Saturday, June 27, 2009

Jersey Girl

The most widely circulated newspaper in New Jersey is the Star-Ledger. Recently the paper initiated a monthly magazine, Inside Jersey, which is distributed to all paper subscribers and is available also by regular subscription. The July issue of the magazine begins what will become a monthly feature, a spotlight on a NJ writer or artist. I was delighted when several months ago I was invited to be the subject of the first such feature. I submitted five poems, two of which were selected. Both "A Murmuration of Starlings" and "Stripping the Lemon" appear in the current issue of Inside Jersey.

One of my missions in life is to widen the audience for poetry. Most publications of my work make me happy, but this one especially pleases me as the magazine will reach many people who might not otherwise read poetry. I hope they'll linger for a while with my poems and perhaps think they might like to try some more poetry.

"A Murmuration of Starlings" makes reference to something that happened recently in a nearby community and received quite a bit of attention in news outlets. Apparently the starlings had become a problem in Franklin Township, so the decision was made to poison their feeding spots. The unwitting birds ate the poisoned seeds, flew away, and then died mid-flight. I read in the paper that the mayor said, "It was raining dead birds." That line, that image, haunted me and shortly thereafter became the poem.

"Stripping the Lemon" I began last summer in an all-day workshop with Dorianne Laux and Joe Millar. Participants were asked to bring along some interesting object. I brought a print-out of a painting by artist Jeff Hayes. "Strip-tease" struck me as a very sexy image of a fruit. It seemed metaphorical. That metaphorical aspect generated the poem, a comparison between peeling the lemon and stripping off one's clothes. I had a really good time shaping the poem. I wanted to capture in my lines the sinuous curves that Hayes captured on his canvas. So once I felt that I had the words right, I labored over the shape. It took me hours to get it just right, but in the end I was pleased with the results.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Excess in Poetry

Like Seinfeld's Kramer, my husband loves the Price Club. And like Kramer, he tends to overbuy when he goes there. Recently I asked him to pick up a box of Ghirardelli brownie mix. He came home with the above pictured box. I have enough brownie mix to last a few years. But maybe not as these are without a doubt the absolute best brownies. I will never again bother to make brownies from scratch (not that I have in recent years) as these are better. The particular mix I have (there are others) contains three different kinds of chips. The brownies are sweet, gooey, fudgy, and loaded with chips.

I have just two problems with the brownies: 1) I can't stop eating them, and 2) I always seem to burn them just a bit around the edges. I know you can't help me with the first problem, but can anyone recommend a pan that eliminates the overdone edges problem?

Anyhow, for some reason this large box of brownies got me thinking about excess in poetry. I remember hearing Mark Doty at a Dodge Festival say that he's a "more is more kind of poet." I know that Doty is sometimes criticized for going on too long, for being too expansive, and yet it seems to me that while his poems are often long they flow seamlessly. Generous and lavish and gorgeous. I recall Doty also saying something about reaching that point where he thinks the poem is over but then instead of stopping, he asks himself what more could be said and he keeps on going.

I tend to blab on too long in my poems, so my revision work is often a matter of trimming off the overdone edges. When I feel that a poem hasn't found its real subject, I write out in the margins, then often import that material into the poem. But then I also cut out some stuff. I seem to focus more on cutting than on expanding. I'm trying to think of some other poets who are expansive without being long-winded and flabby. Any suggestions?

I'd like to offer you some brownies, but here's a delicious poem by Mark Doty instead.

Fish R Us

Clear sac
of coppery eyebrows
suspended in amnion,
not one moving–

A Mars,
composed entirely
of single lips,
each of them gleaming–

this bag of fish
(have they actually
traveled here like this?)
bulges while they

acclimate, presumably,
to the new terms
of the big tank
at Fish R Us. Soon

they’ll swim out
into separate waters,
but for now they’re
shoulder to shoulder

in this clear and
burnished orb, each fry
about the size of this line,
too many lines for any

bronzy antique epic,
a million of them,
a billion incipient citizens
of a goldfish Beijing,

a Sao Paulo,
a Mexico City.
They seem to have sense
not to move but hang

fire, suspended, held
at just a bit of distance
(a bit is all there is), all
facing outward, eyes

(they can’t even blink)
turned toward the skin
of the sac they’re in,
this swollen polyethylene.

And though nothing’s
actually rippling but their gill,
it’s still like looking up
into falling snow,

if all the flakes
were a dull, breathing gold,
as if they were streaming
toward–not us, exactly,

but what they’ll be . . .
Perhaps they’re small enough
–live sparks, for sale
at a nickel apiece–

that one can actually
see them transpiring:
they want to swim
forward, want to

eat, want to take place.
Who’s going to know
or number or even see them all?

