|Writing the Life Poetic Zine |
Publisher & Editor:Sage CohenColumnists:Brittany BaldwinKristin Berger
Dale FavierChristopher LunaMToni PartingtonShawn SorensenSteve WilliamsCOLUMNIST BIOS
The Path of Possibility
in Writing and in Life
Join Sage as she contemplates both what's possible in the writing life and how writing can make our lives more possible.
Sage Cohen News, Events & Appearances
Saturday, February 5, 2011 // 10:30 to 11:45 a.m.
AWP 2011 Conference
"Finding and Creating Online Teaching Opportunities-and Sustaining and Succeeding in Them" panel
Panel participants: Erika Dreifus, Sage Cohen, Andrew Gray, Chloe' Yelena Miller, Scott Warnock
Marriott Wardman Park
Lobby Level, Room Virginia C
Sunday, February 13, 2011 // 7:00 p.m.
Poetry reading featuring Sage Cohen and Jay Nebel
I'll be reading an entire set of brand-new poems from my new manuscript. I'm very excited to be appearing with Jay Nebel and I hope you'll join us.
3508 SW Corbett Ave Portland, OR
Tuesday, February 22, 2011 // 7:00 p.m.
The Productive Writer reading and celebration
Barnes & Noble Vancouver
7700 NE 4th Plain Blvd
Vancouver, WA 98662
Monday, February 28
Productive Writing Revolution Online Class Starts
Get the support you need to take your writing farther in 2011
Learn more and register
Monday, February 28
Break into Business Writing Online Class Starts
Learn how to make a living as a marketing communications copywriter
Learn more and register
Thursday, March 10, 2011, 7:00 p.m.
"Top 10 Success Strategies for Writing More and Selling More" lecture and workshop
Willamette Writers of Salem
Saturday, March 26, 2:00 p.m.
801 Southwest 10th Avenue
I'm honored to be reading with these incredible women: Penelope Scambly Schott, Constance Hall, Tonia McConnell Christi Krug and Maggie Chula.
How is 2011 treating you so far? Is poetry finding its rightful place in your days?
The busier my life gets, the more curious I become about keeping the pilot light of my poetic process glowing beneath the many activities that appear unrelated to poetry proper. In this paradoxical month of entrenched darkness and cold during which we are invited to dive deep into our romantic fantasies, I am appreciating poetry--my first and most enduring love--for its unassuming devotion all these years.
I am wondering if there is more I could have done to elevate the metaphors and comfort the contradictions along the way. And I am asking: What does poetry need of me now? What would it mean to say "I do" to poetry and take our relationship to the next level? What happens when the heat of the first draft yields to the tepid days, weeks and years of revision? How do we tend this flame with attention, receptivity and care?
In this issue of the Writing the Life Poetic e-Zine, our columnists contemplate this divine dilemma: bringing poetry into our lives in a way that is authentic to us--and sending it back out into the world in a way that has meaning and grace.
How do you intend to romance your life poetic this month? What will you offer your poems to let them know how much you care?
The word is the way,
Publisher & Editor
How to Memorize a Poem
By Dale Favier
You're always urging poets to memorize poetry, a friend told me last week. You always assume they how to do it. But what if they don't? What if they've never done it before? Why don't you give some tips? That was a fair request. So here it is: my directions. How to memorize a poem.
First, pick something to memorize. Not too long. Something maybe ten or fifteen lines long, maybe just a piece of a longer poem. Something special, that takes hold of you, something that you'd love to have always with you.
Say it aloud a couple of times. Really aloud: don't murmur. You'll find that you didn't know it as well as you thought you did. There may be words you aren't really sure of the meaning of, words that you don't know how to pronounce. It is not a bad thing to discover this: it's a good thing. Look them up. Find out exactly what they mean, and how they're pronounced. This is a critical step. You can't memorize something if you don't have exact meanings and sounds in mind. It's better to have exact ones that are wrong, than vague ones that are sort of right. Vague just won't "take."
Now you're ready to memorize. Stand up. Read the first two or three lines of your piece aloud. Walk back and forth, and say them over and over. Then close the book (sticking your finger in to keep your place) and keep saying them. When you're not sure you've got it right, think hard, make a guess, and then check. It's important not to check right away. Guess first, then check. Part of getting it right is identifying where and when your mind wants to get it wrong.
Nobody ever memorized a poem with their eyes. You memorize a poem with your mouth. You really need to say it, and to say it right out loud. It's the muscles of your lips, tongue, and throat that memorize a poem. Say it aloud. Never mind if people hear it. People make you listen to their damn TVs and computers all the time: they can stand to listen to you memorize a magnificent poem.
