farewell phyllis

on hearing a patron is ill and will not be returning to the library. 

babies are born
and there is death also,
not one after another
like the plucking of a broad grinn’d
gerber daisy, but huddled
together like passengers on a ferry
there will be times of loss
and then, just as suddenly
bounty.
Who will keep such a catalogue
of misery and joy, who
will collect the timestamps
of lives like a bookend.
I sat in wonder and forgot
just as suddenly.
There were emails to answer
after all.

–ECW

Letting go of NaNoWriMo

I’m not quitting, exactly.

I’m just letting go.

I had never written a novel during National Novel Writing Month. I have never written a novel before; not the whole thing anyway. So this, for me, was a good test of if I really wanted to write something like this as all. I am a poet after all, and that tends to make me more a sprinter than a marathon runner.

As fun as this project has been, I have more pressing real life matters (like finishing my classes for the semester and assembling invitations for my wedding, yikes!). With the holidays coming up I thought I would give myself permission to make this project a little longer than the back breaking 30 days prescribed by NaNoWriMo, but I wanted to share my thoughts none the less.

So, 7,500 words behind and fingers nearly raw, I have come to a few realizations about writing and the race that is NaNoWriMo:

  1. Jumping the gun

I wanted to write so badly on October 29 that I actually had to hold myself back and focus on other projects. The idea of writing those first few days was such a thrill I ended up writing 3 days worth on the first day. The glitter faded of course, as I was only displacing other things like homework and this blog for the chance to put energy into the novel. It was not that I was more inspired, or suddenly more talented, but that I had given myself the forum to write and write I did.

  1. Write and you will succeed

The exciting and rather simple truth about a game with a word count, is that the words don’t have to be particularly compelling, they simply have to be numerous. I was almost relieved that the words weren’t being graded by anyone, and my quality was not in question. This allowed me, an over thinker, to turn off my brain and just write. Since I am writing a memoir, more specifically about a year in my life in a particular job,  just letting myself write and allowing the simple truths and patterns reveal themselves was more compelling than my own flowering language.

  1. I do have time to write

I think the knee jerk reaction is: no one has time. We aren’t able to sit down every day and write for hours so the books in us are trapped until we have time. But I found time to write 23,000 words in 14 days, almost half a “book” in half a month. Then things got busy and assignments were due, and I took a few days off. But the evidence is there for me at least, there is time, even when I’m on the couch, to write a little down.

  1. 1,000 words a day is a totally realistic goal, kind of.

NaNoWriMo asks the diligent writer to make 1,667 words a day to get to 50,000 by the end of the month. This is a challenge for most of us who work or go to school (or both). Anyone who needs to make dinner for a family or pick up kids from school after work might think any number is a reach goal. But I have found that 1,000 words is pretty easy to get in one thought. I tend to write about 100 words a paragraph, so 1,000 words is just 10 tight paragraphs. Totally do-able.

  1. I am a better writer, even if I lose

I don’t plan to write the next great American novel. Not on the first time. This was just an experiment for me and I am happy to say it was a success. I am a better writer now that I know how I write, the constraints of my style, and the way I can push my writing when I get fatigued. I even got better at dialogue with practice!

It’s a shame that this challenge happens in November; I feel as if there might be a better time of year to ask writers to pause their lives. But there’s Thanksgiving and Black Friday next week and I need to be realistic. I may not finish Diary of a Dancing Goat this month, but I think by the first of the year I will be editing and sculpting rather than just monkey-smashing my keyboard!

These are my thoughts. Hope you are having a lovely end of 2015!

Keep writing!

—ECW

NaNoWriMo – Worth It?

I am first and foremost a poet.

But this also makes me a memoirist.

Not all poets write their own stories in their work, but often I do, making the leap to actual memoir a pretty manageable one. November is one of those dreaded months for a writer, where there is all this obligation: what will I write? How will this matter in the long run… and the big question:

Is it better to write something poor quickly or write something rich over a longer span of time.

