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30 March
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Featured Blog — The Creative Penn

 

 

This week my featured blog is overdue and well-deserved! Aussie Joanna Penn’s blog “The Creative Penn” is featured. It will take some time to browse through her vast amount of information, but it’s worth it. Everything from book cover design to marketing to podcasts.

Thanks Joanna!

28 April
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National Poetry Month Guest Poet Alle C. Hall

Escaped from a poster, originally uploaded by jeanmarcrocfort.

The Life and Death of Relationship Series:

I.
Catholic High wisdom:
“Half an inch, no thrusting.” Kept
most of them virgins.

II.
Back seat drive-in fun.
Teenage filly takes break; male
Keeps motor running.

III.
“Guys just want one thing.”
About now she could do with
in the least, one thing.

IV.
Unrolling on him
Who’d ‘a thought a condom could
Be so damn sexy?

V.
She dreams of her gown,
He, the proposal. So who
Lives in this union?

VI.
Big eyes, bigger breasts
Plays neuro-linguist in
Latest James Bond flick

VII.
She breaks up with him.
In surprise, he drops his bag
and cries, “My popcorn!”**

BIO:
Winner of the 2008 Richard Hugo House New Works Competition, Alle C. Hall’s comic haiku and nonfiction appears in or on Creative Nonfiction, BUST, Literary Mama, Literary Café Radio, Jew-ish.com, and Swivel. A newly minted blogger
(About Childhood; http://allehall.wordpress.com/) , she started out freelancing for The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, and The Stranger, where she worked up to Contributing Writer and for whom she interviewed Leonard Nimoy. Some day, her now-young children kids will think she is really cool.

**A slightly different version of “VII” originally published in The Moment of Truth: Women’s Funniest Romantic Catastrophes (Seal Press, 2002).

24 April
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Guest Poet David Biespiel

, originally uploaded by eyelightfilms.

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Marriages

by David Biespiel

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Even a man who always comes home forgets the sense of it. He lets the

……….halls glint with agony and pleasure.

He lets light into windows through the veils of give-and-take, lets the

……….bath prick him like a thousand tacks.

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In the insomniac’s hour he prowls the cellar with his warrior’s luck,

……….smoking the birthday dope,

Smearing the irregular cave of his mind and the faces and the ticking

……….clocks and the girlish thighs

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He touched in a season of first love, early summer, the sky of the city

……….illuminated with improvised musk, a spree of sheets,

And suddenly she’s removed her dress. And suddenly the squares of

……….darkness dissolve.

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Even a man who can’t come home looks in vain through gates of

……….sporadic gardens, sacred

As dragging a leg, tormented as a rood beam, under which he

……….sometimes stops and breathes

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Harder than he meant to. He’s a city cut in half, man on the one side,

……….thorny

As rain, home on the other—

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He’s like a passion flower looking up

At buildings and bridges, gates and windows,

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And through one he sees a closed passional

With the downcast and the sufferers and the promiscuous weariness,

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And he thinks a pastry would be nice. —All of which the stoned man

……….sniffs in his brain

Until the password for sleep comes on, and the stairs creek with the

……….volley of his steps,

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And the city of marriages collapses in ruins, and the maple volunteers

……….are a light emptiness,

And the thrushes begin their early adjurations along the leaf-ruined

……….gutters, July decaying like a desert of the drowned,

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Drier than a complaint, ending like a book underlined in red in the

……….meaningful sections,

The confused words with the clear words, To Be Continued with The

…….... End, enduring like a dead wind.

Garden Gate & Courtyard, Venice, originally uploaded by Rita Crane Photography ~ returning soon!.
About Poet David Biespiel: Originally from Texas, he lives in Portland, Oregon, is the director at the Attic Writer’s Workshop, and teaches as Oregon State University, Wake Forest University, and Pacific Lutheran University’s M.F.A. Program. He was the Editor for Poetry Northwest from 2005 to 2010, and has son several prestigious awards for his poetry, including a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, the William Stafford Memorial Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature. This poem appears in his newest book of poetry The Book Of Men And Women (University of Washington Press).

