Writing the Life Poetic Zine
Publisher & Editor:Sage CohenColumnists:Brittany BaldwinDale FavierSara GuestJenn LalimeChristopher LunaMToni PartingtonShawn SorensenSteve WilliamsCOLUMNIST BIOS
My son Theo just celebrated his first birthday, and I have
been looking back on this unprecedented year of life as a mother. Truth be
told, I didn't write much poetry this year. For me, poems happen in the contemplative
step back I take to digest experience and make sense of it.
There is no stepping back in life with a newborn -- only
stepping forward into unknown after unknown. Our bodies twined together, mirroring
the belonging of mother and son, I have been living entirely in the present-tense,
entrenched in the endlessly immediate loop of: "Is he wet, hungry, gassy or
tired? Where's the binky? Do I have time to make it to the bathroom?" And that is
exactly where I have wanted to be.
Though this autumn finds my branches mostly bare of poetry
blossoms, what I have discovered in these fastest, slowest months of my life is
that poetry is less about what I write and more about the way I live. I am
appreciating how my 20-plus-year poetry practice has taught me to show up and
really pay attention -- especially to the hard stuff.
When awakened for the fourth time in the middle of the night
in a year-long-night of endless exhaustion, poetry sits with me in the rocking
chair, breathing in my incomprehensible good fortune to be holding this child.
Poetry is the lullaby that sings through grief and illness and fear. It is the place of stillness at the center
of any storm. Like the veins that route my blood where it needs to go, my
poetry practice seems to have become a root
system that draws deep from the well of trust and welcomes all experience
as nourishment without judging it good or bad.
My son sleeps through the night now. We have a routine and a
rhythm that allows me time and space to reflect. With the back-to-school chill of
renewal in the air, I am taking a big step back to consider motherhood through
the lens of poems. Shyly, words approach me -- wild things uncertain of human
touch. I let them come close. I listen. I write.
Wherever you are in your poetic journey, I hope you will
take a moment to appreciate your own poetic root system and all it has taught
you about how to live.
May your autumn harvest be bold and bright.
The word is the way,
Publisher & Editor
Four Things to Attend
to, and Four Things to Avoid
By Dale Favier
What to Attend to
1. Read old poetry.
We write within a
tradition, whether we know it or not. Know it. If you're going to echo
Shakespeare -- and you are -- then echo Shakespeare himself, not a second-,
third-, or fourth-rate imitation of him.
2. Memorize poetry.
I say this all the
time. I'm saying it again. Memorized poetry lives with you, gets under your
skin, in a way that read-and-half-forgotten poetry just never does. And don't
give me that stuff about not being able to memorize things. Memorization is a
skill that anyone can learn.
that in a culture that's downright hagridden by qualifying exams we don't teach
memorization in school, but we ordinarily don't, so you have to learn it by
yourself. Fortunately it's not that hard to learn, and it's an immensely useful
skill in many endeavors.
3. Learn a language, or two, or three.
don't have to be fluent. You don't even have to be any good at it. Take classes
for a year or two in a language -- preferably, one you just take a shine to and
which will be perfectly useless to you forever -- and get to the point where
you can understand its basic grammar, read its nursery rhymes, and have a
glimpse of what the Germans call its Sprachgefühl,
characteristic cadences and habits of sound and meaning. Liberate yourself from
the delusion that your native language is "just the way it is." It
isn't. It's far more wonderful than "just the way it is": it's a
magnificent piece of collaborative art. But you can't see it as such without
being able to stand outside it.
Be silly, maudlin, obscene,
vicious, petty, overwrought, oversimple. If it's bad you can throw it away
later. But write it first, and decide how good it is later. Most of it will be
bad. So what?
What to avoid
2. Words that aren't natural to you.
There's a temptation to reach for impressive, rarely-used words, even though
you're not really at home with them. The words you use should be supple and
well-worn, comfortable in your mind and heart. I'm all for learning new words.
But don't use them in poetry right away. That's like marrying someone you met
just last night. You'll regret it. Trust me.
3. Violent, garish imagery,
really does precisely what you want it to. Vivid is good, but only if it's also
accurate. Don't carpet-bomb the reader with gripping images because one of the
incidental effects of one of the images is one that you want. Most readers
don't like random assault. They want to know that if you're seizing their
attention, it's for a good reason.
