Wednesday thought: veils, tattoos, and anvils

In wandering through Duotrope for new venues to send poems, I’ve noticed a number of “serious” journals that will not read or publish “erotic poetry.” Sometimes, it sounds like the sort of aversion that might lead someone to say it with anvils: Just. Don’t. Do. It

But then, I ran across this amazing poem by Richard Fenwick, which originally appeared in the Linden Avenue Lit. Journal. Now, if this isn’t erotic I don’t know what it is: the whole way of hinting at skin, and undressing, while simultaneously denying that undressing (and even skin) is going to be part of the long term picture – I mean isn’t that push-and-pull, that as-of-yet-unfulfilled possibility of fulfillment, the definition of “erotic?”

So now I’m wondering if they mean something else by erotic – Brooklyn Museum - Wallpaper Sample Book 1 - William Morris and Company - page110maybe “explicit?” Or “involving too many semi-medical or gutter-worthy terms for human body parts?” Are  they thinking specifically of the genre of fiction called “erotica”?

I think (for what it’s worth) that if that’s what they’re worried about they should say so, because some of the most beautiful poems in the world are the most deeply erotic. A few examples of my favorites? I’m so glad you asked:

As far as me, on the rare occasions in which I touch on “erotic” themes, they’re usually something like Richard’s (though not even close to the quality in terms of sheer amazing language use) – things hinted at, much left concealed. So tell me: What poems do you find erotic? When you write about love, how do you do it without “expliciticity” or vulgarity? If you’ve never written an erotic poem, give it a thought – how would you approach it? Would you sidle up to the topic? would you hint? Would you be bold?


Monday coffee: This lovely weekend

To cut branch of coffee treeI spent Thanksgiving with my spouse, child and my inlaws. Today we went to see a production of “The Nutcracker” – which has become a family tradition. The Fresno production is lovely – the children are always ridiculously cute; the Sacramento Valley Ballet (the performance  is a joint production between a local ballet studio and the Ballet Co) is wonderful, and the dancers work really well with their young counterparts. The sets are also beautiful – the whole thing, down to the way that Dr. Drosselmeyer’s silly magic tricks conceal his true magical abilities) comes alive on stage.

Child and I visiting The Woozle House

On the way home from the theater, we stopped to check out the ongoing development of a Patrick Dougherty installation, called “Learning Curve.” We have a Doughtery installation more local to us as well. My son calls it “The Woozle House” – which has always struck me as just right.

Patrick Doherty sculpture, in process, at CSUFresno

These sculptures: you can be in them, around them, look into them, look through them, and they smell like fresh wood. The one near us sometimes has squirrels playing in it, and there’s almost always kids playing around it – weaving in and out and through it – during the day time. They’re sustainable and they give back to the earth. They make people, even sensible grown people, want to play. But what I love best about Dougherty’s  work is that sometimes the support posts – cut willow put directly into the ground, start to take root.  They literally root and grow leaves and sometimes have other plants use them to grow. The one near our house is now about half green. The art actually comes alive.

Something to strive for, I think.

Monday coffee: in which I give thanks and introduce cows

Artists at All City Coffee 25

In the U.S. the holiday of Thanksgiving is approaching. It’s a kind of odd holiday: people’s kids are in school plays where they dress in Pilgrim gear and worry about starvation, and later that week we have a huge dinner at which we usually overeat. Sometimes we do this while watching sports games on the largest screen we can find. And the very next day, we start a frenzy of Christmas or Chanukah shopping (in my case, both. So glad Diwali is already past!) that looks like sharks converging on an unfortunate school of gift wrapped fish – so scary that it’s even called Black Friday.

And yet, Thanksgiving simultaneous manages to have meaning to almost everyone here, even hard boiled cynics, that goes beyond the physical. It’s almost like the indulgence in the very material parts of our being (buying, eating) gives our hearts some unimpeded time to move towards others, their concerns, their needs, their lives.

Art tends that way too this time of year; the rain starts here in California, and the call from the artist world is expressive, connective. I love the idea of collaborative individuality in Laura Hegfield’s Gratitude Quilt. For a really, um, unusual physical piece of  gratitude artwork, one of my favorite art shows is featuring, this year, a Gratitude Cow (really!)* And for sheer gut-wrenching honesty, painter and poet Stuart Sheldon’s blog post, “Thank,” still  does it for me as it does every year since he wrote it.

I don’t tend to express gratitude publicly, including through writing. I’m too worried about people starving, and difficult court cases, and the Middle East situation, and my friends’ healthcare concerns, &c. You can imagine the sort of thing. But I am grateful for a lot of things, and when I was talking them over with my six-year-old, I was surprised to find that my typical top-10 list (my family, my lovely friends, my eyesight, etc) came up with an addition: this blog. It’s a pleasure taking part in its writing but even more of a pleasure connecting with my blogging partner and with the people who read and comment on and about this blog.

