Sunday, January 27, 2008

There's still time...

... to write a "Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe" poem. Here are the details, from AJPL's blog:

You are invited to submit an acrostic poem for a chapbook-sized edited collection entitled Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe. These poems must follow the format employed in Saw Wai's now infamous poem, "February 14." (See here for more information.) Acrostics, telestitches, and the like will be considered, so long as they integrate the phrase "Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe" into their format in a manner true to Saw Wai's poem.

Four poems have already been selected for inclusion, and the chapbook will contain roughly 12 to 20 pages of poetry. Should the quality of the work remain high, the chapbook will be published as a supplement to an online, literary journal. Further details, including sample poems, are available upon request. All queries and submissions should be sent to liszkiewicz AT gmail DOT com.

Deadline for consideration is noon, Sunday, 3 February 2008.
I've made an attempt at it, and while it's not the most brilliant poem on the face of this earth, it wasn't as impossible to come up with something as I was afraid it would be. (I'm not very good at exercises, as a rule.) Here's what I've got, though I'm hoping to revise it some in the next few days -- I'll take this down before too long.

[~Gone. But you can drop me an email if you want to see it!~]

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Random notes from the deep freeze

It's that time of year again. Who's hosting the "we're not going to AWP" blog party this year?

Yeah, I wish I could be there, believe me. But it doesn't seem like the best use of a month's salary, you know? If you're going, have a blast, and report back!

It's Chicago next year, right? At least I can drive there instead of having to fly. And maybe if I start saving up now, I can afford a hotel. I'm gonna do my best to make it.

* * * * *



Yes, I'm still watching way too much Australian Open tennis. One of the Tennis Channel's commentators said of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's stunning performance, "Are you kidding me?! ... This guy has a turbo jet in his Adidas shorts!" Uh... might be a little crowded in there, huh?

* * * * *

So I have a poet friend who, like me, has a natural inclination towards more of a lyric form. But, she's interested in learning more about writing narrative poetry. I've given her a couple of recommendations, but if y'all will lay some more on me, I'll pass them along to her. Poets, books, or individual poems -- whatever you'd give to someone who wanted to understand the art of narrative poetry in general.

* * * * *

It's ten degrees again tonight, with a predicted low of 5. I'm done with the cold and dark, okay? Done with it. I'm ready for springtime now.

* * * * *

Here's a great idea for writing a poem (and here as well), based on the news story about the poet Saw Wai. Try your hand, if you can.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What rhymes with Indiana?

The state of Indiana is currently taking nominations for a new Poet Laureate.

Deadline for nominations is February 15. No, I'm not soliciting nominations, haha! I think at some point the Poet Laureate has to shake the Governor's hand without berating him, and I'm not entirely certain I could do that. :) (Yeah ... not a fan of Indiana's current administration. At all.)

* * * * *

Found out that Robert Hass is coming to campus later on this semester. His reading conflicts with one of my reference desk shifts, but hopefully I can find someone to cover for me. I'd definitely like to hear him.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Wintry mix

I've been watching way, way too much tennis lately.

* * * * *

Last night I went to the "Three Girls and Their Buddy" concert in Indianapolis: Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, and Buddy Miller. I really enjoy all four musicians, and having them all on the same stage was just tremendous fun, & seemed to be fun for them as well. They sat in a row, and took turns -- first Emmy played a song, then Patty, then Shawn, then Buddy -- with varying amounts of chiming-in from the others. Wonderful stuff, though not as much pure collaboration as I'd hoped for -- it was like they were often a little hesitant to step into one another's songs (although Buddy Miller did play guitar on pretty much everything). When they did join together wholesale, it was often luminous, as in Patty Griffin's song "Mary" -- the second song of the encore & the last song of the night. I always forget how much I love Patty Griffin. She's such a tiny little person, and so much music comes out of her -- it seems like every cell of her body must be made purely out of music.

* * * * *

Ridiculously cold outside: 8 degrees now, at ten pm, and dropping. We have a wind chill advisory that says it's going to feel like twenty below tonight. I'm not budging from my (drafty, but relatively warm) house. I have a heavy sweater, two blankets, and a hat on, a cat keeping my feet warm, and tennis on my TV. Not half bad, when it comes down to it.

