Thursday, December 20, 2012

November Sky Blog becomes ChristineKlocekLim.com


For blog posts, information about me (Christine Klocek-Lim), Poem Sparks, and anything new I have to say, please click through to my new website:

ChristineKlocekLim.com

See you on the other side!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ode to my children

Warning: incredibly sappy blog post ahead.



My older kid's 18th birthday is tomorrow. In January, my younger son will turn 16. The thing is, I'm not the kind of person who looks backward a lot. Sure, I remember when they were babies (okay, I remember the screaming and the legos and the giggling), but I don't have photos hanging on my wall or propped up on my desk. If I want to look at baby pictures, I have to go dig them out. The photo up above? I haven't set eyes on that one in maybe ten years. It's from 1995. Jeremy was 1 year old.

The surest way to grieve the past is to focus on it incessantly. The first thing that usually pops into my head when I think about the boys being little is all the times they almost died. Which, just, no. I'm not going to focus on that. Maybe it's different for other parents. Maybe their kids don't have allergies or heart defects or possible Marfan's or that brain damage incident or whatever, but I've had all too many close calls with the great black hole of grief to ever go poking at the beast on purpose. I want to focus on the good stuff. Usually that's the stuff that's happening right now in front of me.

Both of my kids are crazy intelligent. I don't really know how to explain what this is like. It leads to unexpected conversations and sometimes devices that scare the shit out of me being left on the steps and the odd sensation of knowing that they can solve math problems in their head (how do they do that?). A lot of people talk about having intelligent kids and everyone (according to the articles I read) wants intelligent kids, but many of them, when faced with the reality, pretty much are like: WTF. Hey kid, why won't you follow the directions on the box? Why is it so hard for you to listen and do all the stuff everyone else does at your age?

Smart kids are difficult. Directions are boring. Putting things together the way you're supposed to is boring. Toys with instructions are boring. Games are infuriating and boring (until you figure out how to reprogram them). These kids do weird shit like talk when they're six months old or not talk at all until they're four years old (then they speak in complete sentences with multisyllabic words that most adults don't use or understand). They're BORED all the time. School is usually BORING BORING BORING and "I've already read the entire textbook and this class is pointless now, Mom" by the third week of September.

A lot of people have bright kids. Not many people dodge school officials and psychologists like I've had to for the past sixteen years because really smart kids are kind of ... not normal. Doctor's charts have been a source of hilarity in my house for years. I've had to read up on my college statistics class so I could understand what the hell outlier meant. The funniest thing about all of this? No one believes you. Smart kids are supposed to get straight As. Most of them don't. Smart kids are supposed to just be brilliant, easily, in totally predictable ways. They're not.

Smart kids hate having to learn how to do things that are tricky, like riding a bicycle or tying their shoes or using a pencil (though scissors can be mastered at age one year). That stuff that requires muscle memory and practice is torture. Smart kids can intelligently discuss physics and the socio-political jokes from The Daily Show in their early teens, but learning how to grocery shop? Not so much. Smart kids figure out how to fool their teachers in kindergarten, but butt heads with their eighth-grade homeroom teacher. It's kind of weird and cool and terrifying, at the same time.

As a parent, I have learned how to roll with most of this. I harp on the important things: don't forget your epi-pen. Don't expect the world to make sense. Learning that people act irrationally most of the time is, perhaps, the hardest thing to teach them. I even stumble over that one, still.

It's weird, though, getting to this point. A parent of kids like this must be hyper-aware of the things society expects from children at certain ages, and know how to either hide their kids' peccadillos or not give a shit, depending on the situation. My job has been to keep them away from the "specialists" and do-gooders, so that they can figure out who they are without the labeling that seems so prevalent these days. I wanted them to be bored at the right times. Slotting kids like mine into piles of activities makes them crazy (and me, too) and doesn't help them figure out how to calm their racing brain at midnight enough to sleep.

I worked hard at showing them how cool it is to learn new things on their own because I'm convinced that public education, in many cases, is intent on stifling that urge. Jeremy reads the same books I do, the kind of books you don't get to crack open in school until you're in college or beyond. Zachary doesn't like to read (which everyone thinks is at odds with being smart, and really isn't) so I spend a lot of my time talking to him about online gaming and the internet and watching hilarious videos that he sends me and discussing the ethics of a modern society versus hunter-gatherer cultures among other things.

I spend a lot of breath forcing them to relax and take a break and not to worry so much about school. I have never been so convinced as I am now that education in our society and a love of learning is mostly incompatible. Public education teaches to the average and to the below-average. Gifted education? Hah. It's a joke. It mostly consists of piling more BORING projects that require colored pencils and poster board on top of the regular classroom work.

All of this is to say one thing: I HAD NO IDEA what I was getting into. Dear everyone who wants a baby: the pitter patter of little feet thing is a LIE. Sometimes they crawl. Sometimes (like Jeremy), they never crawl, they roll. Sometimes they BREAK THEIR CRIB (Zachary did this. I'm not kidding) or figure out how to flip over their pack-n-play. They take apart their plasma night-light. They invent their own language and would rather go to a museum than have a birthday party.

My kids did NONE of the things everyone told me they would do. But you know what? I don't mind. They're the most interesting people I've ever met. I can't wait to see what we do together tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Publish online and kiss your Pushcart goodbye



This past April I did an interview series for National Poetry Month. During the series, one of the questions I asked was this:

Do you think there is a disconnect between academic poets/poetry and online poets/poetry?

Some of the people I interviewed declined to answer. Some said "I don't know." Some gave an in-depth explanation of why they thought there was a disconnect or not. In general, many of the people I interviewed truly believed that if there is still a disconnect in any way, it will not be around for much longer because the internet has become so much a part of our lives.

I'm not so sure.

It is human nature to strive for status. It is part of our psyche to work toward success because it brings with it so many rewards: respect, wealth, power. In an evolutionary world, this means that one's offspring has a better chance of survival if one has power.

In a literary sense, the definition of success has traditionally meant publish, publish, win awards, publish, win some more awards, etc. The more one publishes, the more one's work has a chance of survival long after the writer has died.

The introduction of a radically new medium (online publishing) into an established and entrenched process has upset this balance of power. The hegemony of traditional literary establishments is slowly eroding as the prevalence of online opportunities expands. The question is whether the traditional establishments will adapt and survive or hang on so tightly that they slow down the process of change. I think it can go either way: some will adapt and some will fossilize their procedures (publishing, awards, etc.), thus preserving their traditional authority for at least a while longer.