4. Silent writing.
Say it. Aloud.
"Poetry must always sing," said Yeats. If you can't make it sing with
your voice, readers won't be able to make it sing in their heads. It's easy to
fool yourself into thinking that it sounds fine if you only read it silently.
Read it aloud.
* * * * *
Dale Favier has taught poetry, chopped vegetables, and written software
for a living. Currently he works half-time as a massage therapist and
half-time running a database for a non-profit in Portland, Oregon. He
is a Buddhist, in the Tibetan tradition. He writes about meditation
and poetry, and whatever ever else he may be interested in at the
moment, at Mole
has an M.Phil. in English Literature from Yale, but he never wrote much
poetry until he began blogging, a few years ago, and fell in with bad
companions. With them he eventually brought out an anthology, Brilliant Coroners.
His poems have also appeared in Qarrtsiluni
and The Ouroborus Review
. His first chapbook, Opening the World
, will be coming out next year from Pindrop Press.
October Poetry Prompt
By M and Steve Williams
* * * * *
Ever heard the saying "One man's junk is another man's
treasure?" Well, we took it literally to come up with this month's prompt for
you. If you're anything like us, your junk mail folder fills up on a daily
basis with all kinds of missives from people you've never heard of.
Dietra Eelexup wrote us just the other day to tell us that
Hollywood stars threw up! (the exclamation point was Dietra's - we suspect she
feels quite strongly about this) and Hanifi Seu wanted us to know he had a wild
kingdom in his pants (lions and tigers and bears, oh, my).
Yes, junk mail can range from the highly amusing to the
entirely aggravating. But before you press that delete key, consider that some
of those e-mails can spark ideas for poems you might never have thought of on
As administrators of an online poetry workshop, our e-mail
addresses have found their way onto some very weird and wonderful lists.
Following are some of the best subject lines that we've received, and they run
the gamut from absurd to strangely evocative. We offer them to you in hopes
that they will trigger your own poetic process:
Perception (via Area Rugs)
show you how far the rabbit hole goes
- And I
don't care if he does limp
fishwife was not paying him the slightest attention
- One of
the voyeuristic booths in the affectionate bar
all be armed with pistols, one in each hand
one-two. Is this thing on?
Beppo sat down again
like the unicorn, it is also delicious
eight-passenger train on the electric monorail
short order cook
- Due to
the improved flavor and texture, this is the best thing that ever happened
behavior adopted by an accused man in the mistaken belief that this will
endear him to the judge
pictures with no tools or use of studs
millions of men in the revolution
first this all sounds reasonably secure, but there are still a few
problems with the fundamental design
must go and get some things first
human suffering, ordinary human jealousy, ordinary human ambitions - it
was just so much crap to me
- As it
was, I felt as if I stood in the midst of a large map, surrounded by vague
areas wherein were penned visages of particularly nasty-looking random
you get that on film, man?
that's them now
what I painted on my wall
the string is rendered into an image, it will be struck through
girls like the big guys
a non-static inline function is always compiled on its own in the usual
was still a threat, but now he understood it better, and, as was true of
all great threats, it held great promise
Your mission this month is to use one of the above junk mail
subject lines as the inspiration for a poem. We suggest you try to use it as a
title and see what develops from there. Titles can be directly tied to a poem's
content, they can loosely apply, or they can have nothing to do with the poem's
subject matter. The choice is up to you.
And to make this prompt a bit more challenging, write all of
these subject lines on little slips of paper, put them in a hat, and select one
at random. Write a poem based on the first subject line you choose, whether it
initially appeals to you or not. Often, when you remove conscious choice from
the equation, the results can be extraordinary. Something that held no interest
to you on first glance can begin to evolve into something truly exciting the
longer you turn it over in your mind - leading you to thoughts and language
even you didn't know was buried within you.
M has served as Associate Poetry Editor for Stirring: A Literary Collection
for the past one hundred years or so. More than a few editors have
found her poems acceptable, and included them in their journals. She
received her B.A. in literature so long ago, she's pretty certain her
diploma has crumbled to dust. She also serves as an administrator of on
online poetry workshop called Wild Poetry Forum. If you cannot find her
(she never answers her cell phone), call Powell's Books. The employees
there know exactly what room she's in. And most importantly, she is
very grateful for the enormous amount of love in her life.
