BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
In one of my recent columns I wrote about the importance to the overall effect of a poem of having a strong ending, and here's a fine example of that. It's by Terri Kirby Erickson, a North Carolinian, from her book, Becoming the Blue Heron, published by Press 53. Others of Erickson's poems are available in the column's archives at www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.
My Cousin, Milton
My cousin, Milton, worked for a cable company.
The boy I knew when we were children
had fists that were often clenched, his face set like
an old man whose life had been so hard,
it hardened him. But the man's hands opened to let
more of the world in. He sent the funniest
cards to family and friends at Christmas, laid down
cable so others could connect. Yet, he lived
alone, kept to himself much of the time, so when
his sister found his body, he'd been gone
a good while. He died young at fifty-seven, without
fuss or bother. No sitting by the bedside
or feeding him soup. He just laid himself down like
a trunk line and let the signal pass through.
We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2017 by Terri Kirby Erickson from Becoming the Blue Heron (Press 53, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Terri Kirby Erickson and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
Frustrated with the current policital administration? You protest, rally, write letters, get yourself and others ready to vote...what more can you do? For poet and musician Ken Waldman (aka Alaska's Fiddling Poet), there's poetry. Sonnets to be exact, and a lot of them. With two volumes already completed and one more (at least) on the way, Waldman is taking this administration to task - and perhaps salvaging his own sanity as well as that of his readers - responding to the daily fodder by turning it to his muse for poetry.
Like many of us, in a stunned stupor the day after the election, Wednesday, November 9, 2016, Waldman writes that he was "processing Donald Trump's surprise victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and wrote, 'You make George W. seem a statesman--your opening trick,' which I turned into the first line and a half of a sonnet. A week later I wrote two more Donald Trump-inspired sonnets. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, another 68. That's 71 sonnets, a full-length collection. 41 were written in the voice of Donald Trump. The rest were addressed to him." The book's subtitle - The First 50 Days - speaks to the process many of us went through at the start.
Now in our second year of Trump's reign, Waldman continues to see us through with Trump Sonnets Volume 2: 33 Commentaries, 33 Dreams. "Half of this sequel's 66 poems is incisive commentary," writes Waldman,. "Half, dreams that I imagine Donald Trump might have, and those are in Trump's voice."
Both volumes, as well as Waldman's other books, are available through SPD Distribution or directly from Waldman. Visitors to his website can also view YouTube videos of Waldman reading the poems with a little bit of his iconic fiddling style thrown in.
In addition to celebrating its tenth anniversay of publication, the newest issue of Canada's Hamilton Arts & Letters (11.1) is also a celebration of Bertrand Russell and the 50th Anniversary of the Russell Archives.
Guest Editor Rick Stapleton [pictured] writes in his introduction, "In 1968 McMaster University purchased the first instalment of the archives of Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), a vast collection of letters, manuscripts, photographs, books and other personal material of one of the 20th century’s greatest philosophers, writers, and peace activists. At the time, the 96-year-old Russell was in need of funds to support his peace work, and McMaster’s university librarian, William Ready—renowned for his ‘buccaneering’ style of acquiring collections—was able to bid successfully for the archives. Now, 50 years later, we celebrate that event with this special issue of Hamilton Arts & Letters magazine, devoted to Bertrand Russell."
The issue is packed with poetry, artwork, and articles, including an Interview with Kenneth Blackwell, the original Bertrand Russell archivist by Wade Hemsworth; “'I Have Never Been a Complete Pacifist': Bertrand Russell on Peace and War in the Twentieth Century" by Andrew Bone; "Bertrand Russell and The Revolution in Twentieth Century Philosophy" by Nicholas Griffin; "A Rivalry? – Russell’s Lovers, Lady Ottoline Morrell and Lady Constance Malleson" by Sheila Turcon; "Hanging out with Bertrand Russell" by Terry Fallis; and "Bertrand Russell: Remembering a Public Intellectual for Our Time" by Henry A. Giroux.
New out this month is the first chapbook from literary magazine The Esthetic Apostle: Absences: A Sequence by John A. Griffin. Accompanied by collages by artist Martine Mooijenkind, the chapbook explores forms of loss. In “Relic,” the speaker notes: “It is November and a concussed fog hangs above the lake,” and this fog seems to settle over the rest of the pieces within the collection, somber and haunted by absences.
