Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ten years of internet poetry (is poetry dead?)

I like to tell people that I've been writing poetry since I was ten or eleven years old, and it's true. I went to school to write, after college I went to work as a technical writer, and I wrote poems throughout my twenties, but I never seriously worked at it until 1999. I posted my first poem in an online workshop in 1997 and received scathing comments which sent me into hibernation for two more years. Then I decided I couldn't wait any longer. I couldn't wait for my kids to get older or easier, I couldn't wait to have a better computer, I couldn't wait for more time or sleep or space or any of those things you tell yourself you need in order to write.

By 2001 I was posting regularly at Poets.org and I learned how to let the nasty comments slide. I learned how take the helpful ones and use them to make my writing better. I didn't submit often, but when I did I was mostly rejected. The few acceptances I received gave me the impetus to keep going. I learned that most of my writing was dreck because the stuff I read online was amazing. The people with whom I discussed poetry were intelligent and insightful, and their advice and commentary made me rethink everything I thought I knew about poetry. Ironically, these people were not widely published. They weren't famous. The internet poets I knew were somewhat stigmatized, somewhat separated from the print poetry scene. Online publishing was somehow lesser and we all knew it.

I had to reevaluate the reasons I wanted to write: Did I want to be widely published? Well, yeah. Was that more important than the love of language, the thrill of writing something unique? Well, no, thankfully, because I'd finally accepted that being published wasn't the point. It was the extra bonus, the frosting, the: oh yeah, by the way this is awesome when it happens. I wanted to continue online because it was easy to post poems. It was easy to meet other poets. I didn't have to spend all my time writing snail-mail letters and waiting and waiting for a response. I didn't have to spend a lot of money for an MFA I didn't want and couldn't afford with small children in the house. I was convinced that the web would change the face of the writing world; I just had to be patient.

I went back to the beginning and spent the next several years relearning the basics: metaphor and rhyme, meter and imagery, intent and audience. I still submitted, thought not a lot and the rejections continued, both online and snail mail. I kept writing because I loved that sensation of joy, the moment of creation that I felt when I really had a good line or image. I kept writing because I discovered that the more I wrote, the easier it was to find that joy. By 2009, I'd written four chapbooks, one full-length poetry manuscript, and two novels. I started submitting more, both online and via snail mail. All along this journey, I've posted poems online to Poets.org and other poetry workshops like Desert Moon Review, the Atlantic (now defunct), The Gazebo, and lurked at others just to learn: Eratosphere, Slate's The Fray, etc. I've dealt with trolls, flame wars, and discrimination. I've been encouraged and helped and published in small poetry magazines, more often online than in print. I found that I love the flexibility of online publishing and started my own poetry journal, Autumn Sky Poetry, which now gets hundreds of submissions every few months, poems from writers who are beginners and from poets who have published widely.

Today is December 31, 2009. In the last year, I've won the 2009 Ellen La Forge Poetry prize. My manuscript, "Dark matter," made semi-finalist in the Brittingham and Pollak Poetry Prizes (University of Wisconsin Press) and is a semi-finalist at the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry (waiting to hear about the winner). Today I found out that my freaky sci-fi poetry chapbook manuscript, "The Quantum Archives," that I never, ever thought anyone would read let alone like made it to semi-finalist status at the Black Lawrence Press' Black River Chapbook Competition. I've had two chapbooks published: "How to photograph the heart" by The Lives You Touch Publications and "The book of small treasures" by Seven Kitchens Press. It's been a good ten years of waiting for the two worlds of poetry, online and print, to collide. And everything I've learned about writing is possible only because the internet has revitalized the poetry world. Right now, all of us who write poems are benefitting from the diversity and richness of the web. This online world made it possible for me to get to today: I don't have an advanced degree and don't teach. I do, however, love to write and because the internet made it possible for me to learn and meet other writers and put my work out into the virtual world, I've become part of a community of poets that didn't exist fifteen years ago.

Is poetry dead? Not even a little.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays!

first snow so quiet
you can hear the doves flutter
their wingtips and leap



© 2009 Christine Klocek-Lim

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

poet interviews

I'm very lucky to be included in another series of poet interviews, by the wonderful Didi Menendez. Go check out the entire series and my interview: Christine Klocek-Lim.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

List poem: This day on Twitter


Cute kitty is cute. #kitty!

Evil Twitter is evil and so is Facebook. #addicted

Lonesome tree has no leaves and is lonesome

above brown grass that is dead brown. #haiku

Early, you left so early today. #sad

Hot tea is so hot I burned my tongue. #damnit

Junk mail came late full of junk

and too much paper and dead trees. #sad

Quiet lunch is a sandwich and soup quietly 

steaming until it’s gone. #haiku

Pithy texts sent to my husband are pithy. #random

Sad news is sad-->no more NPR. #sad

Loud kids after school are really loud! #parenting

Hateful homework is still hateful even
 though
I'm a grownup. #homeworksuks #parenting

Evil Twitter is still evil-->so many 
links
to congenital heart defect stories. #chd #sad #addicted

Sarcastic teens are sarcastic and this is awesome. #not

Early, you came home so early. #love

Yummy dinner is yummy though kitty

stole morsel right from the pan. #badkitty!

Don’t tell my mom, but we can tell yours. #stillafraidofmom

Funny tv is funny, especially with sarcastic teens. #parenting

You say I am sleepy but so are you. #random #love

Cute kitty is so cute she must be dreaming. #kitty!


©2009 Christine Klocek-Lim

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Review of Holly Rose Review Issue 3


Holly Rose Review's Issue Three, the Wonder issue, opens with the photo of a spectacular tattoo, a remarkably colorful peacock inked by Michael Kozlenko cleverly eyeing the viewer as if to say: "What you looking at?" And indeed, I wondered what I was going to see in the pages to come, hoping I would not be disappointed. I was not. The next page revealed "Metus Orbis," oil on canvas by Aaron Zimmerman. I could not tell if the peaks were mountains or the soft heads and flowing hair of goddesses waiting out a storm. Delightfully fanciful, the image made me think of that surrealistic moment one feels on the edge of waking when the dream world and real life intersect, lighting everything with surprise.

Inside the issue, the tattoos range from what looks to me like the moment of creation, creatures springing full-grown from the soft earth of the skin as in Rich Bustamante's work, to the impossible mermaid in Jason Wainwright's art. I wished I had the courage to let someone needle such worlds into my skin; the wings etched on the back of yet another person seem nearly real, the face of the woman in Sean Herman's art mysterious and compelling.

