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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

My mother had a school friend born on Leap Day. When the friend was sixteen, her pals threw her a birthday party for her fourth birthday, pin-the-tale-on-the-donkey and all. The gifts were suitable for the number of actual birthdays she'd had as well.

My mom used to tell us this story every Leap Year, and I always thought to myself, "Actually Leap Day would be a good day to die." Now that I'm older I realize that it probably wouldn't be a relief to family and friends not to have the actual anniversary of your death every year; in fact it might make the loss even worse, not having a day to remember the person who was no longer there.

I guess we'll find out. Though I don't believe in stuff like this, I feel like I've cursed this day a bit. My husband's aunt (on his mother's side, aged 91) has been gravely ill for weeks, and last night the doctors called the family to come in, as they said she would probably not survive the night and if she did, would not make it through today. (As of now, she is still with us.) And this morning my husband's uncle (on his father's side, late 80s) suddenly passed away. I didn't know this uncle, but did know fairly well the aunt, a brave and guileless woman with a convoluted lifestory I couldn't have made up if I'd tried.

Obviously I didn't cause this with my glib comments about dying on Leap Day, but I still feel weirdly creeped out and guilty. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wear Your Art on Your Sleeve

How cool is this wearable art by Morphik, featuring the work of  some eighteen artists, including one of my favorites, Maggie Taylor? Plus proceeds are used to support programs in the arts , such as  the Harmony Project, which provides (free of charge) musical instruments and lessons to underserved children in Los Angeles.

Check it out.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Three at Thrush

Thrush Poetry Journal has their March edition up and online, and I'm pleased to have three poems in it, alongside work by Ocean Vuong, Traci Brimhall, and Nate Pritts. I have really enjoyed the poems published at Thrush since its recent inception, and find it, along with the Sugar House Review, to be an online journal worth watching.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rainy Saturday Afternoon

I spent this afternoon the way I spend a part of each day five days of the week: waiting for my kids to get out of activities. And while I wait, I go to the public library with my notebook and work on poems. People ask me why I don't go to a coffee shop instead, and the reason is the music. I have a hard time listening passively to music, and don't concentrate well when it's playing. So it's the library for me, where the sounds never get louder than the sliding of a chair across the floor, or the flipping-through-a-newspaper noise.

Our local library has some extra color. On cold, rainy, windy, or snowy days it becomes a haven for homeless people. That means I can always get a seat at one of the two-person desks that line the walls of the library, because it seems that a lot of people don't want to sit next to a homeless person. And I know why: the odor. But I can put up with it to have an actual desk to work at. The library welcomes the down-and-out as long as they don't sleep; then they are politely asked to leave. When I am parked at a desk with a homeless person who nods off, I get up and down, scrape my chair on the ground, and jostle the table in an attempt to wake them up and keep them safe and warm a little longer. It doesn't always work, and I don't reach over and shake them awake; I don't know why.

Another feature that the library has over Starbucks is the plethora of feral cats that play outside the floor-to-length windows. That's always good for a few-minutes' break when writing.

This week I'm working on a poem about benign positional vertigo, which I have. I don't know if it's because I'm thinking about it, or because I had a stomach bug earlier this week and am still not feeling my best (plus nausea in my mind is linked with vertigo), but I've had more than my usual episodes of vertigo this week. This happens when I'm under stress or not feeling well, but I do wonder if thinking about metaphors for vertigo has brought on a few attacks. Incentive to get this poem finished up. And I can always use some incentive.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Cat's Table's the Cat's Meow

The Cat's TableThis blog is at risk of turning into a look-at-the-cool-thing-I-found-on-the-web report, but today is not the day that is going to get remedied. In fact today I have a charming podcast for you that I don't have time to rewind and relisten to in order to get the quotes word-perfect, but it's so enjoyable I'm going to post it anyway, with my own (probably egregious) paraphrasing.

This is an interview of Michael Ondaatje by Carolyn Forche, together with a reading by Ondaatje from his new novel The Cat's Table, all sponsored by the Lannan Foundation.

