yes, and oddly enough, the manuscript was accepted four months after he died at the age of 32. We were incredibly close. I still can’t put into words the experience of this loss. He still exists within me and always will. 

MW: So what is next?  Are you working on a second manuscript already?  What should we look for in the future from you? 

ALD: I will write forever, whether what I write gets published or not is a different story. I have some short stories (probably in the slush piles) for consideration at some literary journals. I have another unsimultaneous story at another magazine and hopefully it will get read. I have a few stories that need to be rewritten. And within the last month, I have worked on 6 or 7 poems. I have lots of work to do. In addition, I work 45-50 hours for a research company and I also have a 4-year old running around the house. Hopefully, out of the chaos of my life, something will fall into place. 

MW:  Thank you so much for indulging us with these questions.  It’s good to talk poetry with you… as always.  I’m going to close by giving you the last word.   Tell us who Amy Leigh Davis is in one word.
ALD: Oh that’s tough. Crazy? Ambitious? Probably Crazy.  

Editors Note:  This interview was conducted the week of September 25, 2011

2011 © Michael A. Wells

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Confession Tuesday

The night is slipping by quickly so let's get this over....

Dear Reader:  It's been a week since my last confession. A week in which I've gotten back to writing or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Writing took a back seat to a variety of other things the week before last.  I confess that I haven't been writing the best stuff but writing - even doing so poorly beats not writing. I'm maybe starting to hit my stride again. Just need to keep pushing through.

The surprise Maples in my back yard are starting to turn deep shades of red. Rich colors and every fall I confess I get an adrenalin rush when I see this change in color.

Went for a walk tonight with the dogs. I confess I always want to go for a walk until... until I start walking. Go figure. The exercise was good but the weather was also very nice. When it starts getting colder that's when it gets really tough.

I confess paying $3.19 a gallon for gas this morning was ALMOST exciting. I feel however it's a momentary blip in the future of gassing up my car.

Not much more to share tonight... Till next Tuesday - hang tight.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Magpie Tales 84 / Poem: Woman of Rain

Blood rain of the heavens

pounding earthward

arms outstretched to catch

all the violence nature can throw

at her—

losing herself to chilled veins

irrigating her flesh

thrusting her chest outward

her head arched back

an O wide to catch its fill

Niagara flowing over her lips

splashing into the cleavage below

her nipples rigid against the cold—

time becomes measurable

only as a benchmark

of periods of lucidity

of which second

has yet to occur

Michael A. Wells

Saturday, September 24, 2011


This past week has been a difficult week for many reasons and I won't go into the voluminous details.  Let's just say that all about me there seemed to be worries, trials, and stresses. I'm talking about many of the people closes to me. But I am here this morning to say that there were and continue to be many ways in which those about me have be and continue to be blessed. Many of the challenges of the past week are being met with positive response. This of course is a good thing.

We don't hear enough about the good in this world. Maybe that is why I am so drawn to art.  Art allows things to just be. It is not required to reflect good or bad...  it is what it is and we can find enjoyment it the simple reflection of the human spirit on the page or on canvass or in the music that fills the air.

Have you or someone close to you been blessed this past week?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Recomended Reading

The poet Susan Rich has a post today that I recommend to everyone.  Her poem In Our Name  originally appeared in The Cartographer's Tongue, White Pine Press, 2000.

Susan's poem is timely given the execution last night of Troy Davis. While not specifically about Troy's execution, she very effectively takes each of us inside a death chamber

Please read it and recommend it to others.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Unconscious Mutterings Week 451

You Say and I think:

  1. Earrings :: dangling
  2. Tomorrow :: never comes
  3. Soft :: and fresh
  4. Idiots :: Bush
  5. Portraits :: School
  6. Handicap :: golf
  7. Collar :: dog
  8. Blouse :: white
  9. Wool :: sweater
  10. Statistic :: hits

Get your own subliminal list weekly here

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

W.S. Merwin Reads for the 57th Annual Poetry Day - October 6th

September 20, 2011

W.S. Merwin Reads for 57th Annual Poetry Day

CHICAGO — The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is pleased to announce that poet, translator, and environmental activist W.S. Merwin will read in celebration of the 57th annual Poetry Day on Thursday, October 6. In a career spanning five decades, Merwin has become one of the most honored and widely read poets in America. From his first collection, A Mask for Janus, which W.H. Auden chose for the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1952, to The Shadow of Sirius, winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize, Merwin has written with sheer grace and limpid power about the natural world, time, and memory. Appointed U.S. poet laureate in 2010, Merwin lives, writes, and gardens in Hawaii, on the island of Maui. He has spent the last 30 years planting 19 acres with over 800 endangered species of palm, creating a sustainable forest. The property has recently been protected as the Merwin Conservancy.