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About Photographer Laurence Manly: Originally from Dublin, Ireland, he spent ten years living in the USA, first in Providence, Rhode Island, and then for eight years in Los Angeles where he toiled in the movie business.Moved back to Ireland, and now lives in England with his partner Elaine and their two lovely daughters.

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About Photographer Rita Crane: You can see her prints in art galleries in Northern California. Currently showing at Kevin Milligan Gallery in Danville (East Bay) and several galleries in Mendocino County.
16 April
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Constructing A Villanelle by K. Alma Peterson

Sea Fan, originally uploaded by Super Cab Driver.

Notes on the construction of “Undiminished” (a villanelle):

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Undiminished

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by K. Alma Peterson

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In the shallows the furrowed brain coral reports

its deathwash to the scoured beach     sea fans

snapped off      sea whips    lacy delicate sorts

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confirm the incremental cruelty of watercourse

over and against the grooves     thinkless pans  

wherein our coral brains to shallow resort

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rockslap     foam fringe gathers waveworn

in backchannels    while the pendant sea fans

whip delicately and snap the likes of us shorn

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who’d leave them in their morgue    but of course

we fill our pockets to the sagging end

the furrowed brain coral over eons the corpses

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smooth and blacken      far-off depositors

clog the Caribbean sink       laughing you contend

the snappish whips don’t require a lacy form

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so against your blistered mouth the sugar calciforms

happily you’ve feasted since cane knows when

our furrowed brains in hallowed ruts of dead coral

snap to     the indelicate sea sailwhips the racy sort

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I like to think of writing poems a process of investigation and construction, a sort of archaeological dig and assembly of the pieces, or underwater dive and recovery mission. The investigation starts with an idea, phrase, image, or remnant of a dream, and then goes off on all sorts of tangents that those things suggest.

The fact that in the villanelle some lines, or variations of them, repeat throughout the poem, and other lines appear only once, made me think of an ocean beach with various life forms being washed up on shore and others moving back and forth with the action of the waves. Rearranging the words and phrases in the repeating lines also seemed appropriate to the action of water on objects in and around it. Changing a word slightly, e.g. “lacy” to “racy” suggests how looking through water as a kind of lens can change the way things are perceived. Unless a villanelle has repeating lines that really do bear repeating, I prefer to really mix up the line, and usually the meaning of the line.

The poem’s title reflects the relentless nature of repeated elements: in a poem, in nature, in our inclination to link and associate words, images, ideas. Writing a poem, especially in form, requires assemblage; fitting the parts together to make a cohesive whole.

Spaces within the lines, in contrast with words that are pushed together (deathwash, waveworn, rockslap, sailwhips) mimic the action of brain waves, ocean waves, sonic waves, and the like.

The fact that shells are the skeletons of marine creatures brings to mind our own mortality: “we fill our pockets to the sagging end” refers to crowding the poem itself, as well as the way we crowd our surroundings with “stuff.” We are easily distracted by these “shiny objects” which is both pleasurable and worrisome. This villanelle explores competing impulses, and plays with the way we present them, to ourselves and to the world.

K. Alma Peterson

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About Poet K. Alma Peterson: Graduated with an MFA from Warren Wilson College. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The New Orphic Review, Skidrow Penhouse, Perihelion Review, garrtsiluni, Wicked Alice, and others. In 1999 her poem “Between Us” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Rosemount, Minnesota with her husband and cat. “Undiminished” first appeared in her chapbook Befallen, and now is also included in her first book of poetry Was There No Interlude When Light Sprawled the Fen is just out by BlazeVOX Books.
11 April
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National Poetry Month Guest Blogger Matt Love

Happy Birthday!, originally uploaded by Liz Faulkner (back soon).

