A Year With Rilke

February 18, 2015 — 2 Comments

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I stumbled across this book of quotes and reflections by Rilke, A Year With Rilke (translated and edited by Joanna Macy & Anita Barrows). The quote for February 18, today, is my favorite. It’s from Letters to a Young Poet, July 16, 1903:

“I want to ask you, as clearly as I can, to bear with patience all that is unresolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves, as if they were rooms yet to enter or books written in a foreign language. Don’t dig for answers that can’t be given you yet: you cannot live them now. For everything must be lived. Live the questions now, perhaps then, someday, you will gradually, without noticing, live into the answer.” ~Rilke

The daily entries come from Rilke’s letters as well as his books of poetry. It’s a very attractive 5 x 7 inch hardback book with 365 pages.

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I recently read Letters to a Young Poet for the first time in many years (translated by Stephen Mitchell). It’s a short book, a compilation of ten letters written by Rilke between 1902 and 1908 to Franz Kappus, a young man entering military service. Rilke gives advice and insight to Kappus about what it takes to be a writer and an artist, and no matter where I am in my own writing life, I can find some sentence or thought that applies directly to me.

From the third letter in the collection:

Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.

In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything! ~ Rilke

Rilke’s idea of the artist maturing slowly–time of no consequence–is in direct opposition to today’s social media world of instant gratification. I highly recommend both books if this is an area of interest.

Broadsides for Poetry

January 28, 2015 — Leave a comment

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As part of book promotions, I am considering printing a broadside of a poem or two to make available online and at readings. Some poet friends have reported they had great success with this, particularly when an individual enjoys your poetry but might not want to purchase an entire book. There are presses where you can pay for your work to be custom designed and printed, and there are also presses that will allow you to submit work, and your work will be produced as a broadside if chosen.

 

City Lights Books has broadsides for purchase on their website, and I’ve been able to get an idea of how different the combination of art and text can be. This is an example of a poem, “Pity the Nation (After Khalil Gibran),” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. This particular broadside sells for $40.00. I’ve seen broadsides at readings sell for much less.

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Here is a more colorful example, “Manatee/Humanity” by Anne Waldman.

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Smokey Road Press is an organization that will print your broadside for you, and design it as well.

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This broadside features is a quote from Carl Sagan about books.

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

 

In another approach, broadsidedrpess.org will take poetry submissions of 25 lines or less (and prose of 300 lines or less) and produce a broadside for you if your work fits their aesthetic, matching your work up with an artist. It works like a literary journal submission process, in other words.

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This is a broadside of a poem by Laura Kasischke, “Owls.” (Closer view here.) Anyone can download and print these images.

From the Broadsided Press website, here is the monthly plan of how your work would be distributed:

On the first of every month, a new Broadsided literary/visual collaboration will be posted here for you to download.

What’s more, Vectors (this could be you!) will post them in cafes, hallways, and elsewhere. See where Vectors are posting and add your town.

Writing is chosen through submissions sent to Broadsided. Artists allied with Broadsided are emailed the selected writing. They then “dibs” what resonates for them and respond visually.

The resulting letter-sized pdf is designed to be downloaded and printed by anyone with a computer and printer.

Our goal is to create something both gorgeous and cheap.

We want to put words and art on the streets.

 

So many opportunities worth exploring!

 

** “2013 Haiku Year-in-Review” broadside from Broadside Press, featuring the poets Beth Feldman Brandt (Winter), Michael Rutledge Riley (Spring), Catherine R. Cryan (Summer), and Ron Levitsky (Fall).

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In lieu of traditional New Year’s resolutions, I’ve started making a writing inventory that summarizes what I’ve accomplished over the previous year and also includes writing goals for the next twelve months. My categories cover:

  • Books read
  • Books to read
  • Journals where I’d like to publish poetry
  • Journals I’d like to subscribe to (usually journals I’d like to target)
  • Conferences, residencies, readings to attend or participate in
  • Grants to apply for
  • Writing groups to join
  • Experimenting with writing schedules
  • Marketing plan for published books
  • Submission statistics and strategies

I’m on my third consecutive year of this project, and it has given me a sense of direction. It’s easy to become too focused on acceptances; I progress more in my work when I’m concentrating on the experiences that get me excited about writing. I was very fortunate this year to have a chapbook accepted, and a full-length book taken as well. With those two publications in-the-works, I feel freer to revise my schedule and try some new things. Some of my goals for next year extend to other genres:

  • See a play at each of the community theaters in my area
  • Submit the plays I have on hand
  • Write new plays, including monologues
  • Experiment with more cross-genre work
  • Experiment with script writing software
  • Work on new poetry manuscript
  • Read more short stories, cross-genre and experimental literature
  • Create a marketing plan for chapbook and upcoming book
  • Create a writing calendar that includes deadlines and events

 

Places to Submit Poetry

As part of my New Year plan, I add to my list of potential journals. I found a great list at entropy.org. It covers poetry as well as other genres: “Where to Submit Your Writing This Winter.”

