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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The News in Verse

NPR's All Things Considered has a new project called "Newspoet": once a month they will invite a poet to spend the day with them; their guest poet will finish that visit by writing a poem about the day's news. The inaugural poet was Tracy K. Smith (great choice!) who wrote about Nigerian women fleeing the violence that resulted from attacks by a radical Muslim sect in the northern part of their country.

Listen to an interview with Tracy K. Smith about her process of culling a poem from the day's news, and hear or read the project's first completed poem at the link above. You can also read the article that inspired Smith.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Armantrout on PBS

Rae Armantrout was recently featured on PBS's NewsHour Poetry Series, with an interview and a reading you can stream at this link. One of the more intriguing things she says is that what an artist brings to society is the urge to not compartmentalize, but to bring disparate elements together. She cites this as a function of metaphor, among other things. She also discusses self-censorship and her tendency not to keep the personal out of her poetry, despite the fact that many readers perceive language poetry as impersonal.


Happy Anniversary to this Blog

I started blogging exactly one year ago today, so it's my blog's birthday, or anniversary, or something.

In the past year, I've had over 20,000 hits, though for the life of me I can't figure out why or who.

However, my life is heading for some big changes. As of February, I am going back go school part-time, online, to prepare for some of the challenges facing my family. I'm not sure how much time my studies will take, but I know my days will be stretched in a myriad of new ways. Additionally, my sons' activities will double their number of meetings per week starting from the second week in February, further filling up my schedule. Plus my part-time jobs and all. Oh, and last month I started volunteering a couple of days a month.

Basicallly, I suspect that I will be posting less often. And I've been requested to include more information in this blog about my life in Japan, so I am thinking about how to manage that. Anyway, things will be changing.

I hope you'll all continue to check in with me now and again, and I'll try to be here, who knows how often. Thanks for your support thus far.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Joy of Repetition

So in my explorations of UbuWeb this past week, I came across a recording called "Via," made by British poet Caroline Bergvall, in which she reads 55 different translations of the opening verse of Dante's Inferno (you know the one: the first version Bergvall reads is by Dale (1996), "Along the journey of our life, halfway, I found myself again in a dark wood, wherein the straight road no longer lay.") The subtle yet significant differences of the 55 various translations, read successively, is mesmerizing.

This got me to thinking again about the effects of repetition. Actually it had been on my mind all month because of the use of it, to varying effect, in two of the volumes of poetry I read recently.

First, in Butterfly Valley by Inger Christensen, I was entranced by the repetition in the piece called "Watersteps," in which five fountains in Italy are described one time each in seven different sections (for a total of 35 descriptions of the five fountains.) The descriptions are parallel in each section.

For example, in the first section, each fountain is described in its own subsection in five couplets. The first couplet of each fountain's description contains information about when the fountain was built and who the designer was, among other details. The second couplet gives a very brief description of the fountain. The third couplet describes where the voice in the poem is in relation to the fountain while describing it. The fourth couplet introduces a red Jaguar into the scene, a car which reappears in every section. The final couplet describes what light is reflecting off of in the scene.

If all that repetition in detail isn't enchanting enough, the second section starts with its descriptions of the same five fountains in five subsections of five stanzas each, and each stanza not only refers content-wise to the other stanzas in the section, but there is also echoing from the previous section. The effect is that, if you read the description of the second fountain from the first section, and then read the description of the first fountain in the second section, you can reasonably guess what kind of information and detail will be included in the second stanza of the second section to describe the second fountain. Not word for word, of course, but you can predict the content, and that anticipation and its realization are deeply satisfying.

And it just gets more recursive as you go through all seven sections, with the red Jaguar reappearing, the fountain architects showing up again and again, the light reflecting of this object and that, and the sections building on one another so that the reader's expectations build and build. In fact, although one might expect this amount of repetition to be dull, in fact the reality is quite the opposite: it's thrilling to anticipate. I found myself holding my breath a number of times through the reading.

The other book I read recently using repetition as a formal element was H. L. Hix's Chromatics. In particular, there is a long piece called "The Well-Tempered Clavier" containing a succession of shorter pieces titled by using the following template, "Prelude and Fugue No. X in (Key)"; for example the first piece  is "Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C."