Of course, the tattoos are only half of the wonder of this issue. The poetry is also astonishing, given how many of them walk that fine line between psalm and bitterness, all of them surreal in the way that only metaphor can explain. Dorianne Laux's poem "Wonder," written specifically for this issue serves as the backbone of the journal. Every word leads the reader into a strange place, familiar yet not, like a dreamscape where you are not falling, but flying. The sky becomes a tattoo becomes a bird. The accompanying art is a tree that is as strange as ink and skin can make it: curving along the canvas of the skin in a wonderfully twisted way, the colors vibrant and alive.

The other poems in the issue continue the idea of wonder, like Eugenia Hepworth Petty's "The Bird" and its focus on life and death and the delicate moment of childhood when one learns how terribly the two are connected. Or Christine Hamm's "The Mermaid of September Cove" which explains clearly the gritty reality of that imaginary creature, how working for a living in a tank of water could still touch the lives of so many in a way that is more tangible than myth. Erika Moya's poem, "Chassure [1]" details the odd intimacy of flesh and scent, using the sensuality of making love to spring into the larger world of memory. Raina León's "Face" is even more fractured than the rest, each numbered stanza its own piece of the whole, discrete images of the body that are connected only because we know how important and necessary our faces are to each other.

However, my favorite poem of this issue is Joseph Millar's "Skin." Cengiz Eyvazov's tattoo shows the bliss of sharp objects, a woman both captured and set free by the shackles and spikes decorating her body. The poem explains why this is possible, how the pain of such piercings leads to transcendence. At first the imagery is nearly unbearable, "one-inch ebony dowel/stretching the hole in his earlobe" and "mute/dreadlocked carcass." But one must give in to the poem as one gives into pain, and in the end, adrenaline lights "the body's soft candle" in a way that makes perfect sense. It's been years since I remembered this and now I almost want to get another piercing after reading this poem.

The issue ends with Siimon Petkovich's fractured words, the very disarray of the lines serving as a visual explanation for the tattoo by Jason Wainwright: a huge orange sky and ocean, waves crashing like flowers against the skin. This is what it feels like to gallop into the world, the poem seems to say, the idea too active to keep words together. Instead, Siimon makes every letter dance into pieces on the page. After reading this issue, I can do no less.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

How to photograph the heart - available


My poetry chapbook, How to photograph the heart, is now available from The Lives You Touch Publications.

I'm thrilled! Thanks go to my wonderful publisher/editors: O.P.W. Fredericks and Daniel Milbo. Their unflagging attention to detail and support of my poetry made creating this book a pleasure.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

November poem-a first draft

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November

Nine times four plus four
times I sing “Gloria” but god
sends no angels. I envision wings
and wind, feathers ruffling in the cold,
the November bluster dramatic as always,
but still no pale face, no stern demeanor.
If I am to be redeemed, I must save
myself. Emancipate the fingers, the skin
of the body, the bones beneath it all
until the heart is exposed, about to fly
off the spine and into the atmosphere,
but a cold front steps in before I can truly
conceive this winged organ. The last leaves
mutter as I walk the ridge, acknowledge
the view: a few storm clouds yet linger
while the fragile remnants of frost bite
at the ground. I kneel to remember
that hymn as I beseech the valley—
in excelsis. This part of the mountain
catches birds only to toss them out.
Sometimes they reach the ionosphere
where red sprites flee into thunder.
It’s a miracle any survive. No angel
could fly through such turbulence
though I imagine they try anyway.
Beneath me a stray feather jerks
between two rocks, a last transaction
destined to fail. I save it, splicing
the barbules together one last time
until suddenly, the wind catches it,
flicks it into the world, spinning
it madly away from me. I watch it fly
knowing I helped make that particular
moment, redemption unasked for,
the gift of freedom from a most
ordinary hand.


© 2009 Christine Klocek-Lim

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Mmwaaaahaaahaaaa!


Carved by the boys to the music of MJ: "Thriller"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just signed up for NaNoWriMo

here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/ because I am insane. Which, really, is nothing new.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

3 of my poems in Poets and Artists

The new Poets and Artists, O&S November 2009, Volume 2 Issue 7, is now live! The art is gorgeous and it's full of poems and other goodies. Go check it out: I'm on page 84-85.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Autumn Sky Poetry 15, the Art Issue—now live!


Greetings!


Read poems and enjoy art by Bebe Cook, Theresa Senato Edwards & Lori Schreiner, J.L. Glenn & K.S. Bartow, Mel Goldberg, Guy Kettelhack, Rivka Keren, Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, J.B. Mulligan, Kristine Ong Muslim, Katherine Riegel, Cheryl & Janet Snell, Janice D. Soderling, Rae Spencer, Ira Sukrungruang, and Donna Vorreyer.


—It's all about the poetry.

Sincerely,
Christine Klocek-Lim, Editor

Monday, September 21, 2009

ekphrastic poem on About.com

. . . which has really made my day. I love About.com's seasonal anthologies. I have my poem "Strange violet behind trees" in their Autumn anthology.

This poem was inspired by a lovely pastel created by Wolf Kahn. His art is luminous, and his book, "Wolf Kahn Pastels," where I first saw his picture titled, "A Strange Violet Behind Trees," on page 49 continues to inspire me. Here is the only copy of the picture I could find on the web, for sale as a postcard at ArtUnlimited.com.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Ten of my poems are now on the iPhone

And you can download the app for free! You can read the poems, enlarge them, view in landscape mode, or listen to me read them by tapping the audio toggle. For more details, check out the info page: November Sky Poetry iPhone app. Screenshot of the app's main page:




Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Benjamin Zander on Music and Passion


Really an extraordinary talk. And music. And a bit of philosophy with which to enrich your life.

(hat tip: 3QD)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Why write poetry? Review of "Touch: The Journal of Healing" Issue 2

Why write poetry?

This question is itself a cliché. For decades, centuries even, those of us who write have gone around muttering it under our breath. Sometimes we debate it over dinner and a glass of wine. Often a classroom holds the awkward silence of disinterested students after the teacher says the question aloud. And in the quietest corner of some souls the question drops into a journal like a stone on water, the result of a therapist's suggestion to write down the pain.

