Friday, October 12, 2012

Moving to WordPress!

I've moved my blog and hope you'll follow me there too at AndreaKBeltran.

Thanks for your reading, conversation, and support! Andrea

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Moment of Flight

Some photographs from this year's Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta:

I'll pair these with D.A. Powell's poem "Chronic" which begins, 

were lifted over the valley, its steepling dustdevils
the redwinged blackbirds convened
vibrant arc their swift, their dive against the filmy, the finite air

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Take a Poem, Leave a Poem II

It's time for another Take a Poem, Leave a Poem segment on the blog. To show you how it works, my first Take a Poem, Leave a Poem post is below:

I've been inspired by the "take a penny, leave a penny" jar at the local deli. 

Poems in the jar today:

"Arf" by Jack Myers
Naomi Shihab Nye reading her found poem "One Boy Told Me"
"Con el dolor de la mortal herida" or "Love Opened a Mortal Wound" by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, translated by Jaime Manrique and Joan Larkin
"In Praise of Noise" by James Arthur
"A Coin-Operated Railroad" by Mary Biddinger 

Please take at least one, and please leave a story or a poem in it's place in the comments section.

Happy reading! Andrea

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Arizona's Banned Books

Last week was the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week. Coincidentally, Librotraficante's underground library was set to open at the main YWCA branch here in El Paso this past Saturday. The American Library Association states that "while books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read."

I'm proud to have witnessed such efforts this weekend in my hometown. The vision and dedication of Tony Diaz from Librotraficante and Cemellí de Aztlán and Sandra Braham of the YWCA is inspiring.  People were moved to tears during and after the organizers and guests spoke about the importance of saving our books for future generations. The company producing Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima as a movie (release date is September 21, 2012), donated 40 copies of the book, 20 in English and 20 in Spanish. I watched a woman brush away tears while signing out one of these copies and will never underestimate the power of a book again.

If Arizona is banning Mexican-American studies and confiscating books as if they're illegal drugs, what is going to happen to the education and supporting literature of other cultures, the very cultures like our own who helped define America over the past decades?

How can we help save these books? Donate a book, read one of these books and share it with a friend or family member, host a book club, help sponsor an upcoming event, just go out and witness an event such as this in your local area.

"I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples." - Mother Teresa

For more on the Librotraficante movement:

Activists defend Chicano literature - El Paso Times, February 2012
Librotraficante: On the way to Arizona - The Texas Observer, March 2012
El Paso library to fight bans on books - El Paso Times, September 2012
The Battleground for America's Narrative: An Annotated Bibliography of 80 Banned Books in America - Compiled by Elaine Romero, located on Librotraficante's website

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Why Do You Write?

Purpose has been on my mind lately. Passion has been on my mind lately too. I'm working on my statement of purpose and a few critical essays for the upcoming MFA application season. After reading too many essays and comments about the "To MFA or not" debate, my mind's become a little foggy. What is it really that I'm seeking? Why am I wanting to pursue my MFA? One answer: To become a better read and writer.

I came upon this essay by Junot Díaz yesterday afternoon: "Becoming a Writer." To quote from his last paragraph: "...a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway."

The fog is beginning to clear, and I'm still writing. I hope you are too.

P.S. If you're a fan of Junot Díaz's work, his new book This is How You Lose Her hits bookstores on September 11th.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Take a Poem, Leave a Poem

Rusty Pennies

I've been inspired by the "take a penny, leave a penny" jar at the local deli.

Poems in the jar today:

Please take at least one, and please leave a story or a poem in it's place in the comments section.

Happy reading! Andrea

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Found Poem Inspired by Elvis

Yesterday marked 35 years since Elvis' untimely passing. I know I'm a day late, but what better day than a Friday to celebrate The King? Here's a found poem I wrote comprised entirely of titles from a good number of his songs:

You don’t have to say you love me
            a found poem crafted from titles of songs Elvis Presley sang

Apron strings, a pocketful of rainbows,
the grass won’t pay no mind.  Baby, let’s play
house. A boy like me, a girl like you, even the bullfighter
was a lady.  How would you like to be rubberneckin’
in blue Hawaii while little sister is shopping
around?  There ain’t nothing like a song wearin’
that loved look.  The wonder of you, your blue
suede shoes, it’s impossible to make the world
go away.  I want you, I need you, I love
you, and though it’s a sin, kiss me quick
in the Kentucky rain.  I’ve never been
to Spain, I didn’t make it on playing guitar. Write to me
from Naples, surrender until it’s time for you
to go. It’s now or never in this heartbreak hotel,
just let me make believe for a while.  Suspicious
minds, don’t be cruel, even a house that has everything
is a house of sand, and now and then
there’s a fool such as I.  

