Wednesday, December 28, 2011

52 Poetry Books on the Wall

At the beginning of 2011, a group of us on Twitter made resolutions to read 52 books of poetry this year, as suggested by Larry Lawrence, aka @TheAmericanPoet, and who accomplished his goal. We all followed along using #52poetry and I am happy for the little community we built as we shared the books we were reading and discovered some new poets through recommendations.

And I'm doing it again in 2012! And adding one fiction book a month to the line-up.

Here's my #52poetry list for 2011:

Curses and Wishes by Carl Adamshick
Enter chapbook by Robert Lee Brewer
Escape chapbook by Robert Lee Brewer
Paper House by Jessie Carty
All of Us by Raymond Carver
Flies by Michael Dickman
Lighthead by Terrance Hayes
After by Jane Hirshfield
Come, Thief by Jane Hirshfield
When the Only Light is Fire by Saeed Jones
Neon Vernacular by Yusef Komunyakaa
What Learning Leaves by Taylor Mali
The Memory of Water by Jack Myers
Words Under the Words by Naomi Shihab Nye
Transfer by Naomi Shihab Nye
Ariel by Sylvia Plath
Next Extinct Mammal by Ruben Quesada
Above the Hum of the Yellow Jackets chapbook Jackets by Carol Stephen
Come On All You Ghosts by Matthew Zapruder

That's 23 books, and I know I've forgotten a few, but I didn't start keeping a list until mid-year. (I know better for this year.) And I'm currently a quarter of the way through Tess Gallagher's Midnight Lantern.

Also, I read all issues of Poetry Magazine along with a number of excellent literary journals. And I added two new subscriptions for 2012.

What was on your reading list this year? Any favorites? And what is on your list for 2012?

Happy reading, Andrea

Monday, December 19, 2011

Decking the Halls

As I finish wrapping, decorating, and decking the halls with many other projects, I wanted to offer a "Wrap Up" of sorts for my blog this year.

First and foremost, thank you to everyone who visits and reads my blog and graciously offers feedback and insight. You all have enriched my life.

I started a two new traditions this year. One was to keep a daily journal of one thing I appreciate/love about my husband. I am working this week on compiling it all into a book for him just in time for his birthday on the 28th. While it is a gift for him, it was undoubtedly a wonderful gift for myself in that it made me focus on the positive daily. 2011 has been a tough year for us as we have tried to start a family and this journal helped me keep perspective on the incredible man in my life and what we have built together over the past eight years.

We also began a new tradition last night of Christmas light strolling through Eastridge. We bundled up in scarves and gloves, filled the thermos up with tea (we've decided on hot chocolate for next year), and off we went to gaze at all the creative light displays a few neighborhoods away. We even saw a jeep driving through all lit up. I regret not taking my camera!

One tradition that has been going strong for nearly a decade now is baking with my mom on Christmas Eve. We load the CD player with Christmas albums, we pour ourselves some sparkling white wine, and bake the night away. Rum cakes, red velvet cookies, lemon bars, fudge, turtles, the list goes on...It is my favorite way to spend time with my mom. The sweets are endless and so are the memories.

For some book reading: Letras Latinas shared a wonderful blog post on poetry collections published this year by a Latino or Latina poets. My reading list just grew.

For a fun blog reading: A wildly creative person with an equally creative "old school literary yearbook" whose rock band I want to be in.

For inspiration: Jodi Picoult's essay, "To my 16-year-old self" which begins with, "Since everyone is always telling you what's important in life, I'm going to tell you what isn't." One word: Incredible.

What are your holiday traditions? Any you care to start? And what's on your reading list?

I look forward to seeing you all in 2012!

Love, peace, joy and hope to you all, Andrea

Friday, December 16, 2011

Poetry: A Livelihood or a Way of Life

This week, The The Poetry sent the thought-provoking article "Livelihoods of the Poets" from New York Magazine into my timeline. I had to read it a couple of times to let it sink in.

I'm disappointed to see this article did not include a unit of measure along the lines of "Reward for following poetry (or any other writing) as your passion: PRICELESS," or "Reward for poetry as a way of life: IMMEASURABLE."

What are your thoughts?

Monday, December 12, 2011

What Would Your Snapshot Be?

I'm a fan of The New York Time's "Poetry Pairing" series. This past week, Emily Dickinson's "Hope is the thing with feathers" was paired up with reader-submitted photographs as a "visual time capsule" of sorts. A creative and admirable pairing, I think.

What photo would you offer for this pairing?

Mine is a photograph of my Godchild Penelope creating her "mini-art" over the weekend. For me, she is a perfect pairing of hope and art in many senses of both words.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Parting with a Book

A few months ago, I began writing a found poem after each poetry collection I read. It started with Anne Sexton's Transformations and moved on to Naomi Shihab Nye's Transfer along with Jane Hirshfield's Come, Thief. I try to capture my favorite moments within each book and weave them into something for myself and further reflection. It's become my way of letting go of the book, a sweet parting of ways for now.

Currently, I'm on the last chapter of Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya. I'm thinking about extending my found poem tradition to fiction books too.

What are you reading right now and what do you do once you've finished with a book?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

Mahalo wanted to help decorate the tree by eating ornaments...

The tree is aglow!

Last night, the tree was adorned. This is my favorite part of Christmas decorating. Michael Bublé and Mariah Carey serenaded us from their Christmas albums as we hung ornaments and sipped on spiked Egg Nog.

It's not quite the "glitter-gold" tree I saw in the Pottery Barn catalog, but I sure made a good effort and I love that it glows as brightly as I wanted when purchasing all those iridescent glass ornaments. And I couldn't go without keeping some personal ornaments on there.