Wishing everyone Happy Writing in 2015!

** If you like the clipboard with case above, it’s from mdpocket.com. Other writing notebooks I like include these:

Word Notebook 3-Pack by Word (has a checklist built-in) and Field Notes Kraft Ruled 3-pack

 

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field notes

These are on amazon.com and elsewhere.

How a Poem Happens Blog

November 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

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Poet Brian Brodeur has an excellent blog, How a Poem Happens: Contemporary Poets Discuss the Making of Poems. Brodeur interviews poets in a Q & A format, asking them about their process and inspiration.

I’m currently reading Burn Lake by Carrie Fountain, and she is one of the interviewed poets. The poem presented on the blog is Fountain’s “Experience.”

EXPERIENCE

When I think of everything I’ve wanted
I feel sick. There was this one night in winter
when Jennifer Scanlon and I were driven out
to the desert to be the only girls there
when the boys got drunk and chose
the weakest among themselves to beat the living
shit out of again and again while the night
continued in its airy way to say nothing. Sure, I wanted
to believe violence was a little bell you could ring
and get what you wanted. It seemed to work for those
boys, who’d brought strict order to the evening
using nothing but a few enthusiastic muscles.
Even when he’d begun bleeding from his nose, the boy
stayed. It was an initiation. That’s what he believed.
Thank God time keeps erasing everything in this steady,
impeccable way. Now it’s like I never lived
that life, never had to, sitting on a tailgate
while Jennifer asked for advice on things she’d already done,
watching the stars ferment above, adoring whatever it was
that allowed those boys to throw themselves fists-first
at the world, yell every profanity ever made
into the open ear of the universe. I believed then
that if only they’d get quiet enough, we’d hear
the universe calling back, telling us what to do next.
Of course, if we’d been quiet, we would’ve heard
nothing. And that silence, too, would’ve ruined us.

 

Reading through the interview, the comment that is most interesting for me is Fountain’s description of revision:

Brodeur: How did this poem arrive at its final form? Did you consciously employ any principles of technique?

Fountain: I did not consciously employ any principles of technique. One thing I often do while I’m in the middle* of revising is put everything in tercets or quatrains. I bundle the lines like this. That somehow disappears the breaks for me and helps me focus on the body of the poem, the syntax and the tone. Then I rip it open again and break the lines in different ways, modulating the pace. This is not a technique in traditional sense, I suppose, as much as it is a maneuver: a way of levering up the poem to get to its underside.

*Of course, I never know that I’m in the middle and almost always think I’m at the end of revising, very close to being entirely finished. Self-deception: is that a technique?

 

I like Fountain’s idea of breaking the poem into sets of lines to help focus on the essential elements of the work-in-progress, and repeating this process multiple times.

The entire interview for Carrie Fountain can be found on How a Poem Happens.

 

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Add Slipstream literary journal to your list of places to submit! The journal published one of my poems, “Decay,” in their themed issue 34 (Rust, Dust, Lust), and I was so impressed with the contributor’s materials sent to me. In addition to the journal, I received a postcard with the journal cover art, a copy of the most recent newsletter announcing upcoming contests, and a copy of Nicole Antonio’s Another Mistake, winner of the 2014 Slipstream Poetry Chapbook Competition. The chapbook is beautifully written and printed, and comes with a bookmark featuring an endorsement by Amy Gerstler, “Another Mistake is a powerhouse chapbook….a hyper-awake, penetrating, gritty, humane, fearless literary voice.”

Next Themed Issue

Slipstream has an upcoming themed issue “Elements.”

We are currently reading for Issue #35 and are seeking poetry that explores the theme “elements.” Creative interpretations are welcome. Submit up to five (5) poems in one document file only. We also are seeking artwork for the issue. Please do not submit again until you have received a response on the status of your current submission. DEADLINE for submissions is: May 1, 2015. No previously published work please.

Slipstream describes the type of poetry that is appealing as “poetry with contemporary urban themes and a strong voice.”

Chapbook Contest

The next chapbook contest deadline is approaching! Deadline for entries: Dec. 1 every year. $1,000 prize plus 50 copies of your chapbook.

More information on Slipstream’s website slipstreampress.org.

 

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My second chapbook, Tiktaalik, Adieu, is forthcoming in November 2014 from Finishing Line Press, and the quick publishing timeline for this chapbook (as well as my first chapbook) surprised me. I thought I’d share what the publishers asked of me prior to publication, and some of the options I considered for cover art.

