Tuesday, April 15, 2014

SLS Contest 2014

I got some happy news yesterday. I was awarded another fellowship to attend the Summer Literary Seminars in either Lithuania or Kenya! I won't be using this one though. The fellowship doesn't cover airfare and it is very expensive to get to Vilnius. There is no easy way there and that means lots of layovers. I'm still psyched though. The contest had over a 1000 entries...

It's a nice boost after the disheartening outcome of my novella.

Monday, April 14, 2014

More on irony and distance

This is from Peaches and Penumbras an article on BOOKFORUM. I was brought to it when I googled "Allen Ginsberg Depression" while feeling sorry for myself for being cooped up in bed with allergies and a box of tissues attached to my nose. I wanted to know what that wild man had to say about the inability to get started, to do the work you know you need to do-- the work only you can do. I return to him when I need some get go.

I found this! The last line hurts because it is true, but it doesn't have to be. 

"The poetry of our time is dominated by a deep and sometimes rich skepticism about the self. When Ginsberg was a countercultural hero in the '60s, such skepticism was embodied by the work of Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, and W. H. Auden, among others. Its presence has grown only more pronounced during the last thirty years through the examples of John Ashbery (whose first book, Some Trees, appeared the same year as Howl and Other Poems) and Jorie Graham and a renewed appreciation of Wallace Stevens and George Oppen.
Ginsberg's strength was the evocation of vulnerability, a sensibility that could never accommodate skepticism because it grew out of his belief in the inherent innocence of the self. Frank Bidart writes in his contribution to The Poem That Changed America that, for Ginsberg, "within spirit itself there is no unresolvable dilemma, no dilemma inherent in the demands placed upon it by its own nature or the nature of being." The limitations or failings faced by the self are not native to it but planted there by an external force, whether that force is Moloch or Birdbrain or America. In turn, Ginsberg's dissatisfaction with the world often manifests itself as betrayal instead of despair. Ginsberg doesn't consider the world to be utterly indifferent to his fate; rather, the world singles him out and inhibits him from realizing his nature. Ginsberg's vulnerability is also at the root of his interest in visions: He hungers to be possessed and awed by the appearance of something miraculous in the world. The skeptic's experience of being overwhelmed by an inherent and insurmountable human inability to comprehend the world with any certainty is alien to him. And his vulnerability is what compels him to portray the body as a stage where cosmic dramas play themselves out, as with the wounded innocents in "Howl" who have "purgatoried their torsos night after night" in the hopes of experiencing metaphysical bliss.

The wounded innocents who populate Ginsberg's poems seem out of place, even alien, today, but that is no reason to declare smugly that the Age of Ginsberg is a closed chapter. "Howl" blew through an entire culture with fury and exuberance and eloquence and charm, and it was the work not of the guru but of the young poet. During the last half century, no poem, not even Ashbery's "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror," has been able to match the prominence and resonance achieved by "Howl." These days, few artists, let alone poets, are hailed as heroic prophets, and no amount of cheerleading during National Poetry Month will change that. Instead, it's the gurus—scrubbed, smiling, and outfitted with respectable titles like "motivational speaker," "life coach," and "personal trainer"—who continue to mesmerize."

This article is so on the mark

Awhile back, I wrote about DFW's quote about how irony was hurting creativity by making people embarrassed to be sincere. He called for people to risk being seen as sentimental.

I have felt (still feel?) the pressure to write in that particularly current ironic voice-- especially when I write poetry. I fail. The sly jokes fall flat. The observations don't hit their marks.

If I write about a heartbroken, brutalized rhino, it turns out okay. I'm not saying I am the new anti-rebel, as DFW put it, but I don't do well talking through a cool, distanced wall. I am that heartbroken rhino. I am that grieving, angry mess of a beast.


The two authors of the article also talk about the use of irony in contemporary painting. It really is a heartening piece of writing. It made me feel good and hopeful.

Novella update

The news I never quite stated was that my novella had been accepted for publication back in January 2013. I was nervous about this, and excited too. I wanted to wait to talk about it until I had more info, like a rough timeline for publication. I wanted to wait to talk about it until it became real enough.

Well, that never happened. The editors failed to follow up with me, to keep me informed at even the most basic, respectful level.

When I realized they were flaking out on MacArthur Grant author's book, I knew I should just move on. His book was due to come out in June 2013, but as of today it still hasn't been released. They haven't even put it up on the website as forthcoming.

But I kept hoping. If I really analyze myself, I know I was scared of what it would mean if I couldn't say to myself, You've done it, the book found its home, you can move on to another book. Hoping the editors would follow through on their promise kept me from having to make myself vulnerable again, to work like dog again to get it out, to take all the rejection, and to keep my head up.

I asked for a final yes or no from them and never got a response. I cannot understand this type of interaction. How could they lack consideration and not let me know they weren't able to publish it after all? Why not let me send it other places?

I've finally let it go and moved on. I've had one really outstanding, kind, and thoughtful rejection. It was the kind of rejection that actually helps.

The book is pending in a contest, and I have some more places in mind.

I've changed the title to BLACK KRIM. It's a type of heirloom tomato that one of main female character grows and sells. It is one of the reasons one of the other characters decides he is going to drop from his current life and find a way into hers.

I want to focus on the good and say I believe I will find a publisher who will care for the book, help it become more fully what it is, and bring it out to the public. I don't know how many years that will take, but I'm up for it.

I have been extraordinarily lucky to have worked with wonderful editors and readers. This one interaction is truly the only smudge on that.

Wish me luck!

Necessary Fiction: Atlantic City


Necessary Fiction picked up my piece titled "Atlantic City". I wrote it as part of Peter Markus's summer workshop, and with his insightful comments and keen ear, I was able to polish it up to this final story.

Atlantic City

If you know me, or know anything about me, you know that I grew up in South Jersey. I did work at a Texaco, too. It was strange to write a piece of fiction with true elements. I try to keep things entirely separate from real life, but it did feel good to have the permission, so to say, to write something that could be true.

Interview: Part Two

I was asked to interview for the second part of Land Beast.

Here is it: The Collagist Interview: Part Two

I talk about writing as a beast and the economy of bodies.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Rhino post

I was going through my notebooks from my MFA and I found this quote:

"E... had a theory about rhinos. They see through smell. Their tiny eyes don't bring in enough light. But smells linger longer than light, allow more depth of knowledge. Five days of smells can be presented in front of a rhino's nose and he sees them all. This 'extra time dimension' allows a different perception-- on that appears differently, depending on where you are. Days overlap, extend, flow into one another. Rhinos are not limited by light. Chemicals track pathways to the brain, illuminate objects internally."

If that isn't poetry, I don't know poetry. I wish I had sited the source of the quote! Some of it is paraphrased.

I also had this: 18 million years old. 30 million years ago, no horn, long neck.

And a lot about mud.

I knew that I did a small writing project on a rhino I saw at the zoo, but I was surprised by the connections to my current writing.