Yes, that is an Elvis ornament hanging on the lower left of the tree. There are three to be exact, one that plays "I'll Be Home for Christmas," my favorite Elvis Christmas song. (Ok, ok. They are ALL my "favorite.") 

The final touch is always placing the angel atop the tree, the same tree-topper I used to see on my family's tree each year while growing up. I loved her so much, my mom saved her and gifted her to me a few years back. The tree wouldn't be Christmas without her.

How do you like to decorate your tree? Do you have a real tree or an imitation one? What is one thing your tree can't be without?

And I found a lovely poem by Robert Frost for this occasion: Christmas Trees.

Happy decorating!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On Earth As It Is in Heaven

Today, Jack Myers would have turned 70. Happy Birthday, Jack! So many of us miss you.

I came upon a poem of his this morning I think serves this occasion well: On Earth As It Is in Heaven.

Also, I'm giving away a copy of his The Memory of Water. Tomorrow is the last day to sign up. I can't wait to share this book with someone!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Recycle or Trash Bin?

I found three poems at the bottom of my duffel bag today. Two of them are unfinished are are destined to remain as such, I think. I may steal a few lines from them at some point. I may just throw them away altogether.

Do you ever experience this? Do you ever look at a poem you've written and think, "Wow, I really need to experience the world a little more and get some new or better writing material"? I think I'm in need of some travel...

Good thing I have poetry to transport me. I'm taking my time with Jane Hirshfield's Come Thief. There are also a few lit mags on my nightstand waiting patiently.

There are four more days to enter to win Jack Myer's brilliant collection entitled The Memory of Water. One can never have too many books to read. ;)

I hope your Thanksgiving not only left your belly full, but your heart as well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Working Along the Edges

"Poetry, and all art, is a very dangerous, life‐changing enterprise if it’s done with heart and seriousness‐of‐purpose." - Jack Myers in the interview posted below...

Yesterday, a friend of mine sent me the link to an interview Jack had about Richard Hugo, his mentor. I feel compelled to share it with you: Kent McCarter interview with Jack Myers about Richard Hugo.

At the interview's conclusion, Jack says, " I wouldn’t want to take responsibility for directly influencing the way someone has chosen to lead his life." He believed he had a different way of teaching his students, one where he remained in the periphery, working "along the edges, hoeing and weeding, alongside them."

He didn't just help me to tend and trim the perimeter, Jack taught me about the importance of the seed before it ever gets planted. And I think he deserves more credit that I know he would ever give himself. (I wish I could have thanked him myself.)

If you haven't read The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo, I highly recommend reading it. And if you haven't read Jack's The Memory of Water, I'm giving away a free copy of his book at the end of this month HERE.

Who has influenced your writing?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Poetry as a Reason for Living

But only the poem you leave behind is what's important.
Everyone knows this.
The voyage into the interior is all that matters,
Whatever your ride.
- from "Littlefoot: A Poem" by Charles Wright

 What is poetry to you?

*And if you haven't read The Memory of Water by Jack Myers, nominated for a Pulitzer, and its poem "Necklace of Moss" for a Pushcart, you can enter to win a free copy HERE (and read this poem!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Memory of Water Prize Nominations

A few days ago, Thea Temple, Jack's wife shared some incredible news: Jack's poetry collection, The Memory of Water, has been nominated for a Pulitzer and one of its poems, "Necklace of Moss" for a Pushcart!

Just as Thea said in her Facebook post, I'm sure all who were blessed to know Jack "wish he were hear to hear and feel the buzz..." I wish I could hug and congratulate him right now.

So, I'm passing the buzz on. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, because I am more than grateful for the fate of meeting and learning from Jack, and in remembrance of him this November 23rd, I am giving away another copy of The Memory of Water. You can read my review on Goodreads about Jack's book here.

Entering is easy, simply leave me a comment with your name, email address, and a note or memory about someone who's most influenced your life. I will draw a name randomly on Wednesday, November 30, 2011. And as with all good things, I hope you share the news. ;)

Happy Friday, everyone!  Andrea

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Portable Poetry Workshop: Connecting Content - The Image Narrative

The image narrative: the "story told, in coherent form, through a series of the poem's images and perceptions." Jack offers the poem "Summer" by Cesar Pavese (the one who first spoke of a poem's "image story") along with "TV Room at the Children's Hospice" by Michael Ryan as examples.

Segues and white space in a poem act as connectors of the images within the story on their many different levels. Jack offers the poem "Paper Bird" by Robin Behn as an incredible example of the use of white space. (If you haven't read this poem, you must!) I think Behn's poem "Living with Sister" stands as a wonderful example of both segue and white space as a technique within the image narrative:

"Living with Sister" by Robin Behn

On a side note, this particular section within this chapter had me chuckling to myself today. Jack asked me to read in class one day and the word "segue" was in the poem he chose. I had never come upon this word before and butchered its pronunciation. He waited patiently, not once trying to interrupt, and once I gave my final, what I thought was successful, utterance of the word, he smiled his kind smile, half grinning, and launched into a mini-lecture about what a segue does. I am sure the class was fond of me that day. I've never forgotten that word.

Well, and white space, that was a lecture he dedicated a full day to, and I had some sort of epiphany during that lecture resulting in my crafting of poems with words spaced out all over the page. Sporadic placement poems is what I shall now call them. It even inspired a poem I titled "White Space." Jack got a kick out of it. He must have thought I was crazy.

To poetry and fine teachers, Andrea

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Y Después (And Then)

Lately, I find myself thinking in poetry. Or rather, the things I want to say are in poems I've read. Yes, I want them to speak for me.

