June 30, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I'm eating chevre straight from the package with a spoon. So happy . . . .

My dance teacher is encouraging me to begin the studio's teacher training course. This is a thrilling prospect for me. I've always dreamed of being a dance teacher. I love being in the studio and working with people.

My husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary this weekend. Honestly, being married is a lot easier than I thought it would. I had lots of family members telling me how difficult marriage is, but I don't see it that way.

June 23, 2009

Confession Tuesday

After about 6 weeks away from my novel, I feel like I can finally begin working on it again in earnest. I started rereading it for the first time yesterday, and felt really inspired. The first three chapters are getting a major overhaul, and I think they might be done after this round of revision (although I cannot say for sure). I finally feel energetic about the novel for the first time in awhile, and think I'm making better revisions after my time away.

On a totally unrelated note, I had a really good conversation with a friend today. Someone I feel a lot closer to now that we've had this chat. It's great when a friendship reaches a new level of closeness.

June 21, 2009

Dean Young at BookWoman, 6/27

Calling all readers in the Austin area: Dean Young and Abe Louise Young (no relation) will be giving a reading at BookWoman on July 27 at 7 p.m. Admission is free, and cupcakes will be provided.

From the press release:

Dean Young's books of poems include Primitive Mentor (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008); Embryoyo (McSweeney's, 2007); Ready-Made Bouquet (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005); Elegy on Toy Piano (2005), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Skid (2002), a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Prize ; First Course in Turbulence (1999); Strike Anywhere (University Press of Colorado, 1995), which won the Colorado Poetry Prize; Beloved Infidel (Wesleyan, 1992); and Design with X (1988).

About Dean Young, the poet Charles Simic has said, "Although his work comes out of the poetries of Kenneth Koch , John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara and James Tate , Young has his own voice. The language, the invention, the imagination and the sheer fun of his poems is astounding. It's not all dazzle either. The poems are also moving. This man reminds us that there is nothing more serious than a joke." Dean Young is currently the William Livingston Chair of Poetry at the University of Texas, in Austin.

___

Emerging poet Abe Louise Young was born in New Orleans, LA, and received an M.F.A. from the James Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin in 2005. She teaches writing workshops for teenagers and adults, and trains public school teachers to incorporate creative writing across the curriculum. She's been a visiting poet-in-residence at schools from Alaska to Massachusetts. She edited a classroom anthology, Hip Deep: Opinion, Essays, and Vision from American Teenagers, and is author of one collection of poems, Little Big Bang, which is a currently a finalist for the Miller Williams Prize.



BookWoman is located at 5501 N. Lamar, 78701.

June 20, 2009

Self-Promotion/Announcement

I have two poems up over at Gloom Cupboard #98. You may remember the first one from NaPoWriMo.

I'm also thrilled to announce that I'm signed on to become the poetry editor of Gloom Cupboard. I've already begun reading submissions!

It's been a productive week. I'm quite happy.

June 19, 2009

Stolen from Mary Oliver

This poem is ripped off from Mary Oliver's "When Death Comes." Her poem has always inspired me, and someone close to me will be leaving my life in a few months, and so I used her work as a template to explore my own feelings about the loss of someone important.

When November Comes

When November comes
like the slowing of a pulse
when November comes and lands the plane

to take you away, and roars the engines so I cannot hear goodbye
when November comes
like romance gone stale;

when November comes
like forgotten memories

I want to step through the door full of certainty, knowing:
that neither of us will forget what happened here.


And therefore I think of each second
as something worth preservings
and I catalogue even the silent sips of tea
and I take notes on each facial expression,

and I think of each conversation of a poem, as intricate
as a villanelle, and as mesmerizing,

and each kiss a journey into amazement,
tending, as each kiss does, toward breathlessness
,

and each touch an explosion of joy, something
worth tattooing on my skin.

When it's over, I want to say: in our time together
I was a student of all possibilities
I was the teacher, guiding myself onto a higher plane of knowing.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of our time something significant, and tangible.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply dissolving from your world.

June 18, 2009

CORA Diversity Roll Call #8

This week's CORA Diversity Roll Call asks us to post a poem unique to a particular country. I've decided to post about an ancient Persian form called a ghazal.

The ghazal originated in the 6th century C.E. and is often considered to be a romantic or erotic form. This form has taken on popularity among American, Canadian, and English writers, spurred on by Canadian poet John Thompson. However, the English-language versions are considered to be a far cry from the original Persian-language form.

The ghazal consists of a set of at least five couplets. In the traditional Persian form, it follows a strict rhyme scheme, maintain consistent meter, and also a stringent use of refrain. The refrain is the last word in the first couplet, and must used as the last word in all subsequent couplets. In addition, the poet should name hirself in the final couplet. English versions are not quite so strict about rhyme, meter, and and refrain.

I admit that I cannot read Arabic, and am only familiar with this form in English. However, I love it nonetheless. I'd like to post a ghazal written by Janet McAdams, a poetry professor at Kenyon College (my alma mater). The poem can be found at Story South.

Ghazal of Body

for Wendy Singer

Teach me the story of the sleepless body.
Even the past is ugly, living as it does in the thick cells of my body.