* * * * *

Spent about an hour at Starbucks today, drinking one of their new skinny caramel lattes (verdict: not half bad; I prefer a white chocolate mocha with lots of whipped cream, but that's about 500 calories more than the skinny latte) and revising a poem. There was someone else there working on poems too, a young man who I guessed to be an MFA student (he was about that age and had that air about him). It always makes me happy to see people reading or writing poetry in public, for some reason. Although part of me wants to go up to them and introduce myself, which would be really obnoxious. Poetry can create community, but not that much of one, heh.

When I revise, now, I try to keep in mind something that D.A. Powell said in the revision workshop I had with him a couple years ago, quoting from Rachel Zucker: "Revise towards strangeness." I like that a lot and it's something I need to push myself to do. Maybe I'll print it out in big letters on a piece of paper and hang it on my wall.

Revision is difficult for me, but satisfying. When I get up from first-drafting a poem, I feel unsettled, anxious, excited. When I get up from revising, I feel like I've accomplished something, like I've taken a good deep breath. I don't mean just tinkering and editing here, of course: I mean really revising, digging back into a poem and altering it substantially. Re/vision. Seeing it again, seeing it more clearly. Sometimes seeing it more in focus, sometimes stepping back and seeing it larger.

* * * * *

This week one of my poems got into the hands of someone I never dreamed it would get into the hands of. (Not a poet.) More on this later, perhaps, and then again maybe not.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

News, the happy kind

Got home last night after a very good (and very well-attended!) reading by Paul Muldoon, and found this nice news in my inbox:
Congratulations! Your poem "Swallowed" from Valparaiso Review was chosen by poet Chad Davidson to be included in the 2007 Best of the Net Anthology. It will be reprinted along with nineteen other poems and showcased for the next year on the Best of the Net website.

If you would like a current biography and/or contact information included, please send us an email with said information, and it will appear alongside the poem as of February 1, 2008.

Again, congratulations! And thank you for your continued support of online publishing.

Erin Elizabeth Smith
Managing Editor, Best of the Net
So that's pretty cool! My thanks to Ed Byrne, editor of Valparaiso Poetry Review, for nominating this poem. (Pop over to his blog for his reaction.) And to Chad Davidson, about whom I know absolutely nothing, for selecting it. (My first thought: I didn't know poets were allowed to be named "Chad"! I actually googled him and found a few poems I rather liked, so I'm going to get a book of his out of the library.)

Oh, and here's my poem, in case you didn't read it before but now that it's all award-winning and stuff you want to jump on the bandwagon, you fickle beast you. *grin*

Edited to add: Congratulations to Boxcar Poetry Review, with 3 poems included, No Tell Motel, with two and Locuspoint, also with two! Congrats especially to blog-neighbor Charles Jensen, whose No Tell poems I particularly enjoyed last year. My creepy little poem's keeping good company, methinks.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Shopping List

If you feel the need to spend some money, I have a few hot tips for you! (Or you can just send me the money and I'll spend it, because I'm helpful like that. Go on. Send me as much as you want.)
  • The Boxcar Poetry Review 2006 Anthology is out in dead-tree format. Costs less than a cup of coffee (depending on where you buy your coffee, that is) to download, a little more than that to have a printed-and-bound copy shipped to your hot little hands. And congratulations, while I'm at it, to editor Neil Aitken, whose first book won the Philip Levine Prize and will be out in the near-ish future.

  • Congratulations also to Erin M. Bertram, whose chapbook Body of Water won the Frank O'Hara Award and has just come out from Thorngate Road Press. (The chapbook just came out, that is. Erin came out ages ago. *grin*) If you want to get a copy of what is no doubt a lovely bit of work, see Erin's blog and get in touch with her. I just sent her a check today, so now I have mail to look forward to -- a good thing, since now that I'm doing at least half of my poetry-submitting online, checking the mail has lost a bit of its thrill!

