Monday, December 29, 2014

A Weekend Workshop in Delaware and a Book Contest Reading

Several months ago I was invited to be one of three final judges for the 2014 annual Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, a full-length book contest open to poets living in the Mid-Atlantic states. The other two judges were Gerry LaFemina of Maryland and Larry Woiwode, Poet Laureate of North Dakota. The contest was overseen by poet Linda Blaskey of Delaware. Linda and her team of readers culled the entries down to six manuscripts, then sent those to each of the judges who made the final selection.

Linda also invited me to spend a weekend in Delaware, the weekend of December 13-14, leading a group of poets in a workshop. I happily agreed. I drove to Delaware on Friday, was kindly put up in a hotel by the group of poets, and then spent three hours each on Saturday and Sunday with the best group of poets I’ve ever worked with, sixteen of them. We met in a spacious room in one of the Rehoboth Art League buildings.
Building where we met for our workshops
Linda told me ahead of time that the group wanted some craft talk and prompts that focused on craft. So that’s what I went armed with. I did not use any material from The Crafty Poet as I’d been given to understand that most of the group already had the book. In fact, three of the poets are in the book! Many of the group members also knew me as they are subscribers to my Poetry Newsletter. We spent our time together reading some sample poems I’d brought and discussing the craft in them and then writing to prompts that zeroed in on a particular element of craft. We did some reading of the drafts with minimal critique, mostly appreciative noises.

I alternated the craft prompts with ones that work well on those days when you have nothing to write about—and who doesn’t have some of those? The writing was wonderful and the group was incredibly supportive of each other’s work. I gathered that they have been working together and cheering each other on for years.

Saturday night was the announcement of the contest winner and presentation of his book. This event was held at the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware. It’s a real brewery, with all kinds of craft beers, a bar, tours, and a food truck. Since it’s located about 30 minutes away, one of the group members picked me up and another one drove me back to my hotel. Apparently, the owners are big poetry fans and have supported this contest for years. They gave a nice bag of goodies to me and to Gerry who also attended. We both joined the winner in a reading. Gerry read first and then me. Then Linda announced the winner: Lucian Mattison of Norfolk, Virginia. The evening ended with a reading by Lucian, the presentation of his prize which included a check and two cases of beer, and a signing of Lucian’s book, Peregrine Nation, published by Broadkill River Press.

Part of the audience. That's the DE Poet Laureate JoAnn Balingit, with the scarf
Gerry LaFemina
Linda Blaskey introduces the winner, Lucian Mattison
Winner Lucian Mattison reads from Peregrine Nation and pauses for a sip of beer
Presentation of the Award
I returned home after our Sunday session, feeling invigorated by the weekend. It was a true pleasure and privilege to have worked with such a terrific group. I am very grateful to them for having invited me. I felt honored by the invitation. I salute this group for the support they give each other and for giving themselves the gift of a weekend of total immersion in poetry. I’m looking forward to seeing the poems that eventually emerge from the weekend. I'm sure that many of them will land in some very fine journals.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

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.

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 on 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.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Some Thoughts on Using Poetry Prompts

I was recently delighted to come across Amorak Huey’s article, “Writing Poems from Prompts,” in the 2015 Poet’s Market. The article made me happy because I’m a poet who enjoys the challenge of prompts. I know that not all poets do and some even dismiss them and say that “real poets” don’t use prompts. I know lots of real poets who do indeed use them, and I count myself among them. I find, as does Huey, that a prompt will push me in a direction I might not otherwise have traveled. I enter new territory, sometimes strange and surprising. I’m given ideas on days when I just don’t have any. Who among doesn’t have some of those days? I also like prompts because they often compel me to focus on some aspect of craft; thus, I grow as a poet. Huey quotes professor W. Todd Kaneko who says, “. . . I think writing prompts are most useful when they are based around an element of craft.” Me too. If you subscribe to my Poetry Newsletter, you already know that I agree with this. If you have my book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, you know I agree that prompts are cool.

Huey’s article includes a list of five tips for using prompts effectively. My favorite tip is #3: “If one prompt is falling flat, combine it with another. The creative process benefits immensely from the friction of two disparate forces.” Read the entire article to get the other four tips.

