This week at Linebreak

Many of you will already have seen this on Facebook, but for those of you who’ve resisted the FB-lure, I’m happy to tell you that my poem is featured this week at Linebreak. You can read it here, with a terrific audio recording by Randall Mann. I love how he takes his time, savoring the line endings.

One of the other cool features of Linebreak is their weekly e-mailing. How neat to receive my own poem in my email inbox! Feel a little like a rock star at the moment. You can subscribe to get your own copy of each week’s poem sent directly to you by clicking on the link at Linebreak on the right side of every page.

While you’re tooling around Linebreaks website, be sure to check out their archives, which include other rock stars, such as Emma Bolden, Karen Rigby,  Sandy Longhorn, and a whole host of terrific poets. Yes, I am bolstering my own ego via proximity to their eminence.

Thank you, Linebreak!

On Revision

I don’t mean the sort of revising that is part of the usual process of writing a poem. I’m thinking more about the revising of poems that have already appeared in print. If you’ve ever seen Galway Kinnell read, you might have noticed the margins of the book he’s reading from filled with pencil scrawls. For Kinnell, there’s no such thing as a finished poem. If he has the impulse to revise an old poem while preparing for a reading (or even during the reading itself!), he goes ahead and does so, right there on the printed page.

I love Kinnell’s work, and what’s more, I would never tell any writer his process is wrong. But I wonder, if you were to track the various versions of his revisions through Kinnell’s books, what would you find?

This excerpt from a Q&A with Eavan Boland on the Smartish Pace website captures exactly my misgivings:

I think there’s always a charged relation between a writer and their early work. At least there is in my case. It’s hard not to see the flaws, the awkwardness and feel somewhat the same as when you see an early photograph of yourself. You think–why did I wear that? How did I let myself look at the camera like that? But it’s a misplaced self-consciousness: You aren’t–and you never will be again–the person who wrote those poems. The most vivid evidence you get of that is when you’re putting together a Selected Poems, as I did some years ago. You have to make a conscious effort to leave the poems alone that should be left alone. There’s a temptation to take poems that you wrote in your twenties and give them the smoothness or understanding you have in your forties. And it can become a kind of forgery.

— Eavan Boland, in her Smartish Pace Q&A

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If you’re a blogger interested in hosting a Tupelo poet via Q&A of your own, or a book review, or something of your own devising, and just haven’t gotten around to saying so, it’s not too late. Email me at mgauthier [at] tupelopress [dot] org and throw your name in the ring. Write now, before it falls off your to-do list.

And if you’ve written already, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you — only hoping to add a few more participants to the list. I really love this batch of new books, I want to get them in the hands of as many readers as I can. Besides these titles just released there are these coming out soon — such terrific poetry and poets!

from Poor-Mouth Jubilee, by Michael Chitwood:

The Thing about Publishing.

I’m drinking coffee at my desk.  The baby’s napping, Lance took Vincent for a walk. https://i1.wp.com/www3.timeoutny.com/newyork/upstaged/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/critic.jpgAnd I’ve just noticed a couple phrases Lance scrawled on the legal pad on my desk at some point in the last day or so: “Robust incoherence” and “transcendent vacuity”.

I don’t know if he was criticizing something himself or quoting someone else in awe, but, Ouch!

I have alway felt sympathy for the pain of a bad review, hoping in a vague amorphous way not to ever experience it myself, while also thinking, A scorching by M. Kakutani or W. Logan? I should be so lucky!

But now that I have a chapbook, which actual other people who are not my mother or husband or best friends are reading, I understand those writers who avoid reading reviews, a querulous mention in PW, or tart dismissal in the back section of Poetry.

(Though again, really, I should be so lucky.)

As a poet, I’m used to not being much remarked upon or noticed (and I’m not suggesting that will change). But what I’m coming to terms with now is the very tangible fact that when you publish a collection, not just a poem or two in journals but a pile of poems all together for compare-&-contrasting, people will have opinions about it.

Obviously. I know. And yet. When your focus is writing and publishing, getting your work out there, “out there” is far away, and you’re removed from what “out there” means: strangers, who may or may not think your work is shite.

So it’s a delightful surprise when someone out there reads your work, and likes it, and then tells other people about it, an unexpected peach: “Marvelous things will happen”: Thank you so much to Sandy Longhorn for her generous post about Hunger All Inside!   Sandy’s blog has turned me on to many other poets, she’s an abundace of poet-advocacy — I’m happy to have been noticed and noted so positively.  Lucky me!

Digging out from Under.

Have I ever neglected my blog this long before?  Apologies!  At last I have my beloved iBook back — well, a refurbished clone of my beloved, actually, but it will most certainly do — and I’m so backed up and behind that I’m simply choking out here in the weeds.

It was an interesting couple weeks without a computer.  I didn’t care for it.  I read some novels I’d been meaning to read (The Magicians — enjoyable, despite the protagonist being a bit of a whiner; The Codex — same author, also fun, again despite a lackluster protagonist; The Anthologist — I loved this: the poet-curmudgeon-narrator really grew on me, the po-biz barbs were well-shot, and Baker has some true insights into form; now reading Freddy & Fredericka, which I resisted, though I love Mark Helprin, because I have a hard time sympathizing with privileged characters, but I’m glad I gave in because I’m being swept up).

