Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Poetry Life In Review

Putting my Spotify on "random" as I begin to type this, I have experienced a bit of synchronicity:  The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" began to play.  What a fitting opening for me as I reflect on this past year.

This past year has been one of great writing success but at the price of a healthy dose of reality.  This sums up several other people's posts reviewing their year, too.  Being in good company (as far as  I can tell) I will take that and my Spotify coincidence as a sign the universe is speaking directly to me and will hereafter channel my thoughts in an unfiltered manner.

1.  I have had two full length books released.  This was by both design and by serendipity.  My book Hobble Creek Almanac (Aldrich Press) came out first, and was accepted amazingly early in the submission process.  In fact, I found Aldrich Press by way of my friend and fellow poet, Jeff Newberry.  As it turns out, his wife, Heather, designed the cover art for the book.  The book has received a good reception and some remarkable reviews, for which I am eternally grateful.  Design and Serendipity.  My next book, Sailing This Nameless Ship (BlazeVOX), was picked up after a long and arduous process which had it's origins in late 2008.  For years I labored under the assumption the poems were not the kind anyone would ever want to see.  Then Geoffrey Gatza from BlazeVOX suggested we put the book out as an e-book.  I was thrilled because it seemed to be the best way to unburden myself of the manuscript.  However, shortly after the book was accepted, Gatza asked me if we could just make the book happen as a physical entity. As it turns out, I was able to pay Heather to create some wonderful ads for STNS. Serendipity and Design.

To think I would have two books, let alone two books released in the same year was an entirely foreig concept t me even three years ago.  In the past nine years, I have seen four poetry chapbooks and three full length poetry collections come to life.  I still have a hard time conceptualizing it as I look back over what has transpired.  This year with the two books in quick succession has me thinking 2013 is a professional highlight I will never see again.  Oh, I hope to write more books, better books, but I cannot see a time when I will be this fortunate again.

2.  I received a Jackpot Grant from the Nevada Arts Council to aid in the publication and distribution to the tune of $873.  I have been applying for the Nevada Artist Grant for the past 14 years, with only one recognition in the form of an honorable mention in 2008.  Receiving this grant was more than money.  In a state where only two major population centers exist (Las Vegas/Henderson and Reno/Sparks) it is a hard thing to remind the powers that be there are other places in Nevada where the arts exist.  Living off the grid certainly makes this sort of recognition all the more special, and I am sincerely grateful.

2.5  I attended a writing workshop in Boulder, Utah, where I was treated to some really fine workshops and close reading exercises.  It was a really great way to recharge my batteries in preparation to returning to the active pursuit of writing poems---an activity I have not undertaken for more than a year.  Oh the ideas came in drips and drabs, but for a long time I have been turning away from writing for the most part, wanting to get out from beneath the weight of the business side of writing/publishing.

3.  The down side to this year, professionally speaking, has been the invisible barrier I have run into while trying to promote these two new books of mine.  It can be summed up with my inability to return the favor.  I am not affiliated with any university or college.  Not having my MFA or my my PhD, I have nothing to offer in return for having instructors put me into the mix for readings and workshops.  Am  I qualified to teach writing workshops?  I think so.  In spite of not having advance writing degrees I have managed to ave more than 100 poems, four chapbooks, and now three full length poetry collections published.  I also edit an on-line literary journal.  I have been teaching for 16 years.  On those counts alone one might think I could very well teach workshops about the non-MFA route to creative writing.  But the reality?  Because I cannot point to presentations at AWP, cannot promise readings, and cannot buy books to teach in the classroom, I do not rate.  I have been flatly rejected and ignored by colleges and former professors alike.  Even with the offer of  doing the work for free, my presence is (to quote my son) "neither needed or wanted."  I know some of it has to do with my remote location, but I know distance is only a part of the situation.

* * *

As I look forward, into 2014, I am hopeful for my writing.  I am hopeful for my ability to get more people to read my poetry and possibly take a chance on me as a reader.  I have no idea if anyone will, but in the absence of spreading the gospel of poetry, I will still endeavor to write it.  In the words of Bill Kloefkorn, "The writer, for better or worse, always writes."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Another Education Rant: Complexity is not a Disease

“Life's hard. It's even harder when you're stupid.”
                                                ― John Wayne

            Being a teacher, I have plenty to say about this idea.  Of course, there are different kinds of stupid I need to acknowledge so you know where I stand on such things.  Stupid ranges all the way from simple ignorance of the facts or life skills due to lack of exposure, all the way to the willful ignorance and idiotic behavior regardless of training and as a result of willful disobedience to natural law.  The latter of these has natural consequences often summed up by facial tattoos featuring cartoon characters or misspelled affirmations, the inability to string five words together without the crutch of profanity, or a perpetual blank stare in response to any question requiring the smallest amount of critical thinking or curiosity.  However, the first kind of stupid, that of simple ignorance, has a marvelous cure, and that is a basic education provided by the state free of charge if one so desires.  I am writing in defense of that free education.  After all, I am a teacher in a public school and I have an instinct for self preservation, right?  Unfortunately there is a war underway against a fair and adequate public option regarding the education of our citizenry which compels me to speak up above and beyond the threshold of self preservation.  Part of what I am going to say will be an attempt to dispel what I think to be a myth about education and part will be an attempt to point to what I feel is the real problem facing education.  At no time will I claim anything research related other than to point at problems of perceptions.  Everything you read will simply be my own ideas.

            I was educated in the 1970's and 1980's.  As such, some people might be tempted to think I am going to tout how stringent my education was compared to that of public schools today, that the students today do not care as much about their education as I did when I was in school.  Well, I am not going to go down that road.  It might surprise you to learn that contemporaries of the great Greek philosophers make the same complaints you hear today: That the youth of Athens no longer cared about their educations, that the standards of education have slipped.  It has been something every generation laments and a common complaint for more than 3,000 years, so I doubt that's the problem with education.  I mention my age to highlight the transitional place I hold within recent education trends.  I was in high school when computers were new, and before the advent of cell phones.  And while I teach now, with the inundation of personal technology, I have to tell you it is my firm belief the students have not changed, but rather it is the world which has changed around them and that those changes have created false impressions by those who are in a position to make changes regarding education. 