The article ends with a “List of Six Stellar Sources of Poetry Prompts.” I was tickled silly to find The Crafty Poet included! Here’s the entire list, one blog plus five books. You might also consider this a list of suggestions for holiday gifts for your students, your pals, and yourself.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

How Much Are You Willing to Pay?

As you know, many print journals now use online submission managers such as Submittable for submissions. Many of these journals are no longer willing to accept snail mail submissions. That’s fine with me. Makes my life easier. In the past few years, several of these journals have begun to charge a submission fee, usually $2 or $3. Although some poets I know are very annoyed about this and some of them refuse to submit to any journal that charges a submission fee, I’m not particularly bothered by it. Seems like a fair trade-off to me. I don’t have to use up my paper supply, two envelopes, postage for the sending and the SASE, or gas going to the post office. At their end, the journals get a little compensation for printing out submissions or reading on screen.

However, the other day I saw the name of a print journal that was new to me, so I checked it out. I’m not going to name it but will say that this journal publishes work by women only. The journal pays $50 for fiction and non-fiction and $35 for poetry. Great. I wouldn’t mind paying a small submission fee to a journal that compensates its authors. So everything looked cool until I got to the submission part. That’s where I saw the $15 reading fee! (Yes, I put an exclamation point there to register the jolt I got at such a fee.) And that’s for just three poems. Now keep in mind that there’s a difference between a submission fee and a reading fee. I’ll pay the former but not the latter, especially when the amount is so absurdly high. It’s tantamount to paying to be published. Another irritant: they read anonymously so all identifying information must be deleted. I know that some people like that. I find it annoying as it causes me the unnecessary step of deleting the information. I think editors ought to be able to be objective with or without names.

So I’ll keep my money and they can keep theirs.

Speaking of money—Many of you, I’m sure, are familiar with Erika Dreifus and her wonderful blog, Practicing Writing, which is always loaded with useful information for writers. It’s primarily geared towards prose writers, but poets will also find it useful. Every Monday, for example, Erika makes her readers aware of no-fee, paying markets. She also sends out a monthly e-newsletter, The Practicing Writer, which is similarly filled with wonderful, up-to-date information. In the current December issue, Erika includes a list of books suggested by authors who previously played some role in her newsletter. As one of those lucky authors, I recommended Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life by Dani Shaprio (Grove Press). Both the blog and the newsletter are terrific resources for writers. You can subscribe to Erika’s newsletter at either of the preceding two links. Just scroll down in the right sidebar.

Speaking of blogs—I have previously recommended Adele Kenny’s The Music in It, and I now reiterate that recommendation. Each Saturday Adele posts a poetry prompt. Each of her prompts contains some instruction and several model poems or links to them. Readers are invited to post their drafts in the Comments section where Adele generously comments on them. Recently Adele began occasionally inviting other poets to contribute a prompt. I’m happy to have been invited twice to do that. My second guest post, The Loveliness of Words, is currently posted at the blog. It’s excerpted from my book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, and includes a wonderful model poem by Rod Jellema and a prompt based on the poem. Check it out and try the prompt.

Speaking of books—It’s time to order your holiday gift books. I hope you’ll consider The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop for the poets in your life.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Print Journals That Accept Online Submissions 11/14

It's been more than a year since I last updated the list of print journals that accept online submissions. This list includes 14 additions. You'll notice that a number of the journals charge a fee for the online submission. Many submitters feel that a small fee is worth it as it saves paper, stamps, and a trip to the post office.

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.

Adanna: a journal about women, for women—1x
Jan 31 - April 30

Sept 1 - May 31

February 1 - May 31

all year

$3 fee

two submission periods—check website

June 1 - November 1

check website to see if open for poetry submissions

June 1 - November 15

all year

Sept 1-June 1

all year

Sept 15-Dec 15

all year
no sim

all year

Sept 15 - May 15

November 1-April 30 

Breakwater Review—2x
November 15 for the January issue;
April 15 for the June issue

Burnside Review—every 9 months
$3 fee / pays contributors

August 5 - Oct. 5

all year

Carbon Copy Magazine—2x
May 1st through September 1st, November 1st through March

