Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Submitting Poetry to Publications & Dealing With Rejection

For me, the most pleasurable aspect of submitting poems to publications has always been the copious amount of reading it entails. In order to figure out whether my work is a good fit for a magazine/journal, and in order to know which poems would make for the strongest submission, I must read through their back issues or their online e-issues. I come across a lot of amazing work during this process. Here are some such cases:

“Listen, my live one,
        I glow for you.
I am your night-goat.
Feeding and fattening,
I trim your darkness,
            hold back
the wild cosmos.”

-Charlotte Innes, from her poem “Night-Goat”. Read the full poem at Crate Magazine.

"Anguished Compass" by Derek Hung, is also an amazing poem and has the kind of ending that gives me chills.

Of course the least pleasurable aspect for me is handling the rejection letters/emails that come pouring in. I have been sending my poems out to magazines since I was 12 years old, and have trained myself to have a tough skin and to not take things personally. I've also had to become persistent and confident. One magazine in particular, I submitted to multiple times over a period of years before they finally accepted my work. It took me a very long time to realize this, but I've learned that in order to be a successful writer I had to celebrate the rejection slips! If I am trying to find the perfect home for my poem, then I might have to go down many roads until I find a place that's just right. Every rejection note is just eliminating those paths, and narrows my options down further, therefore bringing me one step closer to the *perfect* publisher of my work.

One of my most beloved poets of all time, e.e. cummings, has an amazing book of verse entitled "No Thanks". It was rejected by 14 different publishers, but he had such confidence in what he had created that he took a $300 loan from his mother to publish it himself. He named it and dedicated it as a "no thanks" to all the publishers who had turned it down. He then created this visual poem listing all the publishers who had rejected the book, and shaped the words into a funeral urn. You might perhaps view this behavior as a little bitter, but I find it charming to display such confidence!

A publisher once said this about one of my favorite novels of all time, Vladmir Nabokov's Lolita: "… overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian… the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream… I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years."

Oh, what madness!


Saturday, May 25, 2013

BBQ Prep & Poetry Volunteer News

In preparation for Rooster's BBQ celebration I've been trying to curate the perfect menu. Here's a rough outline of what I have so far:

Grilled Steak with Herb Sauce
Roasted Zucchini Skewers
Grilled Corn on the Cob
Red Potato and Dill Salad
Watermelon Sangria

It's been gloomy and rainy for the past two days, so planning this menu was a great way to get into a sunnier mood. 

Also, I've been selected by Tupelo Press to be one of their poets for the 30/30 Project in July! Basically I will be writing a poem a day along with the 7-8 other poets they chose. We're basically poet volunteers, donating our creative efforts in exchange for people hopefully donating to support the press. I hope it raises a ton of money for them! Check out the project here

I anticipate that it will be both terrifying and exhilarating, to post up a poem every day onto a platform with such a huge audience, without having time to edit much at all. And I'm doing this coming off the emotional roller coaster of National Poetry Month, which I haven't yet recovered from! But I must push onwards and outwards... 


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hot off the presses!

I'm so, so delighted to announce that my chapbook, "The Case of the Missing Lover" is ready at last! My warmest of thanks to the lovely Kristy Bowen, from Dancing Girl Press for her hard work in getting my manuscript ready for print. You can purchase a copy here!

The press designed this lovely cover for my book. The images are magnified water molecules that have changed their molecular structure after having been exposed to words of gratitude and love. Perfect! It is so wonderful to have a real live book out in the world that people can actually hold in their hands! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Summer Food Delights!

It was so sunny today that it really put me in the mood to wear bright pink and go to the market to buy loads of fresh fruits and vegetables. I snacked on watermelon as I finished up work for today. Watermelon is the best thing to eat on a hot summer day, it's so bright and sweet and hydrating!

For dinner tonight I made:

Dijon Crusted Dill Salmon 

[serves 1]


8 oz salmon fillet (preferably wild) 
1-2 tsps honey (I use a jar I got from Ochs farm in upstate New York) 
splash soy sauce 
splash apple cider vinegar 
coarse sea salt, to taste 
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste 
1-2 tsps extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon
1 tbsp mustard
fresh dill


Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Place salmon in a glass baking dish. Brush the oil on top of the salmon with a pastry brush or spoon. Squeeze the juice of the lemon on top. Drizzle the honey, vinegar and soy sauce on top. Sprinkle salt and pepper and finish by slathering on a thick layer of the mustard. Bake for 25-30 minutes. When it's done, sprinkle fresh chopped dill on top. 

Serving Suggestions: Serve with lightly sauteed spinach: saute with olive oil and chopped garlic for an effortless side dish. I'd also suggest roasting a sweet potato so that you have a perfectly balanced meal! 

