Odds and Ends

Fall is here at that means that it’s time to send my poems out into the literary universe once again. I’ve blogged about this process before but to sum it up, I compare it to my experiences riding horses growing up: it was fun, sometimes rewarding and often painful. However, I loved riding and I love writing, so I press on. 
A bit of good news on the submission front is that I’ve had my poem, “Wigs,” picked up for publication by Hamilton Stone Review. The poem will appear in their October 2013 issue online. I’ll post a link when it becomes available, but until then take some time and read through their previous issues. There are some wonderful poems including work by my friend, poet Larry O’Dean.
Otherwise, the fall is slowly making it’s way into Indiana. This morning is overcast and the temperature has finally begun to come down from the 90’s to the 60’s. This weekend we went to the orchard and yesterday afternoon, I dumped my impatiens,well past wilted, and replaced them with spicy scented mums. I’m pleased to report that I’ve been writing frequently and I’m happy with how some of the drafts are starting to shape up. 
I’ve thought about putting myself on a bit of “schedule” to blog, as part of my absence as of late has been because I am easily distracted and sometimes I just can’t think of much to write about, so I’ve devised a “plan” to hopefully keep me posting more:
Monday– posts should be poetry related
Wednesday– posts should be teaching/job related
Friday– posts should be photography related
These are all topics I write about anyway, but I want to get back to making time to take pictures during the week and to reflect on my teaching. It’s good for me, so I should do it more. I’ll try it out for a week or two and see how it goes.
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Notes from a writing life…

I spent my entire day on Sunday preparing submissions and doing research into contests. By entire day, I mean I got up, inhaled a piece of fresh bread smothered in Nutella (om nom nom), chugged some tea and settled into the couch with my lap top only to emerge about six hours later.

It is time consuming work to send poems to journals, although even in the short time I have been sending work out, I’ve noticed marked improvements in the process:

1. Electronic submission. Honestly, I’m really glad most journals have jumped on this bandwagon by either using submission managers or allowing email submissions. While it is considerably easier and less paper filled, the real reason I like it is because it is cheaper. For example, I usually send out to 30-40 places in a given period. You start adding ink, paper, postage & envelopes and it can start to get a bit pricey. I’d rather save this money for contest fees or books.

2. Lovely websites. I’ve noticed that many journals have really stepped up in terms of their websites. It’s easier to find guidelines and contact information. It’s easier to “read what the journal is looking for” when you can read back issues online instead of suffocating under a pile of hard copies. They layouts are beautiful. It’s just better. Period.

3. Simultaneous submissions. I won’t send to a journal if they don’t accept simultaneous submissions. This isn’t some snooty statement, it’s just practical fact. I’m trying to get my work out there. Not being able to send it to anyone else while a certain journal is considering it is not practical. However, if I were a poetry genius I suppose I would not mind just sending to NER or Ploughshares. I love these magazines but I think it’s a bit silly. Sorry.

4. Less pretentious all around. Let’s face it, poetry often gets a bad wrap for being pretentious and hard to understand. I’m encouraged by seeing new journals and small presses trying to carve out their own place in the poetry world. I’m also encouraged to see less annoying descriptions under the What We Want section. In the past I would not read these sections because if I heard one more editor say “We’re looking for beautiful poems that use interesting language and surprise us” I was going to scream. I mean personally, I’m looking for poems that are boring, poorly written and predictable. C’mon man.

5. New Pages. I’ve always loved this blog/website but I appreciate more and more as I work on submissions. I cannot imagine how much longer the submission process would take if there was not a comprehensive site like New Pages to organize listings of calls for submissions, contests and reviews.

All of this being said, I encounter the same feeling every time I put a new batch of submissions together. This feeling can best be described as exhiliration slowly giving way to panic. I used to worry more about it but now I just accept it and move on. As if submitting individual poems was not enough, I’ve decided to start sending out to chapbook contests. I’ve got my manuscript almost where I want it and as they say, there’s no time like the present.

Baking, bouquets, and the beginning of term…

This week marked the beginning of the summer semester at school. I am teaching four courses this semester but only two of them meet face to face, the other two are online. This allows me to only have class twice a week, which is a welcome change from last summer when I was teaching six hours a day four days a week.

So far my students seem friendly and energetic. My classes have already shrunk from their original twenty two. There are always students who don’t show the first week, but for the most part everyone seems to be on target, so let’s hope it stays that way.

I am teaching a section of creative writing online this semester, so I’m sure I’ll be posting on that as the semester goes on. I’ve never taught the course online before, so it should be interesting.
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RJ and I pledged money to out local PBS/NPR affiliate this year. We watch PBS regularly and all I listen to in the car is NPR, so it’s a cause I don’t mind supporting. Our gift for our pledge was the cookbook All Cakes Considered, and I think it’s going to successfully make me a baking addict. I already love to cook and now that it’s summer and we’re getting our regular CSA box, I’m back to cooking with fresh produce, which is awesome. I’ve made two cakes so far out of this cookbook. Last night RJ casually dropped the hint “when are you going to make another cake?” The result was the chocolate pound cake shown below:

I’m going to slowly make my way through the cookbook, so I’m sure more pictures will soon follow.

I also made almond crusted talapia last week and made a fresh salad with our CSA bounty.

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The rejection letters from my last round of submissions are coming in, so it’s time to get going on the next round. I’ve put that on the agenda for next week. I always dedicate the first week back at school to school because there is usually little time for anything else. However, next week it’s back to the submissions and the regular writing.

I’ve also finished two books in the past couple of weeks, The Historian and Love in The Time of Cholera. I’ll post more about these books later, but I enjoyed both of them immensely and I hope to keep up my momentum with my reading throughout the summer.

Wind

Our porch swing is doing pirouettes outside our living room window, so I think it’s safe to say that a storm may be blowing in. Spring in Indiana is much more “spring like” then what I grew up with in northwestern Pennsylvania which was basically mud. However, we do get a lot of rain and I think we’re at the beginning of that phase now.
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This is a picture of the bookshelf I painted and brought upstairs last weekend. The paint color is Mark Twain’s House Red. I think that’s fitting…


These are my wildflower seeds that I planted in my basil pot when I realized that the basil seeds weren’t going to do anything. Nothing says spring like sprouts…


Finally, I took this picture of Kwe because I think it pretty much sums up Sundays at our house…


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I’ve put together about fifty submissions over the past month to various poetry journals. As per usual, whenever I spend a large quantity of time putting together and submitting my own work, I start to get a little punchy. Needless to say, I was a bit incredulous when I discovered that some journals are charging writers to submit online. The consistent number seems to be $3. Now don’t get me wrong. I have no problem supporting literary journals. I buy them regularly. I pay the contest and reading fees willingly, but paying to submit online? Really? Needless to say, I didn’t pay the $3. Why? Well, because I don’t have to. While I admire the journals who are charging, I have other options. Actually, I have a lot of other options and because I’m still an nameless poet lost in the oblivion that is called submitting, the cranky part of me said “screw this.”

Of course, when I’m feeling really cranky (this usually comes after I’ve read about ten descriptions of journals looking for “surprising poems that wow them”) I feel like throwing in the towel completely. The good thing about this feeling is it is usually fleeting and replaced with an idea for a poem, which is more fun and a lot more constructive.

Tuesday Musings

I’m going to be on a panel this Friday with two other folks from LAS. I have to talk about astronomy and poetry as this panel is spin off of our bigger project here at school, The Year of Galileo. I’ve been playing around with topics for the last few weeks, but yesterday I finally had a breakthrough, which is good because I have to talk for about 15 minutes or so. I’m going to lead off talking a little about Galileo as a poet (he wrote a few poems in an obscure Italian form and also a few sonnets) and use a riddle that he starts with at the beginning of his poem “Enigma.” The riddle is about a comet, so I figure it segues nicely into Stanley Kunitz’s poem “Halley’s Comet” and then we’ll move in “Bright Star by” John Keats. I have a small Whitman poem if we have time, but I also have “I Remember Galileo” by Gerald Stern, so I think I’m covered in terms of material.

I’m going to put a brief power point presentation together and ask for audience participation. Here’s hoping it goes off well, or that I can at least take up my 15 minutes.
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I sent a few more submissions out this week, but my eight week class is coming to a close, so the next week is going to be a bit chaotic. Thankfully, once that class is over, my schedule improves significantly.

We’re conducting the inspection on the house we’re looking to purchase today, so here’s hoping that goes smoothly. This whole process has been a bit of a roller coaster, and I will continue to keep quiet about it (blogwise) until we close on October 30th.
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Autumn

The music of the autumn wind sings low,
Down by the ruins of the painted hills,
Where death lies flaming with a marvellous glow,
Upon the ash of rose and daffodils.
But I can find no melancholoy here
To see the naked rocks and thinning trees;
Earth strips to grapple with the winter year—
I see her gnarled hills plan for victories!

I love the earth who goes to battle now,
To struggle with the wintry whipping storm
ANd brings the glorious spring out from the night,
I see earth’s muscles bared, her battle brow,
And am not sad, but feel her marvelous charm
As splendidly she plunges in the fight.

Edwin Curran

The Sirens

I never knew the road
From which the whole earth didn’t call away,
With wild birds rounding the hill crowns,
Haling out of the heart and old dismay,
Or the shore somewhere pounding its slow code,
Or low-lighted towns
Seeming to tell me, stay.

