Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Pie As Lovely As a Poem

Christmas is over for this year. I’m not a big Christmas fan. Sorry. The shopping is awful. I never feel like I’ve selected the right gifts or enough of them. The house decorating feels onerous. And most Christmas music, for some reason, just makes me sad. Then I always feel like a bit of a freak because I'm not just loving the holiday season.

But this year went well and the holiday was lovely. I did almost all of my shopping online and I reduced the number of gifts given. We opted not to put up a tree since we weren’t having anyone over to see it. Instead, we just put up a little fake tree on the fireplace stoop. I didn’t listen to much Christmas music.

My daughter had us over for dinner along with my brother and sister-in-law from North Carolina, their single son, their married son and wife and two-year-old boy, and one of my sons. My daughter, who is just the most fabulous daughter ever, made an amazing dinner—filet prepared as a roast and served with mustard and horseradish sauce, sides of potatoes au gratin (not from some crummy mix but made from scratch!), roasted carrots, roasted broccoli, salad, and homemade popovers. I contributed a pimento dip with crackers and artichoke squares for the hors-d’oeuvres and two desserts—boccone dolce and peppermint chiffon pie in a chocolate krispy crust. Both desserts were quite spectacular, if I do say so myself.

Chocolate Peppermint Chiffon Pie
 This is the very last piece of the pie which I intend to eat tonight. This looked even more delicious on Christmas when I made it. The chiffon has now settled just a bit.  Hungry? Okay, here's the recipe:

A few tips: Make the shell first and put it in the fridge. In fact, it can be made hours ahead. For the chiffon filling, use the candies that are round and white with red stripes. Candy canes will also do. Crush in a processor. When you are heating the first six ingredients, take your time. The gelatin must be completely dissolved or the chiffon will not hold together as it should and you'll get some little jelly-like lumps. No fear, though, it will still be delicious. Finally, the egg whites and the heavy cream must be beaten until stiff. Otherwise, all is in vain.

Now I’d like you to write a poem about pie or some other tasty dish. Why? Because I’m co-editor of the upcoming Food and Women issue of Adanna Literary Journal. The submission period is open from now until February 1. Check the guidelines here. And then please follow them. (I know that sounds snippy, but it’s amazing how many people just ignore the guidelines and that usually means more work at the receiving end—unnecessary, annoying work. And you don’t want cranky readers, do you?) We are not reading anonymously, so be sure to include your contact information on each page of your submission.

Now get out your pen and get cooking.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

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 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:

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 10, 2013

A Trio of Holiday Gifts for Poets

Poets love nothing more than books. A book is always the right gift for a poet, and if it’s a poetry book, then it’s the perfect gift. We poets devour books of poems, but we also love craft books and prompt books. Why? Because we’re always honing our skills and always looking for new ideas for poems. So I have a trio to suggest for your poet pals. And don’t forget to be good to yourself as well!

Now some of you might wonder why I’d be recommending craft books other than my own. Here’s why: Most poets need and want multiple books on craft. We can’t get enough of them. My own shelves are loaded with craft books. Each one has something to offer that the others don’t. That’s certainly true of the three I’m about to recommend. Together, they should keep you and your friends growing and writing for a long time. I have them arranged here in what seems to me a logical order, from craftiest to promptiest.
Click Cover for Amazon
 1. The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, by Diane Lockward, Wind Publications, 2013

This book includes craft tips, model poems, and prompts based on the craft elements in the model poems. In addition, each of the ten sections includes a Q&A with one poet about the craft elements in a single poem. Each section ends with a short bonus prompt that can be used over and over again. The material is organized by craft concepts such as Diction, Imagery / Figurative Language, Line / Stanza, and Syntax. Fifty-six poets, including 13 former and current state poets laureate, contributed the craft tips, model poems, and Q&As. An additional 45 accomplished poets contributed sample poems written to the prompts, two for each prompt. The book is craft-oriented and is ideal for classroom, workshop, or individual use. Of the three titles recommended here, this one places the most emphasis on craft.

Named a Best Book for Writers by Poets & Writers Magazine
In this resource for poets, Lockward offers practical advice and insights about establishing sound, voice, and syntax in poetry while also providing writing prompts and other poems as inspiration.

I received your The Crafty Poet in the mail today and found that I was only a few pages in when I was compelled to go get a pen. Not sure why, since I just held it in my hand while I read, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with sitting down to a feast without a fork.
                     —Jane Ebihara

Writers and teachers of writing: If you’re looking for a book that illuminates the nuances of poetic craft, then you’ll find The Crafty Poet to be a terrific teaching tool. It’s also a powerful text for individuals seeking to break through creative blocks. You’ll encounter model poems with accompanying prompts, interviews with poets, discussions of process and inspiration, and more.
                    —Caitlin Doyle 

This book has a spectacular array of model poems and information from poets on how they see the craft. It will get you writing and it will help you keep on writing poems.
                    —Sheila Bender

Sample Bonus Prompt
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2. Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry, edited by Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen, Dos Gatos Press, 2011

This is a collection of sixty-one prompts contributed by fifty-eight poets, including Naomi Shihab Nye, Ellen Bass, and Oliver de la Paz. The book is organized into seven sections under such concepts as Springboards to Imagination, Exploring the Senses, and Structure and Form. The exercises range from quick and simple to involved and multi-layered. Prompts include such intriguing titles as "Metaphor: Popcorn, Popcorn, Leaping Loud," "Aping the Masters: Poems in Imitation," and "My Mother's Clothes." The book's focus is on prompts, but most of them are preceded by some discussion regarding purpose and benefits; you will find some craft material included in those discussions. The contributing poets were asked to follow a suggested format, so you will find clear step-by-step instructions and sample poems that were written to the exercises. Ideal for the classroom, workshop, or individual writing space.

