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

Featured Poet for August on Twitterization Nation

I am proud to announce that Twitterization Nation selected me as one of their featured poets for August! They chose me along with five other poets for their website series and subsequent online literary magazine. The five other poets are Carrie Danaher Hoyt, Richard Green, Charika Swanepoel (@CharikaSW), Elisabeth Horan, and Ken Woodall. If you are not familiar with Twitterization’s work, I enjoy their description and call for submissions:

“We are seeking “Twitterized” poems that are 140 characters or less (however, we have already accepted longer poems) to be featured as a weekly guest through our Twitterization Nation blog, Twitter, and Facebook sites. In addition, we plan to use this collection as our “Preview” Issue for our online literary magazine.”

I first came across Twitterization Nation during Rattle magazine’s Monthly Ekphrastic Poetry Challenge for June 2017. The art was Ryan Schaufler’s photograph “No Name #2” for which I wrote a piece entitled, “Good Hope Road [or, Nostalgia is a Fond Memory]”. I did not win, but I pressed on and submitted seven poems to their website. The poems they are using August 1-7, 2017 are “Red City”, “Eyes”, “Paint by Numbers”, “Scratch Hill”, “Surfin’ Byrd”, “Wet Puppy”, and “Bus Stop”.

Follow Twitterization Nation on WordPress (https://twitterization.wordpress.com), Twitter (@NationOTwits) and Facebook (https://facebook.com/twitterization.nation).

Keep writing and seeking publication!

Cheers,

Bryan

The Time is Now

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Have you ever been afflicted with the dreaded writer’s block? Sometimes it may feel like the muse has taken an extended vacation or left you for good for another writer with no explanation or farewell note. Don’t worry, your muse always returns! Until then, the best thing to do in these tumultuous times is turn to writing prompts. One of the most diverse and compelling sets of prompts I have found is published by Poets & Writers.

The Time is Now is a WEEKLY(!!!) feature on the Poets & Writers website. Using their filter, you can filter the prompts by poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. You can also set the parameters to display 100 entries per page giving you more to sort through and fewer internet pages to turn. Maybe the Poets & Writers staff have added to the archive recently, I remember only being able to search back through one year of prompts. I learned something new this morning and you can now go all the way back to the beginning! P&W published their first prompts on January 3, 2011! At 52 prompts per year, that’s roughly 339 poetry prompts to catch up on! And if you’re interested in fiction and creative nonfiction, that’s about 1,017 prompts!

I love what P&W has to say from an earlier version of The Time is Now site:

The most important and underrated factor in a writer’s success is discipline. Talent and luck always help, but having a consistent writing practice is often the difference between aspiring writers and published writers.

The advice we hear from agents, editors, and authors alike is always the same: Focus on the writing. However, finding the time and inspiration to write is not always easy. That’s where creative writing prompts and exercises can help. Writing prompts provide writers with a starting place, an entry point into their writing practice. Sometimes creative writing prompts and exercises result in a workable draft of a story or poem. Other times, they may lead to what can seem like a dead end. But having to generate ideas, being pushed in a direction where you wouldn’t normally go in your writing, and just plain putting pen to paper is often enough to provide that crucial dose of inspiration.

The Time Is Now offers a weekly writing prompt (we’ll post a poetry prompt on Tuesdays, a fiction prompt on Wednesdays, and a creative nonfiction prompt on Thursdays) to help you stay committed to your writing practice throughout the year.

Early on, P&W only titled the prompts by genre, but starting with the first prompts of 2012, P&W began naming their prompts by the general theme of the prompt. The most recent prompt from Tuesday, July 4 is “America the Beautiful”:

“Sometimes I still put my hand tenderly on my heart / somehow or other still carried away by America,” writes Alicia Ostriker in “Ghazal: America the Beautiful.” This Fourth of July, begin a poem with the title “America the Beautiful” and let this phrase guide your piece, allowing your mind freedom to reflect on the things you find beautiful (or not so beautiful) about the nation. Read through some other Independence Day poetry by writers such as Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman, Claude McKay, and Rachel Eliza Griffiths for further inspiration.

If you subscribe to The Time is Now e-mails, you also receive two other features that I have only recently starting paying attention to. Scroll down past the prompts and you will find a quick blurb entitled Best Books for Writers. Visit The Time is Now’s website and you can find the books in a menu to the right. P&W highlights classic and modern books in all genres tailored to the writer. I didn’t start paying attention to Writers Recommend until this past week. Carol Guess wrote the first post from December 16, 2008. This week’s comes from author Bao Phi:

“I recently took adult swimming lessons. I can’t swim, I can’t even tread water, but I knew I had to get over myself and try to learn. I’ve also been trying to write a little bit every single night, and it’s very much the same. That blank page is there waiting for me to jump in, to sink or swim. I end up flailing about and not knowing what I’m doing. But I trust it’s all part of the process. I trust that with enough work and practice, I will be able to do what I need to do. Some fear is necessary to get to new places.” — Bao Phi, author of Thousand Star Hotel (Coffee House Press, 2017)

They may seem unusual, but they offer great advice and it may just be the tip you need to get you going! Sometimes the featured poets and writers talk about books, art, music, writing prompts, films, or anything else that has inspired them.

Check out The Time is Now, look for other sources of prompts, or write your own, but whatever you do, keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

Trish Hopkinson (dot) com

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“Footnote”, chapbook by Trish Hopkinson

I have mentioned Trish Hopkinson’s blog, https://trishhopkinson.com/, on three previous blog posts and commented on the wealth of information she graciously shares with the blogosphere. Although her tagline is “The Selfish Poet,” she may be the most unselfish blogger I have come across. In fact, if the motto of my state’s writer’s association is “writers helping writers,” Hopkinson’s motto could easily be “poets helping poets.” The best thing about her blog is that, while she publishes information about any poetry calls for submissions, a vast majority of them are “NO FEE”. Many organizations require a submission fee, sometimes as a reading fee, to pay the contest judges and fund the prize money. However, as you can see from Hopkinson’s research and gracious information sharing, there are also an incredible amount of free contests.

Hopkinson began her blog in September 2012 in a post similar to my own original post, just testing the waters, seeing if the blogging world was real or if we were stepping into the Matrix, and if our work really would be readily available to anyone stumbling on our blog. In the fall of 2014, Hopkinson committed to publishing on a near-daily basis and has been unstoppable since!

I won’t go on and on about her or her blog, rather I’ll let you explore her blog on your own. Her poetry exploits are many, though. She has published dozens of poems in the contests she shares with others, she has won several contests earning prestigious awards, she co-founded a non-profit poetry group in her home state, and regularly publishes information and resources for poets and those interested in poetry.

In addition to Hopkinson’s numerous published individual poems, she has published two chapbooks and has a third releasing in July 2017. She published “Emissions” in 2012 and digitally published it on Issuu in 2014. Likewise, Hopkinson published “Pieced into Treetops” in 2013 and digitally published it to Issuu in 2014. Lithic Press recently honored Hopkinson by publishing a chapbook she has titled “Footnote” which releases later this month. “Footnote” is a collection of response poems to some of Hopkinson’s favorite artists. This is a form known as ekphrasis and it has a long tradition. One of the earliest examples is John Keats’ poem, “Ode on a Gracian Urn.” I’m excited to check out “Footnote” as soon as I can get my hands on a copy!

As always poets, keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

National Poetry Month

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.

2017npm-poster_0The 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!

Cheers,

Bryan

NaPoWriMo

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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!

Cheers,

Bryan

Contests and Submissions

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!

Cheers,

Bryan