(One need only to read the many articles about the arrival of ebooks and the hysteria that is gripping traditional publishing houses (see the brouhaha surrounding Amazon, the big six, and the Department of Justice) to realize that a similar upset is slowly gripping the literary publishing world as well. What most people don't realize is that the tipping point for commercial fiction is already here.)

Just recently, I received an email from The Fox Chase Review. This lovely online journal posted a blog entry in which they explained why they would no longer be sending work to the Pushcart Prize anthology. This decision was because of a statement from Bill Henderson in the introduction of the 2012 Pushcart anthology:


“I have long railed against the e-book and instant Internet publication as damaging to writers. Instant anything is dangerous—great writing takes time. You should long to be as good as John Milton and Reynolds Price, not just barf into the electronic void.”
-Bill Henderson – The Pushcart Prize 2012 Introduction..

The Fox Chase Review's response:

The internet has opened a door to poets/writers in this new time. There are many fine publications who publish only on the net and are not easily entered. Rejection rates far outnumber acceptance rates.  Henderson’s void is an opportunity for various styles of writing to emerge that may not have found a home in more elitist presses which I am sorry to say The Pushcart has now become through the voice of Bill Henderson.  The Fox Chase Review will no longer submit entries to The Pushcart Prize and we hope Henderson doesn’t continue to barf on his computer.


Clearly, a miasma still lingers around online publication of poetry. It will be interesting to see how long it takes before this barrier between online and academic/print establishments falls. I suspect it will be several decades yet.

Meanwhile, I'll be over here quietly writing poems and being unutterably grateful I don't hold a position where I must publish in the right places (meaning print/academic/pushcart/poetry/newyorker) or perish.


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Starbursts and Fox Chase Review


No, no, not the candy! And not actual stars, either, although that's the original inspiration for my poem, now appearing in Fox Chase Review, Summer 2012: "Starburst in a dwarf irregular galaxy."

In this issue you can find work by: A.D. Winans, Anthony Buccino, Elijah Pringle, Frank Wilson, James Arthur, James Quinton, Jane Lewty, Jim Mancinelli, John Dorsey, Le Hinton, Melanie Huber, Mel Brake, Nicholas Balsirow, Russell Reece, Stephen Page, and Stevie Edwards.


Fox Chase Review also did an interview with me recently: Ten Questions for Christine Klocek-Lim. In the interview I mention how much I hate doing readings. This is terribly ironic because I will also be doing a reading for Fox Chase Review next year. (Thank goodness it's next year! Procrastination is your friend! Yeah!)

Monday, June 04, 2012

Poet in Residence - Touch: The Journal of Healing


A few months ago I received a call from the editor of Touch: The Journal of Healing. We've had a long and fruitful professional and personal friendship so I wasn't particularly surprised to be hearing from him. However, when he asked me if I would consider being the first Poet in Residence for his journal, I couldn't help but feel completely flabbergasted.

Me? I thought. What do I know? Yeah, sure I've written a lot over the years, but quantity doesn't always equal quality as so many of us know (have you seen the typos cropping up all over the web lately at large news/magazine sites?). Nevertheless, O.P.W. Fredericks persuaded me. He asked me to write a series of essays exploring one of the major themes of the journal: Evolution into Insight. How could I resist?

If you click through you will find my essay as well as three poems I wrote over twelve years. The poems all deal with one thing: my second son's congenital heart defect. As I said in the essay: "Never be satisfied with the first attempt." It took twelve years and many more poems than the three published in Touch to really become satisfied with my attempt at recording the trauma and subsequent emotional revolution that was born of my child's brush with death.

There are a lot of other great poems and artwork in Issue 10 of Touch: The Journal of Healing. Check out the Editor's Choice: Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas. There is also work by: Ed Bennett, Jackie Fox, John Davis Jr., Richard King Perkins II, Danny P. Barbare, Pat St. Pierre, Tammy Daniel, Emily Lasinsky, Murray Alfredson, Stephen Gilchrist, Krisztina Fehervari, and Susan Kelley.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Death looked over my shoulder but I stuck him with an EpiPen



I don't often talk about my kids online. They're teens and I feel it's inappropriate to discuss them or post pictures without their permission. However, when I finished reading my email this morning, the urge to speak up was overwhelming. Both of my sons have severe food allergies. That photo you see above? It's been part of my daily life for sixteen years. It's been part of my sons' lives since forever. We don't go anywhere without an EpiPen, prednisone, and Benadryl. In fact, we usually carry extras around because my paranoia knows no bounds.

Yesterday my seventeen year old had to go to a computer science competition practice after school. They were serving pizza, and like usual I told him that as long as he knew where the pizza came from and could ask about peanut ingredients, it'd be fine if he ate some. He refused. He told me that he was really tired of always having to worry about his allergies and didn't feel like expending the energy to check with the pizza place (we generally call and speak with the cook/manager). He packed food from home for himself. Then he told me something that made my blood run cold. He said that in another club of his, the kids often gave him a hard time when they ordered pizza. They asked him why didn't he ever eat it and made fun of him—all the usual stupid shit teens (and adults) do to those who don't conform to their idea of normal. Disgruntled and frustrated, my son told me that there's another teen in the club with a peanut allergy. Apparently, this kid eats pizza and a lot of other things without worry, care, and most disturbingly, WITHOUT CARRYING AN EPIPEN.

There are two reasons why this freaked the hell out of me. One, since when were kids giving my son a hard time? I had no idea. He's a teenager and that means he has assumed a certain amount of responsibility in his life. He doesn't tell me every single detail of what happens at school and that's fine. However, if I'd known the other kids were doing this, I would've been more than delighted to go to his club and give a detailed description of how much fun we had that one time when I had to rush him to the hospital. Anaphylactic shock is AWESOME! Watching your kid's eyes turn glassy and his whole body turn bright red? TOTAL GREATNESS. I mean, what could be better than wondering if your kid is going to stop breathing? Or, you know, LIVE? I could've described how cool it was watching the ER staff hook him up to multiple IVs. How damn wonderful it was watching them rush around my son, controlled urgency in every movement.

I suppose you can tell I'm being a bit sarcastic here.

The other thing that bothered me is that my son told me the other kid didn't carry an EpiPen. This saddened me greatly. I know a number of people with severe allergies (food, environmental, etc.) who really should carry an EpiPen but don't. EpiPens are not large. They can save your life. Some researchers are even working on a new version of one that is as small as a credit card. You'll be able to carry it in your wallet. There are two reasons why most people don't carry one: 1. too much bother and 2. other people make fun of you when you carry an EpiPen.