Wingbeats is a fabulous toolbox of innovative and practical ideas that literally every teacher of poetry workshops and at every level, from elementary poets-in-the-schools through the graduate MFA, will find indispensable. Covering a vast range from image to sound to form, the exercises are all concrete and clearly presented—a marvelous way to mine the imaginations and experiences of today’s most dynamic poets. Invaluable!
                    —Cole Swensen

No teacher, no aspiring poet should be without the gentle guidance of this book.
                    —Gabriele Rico

This is sophisticated play. I found exercises that have taken me beyond my ordinary patterns and limitations. Wingbeats will get your pen moving.
                    —The Coachella Review
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3. The Daily Poet: Day-by-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice, by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano, Two Sylvias Press, 2013

The 365 prompts in this collection were all written by the two authors, both of them well-published poets. The book evolved out of several years of their regular writing dates during which they challenged each other with prompts. The book is arranged like a calendar with one prompt for every day of the year, though the user is free to skip around. Quite a few of the prompts begin with a reference to some historical event that occurred on that day. While the book is strictly brief prompts, many of them ask you to employ craft elements. This book is suitable for a beginning poet or one with a lot of experience but in search of some new ideas. It can be used in a classroom to supplement assignments, in workshop groups, or at home by the poet working alone.

Recommended by The Huffington Post Books:
. . . you could use The Daily Poet year after year and track how your writing evolves. Or you can just crack open the book, pick one out at have at it. They're all equally thought provoking.

I see this as an investment in writing exercises for many years over as you can use the same prompt at different times and find it will take you different places. It's my recommendation that you add it to your own library and enjoy the journey.
                          —Michael Wells

The variety of prompts also encouraged creative exploration of topics I might not have considered fertile ground for poetry (candy cigarettes, anyone?). For me, this is the book’s greatest gift to its user: its power to dig deep inside the rabbit holes of your poet’s brain and/or subconscious and pull out work that might never have been pulled out without it.
                          —Molly Spencer

Whether you write to prompts on your own or you use them when you meet with writing groups or with a friend at a coffee shop, there is something here for everyone.
                          —Donna Vorreyer

Sample Prompt

If you need to select just one of these books, I hope I've given you enough of a description that you can choose. But what I really hope is that you will choose all three.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bits & Pieces of This & That

The new issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review has now been posted. As always, you’ll find lots of good reading in this journal. This issue includes the work of 36 poets, one of whom is me. Here’s the entire list:

Elly Bookman, Jared Carter, Stephen Cloud, Kelly Cressio-Moeller, 
Barbara Crooker, Katherine Sanchez Espano, William Ford, Kate Fox, 
Kalima Hamilton, Kathleen Hellen, Elise Hempel, Graham Hillard, 
Edison Jennings, Michael Johnson, Jen Karetnick,
Sandra Kohler, Liz Langemar, Mercedes Lawry, Laurence Lieberman, 
Frannie Lindsay, Diane Lockward, Kim Lozano, David Mason, Rose McLarney, 
Judith H. Montgomery, John A. Nieves, April Ossmann, Colin Pope, 
Connie Post, Doug Ramspeck, Robin Richstone, Lee Rossi, John Ruff, 
Joannie Stangeland, Larry D. Thomas, Charles Harper Webb

My poem is Sinkholes. Check it out.

I was pleased to find my new book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, as one of nine recommended titles on Poetry Super Highway’s Holiday Gift List. It makes me very happy to know that my book has made it into the hands of other poets and that they, in turn, are recommending it to still other poets.

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I do a few back flips (mentally, that is) each time I hear that the book is stimulating the writing of new poems. This tweet from Julie Brooks Barbour put a smile on my face: "Thanks to The Crafty Poet by @Dianelock, I drafted a poem this morning."

White Elephant Contemporary Poetry Gift Exchange
As if all that weren’t enough good news, it seems that The Crafty Poet took part in the 3rd Annual White Elephant Contemporary Poetry Gift Exchange in Arizona, led by poet and teacher Shawnte Orion. Shawnte wrote about the event at his blog, Battered Hive. Here’s what he wrote about The Crafty Poet:

I also gave away a copy of Diane Lockward's portable workshop The Crafty Poet which includes insight and writing exercises from 56 top poets and two sample poems for each prompt so you can see what other poets come up with. I didn't read my poem that was one of the sample poems based on the Richard Jones’ prompt. But I did read Cecilia Woloch's “Fireflies” and Jeffrey McDaniel's 

Compulsively Allergic to the Truth

I'm sorry I was late.
I was pulled over by a cop
for driving blindfolded
with a raspberry-scented candle
flickering in my mouth.
I'm sorry I was late.
I was on my way
when I felt a plot
thickening in my arm.
I have a fear of heights.
Luckily the Earth
is on the second floor
of the universe.
I am not the egg man.
I am the owl
who just witnessed
another tree fall over
in the forest of your life.
I am your father
shaking his head
at the thought of you.
I am his words dissolving
in your mind like footprints
in a rainstorm.
I am a long-legged martini.
I am feeding olives
to the bull inside you.
I am decorating
your labyrinth,
tacking up snapshots
of all the people
who've gotten lost
in your corridors.

Jeffrey's poem is one of the model poems in The Crafty Poet. It is followed by a prompt based on the poem and two sample poems written to the prompt.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Poet on the Poem: Susan Laughter Meyers

I am happy to feature Susan Laughter Meyers as my guest on The Poet on the Poem. I am confident that you will enjoy her poem and her comments about it.

Susan Laughter Meyers is the author of My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass, released in August 2013 as the inaugural winner of the Cider Press Review Editors Prize. Her first book Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina Press, 2006) received the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Book Award for Poetry, and the Brockman-Campbell Book Award. Her chapbook Lessons in Leaving (1998) won the Persephone Press Book Award. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals, including The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, and Crazyhorse, as well as on the online sites Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry column.

