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.



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

    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.




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



    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.


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

    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


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

    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.


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

    Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    "Who Saw the Deep"- ABNA semifinals and review



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

    If you'd like to read an excerpt, go to my novel's page on Amazon and download it for free by clicking the Buy Now button. If you'd like to leave a review, that'd be awesome.

    By the way, all manuscripts are read without the author's name, so the reference to the author as a "he" is not surprising. Additionally, the competition started with 10,000 manuscripts and have whittled the entries down to 100 for this round. Technically, I'm only competing against the other General Fiction entries, which means they started with 5000 and it's now down to 50.

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

    I seriously doubt I'll make it into the finals, but I'm delighted that someone at Penguin will be reading my manuscript.


    Disclaimer: Publishers Weekly is an independent organization and the review was written based on a manuscript version of the book and not a published version.

    Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — Catherine Rogers

    — a poetry interview series by Christine Klocek-Lim



    Catherine Rogers


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

    Of my own work, my current favorite is a poem called “Crone.” It’s not necessarily my best, technically speaking, but it represents a rich time of life, and I go back to it when I find myself worried about growing older.  It’s musical, and it also uses nature imagery to good effect.  I like that in a poem.  As for poems I’ve read, asking me to name a favorite is like asking me who’s my favorite friend; I love them all for different reasons.  When I want a good sensual, optimistic wallow, I go back to my old friend Walt Whitman and “Song of Myself.”  There’s an expansive glee in it that I still find irresistible, even after many years. In a more contemporary or contemplative mood, Elizabeth Bishop’s “At the Fish Houses.”  I love the perfect balance between solemnity and humor, the beautiful sonics, and especially the Baptist seal—“like me, a believer in total immersion.”


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

    Not so much between academic and online as between academic and popular poetry.  The common wisdom is that there’s no audience for poetry any more, except other poets, but in fact there’s a huge audience for hip-hop/rap/spoken word poetry.  Academics may look down their noses at the form, but I find a great deal of energy and freshness in it. Of course, there’s mediocrity in every genre, not to mention downright junk. But informality and accessibility are not necessarily bad things in art. And a good beat doesn’t hurt.


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

    I think the MFA has raised the bar in terms of craftsmanship.  There’s more technical sophistication out there, and more well-trained, competent, nice young poets are producing nice, competent, well-trained verse.  The challenge remains what it always was—finding something significant, or at least useful, to say.


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

    Yes. For as long as I can remember, which is quite a long time, I’ve written with an imaginary editor looking over my shoulder.  I’m constantly aware of how a reader might react to my writing. On the other hand, I’m my own toughest critic. If I’m willing to turn my writing loose in public, it will probably find an appreciative audience.


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

    If “how much” is a quantitative question, I have no idea.  If it’s a matter of motivation, well. . . . I do wish I could be more disciplined and craftsmanlike about my writing—dedicated daily writing time, that sort of thing.  But the truth is, I can go weeks, months, even years without writing anything, and then suddenly a poem will attack me and I can’t rest until I’ve wrestled it to the ground and got it on paper.  Once I have that core idea, I can spend more weeks, months and even years whittling, polishing and refining the thing till it’s a shadow of its former self.  It’s a very inefficient process, and probably explains why I haven’t yet produced so much as a chapbook.




    6. Why do you read or write poetry?

    I don’t remember a time in my life without poetry. My mother loved poetry and used to read it to me at bedtime; I was hearing “The Highwayman” when other kids were hearing “Good Night, Moon.”  So I had rhyme and rhythm in my head almost as soon as I could talk. I knew my mother loved poetry, so I would make up little jingles and recite them to her—verses only a mother could love—and she would write them down.  I was given collections of poems for birthdays and Christmas—good stuff, too: Dickinson and Whitman and Sandburg and Frost.  In such company, how could one not write poems?  I progressed from little jingles through the usual teen angst; then, in my twenties, I read that only poets read poetry, and I decided I would be that audience who read but didn’t write. It was such a relief. But poems kept ambushing me from behind the shrubbery and other dark places, and eventually I gave in and started to write again. But as I was saying before autobiography intervened, I write poetry because my mother loved poetry.  She might be responsible for a certain streak of old-fashioned sentimentality in my verse, but what can I say?  She gave me the gift, and I try to return it.