            You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a study, a parent, or a legislator claiming some fundamental flaw in education exists, which if left to its own devices, will destroy the United States of America.  "Test scores are down, internationally."  "Our children lack real-world skills!" "Teacher unions are choking our economy and schools."  "My child cannot pray in school."  "Children don't care anymore!" "We need to step in!"  "The federal government needs to butt out!"  "Charter schools are the answer!"  "Charter schools are not the answer!" Take your pick or add your favorite to the list.  They say admitting a problem exists is the first step in solving the problem.  Well, what if the problem is that too many people think the answer to fixing education boils down to fixing one issue?  What if the problem is too many people are only willing to look at the issue from their myopic perspective?  What if the problem is that our culture is the victim of it's own education system and is no longer interested in accepting some issues are too complex for a 10 minute solution?

            You see, that's what my point is.  I think we have forgotten as a culture that there is more than one perspective.  We have become polarized beyond the point of seeing the complexity of an issue.  We want the simple fix.  We want something or someone to come along and tell us everything can be fixed with a single program or shift in procedure.  Well, it can't.  Let me make this easy for you:

·         Many foreign nations only test and publish the results of their best students.

·         Many foreign nations do not even offer education to all of the population.

·         No profession with an average starting salary of 36K/year has the potential to strangle the economy.

·         When it comes to bad teachers remember this: You rarely hear stories about good teachers because they don't make for entertaining stories on your local news.

·         If you feel the one flaw in your child's school is that your child is being deprived of religious freedom in the school because of a lack of mandated prayer, please tell me which prayer is appropriate in a pluralistic nation.

·         Do you really think children in the U.S. are so different than those in other nations?  They do care, but they just care about different things than those who are observing them.  They have real world skills, but again, those skills are different than the ones we learned at their age.

·         The Federal government is problematic, but necessary to ensure there is an equity and fairness regarding education.  Without it, very few states or communities would enforce equal employment standards or pesky laws like Title IX.

·         If you object to the money being spent by the DOE, there is of course evidence which suggests money doesn't make a difference, but then again, not all investments can be measured in dollars.

·         Charter schools, when run well, can offer an excellent alternative for both parents and students, but in many cases do not perform any better than district run public schools. 

There is no simple and straightforward truth to be had in the realm of education.  Nothing you point to can fix everything in education with one, sweeping reform.  No Child Left Behind was based on cooked books from the Dallas, Texas School District.  Common Core runs on the incorrect assumption that all students have the ability to learn concepts at the same pace. 

            For a moment, let's look at the current trend.  Some people look at the Common Core standards as an encroachment upon local communities to decide what is best for their kids, and from what I just said, one might incorrectly assume I said the same thing just now.  Well, I didn't.  There is a huge difference between the political agenda of  centralized authority and decentralized government control of education and that of an assumption regarding the abilities of students.  Common Core is not flawed because it seeks to bring up what has been popularly coined as "rigor" into the schools, nor is it a sin to try and require that all U.S. schools maintain certain minimum standards for teaching critical thinking skills, core subjects and assessments.   The problem with Common Core is that it robs in part the true professional his or her ability to determine what should be taught to a particular student or group of students regarding a specific concept or skill.  It limits the very creativity it proclaims to instill through its methods. 

            Again, the problem as far as I can see, is perspective.  Too many people who are not educators have too much say and control regarding education.  Legislators who have not spent more than an hour in a classroom since their own primary/secondary educations look at the situation from their limited perspective, colored by their political agenda, and make decisions regarding how best to educate students they will neither know or even meet.  Another argument against the Department of Education?  No.  Without the DOE, urban and rural students would be shortchanged funds vital to providing a well rounded education, and in some places any kind of basic education. 

            But before you think I am simply going to turn myself into some Education vigilante and this short essay into a manifesto, teachers need to let go of their tunnel vision, too.  They need to get off the cross they have nailed themselves to and donate the wood to Habitat for Humanity.  Teachers need to realize that just because they are professionals caught in a widely derided profession, it isn't an excuse to ignore the concerns of those who are not educators.  Of course there will always be parents who unfairly threaten to bring lawsuits against the school district if their precious snowflake of a child fails a class, but that is not a product of the education system.  It' a product of that second kind of stupidity, and if one believes in science, then the problem is usually self correcting.  Teachers need to recognize new programs like Common Core and NCLB are born out of a misplaced frustrations.  If teachers are real educators, they need to be willing to teach people (not just the students on their roll sheets) that complexity is not something to be feared.  And while it begins in the classroom, it is not a single front issue.  Teachers need to be willing to discuss complex issues whenever and wherever it arises.  Teachers need to abandon the "it's not my job" attitude which allows people to continue perpetrating so many harmful myths about education.

            Summation:  Education is too complex an issue to be solved by any one issue.  Everyone involved in the education process needs to own up to their responsibilities and needs to recognize there are far too many perspectives for single issue solutions.  Parents, do you want your kids to learn more?  Demand more from them.  Hold them accountable for their poor decisions regarding education.  Demand more from teachers while understanding teachers have been given rules and regulations which increasingly limit the flexibility sometimes needed to meet the needs of any one student.  Understand that when you treat a teacher like a babysitter and expect the teacher to shoulder all of the responsibility in your child's education, it's like asking a stool to stand on one leg.  Teachers, do you want parents and students to take the education process more seriously?  Demand more from them but understand that parents do not understand education the way you understand it.  They view education like a patron/client relationship because so many other aspects of our culture fall into that structure and they do not see the value of education as something which may not manifest itself for decades.  Parents want measurable results, and students will seek the easiest path you give them.  Don't pretend to be shocked when they pull out the stereotypical 'bad teacher'  narrative to try and get their way.  Legislators, do you want to improve education in a genuine and meaningful way?  Stop pretending to be the "Education Candidate."  Everyone knows you are full of bullshit.  Remember this:  Almost every South American dictator  in the 20th Century had a two item platform---educating the children and getting the trains to run on time.  Stop pretending that legislation can fix education.  Stop pretending you can fix education by bullying teachers, parents and students.  Make legislation which protects rights and creates opportunities. 

            Everyone, want to fix education?  Stop pretending there is only one perspective or values system with merit.  Start looking and listening to each other.  Stop thinking there is virtue in willful ignorance of the realities which face us regarding education.  There are some genuine, honest-to-god problems in education which need to be solved, but none of them will get solved if we don't first accept complexity as a constant, and our own ignorance as the real variable.  Remember what Truman Capote said.  "It is no shame to have a dirty face. The shame comes when you keep it dirty."  It's time to wash our faces.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Spreading the Word: Veterans and Cancer Treatment

I received an e-mail asking that as a veteran, I help spread the word about Mesothelioma and how it relates to veteran's health and is affected by the ACA. 

