Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thursday Prompt: Visual Dictionary

One of my favorite tools as a writer is my visual dictionary. I picked up a copy at the University of Minnesota bookstore, and I can learn the precise terms for a bird's anatomy, for the body's bits, for the geography across the ocean.

So here is today's prompt: go to this site, an online visual dictionary. Pick a subject at random and use it: write a poem involving the intricacies of whatever you choose.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

an tic i pa tion

Sometimes, I anticipate the mail a little too much--knowing exactly when that estimated response time listed on the website is over, knowing my application to something is due any moment. I feel ridiculous, like a puppy, scampering toward the rusty mail slot, angry at the sheaf of envelopes, the junk mail getting in the way.

An tic i pa tion noun 3. expectation or hope

I was fully prepared to bolt home after school today; I had readied my excuse (they are coming to measure replacement windows; I killed a yellow jacket with a book, shattering one of our bedroom windows), though the splay of envelopes on our wooden porch floor was my true reason for haste. I knew this: the mail did not come yesterday, and I was told we'd find out on Monday if we were accepted by Intermedia Arts into their Writer-to-Writer SASE mentorship program.

And indeed, being told it was a "highly competitive round" with "some truly phenomenal applications" (mine would be the "some of not," perhaps), I was also told this: "Congratulations! You have been selected..." I think these are the sweetest words, the best ways to open a letter to a writer. It's so thrilling and frightening, this application process (good practice for graduate school, I thought, if I were rejected, as was the Palm Beach application, which I still have a month to hear back about). This, with a C.V., an artistic statement, and a series of poems. This, something I had done in practice as an undergraduate, a reality as I applied. A small step, a lovely first move toward what I hope will continue to be a true re-entrance in the world of poetry.

Now, if only I'd hear back from Mid-American.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Thursday Prompt: Reading the Newspaper

I write a poem a (week)day with a partner; the intention is not to critique but to quietly read, compliment, encourage. It's a ritualistic pleasure for me: every third hour, during my prep hour, I do the following: I take yesterday's empty can, go down to the cafeteria and recycle it and buy a new Diet Coke, return to my classroom, with my damp soda and the screen surrounded by post-its of my favorite words, and I write. I try to write at other times and while it happens occasionally, it is easiest for me during this small space of time, with these particular tools. I haven't always liked what I've written, but it has come out without resistence.

And, lacking topics, I immediately went to the newspapers, a wealth of narrative and storytelling. I selected this story. And I wrote this morning poem, this first draft:

The gold wrapped around your finger means:
money, marriage, a commitment to the flux
of paper on your desk. It does not tell you
that two thousand would emerge from the dark
of a mine in Carleton, South Africa. You cannot
imagine what it might be for your face to turn
soot-gray, the way your life might play a merry-
go-round on the backs of closed eyelids.

What would you remember, then? Would you think
of your honeymoon in Mexico, the way you sipped
drinks the color of parrots, and fought each night
before making love? Would you remember the day
you gave birth, baby slippery like boiled noodles,
grunting from your womb? Would you consider
the shape of space, the way your home has transformed
into a place of strangers?

You cannot imagine what it would be to remain behind,
the hundreds more still waiting, beneath the rubble,
the ululations at the surface cause rock and gold
to slide on the contours of your body: your face, your breath,
your fingers. What gold would stay,
wrapped around these that remain, the mosaic of memory
splayed for all the world to see?

So now it is your turn. Find your favorite newspaper, select a story at random, let it inspire you. The best stories for me: ones with photographs, ones from across the globe, ones that are rich in action and dramatics, ones that stirs the human to cry out, to gasp, to be moved.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

when you are close

I received a very kind handwritten note from the Beloit Poetry Journal on Friday, telling me one poem almost made it and explained that the sixth stanza was what did it.

At first, I felt disheartened--almost?! I wanted to call out, "Take the stanza out then! Just slide it out, like a hard boiled egg, I do not mind." I blindly trust editors, but I know that's not enough.

It has boomeranged back out, along with the three other companion poems, and I will be content with my handwritten note, hope I can write a row of new poems to send to them again.