    Bio:

    Catherine Rogers holds degrees in English from Middlebury College and The University of Georgia, and a Master of Divinity degree from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.  Her poems have appeared in Kalliope: A Journal of Women’s Literature and Art and in Touch: The Journal of Healing, and online in Autumn Sky Poetry.  In 2010, her poem “Dirt” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is an Associate Professor of English at Savannah State University, the oldest historically Black university in Georgia.



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

    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.


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

    Monday, April 23, 2012

    Nimbostratus and a nor'easter in PA




    Nimbostratus

    Today you said, sometimes it snows in April,
    and I remembered listening to that song,
    the sadness I could not forget, the spill
    of grief I didn’t understand so long
    ago. Twenty-three years later snow
    has decorated every bloom outside.
    Beneath the nimbostratus, flowers show
    their strength: they bend but do not break. Inside
    I contemplate the view and think, the best
    clichés survive because they’re true. But still,
    I know that sorrow lingers, often dressed
    in subterfuge, fooling all until
    one day the snowflakes bury everything
    in anguish like a funeral in spring.


    I'm posting this today in honor of the crazy nor'easter that's socking Pennsylvania today. Hang in there everyone.

    This is one of my cloud sonnets, originally published in Cloud Studies — a sonnet sequence, by Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks. If you want to hear something that will knock your socks off, go to the original link and listen to Nic Sebastian read the poem.

    If you'd like a paper copy, click here to buy one. It's free to download as a .pdf, audio MP3, and various e-reader formats.

    The awesome photo is thanks to Harald Edens. He graciously allowed me to use the photo in my chapbook.

    Sunday, April 22, 2012

    Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — David W. Landrum

    — a poetry interview series by Christine Klocek-Lim



    David W. Landrum
    (editor of Lucid Rhythms)


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

    Probably my favorite poem I've written is one called, "Gary, 1961," written early in my career as a poet. It's about a childhood experience and won a prize. The judge, Thomas Lux, said in his comments that it was "angry and elegiac." I did not think it was angry but I see now that indeed it was.

    To read, I like one called "Relic," which is clear, has short lines, and a volta at the end.


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

    I don't see much of a disconnect at all. Online poetry is often academic and, as far as I can tell, there is not much difference between what online and "academic" poets write. I dispute the idea that one can be "academic." I write poems that are based on literature but also purely lyrical poems that have no literary references in them, as I think most poets do.


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

    Well, as an academe I tend to like degree programs, but I think the MFA industry has hurt poetry to an extent. It has created a network, an old-boys-old-girls club that publish each other's poems and books and control what kind of poems are published, which is not good. When it began, MFA was good, but I think it has gotten too big and has too much monopoly power over the current poetic scene.


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

    I usually don't have an audience immediately in mind when I write, but as I write an edit a poem, I think of the audience of other poets and how a good poem sounds by current standards. But at first I write for me, to get the expression right, to make sure I say what I want to say and say it well and powerfully.


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

    There has to be inspiration--by which I mean an idea that enters the mind. It can enter from various sources. I often get ideas when I am reading poetry—though, oddly, most often the idea has nothing to do with the content of the poem I am reading. Sometimes, as with "Gary, 1961," it is simply something I've thought about a lot and it finally congeals into poetry. More rarely, things just float into my head. I think these arise from the language of our memory and something pulls it out. This is "inspiration."


    6. Why do you read or write poetry?

     I write poetry because I need to express myself. I remember how, as a kid, a teenager, and a young adult, poetry always spoke to me and identified feelings--resonated with my emotions. There were things I wanted to say, and I saw poetry was the best way to say them, the best way to express emotion and thought and conviction, so I began to write poetry. Having read a lot of poetry, I knew a little of the language, technique, and sound of it, so I began. It has been a long learning process.


