My new chapbook The Ornithologist Poems is now available from dancing girl press!
As always, Kristy Bowen does such a fabulous job!!! I'm very excited--can you tell by my use of exclamation marks?
Yesterday I was busy organizing my computer folders and realized I'm horrible at keeping track of some things (like how many poems I've actually published in a year). I'm trying to keep track of my published poems for grants and stuff. So after reviewing my system, I decided to open a folder of poetry stuff just for 2015. Keeping my poems, my submissions, my acceptances and rejections all in one place. We'll see if that helps. You'd think that kind of organization would be an obvious thing, but....
I also was facebooking and came across this wonderful commencement speech a MacArthur Genius Fellow had given. Teresita Fernández has this wonderful list of things artists should remember so I'm sharing them here because I think they're spot on:
requires time — there’s a reason it’s called a studio practice.
write well and get into the habit of systematically applying for every
grant you can find. If you don’t get it, keep applying. I lived from grant
money for four years when I first graduated.
Nobody reads artist’s statements.
Learn to tell an interesting story about your work that people can relate
to on a personal level.
project will survive. Purge regularly, destroying is intimately connected
to creating. This will save you time.
privately. As much as I believe in stumbling, I also think nobody else
needs to watch you do it.
people say your work is good do two things. First, don’t believe them.
Second, ask them, “Why”? If they can convince you of why they think your
work is good, accept the compliment. If they can’t convince you (and most
people can’t) dismiss it as superficial and recognize that most bad
consensus is made by people simply repeating that they “like” something.
ever feel like you have to give anything up in order to be an artist. I
had babies and made art and traveled and still have a million things I’d
like to do.
need a lot of friends or curators or patrons or a huge following, just a
few that really believe in you.
yourself to be gracious to everyone, whether they can help you or not. It
will draw people to you over and over again and help build trust in
And lastly, when other things in
life get tough, when you’re going through family troubles, when you’re
heartbroken, when you’re frustrated with money problems, focus on your
work. It has saved me through every single difficult thing I have ever had
to do, like a scaffolding that goes far beyond any traditional notions of
Image of the Day: The cold Earth steady and still beneath my feet.
I've been on a cruise ship for the past week. I walked up a waterfall with fast streaming water flowing downward, holding the hands of complete strangers helping me not fall onto slippery rocks.
I've seen goats running around the Jamaica green jungle. A very controlled and well-trained dolphin kissed me on the cheek and let me kiss it. A very thick-lipped and sunburnt-skinned Australian captain let me jump into a sea full of large wild sting-rays while a woman screamed. They streamed through the water like huge, black capes, their width the length of me. I did not stay long in that water, even though it was gorgeous tourmalined in color. My skin got so burned there were little raised bumps all over my chest. The ocean was a constant motion, small waves combining with themselves to form bigger waves that rolled and rolled. Small nearly see-through flying fish rode above the waves far longer than I thought possible. And at 2:30 in the morning, the ship would cavitate and my whole body felt like it was threaded through some giant hook, streaming underneath the water. It was nice to go away and it is nice to be back.
I finished reading State of Wonder which was quite fitting for a cruise. Lots of surprises. Today I'm just blah, doing loads of laundry and wandering aimlessly around the house.
A moment for a painting: crisp, clean snow sparking over hill and hollow, barest green halo hovering above branches. Taiga: the word smells fresh, unstained. Gone are the long nights—woman, bottle, knife, each good company in her own way— swept clear by green noise.
Up front the driver tightens a wire in the engine. Satisfying, these small victories: the engine's rev, the road's drag, the marking of another spring— as if it were an easy thing. As if any of it were easy. Just ask the river ice, keening now over the carcass of her rank, disemboweled self.
Image of the Day: The slow and graceful deer shaking their big ears at my dog, barking at them behind the back door.
So this blog is kind of a weird thing for me. Yesterday, for reasons I can't figure out, this blog had 112 hits or pageviews. I have no idea why, unless my namesake in fiction, the other Carol Berg, had some news and people were confused. I had visitors from China, France, the Ukraine, Brazil and South Korea stop by. Normally, I get like maybe 7-12 visitors unless I'm writing about someone else's poetry, like Amorak Huey, and then I might get 60 or so. Which is nice, since this blog is all about promoting poetry and writing in general, but still. So, anyway, just wanted to say thanks for stopping by! (And hey, feel free to buy a book or two of mine while you're here. They make great presents! And if mine don't work for you, visit the presses and browse around. You're sure to find something for someone!)