From the publisher: "Absences addresses the themes of loss of youth, loss of innocence, isolation, separation, exile, death, the absence of familiarity, affection, and above all the loss or absence of love. The sequence meditates on the natural world but finds little comfort there. There are no idyllic, romantic refuges from the self, and pathetic fallacies remain just that: instead of providing a balm to the sick heart, the dales of Arcady merely accentuate its angst. The poems find fitting motifs in poetic echoes and these are channeled into the poems' movement to harmonize their rhythms and oscillations and to achieve a kind of unsettling but restorative equipoise. The sequence resonates with allusions to classical mythology, Virginia Woolf, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Julio Cortazar, Franz Kafka, Johann Georg Hamann, Paul Celan, and Bruno Schulz, and tries to weave its patchwork aesthetic by drawing on their disparate but unified themes. Ultimately, the sequence is a celebration of life, even if life's great peroration is death, and even if we all die the same death over and over again."
Visit the publisher’s website to pick up your copy.
"We are looking for experimental works of film or video that are 15 minutes or less and utilize moving images as a means to poetic expression, formal exploration, or abstract and open-ended narratives. Compelling, personal works that push the boundaries of cinematic convention will also be considered for publication."
For more information, see the Aquifer announcement.
[The Florida Review 42.1 2018 cover art: Dengke Chen, "Tank Man," digital illustration]
If you're traveling anywhere near Montgomery, Alabama, consider spending the night in the former home of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald which now houses the Fitzgerald Museum and a two-bedroom apartment. "This historic home houses the only dedicated museum to F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald in the world. The family lived here from 1931 until 1932, writing portions of their respective novels, Save Me The Waltz and Tender Is The Night, during their time here."
The apartment is listed on Airbnb and can be rented for $150 a night. Guests can also visit the museum during its open hours, maybe helping make Montgomery your destination!
Gyroscope Review: Fine Poetry to Turn Your World Around has announced a call for submissions for The Crone Issue to feature contemporary poetry from poets who identify as women and are over the age of 50.
"Women over 50 are often underrepresented in poetry publications, so we are choosing to offer a space and a voice to the wise women out there. We want work that celebrates the ideas of crone, wise woman, matriarch, post-menopause, grandmother, elder, strength, experience," the editors write in their CFS. They challenge: "Shake up our ideas of the female over-50 demographic. Show us something fierce, something powerful, something that cannot be ignored. Cast off the restrictions around what you have been told you can talk about. Break your silence."
Submissions are open until September 15 or until the editors have accepted enough content to fill the issue - whichever comes first. So - don't delay! Send your best work today!
Volume 17 of Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose features the winning entries of their 2018 Literary Awards. In addition to publication, Dogwood doubled their cash prizes to $1000 for each winning author. Each author's name is linked to a page with more information about them.
Judge Nicholas Montemarano
“There You Are” by Landon Houle
Judge Gillian Conoley
“Early Marriage, 1982, Endless Rain” by Kim Garcia
Judge Patrick Phillips
“To Learn About Smoke One Must First Light a Fire” by Misha Rai [pictured[
The 2019 Dogwood Literary Awards are open for submission until September 5, 2018.
Each issue of 3Elements publishes works that respond to three words for that issue. The Summer 2018 issue words were Jazz, Cradle, Recluse. Gregg Chadwick's artwork "Jazz Life (Central Avenue)" is the featured cover image.
The cover image of River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative is, appropriately, a sunset photo by David FitzSimmons, ushering out nineteen years of publishing as the journal heads into their twentieth anniversary!
The Summer 2018 issue of Sheila-Na-Gig online includes a special section of works by poets who are also editors (or is that vice versa?). Featured poets and their publications:
Glen Armstrong / Cruel Garters
Sarah Diamond Burroway / Jelly Bucket
Alan Catlin / Misfit Magazine
Rita Chapman / december magazine
Kersten Christianson / Alaska Women Speak
Sandy Coomer / Rockvale Review
AR Dugan / Ploughshares
Catherine Fahey / Soundings East
Lynne Marie Houston / Five Oaks Press
James Croal Jackson / The Mantle
Jen Karetnick / SWWIM Every Day
Sergio Ortiz / Undertow Tanka Review
Joseph Shields / Nerve Cowboy Magazine
Dan Sicoli / Slipstream Magazine and Press
Martin Willitts Jr / The Comstock Review
Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas [pictured] / The Orchards Poetry Journal
As a kid (and adult for that matter) who was forever unable to remember her numerical lock combinations, what3words is the most brilliant invention of all time. And who among us readers/writers can't absolutely fall in love with this concept: The entire planet mapped out in three meter squares with each one assigned a unique three-word sequence.
Download the app to your phone, and no matter where you go, you can find you three-word location. Give your three-word location to someone, and they can find you!
I can only imagine that some poets have already gotten a hold of this and are integrating it into their writing - right? How about engaging young students in both geography and writing. Come up with three words, put them in, and see where that location is - the possibilities are endless and exciting! Check it out for yourself!
In keeping with Memoir Magazine's mission, "to be a witness to both factual and emotional truths that resonate with the human heart by supporting writers and artists in sharing their stories—whether personal, social or political– through publication, education, and advocacy," the publication offers Memoir Magazine University, "a safe space dedicated entirely to the development of writers and stories that need to be heard."