    Bonus question—anything else you'd like to say?

    I love poetry and I love to write. I began as a formalist, but now my poems are about 50/50 formalism and free verse. Both are good media to convey emotions and strongly remembered experiences; or to write humor or more philosophical poems. The language of poetry is vast and I try to be inclusive in my style and techniques.


    Bio:

    David W. Landrum teaches Literature at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. His poetry, fiction, and literary criticism have appeared widely. He edits the online poetry journal, Lucid Rhythms, www.lucidrhythms.com.  His recent book of poems is The Impossibility of Epithalamia.


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

    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.


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

    Friday, April 20, 2012

    Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — Darla C. R. d'Aubigné

    — a poetry interview series by Christine Klocek-Lim


    Darla C. R. d'Aubigné


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

    My favorite poem that I have written is one that I wrote during my senior year of high school. It's called My Sleeping Maiden. It's not written in contemporary English, which I find to be meaningful to the context of the poem. I enjoy this particular poem, because not only is it a poem but also a story with multiple layers and morals. The few people who have read this yet-to-be-published poem have interpreted it in different ways, which is one of my goals when writing poetry.

    Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky is a poem that I always will find to be entertaining to read as well as perform. It is written in such a way that it is appreciated by all ages; all you need is imagination. It is a poem that I believe keeps us young at heart.


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

    I have recently become leery of academic programs in the creative writing discipline, to the extent that I have dropped my ambitions to earn a  degree in creative writing entirely. It has occurred to me that creative writing, unlike academic writing, cannot be taught, and I've become deeply skeptical of those who say it can be.

    It is an art, as the question itself suggests, not a science. An academically certified writer is not guaranteed to be the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. So the question becomes this: why do these programs exist in the first place? These programs exist because writers who write McPoems and McStories need jobs to make ends meet. Who teaches writers to write generic pieces using formulas and theories? The programs do. Subsequently, many of the students of these programs then become educators in writing programs themselves, creating even more future educators of writing who will most likely not be published outside small presses. In short, do I think the poetry MFAs to be detrimental to the art? Yes, I do, and that applies to fiction writers just as much it applies to the writers of poetry.
          

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

    Both, I think. When it comes to poetry, I write them to express myself to others when I cannot either find the right words or can't find the appropriate time and place to express myself. I best write poetry when I am at a fever pitch.


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

    It really depends whether I write poetry or fiction, both of which are equally important to me. Poetry is all inspiration for me. Fiction, however, is different. It takes inspiration to start a short story or novel, but it takes perspiration to finish it.


    5. Why do you read or write poetry?

    I read and write poetry for the very reason why art and beauty exist at all: to enjoy it. It is a huge part of my life that I cannot live without.


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

    I have always depended on a computer to write. I cannot write in a notebook. I am too accustomed to going back to rewrite and revise entire sections during my writing process. That is impossible to do with ink and quill. That much has not changed.

    Early in my writing career, I had everything on one computer - schoolwork, creative writing documents, research, games, etc. I realized that I was easily distracted and extremely disorganized. I now own a separate laptop for just my writing and related research, which keeps me focused.

    College life has also affected how I write. I am less inspired to write in my apartment, because my academic work and creative writing shares the same environment and atmosphere. I prefer to write in quiet public places. My favorite place to write currently is a study lounge with dim lighting, posh Victorian decor, and a free, self-serve coffee and tea bar that a fellow writer friend showed me.


    Bio:

    Darla C. R. d'Aubigné, published under multiple pseudonyms for poetry and short stories, is a Singaporean-American who is currently pursuing a degree in psychology. A self-proclaimed Slytherin, she spends most of her free time with writing groups as a moderator and writing in uncrowded coffee shops. After spending years writing poetry and short stories, she is currently writing her first novel. Her written pieces explore the depths of the human psyche and criticize the evils of society.  


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

    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.


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