Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Wanna Be the Next American Idol

My guitar if I were a rock star
I’m an “American Idol” super fan. I watch every single week, and if I have to go somewhere one night, I dvr it. After all these years, it’s still a show I wouldn’t miss. I even vote for my favorites. I don’t care about the declining numbers, unless that means the show gets cancelled. This year was extra special as my favorite contestant, Caleb Johnson, won.

As I watched the judges, Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick, critique the contestants this year, I kept thinking how relevant their comments were for poets as well as musicians. I took some notes as the weeks went by:

If the delivery is too introspective, you may keep the audience out.

You need to know what the words mean or you won’t feel them or communicate them to the audience.

Match your body to the words.

There must be emotional dynamics in the delivery.

Know who you are, what kind of artist you want to be—but from time to time, surprise us.

Get out of your comfort zone.

Get out of your wheelhouse. Show us a new version of you. Do what you haven’t done before.

If you’re giving us what we know, put a twist on it.

If you always do the same thing, you become predictable. Take risks. You can’t grow as an artist if you don’t.

Be dependable without being predictable.

You need both the yin and the yang. You can’t be all one or the other.

Give us authenticity.

Rehearse to get rid of the nerves.

Be self-assertive. Come out and own it.

Sing your song to someone. Imagine someone.

All good advice for poets, yes? Poetry is our singing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy Birthday to The Crafty Poet
It’s now been a year since The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop  entered the world. It’s been a very exciting year and I couldn’t be happier with the reception the book has received.

One of the sources of happiness has been knowing that a number of colleges and universities have adopted the book as a textbook. As a former teacher, it’s thrilling to have my book enter the classroom. These schools include:

Bellevue College, WA
California State University, Long Beach
Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA
Kean University, NJ
Lake Superior State University, MI
Lone Star College System, TX
Seattle University, WA
Sussex County Community College, NJ
Montana State University, Billings
University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas
Valparaiso University, Indiana
Washington & Lee University, VA                                         

I was also delighted to learn that The Crafty Poet will be the textbook for a course called “Read It, Write It,” soon to be taught at a Pennsylvania prison.

The book was also used as the textbook in an online summer course, “The Art of Poetry Writing,” taught by poet Melanie Faith and sponsored by WOW (Women on Writing).

I’ve received notes from a number of poets who are using the book in poetry workshops. Last month the book was used as the textbook in a workshop taught at a Sufi gathering in Mendocino, California. This fall the book will be used in a workshop led by C.A. LaRue for the Jambalaya Poets in Louisiana. LaRue recently held a contest for a free virtual spot in the workshop.

I was fortunate to have two local book parties, both held at libraries. Both of these were attended by more than a dozen of the poets in the book, all of whom read and discussed their poems from the book.

I took my show on the road in May and gave a group presentation at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. Again, I was joined by a number of poets from the book. We had a fabulous time.

Bloggers and online reviewers have been very generous in the attention and praise given to the book. An early review was written by Martha Silano at her blog, Blue Positive. A more recent review was written by Lynn Domina at her review site.

The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop is reviewed by editor Joshua Hjalman Lind in the Hartskill Review, a new print journal. Lind says "...these prompts are helpful, guiding the reader through exercises very much like a personal trainer who motivates us to get off the couch." He also says that the book is "useful as a collection of fine poems, from which one can learn much about how poetry works." And he concludes with this: "It is clear that Lockward is a sensitive reader and mentor, and her efforts to compile and communicate useful writing tips will help a lot of aspiring poets." I was pleased to see that several of the contributors to this issue of the journal are also contributors to the book: Kelly Cherry, Janet McCann, Joel Allegretti, Wendy Ingersoll, and Charlotte Mandel.

Back in the fall The Crafty Poet was named a Best Book for Writers by Poets & Writers. The Crafty Poet is currently #1 on the list of Best Books on Writing Poetry at Goodreads.

Thanks for being part of the party! Cupcakes for everyone!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Good Stuff Going On Here and There

I've had a handful of poems recently published here and there as well as a few other tidbits going on.

My poem, "Pyromania," appears in the new print anthology, This Is Poetry Volume I: Women of the Small Press. Edited by Michele MacDannold and published by Citizens for Decent Literature Press, the collection includes the work of forty contemporary women poets. "Pyromania" first appeared in Prairie Schooner. It is also in my book, What Feeds Us. I'll have one more poem in Volume II which should appear six months from now.

In the online world I have five poems in the annual issue of Avatar Review. I've never had a journal accept that many poems in one fell swoop. Kind of sweet. Two of the poems have audios.

