16 December 2014

My year in poetry, 2014

I've spent the past year in the very slow construction of a poetry collection that is only now a quarter of the way to completion. I took a break from submitting to focus on the writing of new work for this manuscript and it has resulted in a whole new writing approach for me: writing as architecture, writing each new poem as a part of some larger work. In this way, writing toward an eventual book feels like a much different process from writing individual poems with no endgame in mind. 
I'm closing the year with a grand total of 14 pieces for my Catechesis manuscript (which is 8 more than I started with). I must admit that over the past months I have been frustrated and impatient with my slow progress, but I am very happy with these new poems in which I am creating a mixed-up kind of folklore with a loose narrative that spans from poem to poem.

Here are a few of them:
"Girl with no Hands" & "Interlude," in The Feminist Wire, June 25, 2014.
"Girl who Gave Birth to an Apple," in The Wolf Skin, April 23, 2014.

I hope to get back on the submitting wagon in the new year with some of these newer, unpublished poems, but my main focus again will be developing and populating the manuscript. Maybe along the way, I will acquire some more patience as well.   

11 November 2014

Experimenting with erasure

During my poem-a-day challenge for NaNoWriMo 2014, I've given myself the freedom to experiment with some different forms that I've been curious about, but a little too bashful to try before. I know what that sounds like, but different poetic forms, especially some of the more contemporary/experimental ones, can be a little …intimate. Well, very intimate, actually.

Erasure of text from Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. page 165.

I'm still figuring out how I feel about erasure as a poetic form. I'm not sure that I would lump my erasures into the same category that I would my poetry. The hands-on, collage-like process of erasure creates something that, to me, feels more like visual art

You are working with a page from an already printed (and/or bound) text (that was, hopefully, in bad shape before you started tearing pages out). You can erase (i.e. cross out) the words you don't want to use in creating your new text, but you can't add words (even little ones) that aren't already there and you can't rearrange their order on the page. It's harder than it looks like it will be before you've begun marking up the page. But it's a stimulating sort of challenge, that forces you to look at the myriad ways a single word can be manipulated into multiple meanings. It's almost like you're searching for a secret code embedded in the text, but the code message isn't actually there at all. You're finding subliminal meaning where it hasn't been planted for you. Which could be considered schizophrenic, unless its art.

Erasure of text from Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. page 83.

The thing about erasures is that more than half of the effect is visual. If these scattered clusters of words are removed from their page of origin and arranged on a new canvas, without all of that residual blank space where the erased text was, the poetry is nearly removed from the poem. Its quality of foundness, of altered-artness, makes it something more. That imposed spacing that spreads this smattering of culled words and phrases down the length of the page, the knowing that these words were stolen from a larger text beneath it, gives it added layers of meaning.  

Erasure of text from Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. page 22.

For my erasure experiments, I used a particularly battered copy of one of my favorite novels: Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. I imagine this would yield even greater results with non-literary texts, but I started with a text I knew well. Intimately, even.

06 November 2014

The Month of Scented Things

Here's a brief slideshow of the lovely blur that was October and the release of The Book of Scented Things.

The Literary House launch party on October 7, 2014.
Me, reading my poem & talking about poetry.

Editing discussion at the Arts Club of Washington on October 29, 2014.

With Caroline Knuth, lovely poet-friend who came to the DC launch.

It's been an amazing celebration of a month for our beloved anthology and both launch events were such fun. We were joined by contributors, friends, family, and even Chanel! Thank you to everyone who helped make these events so successful and thank you for welcoming The Book of Scented Things into the reading world. 

Some other things that happened in October:
  • The Book of Scented Things landed an amazing review by poet-perfumista Kathleen Rooney in The Chicago Tribune! It ran in their dedicated books section, Printers Row Journal, on October 16.
  • Jehanne and I attended our first Dodge Poetry Festival from October 24-26! Among the fabulous poets I got to hear read and talk were Rita Dova, Yusef Komunyakaa, Sally Wen Mao, Shara McCallum, Tracy K. Smith and many others. And I got to catch up with Newark poetry friends Bryanna Tidmarsh, Michael VanCalbergh, and Melissa Adamo. Also, Bryanna and Michael's lovely little Nora.

