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

 

 

 

 

My Next Book Forthcoming from CavanKerry Press

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I realized the other night as I was falling asleep (that hour when I remember important things and ‘write’ my best poetry) that I hadn’t officially announced my latest good news. I got a call in late January or early February from Joan Cusack Handler, Publisher and Senior Editor of CavanKerry Press, asking if the manuscript I had submitted six months earlier was still available and, if so, CavanKerry would like to publish it. Long story short, I signed a contract a couple weeks back for a projected 2018 pub. date. Truth be told, I really hope that date can be moved up by about a year. I’m terribly impatient when it comes to seeing my work in print. I published my first book when I was 40 and I feel like I’m making up for lost time. CavanKerry is a great press with an impressive list of writers, of all genres, on its roster. I’ll be joining poets January Gill O’Neil, Ross Gay, Nin Andrews, Celia Bland, Annie Boutelle, Baron Wormser, Dawn Potter and Cusack Handler herself, among many talented others, on the CavanKerry imprint. Check out this interview poet Nin Andrews conducted with Cusack Handler about the press and its vision. As I get closer to the pub. date I’ll share more about the collection, which is tentatively titled See the Wolf.  I’m thinking the title will have to go because my other two collections have three-word titles as well and they sound, and look, odd together. For now, here are two poems that have found there way to publication and appear early on in the manuscript. These poems are single spaced, but WordPress has its own ideas on lineation.

 

 

You Are Not Grass

 

The last wild passenger pigeon was named

Buttons because the mother of the boy who shot it,

stuffed the bird and sewed black buttons for eyes.

 

People with Ekbom Syndrome imagine

they’re infested with mites.

 

It’s possible the entire Buttons family

developed Ekbom, an aspect of which is

Folie à Deux (madness between two),

where a person in contact with the sufferer

develops symptoms—as in an actual infestation.

 

All wild things have kleptophobia:

the fear of being stolen, as well as cleithrophobia:

the fear of being trapped. I did, after

the divorce and my mother began dating—

fear of being adopted by a man

wearing slacks and old fashioned shoes, (automaton

ophobia?) who winked at me and promised to return

my mother at a decent hour. Whose accent

was southern, who pronounced his R’s

so long they became words in their own right,

words at the ends of words; his R’s

like grappling hooks, like a crocodile-

purse with yellow eyes.

 

Why is the fear of being trapped a clinical phobia,

while the compulsion to slit

and stuff a thing not listed in the DSM?

 

Nature permanence is the healthy acceptance

that you are not grass but human, beneficial

if you suffer from hylophobia (fear of trees)

not so helpful if you have Cotard delusion

and know you’re not only human, but a corpse.

Related to Cotard is xenomelia: the feeling

that one’s limbs don’t belong to the body,

chirophobia: fear of hands. And worse,

apotemnophilia, where a person disowns

the limbs, yearns to live life

 

as an amputee. Why the insistence

that an animal have black buttons,

yellow marbles, key holes for eyes?

that its entrails be replaced with horsehair

and rags? that the peppery dots

swarming the blanket aren’t mites? What are the chances

that a man who flashes his teeth when he talks

doesn’t bite? To fear is animal.

 

To create out of fear must be human—

slits to let the mites out,

steel shot like beautiful beadwork

studding lavender breasts. Phantom limbs

when real hands become too dangerous.

(first published in Fourteen Hills)

 

 

 

Sisters, 1980s

 

Sometimes they’re Cabbage Patch plastic,

sometimes figurine porcelain, Shirley Temples and cherry

nail polish on New Year’s Eve. Always awake

when the ball drops. Sometimes there’s three,

sometimes two when the mother one decides

to be mother, clean house; dust and wash the floors

on hands and knees, the rag and dragged pail behind her.

When she lights the potpourri burner

they know what that means. Alone,

the sisters eat all the groceries, the carbs

they call starches, grow into their swear words;

one fat and quiet, the little one mouthy.

They develop their neuroses with help

from the mother’s boyfriend, the smug vice

principal who’s drawing the line

between them and college material,

the father, his girlfriend: always his girlfriend.

Not late to the game, she created the game.

Sometimes they’re Cyndi Lauper,

sometimes Cindy Crawford, the glittery stickers

in the sticker collection, the scented:

Aqua Net, Aussie, Baby Soft.

They’ve been watching Three’s Company

since they were seven, General Hospital since eight

and though one is four years older,

in the apartment alone after school,

they’re the same age. They know

what it means when creepy Mr. Roper makes eyes

at Jack and poses his hands like birds.

They know that Luke was Laura’s rapist. Everyone does.

Woman-raised and like certain dogs, they don’t trust men.

They carry the key for the bolt lock.

They let themselves in.

 

(first published in Fugue)