emerging poet?

May 17, 2017

If you live at least six months of the year in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon or Washington; and have yet to publish a book (including chapbooks, eBooks, translations, books in other languages/countries, and self-published works); and have no book forthcoming before October 1, 2017, the Montana Book Festival invites you to submit up to five pages of unpublished poetry to the 2017 Regional Emerging Writer’s Contest (there are fiction and nonfiction categories as well). The deadline is May 31, 2017, and there is a submission fee. Follow the link for guidelines and find more Montana Book Festival online and on Facebook.

Claudia Rankine

May 16, 2017

In the Winter 2016 issue of The Paris Review, David L. Ulin interviews Claudia Rankine on many subjects, including her influences, her relationship with the audience and her prize-winning book, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014). The interview is now online.

respond!

May 15, 2017

This is just a reminder: Rattle’s invitation to submit poems in response to the news remains open. Here’s what Rattle says:

“Poets Respond — a poem written within the last week about a public event that occurred within the last week will appear every Sunday. Our only criterion for selection is the quality of the poem; all opinions and reactions are welcome. Selected poets will receive $50. To have your own poem considered for next week’s posting, submit at the link on this page before midnight Friday PST. Any poems sent before the midnights of Sunday and Tuesday will also be considered for bonus postings mid-week.”

Don’t just sit there and seethe. Rattle!

We were very sad to see that Patti Pattee of Watermark Book Company in Anacortes is turning a final page on the bookselling business. But there’s still hope for the independent bookstore: YOU! If owning a bookstore is on your bucket list, this could be your chance. See Pattee’s letter on NW Book Lovers and visit Watermark online or, better yet, in person.

 

This is a guest post by Bethany Reid.

I was taking my very first poetry class, from Nelson Bentley at the University of Washington, when I learned that Dylan Thomas’s executors found among his papers 67 drafts of “Fern Hill.” I was all raw courage then, and the notion of revision imprinted itself on me, a little like a German shepherd adopting a duckling. So when my students get discouraged about revision, when my writing friends tell me to stop revising anything, I tell them about “Fern Hill.” It isn’t that I don’t enjoy the madwoman stage of drafting a new poem, but my heart belongs to revision. And if you recently participated in NaPoWriMo — National Poetry Writing Month — then you have 30 new poems in your notebook, and the party is about to begin.

The word, revision, looks abstract, but it’s really fossil poetry, in the best Emersonian sense. That vis in the middle means that revising is seeing again. And I think of revision not as a single lens, but as a series of lenses.

Especially when I’m not sure where to begin revising, I take out a lens for word choice. Maybe I’ll circle all of the verbs in the poem. Just bringing them to my awareness (just seeing them) begins the process of making them stronger, and for deepening the poem as well. You can use this lens for each part of speech. Are your nouns concrete? Any adverbs rattling about and asking to be excused? Too many the’s or it’s?

I have another lens for line endings. Colleen McElroy taught me to read aloud only the end words of each line. (End words in the first stanza of “Fern Hill”: boughs, green, starry, climb, eyes, towns, leaves, barley, light). No, you don’t need a strong word every single time, but becoming aware of what you do have will alert you to missed potential, and strengthen the entire poem.

Once you’ve looked at line endings, take a quick look at line openings. (“Fern Hill” won’t seem as useful here, but notice that in addition to 8 repetitions of and, words like fields, time, golden, down, and sang occur. They are almost a précis of the poem.)

There is so much more you can do, I know. I ask questions. I take out separate lenses to add color words, smells (which I tend to neglect), or emotion. I read my poems aloud as I revise. I also like to play around with line length and stanza breaks. Sometimes I try putting a poem that’s not working into a form, a sonnet maybe or something more complex like a sestina. Just to see what happens. I carry my poems with me and read them away from my desk. Even submitting poems to journals and contests turns out to be a kind of lens. As my poems move into my send-out book, they get another read through. If they come back to me…I am willing to do it all again.

Eventually, there is an end-point. And I don’t mean a point of diminishing-returns (an expression I rather hate), or the famous Paul Valéry line: “Poems are never finished, only abandoned” (though I agree). With practice, I’ve learned not only how to revise my poems, but how to see when they satisfy me. You will, too.

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Bethany Reid’s most recent book, Sparrow, won the 2012 Gell Poetry Prize. Recent publications include EIL, Clementine Unbound, Silver Birch, Del Sol and Cheat River Review. After 25 years of teaching, she retired early to take care of family and write. You can learn more about her at her blog (bethanyareid.com, formerly A Writer’s Alchemy).
 
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image

Surely there are as many ways to practice ekphrastic (art-inspired) writing as there are works of art. And here’s another. Visual Verse is an online publication that calls itself “a collaboration. An anthology of art, poetry, short fiction and non-fiction.” At the beginning of each month, VV posts a new image and invites writers to take no more than one hour to write a piece in response, 50 to 500 words in length, and submit it for publication. More than a hundred people offer responses most months. The site is carefully designed and the images are varied and compelling. To see more, visit Visual Verse online and on Facebook.

See more Poetry Department posts on ekphrastic writing here and here.

Awards ceremony!

May 11, 2017

Bellingham Cruise TerminalMark your calendar and please plan to join the 2017 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest winning poets and their fans for the annual awards ceremony. Held at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal at 7:00pm next Thursday, May 18, 2017, this once again promises to be a heart-warming, celebratory event. Admission is free. Kevin Murphy will emcee. The winning poets will read their poems, a chapbook of the 2017 winning poems will be available for purchase and all of this year’s submitted poems will be on display along with samples of the beautiful poetry placards that will be placed in Whatcom Transportation Authority buses later this summer.

See the list of winners and watch for the winning poems in this space each Sunday over the coming months.

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