maybesopoetry & The Homeless Poem Project: Call for Submissions

In my recent interview with Julie Platt, she discusses a poem she had trouble placing in a literary journal. She liked this poem, believed in it, and the poem eventually found a home, but not without a lot of perseverance on her part. I’ve been in this situation before, and my very unscientific polling of other writers suggests that this is fairly common. We have a poem we love, and we know it deserves to be published yet it lingers on – and on and on – in our file of unaccepted work.

My intention with The Homeless Poem Project is to publish on maybesopoetry those interesting and quirky poems you can’t seem to place with a literary journal; those poems currently without a home that deserve to be read and appreciated. So find that one poem that’s been kicking around in your submissions folder and send it my way.

Guidelines:

  1. Please email one poem (and only one!) to cveladota@yahoo.com. Put “The Homeless Poem Project” in the subject heading.
  2. This poem should be one you’ve tried to publish without success for at least six months. Obviously, I will take your word for it.
  3. I will not accept previously published poems. Because that would kind of defeat the purpose, right?
  4. I will allow simultaneous submissions, but please let me know immediately if your homeless poem finds a home.
  5. Please send your poem as a Word document (no longer than three pages, please).
  6. Include a brief bio and a brief reflection on the poem (what inspired you to write it, your intentions for the piece, or a little about the poem’s history).
  7. If accepted, I will also ask you to provide an image, preferably of your writing space or your writing tools (not a book cover, or a picture of yourself). Whatever image you provide, it should represent you in some unique way, and it will be assumed that I have permission to include it on my blog.

Important:

Please be patient with response times. My work on maybesopoetry is a labor of love. I teach full time at a community college, and during the academic year I’m very busy, so if I don’t respond to your submission immediately, please wait at least a month before you inquire. I’ll do my best to respond quickly.

My publishing schedule could be erratic. My intention is to publish one poem at a time. This could mean a poem a day, but it could also mean a poem a week, or every other day, depending on how busy I am with work and on how many submissions I receive/accept.

I regret that I am unable to compensate you for your work. As a poet, I am aware of the time and energy required to write, and I do believe you deserve to be paid, but as I’m on my own in this endeavor, I can’t afford payment at this time. I understand and respect anyone who chooses not to submit because of this limitation.

I will continue to review books by and promote the work of women writers. Reviews will appear less frequently during the academic year; however, if you have a new book or chapbook published (or forthcoming), please contact me at cveladota@yahoo.com, and I will consider reviewing it on maybesopoetry.

 

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Weird Beauty: An Interview with Julie Platt

Julie Platt received a doctorate in rhetoric and composition studies from Michigan State University, where she completed a dissertation studying the ways literary poets use digital technologies. She has master’s degrees in poetry writing from Bowling Green State University and Ohio University. Her creative work has most recently appeared in Barn Owl Review, Birdfeast, Moon City Review, and Weave. She is currently Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Center for Writing and Communication at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

Full disclosure: Julie Platt and I attended Ohio University together and we’ve remained in touch over the years. It’s been a long time since we had the opportunity to chat about our creative lives, so I was thrilled when she agreed to this interview.

We began our email exchange on July 27th and concluded on August 9th with an IM chat. Because our lives are busy, we weren’t able to maintain our discussion on a daily basis, but we still managed to cover a lot of territory. This interview was a wonderful experience for me, and I’m grateful to Julie for her generous and thoughtful responses.

Christina Veladota: Hi Julie! Thanks for agreeing to this email interview. Let’s get started!

I read your chapbook, In the Kingdom of My Familiar, and it’s really terrific. Please reflect on your experiences writing this book. Which poets (if any) influenced your work? Why a chapbook and not a full-length collection?

Julie Platt: I wrote most of the poems that appear in the chapbook while I was doing my MFA at Bowling Green State University. One of our optional assignments for a course we were taking was preparing a chapbook to submit to the Wick (http://www2.kent.edu/wick/competitions/chapbook.cfm). While I didn’t win, it was a valuable experience for me because I had to think deeply about arrangement, coherence, the overall aesthetic effect, et cetera. These are things that you don’t really have a lot of time to consider in workshop, where you’re usually only talking about specific poems.