I'd love to hear your Elvis memories!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Small Talk about Heavy Petting

If you haven't read Gregory Sherl's poetry collection Heavy Petting from YesYes Books, you need to put it on your reading list. Even if you're not a huge fan of poetry. I'm enamored with it. I take baths with it. I sleep with it on my back lawn. I brush my teeth and stare at it longing for my hands to be free so I can read it some more.

When I found out I won this book thanks to the great people at YesYes Books, a friend mentioned that this book was her boyfriend for a good while. Now I know what she meant. And yesterday, I came across the poem "Opening Credits" and my lust level reached a new height. I'd fall in love with the man who wrote me a poem with lines such as these:

I'm glue residue 
on your fingers. I'm hair and you're a Bon Jovi cover band.
Let me stay in the morning and I'll read you the backs of cereal boxes.

This book is a wild ride through obsessive-compulsive disorder about the little things in life that thrill us like cereal, Crystal Light, cookies, TV, nostalgia for our youth, and the larger things in life like love, sex, and fear. It's an oxymoron that keeps you coming back for more.

Some links for you:

What have you been reading?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Imaginary Lives

I'm working through The Artist's Way a little more slowly than I would like thanks to a hectic work schedule and the travel that comes along with it. After being gone from home for a little over two weeks, it was nice to sit down for my morning pages and ponder this question: "If you had five other lives to lead, what would you do in each of them?"

My answers:

1. Travel writer
2. Novelist/Poet
3. A mom
4. A singer/songwriter with a devoted little following but not enough of one to make me "famous"
5. An anchor alongside Diane Sawyer

What five other lives do you imagine yourself living?

I'll conclude with the lovely little poem Dreams by Langston Hughes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why We Read

"We read to find ourselves, more fully and more strangely than otherwise we could hope to find." 
- Harold Bloom

What are you reading right now that you're finding yourself in?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Poetry Pairing: Let's Go For a Swim

Ploughshares' Spring 2012 issue is a stunner. From Jamie Quatro's story "Sinkhole" to Andrew Meredith's nonfiction "The Removers" and I can't leave out Mary Jo Bang's poem "Practice for Being Empty," this whole issue is a fire giving life to a tired campsite.

Lauren Groff's essay "Swimming: A Plan B Essay" is a brilliantly written piece comparing the process and passion of a swimmer with that of a writer. Groff writes, "Full immersion, of course, is the highest level of anything." If this essay doesn't inspire one to write, I don't know what else can. I hope you are as moved by it as I am. This one's going on my office bulletin board.

Bob Hicock's poem "Learning to Swim" came to mind when reading Groff's essay. Learning to swim is finding one's salvation, no matter how you look at it.

Is there anything else you'd pair either of these pieces with? What do you think is the most compelling part of Groff's essay?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Shadow Artist Emerges

Conclusion of A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver

I've been a "shadow artist" too long. It wasn't until I began reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron last week that I discovered the name for it:

"Artists themselves but ignorant of their true identity, shadow artists are to be found shadowing declared artists." 

"Creativity is play, but for shadow artists, learning to allow themselves to play is hard work."

The good news is, I've been working on emerging from the shadows, but I'm not out yet. I still have some work to do. It's one day at a time. Here are some lines from this inspiring book that are helping me to move along in the direction I know I want to go:

"Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves."

"Lighting illuminates." 

Art is faith. I'm a believer.


What is art to you? How have you emerged from the shadows?

P.S. Did you know Poetry's July/August issue is online for free right now? Yes, it is! Go read it! I especially like Tony Hoagland's poem "There Is No Word."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Seredipity at The Bookstore

Remember that little bookstore, The Bookstore, I walked to in the rain while I was in Lenox? Well, I didn't tell you what happened there, did I?

A little bit of serendipity. A little bit of the world telling me I was right where I needed to be, that I wasn't a fool for attending a writing workshop after all. I think Jack was smiling at me that day. Why, you ask?

While browsing through the poetry section in this bookstore, I noticed a small cardboard box in a chair, to the left of the bookshelf. There were dozens of old Poetry issues inside. The sign on the box read, "Old Poetry Issues. $2.50 each. Take a few."

I don't know why I did, but I reached right into the middle of the stack and pulled out this issue:

Poetry, December 1971 issue, $1.25
Then, I opened the issue up to the Table of Contents only to find Jack Myers listed inside. What a treat! I took the issue straight to the counter to buy it. My walk back to Brook Farm Inn was a nostalgic one, as I thought of certain lectures and meetings with Jack about poetry and life in general.

A great lineup, don't you think?

Once back to my room, I poured a glass of wine and fell into a chair with my new prize. I read Jack's poems over and over again, then turned to the Contributor's Notes where I read:
"Jack Myers published his first collection of poems, Black Sun Abraxas, last year with Halcyone Press." There was an asterisk by his name indicating that this was his first appearance in Poetry. 

