Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Feeding Ourselves with Food and Poetry

 I had a really nice holiday. The tree was pretty. One son was here for the full week. We had good food, often joined by our other two kids. My daughter did Christmas dinner for eleven and really outdid herself. A beautiful pork tenderloin, herb-encrusted, with a tasty but subtle gravy. Sweet potato dish, fantastic stuffing made with Italian bread, shallots, and dried cranberries. My brother and sister-in-law were up from North Carolina and contributed a yummy salad. I contributed a broccoli casserole and my best dessert, Boccone Dolce. It was completely devoured.

We even had a baby with us this year as my nephew and his wife joined us with 7-month old Jake who is adorable and exceedingly sweet. He just enjoyed our company and never made any noise other than some gurgling.

One of my gifts was the 2011 Microsoft Ofice which I loaded onto my computer yesterday. Now I need to learn the differences between the new and the old. And get back to my writing schedule. I've been working on revisions and have done some submissions. Now it's time to generate some new work.

If you haven't already subscribed to my monthly Poetry Newsletter, this would be a good time to do so. The next issue will go out on January 1, just in time to start off the new year. If you need some inspiration—and who doesn't?—you'll find a poem and prompt, a book recommendation, some links to writing-related sites, a poetry-related video, and a Craft Tip. This month's tip will come from poet Ingrid Wendt. Ingrid offers some great ideas on how to use discarded lines, you know, the ones you loved but had to admit weren't working in their poems, or the ones that were the only good parts of failed poems. If interested, use the sign-up form in the right-hand sidebar.

Or Go Here to sign up. Once you sign up, be sure to hit the confirm link.

Happy New Year, Everyone, and may your year be filled with poetry.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yes, Virginia

Each Christmas I like to revisit the following essay from the The Sun. My grandmother read it to me many years ago. I've always remembered it. If you don't already know this piece, I hope you'll enjoy it. I also hope you'll have a Merry Christmas if that's what you're celebrating. And I hope you'll have a wonderful New Year. Thank you for being a Blogalicious reader. And a special thank-you to all who have supported my poetry this past year.

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's The Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial September 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

Here's Virginia's letter:

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


Here's the reply:

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Revision in The Poetry Gymnasium

Click Cover for Amazon

I am not quite finished with this book, but I want to mention it now in case some of you might be interested in getting it as a holiday gift. This craft book would be a perfect gift for any poets you know who are looking for instruction and stimulation. Perhaps you yourself are just such a poet? Then treat yourself.

The book seems a bit pricey at $35, but it's a textbook so is priced as such. That doesn't mean, however, that you can't use it outside of the classroom. If you're a teacher looking for a good poetry textbook, this could be the very one. If you're a poet working on your own but hoping to expand your knowledge, this book really does contain the classroom.

If you keep in mind that Hunley offers 94 exercises, then the price does not seem so high. But there's more, much more. Each exercise is preceded by a rationale and some background (tons of information here) and then followed by model poems.

I found Hunley's revision strategies particularly interesting and exciting. I recalled and looked up Kim Addonizio's words about revision in Ordinary Genius: "If you don't think your work needs revision, here's a tip: Don't try to be a poet. You will never—and I mean never—be any good." Firm, but true. She goes on to say: "If you take your art seriously, you will write the poem again and again until you get it right, or as close to right as you can make it. Revision separates the professionals from the amateurs and the wannabes."

Sometimes, of course, that's easier said than done. You have the poem in front of you, ten drafts in. You know you've got something worth working on, but you're not sure what to do at this point. On page 52, Hunley provides a list of four suggestions. I immediately embraced the first and put it to use on two poems I'd been wrestling. Here's the suggestion for revision:
Reread some of your text. Along the way, collect five words or phrases from your text and freewrite on each word. Let the word or phrase take you anywhere. See if any of this new material helps you open up the draft; can you insert the new material at the point you find the original word or phrase? Somewhere else?I found this strategy very helpful in opening up the poem and forcing me into new thinking and material. I then incorporated some of the new stuff into the draft. To the poem's advantage, I think. Then, of course, some cutting was necessary. (I confess to not doing this with all five words or phrases. I revised the suggestion a bit.)

I think you'll also find much in this book to stimulate your own work.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Just in Time for the Holidays

Click Cover for Amazon

I'm happy to have a poem in this new anthology, The Best of the Barefoot Muse, published by Barefoot Muse Press. Editor and publisher Anna Evans has gathered together sixty poems from over fifty poets, all of whom had their poems selected from Evans' online journal, The Barefoot Muse, which for five years published formal and metrical poetry. The collection includes contemporary examples of the sonnet, villanelle, triolet, and sestina as well as more unusual forms such as the ghazal and the fib and many poems in structures of the poet's own devising.

