You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2012.
Today, I’m taking part in the My Most Beautiful Thing Blogsplash, to promote Fiona Robyn‘s newest novel, The Most Beautiful Thing. I’ve been motivated and inspired by Fiona and Kaspa’s work after I discovered a handful of stones last fall, so I’m happy to join in this celebration of Fiona’s work.
To see what other Blogsplashers are writing about, click here for the full list of participants.
And as a bonus, Fiona is offering up her novel for free download today and tomorrow. What more incentive do you need to get a copy?
So, without further ado, here is my most beautiful thing.
Last year, my poem “Traversing Houston by Bus” was accepted for the 2012 Texas Poetry Calendar. A few weeks after that, I was talking with Cindy Huyser, one of the Calendar co-editors. She said she liked the poem because it wasn’t “Oh Texas, my Texas.” There was love, but also ambivalence.
I worked on that poem for about three months, and the ambivalence in the poem ended up surprising me. Because, while I frequently say that I don’t like Houston, that was the city where I first felt completely at home in Texas. I’d been in love with Austin before I first even moved here in 2008, but it took about two years before the rest of Texas grew on me.
My dance partner and I were on a party bus in Houston with a group of people from D’Amico Dance, traveling around Houston and doing a west coast swing flash mob in various parts of the city. It was somewhere on the freeway that I felt one of the most profoundly joyful moments of my life. My best friend and I were on this bus with near-strangers, laughing, dancing, and having a great time. That was the moment when Texas–not just Austin–became home, became my most beautiful thing.
It’s not just Austin and Houston, either. It’s the wineries on 290 leading out to Fredericksburg. It’s Enchanted Rock. It’s the cute bookshops in San Antonio. It’s Marfa, Alpine, Terlingua, Big Bend, Valentine, Marathon, and the rest of West Texas. Since that day on the bus in Houston, I’ve become more invested in Texas. And while I haven’t seen even half of it, I love it more and more each day. Austin will always be my home base, but Texas as a whole inspires me every day.
There are times when I get homesick for Ohio. There are times I ponder moving to Manhattan, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Buenos Aires, Sydney, or any of the other hundreds of cities in the world I might love. But I can’t ever really imagine leaving. Not for very long. And even if I was gone on an extended trip, say 6 months to a year, I would want to know I’d be coming back.
Yes, there are times I’m ambivalent about Texas. It shows up in almost every Texas poem I write. Sometimes, the heat gets too much, even for me (and the warmer, the better for me). And there’s much to dislike about Texas politics. Or the traffic in all of the major cities. Or the fact that even Austin isn’t all that pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.
But ambivalence does not mean a lack of love. Texas isn’t perfect, but it’s home. I and while I don’t believe in the concept of each writer having a Muse, the state as a whole comes pretty darn close. To me, there’s nothing more beautiful than this.
Over at Harriet, Rachel Zucker wrote a post noting that it’s important for poets to define the kind of poetry we write. She then did a two-part post (Part One here; Part Two here) in which various poets described (or attempted to describe, because it’s difficult) their kind of poetry. Because I believe this is a fruitful exercise, I decided to try to define my own work, and I’ve been pondering it all weekend.
First, I started with what I don’t write about: current events and politics. Which, admittedly, I sometimes feel guilty about. Why aren’t I using my words as sources of protest, to inspire change? Should my work be so disconnected from the world. Except that I’m not an especially political person. Whatever activist impulses I have, I’d rather not channel them through poetry. If I did, poetry would become less enjoyable for me. Also, although I have been dancing for twenty years (longer than I’ve been writing!), for whatever reason, I don’t write poems about dance. I really don’t know why.
From there, it was pretty easy to come up with the themes that recur in my poems: landscape and geography (especially Texas); travel (related to landscape and geography, but different enough that I consider it a separate theme); the interplay between agápe, éros, and philia (I distinguish between these three words because I think the term “love” is too generic and ambiguous); and family (both biological and chosen). I’ve also been writing poems about math and physics lately, but it’s too soon to tell whether these will become enduring themes. I’d say of the themes, travel is the most common, though the others definitely pull their weight.