In her introduction, Forche says of Ondaatje, "He resists all manner of systematic thought," and I realized in that characterization my secret and ungraspable aim revealed.

One quote from the novel that made me catch my breath was, "We were not safe at all. There was no sense of time."

Well worth the over-an-hour listen, which you can also download from iTunes. (In fact, you can subscribe to the Lannan Foundation Series on iTunes, and it's nearly always a great listen.)

Read & Repeat

Although I'm a big fan of repetition in writing (as you know by now), I don't tend to re-read books other than poetry books. But here's an article in the Daily Mail Online Science and Tech Blog by Rob Waugh about the mental health benefits of re-reading books. Apparently, during the first read-through, preoccupation with storyline and plot is the focus, while in subsequent readings emotional engagement, with all its positive benefits, becomes key.

And this is true in other aspects of life, such as in re-viewing movies and vacationing in the same place more than once. Old positive emotions are pulled in to the most recent experience, resulting in self-reflection and personal growth.

I KNEW my penchant for repetition had to be good for something!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Not Dunn Yet

Station WCHE (from West Chester, PA, only minutes by car from where I grew up) comes this podcast interview with poet Stephen Dunn, by host Steven Brodsky on The Entertainment and Culture Show.

Dunn talks about how when writing in the first person, he tries to be bored with himself but to choose topics that interest him. He also says, "I'm not into a poem until the first moment I 've startled myself, till I say something I didn't know I could say. Then I feel I could go further. But I'm not interested in poem as autobiography at all, even though collectively one can see a life. I would think one could make certain assumptions about my life, I suspect."

Another recurring point of discussion is how often the last lines of a poem get juxtaposed with a stronger line from a previous draft, or replaced entirely. He gives examples, which is quite useful as a craft point.

When asked how he has been able to be so prolific and yet keep so fresh, Dunn mentions a book of essays currently being compiled about his work, as written by other prominent contemporary poets. "I haven't known what I was doing for years, and maybe that's why I can keep going forward. Right now there's a danger of somebody describing to me very accurately, it seems, what I do in poems, and the impulse to do that again is very strong, once you know what you're doing."

His discussions of the costs and payoffs of writing poetry, "giving over your whole life," is something that anyone who wants to be a serious poet should consider. (This discussion comes just past the 20-minute mark of the podcast.)

Interestingly, he refers to the revision process as "your coldest eye." 

"You need to think of yourself as makers rather than as utterers, and if you do, there's a chance you may find something that's your own," he says in part of his response about how he encourages students to find their own voices (which he finds less important than staying limber as an artist: "I don't encourage them to find their voices, I encourage them to take themselves seriously, as other artists do. Poets are famous for being happy with their feelings, and very few other artists think that way. If you want to be a dancer, you have to be limber.")

He closed the podcast by reading "If a Clown," which you can enjoy here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Books and Birds

Photo from the Honolulu Zoo website

The only good thing about having a really bad headcold is that I don't want to do anything active, so here I am at my blog sharing a few fun things with you.

First of all, check out Brian Dettmer's altered books. What this guy does with a surgical knives to turn books and maps into wildly original pieces of arts is indescribable. Click on the link, and then in the menu at the top, select "Images" and you will have an eyeful.

Second, one of my favorite birds in Japan is called the mejiro, which means "white eye" (me, pronounced may, is eye, and jiro, pronounced jeero, is the combination form of the word for white (shiro)). We have mejiro in the early spring in the bushes and trees around our place, and I love them for their unusual green color. I was in fact surprised to learn their name from a neighbor, as the white circles around their eyes are not the features that stood out to me. Anyway, this week I noticed that the mejiro is the bird on the 50-yen stamp, which you can see here. When drawn, the white circles do seem more prominent than in nature.
Click to Enlarge
Photo from Honolulu Zoo website

Above you can see two photos of mejiro from the Honolulu Zoo website.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Origami Poems

This is from the CRWOPPS list. If I've told you once, I've told you a dozen times, you should subscribe.

See the listing below for The Origami Poems Project.


