Four Poems Published in the GNU Journal

As I mentioned last week, I am excited to announce GNU, National University’s literary magazine published four of my poems in their Spring/Summer 2017 print issue! I wrote these poems during the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and they are some of my best recent work. If you don’t know about the GNU, according to their WordPress site, “the GNU seeks to create a comprehensive creative platform for both readers and writers.” The GNU goes on to describe content they are interested in:

“Who among us has never enjoyed a genre considered non-literary by some? A great horror story, an engaging science fiction tale, a compelling young adult narrative, a Sunday morning comic (or two). Who is to say these are less important to our culture than writings with a more traditional flair?

It could be argued that one must sample all types of writing in order to gain a panoramic understanding of this delicious literary soup we are lucky enough to savor. Anyway, lovers of great writing will recognize it as such regardless of genre or style. So pull a chair up to our table. That’s right. There is plenty of room and something for everyone. Enjoy.”

One of the reasons I have been hesitant to publish more of my poems on my site here is because some publications refuse to accept any “previously published” poetry. In most cases, this includes online mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. I am putting together a calendar of publications where my poetry is a great fit and I don’t want to jeopardize any future opportunities. At the same time, most publications simply assume first serial rights. However, all rights revert back to contributors upon publication, so I am able to re-publish my work elsewhere providing proper acknowledgment is given to GNU Journal.

These are the four poems, first published in GNU literary journal’s Spring/Summer 2017 issue: Flushed,” “Pünctüosophy,”No, an Anti-Sonnet,” and “To the Lost Ones.”

Keep writing and seeking publication!

Cheers,

Bryan

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

Poetry in Motion

I took another week off from posting. This past week I returned from two weeks in Wisconsin for an Army Officer development school. The Command and General Staff Officer’s Course (CGSOC) is the next level of education for my promotion to Lieutenant Colonel! I met some great Officers, made friends, and learned a great deal. The course itself isn’t difficult with everyone working together, but the reading was intense, lasting until past midnight most days. I needed a break from posting and it has taken me just about an entire week to recuperate.

This blog isn’t about my experiences in the military, but it is a large part of who I am. Not that I feel I need to explain myself. It was a great two weeks. And now – on to the poeming!

~†~

Poetry in Motion
Variations by Federico García Lorca

Poetry in Motion: 100 Poems From the Subways & buses, W. W. Norton & Company, 1996 was one of the first poetry books I remember buying in my youth. Back then I didn’t know Poetry in Motion was a larger scale project from Poetry Society of America. I saw a cool little book sitting on the shelf at Barnes & Noble and flipped through it. As far as short anthologies go, it’s a great introduction to poetry for beginners. It features poets from Dante Alighieri to Langston Hughes to Shel Silverstein and more! Every poem is accessible for any level poet.

Poetry in Motion 2The poems from this book appeared only in New York City as a collaboration between the Poetry Society of America and MTA New York City Transit. There is a second book called Poetry in Motion from Coast to Coast: 120 poems from the subways and the buses which includes poems in subways, buses, and even billboards in Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Fort Collins, Houston, Iowa City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pioneer Valley, and Washington, D.C. I love that this program has made a lasting impact on so many lives around the country! In the introduction to the second book, they quote from a letter written to MTA New York City Transit which has received hundreds of correspondence about the program, “I look forward to riding the subway because I know I’m going to discover a very special poem that will add meaning to my life.”

Poetry in Motion 3I have not been fortunate enough to live in a city that takes poetry seriously enough to post poems in public transportation. This past year, I successfully petitioned Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to sign a proclamation for National Poetry Month, but I’m still working on poetry events. Jacksonville is a huge city with a bustling art scene! We should be able to band together in our common interests and even get other people interested in poetry!

Keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

 

Broadsided Press

Broadside
The most recent broadside. “Thistle” Words by Jennifer Jean. Art by David Bernardy.

If you’ve never heard the term, a broadside is defined by Merriam-Webster as

(1): a sizable sheet of paper printed on one side (2): a sheet printed on one or both sides and folded b: something (such as a ballad) printed on a broadside.

I love when companies or individuals define a word with that word. Sure, a broadside is printed on a broadside! 🙂

Broadsided Press is a great literary magazine working to resurrect the broadside and keep it alive for generations to come. Their website provides a succinct summary for the history of broadsides as well as a nice “About” page explaining their humble, yet far-reaching mission of “putting literature and art on the streets”. One of the coolest things about Broadsided Press is that they offer 229 FREE broadsides for anyone to download, print, and display where they choose!

Check their submission guidelines here and if you have an account, follow them on Submittable.

The final thing I’ll say on this topic (for now) is the Library of Congress has a wonderful collection on broadsides. “Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera” introduces the reader to broadsides, presents historical information, explains their intriguing history, and offers up beautiful examples.

Keep writing and challenge yourself to pair your poems with art! Find an artist or poet to collaborate with. Whether the collaboration is intentional or not, the results could be amazing. It’s not unlike ekphrasis.