Publishing Timeline

The most important thing I can say about circulating a chapbook manuscript to contests and publishers is to have it absolutely finalized before it is submitted. (Both of my chapbooks were published with no significant changes.) All proofreading, paid manuscript critiques, poem ordering, poem title changes, length of manuscript, notes, section headings, epigraphs, etc. should be completed. I had about four weeks from the point I was given a contract to send the publisher my materials. There isn’t time after you’ve had an acceptance to write new poems, to make substantial changes to your manuscript, or to begin to investigate cover art options. During that four weeks the publishers want 1) author photos, 2) book blurbs, 3) digital version of the manuscript including all front material (acknowledgments, dedication), 4) cover art, 5) any permissions needed to publish your book, 6) potential list of contacts for marketing purposes. Most publishers are extremely busy and will rely on you to do much of the legwork. All this is in addition to your own marketing efforts promoting the book and scheduling readings. If you don’t have social media accounts at this point (Facebook, Twitter, website), the pre-publication period is the time to set all of that up.

Cover Art

Cover art is available from many sources. For the first book, I used an image from the Smithsonian Museum that I had to pay for. (My original choice for the cover was a painting from the a British museum, but it was $1,000 for that image of a Turner painting, so I went with the Smithsonian, which was many times less expensive.) The turnaround time to get the image in digital form from the Smithsonian was cutting it close for a chapbook publication schedule. For the second chapbook, I avoided paying fees and dealing with copyright issues and used a photograph that I took myself of a fossil that I own. There were other sources for fossil images online (science stock photo companies), but many wanted $600 to use their image for a book cover. I’ve had friends choose paintings or artwork from artists they know, and there other online sources for stock images that have little cost. Both presses took the images I provided for the cover art and designed the rest for me. I’ve been really pleased with the finished covers.

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Blurbs

I’ve asked former faculty from my writing program for blurbs, but I’ve also asked local poet friends who know my work and have kept up with me over the years. Publishers (or the contest judge) may offer to write a blurb for you, or they may have suggestions of other poets to contact who would appreciate your work. I’ve also known poets who asked for blurbs from writers who have reviewed their poetry books in the past, or literary journal editors who have featured their work, or poets they have met at poetry conferences and workshops. I try to give at least two weeks notice, and ideally four weeks, for the blurbs to be written. As soon as you know your chapbook is accepted, blurbs and cover art should be up near the top of the to-do list.

 

 

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The MOOC (massive open online course) format must be catching on, because there are more courses coming up than I can register for and complete. I will be auditing at least one or two of these. I’ll summarize the three new courses below:

The Art of Poetry (Boston University MOOC through Edx)

“The Art of Poetry” is offered by Boston University featuring Robert Pinsky and a strong group of BU faculty and students/former students. From the course description:

The course is demanding, and based on a certain kind of intense, exigent reading, requiring prolonged— in fact, repeated— attention to specific poems.

The readings will include historical poems, as well as contemporary work. The focus will be on elements of the art such as poetry’s historical relation to courtship; techniques of sound in free verse; poetry’s relation to music; the nature of greatness—with only incidental attention to schools of poetry, categories and trends.

This course looks like it will focus on the experience of reading a poem, including an emphasis on sound. Boston University has a well-respected creative writing program, so there should be some excellent discussions in the lectures and on the forum boards. Class starts September 30th! More information here at Edx.

How Writers Write Fiction (Iowa MOOC through Writing University)

“How Writers Write Fiction” should be really good since it is taught by the same Iowa group who did the Walt Whitman class I took last spring, and the companion class “How Poets Write Poetry” that I also took. The classes usually focus on technique and inspiration, and are generative rather than workshops for pieces in progress. If you are interested in hybrid forms such as flash fiction, this might be an excellent resource. The outline for the course sessions is:

  • Opening Lines, Opening Doors
  • Putting Setting to Work
  • Learning and Building the World
  • Animating the World
  • Structures and Storytelling
  • Constraints and Styles
  • Revision and Rediscovery

More information here. Course starts September 26 (to Nov 21).

Shakespeare: On the Page and in Performance (Wellesley MOOC through Edx)

“Shakespeare: On the Page and in Performance” covers Shakespeare plays as literature and theories about how to stage the plays. The course is described as “an introduction to Shakespeare that combines literary study with theatrical analysis to understand both Shakespeare’s continuing popularity and his greatness.” Plays read will include Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, King Lear, and The Winter’s Tale. This looks like a very unique and creative class:

Shakespeare wrote for a popular audience and was immensely successful. Shakespeare is also rightly regarded as one of the greatest playwrights the world has known. This course will try to understand both Shakespeare’s popularity and his greatness by starting from a simple premise: that the fullest appreciation of Shakespeare can be achieved only when literary study is combined with analysis of the plays as theatre. Hence, as we delve into the dimensions that make Shakespeare’s plays so extraordinary–from the astonishing power of their language to their uncanny capacity to illuminate so much of human life–we will also explore them in performance from Shakespeare’s own theatre to the modern screen. At the same time, actors will occasionally join our effort and demonstrate ways of bringing the text alive as living theatre.

More information is here. Class begins October 1 and runs twelve weeks with an estimated workload of 4-5 hours per week.