Steve Williams lives and works in Portland with a lovely woman who writes and edits much better than he but refuses to admit it.
An Interview with Grégoire vion
By Sage Cohen
Vion has been my colleague and creative collaborator for more than a decade. We
met through a corporate brochure that I was writing and he was designing. Through
many "business lunches" on his side of the San Francisco bay and mine, we
discovered that our day jobs -- creative in and of themselves -- were also vehicles fueling both of our larger, creative
We started creating holiday cards together -- Grégoire's illustrations, my poems.
Over time, I hired him to design all of my web sites, my business identity and
creative writing identity. Eventually, my publisher hired him to illustrate my book.
Then one day, our paradigm of my words paired with Gregoire's
imagery was shaken open -- Gregoire decided to try his hand at poetry. Never
have I seen someone instantly spin language into gold as Grégoire did. Clearly, poems have
been collecting under his surface with the lusty force of destiny that drives
salmon upstream. Lucky for all of us, Grégoire
has put his pen to paper and given those poems an opportunity to come through.
* * * * *
a spacious coffee shop,
a silver pin
a holey slate
this particular day
an old Vanity Fair.
an oyster shell
a frying pan.
the appearance of Mary,
toast, is worth a mint.
idiot savant said 37
a lumpy number
is soft and flowing
snow, and 111
bright and shiny.
the prior print,
hero punches swiftly
the pretty faces.
each page in turn
the sun traverses
* * * * *
You have a long history of creative
expression that precedes your relationship with poetry. What led you to start
experimenting with poems? How do your other creative practices influence your
approach to poetry?
I was in a café once with a pretty woman seated on the other side the
little table, she told a love poem that really got to me. It got me started.
For one thing, I thought she would like it if I wrote, but more importantly I
was interested in trying to open myself up, the way she seemed to be.
I like concision or minimalism in art, in architecture, and I like to
write short poems. My preference in movies is for those with an absence of
overt meaning, with some depiction of confusion, and that is in some of my
poems. Then there is what I mentioned in Writing the Life Poetic
about my graphic design process; how I distill a large amount of information
down to a small visual sign, whereas in poetry I take small details that I wish
to expand, in the reader's mind, to the full size of life itself.
I fondly, and with a bit of envy, refer
to you as the "poet of small spaces." The first small space I ever
found you creating in was a kitchen closet that fit only a chair, with a desk
the width of your laptop computer; still the space managed to be intriguing and
inspiring. From there, you've gone on to design and build a tree house and
outfit a boat. Would you tell us a bit about how your physical spaces influence
your creativity, and how your creativity has influenced the physical
spaces where you work and live?
My interest in a small habitat began in childhood; I would build all
sorts of confined, protective spaces for emotional support, seeking solace. It
was very helpful and reassuring. Later, having studied art and industrial
design, I paid more attention to the elegance and efficiency of minimalist
solutions to functional problems; how housing is designed and furnished in
Japan, or the tools and lodgings of nomadic tribes, the design of modern
camping gear. In a tiny house, you select only the essential accoutrements. The
superfluous has to go. That's how art has to be as well, don't you think? With
very few things around, the mind as more room.
How do you know when a poem is moving in
the right direction, finished, any good?
It's not what it says, of course, but how it's said. When I read
it out-loud, or have my computer read it to me, and the sound and rhythm rings
nicely. I also gauge at the visual effect, how the stanzas line-up on the
page. Possibly because I am rather green at it, I count on others to guide
me. I have some trusted readers I bother on a regular basis to tell me if it's
any good. In some cases there is no doubt, no need for help. A clear statement
pours out of nowhere. I don't know how that works.
You are both an illustrator and a poet.
In the cases where you have created an illustration to accompany a poem, what
is it like to have both arts available to you in telling a story? How
do they cross-fertilize?
It's fun to illustrate poems, but it's tricky because a juxtaposed
drawing inevitably tweaks the meaning of the words, even if you try to say the
same thing with the drawings and the words. You're better off illustrating
something that's not addressed directly by the writing, maybe only hinted at,
and use the illustration to extend the poem in additional directions. The
illustration should have a discreet presence in this case, be more
decorative than meaningful, and if the illustration is meaningful it should be
an optional meaning, that can be found only by those who seek it.