For November, I am participating in my poetry version of NaNoWriMo: a poem a day for a month. Here's to another busy, happy month of poetry and books!

13 October 2014

A review to cure the Monday blues

The Book of Scented Things received a new review today from Grace Cavalieri at the Washington Independent Review of Books. We were singled out for the October edition of her "Poetry Exemplars" column, in which we are lucky enough to appear alongside new books from Michael Collier and Katie Ford, among others. I am also beyond flattered that Cavalieri chose my poem "Elegy with Osage-Orange" to excerpt for her review.

As the least accomplished poet of this intimidating group of powerhouse writers, I understandably have a bit of an inferiority complex about my little poem appearing alongside theirs in our beloved anthology. Thanks, Grace Cavalieri, for helping me feel like my poem has earned its place there. Happy Monday!

I also found out a week or so ago that Midway Journal has nominated my poems from volume 7, issue 4 for the 2014 Best of the Net! Thanks so much Midway editors!! My fingers are crossed hard.

08 October 2014

A new kind of beauty for a new age

After a year out of circulation and a full redesign, The Lumberyard is back! Issue 11 is brand-new, gorgeous, and has a poem of mine in it. This magazine gives a great deal of attention to design and always has a stunning, letterpress-printed cover. Check it out:

Even the interior is impeccably designed. I'm in love with how they illustrated my poem "from Atomic Age" and laid it out on the page. It's absolutely perfect, this beautifully simple and regal two-page spread.

I am so thrilled to have my poem made into a piece of visual art by designer Larry Buchanan, in this issue curated by editor Lindsey Alexander. In her editor's note, Lindsey said a lot of lovely things about the poems in this issue while meditating on the importance of "Beauty, Age, Goodness, and Size" and the order in which they come.
"The poets in this Lumberyard consider the scope of these adjectives, and in a manner Mme Bunting would approve, put them up front.
"What's beautiful here? Two orphans sit in front of a rococo sunset and ponder love; girls sweat their hair out jumping rope; a hummingbird.
"In this issue, poets deal with age and size in content and form. Each fresh, each drawing on a backstory older than Adam (or atoms?), some long and quiet or just a few little lines loud and with punch.
"Along these lines, you might notice some changes to the Lumberyarda new kind of beauty for a new age. A new size to accommodate them."

It felt extra special to get a reference in the editor's note. It makes me feel like my poem had a greater hand in shaping the issue as a whole. Thank you so much, Lindsey and Larry, for taking such time and care with my poem and my fellow-LYers' work. And thank you to 7 Ton Letterpress Collective (in my beloved Asheville, NC) for your fabulous printing work on this gorgeous cover. This is all why it was absolutely worth the wait

You can buy your own copy here. And you should.

28 September 2014

All this time

First, please let me apologize for my longer than usual absence from this space. It has been an extremely busy month and a half of work with the Literary House Press. But I'll tell you now some of the things I've been up to all this time: 

1. Cherry Tree
On August 15th, Cherry Tree: A National Literary Journal @ Washington College opened for general submissions. As managing editor, it has been my job to sift through the hundreds of electronic packets of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction: sending them to the screeners who will read them first and then moving them up the reading hierarchy. I'm also responsible for handling all of the correspondence with submitters and (when we're lucky) contributors. So all the (unfortunately) form rejections, the (better) encouraging rejections, and the (BEST) acceptance letters for the truly unmistakably fabulous pieces. I prepare and send out the publication contracts for those accepted pieces. I work with the writers to edit those pieces that require those final touches to make them polished and perfect (or close enough, anyway). I've even been keeping daily statistics on our submissions and responses. It's a big job but, so far, it is one that I have really loved doing. By now, we've nearly filled the roster for issue 1, but we'll still be reading until Cherry Tree closes for submissions on October 15th.