At the time of this publication, that meant he was only 30 years old. Incredible. 

Even in the afterlife, Jack has his way of pushing me along in my writing. I only wish I could thank him for all he did then, and all he continues to do now.

I hope you read his poems from this issue. (A personal favorite of mine is "We Never Talk.")


I'd love to hear about a particular serendipitous moment in your life or a moment where everything you've been working toward has been affirmed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Verse that is Free

Montmartre by John Althouse Cohen via Flickr

While reading A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver, the following lines from the chapter "Verse that is Free" about the evolution of free verse poetry really struck me:

"Now a line was needed that would sound and feel not like formal speech but like conversation. What was needed was a line which, when read, would feel as spontaneous, as true to the moment, as talk in the street, or talk between friends in one's own house."

Oliver concludes this section by saying, "The poem was no longer a lecture, it was time spent with a friend."

I then picked up the new issue of American Poet and read "Night Madness Poem" by Sandra Cisneros:

There's a poem in my head
like too many cups of coffee.
A pea under twenty eiderdowns.
A sadness in my heart like stone.

I'm good at making friends, and they're good at finding me. Time with a good poem is a treasure.

What do you think about free verse? Do you agree or disagree with Oliver?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Glimpses of The Berkshires

There were so many incredible moments on my trip to Lenox, MA for James Arthur's writing workshop. Here are a few:

Drove from Albany, NY to Lenox, MA listening to the new Norah Jones album "Little Broken Hearts"

I had to pull over to capture this photo

Olivia's Outlook - Had a semi-picnic here!

Brook Farm Inn - They have a poem of the day posted every morning and the met delicious scones I've ever tasted!

On the walk to Steepletop

Steepletop - Edna St. Vincent Millay's home - wish I could've taken a photo of her library!

The lovely group of people I shared my trip and lots of poetry with

I walked to this bookstore in the rain one day. The blisters on my feet were worth it! 

A view from The Mount - Edith Wharton's estate

About to start our tour of this divine home

I'd like to have a view like this!

The library - so much light it was hard to get a good shot!

What a sight to end the day!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Poetry Pairing: Travel

I'll be visiting Steepletop, Edna St. Vincent Millay's home, soon, and thought a pairing with her poem "Travel" would be appropriate for this week.

"Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take
No matter where it's going."

Where is your train taking you? Mine is on it's way here:

View of the Berkshires
View of the Berkshires by jbcurio via Flickr

I'll close with a piece by Jonah Lehrer on the "secret tonic of creativity" and "Why we travel."

I'll be on a blog break through June. Wishing everyone happiness wherever your travels take you!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Poetry Pairing: To the Angelbeast and a Song

This week's poetry pairing comes to us from Peter Birckhead (a favorite Tweeter of mine who always brings a fresh perspective on things), who shared the below video of a song by Arthur Russell as a pairing to Eduardo C. Corral's poem "To the Angelbeast."

Thank you, Peter, for this exquisite pairing!

From Corral's poem: "All that glitters isn't music...Am I not your animal?"

Anything else you'd pair with this?

And I know I was only going to do the poetry pairings for National Poetry Month, but I've enjoyed it too much to stop. That being said, if you have a pairing you'd like to feature, please let me know, as I am always open for guest bloggers.

Smile, Andrea

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Poetry Pairing: Technology and Conversation

Captured conversation in a coffee house in San Francisco
Image via Randy Pertiet - Flickr

I'm fascinated by this article from The New York Times: "The Flight from Conversation" by Sherry Turkle about how technology has affected the ways we communicate with each other and what it means for the future of our relationships. Turkle concludes with, "So I say, look up, look at one another, and let's start the conversation." I've been fortunate to have a few of these face-to-face conversations this week and the power of the spoken word versus text amazes me. I have a greater appreciation for those who are willing to forgo a text conversation for an actual phone call lately too.

A few days after reading this article, I happened upon Anna Moschovakis' poem "ninth: a conversation between Annabot and the Human Machine on the subject of overpowering emotion."

From the poem:

ANNABOT: I cannot feel your hand.

HUMAN MACHINE: I cannot feel your heart.


I am going to work on doing more of the above going forward.

Anything else you can think to pair with these?

AND don't forget today's Poem in Your Pocket Day! I've got "Advice from La Llorona" by Deborah A. Miranda in mine. What's in yours?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Poetry Pairing: Annabel Lee

Edgar Allan Poe is the first poet I discovered during my elementary school years. I purchased a small book of his poems from the Scholastic book fair held in the library and fell in love, most especially with "Annabel Lee." Who wouldn't want to be loved "with a love that was more than love"? (Oh, I now feel sorry for all my pre-teen and teen loves!) All these years later, this poem still enchants me.

