It’s Always Dark When I Put on My Lipstick For love of Stuart Dischell’s “She Put on Her Lipstick in the Dark” Oui, I met a man in Paris once, not the only man I’ve ever met in Paris. It was in a museum in a garden. I was looking at the statues; getting a feel for them with my fingers. Men want to walk me to the café, to the entrainer, and to the boutique. They want me with coffee and they want to help me to cross several rues. He sidled up to me, asking which statue I favoured. He said he would steal it for me; just say the word. I told him he needed a new line. I felt his metal security guard badge and his nightstick. I kissed him anyway and leaned my head on his warm chest. Paris was cold and I wore my aquamarine scarf. We sipped lovely cups of coffee near loud machines. I couldn’t see and I couldn’t hear. I nearly missed my train, Paris to Grenoble, seven hours and 45 minutes. I never saw him but I remember his face.
I posted several weeks ago about #NaPoWriMo, the slick hashtag for National Poetry Writing Month, a similarly named cousin to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month in November). National Poetry Month is upon us and in full swing! Countless poets are celebrating the month with challenges, contests, and prompts. Poet bloggers are blogging and sharing the good news.
The Academy of American Poets has an amazing page this year called 30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month. True to its name, there are 30 activities listed, one for each of the 30 days in National Poetry Month. Additionally, they published lessons for teachers for all primary, middle, and High School grades. You can order this year’s National Poetry Month poster for free from the Academy’s website. You can also find an Adobe pdf version with clickable images linked to related poems. It’s not easy to explain, but trust me, check out the pdf and spend an afternoon clicking through the poems for each picture, it’s a blast!
One of the coolest ideas this year is #10: “Ask your governor or mayor for a proclamation in support of National Poetry Month.” I live in a suburb of Jacksonville so I e-mailed and sent letters to both the mayor of my town as well as Mayor Lenny Curry of Jacksonville. So far, Mayor Curry e-mailed me back with a link to a page on his website for submitting proclamation requests. The process was simple and I expect to hear Mayor Curry’s final determination. I haven’t contacted Governor Rick Scott of Florida, yet, but that is my next step.
When I wrote to Mayor Nix and Mayor Curry, I also asked them about appointing a Poet Laureate for their respective town and city. Mayor Curry directed my question to the director of the Jacksonville Public Library. I am excited to hear from Mrs. Barbara Gubbin and I am hopeful that Mayor Nix will reply in an equally enthusiastic manner. Florida has an appointed Peter Meinke (personal website linked) as the most recent Poet Laureate, a position I hope to attain some day!
This year I am following two prompt generators for National Poetry Month. Robert Lee Brewer, the former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, publishes Poetic Asides, a regular blog on the Writer’s Digest website. Brewer publishes a poetry prompt every day for the 30 days of April and as an added bonus, he includes a “Two-for-Tuesday”! The great thing about this challenge is you can publish your response poems directly to the thread under the post.
The second set of prompts I follow is WordXWord’s Thirty Thirty Poetry Challenge. You cannot publish your poems directly to this website. To submit your responses to the challenges, Thirty Thirty set up a Facebook page at 30/30 Poetry. Although it is a closed group, it is not difficult to request membership.
I hope I have inspired you to write today!
I’m figuratively kicking myself for not publishing this post sooner. I claim über busyness finalizing poems for my MFA Thesis and revising the project as a whole. But really I have no excuse. I want to publish one post per week and it has been two weeks since my last post.
To clarify the title of this post, I do not currently work as a poet. I would love to, but I have not pursued the prestigious, though unsung career of a poet. It took me a long time to even admit I am a poet. It took me longer still to admit in public I am a poet. Yes, I am a poet. It was hard to get the words out of my mouth for so long. This post is not about me.
This post is about some recent articles I read about brave folks who have taken that leap. First, the poet Jordan Chaney. Jordan was recently on the website Art of Manliness in 2012. The article I discovered was one of my most recent rabbit-holing spelunking excursions.
