August Poetry Postcard Fest

FullSizeRender copy.jpgWatercolor postcard painted by me!

I just finished taking part in the 11th August Poetry Postcard Fest. It was the second time I signed up to send original poems on postcards for every day of the month of August. That’s 31 days, 31 poems! For a poetry project, the postcard fest is a bit rule-bound. There was a Facebook page for making connections during the fest, some people loved it, others felt it hindered the pure snail-mail experience. I checked in every once in a while and posted some pics of cards going out. The major ‘rule’/suggestion which I was unable to adhere to both times I’ve taken part in the fest involved composing directly onto the postcard. It’s not that I worry about my handwriting, though the few cards I wrote out by hand were near illegible. I did compose directly onto the first few cards this time around, but abandoned it in favor of getting some real poetry-writing done. A personal and artistic decision. I just couldn’t waste an opportunity to produce a handful of poems that might live to see the light of day. This may be antithetical to the Fest’s aims, but it’s what worked for me. Here’s an example of how subsequent cards went out, my post solar eclipse card and poem:

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Every morning I composed an original poem directly into a Word document, no revising. I printed each poem in 9 or 10 point font and taped it to the back of the card. I took a photo of each day’s card front and back, but the poems are saved in a future chapbook file. Here’s the thing, about a year ago I began a project I called ‘Missives’; a collection of prose poems written as letters. I had about eight poems in that file going into the Fest. I woke up on the third or fourth morning realizing that the Poetry Postcard Fest would be the perfect opportunity to write more poems toward ‘Missives’. I chose this rather than producing a few throwaway (for me) handwritten lines. I approached my first postcard fest a few years ago in the same way. A handful of poems from that year’s cards made it into my second collection. I find the matching of poem to postcard image or vice versa to be profoundly generative. Some days I wrote the poem first and searched my copious postcard collection for the perfect image. Other days I wrote a poem specifically for the card.

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After all was said and done (or printed, taped and posted) I had 10 to 12 poems I felt were strong enough to add to my ‘Missives’ project, which has changed focus slightly and been renamed. A theme emerged through my month-long writing exercise, so even the poems I don’t feel are strong enough to hold their own seem to be in dialogue with the others. Of course, this is the beauty of poetry. The themes dominating my psyche and spirit would have remained shadowy or subterranean. The writing made them real and I believe it was the meditative writing practice that achieved this. For me, dwelling on the themes that began to emerge was the only way to participate in the Poetry Postcard Fest. The Fest, as it did the first time around, gave me the reason and motivation to write poems. Being a sender and recipient of poems kept me on task. I understand the immediacy of handwriting directly onto a card, the logic, connection and aesthetic behind it. But, overall I think poets taking part in any lengthy writing project (MFAs included!)  should make the project work for them. Rules are malleable and writing poetry isn’t like learning a language or writing code. What works one day may not work the next. And what works for 1 or 100 poets may not work for you! Finally, a big thank you to my Group 5 compatriots. Thank you for your poems and cards, so many of them handmade. ‘Til next year!

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Postcards I received from Group 5 participants

 

 

 

 

Queen of Cups Last Issue

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Queen of Cups has ended its one year run this month as an alternative mini lit mag delivered weekly to subscribers’ inboxes. Over the past year, QOC has featured 53 writers, 53 original writing prompts, 53 tarot cards and around 100 tarot readings! 100 because nearly every issue included a general reading as well as a reading specifically for writers and artists. Check out the last issue featuring poet Courtney LeBlanc and The Empress. The full year of back issues is archived and available for viewing. Thank you to all subscribers and occasional readers alike. It’s been a surprising journey from quirky idea to fruition and such a learning experience.