Yesterday, I wanted to say something but couldn't find the right words. I know all the words that have come before have been wrong. So, I figured these particular lines I had read would make it a little more clear. But I can't find them. I've scoured all my books and journals, but these few lines seem to want to remain hidden, out of my grasp.

These come close at least:

Y Después, A Cento

To You, 

Today in El Paso all the planes are asleep
on the runway.  The world
is in a delay. The labyrinths 
that time creates disappear. Always
you were given one too many, one
too few. What almost happens, doesn't.
What might be lost, you'll lose. 

We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. We must unlearn
the constellations to see the stars. 
The sky is the only store
worth shopping in for anything
as long as a life. If the moon
smiled, she would resemble you.
You leave the same impression
of something beautiful, but annihilating.

Your absence has gone through me
like thread through a needle. Everything
I do is stitched with its color.
I wish I had the power of not looking
back. Not the power of having a wish
granted, but the power to look at my wish
and see behind it.

Love, Me

"April Snow" by Matthew Zapruder
"Y Después" (And Then) by Federico García Lorca translated by Ralph Angel
"Three-Legged Blues" by Jane Hirshfield
"Tear it Down" by Jack Myers
"Rebellion against the North Side" by Naomi Shihab Nye
"The Rival" by Sylvia Plath
"Separation" by W.S. Merwin
"One Last Wish" by Jack Myers

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All This and More

Robert Lee Brewer's November Poem-a-Day Challenge has begun.  You can follow/participate in the challenge on Twitter by using the #novpad hash tag, or by stopping by Robert's Poetic Asides blog.  Every day during the month of November, he will be posting a new prompt for you to explore with your pen and paper or keyboard.  This is my second year participating and I'm looking forward to all the poetry this month.

This year, I am challenging myself a little more by reading a poem every day.  A nice poetry pairing of sorts, but being that I do read a lot and try to read poetry every day, I want to make this challenge a little more specific.  I want a continuous flow of poetry for the month, and am not really sure if this will create a nice flow, but it's a thought nonetheless.  This extra poem a day will be outside of any book or journal I'm reading or anything I've randomly happened upon online.

I recently finished Lit by Mary Karr and was excited to read she is a poet.  I'm starting with a poem of hers today.  Tomorrow, I will read a poem by a poet she has been influenced or touched by, and so on down the line.  Today's poem is "All This and More" and can I really say anymore after reading it?  Brilliant.

Happy writing/thinking/living to all, Andrea

Sunday, October 30, 2011

We Love the Ones that Won't Open Most

So, the years go by and we find a few doors and windows.
Some are always open, some were never open.
Because we are crazy and stubborn,
we love the ones that won't open most.
     - from "Able to Say It" by Naomi Shihab Nye

These four lines have been haunting me for days...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Carrying #Poetry

I was searching through YouTube this morning in hopes of finding a clip of Naomi Shihab Nye reading from her recent book Transfer.  No luck there, but I happened upon another clip of her talking about inspiration and carrying poetry with you.

Nye carries a note about Philip Levine's thoughts about the muse and William Stafford's poem "The Sky."

Do you carry a poem with you?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Your Heart Knows What Your Head Don't

"When you give someone a book you're giving them the most imaginative of gifts, because you're taking a personal interest in what interests them." - W.H. Smith ad in Observer

The Writers' League of Texas posted the above quote on their Facebook page this morning, and I couldn't think of a better quote with which to begin today's post.

My mom recently gave me a copy of Lit by Mary Carr to read.  Each minute dares me to put it down but I can't.  I read a few sentences as I chew my morning cereal, sneak in a page when my boss isn't looking, try to read a chapter before I go to sleep.  This book won't let me go.  There is so much within this book that calls to me.

"What hurts so bad about youth isn't the actual butt whippings the world delivers.  It's the stupid hopes playacting like certainties."

"He never gave up on me, I only stopped being matriculated."

"Your heart knows what your head don't.  Or won't." (The heart as a metaphor discussion reappears...)

"It was dawning on me how uphill a poet's path was, and I confessed to her that if I had to be the choice between being happy or being a poet, I'd choose to be happy."

When was the last time you received a book as a gift?  What significance did it bring to your life?

Books you've never written can hold your secrets.  Years ago I gave up writing, yet, here I am with fingers poised upon a keyboard.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Portable Poetry Workshop Project: Generating Content - Substitution

A poem can travels through both vertical and horizontal levels of meaning by way of substitution. The poet can chose to substitute the literal for the figurative or the abstract or vice-versa. Substitution can even become a poet's overall strategy or "organizing principle" whether employed as a technique or happening unconsciously.

There are a number of poems offered in this section as examples, but the one poet whose work comes to my mind is Matthew Zapruder. "Global Warming" and "White Castle" are two fine examples when it comes to substitution and the movement of meaning within poetry.

A substitution exercise from Jack: "Find some literal images in your poem and then add an abstract quality or specific detail to those images.

Happy writing, Andrea

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Turning NO Around

I don't know why some rejection letters come so early in the morning. You open your inbox and a "no" is the first thing to greet you. I'm sure I have more of these in my future's pipeline and in more than just the poetry realm.

I don't know where I first heard the expression, "Turn that frown upside down." I've always admired the clever saying.  Now when I open up an email from a literary journal basically saying it's a NO, I'm turning this around and saying, "It's ON." 

Read, Revise, Resubmit.  Turn that NO around.

How do you cope with rejection?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Losing The iNNOVATOR

"Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." - Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement address, June 2005

The world lost Steve Jobs yesterday, the true iNNOVATOR, an artist who helped to create our future, the ways in which we communicate, the ways in which we SEE one another.  May he now rest peacefully.