The Origami Poems Project announces its first annual Poetry Month Celebration Contest. Poems selected will be issued in Origami Collaborative micro-chapbooks this spring. There are 2 themes for these books: Music - and - Kindness

We will create at least two books of 5 – 6 poems each per theme. (Perhaps more than one book per theme - our Poetic license allows this.)

There is no fee for this contest but your submission is priceless to us. Our prize is also priceless - but the selected poets will receive 5 copies of the book in which your poem appears.! Imagine, getting a snail-mail of an Origami book with your poem – very exciting!

Non-Rules Rules:

1. Poem should be around 23 lines long, including Title and Spaces.

2. Poem’s Line Length should be around 47 characters (which includes spaces between letters).

3. Poet may submit up to three poems per theme in the body of an email. Please indicate into which category your poem(s) applies.

4. Unpublished and previously published pieces are welcome. If a piece was published elsewhere, ask nicely for the relevant permissions to reprint. For all selected poems, copyright will revert to the authors. yada yada.

5. Email must reach us by Saturday, March 10th. Subject: Poetry Celebration (or some such wording)
Our poetry-welcoming email address: <origami.submission (at)gmail. com> (replace (at) with @).
6. Selected poems will be announced via email, on our website, and our Facebook page, Monday, April 2, 2012.

Queries should be emailed to the managing editors (us) at:
<origamipoems( at)gmail. com> (replace (at) with @ in sending e-mail)

These submission requirements will soon be posted on our website: www.origamipoems. com


Even if you don't want to enter the contest, you should go to the website and see the many tiny books of poems you can print out and fold yourself that are already available. Very clever.

Hurrah for Friends

My friends are up to amazing things.

First, my friend Tracy Slater runs a reading series in Boston and also Osaka/Tokyo called Four Stories. It has been nominated by the Boston Phoenix for the best storytelling series in Boston, so vote for Four Stories, if you are so inclined. You can hear some of the readings (including a few of mine) by downloading MP3s of events at the Four Stories website.

Second, my friend Shannon Borg has a blog, 26 Kitchens, that this week got a mention in the New York Times Dining & Wine section. Shannon writes about her memories of the kitchens in her life, including the one we shared as roommates of yore.

So proud of my friends!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Love is Like...99 Things

For Valentine's Day, put together a list of 99 metaphors for love. Here are a few of my favorites:

A Pilgrimage
Real love is a pilgrimage. It happens when there is no strategy, but it is very rare because most people are strategists.
(Anita Brookner, interview with Olga Kenyon, 1989)

A Bull
Happiness is the china shop; love is the bull.
(H.L. Mencken, A Little Book in C Major, 1916)

An Exploding Cigar
Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke.
(Lynda Barry)

A Mental Disease
Love is a grave mental disease.

A Migraine
Love is a universal migraine.
A bright stain on the vision
Blotting out reason.
(Robert Graves, "Symptoms of Love")

A Crocodile
Love is a crocodile in the river of desire.
(Bhartṛhari, Śatakatraya, 5th century)

A Foreigner
Love is the bright foreigner, the foreign self.
(Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals, 1849)

This last one is, for obvious reasons, my favorite. And it was #88, the number of keys on a piano. I swoon.

And if that isn't enough for your Valentine's Day, also has 100 similes for the word "sweet."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Think Globally, Quack Locally

When I was a kid, my parents got the Reader's Digest, and I remember reading in it an anecdote sent in by a contributor about how she was at the park and saw a man feeding squirrels, and talking to the squirrels in Spanish, and how she thought to herself, "Well, that's silly. Squirrels don't understand Spanish. They understand English."

Given that I had been exposed to this idea in my youth, you would think that when I moved to Japan I wouldn't have been surprised to discover that onomatopoeic words used to describe animal noises here can often be different from the ones I grew up using. And yet I was surprised. That's how deep my English-centrism ran (and unfortunately still tends to run). I actually had just never thought that deeply about it, I suppose.

Here's a great site that shows animal noises spoken by children from all over the world, Click on the animal you want to hear, and a screen will pop up with the animal colored in with the flags of countries they have samples from. Enjoy the sound of the rooster from Korea, for example, or the snake from Pakistan. There are also a few transportation noises available. If you have kids of the right age, this site welcomes their submissions as well.

