Friday, July 24, 2015

Letting the Rabbit Out of the Hat


This is not the cover.
I’ve blabbed my news to a handful of people but have not shouted it to the world yet, so here goes: I have a new poetry book coming forth! It’s called The Uneaten Carrots of Atonement, a title drawn from one of the poems. The manuscript was accepted several months ago by Wind Publications who has published all three of my previous poetry books and my craft book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop.

The revised manuscript has been sent in, blurbs are underway, and the cover art has been produced. The magnificent Brian Rumbolo who did the original art for the earlier three poetry books has also done the art for this new book. Again, he has used big bold colors and added a touch of play. I’m not going to reveal the cover just yet, but it’s pretty darn cool.

My last book, Temptation by Water, came out in 2010. Since then I’ve had one chapbook and the craft book published, so I haven’t been idle. But I’m excited to have another full-length collection of poems coming soon. Sort of like going home again after a long time away. I’m expecting to receive the galleys in a few weeks. My publisher has given me a publication date of late summer or early fall.

I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, check out one of the poems, "Original Sin."


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Poetry Readings: The Good, the Bad, and the Hideous



Back in 2010 I posted a piece called "What Makes for a Good Poetry Reading?" I recently took another look at that piece and decided to repost it five years later with a few additions. My experiences as both a reader and an audience member have made me well aware that readings are not created equal. Some are wonderful and some are quite the opposite. As a reader, when the reading doesn't go well, I ask myself, Why do I continue to do this? But when it does go well, I know why I keep doing it. Because it's fun and feels great. Fortunately, it goes well more often than it doesn't. In the hope of enhancing the likelihood of more good readings, I'm reposting some thoughts on the the role of the host, the poet, and the audience on how they can each contribute towards a successful reading.

The Host's Role

1. Good PR is essential. If no one knows about the reading, you can be sure no one will be there. If you're the host, you're obligated to spread the word as widely as you can. Even if the reading is part of a regular series, you should PR each reading as if it's special (because to the poet it is). Posters, newspaper notices, online calendars, websites, blogs, email lists. It's really disheartening for the poet to arrive and learn that the host never got around to promoting the event. No excuses, Host.

2. Try to make the room comfortable. Arrive early to check the room temperature and the mic if there is one. Arrange the chairs so that the audience is neither too close to nor too far from the poet. If all the people gravitate to the back of the room, threaten them until they move to the front. Likewise, if half sit on the far right and half sit on the far left, ask people to move in a bit. These little things make a big difference in the comfort level of the reading.

3. If possible, provide a good sound system unless the room is small. Don't expect the poet to shout her poems. I gave a reading a few years ago in a coffee shop that had no mic. Coffee machines, chimes on the door, change rattling. Not so cool.

4. Be sure you provide a space for the poet's books to be displayed. Announce to the audience that books are available. If they're at a sale price, mention that. Repeat that. Do your best to help the poet sell some books, especially if your honorarium is small or non-existent. Don't make the poet hawk her own wares. If possible, provide someone to handle sales and make change.

5. This is going to sound cranky, but I'm saying it anyhow. Don't allow audience members to put out their own books for sale. And don't put out your own books. Just don't create competition for your visiting poet, especially if the poet has traveled a distance. Double especially if pay is minimal or non-existent.

6. If you can't offer an honorarium, consider putting out a basket. I did a reading some months ago where such a basket was put out, but guess what! The host kept everything that went into it. I'd driven five hours and paid for a hotel.

7. If there's an Open, manage it. Manage it. Have guidelines and enforce them. Many a reading has been spoiled by an Open that got out of hand and went on endlessly. When this happens, some audience members are discouraged from returning and you end up with an audience of open readers who are there to hear themselves. A well-run Open can, however, be fun. Limit the readers to one or two poems. That's it. No negotiating. Got a haiku? That's one poem. Even if there are only two people reading in the Open, do not allow more than two poems each.

8. Anyone who arrives after the featured poet has finished reading should not be allowed to read in the Open. No exceptions. Something about good manners.

The Poet's Role

1. You can help with the PR. Post the reading at your website and blog and anywhere else you can think of. In addition to the preceding, notify people you know in the area that you'll be doing a reading and ask them to bring friends.

2. If the host neglects to put out your books, rectify that right away! I'm putting an exclamation point on that sentence because I have done a few readings where the host forgot about books and I was too timid to bring it up. Then I kicked myself all the way home. Now if the host doesn't ask for my books, I ask, "Where would you like me to put my books?"