Two summer classes coming up are Anonymous Memoir Writing Workshop for Sexual Assault Survivors with Memoir Magazine Founder and Editor-in-Chief Mary McBeth (July 9 - August 20; open times) and Writing To Heal with Jerry Waxler [pictured] (July 10 – August 21, Tuesdays 7:30-9pm EST; July 12 – August 23, Thursdays 12 noon-1:30 EST).
Future classes will include Intro to Memoir and Memoir 101. For more information, visit Memoir Magazine's website.
Not to rush your summer, but July 4th signals the opening of registration for the annual August Poetry Postcard Festival!
This is a FAVORITE event for me and many others who have been doing it since it started over ten years ago, as well as for newbies - who are always welcome to join!
Visit Paul E Nelson's webpage for full instructions, but the basic premise is this: Registrants are grouped with 31 other participants and each group member gets a list of names and addresses. You start with the name below yours on the list and each day, write a poem on a postcard and send it to that person. The next day, you go to the next name on the list, write, send, repeat.
The idea is to be spontaneous in writing these poems. They aren't supposed to be prewritten (although some folks do type or reprint for the sake of legibility), and as much as possible, written in the moment. In the past, I've known a writer to focus on colors as a theme, another randomly landed on a word in the dictionary and made that their inspiration. Since the only requirement is to write and send a card a day, the rest is up to each writer's imagination and motivation. The postcards can be anything at all - some people make their own, some use photos, others are cheesy tourist postcards, some are vintage - it's totally up to the sender.
There is a $10 registration fee to help handle the oversight. I'm happy to pay this, and the domestic and occassional international postage - considering how much I spend on conferences each year, some of which I walk away from wondering what I gained from them. The APPF has never disappointed. Not only has it inspired my own writing in numerous ways, there is something so uniquely enjoyable about going to the mailbox each day, wondering what I might be gifted from another poet out there somewhere in the world.
Challenge yourself to do this. Participate. Enjoy it. Struggle through it. At the end of the month, you'll feel enormous satisfaction and even a bit a sadness that it's over.
Celebrating ten years and thirty issues of Still Point Arts Quarterly, Founding Editor Christine Brooks Cote's introduction to the Summer 2018 issue reads like an advice article for anyone with the idea to start up a journal.
Among the things she figured out along the way was what made for publishable submissions. She came up with these three criteria: "1) they have to be so interesting that I can't stop reading until I get all the way to the end; 2) they have to be well written - I shouldn't have to reread a paragraph or a sentence several times, or even twice, to figure out what is being said; and 3) they have to strike just the right chord inside me and make me feel that what I just read should be read by everyone."
Over this years, she notes, this search for quality submissions has not changed, nor her "aim to present them as respectfully and tastefully as possible. Each journal is a creation, a work of art."
Cote admits one thing that has changed over the years: "my respect, admiration, and gratitude for the artists and writers whose work we publish has grown exponentially. I never imagined when I started this work that I would have the pleasure of connecting with so many thoughtful and inspiring individuals who produce work that regularly stops me in my tracks. Truly, connecting with the people who contribute to this publication has been immensely joyful and fulfilling, and I've learned so much from them. That part I didn't expect - indeed, unexpected gifts are the best."
May Still Point Arts Quarterly enjoy another ten years - and more - of giving such beauty and joy to readers as well as receiving!
Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA) is a general term used to identify this non-profit resource that can be found in numerous communities across the country. VLAs provide low-cost or free legal aid and guidance to artists and organizations, and some will even provide consultation to artists from areas that do not have their own VLA. In the past, I've received phone consults from the VLA in New York prior to Michigan having its own organization. Some, such as the St. Louis VLAA include Accountants for the Arts as well. The VLAA website has a directory of VLAs with the advice that if you do not see your state listed to contact your state arts council.
[Pictured: Alma Robinson, Executive Director of Califorinia Lawyers for the Arts]
The Southeast Review spring issue (36.1) features winning entries from their 2017 contests:
Gearhart Poetry Contest
Judged by Erin Belieu
Winner: "The Truth Takes Lunch" by Jed Myers
Finalist: "Three Nails" by Christopher Childers
World's Best Short-Short Story Contest
Judged by Robert Olen Butler
Winner: "Friends" by Greta Schuler
Finalists: "Saint Barbara's Day" by Elina Alter
"Shpykiv" by Alexandra Brenner
The Southeast Review Narrative Nonfiction Contest
Judged by Matthew Gavin Frank
Winner: "Crywolf" by Erica Berry [pictured]
Finalists: "The Stone Grows without Rain" by Lee Huttner
"Soundings: Field Notes on Communication with Animals and God" by Sylvia Sukop
The Great American Read is an eight-part series from PBS that "explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey). It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience."