My son doesn't deserve to have to deal with stupid kids giving him a hard time about his allergies. Kids suck. High school sucks. I remember when my peers made fun of my glasses, my crankiness, my general "you're not like us"-ness. Whatever. I got over it. That stuff didn't threaten my life. The thing is, my kid could DIE. The stuff he has to deal with could KILL HIM. Sure, most parents worry about their kid getting hit by a car, falling in with the wrong crowd, or just doing something dumb—I worry about what my kids eat. The food they put in their mouths can kill them if they don't know what's in the ingredients. And what do their peers do? Oh, hey, look at him! He won't eat the pizza, he's such a dork!

My nephew is allergic to casein (the protein in milk). My younger son has a heart defect and thinking about that sometimes scares me to death. Another nephew has multiple health issues (liver transplant). I'm used to worrying about shit I can't control. I'm used to expecting the worst at the most unexpected possible moment. What really pisses me off though is the complete and total narcissism of our society. Homophobia, racism, bullying—these things make me angry. Why do teens act like this at school? Why do they treat kids like my son who has allergies, or gay kids, or non-white/non-black/non-hispanic (oh yes, racism knows no bounds, believe me) kids like crap? Because the adults in their lives act like that and we all learn by example.

We tell our kids that it gets better. That when people grow up, they magically turn into fair, nice, respectful individuals. Um, no they don't, not all the time. How about we stop lying to our children? Adults suck just as much as kids do. Many grow up and get a clue and manage to learn how to treat other people well, but many don't. And until we stop lying to our kids about this, the fake culture of "people are nice" is going to persist. Peer pressure is an incredible thing. It creates riots. It makes teens act like jerks. It can also move an entire society from hatred toward peace. Toward equal rights. Toward research that improves our planet and saves our children's lives. Let's admit to our kids that we've messed up. Acting like that is not okay. In order to change the world, in order to make sure teens don't continue to propagate evil, we adults have to start owning up to our own shameful tendency toward pointing fingers. We need to not pass this crap on to the next generation.

In my email this morning I received a note from my local chapter of a food allergy support group. In it was the news that yet another teenager had died from eating cookies that he thought were safe. They rushed him to the hospital but he'd stopped breathing within minutes of eating the cookies. His brain was dead. The thing that stood out to me the most? This boy DIDN'T CARRY AN EPIPEN. I don't know why, but I can guess: his friends/peers probably made fun of him.