So, thank you, friends, for making this blogging thing such a joy.

*If you’ve never run across the Cow Parade, well, you’re in for a treat!CowParade Prague 2004 023 ALCHEMICOW

Friday Surprise

Hana just told me – Andrea – on FB that she entered the Midnight Oil poetry contest and that’s just great.
Some time ago, back in October, Amy who holds the contest, wrote to me because only so few poets had sent poems to her for her contest – only I didn’t have any poems that Amy hadn’t seen so I couldn’t submit any.
Instead I paid for some possible entries so I could offer free entries to poets who sent poems to our blog including one very special poet who once wrote an incredible poem on Poetic Asides.
And the poets sent their poems to Amy, she extended her deadline, she got some more poems and Amy was happy.
That was when I realized that I had two poems written here in November that Amy hadn’t seen.
I submitted them yesterday.
So here we go!

Monday Coffee with cream and definitely stirred.

James Bond and Barrack Obama are all over the Danish television at the moment but mind you, we’re writing poems and some of us are even writing NaNoWriMo as well. No time for a lot of blog reading in November for sure.

Cup of Coffee with Whipped CreamOnly we launched a notice board here on InOurBooks last week and we’re so glad that Amanda from Brisbane, Australia, used it to promote her blog. Amanda is a member of the Scandinavian club there and she also reads a lot of books and so do so many other members of this extraordinary club. I’m not sure whether they read that much poetry but here I’ll let Amanda correct me if I’m wrong. Still, there is this club where people can meet and have new friends, having delicious meals and having so much fun with their children.

I’m a teacher at the local island school – today   was “a theme day” and the theme was English.I asked Marilyn Braendeholm or MiskMask for a good recipe for a “four o’clock tea” last week and she sent me two recipes of how to create the best sandwiches the English like. I also studied websites about how to tie a tie.

So today it was. The students appeared wearing ties and were pretty excited. An English day? In the first lesson we studied the recipes in English but we also learned how to use Google Translate and in the second lesson we studied how to tie a double Windsor knot and this work went on, off and on. And that was great because I was to fetch 3 packets of black Tiger prawns and other ingredients which were scheduled to come by the ferry at around 9.00 and yes, everything was there.

And the sandwiches? Marilyn, here I was among people who love “fuldskaver” which is a Sejer Island specialty I can’t explain, but something completely different compared with these sophisticated English sandwiches.
They loved them, Marilyn, and they also loved the tea, and we did heat the milk. We were supposed to speak English, only English, for almost four hours and we did the first two of them but when we created that delicious “four o’clock tea” experiment, the words switched to Danish all the time. Now here I sit and smile thinking about all these good things that come out of poetry.
And poetry! Poetic Asides! I have so much trouble posting at Poetic Asides. It says I’m posting too quickly and I don’t understand. I went through lots of trial and errors but whatever I do it says that I’m posting too quickly. Too quickly? I live on one of the slowest internet connection places in the entire Denmark.

So I began posting my poems on our notice board and what a wonderful surprise!
Claudette responded. Linda Hofke responded. Janet Martin responded. Ina. And there I sat. “Thank you” written all over my face. And here I am to say thank you. You make me so glad.

The worst part is that I’m not sure I know how to reply directly on our notice board yet – I only figured out how to paste so far but I will find out, hopefully. And now Vivienne Blake. Thank you and especially for your expression: “He would flip his lid.”

Now, let’s enjoy our Monday coffee, only mind you, I might suggest some real English tea some day with heated milk – shaken, not stirred.

Connections: We want to publicize your triumphs!

Andrea and I want to hear about your latest creative kudos, and we’ve got a place for you to tell us and the rest of the inourbooks community about them! Our Notice Board is a place for you to post links to newly published material, your new blog or website, new reviews of your latest book or gallery showing – you name it, we want to hear about it!

All you need to do is click the “In Our Notice Board” link in the black band under the F.A. Cup Trophylighthouse to be transported to the notice board. Simply register to share your joys and triumphs with us all!

In addition, our notice board has threads devoted to various web-based creative activities (currently, there’s a thread on NOVPad in case you’re frustrated with trying to post on Poetic Asides) and calls for submissions (if you’re running a contest, reach some terrific artists through our board), so make sure to stop by and check them out 🙂

Looking forward to many exciting future conversations!


Monday coffee: A month of living dangerously

For many creative writers who have writing lives on the internet, November is a month in which one walks softly and carries a big coffee cup. Why? Because November is when all the challenges Douwe Egberts koffie kopcome out of hiding, and it’s so hard for a writer to resist. To name just a few:

And these are just a few of these events.

