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Category: Craft

Writer Tip Thursday: Say “Goodbye” to Impostor Syndrome. You Want to Write for a Reason.

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

You may not be “Baby,” but you know what? No one (and no feeling) should put you in the corner, either.

Happy Thursday, friends! I do my best to share a Writing Tip on Wednesday each week (after doing some slacking lately with everything that’s going on), but it didn’t quite happen for me this week—so welcome to Writer Tip THURSDAY, everyone!

This week, I want to talk about that formidable voice we’ve all faced on our writing journey at some point.

She’s publishing another book. Why can’t I even finish this draft?

Will I even be able to find an agent? Or sell any books?

Everyone else’s stuff is going to fly off the shelves, and mine is just going to sit there for all eternity.

Oh, this is terrible. I should stop and try to write something else.

I actually thought this was good the other day?

Ugg, I’m never going to get another poem published, ever again.

Maybe I’m not cut out to do this.

Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about: Impostor Syndrome.

That feeling that you’re not good enough to do this. That you’ll never do as well as anyone else. That you’ll fail. That you’re already failing by wasting your time on trying.

But that’s all it actually is: A feeling.

We’ve all had these doubts. Newsflash: If someone tries to tell you they haven’t felt this way, they’re either A.) lying to you, or B.) are so full of arrogance, they are completely void of self-awareness.

No one is SO good at what they do that they lack the opportunity to improve and grow.

In my opinion, THAT is where the doubt comes from. You recognize that there’s something you could be doing better and challenge yourself (which is completely NORMAL and HEALTHY, and you SHOULD be doing that).

Where you get yourself in trouble, though, is when you turn it into what I call “a blanket statement” or you start holding your own personal comparing contest (or both!).

Instead of acknowledging that you’ve simply recognized an area that needs improvement in your work (passive voice, for example), you use that as a “blanket statement” for everything you do.

Because you need to improve in A (i.e., passive voice), that somehow now means that you’re just not good at BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ (writing . . . anything).

And/or instead of realizing that the writer next to you has had different life experiences, writes about a different topic or works in another genre, or simply writes and submits MORE OFTEN than you do, you use the fact that they have more work published to say they are a better writer.

But quantity does not equal quality, even in publishing! Yes, they are probably a good writer, as they have the publications to prove it. But this does not make them a better writer than you; it makes them the writer next to you.

I want to challenge you to do something today, tomorrow, and this weekend.

I want you to show yourself a little grace.

Acknowledge what you’re feeling, and ask yourself DEEPLY why you have that feeling.

Then I want you to acknowledge if this feeling could be Impostor Syndrome, or a blanket statement, or your own personal comparing contest.

If it’s any of those three options, I want you to let that feeling go. Acknowledge that you’ve felt it, embrace it for a moment, and then let it go. Ask it to release you in return, if you feel like it has a particularly strong hold.

If you think you’re feeling something else—for example, maybe you’re feeling guilty that you haven’t written anything new for a while—then acknowledge that feeling, too, and ask yourself CRITICALLY what you can do to change it.

If you haven’t written in a while, write something! Read someone you love, look up some writing prompts, or just stare at a blank page for a while.

If you’ve been avoiding revising, or pulling your manuscript together, set a goal for how much time you will spend on that before Monday, and then do it. No questions, no excuses, no guilty feelings.

Whatever it is that you’re feeling, there is a REASON you’re feeling it.

The best thing to do is acknowledge the feeling, and figure out what’s causing it. Once you know that, you can work on changing it or leaving it behind.

But remember as you get started: It’s just a feeling. You are good enough to do this. You are enough without publications. You are enough. And you will get past this.

I hope you’re having the most wonderful Thursday.

*

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner” is from Dirty Dancing.

&

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New Poem “In Nature” & The Prompt Behind It

IN NATURE 

My daughter calls the outdoors home & needs 
no reason to enter. Her skin, the brush. Her voice 

& birdsong. Her running speed & the air 
through the field. They are the same. 

Sometimes, she blends in so well, I cannot see her. 

The brownest strands of her hair & the bark 
of her favorite tree. Her brown eyes 

& the sparrow. The sway in the flowers & the wave
of her hand. I lose her, if only for a moment, 

but I sink into a feeling of loneliness, until I hear 
her call, her laugh, somewhere in the yard. Whether she is

behind the house, around a tree, or hiding under 
a bush, it doesn’t matter. I know she will come back.

