Poet Bloggers Revival Digest: Week 48

poet bloggers revival tour 2018

poet bloggers revival tour 2018 A few quotes + links (please click through!) from the Poet Bloggers Revival Tour, plus occasional other poetry bloggers in my feed reader. If you’ve missed earlier editions of the digest, here’s the archive.

This week’s topics: the uses of poetry, the usefulness of external validation, the usefulness of blogging and other creative practices, the uselessness of consistency of style, the usefulness of having consistent topics to write around, the usefulness of group submittathons, the potential usefulness of self-doubt, the pleasures of community poetry festivals, the pleasures of Fatimah Asghar’s poetry, the pleasures of Christopher’s North’s poetry, the dubious utility of writing within constraints, the difficulty of assessing one’s own face, and the existential crisis of living and writing during a planet-wide extinction.

I like poems that do little useful things for you
like telling a friend you’ve been such a jerk,
keeping one company when bored in a long queue,
or teaching some manners to a misanthropic, rude clerk.
Magda Kapa, Once More, Thoughts on Poetry

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It is so very much easier to “act” like a poet or writer once you feel like a poet or writer — i.e. when you have the external validation of publication. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is. Of course, in some ways, it’s the easy way, the “lazy man’s way” of writing. The external validation is a shortcut in the path to self-esteem that’s large enough to incorporate a regular writing practice. Honestly — I’m beginning to think that I resisted setting up a regular writing practice — these morning writing sessions — because I didn’t feel like I deserved them. Sometimes I still don’t. But lately I tell that part of myself to fuck off and I go back to the page.
Sarah Kain Gutowski, Writing Practices, Processes, and Productivity

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Once I started blogging I discovered that–for whatever reason–I don’t get all uptight and perfection-y about writing blogposts. I just type stuff and go over it a couple times for errors and post. It reminds me of showing up to teach at the college–ready or not, here it is.
Bethany Reid, Why do I blog?

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This morning, I wrote a poem–and with that poem, I’ve written a poem every day in November. I’m not sure I’ve ever been successful at writing a poem a day for a month. There have been several Aprils that I have tried.

I’ve also been very active in my online journaling course which started Nov. 4, and in addition to writing a poem a day, I’ve done at least one sketch a day. I’ve been interested in how they feed each other.

The blogging feeds the work too.
Kristin Berkey-Abbott, From Blog Post to Sketch to Poem

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When I was working on my MFA, I had to compile a poetry manuscript for my final thesis. I gave my thesis advisor (who was usually very supportive) about 100 pages of poetry. She read around 40 pages of it, gave it back to me, and said, rather miffed, “I can’t read this! Make it sound like one person wrote the whole manuscript.”

I remember thinking, why? (I should have asked her why but was too flummoxed to say anything.) Why is it necessary for a book of poems to be uniform in voice, or for a writer to have a consistency of style? Perhaps for marketability—though poetry is so nonlucrative, marketability seems like an absurd concern.

Eventually some of the poems in this thesis manuscript wound up in other collections that were published. I edited my other collections of poetry, memoir, and fiction based on theme and intuition; they were more consistent than the one I gave my advisor back in 2005. I do consistently want my work to be sensual and honest, and for there to be a sense of humility in the narrative voice. Still, I don’t see the value in consistency, not in a poetry book. I like surprises when I read.
In Her Famous Fur-Lined Skirt / an interview with poet Colleen McKee (Bekah Steimel’s blog)

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Someone noted in a post I talked about writing “on a project” and “outside of a project,” and asked me to talk a little bit about writing on poetry projects. I don’t usually start a book project knowing in advance what the book is going to be about. Usually I start by getting interested in a certain topic, then more interested, then research that topic, writing a bunch of poems around it, and then later noticing that the poems seem to cluster around a certain subject, and exploring that topic in different ways. Usually I decide I have a book project when I get about fifty poems that hang together, and then I work on arranging, filling gaps, and maybe examining the subject in a different way or in different forms.