3. If the host fails to announce that your books are available for sale and signing, then do that yourself. Don't browbeat the audience into buying your books—that's really unappealing—but you can mention once at the beginning and/or at the end that your books are on the table and offered tonight at discount and that you'll be happy to sign them.

4. Go prepared. Choose your poems before you arrive. I've heard a number of poets say they have to gauge the audience before they choose. Nonsense. That's just laziness. It's annoying and a waste of time for the audience to sit there while the poet fumbles through pages looking for what to read.

5. Time your reading ahead of time. You know how many poems will take up 30 minutes. Plan for that if that's the amount of time you have. Don't go beyond the time. Ever. And don't keep asking the host, How am I doing for time? How much time do I have left? Time for a few more poems? This makes the audience squirm. And if you've said, as you reach the end of your time, that you're going to read just two more, then read just two more. Don't toss in a third, no matter how much the audience seems to like you.

6. Try to stay for the Open. If people came to hear you, it seems polite to stay to hear them. If you're driving a distance and have to leave, let the audience know that that's why you're leaving.

7. Email a thank-you to your host, even if the turnout was disappointing. There are times when competing events or weather keep people away. Let the host know that you appreciate the invitation to read in her series. If the reading was a big hit, let your host know that you appreciate his efforts to put together a great event.

The Audience's Role

1. If you're in the audience and planning to read during the Open, please do not work on your own poem while the featured poet is reading. It's incredibly rude.

2. Do not give long preambles to your poem. Just read the poem.

3. Don't make announcements from the podium, especially ones about your own upcoming readings.

4. Do not stare at the featured poet while you're reading your poem. Read for the whole room.

5. If you possibly can, support the poet with the purchase of a book. It means a lot to the poet. Really.

6. Do not ever, and I mean ever, suggest a book trade to the featured poet. This is beyond rude and it makes for a very uncomfortable situation.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Bits & Pieces of This & That


http://www.amazon.com/The-Crafty-Poet-Portable-Workshop/dp/193613862X/ref=pd_sim_14_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=1CZWR2C430JV2AGDY26P
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Since I've been posting features of poets for the past month, I've fallen behind in the bragging department. Time to catch up. Here's what got me excited and made me happy recently.

First, The Crafty Poet received two more nice reviews. As the book is zeroing in on its second birthday, I am very happy that it continues to attract attention and praise. The first review is by Philip Chase and appears in the 2015 issue of the Journal of New Jersey Poets. As that is a print journal, I scanned the review and posted it on my website. I am very fond of this opening sentence: "With plenty of practical advice, insightful interviews, useful exercise, and original poems from an array of voices and styles, Diane Lockward's aptly titled The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop is an invaluable tool for anyone looking to delve into the craft of creating poetry." The entire review can be found HERE.

The second review is by Linda Simone and appears online in Writer's Relief. This reviews begins with this nice sentence: "If you’re looking for the magic bullet to combat writer’s (or poet’s) block, The Crafty Poet, A Portable Workshop by poet Diane Lockward may be the book for you." Read the entire review HERE.


https://www.ebookit.com/books/0000004088/The-Crafty-Poet-A-Portable-Workshop.html
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I'm also happy to report that The Crafty Poet E-Book is doing nicely. On the generous recommendation of Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen, co-editors of Wingbeats and Wingbeats II, I used the services of eBookIt for the conversion. I have been extremely pleased with their service and recommend them to anyone looking to convert a print book into an ebook. While I had not expected them to do any editing, they did and my editor did a really great job. Then my rather complicated table of contents required manual inputting which they did for a very reasonable fee. I especially appreciated the open line of communication. Any questions I had were quickly answered. The cost of this service was recovered in less than the first two months of the book's availability. For each of the three months that the ebook has been available, it has been a bestseller. As a result, it has been given a fancy badge on its page. The Crafty Poet ebook is available at eBookIt, Amazon, B&N, and elsewhere.



http://www.amazon.com/What-Feeds-Us-Diane-Lockward/dp/1893239578/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
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Then I had the great happiness and honor of having a poem featured by Garrison Keillor at The Writer's Almanac on Monday, June 22. Linguini was read by Keillor on his broadcast that goes out daily on 600 radio stations. The poem also went out via Keillor's daily newsletter. First published in Poet Lore, the poem later appeared in my second poetry book, What Feeds Us.