Queen of Cups Issue Nineteen in Entirety

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Paul Burty Haviland: Young Woman Sitting (Florence Peterson), 1910s. Cyanotype

Welcome to Queen of Cups Issue Nineteen featuring three poems by Juliet Cook and The Hierophant card. I’ve never really liked The Hierophant, considered it a kind of dull, clinical card, not as much fun to pull as The Star, Moon or any of the Cups. But my feelings about this card transformed as I researched the term Hierophant for this week’s reading. The general reading gives the accepted translation of The Hierophant card, the one that leaves me a little cold. The reading for artists and writers is a more intuitive take on the card, based on the ancient definition of a hierophant. Both depictions are relevant in readings. A subject may need The Hierophant’s guidance on accepting (or not) the rules and traditions of a large corporation. And there are those of you out there, writers and artists, creators who are also navigating the politics of universities, for whom the first reading may be more relevant at this time than the second. Or, relevant to a different part of your lives. That’s what’s so much fun about the tarot, it’s a rorschach test, allowing us to gain an intuitive understanding of where we are on any given day, based on the theme of a card. It’s a creative exercise!
Tarot Card of the Week: The Hierophant

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The Hierophant: The Hierophant is one of a few cards in the tarot which signifies the group as opposed to the individual. Thus, The Hierophant often stands for institutions (churches, universities, companies and societies) and their values, rules, hierarchy, traditions. The card speaks of group dynamics, conforming to an established set of rules, assigned roles, knowledge and beliefs. The Hierophant originally symbolized a religious figure inducting the two figures beneath him into a prescribed religious life of rigid structure, with little room for individuality. In a reading, this card may signify the attainment of higher learning, or specified skills and knowledge through working with a teacher in an institutional setting. It may signify a need to settle down and conform to fixed situations, rules, traditions of an institutional entity which exists above and beyond your individual desires. The appearance of this card can also point to a problem you are having with all of the above, your inability to conform to institutional demands and follow a pre set program, and your disinclination to give up freedom and individuality for the benefit or a larger group.

The Hierophant for Writers and Artists: I looked up the non-tarot-related definition of Hierophant while writing this and found: “Displayer of holy things. A person, especially a priest in ancient Greece, who interprets sacred mysteries or esoteric principles.” And: “Chief of the Eleusinian cult, the best-known of the mystery religions in ancient Greece. His principal job was to chant demonstrations of sacred symbols during the celebration of the mysteries. Upon taking office, he symbolically cast his former name into the sea and was thereafter called only hierophantes.” Well, that I can get behind! I guess the definition of Hierophant and the accepted tarot interpretation aren’t that far apart, but relinquishing one’s personal identity to a Greek mystery cult sounds way more appealing than conforming to the rules of a large company. It’s a little bit like the irony of the talented and prolific creative who lives what others might consider a boring life. She gets to bed at a reasonable time, keeps regular hours, lives clean, has a discipline inside of which she can be creatively daring and wild. The artist as Hierophant casts her name into the sea in favor of being a conduit for greater knowing. In this scenario, there are rules, rituals, and the abdication of self to the universal mystery. None of which are alien to the artist. During the creative act, as in prayer, the individual’s goal is to forget about self, to leave the human baggage and bondage, reminders of mortal limitations, behind, in favor of becoming one with that which cannot be fully seen, known or comprehended. And she does this not for personal gain, but selflessly, acting as that connection between the worldly life and the unseen on behalf of the tribe. This gets back to the idea of poets as seers, venturing into the unknown and bringing something of soul-value back to the group, giving that gift freely in shared humanity. I don’t see The Hierophant as solely symbolizing the abdication of self to a large institution like a university or company, that interpretation has its place, but is a modern one. I believe The Hierophant points to something much larger and more essential: the willingness and ability to relinquish one’s individuality to the greater “I am”, and I don’t mean God, though this could mean God and traditional spirituality for some. Pursuing the artist’s life can seem like THE most individualistic occupation there is, but the goal isn’t really to produce works of art with ‘ME, ME, ME’ stamped all over them. The beauty of being an artist, the part that takes our breath away and keeps us coming back, is being surprised by our own creations, knowing that what we create is a little bit us and a lot of something we can’t explain. This is what The Hierophant is speaking to, whether you’re right with it, or struggling, look to the image of the ordinary man casting his name into the sea.