What: Poetry Day: W.S. Merwin
When: Thursday, October 6, 6 p.m.
Where: Harold Washington Library
Cindy Pritzker Auditorium
400 South State Street
Tickets: Free admission on a first-come, first-served basis

Inaugurated by Robert Frost in 1955, Poetry Day is one of the most distinguished poetry reading series in the country, having featured such poets of note as T.S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, Carl Sandburg, W.H. Auden, Anne Sexton, John Ashbery, James Merrill, Adrienne Rich, Gwendolyn Brooks, Rita Dove, Billy Collins, Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, and Robert Hass.

Find information about other Poetry Foundation events at programs/events.

Confession Tuesday

Dear Reader:

It's been a week since my last confession. This is where I usually say something about how I can't believe how fast the week has gone. I confess that I don't feel that way.

I confess that when I see that my last blog post was on Thursday, a longer interval then I usually go or at least like to go without posting and yet it seems like an eternity ago.

I confess that my weekend seemed to kind of start late Thursday night and sort of been in a state of suspended animation except that suggests movement and this is more like a mobile hanging in a child room. Hanging and hanging and hanging.

I confess that I have strayed from my writing schedule and other than journaling I've really not written much of anything since last week.

I confess that last night I didn't even think of myself as a writer, a poet, for the first time in I don't know how long. This is a pretty devastating feeling since I think it's been a part of my own self identity for so long I don't know myself.

I confess that I did not want nor plan to post anything today on my blog. Yes, I confess I wasn't going to confess. How's that for honesty?  But I did, and I'm not sure why.  I'm off work today but was working on some work anyway. I think I just needed a break... I don't really know why.

I confess that I'm looking for a miracle for my San Francisco Giants.  They have started playing awesome again but winning the division is beyond their self determination at this point. They could win everything else and be close, but they need Arizona to stumble as well. Still they have an impressive string of 8 wins in a row under pressure. Let's make it 9 tonight!

I confess I feel the baseball season slipping, slipping out of my grasp. I can't hold onto it and stop it any more then I can stop the seasons.

I confess that I've had all I can take of robo calls from charities and collection agencies looking for someone else. If they get your contact information from a credit reporting agency that has your social security number but the person with the same name as you has a different social security number (which the agency has) should there not be some culpability?

I suppose this looks like a confession from Debbie Downer. Honestly I don't want it to seem that way, but you know what is all the rage to say these days... it is what it is.

Next week...  I hope.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's all about the destination...

During the morning drive time I heard a piece on NPR about songwriter Annie Clark who uses the stage name St. Vincent. Speaking to NPR's David Greene about her latest album "Strange Mercy" she said something that I so totally feel the same about when it comes to poetry.  She told Green, "I think in some ways, it can do a listener a disservice to explain a song, I think I'd rather leave a little room for people to put themselves in it."

Thank you! I prefer not to hand out road maps with poetry. Let the reader arrive at whatever destination they can.  Really, the journey will mean so much more.

Anyway, I like what I've heard of the new album.  Check it out on the NPR site!


Amy Leigh Davis Reading September 16

Friday, September 16, 2011 ~  7:00 PM 
THE WRITERS PLACE ~ 3607 Pennsylvania, Kansas City, MO
Amy will be reading poems from her new book The Alter Ego of the Universe as well as new work.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Confession Tuesday - Positively Rejected

September and I'm pinching myself. I'm like for real? Already? But it is and I can see little signs to confirm this. Let's go to the confessional.

Dear Reader: It's been two rejection letters since my last confession.

I confess that when I say that I've had two rejection letters in the past week I'm really not distraught or anything about this. In fact I really feel pretty good about it. I suppose because I've been much more proactive about submissions this year compared to last. I know that you are going to get more rejections then acceptances - it's the reality of the beast. The two recent rejections were very reputable journals so these were not cheap rejections. If I was just sending to any old place and getting rejected I might not feel so good about it, but these are journals that have rejection rates in the mid 90% range.