And of course I read tons of poetryThen, Something (Tupelo’s fall books, so different from each other, are so great in their various ways: Pat Fargnoli’s Then, Something gorgeously meditative, Joan Houlihan’s The Us strange, new, yet accessible, and the lush language of Jennifer Militello’s Flinch of Song).

So far, so good.  However, being cut off from my computer meant being cut off from my poems, all the things I hadn’t yet printed out in hard copies, my manuscript-in-process, the revisions I was working on.  In short, my writing was stymied.  I didn’t write a single new poem during my sojourn in laptop-limbo.  No Draft of the Week this week, I’m afraid.

That said, I still shuffled around with the print-out of the MS I had, and came up with an organization and order and even section breaks that please me, and spent most of last night working on the computer adjusting the file, and just printed out the new version a little while ago.  Flipping through it in its little black spring binder, table of contents and all, is almost as delicious as my chocolate birthday cake.

Yes, I’m a year older now, with vastly more wrinkles.  The sweetest, smilingest part of the day: the boys’ birthday card to me, as dictated by Vincent and transcribed by Lance: “Happy Birthday to the best old Mommie we’ve ever had.  We’re going to share your birthday cake.”  And we did.

Lastly, if you’ve been waiting and wondering, I just received word tonight:  Hunger All Inside shipped today! So look for your copies to arrive in the mail next week — hooray!  If you didn’t order and would like to, you can either go here to order from Finishing Line Press, or contact me directly at mgauthier [dot] hunger [at] gmail [dot] com.  That goes also if you’d like an autographed copy.  I’ve picked out a proper writing implement and am practicing my signature even as I type…

C&R Press to the rescue.

Those of you following the travails of Stacey Lynn Brown will be happy to know that, according to Ryan Van Cleave’s blog, his non-profit press, C&R Press, will publish Brown’s Cradle Song this winter. Huzzah for happy endings!

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In other news, the fall textbook rush begins this weekend, so there’s a distinct possibility that I’ll be unspeakably exhausted for a time and hence unable to update the blog. I’ll try. And I still have those 2 reviews to write. Ha! In the meantime, feel free to leave encouraging comments — remind me of life outside the bookstore, of the existence of happy, smiling people, that this too, truly, will end…

Hullabaloo Follow-up.

Since Stacey Lynn Brown told her horrifying story, the poetry blogosphere has been afire with responses. The most interesting to me, because it makes such salient points, is Reb Livingston’s. Just one excerpt from a long, quote-worthy post:

If you used that $250 (which in many cases is a much higher number) towards a creative project, either publishing your own work or another poet you admire, you’d be much much better off. If you spent over $500 on contests, know you could have published your own or someone else’s book for that amount — and that includes distribution and a short run of copies. You could have started your own press. You could have gotten with three other poets and created a publishing collective.

Now, I haven’t spent more than $75 on contests this year, but I’ve been sending to chapbook contests, which are less expensive to enter. But contests do seem to be the dominant paradigm under which poetry publishing operates. And it’s funny that most of us have fallen in line, because most of us don’t benefit from the contest structure at all. I don’t blame the presses, most of which are ethical, because it makes sense for them to run these contests. Even Red Dragonfly Press (introduced to me through Collin Kelley’s blog), a small letterpress chapbook press whose list of authors include Dorianne Laux and Marianne Boruch, doesn’t take unsolicited manuscripts right now, and their website states that they’re contemplating starting up a contest.

But if it makes sense for presses, does it make sense for poets? Why do we do it?

  1. The obvious: everyone wants to be a “winner”. The prestige may be illusory, but the allure exists, no question.
  2. It can seem the only way to get published. Even some presses with open reading periods still require a reading fee. And there are far more poetry contests than there are open reading periods — and the number of hopeful poets dwarfs both.

I don’t know where the solution lies. My friend is publishing her first chapbook with a lovely small press here in Shelburne Falls, and another friend belongs to just the sort of poetry collective Reb describes. But I know that I don’t want to be a publisher — I’m already a bookseller, my negative bottomline can’t afford more. And a publisher doesn’t just publish, good ones, anyway: they market, distribute, handle accounts.

But I think the gist of Reb’s post carries beyond just publishing & contests. As poets & readers of poetry, we need to do more to support the poetry community at large, to help it grow and sustain itself without having to resort to contests. Buy more books! And I like to think that my work with the Collected Poets Series also counts. But above all, buy more books!

Unexpected…

…news. One of the presses to which I’d submitted my chapbook for a contest (which I did not win or even place as a finalist) has accepted it for publication. I didn’t even know it was still under consideration, it’s been a number of months. And I’ve since revised the chapbook, retitled it, and submitted it to a handful of other contests. Bird in the hand…?

Cave Wall Redux.

I might be spending every day with my hands in the guts of the computers at work as thunderstorms continue to wreak havoc on our network, but otherwise I’m having a great week!

I received notification today that Cave Wall has accepted 2 poems for issue 5, Winter/Spring 2009 — hurrah! I love this poetry journal, so while any acceptance is cause for a gleeful (temporary) ego-trip, this is especially thrilling for me — hurrah! hurrah!

The editor, Rhett Iseman Trull, is also a wonderful poet, and was selected this year to be in the anthology Best New Poets 2008.

Support Cave Wall — subscribe today!