I'm dying to try these recipes: 

Most nutritional bars are completely garbage, but I love Larabars because they are simply nuts, dates and fruit. So you are actually eating something healthy (dense in calories but also dense in nutrition!) rather than eating a glorified candy bar. Larabars are rather expensive though, so if this recipe turns out as good as it sounds I'll be in heaven! 

I am normally so lazy when it comes to salad dressings. I either use a store bought one or I'll just squeeze a lemon on top of my salad, but this one sounds intriguing. I picked up a tin of anchovies at the market today, so as to try the recipe out later this week. I've never bought them in my life though, so I was peering at and inspecting the various types, and apparently so intently that the manager came up to me and asked if I needed help.  

I've never even *eaten* macarons, which is a sin because they are so quintessentially Parisian. I've always been attracted to them visually though, because they are always in such bright colors. They are an intimidating feat though, even for a relatively experienced baker like moi. Professionals regularly mess them up! But I vow to give baking macarons a try-- by the end of this year. Perhaps the next social event I go to I while use as an excuse to make them, because let's face it: they are not healthy at all! And I dare not make dozens of them only to sit around in my house staring lovingly at me day in and day out... 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A door in a rock

 6 years ago my favorite living poet, Nick Flynn, signed his book for me. He signed it:

"For Jennifer,
A door in a rock"

Now, I never really understood what in the world that meant, nor did I give it too much thought.

But the other day when I had just woken up I randomly thought of it and a flash of realization came over me. If you are stuck 'between a rock and a hard place'-- in a bad, hopeless spot in life, wouldn't it be nice if there were just a door in that rock for you to reach over, grab the knob on and walk through?! Maybe that door was there all along, and you never even noticed it, you'd just been stewing in your abject misery and lamenting the hardship. But... a door! That's exciting. Why did I never give this more thought! So after this "epiphany" I researched the phrase "a door in a rock", still half asleep and on my phone, and came across an article that explained an old Celtic mythology relating to the idea of a door in a rock. I found this interesting because I descend from the Welsh:

"Celtic Mythology The Gwragedd Annwn [wives of the underworld] were lake-sirens in Wales. These lovely creatures are known to choose mortal men as their husbands. One legend has it that they live in a sunken city in one of the many lakes in Wales. People claim to have seen towers under water and heard the chiming of bells. In earlier times, there used to be a door in a rock and those who dared enter through it came into a beautiful garden situated on an island in the middle of a lake. In this garden there were luscious fruits, beautiful flowers and the loveliest music, besides many other wonders. Those brave enough to enter were welcomed by the Gwragedd Annwn and were invited to stay as long as they wanted, on the condition that they never took anything back from the garden. One visitor ignored the rule and took a flower home with him. As soon as he left the island, the flower disappeared and he fell unconscious to the ground. From that day on, the door has been firmly closed and none has ever passed through it again."

This is an artistic representation of these water spirits: 

I found it interesting also because I am a water sign, and very strongly affiliate with water creatures. Maybe I am one of these lake-sirens, and maybe there was once a man who walked through that 'door in a rock' to that fruitful paradise of love, and maybe he went back out through the door one day, back to reality, only he took something with him, he couldn't leave it all behind completely. And if my heart and my love is this island paradise, then maybe it too has closed and no one may enter it again, because this man took something with him when he left. I just find it funny that I randomly thought of this line that someone wrote for me so many years ago. Why that morning, when I was going through a very rough time? There must be some message, some rhyme or reason, for my brain to behave that way. Or at least I like to believe that it is not just random neurons snapping and firing and deadening all at once. 

Was Nick Flynn really that much of a prophet and that insightful? Maybe... or perhaps it means nothing at all, and since he has millions of fans he just ran out of things to say when signing autographs. Maybe he started using a 'mad libs' formula:
"To _____ (proper noun), A ______ (noun) in a _______ (noun). -Nick Flynn".

I am happy to report that I was productive in something other than my business: I sent out (for the first time since last year) some poems to magazines for publications. I spent the past few days doing nothing but writing cover letters and researching magazines and endlessly editing my submissions. I also sent my book out to a publisher! One day, I just know it, I WILL have a book of poetry published, and then I too can write cryptic & beautiful & prophetic messages for fans when I sign their book.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Nouns & Daughterhood

I adore nouns. When I must speed through a page of literature my eyes will fix on mainly the nouns, and I can get a good sense of what is going on. If I were to compare language to a human body it would be as such:

Verbs = arms & legs: appendages that move you places quicker, more exactly and with more ease.
Adjectives = brain: modifies objects, people and situations to be viewed in a certain lens.
Punctuation = stomach & intestinal tract: slows down the incoming nourishment because it has to take time to digest.
Conjunctions = sex organs: joins separate animals and can yield offspring
Nouns = heart & blood: pulsing and providing everything with life.
Letters of the alphabet = cells: insignificant and small on their own, but when strung along and joined with others they become beautiful organisms

I know that they are all interrelated and necessary to life, but god! Nouns are just incredible.

In his poem "A Sort of Song" William Carlos Williams wrote: "no ideas but in things". And this simple phrase has been spun into a philosophical idea and remembered for generations, but of course it has validity. After all, his own work is proof: you can think of a single object and recall completely his poems and their deeper emotional meanings-- whether you see the wheelbarrow, plum, or cat.

I started thinking more about this the other day when I was watching "Hungry For Change", which is a nutritional documentary. They were talking about how when a person experiences stress or goes on a diet the bodies reaction is to fatten the body up, because the body interprets this as a signal that a famine is approaching. So the body is only trying to protect us by bulking us up during these times, so that we are prepared for the oncoming scarcity of food. I find this quite adorable- how sweet of the body to be trying to protect us! And all these years I was annoyed that I never had a flat stomach. I apologize dear body, yr good intentions were there all along. But so, one of the tips they give in the documentary is that you should visualize yourself at the weight you'd like to be. This sounds very cliche, I know, but the way they explain it is paramount: your body does not speak English! If you try to tell it you want to lose weight, that you want to be 100 lbs etc. it will hear nothing. It doesn't speak that language, but if you visualize a picture of yourself at a certain weight then it will understand. The body speaks the language of images, of things! That is the universal language. Unless you speak multiple languages you can't communicate with a Japanese/Portuguese/Swedish person. But if you point to your heart and then point to them then they will understand that you love them. And if you show them a picture of a hamburger then they will understand that you are hungry.

Earlier today my mother stopped by my house while I was out. And she showed me she loved me not in ideas but in things, as I returned home to the following:

-An envelope containing a credit card for me to use to help pay for my therapy bills
-Toilet paper in the bathroom
-A book called "Steps to Christ" on my kitchen countertop
-Fresh cherries and apricots in the fruit bin
-My brita water filter refilled with purified water
-A stick lodged in the sliding porch door to prevent intruders from entering

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sing that body electric

I survived National Poetry Month, and completed my requisite 30 poems. Thank god this happens only once a year, because quite frankly I need the next 11 months to recover. It is a difficult experience for me because it forces me to sit down and look honestly at myself, my emotions and my life. I have to dig (usually painful) truths and realizations out, and actually deal with emotions (rather than burying them) to write a poem. Is is emotionally exhaustive, and the next day the process repeats. There is no time to calm my nerves or digest the emotions that are perpetually being stirred up during the month. It is because of this strange chemistry that the month of April always manifests itself in my personal life. Heartache occurs, death, conversations that have been suppressed for years, travels to unexpected places, a diagnosis, signs from god. I know that poetry month is good for my personal development, but I am terrified for next year.

For the past month I've been in a very delicate and open emotional state, and this results in very peculiar and intimate experiences with people overall. Salespeople hug me more, cab drivers hold my hand while I hyperventilate, even a transvestite listened to me ramble all night about my deep life concerns (a lovely, sweet human being she was... dressed as little red riding hood no less!). When I am in this state, people seem to feel my energy and reach out to comfort me, or be an ear to listen to. It's incredible and always reaffirms my adoration for the human race.

Two recent poems I've read that are incredible:

Beginning in an Ice Cream Truck and Ending in a Court Room by Megan Falley

Blood Honey by Chana Bloch

I am very seriously considering organizing a poetry workshop with fellow poets. It would follow the same syllabus as those I had in grad school, with the one glaring exception of having an experienced poet/professor at the helm. I would have to play the role of organizer/poet dictator to keep everything moving productively but we would all be equals. Is this a feasible venture or would it just be a collection of unfocused energy? I've been in so many amazing workshops, but the reason they were so successful was because the teacher was so good at navigating the conversation and guiding everyone with their literary wisdom. I really, really need to be in a workshop though, so if this idea doesn't pan out I will have to find other options. I think my poetry education is going to continue for the rest of my life, as I just don't foresee a day when I could say I know it all.  

Also I've decided that I am going to start putting together my second book. I feel a little embarrassed to start working on a second book before I've even gotten my first one accepted for publication anywhere, but I've been sitting on my hands long enough and I need to move on. I will continue to try to get my first book published, but in the meanwhile I need to start working actively on a new venture. I have so many little ideas but as of now they are extremely vague and undeveloped. The front runners so far are: 

1. Poems inspired by or related to scientific inventions
2. Poems that expound on dictionary definitions (of mainly nouns) 
3. Poems about ghosts, primarily conducting interviews with people who claim to of had experience with ghosts 

Or maybe I could do something completely uncharacteristic and write a book of personal poems about my own life and my own experiences. I am too painfully private so I doubt this will ever happen, but I aspire to do this one day.