Thursday, October 30, 2008

Forthcoming Poem in War Anthology Against Agamemnon

Some wonderful news! You ever get attached to a poem that gets treated a bit like a redheaded stepchild? I have one of those - "Tysketöser." I love that poem something awful. It's not even, I don't think, the best of my work. I've revised it umpteen times. It's been ripped in workshop, and Jeanie Thompson and Debra Kang Dean both tried to help me improve it at my very first MFA workshop, but I was left with the feeling they still thought it was rather misshapen.

And still I love the thing, my ugly little progeny. It's a raw piece - pure emotion in a monologue by a Norwegian women being prosecuted by her countrymen for sleeping with German soldiers to keep her children fed during World War II. It's probably unfit for general consumption - I use the word "cunt" in it - but the poem required it for the sound of that line and the tone of the piece, and I refuse to take it out. I figured that, if not the roughness of the poem itself, would keep it from ever finding a home on its own, unless I buried it deep in a collection, away from an editor's prying eyes. It's a strong statement about the place of women, about the horrors of war, and about survival and spirit. I think it's worthy of being called a "poem." but again, on this one, I'm biased.

Which is why I am more than I am happy to report that I was wrong about her never being published. "Tysketöser" will appear in an anthology of war poetry titled Against Agamemnon out of WaterWood press, edited by James Adams. I am thrilled, and "Tysketöser" will finally be in print, where I think she deserves to be. And yes, I'm doing the happy dance :)

More Manuscripts in Progress

Merrily steaming along, I have two other manuscripts underway, though neither are quite near the finished stages. One is tentatively titled Gone Things That Stay or just Gone Things (not quite sure if that's a keeper of a title yet - "Things" is a word that tends to annoy me for its vagueness - but it captures the theme of the collection nicely so far, and I hate not having a working title). The other is still very much a work in progress, there are only about 12 pieces in it so far. It's in a rougher voice than I usually use, more rhythmic and spitfire style - not sure if there will ever be a market for that one, but I figure I need to get those pieces out of my system anyway, and they may as well be collected together. No firm working title for that second collection yet, though Love Letters from a White Woman or Train Track Child Comes Home may end up the working title.

I'm thrilled at the prospect of God in my Throat coming out with Bellowing Ark, and as soon as I have more news on that front, I'll report it here.

For now, I'll leave you with a draft of "Train Track Child Comes Home." The prompt that started this one was that it had to be a love poem (with "love" defined however you wish), exactly 21 lines long, with the lines as evenly matched as possible length-wise. I took some liberties on the length of the lines and broke the prompt a bit, and I'm not thrilled with the long tercets, so the next revision will change the form a bit. (Actually, the long tercets didn't fit into this blogform well, so I've broken the 21 line rule. The wording is much the same but the line breaks are different.) I wrote a second poem that I'm not including here that is more of an actual love poem - this one was an attempt at writing a love poem for a place that I both despise and am drawn to, the place where I grew up.

Train Track Child Comes Home

I’m lucky like a quarter left on the tracks, coming back
to the dull glint of nickel, the feel of a cold, sharp coin
against my wrist, the smokestack smell of a just-passed train
and the howl of cars jolted from the safety of the rails.

Warm metal tastes like a punch in the mouth, and I’m home,
where powdered sugar from the Entenmann’s factory mingles
in morning air with cocaine and our cigarette smoke halos, back
where love is cold, hard and brittle like weak iron. Home,

where I spent years chasing dragons, held hostage by scuffed
peddlers of temptation offering spoiled salvation neatly wrapped
in Ziploc from lice-infested pockets where train cars go to die.
We were brilliant as fog, riding bareback down dirty streets,

eyes closed, arms open, serenading the homeless, singing love songs
to dim streetlights while our fathers beat our mothers in silence.
I can see the self I left here to die, a half-ghost drifting across
Brentwood Road, two blocks past the carnicería, wearing slutty clothes,

cracking cinnamon gum in defiance. She waits, chases me
around concrete corners, reminds me of old crimes, dares me
to find the milky shadows of possibility spelled out in the I-Ching maze
of track marks I let scab over when I left, when I let myself forget.