The CarolinaQuarterly—3x       
all year

Cimarron Review—4x
all year

The Cincinnati Review—2x
Sept 1 - May 31

September 1 - May 1

**The Conium Review—2x
Jan 1-April 1

August 15-October 15 
January 31-March 31

The Cossack Review—3x
All year

Crab Creek Review—2x
Sept 15 - March 31

all year
$2 fee

August 1 to November 1
December 1 to April 1

October 1 thru February 15

August 15–April 15 
$3 fee

all year

check website to see if open for submissions
(must submit poems one by one)

all year
no sim

no Jan, Feb, June, or July

August thru May 
$3 fee

Fourteen Hills—2x
September 1 to January 1
March 1 to July 1

**The Fourth River—1x
July 1-Sept 1

**The Frank Martin Review—1x
all year

reads month of June
September 15 deadline for the Spring issue
February 15 deadline for the Fall issue

August 15 - April 15

All year

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

**Hartskill Review—3x
all year

Sept 1 - May 31

Aug 1 - Oct 1

All year

Sept 1 - Dec. 15

all year

The Idaho Review—1x
Sept. 1 to April 15

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

September 1 - May 1

September 15 - January 15
no sim
check website for submission dates

The Laurel Review—1x
$2 fee
Sept 1-May 1

**The Lindenwood Review—1x
Jul 15-Dec 15

The Literary Review—4x
Sept 30-May 31

Little Patuxent Review—2x
submission period varies—check website

Submit to Poetry Editor:
Sept 1 - Dec 1

all year

August 1 - Nov 15

all year

currently open for submissions
Send all poems to:

October 1 - April 30

no sim
all year

July 15 - Sept. 30

Meridian—2x ($2 fee)
all year

all year

August 1–November 1 
January 1–April 1

all year

The Mom Egg—1x
June 1- Sept. 1

December, January, and February only or all year if a subscriber
August 1-May 1
$3 fee

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

September 1-December 1 
January 15-April 15
$3 fee

all year

Jan 1- May 1 (but on hiatus for 2012)

**Phoebe—1 print issue, i online
March 9 - Oct 31

August 15-May 15

June 1 - Jan. 15

Jan 1 thru March 31
(women only)

year round
no sim

September 15 - April 15

February 1 to April 1 for the winter issue
June 1 to August 1 for the spring issue

Sept 1-May 1

Prairie Schooner—4x
Sept 1 - May 1
no sim

September 15 - March 31

all year

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

Sept. 15 through Jan. 15

All year

year round

February 1—April 15

Salt Hill—2x
August 1 - April 1

Jan 1 - Feb 1 / July 1-Aug 1

Saw Palm
July 1- October 1
Feb. 1 - April 1
January 1 - March 1

All year

All year

August 15-October 15 for the Spring issue
January 1-March 15 for the Fall issue

All year

All year

**The Southampton Review—2x
September 1 to December 1 and from March 1 to June 1

All year

**Southern Indiana Review—2x
Sept 1-April 30

No June, July, August
$2 fee

August 15 - May 15

Sept 15 - May 15
No Sim

Spoon River Poetry Review—2x
September 15 to February 15

Sept 1-Dec 15
September 1 - April 15
No Sim       

All year

Sept 1 - Dec. 31
no sim

via email
Sept 15 - Nov. 1
no sim

Sept 15 - April 30

32 poems—2x
via email
all year

The Threepenny Review—4x
Jan 1 - June 30

Sept  - December

September 1 - May 31

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  

All year

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Poetic Sweet Tooth
I recently learned that on October 9, John Hewitt, at The Writer’s Resource Center, made me Today’s Recommended Poet: "Diane Lockward is a poet, teacher and an active blogger. Her poetry is feminine and feminist. She is smart and funny. Her poetry probes the politics of family, motherhood, and food with affection and a bit of exasperation."

Temptation by Water 2010

What Feeds Us 2006

Eve’s Red Dress 2003

"You might want to read her blog entries about voice vs. tone here and here. She also has a poetry tutorial: The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop"

Thanks, John, for that sweet recommendation!

Then on October 25, I had two poems, "Service for the Murdered Boy" and "A Murmuration of Starlings," featured in the Saturday Poetry Series at As It Ought to Be. These two poems are anything but sweet—they are quite grim, but relevant to current events. Thanks to editor Sivan Butler-Rotholz for choosing my poems.

Several years ago I began to submit poems to online journals as I came to believe that all poets should have at least some online presence. I began to understand the several advantages of an online publication, e.g., the possibility of a wider audience than a print journal has, the possibility of the work reaching readers in other countries, the long-term presence of the work in the online journal's archives.