Obviously you expect repetition in a fugue, and you get it here. And while the word choices are, as usual with Hix, gorgeously precise, the effect of the repetition is not, for me at least in most of its instances, particularly useful. In fact, in a few cases it is merely annoying, sounding almost like filler. (By the way, I'd like to reassure you that I am a big fan of Hix, and find much to like in this book, but just don't find the fugue structure as interesting as I'd expected to. This book was actually a finalist for the National Book Awards; to see a more complete representation of the book and a sample poem, see the NBA website.)

So what is the difference? When is repetition useful (evocative, or joyous even) and when is it not, especially formal repetition? I probably shouldn't be attempting to blog about this yet, because I haven't got a definitive answer. But it seems to me that at the least, repetition as a pattern should build an expectation in the reader. And while Hix does repeat, he does so in a scattershot way that is not satisfying to me. But which another reader might find very pleasing while simultaneously finding Christensen's predictable use of recursion to be overdone, overbearing even.

I suppose it's a matter of temperment. And today my preference shows.

JWC 2012

The 2012 Japan Writers Conference will be held November 10th and 11th in Kyoto. Below see the announcement and the call for proposals. I have deleted the contact information of the organizers, but if you wish to contact either of them to submit a proposal, please contact me directly and I will give you that information.

The official announcement begins now:


This year the Japan Writers Conference will return to Kyoto and the beautiful Imadegawa campus of Doshisha Women’s College. It will take place on November 10th and 11th, 2012. Please mark your calendar and plan to join us. This will be the sixth conference and while each has had its own special flavor, all have been successes in the eyes of the attendees.

This is also a call for presentation proposals. All published writers, translators, editors, agents and publishers who would like to lead a session are invited to submit proposals. Those who have presented at past conferences are (of course) welcome to submit new proposals. But we especially encourage proposals from new submitters. One of the strengths of the past Conferences has been variety, and the best way to foster variety is to feature new presenters each year.

Please forward this to any friend or colleague who might be interested. If you know someone the conference organizers might approach—either living in Japan or planning to visit Japan next autumn—please send us your suggestion. If you have contact information, that would be a great help.

Detailed information follows, but briefly, a proposal needs to include a brief bio, including some publication credits, the type of presentation you wish to make, a title, a summery of 50 words, a longer abstract (150 words) and any special requests you might have. Standard sessions are fifty minutes long, but if you have something special in mind, please let us know and we will accommodate if possible.

Presentations on all genres and all aspects of writing and publishing are welcome. The deadline for presentation proposals is June 1, 2012.

It would also be good to have one more face/voice/body involved with the organization and operation of the Conference on an on-going basis. If you’re interested, please drop John and Bern an email. Our addresses are below.

As in the past, the Conference will be free and open to all who wish to attend. This is possible because all the presenters and organizing staff volunteer their time and talent, and the use of the site is donated by the hosting institution. As a result, the Conference cannot offer any payment, reimbursement, lodging, or help in securing visas or travel permits. So please don’t ask.

Proposal Guidelines

When planning your proposal, keep your audience in mind. Your listeners will be writers and others (translators, editors, publishers, and agents) concerned with creating the published written word. While teaching, literary studies and private self-expression are certainly worthy activities, they are not the focus of this Conference. Ask yourself as a writer or other word professional these questions:

What information do you have which could be useful to others?
What writing, rewriting, editing, or marketing techniques have worked for you?
What topic would make for a lively and enlightening discussion?
What publishing or other professional opportunities do you know about?
What will an attendee take away from your fifty-minute session that he or she will find worthwhile?

You may submit more than one proposal.

The only qualification one needs to be a presenter is to have published. This does not mean that you need to have published a lot or in some high-profile journal. Your book (if you have a book) does not have to be on a best seller list. You do not have to have won any awards or to have appeared on TV. You simply need to have written, edited, translated, or otherwise worked on a piece of writing which has made it to the public eye. That is, published.

