Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Feeling much better today. I will be making a lesson plan for the creative writing class I am helping teach. I have to admire creative writing teachers who come up with their own writing exercises for students. I will look at THE PRACTICE OF POETRY for a couple of exercises for the class. Teaching for a mental health center is somewhat similar to teaching a college course, but the best thing is that there is no grading involved. This allows students to extend themselves, to take risks, to have fun. It also allows me to relax and lead without any anxiety. I am however more of a peer, as I am not the main teacher.

I've been sending the manuscript out, but I've decided to really buckle down in terms of grammar and any phrases that are too blurred to make heads or tails of-- Guess I do believe in clarity. Mystery is nice too though. The stray lines or phrases or images that need to be reigned in will be. This new collection of poems is more surprising, more unusual, and I honestly feel my style here has changed. It feels good.

In terms of poetry world b.s. I've decided that I've been much more blessed than I think. I have hope that persistence will be the name of the game. And if there's one thing I'm good at-- it's persistence.

Monday, July 22, 2013

In Dallas visiting family. Just was in touch with someone with some hopeful news about a potential future publishing connection. Fingers crossed, but I need to really work hard on the manuscript for a while, maybe a couple of months. Will get some poems ready to send out soon. Am thinking about tense in poems and how conservatively people like a poem to be in one tense. I am having a battle with this in how some poems move towards reflection from the past to the present and reverse in their thinking, so I'm going to have to communicate this to an editor who likes things to be in one tense. I'm not so sure they need to be.

I've been at times getting down about the reception of SEVEN, which I think is a strong book. Maybe the fear is all in my head, but I'm just not sure about the poetry scene, and I express this in a recent interview. All I can do is try to be genuine and work hard with my own writing, and let go the b.s. that surrounds us all. It's kind of crazy sometimes how bad work is promoted over strong work, but se la ve. The important thing is that we live fully and vibrantly, and that is outside of the po-biz and even the writing.

Also want to send a couple more stories out to journals. Writing is much more fun than sending out new work. There's so much to contend with these days.

This one guy, Seth Abramson is his name I believe, wrote a long, long, long article at the Huffington Post which seemed to knock just about everyone down including avant-garde poets, confessional poets and so forth. Here's the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-abramson/on-literary-metamodernism_b_3629021.html I don't want to be part of the new thing? The article felt like Marjorie Perloff all over again. It seems that we shouldn't have to put one another down to get good work done. Sometimes I think the new thing is the old thing with new rags. But there's the expectation that one be innovative, yet even when one is doing something new, people don't see it because it's all sensationalism and know-it-all ism. It seems at times people are putting on an act or several acts. All we can do is write and write and write and try to be genuine. Speaking/Meaning/Saying and this broken identity searching for wholeness-- isn't that what poetry has always been about?

Well, I'm feeling at the bottom of the barrel these days with the poetry, but I'm hopeful that it's all in my head, but it sure looms dark today. Fact is, I work hard, and I sense I'm underestimated and well, largely invisible. The preoccupation with such things has deep roots, and what truly matters is arriving at pleasure and growth from writing. Everyone probably feels this way.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Here's a painting I did in acrylics for the Living Arts Co-op. I was told it was good, but I'm not so sure. In any case, it's a lot of fun! I did another one and hope to do some more. I had been doing oil pastels so painting is very different. Most of the people in the Co-op have a lot of experience doing artwork. They can paint realistically or precisely. My uncle is an artist, and his work really makes this look like a joke, but we start where we're at, and I'm sure I'll improve.

I enjoy creating something. Need to get back to revising my third manuscript today. It's not bad. I'm a better writer than painter! This is true.


My poems are getting better. They are getting pretty wild, somewhat out there, but I sense my work is doing something different than I've done before, and it's exciting. I like swinging surprising juxtapositions. I don't really think what I'm doing is enjambment. Yes, a bit, but more so swinging from line to line with unexpected imagery and also now a lot of abstractions. I'm seeking a middle ground somewhere between avant garde abstraction and linguistic play and narrative. I think this is the way to go-- tilt the canon slightly ajar, no need to knock it over. At least that's what Eliot said. I used to hate T. S. Eliot as an undergraduate.

