Anniversary

Changed from “elPitchford…” to “Poetry at the Edge of the World” on Thursday August 31, 2017. I’m keeping my web address the same (bryanjpitchford). I want my title to reflect the content of my blog and “poetry” is far more appropriate and indicative of what I am publishing than my own moniker.

National University CrestSeptember 14th was the one-year anniversary of my first official blog post! It was a simple, 41-word post entitled “MFA Programs” with no opening or closing salutation. In September I was just past the midway point in my own Master of Fine Arts pursuit and I was excited to see the article.

It was difficult for me to attend a brick-and-mortar location with a full-time career and other regular and irregular commitments so I opted for the online program with National University.

My second blog post wouldn’t follow until three months later when I started the Blogging University assignments on December 28, 2016.

What a year it has been! I finished my MFA in June, I have a baby girl due in a few months, and I started the Army’s Command and General Staff College (CGSC), which, for Active Duty, is a Masters-producing program. For National Guard and Reserve Components, we have the option to transfer up to 16 credits toward a Management Master’s Degree with Army Operations and National Security Specialisation. No thank you. After devoting two years toward a Master of Fine Arts and committing to 18 months toward CGSC, I have a feeling I will need a break! If I do return to school at any point afterward, I recently discovered I have nearly 36 months of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill available at 60% and Old Dominion University has a Doctor of Philosophy in English online!

These past few weeks have been busy! Hurricane Irma appeared and got Florida all spun up. I was one of the 10,000 Florida National Guardsmen (Army and Air Force) called to State Active Duty for hurricane relief. It was a learning experience and I loved planning logistics missions in support of the State of Florida!

During these busy times, National University’s literary journal, the GNU, published their Spring/Summer 2017 print issue. I submitted four poems and they published all four so I am stoked about that!

I am currently editing two poems to submit to American Poetry Journal. I want to start a regular schedule of submitting to journals and literary magazines. I am still shopping around for a publisher for my MFA manuscript. Shouldn’t be too difficult, I just haven’t put as much effort into it as I could, though I expect things to slow down soon and I’ll be able to focus on publishers, their submission requirements, and their deadlines. Wish me luck!

Keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing!

MFAYesterday I received my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in the mail from National University. The degree was conferred on July 16, 2017, so, of course I have been waiting impatiently! My pursuit of this degree was laborious and lengthy, but absolutely worthwhile!

I thank God for opening all of the doors required and providing me the opportunity to follow my dream of earning a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with a focus on Poetry. In the Bible, James 1:7 says “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”

This journey started more than ten years ago with the Virginia Army National Guard paying for my Associates Degree. It continued when the University of South Florida Army Senior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program awarded me a scholarship for a Bachelor of Arts Degree at Saint Leo University. It culminated in the Florida Army National Guard providing me with tuition assistance to attend National University.

Second, I thank my loving wife Crista for supporting me throughout these past two years. Without you taking on the additional burdens around the house, I would not have been able to succeed. Thank you for your editing and encouragement. Thank you for understanding. Thank you in advance for allowing me to continue my education with a Doctor of Philosophy in English from Old Dominion University Online with my Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

I don’t have the time or the memory to thank everyone, but I would like to mention a few people with particular influences on my life.

In chronological order, I thank the late Dr. Kurt van Wilt, my professor for ENG335 Verse Writing as well as my HON499 Senior Honors Project mentor at Saint Leo University. You welcomed everyone in your classroom as equals. You opened our eyes to poetry and Native American heritage. I owe you a debt of gratitude and I will never forget you!

Also, thank you to Dr. Mark “Tiger” Edmonds, my professor for ENG202 Creative Writing I at Saint Leo University and resident of “The Redoubt.” Your travels and travel writing inspire me as well as your survival of Vietnam-era Army life. I remember most of your stories from class if not the assignments themselves. You’re a great friend and writing mentor.

Helene Ekloff and Kristin Powers. Both of you are true pen pals and poet friends. Both of you have kept me thinking and kept me writing even if we aren’t actively corresponding. Your spirits took up permanent residence in my subconscious. Thank you for your encouragement and creativity. I don’t think either of you know the profound effect you have had on me and my writing so I am telling you now.

Patricia Stevenson-Gingrich, former leader of the Big Bend Poets, former editor of the Florida State Poets Association Anthology, and current friend. Your encouragement and commentary on my poems are invaluable!

I thank Carey Millsap-Spears, MFA classmate and fellow poet. Your peer critiques were immensely helpful during class. I value your judgment and I look forward to further correspondence in workshopping poems.

Mr. Frank Montesonti, MFA, my professor for MCW645 Seminar in Poetry, MCW640B Advanced Workshop in Poetry, MCW660 Thesis I (Practicum), and MCW670 Thesis II (Revision). You enriched my knowledge of the poetic world and expanded my mind to fascinating poets and poetry I never knew existed. All of this, I might add, without Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, though Dean Young provokes similar responses.