Today I was reading about the Poets on the Coast in Oregon [here] a women's writing retreat and I confess I was jealous. I truly believe women poets tend to be far better organized the their male counterparts. I suppose I understand women in the arts have been marginalized over the years and this has no doubt diven them to take on projects to support their female peers. I think that is great but I'm still jealous.

It's been cooler here in Missouri the past few weeks. Weather closer to the San Francisco weather I love on a couple of them. And the mood last night was mammoth! I know summer is over the verge of leaving us. Baseball season winding down, I confess that I'm at least subliminally aware that SAD is just around the corner. A period in which many people including myself struggle with melancholy.

I'm about confessed out at this point - thanks for stopping by! Have a great week!

Unconscious Mutterings Week 450

You say and I think:

  1. Submission :: poetry
  2. Lucy :: Linus
  3. Feather :: pillow
  4. Magnetic :: personality
  5. Bowling :: for dollars
  6. Stress :: deadline
  7. Sweetly :: charming
  8. Creamy :: Lemon meringue
  9. Awaken :: early
  10. Beaten :: up

Get your own subliminal list weekly here

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Magpie Tales / Poem: Revenant

That I was surprised
at his return
an understatement
at the cold calculation
of his every move never

would the diabolical
alive become anything
less upon return
from the grave

perhaps in the depth
of his rest he might
think about our past
but can the dead think
and if so what would be
the difference

the cerebral gift he had
was plotting not thinking
certainly not feeling
not emotion     the cold
in life could not thaw
could not warm the heart

Freon pumped throughout
his body he must be
brittle cold -- unnerving
what can he want
from me --  in death
but to possess
the very warmth
of my breath
suck it out of me
and pull me under too.

Michael A. Wells

Magpie Tales

*photo credit - The Revenant, 1949, Andrew Wyeth

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Time To Write

This week I explored some notions about time and writing and what follows are a compendium of my thoughts:

  • We all have 168 hours each week to work with.
  • Time spent at the office during the work week including hour allocated for lunch is 45 hours.
  • Allocating 8 hours a day for sleep eats up another 56 hours.
Those are pretty much fixed expenditures of time. I could be a little more precise by throwing in travel time to and from work but leaving this as it is, the leaves 67 hours for all that other stuff,  [family time, travel, recreation, doctor appointments, grocery shopping, cleaning, shopping, lawn care, writing and so on...

There is a lot of stuff to eat up that remaining 67 hours. As a writer I have to figure out how and when to carve out time and then to make sure that allocated time is optimally used.  I've thought about the amount of remaining time and decided that I should schedule about 10% (rounding up to 7 hours)  of the remaining time for writing. It seems like a lot on one hand and yet it really not quite so much on the other. For example, I I am accustomed to writing often in 30 minute segments then I can think of it as a hour a day for seven days and it them seems like a lot. Now there are plenty of times that I buckle down and write for more then an hour at a time, working on new stuff and rewrites.  But that is not a daily occurrence and more likely then not to happen on a weekend. So a full hour every day then seems like a lot. On the other hand, if you think of your writing as a career/avocation then it hardly seems like much - 7 hours a week.

Another consideration is are we talking about writing or everything including writing related. If I start adding in the latter then we suddenly are talking about a lot of other things that could encroach upon that 7 hours. For example:
  • Submitting work
  • Organizing material in a retrievable fashion / backing up, etc.
  • Reading (all writers need to be reading)
  • Researching topics
  • Researching markets
  • Networking
  • Attending events for peers and giving readings of your own work.
All of the above things are what I tend to refer to as administrative functions of a writer. They are not writing but they are ever bit a part of the process unless you just plan to write and stash your work in that third drawer of your dresser that you don't use for anything else because you have to stoop down to use it.

For now I have decided to embrace the 7 hour plan for a while and see how it works for me. I have yet to decide how much of that I will allow to allocate for writing related tasks. Realizing anything that comes out of time not a part of the 7 hours is essentially reducing the remaining 60 hours left after sleep and work.  These things have to be done but perhaps with a balance of not taking away too much from writing or remaining unallocated time.