What do I have to say to every kid with an allergy (or who is different)? Stand up for yourself. Stand up to adults (if you can safely), to other kids, to whomever you have to and tell them that your life is more important than their need to make you conform to their idea of normal. Oh, and carry your EpiPen, for crying out loud. Hide it in your pocket, your backpack, your purse, but don't ever, EVER, leave home without it.

~~~~~
ETA: Having a food allergy does not define who you are. I've made it a point to teach my kids this idea. Their life is not their food allergy. They are not a label, an illness, a paranoia. The thing is, no one else in their life should be defining who they are by their food allergy, or illness, or the color of their skin, or whatever, either. When other kids give them a hard time about what they eat, they are, in essence, saying: Oh hey, you're the freak with the allergy! Sucks to be you.

Yeah, no. It doesn't suck to be a kid with a food allergy unless you let it define your entire life. Don't let it. Don't let anyone else do it, either.

I once knew a woman who wrote by sticking a pencil in her mouth. I know a man with Parkinson's who uses a voice recognition device to write. I think of them as poets.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Haboobs - an old sonnet from 2009

I just saw this post on wunderground (my favorite weather site) and it reminded me of a poem I wrote back in 2009 (never published). I have to remember to not read the news on the weekend. It's this little pact I made with myself: weekends are for fun and family and writing and reading and gardening.


haboobs

There are so many things I shouldn’t read;
when misfortune has already come in real
life, why decipher more? The speed
at which we realize one ordeal
does not preclude the next. Another time,
another storm will suck transparency
away. Thunder sounds inside the grime;
it’s hard to breathe, impossible to see.
Why bother reading news after the fact?
Who wants to know how strangers may have died
when here at home all the walls are cracked
with loss? Except, perhaps the other side
is greener—grass instead of sand. And rain
that gives its people peace instead of pain.


ETA: oh, wow, that same photographer has a video! It's amazing. May 9th, 2012 - Dust storms near Casa Grande and Phoenix by Mike Olbinski:

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

How to download an ABNA excerpt





My sci-fi novel, "Who Saw the Deep," made it into the semifinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award


The big question seems to be: How do you read the excerpt? It's easy and free. You can read it in your browser, no Kindle necessary. Just follow these instructions:



How to read an excerpt if you already have an Amazon account:

1. Go to the book page: Who Saw the Deep


2. Click Buy Now with 1-click. The excerpt will go to your default device, but you can still read it in your browser.


3. You should see something that looks like: Or, start reading now in your web browser: Read Now in Kindle Cloud Reader. Click the button.


4. If you don't get that prompt, it's probably because you haven't yet set up your Kindle Cloud Reader. Follow the prompts to do so:


You'll see a screen that says it's waiting for you in your cloud reader along with a yellow button that says: Read Now in Kindle Cloud. Click that button and you'll go right to the excerpt in your browser.


5. When you're done reading, it may prompt you asking if it can download the Kindle app to your computer. You don't have to. You can click cancel if you want to at this stage.


How to read an excerpt if you DO NOT have an Amazon account:

1. Go to the book page: Who Saw the Deep


2. Click Buy Now with 1-click.


3. Follow the prompts for setting up an Amazon account (provide a userid and password).


4. Choose a device for reading the excerpt. You should see something that looks like: Deliver To: YourUserid's Kindle Cloud Reader


5. You'll see a screen that says it's waiting for you in your cloud reader along with a yellow button that says: Read Now in Kindle Cloud. Click that button and you'll go right to the excerpt in your browser.


6. When you're done reading, it may prompt you asking if it can download the Kindle app to your computer. You don't have to. You can click cancel if you want to at this stage.


****


If you'd like to leave a review, that'd be awesome.

What's next? May 22: Six finalists announced (picked by Penguin). Amazon customers vote to pick the winners.



Publishers Weekly reviewed my full manuscript and offered this review:

This novel is well written, original, and clever. Noah Heath has just completed his doctorate in computer science and his father suggests he give himself a break and help a local senior citizen with some handyman chores. Amelia is a woman that Jaime Heath has known since childhood. On Noah’s first day of work, he notices a flash in the sky, a silver needle, but Amelia denies seeing it. Even so, he hears her call her daughter, Leah, saying,"it’s happening again.” When he returns home, his father starts telling him about the family “artifacts,” a few chunks of old metal. Noah starts to question, and more importantly, believe his father and Amelia’s tales of centuries old invasion and the part their forebears played in it. That the power of computers is limited only by our imaginations makes the tale convincing; the lack of little green men and the highly plausible abilities of the villains make it wonderful reading. It’s a pity to classify this book as science fiction; it reads more like the ancient myths, or even fairy tales. The author really knows his characters and uses them beautifully. Perhaps he’s had centuries to develop them.




.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — Oliver de la Paz


— a poetry interview series by Christine Klocek-Lim



Oliver de la Paz

1. What is your favorite poem that you've written? Read?

I always enjoy the poems I'm working on the most. There's something about the process that I genuinely love far more than a completed poem. Right now, I'm enjoying writing and reading a series of ekphrastic poems about Eadward Muybridge.  But I'm pretty sure that I'll move on to the next thing as I get back to the writing table. 


2. Do you think there is a disconnect between academic poets/poetry and online poets/poetry?

When I was coming up through the MFA, there were lots of distinctions that were made between who was in which camp, etc. But nowadays, there's so much good poetry out there, both online and performed on stage, that the distinctions, as silly as they were, are even more silly now that internet publication has become so commonplace. There was a time when I was hesitant to put my stuff online because I was worried about how it would be perceived, but now the ratio of my published work seems to lean much more towards websites and e-zines. I think any disconnect between academic poets/poetry and online poets/poetry will be rectified with this generation of poets who are more readily experimenting with poems online.


3. Has the rise of the poetry MFA been positive or detrimental to the art?

Anytime there's more people striving to craft art at the highest level, there can be only a positive outcome. Ultimately, the value of what's produced cannot be determined by any one person or camp, but can only be governed by an individual's taste. I don't believe that the rise in the number of MFA programs or students gaining their MFA's has diluted the pool of excellent poems, rather, what I've been seeing now is a rise in more DIY productions, chapbooks, etc. So I think that's a wonderful thing.


4. Do you write for yourself or for an audience/reader?

I used to write for an audience. Especially when I was just coming into consciousness as far as my poetic process is concerned. I had envisioned that I was writing for the larger Asian American community and that it was my duty to do so. Nowadays, I'm still writing poems for that audience, but I'm also much more invested in crafting work that pleases my ear, not to say that the Asian American community is not in tune to what I imagine to be pleasing. I'm merely less inclined to force the crafting of my work to meet the expectations of any reader outside of myself.


5. How much of what you write is inspiration vs. perspiration?

I tend to get snatched away by obsession when I'm in a writing mode, so initially the inspiration is the driving force of my work, but as the process continues, perspiration becomes the engine. I fancy working away at a piece as a way of demarcating time. 


6. How has the way you write changed (or not changed) over time?

I've become more of a deliberate, serial writer. I used to be able to write single poems. Individual lyrics which had no affinities to a broader project, but now out of necessity (a family and work), I've found that it's much easier to stay within a particular obsession and to craft poems centered around a single idea or event. As I mentioned earlier, my latest obsession is the photographer Eadward Muybridge, so his photo plates are something that I've been returning to. 


Bio:

