Saturday, August 28, 2010

Final Friday with the InkTank and

Yesterday, I read some of my poetry at InkTank, an organization in Cincinnati I've been getting more involved with lately.  InkTank is concerned with matters of the community and the arts, and in celebration of Final Friday, Lisa Howe, the new director, set up a reading of work by the participants of the InkTank writer's salon which happens there every other week.  I had a blast.  Plus, there was good food, and lots of talk with writers of prose, poetry, and other kinds of writing.

I actually brought my camera, but forgot to use it.  I'm a miserable blogger sometimes.

One of my favorite moments of the night, though, involved Julie Stockman reading a moving blog entry from a blog she contributes to called CincyVoices.  Well, it was technically a blog entry, but I'd probably call it a memoir if she had not stated it as such.  Julie walked me around the Final Friday event and shared an impressive knowledge (and love) of Over-The-Rhine and Cincinnati in general.  Check out the site, especially if you live in or around Cincinnati; it's absolutely fantastic.

I'd also like to commend Julie's involvement in Price Hill's Cultural Heritage Festival.  I'm pretty damn upset I wasn't able to make it today.

And speaking of that...  This is a formal announcement of thus-far-failure of Vizionheiry's tips for working from home.  They are excellent tips; I plan on trying them again next week.  But it's good to face the facts, sometimes, and the facts are, I didn't do too well at managing my time this week.  Which leaves me with a very narrow amount of time to do this blog, and then the rest of the day spent working.  More updates as they come as to whether I am able to balance all this mess.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Press Release: Welcome the three newest members of the Affrilachian Poets!

Welcome family!  You all look out for these three:

For Immediate Release August 25, 2010 Images &
The Affrilachian Poets Welcome Three New Members
Lexington, KY— Randall Horton, Kamilah Aisha Moon, and Jeremy Paden comprise the fifth induction of members to the Affrilachian Poets. This marks the opening event celebrating the group’s twentieth anniversary which includes the the first Affrilachian conference and writing retreat in 2011.
The Affrilachian Poets have been writing and thriving in Appalachia and beyond since 1991. The term, “Affrilachia,” was coined by Walker as testament to the cultural and physical connection to the Appalachian Region from writers of color. A group of friends and colleagues who eventually called themselves the Affrilachian Poets initially met in the Martin King, Jr. Cultural Center at the University of Kentucky. Ten years later, the AP’s were the subject of “Coal Black Voices” broadcast on PBS, and the word “Affrilachia” is now an entry in the Oxford American Dictionary. 
Known for work that pays homage to family, social struggle and relationships to rural and urban landscapes, among the Affrilachian Poets are award-winning authors, academics, and activists. Group members have edited the anthologies America! What’s My Name?, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, founded the literary journalsTorch: poetry, prose, and short stories by African-American women, Pluck!: the Affrilachian Journal of Arts and Culture, and the independent publishing houses,Mythium and Blacoetry Press. Collectively the AP’s have published a total of twenty-five titles, with six collections set to be released between 2010-2011.To learn more about the history of the Affrilachian Poets and individual members, please log on to
Upcoming Dates for the Affrilachian Poets:
Frostburg State University; Frostburg, MD (Sept. 18, 2010) “Born and Bred”; Lexington, KY (Sept. 28, 2010) Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference; Washington, D.C. (Feb. 4-5, 2011)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Top 5 Links of the Week (that I can remember)

Working from home means that my schedule is all up in the air and fluid.  Right now, my solution has been the opposite of what every work-from-home employee might suggest; rather than block my work time off, and have the rest of the day off, I block off my writing/research time, and work the rest of the day.

What that means is that I've been tearing through the links.  So without further ado, my top five links of this week (that I can remember):

  1. Carl Phillips on writing.  (BTW, Carl's book, Riding Westward, is phenomenal.)
  2. Daniel Nester hates the term/genre(?)/style Lyrical Essay.
  3. Are E-Books good for poetry?
  4. Getting the DL on the new Sarah Baartman flick. (BTW, Bianca Spriggs has a poem that sort of blows me away about Sarah Baartman in her new book Kafir Lily)
  5. Dwayne Betts talks poetry and the prison system.
Also, because I just read it, and it the story has me hooked enough to be reading it immediately again, check out Erin Keane's new book Death Defying Acts.  Especially if you are afraid of clowns.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Comments are the lifeblood of blogging as a community

Daniel Nester's Round Up at We Who Are About to Die alerted me to two articles, both of which basically express opinions about why Silliman's Blog recently decided to disable comments.

It became in many ways a discussion on the importance of comments in blogs. Or else, the lack thereof.  Samizdat Blog explains that in an age which is inundated with poets, poetry, and critique of poetry, many have decided to garner attention by any means necessary.  Which means, a lot of the time, logging into your favorite blog platform, finding the comment section of your favorite blog, and being a jerk.

I suppose, in the end, what we have is a failure to adjust our expectations to the new conditions under which we write poetry, and write about poetry. When the dissemination of poems and commentary was limited by the technology of print, relatively few people were able to disseminate their work, and they could imagine that the audience for what they had to say was larger than the number of other publishing writers. Now everyone with a laptop can get their work out there, but getting it noticed amid the crowd is an issue.
Lemon Hound explains that perhaps the medium demands a different sort of call and response:

A little space between digestion and response. I said earlier that I thought the right response to a great poem is probably another great poem--I think the same might be true for a post.

I tend to agree with both these statements.  There are a lot of people out there just trying to get a word in edge-wise, to the detriment of the community (depending, of course, on the person and their intent).  And yes, the best response to a good blog post is another post, just as a the best response to an outstanding poem is another poem.

But these aren't the only responses, or nobody would read poems but other poets.