  • I've been wanting to get some business cards, but since poetry isn't really a business, I've never really come up with anything I like in that department. I do want to have something with my name, email address, etc. that I can hand to people, though, to avoid the "fumbling around for a scrap of paper" routine I found myself doing at the IAC grant workshop the other day. A happy medium: I've ordered myself some MiniCards from, with images from a couple of my own photographs (one of the dunes near Provincetown, another of a cat's eyes) on one side, and my contact info on the other. They have a ton of super cute & cool designs you can use, or you can upload your own images like I did. I've heard that these folks ship a high-quality product, so I hope I'll be happy with what I get. I'll let you know! If they turn out well, this would be a neat little promotional item for books and suchlike, I think.
And in the department of stuff that won't cost me a penny, Joshua Bell is giving a free recital here in Bloomington next month -- I just have to get myself over to the box office on Thursday and get a ticket before they're all gone. (And believe me, they will be all gone very quickly. People around here love them some Joshua Bell.) He'll be performing with pianist Jeremy Denk, and they'll be doing some Prokofiev, Dvorak, and Saint-Saëns. But honestly, the kid (I can call him that; he's younger than I am, and I remember when he was an up-and-coming young prodigy in the music school here) could play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and I'd probably want to hear it. He's that good.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Poems lined up on the runway, waiting for clearance to take off.

Poems stacked up in the air overhead, waiting for clearance to land.

I need better air traffic control, is what I need.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Some linky links and a question

Love, love, love this poem by Kate Evans on Verse Daily today.

* * * * *

Thanks to C. Dale for pointing out a new poetry feature on the Bounders, er, Borders website -- which includes this contest. I was actually going to enter the contest, since there's no entry fee (no prize either, except publication on their website and some comments from Mark Strand). But then I pulled up the entry form and there is a field for "first name, last initial" and a field for "full name" underneath which it says "Your full name won't be published." So, you know, screw that. If you're going to publish my poem, you're damn well going to put my whole name on it.

You can also submit your questions and get writing advice from Paul Muldoon, which is kind of amusing. He's reading here in Bloomington next week, by the way. I'm looking forward to it.

* * * * *

In the past I've been too quick to give up on poets I don't "get" -- figuring there are so many other poets out there to enjoy, why waste a lot of time banging my head against what might be a brick wall? But lately I think that's not such a good option, and I prefer to try to stick with them and see if I can get something out of it.

When you find yourself reading poems (or a poet) you don't really understand, do you just put them aside or do you try to work your way into them? If the latter, what sort of questions do you ask (of yourself or of the poems) as you try to understand them? Or, do you just read it a bunch of times and find that it reveals itself without any particular interrogation? Or do you enjoy it without feeling any need to understand it further?

I'm not talking here about poetry that's just not good -- there's no sense wasting time on that, for sure. I'm talking about the kind of poetry where you think, "She's doing something here for sure, but what in the heck is it?"

Or maybe I'm the only one who's ever that dense. Nahhhh.... surely not.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cheering on the artists

I left work a little early today, stopped by the Buskirk-Chumley box office to pick up a ticket for Carrie Newcomer's CD release concert next month, realized I had a little extra time, and wandered into the relatively new Blu Boy Chocolate Café and Cakery. Oh holy cow, that place is good! It's a tiny little hole in the wall with only about four tables for eating there, but they make all their own chocolate and serve very good locally-roasted coffee. They had various cookies, cupcakes, tarts, chocolates, persimmon pudding, and good stuff like that. I had the most amazing chocolate cookie (it was like the chocolate cookie that all other chocolate cookies wish they could be!) and a cup of very good coffee, sat down at a table and scribbled in my journal for a bit. When I got up to leave I realized the woman at the table behind me was also writing, and on the table in front of her (next to her chocolate cookie and cup of coffee) was a copy of The Practice of Poetry. I guess chocolate and coffee and poetry and hanging out in a little cafe on a rainy day just go together really well, huh? :)

Then I went over to the John Waldron Arts Center for a workshop about this coming year's Indiana Arts Commission Individual Artist Grant program. I was one of two current grantees on the agenda to share our experiences and advice. There was a good turnout for the workshop, including one person I knew well enough to go say hi to and a couple of other faces that looked familiar. I basically gave a little five-minute pep talk -- talked about going up to Indianapolis to listen to the review panel, and some of the things they said, and what a great learning experience it was; talked about how important it is to present yourself professionally in your application, and how the panels DO notice if your writing is sloppy and full of typographical errors. I wrapped up by saying that the process of putting together the application should be a great learning experience, and especially if it's your first time doing this, just applying for the grant is a big step in your artistic career. It gives you the opportunity to step back and look at what you've done so far and what you'd like to do, and what you need in order to get you from here to there; it gives you the opportunity to look at your art as a part of a larger artistic community; and, maybe most importantly, it makes you stand up as an advocate for your art, to say things like "I write these poems and they are good enough that somebody should give me money so that I can do more of it." That's hard, for some of us, maybe for most of us -- making, out loud, a clear statement of belief in your own work. Just doing that, going through the process of doing that, can be an incredibly worthwhile experience whether or not you actually end up getting the grant. And, I said, once you get your application in, give yourself some credit for that. Go out and get a cupcake, and celebrate, and congratulate yourself.