Oliver de la Paz is the author of three collections of poetry, Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby (SIU Press 2001, 2007), and Requiem for the Orchard (U. of Akron Press 2010), winner of the Akron Prize for poetry chosen by Martìn Espada. He co-chairs the advisory board of Kundiman, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Asian American Poetry. A recipient of a NYFA Fellowship Award and a GAP Grant from Artist Trust, his work has appeared in journals like The Southern Review Virginia Quarterly Review, North American Review, Tin House, Chattahoochee Review, and in anthologies such as Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation. He teaches at Western Washington University.

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Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour - click for a list of participating blogs and daily entries
Upper Rubber Boot Books is coordinating a book blog tour for April, to help promote poetry and poets for National Poetry Month. Check back here for updates throughout the month of April (we’ll also post updates to our blog, and so will many of the participating poets).
Follow this event on Facebook or Goodreads.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour roundup: week four


Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour - click for a list of participating blogs and daily entries
Upper Rubber Boot Books is coordinating a book blog tour for April, to help promote poetry and poets for National Poetry Month. Check back here for updates throughout the month of April (we’ll also post updates to our blog, and so will many of the participating poets).
Follow this event on Facebook or Goodreads.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



  • 22 April 2012: 3 Questions for Heather Kamins (at Miriam Sagan's Miriam's Well: Poetry, Land Art, and Beyond)
  • 22 April 2012: Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — David W. Landrum (at Christine Klocek-Lim's November Sky Poetry).
  • 22 April 2012: Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour — Angie Werren (at T.A. Smith/Yousei Hime's Shiteki Na Usagi)
  • 22 April 2012: Yousei Hime (at Angie Werren's feathers: micropoetry (and tinyprose))
  • 23 April 2012: Guest Post by Carol Berg (at The Wordsmith's Forge: The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette)
  • 23 April 2012: Couplets: Interview with Iris Jamahl Dunkle (at Francis Scudellari's Caught In The Stream)
  • 23 April 2012: Guest Post by Stella Pierides (at Sabra Wineteer's The Bloomin' Blog)
  • 23 April 2012: Featured "Couplets" Poet: Julene Tripp Weaver (at Christina Nguyen's A wish for the sky...)
  • 23 April 2012: Margaret Dornaus (at Angie Werren's feathers: micropoetry (and tinyprose))
  • 24 April 2012: Macbeth and Probabiliby (Michael Round at JoAnne Growney's Intersections — Poetry with Mathematics)
  • 24 April 2012: Exploring the blueshift on the Couplets blog tour (review of Blueshifting at Sherry Chandler's blog)
  • 24 April 2012: Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — Catherine Rogers (at Christine Klocek-Lim's November Sky Poetry)
  • 24 April 2012: Fiona Robyn (at Angie Werren's feathers: micropoetry (and tinyprose))
  • 25 April 2012: Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — Timothy Green (at Christine Klocek-Lim's November Sky Poetry)
  • 25 April 2012: balance and flexibility: Molly Peacock part one (at Joanne Merriam)
  • 25 April 2012: Couplets: Crossing Genres with Iris Dunkle (at Wendy Brown-Baez's Wendy's Muse)
  • 25 April 2012: Fiona Robyn (at Angie Werren's feathers: micropoetry (and tinyprose))
  • 26 April 2012: Kathy Uyen Nguyen (at Angie Werren's feathers: micropoetry (and tinyprose))
  • 26 April 2012: Couplets: My life as a poet (Anne Higgins at Sue Burke's Mount Orégano)
  • 26 April 2012: Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — Lizzy Swane (at Christine Klocek-Lim's November Sky Poetry)
  • 26 April 2012: NaPoMonth Guest: Mary Alexandra Agner (at Stella Pierides: Literature, Art, Culture, Society)
  • 27 April 2012: elbow grease and enthusiasm: Molly Peacock part two (at Joanne Merriam)
  • 27 April 2012: Couplets Blog Tour: Carol Berg Hosts Pat Valdata (at Carol Berg's Ophelia Unraveling)
  • 27 April 2012: Poetry with Math -- BRIDGES 2012, Limericks (John Ciardi at JoAnne Growney's Intersections -- Poetry with Mathematics)
  • 27 April 2012: Couplets Poetry Tour & Sharing Your Story (Lisa Cihlar at Michele Fischer's Finding Your Voice)
  • 27 April 2012: Stella Pierides (at Angie Werren's feathers: micropoetry (and tinyprose))
  • 28 April 2012: Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — Stephen Bunch (at Christine Klocek-Lim's November Sky Poetry)
  • 28 April 2012: Weaving Words, an interview with Ned Haggard (at Wendy Brown-Baez's (Wendy's Muse)
  • 28 April 2012: Couplets Blog Tour: Celia Lisset Alvarez on Poetry & Politics (at Sunslick Starfish: chronicling the amazing ideas and adventures of Ching-In Chen: Writer & Community Organizer)
  • 28 April 2012: From Nature's Patient Hands: For Couplets, Elizabeth Barrette (at Wendy Babiak's What I Meant to Say)
  • 28 April 2012: Marty Smith (at Angie Werren's feathers: micropoetry (and tinyprose))
  • Saturday, April 28, 2012

    Three Poetry Reviews for National Poetry Month



    According to my dictionary, blueshift means "a shift toward shorter wavelengths of the spectral lines of a celestial object, caused by the motion of the object toward the observer." In "Blueshifting" (Upper Rubber Boot Books), Heather Kamins opens the collection by playing with this idea. The speaker in the poem reveals that we are all "flying into the foreshortening / light of evening. . ." The poem uses synonyms and images of blue to move the reader forward through the emotional realization that we are all moving toward something: a great blue heron "sliding through the fading sky. . ." or an astronaut "accelerating / toward the azure bubble of home," In another part of the poem, the speaker and her loved one move into each other emotionally under "cobalt light": "you look at me, / as time tucks up under itself." All these movements are realized in the color of the imagery, but the reader isn't left with mere fragments of pigment. Rather, the poem brings us forward along with the speaker into discovery. As the title poem for this collection, it's an apt introduction to the rest of the work.

    Not every poem uses color quite like the first, but as I thumbed through this chapbook, I was struck by the way Kamins threaded the scientific images with intellectual realization. In "You Are What You Eat," nearly every line compares a sweet food to a cosmological phenomenon: "meteors like oranges," "galaxy of sugar," and the closing image, "candy store of infinity." Kamins deftly weaves these morsels into a sort of visual wonder. She brings taste and vision together as her affinity for astronomy convinces the reader that every single mystery of the universe is worth chewing over and appreciating.

    In "Insomnia," the poet continues that sense of wonder. Instead of filling the poem with frustration and difficulty (as so many sleepless nights feel), she talks about those delightful sounds that one only hears in the dark: "ceaseless polyphony" or the breathing of a lover. I was delighted with the sense of awe that rose through lines like this one: "wild neurons / weaving the spider strings of memory." In the end, the speaker asks: "How can I sleep / in a world so full of such things?" The poet makes me wonder the same thing and perhaps the next time I'm lost at 2 am, wakeful and unhappy, I'll stroll through the dark and remember to look around me with awe instead of dismay.

    Kamins closes the collection with "Redshifting." Yes, I looked it up: redshift is the opposite of blueshift. And so after moving toward enlightenment (in a most scientific sense with gorgeous imagery and a skilled and steady emotional hand) the chapbook's last poem moves the reader away from realization and toward "the rusted-out night." There are too many "unanswered questions" for such a short book. As a reader, I wanted more poems, more of Kamins' beautiful imagery and wonder. Even so, this last poem reminds me that there are still mysteries for me to hold close: "Every mile glazing into every next mile / sings a mystery. . ." The mystery itself is worth something. This poem reminds me to always wonder, always question the universe, even as I recognize the familiar in that which can't be named.

    "Redshifting" might be my favorite poem of all.





    "Measured Extravagance" by Peg Duthie (Upper Rubber Boot Books) begins with the poem "Practicing Jump Shots with William Shakespeare." I hesitate to use the word "extravagant" to describe it, but that's exactly what the poem called to mind as I raced through its lines without stopping for a breath. The first sentence spans eleven lines and reads like a car chase except instead of cars, the reader is driving sentences. It gives the sense of a fantastic race where the finish line rewards the winner with a delightful story: the speaker is playing basketball with old Shakespeare himself.