For me, there are three possible answers to this question:

1. I write for myself. This is most often uttered by teens and sad people and those deluded few who have never read anything worthwhile enough to realize that most art is meant to be perused by someone other than oneself. If one shoves the writing into a closet, this is completely fine and I forgive you.

2. I write for everyone else. This is common among highly-educated folks, those who've spent a fortune on degrees and contest entries. These people want to be famous and love playing with the alphabet. This is also fine, as long as one doesn't expect one's mother to understand one's latest work.

3. Last, there are those people who started out as #1, moved into #2, and then ended up somewhere completely different, realizing that though they love to play with words, they want even more for their words to touch others. The # 3s have had a hard time of it, spending money on contests, writing and sweating into the night with depressive misery. However, the best part of being a #3 (hey, can you tell which number I consider myself?) is the realization that art is meant to communicate something of the human condition to another person. The balance between self-absorption and the desperation for fame sometimes creates a poem that is worth reading.

In the recent issue of Touch: The Journal of Healing, there are several poems that reach this balance (disclaimer: I have two poems in this issue, so I'm biased), poems that talk about something so personal one almost cannot fit into the doorway of the poet's soul. Tina Hacker's poem, "Cutting It," is one such poem. It deals with madness and birth and the desperate scrabbling of the individuals involved in this tragedy as they try to rescue a child from the depths of oblivion. The best part of the poem, for me, was the skillful handling of metaphor. Hacker used this device to convey the sense of loss inherent in mental deterioration: "he pushed out all her strength / and grew fragile as lace." Not only does this passage refer to the act of giving birth, it also shows how the mother loses herself. In the next part of the poem the mother turns into scissors and cuts "holes into the lace," leaving her parents to rescue her child as best they could. The grandfather slaps "the dust of madness / off his shirt and pants." I have had a few bad years of my own, but never lost grip with reality, yet the poet still manages to convey the sorrow and frustration of this family in a way that I could understand, deeply. This is a poem that could have descended into either linguistic masturbation or navel-gazing dullness, but it doesn't. It is perfect and wonderful.

Another poem in this issue that I loved was James S. Wilk's "Dr. Helen Brooke Taussig." I have never been a doctor, never even wanted to be one. In this poem, the narrator speaks about this woman as she practices medicine despite losing her hearing. The poet tells up bluntly how "She discarded her stethoscope" and then describes how the doctor's fingers traced along the babies' chests, "feeling for murmurs." The poet then compares her facility with touch to a butterfly, giving the narrative a sense of lightness and joy, making a miracle out of loss. I could imagine what that must have felt like for her as she lost the one sense that was most important and necessary for her to practice her calling. Yet, the poem never descends into melancholy or cliche. Lovely work.

Another excellent poem, Larina Warnock's, "Hospital Hush," begins with a contradiction. Anyone who has ever spent time in a hospital knows that it is filled with noise, even in the dead of night; there is not such thing as "Hospital Hush." The poem narrates the story of a parent watching over his/her gravely-ill child. The delightful thing about this poem is how the description of the noises profoundly contradicts the silent fear and sorrow of the parent. The very nature of those sounds (monitors, injections, doors clacking) illuminates the lack of news: the parent does not know if the child will get better. The silence of unknowing dwarfs the physical noise, creating a disharmony that is nearly unbearable. All this from a simple poem. The use of clear statments, "The door to room 24 in 10-North / of Doernbecher Children's Hospital / clacks," interspersed with parenthetical comments, "(no matter how / softly)," creates the reality for the reader. There is the real noise and then there are the murmurings the parent cannot help in the silence of his/her worry. Brilliant.

Unfortunately, not every poem in this issue speaks to me. For example, Kelly Grace Smith's poem, "white lotus II," seems to overflow with abstraction and superfluous language. It begins: "A single blossom / of bliss." This is fine, except what is the "bliss?" Is is a person? A love-affair? A act of passion? I expected the metaphor to speak to me but in the second stanza, the reader is encouraged to believe that the narrator him/herself is the bloom: "I bloom only / in the dark of night." How can one be both bliss and a bloom? The metaphor is broken over two concepts, neither of which are entirely believable. Unfortunately the poem continues in this vein, stumbling over such clichés as "beauty" and "ecstasy" and "suffering." The most concrete detail is the reference to a "mountaintop." Where is the human element? What part of this poem gives me something to which I can relate? I had no idea what was happening because the poem was composed entirely of pretty words and linebreaks. The poem might mean something to the poet but sadly it keeps readers from sharing the secret.

In the end, why even bother to ask "why write poetry?" Why sing? Why paint? Every piece of art begins with the soul of the artist, the voice of the poet wanting to get out. Sometimes it's drivel and sometimes it's a work so profound that the least one can do is share it with others, connect to a greater human community so that some reader in the world may take joy of it. If there's even the slightest possibility of that happening I say, why the hell not?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bushkill Falls PA








Bushkill Falls today, Cherry Springs State Park tomorrow night for the Perseid meteor shower.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

chapbook at Seven Kitchens Press

I'm delighted to announce that my first chapbook, The book of small treasures, will be published this December by Seven Kitchens Press. The editor, Ron Mohring, was kind enough to rescue my manuscript from the recycle pile. Here's a link to the announcement:


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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ten Questions for Poetry Editors

I'm up at Nic Sebastian's blog in her interview series:


So much joy today. Thanks Nic!

Autumn Sky Poetry 14—now live!

Greetings!


Read poems by George Bishop, Eric Blanchard, William Keener, W.F. Lantry, Jen McClung, Esther Greenleaf Mürer, Sergio A. Ortiz, Tania Runyan, Donna Vorreyer, and James S. Wilk.


—It's all about the poetry.

Sincerely,
Christine Klocek-Lim, Editor

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Poem up at 3 Quarks Daily

I've got a poem up today at 3 Quarks Daily, one of the best blogs on the net. I'm thrilled and honored, especially since it's one of the poems that won the Ellen La Forge Poetry Prize.


Thanks go to 3 Quarks Daily, and the folks at the Ellen La Forge Memorial Poetry Foundation.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

I am so tired of reading about Zeus

. . . and all the other ancient gods and goddesses in poetry. I mean, why do we have such a fascination with these dudes? Seriously? Why the urns and the lightning bolts? Why must I read about Aphrodite again and again? I admit, I've written exactly one poem about Aphrodite, but that's it. Enough already.

I would like to read about something modern. Why doesn't somebody write a sci-fi sonnet? That would be cool.

