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Denise Hill

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WP 20140907 006It was another great year for the August Poetry Postcard Festival! Organized by west coast poet and teacher Paul E. Nelson, over 300 people from a dozen countries signed up to write a postcard a day and send it to someone in the month of August.

As of today, I've received 22 postcards of the 31 expected. I imagine a few more will trickle in, considering the countries they are coming from may take a bit longer, and, well, if some were like me, that 'poem a day' promise might have slipped a bit. I did send a couple out a few days into September.

But I did send all 31! And it's an amazing feeling to be doing it, struggling to do it some days (maybe a few times even resenting the guilt feeling when I didn't do it), and when it's all done, feeling a bit forlorn.

The premise is simple but challenging: put a poem on a postcard and send it. Postcards aren't that big, so it's not that much to write. Still, the intention is to just sit and write daily - a necessity writers understand as such but still seem to struggle with as if some kind of luxury.

My own poems came to me in two ways. On my morning walks, I might see something that would cause me to reflect on the image and feeling in language, or a line would simply jump into my head, like this one: "It was summer when you said you would..." That's not a line that has any connection to anything in my life, it was just language that formed that thought and then became the poem about broken promises. As soon as I got home from my walk, I'd be jotting down lines, then rummaging for a postcard and getting it down as a poem.

The other way the poems came to me was simply sitting down with the postcard and writing using the image on the card as a kind of prompt. Sometimes I wrote on the front of the card right on the image, sometimes on the back. But it was from my mind to the pen to the paper. The only editing I did happened when I reread the poem and would scribble out or correct a mistake, or simply try to make the writing more legible.

I type up and save all of the poems I write. I make note of who I sent them to and the date as well as any notes about the card that may have prompted the poem. Going back and rereading these for the past seven years is a fun reflection. There's some really bad poetry in there, and yet, there's some pretty good stuff too.

And what else I have is a box of great poetry from other writers. I love going back through those cards, from so many people from so many countries. Some were famous then, some have become famous since. Some are unsigned and I'll never know who wrote them. But all of them are truly wonderful works - not just as poetry, good or bad, but in knowing there are so many others out there who would do this. Who would take time from their day to get themselves to write and to share. It's an amazingly warm and comforting experience to feel this kind of connection with total strangers. But then, isn't that the power of poetry? Of poets?

I'm happy to have completed PPF 2014 and appreciative of all the others who did the same. I look forward to this event every year. Huge thanks to Paul Nelson for taking it over.

See you in August 2015!
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tin-house-v16-n1-fall-2014The most recent issue of Tin House (v16 n1), themed "Tribes," features an essay in the Readable Feast section by Roxane Gay, "The Island We Are: At Home with Food." The quote line the magazine chose was "When you are overweight in a Haitian family, your body is a family concern." That caught my interest (well, and of course, it's Roxane Gay for cripes sake), but what stuck with me throughout her piece was the repetition of 'loving, and loving hard':

"We talk about our lives. We debate and try to solve the world's problems. We are a holy space. We love each other hard."

Following the "overweight" quote, Gay writes: "Everyone - siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, grandmotehrs, cousins - has an opinion, judgement, or counsel. They mean well. We love hard, and that love is inescapable."

"They want to help. I accept this, or I try to."

"As I eat the foods of my childhood prepared by my own hand, I am filled with longing, as well as a quiet anger that has risen from hard love and good intentions."

Her writing is a mirror of that: subtle, persistent in keeping you reading, and hard hitting in its meaning, which isn't at all sneaky. It's there throughout, and you can't help but to keep reading it, wanting to be a part of it, loving it.
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open-minds-quarterlyOpen Minds Quarterly is a publication whose content continually and consistently packs some of the hardest-hitting writing I've ever read, with its unabashed focus on the poetry and literature of mental health recovery. The Summer 2014 issue is no exception, with one feature in particular that might well strike a deep chord with many of our readers: "An Open Letter to the MFA" by Hannah Baggott. Written in the epistolary style, Baggott addresses the stresses and pressures MFA students face in their programs. While often told to "take care of yourself first," Baggott confronts the contradictory nature the expectations of such programs foster. "Our workshop leader last term said you have to be sad to write well. This is the fallacy that you keep perpetuating." Baggot is "happy" in her program and "would not choose a different path," but she does offer some advice that if the MFA programs themselves won't follow, then the individuals in them should seriously consider how to better "take care."
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you-must-remember-this-webMichael Bazzett, winner of the Milkweed Editions 2014 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, will have his collection of poems, You Must Remember This, published in November 2014. Pre-orders at a reduced price are being taken now on the Milkweed website. Bazzett will be reading at the Minneapolis Central Library on November 11 at 7:00 pm.
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Ann Akhmatov PrintWhat happens when you send artwork to a writer and ask them simply to "respond"? Pea River Journal Editor Trish Harris found out after creating four original linocut and woodblock print portraits of famous authors and sending them to writers with no requirements whatsoever except: respond. So far the series of 12 includes four authors: Ann Akhmatova, Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound, and Emily Dickinson. Ten of each, signed and numbered copies, are sent out "into the world," with a new release of ten planned every few weeks. As the responses come in, PRJis sharing them for readers here. Respondents thus far include Ab Davis, Laura Esckelson, Anthony Martin, John G. Rodwan, Jr., Edward Hunt, Corey Mesler, Jose Padua, Leslie Anne Mcilroy, Timothy Kenny, and Heather Hallberg Yanda.
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Writer Beware®: The Blog is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, with additional support from the Mystery Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association: "Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers, industry news and commentary, and a special focus on the weird and wacky things that happen at the fringes of the publishing world."