I was lonely, all the long winter. Skin
the poorest fence between the cold world and my body.

The fisherman with his sharp hook, his taut line, a rod he is proud of.
Come to shore, I call, I have a handful of bread that might be your body.

Lace, you breathed against the window, and the ice let go,
ran down the glass into the house’s quiet body.

She said: When I gave him up, when I gave back the baby,
there was an empty space in front of my body.

No writ, no photograph, no stone with rules. Only memory,
running like a current of blood, through the creek of my body.


More information about the ghazal at Wikipedia and Poets.org.

June 16, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Since I started my writing efforts seriously again, I have had poems accepted at electronic publications based in Scotland, Canada, and Britain. I have yet to get an acceptance in the United States. Not that I think this is a problem. I'm not upset by it. I'm just amused and intrigued. I'm not sure there's anything to it, it's just interesting to realize.

I'm surprised that I've had three poetry acceptances so far since I seriously began this venture earlier this year. In the early years of my writing, I struggled like crazy to get three acceptances in a year, much less in the span of a few months. After three years of barely writing and not attempting to publish, I suddenly have a pretty good success rate, at least compared to my old track record. What makes it even more amazing to me is that right now, I'm submitting almost entirely new work that I have written since 2009. I made a conscious decision that everything I write before my long hiatus was now off-limits; everything old needed to be retired. I just decided I needed to start fresh with my writing and not be stuck submitting old work that didn't necessarily represent my artistic vision anymore. (I did break this promise once, when I felt that an old poem really did fit with the publication; I'm still waiting to hear back on it.) So it's almost as if, during this long period when I did very little creative work, I somehow improved as a poet even though I was not actively practicing. It's as if my mind needed that time to not work, and to just exist without trying to be an artist/writer/poet/whatever. There are times when I have regretting the years I did not write, but now I think they might have been good for me.

June 15, 2009

Solitude

Below is the first piece I wrote for the memoir-writing group I joined recently. We had a number of prompts from which to pick, and I chose the one about solitude.

When my husband had his wisdom teeth removed, he had the surgery as part of a clinical trial for a new pain medication so he could get the procedure done for free. As a result, he was kept overnight at a research center. So I had twenty-eight hours of time entirely to myself without the needs of another person to consider, and no plans to share it with anyone. The daylight hours proceeded as normal; I spent them writing and doing research, with a break for yoga. During the day, when most of the world is at a day job, communicating, meeting, taking lunch, that is when I need to be in my bedroom, curtains open and natural light coming in, nobody else within shouting distance, and just creating poems or stories, doing research, or writing and editing articles. I probably won't answer my phone unless I have reason to believe it's urgent.


In the evenings, I tend to focus on the non-creative aspects of my work, such as writing cover letters, preparing manuscripts for submission, scheduling interviews and meetings. The things that make up the business of writing; that don't demand 100% of my mental energy; that I can do while I eat dinner or talk on the phone; that don't have to be done every single day; that don't demand daylight to fuel my inspiration. I have a space for these in the evening, just as I have space for people in the evening. When the sun is gone and my creative energy wanes, I am done being alone. Even if I plan to continue some of the administrative aspects of my writing life, I crave companionship. I need to recharge from the hours spent inside my own head; I need to experience other people; I need to remember that my mind is not the only one in the world. So I go out and spend the night having fun, or I spend time chatting with my husband, half-noticing television, and working on whatever else I need to get done. If my husband is away at night, I miss him, and often try to fill in the hours with friends. I prefer my solitude during the daylight, but when the moon is out I want companionship.


As the sun began to set on the day of my husband's surgery, I started to feel lonely. Although tempted to call friends in the evening to fill the void, I decided to stay up late and finally finish a story I had been working on for months. It was one of those pieces that became longer than I planned, my attention had waned, but I picked it up time after time because I knew it had potential and I didn't want to let that great idea go to waste. But my loneliness mad it difficult to concentrate. I did not want to be an artist at that moment; I wanted to be a friend or a spouse. It was dark out, so my brain was telling me it was time to be around people, or at least to switch gears to something less mentally taxing. But I wanted to make good use of the free time, and knew that when my husband was recovering from home, his presence would interfere with his work. When I felt desperate for companionship, I took breaks to chat with people on instant messenger. When nobody was online, I turned on the news in the background just so I could hear human voices. Finally, at 1 a.m., I had a complete draft. While I was please with my progress, glad I had finally reached that goal, I was still lonely.


I am always thrilled to see my husband when he comes home at night and I am ready to share someone's company, but if he's around during the day, I need to go somewhere else to work. When he came home the day after his wisdom tooth extraction, all of my work habits were immediately thrown off track. My creative energy is at its zenith when the sun is out, and I both need and want to work uninterrupted. But he always provides a source of distraction by wanting to go to lunch, to show me a new YouTube video, or just to chat. This was certainly true after his surgery, because although he was sore the drug he was taking was both effective and non-narcotic, so he was up and about rather than sleeping off the pain. Just having the presence of a companion in the apartment made my work difficult, and his coherence made it impossible. The only solution was to take solitude among strangers.


Public place can be solitary if you know how to make them so. The library, of course, is almost too easy, as it's designed to be a quiet space. Coffee shops are more of a challenge, but they will work, as long as you go alone. Just carve out your own space at your own table. Yes, these places can often be noisy. But noise is not incompatible with solitude. After all, when I have the apartment to myself during the day, I'm often blaring loud music in order to get my energy up. While I like to be alone, my mind wanders if it's too quiet. It needs to work against a source of distraction in order to function most effectively. Even the hum of the air conditioner can provide enough stimulation to set my concentration in line. So the one-sided cell phone calls and the ongoing chatter works well for me. Just as long as nobody tries to share my table.

June 14, 2009

Upcoming fun in July

I'm so excited! Earlier this week, I registered for a flash fiction workshop taught by Lyle D. Rosdahl, as part of the Gemini Ink Summer Literary Festival. I have never taken a fiction workshop before (only poetry and creative nonfiction), and I'm looking forward to learning more about this genre. I've started writing flash fiction occasionally, and I look forward to actually working with an instructor on this new facet of my craft. It's also been too long since I've taken a writing workshop of any kind - it will be great to get back in the classroom. I look forward to what I can learn.

June 9, 2009

Confession Tuesday

I'm really not sure what to do about my novel. It's been three weeks since I've worked on it, and I don't miss it.

I also received an especially discouraging rejection from a publisher who called it "awkward."

Today, I went and printed off another draft to mark up and revise, largely out of spite to the publisher. To show that I can make this novel not-awkward. However, I have yet to actually touch it. Partially, I don't want to read it again and realize they're right. Part of it is that I'm enjoying putting my creative energies towards other projects - a long story that's just shy of being a novella and two poetry chapbooks. Part of it is that I've been wondering all along if this novel was any good, and whether I should still bother.

So I'm at a crossroads. Sink or swim?

June 7, 2009

Self-Promotion

I have a poem up at Bolts of Silk. You may remember the original version from Day 1 of NaPoWriMo.

I'm really excited to have this poem published. I love it, and think it's the best poem I've written in at least a year. I was also amazed at how easily it was written; I went through maybe 3 drafts before I put it up on during NaPoWriMo, and it hasn't changed much from that original version. It's just one of those pieces that seemed to come together right away.

It's also one of the few poems written about a specific person. People from my real life are rarely directly inserted into my work; I tend to draw on amalgamations of people rather than one specific individual.

June 6, 2009

Goal Setting for June

Review of May Goals
I managed to meet all but one of my writing goals for May, more or less (I say that noting I changed goals about my novel mid-month because I was feeling burned out). The one goal I did not accomplish was finishing a piece I had abandoned. While I did revisit a previously-halted work, I never got around to finishing it. Guess I'll be trying that again in June!

June Goals
1. Finish two of the three freelance projects I was assigned at the end of May (the third is a larger research project that requires more than a month of work)
2. Do two full revisions of each of the two poetry manuscripts I began in May
3. Submit writing to at least two literary journals and at least one contest
4. Participate in my first writing group critique
5. Attend a poetry reading or other literary event
6. See if I can get time off to attend a workshop in San Antonio in July and register for said workshop
7. Pitch my novel to at least one publisher
8. Finish at least one piece that I started but gave up on

June 4, 2009

Turkish author on trial for blasphemy

Turkish novelist Nedim Gursel is on trial over his book Daughters of Allah, about the birth of Islam. In the book, Gursel questions some of the beliefs of the religion, as well as the violence of fanatics. As a result, he's now on trial for blasphemy, and faces up to a year in prison if convicted. Gursel claims that his work is not blasphemous because the book required extensive research, as well as collaboration with religious officials.

This story hits home for me because I'm starting research for a novel that is based off of something in the New Testament. I don't want to get into it too much, especially because I haven't even settled on which of two possible directions I want the story to take. But right now I am doing a lot of research, including re-reading the four gospels and looking at relevant scholarly texts. And I know that this novel will be, to some extent, blasphemous. Regardless of which direction I take, someone is going to consider it blasphemy. But I'm okay with that. That's the difference between my project and Daughters of Allah. My work is supposed to be blasphemy; his is not. His is supposed to have critical commentary, but it's not intended to be blasphemy. And yet he's being persecuted.

Of course, the real difference between Gursel and myself is that I live in a country where, if I write a book based on religion, I won't be prosecuted, blasphemous or not. And I have to say, I'm not always proud of my country, but in the case of free speech, I'm relieved that I live in a place where I can write what I want and not risk jail time or worse for artistic expression.

June 1, 2009

Binge drinking in media and publishing

Last week, the Independent reported that (in Britain), media and publishing employees have the highest rates of binge drinking. I'd definitely be interested in seeing how this study played out in the United States. I'd also be interested in seeing the breakdowns based on television, radio, internet, and book publishing. Is one group higher than the other? My guess is that television might be the most stressful, especially in terms of 24-hour news networks. Internet publishing is probably also high-stress as well. But also, I wonder what book publishing might look like - is binge drinking high because the profession is so stressful? Or because the book industry appears to be struggling?