Tag Archives: National Poetry Month

What in the World is a Chapbook?

Sometimes we get so used to the jargon of the field we’re in that we forget it’s a specialized language. And that others don’t always  know what in the heck we’re talking about when we use it.

I was thinking the other day that when I say that I wonder if Perry is a feral cat or a stray cat that the nuance between those two types of cats could be lost. A feral cat is so wild that he is not used to humans or civilization and oftentimes cannot be persuaded that we are ok. Unless quite young when the socialization begins, it might not be possible to ever get a feral cat to accept human touch. But I say that with a caveat: every cat must be treated as an individual because you just never know which feral cats can be socialized and which socialized cats will never be lapcats–based on temperament, environment, and so on.

Speaking of Perry, I have been reading him Cindy Rinne’s story in verse Quiet Lantern about a Vietnamese girl named Mai Ly who is on a spiritual quest. The farther I go into the story and the more poetic prowess I discover, the more impressed I am with the book.

Another word I’ve flung around the blog lately is chapbook. Kin Types is a chapbook, rather than a full-length poetry collection like Doll God or like Rinne’s book (which is over 100 pages). But what is a chapbook? Historically, a chapbook was a small pamphlet that was truly around before books as we know them today were invented. The first written fairy tales were chapbooks. They were small. They were a few pages. And they were really roughly printed.

Chapbooks today, though, usually meet these qualifications:

  • Generally poetry, but not always
  • Less than 48 pages in length, generally around 25-30, but even as short as 15 pages (full-length collection is around 55-75)
  • Generally has a sharper focus than a full-length collection
  • Some of the most famous poems were first published in chapbooks–poems by T.S. Eliot, William Blake, Philip Larkin, and Allen Ginsberg
  • Poems can be used in a full-length collection later (or not)
  • There are many chapbook contests and small presses publishing chapbooks
  • There is only one after-publication prize open to chapbooks in the U.S., whereas there are many for full-length books
  • Poets are encouraged to publish chapbooks, as well as full-length books, and many poets first publish a chapbook rather than a book
  • Sometimes the binding is more beautiful than that of a book
  • Sometimes the artistic quality of the binding is poor and the pages look typewritten
  • Sometimes the book is stapled or bound by cord
  • Although modestly expensive, chapbooks are not meant to make money (yup, that’s a fact and probably true of all)
  • Chapbooks are a way to take a risk and strive for art for art’s sake

I did enter Kin Types in a few contests, but they are expensive (entry around $15-25 each) and when the manuscript was accepted by Finishing Line Press for publication, I decided to go with them, rather than spend more money on contests. Still, Kin Types was a semi-finalist in the Concrete Wolf chapbook contest and a Highly Commended title in The Fool for Poetry International Chapbook Competition.

The only writing I’ve been able to do lately is a poem for my son’s wedding. It’s being framed and will be on a table with photographs of the grandparents (of the bride and groom) who have passed on.

Today is the anniversary of my maternal grandmother’s birth in 1912, two days after the Titanic sank. Her birthday was two weeks after that of my paternal grandmother (though they were born 19 years apart). They were both Aries, as is the Gardener.  It’s hard to think of anything that is similar about the three of them, except that they have all been count-on-able.

My maternal grandmother’s name was Lucille Edna, although she was known as Edna. (Luanne is created from Lucille and my mother’s middle name Ann). Edna was Class Historian at graduation (her older sister was Salutatorian the same year) and  always wanted to be a writer. She thought of herself as the “Jo March” of her family (like in Little Women).

When she was elderly and ill, she made me promise I would never give up writing. That comment from Grandma found its way into a Kin Types poem.

from Grandma’s graduation scrapbook

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book contest, Cats and Other Animals, Doll God, Family history, Kin Types, National Poetry Month, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing, Writing contest

National Poetry Month: Make a Commitment

National Poetry Month begins today! You can make a commitment to learning more poetry by deciding to read, write, or contemplate poetry every day in April.   The Academy of American Poets asks us to kick off the celebration by reading these poems about the art of poetry:

 

  Tweet me here which one you like best and why!
Desert Botanical Gardens butterfly exhibit

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April is the Humane-est (sic) Month, Breeding Thoughtfulness

