Sunday, March 07, 2010

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Now what?

It's a long time since I've posted, though I'm not much convinced that anyone cares. Nevertheless, I have plenty of time now that I'm unemployed, so methinks I will get back into the habit.

I'd like to start a discussion about marketing one's poetry books in this age of small presses and Print on Demand (POD). I've been researching the issue and welcome your first-person experiences.

No one is under the illusion that the publication of a book of poetry is going to result in fame, fortune, best-sellerdom, or even a ripple in the zeitgeist. Nevertheless, making some personal effort to stir the waters is bound to be better than nothing, as far as getting the book out there. And we all want the book out there, don't we?

Sure, this post and any comments that ensue will be self-serving, as my book, Conjugated Visits, will be out soon. But there's no reason why what I learn can't also serve you. In a sense, we're all in this together.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My newest news

Yesterday, I was notified that I won a prize. It's the 9th annual Erskine J. Poetry Prize from Smartish Pace. I get $200 along with publication of my poem.

Yeah, it's only $200 (and the funny part is, I can't even remember entering this competition—I'm not exactly spending money these days; I can't) but it's very nice. It's especially meaningful because, as some of you know, I won second prize at the Nimrod and National Writers Union, been finalist at Discovery/Nation and numerous manuscript competitions, including the National Poetry Series, but I've never actually won anything — unless you count first prize for fifth-grade girls in the Yonkers science fair. So, yay me!

Other than that, well, I had plenty to say until now, but I can't remember what was so important. John is out at some Opera Guild cocktail party or some such thing but will be back soon. I am thawing out from my walk with the dog (okay, it was actually 52°, but I'm sensitive to cold) with a large glass of Charles Shaw cabernet. There are sweet potatoes roasting in the kitchen.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Rationale

I needed to provide a writing sample today for a possible job. Boy do I hate that, having to prove myself. Well, I came across this, and I like it. I needed to update it, but I thought I would post it here. It concerns my book that is due to be published this spring with Dream Horse Press.

Conjugated Visits is a book of poems that, for the most part, is concerned with passion and point of view, with relationships that sometimes work and sometimes do not, between partners, among family members, among strangers, in a world that is not always face forward and can’t be taken at face value.

I group poems that seem to belong together. Although this statement is a “rationale,” it’s not always a rational thing; sometimes it’s intuitive. Sometimes the poems in a group have similar themes or ideas, are involved in one or another of my preoccupations. Sometimes they share mood or attitude. On the other hand, sometimes they work to contrast with others or another, a palate refresher, so to speak.

I’m aware that one is supposed to start out strong and end with a bang. I’m not sure of my bang ending. I put what you might call my Yonkers poems in the middle because I’m trying to work against the cliché of chronology.

Conjugated Visits

Conjugated Visits (the section) begins with “Conjugated Visits” because I think this poem sets up the first section and the book well. This poem goes from I to you to she to he to they and then broadens out, and I think that sets up a workable strategy. It’s a strong poem that was published in both Field and on Poetry Daily.

The second poem in this section (“Sonhar”) takes the “I” a bit further. (I’d like to state at this point that all “I” poems in the manuscript and, indeed, all poems that seem personal are fictional, not autobiographical. They may partake of personal experience, but move beyond those experiences, I hope, and are true to the experience of the poem, not to “what actually happened.”)

The next poem in the first section is “Demimonde,” and I like a lot about it although I�Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
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9m not sure that it was ever 100 percent successful. It sets up a story about a fictional world from the poet’s point of view, and it’s supposed to sound very “noir.” This was the title poem of the manuscript for years, but I no longer think it works as a title. Still, the relationship implied in the poem — or the possibility of the connection between the woman and the man in the poem together with the weather connection, well, I think that follows well from the poems that precede it.

Darkness Visible

Darkness Visible is a section of very dark days and includes “Was You Ever Bit By A Dead Bee,” the pet quip of the Walter Brennan drunk character in To Have or Have Not. The section ends with the poem, “Darkness Visible,” whose title comes from Milton and which addresses Johnny Cash.


In the ShBoom section, which I think of as sort of “pop,” we segue into the “Lorraine Asks” poem, which, in the guise of a casual discussion, brings up “the one thing they will hold over you.” In Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother knew the one thing that you feared most. I think loving is by far more dangerous — outright scary — than being loved. You are just never the same after opening yourself up to loving in this way.