If you are or know a veteran, please pass along the link to this article

Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What appears to be a cover design

I was just contacted by my editor with several cover design options, and this is the one I chose.  For those of you in the know, you will probably recognize a connection between the cover image and the content of the book.  I am really pleased with the design and I wanted to share it with you.  File it under: Things are getting serious.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What being on a break from writing means, exactly

It means all of the new calls for submissions will go unanswered from me.

It means I become insanely jealous when I read about acceptances to journals I respect and admire.

It means I have to pretend I would rather be doing other things when I know that isn't true.

It means I write poems by accident and not design.

It means I am on the prowl for ideas which might lead me to my next book.

It means I get a bit testy with those who do not understand the need to take a break from poetry.

It means all the books of poetry I own begin to mock me.

It means forgetting all of my old, stupid writing habits.

It means beginning again the process of watching the world.

It means prose becomes more appealing by the hour, sweet, awful prose.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Book Review: Sandy Longhorn's The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths

The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths
Sandy Longhorn
70 pp., Jacar Press
ISBN: 978-0-9897952-0-3

Sandy Longhorn, in her second collection of poetry, The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths, continues to focus her poetry on America’s Midwest.   As the title suggests, this time around Longhorn addresses how stories and myths enter our consciousness, specifically those relating to the feminine.  What is important to note here is the care Longhorn places in the structure of the book as well as the structure of each poem.  This book is not merely a collection of like-minded poems; it is a carefully made book, sewn from the cloth of Midwestern psyche which seems to color the collective American identity.
Caution is at the top of Longhorn’s priorities, mixing contemporary stories which inform with those which warn the reader of what has come before and what lies ahead.  Poems not only explain how myths are created, they take on the physical appearances of the things they discuss.  In the early poem, “Midwest Nursery Tales” we read how myth is created, how it is structured and institutionalized into our very awareness.  It does not matter if we accept the story as fact because we all have heard a version of the story.  The revelation comes in the shared, almost instant recognition of such stories and the incredibly stark and beautiful manner Longhorn is able to write it.  Only two pages later in “Naming the Storm,” then again with “The Once-Winged Saint,” Longhorn mimics on the page with ease the patterned destruction of a storm and then the patterned beating of wings.  This care brings a physical elegance to the poems contained within these pages.
The high points of this book are the wide range of cautionary tales set before the reader, and Longhorn is able to sustain these moments throughout the book.  There seems to be a cautionary story, tale, or myth for every occasion and rightly so.  The reader will marvel at the completeness of this book, how varied and far reaching the poems can be.  One need not be from the Midwest, not even a woman to feel a connection somewhere in these poems. For me, it began a long time ago when I first read the poem, “Fairy Tale for Girls in Love with Fire.”  The poem begins:

It began in a year of drought. The horizon
caught fire and the eldest girl fell
for the smell of smoke, craved the heat
of flame and ember. Every adult tried
to hold her back from running toward

the leaping fervor. Every adult prayed
she’d tire of fighting her way through
the parched corn stalks, the ears now dry
in their flaking husks, prayed her throat
would fill with smoke and she’d turn back
to douse herself with water.

As many of the poems in this book do, this poem allows the reader to believe in what is familiar, only to move in an entirely original direction, as is literally done here between the first and second stanzas. 
            While this book is primarily concerned with the mythology of the feminine, it would be a mistake to say the book succeeds on this point alone.  In the final section of the book, Longhorn takes the reader on a detour, relates a personal narrative occasionally alluded to in the previous sections.  She is, herself as it turns out,  both author of this book and one of the tales.  The experiences she brings forth in the final section are the culmination of everything that has come before, everything she has learned by hearing those tales.  Here we see how the stories end, the solemnity of observance, and the finality of becoming an integral portion of the prairie.
            My admiration for Sandy Longhorn’s poetry is no secret, and I am certain I am not alone in my praise.  Longhorn’s poetry is, as I stated earlier, elegant and clearly expressed.  It takes a lot of effort and talent to make poems such as these, poems which are vivid, precise expressions from within a brilliant mind regarding a world which will be entirely new after having read them.  You owe it to yourself to go out and purchase this book of poems.  I can hardly think of any other conclusion than you falling in love with this wonderful book and thereby planting the seeds of anticipation for more of this kind of myth.   

One More Tidbit . . . And another

My good friend, Jeff Newberry, reminded me of a missed little highlight. 

A few weeks back I was interviewed for Hoof Prints, the blog for Pegasus, the Student Literary Journal for Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College.

In the interview you can read about my research process and other such sundries for my book, Hobble Creek Almanac.  I also take the time to offer words of advice regarding the process by which one should go about getting a book published.  Of course I talk about walking away from the contest model and the value of getting on with the people you work with as opposed to trying to find a press name which carries a connotation.  After all, beyond poets, who is going to know the difference between presses?

* * *

If I hadn't made it clear with the absence from this blog, I am on an official sabbatical from writing poetry.  I will be clearing house with Sailing This Nameless Ship, but then I am out the door, so to speak.

I know this is contrary to the normal model---poets should take breaks from their day jobs so they can write.  However, with the work I have been putting into getting my books published (one chapbook and three full length collections in three years) I have spent all of my creative energy.  I have nothing left in the tank, and it's time I simply not worry about this part of my life.  I haven't written a poem worth keeping in over a year (an understatement if anything) and I don't have the faintest idea what I might even want to write about poem by poem, let alone have any idea what I want my next project to be.  As such, I am intentionally not taking up my pen or typewriter to try and write any poetry.  You may see more of me here because of that, but don't expect good writing.  Don't trust it.  Just keep walking as if nothing has happened. 

Good enough.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Catch-Up

Quite a bit as happened since I last posted here in early August.  Since that time I have moved along to bigger and better things, stumbled my way through being obsessed with political discussions on Facebook, and discovered my new keyboard (courtesy of a new computer from the school) is not nearly as responsive to my typing touch as the last one I had, causing innumerable typing errors.  In fact I just now swapped out my new keyboard and mouse in an attempt to save my very sanity.  And I think it is working.  Many of the keys on that new board simply wouldn't register my touch/strike and I would spend a lot of time going back and filling in errant letters after completing each of my sentences. It's nice to see my old typos back and to be rid of the ones created because of a faulty tension setting on a new board.

Noe that I have that old gripe off my chest, I will stick to the positives which have happened as a  result of  these past several months.