Art of Manliness is operated by a husband and wife duo. It is not a sexist site, nor is it strictly for men. There are plenty of articles presented that appeal to women. They describe their site as follows:
AoM is a blog about growing up well, aimed at men and their unique challenges and interests. We explore all things manly — from the serious and philosophical to the practical and fun. We seek to uncover how to live with grandpa’s swagger, virtue, and know-how in the present age by wedding the best of the past to the best of the present. The end goal is to create a synergy of tradition and modernity that offers men a way forward and signposts on how to live an excellent, flourishing life.
AoM runs a regular column called “So You Want My Job.” I do so much Internet rabbit-holing, I don’t remember what led me to this particular topic. I think I may have been looking at another article on Art of Manliness which led me to the “So You Want My Job” series, which led me to query “poet” in their search box. Waaaaaaaaay back on March 22, 2012, Art of Manliness published an interview for the series with poet Jordan Chaney working out of Kennewick, Washington. Mr. Chaney has a personal Facebook page as well as an author page as a career Poet. If you are interested in his life as a poet and how he survives as a poet, I encourage you to check him out.
I also recently started following another blogging poet named Katie Hale. It’s funny that I was going to post about the job of a poet because as I was putting this post together, I stumbled across Katie’s blog. On March 12th, 2017, she published a post entitled: How to Make a Living as a Poet (advice from people much better at it than me). Recently Katie attended StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, where she served as the festival’s in-house blogger. Sounds like an awesome responsibility! There, she attended an event called “Making a Living as a Poet” sponsored by the Society of Authors. Ken Cockburn chaired the event with poets Sarah Hesketh and Harry Giles offering advice and talking about making money from poetry. They offer a different take on the Poet as a lifestyle and not just because they reside “across the pond.”
I posted this partly because it is important to know what others around you involved in your craft are engaged in. You should maintain a constant dialogue with your craft. There is a larger conversation going on about poetry in the world. Every day there are new speakers, new opinions, new forms, new rules, et cetera. By “dialogue” and “conversation,” I don’t mean that you are physically talking with anyone. This conversation includes blogs, Facebook posts, Twitter, Instagram, anything to engage the world outside of yourself. Poetry is not dead, rather, there are exciting things happening in the world of poetry every day. You just have to open your eyes and look for them, open your ears and listen for them.
More than one year ago, in November 2015, more than 20 nonprofit poetry groups came together for a singular purpose. Now 26 member organizations strong, the Poetry Coalition, seeks to “promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.”As a poet, this is a mission near and dear to my heart. It lines up 100% with any proposal initiated by the U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress.
This month, the Poetry Coalition is launching its first initiative, Because We Come From Everything: Poetry & Migration.Check out either of the two links for more information on the Poetry Coalition, its member organizations, and the migration-themed events they are hosting this month. Both links will take you to pages on the Academy of American Poets’s website. The Coalition encourages participation in any of the programs member organizations are holding throughout the month. Additionally, they invite like-minded organizations to host their own events. The Coalition has one simple request, and that is that you use the hashtag #WeComeFromEverything to share your efforts across social media platforms for anything related to this project. Get creative, get out there, and get involved!
As well as being National Poetry Month, April is also celebrated by some brave individuals as NaPoWriMo. NaPoWriMo? National Poetry Writing Month! Similar to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), just don’t get them confused! If you want to know more about NaPoWriMo specifically, check out their FAQ.
The Academy of American Poets inaugurated National Poetry Month in 1996 and have sponsored it ever since. Throughout the month of April, you can find all kinds of material and resources to celebrate National Poetry Month. The Academy has a page dedicated to the annual celebration along with links to other pages, projects, and events. Scholastic’s website has great resources for teachers, students, and any other poetry lover. Read Write Think also offers several lesson plans for grades K-12 on their website. Last year, Poetry Foundation made their April issue of Poetry magazine available as a pdf download.