And then I found this: D'oh! On a Grecian Urn

"A lot of students just don't know many words. I don't mean the kind of words you find in Elizabethan verse. I'm talking about everyday modern words, including many monosyllables. When we use a word such as "paucity," "hierarchy," or "realm," we need to write it on the board and define it. Then add a couple of synonyms, and maybe an antonym or two. We need to find excuses for vocabulary lessons, and not just in the vocabularies of our respective disciplines."

Wow, that's just damned depressing. Maybe I shouldn't be complaining about Hera and Troy, maybe I should run outside and accost the next kid I see and staple a multi-syllabic word to their shirt. Every month my kids and I pick a "word-of-the-month" and then vie with each other to see how many times we can use it. Last month's word was irksome. That was a good one. This month the word is monstrosity. I didn't want monstrosity; I wanted discombobulate, but I lost the vote. It's not difficult to interest kids in words as long as you keep it fun. Perhaps that's the true problem with our educational system: it's just too unpleasant. Who wants to be trapped in a classroom all day with a bunch of other kids, forced to read iambic pentameter?

So, instead of shoving bad poems about Hercules into our children's Eustachian tubes, why don't we find some fun poetry, something edgy enough to appeal to a teen? What the hell, read Bukowski to them. Or maybe some rap. Hell, even Shakespeare, as long as it's absurd and fun. But please, no more urns. Make them build a catapult and lob rolled up boring poems across the lawn. The winner gets to burn the next poem about Zeus. I guarantee the kids will like that project.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Submission Call-Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 15, October 2009

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For the first time ever, Autumn Sky Poetry will be publishing artwork as well as poems. If you are a poet who also dabbles in any of the visual arts, send me your work. I'm looking for poems with corresponding artwork:

—Do you have a poem about a barn? Send me the poem and the photo that you took that inspired the poem.

—Do you like to draw abstract shapes? Send me the poem you wrote and the doodle that you drew in the margin.

—Do you paint? Send me the painting and the poem you wrote about it.

—Did your sister or your son draw something after reading your poem? Send them in together.

—Alternatively, you may submit ekphrastic poems with a corresponding link to the art that inspired the poem. I won't publish the art, but I will include the link with the poem.
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Send submissions to: autumnskypoetryeditor@gmail.com

Send up to four poems within the body of the email. I only read the first four poems.

Attach the artwork as a .jpg. I will only accept four graphic attachments per submission.

To submit to this particular issue, make sure you include the words: "Submission Number 15" in the subject line of your email. All other email with attachments will be discarded unopened.
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-It's all about the poetry.
Christine Klocek-Lim
editor, Autumn Sky Poetry
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Friday, June 26, 2009

The myth of the "good old days"

Was just reading an op-ed on the NYTimes by Judith Warner about how nasty moms are toward each other. The sad reality of it and the anecdotes in the comments that followed convinced me to click away before I ruined my entire day. I ended up on yet another opinion piece, this one about Jon & Kate (seems none of us can escape articles about this particular couple). As I read through the educated opinions, I came across this one by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer:

"When children had more freedom to play outside, and families’ front doors were left open for the neighborhood kids to traipse through, grabbing meals from which ever mom was handy when hunger hit, children would regularly see how other families lived. "

I want to know: who has ever lived like this? I just had a conversation with someone last week about this utopian vision of life. People talk about it all the time, but I certainly didn't grow up in world where I could just pop into the neighbors' houses. In my neighborhood, the kids stayed at home by themselves as our moms and dads worked at the factories around which the economy of my hometown was built. I would've been in big trouble if I rambled over to the neighbor's house, and most especially if I'd begged food! You do NOT ask for handouts because that implies your own parents cannot take care of you. Big time no-no. Still, I wondered if someone, somewhere had a childhood like this. I asked my mom:

"Well," she said, "I used to be able to hop into my cousin's apartment." My mom's mom worked in a factory and her dad was a butcher. Her grandmother took care of her and her cousins.

"That doesn't count," I insisted. Really, it doesn't. The whole extended family lived in one house and they had doors that opened into each other's apartments. That's a bit different from playing with the neighbor's kids in a sort of suburban utopia.

I asked my dad. He just looked at me incredulously. His dad was a coal-miner, his mom worked in a factory. I asked my husband. He was in day-care when he was a kid. I asked my mother-in-law. Nope. My father-in-law? Not even (the family was a wee bit concerned with escaping North Korea when he was a kid).

I asked an old friend: she was in boarding school. Another friend was in day-care. Another friend told me that she and her friends ran wild in the streets and that she's lucky she made it to high school. I asked a bunch of other people and none of them lived like this either. How far back into the past must one go to find this lovely childhood? If you go too far, you run into child labor and hideous infant mortality rates. Hmm. Before WWII a lot of people didn't even own their own homes where kids could dash to and fro because the culture of the single-family house wasn't yet built.

So, where did this particular vision of the wonderful good-old-days come from? I think it's a collective yearning for better than what one has. There's always someone or sometime that was or is better than your life now, and you want it, desperately. You want it enough to paint the past with lovely colors over top of the grim reality. I suppose this is not surprising. It's much more pleasant to repress the horrible details of the past than it is to remember fully just how difficult life has always been, otherwise the future stretches ahead of us too awful to bear.

Or perhaps my sample-size is just too small and really, paradise existed in small-town America. I don't know the location of this town, and I haven't met any of the kids who grew up there or their kids, but maybe, just maybe it was real.

Yeah, NOT.


ETA: I just realized that last week the neighbor's grandkids came by unannounced, as they often do, to play with my boys. I put a bowl of strawberries on the counter for them to eat. A few hours later the girls went home and the bowl was empty. The "good old days" aren't in the past, they're today and tomorrow!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Please check out the latest issue of Holly Rose Review. I'm happy to have my poem "Endearment" included (with audio) next to the gorgeous art of Seven Beckham.

As the editor, Theresa Edwards says:

"The theme is PASSION with worldwide contributors. Poetry by Arlene Ang, Donavon Davidson, Lane Falcon, Peter Joseph Glovizcki, Kathryn Good-Schiff, Seth Jani, Pamela Johnson Parker, Christine Klocek-Lim, Daphne Lazarus, Jee Leong Koh, Donnelle McGee, Marie-Elizabeth Mali, Colleen Mills, Erika Moya, Rhonda Palmer, Siimon Petkovich, Jayne Pupek, Edwin Rivera, Kathrin Schaeppi, & Martha Silano. Tattoos by Seven Beckham, Chris Belville, Cengiz Eyvazov, Luba Goldina, Shotsie Gorman, Maxime Lanouette, Soul Expressions, & Shane Tan. Original art by Tiffany Carpenter, Bob Dilworth, and Thomas Woodruff.