Say it over till it runs right and easy, no mistakes, no hesitations. Then go on to the next couple lines, and do the same thing till you get those. Now back up and run through the whole thing you've got so far. You have to piece the whole thing together. The join between the first lines you learned and the second lines will be a weak part, a place where you're likely to skip or go wrong, so don't skimp on the "whole thing so far" part.
And now -- just repeat. A couple more lines, get them cold, and then the whole poem so far. Keep going, a couple lines at a time, then the poem-so-far again, till you get to the end of it. Nothing more to it.
Most people who haven't memorized before are surprised, at first, by how easy it is. But there's a catch. You'll wake up tomorrow and it will be gone. You'll maybe remember the first lines (because you said them over each time you said the poem-so-far over), but the rest is clean vanished. Very discouraging.
So here's the real trick to memorization, the last ten percent of the effort, which actually makes all the difference. Start over. Memorize it again, the next day. What you'll find is that it's not gone at all. It's still there: it's just under a thin glaze. Rub that off, and it's still there, right where it was yesterday. Say it over till you've got it. This will take a tenth of the time it took yesterday. And you must do the same thing every day for a week, and then every week for a month, and then once a year or so for the rest of your life. Everything in memory tends to glaze over. That's a good thing: it's the beginning of recycling the brain cells. It takes repetition over time to convince your brain that this is stuff you really want to keep.
If what you've picked is really a magnificent poem (and why would you pick anything else?) it can bear this kind of repetition. There will be nothing tiresome about saying it every day for a week, every week for a month, and once a year ever after. It will become stranger and deeper and more vivid, every time. It will come to you in your dreams. It will rise into your mind as you wait for the bus, sudden and intolerably beautiful: it will sing you to sleep at night. It's not a poem "out there" any more. It's not something you read once. It's part of the fabric of your mind now, and it will be forever.
* * * * *
ier 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
He 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.
December Poetry Prompt
By M and Steve Williams
* * * * *
If you read many poetry books and journals, as we do, it can begin to seem that all great poetry revolves around serious, often tragic, subjects. The mood and voices are somber and solemn or reflective. However, there's nothing wrong with having a bit of fun with poems too.
This month's prompt is going to revolve around something that nearly all of us experience. It falls into the category of those times when we'd wished we'd thought to say or do something, but didn't in the moment. And then most of us find that it comes to us either hours or days later (usually waking us at 2:00 in the morning), but by then the moment is gone. Some of us ruminate on this, perhaps even obsess over it. Not many of us take the opportunity to write what we should have said down on paper.
The author of the following poem (which we found in Rattle #25, Summer 2006) uses this situation to her advantage to write what she forgot to say in the form of a note to the house sitter. And it makes for a lighthearted and very amusing poem:
Note to the House Sitter
by Debora Palmer
I forgot to tell you
the fire extinguisher is propped
by the piano. In case of fire,
grab the Cairo lamp and the dog.
If you rub her throat, she'll lean
against you and moan. Night clunks
in the kitchen are the cats
or the icemaker. Whispering
in the back office is voicemail, yelling
is from the neighbors two houses
north. The chandelier blinks;
changing light bulbs doesn't change
anything. And the guy next door
who chirps at his snapdragons
and flaps at passing pedestrians,
he's harmless. Really.
This poem in the form of a note gives us great insight into the speaker's life, her own quirks, and even the wacky neighbors. We learn what's important to her (the Cairo lamp and the dog), and there are even some details that are pretty universal (the night clunks in the kitchen being the result of the cat or the icemaker). It's a poem and a speaker we can relate to. And it concludes with a laugh.
Write a poem in the form of a note that outlines what you forgot or neglected to say to someone. Title the poem "Note to the ____________," filling in the blank with the person to whom the note is addressed. The note can be to anyone - the cable guy, the telemarketer, the plumber, the postman, the cashier in the "Express line," your lawyer, your doctor, the babysitter, etc. Study Palmer's poem and use it as an example to guide you. Attempt to keep things lighthearted, and have some fun with this prompt. Try to make yourself chuckle. In doing so, you'll probably make your readers chuckle too!
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.
Talking Music, Method and Meaning with Ed Skoog
By Dave Jarecki
Ed Skoog's poetry has appeared in many magazines, including American Poetry Review, The New Republic, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and NO: a journal of the arts. Born in Topeka, Kansas, Skoog graduated from Kansas State University, and holds his MFA from the University of Montana. Skoog is the Jennie McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington Fellow at George Washington University, and splits his time between D.C. and Seattle. Previous, he was the writer-in-residence at Richard Hugo House. We spoke shortly after the release of his first full-length collection, Mister Skylight (copyright 2009, Copper Canyon Press). Part 1 of our interview can be found here.