I'm represented by the poem, "Love Test: A Ghazal." Here's a list of all the poets:

Mike Alexander    Tiel Aisha Ansari    Peter Austin    Michael Battram    Kendall A. Bell    Kate Bernadette Benedict    Kim Bridgford    Chris Bullard     Michael Cantor     Catherine Chandler     Edmund Conti     Maryann Corbett     Robert W. Crawford     Erica Dawson     Frank De Canio     Jehanne Dubrow     Robert Klein Engler    Julie R. Enszer    Annie Finch    Carol Frith    Ona Gritz    Lois Marie Harrod    Penny Harter    Paul Hostovsky    Juleigh Howard-Hobson    A.M. Juster    T.S. Kerrigan    Deborah Kreuze    David W. Landrum    Quincy R. Lehr    J. Patrick Lewis    Diane Lockward    Austin MacRae    Laura Maffei    James Scannell McCormick    Susan McLean    Rick Mullin    Bruce W. Niedt    Eric Norris    Amber Norwood    Chris O'Carroll    Frank Osen    Aaron Poochigian    Ray Pospisil    Jennifer Reeser    David J. Rothman    Marybeth Rua-Larsen    E. Shaun Russell    Paul Christian Stevens    Clay Stockton    Peter Swanson    Gail White    James S. Wilk

The collection is now available at Amazon, just in time for a wonderful holiday gift. In fact, what could be a better gift than a book of poetry? This one is very reasonably priced at $10.95.

New Chapbook Now Available

At last! This new chapbook has been published. I say "at last" as it's been well over a year since I was first invited to participate in this series. Although I was told then that the chapbook would be available for that year's AWP, which would have been 2011, that simply did not happen. Apparently, there were some problems that caused delays. In fact, the delays went on so long that I had pretty much concluded that the chapbook just wasn't going to happen.

But happen it did. The original publisher, Pudding House Publications, sold the series to Kattywompus Press. Once the new publisher took over my manuscript, the process moved along at a brisk pace. So I went from thinking it wouldn't happen to a box of 20 copies on my doorstep.

This collection consists of 12 poems, the ones deemed my "greatest hits." Selection was challenging, but I think I have a good variety and all three of my full-length books are represented. The collection begins with an essay detailing the history of the poems. I could provide a list of the poems here, but I'm not going to. I'll leave it to you to guess. Then if and when you get the chapbook, you can see if you were right. Make a game of it!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My New Toys

I recently succumbed to the lure of the Amazon Kindle Fire. I'm glad I did. I love it. This is my first Kindle so I have nothing to compare it to, but so far I'm happy. Although I love all things Mac, I passed over the iPad and opted for the Kindle Fire at less than half the price. It doesn't have all the options of the iPad, but I didn't think I wanted all the fancy stuff. I also liked the slightly smaller size. Among other reasons, I wanted one of these so I could download my newest book which recently became available for Kindle. I wanted to see how it looks. It looks great. There were two poems with one bad break each due to line lengths. I simply reduced the size of the font and the lines became just right. I'd noticed earlier when I added a book sample to Amazon's free desktop reader that the table of contents consisted of all blue links except the links were inactive. In the actual Kindle book, those links are active. Click on a title and you're immediately taken to that poem.

I haven't loaded on any additional books yet, but I plan to. In the meantime, I've been using my new toy to check email and hop onto the internet. Very convenient—and fast. Another feature I find very fantastic is Amazon Prime which I recently signed up for. You get a free month with Kindle, but I'd already signed up for it. At $79 per year, it strikes me as a huge bargain. Any book I order now comes with free shipping and two-day delivery. No more waiting until I have enough books to equal $25 so I qualify for free shipping. I get instant gratification, something I'm quite fond of.

Now with Amazon Prime, I can get one free Kindle book per month. I can get magazines and a good selection of movies—for free! I can't see myself watching movies on a reader, but it's nice to know that I can if I want to.
Now for my second toy, the Roku. A month or so ago I missed an episode of "Boardwalk Empire." I missed my weekly dose of violence, so I signed up for HBO GO. That enables me to get all HBO shows and movies on my computer. Since I have a big screen, watching on the computer is very comfortable. I get a weekly email now from HBO listing all the shows. In one of those newsletters, they had an offer for Roku. It's a game box, very small, about 3" x 3". You hook it up to your TV—with a USB cable for standard definition or an HDMI cable for HD. Either one is a very easy, fast setup. Once that was set up, the Roku screen appeared and took me through all the free offerings. For each one that I wanted, I had to go online, put in a code, and bingo, the channel was activated. We can get all the HBO shows, Amazon movies—again, many for free now that I'm a Prime subscriber—and a few other movie channels. I don't watch a ton of movies, but now that I can get so many for free instead of paying $5 each with FIOS, maybe I'll watch more. Of course, there's all kinds of stuff I could pay for, but for now I'm resisting any more temptation.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What I Learned As an Editor

Recently I served as Guest Editor for the inaugural issue of Adanna, a new print journal. The doors opened for submissions on January 31 and closed on April 30, so I had 3 full months of reading and selecting poems, short stories, essays, and book reviews. I'd like to now share some of my thoughts and observations about the experience.

1. It's a lot of work! If I'd just been doing the poetry, it would, of course, have been less, but this experience gave me a heightened appreciation for the silent work that editors do to put out a journal. Editors do a ton of work. It's easy to get angry at them. But don't forget to be grateful.