And my final “finally,” the duende, the elf / goblin / hobgoblin / leprechaun / puck (punk) / spirit / sprite, whatever you may know it as. You are my inspiration, my little prodding writing conscience, my Phœnix. One day I will catch you.

Keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

American Life in Poetry

KooserFellow Poets! Last week I published a post about Juan Felipe Herrera, the current Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Mr. Herrera is currently in his second term as Poet Laureate. I wanted to write about him because I read an interview The Washington Post published in March 2017 just prior to National Poetry Month.

This week, I am inspired to write about Ted Kooser and American Life in Poetry. Mr. Kooser served two terms as the prestigious U.S. Poet Laureate when he was appointed the 13th Poet Laureate from 2004-2006. It was Kooser’s own National Poetry Project, American Life in Poetry, which first drew my attention to him. According to the website,

“American Life in Poetry is a free weekly column for newspapers and online publications featuring a poem by a contemporary American poet and a brief introduction to the poem by Ted Kooser.”

Like any great project, Kooser presented a mission and a vision for ALP which is simply to promote poetry. I subscribed to ALP in May 2013 when they were in their ninth year and they are still going strong. On Monday, May 15th, they published their 634th column!

Some background on Ted Kooser. He’s got his own poet website: The Official Website of Poet: Ted Kooser. Here you can read his personal biography detailing his collected works, listen to him reading and talking about his poems, read some press reviews, and more. Mr. Kooser currently features only six poems on his site and lists the works they are published in as well as linking them to where you can purchase those works. Mr. Kooser also has an extensive couple of pages on The Poetry Foundation’s website. The Foundation’s biography is even more extensive than on Kooser’s site. Additionally, the Foundation has 26 of Kooser’s poems, 1 article, and 17 Audio & Podcast files. The Academy of American Poets has a sizable biography page for Kooser as well as four poems. Fortunately, they are four different poems than on the Poetry Foundation. Since he served as a U.S. Poet Laureate, you can also find loads of information on the Library of Congress’ pages. There is a brief summary of Kooser’s tenure as Poet Laureate, a page listing all Poet Laureate Projects including Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, and several articles and blog posts about Kooser and his work.

On The Poetry Foundation’s biography, they quote critic Dana Gioia who described Kooser as a “popular poet”—not one who sells millions of books, but

“popular in that unlike most of his peers he writes naturally for a nonliterary public. His style is accomplished but extremely simple—his diction drawn from common speech, his syntax conversational.”

Poetically, Kooser reminds me of Philip Levine and Billy Collins. Incidentally, they both served as Poets Laureate, Levine from 2011-2012 and Collins from 2001-2003. Perhaps I will write more about them later.

One of the things I like best about Mr. Kooser is that he is approachable and helpful as a poet. On August 8, 2016 I wrote to Mr. Kooser for advice on breaking into the poetry world. I have my own ideas and I have written about them on this blog. Mr. Kooser graciously replied that same morning. He suggested to focus on the task at hand, focus on the poem you are writing at the moment. Submit to quality literary journals and continue to submit. Get noticed and keep moving forward, keep progressing. I like writing to poets I admire and sending them compliments on my favorite poems of theirs. It is always a pleasant surprise when they write back!

If you care to check them out, three of my favorite Kooser poems are “Abandoned Farmhouse,” “Look for Me,” and “So This is Nebraska.” You can find all three on The Poetry Foundation’s website.

Keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate

 

JuanFelipeHerrera.web-31
Juan Felipe Herrera from The Poetry Foundation

When I started writing this post, I had a different beginning and an entirely different direction for the writing. Rather than focus on a solitary interview with The Washington Post, I want to highlight more of the reading material available on the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. I thought it was cool that the Post interviewed U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera on March 2, 2017, but at 610 words including title and questions,it is a bit short in my opinion. The length makes for a quick read and that is one of the intents of the “Just Asking” section of The Post. Still, when it comes to poets, especially Poets Laureate, I want as much as I can get! I want to know what they’re thinking, where they get their inspiration, and what they are publishing next!

 

The best resource to learn about Herrera’s contributions as Poet Laureate is the Library of Congress’s website. Here you can learn about Herrera’s national project “La Casa de Colores” (The House of Colors) as well as three major projects he initiated during his appointment to a second term.

Two other articles of interest on Herrera’s tenure as Poet Laureate appeared in The New York Times and NPR. The Times published their article on June 10, 2015, and NPR published their article on April 12, 2017. NPR’s article featured five videos of Herrera reading his poems. Seeing and hearing poets read their work fascinates me. Poets come from all walks of life and it is cool to get a feel for how they interact with their work.

To learn more about the position of U.S. Poet Laureate check out the Library of Congress’ FAQ. One of the things I love about the distinguished poets is they each bring something unique to the position. From 2011 to 2016, Herrera serve as a Chancelor of the Academy of American Poets.

Keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

So You Want My Job: Poet

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: . 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.

Keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan