You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2013.
The January portion of the 30/30 Project ended today. Thanks to everyone who donated as a result of our efforts. Your contributions are appreciated by press and poet alike.
Final inspirations: Patti Smith albums (specifically Gung Ho and Peace and Noise), Lewis Turco’s “Paren(t)hesis” exercise in Wingbeats, Afaa Michael Weaver’s “The Bop” exercise in Wingbeats, the smell of barbecue in the middle of the afternoon, Ravi Shankar’s “A Manipulated Fourteen-Line Poem” in Wingbeats, and Catherine Bowman’s “The Bermuda Triangle” exercise in Wingbeats.
The project also generated notice from Kenyon Review blogger Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers. I wrote a long comment at the post, and because I feel like it does a great job of summarizing why I undertook this project and what I got out of it, I’m going to reproduce that comment here:
As a Tupelo 30/30 participant, this challenge was an extension of my own practice. In 2012 I committed to drafting a poem a day. And I used the term “drafting” consciously. I did not have to finish a poem in a day. I just had to get a draft of a piece down on paper.
At the end of the year, maybe a third of what I wrote ended up getting revised and completed. Most of what I wrote ended up not going very far. But the point wasn’t to produce finished drafts every day. The point was to sit down and do the words to see what arose from discipline. And what arose was more quality work than I’d produced before, when I’d waited for inspiration to happen.
With the Tupelo 30/30, the goal intensified. For an entire month, I couldn’t have a bad day. Not once so far have I been able to say “Today’s words sucked, but oh well. I’ll leave them be and do better tomorrow.” Being able to have an off-day is a luxury. If a poem utterly failed, I had to start over until I got something worthwhile.
People were going to be reading everything I put up–-I couldn’t turn in awful work. My goal for the Tupelo project was to have something I would consider worthy of taking into my critique group. I don’t take rough drafts into that group; I take in poems that have potential, that will achieve fullness.
Some of my Tupelo poems I do consider finished work. Most are still in-progress. A few have already been taken to critique group. I know that not all of my pieces will resonate with all of our audience members, but I’m proud of the work I did. I’m also humbled by the work of the eight other poets who took this challenge with me in January. I’m continually impressed with the quality of their work.
A big thanks to T.M. De Vos, Shannon Hardwick, Lindsay Penelope Illich, Mike McGeehon, Janie Miller, Nina Pick, Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, and Margaret Young. I had an amazing month writing with you.
And best wishes to the February participants. I can’t wait to read your work.
Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be so silly, but I just couldn’t resist making that reference. What can I say? I’m giddy.
I found out that my poem, “Of Barbecue and Blood,” won third prize in the Southern Writers Symposium Emerging Writers Award. I was floored when I found out. I’m looking forward to planning a trip to North Carolina for the Symposium, and meeting my fellow winners, as well as all the other writers in attendance.
“Of Barbecue and Blood” is an abecedarian sonnet, and it discusses both food and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Those opposed to blood or horror movies might want to look away, because I’m posting the poem below.
Of Barbecue and Blood
Everyone knows it’s all about the sausage; that’s the good stuff,
going, then gone at the market, but most people relish
ignorance of how it’s made. I envision the hook, a metal J,
keeping up slabs of meat, and then a full
memory of Leatherface, Pam hung up like pork, and then
once that’s done, stuffed in the freezer, as though the health department might stop,
question the family about their hygiene practices. Celluloid horror
shaped my first opinions about Texas. Maybe that’s why when I set
up shop here, I went vegetarian for four years, no beef, no chicken kiev.
What years I wasted, fearing meat, but there’s only so much cheese-filled Tex-Mex
you can eat before you have to try the good stuff. They started me on Kruez,
Artz, then Southside, and learned a thing or two about sauce and rub.
Calm down, memory of monster movies. I’m not going home empty-handed.
Yep, I skipped an entire week of reporting. Blame real life getting in the way of blogging. But I’ve had a fun two weeks. There are some days when I feel drained at the prospect of writing an audience-ready poem before midnight. But I’m still having a great time, and I love getting to know the work of my fellow participants.
One of my favorite experiences so far happened on January 24th when, instead of writing our own poems, we collaborated on a renga via email. I love the way the poem moves from an exterior focus to an interior, domestic scene.
