Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book Recommendation: Poetry in Person

 Click Cover for Amazon

Poetry in Person: Twenty-five Years of Conversations with America's Poets, edited by Alexander Neubauer, is a terrific book! Neubauer has gathered together the transcripts of 23 conversations held in the classroom of Pearl London, a teacher at the New School in New York. Over a period of 25 years, London regularly invited poets into her class to discuss poetry in general and a poem in progress in particular. The back and forth between teacher and poet is included, along with some comments from students. Drafts, sometimes multiple, are included. Neubauer provides a brief introduction to each poet and a photo.

The amount of wisdom gathered here is astonishing. No stuffy lectures, but real voices from real poets talking and thinking out loud about some of the issues they were dealing with in regards to the poem under discussion and often, too, about their poetic path.

London enlarges the scope of the conversation by routinely bringing in quotations from other poets. While at times this struck me as overdone and even a bit pretentious, I appreciated the voices and wisdom of so many additional poets.

The 23 poets included are Maxine Kumin, Robert Hass, Muriel Rukeyser, Philip Levine, Louise Gluck, June Jordan, James Merrill, Marilyn Hacker, Galway Kinnell, Derek Walcott, Amy Clampitt, Lucille Clifton, Stanley Plumly, C.K. Williams, Molly Peacock, Robert Pinsky, Edward Hirsh, Frank Bidart, William Matthews, Paul Muldoon, Li-Young Lee, Charles Simic, and Eamon Grennan.

Some of these conversations are available as audios at Neubauer's Blog. In the left sidebar you will find links to the original recordings of some of the classroom discussions.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Good News Department

Humpty heard that there's a poem about him in this book.
(Photo by Jama Rattigan)

A lovely review of my book, Temptation by Water, appears in the current Harvard Review. Written by Marjorie Tesser, it has completely delighted me! Here's a small sample:

"Lockward is expert at reflecting complexity of emotion; her wry, battle-scarred humor refuses to be vanquished, and some of the angriest poems in the collection are also the funniest. In 'Leaving in Pieces,' a woman whose husband has disappointed her replaces him with a dog. 'It Runs This Deep' begins by quoting a bumper sticker, 'Jesus loves you. / Everyone else thinks you’re an asshole,' and continues, 'But not your mother,' recounting the love she’s lavished on someone who didn’t deserve it in the eyes of the world. The poem conveys a realistic mix of frustration, fury, sarcasm, and stubborn tenderness." Read the rest of the review HERE.

Harvard Review, a print journal, recently moved all reviews online. This change allows them to now publish more reviews and make them available to a wider readership.

Marjorie Tesser is the author of a brand-new chapbook, The Magic Feather, which happens to be sitting on my kitchen table. She is also the editor of The Mom Egg, a print journal dedicated to poetry about motherhood and related themes.

Something else to check out is Adele Kenny's blog, The Music In It. If you're not regularly visiting this blog, start right now! Especially is you're looking for a site that offers regular prompts and instruction about the craft of writing poetry. A new prompt is posted each Saturday. Adele just posted "When Is a Poem Not a Poem?" Five poets, including yours truly, offer some thoughts. And so does Adele, so that makes six poets. Adele is the poetry editor of Tiferet and an outstanding poet with a new book available for pre-orders at Amazon and just about to step over the threshold and enter the world: What Matters, from Welcome Rain Publishers.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Girl Talk 2011: The Movie

This was the fourth year that I ran an event called "Girl Talk: A Poetry Reading in Celebration of Women's History Month." This event runs on a Saturday afternoon in March and runs from 1:00 - 4:00 PM. It's held at my local library in their Community Room. On March 26, twenty-seven women poets each read one poem related to the lives of women. We had an incredible array of poems, some funny, some sad, some both. This year was the best turnout we've had so far for this reading. Approximately 100 people filled the room. Every chair was filled. A few people sat on the floor and some stood at the back of the room.

Following the reading we had a Reception which consisted of beverages and homemade cookies, baked by the poets who volunteered to bake them. Everyone was invited to stay and enjoy the cookies and some conversation.

Poets with books were each invited to bring copies of one title for placement on the book sale table, which was supervised by library volunteers. We had a total of 19 titles and sold a goodly number of books. Many of these were signed during the Reception.

Here's a short video of the event. I hope it captures the spirit and joy of the event. I also hope that it might inspire you to run a similar event in your town next March.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Marketing Your Poetry Book

Recently Jeannine Hall Gailey interviewed Marie Gauthier as part of a series of summer interviews. Marie is Director of Sales and Marketing at Tupelo Press. She also co-curates a reading series, once worked in a bookstore, and is the author of a chapbook, Hunger All Inside, from Finishing Line Press, so she seems like just the right person to speak about marketing a poetry collection as she's seen it from several sides of the fence. She's also very smart and articulate. But I already knew that as I read in the series she co-curates—Collected Poets Series—a few years ago and had the pleasure of dining with her and some other poets after the reading.

