Sunday, April 27, 2008

Of Temptation and Used Book Stores

*sigh* I am now a slave to McKay's. I schlepped over another box of books I have no need for, and went browsing. And by browsing, I mean shamelessly stocking up on everything I wanted in anticipation of my trade-in credit.

I have been a collectress of cookbooks for a long time. I love to cook. And I love to cook big. My problem is that when I live by myself in an apartment with a practically-nonexistent kitchen, I don't cook. It just doesn't seem worth the effort just for myself. This has been disappointing on a number of levels, since I love being creative in the kitchen. It has also been one of a number of factors that has helped me put back on the 40 pounds I dropped back in the first half of 2007. grumble Anyway, most of my gourmet cookbooks don't help, nor does my propensity to cook for 10 people at once. So I picked up a few books on smaller dinners for two, and one-pot type recipes, since when cooking for one I can't be bothered to dirty up many dishes. Funny, because I *love* using up as many pots, pans, and other kitchen goodies when I'm whipping up something like Thanksgiving. So, I picked up the following form the cookery section:

Better Homes & Gardens Great Cooking for Two

Skinny Beef

Weekends are Entertaining: from Cocktail Parties and Brunches to Dinner for Two or Twenty

Crowd-Pleasing Potluck

One-Dish Dinners

The Everything One-Pot Cookbook

Casserole & One-Pot: Tasty Recipes for Every Day

Almost Vegetarian Entertaining

Jane Butel's Southwestern Kitchen

I am heartily impressed with the cookbook selection at McKay's, and am happily rooting through the remainder of my old books so that I can prep for my next visit.

I also acquired a number of books on writing, poetry, and general interesting stuffs:

Learning Irish by Michael O'Siadhail (I've been dying to learn Irish for forever)

The Great Thoughts by George Seldes (a collection of quotes)

Descriptionary: A Thematic Dictionary

The Cold of Poetry by Lyn Hejinian

Station Island by Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney: Selected Poems, 1966-1987

Her Blue Body Everything We Know by Alice Walker

There are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves by James Kavanaugh

Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa

Edna St. Vincent Millay: Collected Sonnets

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldua

Another Republic: 17 European and South American Writers Edited by Charles Simic and Mark Strand

Hunger's Table: Women, Food & Politics by Margaret Randall

Writing Poems, 5th ed. by Robert Wallace & Michelle Boisseau

In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit

Beyond the Words: The Three Untapped Sources of Creative Fulfillment for Writers by Bonni Goldberg

Versos Sencillos/Simple Verses by Jose Marti

Bucolics by Maurice Manning

I'm particularly excited about Bucolics, which I have heard is fabulous. My MFA mentor from this past semester, Jeanie Thompson, write a really great review of it, and I've read excerpts from it. Because I am a fan of the short line and of an organic rhythm, I'm looking forward to digging into it. I wonder if I might be able to add it to my reading list for this next semester...I'm working on building a preliminary bibliography to pitch to whomever I get for my next mentor. I wonder if they'll mind that I hope to include Milosz, Heaney, Manning, Eliot, Komunyakaa, Eavan Boland, Pablo Neruda and William Carlos Williams. Do you think that's too schizo?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Random Thoughts from the Poetess

A collection of random thoughts for your perusal:

I painted my toes for the first time this season and am breaking in new sandals, which has resulted in blisters on the tops of my feet. This is likely caused by the fact that my feet are spoiled by Danskos. *sigh* At least my ruby-tipped toes are cute. The color, by OPI nail lacquers, is "I'm Not Really A Waitress." Heh.

On the non-creative writing front, I'm trying to bang out a chapter titled "The Haves and the Have-Nots: Class, Race, Gender, Access to Computers and Academic Success" for a forthcoming book edited by Vib Bowman and Robert Lackie of the library and education world. I am excited about this for a number of reasons - first, um, it's a book chapter. A book with an ISBN. W00T! Looks good for tenure, and the book, which the editors have titled The Myths, Realities, and Practicalities of Working with Gen M: A Handbook for Educators and Librarians, is actually something I'm interested in - education and media literacy issues for Gen M kids. It's integrally related to my day job as a reference and instruction librarian. Plus, the publishing credit is something I can use in my bid for tenure, whereas my creative writing, not so much.