1.  My book, Hobble Creek Almanac has six reviews up on Amazon.  That's pretty good.  I have been very fortunate to have some really good friends read my book and go the extra step in writing a review for it.  I am also slotted to speak to the Springville Historical Society in February.  I am going to fashion it into a reading of sorts, talking about how I purposefully blended fact and fiction to write the best possible poems for the book.  I might even sell a few copies. It will be my first official reading of the book, unless anyone out there invites me to read on their own.  Utah is a strange animal, and poets are even more bizarre.  I have been in contact with a lot of Utah writers and poets, but because I do not hold any academic sway, I will probably never get invited into the college classroom or to very many readings.  I have nothing to offer.  I've said it before, so that is enough of that.

2.  I received a Jackpot Grant from the state of Nevada to assist in the publication of my latest book, Sailing This Nameless Ship, coming out from BlazeVOX.  It wasn't a tremendous amount, but it will hopefully ensure that I will be able to send out a lot of review copies and perhaps get a few reviews seen and thereby sell some copies.  I plan to do that, possibly pay for a few advertisements, and the like.  I doubt I will ever write another book like it, and I don't want it to disappear entirely without at least a few people reading it.  If there is anyone out there willing to write a review and publish that review on a blog or submit it to a journal of some kind, I would like you to contact me.  I will put you on a list, and I will do my best to make sure you get a review copy of the book.

3.  I went to the Cliffs Notes Writer's workshop, where I was able to work with some great writers, chief among them Eleanor Wilner.  She led two workshops through close readings of some very diverse poems. It was really great to be led through that process by such an incredible mind.  It made me really examine the line between conscious and unconscious composition.

That about does it.  Oh, other things have happened---school has started and I have a pretty good group of honors students, but I really don't want to write all that much more.  You know, I gotta try and get you all to come back and read again.  All the best, and stay classy, interwebs, stay classy!

Friday, August 2, 2013

How difficult is it, really?

I have a minor bone to pick with all of you poet types out there regarding being supportive of poets. Well, not all of you poet types, but more of you than it should have to be.  Specifically, I have to ask what is going on in a lot of your heads when it comes to how you treat your fellow poets.

What am I talking about?  I am talking about all of this whining about how poetry doesn't sell, how poetry doesn't command the same attention of fiction---that even literary fiction kicks poetry's ass on a regular basis.  I am talking about how poets complain their books don't sell and how novelists don't know how lucky they are because poets would kill to sell 250 copies of their books.  Well . . .

How do you sleep at night?  I mean it.  How do you sleep at night?  What medication do you use to clear out your conscience and get a good night's sleep?

I ask because the truth is poets are the cheapest people out there, constantly talking about poverty and the expense of reading and contest fees.  Well, I have had it.  There are a lot of you who should simply shut your pie-holes.  Seriously.  Shut the fuck up!  I am so tired of this.

If you want to support poets, you have to put your money where your mouth is.  You need to buy more books!  I am no Ron Silliman when it comes to buying books, but I hold my own.  I spend a good deal of money buying books.  I buy my friends' books and I buy the books of friends of friends.  I don't love all of them, but I keep buying them.  Why?  Because if you are a poet, that's what you should do.  Take a point or two from John Gallaher here and here.  If you want other poets to support you, then you need to be willing to support them.  Don't wait for them to buy your book or to invite you to a reading.  Go out and buy books. I am so tired of this petty bullshit of waiting for some show of faith.  Step up and be an adult about it.  Be the first poet on your block to actually do the right thing.

Buy books your friends write.

Buy books from the presses who publish you and your friends.

Buy the books you read about on Facebook.

Buy Books from Amazon's Hot 100 List. (Yes, they are evil, so look up the books on Amazon and then buy the book directly from the press.)

Find small presses and buy year long subscriptions for all of their chapbooks.

Gift books you don't like to other poets.

Buy Books for all of your gifts.  Your nieces and nephews don't like poetry?  To hell with them.  Buy them more poetry.

Buy books and sneak them into Doctors' offices.

Spend your damned money!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Topic du jour

A lot is going around the internets about the difficulties in publishing a book of poetry.  so, really, it's only in the small, fragmented world of on-line discussions about poetry where these conversations are taking place, but you get the idea.  A lot of the people I know are talking about it and I have conflated it with any number of issues which take on real-world significance.

My book publishing experience begins some time in 2000, when my first chapbook, Four Way Stop, was accepted for publication by an editor in Canada then promptly dropped off the face of the earth for 18 months.  To say I was lost in some sort of limbo would be a gross understatement.  For 18 months I did not hear from this editor, who regularly spoke with my wife in a chat room on at least a weekly basis.  Well, she was friendly enough until my wife or I would try to talk to her about my book in said chat room.  Then she would drop out of sight for about a week and then reappear, pretending nothing had happened.  I lost a lot of sleep wondering what her intentions exactly were since they obviously did not include actually publishing my poems.  For those 18 months I did not get any kind of response out of her of any kind---not even to tell me she would not be publishing my book.  I finally ended our relationship with an e-mail and moved on.

Four Way Stop was finally published in 2005 by Mark Sanders and Main-Traveled Roads.  He had students format the book (along with two other winners) and I was thrilled.  The books were far from perfect in their construction, but I did not mind.  This was my first book and I had been wanting it for so long I was just thrilled I could hold something in my hand. For the first time in a while I knew the world of poetry could indeed make some sense.  Then something strange happened.  My second chapbook, Gathering up the Scattered Leaves, was picked up by Foothills Publishing on my first submission.  I has sent FWS out so many times I was certain I would be in the process of submitting it for a coupe of years, minimum.  But I was wrong.  This wasn't the first lesson I learned in my education of getting books published, but it was an important one:  When in comes to publication, finding the right fit is just as important as writing good poems.

You see, I have a lot of success publishing my poems on an individual basis, considering I write a lot of quiet, nature themed poems about my home town.  Oh, I write other poems, too, but my real strength lies in the rural images of the places I knew as a child.  People like those sorts of poems when they only have to read one or two of them, but when you give someone a whole chapbook (or full length manuscript) of them, they run back to Wendell Berry, William Stafford, or Ted Kooser and they call it quits.  Because of this, I learned to do my homework.  I am not saying other poets don't do their homework, just that I learned early on, ten well researched submissions beats 50 contests I have no chance of winning.  The way my wife puts it, I write poems which are not in style.  I'll take that kindness.