Today's poem comes from My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass.
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When the wind gets up and the water rises,
those who live on higher ground, at a distance
from the pinched smell of pluff mud,
from spartina marshes and swamps of cypress knees,
upland from the tannin-black tributaries
where through the bottoms, among the wet-footed
spider lilies, one barred owl
calls another, one to the other till there’s little left to say,
upland from the cottonmouth and the brown water snake
coiled and rooted by the tupelo
and the alligators logging across the slough,
upland from the deer hound pens full of yelps—
full of naps and pacing, full of cedar-thicket dreaming—
and the dirt yard’s milling of gray cats
and striped kittens yawning by the palmettos,
upland from the sea sky sea—the horizon
a fine line polished away—
from the shrimp boats shrinking smaller and smaller
on their way to their serious work of gathering,
from the smooth, quick balancing act
of the sun—heavy and orange—riding the waves,
upland from salt myrtle and the season’s second growth
of trumpet honeysuckle, those who live at a distance
from the band of quick, dark clouds blooming at sea,
upland from the bang and whirl, clatter
and shake of the wind when it’s up,
those who live on higher ground ask
of those who live by the flats and shoals,
the shallows and bogs, Why, and again, Why, O why.

DL: The diction in your poem is wonderful, e.g., pluff mud, spartina marshes, wet-footed spider lilies, salt myrtle, trumpet honeysuckle. How did you acquire all these succulent words? Did they appear in your first draft or did you add them to the poem during revision?

SLM: From the poem’s inception I knew during the whole process of writing it that I would be knee-deep in language and sound. Just now I went back to look at the first draft—there were twenty-six drafts—and from the start the poem included image after image from the natural world; but of the ones you pointed out, only the trumpet honeysuckle was in the first draft. By draft three, though, the pluff mud and spartina marshes were there, as well as the spider lilies—though they weren’t wet-footed yet. So it was an early, but gradual, process—the accretion of language and imagery—and it’s a boon to us poets that the names for native flora and fauna are rich in sound.

DL: I very much admire the way you've succeeded in animating the setting. Tell us how you created the sense of motion and energy that pervades the poem.

SLM: I wrote the poem not long after the active hurricane season of 2005, the year of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita among others. So the sheer energy of the storms was still with me. Despite the danger from hurricanes, the love for the lowlands and the wild beauty there persisted in my mind. More than once I’ve been in the situation of whether or not to evacuate—and if so, when—and it’s hard to leave, despite the danger. In the poem I wanted to show the attachment to the land, to a way of life, to the wild and even the less-than-beautiful aspects of the coastal plains.

Most of the images that came to mind as I was writing have their own motion of some kind—the snakes and alligators, the owls, the shrimp boats at work—that energy plus the force of the wind in the poem, always the wind—well, all of these, together with the fear, attachment, and uncertainty stirred up by the storm at hand, contributed to my own sense of agitation and unrest. And I hope that the swirling energy was conveyed.

DL: One of the feats of this poem is its syntax. How difficult was it to get one long sentence to sustain the entire poem? Tell us, also, about the function of the dashes.

SLM: I love what syntax can do in a poem, its ability to indicate not just sequence but also hierarchy and relationships, its role in manipulating the rhythm and pacing. Syntax is truly like a conductor leading an orchestra. Because “Coastland” consists of a sustained list, it felt natural for it to be one long, convoluted sentence. I wanted the movement of the poem to be somewhat like a spring that uncoils, a movement that seemed fitting for a poem of wind. As you can tell, too, I’m fond of dashes. I often use them to interrupt myself or to set off an explanatory phrase, sometimes for the extra-long pause that I’m aiming for. Other times I use them because I’ve already used commas, and further commas to set off the phrase or clause would simply be confusing.

DL: Your use of anaphora is hypnotic and all the more impressive because it occurs within one long sentence. The repetition of "upland from" and "from the" scattered throughout the poem adds speed and intensity. How did you decide how much was enough and not too much?

SLM: I did play around with that as I revised, but actually the frequency of those repetitions settled in sooner than I expected, probably because I kept reading the poem aloud. That’s the only way I can make those sorts of decisions, to hear the rhythms and patterns sounded out in different ways. While I’m reading my poems aloud, I hold my hand up close in front of my mouth as I read so that the sound bounces back to my ears. Then, and only then, can I begin to tell what is and isn’t working.

DL: Although there's no end rhyme, you make the poem sing with other sound devices—alliteration, assonance, consonance, and monosyllabic words. Tell us about the craft decisions that resulted in the poem's music.

SLM: I try to follow sound whenever I can. Thus, when I make diction choices, they’re often based on sound. The more I do this, the more it becomes natural to me. As a result, my ear is becoming more attuned to sound patterns. Reading the poem aloud comes into play, too. One example from the poem is those spider lilies mentioned earlier. In an early draft the image focused on “the spider lilies’ white thin stars,” referring to the narrow-leaved white flowers of native spider lilies that grow in swamps and along the edges of rivers. I liked the description of the flowers, but the image didn’t seem to do anything for the sound and rhythm of the poem. Eventually the wording became “the wet-footed / spider lilies,” which meant a loss of the flowers as stars but a gain of the rhythm and sound repetition in “wet-footed.” That’s the kind of change I’ll make for the sake of a poem’s music.

My reading directly affects my craft decisions, too. I seek out poems by other poets that are musical, hoping to learn from them. There are so many decisions to make! Thank goodness, many of them are ones we’re not even conscious of when we make them. Some of those good, unnoticed decisions derive from the bones of our writing practice—and old failed poems.


Readers, please listen to Susan's reading of her poem.                                             

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Crafty Poet Book Party

The book launch reading for The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop was held on Sunday, November 10, at the West Caldwell Public Library. We had a perfect day for it and a heart-warming turnout. A total of seventeen poets came to read. Here are some photos, in the order of the reading. I used the structure of the book to structure the reading.

This is an early picture of the audience arriving. We had 52 people for an afternoon of poetry.

This is me, Diane, welcoming the audience and introducing the book.

Section I. Generating Material / Using Time
Ann DeVenezia was our first poet. Here she reads "Waiting for My Friend," a sample poem
written to the prompt that accompanies Karin Gottshall's model poem, "More Lies."