As social media became more and more in use among authors, it became apparent that it could be used to multiply the online journal's reach as readers hit the Like button and the Share button for Facebook and/or added a link to Twitter. Still, many of us held onto our affection for the printed word, the pleasure of getting into a comfortable chair and spending a few hours reading poetry on the page.

Now we can have our cake and eat it too! A number of online journals have gathered the work first published online and put it into a print edition. Some of these print anthologies gather all of the work of several years; others do a best-of anthology.

The most recent of these anthologies arrived in my mailbox this week. Katherine Riegel, editor of Sweet: A Literary Confection, has just edited the journal's first anthology: All of Us: Sweet: The First Five Years.

Click for Amazon
Here's the back cover's list of contributors.

Some other online journals have also published print anthologies:

Pirene's FountainFirst Water: Best of Pirene's Fountain The best of the first five years, edited by Ami Kaye.

Valparaiso Poetry ReviewPoetry from Paradise Valley. Selected work from the first ten years, edited by Edward Byrne. (currently unavailable)

Thrush Poetry JournalThrush Poetry Journal: An Anthology of the First Two Years. Includes all the work, edited by Helen Vittoria.

The Barefoot MuseThe Best of The Barefoot Muse. The journal has ceased publication but the best work of its five years of publication is preserved in this print anthology, edited by Anna M. Evans.

I like this trend and hope it continues.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Billy Collins on Craft

Last weekend I attended the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. I not only attended, I also worked there. One of my assignments was to introduce Billy Collins at his craft talk on Saturday morning. This was held in the gymnasium of the North Star Academy, one of several charter schools in Newark. The room was packed.
Collins began his talk with some thoughts about what poetry is. He offered the following:
    “musical thought”—Thomas Carlisle
    “emotion set to rhythm”—Thomas hardy
    “meaning that moves”—Muriel Rukeyser

He then added that poetry is “all about the love of strangers.” And he asked, "How do you get strangers interested in your internal life”? He offered two ways:
    1. Lies
    2. Application of form—give formal pleasure to the reader

Collins added that the reader is not interested in your life; he’s interested in his own life.

To the earlier definitions, he added, “Poetry is a mixture of the clear and the mysterious.” It is a “home for ambiguity.” I love that last part.

When Collins began to talk about deal breakers, i.e., what makes him stop reading a poem, the talk had the ring of familiarity. I recalled that some of his thoughts had been included in an essay entitled “My Grandfather’s Tackle Box: The Limits of Memory-Driven Poetry,” published in Poetry, August 2001. Then I googled a bit and was reminded that he’d also discussed his deal breakers in his Introduction to the Best American Poetry 2006, an issue for which he’d served as Guest Editor. Excerpts from that essay, “75 Needles in the Haystack of Poetry,” appear here.

I’ll include one excerpt here:
“The word ‘cicada,’ for example, stops me in my tracks. Sorry, I simply cannot continue. Poems consisting largely of memories tend to leave me unfurled, particularly memories of family members—parents, grandparents, especially ones referred to as ‘Dad,’ ‘Mom,’ ‘Grandpa,’ and ‘Grannie.’ The same goes for poems that seem obsessed with some object associated with a dead person: Grandpa’s tool box, Mom’s ironing board, Dad’s fishing rod, and the like.  . . . Too many poems seemed content to convey an experience followed by a reaction to it without factoring in the reader’s presumed indifference to the inner lives of strangers.”

(This entire essay also appeared in AWP’s The Writer’s Chronicle, September 2006.)

The talk was followed by a Q&A. Someone asked about prose poetry. Collins described it as “an opportunity to write poetry and prose badly at the same time.” Funny, yes, but I’m sure that raised a few hackles in the room. It’s one thing to say you don’t care for it or you don’t choose to write it, but to dismiss it altogether struck me as too firmly opinionated. Collins elaborated by saying that he values the line, that each one adds something to the poem, “And once you give up the line, you can’t use the word poetry.”

Someone else asked about performance poetry and it quickly became clear that that’s not Billy’s cup of tea either. He feels that the delivery is too emotional and that the performer does what the poem should be doing.