2. A significant number of contributors do not follow the guidelines. Ours were very clear. We asked for no more than 6 poems, we asked that contact information appear on each submitted piece, that prose be one piece only and no longer than 2000 words, that the submission arrive as one file. Here's some of what I received:
       • from one poet, 96 poems. No joke. Then she sent an additional 6. After I sent a rejection note, she sent 6 more.
       • several prose writers sent as many as 3 pieces. Sorry, but that's just an imposition on the editor's time.
       • one prose writer sent a piece that was close to 9000 words. When I wrote and said I could not read her piece as it was far in excess of our maximum, she replied that I should select my favorite 2000 words. When I said that wasn't the way it works, she replied that she didn't want to live in my world. Good. I don't want her there either.
       • far too many poets sent 6 files instead of 1. When I sent them back, I was asked to provide instructions on how to create a single file. I was nice about it and did so, but really, if you don't know how to do that, maybe you're not ready to submit?
       • far too many authors put their contact information in the email but not on the submission. Now somebody had to do that so we could keep track of what belonged to whom. I don't think that somebody should be the editor. I was nice the first few times, then started just returning with a note to review the guidelines.
       • a number of poets sent only one poem. Why would anyone do that? An editor wants choice. Side note: not one of those poems was accepted. Maybe there just weren't any others to send?
       • a number of authors sent a pdf although we specifically asked that authors not do so. Why not? Because if we wanted the piece, we needed to be able to make edits.

3. It's really not a good idea to submit to editors you know personally. The hardest part of my job was saying no to people I know. We received many submissions from NJ poets, but because the journal is both national and international, I could take just a limited number of pieces by NJ poets.

4. There are many reasons for a rejection. I've read that before, but now I know it's really true. I sent out acceptances on a rolling admissions basis. So if I'd early on accepted a poem about Alzheimer's, one that arrived later, no matter how good, wasn't going to get in.

5. If you know that the journal accepts on a rolling admissions basis, it's a good idea to send early in the submission period. (See #4) Towards the end of the reading period, long pieces just weren't going to get in as we were running out of available pages.

6. Mistakes happen. Even with a good system and great care and the utmost respect for the contributors, an occasional mistake will happen. We had submissions from approximately 450 writers, most with multiple pieces. 
      • And yet we almost omitted two accepted poems from the journal. Something went awry at the layout end. Fortunately, because I had a system which included a checklist, I spotted the omissions in time to rectify.   
      • We also somehow lost an entire submission. Submissions went to the editor and from her to me. Somehow this one vaporized. We became aware of it only when the poet withdrew one poem. By then, however, it was too late to consider the others as the journal was already in production. All we could do was apologize.
      • We were scrupulous about notifications, and yet we missed one. I hear writers complain a lot about a journal's failure to respond. I agree that that is unforgivable—if it's just laziness. But if it's a genuine mistake, please understand and forgive. Then try again.

7. If the guidelines ask for a bio, be sure to include one (and adhere to the length asked for). Do not tell the editor to go to your website to find the information. Won't happen.

8. Send your best work, work you'd be proud to have published. We received some submissions from poets whose work we knew and admired. But what a disappointment to discover that they'd sent inferior work. I wondered if these poets didn't want to risk sending their first team work to a new journal. Okay, but then it's better not to send at all. Wait until you've seen the first issue and decide if you'd like to be in the second issue. As this was a first issue, it was very very important to us to select work that would set a high standard.

9. Format your work correctly. It's so annoying to get work with weird margins. Stick to the one inch rule. And it really surprised me to see how many writers are still inserting two spaces after a period. That practice has gone the way of the dodo bird. With the advent of word processors, the rule became one space. Using two spaces dates you as someone who learned how to type on a typewriter. Now this might seem really petty, but each one of those extra spaces has to be deleted by somebody. Let that somebody be you, the writer.

10. Putting out a print journal is truly a labor of love. There's no money to be made. Think of the print journals that have gone out of business. Think of the ones that have converted to online formats. Then support the print journals that give us paper pages for our work. If we want them to continue, we need to support them. If you can't afford author copies, perhaps you could recommend the journal to your library, to your students, your friends. Mention your appearance in the journal on your blog, at Facebook, and via other social networks. Help spread the word.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Give the Gift of Poetry

I have an early gift-giving suggestion for you: A subscription to the print journal, Poet Lore. At 125 years old, Poet Lore is the oldest literary journal in this country. It is also one of the best, turning out outstanding poetry in issue after issue. I've been a subscriber for years. Other journals I subscribe to I sometimes drop for a while and move onto other journals, perhaps later returning. I wouldn't consider dropping Poet Lore, not even for one issue.

Here are some reasons why you should treat yourself and the people you love to a subscription:
1. A subscription is only $10. Really, what other gift of such value can you get for that price? That price, however, is going up on January 1, so act now. Do not procrastinate.

2. The journal comes out twice a year, spring and fall. There's enough in each journal to keep you happy for many hours, yet not so much that you feel overwhelmed by the size of the issue.

3. This is one of the few print journals that is exclusively poetry. You're not going to have to flip through the short stories and essays to get to the poems. It's all poems. I have nothing against prose, but I love having this one journal that's such a feast of poetry.

4. The selection of poems is eclectic. If you like well-written poems in a variety of styles, poems that tell stories, poems that touch the heart, poems that take some risks while not sacrificing clarity, then this is your journal.

5. Each journal is organized in much the same way that a poetry book is, i.e., with the poems strategically placed rather than in alphabetical order or according to some other arbitrary plan. This means a big investment of time and brain power on the editors' part, but provides enormous pleasure for the reader. Each issue is like a quilt, each poem fitting in just the right place and adding to the overall design.