In fact, I can feel a little un-moored when I don’t have a subject or topic I’m working on, but it’s a necessary part of the process, because I don’t think anyone’s book should start out over-determined, and we need some creative open spaces – just like it’s good to get out of the house, even in this kind of cold and rainy season, to remind ourselves of the beauties and possibilities of the larger world. It’s especially important, when you’ve maybe reached the end of a large project, you’ve sort of exhausted a subject, and you want to start to explore again. It’s a good time to try a different type of poetry and to read more widely and even to use poetry prompts to get your brain working in a new way. I like to read novels and books of literary biography and writers’ letters in between projects, to give my mind something new to work on. Different voices that can help me develop my own writing in a different way – this seems especially true for me when I read books in translation. I hope this was helpful!
Jeannine Hall Gailey, A New Poem in Scoundrel Time, Talking About Poetry Projects, Giving Tuesday and Women-Run-or-Owned Lit Mags and Presses

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Today after a long hiatus, I submitted poems from a Submittathon at SSU. MP Carver set up for 9 a.m.-1 p.m. MP describes it as “a community event designed to get Salem State voices and creative works out into the publishing world. We’ll have people there to help first timers learn the ins and outs of submitting (including cover letters, finding journals, etc). For those with experience submitting work for publication, it’s a dedicated time to focus on sending out your work. There will be snacks and prizes as well!” Jill McDonough is the first poet I know to do this. We’re just following in her literary footsteps.

I was on the early side, but 12 people showed up with laptops and poems to send their poems into the world. This is the second time I’ve participated. The first time (in May, or was it last December?), I didn’t have anything to submit. I’m coming off of one of the worst writing droughts I’ve ever had. As someone who likes to grind it out, I think I’ve written maybe 20 poems in two years. My math may be off, however. When I look at my Poetry 2018 file, there are at least 50 poems. I have enough for a terrible manuscript. But I do have a few gems that need a little polish. Just getting them into the light is a big step.
January Gill O’Neil, Submittathon!

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I see a therapist from time to time and we had an hour this week in which we talked mostly about self-doubt. She rightly points out that I have a pretty good resume, career-wise; my loved ones, though afflicted sometimes with crises, are basically okay; that I would do well to ease up and slow down. I do not have to be so afraid, say, of never publishing a ms or writing a great poem or getting pats on the head from the prize-dispensers again. I agree with her and we talked about ways to balance my commitments better. I also argued, however, as I argue to myself sometimes, that self-doubt is a necessary part of being a decent artist, and maybe a decent human being. If you don’t stand back and say, “hey, maybe that writing sample wasn’t really good enough to ensure a grant win,” how do you grow? Isn’t a drive to keep upping the bar a necessary pressure? Shouldn’t I keep questioning myself and my work?

Well, I’m probably rationalizing, because that’s what people do. I doubt my self-doubt. Happy December, my writer friends. Put up those twinkly lights, and don’t mind the darkness encroaching.
Lesley Wheeler, Poetry and self-doubt, with footnotes

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I was going to tell you about going to North Carolina for the West End Poetry Festival–where the Carrboro Poets Council partners with the town to produce four days of reading upon reading upon reading, inclusive of all styles and topics. (A 12-person council that hangs out in someone’s living room once a month, and is trusted and given the resources to organize. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could so easily facilitate the DC government’s relationship to poetry and the arts? Ahem.) I got to talk about poetry of food, I got to hear Ruth Awad, the Chief of Police volunteered to be on-site monitor so we could drink wine in the Century Center, and signs that would usually direct traffic instead directed “Slow Down for Poetry.” I was going to tell you about helping someone write an ode to barbecue, and watching that same gentleman (husband to our hosting Poets Council member) run the toy trains in the garage-loft where we’d been staying. I was going to tell you about buying hatch chiles and okra from the Farmer’s Market.
Sandra Beasley, Six Posts I Didn’t Write & Alex Guarnaschelli

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Among the things I adore is the beautiful physicality found in many of these poems, in which the body is sketched out in vivid detail — and not just the pretty bits, but the full reality of a body that makes up a human being. A body is where “mosquito bites bloom” or where exist “hairs crawling out.” In “Oil,” she writes, “The walk to school makes the oil pool on my forehead / a lake spilling under my armpits.” The specifics of existing in a human body in these poems feel as though the speaker is declaring their existence in a world that doesn’t always want them. It’s a lovely way to claim space.
Andrea Blythe, Book Love: If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar

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I really like the filmic quality of this, a film by Peter Greenaway…the draughtsman’s contract. The story of the bunch of tipsy chums stumbling around in the dark under a huge starlit sky, stumbling over silvered lawns, declaiming of bits of Shakespeare, the absurdity of it that gradually comes to its senses, and back to earth as The town below lolled in sodium. I love the way the declaiming poet comes back to the role of the measuring and sensible surveyor and the group of friends who became a chain of hands. The whole thing is witty, elegantly constructed, and ultimately life-affirming, lyrical and loving.
John Foggin, Well met; a Polished Gem: Christopher North

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I have had spasms of trying to write in form. I still shudder to remember the crap I’ve written. Sometimes my poems do, though, begin to take the form of a form: I’ve had poems that seem to take the shape of a sonnet, have had poems begin to exhibit a rhyme scheme, or that show the kind of obsession a form like a villanelle brings out. I could be more willing and try to be more able at encouraging/allowing that, and making the best of it. But to start out with the intention to write in a form? It makes me shudder.

As for the other tricks, the only thing I do — and this only when I haven’t been writing at all — is substitution. That is, I’ll take someone else’s poem, ideally someone whose work is different from mine, so I’m off-balance to begin with, and then word by word substitute my own words. So “…while I pondered weak and weary” becomes “after we made assumptions, burly and full of ourselves,” perhaps. I do this to shake up my work, or push me into process when I’ve lapsed into lassitude.

They do feel like tricks, these constraint games. And I feel like I can feel the artifice in the final product. Which for some people is the point. My own mind, imagination, abilities, proclivities, ignorances, prejudices, blindnesses, laziness, insistence on some kind of logic…well…etcetera…are constraint enough. Aren’t they?

I want the poem to become its own organic thing, growing in bumps and spurts to whatever lumpy, limpy, or suave form it fits itself. My job is to give it some oomph and stay out of the way.
Marilyn McCabe, The Name is Bond; or, Writing Within Constraints…or Not

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Editor John Wilson once told me that half my face was like that of the nice lady in line behind him at the post office, and the other half belonged to a poet or a murderer. Writers are murderers of a sort. But the look–that’s the work of The Wayward Eyebrow.
Marly Youmans, Book-and-birthday headshots…

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A loss of bees leads to a loss of any plant requiring bees for pollination. A loss of beetles and dragonflies and mayflies and even the much-maligned mosquito leads to birds that starve, not to mention amphibians, reptiles, and some omnivorous or insectivorous mammals–particularly vulnerable bat and marsupial populations. The bottom of the food chain matters more than most human beings ever stop to consider.

One part of this article mentions the important, even crucial, role of people who study nature without having gotten degrees…the so-called amateur botanists, lepidopterists, and hemiptera observers. Another reason I find this article so interesting has to do with how Jarvis employs thoughtful, reflective moments in the piece, while maintaining a journalistic stance:

We’ve begun to talk about living in the Anthropocene, a world shaped by humans. But E.O. Wilson, the naturalist and prophet of environmental degradation, has suggested another name: the Eremocine, the age of loneliness.

Wilson began his career as a taxonomic entomologist, studying ants. Insects — about as far as you can get from charismatic megafauna — are not what we’re usually imagining when we talk about biodiversity. Yet they are, in Wilson’s words, “the little things that run the natural world.” He means it literally. Insects are a case study in the invisible importance of the common.

Maybe it’s my personal inclination towards the natural observation, but I find some resonance here. It’s what I tend to do when I write poems–to celebrate the common, or at any rate to notice it. I notice, too, the diminishment.

Some readers have told me my poems feel sorrowful, and maybe that sense of diminishment hunkers behind even the more celebratory poems I write. That’s an idea worth my consideration as I revise my work. Maybe Diminishment should be the title of my next collection.

Anyway–read Jarvis’ article. You will learn much. Even if you’re one of those folks who “hates bugs.”
Ann E. Michael, Diminishment

Roast

Up, and busy at the office all day long, saving dinner time, and in the afternoon also very late at my office, and so home to bed. All our business is now about our Hambro fleete, whether it can go or no this yeare, the weather being set in frosty, and the whole stay being for want of Pilotts now, which I have wrote to the Trinity House about, but have so poor an account from them, that I did acquaint Sir W. Coventry with it this post.

busy all day on dinner
my home is our ham

the weather frosty and the house
so poor an oven


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 25 November 1665.

