April is Poetry Month… & I Haven’t Made a Single Post (Horrors!)

Tuesday the 6th was Chris’s b-day, and instead of traditional birthday things, I dragged him to the DYPS’ reading at the Oglethorpe Museum (he was very amenable, all things considered).  The reading was in tandem with their exhibit, Henri Matisse: a Celebration of French Poets and Poetry. (As opposed to French poets and what, hotdogs???  Like, duh, of course poetry).

I really enjoyed myself, even if the poems that Blake, Bob, and Karen read were mostly ekphrastic–and both Bob and Blake brought handouts to accompany their poems too, which was thoughtful.  I knew that we, as a group, had discussed the appropriateness of this venue for ekphrastic poetry, and as you know, I’m not a) a huge fan of it, and b) worth a damn when it comes to writing it.  So I had initially tried to get out of the reading, figuring that the few ekphrastic poems I’ve written (and they’re only pseudo-ek, because I think the convention of just describing what’s in the painting is kind of… well… dry) really ought not to be read–or hell, acknowledged–but my demurring went over like the proverbial lead balloon.

So, making my apologies to the audience (which was, surprisingly, not just the DYPS and their significant others), I read poems from La Petite Mort, and from my as-yet-unnamed collection about the Sibley Sisters.  Here’s the set list:

  • Dystopic Love Poem
  • Besame Mucho
  • It Took You Half an Hour to Remember the Words “Wine Cooler”
  • Low Sunday
  • Valediction
  • Ex Somnium
  • Bee
  • They Say
  • Supplication
  • Tallulah Brings Home News

Afterwards, there was an impromptu star party, as the director(?) of the Oglethorpe Museum invited us up on the roof to look at Venus and Mercury.  Sirius was out, as was Orion, and I think I saw the Big Dipper.  It was neat to be up there, although it went on a little longer than I would have liked, and Karen reminded me of the time we were at the observatory at the Sewanee Writers Conference (in 2002), and we saw the shooting star.  (How can that be 8 years ago???)

Anyway… April is a busy month, poetry-wise, for me.  There is PoetryAtlanta’s Talking Back to the Muse program on the 17th, a poetry workshop on the 24th, a reading on the 28th, and possibly another reading sometime at the end of the month.  Well, I hope I can finagle some book orders out of all of this!

Oh, and buy my book already! 😉

La Petite Mort Available for Pre-Order!

The pre-sale period for my debut chapbook from Finishing Line Press, La Petite Mort, starts today (March 26th) and continues through Friday, May 7th.  It’s $14 + $1 shipping.  It will ship on July 2nd, just in time for Independence Day–so think of my poems as “freeing” you from banal reading for a little while.

You’ll  have to hunt for my name among the hoards on Finishing Line’s New Releases and Forthcoming Titles page, but at least it’s alphabetically listed.   It’s well worth the trouble, though, and you will feel so glad for supporting the arts!

By the way, FLP determines the press run by the number of pre-sales they make, so buy early, and buy often!

And thanks!

You Can Take the Girl Out of the South…

Taking Karen’s Southern Poetry class has rekindled in me some Southern connection in my writing that has been dormant for a while.  One of the first questions she posed was, of course, what is Southern poetry?  Is it simply poetry written by a person living in the South or a person born in the South?  Must it have a Southern perspective or advance Southern ideology-mythology-philosophy?  (It’s always sticky when you delve into essentialism.)

I’ve always thought that a Southern writer is a person who was (at least) raised in the South and writes about the South in such a way that place becomes a character in the literature, that notion of “spirit of place” that D.H. Lawrence (and later Lawrence Durrell) spoke of–you know, the way the South is a character in Flannery O’ Connor or William Faulkner (and notice, I didn’t mention poets).

And, because that was my definition of a Southern writer, I’ve never quite felt like a true Southern poet–in the sense that a goodly bit of my writing isn’t Southern at all.  I mean, La Petite Mort doesn’t have a lick of Southern-ness in it.  If someone picks it up in the future, the only way they’ll know it’s by a “Southern” writer is because the author blurb on the back mentions that I’m from Louisiana.  And even some of my poems which are about family experiences in Louisiana don’t really have any specific Louisiana flavor.

That said, when I do write as a Louisiana poet (as I think of myself more “Louisianian” than “Southern”), I still feel a bit fraudulent, as if I’m taking on a persona.  And I wonder if that has to do with the fact that while Louisiana is my home, I’ve lived lots of different places which has tempered some of my Southern aesthetic.  And it’s not that I’ve even lived in the “good part” of Louisiana–I mean, Shreveport?  I love it, but it’s pretty generic “South,” not very charismatic at all.  Certainly not a place whose spirit can infuse one’s writing.  (Not much, at any rate.)  So again, when I write “Southern,” it always feels just a little like a put-on.

