The Story Behind “The Damage”

Today, one of my dreams came true, and I say that without exaggeration: a piece of mine, from Inch magazine, is featured today on Poetry Daily.  I found out about this a while ago but didn’t really believe it was actually happening until I saw it today, and I’ve had to look at it again and again to make sure that I’m not just dreaming.  I mean, I’m not, right?  You can see it too?

Here's a picture of the beheaded cherub.  I miss it, still.

Here’s a picture of the beheaded cherub. I miss it, still.

I thought I’d write a short blog entry about the piece, since I’m always curious about the poems that pop up on Poetry Daily and, well, like, everywhere that poems tend to pop up.  I won’t tell the whole story behind it because a.) I already did that, and b.) then where will the mystery be?  Suffice it to say that the story behind this involves a huge move, which is a new beginning, and a huge break-up, which is, of course, an ending.  Besides the relationship, a few things were broken during or missing after the move: a couch cushion, my bicycle, and the head of a cherub on this terrible and beautiful planter my grandmother had used as storage for cotton balls.  It was a strange time, a time when beginnings were muddled with endings, and I could hardly tell the difference between the two anymore.

Flash to September of 2012, over a year later.  A friend and I had just finished a stint on The Grind (explained beautifully here by Grind founder Ross White) and were following it up with a submissions grind.  We promised each other that we’d send out at least one piece a day.  One Saturday, I was poking around for places to submit short essays and I came across Press 53, (which, as it turns out, published a remarkable collection by fellow Grinder and all-around amazing poet and person, Shivani Mehta — Useful Information for the Soon-to-be- Beheaded) and then Press 53’s Tumblr, with their weekly 53-word story prompt.  The prompt for that week was to write a 53-word story about moving.  I read the prompt and the rules and then promptly shut down my computer and headed to Hobby Lobby for some emergency crafting supplies (the emergency, as always with Hobby Lobby, was just that it was Saturday, and they’re closed on Sundays, which always sends me into a crafting/quilting/crocheting tail-spin — what if I need very fine glitters on a Sunday?  It happens more often than one would think).  As I wandered around trying to figure out why there were so giant zebra-striped flowers, I found that my mind was working on a poem.  When I got home, I wrote it: and word count showed me that it was, miraculously, 55 words.  I cut two, and submitted it.  Boom.

Of course, the micro-essay (though I guess now I should probably call it a prose poem) was rejected.  I revised and sent to another magazine.  Rejected.  Repeat.  Rejected.  Then, I saw a call-for-work for an all-micro-essay issue of Inch, one of my favorite magazines, and I sent to that.  Miraculously, it was accepted — and so began the road to Poetry Daily.  I’m especially happy that this is the poem that made it, since Inch is a journal I really love and a journal that shines light on oft-ignored micro-forms, and since they were willing to give this triply-rejected piece a fourth chance.

Sometimes, I’ll end up with a poem or essay that just feels like a gift.  It feels like a well-made thing, though I don’t feel like its maker.  This poem/essay was just such a thing: I hadn’t intended to write about this part of my move — ever, really — and I didn’t set out to focus on the beheaded cherub.  But there it was, and then it was on the page, called into being by forces which didn’t seem entirely under my control.

I suppose, when I think about it, it does make sense that I wrote this poem at this time.  It was a time when everything seemed to be changing, again.  My relationships changed, my friendships changed, my health changed and therefore my body changed, and therefore my world and the way I lived in it changed.  I didn’t make a move, but the world around me moved.  It was a time of muddled beginnings and endings, and I again couldn’t tell which was which.  It was the beginning of a moment of great change, from which I am only now starting to emerge, to look around, and to assess what was damaged beyond repair and what remains.

And this, I suppose, is the greater gift, the greater dream come true: to have a poem that acts like a lens and focuses on what damage is, and what beginning and ending, for me at least, really means.

Sometimes things are exciting …

… and when things are exciting, dear denizens of the Blogosphere, I like to share them with you.  One of the best things about the Internet, besides the seemingly endless and ever-regenerating number of photographs of cats wearing fruit on their heads and of sloths Photoshopped into the middle of the Crab Nebula, is that the Internet gives us the ability to share in IRL experiences we wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend IRL.  For people like

This is a photograph of me reading.  I'm taking off my reading glasses but it looks like I'm doing something dramatic and meaningful. In fact, forget the part about the reading glasses.  This is a picture of me doing something dramatic and meaningful.