Another similar site is The Quack-Project. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Small World of Words

If you love words and marvel at the way your mind makes associations between them, you might want to participate in this Word Association Study conducted online by linguists and psychologists. Just click on the link, and you'll be given 14 words, and asked to list the first three words that you associate with each of the original words. You have to be a fluent in English to participate, but if you qualify, it's fun, fast, and interesting. Plus you'll be supporting research in linguistics.


During the three days of New Year's celebration with my inlaws, I started wondering why I had never written about my relationship with them. Certainly it's complicated enough to be interesting, and fraught enough to be emotionally compelling, so right then and there I began a poem. Here it is, almost Valentine's Day, and the poem is not yet done. It's gone through a number of significant structural changes, a mighty struggle to figure out the ending, and is now to the point where I am dithering over word choices in two lines. Then it will be done. I think. But what a long time it has taken; though in fact, it is not all that unusual for me to take that long even when concentrating on a single poem.

While working on this poem, I happened to read Paula Bonnell's charming Airs & Voices (winner of the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry, selected by Mark Jarman, published 2009 BkMk Press), and found this generous poem about inlaws:

Elegy for an Unlikeable Sister-in-Law

It's a relief she can't
hector us any more
And she never listened to us
So there's not that sense
of a conversation interrupted
that has been much of the pain
of other deaths we've known.
There is something we are sorry
for in her lifetime which cannot
be improved by this death.
Maybe there was something
we could have done
even if she had done
little else that what she did.
But it's not that we
mourn for. It's all
the connections not made
that her death
seems to confirm.
Let us pray
not to let this death
grave that in stone.
And one more thing.
Lord, she annoyed us.
But she was ours.

So what other inlaw poems are out there? All I can think of is the book of Ruth in the Old Testament, but surely there must be more. I could check a search engine, but I'd rather just try to remember. I can think of a few elegies by poets about their fathers-in-law, but they were about the lives of the men, not about the relationship between inlaws. Still there must be inlaw poems out there. Anybody out there know any?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Zombie Poetry

Nobody who knows me could be surprised to learn I have an interest in Oulipo, the crossroads between mathematics and poetry (according to the Academy of American Poet's website However, in general I've found the processes of Oulipo more interesting than the products. And now I've discovered at Mad River Anthology a podcast by Brent Jenkins in which he sets up an Oulipo project and walks the listener step-by-step through the process of applying constraints to a system to force a result. Have you ever wondered what happens when the formal constraints pre-established for an Ouilipian  project suddenly don't cover an unanticipated occurrence in the creative process? Turns out there are rules for these oversights, which this podcaster happily walks you through.

Jenkins began with a 4-CD collection called Poetry on Record,  98 Poets Read Their Work from 1888 to 2006. He decided to make a mash up of these recordings, choosing excerpts based on the following rules:

1) Using the run-time clock of the movie Night of the Living Dead, he noted every onscreen appearance of a zombie, and using the initial time and the length of the zombie's appearance, he sampled from the CDs at the same beginning time and length of recording. Since he noticed that the running time of the movie was shorter than the running time of the CDs taken together in order, and that the rule strictly applied would mean disks three and four (and thus the entire 20th Century poetic canon) would never be used in the mash up, he made an amendment to his original rule:

1a) Jenkins allowed himself to sample from all four disks (at the correct initial time of zombie appearance and running the same length of time as the zombie was on screen), and at his whim (already somewhat violating the strictness of Oulipo) chose which sample or samples to include in the mash up.

2) Eventually he ran into the problem of multiple zombies appearing on screen simultaneously. To deal with this, he didn't want to run multiple poetry reading samples at the same time, as an Oulipian purist would argue was the proper interpretation of the first rule, because that resulted in cacophony. Instead, Jenkins decided to have the same number of voices as zombies (in the first instance, 3 zombies, so 3 voices from 3 of the disks) but to allow one of them to be dominant, while the others receded into the background.