I chose to go with a chapbook first because, frankly, I didn’t feel that I had produced enough strong poems to fill a full-length book. When reading full-collections, I don’t always have the experience of feeling totally awed by every single poem. However, when I do, I tend to return to that collection over and over again because it seems like it reveals something new each time. Some of the collections that do that for me are Karen Volkman’s Nomina, and my teacher Larissa Sporluk’s collection Isolato. Even though my MFA thesis had quite a few poems in it, a lot of them didn’t seem good enough to make a full-length book that would have that same effect on a reader—that it would be equally strong poem after poem and invite more and more readings. 

This is not to say my chapbook is on the same level as the collections written by the women I just mentioned. I just felt that I needed to sort of announce my arrival as a poet after earning my MFA. Since I went into a different discipline after completing my MFA, generating poems became secondary to other ways of looking at writing. This was not a bad thing at all; I think studying rhetoric and composition has given me an incredibly valuable and unique vantage point for examining what it means to be an American poet in the 21st century. I even took up some of the issues of publication and authorship with my chapbook in my doctoral dissertation. So, I’m still sort of in a moment where I need to establish myself in composition before I can focus on writing poetry again; I’m not sure what things will look like when I get there. I want to publish a full-length collection, as it has been my dream to do so since I was a teenager. However, I think I need to do some serious thinking about what I want that collection to be like. Because creative writing isn’t my primary discipline anymore, I have that luxury.

CV: I remember a time when a chapbook wasn’t considered a “real” publication, but the tide is definitely turning. I’ve read some wonderful chapbooks (yours among them) by very talented poets and view them on par with the poets you mention above.

Tell me a little about yourself as a writer. When did you start writing poems? What attracted you to poetry?

JP: When did I start writing poems…

I think I wrote my first poem when I was in the fourth grade. It was a rhymed, humorous poem about raking leaves and getting annoyed with the rake catching in the grass. My teacher read it out loud to the class and seemed to really enjoy it. It hit me that I was capable of making things that people found interesting and enjoyable, and of course I loved the feeling of pride that came with that kind of recognition. From then on, I tried to be a serious poet, or at least as serious as one can be at the age of 10.

As to why I chose poetry, I think it had something to do with the fact that I’ve always loved music. I had a Fisher-Price record player and a tape recorder, and I listened to both kids’ music and the pop music of that era (I was born in 1980). I loved to sing along, and I discovered I had a really good memory for song lyrics. I can still remember the words to kiddie songs I listened to when I was 7 or 8 years old, and even today if I listen to a song a few times I will memorize the lyrics without even trying. As I grew older I realized that I just preferred to listen to music rather than watch lots of movies or television. I guess in some ways I have a short attention span, but I can concentrate intently on small, dense things, and I’ll work on them until they’re perfect. Most of my poems are 30 lines or less, I’d say, and I rarely write a poem that’s longer than one 8.5″ x 11” page. Brevity and pith are what I am highly trained for. It’s no surprise that I’m active on Facebook and Twitter—this kind of “burst communication” feels very natural to me.

CV: You say you’re good at memorizing song lyrics. Do you like to memorize famous poems, too? If so, which ones do you know by heart?

JP: I wish I could say I had a lot of poems memorized! In truth, I’ve only ever committed myself to memorizing poems for assignments and such. During my MFA, I memorized Yeats’ “The Second Coming” and recited it in class. I’ve always loved the drama of that poem.

During my MFA, I was the program assistant so I got to spend a lot of time with visiting writers. Lola Haskins made a great impression on me because of how seriously she took performance. One thing she did was memorize all of her poems and recite them, somewhat dramatically, instead of standing at a podium to read. It definitely made some people uncomfortable; there were a lot of nervous giggles. I think that’s a shame, and it attests to how far poetry has moved away from performance. I was taught from an early age that reading was a skill, and that I needed to practice giving actual voice to my poems. It’s one of the reasons that I’m interested in delivery as a rhetorical canon. Memory is one of those canons as well, and I think it would do us all good to go back to them.

CV: What about process? I’m always fascinated to learn how other writers, artists, and actors approach their craft. How would you describe your writing process?

JP: Me too! I’m crazy interested in the material conditions of process—how poets create their physical workshop spaces and how they use technology in those spaces. I think my process is probably really typical of a writer of my age, and by that I mean it’s partially mediated by computers. I was always fascinated by computers, but my family didn’t own one until I was 16, and it wasn’t until I got my own computer in college that I started using it to write poems. 