This is a photograph of me reading. I’m taking off my reading glasses but it looks like I’m doing something dramatic and meaningful. In fact, forget the part about the reading glasses. This is a picture of me doing something dramatic and meaningful.

myself, whose bodies periodically refuse to work and who are, let’s face it, always like two and a half at the most seconds away from dressing all in white and living in somebody’s attic (because really, what’s the fun if it’s your own attic?), this is the definition of a blessing, a word that can so often feel insincere and general gives me a queasy case of agita, but which, in this case, absolutely applies.

Another part of The Great Blessing of the Internets (ugh, there’s the agita again) is that it allows people whose bodies periodically refuse to work, perhaps because they’re never much more than two and a half seconds away from Emily Dickinsoning up some unsuspecting nuclear family’s attic, to share with others the times they make appearances In Real Life.  Such is the case with my reading in the Indian Springs School Visiting Writers Series, which you can hear here.

The first reading in the recording isn’t mine, it’s Kate Greenstreet‘s.  If you listen to it, you’ll see why my knees were positively shaking because, seriously, how do you follow that?  You’ll also see why I’d ordered a copy of Young Tambling, her newest collection from Ahsahta Press, before I’d even left the building that evening.  I’ve been hungrily devouring the poems and people, this is one of Those Books — by that, I mean this is a life-changing book, the kind of book that leaves a reader wowed and restless and with a completely new way to look at poetry, books, art, life, everything.  That’s because, in many ways, the book isn’t really a book.  I mean, yes, it is a series of pages with words printed on them sewn together and bound.  But it doesn’t solely exist in that form, in that bound structure.  Greenstreet’s reading shows this: she re-orders the text and the text slips seamlessly into a new narrative, a new sequence of development.  Each re-ordering creates a new story, a new series of images, a new work of art.  Like she writes in the end of the collection, next to an insanely amazing oh my God seriously photograph of this book in a different incarnation, as pages of

This is a photograph of Kate Greenstreet's Young Tambling. It's been Instagrammed because its unfiltered awesomeness would make the Interwebs EXPLODE, and then where would Al Gore, astronaut sloths, and fruit-hatted cats be?

This is a photograph of Kate Greenstreet’s Young Tambling. It’s been Instagrammed because its unfiltered awesomeness would make the Interwebs EXPLODE, and then where would Al Gore, astronaut sloths, and fruit-hatted cats be?

typeset and photographs arranged (and, presumably, re-arranged) on the wall:

Although I was thinking in two-page spreads, at some point I realized that I wasn’t actually (physically) making a book.  I was making a

big rectangular piece of temporary art.

Which is SO RIDICULOUSLY INSANELY AMAZING OH MY GOD I CANNOT EVEN TALK ABOUT IT.  It’s like she’s created a work of code-based electronic poetry without the code.  Which, seriously.  AMAZING.

And there are MORE EXCITING THINGS, the first of which has to do with my actually leaving the house and going to another location, specifically Boston, where I will be talking about writing and working and how those things go together at AWP 2013 (HOLLAH).  I’ll be moderating a panel on the academic job market with three lovely friends and colleagues, Hannah De La Cruz Abrams (you should totally read her book, The Man Who Danced with Dolls, which is so beautiful I can’t even talk about it and is one of the few books I immediately read again after finishing), Sarah Domet (author of 90 Days to Your Novel) and Jared Yates Sexton (author of An End to All Things).  The panel’s called Navigating the Track: The Writer and the Nontenured Position.  It’s at noon on Saturday in Room 104 and should be pretty awesome.  You can find more information about it on the AWP Website, here.  Keep scrolling ’til you find it.  I’ll also be a’signing books at the Toadlily Press Table in the Bookfair on Friday at 11:30 am.  Come and find me and say hello!  I will probably desperately need some coffee too, so if you’d like to bring some my way, that would be great.

And, last but certainly not least, if you want to read about piranhas and writing teachers and taxidermy and trash cans, you can check out my post on Creative Sweet, the Creative Writing area Blog from Georgia Southern University’s own Department of Writing and Linguistics.  While you’re there, you should also read the absolutely perfect post from Laura Valeri about what it’s like to teach creative writing at GSU, or anywhere, really.  And our student intern, Christine Lengel, has done an amazing job with posts herself, including this post about what it’s like to study creative writing at GSU, or anywhere, really.  And you should totally just subscribe to the whole Blog, since there will be news about our amazing students doing amazing things as well as other amazing posts from the other amazing folks who teach here.