Will be hungry & come home for dinner. 
I know she is under the sun.

*

Happy Wednesday, friends! I hope you’re having a wonderful week.

Today is Writing Prompt Wednesday, which means it’s time for a new poem, and a new writing prompt! I hope you’re ready.

You’ll find my poem above, called “In Nature.” I loved writing this one, and I hope you enjoy it.

And without further ado, here is the prompt I used to start writing the poem:

Think about an important, political, environmentally alert issue (there’s not much which isn’t these days!) that is important to you on a personal level.

I addressed this prompt from the perspective of nature—and nothing is more personal to me than how I’m raising my children in it. I’m doing my best to raise kids who prefer to be outside, playing, rather than inside observing a screen. I’m teaching them to love, admire, and respect nature, from the wind to the rain to the plants and all the little living things we may encounter out there. Right now, I’m writing a lot of poetry that centers around watching my children grow up in nature, and I can see this poem fitting in among that collection.

How will you use this prompt?

I can’t wait to see what you come up with. I’d love to see any of you attempt this writing prompt, as well, and send me your resulting poems! I’ll share a favorite or two on our next Writing Prompt Wednesday, in addition to sharing my new poem and prompt. I hope you’ll submit your work!

Happy Wednesday, all! And Happy Inspiration!

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“A Sleeping Octopus Changes Color While Dreaming” & The Prompt Behind It

“O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell
and count myself a king of infinite space,
were it not that I have bad dreams.”

—Hamlet

A SLEEPING OCTOPUS CHANGES COLOR WHILE DREAMING

I can see it up there, high in the corner
like a spider hosting its web. This is how my dreams

always play out: so many animals suspended

from the ceiling or sky. They hover above what I deem
is inescapable. They hold their bodies up high

where I can find them upon waking, untouched.

Compared to my body, which seems bruised
& battered blue, hands cramped from the guns

I’ve had to hold, my mind pulling away from me, away

from the stolen kisses, stolen bodies, I’ve seen. I look up
& I can see it, suspended in the corner

with its eight wandering legs, anything but

spider-like. I hope it will find the way out where
I can follow, but instead, it waits, eyes closed

& beak humming. Its body wakes with color, wandering

from deeper blue into coriander, into maroon,
into salt. It dreams & becomes the only thing in the room

with color; it becomes the thing I watch

while the world falls around me. Its beak
hums over the dust.

***

Happy Wednesday, friends! I hope your week is everything you’ve hoped for.

In the meantime, it’s Writing Prompt Wednesday! I’m so happy to bring this feature back.

For those of you new to this feature—Every Wednesday going forward, I will write and share a poem that was written from some type of writing prompt, as well as the prompt that was used and a few thoughts about the writing and revision process.

I’ve always found it to be fun to get inside other writers’ heads, so I’m giving you the opportunity to get inside of mine. Hopefully it’s helpful!

In addition to sharing my writing prompt and poem, I also want to offer an invitation: I’d love to see any of you attempt this writing prompt, as well, and send me your resulting poems! I’ll share a favorite or two on our next Writing Prompt Wednesday, in addition to sharing my new poem and prompt. I hope you’ll submit your work!

***

So, let’s get back to this week’s writing prompt and poem!

Like I’ve said previously, your writing prompts can be very simple. I want you to be able to draw inspiration from anywhere, no matter how simple, straight-forward, or complex.

This week’s prompt came along accidentally. I saw one of Laughing Squid’s more recent posts, which is entitled, “A Sleeping Octopus Changes Color While Dreaming,” and I thought, “That really should be the title of a poem.” So I used the line, and wrote to the title of the poem.

The Hamlet quote came to me because of the “While Dreaming” clause. I simply used the quote, because it represented the general vibe I was going for in the poem. If I attempt to publish this poem at a later date, I will keep the title (while giving credit to Laughing Squid, of course), but I probably won’t keep the Hamlet quote, as it isn’t referenced in the poem.

Your Challenge! Find a line from something, anything, that is provocative to you: beautiful, challenging, haunting, sexual—whatever gets you writing. Use that line as the title of your poem, and let it guide the content of your poem. The rest is absolutely up to you.

And then share, share, share! I would love to read the poems you write, give you a little feedback, and then share a favorite or two on my blog for Writing Prompt Wednesday next week.

I look forward to reading your words soon! Happy Inspiration to all!