Proposal Deadline and Format

 Using the following format, please send your ideas for a presentation by June 1, 2012. Send your proposal in the body of an email (no attachments) to both these addresses:

 *****I (Jessica) have deleted these addresses here. If you wish to contact either John or Bern, please email me and I will provide you with their contact information.******

In your subject line give your name, “JWC,” and the date.
In the body of the email, give:
1. Your name (or names)
2. Contact information (email, telephone. These remain confidential.)
3. Your publications (Need not be complete, but give names of journals and genre for short pieces; title, publisher and date for books; venues and dates for plays, and so on)
4. Title of presentation. (20 words or less)
5. Type of presentation (short lecture with Q&A, craft workshop, panel discussion, reading with Q&A, etc.)
6. Short summary of the presentation (50 words or less)
7. Abstract of the presentation (150 words or less)
8. Personal and professional biography (50 words or less. Make mention of your publications, as this will be part of the Conference program)
9. Anything else, such as special equipment needs or questions.

Your proposal doesn’t have to be a “finished” document to submit. There will be time to shape and polish your ideas for a presentation. But there are a set number of session slots available and if you are interested in having one of them, please let us know soon. Again, the deadline is June 1, 2012.

John Gribble
Bern Mulvey
Co Co-ordinators,
2012 Japan Writers Conference

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hello Kitty Tells All


Here's a book I never thought I'd see: Hello Kitty's bilingual guide to Japanese culture. Check out this interesting review by Nathalie-Kyoko Stucky at the Japan Subculture Research Center's blog, and see how Hello Kitty (whose last name is really White, who knew?) explains Japanese funeral etiquette among other topics.
As frivolous as this cover looks, this book might be a good introduction for foreigners wanting to learn about Japanese life while reinforcing their basic grasp of the language.

And no, it wasn't really written by Hello Kitty, but by Koji Kuwabara.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More Anne Carson

Anne Carson at the Walker Art Center last November read prose, poetry, and excerpts from her recent boxed-book-elegy Nox. Experience the video. Breathtaking.

Photo by New York Magazine

I can never hear enough of Anne Carson reading her work.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thx to Alexander Long

Only now just found out that poet Alexander Long named The Insomniac's Weather Report as one of his favorite poetry books of the year for 2011. (Explains that spike in pageviews last month....)

Thank you, Alexander Long!

Monday, January 23, 2012


Do you know about UbuWeb? Here's an explanation from their own website: "UbuWeb was founded in November of 1996, initially as a repository for visual, concrete and, later, sound poetry. Over the years, UbuWeb has embraced all forms of the avant-garde and beyond. Its parameters continue to expand in all directions."

And here's their pricing policy: "Nothing is for sale on UbuWeb. It's all free. We know it's a hard idea to get used to, but there's no lush gift shop waiting for you at the end of this museum."

One of the great things you can do at UbuWeb is download pdfs of poetry books by writers such as Juliana Spahr, Christian Bok, Aaron Kunin, Ron Silliman, and Rosemarie Waldrop.

And here are their podcasts. And their ethnopoetics page. You can download films and videos too. And their homepage listing all their resources.

Warning: Don't link to UbuWeb unless you have a lot of free time, and I mean immediately free time.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Poet Stalker

I have a confession to make: I am a poet stalker. There's this poet whose manuscript showed up multiple times as a finalist on the same lists as mine. We placed our manuscripts within days of one another. I started noticing his poems in many of the journals my poems appeared in. Then, when scoping out journals to see if they would be a good fit for my work (yes, I know it's supposed to be the other way around, but honestly that's how I think when I'm scoping), I would often happen across journals he had already published in, and then I would try them, thinking that maybe if they like him, they'll like me. That has resulted in a 100% acceptance rate in that subgroup of lit mags (that is, any journal that has previously published him and that I subsequently submitted to has, up until and including now, accepted the work I sent them).

Now I find myself watching for places he publishes, and targeting those journals based largely on his acceptances. I am a poet stalker! I scare myself a little bit! I bet it would scare him if he knew!

Do you do this? Or am I as crazy as I think I might be?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Puzzle Me This

I just love little puzzles like the following one my dad sent me the other day:


It takes a few seconds for your brain to recognize that the numbers almost "resemble" letters they represent.----Hope your brain can pick up on it.

If you can read this you have a 'strong and healthy' brain: 7H15 M3554G3 53RV35 7O PR0V3 H0W 0UR BR41N C4N D0 4M4Z1NG 7H1NG5! 1MPR3551V3 7H1NG5!

1N 7H3 B3G1NN1NG 17 WA5 H4RD; BU7 N0W, 0N 7H15 LIN3, Y0UR BR41N 1S R34D1NG 17 4U70M471C4LLY W17H0U7 3V3N 7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17.