 

 
Introducing Juliet Cook!

 

 
Everyone Handles Death Differently

Even if I can’t save myself, I still photograph the dead birds
and save their remains. Dead remnants infiltrate
the memory box. I meant it when I said it. Maybe
he did not. Otherwise, how could I have been so easy
to replace? Every dead bird is different. Different size,
different shape, different structure, different missing parts,
different little dead hearts. Different causes of their demise.

I replaced brains with hearts then wanted to rip my heart out,
then thought about pouring another heavy dose
of sweet cream into the latest small bird coffin.
Everyone handles lost love differently.
I think dead birds will always love me more
than living humans ever really will from here on out.

House of Her Cards

Sometimes I feel like I barely exist.
I could easily be replaced with her
or her or her or her.

You’ll get tired of listening to me
and so you’ll try a more quiet her.
You’ll get tired of handling me
and so you’ll dive into her body.

Maybe so-called love is just a game,
filled with lots of different hers
with an alternating playing field of card tricks.

I’m not her any more. My cards are lost.
Part of my brain suspects they were purposely torn
into pieces and then flung down through
the cracks of a broken deck.

Batter Up
There was a large circle of chairs with female poet bodies sitting on top of them.

They were having a conversation, preceding a yes or no vote, about whether or not a
poem of mine should be removed from a source that had already chosen to publish it.

Chosen or not, some questions were now being raised. It had come to some gender-
based assumptions that I was not the kind of feminist they had thought I was, because I
had mutant pigs as friends.

They no longer wanted to publish a poem by a possible mutant pig-breeding chick,
unless she broke bread with the primary editorial staff members too.

“Do you know what primary staff members are?” that one whispered into my ear. “Do
you know how powerful they are? Do you know how they taste?”

The voting panel looked like they were leaning towards pulling me out, but first they
wanted me and another female body to share one chair together while they counted
backwards from 10 to 0.

I was supposed to sit on her lap and the two of us were told to make competitive oinking
sounds after every number until we hit 0. Then it was time to start running.

Perpetually racing around the circle of chairs in a cakewalk competition in which all the
baked cakes were shaped like pigs and the winning chick would be hit in the head with
a pig cake and then sold to the highest bidder.

How did I get myself into this cake hole? Who do they think they are? Who do they think
I am?

Who do I think I am? I think my little mutant pigs are something more than just soft cake
batter pig shapes to be cut into edible eatables.

Do they really think I’m not going to rip out their fake fucking pig tails and let the blood
drip all over the pig cake frosting and then throw that cake bowl down on the ground
and run away from this encircling game and grow my own pig ears?

 
Juliet Cook is a grotesque glitter witch medusa hybrid brimming with black, grey, silver, purple, and dark red explosions. Her poetry has appeared in a peculiar multitude of literary publications, including Arsenic Lobster, Diode, FLAPPERHOUSE, Menacing Hedge, and Tarpaulin Sky Press. She is the author of more than thirteen poetry chapbooks, most recently including POISONOUS BEAUTYSKULL LOLLIPOP (Grey Book Press, 2013), RED DEMOLITION (Shirt Pocket Press, 2014), a collaboration with Robert Cole called MUTANT NEURON CODEX SWARM (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015), and a collaboration with j/j hastain called Dive Back Down (Dancing Girl Press, 2015). Cook’s first full-length poetry book, “Horrific Confection”, was published by BlazeVOX in 2008 and her second full-length poetry book, “Malformed Confetti” is forthcoming from Crisis Chronicles Press. In addition to her writing, Cook creates other art too, such as semi-abstract painting/collage art hybrid creatures. You can find out more at www.JulietCook.weebly.com

 

Weekly Writing Prompt: This week’s artwork is a cyanotype, achieved during a photographic process which uses ammonium iron citrate and potassium ferricyanide to create a cyan-blue image. Oh how I love cyanotypes, that blue like the folds of the Virgin Mary’s veil, or swimming at deep dusk on the last day of summer. They take what might be an ordinary subject or tableau and transform it into something that effects us viscerally. Write a piece based on the cyanotype above: Young Woman Sitting. You might also look up Florence Peterson who was the regular subject of the photographer.