Today, I like to start with a pen and pad of paper, preferably a lined steno book. I usually begin with an image that has struck me, or a line or phrase that I like, and I use that as a kind of seed for where the poem goes. I’ll generate words for a little while, scratching out what I don’t like, until I sense that I need to work on the poem’s visual form to see what it wants to do. At that point, I go to my laptop, open a Word document, and start typing. I can’t skip this step; I really need to see the lines laid out on the screen or I don’t know what the poem is doing. I’ll continue drafting there until I finish, or, more frequently, until I’m stuck or too mentally tired to continue. I put the poem away for a while then, and usually wait at least 12 hours before going back to it. Once I get a draft I’m more or less satisfied with, I like to share it with another poet and see what he/she thinks. I also like to share the poem with my fiancé, who isn’t a poet. I think both perspectives are really valuable. After I get their feedback, I go back and wrestle with the poem some more until I feel that kind of mental “click” that tells me it’s finished. 

I care about audience, but I also try really hard to trust my own intuition about a poem. I had this poem called “Zombie Hustle” that nobody seemed to connect with, and that kept getting rejected from journals. However, I still believed in that poem and I chose to keep sending it out. I think it’s a good poem, and believe me, I know when one of my poems sucks. Not everything finds its audience immediately. That’s kind of why I keep writing. I’m a weird person who’s attracted to weird kinds of beauty. My greatest hope is not to be a super-famous poet who never has to pay for a drink at the AWP hotel bar. Instead, I hope that someday the weird things I put into the world make someone—someone who felt really alone and alienated because of their attraction to weird beauty—feel less alone and alienated.

CV: If I ever make it to the AWP Conference again, I promise to buy you a drink! Seriously, though, yours is a modest but admirable ambition. I love this concept of being attracted to “weird beauty,” especially as it pertains to poetry. Poetry is weird – in the best sense of the word. I think of the beautiful weirdness of your poetry. In the poem, “My Familiar,” you begin, “I have a heart that shoos me through the hours.” So lovely. I know I like a poem when I have to stop reading for a minute to take it in. Now I’m dying to read “Zombie Hustle.” What a great title. Did it ever find a home?

JG: Poetry is definitely weird! That was one of the things I remember tackling in my critical introduction to my MA thesis; I read the critical essay “Strangeness” by Lyn Hejinian (it’s in The Language of Inquiry) and tried to extend one of its arguments. One of my MA professors (I think you can guess who) always described my poetry as “really weird” and thus difficult for him to approach. For much of my adolescence I was dismissed as “the weird kid,” so I decided to claim weirdness or strangeness in my poetry as part of my identity. I remember that I later told one of my poetry students not to be afraid of her own weirdness, and that to do the weird thing was to do the brave thing. I always think of the “weird sisters” in Macbeth; of course, in that play, the word “weird” meant both strangeness and fate or personal destiny. I think it’s still very difficult for women to shoulder that mantle of weirdness, strangeness, otherness. We’re all already so alienated, by virtue of being women in a world where maleness is the normal or default state of being. But in that weirdness is our connection to our true selves. By being weird (or wyrd) we become who we really are.

Sorry to wax philosophical for a minute. 🙂

“Zombie Hustle” did find a home—it was in Moon City Review’s 2012 special volume on contemporary children’s literature, and paired with art by Pierre Vu Hin. It’s a beautiful, lavishly illustrated volume that everyone should check out. I’m biased, of course, but seriously, it’s great.

CV: Let your freak flag fly, as they say? I adhere to that philosophy, too. In poetry, and in life in general, it’s exhausting to try to be someone you’re not.

[At this point, Julie and I conclude our email exchange and turn to IM.]

CV: Okay, Julie! I’m going to ask you a series of questions. Please respond to them as quickly as possible. No need to provide a rationale for your answers, though it’s possible I’ll ask a follow-up later. These are similar to James Lipton’s questions at the end of each episode of Inside the Actors Studio. Ready?

JP: Cool. I will do my best Will Ferrell impression.

CV: Awesome! What does your writing/work space look like right now? Cluttered? Organized?