And again, I am a poet. So the thought of 50,000 words extinguishes me. At the library where I work, we are doing a small outreach program to welcome writers and I thought it would be valuable to participate and reach writers through that avenue. But again… is it worth the time.

For many of us in school (getting our masters) this is crunch time for projects and catching up on readings. For this reason I was never really involved before. For those of us with family it is turkey time, and who has extra hours when there’s baking to be done?

So I’ll write a novel… or half of a novel… with this in mind.

50,000 words is their goal, not mine. The NaNoWriMo challenge is made for novelists who want to write mysteries and thrillers; romance novels and sci-fi. For those of us in different genres, there are other constraints on what we can and cannot accomplish.

My memoir may only be 40K words, and that’s OK with me.

The important part is writing, community, inspiration and deadline. I want to write every day, but there’s so much good television on Netflix… maybe I need something like this to break the ice on this “writer’s block” – and maybe I’ll get 2 days in and think: no, I am a slow-burn kind of writer.

I won’t know unless I try!

To those of you writing: Best of luck. To those of you choosing to abstain: May your long-term projects be the fruit of your lives.

For now, I’m just getting my feet wet with longer-forms… I’ll keep you posted!
–Keep Writing
–ECW

Poetry & Love

Hello Poets!

As you may (not) know, I am getting married in 300 and something days from now and need to make all these bride-zilla decisions that I don’t particularly care about. However, I have come to the conclusion that I absolutely MUST have poetry at the wedding in some way.

So I have been all over the internet and rummaging through my old anthologies (English Major Pride!) to find the best poems that would translate well to people who might not know how to read poetry, but would still enjoy a good one.

I wanted to share one that touched me the other day:

Rita Dove’s Flirtation

It made me feel as if I had just fallen in love!

Let me know if you love it with a Like or a Comment below, and feel free to share your favorite love poem with me! I would really enjoy your thoughts!

Theory 101: Anthologies Vs Internet

Poets!

 

I had been meaning to post 10,000 things for National Poetry Month (which is now, by the way) but I got a big stinky computer virus and fear I may need to do a factory reset on my machine (yikes!) and therefore have posted nothing! Those are my excuses, accept them as you will.

 

Nevertheless (yes, it’s one word) I am inclined to kick off this month of peppered verse with a short but fun little blurb from my long dusty thesis.

 

I wrote a thesis which was completed in 2012. It was an dazzling process, and I recommend everyone considering doing an undergrad project of that size to dive in! I was focused on mainly poetry and the changing concepts of digital/visual works as the internet became more user friendly. And of course it has, but poetry has yet to explode the way I had hoped it would.

 

I wrote that words and meaning would still be the major components of communication, but that the work we did would grow another dimension: a third visual, tactile, sonic, scented dimension that would enhance the reader experience. Like Smell-O-Vision for Shakespeare. Or something like that.

 

But more on those theories later this month (unless my laptop melts).

 

Today I want to talk a little on a concept I penned called Anthology Theory, and the teetering edge we are sitting on when it comes to poetry and poetry education. As many of us who took English Classes well know, the anthology is a book that collects the best and brightest works from a certain era or in a certain subject. It could be a collection of short stories or the works of the Victorian Era, either way, it encompasses many authors and several writing styles at the very least.

 

The anthology is use in classes that cover large areas of time, like a survey class, that would rather you buy one book instead of a dozen. They also come with cute like intros and images to help orient students in that timeframe. They are, in theory, a great tool. However, no tool is without its limitations.

 

Anthologies are a closed system. They exist within the bounds of their editors and the tone of their publisher. As a tangible entity, they cannot be changed unless a new edition is posted.

 

They are also guarded by gatekeepers: the editors and influencers who decided–based on space or preference– that they would or would not include certain works in the collection. Pound and Elliot are never cut from the Post Modernists, but there might be limited space, and we could lose some H.D. or Sitwell to make room for newer pieces.

 

As the cannon changes –yes, the cannon changes– we are left with only the most potent works, the pieces that defined the writing generation.

These are sometimes the most provocative and fresh works, but not always the best or most relatable works.