The poems are reminiscent, sensual, and bold. The art unleashes anger, fear, love, and determination. And expressions are limitless throughout as emotion screams, swells, and flourishes on each page."

And did I mention they have a store? You can buy a mug! Or a t-shirt!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

OCHO #24 Twitter Poets issue


OCHO is live and fantastic and I'm delighted to have a poem in this issue. Go look see: OCHO #24 Twitter Issue. My poem, "Dark clouds of the Carina Nebula," is on page 14. Collin Kelley did a fantastic job as guest editor and kudos goes to Didi Menendez (the person behind the MiPOesias curtain), as always, for her generous presence that made it possible. I'm told that copies will soon be available on Amazon, which is very cool. Yeah, I'll be buying.

The best part about this issue? The poets are all identified by their Twitter names. Mine: @chrissiemkl. Here are the rest of the contributors: Ivy Alvarez, Patty Paine, Anne Haines, Matthew Hittinger, Pris Campbell, Nancy Devine, JS van Buskirk, Kate Evans, Alex Dimitrov, Rachel Barenblat, Saeed Jones, Stacie Boschma, Ray Succre, Marie-Elizabeth Mali, Cheryl Snell, Andrew Demcak, Karen Head, Pamela Johnson Parker, Rosemary Nissen-Wade, Will Kenyon, Sherry Chandler, AnnMarie Eldon, Christine Swint, Deb Scott, Scott Edward Anderson, Samuel Peralta, Emily A. Benton, Shann Palmer, Montgomery Maxton, Christopher Hennessy, Jackie Sheeler, Peggy Eldridge-Love, Tammy Knot, Luisa A. Igloria, Robert Lee Brewer, C. Cleo Creech and Cole Krawitz.

Another amazing thing? Didi just tweeted that the person who did the cover art is 12 years old. Wow. I'm a helluva lot older than that and I still rely on stick figures.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Creative Writing and Class

One of my favorite books is Paul Fussell’s Class: A Guide Through the American Status System. It takes a rather tongue-in-cheek look at a subject about which a great many people get themselves quite upset and makes me laugh every time I read it. Of course, class pervades every part of life, including writing. For as long as I’ve been writing I’ve had an unconscious awareness about the kinds of creative writing that are “better” than others: poetry, essays, and extremely complicated science texts are on the top of the heap, at least if you’re among academics or intellectuals (if you’re in the middle of a gathering of working class folk, telling them you are a poet is akin to admitting that you still suck your thumb at night—the news is met with blank stares, so I usually prevaricate and tell them I’m a stay-at-home-mom which has more cachet). Science fiction, fantasy, romance novels, and (gasp!) erotica are at the bottom of the literati’s list of what one should read, unless of course you’re writing a scholarly article about erotica or compiling some sort of academic erotica which usually has something to do with feminism or gender studies at which point the erotica rockets to the top of the pile (one must find some legitimate way to read one’s favorite porn, right?). These days, thanks to the internets, there’s an even lower form of writing, the lowest of the low, the very dregs of the whole enterprise: fanfiction. I mean, that stuff isn’t even published! My word!

So, of course, growing up, I did my best to hide the fact that I love genre fiction. Sci-fi and romance have always been my novels of choice. While everyone around me was reading Tolstoy and Plath, I was busy sucking down every last one of Asimov’s books and chasing them with a helping of regency love stories. When I tried to force myself to read Dickens or Austen, guess what happened? Yes: FAIL. What does this all mean? For me, after many years and thousands of books I have discovered a secret: there are really excellently written sci-fi/fantasy and romance novels, and yes, even some incredible fanfiction. Eventually I forced myself to read some classics and I found that I far prefer literary non-fiction to fiction (I have never finished a Dickens novel, not ever, though I love Poe). This gave me an extremely broad vista of material from which to form my ideas of what is ‘good’ writing and what is not. I didn’t limit myself to what I was ‘supposed’ to read and in so doing, I have discovered that buried beneath all the dreck are some pretty damn good stories. I would not be the person I am today if I hadn’t read the incredible and far-reaching political theories in sci-fi, or learned how very deeply love can heal the soul from reading romance novels. And the best part? These books are fun! They don’t make me weep uncontrollably at the end, wishing I had put out my eyes with a spoon instead of reading that insanely sad novel (see Cry, the Beloved Country, and no, I don’t care that it was brilliant, it was freaking depressing).

Now, this begs the question, why do so many academics and professionals insist that one should only read the stuff on the top of the creative writing class heap? Why do they wrinkle their noses and sniff if you happen to mistakenly fart out that right this very moment you are reading the latest Laurell K. Hamilton book? Why do I still reflexively hide the cover of my fantasy novel when I’m in public? Because what you read is a form of self-advertising. And because the collective mass of people around you believes you are a nerd if you read sci-fi, or stupid if you read romance, you hide your guilty pleasure like you hide your fixation with American Idol. It’s so much more impressive to bleat about how much you like NPR and did you know that people are reading Rand again? than it is to just own up to the fact that you could care less what subject Gladwell has tackled lately as long as you can get your Balogh fix. It’s all about appearances, which is, of course, the original function of class ideology and status in the tribe: full circle baby, go directly to Fussell’s book. So, when I say I’m a poet and I read non-fiction books about science, I’m not lying. Yes, I’m waiting for you to be impressed and hoping my literary superiority will rocket me to the top of the pile when grazing amongst the herd. However, I also read Scalzi’s and Asaro’s sci-fi novels and most hideously, Emma Holly’s erotica and I love them. Yes I do. I just don’t tell you.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

for Mother's Day 2009

I’ve been a mother for nearly fifteen years. I still remember the first shocking moment that I realized what I’d done, and no, it wasn’t in the hospital or even when I brought the kid home. It wasn’t even that night. It happened a few days later when he suddenly stopped staring adorably out at the world and began screaming non-stop for the next ten months. Well. Right then I learned my lesson: your child is not an extension of you. This small, helpless infant was his own person. Sure, his dad and I fed him and hugged him and made sure he didn’t die from lack of sunlight, but still, none of that is actually the point, is it? Really, the fact that I kept him and his younger brother alive for all these years isn’t the point either, even though I am justifiably proud of it since even now I can’t keep a plant green for longer than a year or so.

