Wednesday, November 28, 2012

As I Put a Book Together

So far, my book is like a series of fun house mirrors: I recognize me, the poems recognize each other, but it's hard to figure out where all of it starts or how to pull it all back together into one mirror--the concave kind that reflects the whole of a person in some distorted, otherworldly way.

In addition to how I want to arrange my first book (in a way that surprises me as much as the reader) and which poems I'd like to include in it (poems that surprise me as much as the reader), I've been thinking a lot about the poems I want to write going forward.  It'd be good to write some lighter poems so the few folks who read them don't want to fill their pockets with stones and go wading.  But I don't write much that is good when I want to write it.  Let's say, for instance, I want to write a Dickinson-like poem. I'd suck at writing that.  It'd be a terrible poem.  I need to lighten up.

I'll admit now that I struggle to read through a whole book of one person's poems. I can read an anthology, but I tend to get bored with one consistent voice, one story.  Another thing about me and books of poems: it takes me a LONG time to read a poem.  A book of poems 50 takes about the amount of time I spend on a 200 page novel.  So, maybe this is why I'm struggling to put a book together?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When is a Prose Poem Not a Poem? When it's ajar?

I subscribe to the Academy of American Poet's Poem-A-Day and therefore receive a poem each day in my inbox.  Somedays (ok, many more than some), I delete them. If I have 10 minutes to read a poem that day, it will be a poem I want to read, not one that mysteriously appears.  Other days, like yesterday, I'm  in the mood for poems and have nothing particular in mind, so I'm happy to be surprised.

I'm usually not too disappointed in the poems I get.  For instance, one day, I received Gergory Sherl's poem, "Two Minus One,"which happened to be the exact poem I wanted to read that day.  Another nice thing about the AAP brand of P-a-D is that you can click on "Related Poems," and they will point you to other (sometimes) great poems, like "Beach Walk," by Henri Cole. WOWZAH.

Some days, I read the day's poem and think: "Oh? Someone likes this?" 

Yesterday, I didn't get a poem in my email. I got a story. A good story, albeit, but I'm struggling to find the poem in it. "A Fairy Tale," by Jennifer L. Knox. It's is a terrible, sad story (terrible & sad in the best way possible).

Of course, talking about the problem of prose poems is boring, so I won't.  My first time at AWP a few years ago, I sat in on a (surprisingly entertaining) panel in which Tony Hoagland and a few other poets & writers discussed the matter for an hour without any sense of closure. Now, I'm exhausted by the matter and don't care.  I like very few of them.  In general, when I look for a poem and find myself inside a big chunk of text without room to breathe, I look around for the nearest exit.

Once, at a party, I was telling a writer I'd just met about this fantastic panel I'd attended at Harvard on sentiment in poetry.  Rachel Zucker was there, and she was amazing, and she hugged me because I was crying... it's a good story. I'll tell it sometime, but not now. The point is that I told this fellow about how much I loved Rachel Zucker, and he asked, "Oh, so you like (what did he call it? Confessional? No... I can't remember) such-n-such kind of poetry," and I was confused.  If I like a poet, does it mean I like a style of poetry?  Definitely not. (She, by the way, is my favorite one-person poet.)  If I like a prose poem, do I like prose poems?  No. I like that one prose poem.

It's important that a poem knows me well enough to be willing to crawl into bed with me and try to spoon me, knowing I might elbow it in the teeth.  It has to want to hold my hand in public.  When I read Museum of Accidents, I wept and laughed for 1/2 hour on the T in Boston.  I never noticed anyone else was on the train with me until I got to the end of the line and realized I'd missed my stop.  The same for Brigit Pegeen Kelly's Song (but that was on the bus). 

Each year when the sun starts setting before I've started dinner, I go through a poetry identity crisis.  I reconsider poetry's place in my life and in the world and why it matters.  (Note: it is also rejection & acceptance season.)  Each fall, I start over by reading the poets who raised me & the poems that spoon-fed me when I was sick in bed, or stranded on a beach, or in love while walking on a sidewalk in some strange city.  And I feel good again.  I feel like the Grinch at the end of when he's stealing Christmas, and his heart busts out of its little cage.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

So Much to Do, So Little Headspace

I participated in another round of poem-a-day last month. Have I already mentioned this?  I was in a bit of a fog about it (last month was a bit foggy in general), but it was my most successful stab at it yet:  I wrote about 20 poems and a few starts of poem-like things.  I honestly don't remember writing half of them, so it's a little disorienting to read them now. But in a good way. Like someone else dug around in my head, pulled out some strings, and knit them together.  I'm happy about these poems I didn't remember writing. They're like $5 in the pocket of my winter coat.

During poem-a-day, I was looking through my old notebook for snippets I could use, and I stumbled upon this AMAZING poem, and thought, "Woah. When did I write this?!" Then I realized I hadn't written it. It was a poem by Zach Savich that I loved so much that I wrote it in my notebook.  At least I realized it before I started sharing it with people...

So, in addition to writing poems and recently having some poems accepted (hooray! details soon), and going to the Wisconsin Book Festival (which has been amazing) and the WFOP conference, and writing so much, I've also been DIYing like a home-schooling mom on speed. I went through this compulsive stay-at-home-mom-blog binge, and pinned the hell out of tutorials. Then, I spent days creating things.  I've macramed plant hangers, made clay beads, sewed together these adorable alphabet magnets for the twin baby nieces... my house is a disaster.

On that note. I just got an email from America's Test Kitchen reminding me that Thanksgiving is only 2 weeks away.  Hooray! I'm so excited it makes me want to nap!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When the Lights Go Down in the City

I'm happier now that we've fallen back than I was when we sprung ahead. It's wonderful to wake up with the sunshine. How strange to spend so much of my free time after work in the dark, though.

Last weekend, I went to the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Fall Conference in Stevens Point.  It was great to see so many poets in one place!  There were "serious" poets and weekend poets and divine-intervention poets. Old poets, (a few) young poets, funny poets, lofty poets... it reminded me that poetry plays a different role in people's lives.  How great that poetry is important enough to so many people that they'd drive to Stevens Point for the weekend! 

Oh! and I won this little book as a door prize, Out of the Black Forest, by F.J. Bergman, published by Centennial Press.  They had the most beautifully designed chapbooks on display.  Not only are the covers wonderful, but the detail inside blew my socks off. This isn't your grandma's small press!

Speaking of books: Wisconsin Book Festival kicks off on Wednesday, and I actually had to call in reinforcement (my mother-in-law) to help keep things in order at my house while I stay out every day/night book-festivaling.  Hooray, Book Fest!