Sunday, January 31, 2010

Revision: the art of seeing again

In her blog Rocket Kids, poet Rachel Dacus talks about revision as re/vision, the process of seeing again:
"I'm constantly up against my own word-blindness. It's natural to love your own work, especially just after it's flowed out into existence in words. What seems unnatural is to undo or redo the thing you loved into being. But it's what separates the good work from the amateur."

She goes on to note "you can't revise your way into greatness, but you can first-draft your way out of it. "

She links to Sonya Fehér's guide to revision. Feher has a set of thoughs on how to revise a first draft--10 easy tips to revise your poems-- which focusses re-seeing the poem at the word by word and line by line level, doing things such as going through the poem to underline the concrete nouns and the strongest/most specific words, phrases and passages.

In her follow-up post, with thoughts on how to revise that draft into a poem--5 easy strategies to take your drafts to poems--she focusses more on the poem as a whole; the content, the mood, the pacing. She ends with a look at the soul of the poem. I heartily agree with her caution that "it is possible to wreck a poem with reworking it, to completely lose the greater meaning or feeling in quibbling over sound devices or an image." Over and over again, I've looked at a revision, and realized that, although the revised version is clearer, less awkward, and less reliant on received language and cliche, in the process of becoming polished it has lost something of the original raw spirit that energized the poem to make me want to write it in the first place. It's hard to reconcile, sometimes; there seems to be no middle ground between the embarassingly awkward rawness of the first draft and the clearer but less direct polished version. She recommends saving the drafts of every version, a wise move (although one that clutters up the desktop).

I don't know if there is a simple way to revise, any ten rules or five simple strategies. Revision is hard.

Necessary... but hard.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

T. M. Göttl featured in Mnemosyne

Local poet and performer (and clevelandpoetics blogger) T. M. Göttl is featured in this week's installment of the online 'zine Mnemosyne.

Mnemosyne is a poetry site edited by Jen Pezzo ("Kerowyn Rose"). Every week it focuses on a different poet/artist, posting a new poem every day, along with interviews and profiles and miscellanea, and this week's feature is Theresa

(...whose name means "little god." I'm not suggesting that she's really a poetry god, but you might keep this in mind. I'm just saying.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Theory: George and the Incurious Poet

It would be better if all poets were thrown to the dogs of public opinion

Werner Herzog reads Curious George

The author of fantasy has fewer limitations than the author of realism. Anything is fair, right? Armoured bears and tiny spies who ride dragonflies. Surgical enhancements that give a person Special superhuman powers for running, climbing, and flying.

On Saturday, January 23, 2010, the National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for its book awards for the publishing year 2009

Science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin has gathered almost 300 signatures in her fight against a Google scheme to digitize books.

There are several kinds of orbits in the orbit catalog.

Another woman slain makes a crime fiction writer conclude: It’s a man’s world. We just die in it...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Let's Dance

I'm sorry that I've neglected (our collaborative nested meditation). I believe it still has potential to dance a bit more, and I'd like to revive it. Please check out the original post for rules and instructions for contributions.

If you recall, we finished a first stanza and began a second. Here's where we left off:

Let’s dance.

Let’s dance
without thinking.

Let’s dance
without thinking
about the past.

Let’s dance
without thinking
about the past,
the bitter taste of ashes.

Let’s dance
without thinking
about the past.
The bitter taste of ashes
would smother our burning tango.

Let's fly.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The poet sez--

"A poem is true if it hangs together. Information points to something else. A poem points to nothing but itself."
--E. M. Forster

"A poem is never finished, only abandoned."
--Paul Valery

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
--Leonard Cohen

"All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling."
--Oscar Wilde

“Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it.”
---Vincent van Gogh

“Poetry should only occupy the idle.”
--Lord Byron

"Not every poem's good because it's ancient
Nor mayst thou blame it just because it's new,
Fair critics test, and prove, and so pass judgment
Fools praise or blame as they hear others do. "
-- Anon (Buddhist quote)

"Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal, which the reader recognizes as his own."
- Salvatore Quasimodo

"A man would do well to carry a pencil in his pocket and write down the thoughts of the moment.
Those that come unsought are commonly the most valuable and should be secured, they seldom return."
-- Francis Bacon

"Poetry is an orphan of silence.
The words never quite equal the experience behind them."
-- Charles Simic

"The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese."
-- Gilbert K. Chesterton

Friday, January 15, 2010

Theory: In which we check our list

1933-34, Album Milliat, gymnastique scolaire

Steve Almond’s Bad Poetry Corner: Writing wretched verse so you don’t have to since 1995

A list is an intimation of totality, a simulacrum of knowing much, of knowing the right much. We select our ten best big-band recordings, all-time basketball starting fives, mysteries to read this summer; add up the people we've slept with or people we wish we had...