Now, I suppose I ought to get all sentimental and explain to my own mother (who will hopefully read this) how much she means to me and how grateful I am to her for feeding me and keeping me alive long enough to talk back at her and slam doors and all the other repellent teen stuff, but you know what? She already knows. Instead, I’d like to explain what I really think motherhood encompasses: the job is to teach your child how to ask questions. Really, it’s not anything more complicated than that. The truth is, the ability to survive has always depended on how good you are at solving problems. That used to mean understanding about winter and how to store food and learning enough about being charming to secure your status in the tribe. These things are still important, but one problem that seems to loom in our culture even larger than the issue of mere survival these days is how can I be happy? The funny thing? You can’t teach your kid how to be happy unless you’ve figured it out first. By the time you do figure it out, if ever, you have learned that teaching happiness is impossible (which, damnit, was a really aggravating discovery). You can only show them how to ask the questions that they find important, because remember, your kids are not you and what makes you happy will not necessarily make them happy. The trick is to teach them how to find their own answers. The other trick is to let them ask their own questions.

I wrote a poem a few years ago called, “The book of small treasures.” It’s the title poem from my unpublished chapbook in which all the poems are about motherhood:

The book of small treasures

Each day, he holds out his empty book,
the pages filled with blankness as if to ask:
so, now what? I have no answers. I am
a mother. Philosophy reveals itself slowly,
if at all, in the small things: a dark tree
suddenly clear in the fog, a tadpole
moving ecstatically in the roadside puddle.
I teach him to fold these little treasures
in his book, to save them forever, and he does
what I ask, mindlessly, but it is still not enough.
He needs more answers to fill up the landscape
he’s just discovered. He needs both love
and distance, like the garden that won’t bloom
until you step away. This is what I write
in my book, slowly, with much prodding
and resistance. These are the things my mother
taught me when I was a girl, when she let me hold
her book, its pages filled with thin drawings,
penciled resignation. The blankness punctuated
with the occasional, brilliant letter.

Ultimately, I think the question of how to be happy is really not a question so much as it is a walk somewhere. Along the way it’s helpful to note which things in life bring you joy. In the true perverseness that is life, they’re never what you expect and certainly not anything to do with “success” or “what you’re supposed to do.” Often, the stuff that really makes me happy are the things that take the most work, like learning how to write, drinking a perfect cup of tea (you would not believe how long it took me to get the temperature right), or finally realizing that every person I love isn’t perfect and forgiving them and myself for having expected the impossible. I could go on, but my explanations would be meaningless since every person’s happiness is, well, personal. This is the thing I want my boys to learn. This is what I’m teaching them when I ask: what are your questions? Go find them and don’t worry if you don’t figure it out right away. Life may often suck, but it’s cool, too. You get to try things more than once.

Some of this I learned on my own. Some of it I learned from my mother who stubbornly continues to listen to me, despite my insistent departure from her most familiar philosophies. That can’t be comfortable for her and I am always amazed when she tells me she has learned something from me. I want to be that kind of mother, the one who listens to her kids and respects their discoveries about happiness. Maybe it was her insistence that “contentment is boring” that made me ask and ask and read and move out and live completely differently than anyone else in the family that convinced me that the question is the answer. Whatever the case, I wouldn’t have managed it if she hadn’t had the fortitude to let me be my own person. Today I filled in some more pages of that blank book she gave me when I was born (hey, I’m speaking metaphorically here, don’t expect a photo, sheesh). This morning I wrote: Hey Mom? Thanks for the book.


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Saturday, May 09, 2009

review of The Flea

Review of the inaugural issue of The Flea

I spent April reading and writing poetry in honor of National Poetry Month. To my dismay, most of it was dreck. I had poems emailed to me, read them on blogs, online workshops, in journals, and investigated some new poets I’d not read before. My disappointment nearly crushed the life out of my pencil. Several days ago I read a few poems by Carol Ann Duffy thinking, how cool that the UK’s new poet laureate is a woman. Perhaps I wasn’t working from a large enough sample size, but the three poems I’d read were enough to convince me that I would never willingly read more: “I sank like a stone / Into the still, deep waters / of late middle age,” said her poem “Mrs Rip Van Winkle” and after reading that, so did I. And just yesterday I read a poem by Ferlinghetti (“Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames]”) and was astonished by the pointlessness of it: “If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.” Uh, sure. Why the hell not? Just throw out alliteration and assonance and while you’re at it, forget that metaphor is the single most useful device in the English language.

This morning I woke up and checked my email in despair, not really even hoping anymore for good writing to magically appear and appease my underfed poetic muse. Instead of a poem, I received notification that someone new was following me on Twitter. My hungry muse whimpered in dismay. I didn’t know who it was since Twitter does not tell you the real names of your followers, just their userid’s which usually look like spam, only spelled more weirdly. I clicked on the profile. It still looked like spam, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t better written than the poems I’d been reading. The tweet said: Dancing with Metaphysical Fleas. What? Cool. I followed the link: http://www.the-flea.com/ and nearly had a heart attack. It was poetry! Holy moly, it was good poetry!

Upon further investigation, I discovered that The Flea is a brand new online journal (excuse me, broadsheet) full of the most interesting and creative poetry I’d read all month (outside of a few blogs and several good online workshop participants, which is code for unpublished poetry that will never see the light of day in a journal if the PTB have anything to say about it). Really, really good stuff. The first two lines of Catherine Chandler’s poem, “Body of Evidence” were delightful: “At odds about the odds the oxen sit. / Intransigent, they just don’t give a whit” Whoa! It rhymes! It uses iambic pentameter! It cleverly leads you to think the last word of the second line is going to be “shit” but then throws you over the connotation cliff with “whit” instead. I loved it. Even better was that the rest of the poem didn’t disappoint. It discusses point of view and god in a way that is both interesting and musically lyrical. I felt such relief. I’d opened the link to The Flea and been magically transported to a poet’s castle where the emperor’s new clothes were actually made of fabric instead of wishful thinking.

