Monday, March 29, 2010

Two Days to NaPoWriMo



As usual, I will be posting my poem-drafts here from the beginning until the end of April, and then they'll all disappear due to the magick of the interwebs fairies. I may occasionally send you to other blogs to see what's up there, too. I'm having a difficult time getting into the right groove for this year. It will, considering the family's health, be the worst year ever for me to keep up, so I'm giving myself a head start and posting a draft tonight that I wrote a few days ago. I want to be a couple poems ahead of the game, so I don't stress when I miss a day, as will do. This one needs a new ending, but I haven't seen it yet. :-/


Dowsing

The forest for the trees, he said as the cows lowed.
The sun dropped behind the mountain in blue-orange fire.

First you sit a minute to clear your mind,
he said, and plopped down on a chunk of granite.

Closed his eyes. I watched his eyelids tremble and still.
Best is wood, he said finally, hold a forked branch

with a hand on each side of the fork and relax your
palms. Soon you'll feel the water pull at you like

a real strong wind. After a few moments he said,
this wood's no good for witching water. He straightened

some wire hangers into elongated L shapes with a belt tool.
Now here you hold the small bit of the L in each hand.

Hold them in front of you till the bars cross. There's
your water. He closed his eyes. My father with us

closed his eyes. I kept mine open to see the wires
cross into an X. Mark the spot, he said. And went

to his knees slowly to thank the Lord. My dad
lit a cigarette and sighed. Uncle Marty handed me

the military shovel, olive-green with purpose.
Now dig, he said. There's your wellspring.

The ground soft and loamy. I dug and dug.
Eventually we drilled, and found nothing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New Poetry Press--Birds, LLC



I haven't had a great deal of time lately to surf for new poetry 'stuff,' though it's one of my favorite websurfing pastimes, but I did find a new poetry press doing cool things recently. A group of friends got together and created a press for the purposes of both publishing and self-publishing, not uncommon these days, and probably the way the small press poetry ought to work, optimally. Besides being a great idea, Birds LLC began with a near-nuclear bang, as far as I'm concerned, as their first two books are by folks I greatly admire: Chris Tonelli and Elisa Gabbert. I'll let the interview with Chris stand in for most of what I'd like to say on the topic.


Or not. If you want to publish poems, fuck the contest circuit, stop slavering at the asses of the poets around, under, below and above you, and start a small press. There can never be too many. Your poems will find readers, though not without a lot of work on your part, but you'll end up with the tribe that is right for you eventually. Link to other small presses, buy their chaps, read their books, talk 'em up when you like 'em, and just keep at it.


Shake what your mama gave ya.


Okay, so I had more to say.







I'm sure we'll hear a lot more from these folks before many years pass. This text is swiped from the Constant Conversation, the blog of the Quarterly Conversation, where Carrie Olivia Adams interviews Chris Tonelli of Birds, LLC.