DJ: One of the first things that struck me about the collection is your use of repetition, which pushes the music and images. One place I saw this fairly early on was in "Season Finale, which opens with the following:
"My last look around the house
took so long that the vine
climbing the rosebush climbed
into my eyes, and a lizard
climbed, too, mouth first from grass
its skin changing color
from grass green to a green
almost without green,
the color of dust on feather."
What are you hoping to achieve with your repetition of "climb/climbing" and "green?"
ES: One thing is sound. It appeals to my ear as a reader and as a writer, and it's one of the ancient things that poetry does. Rhyme is repetition. Alliteration is repetition. So many forms play off repetition of words and phrases, whether Homer, Beowulf, etc. To me, it's central to what poetry does. It's important to the ear, the musicality and pleasure of poetry. Or if the topic is unpleasant, it's very emotional. There's an emotional reverence that, even if you're listening in a foreign language, it would still be meaningful to you to hear repetition.
I also think it appeals to the mathematical pleasure centers of our brains. There's something equation-like with repetitions. It suggests order, and it also suggests disorder.
If there's a musical reason, it also focuses the attention of the reader and speaker. And I think to repeat something is also to doubt it. If you say something twice, it's not a very effective way of really affirming what you're trying to say. With "the skin turning from green to a green almost without green," each time I say it, it becomes a little less green. It turns the phrase into some sort of shape, some sort of abstraction that, as a reader, I find interesting.
To tie it in to some of the other ideas in the book about formal, official language, there's also a dubious, double nature to things. When you say something twice, it has two meanings. When you repeat something, it becomes less certain and a bit opaque.
DJ: In the poem, "Memory Loss," the second section reads,
"O'Neal ran the Saturn bar. His heart called last call a few
months after the flood, and in my fever he raises his shirt, a
pale guyaberra, to show the scar at a party, and he serves a
blue drink in a flower vase, and one for himself."
What's your process to arriving at certain language, specifically a line like, "His heart called last call." That line completely floored me. It's obvious what you're talking about, and there's something really powerful about the way you hit the reader with it. Is that the type of line that, for you, shows up early in the process, or is it something you work toward? I was trying to get a picture of you going for something big with that line, but maybe it was simply there in your first draft.
ES: That's how it came out. Biographically, O'Neal Broyard was very important to this book and to my time in New Orleans. I lived by the Saturn Bar, which was a bar in the Ninth Ward. He was from the neighborhood. He'd was a relative of Anatole Broyard, the writer, and was this tough-as-nails old dude who had been a wrestler and boxer in his youth. He actually won the Saturn Bar in a pit fight in 1961, I think. Before that he'd been bar tending there. The original owner, before he died, told O'Neal that the bar was his when he was done. When he died, the owner's son came for the key and O'Neal said, "I'm not giving you the key, this is what your father wanted." So they fought for it and O'Neal won.
The bar weathered Hurricane Katrina. They had about a foot of water. O'Neal stayed for the whole storm. Eventually the National Guard forced him to evacuate. And he had kind of a bad heart with a pacemaker inserted. But he never had another employee. From 1961 until the day he died he ran the bar and no one worked for him. Opened it on his own hours. He died of a bad heart and a broken heart after the storm. I think he couldn't believe what had happened. It troubled him.
As for the bar. . . it's not just a bar. It's a little corner place that sort of became a folk art object. He started collecting weird stuff, putting it on the walls. A lot of art and bric-a-brac, political science . . . a very profound place. Many people have written about it. It's still there. His nephew runs it now.
When O'Neal died, I was in Cholula, near Mexico City. While I was there I got sick, spent four or five days with a high fever, wasn't able to eat or move much, but I did have my notebook and I wrote and dreamt a lot.
You know how often, when somebody dies they sort of come back to you in a dream, like they're just checking in? Well, I had a dream with O'Neal in it, which I describe in the prose section of the poem.
I was just trying to write about him, trying to be true to the guy and the language, and his own down-to-earth, no nonsense quality. I once saw him chase after a bunch of frat boys with a baseball bat for ordering daiquiris. Mixed with the no nonsense was also this sort of highbrow, transcendent, non-campy view of junk and art.
When it came to dedicating the book, were it not for dedicating it to my long suffering wife, I would have dedicated it to his memory.
DJ: A number of these poems came to you between 2001 and 2006. Two poems that appear back-to-back, "The Carolers," and "Early Kansas Impressionists," seem to come from a different voice than some of the others. In "The Carolers," there's more distance between the narration and the scene itself. With "Early Kansas," there's this lovely memory of the mother, who seems to appear as a ghost. Both poems feel removed in time, and provide a different sort of reflection than the other work. How does this more mature voice relate to the voice that appears in a poem such as "The Kansas River, Also Called Kaw"?