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A Night of Building a Manuscript & Reading Poetry

Happy Tuesday night, all! I hope you had a wonderful weekend—and a relaxing Labor Day.

My Labor Day weekend revolved (mostly) around lovely “guilty pleasures,” ranging from binge-watching Season 3 of The Good Place, starting my latest re-read of Stephen King’s IT in preparation for IT: Part Two hitting theaters on September 6th, spending time with my family, and (perhaps of course) building out my poetry manuscript.

I could talk to you, probably for hours, about my love, theories, aches, and pains surrounding The Good Place, and I can always take time to talk about my favorite Stephen King reads, and show off pictures of my kids—but tonight’s all about that darn poetry collection that’s been hiding on the pull-out shelf of my desk all summer.

My poetry manuscript, tentatively titled DAUGHTER WILD, alongside a beautiful, lounging, and aloof Teddy. Cat Not Included in Eventual Publication. ha!

An old mentor of mine told me that the process of a “true writer” was slow—so I’m choosing to see it as a positive that I’ve been sitting with this manuscript for so long.

This manuscript originally dated back to 2010 with some of my earlier poems—until this summer, that is, when I finally removed them. I’ve watched this collection morph for years, through my MFA years when I thought I might actually have a publishable manuscript, through the next couple years while sending it out and tweaking it, to finally this summer, when I looked at it in a new way.

I never stopped writing, or thinking about writing, in the time since my MFA was completed and I began sending the collection out. However, I was doing all the thinking, rather than actively listening to my writing.

You see, in a way, each piece you write—every story, every poem—carries its own personality, its own goal, its own essence. The answer to how that piece’s personality will gel with another varies from compared piece to compared piece. You have to listen to how those poems are talking to each other, to decide if they’re going to be able to live inside the same collection or not.

It took writing a certain poem, between 2018 and now, to realize that I was forcing poems together into the same collection, rather than listening to how they were talking to each other.

When I wrote what I currently expect will be the title poem, “Daughter Wild,” I realized the mistake I was making. I realized the direction I currently wanted to write in, and how avidly I wanted to write about certain topics. Once I realized what the theme was that I was chasing, I was able to look back at the poems I had currently gathered together, and remove the ones that weren’t contributing to that conversation.

This summer, I removed half of the poems from the collection—literally half.

For some of my readers out there, I’m sure this will sound devastating. It will sound like a lot of lost work. I know for me, even two years ago, this would have sounded like too drastic of a move. I used to believe that, if the poem was fine-tuned enough, strong enough on its own, then it was ready to be published in a collection. Now, I realize that’s technically not true.

The poem may be strong enough for a collection somewhere down the line, but you can’t force a poem into just any collection. It has to speak to the collection you’re creating. It’s like a giant, sophisticated puzzle, and each poem has to perform as a fitting piece.

Perhaps those poems I cut will find their place in a future collection or chapbook; I’m certainly not closing that door. But right now, I’m content in the work I’ve done, and find myself peacefully writing in the direction of finishing this collection.

Hopefully, its theme will speak to an editor this year, as well. That’s the dream, at least.

Have a good night, all.

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Happy New Year! What’s the Word for 2019?

Champagne and Sparkling White Grape Juice left on the table, blankets and pillows cluttered across the floor, the light from the TV filling the dimmed room as the ball dropped, and then again, only the light from the Christmas tree—it was New Year’s Eve, and our time looking forward to 2019 was coming to a close.

This was the first year we attempted to explain the celebration of the New Year to our daughter. Every year, we’ve attended or hosted a party with friends and family, but every year, we’ve watched the ball drop and toasted while holding a sleeping girl up against our shoulders. This year, we stayed home for the first time and relaxed in the living room for a family “slumber party”: TV ready for the ball drop and Christmas tree shining bright, all the other lights turned off, and the floor and couches covered in blankets, pillows, and stuffed animal friends as we prepared to tuck in. Cadence made it to midnight without a problem, and we made a bit of a game out of toasting: Close your eyes, make a wish for the year, and then toast! (Cadence broke the rule of keeping wishes to herself, but hers will be easy enough to make come true: another bear and fox, surely meant to be friends for her two favorite stuffed animals, ever.) After the ball dropped, Cadence carefully considered what our “slumber party movie” would be, and while she decided, Dragan and I spoke in quiet tones about 2018, and what we could see happening in the coming year.