I am also kicking around a few ideas for books. Not that I have the time to write a scholarly-type book in my current state of OMGWTFBBQDEADLINES!!1!!!1!!eleven!!, but it is something I want to do eventually, so I'm considering what sort of topics would capture my interest for long enough to write an entire book. So far, I've got:

The "G" Spot: How Academic Librarians Affect Graduation Rates and Student Retention

Hey, I'd read that. It also might not be a bad start for a dissertation topic, given that I'm eyeballing starting the EdD program once I complete my MFA (November 2009) and MA (expected 2010). Best to have an interesting and useful academic library related topic.

I came into the office today to work on this book chapter, and haven't been able to rein in my brain to buckle down and do it. I have a sketch of the abstract, which is due to the editors Wednesday, so I do believe I'll be back in tomorrow to tackle it.

What is on my brain is this Lilith collection. (My brain has been usefully parsed into two parts: dayjob librarian work brain, and night-time and weekend creative writing brain. Apparently weekend brain is jealous of its space and wants little to do with librarian writing.) While reading my articles to form this book chapter, I was struck by the sudden desire to write in negative space and see if it turned into something compelling. I like it, but am sending it over to my trusty experimental fiction dude Drew, who is quite the poet himself and has some serious sense when it comes to revision suggestions. He's getting MFA-ed in May, so if you're hiring, you should contact him. Anyway, back to topic, Lilith on the brain, trying to keep it interesting, working in negative space from the starting thought of "I was never tempted by an apple." (That's not how it appears in the poem, but that's where the idea-seed came from - is it possible to write about not-something, and keep readers fascinated by all of the possibilities it leaves open? I think so, if it's done well, but it's a hell of a challenge.)

Also: more from me on the multiple-personality split of creative vs. not-creative writing. I hate to call it "uncreative" (and even "not-creative" is sort of insulting), and I don't want to call it "professional" writing, since a paid poet is a professional. I'll let this one marinate a bit and post on it soon.

Random: does it freak anyone else out that Firefox's spell-check suggestion for my mis-typed version of "something" is "thigbone's"? I mean, I wasn't really that far off, and it didn't look anything like "thighbone's"...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Series of Late Nights

It has been quite the interesting past few days. Oh, not from anyone else's viewpoint, I'm sure. For them, my life looks as dull as usual. Work, home, walking the dog, making dinner, turning on the tv and the laptop. All pretty ordinary. What is *not* ordinary is that I'm averaging 3 poems a day for the past, oh, eight days.

I'm not saying I'll keep them all. I think some of them are good, and some of them are ordinary and will have to be torn up and remade. The deluge is nice though - it's like trying to drink from a firehose, there's so much I want to write.

The result has been interesting. I compiled a full-length collection that had the theme of a daughter coming of age and dealing with her father, and I titled it Carving Your Name. Thrilled to have a complete book, I schlepped it off to about three competitions. Then, in a bit more than a weekend, I wrote a chapbook in Lilith's voice and titled it "I Will Not Lie Below," and sent that one out. I broke Carving Your Name into two chapbooks, one concentrating on seasonal themes called "Summers in Bay Shore," and one concentrating on the theme of coming to terms with grief titled "Carving Your Name." (I know, unoriginal of me to keep the same title as the full-length, but it tickled me and seemed right.)

That made me feel productive enough that I could forget my early-in-the-year dry spell. But that wasn't all. I decided that since there was such a heavy daughter/woman theme in Carving Your Name that I thought I might combine the more heavily femme-themed pieces with the Lilith chapbook, and I titled that full-length collection Disobedient Daughters. I farmed that one out to another four poetry book contests.