Long Life Noodles

~ after Ada Limon

Sometimes when we are eating
or putting more slices of bread

in the toaster or a pod into
the coffeemaker, I’ll feel some slow

loop inside me, as if that planetary
system under the skin knows I am almost

sixty. Maybe there are asteroids jostling
for space, or holes opening up where

there were none. I tell you I’ve had
this cough for more than a month now,

that it’s been going around; that a dull ache
resides somewhere in the vicinity of my left

shoulder, and another in the pocket under
my spine. Remember when we were children

and at birthdays, our mothers would make
a dish of noodles? They’d insist no strand

should be cut or broken: for long life, good
health— hungry mouths slurping up what the fork

or chopsticks coiled and lifted together, steaming
with all that luck. Living here now, we’ve come

to change many ways we do things. Instant ramen,
elbow macaroni stranded in cheese and thickened

cream. When I lift the boxes out of the pantry,
dry pasta rattles its reprimand of I-told-you-so.

Everything

“…bright ash, dark ash, mirror, moon;
a child waking in the night to hear the thunder;
a traveler stopping to ask the way home.”
~ Li-young Lee, “The Undressing”

Mornings I want to take back most clearly now—
for a different kind of listening, for keeping us
from seizing at the first summons of the clock;
I want the light to brighten without over-

fevering, to take in its arms again the body
that’s been shifting weight as it cycles from one
moment’s murmurous demands to another. Perhaps
the rain has stopped falling, perhaps the warm

jets of steam escaping from these rows of houses
carry the smells of soaped linens or boiled meat.
Does it matter if the garden fills with the shed
wealth of trees, if the cold is meant to deepen

by the hour? Why couldn’t the birds stay here and not
go south, or the skins of fruit remain supple instead
of darkening to leather? Don’t you want to linger here
in this clearing; don’t you want to remember everything?

Correspondent

Up, and after doing some business at the office, I to London, and there, in my way, at my old oyster shop in Gracious Streete, bought two barrels of my fine woman of the shop, who is alive after all the plague, which now is the first observation or inquiry we make at London concerning everybody we knew before it. So to the ‘Change, where very busy with several people, and mightily glad to see the ‘Change so full, and hopes of another abatement still the next week. Off the ‘Change I went home with Sir G. Smith to dinner, sending for one of my barrels of oysters, which were good, though come from Colchester, where the plague hath been so much. Here a very brave dinner, though no invitation; and, Lord! to see how I am treated, that come from so mean a beginning, is matter of wonder to me. But it is God’s great mercy to me, and His blessing upon my taking pains, and being punctual in my dealings. After dinner Captain Cocke and I about some business, and then with my other barrel of oysters home to Greenwich, sent them by water to Mrs. Penington, while he and I landed, and visited Mr. Evelyn, where most excellent discourse with him; among other things he showed me a ledger of a Treasurer of the Navy, his great grandfather, just 100 years old; which I seemed mighty fond of, and he did present me with it, which I take as a great rarity; and he hopes to find me more, older than it. He also shewed us several letters of the old Lord of Leicester’s, in Queen Elizabeth’s time, under the very hand-writing of Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Mary, Queen of Scotts; and others, very venerable names. But, Lord! how poorly, methinks, they wrote in those days, and in what plain uncut paper. Thence, Cocke having sent for his coach, we to Mrs. Penington, and there sat and talked and eat our oysters with great pleasure, and so home to my lodging late and to bed.

the old woman is alive still
a matter of wonder

her 100 years find me
in the very handwriting
her venerable ink and plain
uncut paper


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 24 November 1665.