In the poem publication department, my poem "Thinking Like a Buddhist" appears in the current issue of Driftless Review.

Then I also have two poems, "We Were Such a Fine Plum Pudding" and "The Gift of a Rat" in the current issue of Compose Journal. This is a beautiful online journal that includes poetry, fiction, and art. The editors also do a great job of promoting the journal and the authors via social media.

My bad news is some nasty poison ivy on my arms which has me dousing my limbs in rubbing alcohol and spreading on copious coats of Wal-dryl. No more weeding for me.


Friday, July 3, 2015

West Caldwell Poetry Festival Featured Poet: Adele Kenny


Adele Kenny is the author of several collections of poetry, most recently A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All. Her poems have been published in numerous journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of two NJ State Arts Council poetry fellowships, the first place Merit Book and Henderson Awards, a Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, the 2012 International Book Award for Poetry, and Kean University’s Distinguished Alumni Award. She is the founding director of the Carriage House Poetry Series and the poetry editor of Tiferet Journal. One of her poems appeared on the marquee of the Rialto West Theater in NYC as part of the 42nd Street Art Project. She has twice been a featured reader at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.

A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All is a collection of 52 prose poems that are deeply rooted in imagery and metaphor. They contain complete sentences and deliberate fragments, speak the language of dreams, and give a nod to the surreal. They often include strange layers of language in which what appears to be abstraction isn’t. Lightness picks up the spiritual journey begun in the earlier What Matters and moves that journey forward.

Praise for A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All:
"Hardwired by Kenny’s gift for dimension and her profound understanding of the human spirit, the poems in this collection show us the healing power of attention and awareness. Kenny’s words move associatively (and swiftly) through image and sound, and she makes a particular music that is uniquely her own. Impelled by lyrical precision, these poems cast light on what we are learning, and what we already know, about ourselves. This collection contemplates the ways in which the “interior life and the outside world intersect” and is a must-read for anyone interested in looking beneath the surface of things. In addition, through the process of these poems, Kenny leads us to see that, as C. S. Lewis wrote of the spiritual journey, '… there must be a real giving up of the self.'”—Alex Pinto, Tiferet, Spring 2015
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Adele sent us home with these suggestions for revision. Hopefully, you can put them to use on the poems you've written to the prompts offered by the other festival poets.

Often when I conduct poetry workshops, I give participants the following list, which is not a standard “prompt” but something I hope will be useful when you work on editing.

1. Try to write in the active, not the passive, voice. To do that, it can be helpful to remove “ing” endings and to write in the present tense (this will also create a greater sense of immediacy).

2. Be on the lookout for prepositional phrases that you might remove (articles & conjunctions too).

3. The great author Mark Twain once wrote, “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.” This is especially true in poetry. So ... as you work on a poem, think about adjectives and which ones your poem can live without. (Often the concept is already in the noun, and you don’t need a lot of adjectives to convey your meaning.)

4. Avoid clichés (and, while you’re at it, stay away from abstractions and sentimentality).

5. Show, don’t tell—through striking imagery, a strong emotional center, and an integrated whole of language, form and meaning.

6. Challenge the ordinary, connect, reveal, surprise! And … remember that a poem should mean more than the words it contains.

7. Create a new resonance for your readers, a lit spark that doesn’t go out when the poem is “over.”

8. If you take a risk, make it a big one; if your poem is edgy, take it all the way to the farthest edge.

9. Understand that overstatement and the obvious are deadly when it comes to writing poetry. Don’t ramble on, and don’t try to explain everything. Think about this: a poem with only five great lines should be five lines long.

10. Bring your poem to closure with a dazzling dismount. (Be careful not to undercut your poem’s “authority” by ending with trivia or a “so what” line that doesn’t make your readers gasp.)

Something to Try:

1. Take a look at a poem you’ve already written and apply the preceding items as a checklist for editing.

2. Go through your poem one item at a time and see if there are changes you can make.


3. After you’ve finished, compare your original version and the newly edited one. Is the edited version stronger than the original? 


Friday, June 26, 2015

West Caldwell Poetry Festival Featured Poet: Therese Halscheid


Therese Halscheid was one of the six featured poets at the 2015 West Caldwell Poetry Festival.

