Saturday, May 31, 2014

Learning How And What To Expect

Sometimes I get wrapped up in expectations. Occasionally everything goes well but often the expectations do not turn out as I might have expected. I think practicing art any art form with expectations is risky, but that is not an argument against planning and establishing  some level of expectations.

As I write this, I'm currently dog sitting and using this as a bit of a opportunity for a writing getaway. It's quite here, the dogs are pretty low maintenance compared with the dogs in our home.

I arrived last night with a variety of books (I always want books at arms reach when I am writing in case I need to pause and move my mind into something else - perhaps inspirational), my laptop, my  journal and a crispy clean refill for it in case I finish the remaining  pages.  I have my Kindle and the novel I am currently reading. I have a supply of diet cream soda and coffee. I have a hard copy of  my working  manuscript as well as the digital file on my  laptop. The only think missing that I can think of at this moment is I wish I had a glass of Chardonnay.

Yesterday afternoon I arrived. First order of business tend to the dogs. This did not take rocket science and everyone was soon chilling, including me. I found it difficult for some reason to find a rhythm that I felt could get me on track. I was like a pitcher throwing and not pitching. (sorry for the baseball analogy. Okay, you know me better so I'm not really all that sorry. Just a little bit). The difference between a pitcher throwing  and pitching is this - he can stand on the mound and direct the ball over the plate. That's throwing.  He can mentally decide where around the plate he wants to put the ball and how it arrives at the point. That's pitching!

I did not sleep well last night. At 2 or 2:30 I was still awake. Not because I was doing anything, but because I wasn't simply could not get my mind to shut off. Trust me, there was nothing spectacular going on in it. I changed where I was trying to sleep at and recall looking at the clock several times after that and finally at some point gravity got the best of my eyelids and I somehow fell asleep.

When I woke up this morning I was still tired. Got the dogs out and fed them. It was not until maybe 10 AM that I could begin to get on track with writing related tasks. I started the day feeling what the hell, and just try and relax and forget about any expectations. And to that aim I decided just to pick some individual poems at random and read them aloud - slowly, one after one. Soon I felt like moving on to my hard copy of my manuscript and reading each of these poems aloud. There is something about reading  your own work a long time after it was written. The perspective will sometimes shift. Sometimes you like it better. Sometimes not so much.

My point is that I have now eased myself into what I wanted to do after all - work on the manuscript and I found the way to get there in spite of how I got started off. Expectations always expose you to risk. The possibility that you might be disappointed in yourself for one. But that is how art is as well. It risks disappointing.

Sometimes things go as you wish but mostly not so. The important thing is to make the effort. Show up. That's a good part of the battle. And maybe that poem you are trying to write is not the poem that wants to be written. Sometimes our failed expectations provide something serendipitously  better then we had originally sought.    

If you'll excuse me now, my manuscript is calling again.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Confession Tuesday - New Books Edition

Dear Reader:

It's Tuesday and that means confession time. I'll start by acknowledging that it has been two weeks since my last confession.  Call me lazy, call me distracted or just call me late, but yes, I've screwed up and I'm here tonight to get back on track.

The postman delivered books to me today.  Three in all, a poetry trifecta!  They are:  Open Interval by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon (a National Book Award Finalist), Heterotopia by Lesley Wheeler (Winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize) and A Pocket Book Of Forms, by Anna Lena Phillips.  I confess any time I get poetry books in the mail I want to click my heels! Of course multiple books in one day is even better and I want to squeal like a pig!

We are adjusting this week to another dog that has come to visit us. It's Silas and he is a sweetie. Still, it means shifting things a bit to accommodate different feedings and special sleeping  arrangements. I confess he takes a but more time and energy but he is so sweet. I'll share some pictures in a day or two.

I confess that I have a root canal scheduled at the dentist tomorrow. I don't know why but it makes me think of rooting out a clogged drain. I know that's silly but that is the association I make with it.