Now I need to get out my current manuscript. I think I have a poem in it that mentions a cicada.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Leading Poetry Workshops

I very much enjoy giving workshops. One recent really heart-warming experience was doing a two-hour workshop for seniors as part of the Tour of Poetry series held in Northfield, NJ, at the Otto Bruyns Library. This wonderful program is run by poet Emari DiGiorgio who received a grant from Stockton College to fund it. I’d been told to expect 6-8 people. We ended up with 20! They were just a wonderful group to work with, so eager, so industrious, and so appreciative. The day was well worth the two-hour drive each way. We did a writing activity together and heard a handful of the drafts. Then I gave a short reading and left the group with a take-home prompt.

I generally find that seniors don’t buy books—not because they’re cheapskates, but because they may now be on reduced budgets or more often because they’re downsizing their living space. Nevertheless, I sold a goodly number of copies of The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. This group was hungry for poetry instruction and additional prompts, and they were anxious to continue working at home. Each month from now through the spring they will meet with a different poet.

Then last week I gave a reading and talk to a group of seniors in Upper Montclair, NJ. This was not a writing workshop and the participants were not poets, but they were a great audience. This program is run by Rose La Mantia who arranges a monthly presentation for her group which meets in a church rec room. What a wonderful gift to her community. Participants come early and have lunch together. Then there’s the presentation and desserts.

 I was originally scheduled to give this presentation two years ago during the week of Sandy, but we had to cancel. Because Rose schedules a year in advance, my visit had a long wait. But it was worth the wait. I love bringing poetry to audiences who perhaps haven’t been reading much of it but are open to it. My topic was “Poems and Where They Come From.” Before I read each poem, I talked about what had sparked the writing of the poem. My listeners were full of questions and comments. And much to my delight, many of them went home with a copy of one of my poetry books.

Kudos to Emari and Rose for their contributions to poetry and to their communities.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Cockamamie Life of a Poet

We poets often say that we work in isolation. We say that because it’s true. It can be a lonely occupation, especially for those of us without a nearby poetry community or family and friends who share our love of poetry. We often go for long stretches of time without any poetry conversation. Throw a bunch of poets together at a festival or a conference and notice how they practically fall on each other. They are so hungry for poetry talk.

I’ve thought for a number of years that blogs have been great for closing up the distance and creating a new community of poets who share the same interest in writing poems and the same frustrations. Online journals in their own way also help to bring poets together in a way that print journals do not. I’m not sure why that is or even if it’s really true, but it feels true to me. Then social media has become a wonderful way for poets to gather even though separated by many miles. Yes, it can be a great time waster, but it can also be a way of sharing trials and triumphs. I’d never think of knocking on my neighbor’s door and saying, “Hey, guess what! I just had a poem accepted by such and such a journal and I’ve been dying to get into that journal.” But I am happy to routinely post such news on Facebook and to read of such news from my Facebook “friends”—many of whom I’ve never met. We give each other Likes and congratulatory comments. Maybe it’s weird, but I like that.

All of that is leading up to sharing my recent poetry news here with you, my poetry neighbors.

For print publications I have a new poem, “Signs,” in the inaugural issue of Tahoma Literary Review. Poetry editor Kelly Davio has done a great job with this journal. She and her co-editor have even managed to create a business model that allows them to pay their contributors. The journal appears in print, but you can also download it as a pdf. Several months ago Kelly invited me to write a guest post for the website. I chose to write about how I’d gone about writing “Signs.” That piece, “Imitation and Invention,” has now been posted. Those of you who subscribe to my newsletter will recognize the Carl Dennis poem that I refer to as it was the model poem for the June issue's poetry prompt. I practice what I preach.

I also have two poems, “A Polemic for Pink” and “Pity the Fortune Cookie Writer His Muse,” in the current issue of Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. Poetry Editor Julie Brooks Barbour has put together an issue I’m so proud to be part of. I also like how she and editor Kaite Hillenbrand use social media to spread the word.

I also had two recent online features. My one and only concrete poem, “Organic Fruit,” in the shape of an avocado, was re-featured at Your Daily Poem as part of the journal’s five-year anniversary celebration. Publisher Jayne Jaudon Ferrer single-handedly manages to post a poem every single day of the year.

The other feature is at The Good Men Project. Poetry editor, Charlie Bondhus, selected my poem, “The Missing Bike,” for this feature. Each poem that appears in the poetry column is paired with an appropriate piece of art. The readership for this online journal/magazine appears to be enormous. Some of the articles get thousands of readers. Last time I checked my poem had received 258 Facebook shares from the page. What a great way to increase the readership. This is why I think all online journals should include share buttons.