Therése Halscheid’s most recent book of poems is Frozen Latitudes (Press 53). Other collections include Uncommon Geography, Without Home, Powertalk, and a Greatest Hits chapbook. Her poetry and lyric essays have appeared in many journals, among them The Gettysburg Review, Tampa Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Natural Bridge. By way of house-sitting, she has been an itinerant writer for several years. Her travels have taken her from the Florida Panhandle to the Arctic north of Alaska, where she lived with and taught poetry to an Eskimo Inupiaq tribe.

Frozen Latitudes melds two journeys, where lives are at the very edge of survival. One is the literal location of Alaska where Halscheid lived among clans of an Inupiaq tribe, as well as in the frontier town of Homer. The second location is the place and time where her father’s life was frozen when, during heart surgery, he suffered brain damage. In this collection, the journey into the cold becomes a metaphor for a family struggling with dementia.


Praise for Frozen Latitudes:
“'My lips, bright as scars, are parting / open with words,' writes Therése Halscheid. In these moving poems of loss, interwoven with vivid poems inspired by people and the landscape of Alaska, she composes resonant lines imbued with deep emotion."
          —Arthur Sze, author of Compass Rose

Frozen Latitudes won Honorable Mention for The Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry. The collection is reviewed in the US Review of Books. Read the Review

Click Cover for Amazon

Trash Day

This is how it really looked long ago….

This is myself back in time, a girl
with sallow skin, dragging metal cans to the curb,
notice how I stand for awhile that far from our house
watch how my lips, bright as scars, are parting
open with words so the great air can take them
out of their mystery --

see how my thoughts form the storms, how the morning sky
fills with dark sentences

always something about aphasia, his dementia,
something always about my father caught
so quiet inside me

that would rise in the wind to become
something readable.

I am only fourteen. But you can tell I look old
as if life is ending. Notice how my limbs droop so
willow-like over the trash, see how the cans
are all packed with food, know I am starving myself, I am
that full of my father….

These are our neighbors, each turning in their sleep as they wake,
each waking as they turn from their room to the window
watching the weather above them.

And this is an image of the whole town in shock.
See how they dread my gray hovering grief, just watch
as they walk, how they carry on with the endless clouds
I made weekly, correctly, so very awful and coming
into their eyes.




Here's the prompt that Therese challenged us all to try:
  
Select a topic that is risky for you and allow yourself to free-write about it. A few lines, a paragraph, a page, it does not matter. Just spend a few moments writing. Then go back to what you have written and circle a sentence or phrase. Lift it out. Using that sentence or phrase as a starting point, free-write again. This exercise is helpful in allowing you to experience how writing unfolds in layers. Note how you are moving from a surface experience to crisp details, from abstracts to images. You can try this again and again as a way to enter the heart of the matter, which then becomes powerful material for a poem. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

West Caldwell Poetry Festival Featured Poet: Charlie Bondhus


Charlie Bondhus’s second book, All the Heat We Could Carry, won the 2013 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and the Publishing Triangle’s 2014 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. Previous publications include How the Boy Might See It (Pecan Grove Press, 2009), and two chapbooks, What We Have Learned to Love—winner of the Brickhouse Books 2008-2009 Stonewall Award—and Monsters and Victims (Gothic Press, 2010). His poetry appears in numerous periodicals, including Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, Midwest QuarterlyCounterPunch, and Cold Mountain Review. He teaches at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey and is the Poetry Editor at The Good Men Project.

All the Heat We Could Carry is a collection of poems written primarily in the voices of a gay soldier returning from Afghanistan and his civilian lover. The poems alternate between the battlefront and the home front, exploring, as they do, questions of masculinity, commitment, and violence.

Praise for All the Heat We Could Carry:
"All The Heat We Could Carry is a rare, brilliant and necessary book, offering a people who have lived well during the war a species of lyric night-vision, a camouflage night, wherein we are taught to field strip a rifle, but also to think about 'the soul, / a puff of wind / shot from the mouth.'" Our wars come home in these poems, through a prophet who’s seen hell, who now lives in the aftermath where all is refracted through the searing lens of wounded memory: 'the sun now heavy as a blood bag, where it is hard to tell / the difference between civilians and ghosts.' These poems move with precision from war to home and back, from stun grenade, body bag and bone saw to a garden in winter. If you want to know, or think you want to know, you must read Charlie Bondhus. If you want to know why, pay attention to the fifth section of his poem 'A Talent for Destruction.' Bondhus is a true poet, and this is among the best books I have read in a very long time."—Carolyn Forché

Click Cover for Amazon
Homecoming

Earlier you had written me
about the roadside bomb’s
oranges, blues, and pinks,
which threw 200-lb men,
wearing 80 lbs of equipment,
into the hot, metal wall
of an Abrams tank.
When you came home in May,
I had a planter
of spiky bougainvillea on the porch;
the first thing you’d see,
a different kind of explosion.