Fake healer

Up betimes, and so, being trimmed, I to get papers ready against Sir H. Cholmly come to me by appointment, he being newly come over from Tangier. He did by and by come, and we settled all matters about his money, and he is a most satisfied man in me, and do declare his resolution to give me 200 per annum. It continuing to be a great frost, which gives us hope for a perfect cure of the plague, he and I to walk in the parke, and there discoursed with grief of the calamity of the times; how the King’s service is performed, and how Tangier is governed by a man, who, though honourable, yet do mind his ways of getting and little else compared, which will never make the place flourish. I brought him and had a good dinner for him, and there come by chance Captain Cuttance, who tells me how W. Howe is laid by the heels, and confined to the Royall Katharine, and his things all seized and how, also, for a quarrel, which indeed the other night my Lord told me, Captain Ferrers, having cut all over the back of another of my Lord’s servants, is parted from my Lord. I sent for little Mrs. Frances Tooker, and after they were gone I sat dallying with her an hour, doing what I would with my hands about her. And a very pretty creature it is. So in the evening to the office, where late writing letters, and at my lodging later writing for the last twelve days my Journall and so to bed. Great expectation what mischief more the French will do us, for we must fall out. We in extraordinary lacke of money and everything else to go to sea next year. My Lord Sandwich is gone from the fleete yesterday toward Oxford.

time papers over our grief
our ways of getting by

who is seized and for a quarrel
cut all over the back

the servants they dally with
doing what hands will do

we must fall and everything else
go to sand


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 23 November 1665.

Ravens in winter

Up, and by water to the Duke of Albemarle, and there did some little business, but most to shew myself, and mightily I am yet in his and Lord Cravens books, and thence to the Swan and there drank and so down to the bridge, and so to the ‘Change, where spoke with many people, and about a great deale of business, which kept me late. I heard this day that Mr. Harrington is not dead of the plague, as we believed, at which I was very glad, but most of all, to hear that the plague is come very low; that is, the whole under 1,000, and the plague 600 and odd: and great hopes of a further decrease, because of this day’s being a very exceeding hard frost, and continues freezing. This day the first of the Oxford Gazettes come out, which is very pretty, full of newes, and no folly in it. Wrote by Williamson. Fear that our Hambro’ ships at last cannot go, because of the great frost, which we believe it is there, nor are our ships cleared at the Pillow, which will keepe them there too all this winter, I fear.
From the ‘Change, which is pretty full again, I to my office and there took some things, and so by water to my lodging at Greenwich and dined, and then to the office awhile and at night home to my lodgings, and took T. Willson and T. Hater with me, and there spent the evening till midnight discoursing and settling of our Victualling business, that thereby I might draw up instructions for the Surveyours and that we might be doing something to earne our money. This done I late to bed. Among other things it pleased me to have it demonstrated, that a Purser without professed cheating is a professed loser, twice as much as he gets.

ravens hang out
in dead hope of an ox

full of news and folly
which will keep them all winter

full of midnight
settling into a bed thin as a purse


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 22 November 1665.

Adjusting: A Cento

the living carry on by being fluid

trying too hard is another way to confess
the blueblack uniform of service

if inside is let in and there places change

the general stance over here is based on the unshakeable belief

everything we do is against the crippling light
immigration is always editing

i know no love without teeth
& have the scars to remember

here I stumble
to approximate the durations of others, to appear
of the same time as though of space

wouldn’t I too
be godlike

Or else this dark could be our shelter in the time of long dominion.

And though we are not well suited to the perspectives it opens it is an awesome thing to see. Once you can see it.

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(Source Texts: Jenny Xie, Jose Olivarez, Jehanne Dubrow, Gertrude Stein, Sawako Nakayasu, Sean Thomas Dougherty, Chiwan Choi, Aditi Machado, Mary-Kim Arnold, Rosmarie Waldrop)

Remembering

The matriarch sits on a bench
in the park as pleasure boats glide
on the man-made lake. In lieu
of a crown, she wears one of her late
husband’s hats. The brim is narrow,
just like its band. It seems to perch
like a squat grey bird with no head
on her head, so it can’t make
a sound. These days she sings,
with no help, the same string of words
over and over, as if remembering. As if
remembering what they could mean.

Craft

Up, and to the office, where all the morning doing business, and at noon home to dinner and quickly back again to the office, where very busy all the evening and late sent a long discourse to Mr. Coventry by his desire about the regulating of the method of our payment of bills in the Navy, which will be very good, though, it may be, he did ayme principally at striking at Sir G. Carteret. So weary but pleased with this business being over I home to supper and to bed.

sin and din and quick again

o every evening is our coven

desire regulating our aim

a striking art


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 21 November 1665.