JP: I no longer work at a desk when I’m at home, so my workspace is me stretched out on my loveseat, with books sitting on the cushions to my left, and my laptop on top of a pillow on my lap.

CV: Do you alphabetize the books in your personal library, or organize them in any specific way?

JP: I don’t alphabetize them, but I do group them together by subject and type. I have an overflowing bookshelf of poetry (single-author and anthologies), and bookshelves dedicated to general rhetorical and comp theory, digital rhetoric, writing center theory, methodology, and creative writing studies. I also have a few canvas bins in my living room with more general interest books piled in them. I can see Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States sticking out of one of them now.

CV: What is your favorite (or least favorite) poetic cliché?

JP: Ha! Good one. I have a love/hate relationship with the “poem about writing poetry/being a poet” cliché. Some people try so hard to be ironic and funny in those kinds of poems that they end up kind of tripping on their own ridiculousness and looking just as doofy as they tried not to be.

CV: Name a poet (living or dead) with whom you’d like to share a banana split.

JP: None, because I don’t really like banana splits, but I’d share a caramel sundae with Karen Volkman.

CV: Name a poet (living or dead) with whom you’d like to go on a road trip.

JP: Elizabeth Bishop! Imagine the book you could write after that trip. Her stories would be incredible, and she’d show me amazing things I wouldn’t see otherwise.

CV: That would be my answer, too! Name a poet (living or dead) with whom you’d like to go dancing.

JP: Does Patti Smith count? I’d love to dance at CBGB with Patti in 1976.

CV: Yes! That counts!!

If you were a poetic form what would you be?

JP: Oooh I love this question. I’d love to be a sestina but I think I’m actually a haibun. It’s a short Japanese form that combines a prose section and a haiku.

CV: What book are you currently reading? This doesn’t have to be a book of poetry.

JP: I usually have a bunch of books going at once. Right now I’m reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and a couple of books on writing program and writing center assessment. I’m looking forward to Kristin Kaschock’s The Dottery and the paperback version of the history of 4AD records.

CV: What do you wish you could tell your 10-year-old self about the life of a poet?

JP: I would tell her that it’s a constant battle against self-doubt; that the self-doubt doesn’t go away when you grow up and even get a respectable number of published poems under your belt. I don’t have a full-length collection yet, but if I did I strongly doubt its existence would take away my insecurity. It’s okay to have that. You just work through it or around it.

CV: Final question. How would your 10-year-old self respond?

JP: My ten-year-old self would look at her feet, shyly say, “okay,” and excuse herself to play some Dragon Warrior III in the basement. And I’d let her. That kid is going to be fine.

 

Two Poems by Julie Platt

My Familiar

I have a heart that shoos me through the hours.

I have a father and a mother. I chew

heavy, seedless bread; I chop my dogwood tree.

I wait for winter, when the voices of my friends

are distinct in the articulate cold.

I am not a machine, though it is true

I have been augmented. In place of my legs,

the jaunty bones of a child

mistaken by his father for a stag. My windpipe

is the birth canal of a girl who went missing

in the Tennessee woods. Are you grateful for your life

in spite of what rots off of this world and dies

writing in the snow?

 

Do not be afraid,

I am only a woman.

 

The Beautiful Cookbook

It’s an ideal remedy for a tongue like that,

all grayish and American. It makes you dream:

a wide bowl of tiny fish gleam bright as braids.

Tomatoes ripen like girls’ cheeks

and the whole country arranges on one boat—

turmeric, holy basil, thick scarlet pastes

more worshipful than incense. Colors separate

and personify. The coriander is a skirt maker,

cardamom a tobacconist, palm and mangoes

embrace in bundles, and zucchini and okra

queue up neat as matchsticks. Piles of matchsticks

for a fire they’ll set on the river at night. They’ll spill

hats into the dirt. Screams slide up

the pines as they tear each other open.

 

Scroll to the bottom of the page for a link to Julie Platt’s chapbook In the Kingdom of My Familiar, which was published this year by Hyacinth Girl Press. It’s a steal at six bucks.

