Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Getting Something

Image of the Day:  Wet chickadees rustling their wings.

I hope your poeming is going well.  I got some poems, not as many as I'd like, but some, anyways.  And there's always next month, right?

Don't forget to enter the big poetry giveaway!  Comment here for my giveaway and check out the list over at Kelli's blog.  There are so many poets giving great books away you've got a great chance at getting something.

Trying to understand the words
        Uttered on all sides by birds,
I recognize in what I hear
        Noises that betoken fear.

Though some of them, I’m certain, must
        Stand for rage, bravado, lust,
All other notes that birds employ
        Sounds like synonyms for joy.

W. H. Auden

Friday, April 11, 2014

Guest Blogger: Angele Ellis's Writing Process Blog Tour

Welcome Angele!



Alf shukran (a thousand thanks) to poet and blogger Carol Berg for inviting me to join the Writing Process Blog Tour, as well as for posting my answers on her blog.


For more writing process goodness, check out writer-superlibrarian Leigh Anne Focareta’s blog, Be Less Amazing <> and poet-visual artist Jill Khoury’s new blog <>


1. What Am I Working On?


As usual, I have several projects going at once. I’m revising a dystopian YA (young adult) short story after receiving suggestions from an editor—and this may be the germ of a novel. I’m also retooling my new poetry chapbook manuscript (working title, “Departing Chameleon,” which is fitting, as it continues to change) for another round of submissions. My “family” Arab American novel, Desert Storms (several chapters/excerpts of which have been published) is hanging fire…I must finish a draft this year. I’ve been doing poetry reviews for Weave Magazine, and I hope this will continue. I still take on freelance editing assignments…and I’m meeting with a neighbor who’s opening an arts and crafts shop about a saleable literary idea.

2. How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?


As I work in several genres, I’m thinking about some common differences (preoccupations, obsessions) that influence my work. I was weaned on Victorian and Modernist poets, whose work my mother recited to me; I know a number of these poems by heart myself. An early reader, I devoured every form of fairy tale and folk tale I could find, along with classic children’s novels and biographies of distinguished women (there weren’t many then!). By the age of ten and eleven I had moved on to Lewis Carroll, Shakespeare (both sonnets and plays), Dickens, Maugham. The film version of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 had a profound impact on me (along with other movies, from classics to cheesy science fiction), although I didn’t read him until high school, along with such writers as Emily Dickinson, Katherine Anne Porter, Rainer Maria Rilke, Theodore Roethke, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky—and Mahmoud Darwish’s “A Lover from Palestine.” By the time I was in college, writers inspired by/claimed by second wave feminism had made inroads into the canon—Doris Lessing, Sylvia Plath, Marge Piercy, Virginia Woolf, Kate Chopin, Adrienne Rich, and Judy Grahn, to name a few.


So history and politics are important to me as a writer. (I was heavily involved in the peace and justice movement during the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, and since 9/11, I have actively embraced my Arab American identity and the stories it leads me to tell.) Stylistically, I am more traditional than experimental—I love narrative (however fantastical), form (including sonnets, ghazals, pantoums, haiku, and haibun), meter, rhyme, and the connection rather than the disassociation of themes and images.

3. Why Do I Write What I Do?

Having ventured into this answer in Question 2, my simple retort is compulsion. This can work well, when I’m in a fever to get something done—or badly, when my “teeming brain” is pulled in multiple directions, and only fragments of different pieces seem to emerge. But nothing is wasted—like matter, my writing is transformed (sometimes), rather than destroyed.

4.How Does My Writing Process Work?


I have to write something daily—even if it’s only “finger exercises,” as I call the birthday and other occasional poems I compose and post for Facebook friends (and for other friends and family).  Fueled by Earl Grey tea, I work well under deadline, although I’m better with deadlines imposed by others—editors, clients, colleagues, contests—than with those I impose on myself. Once a night owl, I now find myself more productive in the mornings—unless I’m under deadline or obsessed.