It didn’t take us long to come up with a list of what filled our 2018. Dragan moved on to a new job, we welcomed our second child into our family, we moved twice… and countless other, smaller events that filled our regular Mondays and Tuesdays. After such an eventful year, it’s hard to say what may fill our 2019. But what I’m sure of is that it will be a year of growth. Since we’ve moved to Chicago and are getting settled, there’s time now to get comfortable in our new home and city, and start making a name for ourselves here. As for our children, Cadence is showing interests in all forms of art, as well as cooking and science, and Grayson is growing beautifully; I have nothing but love and high hopes for who they’ll be and what they’ll do this year.

What was harder for me to decide prior to the new year was what I wanted my focal point to be—the word that would guide me in my work, in my writing, and with my family. I kept settling on words that didn’t feel quite right, and it took watching my daughter fall asleep during our slumber party movie for me to finally get it right.

We pushed play on the movie Cadence chose and settled in on the blanketed floor and across the pillows and couch. Dragan fell asleep right away after working so many days in a row, which gave Cadence and I a few minutes to talk about the movie. She asked to hold my hand, which I offered her, and she fell asleep within minutes.

I muted the movie, not really watching it, and simply took in the room around me. It was warm, and full of Christmas tree light, and I could hear everyone I love most in the world breathing, and hopefully having sweet dreams. Though I wasn’t sleeping, too, though we weren’t talking, the simple act of all being in the same room together, celebrating the year before us, made me think about staying present, and truly connecting with those I love.

That’s when I decided that my big word for the year would be “connection.”

There are many reasons, but genuine connection with others has always been a struggling point for me—worrying the relationship won’t work out, sharing too much or investing too much of myself, or allowing depression and anxiety to get in the way of regular interaction; it seems like there’s always been something in the way. But I want to work this year on the areas that I’m in control of: When it’s time to feed Grayson, I can simply sit down, and feed and talk to my son. When Cadence wants to play, I can leave my phone in the other room (I can always bring my camera if I think I’ll want to take pictures). I can suggest that no electronic devices or toys appear at the dinner table. I can send out a personalized, if brief, note to each person I reach out to, and who reaches out to me, over social media and LinkedIn. I can take time at night to note the high points of my day, and mentally throw away the low ones, to make room for more good the next morning.

Not every day will be perfect, and they shouldn’t be; those more-difficult days are the true learning curves of the year. But if I can practice these small changes most of the time, and think about what I can remove from my life that causes me stress, and alleviate those things that distract me, I can focus more readily, happily, and fully, on my family, on my writing, and on building new professional relationships, when they need me.

So now, it’s the second day of the New Year, and I’m taking care of the kiddos and writing, and getting back on track with the laundry and chores (am I the only one who got behind on such things during the week between Christmas and the New Year?). Already I feel more at peace with where I am and what I could do in this new year, simply after having established these small, simple tasks. I hope you’ve decided what you will do to make this year your best one yet, too, and I wish you peace and love, from me to you.

More soon, my friends. Happy New Year!

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Reading Stephen King & Writing Horror Shovels

 
Hi friends! Happy Thursday. I hope you had a really wonderful holiday mid-week and are finding yourselves back in the full swing of things. The last few days, since celebrating my birthday, my anniversary, and the 4th of July, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and a far bit more writing than I was prior to my birthday, due (admittedly) to the beautiful gift of my new notebook from a friend. It’s been like a really good book that I can’t put down; I want to keep adding to it and watching it grow.

On the reading front, I’ve been really wrapped up in the horror genre lately, as I mentioned in my last full post. Horror has always been a very comfortable reading space for me, and invites more inspiration for writing poems than any other genre. I ended up selecting Stephen King’s latest, The Outsider, which is meant to be a crime fiction novel but interweaves the horror genre in the way that only King can write it. (I just found out tonight, though, that King wrote the Bill Hodges trilogy, which opens with Mr. Mercedes, and focuses on one of the supporting characters of The Outsider. If you want to avoid reading the spoilers that I inevitably read, read the trilogy first. Otherwise, jump right in; it’s an incredible work, I think.)