Section II. Diction
Susanna Rich reads "Radish," a sample poem written to the prompt that accompanies 
Rod Jellema's "Because I Never Learned the Names of Flowers." Susanna later also read 
"Gassing Up in New Jersey, Just Before Midnight."

Me talking a bit about my Craft Tip, "Finding the Right Words." (I seem to be looking for them
on the ceiling.)

Tina Kelley reading "My Man, the Green Man," a sample poem written to the prompt
that accompanies Caitlin Doyle's model poem, "The Foley Artist's Apprentice." Tina later
also read "To the Inarticulate Man Who Tries."

Michael T. Young reads "Advice from a Bat," a sample poem written to the prompt that
accompanies Amy Gerstler's model poem, "Advice from a Caterpillar."

Section III. Sound
Sandy Zulauf reads "Doctor Poets," a sample poem written to the prompt that accompanies
Suzanne Zweizig's model poem, "American Supermarket Idyll." Sandy will present his poem
and the book as a gift to his doctor on his next visit.

Section IV. Voice
Joel Allegretti reads his acrostic poem, "In a Station," a sample poem written to the prompt
that accompanies Jeanne Marie Beaumont's acrostic, "After."

Gail Gerwin reads "Rosebuds Ungathered," another acrostic poem.

Ken Ronkowitz reads "Carpe Diem," a sample poem written to the prompt that accompanies
Jennifer Maier's model poem, "Post Hoc."

Section V. Imagery / Figurative Language
Bronwen Butter Newcott reads "Love," the model poem that begins this section.

Wanda Praisner reads "After Love," the sample poem she wrote to the prompt for Bronwen's poem.

Section VI. Going Deep / Adding Layers
Charlotte Mandel reads her poem, "Flood Washed," a sample poem written to the prompt 
for Stanley Plumly's model poem, "In Answer to Amy's Question What's a Pickerel."

Broeck Blumberg reads "Grief Beyond Sorrow," her sample poem written to the prompt 
for Richard Jones' model poem, "White Towels." 

Section VII. Syntax
Delaware Poet Laureate JoAnn Balingit discusses her craft tip, "The Promise of Syntax," 
and then reads one of her poems illustrating a syntactical device.

Section VIII. Line / Stanza
Marie-Elizabeth Mali reads "Second Year of Marriage," the model poem that begins this section.

Basil Rouskas reads "Scents of Summer," a poem that he wrote using the prompt 
based on Marie-Elizabeth's poem.

Section IX. Revision
Laura Freedgood reads "Breakfast in Patmos," a sample poem written to the prompt
that accompanies Adele Kenny's poem, "Snake Lady."

Section X. Writer's Block / Recycling
We didn't have any poets present for this section, but we hope we sent everyone home
with lots of enthusiasm for revising poems and writing new ones.

Following the reading we had a reception with homemade cookies made by me—brownies, white chocolate chip and chocolate chip cookies, toffee delites, date nut bars, and lemon love notes. While people munched and talked poetry, I signed books which felt like a perfect way to end the party.

The Crafty Poet is available HERE.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rejection Sunnyside Up

It happens to all of us, poets or otherwise, but more often to poets than to normal people. We get rejected. Someone slams the door in the face of our poems. Someone tells them they don't fit. There's no room at the inn. They're told to try again. They're wished good luck placing themselves elsewhere.

Part of the work of a poet is to put the work out into the world and hope it finds a good home. But before it does, the work usually comes slinking back several times. Nobody likes rejection, but it really shouldn't be a devastating blow. My submission mantra: It takes twenty rejections to get an acceptance. I don't mean of the same poem as I assume that we're all sending out multiple poems and to several different journals. Keeping my mantra in mind, that means that each rejection puts you one step closer to an acceptance.

While I don't like rejection, I generally don't get bummed out by it. There are many good homes out there; I look for another one. Just the other day I was going over my list of submissions. I went back several pages and came across a rejection that, in spite of my mantra, had annoyed me a bit because the editor had asked me to submit—and then rejected all six of the poems I'd sent. I tallied up the fate of those six poems. Here's what it looked like:

Two of the poems were accepted by Ithaca Lit. As a result of that publication, I was invited to be a guest editor for an upcoming issue. That turned out to be a wonderful experience.

Two of the poems were published by Connotation Press. One of those poems, a sestina, was subsequently accepted for a forthcoming anthology, Obsession: Sestinas for the 21st Century, edited by Carolyn Beard Whitlow and Marilyn Krysl, to be published in 2014 by University Press of New England (UPNE).

One of the poems was published by Innisfree Poetry Journal.

The sixth poem appears in the current issue of Rose Red Review and just received a Pushcart Prize nomination.

See what I mean? All six poems found homes elsewhere. Maybe the first editor didn't want or even like them, but some other editors did want and like them. Lesson? You know what the lesson is.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Book Party and You're Invited

Please Join Us

Sunday, November 10

Book Launch and Reading 

The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop

by Diane Lockward

Contributor Poets Reading
Joel Allegretti, JoAnn Balingit, Broeck Blumberg, Ann DeVenezia, 
Laura Freedgood, Gail Fishman Gerwin, Tina Kelley, Adele Kenny, 
Diane Lockward, Marie-Elizabeth Mali, Charlotte Mandel, Bronwen Newcott, 
Wanda Praisner, Susanna Rich, Ken Ronkowitz, Basil Rouskas, 
Nancy Scott, Michael T. Young, Sander Zulauf

West Caldwell Public Library
30 Clinton Rd.
West Caldwell, NJ
2:00 PM    Free
Reception and Book Signing

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Good News Department

I've had a few good weeks for good news. I recently signed up for Poets & Writers Thursday e-newsletter. It comes each week and includes a fiction prompt, a poetry prompt, and a Best Books for Writers recommendation. Look what came this week!