One Man’s Beach Refuge

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by Matt Love

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April 1999. National Poetry Month. I begin my three-week unit with seventh and eighth graders attending Neskowin Valley School. I’ve waited all year to teach my favorite subject.

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We read poems, write poems, memorize poems, randomly construct poems like the surrealists did, study different forms, techniques, and listen to Jack Kerouac perform his crazy cool American haikus. After reading an Emily Dickinson biography and learning she called her poetry “snow,” I suggest the students name their poetry. Hearing this, they look at me like I’m stupid, and when I suggest they “loaf and invite their soul” on a weekend, one of the seventh grade girls asks if she can do that watching a video.

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My material bombs; explosions resound throughout the room but only I can hear them. Students insist on rhyming every poem. They’re bored listening to Kerouac. They have trouble grasping the concept of metaphor. When I ask each student to choose a poem from a collection of nearly fifty books in the library that best captures a mood they’ve recently experienced, and read it aloud, some of the girls recite Mother Hubbard. Some girls write poems on a single subject—pets. One boy projectile vomits in the classroom during one of my dramatic readings. He claims he has the flu and I have to clean it up. Rapidly, I sense nothing of educational or personal value is happening with this unit, assuredly the opposite whenever I taught poetry at the high school level. My sophomores, juniors, and seniors poured it out and poured it on: love, fear, loss, death, angst, hate, pain, lust, losering, and very bad sex.

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One afternoon during a lesson investigating the poetic value of popular music, I play David Bowie’s Heroes and ask, “What do you think he’s after when he sings, ‘We can be heroes, for just one day’?” Nobody says a word and I wait, and wait, staked out naked on an anthill splashed with honey and Drambuie. What happens next is a first in my teaching career: I abruptly suspend a lesson in progress because it’s tanking so badly and I’m a teacher in the throes of professional disintegration. I cannot continue even though I have thirty minutes to fill and many more carefully selected pop songs to play, including some of the girls’ wimpy boy band favorites. It doesn’t matter. I’m whipped here. The ship of poetic state hath sunk and this captain honors maritime tradition. “You know,” I say, “I’m going to stop now and we’re going to move on to something else.” No explanation. No excuses. No tirades. Lucky for me, seventh and eighth graders are totally oblivious to a visceral teaching shipwreck in their midst, and they transition smoothly into our next activity, recess, while I collapse into the easy chair. It’s now fourth and thirty-five from my own ten-yard line in the second quarter of a zero to zero football game for the World Championship of Teaching Poetry but I won’t punt. I don’t know how to punt when it comes to poetry, but I have twenty minutes until the students return from recess to invent a new gadget curriculum play.

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They take their seats and I announce “Poetry Madness,” a hike, tomorrow, rain or shine or gale force winds. We shall hike a five-mile round journey of Keatsian proportions down nearby Nestucca Spit to the jaws of the river, to the roiling bar of Nestucca Bay, where bald eagles soar, to become poets ourselves, bards of yore, the unacknowledged legislators of the world! Raw nature will seize us by the throats and strangle the verse forth. We’ll be “mad to be in contact with it” as Whitman wrote, and I’ll quote that line before we begin our march down the sand. If these kids aren’t inspired to embrace poetry after this experience, then literate American civilization is doomed. The students seem mildly interested in my idea, and, well, if it means missing class, then…hell!…we love poetry Matt! That night I spend an hour on the phone pleading with parents to help with carpool. I don’t tell them about the sinking ship.

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We hit Bob Straub State Park and Nestucca Spit in the morning on a splendid sunny morning I might as well have ordered from Wordsworth. Before Poetry Madness officially begins, I quote Whitman “…urge and urge and urge…” and then twenty students, six parents, one teacher and three dogs, including Ray, embark on a field trip with no predictable outcome, a teaching first for me. An hour later the students and I sit in a circle at the bar’s edge, where the Pacific Ocean slams into Nestucca Bay. We pull out our journals and list stream-of-consciousness images flooding our minds. We edit them to a favorite five, then to the ultimate crystallized fifteen-syllable image. After that, we read the poems aloud and I keep interrupting the students to recite louder so we can hear them over the sound of the crashing surf. I read last and thank the students for their serious poetic effort.