 

**You can subscribe to Queen of Cups for free! Issues are delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

 

Queen of Cups Issue Four Wednesday

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Queen of Cups currently has 379 subscribers and issues are scheduled through mid November! There is no lack of poetry in the coming months and a bit less micro fiction and non fiction. If you’re interested in submitting a couple fiction or non fiction pieces of 500 words and under, any style, submit to queenofcupsmag@gmail.com with a short bio. Experimental and hybrid work welcomed! This Wednesday’s issue will feature two poems by poet MeLaina Elise Ramos. Here’s a little tease: “I am sitting on the front steps of a house I do not own, watching/ our little boy in cowboy boots. True Texan at heart: stomping at the bees,/ rocks in his mouth.” 

Besides featuring a few pieces by one contemporary writer in each issue, Queen of Cups also features a weekly tarot card with the traditional attributes of that card to guide you through the week, as well as how the card is relevant to writers and artists. Last week I pulled the moon card:

The Moon’s Message for Writers and Artists: There’s no way to be a writer and an artist without exploring the shadow. We explore personal and collective darkness every time we create. It’s this duality, the tension between, and balancing of, light and dark that is the stuff of art. Thing is, it’s generally not easy or fun to turn away from your ordered world, the one you cast in a positive light most days, and enter an impenetrable darkness. There are two ways that artists must navigate the underworld. The first is in the very act of creating. We must enter the emptiness, the dark mystery of our own unconscious, whenever we sit down to create. That seeming void is where words and images materialize. We, as artists, have to hang out in this uncomfortable purgatory waiting for the poem, song, story, to come to us so we can follow and discover its nature bit by bit…”

There is also a weekly writing prompt. So… if you haven’t subscribed yet, why not? Subscription to Queen of Cups is free, only comes once a week, can be read in one sitting, and will likely introduce you to the work of some writers whose paths you’ve not previously crossed. Plus, it’s fun and I do all the work 🙂  Win, win.

Queen of Cups’ First Issue on Wednesday

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Wow, what a whirlwind week for my little lit mag. It all started exactly a week ago today with one of those lightning bolt ideas, a few days of indecision followed, culminating in a ‘what the hell this just might work’ mumbled declaration that had my family wondering what I was up to.  Last Wednesday, I launched  Queen of Cups, a mini lit mag delivered to subscribers’ inboxes via the TinyLetter platform. This Wednesday the first issue, featuring poet Kimberly Burwick, goes out to 242 (and growing) subscribers! I’m floored by the positive, kind, enthusiastic, even ecstatic, responses I’ve gotten, and stunned by the growing number of subscribers. Last Wednesday I had an idea and a handful of accounts (FB, TinyLetter, etc) proclaiming that my idea was an actual thing, and then some wonderful, talented writers responded to my shameless solicitations, submissions poured in and, surprise of surprises, subscribers got on board too! I think we now have all the necessary components in place. And….Queen of Cups’ publication schedule is booked through June with new work from Jeannine Hall Gailey, Shaindel Beers, Carol Edelstein and Kelle Groom, among others. I’m still happily accepting submissions, so keep them coming please: queenofcupsmag@gmail.com To clarify, for anyone who hasn’t heard of my quirky idea: you must subscribe  to receive weekly issues of Queen of Cups in your inbox. Each issue features the work of one contemporary writer. Subscription is free and you may unsubscribe (easily) at any time. I’m what you might call an ‘idea man’, and this venture truly started with what I thought was a cool idea: to deliver strong, unique contemporary literature directly into the inboxes of subscribers, and for that content to be digestible in one or two sittings. I’m not sending an entire literary journal to your inbox, just a few pieces to fuel you through your day in the messy world. Amen!