I recently downloaded Stevie Nicks' new album "In Your Dreams" and after the first song I was hooked. After hearing "Annabel Lee" in the lucky number 7 slot, I fell hard. Perfect voice to sing this haunting tale. Listen for yourself:

I was even more thrilled to come across Yusef Komunyakaa's essay on his first love, this very poem by Edgar Allan Poe. He writes: "At nine years old, I knew next to nothing about this kind of love, although I had been lightly touched by an element of it in the blues that drifted out of the radios in our kitchen and living room. To know this great longing through words made me tremble inside my skin, and I believe it helped me traverse some new territory in my imagination."

What poem or story was your first love?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Poetry Pairing: The Library as Home

It's National Library Week, so what better way to celebrate libraries and National Poetry Month than with another poetry pairing? And like last week, there's an added bonus.

The New York Public Library put together a powerful video starring a few of it's loyal patrons answering the question: "Where Do You Call Home?"

This video made me think of Charles Simic's poem "In the Library." A few lines from it:

Now the sun is shining
Through the tall windows.
The library is a quiet place.
Angels and gods huddled
In dark unopened books.

And for the added bonus, you can read Simic's moving essay for The New York Review of Books: "A Country Without Libraries."

How do you feel about your local library? 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Poetry Pairing: The "&"

Ampersand by roseandsigil via Flickr

While reading Kingdom Animalia by Aracelis Girmay, I was struck by the use of the & in place of "and" and even more struck when I came upon her poem employing it as its title. I've searched for this poem online to no avail and wish I could share the whole poem with you here, but hopefully this snippet will satisfy:

but even more
giving, you remind us
of the heart & how
the heart would
rather die thank keep
its two dark arms
all to himself;
his life, like our lives,
depends on what is at his side.

In an interview with The Rumpus, Girmay is asked about her use of ampersands in her writing and responds:

"I love the muscle of the "&"-- a muscular shape, a mustache, too. Kind of infinity. But not. A highway...
(read more by clicking on the interview above)

All this led me back to a story that intrigued me a few months back: Poets & Ampersands in Poets&Writers' January/February 2012 issue.

This has evolved from a pairing but I think it makes for an interesting subject! Do you use the "&" in your writing? Why or why not? And what are your thoughts on its use?

And please, feel free to add your own pairing to this!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Eating Poetry This Month

Happy National Poetry Month! Not only are flowers revealing themselves and trees beginning to bid with new life, but poetry is blooming too! I hope you'll be eating poetry with me this month as well.

A few ideas for celebrating:

The Found Poetry Review started The Found Poetry Project and made poetry kits for distribution this month. You can either try to find some in your city or you can make your own and get them out into your community! Five of them are going out in El Paso!

Robert Lee Brewer's Poem-A-Day challenge kicked off yesterday. I participated in this last year and found his writing prompts really helped to get the creativity flowing. My advice: Just write, write, write. Use May to go back and revise. Just get the thoughts down on paper (or into the computer)!

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo site with daily prompts is another great challenge as well. I am still trying to decide between the two and don't want to overwhelm myself with both. A friend of mine made a good suggestion: choose one prompt a day from either challenge and write all the prompts down for later.

There are also lots of people holding contests on their blogs for poetry book giveaways this month. Jessie Carty is one you should definitely check out. I've read two of her chapbooks now and really enjoy her work.

It's never too late to give away a book yourself either!

I'm going to do a poetry pairing each Thursday on the blog for April. Stay tuned. I'm excited.

Enjoy April! Andrea

P.S. If you have any other ideas for National Poetry Month, please share with us!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Break Time

I know it's hardly been a week but I've decided I need to take a small break from blogging. I will continue to read all the blogs I love, but I've been experiencing an overwhelming feeling to listen to to world instead of talk to it. I'm going to do that for a while. I also have a writing retreat coming up in May I need to prepare for!

See you soon! Andrea

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Almost Invisible and Other Good Finds

Mountain Biking Upper Loop Trail, Crested Butte, CO, USA
Image by via Flickr

Mark Strand has a new book out! I need to order Almost Invisible. It's on my wish list for now because I have too many books in the pile, but I may just have to skip over a few and come back to them! My poem for the week is Strand's "Harmony in the Boudoir" from this new collection.

A few other good finds from this past week:

Another book I can't wait to get my hands and eyes on: Jack Gilbert's Collected Poems 

"How to write a letter to a fan" by Roald Dahl

I love this flash fiction story by Tawnysha Greene in Dogplotz: "Woman Things"

What's going on in your world? What are your good finds of the week?