They pulse in their golden ball.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Journals That Read in the Summer—Part 3

Here's the third and final installment of the list of print journals that read during the summer. Again, please let me know if you spot an error. And be sure to check the guidelines for specifics. Most, if not all, of these journals have websites.

Reminder of how the list works:
**indicates that simultaneous submission is ok
x indicates the number of times the journal publishes per year
If dates are not included, that means the journal reads all year

Poetry--11x-online subs

**Poetry Miscellany-1x-tabloid-e-mail subs

**Raintown Review-2x-email subs

The Rambler-6x-prefers no sims

**Rattle-2x—email subs ok

**Redactions—1x—by email


**Rhino-1x-April thru Oct 1

River Oak Review--2x

**River Styx-2x-May thru Nov

**Roger: An Art and Literary Magazine—1x—Aug 1-Jan 1



**Smartish Pace--2x-deadlines July 1 & Dec 1

**South Dakota Review-4x

Southern Humanities Review--4x

**Southern Poetry Review—2x

**The Sun-12x

**Third Coast--2x—begin Aug. 1-email

**Tiferet: A Journal of Spiritual Literature-2x—email subs


**Tusculum Review—1x--April 1-Nov 15

**Verse-1x—reopens for submissions July—for print issue, sub must be chapbook length

**Weave—2x—email subs

Willow Springs Review—2x—slower response in summer

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Journals That Read in the Summer—Part 2

Here's the second installment of the list of journals that read during the summer. Again, please let me know if you spot an error. And be sure to check the guidelines for specifics. Most, if not all, of these journals have websites.

Reminder of how the list works:
**indicates that simultaneous submission is ok
x indicates the number of times the journal publishes per year
If dates are not included, that means the journal reads all year

**Hiram Poetry Review-1x

Hudson Review-April 1-July 31 (all year if a subscriber)

**Hunger Mountain-2x

**Inkwell-Aug 1-Nov 30

**The Journal--2x


**Knock—2x-email subs okay

**Lake Effect—1x

**Literal Latte--6x

Louisiana Literature-2x

**Lullwater Review --Aug 1-May 31

Madison Review-2x

Manhattan Review-1x

**Margie—June 1-Aug 1-1x
subscriber all year

Michigan Quarterly Review

**Mid-American Review-2x-slower in summer months

**The Midwest Quarterly Review--4x

Missouri Review-3x--6-12 poems

**Natural Bridge-July 1-Aug 31-2x

**New American Writing—June-Jan—1x

**New Orleans Review--2x—Aug 15 thru May 15

**New York Quarterly—3x


North American Review-6x


**Poet Lore--2x

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Journals That Read in the Summer—Part 1

Summer is when many of us have more time for at last sending off those poems that have been waiting for our attention. The problem is that a number of the journals on our lists don't read in the summer. However, there are journals that do read during all or part of the summer. Here's Part 1 of my list of those journals. Please note that these are all print journals. Also, please note that it might not be one hundred percent accurate as journals often change their guidelines or cease to exist. Check guidelines at the journal's website. Then please, if you find an error, let me know. Good luck! Parts 2 and 3 will follow.

**indicates that simultaneous submission is ok
x indicates the number of times the journal publishes per year
If dates are not included, that means the journal reads all year

**American Poetry Journal—2x
(summer only for subscribers)

American Poetry Review--6x-tabloid

**Another Chicago Magazine-2x-Feb-Aug 31

**Ascent-3x, shorter poems pref

**Asheville Poetry Review--3x--deadline July 15

**Atlanta Review--deadlines June 1 & Dec 1

**Baltimore Review-2x (sub by email)

**Barn Owl Review—1x—June 1--Nov. 30—email sub

**Barrow Street--2x

**Bat City Review—May 1-Nov 1-1x

**Bateau—year round—2x—email sub

Beloit Poetry Journal--3x

Birmingham Poetry Review-2x--deadlines Nov 1 & May 1

**Black Warrior Review-2x

**Briar Cliff Review--1x-Aug 1-Nov 1

**Burnside Review—2x—email sub ok

**Caketrain—1x—email sub ok

**Cave Wall--Aug--Sept (check as dates were not posted for fall reading)

**Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts—July 1-Dec 1

Cider Press Review—1x-email subs—April 1-Aug 31

**Cimarron Review—4x

**Cold Mountain Review—2x—Aug 1 thru May

**Columbia Poetry Review—Aug 1-Nov 30


**Connecticut Poetry Review-1x

**Connecticut Review--deadlines Sept 1 & Feb 1

**Crab Orchard Review (for special issue)


5 AM--2x-tabloid

**Five Fingers-1x-June 1-Aug 30

**The Florida Review--2x

Fulcrum-1x-June thru August 31

**Gargoyle-1x--June 1--Sept

**Greatcoat—2x—email subs only


**The Grove Review—2x—Aug 1 deadline for fall issue

Hanging Loose--3x

**Harpur Palate—2x

**Harvard Review—2x

**Hayden’s Ferry--2x

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Prose Poem

I've heard the prose poem defined as a poem in a box. I have to admit that it's a form I avoided for a long time. I just couldn't bear to give up line breaks. Still, I wanted to expand my repertoire so I kept trying. I achieved a few poems that looked sort of box-like. The lines were long and approximately equal in length. Approximately. Still, not a real prose poem.