Tell us a little about the history of your press, where the idea came from, and what makes your press unique.
At the AWP conference in Austin a few years back, Sam Starkweather—one of the founders/editors of Birds, LLC—put BIRDS, INC. on his nametag as his affiliation . . . as a joke, and since then we’ve had this theoretical poetry entity called BIRDS, INC. And the more we noticed that there was a lot of poetry out there that we all loved that wasn’t getting anywhere on the contest circuit, the more we wanted to make that entity a book press. At the time, one of the other founders/editors, Justin Marks, had just started Kitchen Press and was putting out chapbooks in this vein, so we knew we had his process experience to lean on. Then, like a lot of things you repetitively joke about, they become real. And at some point last year we started getting serious . . . thinking about the manuscripts, thinking about the website, editing the manuscripts, etc. Sam and Dan Boehl (another founder/editor) figured out the business/financial side of things and we became an official company here in North Carolina. As it turns out, getting incorporated is harder than becoming an LLC, et voila! Birds, LLC. Which we kind of like better . . . sounds even colder and more business-y than Inc. Then Sam and Elisa Gabbert (Birds, LLC author . . .The French Exit) really worked on her book, and Justin and I worked hard on mine (The Trees Around), until we had finished, polished books. Justin got his unreal book designer, Joshua Elliot, on board and then signed on and worked with Friesens, and we had our covers/interiors and our printer. Matt Rasmussen (founder/editor) and I are working on distribution (Amazon, SPD, etc.) so we can get these books out in the world.
We’ll see what makes our press unique . . . I think it’s too early to tell. What we know we offer are good looking books, a real working relationship between an author and an editor, and the support authors need to promote their work. Too often friends of ours would win contests, and their publishers were so uninvolved in the shaping of the manuscript, in getting readings, interviews, reviews—in promotion in general— and too rigid in their approach to book design. All of which is stuff I simply just don’t get. If you love books enough to have a press, why wouldn’t you want to help the author edit them? Why wouldn’t you want to sell as many copies for you and your authors as possible? Why wouldn’t you want them to look terrific? It’s baffling the indifference a lot of presses have towards their own books. I mean, what’s the point?
One of my favorite recent publishing stories also began at that Austin AWP . . . There was this great reading at an outdoor bar, and one of the readers was Zach Schomburg. The thing I remember best was the title line from the title poem of his latest book: “you should say / no scary.” Anyway, afterward, Black Ocean publisher Janaka Stucky approached him about his manuscript. Long story short…we now have The Man Suit and Scary, No Scary. But besides all that, the part I like best is the extensive editorial processes the manuscripts went through. It was the first time I’d heard my contemporaries talk about that . . . having a real back and forth with an editor about the work they wanted to publish. Certainly Black Ocean [This is where I, the interviewer, should note that I help Janaka edit poetry for Black Ocean and Chris was formerly the online marketing manager] is in many ways an ideal publishing model—great books that look fantastic, a concerned and active editorial staff, enthusiastic promotion, etc.
Read more.




Tuesday, March 23, 2010

AI 1947-2010



I discovered AI between the time I left graduate school and when I wrote steadily for ten years before I published anything. That fun period--let's call it, oh, 1999. I taught three comp courses at Emerson College, and two at Northeastern University, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The other days of the week I worked at Trident Booksellers on Newbury Street, and it was during that time, most likely stocking the shelves, I found her. It wasn't just what the Poetry Foundation bio calls her "uncompromising poetic vision and bleak dramatic monologues which give voice to marginalized, often poor and abused speakers," it was the sheer flux of her line, the skin-slipping dramatic monologues and the unabashed sexuality. Why is that women are more frank about sex and better able to write about real sex, as opposed the sometimes dreamy, sometimes porny world of male sex-writing? Question for another time. In any case, I immediately fell in love with her poems, and  I always remember the first poem by a new poet. Here it is, with another one I like nearly as well:



Twenty-year Marriage

You keep me waiting in a truck
with its one good wheel stuck in the ditch,
while you piss against the south side of a tree.
Hurry. I’ve got nothing on under my skirt tonight.
That still excites you, but this pickup has no windows
and the seat, one fake leather thigh,
pressed close to mine is cold.
I’m the same size, shape, make as twenty years ago,
but get inside me, start the engine;
you’ll have the strength, the will to move.
I’ll pull, you push, we’ll tear each other in half.
Come on, baby, lay me down on my back.
Pretend you don’t owe me a thing
and maybe we’ll roll out of here,
leaving the past stacked up behind us;
old newspapers nobody’s ever got to read again.

The Kid

My sister rubs the doll’s face in mud,
then climbs through the truck window.
She ignores me as I walk around it,
hitting the flat tires with an iron rod.
The old man yells for me to help hitch the team,
but I keep walking around the truck, hitting harder,
until my mother calls.
I pick up a rock and throw it at the kitchen window,
but it falls short.
The old man’s voice bounces off the air like a ball
I can’t lift my leg over.