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No more seriousness for one middle school field trip! We must play and play hard. I choose teams and announce each one has forty-five minutes to construct a poetry fort out of driftwood worthy of Walt Whitman’s presence. When finished, invite me over for a poem and a cup of tea. “Ready, go!” I scream. As the students dash around building forts, sometime three or four working together to drag a piece of large driftwood, I get a bonfire raging to roast up hotdogs.

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On the hike back up the Spit, a girl discovers a beached seal pup and wants to carry it home and call the authorities. The students plead with her to leave it alone, the mother will return to feed it. If you touch the pup, the students tell her, voices rising, the mother might abandon it. I stand back and say nothing, wishing some mounting peer pressure will win the day. The girl refuses to listen. She’s been like this all year long with students and adults alike. She strides toward the pup, a few kids start screaming at her, and the class turns to me. “Disrupt the disruptor,” the Old Man, a master teacher of forty years taught me about handling a recalcitrant student in situations like this.

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I unsheathe the verb.

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.“If you pick up that seal, you will kill it. You will as good as put a bullet in its head and watch it die. And all because you never listen to anyone. Because you think you know everything and you know nothing about this. Nothing. Less than nothing. Everyone here knows more about the seal than you do. I respect you care about the animal but your feelings are going to murder this baby. (Pause) Now go ahead and pick it up and we’ll all watch you kill this seal, right now, right on this beach. It’s all any of us will ever remember about you. I’ll even write a poem about it.”

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She retreats from the pup and all the kids’ eyes follow her. She walks alone on the way back, occasionally turning around for a brief look. I don’t say a word to her for the rest of the day.

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Frustrated with life, teaching, and the inability to become a writer, Matt Love escaped Portland in 1997 at 33 years of age and moved to the Oregon Coast. A year later he became caretaker of the 600-acre Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge. During his decade (1998-2008) as caretaker, he helped restore the grounds to fuller ecology, discovered a love for teaching, and reinvented himself as a writer and historian who established Nestucca Spit Press and eventually won the 2009 Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award from Oregon Literary Arts. His new book, Gimme Refuge, is his passionate 177-page account of his teaching career, experience as caretaker, and awakening as an Oregonian. The book also includes 17 original illustrations by Cindy Popp.

Becoming the caretaker of the refuge was the biggest break of my life, said Love. I sincerely doubt I would have found my voice as a writer or developed my unique love for Oregon without this incredible opportunity. It also helped me return to teaching and to embrace and love that profession.

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….For more information on Matt Love, or to order Gimme Refuge, please visit this link at Nestucca Spit Press.

01 April
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National Poetry Month 2010

National Poetry Month 2008, originally uploaded by sbpoet.

For National Poetry Month I have excerpts of poetry, or prose on poetry from guest bloggers: Oregon writer and teacher Matt Love, poet K.Alma Peterson, and from David Biespiel. I hope you enjoy these posts as much as I have.

15 April
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Guest Blogger: Grace Curtis Interviews Poet Kathy Fagan

LipAn Interview with Poet, Kathy Fagan

by Grace Curtis

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Recently, I took a close look at the poetry of Kathy Fagan.  She is the editor of The Journal, http://english.osu.edu/research/journals/thejournal/default.cfm, the literary magazine of The Ohio State University, where she is a full-time professor of English.  Lip, Eastern Washington University Press, http://www.ewu.edu/ewupress/poetry/lip.htm,

is her fourth book of poetry.  Fagan’s work in The Charm, her third book, is thoroughly refreshing.  It’s funny, insightful, inventive and lush.  It is all the things that make reading a poet’s work cover to cover, a wonderful experience.  Following are some thoughtful answers to questions I posed to her about her new book,  Lip, her writing process, the writing life and her sources of inspiration.