A poem for Steve: Science by Robert Kelly

Echoing Steve's words: Stay hungry. Stay Foolish.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Portable Poetry Workshop Project: Generating Content - Logopoetics

TECHNIQUE. Jack ends this section with a statement I feel is more of a question: "It's just a matter of whether the techniques are being invented in the making or are being applied more consciously as devices a book such as this can teach."

I'd like to know what he thought about Anne Sexton's Transformations. There are many varied streams of consciousness and clever uses of literary devices throughout her collection. Were these poems carefully crafted or had they already been created in her mind, longing for the page? The layers in Sexton's poems are exquisite. "The White Snake" comes to mind...

I tried my hand at the exercise this section concluded with entitled "Twenty Little Poetry Projects" by Jim Simmerman.  I feel as if I've channeled John Ashbery in my attempt (think "Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape") and am still chuckling about my hen and her impending frying.

I think you can create a poem from each one of these "Twenty Little Poetry Projects."  Have fun!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Portable Poetry Workshop Project: Generating Content - Lateral and Digressive Moves

I've learned a new word: leitmotif. Jack's definition of this word is "a recurring image, phrase, statement, trope, or theme in a work." How did I not know this word?  I've known the definition and found myself weaving together recurring images, sounds, colors, etcetera, during my reading of a collection.  Ones that come to mind: the different hues of blue that weave their way throughout Matthew Zapruder's Come on All You Ghosts, the image of the fly in the aptly titled Flies by Michael Dickman, the conversation sometimes turning into an argument with death in Jack's The Memory of Water.

What are a few of your favorites?

Thanks for the new word today, Jack. :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cliché of the Heart, Take Two

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about my problems with "the heart" in poems, or rather, using it in my poetry. Yesterday, I came across a lovely poem in a set of three by Jane Hirshfield and find it to be the perfect poem in using the heart as a metaphor and effectively tying in emotion without sounding too sentimental.  It slays "the heart" as a cliché in poetry.

SOMETIMES THE HEART IS A SHALLOW AUTUMN RIVER by Jane Hirshfield (It is last poem on the page.)

I can't wait to read Hirshfield's new collection Come, Thief.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Poem and Prayer for a Friend

I am thinking about a friend this morning who is an incredible example of strength and resilience. Her positive outlook is inspiring, infectious. I am praying for her today and in the days to come.

A poem for her: Li-Young Lee's "Persimmons" for "Some things never leave a person..." like light in a jar or a bird, small signs of hope if you notice them...

"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; the shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." - Isaiah 40:31

Appreciate life and all the people in it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Portable Poetry Workshop Project: Generating Content - Horizontal and Technical Content

I know that at this section of the book things may seem too technical, which is why I recommend reading this book for yourself. Through reading, the reader will be able to glean what is wanted and/or needed, and it won't feel so technical. (Craft is important!)  This section is overflowing with golden nuggets.

A technical golden nugget:  "A simple method for distinguishing the kinds and functions of content in a poem is to imagine to content of a poem in the shape of a cross..."

A simplified version of the cross Jack speaks of looks like this:

This cross then goes on to resemble more of a pinwheel upon consideration and examination of elements within different poems.

And now, more of a general golden nugget: "...The same cognitive processes we use in decoding our experience in the world are the same cognitive processes we use when we first read a poem."

What poem has given you the most fulfilling experience when reading?  The most recent one for me is Mary Ruefle's "White Buttons.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Mailbox is My Friend: Books and Stamps

And we can get a little impatient with friends at times.  Especially when you're waiting on a book or two.  It's almost like Christmas in my heart when I am waiting for books I've ordered online.  I can hardly wait until they arrive and I check the mailbox constantly.

I'm waiting on two books at the moment:  Pym by Mat Johnson and What's Your Story?: A Young Person's Guide to Writing Fiction by Marion Dane Bauer.  Three poetry books next on the agenda: Come, Thief by Jane Hirshfield, Transfer by Naomi Shihab Nye, and Midnight Lantern by Tess Gallagher.  I'm grinning.

What are you reading?

Oh, and don't forget about the Forever poetry stamps coming from the post office in 2012!  These in themselves are a great reason to send a hand-written card or note through snail mail. Is there a poet you'd like to see on a stamp?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Cliché of the Heart

I have a problem with my heart.  I mean my use of "heart" in my writing.  Too often, I am being reminded that the use of the heart is too sentimental.  I wish it weren't only a metaphor.

James Arthur recently reminded me (although he has a time or two before) that "The heart doesn't really have anything to do with emotion." I know, I know.  I'm going to replace it with some other organ or body part.  Eventually.  I'm thinking about it, at least.

A poignant poem about both hearts: "His Heart" by Caroline Knox.

How do you deal with clichés of the heart?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Portable Poetry Workshop Project: Generating Content - Techniques for Elaborating Content

Elaboration expands a poem.  We can plumpen a poem through a number of devices and methods such as conceit, simultaneity, inner correspondences, slant imagery, creating a story within a story, and correspondence.

Who better to talk about elaboration than Richard Hugo?  In this video, he touches upon the importance of elaboration: "The less you know about the town, the more you can add...subtraction is always more difficult than addition." Just listen to him read, "Degrees of Gray in Phillipsburg." Hugo skillfully utilizes the setting as his "triggering town."


Friday, September 2, 2011

Iced Tea, Old, Old Recipes, and The Way to a Man's Heart

I shared pecan chicken salad with my Grandma for lunch today. I also helped her put together her new recipe box and snuck in her recipe for her one-of-a-kind and top secret pie crust (she won't admit she is forgetting the recipe).  Sitting at her kitchen table, sorting through old recipe cut-outs, I felt like I was a kid again, just off the school bus, enjoying my afternoon snack with Grandma.  I'm still smiling.