I'm saddened about the mass shooting at University of California at Santa Barbara and surrounding area. But beyond that I confess that I am quite frankly angry, as are a lot of people, that we are still dealing with mass shootings and the arrogance of many in the NRA. What I want is some responsible individuals to come forward on all sides. I want the House and the Senate to move beyond the gun lobby and pass comprehensive legislation that makes the likely-hood of these repeat sad rampages less likely. There are constructive things that can be done.

But I don't want to end on a down note... Since my last confession I learned that  my daughter who is expecting  is having a girl!  So we will be looking  forward to a granddaughter. This is a first grandchild for us and it's pretty exciting.  With that, I wish everyone a great week and I'll try to be on time for next confession.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Happy birthday Barry

Barry turns 11 years old today! Go Barry, go Barry it's your birthday!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Confession Tuesday - Spin Edition

Dear Reader -

Another week whizzed by.  I confess that I feel my head spinning. A little dizzy or woozy.

I had a poetry group meeting tonight and arrived home and my wife had a box of Maple Leaf cookies with maple filling  sandwiched within. Every diabetic's dream. I confess I absolutely  love Maple.  I could easily drink it from a bottle. I don't, but I confess the thought has occurred to me.

After yesterday's Motherload of Poetry Books in the mail, I admit that today's mail was tremendously boring. I knew it was going to be a hard act to follow.

I confess that every night for the rest of the week I have poetry/writerly stuff to do. This both feels good and a bit overwhelming too.

I confess that I totally have a sea of project ideas floating around in my  head. The trick is to pull them out of the spin cycle and begin to put them into play.

I confess that I am confessed out!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Poetry Mail Bag

In the mail today - The Motherload of Poetry

One Poetry Journal, four poetry books/chapbooks and one poetry CD.

More to come as I dive into these....

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Susan Rich On Her Most Recent Book - Cloud Pharmacy

Interviewed in April 2014

Susan Rich is the author of four collections of poetry and her most recent titled Cloud Pharmacy, published by White Pine Press came out last month. Susan’s work is not new to me as I've read two of her previous works, Alchemist’s Kitchen and Cures Include Travel. She has won the PEN USA Award for The Cartographer’s Tongue (2000). The Alchemist’s Kitchen (2010) won the Washington State Book Award and was a finalist for The ForeWord Book of the Year Prize in Poetry.

MAW: Susan it’s kind of you to talk with me about your newly released Cloud Pharmacy.  As I read this book I felt you were pushing and expanding your poetic horizon for readers.  I’m interested in role that Hannah Maynard played in this book. Can you tell us a little about how this came about and what it meant to this collection of poetry?

SR: I met Hannah Maynard, or rather her work, in the William James Bookshop in Port Townsend. It was Thanksgiving weekend and I was enjoying a day of wandering Water Street – the main artery of the town. The photography section is small but well curated and there are often things that catch my attention. That day it was Magic Box: The Eccentric Genius of Hannah Maynard (1834-1918). On the cover a replica of a sepia toned self-portrait held me rapt. There were three different Hannah’s in this piece: one leaning out of a picture frame, and pouring tea on another Hannah’s head. The third Hannah looked right out at me.

It took more than two years before I found a way into these proto-surreal pieces, work so startling can leave little room to improvise. I was stymied. It wasn't until I wrote a grant to work on a sequence of Hannah Maynard poems that the project began to cohere. I told myself if I won the grant, I would find a way to inside these self-portraits; otherwise, I would quit. Fortunately, I was awarded the grant. This meant I had to really push my abilities to create something I felt was worthy of Maynard’s genius. I needed new approaches to writing poetry; the old ways were no longer enough. What I found was a latent love of the surreal. Not in the vein of the 1920’s Parisian surrealists, but this new found private invention that married surreal images with intense emotional content. During the six years Maynard created these self portraits, two of her daughters died. It doesn't seem too farfetched to see these portraits as an express response to grief.