I stand beside him, waiting, but he doesn’t look up
and I squeeze the rod, raise it, his skull splits open.
Mother runs toward us. I stand still,
get her across the spine as she bends over him.
I drop the rod and take the rifle from the house.
Roses are red, violets are blue,
one bullet for the black horse, two for the brown.
They’re down quick. I spit, my tongue’s bloody;
I’ve bitten it. I laugh, remember the one out back.
I catch her climbing from the truck, shoot.
The doll lands on the ground with her.
I pick it up, rock it in my arms.
Yeah. I’m Jack, Hogarth’s son.
I’m nimble, I’m quick.
In the house, I put on the old man’s best suit
and his patent leather shoes.
I pack my mother’s satin nightgown
and my sister’s doll in the suitcase.
Then I go outside and cross the fields to the highway.
I’m fourteen. I’m a wind from nowhere.
I can break your heart.


You can find surprisingly little written about her life or death on the interwebs, though I'm going to point you toward what I've found so far.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Charles Olson Centenary Celebration


As for me, I'm a third of the way through the massive Maximus Poems and not likely to return to it anytime soon. The energy spent on it didn't always pan out for me. Anybody have other Olson I should know? I've read several volumes of the Creeley-Olson correspondence, which have been much more edifying than Olson's poetry, I'm sorry to say. But it is his centenary, and he should be centenarianized. I just don't cotton to his stuff much, myself.
Charles Olson was a complicated man who wrote complicated poetry.
 The Worcester native was also a big man — 6 feet 8 inches — who still casts quite a shadow and presence in 2010, his centennial year. A “Charles Olson Centenary Celebration” being held in Worcester this week will draw a number of guest poets and scholars, and include performances, workshops, a symposium, and even the screening of a film about Olson’s life, “Polis Is This,” narrated by John Malkovich. 
“It’s turning into quite a notable event,” said Mark Wagner, program chairman and a member of the Worcester County Poetry Association, one of the centenary sponsors. “It’s been a ton of work, but at the same time there’s a real tribe of ‘Olson-ites’ who are going to come together.” 
Events this week are scheduled to include “Project Verse” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, a reading at Clark University led by students at Worcester-area colleges; a talk and poetry reading at WPI Thursday by nationally renowned poet Anne Waldman; and symposium discussions Friday and Saturday on an array of topics ranging from “Olson’s Politics/Poetics of Transnational Utopia” to “Charles Olson and The Blackstone Canal.” More.

The Worcester County Poetry Association sponsors the Olson Centenary, and you can find the relevant pages here. Many poets are reading and panelling here, and it's no doubt worth your time.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In Which I Promote Some of My Lovely and Talented Friends

I have many many poet friends but three are dear to my heart. I'm going to link them because I can. Probably best-known among them is Timothy Gager, a one-man publishing machine. He also runs the Dire Literary Series, co-founded the Somerville News Writer's Festival, and edits fiction for the Wilderness House Literary Review. You can find his poems in Night Train and many other places around the web.



Sue Miller is a founding editor at GUD and has published poems all over the place, too. notably in FRiGG, Thieves Jargon, and in Night Train. Never let it be said I don't take care of my friends. :-) Good thing their work all holds up.

Last but not least, Kenneth L. Clark. He's kept a somewhat lower profile than most poets today, but that's going to change here very soon. Poor Mojo's Almanack, Story Garden, Fried Chicken and Coffee is where you can find some of his stuff.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Breaking it Down

I'm making a final push--well, maybe not final entirely--to sell copies of my collection of flash fiction, Breaking it Down, from sunnyoutside press, under the stellar publisher/editor David McNamara. You can see reviews and interview links here on the publisher's page, or on Goodreads. It can be purchased through sunnyoutside or on Amazon, though it's always better to order from the publisher in the case of small presses.