Now, I’m not a formal poetry nerd. Really, I’m not. I like free verse and have probably read more of it in my life than anything done up in pretty meter, so with great delight I clicked next on Rose Kelleher’s poem, “Global Solutions Architect.” I am married to a software engineering genius so the lingo in her poem was completely awesome and geekishly nifty. Yes, I know what a proton is and sure, I actually do know what a dynamic library does. Cool so far. Then her poem smacked me upside the head with this line: “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower,” Whoa! Was that an allusion? It was! It was! I grew so excited I read the rest of the poem thinking: Wow. Someone adroitly compares the nature of human intelligence and what we have made to the idea of a creator while not boring me to death. How could I not love a poem that says this in one place: “earth to the moon, and moon to spoon and croon,” and this in another: “breathe in, breathe out, iambic ones and zeros”? And then, spectacularly, it ends with chaos theory: “some engineer / who chuckles softly, sending a vibration / that fails to alter history the way / a butterfly-wing would, or so they say.”

I read “De Caelis” by Temple Cone, marveling at the experimental format and the way the poet rhymed “sky” with π. I read “Neutrinos and the holy spirit” by Geoff Page, pissed that I didn’t think of comparing the holy spirit to invisible particles in a poem. Why didn’t I write that? I listened to “Sonnet 27 from The Dark Lady” by Jennifer Reeser who managed to fit the words “Scheherazade,” “extenuated,” and “gracile” effortlessly into the sonnet form. I read the rest of the excellent poems found there (too many to discuss here without sounding like a brainless fangirl) and decided that the editor, Paul Stevens, succeeded in his goal, stated in the editorial note: “Whatever we think that Metaphysical poetry might be, most will agree that the possible range is very wide indeed. But for the purposes of The Flea, the term simply means that I will be receptive to good poems that might elsewhere struggle to win a hearing. . .” My starveling muse has finally eaten her fill and shut up. And the silence is filled with something much better than the clichés that had been fogging up my reading glasses.

I have no excuses anymore for laziness. I had come to the conclusion that there was nothing really worth reading being published and I was wrong. Go, go to The Flea. Read it and be grateful. I’ll be collecting all the useless print journals I’ve got sitting around and firing up the barbecue. Maybe the light of the flames will inspire me. At least I know that there is still poetry in the world that speaks to the mind and heart without navigating through the navel first and miring us all in the lint so often found therein.


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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

new poem in Touch: The Journal of Healing

I am delighted to have my poem, Crescent moon with earthshine in the debut issue of Touch: The Journal of Healing.

Please stop by and read the rest of the wonderful stuff there, including work by Dennis Greene, Ed Bennett, Esther Greenleaf Mürer, Laura Levesque, Maria Basile, Bebe Cook, Yvette Wiley, Larina Warnock, Colin Ward, Stephen Bunch, Mary Susan Clemons, Donal Mahoney, Alarie Tennille, Sherry O’Keefe, Toni L. Wilkes, Murray Alfredson, Christian Ward, and Arti Subramanian.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Genius? Uh no. Madness.

. . . Or maybe determination and revision.

I used to think I was talented. Seriously. Okay, you can stop laughing now. I have always known what I was going to do with my life. Until college, it never occurred to me that other people did not have this comforting knowledge. Then I met people who walked around as though life was a complete mystery. It was a source of great angst for them and much amusement for me. I was a repellent creature, wasn’t I?

The most ridiculous part of thinking I was talented was expecting to not only be good at my chosen calling, but to also be successful at it. Ha. Yes, I hear you laughing again. Stop. Needless to say, these dreams were crushed rather dramatically in my twenties. Well, the idea of success was. I still thought I was talented. It took another ten years for that to be crushed (can you say: rejection slips?). However, don’t despair, this story has a happy ending. I learned that neither success nor talent matter. They don’t matter. Why?

Because determination trumps them both. Where the hell determination comes from is still a mystery to me; perhaps it’s just sheer stubbornness masquerading as a positive trait (can you say: screw you to the whole world?). Happily, success has mostly lost its luster for me, at least success as other people define it. I’m no longer so obsessed with being a best-selling novelist (though it would be nice, all that money). However, I am obsessed with being a good writer, good however I define it, that is. My husband believes that even if you are determined, without talent, all the determination in the world will not matter. Perhaps that’s also true. Perhaps it takes both. However, I do know that talent is useless unless you have the determination to hone it, practicing over and over again for years. Years.

Today I read an article in the NYTimes that seemed to reflect some of this pet theory of mine: Genius: The Modern View. In it, Brooks discusses genius and how we all seem to think that one is born with it. Einstein was destined to become a famous physicist. Phelps was destined to become an insane swimmer. Uh no. Not necessarily. So, what is it that makes these types of people so “successful?” The ability to practice the thing that interested them over and over again for years. This practice can make practically anyone into a genius. Except, who can stand to do that sort of thing? You miss a lot of TV and nights out at the local bar. You might even have missed the last episode of BSG (gasp!). So who is determined enough to do something like that for hours every day? Hmm.

Many people ask me how I could possibly write a fairly complete poem each day for a month. The short answer: I can’t, really (yes, I know I didn’t finish the last seven days of NaPoWriMo this year, enough already). The long answer: I didn’t used to be able to do that and now I can, but it’s only because I studied for ten years. See, I thought I knew how to write even though I didn’t do much of it during the 1990s. I was wrong. In 1999 I couldn’t stand it anymore. I missed writing. I hated not doing what I always thought I would and I hated even more the desperate sensation of being trapped in a hell of one’s own making. I began writing. Much drivel appeared at the end of my pencil (if you are desperate for proof, I’ll post a poem from 1999 so that you may laugh and hurl simultaneously).

Point is, I spent the next ten years practicing. It was useless as far as careers go; I think poetry is the last art at which you make nothing (there are a few cash prizes, but still, no millions). Why the hell would I do this? I was determined. I promised myself when I was ten I would be a poet. And it was exciting to get better at it. I can’t even begin to explain what it feels like to grow a sixth sense about line-breaks or the first time I really understood what an iambic foot was. (Although I still think Hopkins’ sprung rhythm is madness. He pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes.)

So, I slogged through Mary Kinzie’s A Poet’s Guide to Poetry with her fascinating ideas about metaphor and her bizarre charts. I slogged through The Heath Guide to Poetry, The Poetry Home Repair Manual, Writing Poems, In the Palm of Your Hand, The Language of Life, The Face of Poetry, and about one hundred others (forgive me, lists are boring, I know). Then I wrote. I focused on one aspect of poetry for months at a time: sound, metaphor, personification, etc. I revised. This cannot stress this particular thing enough: I REVISED A LOT. Anyone can write a vast amount of dreck every day and not improve the writing one iota if one does not think critically about what one is doing. I revised one poem over seven years time and it still isn’t my best work.

