Stuff that’s Happened since October

So there’s the big thing: our mother’s illness and death.

This time last year she was fine. Or seemed fine, though the cancer that would kill her was quite probably growing quite happily and quietly inside. This time last year she decided for the first time in years not to attend the annual Thinking Day Service because she was tired. She wasn’t diagnosed till June, and she died one week ago.

*moment of silence*

Some little things:

My chapbook, Mama Lily and the Dead, was published in December.

The Avatar Review accepted four of my poems for publication in this year’s issue.

More stuff? Nothing really comes to mind. Death has a way of shutting out all the frivolous. Not entirely a bad thing, IMO.

10 Questions on Poets & Technology: Cati Porter

Nic’s interview this week: Cati Porter.

The internet, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites, iPad, iPod, podcasts, digital video and who knows what else. What do they all mean for the poet qua poet? For Poetry? Is it still pretty much where the Gutenberg press left it? Is Poetry technology-proof? In our fearless ongoing quest to exploit other people’s wisdom on poetry-related subjects, we are posing ten questions to a group of illustrious contemporary poets on this topic. This week’s responder is Cati Porter.

via Very Like A Whale.

10 Questions on Poets & Technology: Chris Hamilton-Emery

Nic’s got a new interview up: Chris Hamilton-Emery.

The internet, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites, iPad, iPod, podcasts, digital video and who knows what else. What do they all mean for the poet qua poet? For Poetry? Is it still pretty much where the Gutenberg press left it? Is Poetry technology-proof? In our fearless ongoing quest to exploit other people’s wisdom on poetry-related subjects, we are posing ten questions to a group of illustrious contemporary poets on this topic. This week’s responder, bringing us a UK perspective, is Chris Hamilton-Emery.

via Very Like A Whale.

10 Questions on Poets & Technology: Ren Powell

Nic’s third 10 Questions second interview went up last Thursday: Ren Powell.

The internet, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites, iPad, iPod, podcasts, digital video and who knows what else. What do they all mean for the poet qua poet? For Poetry? Is it still pretty much where the Gutenberg press left it? Is Poetry technology-proof? In our fearless ongoing quest to exploit other people’s wisdom on poetry-related subjects, we are posing ten questions to a group of illustrious contemporary poets on this topic. This week’s responder is Ren Powell.

via Very Like A Whale.

10 Questions on Poets & Technology: Collin Kelley

Nic’s got a 10 Questions second interview up. This time it’s Collin Kelley.

The internet, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites, iPad, iPod, podcasts, digital video and who knows what else. What do they all mean for the poet qua poet? For Poetry? Is it still pretty much where the Gutenberg press left it? Is Poetry technology-proof? In our fearless ongoing quest to exploit other people’s wisdom on poetry-related subjects, we are posing ten questions to a group of illustrious contemporary poets on this topic. This week’s responder is Collin Kelley.

via Very Like A Whale.

tongues of the ocean issue 4 goes live

Or went live on Sunday past. Featuring entry art by Steve Cartwright, and beginning the issue with two very cool and contrasting poems: “In the Bay” by Changming Yuan (China, USA), and “12 Notes for a Light Song of Light” by Kei Miller (Jamaica, UK).

A taste:

the waves surging towards the seashore
not unlike my spirits

the seashore embracing the waves
not unlike your arms

–Changming Yuan

and:

A light song of light will summon daffodils,
bluebells and strawberries, humming birds;
will summon silver, the shine of sequins,
the gold of rings—and the dreadful luminosity
of everything we had been told to close
our eyes to

— Kei Miller

On passing up my chance to eat with Derek Walcott

OK, so if you’ve been following my other social networks, you’ll have heard somewhere, somehow, that Derek Walcott’s in town. (If you’re not sure where “town” is, it’s Nassau, Bahamas, where I am too). He’s got here through the actions of two groups, one of which happens to be the School of English Studies at the College of The Bahamas, where I also am. I used to be in the School of English, but now I’m where I figure I actually belong according to my terminal degrees, in the School of Social Sciences. But the School of English still treats me like I’m with them, and I don’t mind. I pinch-hit some of the courses on that side every now and then and still enjoy myself.

Continue reading

Ten Questions for Poetry Editors – Scavella’s Turn « Very Like A Whale

Nic Sebastian over at Very Like A Whale invited me to respond to her Ten Questions for Poetry Editors. You can read the result this week here:

What goes on inside poetry editors’ heads? is a burning question for publishing and wannabe-publishing poets everywhere. With this third Ten Questions series, we are showcasing weekly answers from a diverse group of poetry editors to Ten Questions for Poetry Editors. Each editor’s responses will appear as a separate blog post and all posts will be linked back to the series’ standing page.

Our responder this week is Nicolette Bethel [aka Scavella], editor of Tongues of the Ocean.