Afterwards I chatted with a writer who's starting to work on her application, and made some suggestions for her. And a couple of other people told me that what I'd said had been helpful for them to hear, which felt really good. (Another thing I said was that the "public benefit" part of the project -- because it's funded by taxpayer money, you have to show that the citizens of Indiana can benefit somehow from your project -- could be fulfilled by something as simple as blogging about the process. Hi. One person said she really liked that idea.)

I hope that what I had to say was helpful and encouraging. The whole process, because it's a state government thing, is filled with bureaucracy and paperwork and hoops to jump through -- and it can be awfully overwhelming and intimidating. I hope I gave at least one person enough encouragement to get through the process and get something good out of it. If I did, then I'm really glad I made the effort. Anyhow, if nothing else, it's always kind of fun to meet a few other artists/writers and suchlike, and remember how many of us there are out there! And it's nice to be reminded that a year ago I was sitting there in that workshop, wondering whether I'd be able to get it together to get my application in -- which I did, and I feel really good about having been successful with it, and grateful to have been given the vote of confidence in my work that this funding represents.

Grants are good. There ought to be more of them, darn it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Drippity drip

It's raining, and my weather radio is squawking about flood warnings.

It's raining, and people are making jokes about arks.

It's raining, and my roof is leaking.

It's raining, and my roof is leaking, and I'm saying very bad words out loud.

It's raining and it is 57 degrees, which is altogether unreasonable in January.

It's raining and I'm watching news about tornadoes in other states (also altogether unreasonable in January) and feeling very glad there were no tornadoes in Indiana this week.

It's raining and I want to eat soup.

It's raining and the wind is blowing. This morning I had to retrieve the lid for my garbage can from underneath my car before I could go to work.

It's raining and I feel like I don't quite know what to do with myself.

It's raining. And raining. And raining.

I wish it would stop.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

photo of the day

Originally uploaded by land mammal
I'd forgotten about this until the picture happened to pop up tonight. This was a little gallery we visited in Santa Fe, where they offered glass-blowing demonstrations.

Yes, the jokes, they write themselves....

(if you can't read the sign, clicking on the photo should, er, enlarge it for you.)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Local opportunity: grant workshop

For writers & other artists in Indiana: the deadline for 2008-2009 Individual Artist Grant applications is quickly approaching! The Bloomington Area Arts Council is once again sponsoring a workshop in which representatives from the Indiana Arts Commission will be talking about how to put together a good application. I attended this workshop last year as a prospective grant applicant and it was super helpful; this year, I'll be attending to share a little bit about my experiences as a current grant recipient. I think I have some good advice to share, especially some of what I learned when I attended the panel that reviewed the applications in literature. The workshop is scheduled for this coming Thursday, January 10, at 5:30. Here are the details from the BAAC:

Bloomington, IN- The Bloomington Area Arts Council and members of the Indiana Arts Commission are hosting a grant information workshop for individual artists interested in enhancing and developing their careers. The Individual Artist Project grant program supports individual artists, of all disciplines, for specific project-related costs incurred July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009. Eligible projects are purposely left flexible to respond to artists' ideas, dreams, and needs, however, the goal is to aid the artist's career development.

Minimum eligibility requirements to apply include that the artist: must be at least 18 years of age; resided in Indiana for one year preceding the application date, and remain an Indiana resident for the duration of the grant period. The Indiana Arts Commission cannot provide funding for those enrolled in a degree- granting program, received an IAC grant in FY 2008; or is part of a collaboration for which another artist is applying for IAC support in the same year.

The grant information workshop will be held on Thursday January 10, 2008 at 5:30 p.m. in the Rose Firebay at the John Waldron Arts Center, 122 South Walnut Street, Bloomington. Reservations are not required, but they are appreciated. Please call (812) 334-3100 to reserve your spot.

In other news, my stupid cold continues to hang on, but at least the weather is getting better -- after lows of 2-4 degrees on several mornings this week, this weekend it's predicted to hit SIXTY degrees. Wacky, truly wacky.