I am thrilled to have my book The Crafty Poet listed as a Best Book for Writers. This recommendation appeared not only in the newsletter but also at the P&W website where it will remain.

Then the book also received some local attention with an article in the online newspaper, The Jersey Tomato Press. The article is titled Crafty year round, not just for season of the witch: The Crafty Poet.

A few weeks ago I was invited by poet Adele Kenny to be a guest blogger at her blog, The Music In It. Adele posts a new prompt every Saturday and recently began inviting other poets to contribute a prompt. My contribution is The Word Chain Poem, which appears in The Crafty Poet. Adele also appears in my book with a Craft Tip on Imagery and a model poem from her collection, What Matters.

I was also happy to receive this lovely, unsolicited testimonial: "I was just at a 4 day retreat with two poet friends. Each of us had a copy of your book. And we used several prompts. As a result we walked away with about three new poems each and several revisions of old ones. Thank you for your newsletter and your book!" How perfect is that? This is exactly what I want my book to do, i.e., provoke new poems and improve ones in progress.

And there's a book party coming up for The Crafty Poet on Sunday, November 10! Ken Ronkowitz, one of the contributors to the book, has posted the details and information about The Crafty Poet at his blog, Poets Online. Twenty poets from the book will be reading, including Ken and Adele. Ken has a sample poem in the book. I'll be baking cookies for this reading.

Also on the list of good news: two Pushcart Prize nominations. The first came from Rose Red Review for my poem, The Color of Magic, which appears in the current issue.

The second Pushcart nomination is for Original Sin from Naugatuck River Review. This poem appeared in the spring issue.

I like good news so much better than bad news. The best that can be said of bad news is that it makes us so much more grateful for the good news. And I am grateful. Thank you, Universe.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Poetry Salon: Charlotte Mandel

Charlotte Mandel is our guest today for the Poetry Salon. Her new collection of poems, Life Work, is her eighth book of poetry. Her previous books of poetry include Rock Vein Sky and two poem-novellas of feminist biblical re-vision— The Life of Mary, and The Marriages of Jacob. Charlotte began writing poetry in midlife, went back to school and earned her MA. She founded and coordinated the Eileen W. Barnes Award for older women poets and edited the anthology, Saturday’s Women. She recently retired from teaching poetry writing at Barnard College Center for Research on Women. Her awards include two fellowships in poetry from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Woman of Achievement Award from NJ Business and Professional Women, and the 2012 New Jersey Poets Prize.

Diane: You have had a long career as a poet and have published several earlier books. Tell us how this book differs from those earlier books. Or do you see it as a continuation of that earlier work?

Charlotte: I come to my keyboard or notebook looking not for answers but for questions. The questions are wordless, the asker anonymous. To hear the questions, I must listen to silences within, and translate them into language. My early poems, begun in midlife, often show language working through a process of discovering my own voice. The poems in my first book, A Disc of Clear Water, focus intently on life experiences as wife-daughter-mother and pay close attention to nature. Those concerns have continued in my poems, with changes as my life and work evolved. 
My later collections, Sight Lines and Rock Vein Sky, extended previous themes such as marriage and nature, but added poems catalyzed by terrorist acts, humanity’s sufferings from ongoing wars and environmental damage, themes that continue to resonate in my new book, Life Work. Loss of my husband after our long marriage informs the first part; a section is devoted to poems dealing with art and artists; other sections include poems such as “News of the Day Pantoum,” “Sight Loss,” and poems about joy in the birth of a new child.
Diane: Are there particular poetic techniques you like to use?

Charlotte: Often, I’ll work with received forms, or an original form may be developed by a poem during creation. The discipline enables my unconscious self to speak because my critical barrier self is engaged by concentration on details such as line order, syllabic count, rhyme. I discovered this ploy when working on my first sestina for a workshop class assignment. Freed by my absorption in the crossword puzzle aspect, a repressed childhood memory surfaced to become dynamic content. Metaphor, for me, evolves with the poem. To start with a conscious comparative notion may be useful as a way of honing language skills, and can produce an attractive invention, but it may have left out the quality of a silent source.

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

Charlotte: “Life Work” is the title poem, a crown of seven linked sonnets, where the last line of the first sonnet becomes the first line of the second, and so on. The crown form requires the last line of the seventh sonnet to be the first line of the beginning sonnet.  The poem takes off from a painting by Edouard Vuillard. Imagining the view of the young woman in the painting, I went into the progress of a young couple’s courtship and lifetime marriage. The poem became surprisingly autobiographical. The idea of “life work” is consistent with a retrospective of an artist’s paintings. Similarly, the concept seemed an accurate overview of the new collection. Poetry and life are intertwined in my book.

Diane: Tell us the story behind your cover.

Charlotte: My son-in-law, Vincent Covello, has created a marvelous garden at their country home in Long Island and takes beautiful photographs of the various areas. At present, we are completing a forthcoming book of his garden photographs opposite poems I’ve written in response. When seeking cover art for Life Work, I asked him for a photograph that would show a garden view that could evoke the book’s quality. I chose this one for its intrinsic beauty of color and place, and because I have loved to sit at that antique table writing in my notebook. This photo captures the sense of a path towards sunlight, green woods, and open sky.

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

Charlotte: A poem is not fulfilled until it is shared by a reader or listener. I hope that the book may offer comfort by articulation of life experiences related to their own, that they may take pleasure in the sounds and images, as in music, to elicit impressions of their own. It is wonderful to discover that the work I have done in solitude may resonate with feelings and thoughts of another person. 

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

Charlotte: Writing this poem, “Crossing the Calendar Bridge,” helped me deal with an important year of transition. The poem, a sequence of three linked sonnets, begins as elegy, reenacts the start of my poetic self-discovery, and finds a way to transcendence. 

Crossing the Calendar Bridge 

The first New Year's Eve without your turning
in grateful wonder: “Lucky us, we’ve earned
another year.” The mirror on the wall
granted pardon: throughout life’s judgment-hall,

one question persisted: “Why am I here?”
Name: doctor, mentor, science pioneer,
father—and sorcerer who alchemized
state-of-loneliness into you-and-I.