Inspirations over the past two weeks: high school French, the dreary weather (which seems to be on its way out, thank goodness), having to kill some pests and feeling guilty about it, Blas Falconer’s “Teaching Imagination” exercise in Wingbeats, Andrea Hollander Budy’s “The Postcard Poem” exercise in Wingbeats, the memory of driving through Waco at 7 a.m. on a Sunday in December, Susan Terris’ “Twenty Lines for Titles” exercise in Wingbeats, grief/death, Apple’s end-user license agreement, hair, a bread recipe, the memory of seeing Saddam Hussein being executed while I was standing in line at Walmart, the possum that invaded my yard in the middle of the day, sneezes, William Carlos Williams, synonyms, and the haiku workshop I attended this weekend.
Katerina Stoykova-Klemer didn’t have time to read our poems on the air on her January 18th show, but she did mention my chapbook (which is still in pre-order, by the way)! She was able to share our work throughout the hour on the January 25th show. I love hearing our poems read aloud.
I have just under a week left in the project. Please donate to Tupelo Press!
Another week has closed, and with it comes some excellent writing.
Patti Smith’s Horses by Philip Shaw — I just started this tiny volume about one of my all-time favorite albums.
Kate Greenstreet’s 104 First Book Interviews – the original series. All illuminating. I’m learning so much.
“Murmuration. The Poetry of the Morning Walk.” by Christie Aschwanden — It was only a few months ago that I learned what murmuration was. I hope to actually see one in action someday.
“The psychology of anthropomorphism, or why I felt empathy towards a piece of trash” by Brooke Borel — It’s nice to know that science shows I’m not the only one who has encountered this issue.
Paisley Rekdal’s open letter to Christian Ward – Really, this story is appalling. Good for Paisley for speaking up.
A wonderful interview with Sharon Olds – I especially love this: “A poem doesn’t intensify experience, it adds to it. And it is not about a different person, is it? It is the same person who has made a song.”
I had a couple of vague ideas for what I was going to write about for Feminist Friday this week. And then when I logged into WordPress, the first thing I saw was this post from wildfeministappears. And before I was halfway through, I knew I’d be sharing it this week.
This post was particularly welcome on a day when I spent too much time arguing with someone on the internet about feminism. It made me angry. But that anger didn’t lead to anything productive. This post felt timely, because it was an important reminder that anger can be a tool, but it needs to be honed and controlled (not stifled and ignored, but controlled), and be put to good use.
I could easily copy and paste the entire thing here, but I think it’s better if you go read the entire post. But I will leave you with the crux of the piece:
This last bit is for everyone.
Look at yourself in the mirror and explain to yourself why you are doing what you are doing. Ask yourself these questions.
Is it my choice, or is it a decision based on pressure from another source?
Is my choice going to hurt others, and if it is, am I ready to commit to causing harm to others for my own self-gratification?
Is my choice going to help others, and if it is, am I ready to commit to being there for others and accept their choices regardless of how I feel about them?
Am I willing to defend my choice?
Do I have good reasoning for my choice?
Am I ashamed of my choice at all?
Am I unabashedly joyful about my choice?
Does my choice obstruct another person’s freedom?
Answer to yourself every fucking day.
Chuck Wendig’s most recent flash fiction challenge is entitled “Photos of Impossible Places.” And while the photos he links to truly are otherworldly (but for some reason, the link no longer works), looking at them made me think of Enchanted Rock which, while less fantastic than the photos, always seems like another planet while I’m hiking there. So the story I wrote ended up being inspired by that place.
Once upon a time, Texas might as well have been a foreign planet. But Mia fell in love with it. Especially that big, pink rock that obviously wasn’t another planet, but if she went hiking on a Monday when nobody else was around, she could pretend she’d transported to a different world. The more time she spent there, the more time she began to feel that her true home wasn’t in a small town on a hill, but right here, among the red stone and the dark caves.
Of course, nobody was allowed to live there. There were job openings, though. Mia figured it was good enough. But she still felt sad when she had to go home at the end of the day. After a few months, being a park ranger no longer sated her lust for the place. Even the overnight shifts didn’t help. She kept picturing disappearing into the stone, staying forever.
Over time, the rock was in her blood. Over time, it’s roughness felt more like home than her own skin. Over time, she worked extra shifts, stayed as late as she could, came by on her days off to scope out territory.
Fortunately, the job left Mia with a lot of useful information. She knew where the guards patrolled, where she could hide, what she could eat. She cataloged every species of plant in the park, took note of every animal.