6. The back section of each issue contains a generous number of reviews of recent poetry collections.

7. An Added Bonus: This journal stimulates the production of new work. I never leave an issue without having begun one or more new poems of my own. There might be a poem that begs me to imitate it, that makes use of a technique I haven't seen before and would like to try. There might be a poem with a line that demands some kind of response. There might be a poem with an image that evokes images in my own brain.

So what are you waiting for? Hop on over to Poet Lore and place your order.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How to Spot a Future Poet

I'm often asked, as I imagine most poets are, How did you know you wanted to be a poet? Or, What made you become a poet? The truth is I didn't know I wanted to be a poet until I volunteered to test the poetry prompts for a then-forthcoming textbook written by William Stafford and his former student, Stephen Dunning. That book, Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry Writing Exercises, was published by NCTE in 1992 and remains one of their bestsellers. My role over a period of about six months was to write poems to the prompts that arrived by mail every few weeks. From the very first one, I knew that something special had happened. I was electrified. I knew I wanted to keep writing poems. And I did, even though I was off to a late start.

Maybe if someone had ever asked me to write poems, I would have gotten off to an earlier start. But I went through school never being asked by a single teacher to write a poem. If it happened in elementary school, I don't remember. I know it didn't happen in junior high, high school, or college. In fact, until I was in college and later graduate school, I barely even read any poetry. And yet as I look back to the young girl I once was, I think I might have shown some early signs of poetic potential. I've isolated three characteristics:

1. I was a crybaby.
I cried at home. I cried in school. Threaten me with punishment and I dissolved. Hurt my feelings and I was ruined for an entire day. My teachers, at conference time, always told my parents that I was a pretty good student but I cried too much. Once my cousin was visiting from Tennessee and staying at my grandparents' house. I went there with my father to visit. She wanted to visit a former friend down the street so I went with her. When the friend opened the door, they conferred. Then my cousin turned to me and said, "Di, I'm going to have lunch with Carolyn. I'll see you later." And the door closed behind her. I went back to my grandparents' house and began to cry my eyes out, so much that my father made me go home to my mother. Once there, I cried so hard and long my mother finally put me to bed. I could still cry just thinking about the way my cousin dumped me.

I wish I could say I've grown out of crybaby-hood, but lately I've been tearing up during The X Factor.

2. I was a daydreamer. 
This also got me in trouble in school. Sometimes I was thinking, but sometimes I was just zoning out. It was like a trance. I'd just gaze and not even see what was in front of me. In eighth grade my teacher one day stopped class and disturbed me out of my trance. He said I'd been staring right through him and he'd never been so uncomfortable in his life. Oh dear. When I was in high school, I pretty much trained myself out of doing this in public places. But I still do it, especially if I'm tired or if I'm thinking about something. Sometimes I'm looking for a word or an image for a poem I'm working on.

I'm glad my parents weren't able to knock my dreaming out of me.

3. I was a liar.
Really, I told a lot of fibs. I learned the word prevaricator when my father called me one. I made up a whole bunch of different names for myself and sent off for things by mail and used those names, much to the mortification of my mother when the mailman handed her an envelope addressed to Venus DeVeau. In sixth grade I received a Siamese kitten for my birthday. When I told my classmates, no one believed me! Why not? Because they'd come to know that most of what I told them was invented. Consequently, that day I brought home almost the entire sixth grade so I could prove that I did have a kitten. I then realized that perhaps I'd better stop my prevaricating. If I hadn't, I might still be calling myself Sarah Bessie.

But, for the most part, I did stop. Except in the poems where it's legal to invent.

Now if my parents and teachers and pals noticed my crying, my daydreaming, my lying, why didn't any of them realize that those were really just the early signs of a poet in training?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Invitation to a Reading

Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Diane Lockward and Ed Romond
Carriage House Poetry Series
Kuran Arts Center
Watson Rd.
Fanwood, NJ
8:00 PM
Open Mic

Do you need reasons to come? Okay, then for one thing, I'll be reading with Ed Romond who is just terrific. For another, this is a really nifty venue—an authentic restored carriage house. And just because it would be lovely to see you.

Scroll to the bottom of the page.

If using a GPS, use 75 N. Martine Avenue as your address.

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Poem Goes to Portugal

Several months ago I was contacted by Francisco Craveiro, a mathematics professor from the University of Coimbra in Portugal. It turned out that in addition to things mathematical he also enjoys poetry and translation. He especially likes poems with math-related subject matter. From time to time he gathers such poems together, translates, and compiles them in a chapbook which he reproduces and distributes. He had come across my poem, "The Mathematics of Your Leaving," from my first book, Eve's Red Dress. I don't know where he found the poem, but it first appeared in Rattle. Now while Rattle is a print journal the editor had also posted the poem on the journal's website, so perhaps that's where Francisco found it.

A few days ago I received a copy of the chapbook. Eight poets are included. There I am right after Charles Simic! I have no knowledge whatsoever of Portuguese, but it's a kick to have my poem translated into that language. I love how poems make their way around the world and end up in unexpected places.