We laughed at a third in bed—our snug down
quilt—perinyeh—in childhood mother-tongue.
Light as a ghost but warm, the featherbed
rises and falls with my uncertain breaths.

If I could say “he’s in a better place”
might I foretell his welcoming embrace?

I did not always welcome his embrace.
Corralled in a split-level—breathing space
defined by husband/children schedules,
reassured by unwritten “good-girl” rules.

No studio: my clattery machine labored
under window with view of the neighbor’s
house wall. Marriage, like a boat poised at anchor
unswayed by flickering ripples of rancor,

kept us safe. Yet rhythm known in my bones
formed instrument, mute raised, like saxophone
riffs that tumbled into words. And we sang
off-key, happy, lyrics in differing language.

Our rhymes were true or near or simply free.
Five stages of grief compose an elegy.

Five stages of grief line up for elegy:
deny - rant - reproach - barter - and agree
to let you go, to cease reenacting
hot/cold days/nights of vigil. To distract

mind from memory’s sweated matted strings,
loosen knots, twirl his-and-her wedding rings
doubled on one finger, kiss them for luck,
and recognize the shape of me, unbroken.

Not to muse “if only you were here”
as the glittering ball slides down Times Square. 
Get past the calendar, switch off the screen
stop conjugating “is” as “might have been”

Yet how to tell the poem “don’t reminisce”
all moments lived are sparks to genesis.

Readers, please enjoy a glass of chilled Prosecco, some imported cheeses, crackers, and seedless green grapes.

Overheard at the party: “It is Mandel’s poems on her husband’s death I will remember above all this year for elegance and restraint. She chooses formal diction in verse to achieve a firm focus while allowing gifted flexibility within the lines. Our complex lives are richer for the clear beautiful eye of Charlotte Mandel—whether writing about a new sweater for an aged father or an estranged brother’s death, she grasps us out of our wilderness to say look at this truth, how language retrieves us from turmoil.”
                —Grace Cavalieri

Please be sure to pick up a copy of Charlotte's book, Life Work.

Click Cover for Amazon

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Poet on the Poem: Lance Larsen

I'm very pleased to have Lance Larsen as the featured poet for The Poet on the Poem. I think you'll enjoy his poem and his discussion of it. Then I'm also sure you'll want to get his new book, Genius Loci.

Lance Larsen’s fourth collection of poems, Genius Loci, was recently published by the University of Tampa Press. His earlier collections include Backyard Alchemy (2009), In All Their Animal Brilliance (2005), and Erasable Walls (1998). His work appears in such venues as Georgia Review, Southern Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and Poetry Daily. He collects antiques, plays basketball, occasionally walks on his hands, grows daylilies, hikes, and loves Indian and Thai food. He sometimes collaborates with his wife, Jacqui Biggs Larsen, a painter and multi-media artist, who provided the art for the cover of Genius Loci. Since 1993 he has taught literature and creative writing at BYU, where he currently serves as associate chair. In 2012, he was named to a five-year term as Utah Poet Laureate.

Today's poem comes from Genius Loci.

Click Cover for Amazon
To Jouissance

To spell you is to drown in vowels, to pronounce
you is to let guttural joy form in the back
of my throat, then roll forth,
like northern lights booming above a logging
camp in Michigan. Disappointed
in my metaphor? What did you expect from a man?

If only I had an estrogen factory of my own.
If only I could feel the fluttery,
everywhere she-pleasure you bring to lucky
women. I mean the buzz that overtakes
a new mother nursing in a booth at Denny’s,
eyes blissing out, body serenely electric.

I mean whatever state my cousin Erica falls
into when someone braids her hair
in the middle of church—simple Erica
who washes tables at McDonald’s
but can’t read a menu. She knows
enough to close her eyes and give pleasure

more room, knows enough to let purrs
bubble from her mouth, the liquid gold
on her head dividing into glorious threes,
my jealousy tripling. Do you sometimes
make exceptions and visit not just
the Ericas of the world, but the Erics?

I’m thinking of the twenty-something kid
last week who popped up from his seat
and ran to the front of the bus.
That’s my old man, he said, pointing
to the cement truck stopped beside us
at a red light. Hey Dad, I’m over here, look,

and Ernie, our glum undertaker of a driver,
broke the rules for once and swung
open the door at the intersection.
Surely you must have blessed that transaction:
grizzled duffer and tattooed boy leaning
towards each other, like a pair of gargoyles,

air crackling between them. The light turned
green, the afternoon sped up, and the duffer
said, Hey Tommy, nice hat, you ready
for bowling Saturday night?—take her easy.
Who can explain where the world ends and a son
begins, how molecules of longing map the body?

They waved, father and son, like they’d never
see each other again in this time zone.
And we watched: starved, eavesdropping citizens
of the bus, remembering some ecstasy
we fell into once and didn’t deserve, sitting
on our hands to keep from adding amens to the air.

DL: I admire this poem for the risks it takes. I'm struck, for example, by the audacity of titling the poem with a word that most likely almost nobody knows. Why an ode to "jouissance"?

LL: Ever since discovering the term in a French feminism class at Rice University, I’ve been fascinated by jouissance—the notion that women enjoy a less localized, more all-pervasive evolution of pleasure. How could I not be fascinated? It’s a pretty heady experience to read Cixous, Kristeva, and Luce Irigaray for the first time. My title might be off-putting to some, at least at first, but I’m old-fashioned enough to believe that readers, especially of poetry, have dictionaries attached to their bodies the way they have eyelashes and ears. The challenge was to write a poem that dramatizes the differences between male and female desire in such a way that the reader doesn’t need a dictionary at all. Whether I’ve pulled that off is a separate question. I’m not entirely clear now what got me to the title. Either I started with jouissance and canvassed my brain for the kind of sensory detail that would bring the term alive. Or I had these unshakeable sensory impressions and went looking for the appropriate catalyst that would allow Erica and Eric to co-exist in the same poem. While the conceptual dimension of a poem is crucial, the particulars are what provide ballast and launch: the sound of the words, the image, the metaphors, the syntax, the sublime grit that sticks a poem to the page. 
DL: Tell us about your use of direct address and the function of the questions you pose to Jouissance.