    There's some talk of meter and some onomatopoeic words ("DAH-dah, DAH-dah-dah") that call to mind the dribble of a ball, but that isn't what endeared me to this opening poem. Rather, it was the sense of mischief at the very end where the speaker taunts the old man about his attention to "different parts of the backboard. . ." Instead of a simple image of a poet throwing a ball around, the poet elevates the scene into metaphor where one of Shakespeare's lobbed iambs end up in the speaker's hand. She shoots and flings it "straight through the hoop, all net."

    I'm delighted. Extravagant and clever, the poem is a fitting introduction to a collection that spans decades, personages, and cities with ease. In "The Language of Waiting" the poet brings us to Prague where "the evaporated words of saints / mingle with crumbs of ruined sandstone. . ." and then transports us to Nashville.

    In "On Embodying an Asian Fantasy" the speaker laments the stereotyping that falls upon Asian women: "I'm their Chinese dream come true—" The reader is simultaneously transported from American culture to feminism within the context of ethnicity.

    Toward the end of the collection we end up in Chicago, England, and Boston in "Between the Hints." The speaker muses about "what we can make is what // will do for now. . ." Oh how we humans are forever striving! Duthie cleverly twists that idea into all its permutations within the rhymes of this poem's form, using iambic pentameter and quatrameter so wickedly that the reader doesn't even realize how smoothly he/she has been schooled.

    In all, Peg Duthie has put together a thoroughly extravagant collection of poems. The reader journeys through locations of the mind as well as those of the earth; I was never quite sure what I'd get as I turned the page, but I was always surprised. As the speaker says in the poem "Extravagance"—"Such a feast."






    I confess, sonnets are one of my very favorite forms of poetry so I was naturally disposed to enjoy "Sonnets in a Hostile World" (Victorian Violet Press). Fourteen lines, iambic pentameter, rhyme—what's not to love? Sonnets are never too long or too short and in the hands of a skillful poet like Gail White, they're a delightful reminder that formal poetry is still alive and doing very well.

    This tight collection of sonnets moves effortlessly from the betrayal of women (ancient and modern) in "Woman into Tree" to a romp on the hideousness of a high school reunion in "Why I Failed to Attend My High School Reunion." Lines like these "(For God's sake, someone point me to the bar." make me laugh while others are tremendously sobering: ". . . no one sees / how many sweet words fall from walking trees."

    I suppose it would be strange to read a book of sonnets and not mention the meter or rhyme, but White's poems did something that is often quite difficult—they made me forget I was reading formal poetry. All too often a poet stumbles over iambic pentameter and substitutions (is that trochee or an anapest?) and torments the reader with a litany of trite rhymes.

    Ms. White is a far better poet than that. Her sonnets flirt with enjambment but never fall into the abyss of randomn line ends. In "The Girls Who Got Ahead," she impressed me with these:

    When all the bright girls married, where was I?
    Still shacking up with poets that I met
    in bars, convinced that genius and rye
    would write us into fame and out of debt.

    There's just enough variation in the lines to appease the reader's habit of falling into a nursery-song cadence, yet not too much enjambment to entirely destroy the rhythm of the words.

    In "The Librarian Wishes She Had Lived in the 1920s" White manages to rhyme "bourgeoisie" with "camaraderie" with nary a quibble of doubt from the reader. Her rhymes are sometimes slant, but always spot on and integral to the poem. I didn't find any filler rhymes, those awful words that less-experienced poets plop at the end of lines in order to meet the requirements of the form. Each of White's sonnets is a fest of sonics. I paged through the book reading just the end words as a sort of litmus test: the poet passed with flying rhymes.

    "Sonnets in a Hostile World" is at times amusing and often harsh, as White lays bare the truths that underpin our society: women often get short shrift in our world. However, she doesn't litter the entire book with desperate verse. Rather, the collection as a whole is more intelligent than that. At the end I put the book down with a sharp view of what it means to be a woman writing in a men's world without being totally disillusioned or discouraged. As White says in her last poem of the collection, "Cats Abroad," "Where cats are loved, I know that strangers meet / a kindly welcome. . ." There's nothing to do but forge ahead with pen in hand, hoping that our poems will meet a kindly welcome. If not? All of us women will keep writing anyway.



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    Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour - click for a list of participating blogs and daily entries
    Upper Rubber Boot Books is coordinating a book blog tour for April, to help promote poetry and poets for National Poetry Month. Check back here for updates throughout the month of April (we’ll also post updates to our blog, and so will many of the participating poets).
    Follow this event on Facebook or Goodreads.




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    Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — Stephen Bunch

    — a poetry interview series by Christine Klocek-Lim


    Stephen Bunch


    1. What is your favorite poem that you've written? Read?

    Currently it’s “Second Life,” a long poem soon to appear in Mudlark.

    Too many to name, but here are a few: Merwin, “For the Anniversary of My Death”; H.D., “Oread”; Dorn, “The North Atlantic Turbine: A Theory of Truth”; Pound, “Canto 47.”


    2. Do you think there is a disconnect between academic poets/poetry and online poets/poetry?

    Perhaps I don’t know enough about this supposed distinction, but it seems to me a false dichotomy. Beyond that, I’m not sure I know what is meant by “academic poets/poetry.” Is this poetry written by people who are employed in the academy or poetry that is informed by the arts and sciences? I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to answer the question without defining the terms, and because definitions and naming have more to do with marketing than with writing, I’m not particularly interested.


    3. Has the rise of the poetry MFA been positive or detrimental to the art?

    The short answer is “I don’t know.” Having said that, I think that poetry has become more of a commodity with the proliferation of MFA programs. That is, poetry itself isn’t a big seller in the marketplace, but there is a whole academic industry involved in credentialing people to write (and then teach the writing of) poetry. I like the Black Mountain model. Poets went there not to workshop or gain credentials to teach creative writing, but rather to immerse themselves in history, classical studies, the arts and sciences, while also learning to repair roofs and tend vegetable gardens. And it didn’t hurt that they were in the interdisciplinary presence of great minds (Charles Olson, Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, et al.). In other words, the writing of poetry was presumed to come from an interdisciplinary education and “real life” experience rather than from some sort of specialized training. The poetry workshop seems to have its origins in the MFA program, too. The older I get, the more I’m convinced that workshopping is counterproductive, that writing is generally a solitary task.


    4. Do you write for yourself or for an audience/reader?

    This question implies telos or intention in writing. Rarely do I write with an end in mind other than to see what happens. It’s not unlike breathing. I don’t think much about it, just do it (which is not to say that I’m not thinking as I do it—writing is always thinking). Once the writing is “done,” maybe I’ve learned something or solved a problem, but that wasn’t the intention. If the product seems worthwhile to me, I put it out there to see if there is an audience. Sometimes there is, and that’s a bonus.


    5. How much of what you write is inspiration vs. perspiration?

    Without inspiration and expiration there can be no perspiration. Beyond that, I don’t know.


    6. Bonus question! Answer any one of the following:

    a. If you were a Celtic bard, carrying poems from place to place as if they were the last flame, which ones would you sing?

    That’s a rather romantic notion of poetry. I would not have been that circuit-riding bard.


    b. Why do you read or write poetry?

    Writing poetry is like scratching an itch. That is, it’s a response to stimuli. It’s my way of trying to make sense of all the “inputs,” a way to filter and focus, a way of bringing at least the illusion of order to my world. Kant wrote that art is purposive without purpose. Heidegger wrote that art is the act of making a world out of earth. Ed Sanders celebrates homo ludens. I subscribe to all of these.