See?  EXCITING THINGS.  And God bless Al Gore for inventing the Interwebs so we can all share in them.

Malificae, Or Why Josh Groban Should Probably Marry Me.

Preface: it feels strange posting this, in the midst of everything that’s going on.  It feels like self-promotion, which feels wrong.  At the same time, it’s a post about something good, very good.  It’s about a dream coming true.  It’s about a dream I’d started to worry would never come true coming true — and so I’m posting this, because the world could use some positivity in it at the moment.

I was honored and humbled when the magnificent and talented Ivy Alvarez tagged me in this self-interview blog thing, where we talk about our latest books (you should check out Ivy’s post about her second book, Disturbance, and then you should also order and read her first book, Mortal, which is hella good, too).  I was especially excited because this seemed like the perfect way to make an announcement I haven’t yet made on this blog, which is this:

YES, THAT IS ACTUALLY A BOOK COVER FOR A BOOK I ACTUALLY WROTE THAT IS ACTUALLY GOING TO BE PUBLISHED.

YES, THAT IS ACTUALLY A BOOK COVER FOR A BOOK I ACTUALLY WROTE THAT IS ACTUALLY GOING TO BE PUBLISHED.

I’m beyond excited, thrilled, honored, humbled, nervous, nauseous, and excited again to announce that my first full-length collection of poetry, Maleficae, is forthcoming from GenPop Books.  And it’s so forthcoming that if you follow that link to GenPop Books’ website, you’ll actually find a place where you can actually PRE-ORDER THE BOOK.  THAT I WROTE.

I KNOW, RIGHT?

It still seems surreal and unbelievable, but I’m so very proud to be publishing this book, and working with this press — especially now, when we need more than ever to take a look at ourselves and our society and think long and hard about what’s going on, because it’s beginning to look an awful lot like things looked before and during the witch trials in early modern Europe.  Which is what this book is about.

And now, the questions:

What is the title of your book?
Maleficae. That’s Latin, which is another language. It essentially translates as “evil-doers,” and was the Church’s term for witches.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Maleficae follows one woman as she’s made the village’s hero then demonized, tried, and executed as a witch when things went wrong — a story typical in the European witch trials.

What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a book-length sequence of poems that work together to tell the story of the woman who, like so many others, was condemned and killed for witch-craft — and the story of the forces which worked to condemn her.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Here’s the story I tell to sound impressive:

The idea for this book came from my investigation of religious documents and historical records of the witch trials, and how many similarities I noticed between the forces acting to demonize the “different,” condemn them as “other,” and limit women’s rights in early modern Europe and the forces acting in our country today.

Here’s the real story:

In May of 2006, I had extensive reconstructive surgery on my jaw.  It sucked.  A lot.  The recovery time also sucked a lot, particularly because it was very, very long.  I started running out of reading material pretty quickly, so when my mom came home from Wal-Mart with a copy of The Da Vinci Code, I greedily grabbed it and started reading.  I was fascinated by the idea that the Church had essentially obscured the position of women in the Church, and I was especially terrified by the brief description of the witch trials and the text which served as the Church’s handbook for trying and executing witches: the Malleus Maleficarum.  I ordered a copy of it and started to read, and soon began writing these very strange poems that didn’t even seem to come from me.  I didn’t exactly know what was going on, so I kept researching and reading and note-taking and writing these very strange poems, until I realized I was writing a book.  Then I kept following the path until it finally became clear.  Or, at least, clearer.

Please forget the second story now.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Oh, man.  Well, as mentioned above, I started in May of 2006.  At the time, I was working at Auburn University, which was very lucky — they have an amazing library with even more amazing librarians who helped me find the books that could help me.  I read everything about the trials I could and took compulsive notes, even though I wasn’t sure what would end up in the poems or even if there were going to be more poems.  I researched everything, from the physics of burning at the stake to the kinds of plants that were in Bavaria at that point in time.  And I wrote — mostly messy prose blocks in my notebooks.  I didn’t figure out how the poems needed to lay on the page until May of 2007, when it suddenly came to me in a rush while I was in Austria for a very dear friend’s wedding.  I finished a very skeletal draft in the summer of 2008 and sent it to one of my best readers, who wrote back with the best advice ever: to tell the story and to really get to the heart of things, I had to write in the voice of the persecutor.  For about three weeks, I wrote and wrote and wrote, and finally had a draft by the end of that summer.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? 

