02 July 2021

Phantom Drift takes "This Daughter."

The non-profit publication Phantom Drift: A Journal of New Fabulism has accepted my poem "This Daughter" for inclusion in the next issue. 

I am really thrilled--"This Daughter" is a new poem, and this is one of the first places I sent this piece. Several of my 2020 and 2021 poems contain bits of magic or fairy tale imagery, but fabulism is generally new to me as a writer. It's encouraging that several of these weird poems have found a home quite quickly. 

I am still recuperating from Community of Writers--I tried to work on some found poetry this week, to get my mind focused on combinations of words, at the very least. However, my brain is just not ready to start thinking about poetry again. 

I did catch up on my submissions records, and I sent a selection of poems out to both Smartish Pace and Sugar House Review this week. 

Phantom Drift: A Journal of New Fabulism

01 July 2021

Looking back at my week with Community of Writers.

Now that I've had a few days to recuperate from that seven-day intensive online poetry program, I've spent a bit of time this morning updating my submissions to journals, and my records. I'm planning to get busy pulling together new submissions, as quite a few selections were rejected in the last week or two of spring term. 

After only three days off, I launched into the intensive Community of Writers schedule, so I'm taking this week off, for the most part--I've slept in until almost 6 am a few days, I've loafed around, spent too much time on my phone, and put a bit of time into straightening up my hell-hole of a house. I'm still dealing with my knee injury, and the weather has been excessively hot, so my yard and garden are a mess. This year's veggie garden is likely going to be mostly a loss, though I think I'll be able to get the tomatoes on track with some pruning this week. Summer classes start on Monday or Tuesday, but it's just one literature section, online, so I'm not too stressed about it. I'll probably spend some time getting the course shell together on Sunday--leaving me a few more days of decompression. 

So, the workshop last week! It's an interesting concept--we workshop every morning, after submitting a brand new poem we've written in the 24 hours since the last workshop. All comments are focused on what's working--not on suggestions or constructive criticism. We meet in the afternoons for an hour-long craft talk. Everyone, in theory, leaves the week with seven brand-new works. I was able to do that--though it felt really impossible on a few mornings, as I was writing at 4:00 am to make deadline. 

I wrote seven new works, and all of them are narrative/confessional, which certainly tinges much of my work, but I think of narrative poems as what I wrote when I was younger. This week, though, I wasn't really able to wait for a better topic or a better avenue into a new draft. Five of the seven poems are about my second marriage, and one is about my first marriage, and one is about marriage in general.: )

I realized, as a key takeaway, that I made a habit of not openly talking about the awful aspects of that second marriage. I didn't talk about it, because if I didn't cross that threshold, my ex wouldn't do so, either. While there were a lot of hard feelings on both sides of the divorce, it was kept off Facebook and our mutual friends weren't asked to pick sides. I felt good about that, and I still do. What I'm finding, though, is that much of my feelings from that time have been entirely unexplored in my writing. So, I think that topic was something I grabbed out of desperation on the first morning of the workshop, and that first poem just opened the floodgates. It was cathartic, and it was therapeutic, too. I feel lighter as a result. I really don't know if those poems will go any further, but a few of them have some promise. I'm grateful for having written them. 

As for the rest of the week, the craft talks were insightful, and I met some truly wonderful poets in my fellow participants. I am hopeful that a few of us might start writing together via Zoom on occasion, or at the very least, workshop each other's drafts. The poets leading this week were gracious and brilliant and encouraging and very human. All writers have a public persona, so my impressions of them, even the poets who I've seen read before, are richer because of this experience. They each had something valuable to impart to us. 

I had a few instances of feeling less than worthy of the experience, because the work I was generating is not indicative of my practiced, revised work--but I worked hard to quash these feelings and not get caught up in worrying about who was better than me and who acted as though they thought they were better than me. That competitive edge to workshop is a bad habit I picked up in graduate school. I feel I focus much more now on what is working in another poet's writing, and I am working on asking questions versus making suggestions for revision. This week was great practice, and honestly--my fellow participants had a lot to offer. They pointed out choices in repetition I'd not really been aware of, and on point of view, and I took lots of notes in order to apply "what's working" to other poems. I am so glad I applied, and I will apply again in two years when I'm permitted to try again.

One of the participants whose work I really liked has entered at least a few of the first book awards that I've entered this year--I only know so because he made the list of finalists for one of them. His work is incredible, and I don't think it will be long before he's offered a contract. I look forward to reading his work in print.

Well, that entry is all over the place. I'll be back to writing with a bit more frequency now that finals are over and the poetry week has concluded.

20 June 2021

Just a quick update, post orientation.

Yesterday afternoon was Community of Writers' orientation, so I spent several hours getting acclimated to what will happen for the rest of the week. 

We had to write a poem for this morning--to be uploaded by 8 am--so it was a difficult thing to manage this morning. We didn't really have any craft talks yesterday, so it was without a prompt. I don't think my poem is great, but I did draft something, which is a step in the right direction. 

Yesterday, as we began, poet Brenda Hillman said that earning a place in the workshop is fairly competitive. She went on to say something akin to, "if you received an invitation to attend this week, then someone read your poems and really loved them." What a wonderful way to think about the process of selection. 

This morning, our first full day of work, I am assigned to work with Sharon Olds. I wish my poem was better, but I am still really looking forward to the experience. Excitement is outweighing anxiety. Robert Hass is attending as a participant this summer, and he's in my morning session with Sharon Olds. 

I may as well get all of the nervousness out of the way by jumping right into the deep end.

19 June 2021

Today is the day! It's the start of the Summer Poetry Workshop!