3) But what happens when there are more than 4 zombies, you ask? With only 4 CDs, that's a seemingly insurmountable problem. Luckily, Oulipians have a provision for extreme circumstances called "the Clinamen," which allows the constraint to be broken within the following parameters: only if the project can proceed without it. In this way, Jenkins considers the fifth zombie voice to wrap around to the 1st CD again, and since it has the same time constraints as the 1st zombie since both 1st and 5th zombies appeared as part of a zombie mob, it doubles the first zombie excerpt, making Jenkins' job more manageable.

4) What to do when zombie hands appear onscreen before the entire zombie? Are zombie hands enough to invoke the first rule? The consideration of this questions leds Jenkins to consider what it is to be a zombie, which he decided is really a rephrasing of what it means to be human....Listen to the podcast to hear the entire philosophical discussion.

When 16 zombies appear simultaneously, Jenkins gave up, invoking "the Canada Dry," a well-known Oulipian Clinamen, a huge surprise, and I'll let you find out what that is, if you want to listen (hint: it confirms my observation that the process of Oulipo is often more interesting than the product). He does suggest an arbitrary rule that could be used to deal with zombie hordes though: for example, he says that whenever a zombie horde appears, a 100-second sampling could be taken from the 100th minute of the recording, in 10-minute increments for successive zombie mobs. Obviously it's a completely arbitrary rule, but that's fine, as long as the constraint is well-defined and strictly followed.

Does this inspire you to try "ZombiePo," or any kind of Oulipian experiment? I'm thinking about trying the famous N+7 technique (which is discussed in the link about, if you are interested). Long live Oulipo (and especially the Canada Dry)!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Circus Circus

We went to the circus this weekend in Himeji, my husband's hometown. My brother-in-law told me that Kinoshita Circus was one of the world's three greatest circuses, the other two being Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey (they are teamed up now) and the Bolshoi Circus. I found this rather incredible, but decided to wait and see.

The circus was under an actual big top, a tent, in the middle of a park. Or a parking lot on the edge of a park. I felt like I was in Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, or something similar from the Depression era. There were fewer seats than in my high school gymasium bleachers. Which you think might have reflected badly compared to my last experience at the circus, in the Honda Center in Anaheim, a place that seats 8400 or something like that. But actually, it was amazing: I could see everything. I mean everything:

Both clowns.
All three motorcycle riders who rode inside the "Wheel of Death" ball (got to admit Ringling Brother's 8 riders in the ball at once was a magnitude more impressive).
All 7 trapeze artists (could see them well enough to have opinions about their makeup).
Both elephants.
The lion trainer and his 8 lions.
The solo tightrope walker, who actually walked on a bamboo beam suspended from ropes, swinging back and forth as she walked on it. She fell off once, into her spotter's arms, but she jumped right back up, in her long-sleeved kimono, and kept on balancing.

Well, I saw all of it. It was small. But it was charming. I loved it. As did my kids and their cousins.

Was it one of the three great circuses in the world? While I'm not sure about that, it's one of the three greatest circuses in my life. And among the one-ring circuses I've been to...well, it's the only one-ring circus I've actually gone it was the best.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Call for Essays about Asia and Parenting

Here's a call for essays about how your relationship with Asia affected your upbringing, your decision to have children or not, or how you are raising your children. It's for a forthcoming anthology Tao of Parenthood: An Anthology of Essays.

The following comes directly from the above website:


This literary anthology of personal essays by and about writers of Asian ancestry will try to capture the multitude of perspectives on the impact of Asian culture, heritage, and identity on your experience as a child, on raising children, or on deciding whether to have children.

Who Should Submit An Essay:

Writers from various perspectives are welcome to submit essays of all forms. Anyone self-identifying as Asian or mixed heritage Asian in any way is invited to submit their first person essay. This is an inclusive collection and seeks to highlight as many true stories as possible. We hope to hear from various generations, parents, grandparents, extended family members, nontraditional families, and biological and adoptive adult children. Also, those who are considering parenthood or those who have chosen not to become parents or those experiencing fertility challenges. We would like to hear from as many voices of experience as possible.