Where this leaves me, well, it leaves me writing a LOT of poems and tackling the golden shovel form—or, as I like to call them, horror shovels—as I promised I would when I finished the book. As I read The Outsider, I kept writing down lines and passages that I loved (in that new notebook that I also love), and tonight I plan to tackle a few of those passages, and probably share them with you in the coming days. The general rule of thumb for the golden shovel is to write a sentence vertically from an original work, including only one word at the end of each line on your page… and then you fill in the rest, ending each of your lines with some word from that sentence (you just can’t omit any words, or place them in a new order). I’ll be writing poems with creepy line endings, so we’ll see how that flavors the full poem. I’ll share something in the coming days.

I hope you are having a wonderful week, all. Thanks for being here and sharing this reading and writing time with me. Now, I’m going to toil with the question of what to read first: the Bill Hodges trilogy, or four other books that I had lined up to read after The Outsider… and then jump into writing those poems.

 
In case you’re interested, here is my review of The Outsider as it appears on Goodreads:

The OutsiderThe Outsider by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is going to be one of those books that I want to talk about, with anyone that I can, for a long time: the plot development, the characters, the twists.

I would love to tell you right now about my favorite characters and how they surprised me. How the plot held me, mortified me, saved itself right up to the end. The questions I had that were answered, the subtleties that weren’t. But those would become spoilers, and I rather you have the opportunity to enjoy this book for yourself.

What I can tell you is that this book opens as the sort of crime fiction novel that it promises to be, and steadily, creepily, inevitably evolves into the horror fiction that I’ve come to expect from Stephen King. What comes of the characters, their actions, and the ending, are far more of the horror genre than that of crime or suspense, but these two genres intertwine wonderfully, and left me feeling satisfied at the end, where I’m often left with questions and wanting more.

I highly recommend this one. I tend to recommend everything that King writes, he’s high on my author list, but this is one of my favorites.

If you read it, I’d love to hear what you thought of it. And if you’re a fellow King fan, I’d love to hear which other of King’s books this most makes you think of. Because the connections I’m reading into this book and that other, more than anything else, will be what gives me the Stephen King nightmares and chills.

View all my reviews
 
 

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“All My Things Are Empty Now” & The Prompt That Wrote It

 
Hello, everyone! I hope you had a nice weekend and are enjoying your Monday. Starting this week, I’m going to do something a little different. I’m back to writing every day, with a mixture of free-writing and prompt-driven writing.

I’m going to share a poem each day that is driven by a prompt, followed by the prompt that “wrote” the poem. I’d love it if you’d tackle the prompt, as well, to see what you come up with, or to share another prompt that you enjoy.

Here’s my poem and prompt for today. Thanks for being here, and thanks for reading.

 
ALL MY THINGS ARE EMPTY NOW

the kitchen and its table
                dark corners and wax        the bathroom        cabinets
extra items            stored     up     and     away
                wide     open     rooms                   quieter now
the walls and their hangings            my daughter            ’s friends
                cats gone missing               somewhere deep
the dust                the shelves
                the curtain            what white is left hanging
off of it                scarves thrown
over the back        of a chair
                (my suitcase        is full)     what moon
is left in the sky            what stars        what dreams
what        what
 
 

Today’s prompt: “Elegant Things,” drawn from Ivan Morris’s The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, prompt found here. I hope you’ll share your work in the comments!
 
 

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big poem, small poem / new poem sure / longer poem, brighter poem / birds birds birds

 

Hello all! It’s been a while again, I know. I’ve been missing writing in the worse way but otherwise wrapped up in my new job, writing a new bio: McKenzie lives and writes in South Bend, where she works at Indiana University, etc. It’s been a blast, but I’ve only been writing what I call “snippet poems” lately: small snapshots, quick thoughts, that I can get down on the page and keep going. I miss meandering through a longer poem, perfecting an image, an ending, the title, working on my full-length. Below, you’ll find three new snippet poems, from a selection of poems I’ve been working on about nighttime and the truths of home, as well as my very first “spam poem,” invented from, you guessed it, creating erasures out of spam messages—mostly from the ones that pollute my website space (but goodness, they’re fun). I hope you enjoy these, and I promise to post more often—and get back into the reviewing rhythm—very soon.

Also, P.S. You know how sometimes a song gets stuck in your head? Yep, it’s “Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty.” Now in poem-form. Help me.

Until Later, Best ~ from me.

 

RITUAL

 

Come night, every night

is the same : I close the shades, tuck

the bed sheets tight at the head

against our night noises, loose

at the foot so he may slip

from the covers : foot bare

in the afterglow.

