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The piercing light of Mark Strand

http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/1070/the-art-of-poetry-no-77-mark-strand

I read this interview with Mark Strand to jumpstart my writing day today. I believe that the poets, as Strand alludes to in the article, who are able to create their own “other worlds” through poetry, bringing luscious mystery to light (as Strand does) have a deep understanding of their own poetic process and their own theories about why poetry matters and poetry’s place in the world, or lack of place.

Strand’s process sounds similar to my own, but my own understanding of this process, my own relationship with the intangibles of art, music, poetry, my own steadfast groundedness in nonfiction and prose and this concrete world, diminishes my ability to shine such bold light. This is something I will continue to work toward…mystery yet absolute clarity at the same time.

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Judging the Beauty Pagaent

It’s “crunch time” around here. In the next four days I must select 15 poems to be dissected and hopefully, like a beautiful mosaic, glued back together as stronger versions of themselves during my summer residency at Ashland. The important thing is to select poems which have some “wiggle room”– the ability to change and grow. Much of what I write feels very finished after the first draft. The writing isn’t great yet, but like my personality, it ineffably is what it is, and no amount of tweaking fundamentally changes anything.

I am thinking of starting a nonfiction piece entitled “How to Get Anyone Besides Your Husband Who is At This Moment Terrified of You to Take You Seriously During Menopause.”

Yes. Good luck with that. Truthfully, The Change has not even started for me, but at 50, I am at that age where no matter what I do and say…that is the overriding assumption. Works great unless you are attempting to accomplish something outside of yourself like publishing a book of poetry and earning a MFA degree. We all know poetry is never written outside of one’s true self.  I am just finding that for 50 years,  I have been parading around as a fictional character…no wonder success hasn’t followed me like a bloodhound!

It seems, even in my inner circle of friends and family, I have attracted a bunch of wing-clippers. (That sounds so menopausal, doesn’t it?) Perhaps more accurately I have focused too intently on being the wind beneath everyone else’s wings. I take responsibility for this. After all, I trained them. I do believe we lay little bread crumbs of instructions (nonverbal and verbal, in thought and action) which teach others how we want to be treated while they are on their merry ways to us. Some of us know we deserve more, but at the same time, feel that we don’t.

A little at a time, I am feeling more secure in who I really am. I know I have a voice and that I have always had one. I am beginning to believe if I find the right audience, my voice will make a difference and will be heard. I can’t spend all of my time keeping other people in the air only to be told when I exhale that I am a Debbie Downer. I am excited to develop through Ashland University, a group of support persons who take the writing of poetry as seriously as I do.  Now I must begin to select the 15 beauties who will make this trip with me.

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Lazy days of summer….

I am headed to Kansas City overnight on a business trip with my husband and I am hoping the luxury hotel atmosphere, and most importantly, the privacy away from my house, kids, and to-do lists, will inspire me to get some writing done.

 

Here is what I hope to accomplish: 1. Select poems for my summer residency at Ashland; 2. Write some on the novel I started on a whim 3. Read, read, read! 4. Work on a couple of essays in the works.

Perhaps some poetry will get written as well.

I will report back.

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Poem published

This poem was published this weekend at http://burnsidewriters.com/2013/05/04/church/. You can read the poem by clicking on the link in the previous sentence. The font does not look like a “click-able” link but it is.

I don’t like many of the poems I write once they are finished, but I happen to like this one.

 

In other news, I sent four poems for consideration to The Christian Century. “I Cor. 13,” “Last Days,” “Litany for Healing,” and “Litany for Suffering.” Fingers crossed.

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To do list…

I am in one of those dreaded states of paralysis in which I have the time to work but no work is getting itself produced. I feel like President Bush attempting to hold a press conference about a natural disaster. I could blame myself, my lack of discipline, my laziness, but it’s easier to just say this unwelcome state of mind and heart has just come upon me like the weather. I have been here before.

I usually find it helpful to listen to lots of Mumford and Sons and to make a writer’s to-do list. Here is the list (with Credence Clearwater Revival playing in the background….) Readers will have to supply your own imagination for the music as I am keeping this blog simple, like me….

My Writer’s To Do List:

1. Finish and send registration for Summer Residency at Ashland.

2. Complete editing of my “Middle People” essay and determine which lucky journal gets a crack it first. Editing a prose article ranks among my least favorite activities in the whole world. Writing the first draft was fun.

3.Finish reading the kindle poetry of Maurice Manning that I ordered weeks ago and have not started.

4.Finish last month’s bookclub book and start May’s selection so I can actually attend bookclub in May.

5.Put one word in front of the other and write some poetry.

6. Start selection of poems to be work-shopped at summer residency.

Part of the reason the writing is not happening is my life is in flux. We are moving again. I am excited about the move to a better neighborhood and to a completely beautiful and finished Tudor-style house. It’s just some of my poetry books are already in boxes for the move. I am not sure I can write without my pile of poetry books always accessible to me. I also have a massive non-writing to-do list that relates to the move. This too shall pass. I am starting to imagine where my writing spot will be in the new house. I don’t even want to write the non-writing to-do list. It’s massive.

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Maya, Maya, and more Maya…Please!

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/04/10/maya-angelou-how-i-write.html

Here is a link to an interview with Maya Angelou. I am always struck by the humility of her writing and her answers to interview questions. Maya quintessentially demonstrates the quiet, steely strength in humility.

I learned in this interview that Ms. Angelou writes from a hotel room. There’s an idea! I need to move to a city with a Hyatt. The hotel rooms in my little town are less luxurious and probably less clean than my house after the teenager has had a Funyon party with five of his stinkiest friends.