Each of these events has detractors. And they are often right to point out problems. Some argue that really good writing needs to happen in its own time and under its own steam. Others believe that the process of creation is more important than the goal (whether that goal is a number of poems written or the number words on a page), but that some of these events focus on goals and discourage mindfulness. Some people need to move on – to pass up the “game” feeling and do the serious, ugly work of revising. Still others have tried one of these events and found the month to be frustrating if one has more than one outside responsibility.

So why do any of these things? Last year,  I did two of these events simultaneously.One of them was the November chapbook challenge. But the other? That was Nano.

I’ve always said I could never write a novel – I’m a short form gal – and I decided to put my money where my mouth isn’t. I decided to prove myself right by trying to write a novel while taking care of my kid (who has some special needs involving lots of doctors and therapists) and holding down a full time job. And I felt GREAT. I was sleep deprived, and overworked; I got carpal tunnel, and the resulting novel was and is truly lousy. And I still would not trade that month for anything.

What I learned was that, really, when all is said and done, I may not be a novelist, but I love writing. I love the words, I love the turn of phrase, I love the transfer of images from my head onto the page. That recognition – the recognition of one’s self as a writer? That’s priceless.

So will you share with us? You know you’re an artist (a writer, a painter, a sculptor, a director…) or you wouldn’t be here at this blog. Are you participating in any or all of these writing events? What does participating, or not participating, tell you about your own creative heart?

Friday surprise: Advice From a Good Midwestern Girl

If you take a gander at the picture of me on the “About Us” page, the first thing that does not come to mind is “Ah, a Good Midwestern Girl.” If you know me personally, the idea of me as a GMG probably makes you giggle uncontrollably. But  I am, at heart, a nice Nebraskan woman.   I cannot pass up a really good steak. My spell check is configured to automatically replace “towards” with “toward,” because I’ve given up on the idea that I’m ever going to type “toward” of my own volition. And I always make my own Thanksgiving stuffing – from scratch, thank you.

Which is why I was stunned by what I read in this interesting and in-depth article about what editors of lit magazines want (on The Review Review).

Lynne Barrett’s article is full of good advice for people hoping to find recognition and publication in literary journals.  She mentions practical stuff like keeping good records of where you’ve sent work out and making sure you indicate when submissions are simultaneous. But most of this (rather substantial) article’s advice amounted to this:


That’s it: be polite. It’s really sad that grown up artists – writers, painters, actors – have to be told to use the same rules that govern polite society when they approach someone about displaying/publishing/supporting their work.

The Reception

Being polite is in the interest of both the artist and the purveyor of artistic work.  In the same way that it’s not just nice but practical to give your mechanic a  plate of homemade cookies for New Years, it’s not just rude but stupid to send a nasty-gram to an editor who rejects a favorite story. That same editor might have loved your second-favorite story, but not if you’ve gone off the rails at her once. And an editor who will identify you to other editors as One Big Headache will not help you create a professional reputation.

 Let’s look at a less obvious example. Most editors have a clear and transparent submission policy; the results of that policy are usually apparent in the publication itself. So it’s easy to find out if the journal in question does not publish genre fiction, or is primarily interested in travel writing, or only publishes poetry in the style of Mary Oliver. If you send in a submission, without checking the publication’s style or requirements, you are essentially indicating that what the editor/manager/publisher of the magazine wants is not important to you. Is that really the message that’s going to get your work accepted?

An analogy: I had an attractive friend who tried on-line dating. In her profile, she stated explicitly that she would not date men who didn’t share the basic tenets of her faith. She wasn’t looking for a high income level, movie star looks, anything like that. Just a decent person around her age who shared some of her basic life views. The number of dates she went on where the person eventually mentioned that they totally disagreed with her faith was astounding – we stopped counting. And what was worse: most of the people told her they’d looked at her picture and contacted her because she was “cute” ; they told her that they didn’t care what she’d written.

Good Manners

That’s not very polite, is it? And it’s equally impolite to send an editor whatever we feel like without stopping to find out if it’s something they’d spend their time reading. If we expect respectful treatment for our work, we need to treat those who might support it respectfully as well. I’m saddened by how often  fellow artists haven’t looked at the art work carried by a gallery they’d like to show their work in or haven’t read a sample issue of the publicatin in which they hope their work will appear.

This may seem unfair; after all, buying sample magazines is expensive and tickets to indie film festivals add up. But there are work-arounds. Many publications provide PDFs of  previously published stories; lots of indie film festivals archive of clips of prior years’ winners online. More importantly, not being polite also costs you: time unpublished, time dealing with boomeranging artworks that could be used as creative time,  time, energy and money for resubmissions.

Almost all Barrett’s advice  – from how to respond to an acceptance letter to what to do about simultaneous submissions – comes down to being a courteous person. Don’t do to an editor/gallery manager /producer-director what you wouldn’t want someone to do to you. It’s really that simple.