The essays must be true stories exploring some aspect of Asian culture and parenthood.

Kinds of Essays We’re Interested In:

Tell us a unique story about growing up Asian or raising Asian children. Break a silence. Speak a truth. Our primary criterion is that the narrative be engaging, true, and well-written. Were you raised or affected by an Asian parent? Are you an Asian parent today? Are you raising an Asian child(ren) from an adoption? In what ways has Asian identity, culture, or heritage influenced your perspective towards parenthood?

We also welcome those who are not of Asian descent, but are raising children of Asian descent.


See the original website for submission details. Deadline is April 1st.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Interviews with Two Poets

Here are a few terrific interviews with poets.

For the first I have to give a shout-out to poet extraordinaire Mari L'Esperance, who told me about this interview with Kundiman fellow Janine Oshiro at Lantern Review Blog. One of the most interesting points for me was when Oshiro talked about forming a manuscript from her poems and thinking about it as a single work with an arc, and how this larger perspective showed her new poems that she could write to complement the ones that existed. I was also cheered by her statement that poets need to be comfortable with their own processes, and not focus on quantity of output.

Another interview I enjoyed this week was a New Letters on the Air podcast by Angela Elam, talking with James Richardson.  Richardson talks about how the mood necessary for writing poetry is the opposite of the feeling of being productive. He says that when he makes himself write, he ends up writing the same old stuff. He explained that "it takes vast amounts of space" in order to come up with something new. Later he reiterates that particularly when ending up a book, "when everything you are thinking about is coming together...and you know everything, or think you do...", you can sit down and write a poem and get three lines into it and realize it is an old poem, which is why you need free time to "get back to your ignorance, back to your sense that you don't really know." "It's possible to be new just by your ignorance again," he says when comparing writing to the process of recent research in physics. Isn't that comforting?

Well, I've been a big fan of James Richardson for awhile, which is why I've posted about him one, two, three times in the past. And now I can't wait to get familiar with Janine Oshiro's work as well. Enjoy these interviews.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Free Posters

Check out poet Karen Weyant's blog The Scrapper Poet and learn how you can get the 2012 free National Poetry Month poster offered by the Academy of American Poets. Visit their website as well to see the design of this year's poster featuring work by Philip Levine, and also peruse posters from previous years.

Thanks for the heads-up, Karen!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Devils Out, Good Luck in

So it's Groundhog Day in the USA (2/2) and Setsubun in Japan (2/3), for a few minutes at least, until it's not 2/2 in the US anymore.

You all know by now that Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow and there's six more weeks of winter. However, what do you know about Setsubun?

Well, I thought I knew this Japanese holiday well enough to make it my favorite one of the year. Someone in the village or in the family puts on a devil's mask (a cute, rather benign devil--more like an imp) and the rest of family pelts him with beans, shouting, "Devils out, good luck in!" Right? And you eat the number of beans that represents your age in years, right? And you eat rolled sushi, right?

Well, that's how we've always done it, but this year my husband decided to research the traditional and ancient custom online (bit of an irony there), and he discovered the purist's way to celebrate Setsubun. It seems that shrines recommend that if there is a person in the family whose Chinese Zodiac year it is (and it's the year of the dragon--if you were born this year, or if on your birthday this year you will turn 12 or any multiple of 12 (as in 24, 36, 48, etc) then you are a dragon and this is your year), that person is in charge of purifying the house of devils. Luckily, my older son is a dragon, so he was in charge. (If you don't have  dragon in the family, everyone shares the duties.) So my older boy had to go to each window and door in the house, open it up, and thrown beans out while yelling "Devils out, good luck in!" Which in Japanese is, "Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi!"

But there was no dressing up as a devil and pelting one another, as we did in years past, taking turns as devils. We still get to eat makizushi (rolled sushi) though. I like it the old way better, which I guess is really the new way since the way we celebrated this year was the real old way. I'd better start campaigning right away for a return to the mask-wearing next year; I don't want to be a purist, at least not on Setsubun. And I'd better go sweep up the beans that have fallen around all the doors and windows in our house. Another benefit to our previous way of celebrating was that there was a single door around which beans needed to be cleaned up.