ES: "Early Kansas Impressionists" is an elegy, an expression of sorrow for my mother who's been gone for a number of years. I guess I'd put both of these poems into the category of "poems of sorrow." They relate to the sadness of things.
"Kansas River," I think, is angrier. It's more than just "having the blues." It has a kind of aggressive, angry sort of outrage in it, perhaps about the exact same subjects as the ones that were more sorrowful. I love home, but like everyone else I have some rage and anger at home. Maybe this is an imaginary home. The Kansas River and the Topeka of that poem are of the mind. A Topeka of the mind more than the Topeka of 119,000 residents from the census bureau. It's kind of an adolescent anger at the self as much as at the place.
DJ: And it's completely captured here. There's a line in this poem. "Topeka's grand opening never happens." It's so dense. Is that of the Topeka of the mind, or is that a statement about the real Topeka?
ES: Well, both. The city of Topeka, when I say it has 119,000, that was the population a hundred years ago. The town has never grown. A lot of the "pioneer dreams" for what Topeka or Kansas or America or one's own life would become have largely been unmet, or have gone in a different direction.
Topeka is not a dynamically charged or changing place, but it has high hopes. It still hopes to be the next Chicago, or some other important place.
In imagining the Topeka that didn't happen, I'm also imagining the pioneers that didn't happen, the destruction of Native American life that didn't happen, the bison that weren't killed, the limestone that was left where it was, and so on. We're suspending history for a moment.
DJ: With regards to fictional places, or the fictionalized place, what about a poem like "Postscript: Autobiographical"?
ES: I wrote that in one draft in the basement of the New Orleans Museum of Art in '97 or '98. I hadn't written anything for a while. I was just determined to write a poem that day. I turned away from whatever my work was -- a grant application or something, a financial report maybe. I remember just turning to the typewriter and kind of improvising, just writing what came into my head. That was it, pretty much what's in that draft. I think it's a pretty easily dismissible poem, but a friend of mine who helped with the manuscript demanded that I include it. So I thought that was the right place for it.
DJ: That's interesting that you refer to it as dismissible.
ES: Well it's my own work, so I think it's all dismissible.
DJ: Sure. You're allowed to say anything you want about your own work. I can see it coming from that period of working in the Museum of Art, because it feels like it could be a snapshot of some old painting, and at the same time my mind goes to these mystical places when I read it. Not that this was your intent, but it opens up doors to topics ranging from past lives to the soul's journey and those types of things.
ES: It is sort of a thumbnail, hastily written autobiography. One of the things I liked about the poem was that, after writing it, it marked the beginning of my being a writer in New Orleans. I had trouble getting started and getting my writing organized. After I wrote "Postscript," writing came very easily to me for the next eight years or so.
DJ: Can you point to anything that may have been blocking before that?
ES: The essential thing that titling the poem "Autobiographical" does is similar to what goes on in the first poem of the collection, "During the War," where I mention "abandoning my obligation to be more serious." In the latter, in a sense I'm abandoning my obligation to be earnest, abandoning the obligation to strive for the authentic, or to be too honest. I'm being more imaginative as a writer. To approach poems with more liberty as to what that relationship with the "I" is. Being able to write poems that aren't about anything.
DJ: This poem is still quite earnest in its fictional, fun way. When you get midway through the second stanza, there's that same dark sense that permeates throughout this entire collection, where you are approach some rather gruesome realities.
ES: I don't believe that poems are games, or that writing poetry is a game. The aim is serious. To speak more clearly about the poem and abandoning things and obligations of the poems, when you give yourself over to the imagination -- and I'm not the first person to say this -- you gain the ability to express deeper truths than what is factual, as thousands of people have said before.
DJ: I read this recently, "A poet is a liar who always tells the truth." Was that you?
ES: No. That's pretty good though. Whoever said it may or may not have been right.
DJ: I enjoy the fact that poets approach the truth from so many different angles. It's the idea of drilling at the deep truth through humor, then following the inverted pyramid back out. You enter and leave laughing, but you never forget the middle spot.
ES: Frost said a poem must begin in delight, and the aim should be something greater. Wisdom. Not something pithy. I try my best to honor that.
* * * * *
Dave Jarecki writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction from his home in Portland, Oregon. In addition, he facilitates writing workshops throughout the Greater Portland area. You can read and listen to his work at DaveJarecki.com.
By Kristin Berger
At the larch, I begin to run. Early winter has stripped the tree's fine gold needles down to the half-frozen ground, haloing it like a mane. No woodchip path to follow, no sign to mark how far around the park to the finish. Larch to larch, a half mile by my guess. I keep the pace slow, counter-clockwise and earth-bound, one foot in front of the other.