And then I decided there was too wide a gap between just the daughter pieces and the pieces that were overtly in Lilith's voice in Disobedient Daughters, and that Lilith really deserved her own book without my diluting it with poems that were really meant to go in a different direction. So I've been walking around in Lilith's crimson stiletto peep-toe pumps in my head at night (which is the footwear I imagine her enjoying), and her meager chapbook has grown to twenty-eight poems and counting, tentatively titled God in my Throat.. As I said before, not all of them are strong enough to stay, and they'll need revision and some slight reordering, but it's a project I'm enjoying.

Now I'm struggling to make sure the voice doesn't get stale. Trying for different angles, different approaches for the narrative, different images, trying not to let a vivid character fade to pale through too much retelling.

Finally, playing off an email I sent to a friend, I thought I'd put some of my more, um, interestingly-toned poems into a chapbook called "Muse Made Me Her Bitch." Struggling to fill it out, but in a good way, like stretching muscles I haven't used in too long. Sometimes I get dissatisfied when my tone becomes...not complacent, really, but not harsh and surprising enough to satisfy me. "Muse" gives me the outlet I need to experiment with some things.

And then there's "The House That Falls Down" (also occasionally titled "Warsongs"). It's a collection of poems on war broken into three sections - the war, the women, and the homecoming. I was going to write it off, but I have an affection for it - I wrote the bulk of it while my brother was a Marine deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he said he liked the collection, and that the guys he shared it with enjoyed it. It came in as a semi-finalist in competition (though that could be due to a dearth of entries, I'm sure). It hands together oddly, every single piece needs severe revision, and war is a tough thing to write about and get right. I should trash it. But I'm keeping it. Selfish and sentimental, but whatever. it'll be my fixer-upper project.

In good news, I looked at the packet mailing schedule for my MFA program for the Spring 2008 semester (which starts at the end of May), and noted that it called for volunteers for folks for the full-manuscript workshop for the Spring 2009 residency. A few emails later, and I'm in! I'll likely be the only poetess in the group, since it's apparently the folks with novels who take advantage of that workshop, but hey. I write in the hopes that regular folks will enjoy my poems, and receiving critique from non-poets (or, as writers, merely poets of a different stripe) may actually be more helpful, since I'm getting accustomed to getting most of my critique from poets. Anyway, it can't hurt, and I can at least sound off of some people to see if they find it as interesting as I do. I'm afraid the folks that have read the bits I've shared may be biased because we're pals, though they've shared some good critiques. Heh, okay, I admit it. I wonder a little bit if walking in as the only poetry manuscript is like coming in as an underdog where it's more than likely that folks with actual coherent fiction and CNF stories will think that I'm inherently inferior because I work in smaller clips, and don't have their sort of stamina.

Okay, so I have a teensy inferiority complex. But I'm good humored about it. *grin*

Anyway, it's been a series of very late nights (particularly since I'm accustomed to going to bed at 10pm. Half past midnight makes morning an absolutely shitty time to be me, but I think it's worth it. Hell, I *know* it's worth it - I'd burn out terribly fast if I did my scholarly stuff both at work *and* at home, and I'm trying desperately to keep home as my creative sphere for personal work. Now what I wish I had was a group - one where we exchange manuscripts, make candid comments, and slug it out good naturedly surrounded by Kinko's-bound nearly-finished masterpieces and beer. Until then, though, I'll continue writing. And if you want to volunteer to make some margin-notes, I will snail-mail you a copy of whichever manuscript you're interested in *grin*. For now, though, I am going to bed.

Right after I finish a piece called "Witness."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Of Used Bookstores and Bliss

I have been mourning my move to Chattanooga if only because I am no longer as close to my favorite place on earth, the Half Price Books store. It was the first place I found someone who would pay me for my collection so I could refresh my shelves with whatever subject was my current obsession. My last huge trade in was before my move from Lexington back to Long Island, and I let go of most of my economics, statistics, and political science/international law collection. I used my earnings to bulk up on books on goddess traditions, witchcraft, wiccan traditions, acupuncture, yoga and reiki. (It was one of those phases where I was exploring.)

I was told about McKay's used books (and various other stuffs) when I moved to Chattanooga, but hadn't made the time to go, for a number of reasons. I was busy. I didn't have the money. I was afraid what might happen if I loosed myself in a cheap bookstore when I have no room for additional shelves in my teensy apartment.