I haven’t found much material for 2017 yet, but then it is still March. Through a quick search, I found several references to National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo from 2016. Everything posted for 2016 is still valid, but I hope they begin posting information for 2017 soon. I have that poetic itch and it can only be cured with more cowbell. No, that’s not right. I am excited to see what comes of National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo this year!
I am debating whether I am going to attempt to write one poem every day in April this year. I haven’t done it in the past because I just learned about it. I am still heavily engaged in finishing my Master’s Thesis for my MFA. I thought I would have enough poems for the thesis, but I am writing more to achieve the requirements. Actually, NaPoWriMo may provide the inspiration I need to foster my brilliance. ;-l
I should point out you can also find opinions against National Poetry Month because, of course, there are radicals on both sides of every fence.
With only 27 days remaining until National Poetry Month, keep writing!
Who is TED? Why is his name in ALL CAPS? Why should I care what he has to say about Poetry? If you aren’t already familiar with TED Talks, it is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. From their website at http://www.ted.com/:
TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.
I have heard of TED Talks and I was introduced to TEDx this past week. If you were already familiar with TED, maybe you thought like me, “what would TED have to do with Poetry?” This morning I decided to look up Poetry on TED and I was surprised by the results.
One of the 11 MUST-SEE TED Talks is about poetry. Poet Sarah Kay gave a talk around 18 minutes long entitled “If I Should Have a Daughter…” Kay is a spoken word poet, a performance poet and her presentation was eloquent. She is doing great things to further poetry in the modern world and ensure its accessibility for everyone. I’m attaching a link to her website here.
Former Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress, Billy Collins, has a TED Talk entitled “Everyday Moments, Caught in Time.” Collins’s talk is slightly shorter at around 15 minutes wherein he introduces five of his poems in animated form. He concludes by reading a sixth poem. I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm and support from the large audience. Two or three times, Collins references the period he served as United States Poet Laureate, he laughs as he clearly enjoyed that time in his life and the audience laughs along with him. It’s a refreshing exchange between a contemporary poet and a demographically diverse audience. Collins maintains his own website here.
According to one of their tags, TED has 48 talks on Poetry! Additionally, they have around seven articles on Poetry! I feel like I’m using exclamation points excessively, but I get excited when I talk about Poetry and when I find new Poetry resources! This afternoon I typed “poetry” in TED’s search bar which returned 323 results! I hope you take a minute to watch some of the TED talks on poetry. Some of them are poets reading their material whiles others are poets talking about the craft and furthering the art form.
And as always, keep writing!
One of the promises I made to myself as I am in the final stretches of attaining a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is that I will submit my poems to contests and literary and poetry journals. These are all steps on my journey to my ultimate goal of becoming U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.
In my last post I wrote about joining organizations I feel are beneficial to furthering your appreciation, education, and quality of writing poetry. Some of the organizations I mentioned are state poetry organizations, the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, the Academy of American Poets, American Poetry Review, Association of Writers & Writing Programs, the Poetry Foundation, and the Poetry Society of America. Many of these organizations offer contests and while many of them are open to the public, there are a few only open to members. If you do some research, you can find several “free to enter” contests, while others require small submission fees. The prizes range anywhere from publication on the organization’s website to chapbook publication offers and even thousands of dollars in prize money.
I encourage you to take the next step and research some contests that appeal to you. Don’t like sonnets or villanelles or you feel that you are unable to write them? There are plenty of contests out there for contemporary, free verse poetry. There are contests for ekphrastic poetry. There are contests for haiku and lunes and landays and zip odes and spoon river poems. There are rhyming poetry contests and themed poetry contests for just about anything you can think of. Many of the contests available open and close on a rotating basis annually. The National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ submission period generally runs from January 1st through March 15th. The Florida State Poets Association submission period is open from May 1st through July 15th annually. Other contests are run weekly or monthly.