Some lunch thoughts/observations:

  1. Iced tea always tastes better when Grandma makes it.  I can't explain why.  It just does.  I even buy the same kind of tea and put it in the same kind of jug.  Maybe it's her ancient lemon/lime squeeze contraption that does it.  I don't know.  Refreshing.
  2. I wish I could still buy Clabber Girl baking powder for 10 cents.  10 cents!  I wish I would've remembered to bring that little cut-out with me just to show you.  Instead, I remembered to bring some tasty cookie recipes instead.  From scratch.  Take that boxed mixes and pre-made dough!  (I researched this a little online and it looks as if these recipes are from sometime in the 1940's.  Wow.)
  3. My Grandma says, "The real way to a man's heart is through his stomach.  Just look at your Grandpa.  He'd starve if I didn't cook or bake, and I realize it's my own fault!"  They've been married for over 60 years now and she still makes him a different dessert every night.  My husband gets dessert about once a week.  I've got some catching up to do! 
Wishing you a relaxing Labor Day and extended weekend!  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Memory of Water Book Giveaway Winner

Good morning!

Thank you to those who participated in this book contest for August!  Even if you didn't win this book, I encourage you to read it when you have an opportunity.

The winner of Jack Myer's The Memory of Water is Nora Luongo! I hope you find this collection to be a keepsake, Nora.

I'll leave you today with a video of Jack reading one of his poems and discussing "Power Tools for the Spirit" recorded by The Art of Living Gallery:

What an amazing soul he was...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Portable Poetry Workshop Project: Generating Content - Techniques for Generating Content

Jack believes the "original impulse" in our writing can be invigorated or "stimulated" by use of technical moves such as adding plot elements, characterization, or images.  This stimulation can expand or shrink a poem either horizontally or vertically, and can even transform the poem altogether.

"The major problem in creative writing is creative writing."  What do you make of this statement?

My go-to when revising a poem is to add description to open up a line or image.  Some employ word play or tinker with words to give their poem more musicality.  Others try to introduce more action into their poems.  What methods do you use to invigorate your poems?

A poem to end this workshop:  "Art Class" by James Galvin. "Let us begin with a simple line..."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Poetry you wish you'd written

Today, I'm daydreaming about poetry I wish I'd written seeing as I'm having a little difficulty writing it lately.  Wherever I am/I am what is missing.  I keep hearing this in my head and know Mark Strand's "Keeping Things Whole" goes first on this list.

...The secret life 
begins early, is kept alive
by all that's unpopular
in you...
Stephen Dunn's "A Secret Life" was given to me as a little cutout for my pocket by Jack Myers.  This one is a close second to Strand's.

If I took the time to sit and work on a list, I doubt I'd ever leave the chair.  While you're thinking of the poetry you wish you'd written, I'll leave you with words from another I wish I'd written, "The Words Under the Words" by Naomi Shihab Nye:

Answer, if you hear the words under the words
otherwise it is just a world with a lot of rough edges,
difficult to get through, and our pockets full of stones.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Portable Poetry Workshop Project: General Considerations - Associational Logic

...that which is "the kind of thinking that dreaming uses as logic when our mind moves from one thing to another through an unconscious process of juxtaposition."

Can we recognize it? Do we write and reveal our process or do we edit it out? Sometimes, I don't even know how I got from one place to another and oftentimes, this poses a problem for me during the revision process. Should I just let it be? I don't know how much logic there is in my poetry at times, although I know when I'm writing, it is making sense at that very moment. ;)

Jack concludes this last section of the first chapter with a noteworthy exercise:

Associating from the senses exercise - the following exercise is called "clustering." It uses the five basic physical senses as conduits to describe in a figurative way what something seems to be to the poet. Jack uses the emotion of fear as the subject and makes associations from there using touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight. Below is my example for this exercise:


Touch - like an emerald silk dress with a small snag in the center, like a plum tomato with a moldy soft spot

Smell - week-old bananas, water with too much chlorine

Taste - like a fig that's not sweet enough - your tongue is expects sweetness but settles for the so-so

Sight - green dress above, bleach stain in a towel, a scratch on a camera lens

Sound - a bird that's run into a glass window, an iron steaming

What are you clustering?  I hope it inspires a poem.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

#BookCoverCrush - Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros

Ok, with a little prodding from Evelyn, and after a lot of admiration for her video blogging about her book cover crushes, here is my first stab at it.  And please check out her blog (this is Evelyn Alfred's blog here) to see and hear about her book cover crushes, as she always has great insight from week to week, and is a writer too.

Tell us your secret crush...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Poetry Conveyor Belt

I'm amazed at the rate some people can turn out poems on various social media sites.  I even posted the following on my Twitter this morning: "Some people are conveyor belts of poetry.  I'm more like Lucy at the chocolate factory and I'm ok with that." 

Wrapped chocolates are the finished poems.  They come down my Twitter stream quite rapidly.  I admire the dedication these writers have to their craft.  I do try to write every day, but I can't say I have a wrapped chocolate ready for the eating at the end of each day.  Like Lucy, I tend to go at my own pace, eat a piece of chocolate yet to be wrapped here and there either by placing a poem in my "waiting-to'happen" pile or by chunking it all together (which I try very hard not to do in a fleeting wave of frustration) and continue with my work.  Sometimes, the chocolates I'm wrapping aren't my poems at all but those of others, and I like to stuff them in my shirt and sometimes even my hat for the reading.  The poems I'm reading and writing will all get wrapped eventually, and I may consume one too many calories, but I'm happy with this pace.  Chocolate is to be eaten and enjoyed, and I'm trying to delight in every bit of the process!