Then my poem, "The Morphology of Mushrooms," appears in the current issue of Cider Press Review. This is my first appearance in this online journal since it switched from print to online. The new poetry editor, Ruth Foley, is doing a great job. My poem was written to one of the prompts in my book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. I practice what I preach. Well, sometimes I do.

I recently did a five-question interview on process with Laura E. Foley at Dear Outer Space. This is part of a writers on writing series that Laura does twice a week. She sent ten questions and I chose five to respond to. Many secrets are revealed.

A few months ago Nic Sebastian invited me to submit some poems to The Poetry Storehouse where poems are given new life by becoming part of video remixes. I submitted my poem "Orchids" from my book, What Feeds Us. Nic recorded the poem. Then she turned the poem and the recording into a remix with gorgeous still images. Shortly thereafter, I got double lucky when videographer Paul Broderick chose to do another remix using an entirely different set of images and video clips. Both of these videos are exquisite. Nic subsequently interviewed me about my experience with the remixes. "Remixing the vocabulary of orchids: an interview with Diane Lockward" is posted at the Moving Poems Forums, hosted by Dave Bonta.

As if that weren’t enough excitement, Erica Goss, in her column "The Third Form" at Connotation Press, did an article in which she features five pairs of videos. In each pair both videos use the same poem. One of the pairs is the two videos of “Orchids.” Erica, by the way, contributed a lovely poem, “The Scent of Orange Blossoms,” to The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Making / Taking Time for Poetry

The Villetta Inn
(photo by Wendy Taylor Carlisle)

Last week I did something I haven't done in a long time. I went to a writers' retreat. I indulged myself and nurtured my writing. I mingled with other poets. I was not interrupted by laundry, the phone, the need to prepare meals, appointments on the calendar, or any of the other things that break up our concentration and demand our time.

I decided some months ago that it was time to begin putting together a new manuscript of poems and that I needed uninterrupted time to do that. I have plenty of time at home; what I don't have is uninterrupted time. So I signed up for the Mayapple Writers' Retreat in Woodstock, NY. This program is run by Judith Kerman who also runs Mayapple Press, a fine small poetry press. Judy began this program in Michigan in 2003 as the Rustbelt Writers' Retreat. In 2012 when she moved to Woodstock, she brought the program with her and renamed it to reflect the new location.

What distinguishes this program from others is that there is no faculty. The participants cooperatively run their own workshops which are kept very small. (The largest group this year was four.) Participants must have an MFA or comparable degree and publication credits. This is not a program for beginners. Because there is no faculty, the cost is significantly less than for other programs.

Participants can stay at the Villetta Inn, pictured above, in single rooms. There's a large kitchen where residents can store food and do their own food preparation. The workshops are also held at the Inn. The town of Woodstock is a short drive away. I elected to stay at the Woodstock Inn on the Millstream, about a 7-minute drive away. My room was small but nice and very clean and blissfully quiet. What I liked best was that I could walk to the village green where all the shops are. The inn offered a continental breakfast. I found a nifty place called Bread Alone where I could get homemade soup for lunch and a sandwich for dinner. Toss in a few pastries.

We all arrived at the Villetta Inn late Tuesday afternoon, got acquainted, and then had a delicious catered dinner at the Inn. Workshops were held each morning from 10:00 to 12:30, Wednesday thru Sunday. There was one CNF group, three manuscript groups (each with just 3 participants), and one individual poems group (4 participants). Given that I went because I want to put together a manuscript, it would have made sense for me to have been in a manuscript group, but no could do as that manuscript has yet to be assembled. Also, I had a bunch of poems, all pretty new, that I wanted feedback on so I could decide if they were book-worthy. We got through three poems each at each day's workshop, so that was very useful.

After each workshop I returned to my room, walked to the green, got some lunch and dinner (for later), then returned to my room. One day I had a terrific lunch date with Arkansas poet Wendy Taylor Carslisle at a local restaurant. 

Once back at my room, I did some revisions and began work on the manuscript. That is such hard work! I mapped out themes and motifs, pulled some poems that didn't fit, questioned others. Separated the poems into groups by theme. Though I won't use a thematic arrangement, my separation approach helps me to see what I'm working with and suggests how I might work with constellations of themes. So the project is nowhere near done, but it's underway.

Each evening there was a reading for four participants. Mine was on Friday which happened to be the night we had a group dinner at New World Cooking, a nearby restaurant. This was included in our program fee and was very nice.

After Sunday's workshop I headed home. I was reminded once again how essential it is to set aside time for concentrated work on our poetry. If you can't make the time, you need to take the time, by force if necessary. I'm glad I did. Now my goal is to beat that manuscript into submission.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...