My family, last year, boys still in pajamas, celebrating Setsubun. No masks were worn this year; no pajamas either. My dragon son is holding a peanut, which we threw last year. Peanuts are an acceptable replacement for dried soy beans. Or they were, before we went purist.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Friends Helping Friends

Once again, from Diane Lockward's excellent monthly newsletter I borrow another link, this one to a Yahoo! Voices article by Angie Mohr entitled "A Bestseller in the Making: 7 Ways You Can Help Your Author Friends."

Do you have a friend who's just published a book, and do you want to be as supportive as possible? Mohr gives hints how to help, ranging from the obvious (buy a copy of the book), to the more subtle (face the book cover out, not spine out, on bookstores you visit), to ones I'd never thought of (bump up positive Amazon reviews by finding them "helpful," and bump down negative ones by not by marking them "not helpful"). She also advises on how to use social media to promote your friends' work.

Most of us writers do have publishing friends, so this is a great resource.

What else have you done to help a friend promote a newly published book?

Seeking Inspiration

From Diane Lockward's amazing monthly newsletter, I got this link to to an article in the UK Guardian entitled "Top Artists Reveal How to Find Creative Inspiration."

I was surprised to read from composer Mark-Anthony Turnage: "Routine is really important. However late you went to bed the night before, or however much you had to drink, get up at the same time each day and get on with it. When I was composing [the opera] Anna Nicole, I was up at 5 or 6am, and worked through until lunch. The afternoon is the worst time for creativity."

I agree about the routine part (for many artists at least), but really, am I the only who writes in the afternoon? I cannot concentrate in the morning until all the things that must be done that day are done, and once my family's home in the evening, it's chaos, so I am often writing in the afternoon. Anybody else?

From director Rupert Goold, this observation:  "Get an alarm with a long snooze function and set it early. Shallow-sleep dreams have been the source of many of my best ideas (sadly, small children are no respecters of prospective genius)."

Yes! Waking early in the morning I sometimes find I have solved in my sleep the creative dilemma I went to bed thinking about.

Rupert Goold makes  a few other points I found provacative:
"Once you have an idea, scrutinise the precedent. If no one has explored it before in any form then you're 99% likely to be making a mistake. But that 1% risk is why we do it.";
and, "Make sure you are asking a question that is addressed both to the world around you and the world within you. It's the only way to keep going when the doubt sets in.";
and "An idea is just a map. The ultimate landscape is only discovered when it's under foot, so don't get too bogged down in its validity.";
and finally, "Love the effect over its cause."

From playwright Lucy Prebble, this encouragement: "Feeling intimidated is a good sign. Writing from a place of safety produces stuff that is at best dull and at worst dishonest."

Here's a tidbit from artist Susan Philipsz that coincidentally has been on my mind recently as a real lack in my creative life: "Daydream. Give yourself plenty of time to do nothing. Train journeys are good."

From artist Polly Morgan: "Hard work isn't always productive. Your brain needs periods of inactivity. I think of it as a field lying fallow; keep harvesting and the crops won't mature."

I've certainly found this to be true; sometimes I feel like I'm not working, not getting anything written, and then I have a suddenly hyper-productive period that follows the fallow time, and wouldn't have been possible without it. See my post Patron Saint Against Writer's Block.

Enjoy more insights at the UK Guardian link above.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Poetry Shots

YesYes Books has just released a new project: Poetry Shots. Poetry Shots, brainchild of KMA Sullivan, are poems paired with original artwork in a downloadable format. The first five offerings match the following poets/artists:

Ben Mirov/Eric Amling
Dana Guthrie Martin/Ghangbin Kim
Dorothea Lasky/Kaori Mitsushima
Metta Sama/Mihret Dawa
Angela Veronica Wong/Megan Laurel.

You can even get a free EP to get a sampling and see what Poetry Shots are all about.

Henry Miller's Work Schedule

This comes from my friend Will D; thanks, Will!  Love #5 and #8 especially.