Moving over lichen-heavy sticks and plied-apart acorns, around dog shit and iced puddles, I create my own heat. Gulls perch on ball-field flood lights as if waiting in the bleachers for summer. My breath puffs in increments - "Dragon Breath," my children and I call it, though it's so cold I can't carry a tune. All the mornings' frustrations and challenges have been left at the door. In my stiff white Brooks - a gift from my marathoner step-dad - I am running for my life.
As blank as the new year, I have no new threads to follow or fresh words to navigate by, no regimen to change the shape of this tabula rasa. Sometimes it's wisest to stop striving for perfection and just move the body, however ungracefully. From a young age, I learned to work physically through life - deliver papers, dance on blisters, load semis, bike to and from work - no matter the weather or the challenges. As a mother, I attempt daily to parent with compassion and patience through sleep deprivation and a serious lack of exercise, to use my body as a conduit for peace. Writing is the counterpoint to life's noise and interruptions, the quiet place between the steps to gather myself. Like the muscles that need daily waking up, a writing life must stretch and flex.
An empty journal waits for me to begin again, and a new pen that doesn't sit quite right on the bump. After tightening new laces, can I walk 20 feet without skin separating from skin? Are there more words to describe this same moment, this same winter, a slightly different person in a completely new year? A writer's block is writer's breadth. From the laying down of days upon days, the usual complaints and the occasional remembered dream, I have a breathing record of the ordinary. We use it all to glean some truth - from lists, letters, confessions and questions. A poem or two shakes loose from the pages at our tired feet. Can we trust the certainty of breath following breath, the ability to create our own fire and keep it lit? We come round to the starting point, every day.
The park is mine alone to cross, one mud-smeared foot in front of the other. At the larch, the sun slices the clouds: I turn to discover that my steps have scribed the light, green islands etched in frost-tipped swords. Walking to the throb of blood in my ears, new ideas flood my head. Each decomposing leaf gets one more pass at Shine and the path in front is clear. Dragon Breath follows me, reliably, like gulls lifting and resettling, a contrail of where I have been, all the way home.
* * * * *
Kristin Berger lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, daughter, and son. She serves as Co-Editor of VoiceCatcher and is the author of a poetry chapbook, For the Willing (Finishing Line Press, 2008). Kristin's poetry and essays have appeared in CALYX, New Letters, Mothering Magazine and Passages North, and The Pedestal Magazine, among other publications, and her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Visit Kristin at www.kristinberger.wordpress.com.
By Sage Cohen
kneels to place Theo's fallen
shoe on his foot with the care
of a courtier. As she speaks
his name, both faces break
from bud to blossom. Foot
in hand, she tells him
There are buildings like this
everywhere, with women
like me in them.
I have been eating
pink and white and red
peanut M&Ms made
for Valentine's Day and sold
at a post-romantic discount.
I know that once we reach
a certain age, faces no longer
open. I press the cut flower
of this promise to my chest,
clutch the menu, quietly say
into the space where I just asked
for pancakes, may my son always
feel welcomed, simply for walking
into a restaurant, sitting down,
dropping his shoe.
|Creating Space for Writing
Fuel: Take Yourself on a Date
By Toni Partington
It takes fuel to run this mind and body.
How do you fuel yourself? OK, so there's basic food and sleep. Then, your friends, family, love, exercise, and pets. You can grow this list. It consists of things that keep you going, get you up in the morning, feed your contentment. But, let's focus on fuel for writing. What makes the words flow?
Recently I spoke with a coaching client who is transitioning to retirement with excitement and clarity. She talked about The Artist's Way and the concept of an art date. She'll be taking herself on dates to contemplate art and fuel her creativity. I've always loved this suggestion from the book. Somehow, the image of taking myself on a date feels indulgent in a good way. I'd be courting myself on an experience that might spark my imagination.
When was the last time you took yourself on a date? I know that some of you will say, last weekend. You are our guides. You realize the importance and value in this good kind of self-indulgence. You will probably tell us of an image or encounter that brought your pen to paper.
Some people feel comfortable on their own. Others are reluctant to try something like this unaccompanied. I know I can't convince you that going solo will transform the experience. Sincerely, it will.
It's about the sensory phenomenon. Alone you're not compelled to maintain a conversation, lead or follow, make joint decisions. Flying solo allows you to wander, explore, linger, think, engage, and reflect. You are unencumbered and the senses can take you outward and into the occasion. Try this little experiment.