I've decided that I need to do my best to elimination of distractions from the specific periods that I write. Some of those I can control and some are less easily effectuated but I need to try none the less.
For example - I can't stop to check my email or post on face book. I should park my cell during this time. TV off. Maybe add one of my writing play lists to the room to help reinforce what I am doing and as a way others entering may realize what I am doing at that specific time.

Getting 7 hours in would allow for example to take a night off to do something else and adding that extra hour to the weekend so I don't end up staying up late one night to get in an hour if we've been out for the evening. It allows for some flexibility with the weekend hours.

This is what my approach will be for the immediate future and I will address how is is or isn't working at 2 weeks and 4 weeks and make adjustments if necessary.

So how do you spend and allocate your writing time?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Amy Leigh Davis Reading September 16

Friday, September 16, 2011 ~  7:00 PM at  THE WRITERS PLACE

Amy Leigh Davis, author of The Alter Ego of the Universe   recently published by Finishing Line Press will read from her book as well as new work.  I've had the pleasure of knowing Amy and experiencing her writing over a period of several years now.  Her works always seems fresh and active. This is a reading I  especially looking forward to.

Two other poets with whom I am not presently familiar  will also be reading. The are Susan Rieke, Mary Rogers-Grantham.  Rieke has  two books of poetry are Small Indulgences and From the Tower. She is Professor of English at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth.  Mary Rogers-Grantham’s collection is titled Clear Velvet.

Mark your calender for this event  at The Writers Place ~  3607 Pennsylvania
Kansas City, MO 64111-2820

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Confession Tuesday - Do The Math

My body keeps telling me it’s Monday but it isn’t. No, it has been a week since my last confession even though being off yesterday for Labor Day makes it feel a lot like a Monday work day. So join me if you will…

Dear Reader: 

I confess that 3 day weekends make me wish they were all that way. Actually they make me wish they were longer still. Give a guy a day off and he wants two. I confess that I get greedy that way.  


Over the weekend I tried to utilize some of the extra time doing what I call the administrative things a writer does. I’m not fond of these things but unless you are going to take the Emily Dickinson career path and stash your writing away in a dresser drawer and hope someone comes along and gets it published for you after death then the proactive approach seems to be necessary.  So sending out your work becomes the dreaded necessity.

I confess that I was not fond of math in school. Algebra was in my view something I needn’t concern myself with and I recall that my grades in the subject would testify to that fact.

Strange as it may seem, my post school days poring over and processing detailed election poll data, strategizing over ward and precinct numbers, margins of error, voter turnout, and then there was my fascination with baseball statistic.  My wife likes to remind me these are the very uses that I swore I’d never need such complexities of math for.

But over the weekend I noted that on Duotrope – my submission tracker tells me that I have sent out 56 submissions in the past 12 months and that I have an 8.89% acceptance rate and that is higher then normal (though I haven’t a clue as to what normal is).  So I confess that I am again dragging numbers into my life – my poetic life at that!  I confess it feels sleazy talking about it.  


Shamefully I confess that I also check my blog analytics from time to time. I suppose it is a good thing that I don’t yet have a book published or I’d be checking that sales ranking daily like it were the Dow Jones or something.


I confess that my San Francisco Giants are torturing me with their play these past few weeks.


I confess I need to pay my library file and check out some books


I confess I watched like three old episodes of Friends last night and felt like it was the good old times again.


I confess I’m loving the weather today because it is so San Francisco!   And I confess that when I’m resorting to confessions about weather it must be time to stop.  Have a great week everyone!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Will I Ever Write a 9-11 Poem and Other Thoughts on America Since that Fateful Day

I recall once before blogging about 9-11 and remarking that I had never been compelled to write a 9-11 poem. Given that we are approaching the 10th year anniversary of that tragic event I thought it was worth addressing this again in my own mind and explore some other post 9-11 impacts of  my own.

