Tomorrow at 5:30pm, the gracious and talented Linda Martin and I will be reading poetry at the Bunnell Street Art Center in Homer. I encourage those of you who live nearby to come listen, and those of you who don’t to lend us some mental support and check out the Bunnell’s webpage because it’s an amazing organization.
I confess that even though I seem like an extrovert to most people, an impending public reading exacerbates all my introversion. I sent my reading list to Linda about a week ago, but now, what I’d really like to do is cut it in half. Get up there, get out, not talk to anyone, go home, sit on the porch and watch the cottonwood seeds drift about in the wind.
I confess that part of me is afraid that no one will come, which is foolish because Linda is a beloved local person and I’m sure that many of her friends will be in attendance to support her. However, I am not a beloved local person, so I suspect that some folks are going to see me as an impediment to the main act. Linda was so gracious to invite me join her in this reading; I hope her generosity doesn’t backfire.
I confess that some day I’d like a single person in the audience to feel half as transported as I felt during Li-Young Lee’s poetry reading. I’d like one person to feel the hairs on his/her scalp rise like I did during Rita Dove’s reading. Maybe even one day, someone will shed a few tears of recognition as I did during Naomi Shihab Nye’s reading. Writing without an audience is half of an act – the connection between poet and audience (present or via the printed word) is culmination of the act.
In order to make connections, we need to risk exposure. In other words, drop our protection and be open to view. My goal tomorrow is to be a transparent vessel for my poetry so that one person in the audience might find something worthwhile to take with them. Wish me luck.
Here we are again, one week before March closes out, and one week away from April. And you know what that means…National Poetry Month, the one time during the year when I can be guaranteed to have someone ask me, “Why on earth did you get an advanced degree in writing poetry? Isn’t poetry dead?”
Kelli Agodon started a lovely rejuvenating practice last April called The Big Poetry Giveaway, where folks all around the country posted two poetry collections that they would be giving away to celebrate the month. If you want to take part, she has the directions here.
This year I will be giving away two books by two of my favorite women poets who are also very generous and giving. These two poets rank very high in my poet pantheon. Not only are they wonderful people, but they are both amazing poets. When I consider the way that I’d like to be in the world, these two poets spring to mind.
So, here are the two books that I’ll be giving away:
Gnawed Bones by the amazing Peggy Shumaker. This book has the most striking imagery and voice. Anyone who has heard Peggy read knows how mesmerizing her poems are aloud, and they are just as captivating in print. Filled with loss and awe, Gnawed Bones is my go-to book to give to friends. So, friend, please leave a comment and you might have Peggy’s book winging its way to your home at the end of April.
Annie Finch’s book Calendars is also filled with vivid images and mastery of voice and diction. Like Peggy, Annie is fearless when exploring the body and the emotions that inhabit it. Her work unabashedly explores the myths and ethos of the feminine. I return to this collection again and again to ground myself in the musicality of the line and way word choice can swing a poem in multiple directions.
Once again, in order to have a chance at winning either of these lovely books, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post. If you don’t link to your own blog, make sure that you leave your email so I can contact you for mailing information if you win.
I confess that I take things personally when I shouldn’t and that I get my feelings hurt easily. When I’m rejected from a lit magazine, I feel, well, rejected. I shouldn’t though. Publishing is really about the right piece passing in front of the right editor at the right time. Just because a it didn’t find a home at one place, doesn’t mean that it isn’t any good or worthwhile.
To illustrate the vagaries of publishing, a number of people from my grad school program have set up a page on Facebook called Paper Our Walls with Rejection Slips (Round II at this point). The idea is to have some camaraderie in the throes of rejection. You’d think this would be a dismal page but it isn’t. The postings are usually funny and charming. But more importantly for my mental health, these folks posting news about their rejections, they’re really talented writers. They aren’t writing poems about their dead cats (okay, maybe one might slip in there), they aren’t writing poems that have titles like “Friendship,” and they aren’t writing about unicorns and rainbows. These folks are writing top drawer poems and short stories and magnificent creative non-fiction and they’re still getting rejected.
Puts it all in perspective.
And so I confess, I do sulk when I get a rejection email or note in the mail. I sulk more when it’s a Xeroxed quarter slip of paper stuffed in my crinkled SASE. But, I know deep down inside that every writer gets rejected that is sending stuff out. All of them. (Okay, maybe not Billy Collins, but what does that mean?) And as Peggy Shumaker says, “Your work doesn’t get published in the drawer.” So, my suggestion to all you writers out there: find some friends that you can hold a “rejection” contest with, you’ll submit more because maybe someone will have to buy you a beer because you’ve racked up the most rejections. (And thank you Andrea Henchey for starting the whole thing, you beautiful, brave, amazing writer.)