Here's the cover of the chapbook

And here's the original poem in English:


Today I remembered my algebra book
flying across the room,
my father shouting I was stupid,
a dumb girl, because I couldn’t do math–
and all because you are leaving,
I’m calculating numbers,
totaling years, even
working out equations:
If x + 1 = 2, what is the value of x alone?
All day I’ve been thinking about
word problems: If a train travels west
at the speed of 60 miles per hour
against a thirty mile per hour wind, how fast
will you be gone?
Today I’ve added and subtracted,
multiplied and divided. I’ve mastered
fractions. Even that theorem
I could never understand–plus 1
plus minus 1 equals zero–is perfectly clear.
Then just when I think I’ve finally
caught on, a whiz kid now, a regular
Einstein, suddenly the numbers
betray me. No matter how many times
I count the beads on the abacus, work it out
on the calculator, everything comes
to nothing.
Mute and fractured, a dumb girl again,
I sit alone at my desk, staring
out the window, homework
incomplete. A square root unrooted,
I contemplate infinity.
–from Rattle #11, Summer 1999 

And now here it is in translation:                          

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Poet on the Poem: Patricia Fargnoli

I first met Patricia Fargnoli online at the Wompo listserve. Later, I met her in person when she was resident faculty at The Frost Place. She is a wonderful poet and teacher of poetry. Poet Laureate of New Hampshire from 2006-2009, she is the author of six collections of poetry, including two chapbooks. Her first book, Necessary Light (Utah State University Press, 1999) was awarded the 1999 May Swenson Poetry Award judged by Mary Oliver. Her most recent book is Then, Something (Tupelo Press, 2009).

I found today's poem in the current issue of Poet Lore, one of my favorite journals. I was reading the journal recently in New Hampshire to give a reading. When I came across Pat's poem, I knew I wanted to invite her to discuss it here. Then as Fate would have, who should show up at my reading later that day? Pat! So I immediately lassoed her. By the way, Pat is the kind of poet who shows up at other poets' readings. She is truly a model of how we should support each other.

Click Cover for Amazon
Will the Cows Come Home? 

When the river freezes over and the pot boils
When the cat leaves the corner, when the tulips leave the bed

After absence has made your heart grow fonder
After the apples have fallen far from the tree

Where the village is sleeping, the cows will come to the barn
Swishing their long tails, nodding their heads

If you have been waiting too long, the cows will come for you
If you believe in cows, they will come to your hand

If you hold out sweet grass in late afternoon's last hour
From the greener pastures, they will surely come to you

When you say the right sounds, they will hear you
When your house is made of glass and stones, they will see you

When what has gone around must come around,
They will come home

Be careful what you wish for; if something can go wrong it will
But where there's a will there's a way

After the cat's nine lives are through and the dog's bone is buried
After the wishbone's been broken and the turkey's been eaten

Go with the flow of the river. The cows will come home
After your actions have spoken louder than words

Before all good things have come to an end
Before all the bridges have burned

The cows will come home

If the rolling stone has gathered its moss and is still
If the salt has been thrown over the barn's shoulder

All things come to those who wait
Cometh the hour, cometh the cows

Better late than never, everything in its own good time
The cows will come home

To your barn shaking their bells
They will come home to you.

DL:  What led you to choose cows as a topic for a poem? As the poem progresses, they seem to become more than merely cows. Was that your intention?

PF:  I had just been to buy raw milk from a local dairy farm (as I often do), where I'd stood at the fence talking to the Holsteins and loving their broad innocent faces. So I thought why not write another cow poem (I've written a few). And the phrase "when will the cows come home” came into my head. But I haven't a clue where the idea came from to answer the question by playing with sayings. The muse was on the job that day, I guess. But the next thing I did was, with the help of Google, make a long list of popular sayings. Then (and when I had the rhythm) the poem almost wrote itself. Which, I might say, is much different than my usual “struggle over months or years” process.

And yes, of course, the “cows” become more than merely cows…though I don't know that I realized that at first. They are, perhaps, whatever we wait for. Though I don't know if that's it exactly either. One of the early lessons I learned when I was learning to write was this: If one writes exactly enough about a specific thing/object/image/event, sometimes it gathers a deeper meaning (or another level of meaning) beyond that exact description. I think that is true in this case.

DL:  You violate one of the first rules taught to novice poets: Avoid clichés. Instead, you embrace them—and to great advantage. What made you decide to take this risk and what do you think makes it work?

PF:  I wasn't thinking of these as “clichés” exactly but mostly as sayings: aphorisms, platitudes, proverbs that have been around for a long time and which have been used as “lessons” for humans about life. What's changed here, of course, is that I've made them apply to cows—a shift in perspective. Anyway, I love breaking “rules” in poems and getting away with it (the latter part of that sentence, the important part). An early poetry teacher, Brendan Galvin, taught me that “what works” is the only final rule.

DL:  Your use of anaphora adds music, structure, and meaning. How hard did you work on that technique? Also, the refrain, “The cows will come home,” or a slight variation, adds such power to the poem. How conscious was this?

PF:  It was very conscious. I read somewhere that Stanley Kunitz once said that when he had the rhythm of a beginning poem in his head, the poem could be written. Well, I may be remembering that wrong, but he said something like that and it struck me as being true.

And the refrain and anaphora keep the poem focused and glued together. The repetition builds power as it goes, I think.