How often do you write a "finished" poem? 

Happy wrapping!  Andrea

P.S.  A little over a week and a half left for the book giveaway contest.  See details on how to win your own copy of The Memory of Water by Jack Myers by clicking here:  I want this book!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Diana Mini - 2nd Batch of Film

I just picked up my 2nd batch of photos from my Diana Mini.  I chose Lomography's Color Negative 400 film this time around, and opted to go with the half frame shot.  All in all, out of over 70 photos, I have about a handful and a half of photos to work with.  I wish there were more, but I am happy with the ones I do have.

As I am learning to work with this camera, I think this quote from Scott Adams best sums up how I feel thus far:  "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.  Art is knowing which ones to keep."  I've got some keepers and even if they're not art to anyone else, at least they are art to me. ;)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Blame the Poets and Yes, Poetry

The August issue of Yes, Poetry is out!  Joanna Valente's introduction to this issue is compelling.  My poem, Blame the Poets, has found an excellent home in it.  You can read it here:  Blame the Poets and Yes, Poetry.

Please don't forget about The Memory of Water book giveaway.  Sign up here:  I want this book!

To sharing poetry!  Andrea

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Memory of Water Giveaway

Those of you who follow along with my blog know the impact Jack Myers has left upon my life and my writing.  His new collection The Memory of Water is one I want to share with you and I am launching a giveaway contest for the month of August. (Please see the contest details at the end of this post.)  A touching review about his book is below along with a link to a few of his poems: 
I will be giving away one copy of The Memory of Water by Jack Myers, at the end of August. For the chance to win this extraordinary collection, you must take the following three actions:

  1. Follow my blog if you're not already.  Follow along with me as I work through my Portable Poetry Workshop Project, inspired by another of Jack's books. 
  2. Leave a comment for me below.
  3. Twitter and/or G+ a link to this post.
The winner will be selected at random and announced Wednesday, August 31st.  

I look forward to sharing Jack's poetry with you, Andrea

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Action vs. Motion

I remember talks I used to have with Jack when I was experiencing "writer's block."  I would tell him I didn't think I could write unless I was miserable, and at my present state of bliss, I could see no future in writing.  Sometimes those memories make me laugh hysterically.  Today I'm caught somewhere in between laughter and tears.

Jack would calm me down in his usual cool and collected manner by first asking me if I would like some tea.  He would then go on to tell me that it wouldn't always be this way, that I would find more things to write about than love, heartbreak, and my parents' divorce.  I'm so happy he was right on that point, but today, I find myself wanting to say to him, "I can't even write because I'm so miserable."

I have turned to pen and paper too many times recently only to give up on what I was writing because I could not get it right.  I then turned to reading which has held my attention for a good while.  Today, I tried to focus on revising past poems and am feeling the same way as with my writing.  I just can't get into that frame of mind again, and I know I have so much that wants to pour itself out.

I read a quote today by Benjamin Franklin that really struck me: " Never confuse motion with action."  I feel like I am sleepwalking through my life as of late.  I really need some tea.


Friday, July 29, 2011

The Portable Poetry Workshop Project: General Considerations - The Discovery Mode

Jack talks about the discovery mode as a "method of organic composition in which content and form arise without preset ideas."  Apperception, fixed form and free verse "intensions," not knowing, and complexity and simplicity are outlined in this discussion.  I think a lot of things can be included in this discussion, as everyone seems to have their own "discovery mode" when it comes to writing.

Jack emphasizes a point made by Richard Hugo, "Scholars look for final truths they will never find.  Creative writers concern themselves with possibilities that are always there to the receptive."  Sometimes I feel as if I am desperately searching for truth and that is why I write.  Other times, I just like to sit down and enjoy some word play, and sometimes, I really like what is staring back at me from the page.

I typically like to write free verse.  When at odds with my muse, I follow advice from James Arthur and  write according to a fixed form, my favorite being the villanelle.  How do you prefer to write your poetry?  What kinds of poems do you like to read?

In closing this chapter, Jack offers the "19 Questions" exercise.  I will share one of his questions with you along with one of my own:

One of Jack's 19 questions:  "Under what conditions have you experienced the joy of deep personal learning and insight?  How does your understanding of and relationship to discipline fit into this?  What would your personification of discipline look like?  In this image, are you in service to it, or is it in service to you?"  (Yes, that is all ONE question!  And I think I sense a hidden writing exercise in this one.)

My question:  In The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux, the authors write, "Who you are contributes to your poetry in a number of important ways, but you shouldn't identify with your poems so closely that when they are cut, you're the one that bleeds."  How do you feel about this statement and why?  Any past bleeding experiences you'd like to share?

Happy Friday, all!  Andrea

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Heart of Haiku Touched My Own Heart

Thank goodness for the uninterrupted plane ride this past week because I was finally able to finish Jane Hirshfield's The Heart of Haiku.  It is an exquisite little book and will be joining others on my "Favorites" shelf.  Some highlights from it:

In quoting Basho:  "But unless things are seen with fresh eyes, nothing's worth writing down."

When the space between poet and object disappears, Basho taught, the object itself can begin to be fully perceived.  Through this transparent seeing, our own existence is made larger.

To read a haiku it so become its co-author, to place yourself inside its words until they reveal one of the proteus-shapes of your own life.

Art can be defined as beauty able to transcend the circumstances of its making.

One useful way to approach a haiku is to understand each of its parts as pointing toward both world and self.

Feeling within ourselves the lives of others (people, creatures, plants, and things) who share this world is what allows us to feel as we do at all.