B3 PROUD! 0NLY C3R741N P30PL3 C4N R3AD 7H15. PL3453 F0RW4RD 7O OTH3R5 1F U C4N R34D 7H15 .........


I'm one of those people who love letters and numbers just about equally. This makes my day.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Record Times

Yesterday I got my first acceptance of the year, three poems accepted by one mag. Yippee. Plus it was a record turnaround time: I sent the poems via email on Tuesday afternoon, and received an acceptance on Thursday morning.

What's your shortest (and longest) waiting time ever?

Mascara for Asian American Poets

I got this directly (word-for-word) from the CRWOPPS-B list. Here's how to subscribe, if you don't already (your really should!)


Call for Asian American Poetry

Mascara Literary Review will publish a special issue of Asian American poetry in July 2012. To be guest-edited by Jee Leong Koh, the issue aims to present the vitality of poetry written by Asian American poets now. Essays and reviews are also welcomed, but please query the editor first with a writing proposal.

A bi-annual literary journal founded in 2007, Mascara is particularly interested in the work of contemporary Asian, Australian and Indigenous writers. The journal is supported by the Australian Council for the Arts and the National Library of Australia. It now receives 5000-7000 visits per month from 70 countries.

Submissions to Mascara Literary Review are by e-mail. Only previously unpublished work will be considered. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable as long as you notify us immediately of an acceptance elsewhere.

Send 3-5 poems and a short bio in a single Microsoft Word doc as an attachment, labeled with your name. Write “Asian American poetry” in the subject title of your e-mail. Our response time is 3-6 months. Please do not query before 3 months. Send your work to <submissions( at)mascarareview .com> (replace (at) with @ in sending e-mail). The deadline for submissions is March 31, 2012.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Versal's Values

So yesterday I went to submit to Versal, who last year had given me an encouraging note suggesting I submit again, and discovered that like The Los Angeles Review, they too have instituted a reading fee (theirs is $2 compared to LAR's $3). Then I found that the staff at Versal have been discussing their new policy on their blog (post quoted below by Megan M. Garr) and have analyzed their submission post-policy as follows:

1. "Overall, submissions were down 39%...And though it's impossible to pin down the exact cause of the lower submissions, we strongly suspect the lower numbers were due to Duotrope's no-fee policy: that it will not list journals that charge fees. The numbers support this hunch: we received a major boost during our Free Week in October, when Duotrope listed us as open, and another large deluge starting Friday, January 13 when Duotrope changed its listing policy (what brought about its change of heart?) and Versal was again listed as an open market."

2. I also found out how they plan to use a portion of the fee-generated funds: "220 writers and artists chose to add an additional $1 to their submission fee, which will be matched by Versal and the total funds divided equally among all contributors to the new issue. As we've stated elsewhere, this is our small but important step towards paying the people who make Versal great. Total donations from writers and artists: $220; total matched funds from Versal: $220; total funds to be equally divided among our contributors: $440."

This explanation makes me feel a little better about the whole fee thing, which I was feeling conflicted about before (see the LAR fee post linked above). What do you think?

Hear the Rattle

Don't forget about RATTLE's audio archives, with now nearly 300 poems uploaded. This is useful to listen to before giving a poetry reading, particularly if you don't have a lot of experience reading poetry aloud.

Do you have any favorite audio archives online?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Post-Publication Book Award Update

One more post-publication book award here:


Feb. 1 is the deadline for submitting books to the Society of Midland Authors Literary Competition. The Society presents awards of cash and recognition plaques to the winners.

There is no entry fee and the author need not be a member of the SMA. The book must have been published in 2011 by a recognized publishing house and the author must reside in, be born in, or have strong ties to one of the 12 Midland states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin). The categories are Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, Biography, Children's Fiction, Children's Nonfiction and Poetry.

Visit our website for the contest rules, a list of contest judges and a printable entry form.


For my original blog listing post-publication book contests, link here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Poets Who Parent

Poet Todd Fredson, partner to poet Sarah Vap, posts at the Passages North blog Writers on Writing about how parenting has changed his writing. He recalls being told by poet Albert Rios, about parenting and writing, "You won't believe how much you will be able to get done!"