DL:  In the third to last stanza, you say, “Cometh the hour; cometh the cows.” That change in diction immediately grabbed my attention. But why “cometh”?

PF:  The saying I was playing with and paralleling here is “Cometh the hour; cometh the man.” This is my favorite line, precisely because of the surprise of the change in diction—and because of its rhythm.

DL:  a) Tell us why there's no punctuation at line ends.

PF:  There's no end punctuation at all except for the final period. That just seemed intuitively right to keep the flow going. I let capital letters and line and stanza breaks substitute for punctuation.

DL:  b) Tell us why each line begins with the formality of a capital letter. 

PF:  Because I felt that each line was almost an end-stopped sentence—or at least a sentence fragment and I wanted them to be read that way. Again, this was intuitive and seemed right.

Bonus: Visit Pat's poems on The Writer's Almanac, read by Garrison Keillor.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Good News Department

For publication news, I recently had an interview and four poems published in Connotation Press. I like that this journal frequently interviews the poets about their poems. Nice to have a bit of chatter along with the poems. I initially submitted to Connotation because they'd carried a review of Temptation by Water in a previous issue. Therefore, I liked them!

I also have three poems in IthacaLit, a new online journal. This one came from a solicitation to submit by the guest editor who is also poetry editor of another journal where I'd recently had some work accepted. It's so nice to be wanted, isn't it? And don't you hate it when someone solicits your work and then rejects it? Bummer. But the news was all good here. This journal plans to include a limited number of poets in each issue—this one has twelve. There's also a featured poet with an interview. And some very nice artwork as headers. The plan is to each year produce a print issue with some of the poetry and artwork.

Then I recently had two really nice readings. The first was at DelRossi's Trattoria in Dublin, New Hampshire. I'd read there once before, back in 2005. That reading was preceded by eight days of torrential rain. The highway I was on to get up there—I think it was 91—opened up with a sinkhole. I was in the same spot for 4 hours! The whole drive which should have taken little more than 4 hours took more than 10. Once in NH I hit roads I could not traverse due to flooding and found myself on alternate dark, dark roads with no idea where I was going. But I made it. And the next day went to the reading, only to learn that the other poet, who lived in New Hampshire, hadn't been able to make it. There was a decent audience but certainly diminished by weather. So I was delighted to be asked back. Then it turned out that there were all kinds of festivals and other readings the same weekend. I expected to read for an empty room. Not so! Happily, we had a nice turnout of jolly people. I spent two nights in a hotel, enjoyed the fall foliage, indulged in room service, and did a bit of writing.

The second reading was last week for the University Women of West Essex, a local group. This was their fall luncheon meeting so I had a free lunch. Then I read—my presentation was "Poetry and the Lives of Women," a combination of poems and talk about subject and process. Lovely turnout and as these women were all local we had lots of connections. I'm happy to say that both readings resulted in some joy-inducing book sales.

One more piece of news. Remember the chapbook I wrote about almost a year ago? For the Greatest Hits series. It's a long story, but I had long ago concluded that it just wasn't going to happen. It had completely stalled out although I'd sent in my manuscript. Yesterday I learned that the woman who has bought the series is now going to take over the publication of my chapbook at a different press. That's exactly what I wanted to happen.

Perhaps I should have known that luck was on my side when I recently won a Mail Chimp t shirt. Mail Chimp is the email service I use for my Poetry Newsletter (sign up in right sidebar). Every once in a while they have a big giveaway. The day they recently had one I sat in front of the computer for an hour watching the countdown. Then as soon as the giveaway link was posted, I was there. And lucked out!

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Book Goes Kindle

If you'd told me a year ago that I'd be excited about having my book available in a Kindle edition, I would have said you were wrong. But here I am, a year later, excited to tell you that my latest poetry book, Temptation by Water, is now available in a Kindle Edition.

Why the change of heart? It recently occurred to me, and not a minute too soon, that this new way of publishing books and reading them is here to stay. And has several advantages. For one thing, for the author it's a great way to supplement the print edition of a book. My book has been out for a year now. Perhaps it will gain some new readers in its new form. As a reader of books, I'm also realizing how convenient it is to store and carry books in a Kindle. No more packing and carrying a heavy bag of books for a trip. They can all go onto the Kindle reader. Another nice perk is that there is no shipping fee with a Kindle book.

When poetry books were first appearing in Kindle editions, I read a lot of complaints about the results. For example, there were problems with line spacing and stanza breaks. Those problems have now been worked out. The Kindle version looks very much like the print one. Then there have been advances in the readers themselves. My ears perked up when I read the first ads and articles about Amazon's new Kindle Fire. Not only is it very reasonably priced at $199, but also it is wireless and can take you to the internet and to your email, thereby serving nicely as a substitute for the laptop.

Then right about the time the Kindle Fire announced itself, my publisher emailed and asked if I'd be interested in having a Kindle Edition. I'd asked him about that months ago, just out of curiosity. He'd recently done a prose book for Kindle and was ready to do his first poetry book. I said, Yes, let's do it. He got to work and in just a few days sent me the proof for the Kindle version. But I have no Kindle Reader. How, then, to read and proofread? A quick Google search took me back to Amazon where I discovered that they offer free downloadable Kindle Readers for computers, iPads, iPhones, BlackBerries, and Androids. So I downloaded one for my Mac and within minutes was reading and proofing my book.