I first met Kimberly Burwick a few weeks back at a reading in Amherst, MA, though I’ve been familiar with Kim’s poetry, and we’ve been FB friends, for a while. Kim and poet husband Kevin Goodan are a kind of literary power couple and the reading was a joint one in support of Kevin’s just-released collection and Kim’s forthcoming one. They had a little help from their four year old son Levi, who gave me a real arms-around-the-neck- hug as I arrived at the reading, the likes of which I haven’t experienced since my own boys were small.  At one point, Levi was fiddling with the magazines behind his mom as she read from her new collection. Kim paused and said ‘Levi you can’t tickle mommy right now’. She went on to give a steady reading of some pretty dark material about infant abduction. Kim and Kevin lived in the town I now live in, but moved out west about 7 years ago just as I got to town. Bad luck! I wish we had crossed paths sooner. Kim was one of my first ‘yes’s’ for Queen of Cups (thank you Kim!) and I’m thrilled to share two new prose poetry/micro non-fiction pieces by her in the first issue. You’ll find as we go along, as I have, that the line between prose poetry, micro fiction, and micro non fiction blur. Genres? We don’t need no stinkin’ genres. I’m including Kim’s bio. so you can get to know  her before Wednesday. And again, thank you thank you for being such an enthusiastic, optimistic, literature-loving bunch!

Kimberly Burwick was born and raised in Massachusetts. Burwick earned her BA in literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and her MFA in poetry from Antioch University Los Angeles. She is the author of four collections of poetry: Has No Kinsmen (Red Hen Press, 2006), Horses in the Cathedral, winner of the Robert Dana Prize (Anhinga Press, 2011), Good Night Brother, winner of the Burnside Review Prize, (Burnside Review Press, 2014) and Custody of the Eyes (forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2017).  She is currently Clinical Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Washington State University.

Poetry Reading Wednesday

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A last reminder that I will be reading along with fellow Cultural Council recipients Richard Michelson and Michael Teig on Wednesday, April 27th at 7 p.m. at the Pelham, MA library on South Valley Road in Pelham. We will each read for 15 minutes and sell and sign books afterward.

Last Call for ‘Found Poetry Project’ at Squam Art Retreats

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The last day of registration for June 2016 Squam art Retreats is May 12th! If you’ve considered going, have always wanted to check out the Squam retreats, or are on the fence about going, I’m here to push you off! I first experienced Squam two years ago when I gave a reading and held the book launch for my first poetry collection in the camp’s playhouse. It was a great crowd of knitting women, encouraging me with their warm smiles and clicking needles. Last year I went back to Squam as an instructor. I led The Found Poetry Project with another great group of women (there are men too, really). Each left with a handful of poems she’d written during our six hour workshop, a binder filled with goodies, plus a nifty mini magnetic poetry kit (see above) which each woman decoupaged with cool vintage ephemera included in their kits. Sooooo, it’s nearly May and I’m ramping up to teach The Found Poetry Project for a second year. This year’s retreat is held June 1-5 on beautiful Squam Lake in Holderness, NH. Let me just say, if you’re not from the woods or blessed to be living in a beautiful New England landscape, the experience will be a spiritual one. I watched it happen to many Squamies last year. Not only are the lake, woods, the flora and fauna (swimming deer, yes, true!) a calming tonic for body, mind and spirit, but the place just has great energy, due, in large part, to founding director Elizabeth Duvivier. Squam Art Retreats are retreats in the true sense of the word. You’ll relax, create, take your time by the lake and on the paths, eat good food and make friends. It’s summer camp for adults, with all the fun and none of the awkwardness of being 12. Join me!