I am really excited that the Community of Writers' Summer Poetry Workshop is finally here--we begin at 2:00 pm today! 

I finished up with school on Tuesday afternoon--I had to work five 12-hour days in a row, through last weekend, to get everything done, but I was able to add an auto-reply to my email and leave UCC behind until July 5th when summer school begins. (I'm only teaching one literature course, so it will take up a small fraction of my time.)

This spring term was really rough--I was so busy, I felt, all the time. I was up for my five-year evaluation this year, so during a pandemic, I was also pushing myself to return student work with grades at a break-neck pace, just so my response time was impeccable (I am sure no one checked--but it made me feel good to know I could be that responsive under the pressures of this remote work year). I had some trouble with a student this term, too, and that took up a good deal of free time. I haven't been writing, and I've not been submitting as regularly. Fortunately, I still have work out in the world, but I need to spend some time in the next week or two getting my submissions updated and sending out new work into the world. 

So, this impending workshop couldn't have fallen at a better time. I've had a few days off to sleep and relax, and starting today, I'll have craft talks and interactions with authors and participants to inspire me and motivate me. I am really looking forward to using this week-long workshop as an opportunity to recharge and generate some new work. I love that we'll be focusing on new poetry each day--I'm guaranteed to have at least seven new poems by this time next week, and I'm thrilled about that prospect. 

We did receive our schedules for the week, and each participant gets to work with each instructor once . . . but we work with one instructor two times. My "two time" instructor is Kazim Ali, which I am really excited about. I am new to reading his work, but it's beautiful, and I can't wait to learn from him. 

So, I will likely not be posting any updates this coming week, but starting on June 27th, look out. I will be done with the workshop and looking to focus my energies on my poetry.

01 June 2021

Treading Water.

It's Week 10 of spring term, and next week is Final Exam Week. I am buried in grading and general prep work for the end of the term, yet I can't believe it's been over two weeks since I posted to the blog. 

I haven't been writing, and frankly, I've wasted a lot of time while dealing with my knee injury. I'm now going to physical therapy, and I meet with an orthopod on the 8th, so I'm hopefully close to the end of my knee being an excuse. 

Just this week, though, I did move a pile of brick pavers that have been stacked against my house since I bought the place 3.5 years ago. I moved just a few bricks at a time, never overexerting myself. I used my garden cart to carry the bricks, too. I made two circular raised flower beds out of them, and I have enough left for a third bed, but I'm not sure if it's in the cards. I want to leave enough room in the back yard to add a fruit tree this fall.The great part of adding these beds is that it's where I've been able to throw all the clumps of lawn and sod that I'd dug up to add those blueberry bushes earlier this spring. Eventually this summer, I plan to move my whole compost pile into the second of those empty beds, and let it continue to decompose until next spring.

Today it's supposed to hit 99 degrees, and I don't have air conditioning. Hopefully, I'll be getting a new ductless system installed in the next few weeks, but I'm left to suffer in the meantime. Yesterday it was 90, and it was bearable, but it didn't cool off overnight like I'd hoped. 

So, I'm cooped up in the house, windows closed, and I'm trying to slog through the last two recommendation reports I need to grade for my technical writing course. 

I'm trying to take baby steps toward getting back to the home improvement chores that I had to abandon when I was hurt. I'm hoping to get the living room painted before the HVAC guys come, but I just don't know if it's going to happen yet.

12 May 2021

A Personal Day.

I decided to take a personal day today--middle of the week, end of the year, for no real reason. I am still dealing with a bum knee, so my original thought was to go out to the coast and walk on the sand or shop a bit, but I don't think my knee can go like that yet. (I ended up with bursitis in late March, from working in the garden.) 

However, I did go to the post office, and I walked through Goodwill for the first time in at least a year, and I looked at flowers at Lowe's for a short bit. My knee started aching a little, but no twisting or clicking or threatening to give out. I didn't push it, and I'm on the couch for the rest of the day. 

At Goodwill, I found a great little Mexican terracotta bird, and a small turquoise, three-bowl dish that I plan to use for holding earrings/safety pins in the bathroom. OH! And I found a really great pair of 18" tall Christmas trees made out of mother of pearl. I usually pass up holiday decor in summer, but these were 4.00 each, and really striking, and I'm always looking for more shelf-filling decor for the winter holidays.

The garden plans for this year have been hijacked by this knee injury, though--I'd planned on expanding the back yard flower beds, and planting a fruit tree, but it's not happening now. I did get one long new bed added, and I put in two blueberry bushes and transplanted some lupines there. I have a lilac bush I'd still like to plant, but it's going to have to wait until June or July, because that knee is not ready to for heavy digging or tearing up more lawn right now. This fall, I will definitely be adding a fruit tree, and hopefully a few grapevines, too.

My raised beds in the front yard are already filled with veggie starts, and I bought some sweet basil and marigolds to add there. I am still getting a few spears of asparagus every week, the strawberries are in heavy blossom, and my sugar snap peas are getting tall. Everything is growing as fast as it can, and I've already been watering for weeks now. It was a warm, dry spring.

Anyhow. I was still up early this morning, as usual, and I sent a ton of poems out into the world. I sent work to SHiFT: A Journal of Literary Oddities, to juked, and to The MacGuffin. I also sent submissions to The Ilanot Review and Poetry South. I actually had a poem published by juked while I was working on my MFA at Chatham. So, my submission total is back up to 60--sixty presses are considering either a small selection of poems or the full-length manuscript. 

According to Duotrope, I have sent out 594 poems in the last 12 months.