2. The Book of Scented Things
We are also preparing for the launch of our brand-new poetry anthology, The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems about Perfume, on October 7th at the Rose O'Neill Literary House. So we've been working our butts off marketing and promoting the book. It has arrived at our distributor, Small Press Distribution, where it is available for purchase. It has also received a few good reviews at popular perfume blogs like Bois de Jasmin and Ayala Moriel's Smelly Blog, and by Penning Perfumes editor Claire Trévien at Sabotage Reviews. We sent out promotional postcards to a select list of independent bookstores and libraries. The official book launch will be October 7th at 4:30PM at the Literary House. Then we'll follow that up with a second book launch on October 29th at 7:00PM at the Arts Club of Washington in DC. I can't wait for both of these events!

3. Other writing things
So during this time, when not editing and marketing, I am still writing my own poetry (when I can manage it): continuing in development of the collaborative chapbook manuscript Women's Work and continuing the sequence of poems that will make up the opening section of my (intended) full-length manuscript Catechesis. In addition to the slow and steady writing progress, some other fun things in the works:
  • I will be planning a poetry reading (my first!) with the lovely and talented Sally Rosen Kindred to take place in the Annapolis area. Details to come!
  • I have also been invited to be the Poetry Judge for the contest from Echoes & Images, a literary magazine out of Northeast State Community College in Tennessee!


11 August 2014

Women's Work

Two weeks ago, I began a collaborative chapbook project with my super talented poet-printer friend, Emma Sovich. We're both letterpress printersshe's actually close to finishing her MFA in Book Arts at the University of Alabamaand as evidenced by our letterpress-centric Asheville vacation a year ago, we're pretty passionate about it. For such an industrial art, the letterpress printing renaissance that we're living right now is also largely populated by women. And all of these awesome women in the print shop has us feeling like the proper granddaughters of Rosie the Riveterat home amid the smells of lead type and rubber-based ink, working to the hum of the motorized proof or platen press. 

Image by Emma Sovich

Our collaborative chapbooktentatively titled Women's Workwill attempt to use the cast-iron imagery of the print shop to create a contrast with the traditional notion of softer, domestic tasks as "women's work." As relatively straightforward as this prompt sounds in concept, it does become a bit more tangled and difficult when you get down to the minutiae. The first poem I have written for this project casts a platen press in the role of clothes iron and ironing board, a housewife using a platen press to iron her family's clothes. This poem in particular plays on two definitions of the word "press": 
  1. to press clothes; to smooth out wrinkles in the fabric;
  2. a machine that prints text on paper by creating an impression of the metal type.
The end result is a poem that discusses the dehumanizing desire for one-dimensionality. A flatness of character created by stereotypes of domestic womanhood. Emma and I hope that, in the end, the fifteen to twenty poems we write for this chapbook manage to construct a kind of printers' feminist manifesto (or even a feminists' printing manifesto). Establishing through poetry the noble motto of the Ladies of Letterpress

"Dedicated to the Proposition that 
a Woman's Place is in the Print Shop."


And in other poetry news:
  • Poet Sandra Marchetti recorded her reading of my poem "Foxwife," published in Midway Journal this past October. I love her sensuous interpretation and her deep, lush voice. 
  • A new review by April Jones of Fairy Tale Review's Emerald Issue has been published on The Review Review. "It is a collection of insanely skilled authors and artists who take Dorothy's magical journey to a more modern audience." And I am so honored to have my poem amongst their pieces! 
  • And in just 4 days, Cherry Tree (on which I serve as managing editor) will open for its first reading period for general submissions. Even though this is my first time at the helm, I feel ready to manage this mischief. So send your best work our way, beginning August 15!