Then I read No Boundaries: Prose Poems by 24 American Poets, edited by Ray Gonzalez (Tupelo Press, 2003). In this collection of prose poems, I found many that I liked. And I found, somewhat to my surprise, quite a variety of shapes. Yes, the lines were all justified, but some poems were fatter than others. Some were broken into stanzas. For the first time, I appreciated that the prose poem isn't just about getting a symmetrical shape. I found lots of imagery, lots of figurative language, lots of devices of sound. In other words, lots of craft.

Eventually, as I learned more about the form and kept trying, I did end up with a prose poem. And that one seemed just right for the form. I think that's what I needed all along, a poem that felt like it needed to be stuffed into a box. A union between form and meaning. Nevertheless, while I am still happy with my prose poem, for the most part I remain married to line breaks. But it's an intriguing form, one I hope to use again.

So I was happy to see that the most recent issue of Review Revue is devoted to a consideration of the prose poem. If you don't know this journal, it's one I'd like to recommend to you. It's a tabloid format, admittedly not pretty, but it folds up so easily into pockets and travels well. The journal appears three times a year and is a bargain at $12 a subscription. It's entirely about poetry but contains no poetry. You'll find interviews, lots of book reviews (most of substantial length), and essays. The current issue even has a few cartoons, yes, cartoons about prose poems.

Articles include "History / Influences: The Prose Poem," by Christopher Buckley; "The Prose Poem Is a Form Received," by Alexander Long; and a terrific Q&A with a number of prose poem poets. This last piece ends with Charles Simic's definition of a prose poem as "a dog that talks." Several of the interviewed poets then offer their own metaphors for the prose poem. Here are some of my favorites:
Peter Johnson: "A fly with a social conscience."
Charles Harper Webb: "the duck-billed platypus of poetry"
Nin Andrews: ". . . the prose poem is a penguin. It's a bird that doesn't fly."
Kathi McGookey: "the secret agent of literature"
John Bradley: "The prose poem smells like it needs a shower."

Challenge: Write a prose poem about a box. You decide what's in that box.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

A Home for Rejected Poems

It happens to all of us. Rejection. We send out those poems we slaved over. The ones we like best. That we think are really good. Maybe our best work ever. And then they come back to us like wounded puppies with their tails between their legs.

What shall we do? Give up? No way. Not if you want to get good. If you're a poet, rejection is just part of the game. My rule of thumb for years was: It takes 20 rejections to get an acceptance. Then I could think of each rejection as one step closer to that acceptance. I'm not that patient any longer and I tend to revise after a poem has been turned away half a dozen times. But the rejections still come. One came just today! As if to prove my point. Thanks a lot. You know who you are.

Here's a journal whose editors know that rejection doesn't necessarily mean that a poem is not good: Redheaded Stepchild. The journal bills itself as "a home for poetry that has been rejected elsewhere." They ask that your submission name names, but they do not identify which journal(s) rejected your work. I decided several months ago to give them a try as I liked the journal and found some poems I really liked in the issue I examined. I'm willing to reveal that it was not a major procedure winnowing out which poems to send, to find the few poor souls that had suffered rejection. Most of my poems suffer rejection before finding a home. In fact, it's the rare one that finds a home on its first voyage out.

I'm happy to say that one of my poems, Prunis Persica, appears in the new spring issue. I like this journal because of its concept and also because it limits its selections to 20 poems. Here's who I'm keeping company with these days:
Terry Wright / Alex Grant / Christian Ward / Wendy Vardaman / Carol Potter / Cheryl Townsend / Kate Bernadette Benedict / Joan Wiese Johannes / Lana Hechtman Ayers / Ann Neuser Lederer / Richard Krawiec / Amy King / Pat Riviere-Seel / Alexander Lumans / Mark Decarteret / Thomas P. Levey / Maggie Glover / Kathryn Stripling Byer / Howie Good

Don't let rejection get you down or discourage you. Just wrap up those poems and send them out again. The best revenge is getting published in a better journal.

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