The series kicked off with a two-hour launch in May and continued with five one-hour episodes examining concepts common to the eligible novels. The finale - planned for October 2018 - will announce the results of the nation-wide vote to select America's best-loved book.
The Great American Read website includes all the programs for online viewing as well as the list of 100 books and directions on how to vote for your best-loved novels from the list.
This week's covers are from some of the many Alternative Magazines we have listed at NewPages as a reminder of this useful resource for both reading and submitting writing.
Earth Island Journal combines investigative journalism and thought-provoking essays that make the subtle but profound connections between the environment and other contemporary issues. Writers guidelines here.
The focus of Feminist Studies 44.1 (2018) is life writing and new approaches to studying women’s autobiographies, including Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Gertrude Stein, Kamal Das, Gayle Rubin and Judith Butler, as well as works by Estelle Carol, Alexandra Ketchum, Olga Zilberbourg, Corey Hickner-Johnson, Hiliary Chute, and Ashwini Tambe. Submissions guidelines here.
The Progressive is a journalistic voice for peace and social justice at home and abroad, steadfastly opposing militarism, the concentration of power in corporate hands, the disenfranchisement of the citizenry, poverty, and prejudice in all its guises. Writers guidelines here.
One of my favorites, Parabola is published quarterly by the Society for the Study of Myth and Tradition, a non-profit, non-denominational, educational organization. Each issue devotes 128 highly illustrated pages to a universal theme. Submission guidelines here.
The Humanist magazine applies humanism — a natural and democratic outlook informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion — to broad areas of social and personal concern in pursuit of alternative ideas. Writers guidelines here.
And we all need to retain our ability to laugh and bring humor into our days. The Funny Times helps us fulfill this need as America's longest-running ad-free monthly humor publication in a newspaper format.
But the core inspiration behind this new publication was Founding Editor David Jordan’s “limited success” in getting his own work published. “I decided I would go to the other side and be the publisher and the person who says yes. I figured I might have more success in this role and get satisfaction from it.”
The Spring 2018 issue of The Missouri Review features the winners of the 2017 Jeffrey E. Smith Editor's Prize.
Tamara Titus of Charlotte, NC, for “Exit Seekers”
Meghann Plunkett of Carbondale, IL for several poems
Rose Smith [pictured] of Austin, TX, for “Rachel’s Wedding”
Each winner receives $5000 and publication. Runners-up will be published in future issues. See a full list of runners-up and finalists here.
This is an annual contest with a deadline in early October.
The long depressive curtain, the castle
stone limned in green, the thin insistent
incursions of rain that scarify the mortar,
what are they if not a promissory note,
the slung burden and authoritative bell
of dreams we take, in dreams, for dead.
The yellow eye wakes, and death’s antagonist—
let us call him scientist, father, creator, god—
draws back in shame and horror from his one
creation. He sees in him a miracle confusion,
drenched in the bile that is our birthright,
and says, in silence, hell. What did I expect.
Cover art "Dimming Superstition" collage on a book cover by Hollie Chastain.
Rhino: The Poetry Forum annual publication includes winning and selected entries from two annual prizes.
Each year, Rhino selects Editor's Prize Winners from among its general submissions to receive cash, publication, and nomination to the Pushcart Prize. There is no additional process; all submissions to the publication are considered.
"Worms" by Erika Brumett
"You Have To Be Ready" by Amanda Galvan Huynh
"betty" by Amy Bilodeau
The Founder's Prize is an annual contest (Sept 1 - Oct 31). Winners receive a cash award, publication, and Pushcart Prize nomination. These entrants are also eligible for the Editor's Prize.
"Asking for a Friend " by Abby E. Murray [pictured]
"Odysseus " by Joseph Fasano
"Amelia Earhart Folds Origami Cranes" by Adie Smith Kleckner
"Midden" by Paul Otremba
All of these works can also be read on Rhino's website.
Roland Petersen's "American Bathers, 2017" on the cover of Spring 2018 Catamaran captures the essence of summer; this publication belongs in every beach tote and travel bag to take along on your summer adventures!
Based out of Chicago, The Esthetic Apostle is a new online monthly of poetry, prose, artwork and photography which also releases print issues quarterly.
“Promoting creative individuals, self-realization/development, and beautiful ideas” are what motivated this start-up, as Founder and Editor-in-Chief Samuel M. Griffin explains. “The wit and wisdom of Oscar Wilde was a primary catalyst. As a tribute to our city and Wilde, we named the magazine The Esthetic Apostle after a Chicago Tribune headline describing Wilde's visit to the windy city.” And if you're wondering about the spelling...