I'll conclude this post with a tweet that made me stop and reflect on my writing life (I need to listen more!) from Poets House:

We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.
                      -Li Po

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Notes from a Workshop with Ralph Angel

Ralph Angel reads a handful of poems

Going through some old journals this weekend, I found a sheet titled "Workshop Notes - Ralph Angel!! 4/21/07." The excitement I felt at finding these notes is similar to what I felt walking into that workshop with a writer I adored. I was so nervous, I can't remember half of the workshop, so thank goodness for these notes:

Anytime you can, use the pure noun and verb.

Vagueness never conveys vagueness.

If you have a heavy-handed subject, you cannot treat it heavy-handedly. (See Cesar Vallejo's "Weary Rings)

Poetry: language for a language that cannot be articulated. Art exists because it cannot be said.


What do you think about Angel's explanation of why art exists? 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tomatoes and Other Good Finds

Tomato 1
Tomato 1 by sfxeric via Flickr
Sorry I'm a day late with this post. My husband built me a small garden to plant in and we took advantage of the sunny Sunday we received. All in all, we've four tomato plants, two jalapeño, two cilantro, two basil, one rosemary, two strawberry, and one zucchini.

Because I'm still floating on new gardener air, I wanted to find a poem on gardening, or more specifically, tomatoes, and though this poem for the week isn't specifically on gardens or growing tomatoes, it does mention tomatoes in a dark yet touching sense: "Early Cascade" by Lucia Perillo.

Some other good finds:

How to be left alone to read while traveling (I got a good chuckle out of this write-up! I almost felt as if I was reading my own writing)

New video version of Taylor Mali's poem "What Teachers Make" via Jessie Carty

A favorite blogger of mine, Natalia Sylvester, on The Importance of Fictional Truths

Some Thoughts on the Lost Art of Reading Aloud via The New York Times - Do you read aloud anymore?

How was your week? Any good finds to share?

Happy Monday! Andrea

Thursday, March 8, 2012

First Moment of Existence

March is National Women's History Month. Whom do you celebrate?

"For a long time I believe my first moment of existence is when I jump over a broom. I remember a house. I remember sunlight through a window..." - from Caramelo by Sanda Cisneros

For me, this window is my Grandma's small kitchen window, a weeping willow peeking in from it's left corner while we are kneading dough for flour tortillas in our hands, her hands twice the size of mine. She walks over to a drawer and pulls out a miniature rolling pin, the first gift I can remember her giving me. This moment one of the greatest.

Grandma in my kitchen many years later doing what she loves to do and cooking my favorite Thanksgiving meal!

Three generations in the kitchen: Grandma, Mom, and Me

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

One With Others Pairing

I've been fortunate enough to join a poetry group via a few friends on Twitter. In two short months, I've read poetry collections that have buried themselves in my soul. C. D. Wright's One With Others is a what the writer herself defines as a "hybrid form." Wright artfully and gracefully weaves news reports, interviews, stories, and personal experience into a collection that breathes the history of her mentor, V, and the Civil Rights movement in Arkansas. I don't know that I will ever read a book that will move me more than this one. In the video below she talks a little about One With Others and reads a few of my favorite passages:

In arriving at the section in the book detailing the students walking to the all-white school and bravely linking arms together while singing "Like A Tree Planted by the Water," I stopped to google the song because I couldn't recall ever hearing it. After listening to the video below, I sat in silence with an aching yet hopeful heart. There are so many things we never learn in history class, and I am forever grateful for C. D. Wright and her poetry that articulates "the cruel radiance of what is."

What is the most important book you feel you've read in your life and why did it touch you as it did?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Moment to Believe In and Other Good Finds Sunday

The Purple-Leaf Plums are blooming in my backyard

I've selected Anne Sexton's "The Expatriates" as the poem for this week. " was a moment/ to clutch at for a moment/so that you may believe in it..."

Other good finds from this week:

It's Women's History Month! How are you celebrating? Here's a poetry pairing for it!

I want to go for a ride with Terrance Hayes - fabulous poetry article! 

The back story for my poem "Flying Ant" is now up on Rose & Thorn Journal's blog

A lovely music video to inspire you: "Did Skies Divide" by Leora Caylor

What has inspired you? What are you looking forward to this week?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mailbox Candy

 More works of art from Karen Gielen! The top one is my favorite! Such a delicate image.

 Two more! Look at the detail in the top one. And I have a slight obsession with bird images, so the second one is just my cup of tea. The poem accompanying it is perfect.
And last but not least, I received the postcard "Tea" by Henry Matisse from my sweet friend Kristin who's in Virginia with a few notes about Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse and daydream of us having a fancy tea in a garden years from now. I cannot wait. It's been too long since I've seen her.