Lands I have never seen
And shall not see, loves I will not forget,
All I have missed, or slighted, or foregone
Call to me now. And weaken me. And yet
I would not walk a road without a scene.
I listen going on,
The richer for regret.

Richard Wilbur

Sunday Musings








Yesterday was Greekfest at Holy Trinity Greek Church and it was awesome. I would also like to note that these pictures were taken with the camera on my Blackberry, which isn’t too bad considering it’s a phone.
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I received another positive rejection from Boulevard today, so I’ll be sending to them again when their reading period starts up in October. The goal is finish up submission packets Tuesday morning and get those in the mail for round one.

We also went to the library book sale this afternoon. It was excellent although I’d like to go Saturday next time, so it isn’t so picked over. I picked up a Best American Short Stories 2006 and Spoon River Anthology. I also picked up a horror collection (in honor of Halloween coming up.) I love B horror movies and zombies and all that good stuff, so that was my “fun” purchase.

Tuesday (Perfect those Poems. It’s Submission Time…) Musings

And so it begins. The fall semester is in full swing and because I have yet to be completely buried by grading, I’m getting round one of the fall poetry submissions underway. This morning I updated my handy little spread sheet. Yes, it is color coded. Yes, I am slightly anal retentive. Yes, I have an irrational fear of accidentally offending some poetry editor somewhere if I do not keep vigil over my submissions. Yes, I know that despite all this prep, I will be politely rejected. A lot.

Fun, isn’t it?

There are a handful of places that encouraged me to send to them again, so I started with those then moved on to recommendations from fellow poets and mentors. The first round includes 22 journals, only three of which use electronic submission manager type software. I know that electronic journals are growing in popularity, but it appears that snail mail is holding on strong. I’m partial to it myself. I have no rational reason for feeling that way though.

Wednesday (Sunshine Returns) Musings

Last night I received an email notifying me that my poem “Pink Ruffles” was accepted for publication by the GW Review.
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Two Sewing
The wind is sewing with needles of rain.
With shining needles of rain
It stitches into the thin
Cloth of earth. In,
In, in, in.
Oh, the wind has often sewed with me.
One, two, three.
Spring must have fine things
To wear like other springs.
Of silken green the grass must be
Embroidered. One and two and three.
Then every crocus must be made
So subtly as to seem afraid
Of lifting colour from the ground;
And after crocuses the round
Heads of tulips, and all the fair
Intricate garb that Spring will wear.
The wind must sew with needles of rain,
With shining needles of rain,
Stitching into the thin
Cloth of earth, in,
In, in, in,
For all the springs of futurity.
One, two, three.
Hazel Hall

*Courtesy of Poetry Daily
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Tuesday (Rejection) Musings

I received my first online rejection yesterday afternoon. This is a new form for me and it comes on the heels of my first set of online submissions. Currently, I’ve received four rejections out of twenty-one submissions. We shall see…
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While I was in Cabo, I read one novel and two collections of poetry. The poetry books, Atlas and Wedding Day were interesting, and I plan to blog more about them tomorrow. The novel, Vacation, by Deb Olin Unferth was a selection from the McSweeney’s book club that RJ and I joined.

It was an interesting read. I finished it feeling intrigued but annoyed at the same time. The characters were not likable, but I don’t think that’s why I had a problem with it. It was more that I couldn’t identify why I was reading the book. It wasn’t a gripping plot, I wasn’t invested in the characters, and I found the structure of the novel irritating at times. I suppose my entire feeling about the book could be summed up by saying, “so what?” The thing is, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
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Tuesday (Fighting the good fight) Musings

I am armed with cold medicine and fluids. I will prevail!
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I heard back from one of the journals I sent to this weekend. As of now I’ve heard back from three, and the count is one confirmation and two rejections. The second rejection I wasn’t surprised about because it was a bit of a stretch to begin with, but the first one got on my nerves if only for the simple phrasing: Thank you for considering _____. Unfortunately, due to the large number of submissions we’ve received, we are not accepting new work at this time. Sincerely, The Editors at _____.

This is fine. No problem. However, you’d think they’d put that on their website so I didn’t spend money on postage and an SASE only to determine that they were no longer accepting new work. This brings me to my next point. Journals, if you have a website, please be careful with your updates. Web sites are the primary way in which writers collect information. When content isn’t up to date, it’s a bit problematic.
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I’m teaching pantoums on Thursday night and I’ve chosen this one as one of the examples:

Reading, Dreaming, Hiding

You were reading. I was dreaming
The color blue. The wind was hiding
In the trees and rain was streaming
Down the windows, full of darkness.
Rain was dreaming in the trees. You
Were full of darkness. The wind was streaming
Down the window, the color blue
I was reading and hiding.
The wind was full of darkness and rain
Was streaming in the trees and down the window
The color blue was full of darkness dreaming
In the winds and trees. I was reading you.

Kelly Cherry