I was going to put together a comprehensive list of every contest I found in Microsoft Excel and sort by deadline, but it turns out there are websites which do just that. Trish Hopkinson’s blog, A Selfish Poet is one of the best I’ve seen. Recently she featured a site called Submishmash which lists countless contests by poetry, fiction, nonfiction, visual art, or all. It further sorts the content by deadline or “random.”
My only word of caution is to not overwhelm yourself and burden yourself by attempting to take on too many submissions. This should be fun! Make your own small list of contests you are interested in and focus on those. Expand your list if you want, but always enjoy the process and the rewards!
I am a member of the United States Armed Forces and one of my closest friends made a remark a few years ago that stuck with me. “Bryan,” he said, “Professionals join professional organizations.” He was talking about entirely different organizations, but what does that mean? Well, it might mean different things to different people and several things to several people. If you are not out there actively championing your cause, who is? As a poet or even as a person with an appreciation of poetry, there are several organizations who fight for the validity and relevancy of traditional and contemporary poetry. When you join these organizations, your membership pays for them to lobby and forward the poetic agenda. That came out sounding a little too political and I do not want to discourage you from considering membership in any of them.
I am no expert at this, so in my humble opinion, the best place to start is the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (homepage linked). Their website can point you in the direction of your state’s poetry group. Just go to the menu on the left and click on “State Links.” A vast majority of states have poetry organizations and many of them are linked on this page.
Beyond those, there is the Academy of American Poets (linked) and Poetry Foundation (also linked). These are two of my favorite organizations. Their websites are chock full of poetry information and resources. Any time I want to look up a poem, a poet, or a poetic term, these are the first two places I check.
Some of these are not so much membership-driven organizations, but organizations with magazine subscriptions. I encourage you poets to check out American Poetry Review, American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI), Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), Poets & Writers (another favorite), Poetry Society of America, Poets House, and Writer’s Digest to name just a few. And these really are just a few of the many poetry focused organizations out there. I could write individual blogs on each of these sites and more going into great detail on what they have to offer.
I am a member of the Florida Writers Association, Florida State Poets Association, National Federation of State Poetry Societies, Academy of American Poets, and American Writers & Artists, Inc.. I currently subscribe to American Poetry Review, American Poets, The Florida Writer, Poetry, Poets & Writers, and Writer’s Digest.
If you have the time, also look into the National Endowment for the Arts. They do incredible things for all of the arts!
I am a long-time practitioner of rabbit-holing, mostly voluntary. I’ll feel a particular curious itch and start some cursory research which leads me to another topic and another website and multiple articles. This is a near-daily occurrence. I love to learn and, only to a slightly lesser extent, I enjoy research.
One of my favorite things to research is poetry. Whether poetic forms, new and old poets, poetry contests, lit magazines specializing in poetry, poetry chapbooks, local poetry groups and readings, et cetera. I find and learn more every day whether about the craft itself, or organizations I didn’t know about, or resources to further my understanding. Poetry is not dead.
I have sort of a plan for what I want to write about and publish on this blog from week to week, but then I find something else and I have to write about it. I found this gem recently through the Library of Congress‘s website. If you haven’t checked out the Library of Congress as a resource, you are missing out. I discovered the Library of Congress all over again because I stumbled across their magazine. Not only that, but I found that they published a beautiful 30-page edition all on poetry! The March/April 2015 edition is subtitled “POETRY NATION”. Of course in all caps, poetry is significant! The following link will take you directly to the catalog of magazines: Library of Congress Magazine, Vol. 4 No. 2: Mar.-Apr. 2015. The short description accompanying the pdf is:
The Library has been a repository and patron of poetry throughout its history and is the home of the Poet Laureate. Also: Rosa Parks and the struggle for racial justice, Walt Whitman, Billie Holliday and more.
You can download a pdf of the issue at 2.25MB, OR, you can contact the Library of Congress staff to request a physical copy. I am writing this blog because I e-mailed the Library of Congress to request the poetry issue. I wasn’t entirely a believer when I e-mailed them, but sure enough, I received mine within a few days. Here is all of the information you need to contact their Public Affairs Office:
For More Information
Office of Communications
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave., S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20540-1600
As always, keep writing!