The lovely postcard with the oranges is from my new pen-pal Caren and carries a touching note about picking oranges from her grandmother's trees growing up. I look forward to more stories such as these!

This month of letters has touched my soul. There is much kindness and beauty in the world!

What's delighted your heart and eyes recently?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tip Jar for Writers

No no. Thank you!
Via 21TonGiant on Flickr

I came across this post via Random House's Twitter yesterday: 105 Writing Tips from Professional Writers. It's brimming with advice for the beginning writer, the writer facing "writer's block," fiction writing and poetry, and even lifelong learning.

A new favorite tip of mine is one from Margaret Atwood: "A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason."

Do you have a new favorite from this list? What about a tip to add to it?

Sunday, February 19, 2012


The poem I've selected for the week is Ed Roberson's "As at the Far Edge of Circling." I'm reading a book of Roberson's poems this month and while his work is quite different from the poetry I normally read, I am enjoying this little reprieve from the usual, and I find some of his poems take me into a dream-like state...

I'm going to be away from the blogosphere this week, but I'm sending positive thoughts for a lovely week to all! I look forward to seeing everyone and reading your blogs soon.

What does this week hold for you? What writing is speaking to you most right now?

Smile, Andrea

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fill Your Paper...

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart" - William Wordsworth

This is exactly what Karen Gielen has done...Just see the incredible creations she's been sending through the mail to me during this month of letters. I'm in awe of her! And I'm so happy to have her as my pen pal!

I'm going to drink a mug of her "Creativi-tea" every day! Which one speaks to you the most? Have you received anything that inspires you through the mail during this month of letters?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Portable Poetry Workshop: Connecting Content - Thematic Shapes of Poems

pen and paper
Pen and Paper by mlpdesign via Flickr

I know poems have shapes. I've even seen a poem about a rabbit crafted in the shape of a carrot in forum for an online class I was taking. People can get creative with their forms, certainly, but I've never thought about a poem being organized in a thematic shape.

While I don't think a lot of poems are crafted with this in mind, I find it interesting to observe poems with a possible thematic shape in mind. Jack states that in some poems, "the poet's aesthetic sense and the perceptions stemming from the topic create the organizing principle that composes the poem's thematic shape."

The end of the chapter offers writing exercises according to both argumentative and natural shapes. I've shared one from each below along with the example Jack offers:

Argumentative Shapes - Centripetal 
Holding the thesis of your poem in mind, associate images, scenes, and tropes located outside the immediate situation but whose connotations move the material inward toward the unstated central thesis.
An example of this shape is Louis Simpson's "The Silent Piano."

Natural Shapes - Circular
In your closure, return to the same idea that your opining lines suggest, but do so as an "enriched restatement." An example of this shape is one of my favorite poems, Mark Strand's "Keeping Things Whole."


And now, because it is Valentine's Day, a centrifugal thematic shaped poem (I think): The Meaning of Zero: A Love Poem by Amy Uyematsu.

Do you have a favorite Valentine's or Anti-Valentine's Day poem or story?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

So Emotional

I still can't wrap my head around the fact that Whitney Houston is gone. Every time I turn on the television and see the news, I can't help but think it isn't real. I'm stunned.

One of the first songs I remember falling in love with is "So Emotional." Whenever one of my good friends and I heard this song come on the radio while hanging out at her grandmother's pool on a hot afternoon, we immediately began screaming out the song with our squeaky little voices trying to compete with Whitney's. No one can compete with her. Music won't be the same without her.

The poem I've selected for this week is in tribute to Whitney: "The Role of Elegy" by Mary Jo Bang.

May her soul rest in peace and her family and loved ones find healing and peace in their hearts after their tragic loss.

What memories does Whitney Houston evoke for you? What was your favorite song of hers?


Some other links I thought I'd share:

An inspiring article on working toward success by Dan Blank: "Being a Success, Without Being a Bestseller"

Many of us can relate with this question: "Can there be a day to celebrate failure?"Read an excerpt from Paige Taggart's poem "Get Your Slip On" via The The Poetry

Are you as crazy about Pinterest? (It has become a bad, bad habit for me!) Check out these boards for book-lovers! And if you have any others you follow and would like to share, please let me know!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Super Bowl Observations

The Giants were victorious against the Patriots this past Saturday! Super Bowl XLVI drew a record-breaking 111.3 million viewers. Some people don't care for football, some people shed tears at the end of the season. I'm not going to go all sports-fanatic-crazy on you, I just want to share three things from my Super Bowl experience this year:

1. I've written in the past about football and writing. I think athletes are similar to writers in many ways. Eli Manning is the perfect example. He's long been in the shadow of his older brother and is largely ignored by sports media. Does it look like it bothers him one bit? No. He's just there to play the game he loves. He works to perfect his game, ignoring the naysayers. He's never given up, no matter the pressure. He's at every practice and every game, no matter the weather or other obstacles he may face. He is like the writer. Doing something he or she loves. Dedicated, no matter what anyone says, no matter the lack of recognition for your talents, you know the drill. The underdog didn't give up. Neither should the writer. Eli received the MVP award for this Super Bowl. There's an MVP award waiting for the writer who doesn't accept defeat.