There is so much about haiku I didn't know, and I am sure I still don't know.  I look forward to learning more and writing more of it.  I will end this blog with a question and a haiku:

What is your favorite haiku and why?

Year after year,
the monkey's face
wears a monkey's mask
 - Basho, translated by Jane Hirshfield

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What are your Scratch and Dent Dreams for your box of Now?

Give this video three minutes and you won't be able to take your foot off the gas pedal.  Eric Darby's "Scratch and Dent Dreams" makes me think of everyone who gives up too soon or says "some day" too often, especially poets and writers who allow the naysayers to get them down.  Sometimes, the biggest naysayer is staring back at you in the mirror.  No more.

What are you going to place in your box of "Now" and what tools will you need?  Where will your "tomorrow" go?  Start mapping it out and chart your progess. 

Happy writing, Andrea

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mayfly (Gone Too Soon)

Cancer.  That ugly thing rears its head again this month and consumes yet another life, a sweet young woman not even 21 years old.  She leaves behind a son who turns 5 this Saturday.  She became engaged the week before hospice came in.  She was a mayfly, created and given to this earth for a short while.  Time never seems to be on anyone's side... 

Who knows how long a life is?  Do we want to know if we are born a mayfly?  If the ones we love are?

"Mayfly" by Douglas Florian is my poem for Viviana today.  "Its life is over/Far too soon."  May she rest in peace now.

The Portable Poetry Workshop Project: General Considerations - Mental Preparation

"Writer's Block."  We all experience it at one time or another.  Sometimes, it feels like a drought that might never end.  Everyone has a special term for it, as if by acknowledging it and naming it, we think it might just empathize with us and let up.  Jack Myers has a perfect analogy for it: "A bouquet of cut flowers might still truly be flowers, but they are cut off from their source, what nourished them, and any possibility of growth."

Do we just allow the flowers to sit in the vase?  Do we try arranging them in different ways, change the water, trim the soggy stems?  In what ways do you deal with your "Writer's Block"?  Do you have a certain name for it?  Do you just let the visitor in until it decides to leave and ignore him/her all the while?

Jack ends the chapter suggesting an exercise for when you are feeling at odds with your muse:

1.  Think of a special object in your life and write down all the detail you can about it.  "See stereoscopically."

2.  Fuse your feelings into the object you've chosen, writing about its meaning to you and the feelings it evokes.

3.  Associate the object with something it reminds you of or something that comes to mind.  Try using a trope as you expand your writing.

4.  Affirm your belief in this object and write about how you may or may not live without it going forward.

If you're like me when battling "the block," you will probably scratch and scribble all over what you've written at some point and want to wad your paper into a ball and bang it into your forehead.  A piece of advice:  don't scribble and scratch so much that you can no longer make out what you've written, and definitely resist making a shape out of it.  Calmly place it in your "To Tackle When I'm in a Better Mood" pile and walk away.  The poem will find you again.

Happy writing, Andrea

Friday, July 15, 2011

Decay, Working on Gone, Arthritis: Poems published this month.

I'm happy to have poems in Rose and Thorn Journal and The Houston Literary Review this month:

Decay and Working on Gone

Arthritis (page 5)

Happy Friday, Andrea

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quotes about #Poetry from Richard Hugo in The Triggering Town

A few of my favorite quotes from this magnificent poet:

It is impossible to write meaningless sequences. In a sense the next thing always belongs. In the world of imagination, all things belong.

Never worry about the reader, what the reader can understand. When you are writing, glance over your shoulder, and you'll find there is no reader.  Just you and the page.

Knowing can be a limited thing.

You owe reality nothing at the truth about your feelings everything.

But in art, as seemingly in life, things happen without cause. They just happen.

It is narcissistic, vain, egotistical, unrealistic, selfish, and hateful to assume emotional ownership of a town or a word. It is also essential. will always be chasing a way to write. Actually, you never really find it, or writing would be much easier than it is.

Words love the ridiculous areas of our minds.

Ultimately the most important things a poet will learn about writing are from himself in the process.

Never want to say anything so strongly that you give up the option of finding something better. If you have to say it, you will.

Richard Hugo's The Triggering Town is a book destined to stay on your desk and speak to you when you need it most. I hope you will read it.

Do you have any favorite poetry/writing quotes?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Portable Poetry Workshop Project: General Considerations - Creativity and Consciousness

Jack Myers states, "In studying the basis for human life, you would quickly see that nature itself loves to create."  Taking a look outside my office window proves just so:  my lantana, merely leaves weeks ago, is robust with clusters of white blooms; the anthill just outside my patio looks twice its size from the time I last observed it; a spider has woven an intricate web upon the decorative door I've placed behind my wisteria bush.  Just this introduction to the chapter makes me want to write a poem.

But then, Jack pushes you off the diving board and forces you to the deepest part, the subconscious mind.  He talks about parts of the self and how they must "connect" in order to create.  He offers Wordsworth's definition of poetry and goes on to say, "This state of receptivity that forms the atmosphere for creativity seems to be galvanized into action, many times on the unconscious level, by the power of suggestion triggered by our associations and powers of deduction."  The first thing that comes to mind is his advice to me to always "read as much as I can, when I can" and to take time to "watch" the world.

This then leads me to think about the "definition" of poetry:  how many definitions are there, which one is most valid, what about its evolution, etc, etc, etc.  What is your definition of poetry?  Can one truly define it?  The poem that comes to mind when pondering this is John Ashbery's "Paradoxes and Oxymorons."  What are your thoughts on what this poem is saying? Megan Snyder-Camp suggests that "What I get, rather, is exactly what I need, which shifts with each reading."   