What poets do you love, and why?
Collins I really enjoyed at first, because it's clear and so
beautifully said. But sometimes I get a bit annoyed by his even temper, his
quiet happiness. A man like Bukowski, with his boozy voice, I like too, I like
it more because his humor and his melancholy are more varied, I can relate to
his emotional state. He is not consistent -- some of his published poems go
nowhere and do very little -- but that moody work has more impact on me. What I
like best are anthologies, collections, poetry magazines. I get bored with the
complete works of most people, most poets publish too much. Tomas Tranströmer,
though, I have yet to find something of his I don't like.
At a recent reading we did together, I
told listeners, "If you want to do something well, you have to be willing
to do it badly, for a long time -- unless you're Grégoire
Vion. This gives homage to your first-prize win of the first contest you ever
entered. Could you share about what led you to that experience and how it has
impacted your writing?
That was second prize, the Perigee poetry contest. The jury was headed
by Martin Bell, whom I did not know at the time. It was just something I tried
without knowing much about anything. I was very happy about it. When you hear
praise from people you don't know, you tend to believe it a little more. It
relaxes you, it makes it easier to be persistent.
What are you working on now and where
can readers expect to find it?
I am sort of working on my first full collection of poems, but now that
I have written enough to make a book, I don't feel as hurried as when I only
had a few. I am not going to drag this on forever either, I think all I am
waiting for is a particular sunny morning with a muse seated at a little table
that will tell me, well, today would be a perfect day to get things done.
Readers can expect to find it unexpectedly.
* * * * *
Grégoire Vion is the illustrator of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry (Writers Digest Books, 2009.) An award-winning
designer and poet, his graphic work ranges from the corporate to the eccentric.
He writes preferably about the enigmas of the mind and the natural world, and
is currently putting the finishing touch on his first collection of poems.
French-born, Grégoire draws and writes on a boat moored in the San Francisco
Bay or in his treehouse near Santa Cruz. His graphic work is shown at http://www.grgwr.com.
* * * * *
Building an Editorial
Team and Calendar
By Jenn Lalime and Sara Guest
A good editorial team is like any balanced team, holding
space for different types of people to bring skills to the party, be productive
and feel fulfilled. A community-writing team, in particular, ought to be of the community. From her earliest
moments, VoiceCatcher wanted to be a collective large and diverse enough to
represent many potential "kinds" of readers. In this way we could be receptive
to and supportive of many "kinds" of writers.
Additionally, the notion of building consensus was a concern
and goal. For this reason the collective evolved naturally into a body of nine,
easily split into three teams of three. Three is a consensus-builder. Splitting
women into teams of three allows for diversity on each team: strengths in
different genres, a range of age and experience.
Of course no one was tapped to represent a particular kind
of writing or experience, but balancing is a comfort in making sure work is
read broadly and deeply by women who feel adept to judge the work and stretched
toward new understandings. In this way each stack of submissions represents
both comfort and challenge to each of the team members reading it. Some of the
magic of what gets published slips in here.
How did we recruit the collective? This felt easy. At first,
the founder talked to her friends. Everyone who joined the inaugural collective
was a friend of the founder in a writing capacity. These very women had moved
the founder with their writing in workshop settings. After that, a simple
paradigm emerged: if you're published by the collective, you're eligible to
And who should be invited to join? The women who inquire and
feel called by it! These women are particularly easy to spot, actually. They
get in touch. They sit in front seats at the reading, their eyes shining at you
when you mount the podium. They write cover letters that say, your project matters so much to me.
How did we develop the editorial calendar? Mostly over eggs
and pancakes post-yoga. For nearly a year, Jenn and I (Sara) met every Wednesday
for yoga class, brunch and VoiceCatcher. It was my favorite part of the week.
We pushed a bunch of energy out through our yoga clothes then filled the empty
space with ideas about how to produce an anthology. We continually reminded
ourselves that this was an experiment-and taking the pressure off kept it fresh
Our calendar lilted like a butterfly on a branch, gentle and
easy. Spring for submissions and reading because in spring we are reborn.