    c. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

    Leftover chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and spinach.


    d. Anything else you'd like to say?

    “Noli in spiritu combuere.”


    Bio:

    Stephen Bunch lives and writes in Lawrence, Kansas, where he received the 2008 Langston Hughes Award for Poetry from the Lawrence Arts Center and Raven Books. He received a Pushcart Prize nomination in 2010. His poems can be found in Autumn Sky Poetry, The Externalist, The Literary Bohemian, Fickle Muses, and Umbrella. From 1978 to 1988, he edited and published Tellus, a little magazine that featured work by Victor Contoski, Edward Dorn, Jane Hirshfield, Donald Levering, Denise Low, Paul Metcalf, Edward Sanders, and many others. After a fifteen-year hibernation, he awoke in 2005 and resumed writing. Preparing to Leave is his first gathering of poems.


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    Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour - click for a list of participating blogs and daily entries
    Upper Rubber Boot Books is coordinating a book blog tour for April, to help promote poetry and poets for National Poetry Month. Check back here for updates throughout the month of April (we’ll also post updates to our blog, and so will many of the participating poets).
    Follow this event on Facebook or Goodreads.


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



    Thursday, April 26, 2012

    Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — Lizzy Swane

    — a poetry interview series by Christine Klocek-Lim

    Lizzy Swane


    1. What is your favorite poem that you've written? Read?

    My favorite poem I've ever read is about social justice. Social Justice is at the core of what is popular in poetry today. "For Strong Women" by Marge Piercy tops the list of favorite poems I've ever read or heard.

    The favorite poem of mine tends to be the one I am currently working on. I enter a mind set while writing and revising that leaves me once I've decided a poem is finished and my attention to it wanes. Months after writing a poem, I can not remember the justification for each and every word or image but I trust that I put it there for a purpose. My current poem is "A Pause Before the Cicadae Siren" and I obsess over it like I do every poem


    2. Do you think there is a disconnect between academic poets/poetry and online poets/poetry?

    There is a huge disconnect in poetry today between the traditional academic and the modern rise of Slam Poetry. The online community hosts a mixture of both styles so there seems to be no disconnect there.


    3. Has the rise of the poetry MFA been positive or detrimental to the art?

    A degree opens the door to the academic world. Without one, access to traditional academic publishers is nearly impossible. I have read poems by people with advanced degrees that weren't as good as many I've read by non-degree holders. A degree is therefore no guarantee of quality. What makes a quality poet/poem is the author's willingness to receive critique from others and to apply critique to their knowledge base for the poems they are working on and will write.


    4. Do you write for yourself or for an audience/reader?

    I write for them poem. I want the poem to have its voice and strive to make every word count for the poem's sake.


    5. How much of what you write is inspiration vs. perspiration?

    Most of what I write is initially inspiration. Once the inspiration kicks in, the perspiration soon follows. There are usually a number of things that come together to click in my brain. Most often it is the relationship between at least three ideas that come together to be expressed in the poem's inspiration phase. Without the perspiration of editing and weighing the value of every word, a poem will not blossom into all that it can be.


    6. Bonus question! Answer any one of the following:

    a. Do you ever include the works of others in your readings? If not, why not? If so, who and why?

    Depends on the occasion. When I was new to poetry I was so excited to showcase my own work that I didn't include the works of others. For Women's History Month, I included the aforementioned poem by Marge Piercy.


    b. Why do you read or write poetry?

    I write and read poetry because poems are a gift that come straight from the core essence of a person. Without poetry we are not much different than any other animal on the planet. Poetry is something everyone can do and do well if they are committed to exposing their work to others. It's a direct route to what is spiritual. Poetry is a kind of prayer.


    c. Has what you write changed (or not changed) over time?

    Polishing poems has become easier the longer I write. Sometimes I edit while I write. I often use online sources to look up words or ideas or people or other literary works. On my most most recent poem I had five browser windows open to different sites, fact checking what I put to paper to make sure I am saying what I mean to say. If an additional inspiration for a poem hits me during the perspiration phase, I always stop and look it up before including a new idea.


    d. Anything else you'd like to say?

    Poetry should be a formal class in every school and every grade across the nation. We'd have a lot less crime in our country if we did.


    Bio:

    Lizzy Swane chooses to remain silent; exercising her write to atone, a turn or attenuation here or

    there, whether or not she can afford one, one night, one night's stand, oneness or otherness.

    Anything said or heard, touched or felt, smelled or tasted, seen or envisioned may be used as

    evidence for a poem.

    Should she choose to give up her write in exchange for one time publishing rights, she shall remain

    'owner sans onerous' of all trials and travails endured by readers and jarred or juried peers.

    Any questions about these writes may be rightly addressed to lizzyswane@gmail.com


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    Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour - click for a list of participating blogs and daily entries
    Upper Rubber Boot Books is coordinating a book blog tour for April, to help promote poetry and poets for National Poetry Month. Check back here for updates throughout the month of April (we’ll also post updates to our blog, and so will many of the participating poets).
    Follow this event on Facebook or Goodreads.


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


    Wednesday, April 25, 2012

    Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — Timothy Green


    — a poetry interview series by Christine Klocek-Lim


    Timothy Green
    (editor of Rattle)

    1. What is your favorite poem that you've written? Read?

    Hmm...my favorite poem that I've ever written is probably "The Body," which is the first poem in my book.  Writing it was one of those great experiences -- and the primary excitement about writing in general for me -- where a boatload of meaning blossomed spontaneously out of what at first was just babble.  That's the case for all the the poems I've ever written that I actually like, but "The Body" is the starkest example.  And then playing with the text lead to the development of its form, which is something I've used in many other poems since, as a way to get the unrelenting rhythm of that voice onto the page.

    My favorite poem that I've read is an entirely different story, and I have no idea how to go about choosing just one.  I love Ginsberg's "Howl" for similar reasons that I like my own "The Body," though of course his poem is infinitely superior -- the epiphanic spontaneity, the energy of the voice.  In "Prufrock" Eliot manages those elements under so much more control, so in addition to being emotionally and intellectually powerful, it's also mechanically gorgeous.  Brigit Pegeen Kelly's "Song" makes me cry every time.  Kim Addonizio's "The Sound" is the poem I always aspire to write.  Or Jorie Graham's "From the New World."  Or Montale's "Freeing a Dove."  If I had a poem tattoo it would be E.E. Cummings "Into the Strenuous Briefness."  Some of the poems we've published in Rattle are up there, too -- Li-Young Lee's "Seven Happy Endings" and Sophia Rivkin's "Conspiracy" to name a couple.  I don't know how anyone could pick just one. 


    2. Do you think there is a disconnect between academic poets/poetry and online poets/poetry?

    There's definitely a disconnect somewhere, but I remain thoroughly confused about what's disconnected from what.  Despite publishing Colin Ward's essay last spring, I'm still unsure as to what exactly constitutes an "online" poet -- there have always been underground or non-academic poets, face to face workshops, friends who trade poems and are very serious about it.  What's so different about the internet?  That it's searchable and more fixed in time?  I don't really understand that.  And there's always so much overlap.  What do you call Wendy Videlock?  I love her work; her book was just published by Able Muse Press, which is probably as online as it gets -- and yet the poems from the book appeared "most regularly and most notably" in Poetry, which is probably as institutionalized as it gets.  Even if you break it more simply into academic poets vs. non-academic poets, what do you do with someone like Patricia Smith, rising up through slam and now teaching at Cave Canem and an MFA?  Poetry is poetry; it doesn't matter where it's coming from or how it came to be. And it can come from anywhere.