 

SLEEPLESS

 

Dear child, close your eyes—

my heart, my limbs

are tired. Your tears wake us

in our separate cities & at times,

yes : I get lost in the haze.

In you, my fog. Go to sleep.

My love, my rest, I promise:

all will be better with the light.

 

THE GIRL YOU NAMED ME FOR

 

dies in a fire in a movie

from the ’80s. Hardly enough

to search & discover the movie’s title

but there it is : my sake. Her hair color,

her age, I do not know, but this

is how I imagine the story ends : black smoke

or at least the froth of it, cries choked out

on what I imagine black sky : fires never rise

in the middle of the day, unable to compete

with the sun. I ask you again the name

of the film & again, you falter, say it was

a good one, strange, its focus

on family : my name spelled to reflect

the one Irish branch of our family tree, that which

I have fostered long after you left

for more Grecian- & Sioux-like skin, how strange :

this focus on family roots.

 

SPAM #1

 

now I am completely full

of honey—sometimes

I drink beer

in public. others cannot

do this: fireflies. what light.

what nonsense.

 

 

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Hey!! A New Feature is Coming to My Blog Very, Very Soon!!

 

Yesterday evening, I wrote a sort of long-time-no-see post, followed by a post that very well may have opened a huge door for me. I shared how a poem from my earlier writing life had hugely intersected with a specific incident from my day yesterday, and I came to a realization after sharing that post: I had known before that being pregnant and becoming a mother were changing me as a writer… but I had failed to realize that I also have something to say about that process. Something that may be entirely worthwhile to write about and, ultimately, for you to read about.

11751772_10153427067727118_1443220781355402859_nThere are many secrets involved in being and becoming a mother—many misconceptions, many questions left unanswered (until experienced), many details left unnoticed, despite how beautiful and raw they can be. Becoming a writer first and a mother later in life gave me the opportunity to re-explore what it means to be sentimental, what it means to write about passion, joy, and what it means to be gentle or angry or vulnerable. I wanted to push the limits on what it meant to write about these experiences, and write about them well, and honestly. I wanted to thoroughly explore what it meant to be pregnant, and a new mother, and many of the resulting poems made their way into my circulating poetry manuscript.

These are the sorts of things I want to talk about, and how they became involved in the writing process. Not only how we write about these things, but the ways in which they change how we write. How I’ve changed as a writer in becoming a mother… and perhaps even ways in which being a writer has challenged my thinking as a mother.

Now don’t worry, if these subjects aren’t your “thing,” because you won’t see these posts all the time. Rather, every once in a while, in-between the rough draft poems and the book reviews, I might post something like, “Hey, here is something I just learned as a mother, and here’s what it’s got me thinking about as a writer.” I’m tentatively thinking of titling these posts “First She Was a Poem” or “Cadence on the Swings” (both of which feel fitting, to me). I hope this interests some of you as much as it interests me.

Until Later, Best ~ from me.

 

 

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First, She was a Poem: Cadence on the Swings

 

11742658_10153453969622118_953100391710070779_nI had a bit of a moment today, and I really have to share. In the picture to your left is my beautiful, nine-and-a-half-month old daughter, Cadence (yes, like the title), and she had her first turn on a swing today—one of those little, infant-safe ones on a backyard playground set. And then it hit me:

I wrote a poem about this.

Now, that may not sound like much to you, but here’s the thing: I wrote “Cadence on the Swings” during my second year of my undergrad, back when “Cadence” was just a name I was madly in love with, back when I didn’t even know my husband existed yet… and back when my mentor first took me really, really seriously as a writer.

I originally handed this poem in as my final poem of the semester, before handing in a portfolio two weeks later of new and revised work, and I got this poem back, only with parts underlined that he loved and a note that said, “This poem is so dense! You need to be in graduate school.”

And so there it was: my future, laid out for me.

And now I have a beautiful little girl to share it with: my Cadence on the swings.

Thanks for listening, all.

 

CADENCE ON THE SWINGS

 

She peeled away the web between
her toes. The skin seemed to stretch,
transparent, and finally break,
lying in her fingers like a
used rubber band. Her throat was tight
then, forcing gills to grow at her
neck, stubble on her chin. The
water would swallow her lips, her
lungs, as her mouth opened in wide
gulps, street salamanders, a salt
water lake. She couldn’t
understand why her mother would
turn on the defrost at the same
time as the heat, as though to glimpse
the driver behind her, planning
to pour its lights in a
triangle around her as her
legs wrapped around one support of
the swings. She recalls she screamed when
she realized she couldn’t untie
her legs, the accordion knees,
her finger-trapped body.