Does that sound different from your practice as a parent/poet? (It sounds a lot different than mine!) Then check out Fredson's comments for a look at how he uses his time with children to keep his writing moments to a shorter period, but his turning-over-ideas/lines-in-his-head to a longer term. See the other ways he thinks that parenting has enriched his writing by teaching him to be less fasitidious, hesitant, and prone to self-rebuttal.

As for how content has changed for Fredson as well as practice, click on the above link.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Murakami Around the World

Flavorwire has today provided me with the most fun I've had in a long time. In honor of Haruki Murakami's birthday (which apparently is 1/12, and therefore already finished in Japan, and likely nearly done or all done for the year where you are too), they have put together different book covers of his novels from editions all over the world. Compare the Vietnamese cover of Kafka On the Shore to the German one, for example. See which country's style you tend to favor. I found the Israeli covers largely sympathetic, for instance, and would never have known that otherwise. See many different Murakami covers here, and I'll paste some of my favorites below.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles covers are lots of fun for me, because I have a passion for bird imagery. Check these out:
Israeli edition

 Turkish ediiton

Slovakian edition

More bird imagery in the Vietnamese edition of Kafka on the Shore:

Here are the Russian A Wild Sheep Chase covers:

Creativity for Everyone

You've probably seen this article about creativity from Psychology Today online, as creative people all over the internet are madly linking to it today. It's called "Twelve Things You Were Not Taught in School About Creative Thinking," by Michael Michalko, and here are a few of the points that hit me the hardest.

1. You are creative. The artist is not a special person, each one of us is a special kind of artist. Every one of us is born a creative, spontaneous thinker. The only difference between people who are creative and people who are not is a simple belief. Creative people believe they are creative. People who believe they are not creative, are not.

3. You must go through the motions of being creative. When you are producing ideas, you are replenishing neurotransmitters linked to genes that are being turned on and off in response to what your brain is doing, which in turn is responding to challenges. When you go through the motions of trying to come up with new ideas, you are energizing your brain by increasing the number of contacts between neurons.

7. Expect the experts to be negative. The more expert and specialized a person becomes, the more their mindset becomes narrowed and the more fixated they become on confirming what they believe to be absolute. Consequently, when confronted with new and different ideas, their focus will be on conformity. Does it conform with what I know is right?

9. There is no such thing as failure. Whenever you try to do something and do not succeed, you do not fail. You have learned something that does not work.

10. You do not see things as they are; you see them as you are. Interpret your own experiences. All experiences are neutral. They have no meaning. You give them meaning by the way you choose to interpret them. If you are a priest, you see evidence of God everywhere. If you are an atheist, you see the absence of God everywhere. IBM observed that no one in the world had a personal computer. IBM interpreted this to mean there was no market. College dropouts, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, looked at the same absence of personal computers and saw a massive opportunity.

11. Always approach a problem on its own terms. Do not trust your first perspective of a problem as it will be too biased toward your usual way of thinking.

Michalko wound up with this conclusion: "And, finally, Creativity is paradoxical. To create, a person must have knowledge but forget the knowledge, must see unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder, must work hard but spend time doing nothing as information incubates, must create many ideas yet most of them are useless, must look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different, must desire success but embrace failure, must be persistent but not stubborn, and must listen to experts but know how to disregard them."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Art & Fear II

A few more quotes from Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art-Making by David Bayles and Ted Orland.

"The difficulties artmakers face are not remote and heroic, but universal and familiar."

"Art is made by ordinary people....This is a giant hint about art, because it suggests that our flaws and weaknesses, while often obstacles to our getting work done, are a source of strength as well. Something about making art has to do with overcoming things, giving us a clear opportunity for doing things in ways we have always known we should do them."

"The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars. One of the basic and difficult lessons every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kanji of the Year

2011's Kanji of the Year is (drum roll please).... 絆 (kizuna, bonds, here meaning "human bonds").

Every year the Japanese Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation conducts a public poll to determine which kanji (or character in the Japanese language) best represents the essence of the year. Voting participation for 2011 was double that of the previous year, likely due to the devastating earthquake/tsunami/radioactive accident that pulled the Japanese people together, as disaster so often does.