Summer for editorial production-stolen hours while the kids are at camp. Fall
for launching what would make a great holiday gift. December for
post-processing and January for integrating new collective-members into the
project. Lilt lilt lilt, wing wing wing. The work meted out to each month like
a new branch.
More about VoiceCatcher at www.voicecatcher.org.
* * * * *
Sara Guest, a native mid-westerner, has been tripping the light
wowtastic in Portland, Oregon since 2004. A longtime producer and editor,
Sara works as a program coordinator for Write Around Portland and volunteers with Literary Arts and VoiceCatcher (currently as board chair). She writes poetry and fiction and is a voracious reader and lover of Powell's City of Books.
Jenn Lalime is a northwest native, a writer and editor, a mother and a
wife. She's lucky to work with the following organizations to bring
the words of fellow writers out into the world: Portland Women Writers, VoiceCatcher, and Tin House Books. She thanks the universe every day for President Obama whose presence in
the White House gives her the peace of mind to stay focused on her
first and true love: reading great fiction.
More Like Music
By Sage Cohen
We all need a line against which
to measure our wildness.
The park is cut back along the path.
I align my spine with the heavy bench,
send my legs out around your waist
as the sun heats a halo through your long black hair.
Today I can understand how the scientists misjudged
the universe's color for turquoise when really it is beige.
The sun must have been streaming through the trees
such that the calculation of space divided by matter
became more like music. And when the rhythm lifted
like a woman's skirt in summer wind, someone sang,
as you do now, of the sky being cleared by a good hard rain.
Then the universe compressed like two bodies dancing,
perfected with the pressure of exchange, until
the planetary percussion became a salsa.
Leaning into the beat, those men reached further
than who they were. Surrendered fact to abstraction.
They got loose in their laboratories, pressed to the truth
of the blue of turquoise until it was the only answer.
|Creating Space for Writing
Integrating Poetry into the Everyday
By Toni Partington
In my last two columns, you've defined your internal and
external writing spaces. Now let's talk about the realities of everyday life.
Think about how you move from one role (such as employee, parent,
student, partner) to another. How you juggle these many identities and seem to
make things work on the busiest days. Now, think about yourself as the
poet-writer. Where does it fit in? If you answered, "Everywhere," there's
probably no need to read further. If you said, "There's never enough time," or
"It's on my list but doesn't seem to get done," or "I save it up for the
weekend," then read on, my friend.
Imagine how it would feel if writing became an
everyday practice of living
. Look around, there's plenty to write
about: overheard tidbits that catch your ear, the interesting profile of the
person in the car ahead of you, pink tree blossoms in the wind. What if you
made notes throughout the day about what you saw, heard, imagined, experienced,
felt? What if you looked that list over and turned it into a line or two? What
Frequently, I pull to the side of the road to make notes,
stop my shopping cart mid-aisle to write, ask the person on the other end of
the phone to hold for a minute. I'm not being rude, I'm integrating the writer
in me into all I do. Sure, I have a wide variety of roles - (grant writer,
life-career coach, mom, partner, friend) but in each role I am still a poet. In
fact, I am a poet first; and just saying this influences how I view my life. It
doesn't diminish the importance of my other roles. It enhances them.
Following are some tips for how you can start integrating poetry into your everyday life:
Know your poetry-receiving style.
Some of us like structure while others like flow. You
can do it either way. For example, if you prefer structure, you could decide to
be in the observer's role at a specific time. You may select an outing or even
a mundane activity and let the poet-observer take the lead. At first it will
feel more like segmenting than integration, but it will give you the
opportunity to let the poet be in charge so that you can feel what that's like.
In a more fluid or "flow" mode, you are integrating the
poet at all (or most) times. You are tuned in to let your encounters,
experiences, and situations lead the writing. In other words, you are present
as life unfolds and you are determined to capture what you can in writing.
To do either, carry a small, pocket size notebook
everywhere. When you have a thought, observation or idea, take the time to write it down. Don't
wait; I promise it won't be there later. Hard as you try, you won't be able to
capture that thought in just that way.
Once you have a few notes it's like having a poetry savings
account. You can add to it or draw from it. It's there and it's yours.
Evaluate your writing
Does it feel selfish or self-indulgent to spend time writing?