While it has been nearly 10 years I think 9-11 remains pretty fresh in our minds and the feelings most Americans have remain pretty raw. I think there are several reasons for this.
  • Any child of say 10 up into the teens was old enough to realize what happened on that day and ten years later these people are young adults. They have grown up with nearly half there life under the specter of 9-11 and therefor for many of these people it is a singularly defining moment.
  • The events of 9-11 prompted an American war response that has continued to this day, at considerable expense to the American economy and loss of life and quality of life for many American servicemen and families.
  • Since 9-11 we have all seen dramatic changes in security that have eroded some personal liberty and freedoms for which Americans have long held themselves different from other world citizens.
In spite of how fresh in our minds 9-11 remains for us I have continued distance from it poetically.  I recall one draft of work that has some vaguely distant reference to 9-11 but certainly is not a poem about 9-11.

Immediately after the attack everyone and their pet dog was writing poems about the event. I totally get this because poetry tends to be a terrific release of emotional energy. But doing so, releasing such energy onto a page does not necessarily make for the best poems. There were in the days and weeks immediately thereafter some horrible poetry written on the subject.  Not all of course was bad, I've read some remarkable ones, but I decided long ago that any poem I would write on the subject would need to be quite remarkable.

To me the 9-11 tragedies lives on daily. It is as if the loss of innocent lives that day were somehow not enough. It lives on in many ways and the least of which I'll summarize here:
  • Fear!  Not a new word to us for we've been warned about the cost of fear on our lives decades ago, but to be frank, fear now touches us every time we travel, it has reached our economic stability, and it courts families daily that have sons, daughters, husbands, wives, etc. overseas in war zones.
  • Civil liberties... in the years following 9-11 the individual civil rights and privacy of Americans have been in a watershed of erosion.
  • National stature...  So many things from the breach of rules we have lived under for such a long time with respect to treatment of prisoners in detainment  to the very ill-conceived reasons for preemptive war in Iraq have led others to question our stature as a leader of the free world.
  • Military readiness - our ability to defend ourselves from real threats has been severely compromised by the misguided long term military engagements that continued today as a result of 9-11, and to what end? Have they made us any safer?
For my generation, 9-11 although certainly tragic represents not a singular defining moment in our lives. We have had many of them. Much the same way generations before us have.  Perhaps my problem is that quite frankly my generation has had way too many tragic events.  The 1960's alone were littered with the losses of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy and the Vietnam War. And let me say at this point I am not going to engage in debate over which is worse, the murder of one man or that of some 3,000. The deaths of JFK, MLK and RFK were not singular losses but the loss of hope and dreams for millions. They were no better or worse then they deaths on 9-11 as all were tragedies of a national level.

I suppose the one thing about the lack a poetic response to 9-11 on my own that mystifies me is that I am not at all adverse to poetry of witness. I actually am a pretty big advocate of/defender of it. Carolyn Forché is just one of many poets I admire, with a reputation for very such very work. But 10 years later, I still have nothing to add.

Friday, September 02, 2011

8th Anniversary!

A couple of weeks ago I was aware that the anniversary of my blogging at stickpoet was nearing an then I got busy and plum forgot about it until I read a comment from a reader this morning wishing me a happy blogaversity.  There is a small countdown tab at the lower sidebar that alerts readers the number of days till the next one.  It is obscure enough that it only catches my attention every so often.

It is true... this is the 8th anniversary and the 2,922 post and I look back and realize that anyone who blogs for any length of time invests a lot of themselves into the process.

Over these eight years poetry has not only been a passion but become a part of my daily fabric.  I am a true believer in the concept of a poetry lifestyle. I means you are constantly aware of things about you in a way others aren't. It means you are always looking for the language in pictures. Always trying to simplify the complex and sometimes look for more then there appears on the surface. I think there is a certain spirituality between the poet and the universe that just doesn't exist otherwise.

To those who stop by on occasion to read stickpoet or those who subscribe to a feed, a big thank you.  I especially appreciate those who leave comments & become part of a dialogue. Non-spam comments are always welcome. Spamers however, don't waste your time, due your existance the comments are moderated and those posts never see the light of day.

I have a few ideas for some posts and topics for the very near future that I hope many of you will find interesting. So thanks again and keep coming back!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Magpie Tales 80 / Poem: Promises

An hour clocked
in the wet footprints
cast upon past

each fleeting step
measures an instant
a crack     a mother’s back

a broken promise
I will do well in school
I will not stray

trouble will not
be my downpour
raining in some dark alley

hunkered under red
umbrella from showers
there are no guarantees

Michael A. Wells