I think there are really no words to express the terror of the witch trials and the mixture of rage and fear and twisted logic that caused them — but I think we have to try to find words for this kind of experience to keep it from happening again.  As I was writing and reading, I kept coming across news of frighteningly similar forces in my own country: women being denied birth control, even as a treatment for endometriosis.  It seemed in a way that I was compelled to write these poems to make the story come out of the history books and to light.  Most of all, I felt for the women, those millions of women, whose voices were silenced.  I wanted to find a way to allow them to speak.  I knew that I may not succeed, but I also knew that I had to try.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Malificae will be published by GenPop Books in 2013.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?

Oh, goodness. Well, I’m not sure I can really ever come close to comparing to any of these works, but I do know what books inspired me and what I read in the process of writing these poems (besides infinity books about history and scans of documents from the trials): D.A. Powell’s Cocktails, Louise Gluck’s Averno, Laura Jensen’s Bad Boats, Raymond McDaniel’s Murder (a violet), Matthea Harvey’s Sad Little Breathing Machine, and Maurice Manning’s Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

This question? Totally boss.  I’d cast Jennifer Lawrence as the witch and Alan Rickman as the priest.  I would also cast Josh Groban as somebody because he is Josh Groban and I would like to meet him.  Also my mom says I should marry him, and that would totally happen if I cast him in a movie based on a book-length series of historically inspired semi-experimental poems.  Right?

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It’s a book that examines not just the facts of history but the ideas behind the facts, and how we relate to those ideas.  It’s a book that explores what we’ve learned and what we’ve failed to learn, how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.  And it’s a book about differences, about how we need to learn to listen to them and to treat each other with the kindness and dignity every human being deserves.

At this point, I’m supposed to tag five other writers.  I’m trying, y’all, but have run into snags, so I’ll probably edit this later to include them.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Classes are canceled at Georgetown College today, and I’m snowed in with two very clingy feline friends.  Though I am learning to never utter dangerous predictive sentences such as “there is no possible way that this winter can be as bad as last winter,” I’m taking the brief, white-clad respite to catch up on writing, reading, and class preparation.  I admit that most of my time has been spent reading and re-reading (and re-re-reading, ad infinitum) the instructions for the NEA grant application (one year, I will finally begin grant applications early), I’ve been breezing around the Internet and looking at articles filed under “Read Later.”

The first is this chilling article about a professor who opened fire on other professors, which presents some terrifying news from my home state and also makes a terrifying statement about the state of academia today.  It’s an incredibly frightening thing, and my heart goes out to the faculty and students of UAH.

Then, there is this article about the first autobiography of Emily Dickinson since 1974.  As the article particularly addresses the myth-making surrounding the figure of Dickinson, I can’t wait to read it.

The following articles aren’t poetry-related, but I’m obsessing over them nonetheless.  The first is an article from the New Scientist which discusses the apparently very possible possibility that we are actually living inside of a giant hologram.  I’m particularly fascinated by this because I spent most of my sophomore year at Sarah Lawrence reading about gravity waves, and it was through the search for gravity waves that they received the data suggesting our hologram-like state.  Hopefully, this search will also soon reveal data making it much easier to take out the trash in eleventy billion inches of snow.  The second is an article about leaked documents revealing the nightmarishly Mean Girls-esque rules for a sorority at Cornell.  I admit that I was once about as anti-sorority as one could be, thinking they were bastions of pre-feminist thought which perpetuated stereotypes and the kind of middle school behavior which shouldn’t even exist in middle school; however, after seeing the sororities at Georgetown, and especially how kind the sorority sisters are to their fellow students, where they’re fellow sisters or not, I’ve very much softened my opinion.  This article brought back the rage.  Perhaps this is because I like to wear “gross plastic shizzzzz” as jewelry.

