This post won't include a poem; it's more of an update. A poetry update, though.
I have two new projects going on right now. The first is a book contest entry through Cider Press Review, which David St. John will be judging. David's a lovely individual and worked as an insightful instructor during my time at Pacific University. In fact, I've never felt 100% comfortable with sending out a book-length manuscript until I heard that David would be the final judge. Not that that guarantees any awards, let alone glowing feedback, but something about the way I've seen David work made me think it would be okay to fail in front of him. This being said, I'm compiling about 60 pages of poetry, making it my first official book. First prize in this contest is publication of said book by Cider Press, a wonderful organization that puts together quality, artistic compilations. I wouldn't say I plan on winning. (Cider Press has a very talented reader base that has, in general, been writing for a much longer time than I have. They have wisdom and experience on their side.) Actually, one of the best things that will come of this is having a manuscript by the end of this month, one that I can start sending out to other publishers when I get more "okay" with its finality. It'll be nice to put my first selection of poems together, mostly so I can continue on, swimming straight toward my next book-length piece.
Right now, my book is split up into three numbered sections: the first group of poems exposing my thoughts on the multi-faceted lives of women. It's got a feminine vibe, with most of my humorous pieces hanging out there. (This section is headed with an eerie quote from Charlotte Perkins Gilman, however.)
The second section's got all my "war poems" tied together. Here, I expose my observations on Tom's experience with deployment as well as the wars of the past. This section includes several published pieces, including the one from CALYX's current issue, "Late Autumn in Vancouver & Baghdad: The Preservation of Women".
The third and final section showcases my more surreal/narrative poems, including the title piece, "Breakfast With An Idiot", which, by the way, has nothing to do with Tom. : ) This section falls under a wonderful quote from one of surrealist Andre Breton's poems: "All at once too much freedom had been given to me..." I love that line. Not only does it suggest the sometimes-frightening power of our own imaginations, it also makes us second-guess our love of freedom.
My second project (and my current favorite) is a collection of 50 poems, all of which are hellbent on mocking poetry and poets themselves. Sarah helped me come up with the title (while sitting at her desk in Everett, Washington), which ended up as such: "50 Poems: A Compendium of Rather Short Poems, All Of Which Mock Poetry And Poets Alike, Vaguely, At Times, But Usually Pretty Clearly." I like it!
These poems, I think, stem from my study of accessibility in contemporary poetry. Why do poets write the way they do? Why do people unfamiliar with poetry seem to fear it? Why is it so hard to understand? Why are artists, by banking on enigmatic wordplay, effectively killing off their own art? Why do "normal people" distrust poets? Why are readings only attended by other writers? (I know this is not only caused by interests alone. There's something about poets--or poetry--that pushes others away.)
Anyway, I've been interested in contemporary poetry's accessibility (or lack thereof) for the past 5 years or so. In fact, I wrote my graduate thesis about it, hoping to uncover a way for new writers to avoid the pitfalls of inaccessibility.
These new poems, my compendium (a word that Sarah insisted upon, considering its multi-syllabic, infrequently used makeup), tackle the great poems of our past, the most wonderful, powerful, moving, sorrowful, passionate pieces of humankind, and effectively (I hope) crushes them, pounds them down, and shrinks their purpose and message into short, easy-to-swallow, hilarious little condescensions. Perhaps I can include a preview. The following is the first poem I wrote for this collection; it's a piece that I think sums up a lot of what a poet really wants to say when she sits down to write. It is titled, "That Sunset, The Moon, Your Car, Her Hair".
THAT SUNSET, THE MOON, YOUR CAR, HER HAIR
. help it
I just want to point out, right now, that I realize I am assuming the role of the self-centered poet here, and that I am embodying the very creature I aim to mock. I'm okay with that. Poets are annoying. Myself included.
Basically, I'm out to laugh at myself and others. Hopefully this book is a good way to do it. As it stands, I'm currently 9 poems deep into this 50-poem project. It's still in the infant stages. But it's coming together nicely, methinks. Actually, in one hour, I'm scheduled to show it to my writing group downtown. We'll see what they think. As far as publication for this book, I'm not certain just yet how I'll go about it. The guy I share an office with at CSU, Johnny Summerfield, is the head of New Plains Press, and he's mentioned that I should show him my work. (Eegads, he's also the director of the writers' retreat that goes to Sicily for one month every summer for some quiet time. I might have to ask him more about that.) Anyway, I'm not sure what to do as far as publication interests. Should I look for a specialized-humorous-poetry press? Or go with the ones I know and read? There ain't a helluva lotta funny presses left living these days.
Well, this has been refreshing. Thanks for reading! Hope everyone has a wonderfully productive end of 2009. And Happy Thursday!