To keep with the Post Modernists, the Wasteland is a heck of a poem, but few enjoy it. It defined poetry that era, but is hard to read and a little terrible if you get through it.

Other, more delightful poems are pushed out for the real pungent stuff and as a result few people who learn poetry from an anthology actually end up liking poetry.

In my project I blended poetic/literary concepts with marketing and communication terms. Attempting to make the issues with learning from a closed system like an anthology clearer, I used this metaphor to illustrate the point.

 

You hear a knock on the door (push communication) so you open it to see who is there. It’s the raven, come to interrupt your evening. You ask him what he wants (pull communication) but his reply is always the same: Nevermore! (Anthology Theory).

 

raven

 

You can communicate with a book just as you do with people, unfortunately the book can only tell you a finite, permanent set of responses with no change as the world around the book changes. This makes books an excellent gage of the time period they were created: a perfect historical capsule. However, it fixes them in a state of decay that limits their usability. Especially when it comes to anthologies, which are meant to represent a time period in its essence but often end up representing our impression of a time period, which is a flawed biased perception.

 

The solution, of course, is the internet, which can house everything from the popular to the obscure, granting access and knowledge to those who seek it. Push communication always will exist, that’s the advertisements and pesky banners. But Pull communication and the power of the researcher to find any and everything–free of gatekeepers–is the gift of the internet.

This is especially important for poetry, as the internet gives space to the poems that are most pivotal and poems which are simply lovely without displacing one to covet another.

Finally, with the internet’s infinite space and open structure, poetry can be a iron fist and a bending writs.

 

Happy National Poetry Month
More Theory to Come!

Library School Day 2

tumblr_l0rwbxwuzb1qavuzyo1_500

Hello Poets!

I am tasked with constructing a blog for my library class, but thought rather than whirl down the drain of temporary cyber space, I would instead combine the process of poetry with the process of my career; as often they have been one and the same. So, for those of you following along, I have begun my studies (online of course) at San Jose State, to get a degree and be a real-live-grown-up Librarian.

Last month I wrote an article on LinkedIn about the importance of libraries in a society that seems to have forgotten them. Though my experience has been far different, I know the general consensus is the long swan song of our public bookish spaces.

Here, I want to express my love for a small but important section of the library that pangs deeply with all of us: Poetry 813. 

The Poetry Section is a Mess. 

Not just because poets from opposing centuries get different numbers, like 811.3 or 811.8 or later in anthologies 820… no poetry books in libraries (Dewey System anyway) have a certain tendency to be thin and disheveled because poetry is disheveled. We are in an age of ever changing standards. I see it all day long working on the journal [NGQ]. I find the poetry section, unlike any other section in the stacks, to be the vast tree rings of our complex theories. A rough cut crystal hastily cracked to marvel what lies inside. The poetry section makes me wonder about what was lost, pared down, purged from the ever bulking shelves. 

I think often of the poetry shelves. The paper whisp editions of temporary art. I imagine the poetry section is purged with the most frequency and the least impact. This poet out of vogue, that long lost writer in his place. And yet, we are clearing only half an inch away. Not an encyclopedia, not a novel. Five score pages, no more.

I think often of myself on the poetry shelves. 811.13 WIR

But there is no such book. Nor will there ever be. For many of us, the poetry shelves are little more than a throw back to a simpler more guarded time. Now the internet provides for us our own shelf, equipped with the whisperes of fellow poets, aspiring writers, quiet readers. We are luckier than anyone on the 813 shelf. No purging. No missing books, lost forever in someone else’s living rooms.

I think often of the tree rings of this writing generation. Millenials, they call us. I once used that term in my thesis (long before it came into common tongue) to describe anyone writing now. Not just the youth, but the longstanding veterans, who wrote to capture this moment. This tree ring.

It has grown out of itself; sprouten and sprawled into something more complicated, unruly and wild. The tree ring of this writing generation is a seed. And with that we have outgrown the poetry shelf, our humple reminder of what greatness came to a lifetime ago.

Keep Writing and Visit Your  Local Library

ECW

Bookbinding 2: Make your Bed.