Last but not least, a bit of self-promotion: Toadlily Press published my first chapbook, and Matthew Nienow recently started work on a Toadlily blog.  He’s done a remarkably beautiful job with it, and I’ve had a wonderful time catching up with my fellow Toadlily authors, from Nienow himself, who offers an account of how uniquely supportive the Toadlily experience is, to an article by Emily Carr, a UNCW classmate of mine and a phenomenal poet, about the metaphorical and actual meanings of meat.  You can also check out this entry about my witch poem project, which contains a recording of me reading one of the poems!

On the eighth day of Christmas, Emma writes a book review . . .

(Quick note: the title of this post is a slant rhyme, in honor of Emily Dickinson and in honor of the fact that I couldn’t think of a rhyme.)

I’ve spent much of the past several weeks writing a book review for Diann Blakely’s Cities of the Flesh and the Dead.  This has taken me a while because it is, in part, a very emotional experience: I had Diann as a teacher at the Sewanee

This is, apparently, how I'm writing my book reviews these days.

Young Writer’s Conference, which was a life-changing event.  Diann was one of the toughest teachers I’ve ever had, and also one of the absolute best.  She seemed to know exactly how to jolt me from the expected, from my usual patterns of language, and from writing poems that contained, well, to misquote her, a lot of pretty language, but not much else.  In Diann’s class, I learned how to write with body, soul, and heart, and how to read, and how to love poetry as much as life, and how loving poetry can be life.  My writing style changed, and I went from writing poems targeted towards getting a gentle critique to writing poems that, if not perfect, at least came from a place of great emotional and spiritual meaning.  She seems to have changed me once again, as, in writing this review, I’ve realized how important reviewing is to me.

I fully admit it: I did not want to review books.  In my graduate forms of poetry class, this was one of the assignments, and I did an absolutely dreadful job reviewing some very beautiful books, including Stephanie Strickland’s V:WaveSon.Nets/Losing Luna (click the link for the Web version of this poem, a breath-taking and brain-melting glimpse into the future of poetry as well as the possibilities of online verse and, well, verse, period).  Though I was upset about my performance at the time, I’m now incredibly grateful for it both because I learned about the art of the review and because I learned how truly dreadful I was at this art, and could, with time, figure out how to be better.  I wrote my first review — I fully admit this, too — because someone told me that it was an easy way to get a publication.  Though the review did result in a publication, it was in no way easy; it was a huge challenge, and I was instantly hooked.  This is largely because the knowledge that one is writing a review makes one read and think about a book differently: as a book, which is an art in and of itself.  It’s rare that we get to experience poems in a collection.  For one, it’s incredibly difficult (Lord have mercy, it’s incredibly difficult) to get a book published, so what one usually experiences of contemporary poetry is the poem in isolation, in company not planned by the writer, in journals.  For two, the anthology has become so incredibly popular, even in creative writing classes, that one very rarely encounters a full collection until they’re in graduate school.  I admit that I am a part of this problem: I’ve only ever taught two full collections, Sylvia Plath’s Ariel and Anne Sexton’s All My Pretty Ones, which are far from contemporary.  I also fully admit personal laziness when it comes to reading collections: there are times when I’m reading a book of poems and come across a poem that doesn’t seem to fit.  I think, Huh, that one really doesn’t seem to fit, and I flip on.

Of course, the poem usually does fit, but it may take a great deal of time in figuring out how and why.  Reviewing poetry forces me to think of the poems as a book, structured and built as the writer wants them to be presented — an act which, in itself, holds a great deal of meaning.  Often, when I review a book, it feels more like putting a puzzle together, which may perhaps explain why it takes me so darn long to write each review.  I read the book, I take notes, I re-read the book and my notes, and I try to piece together not just what each poem means in isolation but what the book means as a whole.  Sometimes I succeed.  Sometimes I don’t.  Regardless, I learn a great deal about the art in a way that I usually don’t think about the art.  It’s undeniable that the poetry world has been trending towards the narrative collection, or, at least, the themed collection.  Sometimes, the poems can’t really be read in isolation and must be taken into consideration as part of a larger narrative, as in Raymond McDaniel’s stunning Murder (a violet),  and sometimes the poems can be read individually, but a large part of their power depends upon the overarcing narrative, as in Brian Turner’s Here, Bullet.  Sometimes, there’s a theme which carries the book aloft, as in D.A. Powell’s Chronic (which is particularly awesome because it contains a fold-out poem), and sometimes there’s a theme which, once discovered, greatly illuminates each piece, as in Matthea Harvey’s Sad Little Breathing Machine.  Book-making is part of the art, and a part that we — or, at least, I — too often ignore.

Plus, review are  just good business.  By “business” here, I’m thinking more in terms of us, as writers, working together rather than against each other.  We have to fight each other for publications, for book awards, for acceptance to Breadloaf, for waiterships at Breadloaf — by reviewing fellow poets’ work, we are recognizing that we are all together in this, and that this is important.  Poetry is, without a doubt, not a profitable profession; at times, it can also not be a very pleasurable one.  By writing the review, we learn again why we came to poetry, and we share that with the world.  And let’s face it: books of poetry are not often bought, much less read — anyone who’s been to a bookstore lately could tell you that.  When people think of poetry, they think of Maya Angelou (I would rather not anger Dr. Angelou or Oprah, and thus I merely link to this SNL skit, which says everything and anything I could ever say).  They think of Jewel and Alicia Keys (no comment there, either).  They think of Tupac (who, I think, should really be appreciated for his rap lyrics rather than his poetry) and Jeff Tweedy (I love Wilco, don’t get me wrong, but seriously, man) and Charles Bukowski (once, a friend and I made a pact to never let each other date anyone who loved Bukowski.  It’s the best promise I’ve ever made to anyone).  Anything we can do to get the word out about others is a very, very good thing.  We’re all part of this struggle — it’s our duty to help each other up the hill.

“Feel like letting my freak flag fly / Oh I feel like I owe it to someone”

After spending an hour and fifteen minutes making phone calls to increasingly hostile insurance representatives, I found myself inspired to write an entry about one of my favorite activities: fighting The Man.  How can one fight The Man, you may ask?  Well …

  1. Subscribe to a literary magazine. Due to increasing postal rates, the down-the-toilet-and-through-the-pipes economy, and the general difficulty of getting people to subscribe to literary magazines in the first place, the literary journal is in trouble.  A group of poetry-loving people on Facebook laid down a challenge to subscribe to at least one literary journal a month.  At first, I thought, as you may be thinking, that there’s no way I could afford this.  I then realized that if I didn’t buy a Diet Coke a day, I’d have the subscription fee, and as Diet Coke is really and truly a tool of The Man (who else could cause my shameful addiction?), the literary journal wins.  And, as a start, may I suggest a subscription to the Georgetown Review? Five dollars for more fun than you can imagine — and, though it won’t clean your soap scum, as Diet Coke will, it will not give you kidney stones, as Diet Coke does.
  2. Make your second subscription a subscription to OR. This Otis College of Art and Design journal is on the front lines of the battle against The Man.  In refreshing rebellion against traditional publishing, which so often considers not so much what is good as what is marketable, OR is a “literary tabloid” distributed nationally — and absolutely free of charge.  And the content?  The list of writers published, from Laura Moriarty to Martha Ronk to Ray DiPalma, speaks for itself.  Sign up for a free subscription and give The Man a kick in the pants.
  3. Start visiting online poetry mags. For years, people warned against the online poetry magazine: they’re not legitimate!  They’re just blogs!  They’ll do nothing for your CV!  Think of your CV, for God’s sake!  Think of your CV! However, back in 2005, Bob Creeley told our workshop class that the online poetry magazine was the way of the future — and, due to #1 and a host of other issues, I think he just might be right.  Many online journals are pretty amazing, to say the least, and, most importantly, they take risks which many print journals can’t, especially when it comes to composition.  Some of my favorites include Waccamaw, the Country Dog Review, DIAGRAM (though I continuously send the wonderful Mr. Monson poems, which are promptly rejected, much to my great sorrow), and 5_Trope.
  4. “Carry on!” Those of you who are as obsessed with Project Runway will recognize this as the right honorable Tim Gunn’s catch-phrase.  Those of you who are as obsessed with Project Runway as I am will also feel as torn to shreds as I do about Pro-Run‘s departure from the Bravo network, its subsequent existence in some terrible between-stations limbo, and the absolute disappointment that is Bravo’s erstwhile replacement, The Fashion Show (seriously.  The challenges on this show are not challenges.  I bet that next week they’ll have to make a pot holder from scraps).   Thankfully, Dustin Brookshire has found a way to fight The Man and fulfill my need for Pro-Run with his Project Verse.  I admit that I’m cheering on Emari DiGiogio, who just may be the next Austin Scarlett.
  5. Become Abnormally Attracted to Sin. Though this doesn’t technically fit under the category of “literary stuff,” I must give a type-out to Tori Amos, who has been fighting The Man since her 1988 debut with Y Kant Tori Read.  Her new album sucker-punches The Man, though the punches aren’t as low and dirty as the classic that’s gotten me through more break-ups than I care to mention, Boys for Pele.  Tori’s new sound is ambient, and low and creeping, and her voice is higher than usual.  Here’s where I must make an embarrassing admission: I have never been to a concert.  Ever.  Seriously.  I’d planned to make my first concert a Tori Amos concert — however, Tori Amos didn’t plan to come anywhere near Lexington on her tour.  I’m absolutely certain that The Man is somehow behind this, and shake my fist at the heavens and at him.

Buy a Book, Save a Press!

Has it really been nearly a month since I last posted?  It must be, as WordPress does not lie.  There was, first, the end of the semester, and then, as often seems to occur after the end of the semester, I had surgery, from which I am now recovering, safely ensconced in my parents’ house in Alabama.  Once I emerge from the post-operative haze, I promise more posting — first and foremost, photos from my reading at the Montevallo Literary Festival, which was a great deal of fun.

I’m posting while still in the post-operative haze, however, for a very good cause: saving Salt Publishing.  The state of the economy is so terrifying that I will not even begin to write about that, so that I don’t retreat to bed and pull the covers over my head (or else hide myself under the bed with the feline Gertrude Stein), but I will say that small presses seem to be bearing the brunt of all of this.   And Salt Publishing, an extraordinary press which publishes such extraordinary authors as Catherine Daly, Kamau Brathwaite, and Brian Henry, is in great danger right now.  As their Facebook note this morning explained, Salt needs help, and they need help fast.  Here’s what you can do to keep this press alive (copied from the note that’s now circulating around Facebook):

Here’s how you can help us to save Salt and all our work with hundreds of authors around the world.

JUST ONE BOOK

1. Please buy just one book, right now. We don’t mind from where, you can buy it from us or from Amazon, your local shop or megastore, online or offline. If you buy just one book now, you’ll help to save Salt. Timing is absolutely everything here. We need cash now to stay afloat. If you love literature, help keep it alive. All it takes is just one book sale. Go to our online store and help us keep going.

2. Share this note on your profile. Tell your friends. If we can spread the word about our cash crisis, we can hopefully find more sales and save our literary publishing. Remember it’s just one book, that’s all it takes to save us. Please do it now.

With my best wishes to everyone
Chris
Director
Salt Publishing

A Healthy Dose of Shameless Self-Promotion

I’m taking a break from my regularly scheduled NaPoMo programming to offer a(n) (un)healthy dose of shameless self-promotion.  I very, very sadly missed the debut of my chapbook, The Sad Epistles, at AWP Chicago.  However, the lovely Kristy Bowen sent me a package containing copies of the book shortly afterwards, and I was bowled over by what a beautiful job she did — the book looks wonderful — and now you, too, can have your very own copy!

A preview of the Epistles

A preview of the Epistles

A copy is available here, for the low price of $7.  Thanks again to Kristy for doing such a phenomenal job!

In celebration of The Sad Epistles‘ debut, I’d decided to go all wild and crazy NaPoWriMo style (almost as awesome as Kool-Aid Man style) and post the poem I wrote today.  This makes me incredibly nervous for many reasons, foremost among them the fact that I just wrote the poem today and haven’t had six months to revise it.  There is also the fact that this is actually the first poem I’ve written since September.  I think I’ve been inspired by the beautiful work I’ve seen, especially from Marie Gauthier, though I’m not sure this counts as either “beautiful” or “work.”  For you, Gentle Reader, however, I make this maverick move.  Watch carefully, though — true to NaPoWriMo style, the poem will disappear 24 hours or less after its posting.