In less than a week my Kindle book was officially listed at Amazon and Barnes & Noble (for Nook).

I immediately ordered the Kindle Fire, but it won't ship until mid-November. Of course, I was anxious to see how the book would look in its final form. So I ordered a copy. Bingo! There it was immediately on the Kindle app on my desktop. I am very pleased with the appearance. The Table of Contents appears in blue and all titles are underlined, making them look like active links, but they're not. Poems are single spaced and stanza breaks are correct. This Kindle App saves all orders in its library. Once my real Kindle Fire arrives, I can move any titles to that.

One note—at Amazon you can read some sample pages with the Search Inside feature. If your print book has this, your Kindle book will automatically have it. Sometimes spacing issues appear. However, if you have the free sample emailed to your Kindle app, those issues will disappear and you'll see exactly how the real thing will look. You'll find that delivery option on the right side of the Amazon page.

By no means am I'm done with print books, mine or yours, but I can see this Kindle Fire becoming a significant part of my reading.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poetry Salon: Adele Kenny

It's my pleasure to host a salon to celebrate the publication of What Matters, the newest poetry collection by Adele Kenny. Adele lives a life fully immersed in poetry. She has for years run a workshop at her home. Many New Jersey poets can trace their published poems back to Adele's living room. She also has for years run the Carriage House Reading Series in Fanwood, NJ, and has hosted many poets there. I've heard Adele read several times, have read her books, and am now happy to hear what she has to say about her new book. Please join us.

Diane:  Tell us how you went about writing these poems and assembling them into a collection.

Adele:  My muse is fickle – she takes three-martini lunches, and heads to the south of France for months at a time – which means that I don’t write as often as I’d like. The forty-seven poems in this collection were written over the past ten years.

For me, poems almost always begin as single images. This was especially true of the poems in this collection. A very few of the poems also appeared in Chosen Ghosts but were extensively revised for What Matters; I included them because they are part of a “story” that overlaps from one book to the other, just as life experiences sometimes overlap. My goal was to create a collection of poems that would be intimate rather than private, a collection that would touch the universal part of readers’ hearts, as well as the personal.

Diane:  Tell us the story behind your cover.

Adele:  My good friend and fellow poet Edwin Romond wrote of the cover, “I don't think I know of any cover of a poetry collection that better captures the soul of the contents than yours. Absolutely perfect.” I was grateful for that note from Ed because the cover painting (Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti – poet, painter, and Christina Rossetti’s brother) was the first picture that came to mind when my publisher asked if I had any ideas for the cover illustration. I’d written an ekphrastic poem based on the painting (“In Memory Of,” in section three of the book), and the painting image admittedly haunts me.

A long-time fan of the Pre-Raphaelites, I feel close to Beata, which, I believe, “speaks” the meaning of What Matters: loss, grief, coming to terms, healing, survival – all things I suspect were present for  Rossetti when he made the painting, although his particular circumstances were quite different. In addition, Rossetti explained in a letter that he portrayed the woman in Beata (his wife Lizzie) in a state of “spiritual transformation” – a fundamental theme of What Matters.

I considered other possibilities for the cover but always came back to Beata. My publisher (John Weber at Welcome Rain Publishers) generously purchased the rights to use the image, which is housed in London’s Tate Gallery.

Diane:  How did you select the title for your book?

Adele:  Strangely enough, What Matters had a title several years before it became a book. Like many images in the poems, the title came to me late one night. It literally “popped into my mind”  before I’d even begun to think of the poems in terms of a collection. I woke up the next morning knowing that What Matters would be the title of my next book. That day I took a long look at my newer poems (revised, written, and in process) and began to see them arranged in sections relative to the experiences that drove them. The title powered the long process of writing, editing, tweaking, and selecting.

Diane:  What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

Adele:  What Matters is a book about survival, specifically my own experience with breast cancer (the three sections of the book – before, during, and after), but it’s more than just a collection of poems about an illness. In fact, few of the poems focus exclusively on that. Interestingly, though, as it worked out, the official publication month of the book is October, and October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I like to think that What Matters offers meaning and hope to readers who have dealt with the illness themselves or through family members and friends.

Most importantly, What Matters affirms that we’re all survivors of one thing or another (grief, fear, illness, losses of loved ones); individual experiences differ, but we’re all survivors. What Matters looks at life as it is and celebrates the moments in which healing begins, the ways in which the human spirit survives, and the ways in which we remember how to live. I’ve come to believe that one of the things poetry does best is to tell readers that they’re not alone. I hope the poems in What Matters do that.

Diane:  Please choose a poem for us and, if you like, tell us why you chose this one.

Adele:  The poem I’ve chosen is “Like I Said” because it’s one of the lighter poems in the collection and shows that sometimes it’s good to take stock of things and to “laugh at life” (it’s also a “goof” on grammar and pop culture) – the point being that, despite whatever else, “what matters” is the peace we make within ourselves.

Like I Said

Okay, so it’s Sunday. I didn’t
go to church. I’m an Irish Catholic,
I know about sin, but I was tired and
just didn’t feel like getting dressed.

