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April has been a busy month, with little time for blogging. So I slacked off on linking to the Pulitzer Remix poems. But it’s the last night of this project, so time for one more roundup!
April 15th: “Stranger“
April 16th: “Break Free“
April 17th: “Open Window“
April 18th: “Ennui“
April 19th: “It’s not being sure that keeps him alive“
April 20th: “We are all trying to leave our bodies behind“
April 21st: “Kitchen“
April 22nd: “For one thing“
April 23rd: “Summertime, and the living is…“
April 24th: “Scene“
April 25th: “Summer, Ending“
April 26th: “On the subject of her martyrdom“
April 27th: “A Hot Thing“
April 28th: “Financial Times“
April 29th: “She couldn’t get over the city“
April 30th: “High Summer“
Over at last week’s Pulitzer Remix roundup, Drew Myron asked me to describe more about the Remix rules and the composing process. And I’m happy to oblige!
The two big Pulitzer Remix rules are as follows:
Each poem you produce should be created from words and phrases that appear in your Pulitzer Prize-winning source text. You can rearrange terms and make changes such as modifying verb tenses, adding plurals, inserting pronouns, etc. but should not deviate wildly from the original text to produce poems “inspired by” the novel, for example.
Poems you produce must alter the source text in some substantial way. You should apply one of the techniques suggested in the “strategies” section — or one of your own invention — to produce a poem whose language and meaning differ from that of the source text. This is in adherence to section 2 of the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry. Poets who incorporate long unaltered passages from their source texts into their poems risk being removed from the project.
The editors suggest the following strategies (though of course, we’re free to make up our own):
Select and rearrange. Choose interesting words and phrases from a section of your source text, then rearrange them into a poem.
Black / white-out. Use a magic marker or white-out pen to erase consecutive sections of your text, leaving words and phrases behind that make up your poem.
Write a poem using only dialogue spoken by a specific character. For example, if The Great Gatsby was your source text, you could write a found poem from only the words spoken by Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Nick Carraway, etc. during the course of the novel.
Cut it up. Photocopy pages from the text, then cut the words and phrases into strips. Put them in a bag, shuffle them up, then draw them out randomly and rearrange them until you have a poem.
Get technical. Use online tools like the ones detailed below to help scramble and rearrange your text in interesting ways.
I’ve been using the black-out and “select and rearrange” (though I’ve been calling it cut-up….oops) methods so far this month.
For the black-out poems, I start by pulling a page out of a PDF. I scanned about 40 pages of text using an app on my phone, and if I want to work on some black-out poems, I pull out the document and print out the number of pages I need. Usually, I start by blocking out the proper nouns, since I have yet been interested in writing a poem about a particular character (unless you consider the house itself a character, and then I wrote one last week). From then on, it’s a matter of reading the page over and over and over, penciling out bits at a time. I start small, with conjunctions or adverbs that strike me as irrelevant, moving from individual words to entire sentences. When the piece is done, I pull up the digital file and black everything out using Photoshop, which looks better than my pencil work. The black-out poems have been interesting because they remind me how difficult it is, still, to cut things from my poems. They also reinforce that sometimes, excision is the best route to completion.
For the cut-up poems, I have roughly 20 pages of typed-up sentences and paragraphs from Beloved that I thought might be useful in some way. When I sit down to work on a piece, I shuffle through the pages until I find something that resonates me either thematically or linguistically. I then keep rifling around and pulling lines that builds on the original idea, rearranging as I go. The final lines get taped into my notebook, and I type everything up.
So that’s the gist of it. Check out the poems below.
April 8th: “Lady of the Lake“
April 9th: “Return to Form“
April 10th: “Ignorance was bliss“
April 11th: “Victory of the Soul“
April 12th: “Empowerment“
April 13th: “Pleasure, Affirming“
April 14th: “Springtime Plea“
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!
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.
That’s right! We’re Smaller Than We Think We Are is now available for pre-order. Finishing Line Press is offering a shipping discount for anyone who reserves a copy between now and February 27th.
I’ve spent today pretty much just bouncing off the walls. If I’m this excited now, I can only imagine how hyper I’ll be when the book is actually published in April.
The cover photograph is my own, taken in the Santa Elena canyon in Big Bend about two years ago. I knew for a long time that this would be my first choice for the cover, and I’m glad the good folks at Finishing Line agreed.