But let’s consider some of the Louisiana poems I’ve written–not that there really are many of them.  First, there was the “Tigerlily” series of dramatic monologues that I wrote in the early 2000’s–they were all written from the perspective of  Tigerlily Agnew Beaumont, a spoiled Southern debutante who, frankly, still wished she was living in Antebellum Louisiana.  She was someone for whom the War of Northern Aggression was still a real issue and who was just a little too preoccupied with everyone else’s business.  I remember Grace Bauer (a fine poet and my thesis advisor at Nebraska) said they demonstrated the “Southern grotesque” well–which was high praise.

These “Tigerlily” poems are quintessentially Southern in that respect–that whole Glory of the South B.S. that has kept the South coasting on nostalgia and arrayed in its tattered laurels.  And yet, despite her flaws, Tigerlily is very likable.  And funny.  Very much like me if I were rich, spoiled, and ignorant.  In some ways, also very much thematically like the poems written by the Fugitive poets that we just read in Karen’s class–even though I hadn’t actually read much by the Fugitives before January, except the little bits you might get in an American poetry survey class.

And then there was the title poem from my Dissertation–When Jesus Came to Shreveport. While the 14 poems in this sequence are about Shreveport in the present day, and every poem features some kind of Shreveport landmark, I’m not so sure the sensibility is 100% Louisianian/ Southern.  (Although I wouldn’t know how to characterize what other sensibility they have.) It’s true they’re about a kind of “Jesus witnessing” (as Jesus is on a bus tour of the U.S. and makes a stop in Shreveport and finds the I who shows up in poem 6), and everyone knows that religion often places a huge role in Southern writing.  But are they Southern poems just because they’re set in Shreveport?  If you use my definition, I suppose they are.  But I can’t escape this bit of “alien” that seems lodged inside of me, that affects my perspective and warps it away from me feeling like a Southern writer.  (This makes me wonder if Karen’s My Paris Year poems make her feel any less a Southern poet–or if she feels any of this alien-ness/ division that I do?)

But then there are other poems that I’ve written that seem totally-duh-Southern, like “Big Buddha on McIllhenney Plantation” (Avery Island, LA) or “Melon Stand South of Many” (Many, LA),  or “Kisatchie” (Kisatchie National Forest between Leesville & Natchitoches, LA) or “Old Kook” (St. Francisville, LA) or “Canal Street Look-Out” (New Orleans).  To me, Place is indeed a character in the poems, and the writing of these poems never felt like me pretending to be from the South.  They seemed as natural to write as the non-Southern poems I’ve written.  When you read them, you’d never think anyone but a true Southern poet could have written them.  But that puts me back in essentialist hell.

Anyway, all this leads me back to the rekindled Southern connection that I mentioned earlier.  As in, I’ve started a new sequence of poems that are very Shreveport-of-the-past, very, very Southern in attitude and purpose.  And while I am still feeling a bit alien, I also feel paradoxically in tune with my own Southernness as I have not felt in a long time.  I don’t know where these poems will go, or what I’ll end up with, but I am quite excited about them.

More tomorrow.

Happy New Writing Year!

Says Chris:  “Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to start writing again.”

I’m paraphrasing, but he’s not wrong.  Frankly, I had great plans of writing over the break–especially the furlough days, courtesy of the State of Georgia.  But there always seems to be more to do at the holidays than you think there is–putting parties together, shopping for Christmas dinner, cooking, wrapping gifts, getting ready for family visits, driving everywhere…  And then it’s over, and you haven’t much to show for it, other than an overly-boring list of announcements about leveling up in one game or another on Facebook.

I’m sad that Christmas is over–and not just because having the days off was nice.  I don’t need to pontificate about how the reality never measures up to the hype, though I had a good Christmas day with Chris, and later my Mom, who showed up around 7:30 p.m. (and my wild mushroom lasagne for Christmas dinner was amazing).  But you go into the stores now, and see things on 75% clearance, and everything looks so sad and broken, and you wonder how it can be gone so quickly, and forgotten.

Anyway, it’s 2010 now, and since I accomplished my goal of getting a chapbook accepted for publication last year (although it won’t be out until this July–and believe me, I will be reminding all of you when Finishing Line is doing the pre-sale), my new resolution is to write a full-length collection that will be ready for the contest route in 2011.

I just need a theme (what I call the “gimmick”) that can help guide me in writing and shaping the collection–I mean, for La Petite Mort, the gimmick was the voice–it ruled the poems, both in subject matter and in tone.  I need something like that to help me begin writing the new collection; otherwise, I will continue to write a lot of random, unrelated poems that could never be a book.  (I just wish I’d be hit soon with some divine inspiration about what that theme/ gimmick could be.  *Sigh.*)

And I suppose the best thing about heading back to work is that our writing group will gear back up.  I really, really need that discipline.