Ten Questions for Poetry Editors – Nicolette Bethel « Very Like A Whale

Flood Warnings and Steam Baths – the De-Cabbage Yourself experience flies south for summer

This week, Rob‘s in The Bahamas with me, Scavella, aka Nicolette Bethel. He hasn’t picked the best day for it — the birds are singing, they always do, but it’s overcast and going to pour. Still, the nice thing about rain in the sub-tropics (which isn’t like rain in Scotland, which I experienced one chilly day in Edinburgh on my way back from a conference in St. Andrews round the turn of the century) is that it’s drama at its best. And it’s warm. So hold on for flood warnings and steam baths.

••• Continue reading

Ten Questions for Poetry Editors – Susan Culver « Very Like A Whale

Very Like A Whale gets inside Susan Culver’s head.

What goes on inside poetry editors’ heads? is a burning question for publishing and wannabe-publishing poets everywhere. With this third Ten Questions series, we are showcasing weekly answers from a diverse group of poetry editors to Ten Questions for Poetry Editors. Each editor’s responses will appear as a separate blog post and all posts will be linked back to the series’ standing page.

Our responder this week is Susan Culver, editor of Lily and Poetry Friends.

Go on. Go check it out.

Christine Klocek-Lim on Static

Thanks to Nic, I had the pleasure of reading the following post on Christine Klocek-Lim’s blog November Sky, and was struck by how much I agree with her.

November Sky Poetry: Sonnets and Static

I recently bought Jack Gilbert’s new book, “The Dance Most of All,” and on first glance it seems to be more of the same. He’s one of my favorite poets and I’m certainly looking forward to reading his new poetry (it’s all so comfortable), yet I can’t help feeling as though he discovered one way to do something and hasn’t varied since then. His poems all look the same: like a herd of horses, they’re different colors and even breeds and beautiful, but still, all HORSES. I’ve noticed that other poets tend to do this, never changing that one style that works, that brings them recognition and awards. It’s a trap.

Both beginners and old-hands fall into this trap, in which there are two sides. On one side you write only for yourself, on the other you write only for other people. The best work of any poet straddles the sharp line in-between: where you understand how much information a reader needs to relate to your poem and you also understand that you must push the boundary of sameness and move into artistry. Continue reading

PFFA’s Seven/Seven

We wanted to have some fun.

So Annie suggested we write seven poems in seven days every month, starting on the seventh.

Several of us took up the challenge.  This month, I’m returning full-time to academia, so I got sidetracked. 

Still. I thought I’d share a little of the work I’ve done so far. It’ll flash up and disappear, in time, because, you know, this is a blog and one day I might want to publish one of them, but in the meantime.

Here: watch this space.

Poems, Lyrics and Death

There’s a rocking going on in the poetry blogosphere (hate that word!  Hate it! hate it!) that’s been caused by the unexpected and premature death of Reginald Shepherd, who was two weeks younger than me.  PFFA poets have made their comments — here, and here, and here, and in this thread on PFFA, here.  Like Rob, if it weren’t for the internet I may not have heard of him, but I may — he lived in Florida, and was a colleague of colleagues.  The thing is, unlike my fellow poets, I hadn’t read his poems till the day he died.

I had read his essays, had looked at his blog, had been moved by his prose.  Now that I read his poems, though, I’m struck by the lyrical nature of them.  Lyric poetry is something I have fought for some time, landing strangely in the world of narrative and dramatic verse, not terribly moved by the lyric efforts of most of my contemporaries.

I’m not sure but I think I may be changing my mind.  Will I be writing any lyrics in the near future?  Unlikely, though who can tell.  What goes on inside me is nobody’s business but mine, I’ve decided.  Let me give you fragments instead and shore them against my ruins.

Publication in qarrtsiluni

(ai, it’s hard to post in the middle of the day from here … traffic is high and the connection gets very slow, and weird things happen.  Where’s here?  Why, Georgetown, Guyana, at CARIFESTA X, and you can follow the story of my/our experiences here, but anyway, we soldier on)

 

I wanted to say that in checking one of my email accounts the other day, I realized, belatedly, that two of my pieces had been accepted for publication in the Transformation issue of qarrtsiluni.

The pieces?  

Sevenling:  Life is a drying

The Granddaughter Sings Lily Home (1994)

They’ll even be accompanied by sound files.  Fabulous!

Thanks, guys.  Look for the first one soon.

Light and Ending

Rob surveys 12 poetry collections from his bookshelf to find out how they end.  He’s basing his research on something he read recently in Douglas Coupland’s The Gum Thief:

“It’s not in every book, but it’s in most books. It’s this: when a book ends, the characters are often moving either towards or away from a source of light – literally – like carrying a candle into a dark room or running a red light at an intersection or opening curtains or falling into a well or – this list goes on. I circled all the bits about light and there’s no mistaking it.”

My immediate reaction is to be sceptical, but I don’t have enough to ground my scepticism in, so I just thought I’d post this up here and think for a little while.

Surroundings: Ending a Collection.