On Thursday night, I fell and broke
a slat from the garden fence. My
hip still hurts – the bruise is as big
as my Yorkie’s head.

That would have been enough, but
this morning the vacuum coughed up
a hairball and quit. The only food in
the fridge is a bearded yogurt.

The washing machine refuses to spin.
There’s no clean underwear left, so
I’m not wearing any. Like I said,
I was tired; I didn’t feel like getting

dressed, so I didn’t go to church and
abdicated rights to all that grace.
I put on a pair of dirty jeans, a dirty
shirt, and sat outdoors all morning.

I did nothing but talk to my dogs,
watch squirrels, and wonder what it
might be like to nibble Prozac from
Johnny Depp’s lower lip.

Let's all gather round while Adele reads her poem for us:

Now it's time to enjoy the snacks that Adele has requested. First, her favorite beverages, Korbel Natural Champagne and Yoo-Hoo. Then something sweet: dark-chocolate cupcakes with dark chocolate frosting and something savory: Cornish Pasties (small D-shaped pies filled with meats and veggies). These snacks might very well serve as a metaphor for the collection.

Overheard at the party: “In Adele Kenny's finely wrought meditations on grief and loss, she never forgets that she's a maker of poems; in other words, that the poem in its entirety is more important than any one of its utterances, phrasings, or laments. What Matters straddles two of the exigencies of the human condition: diminishment and endurance. It abounds with poems that skillfully earn their sentiments.” (Stephen Dunn)

Before you leave, be sure to pick up a copy of What Matters. Feel free to add comments in the Comments section.

Click Here for Amazon
For another poem from the book, check out Survivor which was featured on October 1 at Your Daily Poem, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Video: Adele reads selections from What Matters

Visit Adele's blog, The Music in It, for weekly prompts.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Reading at DelRossi's Trattoria

Come for the leaves, the poems, and the food! 

Sunday, October 16, 2011
Diane Lockward and Sylva Haddad-Boyadjian
Del Rossi's Trattoria
Rt. 137
Dublin, New Hampshire
3:00 PM

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Print Journals That Accept Online Submissions

Time to once again update the list of print journals that accept online submissions. The list has grown this time by a baker's dozen. Clearly, more and more print journals are moving to online submission managers. I sort of miss those trips to the post office. But am happy to save paper, envelopes, and stamps. Thank you, Journals!

The Baltimore Review has been removed as it has become an online journal.

Journals new to the list (not necessarily new journals) are indicated with a double asterisk.

The number of issues per year appears after the journal's name.

The reading period for each journal appears at the end of each entry.

Unless noted otherwise, the journal accepts simultaneous submissions.

As always, please let me know if you find any errors here. And good luck.

Jan 31 - April 30

Sept 1 - May 31

February 1 - May 31

June 1 - November 1

June 1 - November 15

all year

all year

Sept 15-Dec 15

all year
no sim

all year

Sept 15 - May 15

November 1-April 30

August 5 - Oct. 5

all year

April 1 - Aug. 31

September 1 - May 1

August 15-October 15 
January 31-March 31

all year

August 1 to 1 November
December 1 to April 1

October 1 thru February 15

all year

print and online journal
all year

all year
no sim

no Jan, Feb, June, or July

**The Florida Review—2x ($3 fee)
August thru May

most recent reading period was June 1, 2011-August 1, 2011

Greatcoat—1 or 2x
November - May

August 15 - April 15

deadlines: Winter issue: November 15
Summer issue: April 15

Sept 1 - May 31

Aug 1 - Oct 1

All year

Sept 1 - Dec. 15

all year

rolling for 3-4 weeks at a time
check website for dates

September 1 - May 1

September 15 - January 15
no sim

All year

Submit to Poetry Editor:
Sept 1 - Dec 1

Sept 1 - Nov 15

all year

October 1 - April 30

no sim
all year

**The Mom Egg—1x
July 15 - Sept. 30

Meridian—2x ($2 fee)
all year

all year

all year

all year

for the Summer issue January 1 through March 1
for the Winter issue July 1 through September 1 (contest only)

no sim
Sept 1-May 31

August 15 - November 1

Sept-May (summer okay for subscribers)

Aug 15 - May 1

**New South—2x
all year

weekly magazine
all year

September 1 - April 30

Jan 1- May 1

June 1 - Jan. 15

year round
no sim

September 15 - April 15

check website for submission dates

Sept 1-May 1

September 15-March 31

all year
considers previously published

All year

year round

year round

all year

No June, July, August, or December
no sim

April 1 - Oct 1

Aug 1 - Jan 1

All year

year round

Salt Hill—2x
August 1 - April 1

Jan 1 - Feb 1 / July 1-Aug 1

Feb. 1 - April 1

All year

All year

All year

No June, July, August
$2 fee

August 15 - May 15

Sept 15 - May 15
No Sim

**The Stillwater Review—1x
deadline Nov. 15

All year

Sept 1 - Dec. 31
no sim

via email
Sept 15 - Nov. 1
no sim

Sept 15 - April 30

Sept 1 - December

September 1 - May 31

October 15-December 15

Sept 1 - March 1

Sept 15 - Jan 15

All year

August 1 - Oct 15
Dec 15 – Feb 1

April 15 - July 31

Aug 15 - April 15

all year

all year

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