When asked what she'd learned about being a poet from her various book-related activities, Marie replied: "How very difficult it can be to sell a book of poetry. At full price. To strangers. You can't take poor sales to heart. But all things being equal (quality of the work, etc.), I've noted that the poets whose books sell regularly tend to be active members of some sort of poetry community. Translation: poets who take joy in all aspects of poetry, who are interested in other poets and other poems beyond their own, who seek out ways to be involved. Theirs is not a passive love of poetry."

Didn't I just say she was smart! I think Marie is so right when she emphasizes the importance of being active members of a poetry community. We may write alone, but if we want our books to find passage into the world, we cannot make that happen if we remain in isolation. We need to do some work on their behalf. It is not enough to simply write good poems and have a good book—though that, of course, is essential and foremost. I like, too, that Marie mentions the "joy in all aspects of poetry" and does not dismiss marketing as mere "po-biz." Even more I like that she points out that poets who are successful in getting their books out into the hands of readers "are interested in other poets and other poems beyond their own. . ." How true those words are. Don't we all know poets who want us to buy their books but have zero interest in returning the favor?

Asked about promotion of one's work, Marie said: ". . . there's a balance you need to find. As in most things in life, you should be giving as much, if not more, than you receive." Right on, again. I don't want to hear a lot of moaning from poets whose books are doing poorly and haven't garnered any reviews if those poets aren't supporting books by other poets and writing the occasional review, even if it's just an Amazon review.

Marie also mentions the opposite mistake of doing too much on behalf of the book. We know that poet too—the one who sends you ten reminders to buy his or her book, six invitations to the same reading, and endless Facebook brags. Major turnoff, especially if this poet hasn't bought your latest book, has never shown up at one of your readings, and has never sent you a note of congratulations.

Marie suggests that you keep the personal touch in your efforts and that you seek out reviews and readings. That seems obvious, yes? And yet I know some poets who have given up on doing readings. I can sympathize. Who hasn't driven several hours to give a reading only to discover that the venue host forgot to do any pr or that the majority of the people in the audience are really just there to hear themselves read in the open? Still, if you don't ask for readings, chances are you won't get many. And if you don't do readings, chances are you won't be selling books, minimal or otherwise.

Finally, I was pleased to see that Marie advocated the salon—my favorite kind of reading, the one where a friend hosts a reading for you and invites her friends and yours. These are intimate and wonderful—and usually have some good snacks. And people who've come expecting and hoping to buy your book and have it signed. You go home feeling special.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Roundup of Advice from Poets to Poets

If you keep a copy of the Poet's Market on your desk as many of us do, then you probably know that Robert Lee Brewer is the editor of that amazing treasure trove of information. You should also know that Robert maintains the blog Poetic Asides for the Writer's Digest. One feature of the blog is an ongoing series of interviews with poets. Robert ends each of these interviews with this question: "If you had one piece of advice to share with other poets, what would it be?"

Now Robert has assembled those pearls of wisdom and posted them together as Advice from 14 Poets.
His plan is to assemble at least one more such list. How cool to find myself and my bits of wisdom on this first list.

J.P. Dancing Bear's advice resonates for me these days: "Constantly push and challenge yourself to do new things and learn new things. If you've never written a sonnet, then challenge yourself to writing a crown of sonnets. If you've never written anything other than formal verse, write a prose poem. Breaking down things, understanding the craft behind them and rebuilding the way you write only makes you a stronger and better writer. Never, ever think you are 'there'—always be on the journey."

Bear speaks here to the challenge I've given myself in recent months, i.e., to push beyond what I've done before, to learn new elements of craft, to try new forms, to seek out new material. Bear's words and the challenge they set before us remind me that a poet is always serving an apprenticeship—or should be. This is a journey that has no final point. As you move forward, so does that point, always out of reach, always calling you.

At the end of the list of advice, you'll find Links to all 14 interviews. Check them out!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Adanna Launch Reading: The Movie

The launch reading for Adanna Literary Journal was held on Sunday, June 26, 2011, at The Fieldhouse Pub in Fairfield, NJ. I previously wrote about the success of the reading and how much fun it was. Now I've made a video from the photos that were taken. Please enjoy! And then be sure to get your hands on a copy of the first issue. It can be ordered at the Adanna Website. (When you begin the video, find the 360p at bottom right of screen, next to the plus sign. Switch that to 720p for a better picture.)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...