And I'm officially on break from my other job for about a month, which is nice. But my boss has retired and yesterday was our last day working together which made me enormously sad. I love my boss and try and learn as much from her as I can. I know not a lot of people can say that which is why I also love my job. And it's so hard to have someone that has been in your life for almost 15 years suddenly not be in your life so much. Or hardly at all. I know people come in and out of our lives all the time and it can be such a jolt. It's been also very emotional for me and now I think I'm sick. With a cold. Or just a huge emotional hangover. Last night I was in bed by eight reading my book, State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett. It's a good read so far.
So here's a beautiful poem from the gorgeous DMQ Review that you should read from beginning poem to last poem. Nothing like an ode to a punctuation mark to get you rolling.
Not lips but the opening of lips, the kiss that fits
a mouth, moistens a tongue with a lungful
of mimosa. Two dots offer aromas of oleander,
pine, sweet plum. They numb the funk of the manuscript
locked in a trunk. Two dots open to mercy
in Minneapolis or the middle of Muscatine,
two eyes watching swaths of brush tumble
in the wind. After a colon, you can wake up as a reptile
or a gilt chandelier in France or ants in a manse
passing on the left carrying crumbs from the kitchen
while the pastor pens a sermon on olive blossoms
then fingers his earring. Not a period, a colon
is an open church: Muslims, Jews, dragonflies
dampened by fog. The rivers of day and night return
in currents of fish. They swim through two dots
to open the floodgates of silence and sound:
for the mist frozen in its moment, for the green
alone in its moss, for the bee buzzing above
the pond scum, for the baby laughing
in her bassinet while the ground shakes.
Image of the Day: Chickadees winging into and out of the dogwood tree and the orange leaves stirring.
I am reading The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity by Louise DeSalvo and can't recommend it enough. I have been, well, had been, feeling very negative about my writing and my writing processes, forgetting that my schedule changes and so my writing time needs to change too. I actually wrote out a writing schedule--something I had never done before but my days didn't require that. Or at least I didn't think so. But as she writes, "One of my jobs as a writer is to learn what my rhythms are" (12). I think I'm still learning that.
You know, I have lots of prompt books and have read Writing Down the Bones before and figured I knew enough about the process of writing. But this reminded me of some things I knew but also taught me new stuff. Even though this is mostly geared toward memoir writing I have found some really great ideas in here.
And I am doing another write a poem every day in November. Oh and I have finally gotten some acceptances and to some places I love.
To One Dead
by Maxwell Bodenheim
I walked upon a hill
And the wind, made solemnly drunk with your
Reeled against me.
I stooped to question a flower,
floated between my fingers and the petals,
Tying them together.
a leaf from its tree
And a water-drop in the green flagon
Cupped a hunted
bit of your smile.
All things about me were steeped in your
And shivering as they tried to tell me of it.
Image of the Day: The grey tufted tit-mouse digging into the gutters of my house.
Halloween is over and so is the reading at Back Pages Books Thursday night. I was the first one to read which is always enjoyable but also nerve-wracking. I was nervous and I think it showed a bit. But I did get some good reactions from the audience so that was nice. Then I got to sit back, relax, and enjoy the other writers. Linda K. Wertheimer read from her interesting book on religious education in public schools. Linda's young son was the true star of the whole show, I should mention.
Then the poet Stephen Tapscott read from an amazing long poem about Eadweard Muybridge who photographed horses to see if all their feet came off the ground at the same time while galloping. I was surprised, embarrassed, and very pleased when Stephen quoted a line from one of my poems in his introduction to his poetry. I wish I had had the guts to stay longer afterwards and said thank you and hi to him, but my need to flee after reading in public (and feeling in general overwhelmed) took over. (If you happen to read this post, Stephen, I'd just like to say how pleased I was that you read that poem in Tinderbox!)
Anna V.Q. Ross read her poetry which I knew was going to be fabulous and heart-wrenching because I had heard her read at Grub Street a long time ago. I did manage to catch her at the end to say a quick hi. She read an amazing poem about being shot at while walking with her child in a stroller.
Steven Edwards was the last writer to read and his story was the kind of story I absolutely love and need to find more of: witty, erudite, and funny. It had elements of past history combined with the conundrum of how humans live and interact amongst each other simultaneously with love and loathing.
I urge you to find these writers' work and read them.
Cloud No Bigger than a Man's Hand
It approaches from the sea, too small for thunder and lightning but ominous as a closed fist and what it will bring
nearing us, growing larger, is completely unknown. Beware the leaves blowing, beware the spot on the sun.
All is turned toward it. It rides the brow of the mind. Soon, it will shadow one cliff and a small lifeguard stand.
Beware the leaves blowing, beware the spot on the sun. Do your work well. Behold the work yet to be done.