But I also wanted to see if I could condense it further. And after much consideration, I think the kind of poetry I write is poetry of ambivalence. Even when I’m writing about things I love, ambivalence and conflict show up. I was at a reading in Houston in September, and realized that none of the poems I considered my best were unilaterally unambivalent. I’ve written reams about Texas, a state I adore, but nothing completely flattering. The one love poem that made it into my chapbook manuscript has enough juxtaposition in it that there are undercurrents of ambivalence. And ultimately, that’s because I don’t like writing poems that are simply positive or negative. That’s not as fun. That’s not as challenging. I can write a sonnet skewering something that annoys me, or I can write a laudatory ode, but as a poet, I prefer to write pieces that can’t help but find the negative and positive coexisting. I like to write poems that can’t have blinders.
It will be interesting to revisit this idea every couple of years. The poetry I write now isn’t necessarily going to be the same ten years down the line. These themes and ideas seem very essential to me now, but I imagine that sooner or later, I might be done talking about them. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
Back in December, I set myself several writing goals for 2012. One was to submit a total of 52 poems in 2012.
Tonight, while trying to decide where I wanted to submit some writing, I took a look at my WritersDB.com home page and found that I’ve already well exceeded my plan for the year.
That’s correct! I have submitted a total of 70 poems so far in 2012! Which means theoretically, I could stop now, having accomplished my goal. But of course that’s not going to happen. Eight months without submitting anything? That wouldn’t do me any good at all. It’s just nice to know that I’ve already more than taken care of one item in my list so early in the year. Especially because I’m a little behind on the prose aspects of my list…
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, littlewonder2 challenged me with “Write 42 words about a character lost in the dark.” and I challenged lisa with “Write a piece in which the entirety of the plot takes place in a fast food restaurant.”
I know I’m doomed because the bright stars can’t provide me any guidance. Think of all the travelers who learned how to use them. If only I had taken time to understand the symbols, to decipher the messages, to decode the meanings.
To read more about the piece, click below the fold.
I turned twenty-eight yesterday! Huzzah! And with that comes an update of my page of life goals. Now I have twenty-eight things I want to do before I turn twenty-nine. Except I currently only have twenty-one. But as it says on the page, I have a whole year to come up with stuff.
I thought about copying the “27 Goals” list and going through what I did and did not accomplish, but I decided against it, for a couple of reasons. First, there were a lot of things on the list I started at 27 (learning math, starting a west coast swing routine) that were too large in scope to finish before I turned 28 (with the routine, it was largely because I started so late in my year). But I don’t consider myself to have failed at goals-in-progress. In addition, there were some goals I didn’t accomplish because I made them soon after I turned 27, and as my year progressed, they became less and less important for one reason or another.
I put my monthly goals on this blog in order to have some level of accountability (and you will notice some overlap between the items on this list and the things I report on at the start of each month). But many of the 28 Goals are just for fun, and I don’t want to report on every single success or failure. So enjoy the list, check back periodically to see what gets crossed off, and enjoy my adventures!
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Wendryn challenged me with “‘All our kids are screaming but the ghosts aren’t real’ U2, Get On your Boots” and I challenged Dara with “‘That’s what livin’ in the city does, man. Stick your song in your throat.’ — George Carlin”
On Second Thought, Call an Exorcist
We’ve called the specialists — psychics and hunters. They’ve brought crystals, Geiger counters, incense, cameras. All they find is a dead zone. Normal electronic activity. Fine china still on display. Television working just fine.
What does a soul weigh? Is the total more or less than bones, muscle, lungs, skin? Can the tensile strength of tendons support two of them?
We’ve been hunting in all the wrong places. We’ve searched the cold rooms and rough corners, but perhaps ghosts seek warmer homes. Perhaps the heart can stretch to hold another life. Perhaps the brain could make an excellent backup facility.