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You can find her new book, Lip, at:  http://www.amazon.com/Lip-Kathy-Fagan/dp/1597660493/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1240249260&sr=1-1

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GC Tell us about your new book, Lip.

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KF As the jacket copy says, Lip is an insolent kind of book—one reader called it “gnarly,” which I like—filled with primarily female speakers who alternately rage, praise, sing, and meditate. I’ve always worked inside and outside all kinds of poetic structures, and this book is no exception to that—there are prose poems, pantoums, sonnet-like poems, innovative forms, narratives, lyrics, experimental utterances—but I’ve discovered that another abiding interest of mine is voice and persona. I like to think of Lip as a little purgatory of voices, an opera of sorts. In fact, the manuscript began with the title Poems for a Small Stage, and many of the poems take passages from other texts for their titles, epigraph-titles, so to speak. I wanted my speakers to be engaged with other speakers and texts, as in a stage production.

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GC Can you talk a little about your “writing life.”  How do you fit in all the things you do?  Teaching, editing The Journal, home, family, and writing?

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KF It used to be that writing took a backseat to everything else. No more. I don’t have any magic formula for how that happened; it just did. Age maybe. A deepening commitment. I love teaching and doing The Journal; it’s my way of socializing, my way of being a writer among writers. Since I’m shy and no good at schmoozing, I communicate via the poem that needs workshopping or editing, and that seems to work to create community for me. These activities also help to create structure in my life, which I’ve discovered I very much require in order to be productive. Of course, the demands of job and home and family often overwhelm—that’s life. My work finds a place among those other elements because without it everything else becomes meaningless.

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GC Can you talk a little about teaching and also about editing The Journal, the literary magazine for The Ohio State University?  Do those things compliment your writing?  Is it difficult to stay on task with your writing even beyond the amount of time other things take?  Does it help or hinder your own creativity?

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KF Maybe I just answered this question? Yes, it’s difficult to stay on task. This year especially, because the book appeared and I’m in the middle of some intense work on the next book, some of my ordinarily passable organizational skills with regard to the magazine have suffered. I try not to allow my teaching to slide. Everybody knows that life is cyclical; sometimes your focus is one place, sometimes some place else. It’s true that writers with academic careers can get either distracted or tunnel-visioned or both; my sense is that most folks are doing the best they can to eke out a living and do their art.

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GC I recently read your book, The Charm.  It was wonderful.  I liked the concept of the charms in poems scattered throughout.  It is such a nice unifying approach.  How did you come up with that concept for the book?

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KF Thanks, Grace. I like that book, too. The book was, in fact, “charmed,” I think, in the sense that the poems were composed fairly quickly—or quickly for me; I’m a slow writer—and it was published nearly the moment it was finished. Zoo Press, now famously defunct, gave me a very beautiful book for which I’ll always be grateful. My current publisher is hoping to reprint it some time, but there are still original copies floating around.

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Anyway, to your question: I’d written over a long period of time a book of magnificent loss, a book of elegies called MOVING & ST RAGE, and The Charm felt like an antidote to the losses in M&ST R. At least to me. I had so much fun writing the poems. I realize now that many of them are just as dark as the poems in the previous book, but it was liberating for me to play with various exercises—the ekphrastic, the translitic, the alphabet poems, the haiku, the Egyptian afterlife poems—and not be focused on subject matter, as I had been in MOVING & ST RAGE. As for the charm concept, I loved the many meanings of the word, from birds to spells to charm bracelets. But the heart of it is in this story: M&ST R is dedicated to a mentor and friend of mine who died in 1991. She had given me a charm to wear, a friendship coin half, and left for me her half when she died. I wear them together now. That was the true beginning of the obsession.

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GC Your poems feel so natural.  One friend of mine described them as ‘organic,’ meaning they feel so easy yet so engaging and wonderfully put together.  And, they seem to spring forth from the ordinary; home, family, the neighborhood, childhood.  Can you discuss the source of your inspiration?  Your poetic project?