MAW:  I could not help but notice the words alchemically speaking in the title poem Cloud Pharmacy. Given your repetitious use of alchemist between two of your poetry collections I have to wonder if you don’t feel as a poet you have to practice a bit of such chemistry to arrive at  your destination as a writer. Can you tell us about the connection between your writing and alchemy?

SR: When I was a Senior in high school I read, no I devoured, 100 Years of Solitude by Gabrielle Garcia Marquez. I was in love with his imagination. This novel was like nothing I had encountered before. The part of the book I remember best was the story of the alchemists. This sense that men mixed potions not only to find the recipe for gold but also to further their knowledge of themselves appealed to me – a sense of inner and outer discoveries paired together.

Only with Garcia Marquez’s recent death did I make this connection back to my first encounter with alchemists. So I don’t claim that poetry is the only alchemy --- I believe it is the work of many writers --- as well as visual artists and musicians.

MAW: One of my favorite poems is the one titled, Invention of Everything Else.  You have used color a good deal in this book and blue seems to pop up frequently. I’m interested in the usage of the blue at the end of this poem.   Can you expand on this?

Actually blue is a touchstone word for me. Before I sent Cloud Pharmacy to Dennis at White Pine Press I needed to remove many of the blues from different poems. Sometimes it turned into yellow or green, other times I took the adjective out altogether. Color is an effective way to help a reader visualize a “yellowed cup” or “blue grass.”

I think my interest in ekphrastic poetry may have triggered my use of color in some of these poems. I teach several Film Studies courses and the idea of a colorful image is perhaps connected to the cinematic approach. It’s hard for me to say.

MAW: I know that you are a part of the Seattle area (tribe) poets, an area that seems to have no dearth of poetry talent, and yet this book as well as others by you seem to have a very expansive universe. I almost think of you as poet without borders.  Do you feel that way?  How has life experience informed this view?

Thank you, Michael, I will take that as a compliment. Of course it also means that my roots are not especially deep – although I've now called Seattle, WA home for 15 years.  In many ways I do feel a real part of the poetry community here. I've created organizations such as BookLift  which allows women authors to help “lift” up each others books. I've been an editor at Floating Bridge Press and I’m the co-founder with Kelli Russell Agodon of Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women.

MAW: Susan, I’m re-reading Cloud Pharmacy for the third time. Things seem to unveil themselves (if I can use personification here) with each reading. I would recommend this book to anyone but especially those with any interest in the Arts.  Since all three of the books of yours that I have read have been extraordinary can I ask what we might look for next? Any there projects in the works?

Thanks for asking! I've been spending most of my time doing readings and celebrating National Poetry Month at Highline College where I teach. It’s the curse of the poet with a new book to feel she will never again be back at the desk, writing. Having said that, I do have a few new poems out in the world. My interest in the surreal and in photography continues. Really, it’s a bit early to know but I will be grateful for a new project when it appears.

MAW:  Thank you so much Susan for taking the time for this interview and for all your poetry that has been so enriching.

Cloud Pharmacy is available from White Pine Press or Amazon

Visit Susan's Home Page 

Visit Susan's Blog

Susan on Twitter

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Confession Tuesday - Waiting 296 Days for Rejection

Dear Reader:

It's been a week of rejection letters (from two journals to be exact), communicating with Anne Sexton, of giving away poetry books (2)  and numerous broadsides, of winning several books in return, and a couple days with extra dogs in the home since my last confession.

I think I have a pretty good attitude about rejection letters. This in fact may be the easiest form of rejection for me to deal with. I have a rationalization about it that goes like this:  To get things published you have to send work out. When you do that two things can happen. You can get rejected or you can have your work accepted and published but in order for that to happen you MUST risk the rejection. So I generally shrug off rejections as a necessary part of the game. A necessary evil, an occupational hazard. you don't want to be rejected, don't submit, or don't even write. I confess that now writing would be harder then submitting  ever is for me. But back to this week.  One of my rejections was 296 days in the making. Five pieces rejected in one swoop. One very long  awaited - hell, I gave up on hearing from them swoop. The funny thing is two of them have already been published elsewhere and it had been so long that  I had given up on this venue and I confess I did not  notify them to withdraw the two pieces. Frankly, I was no longer holding my breath since blue is not my best color.