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

Prisencolinensinainciusol

This week I had to write about Italian actor/musician Adriano Celentano’s song, “Prisencolinensinainciusol”. I saw it in a comment on a Facebook post recently and after I listened to it once, it remained ricocheting around in my head. Here is the best clip I could find of the song on YouTube. The premise is that Celentano does not speak English. At all. He decided to write a song about what the English language sounds like to Italians. However, there are no Italian words and the only two English words in the song are part of the chorus, “All right”.

What does any of this have to do with poetry? I believe most song lyrics have some poetic qualities. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if there are any recorded lyrics for “Prisencolinensinainciusol”. I found some published on the website LyricWiki. Whether that site, Genius Lyrics, Lyrics Translate, Lyrics Mode, or any of the myriad of other lyrics websites, they all seem to be the same. Maybe they are all drawing from a single source.

The most informative article I found on the song is “It’s Gibberish, But Italian Pop Song Still Means Something” published on NPR on November 4, 2012. There is also a blog published four years earlier through The New Yorker. Sasha Frere-Jones published “Stop Making Sense” on August 12, 2008. They’re great articles if you are interested in some fun, light reading as well as a catchy, clean song.

Along these same lines, I found reference to a short film called “Skwerl”. In a similar premise to “Prisencolinensinainciusol”, “Skwerl” is described as “How English sounds to non-English speakers”. It was written and directed by Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston of the site Brian & Karl. Brian and Karl published a script on Tumblr and as I suspected, “Skwerl” isn’t so much gibberish as it is English words strung together. I would like to see examples of what other languages sound like to English-speakers. Maybe I’ll see if that’s a rabbit hole I can get lost in.

Keep writing and look for more examples of quirky translations and gibberish!

Cheers,

Bryan

Poet Brian Bilston

 

I had no idea this week what I was going to write about. I decided to focus on a unique poet I found recently. Unless I write it down, I never remember how I discover particular poems or poets. It may have been that someone posted or shared on Facebook or reTweeted on the Twitters. I saw the poet’s name attached to an old-timey picture of a pipe-smoking gentleman and I thought nothing of it. Then I saw another post and that, too, passed. Later I tried to remember the name as best I could so I could look him up. I wanted to find him again because of a visual poem I remembered.

One of Bilston’s most recent poems, and the one that I saw, is “Cell”:

 

Bilston, Brian - Cell

I’m not here to critique the individual poems so I will let you read for yourself and make your own judgments. I am impressed how Bilston uses everything at his disposal in fresh ways. To use Microsoft Excel and play with the language in the cells is fun!

Here is another poem in which Bilston plays with Venn diagrams. A Venn diagram, named after John Venn (1834–1923), an English logician is “a diagram representing mathematical or logical sets pictorially as circles or closed curves within an enclosing rectangle (the universal set), common elements of the sets being represented by the areas of overlap among the circles (Google)”.

Bilston, Brian - At the Intersection

Finally, here is a third poem in which Bilston used of the layout on the page to play with words making them look like falling rain. E. E. Cummings used similar techniques with typography. Check out “(IM)C-A-T(MO)” and “l(a” if you are interested. Here is Bilston’s “A Leaky Weekend”:

Bilston, Brian - A Leaky Weekend

I haven’t found much biographical information on Bilston, but that is part of his allure. Actually, Bilston may not even be a male poet, she may be a poetess! Bilston has a WordPress site and this is directly from his “About” page:

“Frequently described as the “Poet Laureate of Twitter”, Brian Bilston is a poet clouded in the pipe smoke of mystery. Very little is known about him other than the fragments of information revealed on social media: his penchant for tank tops, his enjoyment of Vimto, his dislike of Jeremy Clarkson.

In 2014 he became the first person to retain the title of Pipe Smoker of the Year [Poetry section] and, over the years, he has won numerous awards for cycling proficiency, first aid, and general tidiness. He won the 2015 Great British Write Off poetry prize for a poem disguised in a Venn diagram.

His first collection of poetry You Caught the Last Bus Home will be published later this year with Unbound. You can find a short film about it, how to support it, and get your name in the back of it, here:

https://unbound.co.uk/books/brian-bilston

Writing about his own verse, he says:

I write about Waitrose.
And the pitta of Waitrose.
The poetry is in the pitta.

You can find Brian most days on Twitter (@brian_bilston) and also on Facebook (www.facebook.com/BrianBilston/).

I don’t know where all of these titles came from. Robert Lee Brewer was ceremonially dubbed the Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere. Now we have Brian Bilston dubbed the Poet Laureate of Twitter. I checked his social media sites to hunt for an origin story. I found these facts:

  1. Bilston has been blogging since at least November 2013 on WordPress!
  2. He has been on Twitter since August 2013. His short bio on Twitter simply reads: “Ceci n’est pas un poème,” which translates to “this is not a poem.”
  3. The oldest Facebook post I can find from him is November 22, 2014.

I am looking forward to purchasing his book You Caught the Last Bus Home soon!

Have you come across any poets you would like to share?

Cheers,

Bryan

The Time is Now

Poets-writeters-logo

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

footnote-cover
“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