LL: One can write moving odes in third-person, but these often tend towards a chaste distance poetically—observation rather than drama. I like the intimacy one gains with direct address. As one critic says—I think it was Barbara Smith discussing Gwendolyn Brooks’ “the mother”—if one can create a you that can hear and understand, one in turn creates an I worth listening to. Something like that. Apostrophe is one of the most shamelessly artificial of literary devices but it pulls us in nonetheless, and the great poets are not above using it. Think, for instance, of Keats in “Ode on a Grecian Urn”: “What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?” Most odes have a circular quality to them, an argument that moves away from the speaker then returns. Direct address helps to facilitate this movement of thinking on the page. 

DL: Your speaker straddles the line between rudeness and kindness as he names his cousin "simple Erica" but then transforms her into the dispenser of pleasure, someone who "purrs" and has "liquid gold / on her head." Tell us about the craft that went into this balance.

LL: As a beginning writer I was driven by a search for felicitous language and image. While I’ve never abandoned these pursuits, I’m increasingly interested in shifts in tone and contradiction, in irony. I like flawed speakers who get themselves into a little trouble, as this narrator does. By condescending to Erica—it is very un-PC to use the word “retarded,” for example—he digs a hole for himself, which he then has to crawl out of. Of course, in his double mindedness, he introduces an Erica that is more contradictory and multivalent, more human, than if he had settled for a character of simple sweetness and light. In a way, the poem dramatizes the dangers of overthinking—that is, of privileging book smarts over more authentic primary experience. What is it Keats says in one of his letters? “Oh for a life of sensations rather than of thoughts.” In the end, the narrator ends up envying Erica for her life of sensation, for her ability to give herself to simple pleasures, pleasures which I hope the reader can taste in the language of the poem.

DL: At the midway point you skillfully turn the poem, moving from the feminine to the masculine. In effect, your speaker gets what he wants and makes Jouissance do his bidding. How did you contrive to make the poem turn so smoothly?

LL: I don’t know about jouissance doing his bidding. Perhaps that turn is more my lucking into something. In the middle of a draft, frustrated because I didn’t know what should come next, I noticed that the word “Eric” (which happens to be my middle name) was embedded in “Erica.” An obvious thing to most readers but it wasn’t to me. I love the story about Yeats reading final galleys of one of his books. In describing a woman’s face, he had written “mass of shadows,” but his phrase came back from the printer as “mess of shadows.” He was wise enough to keep the mistake. Poems often know more than their creators, and when we’re wise enough, we know when to keep mistakes and serendipitous accidents. The poem may turn smoothly, but this doesn’t mean we should trust it—at least not completely. Some readers may see this final move in the poem as a kind of male appropriation, which doesn’t bother me in the least. The poem is about vicarious experience. About being in one body and many bodies simultaneously.  Or wanting to be. Though the poem ends in celebration, I’m well aware that it begins in lack. In other words, I’m open to an ironic and more skeptical reading.     

DL: There's a formal elegance to this poem. You have eight 6-line stanzas and fairly even line lengths. At what point in writing the poem did you decide to use 6-line stanzas? What manipulations had to occur?

LL: I committed to six-line stanzas midway in the writing after I had much but not all of the poem’s language. This decision propelled the poem through an additional series of revisions. I tightened and re-configured, cutting whenever possible. I’m one who winnows and distills down. Regular stanzas invited me to see the poem as a series of crescendoes and pauses accumulating over two pages: how to make that progression as organic as possible? I always work for a mix of end-stopped and enjambed lines, which replicates breathing and movement, hesitation and lunge. I like this stage of revision, not unlike my father tying flies, which he used to do late in the evening. Without the close work of tweezers and magnifying glass, I know I’ve got little more than chopped prose. According to Sandra McPherson, a successful line holds at least two surprises. If one of my lines fails this test, if a stanza isn’t compelling in its own right regardless of the larger task it’s doing in the poem, then I have more work to do.

Readers, please enjoy Lance's reading of his poem.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bits and Pieces of This and That

It must be fall. Writing news is coming in.

First, the local The Alternative Press (TAP), an online newspaper, did an article about my new book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. Read it at TAP.

Then along came two very nice reviews of the book. The first, by Martha Silano, appears at Blue Positive. This is a thorough review of the book. I especially like how Martha, herself a fantastic poet, describes how she has been putting the book to use. She received the book just as she was beginning a poem-a-day challenge, so the timing was perfect. It made me happy to know that the book has provoked some new work from Martha's pen. Martha says ". . .this is a poetry exercise/craft tip book poets (and English instructors) only dream about. . ." Read the review at Blue Positive.

The second review is by Kelli Russell Agodon at Book of Kells. Kelli says, "What I like about this book is that it offers you poems, prompts and even interviews." Referring to the subtitle, she says, "The book is definitely a portable workshop that you can use by yourself or with a group." Good, that's just what I intended it to be. Read the review at Book of Kells.

I'm happy to have a poem in the new issue of Rose Red Review. This journal is in its second year and puts out three issues per year. Editor Larissa Nash does a very nice job with the journal which focuses on fiction and poetry related to fairy tales and magic. My poem is The Color of Magic.

I also have a poem in Prime Number Magazine. This online journal posts a very limited number of poems every other month, then gathers them into a print volume at the end of the year. The poetry editor is Valerie Nieman. My poem, By the side of the road, is followed by a one-question Q&A.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Invitation to a Poetry Reading

Calling all NJ poets and poetry lovers! Please join us this Sunday, September 29, for this Poetry Reading. Two NJ poets, Sandra Duguid and Charlotte Mandel, will read work from their new books. The books will be available for sale and signing. I'll be providing the introductions.