Would your life be enriched by the time you set aside to write? Take one thing
at a time - start by imagining what life will be like if you integrate the
parts of you that have been disconnected from each other. Imagine writing as a
priority that gets your time and attention on a regular basis.
Decide on a time of
day to review what you've written
(with morning coffee, before bed, ten
minutes in the car after work - whatever feels right to you). Ponder the words,
sketches, phrases, quotes - what do they bring to mind? Do you want to build on
any part of it, link things together, use something as a prompt for more
your designated time to write
- to expand your notes into poems.
Specifically, when in your day or week is your sacred writing time? We all know
that it's good to be flexible - but not so good to give away this precious time
when you have deemed it important.
Claim your writing
To set aside the time as a regular practice is to make a statement to
yourself and others that you value writing and have chosen to integrate it
fully into your lifestyle. If you use a calendar, blackberry or some form of
time organization, add in this designated time and activity. If you make it a
priority and say it out loud, it is likely that you will follow through.
* * * * *
Toni Partington lives and works in Vancouver, WA. Her poetry has appeared in the NW Women's Journal, the Anthology of the River Poets' Society, VoiceCatcher 3, the Cascade Journal
and others. Toni's other work includes career/life coaching, editing
services for new and emerging writers, and grant writing. This winter
she joined the editorial collective for VoiceCatcher 4. She holds a BA
in Social Work and an MA focused on Literature and Literary Editing.
Before that, Toni was a high-school drop out, pregnant and then married
at age 16 whose life came faster than it should have and toughened her
into a self-described survivor. Today, her circle includes family,
friends, dogs and poets, not in any particular order.
|The Cook, The Writer, The Gardener, The Business Woman
How To Bring Poetry
By Brittany Baldwin
In the morning I walk the dog through the orchard in the
mist. This is my time alone before I head off to work. Between the trees I
watch for poems.
During the commute I listen to poetry, stories, news or
music. I write down ideas that come from watching the farms pass. The man on
his riding mower spreading chemical over his perfect lawn that is big enough to
grow enough food to feed his neighbors and himself for a year. But he wants his
country home to have a golf course lawn full of chemicals his kids can play in.
Up the street another man has filled his land with old cars. They rest as
memories, taxidermied pets from earlier in life he just can't bury. All of them
bring me poems.
At work I study cadence and composition, listening to live
recordings of Edna St Vincent between old Bruce Springsteen love songs. These
poems transfix me as I press dough into pans, fill them with fruit, fold and
whisper intention. Intention is the most important ingredient; it can be
Sometimes I scrawl poetry in poor handwriting behind my
grocery list for the day. Or late at night I'll write character profiles from
my evening of serving drunken doctors and real estate professionals. A snatch
of conversation overheard while I reach to place the salad just so in front of
their hungry eyes; each comparing the quality of the salad next to them and
across from them to the one before them.
Almost none of the poetry that accompanies me throughout my
day gets to the page in a traditional sense but all of it solves me.
After work I send out menus for busy moms, special occasions
and restricted diets for the ill. My poetic skills show themselves in cadence
and adjective play. Food becomes a list of tasty words laid one on top of the
other to make the reader salivate. With my weekly menus I observe how usually
at least one dish a week is ordered by everyone. What words make that happen?
* * * * *
Brittany Baldwin runs a small catering and personal chef company that
maintains its own organic garden. She has written poetry in Portland
for eight years while starting her own business and self publishing her
own poetry collection, Broken Knuckles Against Knives, Cutting The Food To Feed Me Through This
(2005). In 2002 she received a BA in Creative Writing from the
University of Colorado. Her poetry has appeared in the poetry
collections Ephemeris and Broken Word: Alberta Street Anthology Volume 1 and 2.
She has appeared on KBOO's Talking Earth, won an honorable mention in
the Oregon State Poetry Associations fall 06 contest and was featured
in the 2006 and 2007 Silverton Poetry Festival.
|Discover New Poetry Markets and Get Published
|By Shawn Sorensen * * * * *
So far, I've
recommend six different venues for your poems: two each of print journals,
on-line publications and contests. Congratulations to any of you who have sent
in work! As always, please let us know if anything happens, whether it's a
nicely-worded (or timely) rejection or a publication by leaving a note at the Writing the Life Poetic
blog. There could definitely be a celebration at hand!