Quietness. Humility. Don’t force words. Don’t strangle truth. Don’t forget who you are and that to love is a greater thing than to write about love. I think that is what Maya’s poetry exudes in lesson-form. The rest is just beautiful.

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A Day in the Life…

People really do wonder what I do all day, or I like to pretend they do because it feeds my wood pile of self-absorption I suppose. Today was a pretty typical day for me. I woke up a bit later than usual at 7:15, groped around like a clumsy blind person for morning coffee, took a few sips and decided NOPE not making it to Pilates at 8:15. My hair was a bird’s nest. I have naturally curly hair and it tends to change into whatever shape I decided to sleep in and stay there. I actually have to do my hair to go to the YMCA, or maybe undo would be a more appropriate term.

After a couple cups of coffee I surfed the net then settled into an essay written by Wendell Berry at Christian Century. I realized early into the essay that in order to finish it I would have to subscribe so of course I did. Then I read the daily poems at Poetry Daily and Verse Daily and turned on my Pandora and commenced to write a poem. In between writing the poem I checked Facebook, updated my Google Calendar, and caught up with Gwyneth over at GOOP which motivated me to suddenly wonder what half a million dollars would buy a person in the housing market of Santa Barbara. I also wrote a personal letter which  if I ever print it out to mail it will take up four pages single-spaced ( I won’t) and tidied up the house for the realtor who called to say she was stopping by this afternoon to take photographs of the rooms of the house. I also read through my own poems in random fashion which is my editing process.

After lunch with my husband I put on exercise clothes and spent forty minutes running on the treadmill. Then off to the grocery store for today’s dinner which is crock pot potato soup. I picked up my son from school, cut open a cantaloupe for him , scooped out the seeds and acted like this is something he will never be able to do for himself…which gets me to now, updating my blog.

My life is not exciting enough for GOOP or Facebook. As writers, we have to create fertile environments for creative flow to happen. It doesn’t always happen, but we have to keep the possibility open, the spaces clear.

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A Submittable Day

Today was a good day, in “bird by bird”  terms. I wrote a very good poem, the kind that just falls out of me sometimes, and it’s painless so I wonder where that came from? It’s like I know I have been to the secret well and I am left wondering how did I get there?

Next, it was on to the tedium of http://www.submittable.com.

It took me longer to find two poems, collect them into a single file, proof them a million times and send them off to a poetry contest than it did to write the incredible poem. I must take heart, though, because tomorrow the incredible poem may reveal itself as quite ordinary ( or less) and the hard work of editing and submitting the poems may pay off as another rung on the publishing ladder for me.

Nothing is as it seems or so it seems.

Here is a link  :

http://www.wofford.edu/sharedworlds/handinhand.aspx

which offers encouragement to writers. I plan to revisit this site for inspiration and motivation to keep writing the good write.

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Lack of….

I am thinking of changing the name of this blog to “Musings of the most undisciplined person on earth!”

Today, I started an essay that I plan to submit on the topic of gun control of all subjects. The challenge of this particular journal is that essays must be 750 words or less. For three years once weekly I churned out columns for the local newspaper and I developed the skill of almost thinking in a 500-word count. Give me any topic..go ahead to don’t be shy…and I can extemporaneously crank out 500 words on the subject. Since this journal is attempting to achieve a quality above filling blank space, I suppose I will have to work harder on this piece. The question is when? When am I planning to work harder?

We are taking a long weekend for Big 12 basketball so I won’t work on writing again until Monday. I am soaking up lots of solitude and sun rays today.

I have set my sights on another poetry contest with a deadline of April 1st and have written some poems this week which might work toward that goal. We’ll see…I am giving the poems some time and space so that I can re-evaluate with clarity. Editing one’s poetry is sort of like finding flaws in your own children. Even their pimples and scars you find adorable. Sometimes I make changes to the strengths of my poems while I worship the weaknesses, just like a good mother would.

I am packing lightly for our weekend. One pair of jeans, a supply of  KU Jayhawks shirts, my Kindle, fitness clothes, toiletries, p.j.’s.

In honor of basketball and my weekend I urge readers to find the poem “The Touch” by Judson Mitcham.

I hope to find a link to this poem to make the search easier.

“You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.” That can certainly apply to the publishing of poetry as well.

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Poetry on Kindle

For the first time in my life…and this feels like a momentous shift in the tides of literature to me…I purchased a book of poetry for my Kindle. Having previously succumbed to the convenience and space-saving efficiency of Whispernet for novels and nonfiction, I still planned to always purchase the ACTUAL book when buying poetry. I revisit poems continuously and I  feel like the visual of the words on an ACTUAL page that a tree had to die for enhances the experience of reading poetry. Plus I love the look of all those poets’ names stacked on my shelves. Makes me feel brainy, and unique, part of some kind of other-worldly club. Plus my poetry books are my friends. Poetry books are like pets–they always accept me unconditionally and welcome me into their little heterocosms and no litter box is ever involved. But yesterday, the cheapo, instant-gratification side of me won out. I recently discovered the poetry of Maurice Manning and yesterday the price of a Kindle version of his book “Common Man” was four dollars cheaper than a soft-back book of the same poems. That, and I knew if I I-clicked the Kindle version, the poems would be at my disposal in a matter of seconds. The jury is still out on reading poetry on the Kindle. I will probably love this book of poems so much that I will go back to amazon.com and purchase the book form so the entire transaction will end up costing me more money. I am conflicted.