With Gathering up the Scattered Leaves being published in 2006, I had the basis for what I knew would be my first full length book, I went about writing and shaping poems for hat manuscript and putting together a manuscript of poetry of more contemporary themes.  I sent t along to a few places (and also to Foothills) and was pleasantly surprised when Foothills wrote back within a few weeks and gave it the green light.  Now, for those of you who are not familiar with a Foothills book, you really should, because they are beautifully made hand-crafted books in material and construction.  That book was Working in the Bird House, and came out in 2008.

Two things happened in 2008.  I started to send out my first full length book, primarily made up of my first two chapbooks, and I began writing a manuscript of poetry which did not fit into either of my two main categories of voice/theme.  For two long years I sent out my book, Town for the Trees without relent.  I did not send it to Foothills because I did not want to take advantage of my relationship with them and also because I still had some ideas about 'who' should or should not publish my books.   After two years, my hard work paid off.  I found a publisher because of my past in the military.  Unfortunately the good times did not last because my editor and I came to see things differently.  She wanted to put the book out as an e-book only, and I needed (yes, needed) to have an actual hard copy of the book.  we split amicably and went our separate ways.  I sent it in to Foothills and Michael accepted it.  It came out in 2011, and I could not have been more please with how it came out.  I was also finished with the manuscript I previously mentioned and another chapbook.  I mentioned both manuscripts to Michael, who told me to send him the chapbook, which ended up being Friday in the Republic of Me, 2012.

This left me with a shape shifting manuscript which had been primarily written at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009.  I also had begun to write another Springville manuscript while I was trying to find the format of the earlier manuscript.  After completing the format of the earlier manuscript I came to the conclusion t would never see the light of day unless I was the one to publish it myself.  I had sent it out to all of the places I thought it might have a chance and received nothing but rejection.  I was convinced it was dead in the water (slight intent on the pun, seeing it is named, Sailing This Nameless Ship) and I began to concentrate on my Springville manuscript.  Right as I had finished Hobble Creek Almanac, a miracle happened.  My friend and wonderful poet, Jeff Newberry, told me his book had been accepted by Aldrich Press, and he wanted me to check out a few things for him.  What eventually happened was I became convinced there was no other press so well suited for my Springville manuscript, and it became the object of my obsession as I started the final polishing process for my book.  I sent it to Karen at Aldrich, and it was accepted within a week and published earlier this year.

Shortly after, BlazeVOX contacted me and told me they would like to publish Sailing This Nameless Ship as an e-book.  I was thrilled, and I started to prepare for that eventuality, which later became a real book project some months later.

A lot of bragging, right?  Well, yes, if all you do is look at the surface.  What I see beneath all of this is a singular message:  I have been profoundly lucky to be published like I have been.  four chapbooks and what will be three full length books.  I tell this story to emphasize my luck.  I am never going to be the poet who wins prizes---I do not write that kind of poetry.  I will never be invited to be a part of an AWP panel, nor will I ever be the subject of serious poetry related discussions.  I write my poems and I get lucky whenever I find someone who likes my poetry enough to invest their time and money in my poetry.  But even that isn't the whole story.

You see, I have given up on the poetry contest.  I have seen the errors of my way.  I support presses by buying books.  I support poets by buying books and writing reviews and recommendations.  I support poetry by publishing what I like in my very own on-line journal.  (I must also take one moment to express my anger towards other poets who receive my support and the support of others but do not express gratitude for such support and do not return the favor. You guys suck.) I see dozens of poets I admire getting passed over for publication and I cannot explain how I have been so lucky and yet they have not had the good fortune I have had.  All I know is that when I was the one not getting published (and I'm about to enter into a drought of publishing because I am out of new poetry and will be for quite some time) I could not see what I do now.  It's something Collin Kelley has been saying for years.  Poetry is a matter of taste, not just quality, and so long as editors try to say personal taste is not a part of their decision, they will be liars.  The first part was Collin.  The part about editors being liars is me.

So what do I do?  I have come to believe I do best when I send out my manuscripts to those who I feel will appreciate them---name publisher or not.  And when that means I do not get a book published for 10 years, it's because I know I have written a sub-standard manuscript.  Of course, if I know I have written a good manuscript then I will keep looking with intensity for a place to send it, but I will not be shelling out $30-$40 to anyone with a contest and an address.

Here then, after all of that stupid rambling is my formula:

Research for the right places to submit
Avoid contests at almost any cost
Repeat as needed.

Again, let me be absolutely clear on this.  I know more than any of you how lucky I have been to have the success I have had, and those feelings of inadequacy still exist for me.  I still wonder why I can't crack some publishing eggs. I still wonder why I will never be asked to read somewhere where I wasn't the one who asked first.  I still do not comprehend why some people in academia embrace m while others actively (yes, actively) snub me.  The only answer that makes sense with all of these things?  It's all a combination of hard work and dumb luck.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Freedom: How Avoiding Academia Allows me to be a Poet

Before anyone get the idea this is going to be another shot across the bow in the never ending stupidity which is "to MFA or not to MFA," it isn't.  This is about the benefits of not being a part of the academic world of poetry, and how my life as a poet benefits from this decision, albeit an unconscious one.

First, I need to acknowledge a little envy.  I want it known that if I had made other decisions which pointed me towards the university system, becoming a part of the larger academic world of writing and poetry, I would not think my life to be any less thrilling or fun.  In fact, there are times when I envy the opportunities some of the poet-professors I know (mostly through blogging and Facebook) are having because of their position within this vast universe.  What I am going to talk about is how one should not feel guilt or as if they lack something because they have not chosen a life in academia as a support system for their life in poetry.  Enough said?  Good.

I was just now looking through my copy of Poets on Teaching: a sourcebook, edited by Joshua Marie Wilkinson,  when the thought hit me how lucky I am to not be an academic.  Oh, I teach, but I teach high school, and as such, do not really qualify on the same level as many of the people who identify as poets.  Oh, how the world is bloated by the poet-professor or the professor-poet.  Oh, how the world is crowded by the many adjunct professors clinging to the university system in the hopes of full time employment and the slight fragrance of tenure.  As I was reading, and finding more than a few names I admire, I realized writing this sort of entry for this sort of book is part joy, but invariably part work.  Not just in terms of the writing of such articles, but in the pursuit of such opportunities to have one's ideas put upon the public community of writers---int his case, the very specific community of poets.  I might dare say I am one of the few non-professor/instructor types to have purchased this book.  After all, it is the college professor and instructor who needs such a framework or sampling of pedagogy.  As a high school teacher who drifts between teaching such diverse subjects s English, Honors Seminar, History, and Drama ( I am even guilty of teaching Biology for a year), my pedagogy consists of a much larger portion of classroom control than those who teach college.