Hello Readers, 

The bookbinding post was so wildly popular that I decided to also include some images and tips from my journal-making experience. 

If you’re anything like me, poetry is a great love, but not the only love. I also enjoy painting. For me, poetry is the waking art, the one I try for, the one I perfect. Painting, or other types of visual designs, are the absent art, the one I do to calm me, in persuit of ambient inspiration. For some people this ambient art is music, others just go for a jog. It made sense to make a space where I could do both, write and paint, in a non-invasive way. For that, I needed paper that would not curl under water-color or buckle under acrlic. So I needed a cold press journal. And I would have to make that. 

journal1

Here are my thoughts on journals, now that I’ve made one:

1. Making a journal is personal. I get to pick the cover (paper used was from Paper Source, which just opened a store in Las Vegas) and make the pages from the type of paper I need. I wanted to have something I could paint, and so I didn’t need to spend $30 on a bound book or have loose sheets. I also got to decide how large I wanted it, which is something I always struggle with when choosing a book that always ends up having too many pages.

2. Building a book is like making your bed. It’s yours. I strongly believe that poetry is a vertical experience. We have an experience and then we write about it. But what if it was more than that. The experience was one you personally had, and then you thought about it, and wrote that poem in your own journal, that you made with your hands. First hand account on your own piece of art. It’s almost poetic and we haven’t started writing yet!

3. Poetry Gets Hands On. In my last post about bookbinding I talked about poems being very removed for me. I had forgotten how much I love writing things by hand. I miss writing and not typeing. I miss the permanence, even in draft form, of pen. It seems delliberate. It seems real. It also takes a hands-on experience to sew a book. There are awl punches and dangling needles and fidgety cardboard. It’s not always the simplest task, but it’s real. 

I find that I write different things when I plan to paint beside them. My poems really do conform them to their space. I tend not to write onto a second page or go outside the lines. I wonder what that says about me as a poet, about what poetry does to the spaces it encounters. 

So here are the numbers. 

$10 for the pages and cover (all in one of those artist pads at Michaels) – I only used half of the pages, it was just too many once they were all folded. 

$3 for the cover paper from Paper Source, they have lots of kinds 

$3 Rubber Cement

$0 for the inner paper and the pocket (I already had some scrapbook paper, it was in a pack of cardstock paper)

$6 for the hemp string (Paper Source), but there were 100’s of feet of it, and I’ll surely use it again! 

And I watched the same video by SeaLemon, which was helpful for the poetry book, and super great for the journal. (I used half of the paper, since water color paper is super thick when cold pressed). 

TIPS: The video will not show you how to cover the book with paper. It’s super easy. Take the cardboard and cover one side with a thin layer of rubber cement. Let dry. Take the paper and also apply a thin layer of rubber cement and let dry. Bring together. The dry rubber cement will stick better and faster than wet glue or wet rubber cement. Repeat for inner side.

 

For the corners, cut the extra cover paper to 1″ from the board. Then fold in the triangle of the corner, sticking with dried rubber cement on both sides. Then, fold over the 1″ margin once you have applied rubber cement on both the board and the paper and let dry. You’ll be amazed! For the inside, I used a piece of paper 1″ shorter than the board in height and length, affixed the same way as the other paper. 

Make sure that the holes are punched through the cardboard first and then later through the paper as you cover the sides. That way, you will have an easier time getting through the thick material, and it will be cleaner when finished.

That’s all for now. I hope you all make a journal and love it and fill it with hand crafted poetry goodness. 
Keep Writing, Start Binding!

 

Bookbinding: Skills a Poet Needs

Hello Readers,

Sorry I have been a little absent. My dear friend started a literary journal where I am an editor and I started a new job at the reference desk at my library (yay adulthood!). In other words, like all of you out there in internet land, I don’t know where the time goes, but it must be lost in the couch, with the spare change from my jean pockets and all the good intentions I had of being more productive.

I had the pleasure of celebrating the fiftieth birthday of a former art teacher this past week and was wracked with what to get her. What do you make the person who first inspired you to be an artist? Well, you give her some art.