And when you are
submitting work, why not start a submission tracker to kept abreast of which
publications are getting which of your poems? A submission tracker can help you
stay on top of what you've sent and make sure your submissions match each
publication's guidelines. For example:
Publications often will allow simultaneous submissions -- poems you've sent
elsewhere -- as long as you notify them if someone else publishes your work
have something already published, then a vast majority of publications will not
-- now that's another story. As we have already seen with the contest
suggestion from my last column, there are plenty of contests that will take
poems that have already won or have been published.
What's in a
submission tracker? Mine is an uncomplicated Excel spreadsheet that has the
following columns: "Poem Title",
"Publication/Contest", "Date Sent", "When Response Expected", "Date
Returned/Published" and "Comments".
And just what
information can you put in yours? Let's try the following:
Print Journal: the
times per year, the MacGuffin
simply wants "well-crafted poetry". For reference, the MacGuffin
has recently published poems by Dawn McDuffie, Lisa
Siedlarz and Vivian Shipley, poetry that is slightly revelatory and/or humorous
in tone, something that sheds new light on the greater meanings of making it through
the world. Send no more than five poems, along with a cover letter, to Carol
Was, Poetry Editor/ Schoolcraft College/18600 Haggerty Rd., Livonia
MI/48152-2696. Considers simultaneous submissions and would like poems to be
typed and single-spaced with the poet's name, address, and e-mail appearing on
each page. Include an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). Pays two
contributor's copies. For a sample, send $6 to the above address.
subtitle is "A Journal of Poetry of Place". The place in question is the
Pacific Northwest, of which poems submitted to Windfall
must reference or be
about. Having said that, though, the Pacific Northwest for this journal
stretches from Alaska to San Francisco, from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky
Mountains. And you don't have to be from the Pacific Northwest to get
published. Submit up to five poems to Bill Siverly and Michael McDowell,
Co-Editors/Windfall Press/P.O. Box 19007, Portland, OR/97230-0007. A cover
letter is preferred and Windfall
considers simultaneous submissions.
Deadline for spring 2010:
February 1st. $5 sent to the above address will get you a
Online Journal: Adirondack
The Adirondack Review
is open to new poets who demonstrate talent
as well as established writers who have demonstrations aplenty. View their
colorful, unique website (www.adirondackreview.homestead.com
for sample poems and submission guidelines. Responds in one week to four months
and accepts simultaneous submissions (with notification if poems are published
Contest: Twenty-Third Annual Portland Pen
My idea of a good contest? One with a lot of prizes (cash or
otherwise), a low entry fee and the possibility of being published if you win.
This poetry contest put on by the Portland Branch of the National League of
American Pen Women (NLAPW) does all three. There's a deadline of November 7th
with an entry fee of $5 per poem. More details can be found at their website
Now get those poems out and show yourself off a little bit! I wish you an appetizer of luck
followed by a large entrée of enjoyment.
Shawn Sorensen is a published, award-winning poet whose work can be viewed at mannequinenvy.wordpress.com,
Winter 2008 edition. His poetry submission goal is to send something
in at least every other week and get published/recognized a few times
per year. He's written dozens of complete book reviews, including
sixteen poetry titles, on goodreads.com and braves a perilous river crossing to be the Community Relations Manager at Barnes & Noble Vancouver. After
getting dry and attending to numerous shark bites, he plans and hosts
an every-2nd-Wednesday Poetry Group event that's always at 7 pm, always
features the area's best poets, and always has a great open mic.
Finding a Poetic Soulmate
By Christopher Luna
Is it possible to find a poetic soulmate? A trusted friend
who knows your work so well that he or she can give you solid advice that takes
your overarching concerns and aesthetic into account? I'm here to tell you that,
thought it may be as elusive as the ideal of a romantic soulmate, it is
In order for a person to be your poetic soulmate, he or she
must first read enough of your work to understand What It Is You're Trying To
Do. If we think of a poet's work as a kind of autobiography, or at least a
narrative that takes an entire life to complete, then it can be helpful to
receive critique from someone who understands the big picture of who you are.
Often people join critique groups looking for such a partner.