2. I wasn't all to impressed by the commercials this year. A handful made me chuckle. The Ferris Bueller tease made me wish there were a sequel coming up in the near future. I was disappointed by every other commercial portraying the woman as merely a sex object, and I lost count of how many women in bikinis or underwear I saw. But then there was the Clint Eastwood Chrysler commercial that set everything right. And for that, I am thanking a poet.

3. And we can't overlook Madonna's halftime show. Madge looks like she hasn't aged one bit since the early 90's. My grandmother couldn't help but comment on her appearance either, and it made for the quote of the night: "She sure is pretty, but I bet you she can't cook like we can." As soon as she said this, she gave my grandfather, then my husband, a good stare down. There's always hoping, Grandma! ;)

Did you watch the Superbowl? Why or why not? Anything you did instead?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

You Are Not Connected to the Internet. ?

Below is the screen I stare at this morning (because the Blogger app doesn't want to allow me to insert it above.) After months of battling with my Internet provider over poor service, I changed providers. My appointment for new installation was yesterday and we all know how this usually goes, unfortunately.

Because I work from home, I am at the mercy of said Internet providers and sometimes I feel as if they're conspiring against me. Rather than let negativity and piling papers plague my day, I'm seeing the light at the end of this tunnel, even if it's just a fleck.

What does this mean? Tackling some much procrastinated about revisions and working on an idea for a poem that hatched yesterday.

Not being connected to the Internet is keeping me from all the usual distractions to my writing. Today I'm grateful for this screen.

Do you shut down the computer to allow yourself more time to work on what you love? Do you feel the lure of the Internet takes away from or contributes to your productivity?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Consider the Hands that Write This Letter and Other Good Finds Sunday

The poem for this week is Aracelis Girmay's "Consider the Hands that Write This Letter." I find it pairs well with this past week's welcoming of the Month of Letters. Above are two postcards from the incredibly talented Karen Gielen. She's sending me inspiration through the mail!

A few other good finds this week:

If you're in need of a good writing subject, this just might trigger some inspiration: Rare Albino Hummingbird Spotted in Virginia.

Speaking about inspiration, I know it's silly, but somehow Ryan Gosling is now a Literary Agent on Twitter and he's fantastic at romancing the writer to write (and daydream a little)!

A different way to revise one's writing certainly caught my attention while reading an interview with Anne McGovern posted in flashquake's "Five Question Friday" blog feature.

The world may have lost Wislawa Szymborska but her wise writing will forever live on. Case in point, her poem "The Joy of Writing." May she rest in peace.

And lastly, if you are participating in the Month of Letters, Spotify created a playlist for your letter writing.

How has your week been? Any good reading or writing? And who are you rooting for in the Super Bowl if you're watching, or perhaps being forced to watch? For me, it's Eli Manning and The Giants all the way!

Best wishes for a beautiful Sunday, Andrea

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Time For Yourself, Postcards, and More Postcards

Just a few postcards today...
Some observations for today, and I guess we can call them lunch observations since I did all this during my lunch break:

1. It's important to schedule time or yourself, even if you don't feel you're in need of any. I work from home and only interact with people via phone or email so it can get a little glum in my office now and then. So, I took myself to lunch today and decided I'm going to do it once a week. Even if it's just for my tried-and-true tuna sandwich smothered in green chiles and avocado.

2. Who knew postcards could become an obsession? Yikes. I'm participating in the Month of Letters and putting a little poetry spin on it. Short poems on postcards. I'm enjoying picking out poems to go with the image on them. So far, I've sent out "Green Striped Melons" by Jane Hirshfield and "Michiko Nogami (1946-1982)" by Jack Gilbert. I can't wait for the weekend!

3. In my search for postcards, it seems no one really carries them anymore. I got lucky that one of the Barnes & Noble stores in my city still has a few on the rack, but they're not stocking them anymore. (Too late I found this out after driving to the other store across town in hopes of a more plentiful rack.) I went to another small bookstore with no luck, then even made my way to Hallmark, but they've discontinued them as well. Why? These perfect little cards say so much with just one image. Are postcards dead? Am I going to have to start making my own?

4. The mark of a productive day is a chocolate smudge from a York peppermint patty on your keyboard, at least it is for me today.

How has your day been? What does the mark of a productive day look like to you? And if you know of a good place to buy postcards besides Amazon, will you let me know? Please and thank you!