I have a lot of people to thank for their help. Abe Louise Young for being my mentor. My friend Savanni for taking the author photograph used on the website and on the back cover (you can check out some other photos from the shoot here). Kelli Russell Agodon for writing such an informative blog post on how to take good author photos back in 2010. Cindy Huyser, Drew Myron, and Scott Wiggerman for writing blurbs. The Austin Writergrrls for being the best cheerleaders ever.
I’m a very lucky poet.
I love Tupelo Press. I love their chapbooks. I love their broadsides. They’re an all-around excellent small press, and like most small presses, they’re struggling to stay viable in a weak economy, where poetry is not the top priority for most people. When they began the 30/30 Project in December 2012, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I already write regularly. What better way to support a press I love than by contributing poems to their fundraising efforts? So I was thrilled to get an email from Tupelo that I would be one of a cadre of poets contributing to this effort in January.
So instead of writing my poem a day and not worrying whether it’s great or rough, I’ll be honing a piece throughout the day. The poets participating in 30/30 don’t have to put finished poems up on the site, but my intent is to put up what I’d consider solid drafts. That is, the poems might not be finished, but they’d be strong enough that they’d be ready to take to my critique group or test out at an open mic.
So here’s how it works: to support the press (and support me in my literary marathon), go here to donate to Tupelo Press. You can donate whatever you want — any little bit helps. And, if you would be so kind, please put my name in the “Honor” field at the bottom of the page to indicate you’re donating on behalf of my marathon.
Plus, all donations are tax-deductible, meaning you’re already getting a head start on your tax write-offs for 2013!
Thanks so much in advance for supporting my work and for Tupelo Press.
The screencap above is the Scrivener corkboard view for my next poetry manuscript! I finished the very first full draft about an hour ago. The working title is Curved Tongue, Forked Road, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to stay that way for the rest of the revision process, though I’m open to the possibility that it might change.
The process so far
These are poems I’ve been writing since I made the final selections for inclusion in my chapbook. Once that was done and I started sending out We’re Smaller Than We Think We Are, every poem I wrote was considered for possible inclusion in the next book. The writing process thus began in late August/early September 2011. Since I have the practice of writing a poem a day, I began to generate possible poems pretty quickly. That’s not to say that every poem I have written per day has been worth considering. I think only about 10-15% of the poems I write I consider worth revising, submitting, or including in a book, and not all of those even end up going places. Still, if you’re drafting one poem a day, you get to the potential good poems faster than you would otherwise. The small percentage of poems that made the cut got put into a separate “for collection” folder.
After that, it was a process of writing and waiting. Not just to accumulate enough poems, but for a structure or theme to emerge. Several concepts bounced around in my head. First, I thought I’d be writing mostly about math and physics. Then, I thought I was going to write about physics and travel, and title it Everything in Transit (a title shamelessly stolen from a Jack’s Mannequin album.) Then, this past October, just after a year of writing and waiting, I developed the idea for a three-part structure, encompassing a few different things I’d been working on. This would allow me to have a unifying concept without feeling tied down to one single thing.
As it stands, the book now has three parts. “Heartways” consists of poems I’ve written on the various incarnations that love takes (aka ways of looking at love). “Wordways” consists of the twenty-six abecedarian sonnets I’ve been working on since September, which are thematically organized around various locations within Texas (not just ways of looking at Texas, but ways of looking at words in the confines of this particular poetry form). And finally, I have “Roadways,” a section focused on travel poems. These are somewhat Texas-based, but less explicitly so than the abecedarian sonnets, and are more concerned with ways of looking at the road than looking at a particular place. The collection title Curved Tongue, Forked Road came to me almost out of the blue, and I like the way it invokes dialogue, exploration, and discovery.
Compared to getting my chapbook together, the rough draft of this collection was, in fact, easier. I didn’t develop my daily poetry practice until a month or two before I finally started getting the chapbook together. I didn’t know as much about revision as I do now. I didn’t have a critique group to help me out. And I certainly didn’t have any idea how to organize a book. Now, I am more disciplined, I have a critique group, and I have some sense of how the poems in a book should work together. While I still have a lot of work to do, having that knowledge made the first draft so much easier.
What happens next?
I have a long road of revision ahead. While a lot of the poems in “Roadways” are actually pretty near complete, the first two sections are much rougher. I’m going to work these poems by myself for a while, and then sometime in the spring of 2013, I want to work with a mentor to help me get the book in final shape for submission. I learned a lot working with a mentor for my chapbook, but I certainly don’t know everything. Plus, a full collection is a different beast from a chapbook.
Ideally, I’d like to have this ready to submit by June of 2013, but I also know I can’t rush the revision process. So I’m setting that as my ideal goal, but I’m also not going to get too attached to it. It will be done when it’s done. As long as I’m giving it the attention it deserves, as long as I’m performing due diligence, that’s what matters.
I know that when all is said and done, the final draft will not look like the current one. Some of the abecedarian sonnets will be rewritten from scratch. Some pieces that are in the first and third sections might get deleted. Poems I haven’t written yet, haven’t even thought of yet, might get slotted in. It will be an interesting journey, and I can’t wait to see what this book looks like when it’s finally done.
I’m thrilled to announce that I’m launching a workshop series for 2013. Starting in December (to kick the new year off right), I’ll be guiding students through goal-setting, weathering setbacks, and accomplishing their creative plans.
Achieve Your Dreams 2013
In this course, you will learn to:
- Articulate not just your goals, but what they signify for your overall creative life
- Set realistic plans for the year, month, and week
- Manage setbacks without guilt
- Recognize that goals change over time, and adjust accordingl
- One two-hour monthly seminar via Google+ Hangout (see below)
- Weekly check-ins with me via email or video chat (your preference)
- Exercises to do at home to help you get inspire and stay focused
Check out my Workshops and Coaching page for more details, including pricing and sign-up information.
So I survived the week of no reading. It was tougher than an entire month of unprocessed food. I need reading way more than I need artificial preservatives and white flour. It was a pretty frustrating week, because my primary method of relaxation was just gone. I realize the point of the week was to focus on trying new things and different forms of relaxation, but I basically felt on edge the entire time. It was such a relief to read again.
Week Five was a lot of fun. Most of the exercises involved visualization as a component, as well as collecting images of what we want and what inspires us. As a result, I ended up joining Pinterest, and creating a board for images I collect related to The Artist’s Way.
Halfway through Week Six, I’m noticing that I love the odd-numbered weeks, and having less fun with the even-numbered weeks. The even-numbered challenges are frustrating, or they seem harder to balance with work, writing, kung fu, and my social life. But I take it one week at a time. I’m still enjoying the overall process.
I’ve been hearing about The Artist’s Way ever since I moved to Austin, and saw it on the shelves on a regular basis when I worked at BookWoman. I have to admit, for the past four years, I thought it looked incredibly hokey. I knew lots of people who had done it, but I couldn’t get past the apparent cheesiness. But then, this summer, a poet I admire mentioned she would be doing The Artist’s Way again, and it wouldn’t be her first time. So I finally decided to give it a shot, no matter how cheesy.
So far, I have to say that the book has surprised me. In the first week, I have already been challenged, already made to think. Writing morning pages has allowed me to resuscitate a journal writing practice that has been stagnant for several years. Writing out daily affirmations doesn’t actually feel all that hokey. In fact, it’s refreshing. I’m also surprised, as I’m working on my affirmations, all the inner resistances and criticisms I have toward realizing the full potential of my creativity. It’s been worthwhile just to realize all the little ways my inner critic comes out.
I’ve also realized, while working through these exercises, that I have far more people in my life who support my work than I have people who create negative energy. I am very lucky to have so many wonderful friends, teachers, and supporters in my life.
The artist date is also a lot of fun. For this exercise, you go and do something fun all by yourself for a few hours. This week, I went out to Mount Bonnell and took a bunch of photographs. I hadn’t been out there in over two years, and had a great time wandering. The image at the top of this post is from some graffiti I found there; I found it particularly apt.
Speaking of photography, one of the exercises this week made me realize that I want to be more serious about my photo practice. So I’ve looked into workshops and joined some Meetup groups. I’m excited to see where this particular creative journey goes.
The one thing I have done differently is a slight tweak in terminology. Cameron uses the term “The Creator” in affirmations and in essays. When writing out my affirmations, I use “the world” instead. As an agnostic, I don’t feel comfortable writing out affirmations that invoke something resembling a deity. But “the world” is something that is larger than myself, and is something my skeptical mind accepts as real.
I did the reading for Week Two this morning, and I’m already looking forward to doing the exercises, going on my artist date (possibly the Elizabeth Ney museum, but I’m still deciding), and seeing where the week takes me.