In Brief: Poetic Postcards

I’d been on the lookout for something different to showcase on maybesopoetry, and Laura E. Davis’ work with postcards is exactly what I was hoping to find. Davis is a poet (and, apparently, an artist), who creates unique postcards using decoupage. I was lucky enough to score one, and of course, it was exciting to receive actual hold-in-your-hands mail that wasn’t a bill from American Electric Power, or a coupon for Little Caesar’s Pizza.

Davis’ postcard is a work of art: a lovely, writing-inspired collage on one side (see image), and on the other side, a handwritten, original poem. No two postcards are alike.

Of her inspiration for creating these postcards, Davis says,

I’ve been going through a very fragmented period with my writing. I write a lot of drafts that don’t go anywhere. Lots of erasures, blackouts, cutups and found poems. Sometimes just word lists. I got the idea to use the postcards as motivation to write. I need to be creative on pretty much a daily basis, and when I’m feeling stuck with words, I create with my hands through crafts. The process of collecting images, paper scraps, and objects for the postcard collages, and then actually creating them is very meditative and calming. Once I have a solid stack of new postcards, then I set a goal of writing poems for the cards so I can mail them to people. Sometimes I repeat poems, but I try to write a different draft on each postcard. I don’t let myself make any new cards until I send out at least a few finished postcards. I love to get real mail. Who doesn’t?

Upon Davis’ request, I will not include the actual poem (it’s still in draft form), but it’s quite evocative, and the entire effect of the postcard makes the experience of sharing poetry a personal and intimate one.

More about the poet:

Laura E. Davis is the author of Braiding the Storm (Finishing Line, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Toad, So to Speak, Stirring, Corium, Muzzle Magazine, and others. The founding editor of Weave Magazine. Laura teaches for Poetry Inside Out, a K-12 bilingual poetry program in San Francisco.

The Insomniac’s Weather Report, by Jessica Goodfellow

Jessica Goodfellow. The Insomniac’s Weather Report. Tokyo, Japan: Isobar Press, 2014. 108 pages. $15, paper.

Jessica Goodfellow is obsessed. Her obsessions include water, the weather, insomnia, as well as questions philosophical, mathematical, and celestial. She keeps lists. She jots down ideas and crosses them out. She riddles the page with her wordplay. She marries and remarries. She is somewhat enigmatic, but always charming. In The Insomniac’s Weather Report, her second collection of poems, many different voices emerge, interweave, creating for us a linguistic chorus that is uniquely Goodfellow. Originally published by Three Candles Press, an outfit that folded soon after printing about a hundred copies, Isobar Press took it on and brought it back to life for those of us lucky enough to read this gorgeous collection.

Goodfellow’s performance on the page is nuanced; experimental without seeming like a gimmick. In some of the poems from the final section, titled “Alphabet Fugue,” she crosses out key words and phrases, enacting the drafting process, the discarding and transformation of ideas and metaphors. Language is as much about what we don’t say as what we do say, but in many of Goodfellow’s poems, such as “Map: Glass:” what is not said is said:

A map of wind is usually called glass.

Subtract motion from wind, and oh! what’s left

is window, map of subtracting self from motion gravity

particulars.

 

An absence of glass is usually called shadow.

You’d thought it was the opposite lack of light, but no,

it’s liquid dissolve of motion – you, trapped between god.

 

A map of self is usually called whisper weapon window.

Fusion of sand, lime, ash; sacred translucent barricade

against elements, motion. As if the self were other than.

 

A map of self is usually a window of god gravity smoke.

Childhood home burning, panes bursting outward.

Homeless, mapless, sparks rising like little yellow birds.

These poems, of course, are not drafts. In drafts we wish to kill the unwanted phrase, but Goodfellow wants us to see what was there before, to show us the metaphors that cohabitate in the same sentence, the same line, and therefore, also cohabitate in our minds, giving them yet another kind of marriage outside the poem.

What Heather McHugh says of Emily Dickinson’s use of dashes seems apropos here: “Whatever was cast is recast in the heat of the reader’s presence, and the poem which was a motion in the author is a motion again in the reader.” Goodfellow’s work suggests an affinity for Dickinson. Dickinson’s poetic dashes unite her ideas, connect them, and in a way, Goodfellow’s act of striking through her own words creates a similar effect. We could easily skip past the “missing” words and still be dazzled by her language. We are uniquely implicated in the building of these poems inside our own minds, laying down multiple images and metaphors like so much brick and mortar.