Every blog, of course, is free to do what they feel necessary to function as whatever it is they function as.  But I think that at its core, no blog can ever enter the world, truly as part of the community, without comments.  Granted, this is not the goal of every site or person.  And a blog may be big enough or important enough to directly affect the community anyway.  But only in the oblique way that forces take on groups of people, instead of the organic way that communities actually thrive.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I really want to read slush. Also, updates.

I'm unreasonably eager to find a job with a poetry journal or magazine.  Reading the slush pile.  For free, probably.  I know, I should see a doctor.  But I'm not sure where to start looking.  So if you guys know of any place that's in the market, especially one near Northern Kentucky/Southern Ohio/Eastern Tennessee, hook a brother up.


  • Still doing my thing at Public-Republic.
  • Writing for, and generally thinking about We Who Are About to Die.  Check it out. Great stuff.
  • Beginning to start the application process for grad school (which means, so far, that I've cleaned off my desk so I have room to work).
  • Taking an online grant writing course with ed2go (consensus?  Cheap, and I'm learning.  Might have been cheaper to get Grant Writing for Dummies, but having deadlines and assignments is helpful, as well as a person to ask questions of).
  • Beginning to sort of help the Ink Tank write grants.
  • Working on lesson plans, or whatever I need to work on, to start leading workshops on poetry for the InkTank.

This means that a lot of things I'd like to do, such as read all my email, or read a lot more, are getting pushed back.

It's times like these where I want to bemoan the fast paced nature of the modern world, and watch a commercial about how busy being a mom is and nod my head emphatically (ignoring that I am not a woman, nor have a child), and generally just, you know, sigh a lot.

But I think the reality is that none of us are half as busy as we think.  I'm up-to-date with True Blood, for instance.  And Mad Men.  Pretty much every day, I see reruns of court shows (which means I've already seen them all once).  I lay on my couch a lot.

There are people in the world who know busy.  I don't know busy, and even when I do, it's really not so bad.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I've been made a co-editor of We Who Are About To Die

I'm not sure I've ever directly mentioned We Who Are About To Die on this blog, but I've been blogging there for a while now, at least as often as I blog here at my personal blog.  I tend to write more about literature on WWAATD and much, much less about my personal life or poetry.

If you haven't already, you ought to check it out.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Technology and Poetry: Visuwords

I'm going to be all kinds of hypocritical in this post.  I can already feel it.

But I know poets who won't, or can't, write without a pen or a pencil in their hand.  They've got to feel the scrawl of ink against paper, and that's fine.  But at the same time, I suspect that a sizable portion of these writers avoid the computer screen less of pragmatism and more of some romantic notion of a poet with their pen.

I know.  Never this from a poet, right?

It's just that I can't stand how slowly a pencil gets the ideas from my mind to the blue line, and I'm quick to point out that the OGs of poetry couldn't afford paper, assuming someone had invented it yet in their part of the world.  I've no qualms with technology as a medium of creation; today's cutting edge is tomorrows romanticized.

That said, check out Visuwords.  Basically, it's something like a high-tech thesaurus.  You type in a word, and it populates a group of bubbles that are related to that word, complete with color coordinated lines showing how the new words relate to the original.

I've got mixed feelings about this site.  On one hand, it's kind of awesome jiggling those bubbles around.  Sort of like choking an octopus.  More than that, it actually seems like it could be useful.  Often, when I am stuck on a poem, or am just trying to start writing, I will write (type) a word down and begin writing other words that I think are vaguely connected to it in some way.

But I've known about this site for a while and still never use it, even as I defend my 6-year-old laptop against the Classic Pen Defensive.

In my own defense, I think that part of what makes my personal method of thought bubbles work is the process itself.  Seeing words is an entirely different experience from coming up with them yourself.

Which makes Visuwords something like a very pretty thesaurus.

But then, some people think better visually.  Some need the tactile feel of a pen in their hands.  And some of us just like throttling things as we put off writing today's poem.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cincinnati's Full Art Spectrum Jazz Collaborative

An Ohio artist named Roy Jones has been running the Full Art Spectrum for some time, but I was only recently able to finally make it.  Essentially, FAS is a meeting of artists of all disciplines: visual, written, and performance.  I've never been to anything quite like it.

The artists stand in front of the crowd, present their work, whatever that entails, and give an extremely brief explanation if they feel that the piece needs it.  So a photographer has their photo on an easel, or I will stand in front of everyone and read.  Then, rather than critique, or just clap, the audience asks questions or make comments on the work.  It becomes a discussion, something like an interactive gallery.

Yesterday was a special event for Full Art Spectrum: a show of collaborative works based on the sort of dialogue and interplay that jazz is so well known for.  Pieces hung which were the work of groups of three different artists who traded partially completed canvases and spun it their own way (a visual riff, I suppose).  It was kind of awesome, especially to someone with little to no visual artistry in his blood.

 The second sort of art that was on display was interdisciplinary.  Poets worked with visual artists in some way.  In my case, I worked with a painter named Anna Willoughby; I wrote a poem based in some small part on a discussion we had beforehand, and she painted it.

Here is the poem and Anna's fantastic painting, which frankly, I did a shitty job capturing with my point-and-shoot camera:

-based on a true story

I lost my place in conversation,
but nobody seemed to sense
the loss.  Their crowded chests
were encroached with belief.
I lifted hot and light as a balloon,
bit my tongue desperately, tried to
save face, but I watched my-
self drift away into the upward
sea, and I held my friends, my-
self mute, righted my family.

I actually performed the piece as well, and recorded it, but it's not the greatest sound quality, so instead, I will upload the only marginally better second poem that I read.  I was accompanied by the jazz band that played throughout the night (the only member of the band whose name I recall is Liz Wu).   And while I'm thinking about it, why are poetry readings done in any place that has something that needs to grind in order to operate?