There is what I call a good rejection letter. The second one fell into this category. In it the editor write, "I enjoyed it all, and particularly liked 'xxxxxx'  and 'xxxxxxx,' but unfortunately neither fit the theme of our upcoming issue."If the editor takes the time to acknowledge something about  one or more of your poems you know that you work has hope and that you are not off track and two states away. So now I confess that things are looking up because you have to get rejections if you are going to get acceptances.

If only life itself was this simple. I do have a less thick skin when it comes to others forms of rejection. I'm probably no different then the next person when they have been excluded from something of interest or not considered for a position, or  picked for a team. These things do drag me down and I don't deny it.

About Anne Sexton... no I haven't been conducting a seance. Anne and I have had a bit of a special relationship for some time now because she is my dead poet mentor. Before you laugh I suggest if you write you should find a dead writer mentor as well. I confess that at times I've gone to my bookcase and pulled off a copy of her complete poems and asked what would Anne do when confronted with a writing problem.
This past week she was the Poet Tarot card that  came to me and I felt she actually understood some of my recent trials and tribulations. I confess this was a but different because this week I felt like she came to me as opposed to me seeking her out.

National Poetry month seemed very busy to me and I don't for one minute feel bad that it's over. Still, it was a good month. Lots of poetry shared and a poem written every day. I confess that these are not my best works but some of them may be reshaped into something that  has a life.  I was very glad I participated in giving away two books this year in the Annual Poetry Book Give Away.  When I notified the winners, each truly seemed excited. The books went in the mail yesterday and I'm hopeful that each winner enjoys the books selected as well as I have.

I confess, I've lost count of how many books I won this year but will update you one them as they arrive and I read them. Still, I feel most blessed by the sharing of poetry this year. The two books I offered in the drawing and the many broadsides that I have sent out or handed out at readings during the month of April.


Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Sun has come out to play...

The sun (if I remember correctly) is screaming through my studio blinds. I'm having  eggs and maple flavored sausage for breakfast while I ponder the very busy day ahead....

  • mow the yard
  • do a newsletter
  • the normal Submission Saturday duty
  • get mail to post office
  • tread mill 
  • write
  • think about what to do with all my free time  ;-)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

May Day - May Day, We have Winners!

The 2014 Big Poetry Give-a-way is now over.  I had 16 people enter the drawing for one of two great books!

  • Unmentionables by Beth Ann Fennelly
  • Saint Monica by Mary Biddinger
These  two books are among some of my very favorite poetry collection by real live modern day poets that if you pinch them they will say, "Ouch!" (in other words these are living poets)

A brand new shinny copy of both books was just delivered to my door  yesterday (great timing) from Amazon. 

I put the slips of paper into a hat (a San Francisco Giants baseball cap to be exact) and drew each name assigning it a number in order drawn. Then I used the random number selector on line to pick numbers a number 1-16. The first one was Marianne Mersereau  who  will receive Saint Moninca by Mary Biddinger. I then repeated the same process. If the same number were to come up in the randomizer I was prepared to run it again to assure we had two separate winners but this was not necessary as the second draw matched the name Andrea Beltran. Andrea gets the copy of Unmentionables by Beth Ann Fennelly. Congratulations to both of you! I will be emailing both winners tonight. I will need them to respond with the address they wish their  book sent.

It was really nice seeing  new people come by the my blog. I wish I could send each a book but those who entered and did not win, if they would like to e-mail me their snail mail address I will be happy to mail each one a Poetry Month  Limited Edition Broadside with one of  my previously published poems.

Thanks to everyone for participating. And a special thanks to Kelli Russell Agodon who master minded this event 5 years ago. It has grown and become as much a part of April as Poem-A-Challenge, or Poem in Your Pocket Day.

I will be mailing  both books within the next couple of days.