April 19, 2011

Happy News

After two close calls with the Stadler Fellowship and the Colgate Olive B. O'Connor fellowship, I'm thrilled to announce that outside judge Max Garland (poet and fiction writer) has selected me to be the 2011-2012 Halls Emerging Artist Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. Next year, I'll be teaching a creative writing class each semester at UW-Madison, writing new poems for the next book (and probably more for the first), and hopefully paying off a bunch of student debt. I'm overjoyed and humbled, but my heart is a little heavy at the thought of being so far away from Brandon, who begins his PhD at the University of Georgia. I plan to visit as often as I can, particularly the winter months, and write many romantic postcards.

Some Thoughts in April

It's April 19th (my father's birthday, in fact) and I woke up to freezing rain and a layer of snow. Apparently, spring will never arrive.

After 15 days of participating in the poem-a-day challenge without fail, I've hit a minor wall, which is due to two things: 
  1. My teaching responsibilities suddenly spiked at the same time my short story was due for fiction workshop, and
  2. I wrote a beast of a poem (1300+ word, three-page draft) on Saturday that I'm excited about and all I want to do is chisel at it and revise and not draft new work. So I don't feel too badly about the challenge. It's not as if I'm watching youtube videos all day long instead (although, I am fond if this one). Since Saturday, I've winnowed the poem down by almost 200 words. I worldled ( this newest poem and the three words that appeared the most often were: doe, father, God. Sounds about right. 

Kay Ryan wins the Pulitzer, as did one my favorites, Jennifer Egan. Also, last night Billy Collins came to Madison to read and I am endlessly charmed by him. 

Things I'm looking forward to: 50 degree weather; farmer's market; books by Lauren Berry, Seth Abramson, and Tracy K. Smith to drop soon; student presentations; and collecting signatures to recall Scott Walker this fall. 

A tremendous number of people also write poetry. If you want to determine how many, simply let the person sitting next to you on an airplane know that you write poetry. If you make them feel comfortable enough, you can bet they'll regale you with some of their own verse. Of course, these poets are "untrained," so they're probably not worth listening to--which might be an attitude you'd find inside the academy, where training is the necessary credential for access. Outside the academy, nobody cares. Those people aren't writing for audiences and adulation; they're writing for themselves, maybe their families, maybe some friends. And that is awesome.
--Charles Jensen, "The Lost Poets," Dream of the Unified Media
Can I hear an Amen?

April 15, 2011

April 13, 2011

National Poetry Month

We're knee-deep in National Poetry Month, and I've been chugging away at the NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) Poem-A-Day challenge. I've decided against using the website's prompts because I found that the end product wasn't anything I was excited about working on.

The poems, by and large, have been quite rough, but I've mostly been able to get to a point where I think there might be something there in each of them, something worth chiseling out at a later date. Maybe May will be National Poetry Revision Month.

As per Bri Cavallaro and Rebecca Hazelton, I'm making a list of the poem titles from this challenge. The dash indicates those lucky days when I was able to get two. This is so that you, dear reader, can use this as guilt ammunition.

  1. Thaw
  2. Old Men Truly Older Now
  3. A Duck's Head Is Hard to Explain
  4. Husband 
  5. Black Horse
  6. Radio
  7. What I Couldn't Say: Nor'easter
  8. The Weary Body Breathes as One / Speak Low, the Spirit is With Us
  9. We the Corporeal Dozen
  10. Whitetail Country 
  11. You Too Have Been This Divided
  12. Carrion in the Fly Dawn
  13. Two Hundred Degrees / Go North, Old Man, and Die

April 7, 2011

DEVIL'S LAKE's Third Issue is Live!

The third issue of DEVIL'S LAKE is live!

Fiction by Meagan Cass and Josh Parish; nonfiction by Emily Conner; poetry by Mary Biddinger, Molly Brodak, Brett DeFries, Tim Kahl, Alex Lemon, Adam Tavel, Casey Thayer, and Greg Wrenn; and comics by Minty Lewis and Melissa Mendes.

Click the image below to read

Devil's Lake

April 2, 2011

Dreaming of Commas

Happy National Poetry Month! Like many, I'm writing a poem a day, no matter how bad they may (will) be. I used to do this religiously when I first started my MFA but at some point I stopped. A good quarter of my book came from that time, and I'm hoping this month I'll generate a lot of new work for the next project so that I can stop obsessing about the little things in my current one.

Last night I had a dream that if I were to swap the order of two clauses (just two!) in one of my poems, my book would suddenly work and then it would be done. The dream was so vivid that when I woke up, I knew exactly which poem and which two clauses I had dreamed about. And sure enough after I switched them, the poem was better for it. There's nothing more I love about writing poems than the tinkering and trimming, and I very much believe knowing exactly where to drop a comma (or where to take one out) can make a poem more or less successful. But I also think that if I can edit poems in my sleep, then it might be time to start sending it out.

Which is what I did! I sent out the book (the thesis, the pile, the stack of poems--whatever you want to call it) to its first contest. And so begins what I suspect will be a very long road paved by rejection slips and self-doubt and a jackpot of contest fees, but I'm okay with that. I've been talking to a lot of people who've been through the process to gear myself up for it.

It's a beautiful day in Madison. Some measure spring by when the birds first return, but I measure spring by the return of shirtless joggers, and I can say with full confidence, "Yes, Wisconsin: spring is here!" It's hard to believe that just yesterday we had a wet onslaught of snow. But the sun's out, people are sweeping their sidewalks, the garlic has sprouted, and the ice on lake Manona has broken. The last snowpile in Madison lives next door to me in Olin Park, and it will be my great pleasure to watch it die a slow and agonizing death over the next few days.