Saturday, October 29, 2005

The story of Wild Geese

Last December, my Objective and Subjective Poetry course took a session to share our favorite poetry. My friend Alice Dugan recited "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver, with the preface that a friend of hers had recently died, and his parents wanted a poem for his service. "I'm not crying," I remember Alice telling herself. "There's no crying at school."

As soon as I got home, I looked online for the poem. It was still amazing, on that stiff screen, hours away from the warmth of Alice's voice.

I put it on a userpage I had at a site based off of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I had been a very active member (I had far and away the most posts at one period) for about five years... and then... shortly after I put Mary Oliver's poem up, a new thread had popped up on my site.

"Wild Geese!" it cheered. The person who wrote it explained that she was very happy to see the poem. She had read it in Arabic and loved it so much she had recently found the original in English and wow... she just had to say hello.

And that's how I began to be great friends with a poet I've never met. We've been exchanging despair (it suits "Wild Geese", should you know the poem) and poetry and laughter and email and snail mail books (of poetry, what else is there!??) since then.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Write your poets!

Your favorite poets like letters just as much as anyone else. Write them!

Who doesn't want fan mail?

Who doesn't want to hear from the people they admire?

Just find that poet's publisher and send a letter care of the publisher.

Now that I'm done with my declarative and rhetorical statements, I will admit that *I* really need to get on the ball and finish my letters to favorite poets. I dropped one in the mail for Wyslawa Szymborska last week. I hand wrote one for David Lehman a few days ago.

And it all started with my great fellow poet friend, Yael, who decided she wanted to write to Naomi Shihab Nye, who has been warm with her response.

Beautiful world, eh!??

..... In other news, we had a snowstorm here on the Front Range of Colorado last week. It broke a lot of branches, and even killed a person or two. I hadn't been able to access the damage in Parker, Colo. where I had lived the last seven years.

This morning I saw that my FAVORITE tree, just outside my computer room window, is much altered. Almost a quarter of the branches that stretched sunwards and teased my window with their leaves are now leaning away from the house.

And the birds have left.

Not a pleasant state of affairs.

At least only one of the branches has shown any breakage.

Poor birdie paradise that was!

Now back to myself with further poetry news:

I am entering a competition in Richmond, Virginia called "Write Small". They're going to exhibit miniature art, no taller than three inches. And they are going to publish booklets of poetry with pieces no bigger than 2 and a half inches wide.

The poems much be six lines, 9 pt font, and no more than 33 characters a line (COUNTING spaces). You may submit up to six poems, and have them all on the same page-- no cover page is required.

The deadline is Oct. 29. Mail to: Write Small PSV/art6
P.O. Box 35160
Richmond, VA 23235

Author retains all copyright. There is a $1 entry fee.

I know... I write this a week before deadline... but you never know who else might have the chance...

And maybe someone will decide that writing six line poems is a fine challenge. I've enjoyed it!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

So it starts

Well… journals have to start somewhere. That’s sometimes the hardest bit.

How’d this little piece of work come about, anyway? ... I’ve been nursing a ful ear infection for about a week. I’ve been sick from work for four days. I’ve been reading the blogs of three of my friends, Marcia, Kellie, and Manea… and I’ve decided that many a successful writer today has a blog, so why not me?

I don’t know that I’ll be sharing a writer’s diary as much as I’ll be sharing clips and post-it notes of my life.

I like that. The clips being, “Yes! Look what I and my poetry workshop and the books I’ve been reading, or what I and my editors managed to achieve!” And the post-its being little happy asides about “Wow! The tree outside my window is sooo purdy today!” or “Damn… my boyfriend is dead wonderful… he went on about the title page of his favorite book, Slaughterhouse Five in this very long email to me, just to me, and I love the dearheart and can’t bloody wait til I get to see him again, but this STUPID EAR INFECTION….”

Yeah. Post-it note me arse. Uhhhh…. My usual excited ramblings can’t fit on a post-it. Although they DO come in a variety of sizes these days… ;-)

Who knows where this will lead...

So it starts, love, so it starts

Journals and journeys and mornings and nights and lovers all have to start somewhere.

That's the sometimes tough bit.

And so many things can't be said in journals or journeys or mornings or nights or lovers. But I can say a tonne, anyway: I've been a writer since the age of nine. Or, I guess, I've been a writer since conception, but it didn't dawn on me until I was nine and began writing short stories.

My genre was fiction-- only fiction, and often about cats or girls rescuing boys, until my first poem wandered into my bed as I tried to fall asleep when I was 13.

I memorized it. And told it to my grandmother, who insisted I write it down, or it could be lost forever. "I've thought of so many poems," she said.

A few years later, I fell in love with Emily Dickinson. A mistake and a blessing. A mistake because, almost ten years later, I found myself frustrated and crushed because a poetry professor didn't like me capitalizing abstract words like E.D. A blessing because I decided I had to write as many poems as she has.

According to "The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson" that's 1775. I know I wrote over 1500 by the age of 19, though let's be honest: only about 25 of those are worth a closer read. And all need some revision.

I thought I was done with poetry around the age of 19. I was going to be a historical fiction writer! Then, after re-reading Douglas Adams, I was going to be a female Douglas Adams who didn't set anything in outerspace or in a detective agency.

And at about that time, I needed to take poetry in order to get my BA in writing. Drat. I tried to use my work experience from writing for the college newspaper to worm my pretty way out of that credit.

And couldn't.

"Journalism isn't the same as poetry." And then I was read a description of what a poetry class offers: criticism and revision and workshopping and the discipline of succint language.

Uhhh... duhhh.... "That's what I'm getting at the paper!" I argued.

It didn't work.

And I'm VERY glad my attempt failed. After a couple weeks, the poetry class was declared my favorite. And about a year later, I was stunned with revelation shortly after fellow students broke up into groups of three for poetry workshops for about the 28th time in my college experience: "I could do this," I thought. "I could LOVE to do this... be a poetry professor..."

And so I hunted down MFA programs for a couple months. And jumped up and down while talking about them. I had my sights narrowed on three institutions when someone at a Denver newspaper thought my resume merited picking up his phone and talking to me....

So I'm working instead of studying.

It's not just for the money or the bylines. I REALLY love that job...

"The people I went to grad school with were mostly there because they didn't like what they were doing..." I paraphrase a very good friend of mine.

I like what I'm doing; why go to grad school, particularly when the city of Denver is VIVID with poets and writers and journalists and opportunity...

Why, in one month, I spent about $500 on poetry. From poets I had actually met, even done workshops with... And ok, $175 was put into applying for the Denver Woman's Press Club, but all the rest was invested into honest-to-goodness poetry.


I really feel I've come into my own.

I wanted to transplant myself to Chicago, where it's clear there's a vibrant culture of poets, possibly more active than in Denver. But I don't need it. I've found what I want and need.

I'm very very lucky.

So why create a blog to boast about it, eh? Well.... many a smart writer has a blog these days. I may as well join them.