To read more about the piece, click below the fold.
Despite March being a very busy month, I got some great reading done. Here’s what made my list for the month:
Kelli Russell Agodon and Annette Spaulding-Convy, eds. - Fire on Her Tongue: An eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry
Ardent! 6.2, December 2011 (Yes, I am perpetually behind on literary journals.)
Poets and Writers, March/April 2012 (finished from last month)
Arthur Rimbaud – A Season in Hell/The Drunken Boat
All in all, I was blown away by pretty much everything I read this month. Rimbaud wasn’t quite my cup of tea, but everything else was inspiring. Here’s hoping my reading in April is just as enlightening.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Sir challenged me with “‘When does the fun start?’, he asked, blood dripping slowly from the knife in his right hand.” and I challenged Cedar with “Write a narrative constructed out of a series of haiku.”
Note: You might have guessed from the prompt, but this post is going to have a bit of gore to it.
Nicholas tried to take a deep, calming breath, but choked on the stench of blood. It’s not that he was unfamiliar with the scent – it was his job to endure a whole host of unpleasant smells. But it was different this time. This was unlike any job he’d ever had to complete before.
“You – you said this was going to be fun,” Nicholas managed to choke out. Blood dripped from the knife he held in his right hand, forming a puddle on the top of his shoe.
Augustine shook his head. “Soon, my boy, you’ll learn to love the art of the kill. Don’t be discouraged by how much of a struggle this job was. I’m very proud of your first attempt.”
Nicholas swallowed against the convulsions of his stomach, grateful for once that he hadn’t been able to afford food that day.
“After your apprenticeship,” Augustine continued, “you won’t just be the best tanner in the country. You’ll be a superior slaughterer, too.”
“Just one question, Master. Cow and sheep hides are already a viable source for leather. What is the point in taking human skins?”
This time, it was Augustine’s laugh that made Nicholas’s stomach cramp.
“All in good time, my boy. There is still so much for you to learn.”
To read more about the piece, click below the fold.
March was a busy month! I ended up not being as productive as I would have liked, but considering how frantic I was, I’m pretty pleased with what I did pull of. Here’s what I ended up doing this month:
- Wrote 41 poems
- Submitted 24 poems
- Submitted my chapbook manuscript
- Finished the March stage of my ghostwriting project
- Made progress on completing my unfinished short stories, as well as submitting three of them
- Began doing research for NaNoWriMo 2012 (Yes, I know it’s months away. But my idea is going to require a lot of research, so it’s best if I start now.)
I did not:
- Complete a first draft of a new fiction piece
- Do enough research on the epic poem I plan to write this month. Oh well. I’ll be writing it anyway. I can always fill in the gaps during the revision process.
- Finish my poetry table.
I wasn’t as productive as I would have liked, but considering how busy I was and just how many weekends were devoted to either a wedding or dance, I did pretty well for myself. April is a new month, and though I’m busy with dance stuff, it’s pretty much all local. There’s the possibility for a Dallas rehearsal at some point, but not until after the Austin competition mid-month.
So here’s what I hope to accomplish during National Poetry Month:
- Continue my regular write/revise/submit poetry practice
- Finish one more in-progress fiction piece and submit it
- Continue with my NaNoWriMo 2012 research
- Finish my poetry table
- Take a second stab at writing my epic poem.
My literary year is definitely shaping up! Even though only a handful of the poems I write are ones I choose for further revision and submission (5-10), I’m well on my way to having a first draft of a full collection by the end of the year. That, ultimately, is what I want. Not that I don’t want to be successful with fiction or my NaNoWriMo project, but poetry has always been my first love, and I feel like things are finally starting to move in the direction I want. Eyes on the prize!
Of course, I’d love your vote. But I also don’t want you to vote for me just because you know me. I have some really excellent competition, and if I’m going to lose, I wouldn’t be ashamed to lose to them. So I simply encourage you to read the amazing writers who were selected, and vote honestly.