A recent post by Victoria Strauss is one that answers a question I have heard time and again: How Not to Seek a Literary Agent: The Perils of "Middleman" Services. Strauss begins: "I know I've written about this before [this links to a previous article]. But I'm seeing an increasing number of these kinds of 'services,' and they are all worthless."
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Paula Reiter, Mount Mary University, speaks in a video on "Creative Teaching Techniques: Flipping the Literature Classroom" addressing "the challenge of infusing the literature classroom with creative teaching techniques." Reiter notes, "I demonstrate how to 'flip' the classroom to make time for extended creative projects that involve students directly." Even more importantly, Reiter addresses the major concern/criticism of literature in our time: Why does this matter in my life?

Access this an numerous other pedagogy articles in Teaching College Literature, an online professional publication which is open to submissions, such as sample syllabi, advice on course planning and design, teaching tips, media (PowerPoint, video, etc.), as well as suggestions for links to resources including blogs, websites and media.
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After yet another season of school boards banning books most of them have never bothered to read for themselves (except, oddly enough, for all the naughty bits), Don Flood's commentary in the Cape Gazette provides a thoughtful response, exemplifying the professional respect librarians (and educators) deserve:
Perhaps I’m going out on a limb here, but it is my belief that librarians don’t choose their career out of a desire to destroy the minds and corrupt the values of our nation’s youth. They become librarians because of a deep, passionate interest in reading and education, a desire to help students develop into intelligent adults who think for themselves.
Read the rest here: Districts Should Take Advantage of Librarian's Expertise
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musicworksKeeping with its tagline, "Exploration in Sound," Musicworks truly does provide music "for curious ears." Based in Canada with subscription service to the US, each of the three issues per year includes a sampler CD of some truly unique music. In an almost overwhelming abundance of "new" to listen to from around the globe, Musicworks presentation is a helpful sifting of great art. Some of the tracks are available for listening on their website, but, for the truly ecclectic, two seconds into the first track on CD #119 (Jerusalem in My Heart - using buzuk, Analog Solutions Telemark synth, Oberheim two-voice synth and voice, and tape delay) should have you looking to have this publication delivered to your doorstep. As with any sampler, there may be some that don't quite suit, but that's what I love about samplers: the ability to try something completely new. There were a few I wouldn't necessarily choose to listen to again - but I did enjoy them for the artistic quality and unique approach.

From their website: "For over thirty years Musicworks magazine has been dedicated to the development of new and passionate audiences for experimental music. Promoting both emerging and established experimental musicians, Musicworks features composers, improvisers, instrument designers, and artists who work in genres such as radio, electroacoustics, concert music, sound installation, and sound sculpture. This tri-annual magazine, along with its curated CDs, dynamic website and outreach programs creates an inclusive community within which to exchange and develop ideas, and tantalize curious listeners with adventurous music."
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114-AtomBombAugust's Broadsided Press collaboration, "Dear Atom Bomb," features a poem by Catherine Pierce and art by Ira Joel Haber:
". . . In Science class movies, you puffed men like microwaved marshmallows, raked blood from their insides, and always I could feel your heat like a massive cloak around my shoulders."
Edited by Elizabeth Bradfield, Sean Hill, Gabrielle Bates, Alexandra Teague, and Lori Zimmermann, Broadsided has been putting literature in the streets since 2005. Each month, a new broadside is posted both on the website and around the nation. Writing is chosen through submissions sent to Broadsided. Artists allied with Broadsided are emailed the selected writing. They then "dibs" on what resonates for them and respond visually - sometimes more than one artist will respond offering a selection of broadsides. Broadsided Vectors can download the poem in full color or black and white and poster it around town, campus, wherever! Become a Broadsided Vector today!
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