To read an article by Mary Sisk Noguchi in the Japan Times Online about runners-up in the 2011 Kanji of the Year poll, click on the link.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reading Fees-ability

Recently The Los Angeles Review announced a new online submissions reading fee of $3. It's only one of many journals to institute such a policy lately. However, in contrast with some others, recognizing that charges could burden some writers, The Los Angeles Review is leaving open the option for postal submissions, free of a reading fee. (And they nicely explain the way fees will be spent, including on a literary outreach program.)

So, does this new trend affect you? Living abroad I pay substantial amounts in postage both for my poetry packets and for return postage when sending by snail mail. Even $3 reading fees are generally cheaper, so I am still ahead of where I was a few years ago, though not doing as well as when journals switched to online submissions free of charge. But I won't complain. I wonder though, how domestic submitters feel about these charges.

I also don't mind supporting literary journals by paying small fees (better the money go to them than the post office, though I think the post office is an amazing institution), but I'd really rather save my money and spend it on a subscription. The fees will definitely add up and the cash will have to come from somewhere; I've got to remember how I was budgeting for it pre-online submissions.

On the other hand, fees may winnow out the less serious competition. Maybe? Of course, it might discourage me from making long-shot submissions as well.

I'm not really complaining, just wondering how others feel. I got an encouraging rejection from the LAR last fall and am planning to submit new work to them, but this time it's going to cost me a bit (though previous contributors and current subscribers can still submit feelessly online--an incentive? However, I can't afford to be so incentivized every time I submit.)


Monday, January 9, 2012

Novelist's Novel Strategy

The NPR story of young novelist Amanda Hocking who couldn't attract an agent, but sold more than 1 million ebooks via Kindle, making her more than that number of dollars, is available here. She advocates a work ethic for writing. See if this is the strategy for you, assuming you're a novelist, I guess. (Though I'd love to see a poet do it.)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Unparallelled Joy

I've been reading Liz Waldner's A Point Is That Which Has No Part, and I came across this alernative spelling: "parallel llines." It's from the poem "Welling" on page 42.

Look carefully--you'll see it. And please don't tell me this is a printing error; not with Waldner's sense of wordplay throughout the entire poem. It couldn't be.

This delights me in a way that few other things ever have. In fact, from now on I am holding this is my secret place of things I pull out when I am in despair and need a pleasing thought. There is only one other item in that cache, something I discovered when I was 14 years old, and which I do not allow myself to recall very often, only in times of dire need.

That's how much this piece of cleverness pleases me. Thank you, Liz Waldner.

(And yes, I know Americans spell 'unparalleled' with only one 'l' in the second 'l' series, because it's an unaccented syllable, but the British spell it 'unparallelled,' and today I feel like all the double letters I can get.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Eroticism & Cash

Two upcoming deadlines:

Tupelo Press is looking for erotic poetry due by (when else?) Valentine's Day. Check out this link.

Also, the Sustainable Arts Foundation is now accepting applications for its spring awards (due March 1). These awards are for artist-parents and parent-artists. See the following post for explanations. (And I guess you if you read (or write) too much erotic poetry, you might soon need a Sustainable Arts Foundation grant.)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Art Imitating Life

Ryoanji (2010)

This is the Zen rock garden Ryoanji carved out of the top of a vintage (Japanese) book. This work and more by Guy Laramee can be seen at his website.

Including work like the following:

Thanks to Flavorwire for the article that originally made me aware of Laramee's work.

Residing in my Dreams

I've never been to a writers' retreat or been awarded an artist's residency, and due to my particular geographical and personal situation, those experiences will not be within my reach for quite a few more years. I do sometimes wonder what I'm missing, so I enjoyed this article in Slate by Jan Swafford, called "Life in the Colonies." Who knew there were unspoken rules limiting self-promotion (though thank goodness for them) and other expectations of behavior?

Those of you with experience in artist colonies, retreats, and residencies, I'd love to hear about your experiences and assessments of the opportunities. Upside and downside and plain old anecdotes welcome.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Art & Fear

Cover Image: Art & Fear

Recently I've been reading this great book Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils and Rewards of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland.

Below are a few quotes from the chapter of art and craft:

"Artists who need ongoing reassurance that they're on the right track routinely seek out challenges that offer the clear goals and measurable feedback--which is to say, technical challenges. The underlying problem with this is not that the pursuit of technical excellence is wrong, exactly, but simply that making it the primary goal puts the cart before the horse. We do not long remember those artists who followed the rules more diligently than anyone else. We remember those who made the art from which the "rules" inevitably follow."