Here is one stereotype which does get me every time: College professors go through undergrad, graduate, and post-grad studies without being required to take one classroom management or "methods" course if they know how to navigate the collegiate system, yet somehow, a PhD magically confers credibility as a teacher.   

My point is this:  If one is going to be a professor and a poet at the same time, more than a small amount of effort must be made clarifying one's aesthetic and beliefs regarding poetry.  There are papers and conferences. There are articles and seminars.  There is the search for publication.  Some universities rooted in "Publish or Perish" even have a formula for their poets, where three poems equals one academic paper.  to be honest I have no idea whether that s a good ratio or not.  I don't have to know because I do not have to be concerned with such things.  Any and all time I spend on such matters is entirely voluntary.  If I want to write a book review, I have my own standards to follow (I never review a book I received for free) and if I want to talk craft or pedagogy ( I hate that word by the way) I am free to say as much or as little about it depending on a whim.  I have no tenure committee to apply to, kneel to, or even fit into my consciousness.  I simply write down my poemy thoughts here on my blog free form and only the most basic of spell-check to guide me.  In the words of Walt Whitman, "Do I contradict myself?  Very well, then I contradict myself."  And what's more, I know I contradict myself on almost a daily basis when it comes to my writing.

And because I do not mix my poetry with my career (my students nor my administration cares one bit whether I am a poet, and nor do any of the people I work with) I am free to address my poetry on my terms, without the pressures of trying to conform to a university system or ensure my position and ability to provide for my family.  That isn't to say I don't have professional issues or pressures, but I do not have any professional obligations as a poet, which is a great comfort, considering all of the other neurosis I have regarding my poetry.

I also have to confess I am pleased as punch not to have the debt multiple stages of graduate and post-graduate studies would most certainly laid at my feet.  I graduated debt free from college thanks to the Army College Fund.  I attended graduate school through the University of Nevada, Reno, paying at most $127/hr in a program for Literacy Studies.  Did the program further my understanding of poetry?  Slightly.  Was I able to complete the program while working full time?  Absolutely.  Did I graduate debt free, able to pay off each year's tuition with the pay raise I received each consecutive year I was in the program?  You betcha!  And while saying this is not meant to be a condemnation of anyone's path which took them into student debt to realize their dreams of being a PhD, I must confess a few things.  I cannot conceive of the amounts of debt I have seen some acquaintances admit to in similar conversations.  Maybe I did not have the level of devotion to a dream as they did/do, (and I know some poets would point to their poor estimation of my art as evidence) but my first commitment has always been to my family and my ability to provide for it.  Not having that debt in my life means I do not feel beholden to any path other than that which leads me to take care of my family.  I also must confess that having the salary I have (based upon holding a Master's Degree and 14 years in the district) I make a lot more money than any adjunct and more than any of my contemporaries would in my preferred regions (namely Utah).

Not having been the part of any university has had its problems.  I do not have the support network other poets have, and I cannot ever count on that support.  I have even been snubbed more than once by poet-professors and former professors of mine who refuse to even respond to my e-mails---even if just to tell me to go to hell or fuck off.  It's as if my success has made me a non-entity because helping me has no Quid Pro Quo element.  Because I cannot wash their backs, they will not wash mine.  It's not a great contributor to my decision to opt out of the contest system, but it did inform my decision.  That in itself has pushed me to test the limits of the poetry community and find hard evidence poets can survive without the university system.  At 44, I have published (with a lot of help from some fine poets and wonderful editors) four chapbooks of poetry, and two full length books of poetry.  I have another full length book coming out soon, and I did it all without being a professor.  It's not that I couldn't be a professor, just like I know most every poet-professor I can think of would still  be a wonderful poet without being a professor, it's just that it is possible for me to be a poet more easily because I am not a professor.  I am certain many poet-professors feel the same way about the things being a professor has given them.

For anyone who thinks there is only one path for anything, I would point to Ron Silliman's entry in the above mentioned Poets on Teaching, when he quoted Malcolm Gladwell's idea of it taking 10,000 hours to be competent at any one thing.  I know my 10,000 hours are better for not being a part of a college or university.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Forward Momentum

I am starting to get some forward momentum on my book, Hobble Creek Almanac.  I am not talking about monster sales, but I am getting a few sales from people I don't know personally, which means there is something happening.  I have started to send books out into the world, having received payment for them.  It feels good doing that sort of thing.

If any of you want to buy the book from me directly, you can pay me money via PayPal.  I will sign it and mail it off to you as soon as I can.  I've still got a few copies after the fact of sending out review copies and the like, so let me know.

My manuscript, Sailing This Nameless Ship is making some progress.  I am going through it and proofing certain things, waiting on blurbs from some very talented writers/readers.  Once that gets going, I have to select a poem from the manuscript to be made into a broadside.  I have a few ideas and I want some suggestions from my editor.  What is keeping my busy right now is deciding on the dimensions of the book and the overall appearance.  Many of the poems in the book are very short, and I don't want a lot of empty space, so I am leaning towards an odd shaped book.

More later, as things come into the light.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Poetry, Footnotes, Fiction & Outright Lies

Poetry at its very core is language.  That is the craft side of the equation.  As far as content goes, however, poetry is fiction, or at least has some fictional elements.  Poetry can relate true events well enough, but in figurative language (metaphor, simile, etc.) comes hyperbole and exaggeration, and therefore, fiction.  So if poetry is fiction, and for the purposes of what I want to discuss here it is, then some further discussion is needed regarding my decision to use footnotes in my new book, Hobble Creek Almanac.

Footnotes are usually reserved for documents which use source work and are trying to establish a quality of verisimilitude, factual reliability, and credence.  As such, poetry usually relies upon the epigraph to provide source and lineage for the content or ideas within the poem.  And while some poets have begun to use a notes page to provide further explanation and clarification for their poems, few indeed, have been meticulous as T.S. Eliot was with his notes for "The Wasteland," and even then, his footnotes were authentic.  My purpose is to follow in the path of writers  of prose fiction who have employed fictitious footnotes and quotes to help round out the fullness of their stories.  We see examples of this in epistolary novels and more recently, Tim O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods, where he does a phenomenal job at blurring the line between fact and fiction, indeed causing the reader to  question such distinctions. 

In my book, I use footnotes, quotes, and epigraphs in much the same way.  First and foremost is my need to tell real stories, events which really happened.  I felt I owed it to the reader to provide the basis for my poems, or at the very least, the appearance for a basis.  There is a certain confidence in citation, especially when discussing events from 150 years ago.  Do I expect my readers to look up those citations?  Perhaps, but they will be disappointed if they look all of them up because not all of my footnotes are real.  So why have false footnotes in a manuscript?  Why worry about such things in a book of poetry?  Well, continuity for one.  I like the idea of consistency, and if footnotes serve to bolster the confidence the reader has in what they are reading, then they will, in the case of persona poems, help to make that persona appear all the more real.  As with any such things, there is a delineation between the poems where I am supposedly presenting history and persona, and the section of the book where I want people to hear my narrator's voice. The absence of footnotes in that section highlights the difference.

Quotes are another means, especially in poetry, where the poet attempts to provide a provenance to the reader, saying in essence, "Here is where this poem comes from."  Quotes used as epigraphs are an admission of influence.  Some poets love them and some poets hate them.  I love them, and possibly other poets hate them for the same reason I am unable to comprehend notes pages at the end of a manuscript:  If I can't figure something out from the reading of the poem that was essential, then why wasn't it better communicated in the poem? Accordingly, I have quoted people and poems legitimately, and I have made up some entirely.  Again, it is a matter of creating as complete a picture I want to create for the reader.  This is part of the art of my book, to present a unified image for the reader and not worry whether every word is accurate or historically absolute.  After all, I am creating fiction.  What does it really matter that I have cited books which do not exist, or created quotes where none existed before, or even created people altogether in order to "quote" them?  In the end, the book works as art or it does not.  How I got there should be of paramount concern to me, but not all that important to the reader.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Time Away from Writing: How to spend your down time

I can't tell you when I wrote my last poem (well, not off the top of my head).  I can tell you I have tinkered with a few things here and there over the past few months, and I think there was a two day period where three small poems came out from me---one the result of an opening line given to me by Jeff Newberry.  But it has literally been 8 months or more where I have put any effort into writing a new poem.  Oh, I have put in a considerable amount of time proofing poems and preparing manuscripts for publication, but nothing new.  And I am perfectly happy with that.

I have talked about it before, how I fall into shallow slumps of non-writing after I finish a manuscript, and that I never really start to write again until I genuinely panic about not writing.  In short, I need to freak out about not being a poet any more before my mind kick-starts me back into writing.So what do I do until that happens?  How do I fill the void?  Well, I already mentioned the proofing and tinkering thing, so I thin I should tell you about the other stuff I do.

1.  I spend a lot of time on Facebook.  I probably spend too much time on Facebook, but I would be doing that even if I was writing, so that really doesn't count.

2.  I prepare for my next year's teaching assignment.  I am going to be reading this summer, and I am going to be re-reading books as well.Nothing new or earth shattering there, right? 

3.  To tell the truth, I really have been spending the majority of my time not writing by not worrying about whether I should write.  I have learned my lesson from previous freak-outs---something else I have already talked about.  Still, it's true.  I am not writing and I am not worried about not writing. 

So let's review:

Don't freak out.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What's in a name? and other perfunctory facts about Sailing This Nameless Ship.

My first thought was to name this new book of mine, The Telemachy.  I wanted a more direct reference to the son who goes in search of his father, but I wanted my telemachy to be an American story, a son who was an unwilling searcher looking for a father.  So the title floated to American Telemachy.  This of course mimics my own history, but it did not quite fit my needs for the manuscript.  Then, while re-reading Rober Fagles' (pronounced 'Fails') translation of The Odyssey, I stumbled upon one of the other, minor things Telemachus longs for.  he wanted to be Jason, sailing the Argo, living out adventures.  Then it struck me that the Greeks were fond of naming their ships, but I could not find a name for the ship Telemachus sailed on while searching for his father.  With a little more thought, I had my thread of continuity, a title for my manuscript, and a hold over for this blog. 

Now, I mentioned that I based this manuscript on a lot of my own personal history, but here are a few things for you to chew on and hopefully fuel your anticipation to read the entire book:

1.  The catalyst for the book is W.S. Merwin's book, The Shadow of Sirius.  

In his book, he has a poem called "Just This" which blew my socks off.  I imagined an entire book of poems called "Just This" which would assume a question was asked and the responder initially had one thing to say, but ended up having a coda type of refrain titles "and this."  The idea was to tell a history with no objective clues to help discern the order of the poems.  All of the core poems , and most of the other poems in the book began with "Just This" as the title and the "and this" coda.  They evolved, but that's where they had their start.

2.  Most of the core poems were written between the end of November, 2008 and the end of February, 2009. 

Many of the poems were initially drafted while walking to school.  This can explain why so many of the poems are short.  I wrote poems for the manuscript almost every single day in those three months.  I was writing at such a rate I was afraid  I was going to skip over something, so I did something I hardly ever do.  I turned off my filter and just recorded everything.

3.  This manuscript is a departure from my usual writing in more ways than subject matter and voice.

Where most of my poetry about Springville is a landscape of place, I have tried to make this book about emotional landscape.  I still use a narrator based upon me, as I have used my personal experiences as subject matter, but I have restructured the narrative and my perception of audience.  Another major departure is the very structure of the poems I have written.  I also have purposely put into place an audience. In this manuscript I speak one of several specific people.  My father, my wife, my life-long friends, are all people I address these poems to at various points.

4.  The book itself (meaning the writing of the book) has taken on an entirely new level of irony in my life.

While I have had a difficult relationship with my father, and one could easily say it is still strained, it wasn't until after I had finished drafting the poems for this book and was working on the order of the specific poems I found out the man who I have known as my father all my life is in most likelihood not my biological father.  I only learned of this after my mother died.  So this book, where a reluctant son searches for a father who seemingly doesn't want to be found is actually about just that.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

And the Hits Just Keep on Comin'

You know that Jay-Z is one wise man.  If I got 99 problems, books getting published ain't one of them, because BlazeVox informed me over the weekend it wants to go ahead with a print edition of my book, Sailing This Nameless Ship, as opposed to releasing it as an e-book.  Now, I was thrilled with the e-book format because I looked at it as an opportunity to get my feet wet and used to the world of e-books and electronic publishing.  However, I am a little taken back at the confidence Geoffrey Gatza has that my book is worth the money and time involved in publishing and promoting a paper edition of my book of poems.

So begins more frequent updates and discussions of all that is related to putting out a book.  I hope you are willing to come along on this ride with me.  I will be sure to update you on a regular basis about all of the juicy bits and frustrations associated with this sort of venture.