I feel a little odd promoting this on my blog dedicated to poetry, both mine and other folks, but it's my personal blog too, more or less.


And if flash fiction is not your bag, baby, later this year I'll have an as-yet-untitled collection of traditional-length stories out, also from sunnyoutside, as well as a decent-sized chapbook of my poetry, which I'll be self-publishing under the Fried Chicken and Coffee moniker. Why? Because I can. Because likely no one else will. Because I want to make it purty. Because I want the opportunity to do other people's chapbooks of poetry, too, and I figure I'll iron out the process and any mistakes on my chap rather than someones else's. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Carol Peters' Sixty Some: A Revisitation




Back in September, I wrote a little bit about Carol Peters and the new project she'd begun: self-publishing her book Sixty Some in nearly every electronic format known, more or less to see what would happen, and as she says "to get the poems off [her] hands," to work on new ventures, and to learn how to publish a book electronically. I wrote her back recently to see how the book panned out, now that some time has passed.


Did you feel the book was successful?

Yes, I did. It satisfied my immediate goals, which were to get the poems off my hands (so I could move on with new work) and to learn how to publish a book electronically. 


Did it feel as if it made its way around the poem-world, or was it more a tight cadre of people who acquired it?

I heard from many of my poetry friends who either read the book online or bought it for their Kindles. I have no idea whether anyone is buying the book from Amazon or other electronic book resellers. If they are, the numbers are too small for me to be paid, and that was what I expected. My webstats indicate that one-to-five people visit Apobiz Press for an average of 1.5 minutes per visitor per day, so those folks must be reading a poem or two. I frequently hear from people who read my poems online and from editors who ask me to send work, so that's all a treat for me.

Would you do it again?

If you mean would I publish electronically again, yes, definitely. A few months ago I made the decision to stop submitting poems to journals (unless an editor solicits me) and am posting my new finished poems on my blog. When I have enough poems for a book, and/or if I feel like making another book, I will.

Have you plans to publish any other poets?

Not with today's technology—it's too difficult with no standards. I think Apple & Google will sort that out over the next couple of years. Amazon and others will go along with whatever standard develops.

What's on the horizon for you poem-wise or book-wise?

I live. I read. I write. I returned yesterday from two months on our farm in Hawaii where I wrote far more poems than expected. We work outdoors on the land, and since the weather was usually dry, we were out nearly every day. Still, I found myself writing poems early in the morning and while easing off in the late afternoon.

I also have three book-length manuscripts out to print publishers. The books are my translations of the work of a Bolivian poet with whom I've been working for about a year and a half. I have excerpts from one of those books coming out in journals later this year. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Halvard Johnson's The Perfection of Mozart's Third Eye

Via Ron Silliman:

Read Halvard Johnson's Sonnets. I don't know him from Adam, honestly, except through Facebook first and then the idle clickthrough to work I enjoyed. But I like his poems. That's too many links in those few words. Oh well--here's one more: Chalk Editions.

I haven't read the entire thing yet, just enough to know they're very good poems, and it's a mammoth 200-some pages, so I have a lot to look forward to. Here's an early favorite.

Elegy Just in Case

A public life is what he led. Baseball, not books, gave him
ballast. A ball launched out of the Polo Grounds in 1951
lodged in his head, which fondled its curves and seams
when there was nothing else worth thinking about.

Holy relics of memory, taken down from the shelves, change
hands quietly, among the finer calibrations of kinesthetic
fervor. Mystery or metaphysics. Could you choose just one?

Next to impossible, an over-the-shoulder catch on the centerfield
track. No longer any need to say what might have happened,
rolling down the drainpipe of history, truly lost for all time.
Taking discontinuity for granted, he angled for the sidelines,

watching it go, its generosity noticed only by those not blinded
by the late afternoon sun. Over the fence, in his neighbor’s
yard, hearing a strange sound, wondering what it was.

His homepage is here.