Anyway, Happy New Year, everyone.  I hope it’s filled with poems, publications, and pleasant good times.

Under a Rock

In case you wonder where I’ve been, I’ve been under the oppressive boulder of registration, which has pretty much consumed my attention for the last two weeks.  You know how bad it’s been?  I completely forgot to go to my writing group this week.  I didn’t even think about it until yesterday.   Dreadful.

Thursday night I was down in Columbus at the First Thursday Reading Series; I was the featured reader.  It was really pretty neat because there was an open-mic reading before me, and eight readers signed up, and each person read a couple of poems, so I got to hear poems by my Georgia Poetry Society friends Keith Badowski, Ron Self (who had also prepared an absolutely lovely dinner in my honor), Elsie Austen (who contributed the world’s best dinner rolls to that dinner), and Jo Middlebrooks, among others.

Afterwards, I read for about 20-25 minutes, and tried, valiantly (but not successfully), to make that little small-talk-between-poems that is so essential but so ghastly hard.  It might have been less difficult if I had chosen which poems I was going to read beforehand, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it–inexcusable, really, and I’m sorry about that.  (I hope my audience didn’t think too badly of me for it).  So that made me a little bit flustered.

But I did read a wide variety of poems (including several from La Petite Mort).  Here’s the set list, in no particular order:

  • On Mathematics Hall
  • Excavation
  • Night Orchard
  • Moth Walk
  • Dystopic Love Poem
  • Providence
  • You Never Listen
  • It Took You Half an Hour to Remember the Words “Wine Cooler”
  • Solstice
  • Imputation
  • Ex Somnium
  • Melon Stand, South of Many
  • Bayous and Barstools
  • Decidedly Unbridled Foolish Pleasure
  • Old Kook
  • Besame Mucho

Speaking of La Petite Mort, I really need to get with the program on that.  As in, photos, blurbs, and addresses.  *Sigh*

And Now a Word from She Who Is Soon-to-be Published

I’ve been thinking about cover art and blurbs and such, and I can’t tell you how stressful that is.  I’m beginning to think writing the book was waaaaay easier than all the stuff that comes after.

Karen says I ought to hold a contest and have my students come up with possible cover art.  Which I could do, and maybe give like a giftcard or something to the winner.  However, there’s a little part of me (alright, a BIG part of me) that thinks that rates a 10 on the Gouda Scale.  But what are my options, otherwise?  I can’t take a photo to save my life, and let’s not go into my painting skills.

And then there’s the whole “author picture” thing.  That’s a debacle in waiting.  I’m about as photogenic as roadkill.  (And no, this is NOT a call from my devoted friends to protest otherwise, well-meaning and lying as you would be.)  Ugh.  I don’t even want to think how obnoxious getting a professional-looking photo will be.  It’s not like I can ask Chris to take it.  He takes ghastlier pictures than I do.  Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

And Goddess save me, I have to find people to blurb my book?  If there’s one thing I despise (but secretly crave it anyway) is affirmation and notice from others about my writing.  The thought of approaching anyone and asking them to read La Petite Mort and say how great it is, fills me with absolute blood-freezing dread.  I go out of my way to be unnoticed, quiet, fade-into-the-woodworky.  Asking someone to read my book and hoping they’ll like it enough to say some kind words is like a nightmare to me.  I think I’d rather extract every last tooth from my mouth, sans Novacaine.  I don’t even know who to ask.  Who even really wants to blurb a book?  Isn’t it kind of phony anyway?

Ugh.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking I’m the most ungrateful, idiotic, ridiculous person in the world, who just got her book accepted and ought to be hella grateful, and instead, here is she is bitching about it.  You’re damn right I’m bitching about it.  I am grateful–I’m not a complete moron–but is it wrong to be just a little freaked out about the extra associated crap that goes with the acceptance of the book?  The pictures, the blurbs, feeling like a big bleah-head??

(Not that feeling like a big bleah-head is new for me.  I feel like that quite often.)

OMG!!! Finishing Line Is Taking La Petite Mort!

Alright, I’ve been hella down in the dumps lately, like, nauseatingly so.

So, imagine how awesome it was to get an e-mail from Finishing Line Press today telling me that they’ll publish my chapbook La Petite Mort!!!! This is completely out-of-the blue too, because I had entered it in their New Women’s Voices contest, got the standard “Thanks, we’re going to publish this amazing writer, and you’re not her” note, and didn’t give it another thought.  I guess they also choose to publish a select number of non-winners.

But I am dizzily happy, crazy amazed, and thrilled!  Tomorrow I will worry about withdrawing it from the other contests I have it in.  But tonight I’m going to bask in the knowledge that I finally have a real, live book to my name.