Talk to you very soon.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Seven Reasons to buy my new book!

Well, the day has come that I let all six or seven of you who read this blog know my book, Hobble Creek Almanac, is officially up for sale over at Amazon.  As such, I would like to invite you all to go take a look, and then buy my book.  I am not really good at the hard sell, but I think I can come up with a few reasons why you should buy my book, as there are always a few good reasons to buy most any book.  At the very least, I would appreciate it very much if you were to spread the word about my book and let other people know what a great thing it would be to buy a book of poems written by a complete stranger.  So, here we go:

1.  The book is on the cutting edge forefront of the 19th Century-Mormon Pioneer-Rural/Pastoral/Agrarian-Landscape-Elegiac Poetry.  'Nuff said, right?  I mean, who wouldn't want to get in on this action?

2.  Buying poetry boosts your serotonin levels.

3.   It's poetry you can show  your grandmother without worrying about so-called naughty words causing any level of consternation or apoplexy.  (We'll leave that for the next book, Sailing This Nameless Ship.)

4.  Let's show those guys at Farrar, Strauss & Giroux a thing or two about where real poetry comes from!

5.  Let this be one of three books of poetry you buy this year not written by Mary Oliver.

6.  Two Words:  "Hipster Irony."

7.  It's cheaper than a trip to Disneyland.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The waiting . . .

A I write this, I am waiting for my personal copies of Hobble Creek Almanac to make it to my door front.  I have been given a deadline, which if not met, I am to contact my editor at Aldrich Press, but you probably can tell I am hoping my books beat that deadline.  It would be a real treat to have my book early, to see it in the flesh, or pulp as it were.  Until then, it's the waiting time. 

This specific time many of you are familiar with is full of ritual for me.  Number one on my list is to pretend I have dozens of other writing related issues to tend to as not to appear too desperate.  With that in mind, please have patience while I talk about other things which I will treat with much more seriousness than they are worth.

I just signed the contract for my poem, "Ode to Pablo Neruda," to be included in the 99 Poems for the 99 Percent anthology.  No links yet, because I seriously don't know where anything is on the net and I don't feel like searching for it right now.  This is my very first anthologized poem and I very happy for that.  Not just because this is my first anthologized poem, but because I really like that particular poem.

My poem, "Poem for David Lee, Three Sisters Mountain," just finished its tenure over at Heron Tree.  It is an integral part of my book, Hobble Creek Almanac, but it appears under a different title over at Heron Tree for clarity.  The original context of the poem is set and the title, "Eastern Pretty Skies" is a very natural title.  With this book, I really feel like I am getting closer to the kind of poetry I am meant to write as my life's work, and this poem in particular is a really good representation of that writing.  I am hoping to have at least one more Springville book in me, so I can have a trilogy, a long sequence of poems about one specific place.

I continue to work with BlazeVox Press towards getting my manuscript, Sailing This Nameless Ship, ready for publication as part of their Kindle Editions.  I am perfectly happy seeing this book as an e-book.  To be honest, there was a really long period (the majority of these poems were written in 2008-2009) where I never thought they would ever see the light of day.  To have this outlet be such a great press is a wonderful option.  I can see no downside to having my feet trenched in both the print and electronic worlds of publishing.  Right now it's all about the proofing and aesthetics.  It keeps me somewhat busy.

And just last night, I got back into the submission game, sending out three new poems.  It's not my usual voice, but what I am beginning to see is some real joy from taking little side roads off the beaten path of my usual voice.  Every now and then I begin to think I can't write like other poets (read: I can't write in the currently popular vernacular) and that holds me back in some ways.  Well the truth is I can write those kinds of poems, and while I enjoy reading them, I don't really writing them en masse.  Don't get me wrong.  I am not claiming the high road here.  I don't think myself above such writing, just different, and it is nice to see I am writing different poetry as a  matter of choice rather than out of not being able to write those kinds of poems.

 As you can see, if you have been able to read through all of that bragging, I have been quite fortunate of late.  It feels nice to be here, and it's this I need to build on to negate those times when I feel frustrated and just a little out of sorts about my life as a poet.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Think Positive

I have been doing a lot of proofreading which makes me think of what Kelli said recently on her blog.

I have been looking around and I am reminded that while I do not save my rejections in a drawer like some of the people she mentions, I do not dwell upon them in any negative way.  I submit and I happily accept whatever comes my way.  But right now I would like to build a little bit on what she spoke of.  I would like to talk about the successes we have versus the successes we perceive.

If you have been a follower of my blog, you know pessimism comes naturally to me.  Well, not today, and not for a while.  Why?  Because I have been confronted with the reality that I have been quite successful as a poet as of late, and what's more, the evidence of that success trumps anything I might feel about my success.

As I write this, I have two, yes two, books going through the final stages of being proofed and readied for publication.  The first book is Hobble Creek Almanac, soon to be out from Aldrich Press.  The second is my book, Sailing This Nameless Ship, which is being released by BlazeVox and their Kindle Editions series. 

Now I haven't written much poetry for the past several months, nor have I even tried to submit poetry for even longer than that, yet on Sunday, a poem of mine will appear in Heron Tree, and soon, five of my poems from Hobble Creek Almanac, will be appearing in Weber-The Contemporary West.  Now, I could concentrate on all of the places my poetry has not appeared, or wonder why some poets are seemingly showered in praise while my work goes mostly unnoticed.  However, I will not do either, because if I was to do those things I would be ignoring the fact that in three short years time (2011-2013) I will have had a chapbook and three full length manuscripts of poetry published.  That's a number I never thought I would see.  That's a number I find astonishing. It's the sort of number that flies in the face of anything I could attempt to label as failure.

What I keep thinking, what stays with my thoughts is as I look back over this past week or so is this sort of thing doesn't happen to me.  I am still a little overwhelmed at the thought of refuting my own narrative regarding my efforts as a poet.  I keep thinking about all of the things I think of as hallmarks for success, all of the things which are happening for me, and all I can wonder is how did I build a gap so wide.  And that's what it is.  It's a cognitive dissonance I am just now beginning to resolve.  Why?  Regardless of my pessimism, I have found editors who not only publish my work, but have thought enough of it to merit multiple publications of manuscripts. Now I may still want to break into specific markets, but as for reaching an audience, it is absolutely clear I have achieved a great deal of success.

The writer, right or wrong, always writes.  And though it will most likely take a while, I am learning how to see my successes for what they are, and see through the transparency of my failures, knowing neither one defines me as a writer.