If you are into poetry at all, I encourage you to attend an open mic night near you. I have read at four poetry readings since I began taking the craft more seriously last year and I am addicted.
The first read was more than a little nerve-wracking. I believe my right leg punched a hole in the venue floor jack-hammer-style. I had all of the common fears of public speaking when I stood up, but the crowds quickly put me at ease. I hope that you will find poets and poetry connoisseurs to be just as welcoming, gracious, and supportive as I have. There is something crisp and pure and freeing about reading your poetry or other poets to a crowd.
With an event tomorrow I want to add a bit of humor. I found this post on The Best American Poetry blog. I’m not sure if Daniel Nester has been to many poetry readings, but he is spot-on accurate with his observations. This is meant to be humorous. I hope no one takes offense, I mean, come on, we all know this is true and if we can’t laugh at ourselves…
20 Things Not to Do at an Open Poetry Reading
by Daniel Nester, November 05, 2015
- Write your name illegibly on the sign-up sheet.
- Complain to host when he/she can’t read/pronounce your last name.
- Go over the allotted time, so much so that you are mistaken for the “featured” reader, who has traveled three hours on an interstate to promote her most recent book, and has advertised the event on her personal website, Facebook author page, sent announcements college alumni listserv (undergraduate and graduate), as well as posted to Twitter and Snapchat accounts.
- Go over time by reading a poem that combines several short poems into a single, multi-sectioned SuperPoem®, which uses different voices (precocious child, mermaid, Muddy Waters) and which features with an epigraph, a joke in Latin, which you do not translate and yet giggle to yourself before proceeding with main body of the poem.
- Tell host you need to read first, last, or “when my friends get here.”
- While onstage, complain about how bad most poetry is then fail to realize the mountain of social privilege and assumed power required to proclaim oneself the final gatekeeper of what counts as good or bad poetry.
- Complain about writing workshops.
- Then lead one yourself.
- Read poem you just wrote about being outside at a coffee shop, which addresses your thoughts about how hard it is to write a poem in a coffee shop, what with all clanging of porcelain and milk getting frothed.
- Mention journal your poem was published in before you read it, as if to say, you better like this poem.
- Complain about poetry slam’s format and hip-hop MC style, being competitive or too showy or adhering to some random, three-minute limit.
- Proceed to perform a poem, in hip-hop MC style, that clocks in at two minutes, 57 seconds.
- Plan another open mic with the same people at the open mic where you are reading.
- Prick thigh with ballpoint pen every time anyone says the following words: “darkness,” “loamy,” “gleam,” “amongst,” “nevermore,” “nothingness,” “kumquat,” “capitalism,” “shame.”
- Complain about the exclusiveness and ivory tower mentality of colleges and all those student-types who take creative writing classes.
- Talk about how you first discovered poetry with professor X in college.
- Avoid speaking into the microphone provided by your host, then ask if people can hear you.
- Read narrative lyric poem about any of the following: 1. your dog; 2. going out into the woods and feeling vaguely religious; 3. Sharing hummus with your lover.
- Precede your poem by explaining everything about the poem—the story, inspiration, place it was written, time of year the action takes place—and then repeat this same information in the title of the poem. For example, your poem might be inspired by your going to art galleries with an ex-lover in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, in the middle of winter. Explain all this, and then introduce your poem entitled “Visiting Art Galleries with Ex-Lover, Chelsea, Mid-Winter, 2009.”
- Promote an open mic at another open mic.
I hope you get all the laughs that I do out of Nester’s tongue-in-cheek post.
I can’t be any more excited to attend tomorrow’s event after a nearly two-month hiatus. We did not hold a reading in December due to the holiday so we have had plenty of time to prepare new work. Tomorrow’s reading is themed “Brave New World” and I have two poems to read.
Keep writing and get out there to read your work!