“Where’s the Crying?” Or: Creating the Right Project with the Right People

Last week saw the launch of a project dear to my heart–the new issue of Tahoma Literary Review. It was last November that Joe Ponepinto and I began to design the philosophy, business model, production schedule, and aesthetic vision that would become the journal. We had been keeping our ears to the literary tectonic plates, listening to the rumbles of discontent from writers about how few paying venues the literary market offers, and how little creative writing seems to be valued by the wider culture. We saw a gap in the market, and through many meetings, hammerings-out-of-numbers, and general strategizing, we came up with what we thought–hoped–would be a project that would address the needs and wants of the literary community.

Happily, the literary world seems to be on board with what we’re doing. Not only has our business model proven to be both tenable and sustainable, we’re also pleased as punch about the quality of work we have in our pages.

You can have a look at our current issue here (print and Kindle versions are for sale, but several other digital format, including those for iBooks and Nook, are free!), listen to contributors read their work, or even just peruse our blog.

Beyond the fact that the launch was a success from both aesthetic and business standpoints, it was also one of the most personally gratifying publishing experiences I’ve had to date. On the day of the journal’s launch, my husband asked me, “so, it’s done? Really done? Where was all the crying?” Now, I can’t promise that Joe and Yi Shun didn’t shed any tears over last-minute excitement that inevitably arises with publishing enterprises, but that this was a tear-free week for me was rather remarkable.  Continue reading

Flannery O’Connor, Ambition, and the Illusion of Time to Spare

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Flannery O’Connor, one of the most important and influential writers in the American tradition. I’m not necessarily one to keep track of such things as the birth and death dates of writers long since gone, no matter how much I admire their work, but O’Connor’s passing somehow feels personal to me this summer.  Continue reading

On Essays, Poems, Journals, and the Return to the Blog

If there are two things I hate to see bloggers do, it’s 1) take a long, unexplained break from blogging, and 2) return to blogging with wan excuses for the long silence. Since I’ve committed the first of the two blogging crimes in having let some weeks go by without a post, I might as well bring about the self-loathing associated with the second. This spring-into-summer was a tricky one in which I found myself balancing work and writing with a couple of hospitalizations and the feelings of Great Stupidity that come along with all of those IV drugs. But now that I’m on the mend, I’m back with a few tidbits to share!

A few weeks ago, The Rumpus printed my personal essay “Strong is the New Sexy,” and I’ve been tremendously moved by the numerous emails I’ve received in response to the piece. While I’m primarily a poet, I felt moved to work a bit in the narrative nonfiction vein, and to talk bluntly about women, body image, and disability/illness. It sometimes seems that disability is the last taboo in the literary world, and I was grateful not only to get a chance to talk about my experience, but also that I was able, it seems, to give a voice to others’ experiences as well. I received mail from women and all over the country who have lived similar stories, and it was wonderfully affirming to share with them. The experience has made me consider whether I’d like to write more nonfiction in addition to poetry. Essays, it seem, have a long reach.

I also had the pleasure of being the featured poet at Dialogist last month. Dialogist is a great online journal of poetry and visual art, and I’m grateful to the team for giving me a space to talk more, in verse this time, about the issues of the body.

Finally, Tahoma Literary Review has been taking off in a big way. We’re just about through with the production on our first issue, which will launch on August 31. In the meantime, we’re still open to submissions for our second issue, and I’ve written some hopefully helpful hints about submitting. If you’ve ever wondered when’s the best time to submit poems or just what kinds of content editors are looking for, I’ve got the tips for you. Stop by, and consider submitting, won’t you?

 

 

 

A Poem to Share: “I Stop Writing The Poem,” in honor of the close of National Poetry Month

Here we are at the end of April, wondering where the spring has gone or is going, and we’re at the final day of National Poetry Month. It seemed only fitting that the last blog post of this month reflect on endings. Today, I’d like to share “I Stop Writing The Poem” by the wonderful Tess Gallagher, at The Writer’s Almanac. 

A Poem to Share for Poem in Your Pocket Day

It’s Poem in Your Pocket Day, or so I’m told. I don’t entirely know what celebrating the day entails, but I presume I can take this holiday at face value and suggest that we should all carry poems in our pockets today. I’m not wearing pockets, but if I were, I’d gladly tote around this perennial favorite, “A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts,” by Wallace Stevens, courtesy again of the Poetry Foundation‘s wonderful new online archive. (Make sure to click through for page 2 of the poem!)