Smile, Andrea

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Portable Poetry Workshop: Connecting Content - Triggering Words

"Spring" by Dani via Flickr

Triggering words open up new opportunities for content and direction in our writing. As Jack Myers says, these words can act as "a semantic springboard that uncoils enough upward lift to give the poem new momentum." Such words can elevate theme, create or extend a metaphor's matrix, or even determine and/or lift a plot point.

The many different elements of just one word have the power to transform a poem. Have you ever had a word or series of words act as a spring for your writing? What it the sonic or the connotative quality of the word that set your pen on the page to either write a new piece or revise and old one, or was it something else?

Let's work on one of these exercises today:

From Jack's conclusion of this section for revision: Triggering riff - Choose a detail, image, or action in your poem, and then improvise a series of associated images, details, or actions.

Triggering word - chose a word that appeals to you in your reading today and write down other images, actions, and situations that you can associate with this word. Weave a poem from what you've written and allow the poem to end with the word you've selected.

I've been attracted to the words "safety pin" and "pencil" lately. What about you?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Unexpected Day Off and Other Good Finds Sunday

Via Public Domain Photos on Flickr

My poem for this week is Alberto Ríos' delightful "We Dogs of a Thursday Off." What do you like to do on an unexpected day off?

Robert Lee Brewer wrote up an inspiring blog post about Twitter as fodder for our creative writing.

Speaking of generating some new writing, Diane Lockward offers an abundance of ideas for "When You Have No Ideas of Your Own." Are there other places you look to for writing inspiration?

Bethany Suckrow shares "Mingus at the Showplace" this week on her blog and reminds us that in our technology-riddled days, "radio hasn't died, and neither has poetry."

Have you heard about Findings? Reading's social side is ready to have a party.

Because I am hungry as I'm writing this blog, and also salivating while thinking of all the yummy things I'll be cooking up in the kitchen for our family night, I thought I'd include this recipe for making brownies out of cake mix. A couple of weeks back, I had a strawberry brownie I've been dreaming of ever since.

What do you have going on? Reading? Writing? Other simple pleasures?

Wishing you joy this week! Andrea

P.S. If you haven't read about the Month of Letters yet, I'd love to send you something through the mail in the month of February. I'm forgoing email for the handwritten note for 24 days.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Month of Letters and Poetry

Mailboxes, Great Island, Narragansett, RI
Via Flickr by pocius
It's rare we receive handwritten letters or postcards through the mail anymore. I try to make an effort to send out hand-written thank-you notes every chance I get. Outside of that, everything is electronic right down to the bills. But I still love the hand-written note...

Yesterday, I came across link to Mary Robinette Kowal's blog via mediabistro featuring a Month of Letters Challenge. I want to participate and invite you to join me! The rules are simple:

1. During the month of February, send one item (letter, postcard, etc.) through the mail each day it runs. (24 items total.)
2. Respond to everyone who sends you something through the mail and this can count as one of your items sent. 

I'm going to mix it up just a little. I'm going to send postcards with favorite poems and a small note in closing.

My friend Rachel Bunting raised her hand to participate and featured this same article on her blog to further the invitation along. She's also included a nice video of PJ Harvey advocating for letter writing.

Who else will I have the pleasure of sending a postcard to? Please say you. :) 

P.S. If you would like to participate, please send me your address via email to

Happy writing, Andrea

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Letter to My Writer Self

writing in the journal
Photo from Flickr - redcargurl

Back in December, I shared Jodi Picoult's essay "To My 16-year-old Self." I read it again this morning for some inspiration...mainly because I am contemplating a significant change in my life that hinges upon my writing. It got me thinking about composing a letter to my writer self, and I think I am going to make this an annual thing.


Dear Me,

Too many times you've stepped away from your writing out of fear. Even when you've had friends and an incredible mentor encouraging you. Even now you wish you could get all that time back. But you can't.

What you can do is focus on today. What can you do today? And what will you do tomorrow? Are you reading not just for fun but to improve your craft? Are you writing even when you don't feel like writing? Are you submitting even though your hand still shakes a little before finally clicking on that "send" or "submit" button? You should be. You'd better be. Because if you aren't, you already know you're going to regret it.

Remember that quote by Paulo Coelho you have etched inside all your journals? "Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams..." Yes, you've written and read it enough that it should be etched in your mind every day.

You've already done so much in a year. You can't stop now. You're barely picking up steam.

Don't let this be something you relate to later on in life: "An unfulfilled vocation drains the color from a man's existence." - Honore de Balzac.

Write, write, then write some more. Read, edit, read, edit, and then write some more. You can do it. One word at a time. With everyone believing in you, you can't not believe in yourself.


What would you tell your writer self?