It is good, at certain hours of the day and night, to look closely at the world of objects at rest. Wheels that have crossed long, dusty distances with their mineral and vegetable burdens, sacks from the coal bins, barrels, and baskets, handles and hafts for the carpenter’s tool chest. From them flow the contacts of man with the earth, like a text for all troubled lyricists. The used surfaces of things, the wear that the hands give to things, the air, tragic at times, pathetic at others, of such things – all lend a curious attractiveness to the reality of the world that should not be underprized. from "Sobre una Poesía sin Pureza” ("Towards an Impure Poetry") -- Pablo Neruda

The New Chicago School of Poetry by Kent Johnson

Few contemporary American literary novelists are as prolific and wide-ranging as Joyce Carol Oates.

January 2010: Long Story Short: International Flash Fiction

1945, Cornebuse et cie by Guy Sabran

Art Apps

The Death of the Slush Pile

from "Medea in Athens"
Augusta Davies Webster

And now, when day with all its useless talk
and useless smiles and idiots' prying eyes
that impotently peer into one's life,
when day with all its seemly lying shows
has gone its way and left pleased fools to sleep,
while weary mummers, taking off the mask,
discern that face themselves forgot anon
and, sitting in the lap of sheltering night,
learn their own secrets from her--even now
does it seem either good or ill to me?
No, but mere strange.

And this most strange of all
that I care nothing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bottom Dog Press News

Bottom Dog Press is celebrating 25 years as an independent small press publisher in Ohio with the 25 Year Anniversary Anthology of Poetry....a poem from each of its 91 books of poetry. Featured poets include most of Cleveland poetry's scene....Mary E. Weems, Ray McNiece, Maj Ragain, Michael Salinger, Daniel Thompson, Loren Weiss, Meredith Holmes, just a full rich collection to celebrate our Midwest independence.
Also Riders on the Storm a novel of radical Cleveland during the late 1960's by Susan Carpenter.
Strangers in America by Erika Meyers...winner of the Great Lakes Novel Prize...Erika is from Mantua, and this is her first book.
Larry Smith as senior editor, Laura Smith, Allen Frost, Susanna Sharp-Schwacke and David Shevin associate editors.
Watch for all of this coming soon to your neighborhood bookstore.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Great Lakes Novel Prize to Erika Meyers

Results of the Great Lakes Novel Prize Announced

The editors of two of Ohio’s independent presses, Bottom Dog Press and Drinian Press have announced the winner of the first Great Lakes Novel Prize. Strangers in America by Erika Meyers of Mantua, Ohio, has been selected by final judge, novelist Robert Flanagan. The award includes a $350 prize and publication of the novel.
Ms. Meyers is an English major graduate of Kent State University. She has worked in the publishing business for PPI Technical Communications of Solon, Ohio, and for Kent State University Press. She is also a poet and this is her first book
Flanagan has described the award winning novel: “Erika Meyers’ Kafkaesque fable gives us a contemporary America of disappearing prosperity, endangered jobs, and fragmented families as witnessed specifically in the city grit of Cleveland, Ohio….Free of caricature, Strangers in America is peopled with individuals rich in human complexity ....When you finish Strangers in America, the main character Helena Adamzik will still be there: tough, dead-pan funny, proud and enduring.”
Other finalists include John Albion (Beaver Dam, WI), Eric L. Terlizzi (Salem, IL), and Margo Wilson (Monessen, PA). The contest was endorsed by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association.
Robert Flanagan, the final contest judge is retired director of creative writing at Ohio Wesleyan University and the author of the novel Maggot, and short story collections: Naked to Naked Goes, and Loving Power. His book of poetry Reply to an Eviction Notice was recently published by Bottom Dog Press. He is a frequent reviewer for the Columbus Dispatch.
Strangers in America by Erika Meyers will be released this spring in the Working Lives Fiction Series by Bottom Dog Press. A series of readings and book signings is planned.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Snow

The Snow

It sifts from leaden sieves,
It powders all the wood,
It fills with alabaster wool
The wrinkles of the road.

It makes an even face
Of mountain and of plain, --
Unbroken forehead from the east
Unto the east again.

It reaches to the fence,
It wraps it, rail by rail,
Till it is lost in fleeces;
It flings a crystal veil

On stump and stack and stem, --
The summer's empty room,
Acres of seams where harvests were,
Recordless, but for them.

It ruffles wrists of posts,
As ankles of a queen, --
Then stills its artisans like ghosts,
Denying they have been.

--Emily Dickinson
photo by Geoffrey A. Landis, 2009

Saturday, January 9, 2010

So You're A Poet, eh?

I've often wondered what makes people call themselves a poet. Is it the ability to string along words that sound good together that allows one to use the title? Is it how others respond to what one has written or spoken? Every now and then I ask this of myself and usually come up with zilch. I'm just a poet...and I know it. But I'm sure there is more to it that validates my title. I'm a huge fan of Shakespeare (especially Sonnet 116) and I am no where close to his caliber of poetic-ness (I'm sure that's not really a word, but you know what I mean). However, just because I'm not as genius, does not mean I'm not worthy of being called a poet. Sure, I've read/heard poetry that wasn't to my liking or thought someone needed to reevaluate whether writing poetry was what they really could do. But who am I to tell them they aren't poets? Is there a defining moment where the 'writer' becomes the 'poet'? I guess I'm wondering because I haven't been to a poetry set in years, haven't published any of my pieces (beyond the occassional funeral program if requested), but still, I'm a poet. How easy is it to call yourself that? Help a sister out. What makes you a poet, beyond writing a poem (or two)?