We went to the bedroom
to tend to your body, starved
from fifteen months of hard living.
I smelled chemicals, felt shrapnel’s grit,
saw the places you had been burned.
You told me about the sliver
of metal lodged in your right calf,
bone deep, inextractable, that would not
affect your ability to walk or sit
but would always be there, much in the same
way there will always be war
someplace, affecting our lives.

Lying naked beneath the whup, whup
of the ceiling fan as you smoke
on the porch, I think about flowers and bombs,
the books I read on combat fatigue,
and wonder if this thorn in your leg
is attached to a stem that runs
the length of your spine,
exploding, in your head,
a white phosphorous bloom.


Please give Charlie's prompt a try: 

In the spirit of Sei Shōnagon's Pillow Book, make lists of quirky things. Things I wish I had never said. Red things. Things more embarrassing than nudity. Things to put off as long as possible. Things to die for. Acid things. Things that last only a day. Things that should not be seen by firelight. The lists might inspire poems...or perhaps they are poems themselves.


Charlie has generously offered to have this Call for Submissions posted here. Check it out.

From Charlie Bondhus​ for The Good Men Project: People of all genders are warmly invited to submit poetry (simultaneous submissions AND reprints fine!) to The Good Men Project, a website dedicated to discussing what it means to be a good man in the twenty-first century.

On average, the site gets 3.3 million unique visitors and 8 million page views per month, and each published poem gets featured on the site for several days, so this is a very visible venue! Oh, and the poetry section is listed as one of the "Most Personable Poetry Markets" on Duotrope!

Work dealing with men or masculinity is a plus, though our first standard is simply high quality poetry.

Submit up to 10 pages of poetry, as an attachment, to charlie@goodmenproject.com. 


Friday, June 12, 2015

West Caldwell Poetry Festival Featured Poet: Anna M. Evans


Anna M. Evans is the author of Sisters and Courtesans (White Violet Press (2014) and a chapbook, The Stolen From: Poems about Memory & Alzheimer’s. Her poems have appeared in the Harvard Review, Atlanta Review, Rattle, American Arts Quarterly, and 32 Poems. She earned her MFA from Bennington College, and is the editor of the Raintown Review. Her awards include fellowships from the MacDowell Artists' Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, as well as the 2012 Rattle Poetry Prize Readers' Choice Award. She teaches at the West Windsor Art Center and Richard Stockton College of NJ.

Anna's description of her collection:
Before writing Sisters and Courtesans, it occurred to me that, until Anne Bradstreet, the only women writing poetry were outside of society in some way—some royals, but mainly cloistered women and women of easy virtue. Everyone else was busy having babies and raising chickens. I felt it would be interesting to explore women’s lives throughout history using that lens and the sonnet as a form, and to attempt to see what else such women might have in common.

Praise for Sisters and Courtesans
"If sonnet means 'little song,' what Anna Evans has crafted here is a sassy selection of female singers, a spirited chorus that takes the figures of different women throughout history, giving life to their stories with frank audacity and lively craft. This book is full of surprise after delightful surprise, deft rhymes and scandalous turns. This is a book to pass from sister to sister, from woman to woman, from friend to friend. But don't worry, fellows, you too will be equally charmed and delighted by this poet who has all the necessary lines and lives to make the sonnet sing with voices you never will think of again in quite the same way."—Allison Joseph

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My Life as a Camp Follower

The fight keeps dragging on. My soldier lover
was badly wounded by a Yorkist axe.
I came here in the hope that he'd recover,
and stayed on after, in the army's tracks.
It's easy living—all the men are lonely
and most are gentle. I say I'm a nurse
although I tend to them in one way only
and then I slip their pennies in my purse.
I use a pessary of wool and wine
and drink mint tea in secret. If they saw
they'd call it witchcraft. Well, the risk is mine,
all part of women's lot. The men make war
and corpses pile crotch deep in England's mud.
So many things in life come down to blood.



Anna sent us home with this challenge: Write a sonnet from the perspective of someone who lived in a different age from our own, but do NOT make them a famous or named person in history. Include a non-alcoholic beverage and an eye rhyme.

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