T.S. Eliot’s epic poem “The Waste Land” famously begins:

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
So it’s quite ironic that April is National Poetry Month. If anything, since poetry makes the world more thoughtful and compassionate, I think April might now be the most humane month.
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Poet Yehuda Amichai wrote: “Compassion is what we need.” Ain’t that the truth!
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Of course, one of the greatest mysteries is how a scumbag can write a compassionate, sensitive poem. Case in point: Ezra Nazi-collaborator Pound. He wrote this gorgeous poem/translation:
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THE RIVER-MERCHANT’S WIFE: A LETTER

 

by Ezra Pound 1915 (adapted from Rihaku or Li Po 701-762)

 

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead

I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.

You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,

You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.

And we went on living in the village Chokan:

Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.

 

At fourteen I married My Lord you.

I never laughed, being bashful.

Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.

Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

 

At fifteen I stopped scowling,

I desired my dust to be mingled with yours

Forever and forever and forever.

Why should I climb the look out?

 

At sixteen you departed,

You went into far Ku-to-en, by the river of swirling eddies,

And you have been gone five months.

The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

 

You dragged your feet when you went out.

By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,

Too deep to clear them away!

The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.

The paired butterflies are already yellow with August

Over the grass in the West garden;

They hurt me.  I grow older.

If you are coming down through the narrows of the river kiang,

Please let me know beforehand,

And I will come out to meet you

As far as Cho-fu-Sa.

 

Frustrating that it was Pound who wrote these beautiful lines. Do you love a work of art by a creep? (Hint: you do if you like James and the Giant Peach or Matilda)

Happy National Poetry Month!!!

I plan to celebrate poetry this month, and am going to try to overlook the little detail above: that I don’t care for this year’s poster. Check out previous year’s posters here.

 

What do you think about this year’s poster? Does it make you want to go read a poem?

 

By the way: #amwriting

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Doll God Makes an Appearance on AZTV

I’m still trying to crank out a revision for Stanford, but I thought I’d give you a snicker of enjoyment today. I want to remind you that the night before my TV interview I did not sleep AT ALL. Therefore, I don’t feel I should be responsible for the baggy, wrinkled state of affairs in this video. I’ll be back Monday!

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castle promotional cover

 

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Filed under Arizona, Book promotion, Doll God, Dolls, Interview, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Vintage American culture

Remembering National Poetry Month

HAPPY POETRY MONTH. I can’t let the opening of this month go by without mentioning this happy month (although T.S. Eliot did call it the cruellest month).

The Academy of American Poets partnered with award-winning designer Chip Kidd to commission this poster to celebrate National Poetry Month.  This year’s poster was designed by National Book Award finalist Roz Chast and inspired by Mark Strand. Even Pear Blossom likes it (or is it the crinkle sound?).

With so much on my mind lately, I haven’t organized a list of what I wanted to do for poetry month this year, so for now I think I will read at least one new poem every day. If you like that idea, here is an easy way to do it. Sign up for Poem-A-Day through Poets.org here.

Here is a new one for me by “America’s favorite poet”:

Billy Collins history of weather

I love that this poem begins with spring since spring is breaking open the ground now. I love how the poem goes back farther and farther in time and ends with a realization that the speaker who is trying to get his mind around all this is lying outside with “his jacket bunched into a pillow, an open book on his chest.”

What do you plan to do for National Poetry Month?

 

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Have You Read the Poetry of Linda Hogan?

Do you know the work of poet Linda Hogan?  I love her poetry.  With only two days left of National Poetry Month, I thought I’d share one of my favorite poems, written by Hogan.  The poem is from the “Hunger” section of The Book of Medicines. 

CROSSINGS

by Linda Hogan

There is a place at the center of earth

where one ocean dissolves inside the other

in a black and holy love;

It’s why the whales of one sea

know songs of the other,

why one things becomes something else

and sand falls down the hourglass

into another time.

Once I saw a fetal whale

on a black of shining ice.

Not yet whale, it still wore the shadow

of a human face, and fingers that had grown before the taking

back and turning into fin.

It was a child from the curving world of water turned square,

cold, small.

Sometimes the longing in me

comes from when I remember

the terrain of crossed beginnings

when whales lived on land

and we stepped out of water

to enter our lives in air.