News from Green Panda Press

Green Panda hasn't been putting out chapbooks or bittie broads of late but it did recently release Sleeping With the Sun In His Eyes: A Lost Boy At Home in the World by Akol Ayii Madut and Bree, the life-story of a Sudanese refugee merged with the American experience.

While Sleeping is not a Young Adult title per se, it was written with young people in mind, and is what Nina Freedlander Gibans calls "a fascinating read for all ages".

You can find other comments by reviewers and readers here and can get the book at Mac's Backs anytime,

but especially on January 14th, a Thursday, y'all, when Akol and i will read and answer questions and generally have fun. Mac's Backs is at 1820 Coventry Rd. in Cleveland Heights. call 216-321-BOOK for details.

If you haven't already, buy a copy and read this book! Proceeds are going to help Akol get back to Sudan as part of a water project, getting wells and water where it is much-needed in Southern Sudan. It is $15, trade paperback. email Bree at

Friday, January 8, 2010

Theory: How To Eat a Poem

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The Blackberries

On the typographic bushes of the poem down a road leading neither out of things nor to the mind, certain fruits are composed of an agglomeration of spheres plumped with a drop of ink.

Black, rose, and khaki together on the bunch, they are more like the sight of a rogue family at its different ages than a strong temptation to picking.

In view of the disproportion of seeds to pulp, birds don't think much of them, so little remains once from beak to anus they’ve been traversed.

But the poet in the course of his professional promenade takes the seed to task: “So,” he tells himself, “the patient efforts of a fragile flower on a rebarbative tangle of brambles are by and large successful. Without much else to recommend them—ripe, indeed they are ripe—done, like my poem.”

-- Francis Ponge

When I think about all the effort I put into writing poems, being a poet, reading contemporary poetry, it just makes me sick. -- An Interview with Daniel Nester

"Luck is the ballgown of the accidental. And the accidental is God's disguise here in the world."(Tamás Jónás)

A tribute to publisher/poet Jonathan Williams

The Poetics of Motherhood

25-title fiction longlist for this year’s Best Translated Book Award

When the winter comes, who will still believe in its cold?

Then through my aunt's yard I'll carry
a bowl holding the steaming
pig's heart over to the pot.
The snow before my steps
lost its whiteness long ago.

There, where the village ends, who does the winter stillness
meet with a precise thrust
and at the little red beech tree
in the rhythm of whose heart
does the peace then fill,
streaming, its vessel?

Orsolya Kalász

Ask a Poet - You Say You Want a Resolution

Metrophobia (otherwise known as the fear of poetry), an American pandemic more tenacious than Swine Flu, is finally on the wane. And not a moment too soon.

That was the time when words were like magic.

The human mind had mysterious powers.

A word spoken by chance

Might have strange consequences.

It would suddenly come alive

And what people wanted to happen could happen

All you had to do was say it.

From: an Inuit poem in How to Eat A Poem

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snoetry: A Winter Wordfest

Lix and Kix and The Last Wordsmith Book Shoppe will host Snoetry: A Winter Wordfest in the historic town of North East (near Erie), Pennsylvania, on Saturday 16 January 2010. The day will begin with an hour of open mic at 1 p.m., then continue from 2 to midnight with around 40 featured poets and musical artists. We'll try to sprinkle in more open mic throughout the day, as time permits. And come rain, shine, or blizzard, we'll be there!

Dianne Borsenik and John Burroughs will be the day's emcees. Featured poets and performers during Snoetry will include:

Lester Allen (upstate NY)
Gary Bond (Toledo, OH)
Dianne Borsenik (Cleveland, OH)
Kent Brown (Jamestown, NY)
John Burroughs (Elyria, OH)
Cold Heart Youth (Erie, PA)
Nabina Das (Ithaca, NY)
Aleathia Drehmer (upstate NY)
John Dorsey (Toledo, OH)
Christopher Franke (Cleveland, OH)
Steve Goldberg (Cleveland, OH)
T.M. Göttl (Brunswick, OH)
Sammy Greenspan (Cleveland Heights, OH)
Michael Grover (Toledo, OH)
JJ Haaz (10-string guitarist, northeast Ohio)
Clarissa Jakobsons (Aurora, OH)
Chuck Joy (Erie, PA)
tj jude (from NC, by way of MI)
Lady K (Cleveland, OH)
Berwyn Moore (Erie, PA)
Zachary Moll (Monroeville, OH)
Alex Nielsen (Toledo/Cleveland, OH)
Dan Provost (Worcester, MA)
Wendy Shaffer (Cleveland, OH)
Dan Smith (Cleveland, OH)
Steven B. Smith (Cleveland, OH)
Carolyn Srygley-Moore (upstate NY)
Vladimir Swirynsky (Cleveland, OH)
Cee Williams (Erie, PA)

17 East Main Street
North East, Pennsylvania 16428
Phone: 814-725-9141



The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau