Friday 30 November 2012

Macmillan Writing Day

Three years ago former Bath Spa MA student Rachel Knightley asked if I'd join a group of writers in being sponsored to write for a day, with the money going to Macmillan Cancer Support. I've done it every year, but this year I thought I'd take the cause out to the public and asked Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights if I could spend part of the day writing at their lovely shop. I'll be there from 1-4 p.m. today and would love to have some visitors. Not that I don't want to write--I always want to write--but I like this idea, of donating one's skills in some way to charity, and would like to see it become more popular. I also want to do what I can for Macmillan Cancer Support. I've lost two former poetry students to cancer in the last few years, first Linda Lamus, then Ellie Evans, and I'm grateful for Macmillan's good work.

Donations can be made here up to a month from today, I believe. Any amount, however small, is most welcome.

Monday 19 November 2012

"Ogres" from Andrew Bailey's first collection, Zeal (Enitharmon, 2012)

Here's a delightful villanelle from Andrew Bailey's first collection, Zeal. Tomorrow night he'll be reading at Topping's here in Bath, and I hope he'll include this. There is some identation in the lines I have been unable to replicate here, by the way.


And there there is a lemon that contains
an island where they laugh so loud it hurts –
the souls of all the ogres in Ceylon

have been secreted far enough from harm
that they assume their soulless frames immortal.
But there there is a lemon that contains

the path to the secret citrus grove, wherein
assurances were made that seemed to state
the souls of all the ogres in Ceylon

would be protected. And there, too, to be found
is a blunted knife, an x-marked chart,
and there there is a lemon that contains

a lemon-scented sharpening stone
that hones the sour knife till it could halt
the souls of all the ogres in Ceylon.

And there’s that grove, that path, that laugh again.
You grip the knife, your other hand out flat,
and there there is a lemon that contains
the souls of all the ogres in Ceylon.

Andrew Bailey

In the UK, you can purchase Zeal from the publisher here

Thursday 15 November 2012

Homecoming (Dancing Girl, 2013)

After admiring for years Dancing Girl's handmade chapbooks and focus on women poets, I was delighted when, some months ago, I realized I had a manuscript that might suit. Last night I learned that they--or rather, she, editor Kristy Bowen, agreed, and would be publishing Homecoming in the second half of 2013. Focusing on home, family and death (no, it's not cheery work), the poems have appeared in Court Green, New Welsh Review, Notre Dame Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Wales, The Rialto, Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Warwick Review. I guess that list suggests that this manuscript's been some time in the making; in fact it is the basis for a collection in progress, The Weather in Normal. Anticipating a question from my Sudden Prose and other prose poetry students, I'll add that one third of the poems are in prose, two thirds in lines. As the press is based in Chicago I expect I'll buy a goodly stock to sell at readings and by post in the UK--just let me know if you'd like one.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Mary Ann Samyn's Purr (New Issues, 2005)

But even with the day OFF
(shades down, light switched)
the mirror has to do someting with all its energy.

It chooses you. Red Rover Red Rover.

 from "A Third Source of Unnecessary Tension"

A little error: fine
A little accomplishment: better.

I stood aside and watched my mood.

The poem rippled past.

opening of "The Variant for This Is Silence"

All day the day snows down around
each of us separately.

No, the day's debris--

end of "Cabin Fever in the Gray World"

Our new weather makes me regret a thing or two,
that's for sure.

When I leave, I always say thank you
whether I mean it or not.

end of "Crank It Up"

Sorrow, for instance, which had held her in a sling,

a gauzy numbness where she kicked her legs in sleep.

end of "What Happened Next"

As though they had argued, earlier,

or she had remembered she was separate:

These are my hands. I end here.

The space they loved made a cruel sound.
Of course her large sadness had opened,

all the furred animals shifting

in the little boat of sleep.

first half of "Snarl"

You know: first the light and then the hurt
and then the new shoots and how the deer love it.

last stanza of "A Thought, For Example, Is a Form"

The thing is you can't see the cigarette fragments
on the postcard reproduction I bought.

Pollock never stood over this little rectangle.

On the back in boldface: his name and the bar code:
4  0010  39478  4.

The scanner is red-mouthed, tight-lipped.
I owe 35 cents.

By all accounts, this is a good deal,
especially when the universe may, in fact, be a loose bag,
a skin folding back on itself.

You just don't know.

I choose a white loop in Pollock's Number 3, 1949: Tiger.

I go as far as I can.

last third of "Terminal"

Monday 12 November 2012

Self-Censorship and Writing in and out of the Classroom

Yesterday at the annual NAWE conference (the National Association for Writers in Education, UK), I spoke on a panel with Bath Spa colleague Steve May and Columbia College Chicago comrades Randy Albers and Alexis Pride. Titled "Revelation and Transgression: Moving Past Self-Censorship," we spoke both about our own experiences overcoming self-censorship and about trying to get students to overcome it in their own writing. 

I think students feel or obtain such permission largely by example, by the reading they're assigned or recommended and by the instructor's own work. For example, Alexis spoke movingly about how the literary weight given in the classroom to Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye made African-American experience seem welcome subject matter; and after sharing some of the poems that have arisen from my own experience as a birthmother (as in my pamphlet/chapbook The Son), I've had students seek me out to discuss writing and sharing their own work on subjects they consider taboo. The same thing has happened with my experimental poetry--sometimes once a student finds it on her own or comes to a reading I give from it, she'll come to me to find out about experimental writing more generally and how to get started writing it.

The topic lingers in my mind as I consider how I might improve my teaching by broadening such models, perhaps especially in my Sudden Prose module with a wider array of flash fictions and prose poems. Your thoughts and recommendations are most welcome!