That’s what everyone else did. She got paintings and photos and sculptures. Her party was a painting party where we all made a small canvas she organized as a mural. It was pretty epic.

I decided to challenge myself and make a Coptic stitch book of my poems. For some reason I thought this would be easy. I was, of course, deeply wrong. Coptic stitch is hard, but thankfully the internet is full of tutorials including a Poets and Writers Chapbook Tutorial with pictures and a wonderful bookmaker named Sea Lemon and her perfectly simple Coptic Stitch video.  It was pretty do-able.

Here are some photos from my experience: coptic-stitch-book-images

My puppies are in the middle: one curious, one bored.

The book was fun. I ended up making four of them: one for my teacher, one for my mom, one for my grandmother on my father’s side and one for my grandfather on my mother’s side. I found making them in two’s took minimally more time and made for a quicker learning curve.

All Poets Should Bind Books. 

There were some key things I had never thought about before this project that I know made me more selfaware.

1. Books are Big.

I normally group my poems in families of ten or fifteen. In fact, I was unable to actually fill the space P&W wanted in the book (72 pages). Instead, I made it work with headers and bump (blank) pages. I had no idea how much content was needed to fill an actual book, and now I will look at my collection (which I thought was huge) with more humility.

2. Organization is a Challenge

The book was too big. So I decided to make it up into 10 smaller books of five or six poems each. This took up several pages and also allowed me to subdivide the collection into smaller groups. But what would they be? What theme? What order? I imagined they would all fit together, but no, they are all over the place, I have no theme for my collection.

3. Stuff Doesn’t Fit Well

I have been hanging on the idea of ‘skepticism’ in my earlier chapbooks. The poems that I chose went along with this sense of surprise in ordinary moments, but that didn’t go very deep into the collection. I was in need of something different, something bigger.

The collection is called Lucid Dreaming, and the books are named after the ten-ish steps of actually having a lucid dream. 

I needed to take a step back and think about what would fit the whole group rather than just the ten books individually. It made me think of writing essays in college, picking a topic big enough, with enough depth and content to get a 20 page paper out without being redundant. Lucid dreaming was actually something I go pretty good at during college and looking back it fits the poems perfectly. It is both tangible and ephemeral, with a strong sense of self and no sense of place, just like the voice in most of my poems.

It was also unrelated enough to inform the poems without stealing their thunder. It cradled the poems that seem stranger than reality and made fantastic the poems that are too near to reality. I had to step outside my own mindset to make the poems work together.

4. Real Life is Messy

It’s been a while since I was wrist deep in rubber cement. I had forgotten how gritty reality can be. Poetry, for me, had become this alternate, bodiless at times, existance with a shiny screen and a slick clicking keyboard. It wasn’t real. It meandered from my mind onto a surface I could neither touch nor fathom. But books are real. And so are sewing needles and paper cuts and spilled glue and knotted up thread. It was a rush of reality to my otherwise unworldly typings, a long overdue splash of life.

 

Books are beautiful.

 

Sewing is like the lungs when the breath absent-mindedly.

 

I had no idea how satisfying and deeply moving making my own books would be. I am obsessed. I encourage you all to either look at these tutorials or consider making books on your own. It made me reconsider what poetry means for me, and what I want to be as a poet. Plus holding a book of you is a sobering feeling.

 

Come One Come All to the Greatest Lit Mag on the Net: Noble / Gas Qtrly

Hello Readers,

I am pleased to announce the launch of our official website: Noble / Gas Qtrly, coinciding with the start-gun of our premier competition: Natural Selection. 

noblegas-journal-logo

Fight in the first competition of Noble / Gas Qtrly, Natural Selection, where your poetry or prose will face off against other submissions for a chance at victory. At long last your work may reign supreme.

The site is now officially open so please join us for the first round of submissions and let the battle begin!

If you have any questions or comments leave your two cents below and I will get back to you with all the details I know. The first issue is set to rumble through in October, so ready your helmets; it’s going to be one hell of a safari!

Keep Writing–

ECW

Noble / Gas Qtrly Poetry Editor