 

 

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Writing My Summer Away: In the Early Days after My MFA

 

10985421_989606764925_3672885219015003963_nHello, everyone!

Needless to say, it’s been a while—sorry for the radio silence. As some of you know, I graduated this May with my MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan, and my life since then hasn’t quite been what you would have expected. As my younger self, I would have expected myself to have a full-time job lined up, to still be working in publishing, and to have long-since figured out these routines of writing-every-day and getting-things-published. But that is not the deck I was actually given.

Some things have been better, though unexpected, and some things have been, yes, disappointing. Despite the title of this post, I have not been writing my summer days away; in fact, I have not written a full, revised poem since the last I wrote for my thesis (granted, that poem was written two days before my graduation reading and was added at the last minute). In part, this has been because I simply needed a break away from deadlines—finishing and revising a thesis, knocking out a book review every week, writing other articles to build up a portfolio, etc—but it’s partly because I have been the b-word: busy. Traveling (to Croatia, finally), settling into my house (yes, making it a home), finishing up my job at my previous press position (so part of my summer was dedicated to publishing, at least), and “simply,” well, being a mom.

Now I know some of the writers out there are cringing, and before being placed in my current shoes, I would have cringed, too, when someone said the above things. How could there not be time and inspiration and motivation and all the other tools we need to write while traveling or simply being at home? And how do you not have energy and time while caring for a child? Well, since Cadence was born, I have had to put my foot in my mouth, repeatedly. I am not going to go on and on about how difficult and time-consuming it is to be a mother, or to move into a home and fix it up, but I will say that my life has grown to be different and unexpected from what I had originally envisioned for myself. Am I disappointed that life didn’t go my way? I have my days, my moments, small things I wish had gone differently. But I am growing into myself, and my surroundings, and what I have been given. And you know what? It’s all turning out to be okay, and fulfilling. I’m reaching the point where I’m happy enough that I want to write again. I haven’t been able to say that for a long time, admittedly. I was writing, but rather mechanically, and I’m beginning to feel that burn in me, a sort of ache, that has me chomping at the bit to write something down. I’m going to hold out a little longer, a few more days, until the itch buries itself a little deeper and then I’ll probably knock out a few poems in one sitting, grab ten collections off the shelf to read, and then I’ll be back in my old rhythm. I’ve just needed some time to settle into my own skin, outside of the deadlines, to figure out what I want and how I’m still going to be someone I want to be without getting the original things I wanted in the sense of location and vocation and what have you.

So I guess what that means for you, dear readers and friends, is that you’re going to start hearing from me again—very, very soon. I have several books sitting out waiting to be reviewed, and there are books I want to read, just because, and I really need to get back to writing—both poetry and research. And maybe, just maybe, when I send work out this round, I’ll have good news to share with you all about issues to check out that have my name in them.

Until then, All Best ~ from me.

 

 

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My Attempt at a Definition Poem while Reading Allan Peterson

 

This is why I love reading: it opens so many doors.

While reading Allan Peterson’s Precarious (published by 42 Miles Press, 2014), I began to consider less-than-common terms, synonyms that are so interesting and unique that we often do not use—for instance, why use the term “precarious” when we could just as easily say “dangerous” or “unsafe” as they are more commonly used in the mainstream?

Intrigued by this thought, I looked up the definition of “precarious” in my old, old, old dictionary and loved what I found—so much so that I wanted to write a poem, and not just a poem, but a series. I began to consider those less-common, lovely synonyms of words we so often use, looked them up, and began to write a set of dictionary poems that each begin as definitions and then spin off.

Anyway, this is not revised, but it is the first from the collection, all of which are titled “DEFINE” and then open with the word researched.

 

DEFINE

 

                precarious          —to be

not securely          (surely)              held

or in position        —dangerous

likely to fall; collapse; dependent

on chance; uncertain

uncertain; insecure; unpredictable; risk-

y; hazardous; dangerous; un-safe un-settled un-stable un-

steady; (I’ll bleed the wine right out

of you);              shaky; (both bees

and limbs like trees, left falling

left falling—collapsing        across

your driveway, lightning          struck, or is it

the other way around, your chimney

smoking,          like birds—the raven—left calling

left calling;          return)

 

 

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