Focus on one or two places at first depending on the amount of time you have. This relieves the pressure of getting here and there on a schedule. If you were dancing, I'd call it freestyle. When you arrive (at the gallery, park, museum, farmer's market, antique store, concert, etc.) let yourself pause to listen, smell, and look. Don't rush. Take it all in. Slow down your normal pace. Linger longer than usual on an object or item that interests you. Don't forget your notebook and several pens/pencils. You can capture images with a word, phrase, or sketch.
Before you return home or go off to work, jot down words in a separate part of the notebook that best describe your date. Were you lost in the moment? Uncomfortable? Free? Did you feel inspired? Bored? This will be a log for your outings. It's a way to track the places, events, and experiences that fuel you. And conversely, the ones that don't.
Now, the meat of this experiment. When you sit down to write, look at the words, phrases, or sketches from your observations. Are they a means of expression to a bigger concept? Where do they lead you? Do they spur remembrances? Can you begin to craft a poem from these? Review that day. Can you see the images you noted? If you are drawn to a word or phrase, or if one comes to you, write it down. See where you can take it.
I've always known that exposure to new things can be a writing trigger for me. Sometimes I'll see a photograph and imagine a whole scenario from it. Other times I'm awash in grey tones. When that happens I know it's time to take myself on an art date. I'll gather enough fuel to jump-start a poem.
What about you?
* * * * *
Toni Partington is a poet, editor, collage artist, and life/career coach living in Vancouver, WA. Her poetry has appeared in The Cascade Journal, VoiceCatcher (editions 3 & 4), Perceptions, OutwardLink.net, and others. She is the author of two books of poetry, Jesus Is A Gas (2009) and Wind Wing (2010). Toni serves as Co-Editor for VoiceCatcher, an anthology of women writers and artists, www.voicecatcher.org. She is a co-founder of Printed Matter Vancouver, a writing, editing and publishing service, email@example.com.
Toni is a life/career coach who loves to work with writers, artists, and individuals in transition (career, relationships, enhancing creative goals, and retirement, to name a few). She assists her clients in exploring ways to integrate the various facets of their lives into a more satisfying lifestyle. Toni believes in a strength-based approach with a focus on quality of life using practical strategies. For more information about coaching sessions contact Toni at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|The Cook, The Writer, The Gardener, The Business Woman
By Brittany Baldwin
Why do poets publish? It's not for money; most of us spend decades writing without a dollar coming in. Is it the need to share, to feel part of something, to legitimize your craft?
In the past six years while establishing my own business I consciously stole from the time and effort I devoted to writing. There is little time for play for the entrepreneur. Writing had helped me growing up, taught me what it takes to get good at something and I also had a lot of fun doing it! But it didn't pay the bills, didn't fix the car and if anything I had to be really careful because clients could dig these things up.
It's not that I have to make money publishing poetry to make it worth my while. That's not how I define success in art. It's just that I'm not sure why I should invest the tedious and time consuming labor of sending work out when, at best, it will be read by a small number of people if it is ever published at all. I want to spend my playtime writing and revising, not filling out paperwork.
It has occurred to me recently that what I want more than seeing my work in print is to see it connecting to people. For me, that's what poetry is all about. I've read about the Guerilla Poets who make copies of poems and sneak them into library books, magazines and newspapers so the general public is caught off guard and READS a poem when it falls out of a magazine in a tire store.
One summer in college, I worked on a ranch in New Mexico. It was an artist's retreat center and every other week we had an open mic. One night after a reading a woman came up to me with tears in her eyes, she asked me to meet her children then she started crying. She explained that she was in a bad spot in her life and had come out there to get away--not really knowing why she was there. She said she knew now, she had come to hear that poem.
Whatever my poem did for that woman is why I write. Something I related solved something for her as the poems of others have done for me my whole life. Publishing may be one way to make this connection. But there is nothing like the human experience of speaking a poem in a room, and seeing even one person really receive it.
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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|
|A Year of Value
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By Shawn Sorensen
Last year, like some of you, I had a high submission goal.I reached my goal but didn't get much published.Not the end of the world as I got a lot of fresh poetry on the page, but this year it's about actually getting published a certain number of times.Which means it's not a super high goal.
What I look forward to is taking a little more time with each poem, making additional revisions, having it critiqued a little more, reading more of the work of others, and, in general, slowing down. The hope is that I'll have a higher learning curve about the craft of poetry and embrace a wider potential of what I'm able to do with the written word. What's your goal?
This particular column is all about starting off the year with VALUE - offering you more opportunities to see your work printed or on a great website (that you can refer everyone to). Enjoy the variety of choices (including a bonus section!) and watch for any deadlines.
Online option: Tarpaulin Sky
For those of you who tend to write experimental/inventive poetry with real-life references and occasional social commentary, this journal might be for you. I was particularly drawn to the cross-genre work including poetry with prose, want-ads, etc. As always, read the journal before you submit. Tarpaulin Sky is really two online journals in one - with a printed journal as well. They accept submissions year-round.