I need to look at about 30 pages of poetry to catch slight errors and fix phrases which can have more clarity. I'd like to finish this by tomorrow evening as I want to get it in the mail. No matter how many times I send work out, I find ways to make it better. I am far from exhausted with the revising at this point, but I'm wanting to get it out and circulating. No more farting around. I'm serious about the poetry.

I have written three stories and have sent one out to a couple of journals. So overall I'm expanding my creativity, and it feels good. Nothing wrong with having fun!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Surprisingly, I wrote a pro-MFA post on facebook yesterday. I want to reiterate here how getting an MFA and/or a doctorate can help one become a better poet. Some guy said that you could just buy books and read them -- forty dollars worth! Ha! I am sure we've all read more than that. Anyways, some bemoan the MFA as a money making cash cow for universities. Although there is a lot of truth to the statement it doesn't follow that the MFA is "worthless." The guy said one should take community workshops or find a mentor they admire. The "either/or" attitude there doesn't work. There are some fantastic community workshops and some horrible community workshops. I attended one where the guy running it hates MFAs and PhD's for the most part. He thinks he knows more than most of us who earned an education. He is so bitter that he is blind to learning new things. This community workshop was a failure.

I think that hating what these degrees offer is strange as there are so many programs to chose from, which are all very different. The two programs I attended, University of North Texas, and University of Texas at El Paso were completely different in ideology, workshops, reading lists, mentoring, form and criticism.

In any case, I don't want to argue with the man as he has deemed himself an authority regarding the worthlessness of the MFA. I wonder if he has one? I hope he doesn't find me here in the ether.

The whole thing, the generalizing has made me re-think my language and opinions regarding academics who are poets. I tend to distrust the political privilege that goes on in an academic setting, but to say that one doesn't learn a great deal in MFA/PhD programs is ludicrous. It depends on the program. It depends on the student. Not all of them are expensive. Not all of them are just interested in the tuition money. People care genuinely about their students. Learning from people who teach well and write well is the goal. I was fortunate enough to learn a great deal from professors, fellow students and visiting writers. Yes, there were some bad things learned as well, but those things taught me a lot about what kind of writer I wanted to be.

I also took a number of fiction workshops and recently sent out three stories. My education, which I have long regretted, was not worthless or a waste. Knowledge is something which is essentially priceless.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Reviewing and teaching

I have a couple of book reviews I need to write. One, I have been told will appear on la bloga; the other will appear in an online journal. I also have to answer some questions regarding my second collection SEVEN (3: A Taos Press). I'm certain I will get to these tasks after the fourth. I very much look forward to reading the two collections and answering the questions. Usually once I get started reading the books I am simultaneously immersed in the review process.

I am also blessed with plenty of time to concentrate on writing work, which is a good thing. Not sure how I used to juggle teaching five classes with this stuff.

Glad the teaching overload is over. I feel sharper, more intense and more focused that I ever did while I was burdened with low pay and excessive classes. So much for universities tightening budgets and trying to scrape out a living despite that practice. Colorado is ranked towards the rear in higher education pay and it is clearly obvious when in some places 80% of the faculty is part-time without benefits. Wonder what this is doing to the future of our country. Seriously.


I did however help teach a creative writing class at the mental health center which was interesting. Lots of talented students. Lots of insight in terms of cliches being used intentionally versus unintentionally, striking metaphors and sheer emotive energy. I was impressed. The neatest thing about the experience is that I came out with two poems due to the exercises assigned. One was simply based on a poem of questions. So one poem was a series of questions and the other poem was a series of answers. Both were working for me. Things just clicked shut and open and shut with the poems. I felt all the poems the students wrote were energetic and challenging for a reader yet playful and furtive.

I used to strive to hear the click of a poem shutting at the ending. Now, I'm finding the poems may linger, come out to play, play hide-n-seek and simply hide at some level or streak through the parking lot.

Hope to help with the class again in two weeks. I can put forth some knowledge, encourage and teach something about poetry and learn as I go.