25 June 2014

The Feminist Wire

Today, two new poems of mine were published on The Feminist Wire. "Girl with no Hands" and "Interlude" appeared alongside this very fitting photograph of a tree that looks remarkably like a dancing girl. These two poems are the seeds of a new manuscript project I've been working on for the last year, called Catechesis. And it is growing slowly, but steadily.

I hope you enjoy reading them!

23 June 2014

There are birds here

We are now in the full porch-swing of summer, which means Summer Poetry Salons at my beloved Lit House. In celebration of the second salon of the summer on June 24 (tomorrow!), I was given the unbelievably fun task of designing and printing a letterpress broadside for Jamaal May's poem "There Are Birds Here," a love song for Detroit.



As much I loved this poem on my first reading (and second and third), it was a particularly difficult design challenge. Don't get me wrongthere are so many ways to illustrate this poem because it is so packed with images. But to illustrate it in a way that actually adds to the text, that builds on the complex foundation set down by the poetthat is the challenge to be met. That is the challenge we always aim to meet at the Literary House Press.  

So that means no birds and no buildings. For me, those are the two most obvious, but least important images in this poem. Those details are just the shell around the actual poem. But after playing around with various ideas for a solid hour, the right one finally surfaced: a sidewalk hopscotch game using the poem title for its tiles. The repetition of certain letters made this idea work, the coincidental book-ending of the title with the words "there" and "here." Yellow sidewalk chalk on stone-flecked concrete. It wasn't an image that was explicitly in the poem, but the poem certainly led me to it. And I think it gets at the poem's heart, pulls back the ribs and reveals it a bit more (at least I hope that it does).




09 June 2014

West Chester Poetry Conference, year two

I've just returned from this year's West Chester Poetry Conference, my second time attending. Although I'm still exhausted from the four-day stretch of poetry workshops and panels and readings (and sleeping in dorms), it was a wonderful, unforgettable time. This year's workshop offerings included an opportunity to work with the amazing Mary Jo Salterso, obviously, I jumped at the chance. I've loved Mary Jo since I discovered her 1999 collection A Kiss in Space at my favorite local indie bookstore (The Compleat Bookseller) back in my high school days. I read her poem "Hail in Honfleur" while loitering at the neatly-stocked shelves with the classical radio playing over the shop speakers. I will always remember this poem and how I was immediately charmed by Mary Jo's wit and wordplay, which struck me as perfectly, whimsically French. I wanted to live inside that poem.

Mary Jo Salter's workshop"Line, Sentence, Stanza, Poem"was a much needed refresher in how to make stronger,  more meaningful line and stanza breaks in my poems. We talked about Paul Fussell's Poetic Meter and Poetic Form, that a 3-stanza poem should be a 3-part idea, that the parts should be ordered for emphasis from second most interesting to least interesting to most interesting. We discussed Denise Levertov's idea that stanzas are "distinct units of awareness." We discussed the concept of stanzas as terraces, stepping us up or down or sideways into something else. Mary Jo told us that we should break our lines and stanzas to indicate a poetic turn, that ending lines on weak words like "of" or "in" makes the breaks seem arbitrary, and the poem is weaker for it. Bringing these lessons back to my own writing will help me to be more conscious in my choices when creating the physical shape of a poem on the page and help the content to choose its most perfect form.


02 June 2014

Tori is my diva

Recently, a poet-friend of mine asked me a fun little question that has stuck in my head since that night. Who is your diva? His is Cher. Another poet at the table named Stevie Nicks. I knew mine right away: Tori Amos



I don't know that I could explain exactly what it is about her music, her writing, and her person that make her such an invigorating kind of comfort to me. The haunting piano melodies, the whimsical girl-power lyrics that (even as a writer-snob) I am not ashamed to belt out around the house, her powerful and strange vocals. All I know is when my anxiety demons overpower me--leaving me small, ugly, painfully forgettable, and disconnected from all the things and people I love--Tori can bring me back every time. She fills me when I feel emptied out. She makes me brave and fierce when I can't breathe and my hands are shaking. I can't imagine my world without her in it.

We'll see how brave you are. 
We'll see how fast you'll be running. 
We'll see how brave you are. 
Yes, Anastasia...

P.S. 
In case you were wondering, my favorite albums are Under the Pink and Boys for Pele. Love love love.