Today seemed like a good day to go, so I loaded up some boxes with books I couldn't see myself reading in the foreseeable future (my Harry Potters, which I've read, some Stephen Kings and Tom Clancys, a few pieces of actual literature like the Brontes - ugh, can't stand them - and Little Women, a boatload of paperbacks, and two large Jane's World War II collections). I still haven't been able to part with the last of my international relations and political theory collection, and I'm still holding out hope that I'll read Owen Meany and The Cider House Rules. I'm also not quite ready to get rid of my little occult section, nor to trim down my collection of cookbooks quite yet.

Anyway, I headed to McKay's with two carryable boxes of books, expecting them to give me about $20 or $30 that I could then spend without guilt on some new (to me) books of poetry. I browsed a bit and picked up more than I could afford, waiting for my number to come up to see my return value. Imagine my surprise when the guy said, "Cash or trade?", I replied "Trade," and he gave me a voucher for $135.00.

That's right. One hundred thirty five smackaroos. Needless to say, I dumped the books I had already chosen into a cart and headed back to clean out the poetry section of everything I was interested in.

My loot, you ask? See what I was able to bring home:

James Dickey: The Selected Poems

Czeslaw Milosz: New and Collected Poems 1931-2001

The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: A Poetry Anthology ed. by Robert Bly

Loving in the War Years by Cherrie Moraga

The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry ed. by McClatchy

Committed to Memory: 100 Best Poems to Memorize

The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo (this is my 2nd copy so I can mark it up)

W.H. Auden: Selected Poems

Rudyard kipling's Verse: Definitive Edition (1939)

Perrine's 'Sound and Sense' - An Introduction to Poetry

Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West

Between Innocence and Peace: Favourite Poems of Ireland

The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Addonizio & Laux

Robert Lowell: Selected Poems

H.D.: Collected Poems 1912-1944 (Hilda Doolittle)

Poets Against the War

In a Time of Violence by Eavan Boland

The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke

The Cinnamon Peeler by Michael Ondaatje

World War One British Poets

Rita Dove: Selected Poems

The Other Voice: Essays on Modern Poetry by Octavio Paz

Transformations by Anne Sexton

Adrienne Rich, Poems Selected and New 1950-1974

Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot

The Open Boat: Poems from Asian America ed. by Hongo

Early Ripening: American Women's Poetry Now Ed. by Marge Piercy

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Orpheus and Company: Contemporary Poems on Greek Mythology Ed. by Denicola

And I still have about $27 left on that trade-in ticket. And I'm already greedily glancing around for books I neither want nor need, though those pickings are getting slim at this point. I just found my new favorite weekend hangout. Score!

Friday, April 11, 2008

descant Acceptance!

I check my mailbox everyday with a combination of trepidation and excitement. I know, given my knowledge of statistics (shaky and old, but there) that if I get an envelope back from a publisher, it is likely a rejection, mostly because most of my acceptance notes have come via email. But yesterday I received a letter - via post - from descant, accepting my poem "If I Had Been Born Your Son." Thrilled does not even begin to cover it. descant only publishes one issue per year. The editor's letter said that out of over 4000 submissions, they print about 40. Which means that my piece made it into the 1% they chose to publish this go-round. (The one formula I remember is "is/of=%/100." Ms. Edelstein, my high school math teacher, would be proud!) Please excuse me while I get naked and do my happy dance.


Ahem. Anyway, back to checking the mail. Editor Kuhne of descant has single-handedly made checking my mail more fun, now that I know that my SASEs can hold acceptances and not just rejections. Thank you, kind sir, for your good taste!