The next poem, the title poem of this section is “ShBoom.” It’s kind of a memory piece, an imagistic poem about summer in Yonkers, just a picture of the way it was. The song “Life Could be a Dream,” was both a pop song and something my mother used to say, in regard to how fast life passes. The sounds, my sister’s naked dancing, the fireflies, the women doing dishes at night, the piccolo (I used to play) — are all very dreamlike.

The next one, “Back in Yonkers,” is also dreamlike, but pretty graphic. It’s meant to be more than a confession. It’s meant to restate that you can’t go home again, and if you do, you’re not the same person who left. It’s also meant to show what Yonkers was like during a certain era. It’s written in Yonkers-speak.

Another poem in this section is “Gal Friday.” Much of this section is involved with old ideas about what it meant to be a woman. This poem hearkens back to the time when classified ads in newspapers were divided into positions for men and jobs for women. A Gal Friday was the name of the job whose responsibilities included doing whatever was necessary to please the (male) management. Both acquiescing and refusing were equally demoralizing.


The ten poems of Bequest are all about death. It’s hard to explain why I think poems about death belong in a book about relationships — maybe because we all have to deal with it some day — and not just our own death, but our loved ones’ deaths too.

Hue and Cry

The final section is both more “political” — though I’m not sure what I mean by that — and less logically or narratively inclined, so more experimental. “Five Days on Twenty” is about working on the 20th floor of an office building in Oakland, but the speaker, rather than being removed from the surrounding environment, is overly affected by that environment. Maybe she is on her way to a breakdown.

For “Hue and Cry,” I borrowed the beginnings of lines from a poem I encountered in APR. I just wanted to do what I could, sacrificing semantics to syntax, although I love the meanings that happened as I continued. I really enjoyed the variations-on-a-theme aspect of this — both the writing and the result.

The poem that follows is “Night Vision.” It’s a rebellion against high tech, not really any specific person or product, more a rejection of the idea that the next new thing is going to perfect us. It’s somewhat antagonistic toward a male vision of things, I suppose. In many ways, it is sound driven. This could be considered a bad thing by some.

The penultimate poem in the book is “Fraught With Danger.” The image this poem begins with is conception. This poem is about entropy, about things falling apart.

The last poem in the book is “As It Never Was,” which comes from a dream I had about living in the rhythms of the seasons, in a more traditional way of life. It feels like an ending.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Update on update

Congratulations to me! Today's my 33rd wedding anniversary, as I've plastered all over Facebook. Well, maybe I'm overdoing it, but whoever heard of anyone being married this long! :]

I'm working full time down at NASA Ames until the third week of October, then going half time. Though we almost left The City in terror (on the theory that it's cheaper to live anywhere but here), we're going to stick it out after all, cutting back on EVERYTHING. Truth is, I'm almost looking forward to my new schedule. I will only have to drive down to Moffett Field two days a week! Woohoo!

'Course it will be great if some contract work happens (especially telecommuting). My resumé has been well received, but who's hiring? But won't it be great to have more writing time? I need a lot of time by myself to write. Though I can scribble bits and pieces on the go, I need to be not distracted to make something of it, and lately, I'm just exhausted.

So we'll see.
Also, I love fall, its negative capabilities, the putting away of light things. Besides, the weather is spectacular: crystalline days, luminous nights. If you (whoever, wherever you are), ever plan to visit Northern California, by golly, now is the time to do it!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Big Decisions

I don't know what to do. Should we, in the space of a month, sell our house, move an hour north to a tiny but cute place in Sonoma County? I'm not kidding. My job is going to (maybe) 50%, and John's work is here and there, dribs and drabs. In order to retain that 50% and the (very expensive) health care that comes with it, I will have to commute an extra hour and a quarter. This will only be two days a week, for now, but I don't know how long now will be. And if work expands? How would I deal with a three day commute schedule of that nature?

I'm trying to get other work, of course. I get very positive responses to my resumé.

We could delay the decision, but the pristine little cottage could go. And October is the prime month to sell a house in San Francisco. We have lived in our house almost 21 years.

Any thoughts? My dear sweet friend and manager says not to do anything hasty, and I promised her I wouldn't. But then, I don't know.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A drag

It's always an exercise in some sort of faith to write here. I imagine it's like praying for those who pray, the need to believe that there is something out there. Partly that's the reason I write here so rarely. Also because this was supposed to be a team blog, for the poetry group, and it's so obviously not. So on top of wondering if anyone is actually reading this, I feel guilty that what they (you) are reading is just about me.

But the truth is, I'm pretty scared. My job is being cut back to 50%, even though they love me there. Work comes in dribs and drabs for John. Of course things could change. We're scrambling. I don't want to be one of those sad woe-is-me stories. I want to be a happy ending.