April Frost

(has melted)

Some Brief Updating, From The Midst Of The Pre-Spring Break Blitz

  • It is my absolute pleasure to announce that The Sad Epistles is out and available from Dancing Girl Press!  I got my copies last week, and the book is beautiful, if I do say so myself — Kristy Bowen, as always, has done a magnificent job putting it together!  Dancing Girl is also offering a Spring Subscription Steal at the moment, which means that you can get all of their 2009 titles for a mere $100 — a worthy investment, indeed!
  • In other book news, I’m beyond thrilled that my manuscript (the witch poems) was named as a semi-finalist in the Perugia Press Prize competition.  I admire this press more than I can say, and it’s an honor.  Plus, this gives me hope that — fingers crossed, knocking on wood, petting the hair of my Troll dolls — the manuscript will actually make its way to being a book some time soon.
  • A few weeks ago, I read some poems from How to Recognize a Lady and The Mariner’s Wife at the Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900.  I had the great honor of chairing my panel, which featured the wonderful poet Adam Prince (who read a poem about jellyfish which made me kind of love them, and I hate jellyfish ever since being stung by one in Gulf Shores when I was eleven), and B.R. Smith, fiction writer and associate editor of the Cincinnati Review.  I have to admit that Mr. Smith did make my job as chair a little difficult, as I had to work very hard not to cry at the end of his story, which was incredibly beautiful and strange (in the way that great stories are strange) and sad.  Do yourself a favor and check it out in the latest issue of Ninth Letter — you’ll be glad that you did.  The fourth member of my panel, Carol Rainey, wasn’t able to attend, but I had the pleasure of reading her essay about William Stafford, which beautifully describes his pedagogy and his personality.
  • We are currently under a Winter Weather Advisory.  Again.  After it was so warm that I wore a t-shirt outside with no problem.  Clearly, Kentucky hates us all.
  • Though it never made it to the main page of I Can Has Cheezburger, I feel it is necessary to share with you The Best LOL Cat EVER.  I think it never made it to the main page because LOLing would be over after this.  After this, no other LOL can ever be as LOLful.  View at your own risk.

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

First of all, though the Georgetown Review‘s current poetry editor (yours truly) was not able to make it to the AWP conference due to a traumatic head injury (see Head Trauma Drama Llama below), she is happy to announce that the Georgetown Review itself did make an appearance!  My eternal gratitude goes out to the wonderful and fabulous Ms. Jessie Carty, who did a beautiful job setting up our table and spreading the word about the journal.  Thanks also to everyone who grabbed a copy and spread the word!  This is one of those moments during which I’m overcome with gratitude.  Truly, thanks to everyone (and, seriously, everyone should send Ms. Jessie Carty all manner of delicious baked goods, thank-you notes, positive vibes, and good wishes for being my guardian angel).

Secondly, two plugs!  The first has to do with the overwhelmingly awesome awesomeness of one Mr. Ross White, Official Poetry Superstar and founder of Bull City Press (which publishes amazing chapbooks, which you must buy, and the amazing journal Inch, to which you must subscribe.  Now, please.  You can follow the links.  I’ll wait.  [Cue elevator music.]  Thank you.  You have done a good thing).  Mr. Ross White has two beautiful poems in this issue of the New England Review, which were also featured on Poetry Daily, a sure sign that Mr. Ross White is soon going to be ruling the entire poetry world wearing a crown of awesomeness.

The second plug has to do with one of my greatest obsessions: Project Runway.  Frequent readers of this blog may remember how each upcoming season sends me into a frenzy of joyous anticipation.  I love Pro-Run so much that the phrases “make it work,” “that’s fierce,” “hot mess,” and “I mean, you tailored chiffon!” have entered my daily lexicon.  My dear friend R. and myself have often discussed how their needs to be a poetry version of Project Runway, complete with death-defying poetry challenges, fabulous judges who can determine whether or not one’s verse is “too Paris Hilton” or “just a Missoni knock-off,” and electrifyingly eccentric contestants.  It appears that the always-amazing Dustin Brookshire might just have been tapping our phones, as he’s asking for entrants to Project Verse, the poetry version of Project Runway.  Enter, or, at the very least, follow this competition as obsessively as yours truly follows the career of the fabulous Austin Scarlett (is it wrong that I have overturned my 28 year old decision not to have a wedding solely because Austin Scarlett now designs wedding dresses?).

More to come soon, including a plug of my own for The Sad Epistles, which made its debut at AWP, and an announcement about my incredibly exciting summer job (which will possibly come with embarassing photographs of The Young Emma wearing a Spam t-shirt).