Check it out by going to: http://www.tarpaulinsky.com
Literary Journal: The Southeast Review
I love the wide-ranging website, which features sample poems. This is a quality journal, but not one that's too academic or otherwise impossible to get work into. They accept work all year, so feel free to support these guys by buying a sample first (only $6). They will respond to you in under three months and consider simultaneous submissions.
Get the goods here: http://www.southeastreview.org
Contest: Writers-Editors 28th Annual International CNW Competition
It's back - with a March 15th deadline that's fast approaching. I like this contest because it doesn't get an overwhelming number of entries yet still gives three cash prizes and plenty of honorable mention certificates. They like traditional forms but take free verse as well. And - it's cheap to enter.
The guidelines: http://www.Writers-Editors.com
BONUS OPPORTUNITY: Asinine Poetry
These guys specialize in poetry that "does not take itself too seriously." Wants well-crafted poetry that can cover sober subjects, mind you, but the main purpose here is to amuse and/or draw a laugh. I submitted to Asinine a little while back and received a friendly, personalized reply. They take about 10% of all the submissions they receive and feature sample work on their fun website.
Smile here: www.asininepoetry.com
And keep the value coming with opportunities I could share in one of my next columns - email me at email@example.com if you hear of other great opportunities, or have news of getting your work published.I won't say no to news of specific comments from a publication regarding a rejected poem of yours, either. That kind of attention can be useful.
Shawn Sorensen is a published, award-winning poet whose recent work can be viewed at Wild Goose Poetry Review (page 13) or In Our Own Words. His poem called "The Yard" won 1st Place in the Oregon State Poetry Association's spring 2009 contest, New Poets category. Shawn's 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, many of them for poetry titles, on goodreads.com and braves a perilous river crossing to be the Community Relations Manager at Barnes & Noble in the hinterlands of Vancouver, WA. He plans and hosts a monthly Poetry Group that, starting Novemeber 2010, will be every last Tuesday at 7 pm and always feature the area's best poets and a great open mic.
Featured Readings Vs. Open Mics
By Christopher Luna
Featured readings are a great way to share one's work with the public. A poet is invited to read to promote their new book, or simply to showcase their writing. A featured reading is typically longer than an open mic spot, allowing us to hear a body of work, rather than one or two poems.
The open mic, on the other hand, is the most democratic form of poetry reading. It is a privilege to present both new and seasoned readers every month. One of my favorite things to do is to introduce someone who is reading for the first time. This is a big moment for them, and I like to boost their confidence while encouraging the audience to show them a lot of love.
Because anyone can contribute, the quality of work presented at an open mic varies wildly. Everyone has a need to express themselves; I don't waste any time secretly judging the participants. We're there to have a good time and hear some poetry. A good audience enthusiastically welcomes it all, whether good or bad, thoughtful or crass, funny or thought-provoking. Everyone wins.
If you are a poet hoping for a featured reading, be assertive but respectful. Attend multiple readings to get an idea about the vibe at each venue. If you feel like your work suits the event, don't be shy about approaching the emcee. However, do not expect an answer right away. Do not behave as if your featured reading is a foregone conclusion. Arrogance is never attractive; in fact, it can make you seem desperate. Allow the host some time to consider your proposal.
Prepare a flier or postcard with some information about you. If you can afford it, give away or trade your chapbooks. That way if the potential host is unfamiliar with your work, they can check it out before making a decision.
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I host poetry readings because I want to serve the poetry community and expose the diverse array of poetic voices and styles to as many people as possible. Whether you are hosting or reading at poetry events in your community, I invite you to ponder new ways to make the city safe for poetry. Try humility. Be generous. Above all, have fun.
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.
From Dysfunction to Duende
By Sage Cohen
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"What is to give light must endure burning" -- Viktor Frankl
More often than not, when I tell people that I write poetry, they get a wistful, faraway look in their eyes. Exhaling deeply, they admit, "I used to write poetry once, too."
When I inquire as to why they no longer write poetry, the answer is so invariably the same that it's almost become a cliché: "I stopped writing because I got happy."
I admit that I came to poetry on my knees, for the same reason so many of us do: because I had no idea how else I might survive. And this can be a powerful way to get initiated into the craft and life of poetry. However, contrary to cultural stereotypes, dysfunction doesn't make a poet, and poetry does not exist merely as a life support system to keep the dysfunctional groping along the bottom of things. Poetry at its best is a portal we write ourselves through, from the ecstasies of grief to the ecstasies of joy: two sides of the same coin.