But Brentwood never forgets, she rips those raw scabs open
and they’re thirsty as soon as I cross her borders, I can feel her whisper
echo in my bones - eso si que es, mi hija, nadie puede escaparme.
Tarry rail ties stain the landscape, pointing the way out,

but the firewhistle moans that it’s too late to leave this time,
I’m home for good and she doesn’t plan to let me go. I sit like a coin
on the tracks with a needle and flame, waiting to gain an edge.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

An ISBN in my Near Future!!! OMGBBQ

Apologies for not having much to say lately - my creative writing has taken a bit of a backseat to life. If you follow my other blog, you know that I just accepted a new position at NC State University, and will be joining the Wolfpack in January. I've got a number of papers due (this week, actually) for the MA Lit classes I'm taking, my MFA residency is fast approaching in mid-November, and I've been trying to polish off the Lilith manuscript and form another manuscript out of some poems that seem to have a family theme to them. I spent the last week in Monterey, CA, at a librarian conference where I presented twice and was able to meet a number of my online pals in person. It's been a thrilling, if exhausting, few weeks.

Last night, after attending a friend's gymnastics exhibition (is there anything sexier than watching a buff guy carry a standing chick in one hand?) I attended a party thrown by the inimitable Sybil Baker as part of the Meacham celebration, which was great fun. I went with fun author-ly news in hand - I received an email from the editor at Bellowing Ark...and with some revisions and edits, he says he wants to publish the Lilith manuscript! A book! Of mine! With it's own ISBN and everything! insert happy dance here

From what I've found in my research, Bellowing Ark's authors love the press and its editor, Robert Ward. From looking at not only the journal but also the books BA puts out, it's a lovely - and most notably, hopeful - press, where writers push back against darkness through the act of Creation, a place of contemplation and balance. I am very much looking forward to working with Robert to get God in my Throat into print as an entire manuscript.

And once it *is* in print, I will pander it mercilessly and beg everyone I know to buy a copy. *grin*

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Chapbook "Carving Your Name" is a Semifinalist!

Happy news! My chapbook "Carving Your Name" came in as a semi-finalist in the Black Lawrence Press Black River Chapbook competition for the Spring 2008 submission cycle. This is the second time I've hit semi-finalist status there. Grrr. I think in December I'm going to go ahead and revise the hell out of those chapbooks and send them back to see if I can't break into finalist/winner tiers. But I'm very happy about it, as this collection addresses some personal themes, as opposed to the last chapbook I sent them which was war poetry. It's good motivation at least *grin*

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hey Now, You're a Poemstar....

The lack of posting here reflects how ridiculously busy things have been lately. I am merrily finished with my second MFA semester (huzzah!) and officially halfway through the program. Party in Louisville next November upon graduation, make a note!

In addition to finishing up that semester and getting my material together for November's residency and workshop, I made some final edits to the God in my Throat manuscript and sent it off to Robert Ward at Bellowing Ark Press. He picked up nine of my pieces from the collection for the last issue, so I'm crossing my fingers he likes the entire thing as much. Cross your fingers/toes/ankles/whatever for me if you think about it. At the very least, Robert has been super supportive and happy to dialogue about my work, his own work, and the state of poetry at large, and it's made for great conversation.

Right now I'm gearing up for some conference presentations at Internet Librarian in Monterey (in less than two weeks!), but after that, I have some revisions I want to get done, and it's about time to send out another batch of submissions. Right now I'm in sort of a holding pattern until December when some pressing deadlines are past. And then I'll be hoofing it to complete my extended critical essay for the No break in sight, really.

In other news, a very good friend of mine (we grew up together) just got his proof copy of his very first book of poetry, which I will splash all over this blog once it's out and available for purchase - I even got to write one of the back cover blurbs. He's a poet whose energy really dazzles from the page, and I am incredibly proud of him - expect to see more about this guy here soon.