By 2008 I could consistently write a poem I felt worked in a style recognizably mine without much revision. By 2009, I could write a poem that worked in a style not recognizably mine without much revision. Consistently being the operative word (there are always those happy accidents, but the ability to do something intentionally is the goal). So, the most important thing I learned from all this? Stuff takes a long time. It took a minimum of ten years for me to feel like I’d figured it out. Ten years to learn how to write a poem. This doesn’t include college or high school or all the years of my twenties. Ten years of study and obsession to get a good poem at the end and no monetary compensation? Madness.

Of course, the question remains: is the stuff I put out any good? I like it. Some others seem to like it. It doesn’t look like a lot of what’s published today, but I don’t mind anymore. I am successful in my own head which is, oddly, right where I was when I was eighteen years old and a freaking genius. I have walked forwards and ended up at the beginning, but at least I can say that I know what a poem is now. I can knowledgeably converse with others about poetry. I recognize a sonnet even if it doesn’t bite me on the ankle first. And none of this is attributable to any freakish inborn aptitude.


Sestina circa 1999 — only thing good about it is that it’s not in first person

Rejoice

There she stands at dusk, lost on the curb,
staring silent into the dank gutter.
The autumn leaves are trapped, still
and frozen in the open iron grate.
Cinder and ice islands lie stranded
around her, surrounding her:

unfortunate winter monuments. Her
face is tight, holding a desperate curb
on her emotions. A thin strand
of hair flicks across her cheek while the gutter
smells wrinkle her nose, grating
against her senses. She is still,

lost, until a sharp wind stills
her thoughts. She crosses the street, her
heart beating fast. She hops another grate,
avoiding the mess in it to step onto the curb.
Up in the sky painted clouds far from the gutter
in her mind leap across the blue expanse in strands.

Looking up, startled by beauty, she imagines the strand
of her life changing, streaming free. “I am still
alive,” she thinks. She looks down past the gutter
and glimpses of trees and water beckon her.
She pivots, and turns down the walk, another curb
in her way. Jump! She leaps over the edge, past the grate

and runs down the hill to the valley. No grates
collect waste and ice here; there’s only rich strands
of old leaves woven into the ground. No sharp curbs
trap the yellow grass, no slippery sidewalks still
the wildflowers. She leaves the blocked gutter
up on the dark mountain city far behind her,

to still herself in the valley, see the deepening sky. Strands
of starlight curb the horizon, so beautiful! The gutter
above is silent; its grates are frozen shut far away from her.



Free verse circa 2005 — a happy accident

Suicide

Don’t judge me
she says as I walk in.
I know love is a puzzle,
but her words confuse
more than usual as they fall
from blue lips.
What is she doing there,
on the floor,
wanting to be unmade?

Blood does not lie
as it streaks linoleum.
It doesn’t soak in.
It just leaks like a dropped cup
of coffee, a wasted taste
I lunge for, try to staunch
with a dishtowel.
It’s too late
the tree outside says.

Leaves drop like grief
onto wet ground.


first appeared in: Ibbetson Street Press, November/December 2005, Issue 18

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sonnets and Static

I wrote twenty sonnets this month. No, seriously, twenty (and I will be deleting them from Poets.org soon, so read them while you still can). I read somewhere that when artists want to learn something, they draw it 100 times. I wanted to learn how to write a sonnet. I'd been writing free-verse with the occasional foray into forms for years but I want to be a writer, not a one-hit-poem wonder. In my life I've written technical manuals, insurance books, safety manuals, letters, resumes, stories, poems, and done a slew of other writing-related things, yet there is always something more about writing that I don't know. I suppose there always will be, for which I am profoundly grateful.

About sonnets:
Some people asked me how I did it. How did I write so many sonnets in a row? I have a system. I decided to study cloud forms at the same time which provided a framework. I already know I like to talk about relationships and emotion; that provided subject matter. When I sit down to write, I open up one thesaurus in my browser and two rhyming dictionaries. I choose the last word of the lines based on how many other words rhyme with them, and how interesting the words are to me before I write the line, with a few inspired exceptions.

I chose consciously to enjamb most of the lines, saving end-stopped lines for when I truly wanted to make a point because I think that fundamentally changes the traditional nature of the sonnets, bringing it into the modern era and making it more palatable to the modern ear. I say to everyone who asks: follow the punctuation, not the lines when reading aloud; follow the lines only with the eye. I also stuck mostly to iambic feet, with the occasional trochee substitution and in one poem, an amphibrach at the end, for my meter. When I begin, I chant a fake iambic pentameter line to myself and settle down to work. That's basically it.

About static:
I recently bought Jack Gilbert's new book, "The Dance Most of All," and on first glance it seems to be more of the same. He's one of my favorite poets and I'm certainly looking forward to reading his new poetry (it's all so comfortable), yet I can't help feeling as though he discovered one way to do something and hasn't varied since then. His poems all look the same: like a herd of horses, they're different colors and even breeds and beautiful, but still, all HORSES. I've noticed that other poets tend to do this, never changing that one style that works, that brings them recognition and awards. It's a trap.

Both beginners and old-hands fall into this trap, in which there are two sides. On one side you write only for yourself, on the other you write only for other people. The best work of any poet straddles the sharp line in-between: where you understand how much information a reader needs to relate to your poem and you also understand that you must push the boundary of sameness and move into artistry. Most of the stuff I've read in journals now, respectable journals and respectable poets, is so random that comprehension is also random. These poems do not even pretend to speak to a reader. Most of the other stuff I read is all too conscious of the reader and fails to provide that spark of difference that moves the poem from ordinary into innovative. Boring, boring, boring, both sides.

I don't want that. I don't want to write the same kind of poem over and over for the rest of my life. I don't want to write only for myself and I don't want to write what is fashionable right now. So, I wrote twenty sonnets and learned how to manage iambic pentameter and rhyme and to my amazement, twenty was enough. I moved on to a type of stream-of-consciousnes poem whose form I invented for myself in a burst of sheer joy one night. It will be another chapbook, yet another unpublished chapbook. I have three finished so far, and one full-length collection, all still unpublished. And now, when this new set is done, I will have four. Absurd. Still, at least they are all different (except in voice, which you can't run away from and is another topic completely).