"The poem is you." - John Ashbery.  Now get to reading, and writing.  Watch the world.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Poem Made the Cut in the April PAD Challenge Results

I still can't believe it!  What an honor!  Congratulations to everyone who participated in this poetry challenge and to all those who were chosen.  It is great to stand among you all.

To see the 2011 April PAD Challenge Results, please click on this link ---> Top 50.

If you aren't familiar with Robert Lee Brewer's PAD Challenge, you can find details about it here:,category,NovemberPADChapbookChallenge.aspx.  There is a new one beginning in November, and there will another challenge following in April.  This has been a great resource for me in getting the poetry juices flowing and some words down on paper despite the days my muse has seemed to step out for a bit.  If you haven't followed him on Twitter yet, please click on his name above to go to his page.  He can open your eyes to a different poetic horizon and you can find a great, supportive community within his blog readers and followers.

Thanks for supporting me, my blog, and my poetry.  ((BIG HUG))

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Portable Poetry Workshop Project

Now more than ever, I wish I could talk to Jack.  I want his guidance, his wit, his poetry reading suggestions.  I've been reading and rereading his poetry collections.  This week, I turned to his The Portable Poetry Workshop because I need to be in class with him again.  The semester has begun.

What I always admired most about Jack was the way he could make the intangible accessible, like magic.  I'm still in awe even as I read through the introduction pages: "The nature of poetry itself, beyond language and the art's elaborate history of conventions, is all about process, shaping whatever we are trying to sculpt from inchoate fog that allows us to feel what it is to be human."  Jack talks about specific things he feels are most important to making writing a habit, more a "sacred" practice:  sacred space, reading, imitation, feeling, free-writing, and journal writing.  I'm working my way down this checklist now.

One thing Jack always reminded his students was the importance of writing everyday.  It was one of the points he chose to emphasize in his last email to me when I told him I had begun writing again: "Scratch that itch even if it means doodling; it'll pour out poems eventually."  I'm scratching that itch, Jack, and following along with you in this new workshop.

Apt for the first day of class, Jack Myers' poem, "On Sitting" -

Happy reading, Andrea

Monday, June 20, 2011

From the Photo Shoot to the Photo Lab

This bull is my Diana Mini experience thus far, but I'm still smiling!

The first photo shoot went great.  Not really a planned photo shoot, but just a place I wanted to go back to because of all the photo opportunity.  I guilted my mom into joining me, but who would've thought we would've had so much fun being silly with a camera lens?

I forgot to advance my film a couple of times, fidgeted with the focus a little too often, and kept finding myself wanting to "check" my photo to make sure my shot came out now that my convenient little digital camera has programmed me to do so.  Those digital cameras sure spoil us.  I was afraid I was too close, too far away, not enough light...aaaahhhh!  The perfectionist in me was a little disappointed, but I had to roll with it.  I can't be uptight about taking photos.  What then is the point?

On way way to the photo lab, I was plain giddy.  I think I called a handful of people to tell them what I was doing in hopes they would share in my excitement.  Nostalgia set in.  I felt like I was fifteen again, disposable camera in hand with film loaded with pictures of my high school crush who was completely unaware of my sneaky photo-snapping talents.  I couldn't wait for the 1-hour processing time to pass.  Finally, photo folder in hand, I started thumbing through to see what I had captured.

The photos are a little grainy.  Some of the shots I was looking forward to didn't come out because there was not enough light.  Either that or I forgot to take off the lens...(I somewhat recall having forgotten to do that!  Thank goodness for Mom!)  But, I did get some great shots.  Some I don't even remember.  Now, what do I do with them?  Do Diana Mini photographers digitally enhance their images?  Is that cheating?  I still have a lot to learn!  I feel like I'm sitting in my first college poetry class, and even though I've written tons of poems up until now, I am now realizing I know a lot (and I mean A LOT) less than I think I did.  I need a teacher/coach/mentor!

Below are some shots I thought I would share.  I welcome any and all lomography tips and advice!

I have no idea how this happened, but I love it!

Mariachi Strings

Lifting La Virgen

Thursday, June 16, 2011

E-books for Borrow

I have to admit I haven't been a lover of e-books in the past.  There is just something about the real thing I can't part with.  Maybe it's the sound of the pages as I turn them with my right hand, the way I like to dog-ear my favorite passages and make notes in the margins, maybe it's just the way the paper smells.  I can't explain it.  But earlier this year, my husband confronted me with an issue he thought I needed to come to terms with:  I am a book junkie.  I have too many of them.  Can one really have too many books? I buy books one day and abandon them halfway though as I head out the door for my next "bookstore browse" session.  I have a problem.  I admit it.

So, I gave in on the whole e-book thing.  So many people already had a Kindle and cradled it daily, even took loving pictures of it, like it was their new baby.  The Kindle-envy took long to catch on.  Actually, I don't think I really ever caught the Kindle-envy, but I did decide to commit to spend less money on books (e-books cost less than those in print) and be a lot more disciplined when it came to the reading and buying of them.  I downloaded the Kindle application for my iPad and made my first e-book purchase, Paper House, a touching collection of poetry by Jessie Carty.  I was sold.  I was in the mood to Kindle.

Now, I still love my paperback books, but I am a bit of a fan of instant gratification.  When I am looking for a book, I want to read it right then, not leave the bookstore disappointed at not finding it on their shelves and then head home to order it online and wait for days to receive it.  Thank goodness for e-books in this sense.  Thank goodness I can rent e-books through my local library, although their selection is limited and poetry books are impossible to find.  And now, thank goodness for, where you can swap Kindle and Nook e-books for a nominal fee ($2 per book.)  You can also earn credits by sharing your purchases with others.  I just had to share the good news with you today!  I'm off to explore more on this site.

Happy reading!  Andrea