Other than that, my process is haphazard. The only time I felt I was really smoking was when I had the privilege of spending four weeks at a writer’s retreat in Costa Rica, courtesy of a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Cut off from regular responsibilities, I drafted thirty poems—thirteen of which have been published in revised form—and six loosely connected short stories, four of which have been published in revised form. But like most people, I couldn’t live like that forever—and after four weeks, I didn’t want to (and I couldn’t keep up the pace, because of my chronic health problems). The trick I haven’t mastered is how to transfer more of that discipline into the everyday.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Big Poetry Giveaway 2014!!

Okay so here is the big poetry giveaway deal: 

I will be giving away one copy of my poetry chapbook Her Vena Amoris (and possibly another of my chapbooks if all goes well).

I will also be giving away What Animal by Oni Buchanan.  This is a fabulous book--I love Oni because she reminds me of some of the Swedish poets I love, she is uber-creative and talented (she plays classical piano as well as writes fabulous poems) and well here is the opening few lines from "The Ginea Pig and the Green Balloon":

I approached the luminous stranger who came to me
from darkness in a gown of lettuce leaves, in a velvet

cloak of green that appeared at first another piece of dark,

so that should tempt anyone.  I may also throw in a copy of The Journal, Winter 2014, in which a poem of mine appears.

So there you have it!  If you want to enter, please leave a comment and I will put your name in a hat come May. 

If you are interested in participating as a blogger, here is a link to Kelli's blog that explains all the details. 

Good luck!  And happy poetry month!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Is The [Fill in Your Own Adjective Here]-est Month

Image of the day:  Red nibs of tulips slipping through the earth.

Happy April 1st!  Which means it's also National Poetry month wherein poets have their own sort of marathon and try to write a poem a day.  I will be trying that as well and luckily I can write that since I've written today's poem.  Not gonna worry though if I don't make it through--it is really enough to write one poem. 

Also, it is the Big Poetry Give-away and yes, I'm going to participate in that as well once I can figure out what book I have to part with.  I was going to give Blowout by Denise Duhamel away, but I started to read it and now can't put it down.  I  may still give it away, heartbreakingly.  I will also be giving one or two (and perhaps my brand-new chapbook The Ornithologist Poems, which is in production) of my chapbooks away.  So stay tuned for that announcement.

I'm trying to read several books of poems at once:  I've got Kelli Russel Agodon's Hourglass Museum, which is amazing and full of lists that I want to try and riff on.  Also, When My Brother Was An Aztec by Natalie Diaz, which is, well, you need to go read some of those poems right now.

There are several ways of celebrating poetry this month--readings and putting poems in your pockets to share at a moment's notice and writing oulipo poems or taking a chapbook challenge

So choose whatever poetry potion you'd like and take a big swig. 

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.

Izumi Shikibu (Japan, 974?-1034?)

[translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani]

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

Image of the Day:  A huge red-tailed hawk swooping large in someone's tiny Boston lawn. 

So there is a Writing Process Blog Tour making the rounds of the blogosphere and I've been tagged by Donna Vorreyer.  First a little about Donna: 

Donna Vorreyer lives in the Chicago area with her husband and son who have both become accustomed to seeing her with a journal and a pen. She is a middle school teacher and spends her days trying to convince teenagers that words are interesting and important. Her work has been published in many print and online journals including New York Quarterly, Flashquake, After Hours: A Chicago Journal of Literature and Art, and Literary Mama. Donna's full-length book, A House of Many Windows, is available here from Sundress Press, and her chapbook, We Build Houses of Our Bodies, is available here at Dancing Girl Press.

And here is the Tour:

What am I working on?