Poetry Magazine is another online journal doing an anniversary celebration. I was a featured poet there about a dozen years ago so was recently invited to submit a poem for the anniversary anthology. I sent my poem “Hunger in the Garden,” a poem written in American sentences. The credit line is for some reason missing, but the poem was first published by Valparaiso Poetry Review and appears in my book, Temptation by Water.
Click Cover for Amazon
Last week I was delighted to learn that poet and blogger Margo Roby had posted one of her weekly poetry prompts and had used as her inspiration one of the Bonus Prompts from my book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. Margo could easily have just taken credit for the idea, but she generously gave me credit even though she’d added a good deal to the prompt and really made it hers. Check it out and write a new poem.

The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop is making its way around the globe. Its latest stop was South Africa. Witness this short but sweet review in the Cape Times.

Finally, I learned that the editors of the Mojave River Review have nominated “Coloring,” one of the four poems I had in their inaugural issue, for a Best of the Net prize. This competition was started in 2006 by Sundress Publications with the goal of bringing more attention to and respect for online publications. Great idea! Each year’s winners appear in an online anthology. Many thanks to the editors of both the journal and Sundress. Then came more good news: the editor of Rose Red Review has nominated my poem “The Color of Magic” for a Best of the Net Award. 

Of course, then came Friday with a triple header of rejections. But that was followed this week by three acceptances, all from journals I really want to be in. Such is life. And so it goes.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Font Rant

I wish that Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all publishers would include font size in the publication information of each poetry book they sell. Then I could avoid ordering any collection that uses a font smaller than 11. I'm attempting to read a new book now that may end up blinding me. The poems are spoiled because the physical act of reading them is so difficult. I keep misreading words that look like other words, e.g., ever for even, dirt for dart, feeling for foreleg, and so on. When the line makes no sense, I go back and discover my error, but by then I’ve already been booted out of the poem. Sure, I can get back in, but if it happens again and again, then the reading becomes too fragmented to be enjoyable and meaningful.
This seems to be a trend. I’ve experienced it several times now, almost exclusively with poetry books. I thought initially that this might be an economical adjustment, a way of saving paper. But no, it’s not. When I go back through the book, I discover that most of the poems are less than a full page and could easily accommodate a larger font. Occasionally, a small font seems to be used in order to accommodate long lines. Bad choice. There are alternatives. If it’s just a few poems that have long lines, the font on those pages could be decreased, though that's not desirable. Or turn lines could be used. Again, not desirable, but certainly better than spoiling the whole book. If many of the poems have long lines, a larger book size could be used. Another option might be for the poet to rework those long lines.
Several days ago I posted my irritation on Facebook and quickly learned that I’m not the only one who has noticed this trend and finds it bothersome. Some even went so far as to suggest that this is ageism. Some of the commenters with books said that they insist their publishers use an easy-to-read font size. Problem there is that not all publishers give that option to their authors. That’s often the role of the book design department. Who are these book designers with their very good vision?
One commenter recommended that I buy a magnifying sheet. I refuse to do that. How annoying to have to keep moving the sheet as I go from page to page, poem to poem. It’s not my job to make the book physically readable; it’s the publisher’s job.
A very small font can also present a problem for the poet at readings. I’ve seen poets at the podium struggling to read their own poems, trying to catch the light just right, misreading and then correcting.
Also there seems to be a trend to use light gray font. Combine that with the small size. No thanks!
I’ve also noticed that it seems to be in style to use a small font on covers. This means that the title and the poet’s name often cannot be read in a thumbnail image. I understand the desire to show as much of the artwork as possible, but surely the title and poet’s name are equally important?
Other commenters suggested Kindle or some other e-reader. I love the option of being able to read on my Kindle, but I do not want to have that as my only option. Also line length is still a problem on e-readers. That’s getting better, but still requires adjustment of settings. I like to mark up some of the poetry books I’m reading. I really can’t do that on the screen—at least not in the same way I can with a paper book. And I like to dogear pages. And circle favorites in the table of contents. My reading is active, not passive.