If that's not enough for you, there will be a Reception following the reading. With refreshments!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Poem about a Poem Might Be a Poem for the Birds

Kwame Dawes, the editor of Prairie Schooner, has penned a blog piece entitled Memos to Poets: A Twitter Journey. This is a fantastic list of 110 tips for poets, all of them full of wisdom. I jumped on #4:

Only one poem about writing poems a year. They are all the same poem written when we have nothing to say.

I could not agree more with this. I am so sick of poems about poems. So many of them have been written that each new one feels like a cliché. Each time I come across yet one more, I groan, Oh no, not this again. I often just move right to the next poem.

Two offenses that particularly bug me:

Violation #1: The poem that titles itself with the word "poem." For example, we might find "Poem about Birds." What a lazy title! Such a title is evidence of a poet with a disengaged imagination. And am I such a stupid reader that I won't know this is a poem unless I'm told? Can't I tell just by looking at the poem that it's a poem? Isn't the appearance, the shape of a poem one of its distinguishing characteristics?

So what's this poet supposed to do with his or her dull title? Brainstorm a list of better titles.

Alternatives to "Poem": Meditation, Song, A Theory of, Musings, Contemplation, Daydream, Reflections, A Study of, Pondering, Ode to, In Praise of, A Curse Against.

Just constructing such a list might suggest new ideas for the poem as well as for the title. Perhaps the poet will decide, for example, that "Birds" is rather vague and focus the poem instead on Robins, Goldfinches, or Mourning Doves.

A few examples from the past: "The Lark Ascending" (George Meredith), "To a Skylark" (Shelley), "Ode to a Nightingale" (Keats).

John Frederick Nims got away with titling a poem "Love Poem." And what a great poem it is. But he did it, so you shouldn't.

Violation #2: The poem that appears to be about one topic, then towards the end announces itself as a poem. For example, the poet is writing a lovely poem of description. He's evoking the setting so well I almost feel transported. And then comes something like this: And that's why I decided today to sit here and write this poem about blah, blah, blah.

What a cheap way to end a poem. What an evasion. What a disappointment. What laziness. It's like one of those short stories that instead of offering a real resolution ends with the main character waking up from a dream.

This poet needs to continue to write that poem. Get into the spot where the flop begins and write some more. Spend days, weeks on it. No stopping until something is zinging and singing.

I should perhaps confess that my best traveled poem has the word "Poetry" in the title. Having done that once, I will never do it again. Why not? Because I've done it. Dawes allows you one poem about writing poems a year. I allow you one in a lifetime.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Few Thoughts about Submissions

I recently came across The 10 Rules of Submitting to Literary Magazines at The BookBaby Blog. The author includes 10 solid pieces of advice. I was particularly interested in #3, probably because I think it's a mistake many of us make. I know I have. Here it is:

3. Send simultaneous submissions to similarly-tiered publications (in terms of prestige/influence)

"You don’t want to send the same poem to Tin House AND your friend’s fledgling online poetry journal. What if your friend takes the poem and publishes it immediately, and then you get an acceptance letter from Tin House later that same day before having a chance to notify them of the other acceptance? You’re gonna be bummed that the unknown online journal is publishing the poem—and there’s no way to tell editors “hey, thanks for accepting my poem—but before you publish it, can you wait a couple weeks to see if I hear back from Tin House?” By sending simultaneous submissions to publications of similar stature, you won’t find yourself in this situation."

In our zeal to get our work published, we may think that we're being smart by sending the same batch of poems to a top flight journal (the one we'd give an essential body part to get in) and to a mid-level journal and to one that's just okay (the safety journal). It's certainly not a bad idea to have backups in case you don't get into any of the top flight journals on your list. But the key here is "backups." Don't send to your backups at the same time you send to your favorites. Don't send to your number 2 and number 3 choices until after you've tried at least half a dozen really good journals. (I'm assuming here that we're talking about poems you believe are among your best work.)

I found myself in that creepy situation a few years ago. I'd been invited to submit to a state magazine that was doing a NJ artist feature in each of its monthly issues. So I sent the magazine some poems. At the same time, I sent the same poems to a journal I'd been dying to get into but so far had only been turned away from. I also sent to several other journals I liked. Well, the magazine replied within days that they were taking two of the poems. I then withdrew the poems from the other places I'd sent them. Except I neglected to notify the one journal that I really wanted to get into. I'm scrupulous about record-keeping and playing by the rules, but in this case I just flat-out messed up.

Several months later I received an email from the journal I was dying to get into and was told they'd accepted one of the poems taken by the state magazine. My chagrin was doubled. First there was the disappointment that I was going to have to say no. Then there was the mortification that I'd have to confess my error in failing to withdraw the poem. Now I ended up getting paid $100 per poem from the NJ magazine, but honestly I would have much preferred to have had the one poem published in the other journal and received just a contributor's copy. The editor was very nice when I apologized and explained my error. But guess what? I've submitted to that journal at least six times since and never made it through the door. I may have missed my one shot there.

I want to add one more thought here. That fledgling, poorly done journal just started by your friend? Or that one you'll take as a last chance sort of place? Don't send your poems at all to those places. If you believe your poems are really good, don't send them to a place where you won't be proud to have them appear. You'll be sorry later. It's not a good idea to just try to amass publication credits. It's wiser to be selective. Many a good poem has made it into a book without ever having appeared in a journal. Be selective.

And here's yet one more thought: If your poems have come back repeatedly, you just might be smart to take another close look at them and consider revising them. I took three such poems to a revision workshop recently, three poems I'll admit to thinking were pretty snazzy but which had suffered multiple rejections. With feedback from a group of good readers, I realized they needed more work. Pain in the neck? Yes, but also really nice to get all fired up about new possibilities. I spent several weeks reworking those poems, not just little stuff but deep revisions. I now suspect that one of them just isn't going to work. The other two are out to places I really want to be in.

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