Monthly Archives: March 2013

Sometimes I feel like if I had one of these, I could do just about anything:


I have papers to grade and books to read, but I recently remembered that the Ruth Lilly fellowship applications are due soon, so I’m doing that instead. I don’t feel like I have much of a chance, ever, at that fellowship, but there isn’t a point in not sending work in, just in case. It’s not that I don’t think my writing is ‘good’ enough–it’s that I know what kind of writing the committee chooses, and it’s not often mine. The application instructions note that “you may include multiple poems on one page, but total pages of poems must not exceed ten,” which is all well and good and nice of them, except that you can really only do that with poems that don’t use the page as a unit of space. My work has a lot of white space, so I can’t show the committee as much of it as other writers might be able. Last year there was that brouhaha over the five winners, who were all male, and yeah, I think that that’s a problem, but it goes deeper than the gender/sex to which these writers ascribe. The applications are read blind, so no one picking the winners knew that they were picking only men.

Except. Except that there is something inherently ‘male’ about their writing, in this writing tradition that they came from, this 20th-century interest in narrative-with-some-images-and-form-that-doesn’t-get-in-the-way-of-content. Each winner’s writing is not incredibly different from each other winner’s writing (although I did enjoy some more than others). The lack of gender diversity stems from a lack of diversity in style/content/ideas/forms. There’s a place and an audience for the kind of writing that has been represented by these winners, but I’d like to see some other writing localities getting represented this year. In an intelligent and thoughtful essay on accessibility in poetry, Joshua Marie Wilkinson argues that “that slipperiness of a poem, elusiveness even, is not a wall; that’s an invitation to participate in a field of meaning.” I’d like to see some slippery poets get some money, because they are also worth representing and supporting. This is the kind of award that gets noticed by people outside of the poetry community, that gets the New York Times to round up writers and take pictures of them in stylish coats, that helps potential readers learn about new writers. If we award this kind of public prize to a variety of writers, a variety that better represents the diversity of work that is happening right now, maybe we can open up new readership. Maybe we can take away some of the fear of inaccessibility, and instead have conversations about the strange, the surreal, the jittery, the marginal.

I got to spend time with an old friend this evening, my first true friend, my always person, and finally got to tell her about the lyric essay up in Artificethe one with her at its heart. I am afraid, sometimes, to just write about people that I love instead of ideas that I love, but pieces like that and times like this make me want to do it more.

On the other hand, I’m spending my afternoon writing poems for other people, trying to think about what kind of writing they’d like to read, what kind of poetry might energize them. So far I have written an ode to Steven Tyler. Next is a villanelle, and then something tropical, and then the last one, the most terrifying: anything at all.

Although mental imagery is a unique experience, there are patterns that can tell us about how the mind works–for instance, some people think in objects, while others think more in terms of spatial relationships.

Mysteriously, this little article thingy does not have a byline. The initials P.P.P. appear at the end, but…I don’t really know who that is. Since I’m home, I have the pleasure of knocking over giant stacks of Emory Magazine that my parents collect in my room all year round, so this time I actually opened one of them. I read this piece because one of my former professors is in it, and she’s RAD. Then I felt vindicated about being stubborn about my point of view on my writing, my perception of the way I want my words to work. My poems are full of prepositions because I think in terms of spatial relationships. I’m not saying that we should all write this way, or that one method of writing is inherently better or worse than another, but isn’t there room for something a little different than what you’re used to? Can we address a poem on its own terms? Can we allow a poem, instead of setting a scene or idea in front of us, to situate us in a space and ask us to experience it? I just don’t understand why not. As this pony likes to say:

I reread Cole Swensen’s The Glass Age, made a nice dent in The Poetics of Space, and started rereading Jenny Boully’s The Body, so this plane trip was a success. Also, neither one of my planes crashed, which I very much appreciated. Lately, I’ve been interested in rereading things, trying to re-experience a text that formed my writing or spoke to my writing or tapped my writing on the shoulder shouting HEY before running away. I’m also trying to figure out, specifically, if my approach to writing through/on/about space is difficult/different/unmoving. Workshop has been a strange experience this semester. I haven’t actually taken a workshop in two years, but I have taken classes in which I got feedback on my work, from people who’ve been reading it since I entered this program, and now most of those people are graduated. Having a lot of new eyes on my writing is helpful, because I have to look at it from a new perspective, but also less helpful, because there are things that I understand in a certain way, and one of the things I’ve learned over the last few years is to trust my instincts, trust the thing that I enjoy about the piece. Also, I am very stubborn. Um, extremely stubborn.