One Poet’s Notes

Frank O’Hara: “Having a Coke with You”

I was intrigued by this post on Edward Byrne’s blog, which provides (as the Valpariaso blog often does) video and text of poems.  What intrigued me was not the delivery of the poem, which was pretty boring, IMHO, but the poem itself, which was one of those conversational Whitmanesque Ginsberg-related pieces, but which works as it is written, unlike the residue of that movement that obtains today.  I was intrigued because I wanted to analyze why it worked for me when so many of the contemporary ones don’t.  Perhaps it’s because this is the idiom of the mid-twentieth century, not of the early twenty-first, and we’re hanging on with slipping fingers to innovations of the past rather than looking to see what rough beast our age is about to bear.

Thoughts?

Why I haven’t been reading/writing lately

Oh, come on, you didn’t really think I’d tell you, did you?

I would if I could but I can’t.  Or if I did, I’d have to shoot you.

The simple, all-encompassing, oh-so-tedious-and-boring reason is:  work.

For those who don’t know by now, I am a senior(ish) civil servant in a broken civil service, and so while there are times when I could be fooled into thinking that what I do really matters, it really doesn’t.  I’m like a really athletic hamster on a fairly stable wheel, so that when I’m running on it I can climb halfway, or even, on special occasions, three quarters of the way, to the top — but that just means the cycle to the bottom makes the floor of my tummy drop out.

I can’t share, by law and convention and colonial intention, the details of what my work is.  (And no, I’m not in any secret service; know that everything public servants do is secret, unless otherwise instructed.  Don’t ask.)  But I can say that this week has been a particularly busy week on the hamster wheel.

I am taking vacation starting Monday.  It’s a bad time, but hey.  One of the perks of this job (you really need them — another one is a parking space whoo-hoo) is that you can accumulate your vacation time, but only until you’ve racked up fifteen weeks of it; then you have to take it or lose it.  I found going into this year I had almost ten weeks of it, so I’ve been taking some every now and then.  So tomorrow, I’m heading north to Montreal to see my soon-to-be one-year-old nephew, who’s morphed into a little boy somehow overnight (when I last saw him he looked like Tweety Bird, only not so yellow.  Not a bad thing, in my opinion, as Tweety was my favourite Toon back in the day).  I shall catch up on Hudgins over the week.

And on other reading, too, the audio book kind.  Last year, Ondaatje; this year, Atwood and Eugenides.

I’ll report when I’m done.

Acceptance from Anti-

*ahem* Edited to make the actual announcement.

I’ve heard from Steve Schroeder over at Anti- that two of my Lily poems were accepted for publication. Which ones? “The Preacher Man Saves Lily’s Soul (1914)” and “The Carpenter Seals Lily’s Widowhood (1943)”. I can’t begin to explain my elation. Both are favourites of mine. “Preacher Man” has been in progress for years and years (pace Julie), while “Carpenter” came almost complete, and needed only a few tweaks here and there for wording, clarity, and semi-form (it wants to masquerade as a sonnet, which it really isn’t, and so I made some concessions). Woo-hoo!!

Couple of months ago, when Anti- was launched, I posted this on my blog. At that time, I said

Found this interesting:

Anti-

I agree poetry should improve the bare page — or the bare screen, in most of the cases I’m familiar with these days. (Is there such a thing as a bare screen?) Three problems, though.

  1. Be sure you read contemporary poetry.”
  2. “Posting drafts to an online workshop or blog is not previously published provided they’re removed prior to submission.”
  3. “Anything the editor can Google is previously published.”

Hm. Pretty well everything I consider worth publishing has been workshopped online, and not all workshops purge.

And today, when I thought I’d trawl through my caught spams, I discovered this response to that post:

Hi Scavella:

Sorry I wasn’t aware of this post earlier. I think workshops not purging old posts is a terrible idea, which was one of two key reasons I quit posting at PFFA long ago. I think you’ll find me much more accommodating of online workshopping than a lot of editors.

Steve
Steve S
Friday, January 25, 2008

Thanks Steve, thanks Julie, thanks all!

Oh, and I figured out what I was anti- as well.

Avatar Review 10

The issue’s live, and it’s lovely to look at.

It’s exciting to be a part of it.  It’s even more exciting to see what’s in it.  It’s worth a good, long wallow, I think.

People I know/have workshopped with whose work is in it:

Nic Sebastian

Howard Miller

David Anthony

Graham Burchell

and our very own

Julie Carter

is the featured poet.  Yay!

Congratulations to the editorial board, which features even more of the people I’ve met through workshops — and to Paula Grenside in particular, who accepted my poem and edited me — though we both missed one small detail, which I’ll leave you all to figure out.

Cheers.

Poem of the Day goes on into May!

One of the great surprises of post-NaPo is that the poem of the day that I signed up for continues! Yay.

But what I’m going to post today came out in April. I just didn’t have time to post it when I got it.

Her Body Like a Lantern Next to Me
by John Rybicki

…………There’s this movie I am watching:
my love’s belly almost five months
…………pregnant with cancer,

…………more like a little rock wall
piled and fitted inside her
…………than some prenatal rounding.

…………Over there’s her face
near the frying pan she’s bent over,
…………but there’s no water in the pan,

…………and so, no reflection. No pool
where I might gather such a thing as a face,
…………or sew it there on a tablet made of water.

It’s very moving. Definitely go and read the whole thing.