Right now I’m working on filling up my journal in anticipation of April Write Every Day Month. My journal is where I collect language and images and use it  when I’m writing poetry. I’m also working on reading:  I just received Hourglass Museum by Kelli Russell Agodon and will be pouring over that, letting her ideas and images spark something in me, hopefully. I have been researching about Maria Sibylla Merian, an entomologist from the 1700s. Merian created these amazing images of insects on their host plants and I want to write about her and the insects she drew. So I’m reading Chrysalis which is a biography about her life written by Kim Todd. I highly recommend the book—it’s a great read so far.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This question is like asking me how I am different from other human beings. I guess my answer is that my work is different based on my current obsessions (see above) and the language choices I make. The tone of my voice—how can I describe what my voice sounds like? I have heard that when someone is recorded and then played back their recording along with other people’s voices, they can’t recognize their own voice. Of course I would (probably) recognize my poems because I have slaved over them, but I also think it’s true of poets that sometimes they forget a poem they’ve written about and it surprises them when they re-read or re-find it.  So I guess my short answer is my work is different based on the choices I constantly make. 

Why do I write what I do?

Because I can’t write otherwise. Again, this is all wrapped up in who I am, what I’m thinking about and experiencing, and what is influencing me at the moment.


How does your writing process work?

Well, I think I’ve been describing that all along in these questions, so I hope I don’t sound redundant. But, I begin by writing in my journal, collecting images and language and also, my experiences.  I consider my emotions:  have I been particularly angry of late?  Hopeful or scared?  That will most likely come out in my poems in one way or another. I read other poets and consider their language and subject matter:  how can I write about the universe? About feeling lonely or lost?  Can I write about food or art? Then I will try and find a prompt or listen to what’s happening around me.  Sometimes a word will come across my path over and over again, so I try and pay attention to that—I need to write using the word purchase, in the archaic sense of acquiring  because its been popping up so much lately (which I need to do but haven’t yet). Then I’ll begin the poem in my journal and when things get exciting for me or at some mysterious point which I can’t quite explain, I will move to the computer and re-write the poem there, revising as well at that point. Then I’ll sort of let the poem sit, although I’m constantly coming back to it and making slight changes. Finally, I’ll consider submitting the poem when I think it’s ready. Sometime, I think it’s ready too soon.  But then I’ll revise it again, and send it back out.

Next up on the tour:  Molly Spencer over The Stanza blog, Jill Khoury over at Poem of the Day,
Leigh Anne Focareta, at Be Less Amazing, and Angele Ellis here on my blog.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Three Questions

Image of the Day:  Chunks of grey-outlined ice piled on top of crunchy snow banks.

Hey there.  It's March and Spring is coming. The robins seem busy to me and I've actually seen daffodils sprouting through the mud in Boston. I will be on vacation soon and can't wait. 

The lovely and talented Jenn Monroe asked me Three Questions over at Extracts which you can read here. You should also pre-order the new Extracts journal cause it's gonna be good.

And while you are in a purchasing mood, you should pre-order the new Mom Egg Review because I have a poem in there, "Lascaux Woman and Daughter," that of course you want to read. Mom Egg Review will be celebrating its twelfth year, which is pretty impressive! 

And now I'm off to take the dog for a walk. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Now I'm Not Sure

Image of the Day:  Icicles dripping spheres of light.

So it's tweak your manuscript time again:  renaming, revising, and rearranging. I've changed some titles of poems (thank you Ruth!) and just been trying to listen to myself when something about a poem bothers me, even just a teeny tiny amount. Lots of contests coming up. 

Jenn Monroe has excerpted some of my poems from Her Vena Amoris, which you can read here and which you probably want to buy for some Very Important Reason, such as someone's birthday or because, you know, you should have it.  For your very own self. Link at right.  ----->

And I finished Bluets and that is an amazing book. But now I'm not sure what to read.  Any suggestions?

The Joins
       Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending precious pottery with gold.

What's between us
often seems flexible as the webbing
between forefinger and thumb.

Seems flexible, but it's not;
what's between us
is made of clay,

like any cup on the shelf.
It shatters easily. Repair
becomes the task.

We glue the wounded edges
with tentative fingers.
Scar tissue is visible history,

the cup more precious to us
we saved it.

In the art of kintsugi,
a potter repairing a broken cup
would sprinkle the resin

with powdered gold.
Sometimes the joins
are so exquisite

they say the potter
may have broken the cup
just so he could mend it.

Chana Bloch

The Southern Review
Winter 2014