Early in the book, Goodfellow limbers up with some linguistic acrobatics reminiscent of Wallace Stevens. “How to Describe the Desert Without Saying Water” is a good example. I won’t include this poem in its entirety here, but what follows are the first and final stanzas:

Wanted: bauble of milky mouth.

Fat knee of shameless need, kneading.

Wanted: fontanel ticking, a fist

of collateral tightening. Frightening

whorl of faintest resemblance – thin

as glaze, angle, or desire.

* * *

And now. My moon blooms amphibian.

Glory, my taproot has plummeted.

My matrix is configured. Hosanna.

Madonna figure, de riqueur,

who once beleaguered be.

Full regalia my penetralia is.

The final lines bring to mind Stevens’ “Let be be the finale of seem” (from “The Emperor of Ice-Cream”) and “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is” (from “The Snow Man”). Goodfellow’s wordplay illuminates her intelligence and her devotion to the transformative nature of language.

There is a strong sense of play throughout this book. My favorite to read aloud is “Chance of Precipitation,” because of its descriptive list, its tongue-twister-ish charm:

Rain’s tonal ticker tape

tarmac tarantella

rooftop timpani

water glitterati

articulate in triplicate.

 

River, all glissando

glossolalia

liquid limerick

we tessellated

littoral lateral lullaby.

 

Ocean’s hush-hush hoodoo

whispering womb

chez chartreuse chanteuse

fugue soothed in blue

a wish awash in white noise.

 

The insomniac longs to transliterate

rain into human alphabet –

French, maybe. A lullaby, a chanson,

a hymn. A baptism of sleep

as unstable as water.

Say that ten times fast, the poet seems to say. I dare you.

In fact, Jessica Goodfellow dares us in many ways throughout this poetry collection. She challenges us to see the world through the prism of her syntax and her linguistic play. She wants us to understand the metaphorical connections among such concepts as weather, water, marriage, identity, and philosophy – all of which crop up and intermingle again and again throughout these poems. Wallace Stevens, in “Three Academic Pieces,” discusses the metaphor as a way for poets (and therefore the readers of poetry) to discover resemblances between things. These resemblances in poetry are what give us pleasure, because when we recognize them, we also recognize ourselves. Goodfellow’s powerful use of metaphor prods us toward a new vision of our world and of our own humanity.

[Blogger’s Note: The formatting of “Map: Glass:” is a bit off. The final word in the first stanza (particulars) should be alone on the line, but should have been indented to the end of the previous line. This blogger struggled with the formatting. Apologies to Ms. Goodfellow.]

More about this author (from The Insomniac’s Weather Report):

Jessica Goodfellow is the author of the chapbook A Pilgrim’s Guide to Chaos in the Heartland (Concrete Wolf, 2006). Her poems have been featured in the anthology Best New Poets 2006, and on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac. She was a recipient of the Chad Walsh Poetry Prize from the Beloit Poetry Journal, and has been honored with essay and short fiction awards from the Emrys Foundation. After receiving a master’s degree from Caltech, she has worked as a financial analyst, a math teacher, an ESL teacher, and a scientific and medical editor. Raised in the greater Philadelphia area, she lives in Japan with her husband and sons.

 

Welcome to MaybeSoPoetry!

I created maybesopoetry to share my musings about poetry and the writing life with an audience wider than my kid (who is actually super-insightful), my dog, and my three cats. It’s embarrassing to admit that I talk poetry with my cats, especially since I can’t abide their theories on post-modernism, but it’s a fact that the older I get the fewer people I have readily at hand to discuss writing, poetry, and literature.

I plan to also use this blog to review books and to promote the work of women poets and writers. As the youngest of three sisters, I’ve been inspired by women throughout my life. I’m drawn to women’s voices in poetry, and I’m amazed at the energy and innovation I see in their work. If you’re a poet or writer who would like me to consider reviewing your book on this blog, please contact me. Chapbooks are welcome, too! Down the line, I envision including in this blog feature articles and interviews with poets and writers I admire.

Because this is a new endeavor, I don’t know where it will lead me. It’s a bit scary to eschew conversation with my cats for the sake of a human readership, so I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read and respond to my posts here. I welcome the dialogue!

Thanks for visiting maybesopoetry!