You Will Be Held Accountable

Because I am super serious about my 2018 Literary Boss To Do List, I made a Google Sheet to track my progress on each of the areas I indicated would be a priority.

I’m pleased to report that it is only January 11 but I am just three items away from having all my January tasks complete: two more blog posts for the month, and one more submission to a literary magazine or book contest. This means I have read two books so far, and written a book review. Ta da!

My book reading will be supported in part by the young adult novel writing class I’m currently taking; I have to read 5 YA novels assigned by the course and a sixth of my choosing. But I imagine they’ll be quick reads.

I also reorganized my bookcase this morning, which was in a sad state of affairs after being disorganized by some nice folks repairing my apartment from a small flood in December. For this reason, I now know exactly how many unread books I have to choose from. And it’s a lot. A lot. It’s embarrassing, actually.

Piles of books

Onward.

Writing and Revising Poems: A Romantic Comedy

Scene 1
Boy meets poem.

Boy: Hi, I’m writing you.
Poem: Hi. Thanks for that.

Scene 2
Boy and poem get closer.

Boy: I don’t know why, but I can’t stop rereading you.
Poem: I get that a lot. I like it when you look at me.

Scene 3
Boy and poem fall into deep infatuation.

Boy: I think you are the best poem I have ever written!
Poem: Probably I am!

Scene 4
Boy and poem fall in love.

Boy: I don’t just like you, I understand you.
Poem: You make me feel accessible. You had me at “like.”

Scene 5
They disagree.

Boy: One thing I think you could change is that adverb in the third line. It’s too flashy.
Poem: Oh, really? One thing you could change is your face!

Scene 6
They reconcile.

Boy: Thank you for changing that adverb.
Poem: You’re welcome. You really should change your face, though.

Scene 7
They discover they take each other for granted.

Boy: I think all you’re interested in is being loved, not giving love!
Poem: You make me feel dirty and accessible! All I am to you is just another notch on your CV!

Scene 8
They part.

Boy: I think we should explore other poems.
Poem: You mean all this time you haven’t been? Was it just me? It was just me. Well, I saw this coming.

Scene 9
After some time, they encounter each other again, older, wiser, changed by the world.

Boy: Poem. I didn’t realize you’d be here.
Poem: Well, I am.
Boy: It’s nice to see you. You look good.
Poem: Thanks. I’ve been hanging out with the sonnets, getting into shape.

Scene 10
They cannot fight their love.

Boy: Poem, I know we’ve had our differences, but I can see past your potential to your reality now.
Poem: Like how they can X-Ray through your clothes at the airport? I feel so naked now. I feel…free!
Boy: Poem, let me revise you!
Poem: I will let you touch me. For five minutes.

Scene 11
They live happily ever after.

Boy: Poem, this book was made for you.
Poem: Yes, I basically am the centerpiece here, aren’t I?

THE END

The Hell of Form

I wrote a poem last night. An honest-to-gawd poem. It hasn’t been happening often lately, partly because I’ve been so busy, partly because I’ve been more interested in going on dates with short fiction, and partly because I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself.

The title of this post comes from a Beckian Fritz Goldberg poem that you should read in a book you should also read (Lie Awake Lake) because it would be good for you.

I’m teaching a workshop at The Writer’s Center right now called “The F Word: Poetic Forms,” exploring primarily non-traditional forms (although to do so hefty discussion of traditional forms is obviously involved). Last week, my students took a traditional form and altered it to suit their purposes, which I think helped them see the possibility of “play” in their poems.

Not that their pieces were “light”; in fact, it was quite the opposite. But several of them sought out restriction that helped them.

When I was writing last night, I let a form establish itself in my first stanza–a loose form, mostly involving number of words, a first-line simile that dictated the next lines’ content, and a shift out of the stanza into the next prompted by a who or the word “where.” I also gave myself the loose premise that the poem would be about the idea of flickering, which ultimately kept it close to the idea of light and vision.

I’m not unhappy with it, although it feels like an evolution.

The last poem I wrote was a sonnet about the movie The House on Sorority Row (1983), which uses only sight rhyme and no sound rhyme on its otherwise traditional rhyme scheme (the last couplet, for example, uses “laughter” and “slaughter”).

But I miss the feeling of being swept up by the hand of a sequence of pieces. This piecemeal work is less fun for me.

I’m trying to bring my obsession with form into my prose, but it’s more difficult for me there. In my last story, I tried working with the idea of “negative space storytelling,” where the backdrop of the narrator’s story is sort of the “true narrative,” but it is lensed through the narrator’s more immediate experiences and concerns during that time, and the events are shuffled out of order, since the narrator is too young to understand the causality of one event leading to the next.

Writing is fun. I should do it more often.

Finding Fiction

I made a quick trip back to Phoenix to spend time with my family on Mother’s Day (some of you know my mom has been fighting an illness for the past few years, so these things have become more important) and had a fantastic time with everyone. While it makes me homesick to exist so fully in two different places, it’s part of the process for now.

Aside from the personal, the interesting part of the trip was that I spontaneously wrote a short story called “Rhinoplasty.” I conceived of, wrote, and finished 18 pages of prose over the weekend, writing most of it on the plane home and then finishing it up once I was back in my apartment.

Is it good? I don’t know. But it felt good to do something different, to work in a longer form, to tell a story (lyrically, to some degree) and inhabit characters in a different way. I have another story in progress about small-town zombies that I hope to get back to soon as well.

How I Discovered Poetry

I was over at Dustin’s place yesterday as part of his National Poetry Month series:

My school was so small we had one teacher for almost every subject, and we sat in desks like elementary school kids, even though we also had lockers out in the hall by the high schoolers. One of our daily tasks was to write something—anything—in a journal our teacher was forcing us to keep in order to make us write something each day. Although I see the value now, back then I resented it, and probably as some kind of “I’m hipper than this” statement, I started using my notebook to play around with poems rather than straightforward introspective writing.

My poet-crushes Denise Duhamel, Sandra Beasley and Mark Bibbins popped up over there too!

The Escape

Over the weekend, Arden and I drove out to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. I checked into a little motel off the beaten path to ensure there’d be few distractions and then settled into get a ton of writing projects done. And I did. I wrote some book reviews, revised a ton of poems, and even wrote some new ones. I read some books too!

Best of all, I took Arden to the ocean for her very first ocean experience. She barked at it. It was cute.