    That said, I pick up a copy of Poetry magazine or the Kenyan Review, and most of what's there would go straight into my rejection bin. And I know for a fact that the editors are good people, who work hard, and are genuinely passionate about what they're holding up.  But to me it's esoteric minutia at its best and intellectual fraudulence at its worst.  Even editing a populist magazine, I see it every day in submissions from professors with CVs a mile long -- and all I can think is, "Who would want to read this stuff?"  Well...other professors would!  There's a big difference between reading for pleasure and reading for scholarship.  When I read something -- when most people read something -- all we have to do is react.  We love it or we hate it or it blows the tops of our heads off -- and then it's done.  If we want to experience it again, we read it again.  Maybe it haunts us, maybe it transforms us -- we don't have to do anything; it does all the work.  But an academic isn't free to just react -- they have to respond.  They have to write criticism, give lectures, speak at symposiums, propose panels at the AWP.  So I think they naturally gravitate toward the kind of writing that lends itself to that.  And the forest of what poetry is really for is lost to the nuances of the trees.  That's to say, the reaction is what matters, not the analysis.  And I think academics tend to lose sight of that.  

    So that's the disconnect.  But you have to paint with a pretty broad brush to get there, and I don't know that academic vs. online poets is really the dichotomy.  If there even is a dichotomy at all.  Most of my favorite contemporary poets are college professors now, even if they didn't start out that way -- because why not, it's a good gig. . .


    3. Has the rise of the poetry MFA been positive or detrimental to the art?

    I think an MFA is a waste of money and I wouldn't encourage anyone to pursue one unless they have a free ride or are independently wealthy.  There's nothing, in my experience, that you can learn there that you can't learn workshopping your poems online and reading prolifically.  Some people say they need deadlines or time set aside just to write, but if that's the case you have to wonder why you're bothering to write in the first place.  Maybe you want to teach at the college level, and it can be an important step in that process, but one that has nothing to do with art.

    Setting that aside, I think the only rational conclusion is that MFAs have been a wonderful boon to the art of poetry.  There are more poets writing amazing poems today than at any time in history.  More books being published, more access to poetry, more ways to publish your own poetry -- look at all the "markets" at Duotrope.com or Newpages.com.  A lot of that is the result of technology, but part of it is that the MFA allows thousands of people to make a living within the art.  MFAs are the primary subsidizers of poetry in this system -- there are negative consequences, as I mentioned above, but the sheer volume of poets who are free to fully dive in to the art is a real gift.  


    4. Do you write for yourself or for an audience/reader?

    I can only really write for myself, and that's actually been the source of some difficulty for me lately.  My first book, American Fractal, was written entirely for myself, with no aspirations or grand ideas about having an audience or making it a book.  It was just something I enjoyed doing, so I did it.  There's the meditative experience of being inside the poem, and then there's the feeling of accomplishment when it's finished.  That's what I always wrote for.  When I did start publishing, and eventually published a book, it started to become about more than that -- I started to wonder, as I was writing, if anyone would care to read this, if anyone would want to publish this, if I could stand to read it out loud into a microphone or be proud to sign my name for someone on the title page. . .  Lately I've been trying to set that aside and stay focused on all of the reasons I started writing in the first place, but it's always a pink elephant in the room.  I've toyed with not showing anyone what I write, or just publishing everything myself on my blog and forgetting about it -- but books and readings and things like that are fun.  The struggle is to divorce the one from the other. 


    5. How much of what you write is inspiration vs. perspiration?

    I could probably say that for me it's all one or all the other. . . which is to say that in fact it's neither.  I think that creativity is something that needs to be allowed to happen.  It's not about finding inspiration or wrestling with a text -- it's about turning those impulses off, so that the primal hindbrain is free to play with all the toys of the cerebral cortex.  I'm talking about literal neuroscience here -- it's been demonstrated over and over again that we are many minds, but in our regular lives only our conscious mind has the ability to use language and communicate with the external world.  I think that all art, whatever the medium, is really a shout out of the void by the deeper and more mysterious layers of self.  And because those archaic regions of the mind are responsible for impulse and instinct and emotion, we share more in common there than in our individual consciousnesses, so that any message that does make its way out is able to resonate more broadly.  Those are the things we find to be moving or transformative.  It's only rarely that the reptiles and anthropods lurking beneath the surfaces of our selves get to speak to each other.  They swim so deep; it's not easy bringing them up.  I think the varying processes that artists have are all individualized ways to expose some of what's down there.  Whether it's a formal poet juggling meter and rhyme as a distraction, or a free-verser navigating the maze of possibilities, or Ginsberg high on peyote.  

    And then there's the precarious balance between releasing the beast and harnessing it.  

    But back to the point, writing isn't about inspiration or perspiration so much as it's about finding a way not to get too much in your own way.  For myself, I like to write late at night, when I'm feeling just the right amount of tired and loopy, and then I listen for the music in a line and hope it takes me somewhere. 


    6. Bonus question! Answer any one of the following:

    I'll make it a lightning round and answer all of them.


    a. Do you ever include the works of others in your readings? If not, why not? If so, who and why?

    I do sometimes; I think it makes a nice tradition, to pay some homage to all of the people who influenced your work, and also help other readers of poetry find other poets. 


    b. If you were a Celtic bard, carrying poems from place to place as if they were the last flame, which ones would you sing?

    All of the ones I mentioned in answering question 1.  Or I could just take the Canterbury Tales and be satisfied. 


    c. Why do you read or write poetry?

    It's my Zen. 


    d. How has the way you write changed (or not changed) over time?

    I used to spend more time writing than I probably should have; now I spend far less. 


    e. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

    Coffee. I stay up late, eat dinner late, and don't really get hungry until noon. 


    Bio:

    American Fractal is Timothy Green’s first book-length collection of poetry. His poems and short stories have appeared in dozens of publications, online and in print, including The Connecticut Review, Florida Review, Fugue, Gargoyle, Los Angeles Review, Mid-American Review, Nimrod International Journal, Paterson Literary Review, and Runes. Green has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Rhysling Award. An earlier version of American Fractal was a finalist for the New Issues Poetry Prize, and won the Phi Kappa Phi Student Recognition Award from the University of Southern California, from which he graduated with a Masters in Professional Writing in 2009. Timothy Green is editor of Rattle and his website is www.timothy-green.org.

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    Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour - click for a list of participating blogs and daily entries
    Upper Rubber Boot Books is coordinating a book blog tour for April, to help promote poetry and poets for National Poetry Month. Check back here for updates throughout the month of April (we’ll also post updates to our blog, and so will many of the participating poets).
    Follow this event on Facebook or Goodreads.


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