What Mia didn’t figure out on the job, she sought out in books. She learned how to draw water out of a cactus, and which plants could be used for healing.
Her disappearance was gradual. They would have noticed if a ranger had vanished outright. Colleagues would have been dispatched to save her. She would have had a harder time hiding if people were definitely seeking her.
Becoming part of the rock was an act of camouflage. Slowly, slowly, she faded to red. She missed shifts, ran late, took off early. She didn’t want them to miss her.
Gradually, her transformation was complete. Her shelters were rocks. Her food varied, but she found it. She was careful not too overharvest certain areas, for fear of drawing attention. She was careful not to build fires. She lived, and by the time her clothes had finally turned to useless rags, her skin had turned to leather that was nearly as tough as stone. She didn’t need it. She was an animal, as much as anything else living on that rock.
Mia slept during the day, hidden from the heat and from the visitors. The wild ones didn’t fare well with tourists. At night, she feasted, she ran, she spent hours communing with the sky. She had always loved the stars and moon, and when most of her waking hours were in the wilderness, at night, alone. The animals didn’t speak her language, so she spent time taking in and following the sky. The stars gave her stories. The moon gave her stability. She no longer needed words, but instead read the poetry of the sky.
A lot of worthwhile stuff appeared online this week. (I’m stick in the thick of A Dance With Dragons, so new books haven’t crossed my radar.)
Kenyon drama professor Thomas Turgeon died this week from ALS. I never took a class with him (honestly, I never even met him), but I did live in his house the summer after graduation, with Jon and two close friends. It remains one of the best summers of my life, and I’m grateful that the Turgeons allowed us to house-sit while they traveled.
A few years ago, my friend Rick wrote an essay about his love of Linux. I’m not full-time Linux anymore, but I still have a healthy appreciation for open-source.
“This Is What Every Heart Must Become” by Hannah Stephenson. Tiny poems accomplish big feelings.
“‘Accessing a Limitless Vein of Words’: Ruth Williams Interviews Jeongrye Choi.” Wonderful discussion about what it means to be a poet and the responsibility of writing.
San Antonio is preparing to launch a bookless library.
Via my friend Colleen: “13 unique punctuation marks you never knew existed.” I love the exclamation comma and question comma. And I got Jon an interrobang tattoo for his birthday this year.
2013 is a photogenic one, apparently. On January 6th, I joined the Photographers Adventure Group for a photo walk downtown. This past weekend, I went on a hike with my friend Melanie and her pug, Lux. Then I walked around the Capitol area taking photos while Jon played Ingress (though apparently one does not “play” Ingress — whatever). Below is a sample of what I’ve been doing behind the lens.
Like what you see? There are always more photos at my Flickr page.
How are we nearly halfway through January already? That means I’m nearly done with the 30/30 Project. This week was a little tougher than the first one, but I’m still having a great time. And I’m definitely still enjoying the work of my fellow participants. Katerina Stoykova-Klemer read a selection of our poems on her radio show again this week; click here to listen to the archive (the first five poems are read starting at minute fourteen, and the others at minute thirty).
Inspirations this week: Hoa Nguyen’s “Mind is Shapely” exercise in Wingbeats; the cold, rainy weather; Jenny Browne’s “Love Letter to a Stranger” exercise, also in Wingbeats; getting hit by a car in 2010; airglow, and photos of it appearing in Texas; Blas Falconer’s “Teaching Imagination” exercise, also in Wingbeats; Donato Creti’s Cleopatra (see picture).
(And no, Dos Gatos Press isn’t paying me to plug Wingbeats all the time. It’s just my go-to guide when I’m stuck and need some motivation. I’m so glad the press is at work on a second volume.)
Like the work we’re doing? Want to support Tupelo Press? You can donate here. And it doesn’t matter how much; every little bit helps.
A Dance With Dragons — Yep! It’s in from the library. I find it annoying that I have to do thinks like go to work rather than sit around reading all day.
“Deep Thoughts With Muffie the Cat” — Grammar Cat is one of the best sources of grammar knowledge on the internet. And I don’t just say that because it’s authored by two of my friends from my writing group.
“The Lessons of Objects: An Interview with Mark Doty” by Andrew David King — Awesome discussion about poetry, and the things which inform creativity.
The Top 5 Most Expensive Liquors in the World — used as research while I was working on a poem.