"But while mastering technique is difficult and time-consuming, it's still inherently easier to reach an already defined goal--a "right answer"--than to give form to a new idea. It's easier to paint in the angel's feet to another's masterwork than to discover where the angels live within yourself."

"In essence, art lies embedded in the conceptual leap between pieces, not in the pieces themselves. And simply put, there's a greater conceptual jump from one work of art to the next than from one work of craft to the next. The net result is that art is less polished--but more innovative---than craft."

" real difference between art and craft: with craft, perfection is possible."

"Yet curiously, the progression of most artists' work over time is a progression from art toward craft."

"...your job as an artist is to push craft to its limits--without being trapped by it. The trap is perfection: unless your work continually generates new and unresolved issues, there's no reason for the next work to be any different from the last. The difference between art and craft lies not in the tools you hold in your hands, but in the mental set that guides them. For the artisan, craft is an end in itself. For you, the artist, craft is the vehicle for expressing your vision. Craft is the visible edge of art."

And from the section on fears about yourself:

"If you think good work is somehow synonymous with perfect work, you are headed for big trouble. Art is human; error is human; ergo, art is error. Inevitably, your work (like, uh, the preceding syllogism...) will be flawed. Why? Because you're a human being..."

"...imperfection is not only a common ingredient in art, but very likely an essential ingredient."

"For you, the seed for your next art work lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece. Such imperfections (or mistakes, if you're feeling particularly depressed about them today) are your guides--valuable, reliable, objective, non-judgmental guides--to matter you need to reconsider or develop further."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

First Book for >39 Crowd

The Emily Dickenson First Book Award, offered by the Poetry Foundation to a poet OVER 40 years of age (or 40 years of age) who has not yet published a first book of poetry (and is a US citizen), has a deadline of 2/17/12 (but submissions can be postmarked as early as 1/16/12). And guess what, no entrance fee! There are so many awards available for younger poets, so this as a contrast is refreshing to learn about! See full guidelines at the link above.

Monday, January 2, 2012

In Praise of Lenovo

So one exciting thing that happened to kick off my New Year's Eve Day was that my brother-in-law ran his minivan over my laptop. Don't ask how it happened. It was a moment of chaos where any number of things could have gone seriously wrong (things worse than a ruined laptop, which is bad enough), and nothing did, for which I am extremely grateful.

It was with trepidation that I took my Lenovo ThinkPad out of its carrying case to find no visible damage to its body. There had been some paperback books stacked on top of the laptop in the carrying case, which may have helped (thank you Andrei Codrescu, Beth Ann Fennelly, and David Bottoms). Then I opened the laptop and turned it on. It immediately began sending me messages about restarting the system and the trauma it had suffered (okay, trauma is my word, not its, but it "knew" something bad had happend) and some of the keys were stuck in the down position. I unstuck all the keys, answered the questions of the start-up program, rebooted it, and....everything is working fine. It's two days later and still, no problems.

So I just wanted to praise and thank Lenovo (who bought this line from IBM and apparently haven't changed anything about the system) for their durable product. And I want to remind everyone to back up their files more often than ever...I hadn't backed up about a week's worth of work, and will not let it go that long again. Also, if you are in Japan and want to buy a computer with an English OS, Lenovo has them (and Dell too...I've had one of each...the Lenovo is far superior).

I plan to be more grateful this year, and to express my gratitude more often, and here's one of my first chances.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2 Disparate Ways to Begin the New Year

If you are beginning the New Year by relaxing, you might want to take a look at this post at Patrick Ross's blog The Artist's Road, explaining how doing nothing inspires creativity. Or, since this blog contains bullet points from the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Residency Program's New Year's Eve event called "The Importance of Wasting Time," featuring writers Connie Joy Fowler and Patrick Madden, you can go to the Facebook Event Page to see people's responses.

On the other hand, if you feel like doing something rather than nothing, consider checking out the She Writes blog post about where to find writer's grants. Broken into helpful categories, a plethora of links are available helping you identify the grant that could be your match.  For advice about applying and an explanation of how winning grants leads to winning more grants, check out this useful link.