 

A Poem to Share: Lucifer’s Beginning Poetry Workshop

This week, I’m hanging out at The Next Best Book Club’s discussion forum on Goodreads, answering questions about Burn This House in this week’s TNBBC writer/author discussion. Come on by and chat if you’d like!

In honor of talking publicly about my poems, I thought I’d share “Lucifer’s Beginning Poetry Workshop” from one of my favorite contemporary poetry collections, Philip Memmer’s Lucifer. 

A Poem to Share: God in Utah

Over this past month, I’ve been doing some preparation for the workshops and panel talks I’ll be giving at the Skagit River Poetry Festival as one of this year’s featured poets. In one of my workshops, I plan to talk about how poets today and in times past have dealt with issues of faith and doubt, belief and questioning. This wonderful poem called “God in Utah,” written by Martha Silano and appearing in Terrain, is a wonderful piece that mingles a sense of humor with a sense of awe. I think it makes a nice Easter-season read both for those who celebrate and those who don’t.

 

 

 

 

A Poem To Share: Day 1 of National Poetry Month

It’s National Poetry Month, and poets everywhere are gearing up to write 30 poems in 30 days. I tried the poem-a-day challenge once many years ago, and I have to say that, while I admire those who can commit to such a quick production of work, I myself am not cut out for that sort of speed. It also seemed to me that this year’s National Poetry Month would be a great time to read and think more about others’ work than my own, and to share some finds here on my website. I’m not planning to post poems daily, nor am I promising deep thoughts or heretofore unexplicated findings about poems–just some offerings of pieces I love that I think others will enjoy reading as well.

 

This past week, I was sifting through some of Alicia Ostriker’s work online, looking for a particular poem I thought I use as a teaching tool in an upcoming workshop. I ran across a poems of Ostriker’s that I’d not read before (let’s hear it for Jstor and The Poetry Foundation for making out-of-print issues of Poetry readily available online!). This poem impressed me so greatly that I’ve felt compelled to read it quite a few times over. Despite a somewhat ominous title, I think it’s a wonderfully hopeful poem in its own way:

“Anxiety about Dying,” Alicia Ostriker, from the July 1979 edition of Poetry Magazine.

 

Poetry and Prose this Spring in Seattle

It’s spring–it must be. We’ve lost that hour of sleep, after all, and I have seen at least a few blossoms on trees. Spring also means an embarrassment of literary riches in the Northwest, as writers and readers crawl out from under the 6 months of constant rain for a bit of mixing and mingling. Here are some great upcoming opportunities in the area:

Tomorrow, Susan Rich will read from her new collection, Cloud Pharmacy, at 3:00 pm on Sunday, March 16, at Open Books in Seattle. You can see what The Seattle Times has to say about Susan’s book here.

Poet Carolyne Wright will offer a new course at Richard Hugo House beginning later this month.  Miracles for Breakfast: Writing Like Elizabeth Bishop & Friends promises to be an excellent primer in working with the poetic forms. As a former student of Carolyne’s, I can attest to the fact that, if you’re interested in learning the ins and outs of formal verse, Carolyne is not only the woman for the job, but she’s also one of the most supportive, fun teachers around.

Nonfiction writer Wendy Call will also offer a new course at Hugo House: a brand new class called “Authoring Change: Writing Socially Engaged Nonfiction,” that will run for six Wednesdays beginning April 30. If you’re looking to engage both your literary sensibilities and the culture around you, this course is your bag.

Finally, if you’re just in the mood to curl up with a great book (not everybody can get to Seattle for these events, I know), let me remind you that, this week, the new poetry anthology The Burden of Light, is available on a pay-what-you-will basis. Through lyrical verse, experimental forms, powerful imagery, and an innovative use of digital multimedia technology, this collection introduces new readers to contemporary poetry, while bringing many audiences back to verse with a reminder of its intellectual force and powers of emotional healing. And with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, even a small donation from one has the power to effect change when added to the contributions of others!

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Thanks to Jeannine Hall Gailey for inviting me to participate in The Writing Process blog tour; Jeannine recently served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington and is the author of three books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, and Unexplained Fevers. She has been featured in The Year’s Best Horror and Verse Daily, and her work has appeared in journals like The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review and Prairie Schooner.

You can read Jeannine’s responses to the blog tour questions here, and below are my responses to the same:  Continue reading

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