These groups can be useful if they are constructed carefully. Groups that
consist of random people who are not familiar with each other's work do not
always gel. I am fortunate enough to be part of a small group of five people
who are not only friends but who respect one another's work. When you go over
your poetry line by line with people on a regular basis, they begin to get a
sense of your aesthetic.
But in my case, my poetic soulmate turned out to be a fellow
alumnus from Naropa. While we were friends when we were classmates, it was not
until after we graduated that we realized that we had this affinity. My friend
David Madgalene is an excellent writer who also happens to be a prolific
correspondent. When I send him one letter, he responds with three. He sends me
huge envelopes filled with books, zines, and clippings to inspire and amuse me.
He also sends me his stories, novels, and poems, although not always for
critique. We are very clear with one another about when feedback is sought.
The mutual respect that David and I have for one another has
led us to collaborate on several poems, a chapbook, and a forthcoming book art
project. We have performed together on several occasions, many of which
occurred during my yearly visit to California to visit him and his family.
David knows more about what I am trying to do than anyone.
Therefore, when he makes a comment or a suggestion, I am sure to take it
seriously. Similarly, he knows that he can trust me to be honest with him.
While both of us publish or perform our work regularly enough to have had the
experience of being praised, even sincere compliments do not tell a writer what
he needs to do to improve his work. When I have a tough question about a poem,
or just need someone to give it to me straight, I can count on David.
Have you found your poetic soulmate? If not, what kind of
person might be a fit for you? What are you doing to find him or her?
* * * * *
Christopher Luna is a poet,
editor, artist, teacher, and graduate of the Jack Kerouac School of
Disembodied Poetics. Publications include Cadillac Cicatrix, eye-rhyme, Exquisite Corpse, and the @tached document. Chapbooks include tributes and ruminations, On the Beam (with David Madgalene), and Sketches for a Paranoid Picture Book on Memory. GHOST TOWN, USA, which features poems and observations of Vancouver, WA, is available through Cover to Cover Books and Angst Gallery, or from the author.
Poetry as Tonglen Practice
By Sage Cohen
* * * * *
Pema Chodron teaches tonglen practice, a style of meditation
that invites us to breathe in pain-our own; the world's--and breathe out
compassion for ourselves and others. The spirit of tonglen, she instructs, is
to cultivate an awareness that pain is not an individual burden, but rather a
universal one. It invites us to let pain become a path of awakening the heart.
And it calls upon us to meet and welcome our pain so that others can be free of
As I started breathing with intention as Chodron instructs,
it occurred to me that I already have a tonglen practice: poetry. I breathe in
pain--my own and the world's--and I breathe out poems. Poetry gives suffering a
direction. It uplifts our small moments to monumental ones, and gives our readers
an opportunity to move through pain, revelation and catharsis with us. I have
spent a lifetime seeking my own experience told more clearly in the poems of
others. And I have recently released an enormous gasp of exhalation-a poetry
collection--that I hope will offer readers recognition and relief as they see
their own difficulties (and joys) through my eyes.
Poems may not stop the clubbing of baby seals, domestic
violence, child trafficking, dog fighting, genocide or whatever it is that
feels most difficult to breathe in on any given day. But as the motorcyclist
must lean into the turn to prevent a fall, poems become a kind of machinery of
transport, giving us a context for leaning into the pain that we meet and
safely navigating through it.
My father always said, "Experience is what you get when you
didn't get what you wanted." And poems are the treasures that can be exhumed
from those undesirable experiences.
Just think all of the great, poetic opportunities for compassion and
understanding that lie coiled at the heart of every mistake, heartbreak,
disappointment and regret.
What if you were to literally look to your poetry practice
as tonglen practice-a way of moving through what pierces you to the core? What
injustices might it help you unflinchingly examine? What epicenter of pain or
grief might it help you enter and consider? How might you relax into the
universal truths of divorce, death, intolerance, change, and make a poem
offering that illumines these truths with grace?
Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry (Writer's Digest Books, March 2009) and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. She writes three monthly columns about the craft and business of writing and serves as poetry editor for VoiceCatcher 4.
Co-curator of a reading series at Barnes & Noble, Sage teaches the
online class Poetry for the People. She has been awarded first prize in the Ghost Road Press poetry contest and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Learn more at sagesaidso.com and