Sometimes it’s from the spilled cup of a child

who passed through all the elements

into the human fold,

but when I turned him over

I saw that he did not want to live

in air.  He’d barely lost

the trace of gill slits

and already he was a member of the clan of crossings.

Like tides of water,

he wanted to turn back.

I spoke across elements

as he was leaving

and told him, Go.

I was like the wild horses

that night when fog lifted.

They were swimming across the river.

Dark was that water,

darker still the horses,

and then they were gone.

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Poetry Prompt:

Write about the origins of life as you believe, imagine, or create them.  Don’t use Biblical language.  Find a fresh way to describe the beginning.

Here is Hogan reading from “The History of Red”:

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Hey, You, Where Did You Get That Poem?

You can find a lot of good books about writing poetry.  They usually are divided into chapters such as metaphor, rhyme, rhythm, and image.  

But Kenneth Koch approached the subject a little differently.  He theorized that to teach poetry writing to children, you had only to teach them to tap into their imaginations and to give them quality poems to read.

For his simpler book Wishes, Lies, and Dreams, he created practical writing prompts for kids.   Chapters include Class Collaborations, Wishes, Comparisons, Noises, Dreams, and Poems Written While Listening to Music.  It’s exciting just to read the titles.  I want to sit in his class and start writing.

So that’s what I do, sort of—I use his ideas for poems.  After all, aren’t these great prompts for adult poets, as well?

Still, Koch knew that kids—and adults—couldn’t just stop there.  To prime our mental pumps, we have to read quality poetry.  The more we read, while keeping the gates to our imagination wide open, the more we can grow as poets.  Of course, in the circle of reading and writing, by writing our own poetry, we enrich our reading experience of the poetic greats.

In Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?, Koch structures this interconnection of reading and writing around ten poems by masters such as Blake, Donne, Whitman, Steven, Ashbery, and Rimbaud.  I’m sorry to say that he did only use poems by male poets.  I’m not going to make any excuses about that tremendous oversight.  Ahem, let’s continue.

Koch introduced the children to Blake’s poem “The Tyger.”

He didn’t want them to stumble over Blake’s “language and syntax,” so he tried to connect the poem to the experiences of the kids, asking questions, such as had they seen a dog’s eyes glowing in the dark.

Here is the prompt he eventually gave them, and it’s one you can use too:

Write a poem in which you are talking to a beautiful and mysterious creature and you can ask it anything you want—anything.  You have the power to do this because you can speak its secret language.

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A Sample from National Poetry Month


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National Poetry Month

by Elaine Equi
When a poem
speaks by itself,
it has a spark

and can be considered
part of a divine
conversation.

Sometimes the poem weaves
like a basket around
two loaves of yellow bread.

"Break off a piece
of this April with its
raisin nipples," it says. 

"And chew them slowly
under your pillow.
You belong in bed with me."

On the other hand,
when a poem speaks
in the voice of a celebrity

it is called television
or a movie.
"There is nothing to see,"

say Robert De Niro,
though his poem bleeds
all along the edges

like a puddle 
crudely outlined
with yellow tape

at the crime scene
of spring.
"It is an old poem," he adds."And besides,
I was very young
when I made it."

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Cruel April’s Fool

Welcome to National Poetry Month!  Dedicating April to poetry is a great way to remind us to enjoy the wealth of poetry we can turn to for sustenance.

One of best known poems of the early 20th century is T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land.”  The first few words, “April is the cruellest month,” have become part of the language, even if many people don’t recognize where they come from.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept
us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with
dried tubers.

When you read the second part, about how winter kept us blanketed in forgetfulness, it comes clear why April which awakens us to life by stirring both our memories and our desires, can be seen as cruel.

I’ve never been one to like being kept in the haze of winter as I delight in that which flourishes when the spring rain nourishes those “dull roots.”  Sometimes what grows is dangerous or sad, but I’m willing to take that risk. In some ways, I’m just a fool for life ;).  And a fool for poetry, too.

Either because photos are poems–or just because–here are some photos of northern California spring splendor I took in March, when California spring really begins:

This last photo shows the blossoming almond trees in the background.  For more on the almond trees, here is a photo and short-short piece on Cowbird.

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