Now, if you all will excuse, me, I need to send "thankss but no thanks" notes to the publishers of a few other journals where I simultaneously submitted that piece. *grin* Nothing like letting people know you're popular. I do wonder if letting them know of an acceptance elsewhere makes your manuscript more valuable to them...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Submission Queen

In addition to submitting my chapbooks Carving Your Name and Summers in BayShore for the Black Lawrence Press chapbook competitions, I've also submitted Carving Your Name to Finishing Line Press. Feeling spunky, in a moment of pique, I put together my full manuscript and shipped it off to the Tupelo/CrazyHorse first book competition as well as to New Sins. This about blows my budget, so that'll have to do for now, competition-wise. I just built a humongous spreadsheet of full-length manuscript I need to go back and start listing all of the chapbook competitions. It's a nice way to keep track of approaching deadlines, not to mention the fees. There's no possible way I can enter everything, and the name of the press as well as the fees dictate when and where I send my work. (For instance, I don't know much about New Sins, other than that it was free, and I liked the chapbook they put out last year. Good enough for me.)

Right now I've got submissions in at over 25 journals, and have been bitten by the writing bug, so I may not wait the entire two months before sending out more. I even gathered up my nerve and submitted some sonnets to a new sonnets-only journal. (I figure that rejection won't hurt as much as some of the others, since I do not consider myself a sonnetteer, by any means. My goal is to write sonnets that nobody notices the rhyme scheme in - I despise end rhyme, though I know a number of poets who have done it well.)

And tonight I'll be working on my newest project, which will be a collection in the voice of Lilith. You know Lilith - not the one from Frasier. Adam's first wife, who was also made of earth, and refused to submit to him? Actually, one of the legends (from The Alphabet of Ben Sira, which I cannot get an English copy of, sine apparently the only 3 copies are in Europe) states that Lilith was a complete badass who demanded equality, and wanted to be on top. When Adam told her she was lesser and that *she* should be in the inferior position, she had the chutzpah to say God's Name and fly away instead of being subjected to the feeble missionary-style sexing of the first misogynist. C'mon, y'all. Hers is a voice that deserves its own collection, don't you think?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Mighty Semi-Finalist

I recently discovered I was named a semi-finalist in the 2007 Black Lawrence Press Black River Poetry Chapbook Competition. (I'm the one who wrote The House that Falls Down. Yep, right there in the semi-finalist category.

I figure as long as not everyone who entered the contest made it to the semi-finals, this means I am not a total and complete loser. In fact, this puts me only steps away from being the winner, really. It also gives me the goose I need to go ahead and revise that chapbook, which is a collection of poems on war. I was going to abandon it, but perhaps there's something to salvage there after all...besides, my brother (a Marine recently returned from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan) liked them. So yes, mental note, dust it off, work it up.

I also just submitted two new chapbook collections to Black Lawrence, in hopes sending my *really* good stuff will wow them, and push me into the finalist (ahem, or winner) category. Here's to hoping that my chapbooks Carving Your Name and Summers in BayShore are well-received!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Another Publisher with Good Taste

As I was sifting through my Gmail (which I abandoned while on vacation), I found an email sent by the senior editor of the Wisconsin Review. They have accepted my piece "Alzheimer's" for publication! Yay! *insert Happy Dance here*

Interestingly enough, it was one that my MFA mentor wasn't a huge fan of. It was an experiment with rhyme a la Sexton (not that I am in her league by any means), where there is a specific rhyme scheme, but no (or little) end rhyme, where the form is subverted to the story. I don't think the story came out as gracefully as possible, but it was an interesting exercise, and I think I captured something. You know the sort of something that exists somewhere between words and knowing, that never quite wears words very well? There's a piece of that in the poem. Sloppily captured, and mangled a bit, but I can see it.

It makes the poem something of a child for me - I love it. I understand it, even when its language is choppy and broken and not quite right. I am extraordinarily pleased when someone else sees something of value in it. And I am painfully aware when it isn't reaching its potential.

Anyway, "Alzheimer's" is likely a piece that still needs a good deal of work, but I am inordinately pleased that the Wisconsin Review found it good enough to publish. I just started another rhyme-scheme experiment piece, and this gives me faith that even the pieces I write for personal development have some value.