Someone sent me this article with an audio discussion on the topic. Check it out: Your paper brain and your Kindle brain aren't the same thing

So what’s a human reader to do? I order and read a lot of poetry books. I’m contemplating returning books with unreadable fonts. I’m not sure that Amazon will consider that an acceptable reason for returning a book. They’ll probably charge me the cost of the postage. That returns me to my starting point: Amazon and publishers should start indicating font size. I, for one, would appreciate that. Better yet, publishers should stop using small font sizes.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fallow Writing Periods and Triggers

My last post, “Have You Been Wasting Precious Writing Time,” provoked a good deal of response. Many readers seemed to take comfort in knowing that Louise Gluck went for long periods of time without writing any poems. However, while they took comfort in knowing that they were not alone in going through fallow periods, many also made it clear that they felt disappointed, unsuccessful, and frustrated. They wanted it to be otherwise, They wanted to be writing. This set me to thinking some more about the subject.

First of all, stop raking yourself over the coals for not writing. It may be that you’ve earned an extended break. If, for example, you’ve just published a book, you may need to step back and just cool yourself off for a while. You may need to replenish the well inside you, that place where the poems come from. Maybe you need to concentrate on getting readings and enjoying being the author of a newly published book. Or maybe you’ve just completed a manuscript and need a break. Writing is a joy, but it’s also hard work. Sometimes a vacation is in order. Or maybe life has just been a bit overwhelming. It’s okay to give yourself some time off. Not everyone writes like William Stafford.

Understand that during the time you are not writing you may, nevertheless, be doing the work of a poet. You may be observing, storing up, gathering. You’re getting ready for the next burst of new poems. Believe that they will come. Maybe not as soon as you’d like, but they will come. They are waiting for the right trigger.

However, you may have to find or create the trigger that will unleash the poems that live inside you. Here are some suggestions for doing that:

Prepare to open a vein.
1. Make a date with yourself to write every day for the next week. Not for forever but for a week. Not to write poems but just to write. Schedule this into your day. Keep it short, maybe even as short as ten minutes per session. No topics? Look out the window and write about the first thing you see. Free write without stopping. No going back over. No revising. At the end of the week, look at what you’ve written—probably an impressive amount. Is any of it calling to you, saying, “Hey, I want to be a poem”? Can any of the pieces be combined? Is it all a big ugly flop? If so, repeat the next week. Eventually, something will click, will set a fire inside you. Until then, at least you’re writing.

2. Create a Day of Poetry at your house. I’ve done this several times and it’s wildly productive and fun.

3. Go to readings. There’s something about just sitting there and listening that gets your creative mind working. There’s something about being among other poets that reminds you of who you are.

4. Read poems. Every day. This is part of the hunting and gathering. You may not be writing, but you are doing the work of a poet.

5. Go for walks. Listen to music as you do so.

6. Write some reviews of poetry collections. The close attention this requires will feed your poetic imagination. And you’ll be doing important work, necessary work. You’ll be firming up your membership in the poetry community.

7. Use prompts. Now don’t give me that nonsense that real poets don’t use prompts. Every poem is prompted by something. Get your hands on some books of poetry prompts. Here are some suggestions:

        The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, by Diane Lockward, Wind Publications, 2013. Craft Tips, model poems, prompts, Q&As, 101 poet contributors

        Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry, by Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen, Dos Gatos Press, 2011. A boatload of prompts by a variety of poets, many of them teachers

        Wingbeats II: Exercises & Practice in Poetry, the sequel, by Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen, Dos Gatos Press, 2014. Another boatload of prompts by a variety of poets, many of them teachers

        The Daily Poet: Day-by-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice, by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano, Two Sylvias Press, 2013. A quick prompt for each day of the year.

While I hope that you’ll get at least a few books of prompts for your desk, I also want to suggest that there are websites that offer prompts. One of my favorites is Adele Kenny’s The Music In It.  Adele offers a new prompt every Saturday. Her prompts typically include a good deal of craft discussion and links to sample poems.

Another favorite site for poetry prompts is Margo Roby's Wordgathering. Margo offers lots of creative prompts and does so on a regular basis.

Another blog for prompts that I like is by Rachel McKibbens. She seems to have stopped keeping the blog up to date and the site is a mess, but the past prompts are there and they look like fun.

The idea is to give yourself a crash program in total immersion. As Georgia Heard might say, marinate yourself in poetry.

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