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KF My first teacher was Philip Levine. He used to say we had more interesting things in our pockets than in our poems, and he was right. That’s stuck with me, the “no ideas but in things” notion that he was passing down to us. Like Phil, my background is fairly modest. I was the first in my family to go to college, for instance. Nobody knew any writers. But the family was Irish Catholic, first-generation, so we were surrounded by story tellers and dancers and singers. I was a miserable failure at all of that. Poetry was my default art form. Yet I find myself in middle age wanting poetry to dance and sing and tell stories and just be. I’ve never been comfortable in my own skin, but I want poems to be.

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GC I noticed frequent mentions of dreams and nightmares in your poems in The Charm.  Can you talk about that a little, as a source of inspiration?

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KF Childhood was a great source of material for that book. And childhood is scary, no matter if yours was good or bad, right? I mean, we begin as tiny defenseless creatures. That’s got to be terrifying in and of itself. Then there’s nursery rhymes and Disney films. It’s awful. I found myself turning back to childhood memory, even the toughest stuff, with some tenderness while writing The Charm.

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GC One of the things I enjoy so much about your work is your humor.  It is clear that you have a great sense of humor that pervades your work.  I love the humor in “Charm to Avoid Dying a Second Death”, “Misfortune Cookies” and in so many others.  It is so refreshing.  Can you talk about the humor in your poetry?

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KF Again, this goes back to the horrible sadness of MOVING & ST RAGE, both a response to that sadness and the acknowledgment at some point in my aging process that as heartbreaking as all this mortal life is, it’s also freaking hilarious. I think it’s important to acknowledge that in art at some level.

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GC You have some wonder ekphrastic poems.  Are you often inspired by art, music other literature?

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KF References to other literature goes with the territory of being a writer, but mostly I’m a sight slut. I love to look at stuff. Art is good, scenery is good, people are good. And I adore music, all kinds, in a completely ignorant way. I’m an idiot about music and enjoy myself immensely listening to it. The project I’m currently at work on is mostly about trees. I’m only happy when I’m walking and seeing trees these days, and almost all my writing is coming out of that.

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GC What advice do you have for new writers?  Submit or not?  How much?  How often?  Journaling and so forth.

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KF Until very recently I kept a daily journal. Now I carry a little notebook around with me just for quick sketches or impressions. I’ve used a small tape recorder. People do what they need to. But my best advice for new writers is to read. One has to train oneself to really hear poetry. As Eliot says, poetry communicates before it is understood. The problem with poetry, which is also its beauty, is that it is rhythm mediated through language. In other words, we’re forced to use our rational brains when really all we want to do is groove to the sounds the words are making. Music affects us bodily. Language affects us intellectually. Therein lies the tension of poetry. Some folks avoid that. For me, it’s one of the best ways of knowing I’m alive.

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As for poe-biz, I say avoid it for as long as possible. When you’re ready to send work out, find magazines and presses that publish work most like your own. Again, that requires reading and lots of it. Publishing poetry and writing poetry are two very different pursuits. Everybody enjoys a little public recognition, but learning how to build your self-esteem by the discipline of writing alone is, in the long run, going to do a writer a whole lot more good than looking for the little ego-strokes journal publications provide.

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Kathy Fagan’s newest collection is Lip (Eastern Washington UP, 2009). She is also the author of the National Poetry Series selection The RaftMOVING & ST RAGEThe Charm (Zoo, 2002). Fagan is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Ohioana Library, and the Ohio Arts Council. A former director of the MFA Program at The Ohio State University, she is currently Professor of English and Editor of The Journal. (Dutton, 1985), the Vassar Miller Prize winner (Univ of North Texas, 1999).

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Grace Curtis is an MFA student in poetry at Ashland University ,Ashland, Ohio .  She is a poet and is interning with The Antioch Review.

13 April
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