At a recent lecture with Elizabeth Gilbert, she observed that in the television show Heroes--where each character has a supernatural power--the writer has a heroin addiction, the origin of which is never explained. In contrast, Gilbert aptly pointed out, the cheerleader on this show does not require crystal meth to effectively shake her pom-poms. Why, she wondered, do we accept without question that the life of the artist demands this kind of self-destruction?
I think our artist/writer/poet mythology is born of a kind of romance with darkness that is sustained by the general public's avoidance of it. We look to our artists to live out the dark sides that many of us are not courageous enough to live ourselves. This is why as a culture, and as writers, it's easy to fall into the trap of misunderstanding the difference between duende and dysfunction: writing darkness, versus living it.
I'm not saying that there are no poets who live darkness. Certainly, they're out there; Sylvia Plath, Ann Sexton and John Berryman are some of our most famous poets who never emerged from their own pain and ultimately ended their own lives. Many of us inhabit darkness and write our way out of it from time to time. But I think it does a disservice to poetry and to poets to romanticize or give credence to the idea that poetry is born and bred entirely of this dark place.
I remember as a young woman worrying about what I would write if I ever got happy. Eventually, I had an "aha" moment when I learned of duende in an essay by the poet Federico Garcia Lorca. In this piece, Lorca described duende as dark and potentially dangerous energy an artist is seeking to channel from within.
Wikipedia further illuminates this difficult-to-grasp concept: "Duende is a spirit of art, much the opposite of the Muse. Where the Muse brings golden inspiration, Duende brings blood. The Muse speaks of life, yet Duende sings of death. Duende is not inspiration, Duende is a struggle, a dark force, having very little to do with outer beauty, a struggle present in the artist's soul, the struggle of knowing that death is imminent. It is this knowledge of death that awaits and the despair that stems from it that produce Duende, and Duende will then color the artist's work with gut-wrenching authenticity, painful hues and tones that produce strong, vibrant art."
Duende happens when we call upon the wisdom of darkness--our own or that of the universal human experience--and use it to know ourselves more completely. When we tap into duende in our poetry, the poet becomes the conductive wire through which it moves, not the well in which darkness collects.
Paradoxically, much of my poetry is quite dark. People who know me well read it and have a difficult time reconciling their experience of my sunny disposition and my cloudy poems. For me, duende is the clarifying fire that burns through observation to spark the illumination of truth. Whether I'm happy or I'm sad, the mining of what is true can go deep into the darkness. When we emerge squinting into the light with the glorious gem of a word that fits just right, this is the ecstasy of poetry.
Sage Cohen is the author of The Productive Writer: Tips & Tools to Help You Write More, Stress Less & Create Success, Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. She has been awarded first prize in the Ghost Road Press poetry contest and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Visit Sage at her blog and learning laboratory pathofpossibility.com.
|Columnist News & Celebrations |
If you really want to get inspired by the full spectrum of possibilities in the life poetic, check out all of the good news from WTLP zine columnists.
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Brittany Baldwin's essay "Working in the Back" was published in The Bear Deluxe, issue Number 31 "you are where you eat".
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Kristin Berger is Co-Editor of VoiceCatcher 6, an anthology of new writing and art by Portland/Vancouver-area women, along with columnist Toni Partington.
Her poem "Vanishing Point" has been re-published in The Great American Poetry Show.
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Dave Jarecki's next workshop will be at the Attic Institute - "Time to Write" meets on five successive Saturday mornings from 10 a.m - noon, starting 2/19
Dave will be a featured reader, along with Joanna Rose and Mary L. Slocum, at "Caffeinated Art" reading series, Three Friends Coffeehouse, Monday, March 14th
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In December, Leah Jackson named Christopher Luna the poet laureate for her bsuinesses: Angst Gallery and Niche Wine and Art Bar.
Later this month Big Bridge will publish The Flame Is Ours:The Correspondence ofStan Brakhage and Michael McClure 1961-1978, edited by Christopher Luna. this material represents two decades in a nearly half century of letters between two of the greatest minds in experimental film and poetry.
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M & Steve Williams
Figures of Speech Reading Series will be hosting a special event featuring Patricia Smith at PSU in Smith Student Union on Friday Feb. 11th at 7:30 p.m. in room 328, Portland, OR. Get all the details here.
The regular, February event for the Figures of Speech Reading Series will be at the 100th Monkey on Tuesday Feb. 15th at 7 p.m. in Portland, Oregon featuring Jon Seaman and Don Colburn.
* * * * *Check out past issues of the WTLP zine in our archive.
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Top 10 things you can do to help spread the word about Writing the Life Poetic.
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Want to receive a Valentine's Day poem in the mail?
Send your mailing address to sage(at)sagesaidso(dot)com.