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]

Heron Tree

I have so enjoyed working as an editor for the Heron Tree volume 5 edition.  I learned so much from reading submitted poems!  And realized w...