A Poetry Spree in Kentucky

I have just returned from my old haunt, Lexington, Kentucky. (How I miss living in a city in which I know where everything is!) It was a nice mini-vacation. The drive up on Thursday evening took longer than expected due to some horrific rain, occasional closures on I-75, and the meth-addled truck drivers roaring past at 97mph and sheeting me with water in already near-non-visibility conditions. *grump, grump* Once I got there, though, it was lovely. I met a friend, we spent the weekend on mini-shopping excursions, and I got to pop in to see my beloved tattoo artist (Charlotta of Tattoo Charlie's), though I didn't get any work done. I'll have to go back in July sometime for that.

Anyway, despite crappy weather, I got to see my good friend and catch up with her and her man, and I also got to see my other best friend on the planet, and her lovely husband.

On one of the shopping excursions, I acquired a Batgirl bobblehead doll, which will fit perfectly with my random office decor. (Everyone knows Batgirl was a librarian for her dayjob. (As a librarian, I aspire to have a nightlife in which I wear purple sparkly spandex and whoop badguy ass while wearing high heeled boots. To date, this has not happened.) We also hit a comic/horror convention that was in town. It was pretty pitiful size-wise, but I did manage to purchase pirated DVDs of the tv show Birds of Prey, which is about the daughter of Batman and Catwoman and her merry misfit band of goth/punk superheroes. It actually wasn't as bad as it sounds. I also picked up the tv series Brimstone, which I have never seen, but looks interesting. Plus, John Glover plays the devil. I'm looking forward to finding the time to watch that.

We hit the UK fan outlet, where sweatshirts for $5 wooed me, and I got a camo hat with "University of Kentucky" embroidered on it in pink.

The real win, though, was going to Half Price Books over in Hamburg. Lordy me, do I love that store. It's one of those massive used books (and DVDs, and LPs, etc) stores that will buy your stuff and then slashes prices pretty well, so it makes a nice alternative to the ridiculously expensive Barnes & Noble. I picked up:

Betting on the Muse by Bukowski

War All the Time by Bukowski

Rules for the Dance by Mary Oliver

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver

Edna St. Vincent Millay: Selected Poems by Falck

The Captain's Verses by Pablo Neruda

The Book of Love by Rumi

What Work Is by Phillip Levine

Imperfect Thirst by Galway Kinnell

Leaves of Grass by Whitman

To Make a Prairie by Maxine Kumin

William Carlos Williams: Selected poems by Tomlinson

The Sleeping Beauty by Hayden Carruth

Outside History by Eavan Boland

Poems New and Selected by James Laughlin

New Selected Poems by Philip Levine

Poetry and the World by Robert Pinsky

Claiming the Spirit Within: A Sourcebook of Women's Poetry Edited by Marilyn Sewell

Including tax, this list set me back $93.59. That's right. Oodles and oodles of poetry that I haven't read yet, by authors that sounded either vaguely or very familiar, for less than a hundred bucks. I would like to report that I am, indeed, the winner. Nevermind that I didn't really *have* that money to spend. I will likely take it out of my grocery budget to pay that credit card bill when it comes in. It was totally worth it, since I likely have a good chunk of my bibliography for my next MFA semester.

Mmm, books. Delicious. It's just as well I don't have one of those stores locally, I suppose - I'm running out of places to put my bookses...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sow's Ears and Silk Purses

Happiness! One of my recent poems that I'm actually really pleased with has just found a home at the Sow's Ear Poetry Review. As soon as I hear which issue "Wife at the Parole Hearing" will show up in, I'll be sure to post it. I'm particularly pleased with this placement for a number of reasons. First, Sow's Ear is a print publication, which is what I'm trying to restrict my submissions to at this point. It also has a pretty good reputation from what I can glean from fellow writers. Either way, I'm happy. Also, the turnaround time was less than two weeks (no, really. I swear), which is all but unheard of. That, and the editors and readers really went through the poem carefully, in detail, and had some great suggestions for edits. It was a lot like being workshopped from afar *grin*

I'm also happy because *I* get to send rejection letters to some editors. That's right - the tables have been turned! I haven't yet had the chance to do that with a simultaneous submission, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. That's right, slower-to-respond lit journals. I'll have to remove that one from your consideration, because someone else snatched up my goodies. You had better take a look at the rest of the pieces I sent you before they get scooped up, too...