Thursday, June 23, 2016

Laughs with Friends

From Light, 2015

On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to attend a little gathering with two poet friends, Julieta Corpus and Rodney Gomez, to write and chat about humorous verse. These are two poets whose work I admire greatly, and it was a wonderful opportunity to just chat, write, and maybe most importantly, laugh together.

Our discussions got me thinking a little bit on the idea of humorous verse, so I'll share some thoughts here just for the sake of recording them. First of all, Julieta, who organized the little get together, said that, in her little research for our workshop, she'd found that there was really a dearth of humorous poetry written for adults. A lot of the silly poetry was written for a younger audience. Secondly, humorous poetry tended to be more formal in that it adhered to conventions of rhyme and meter more strictly than more serious poetry, in general of course.

Julieta was left wondering -- why don't more poets write silly poetry, get in touch with their silly side? It's a good question. I think there's a bit of a stigma to "light" verse as being frivolous, and I think we as poets tend to stick to heavier issues. But who doesn't like to laugh? I think, especially when it comes to public readings, lighter poems tend to go over well with audiences, particularly audiences with nonpoets.

So, I think it's worthwhile for poets to get in touch with their silly side. That's the sentiment I was left with after our fun little workshop. Julieta guided us to write a few poems or to generate some seeds for poems (for me, it's more about just getting ideas... I'm really bad at writing on the spot). I left inspired to write more, and to be open to the silliness.

For the past few days, I've been mulling over our conversation, which is of course a good sign. It was thought provoking. I thought about some of the different "light" poems I'd read in the past and what it was about light poetry that made it stand out and be successful. And how can I incorporate these elements in my own work to make it more accessible. I think "light" poetry, too, can add texture to an otherwise heavy manuscript of poems... that's where my mind is lately as I'm wrapping up Chronicles.

I think the best "light" poetry, or really, the best poetry period, plays with the mixture of light and darkness, of shadow and light. So, when writing light poetry, maybe the key is to make it easy and breezy on the surface, but still have some heft, some purpose to your work. I think a good example of a poet who's able to achieve this is Julie Kane. I like how her work deals with gender issues, but does so with a sheen of light that makes these difficult and sometimes taboo topics of female sexuality easier to talk about.

There's a really great discussion of her work here at Light, a journal of light verse.

Anyway, over the past few days, I've written a couple of light-hearted poems, though they're really more exercises than anything else. I don't think I'd include them in my manuscript, not yet anyway, until I get a better hang at this whole balancing act thing. That's not to say that my work doesn't incorporate any humor -- I think I've been doing that all along, I have a certain playful strain, too, in much of my work -- but I'm just not comfortable with the label "light" I guess. Maybe I just need to get over myself :) Maybe I just need to "light"en up.

Anyway, those are just a few thoughts about humor and poetry. I think this is a great example of the power of conversation, of meeting with other poets, and ultimately, of community. That seems to be a common theme -- we learn and grow by our interactions with one another. No one writes alone. I'm no exception.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Open Mics... Keepin' it Real

Image taken by Edward Vidaurre


A couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of attending an open mic poetry event in Harlingen at The Prelude. This venue was totally new to me, and in the end, I'm really glad I took the plunge and headed out.

I typically don't do open mics -- they often are an odd assortment of readers, and you never know what kind of tone or environment you're stepping into as a poet. The opposite of an open mic, I suppose, is a curated poetry reading with poets invited by a specific host who sets the tone, theme, and mood. Open mics are a mixed bag, a chance, but the result can be really wonderful (or really shitty for that matter).

This event, though, was far more on the wonderful side of the scale. It was hosted by Julieta Corpus, who is a good friend of mine from back in my MFA days. I was feeling pretty lousy that day -- I know this is becoming a constant on my blog, but I'd been struggling with some health issues again this week. Harlingen is also about an hour drive from where I live, but at the last moment, I was lying on my sofa, I looked over at B and asked, well, should we get out of the house tonight? He nodded his head, said, sure, if you want, and of course the spirit was willing. I packed up my tablet and we headed out the door. 

We arrived a little late, and there was standing room only, though an employee brought B and I a table and some chairs, I guess because I was limping around, coughing, and looking utterly pathetic. I got cozy and listened in to the poetry to get a feel for the event before deciding if I'd chime in with a poem or two of my own. There were a few brand new baby poets who'd never read before, poets who were new to me, and of course, some old friends like Edward Vidaurre, Linda Romero, and Jim Griswald. The topics ranged from body image issues, cancer, and love. A good range of a slice of life, indeed. Feeling inspired, I tapped on Julieta's shoulder and asked to be added to the list.

I looked through my tablet, deciding what to read, and settled on a single poem I'd been working on lately, one I felt I'd finally finished but I wasn't quite sure. This reading would give me a clear idea, I figured. And it seemed lighthearted enough to read in front of strangers. Then, I ordered some coffee for B and I, and sat back to enjoy the evening.

When it was my turn, I hobbled up to the stage, read my poem a little nervously, but the audience seemed to like it, so that helped me feel more confident in it. I now feel like the poem is "done" and I'd be comfortable reading it in front of any crowd. In fact, I think I'll read it at my upcoming reading in Austin :)

I left a little before the night was over -- my back was achy, my cough out of control, and I had work the next morning. B and I slunk out into the night and made the drive home, debriefing and discussing the works, settling on our high points of the night, and determining that it was, indeed, a success! I'll be back for more events at The Prelude in the future.

So here's why I think poets, at any points in their careers, should attend open mics:

1. They keep us grounded. There's something totally democratic about being #12 on a list to read, of following a complete poetry virgin and having the opportunity to congratulate them for a job well done.
2. You never know who you're going to meet -- at this event, I didn't meet anyone new, but I did see some good friends from a side of the valley I don't often venture into. So, for me, it was more of a reconnecting.
3. Open mics are PERFECT for trying out new material. There's no expectation there -- if you bomb, people probably aren't even going to remember your name. 
4. You'll get to hear a hodge-podge of different poetry styles, maybe even listen to types of poetry you typically shy away from. And that's a good thing. It opens the mind.
5. They're fun. I had fun :)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Journals that Pay for Poetry Book Reviews



Aside from being a poet, I also write book reviews. I think reviewing poetry collections has helped me to see how they work, how they come together, what makes them gel and maybe not gel. So it makes me better at what I do.

In the past, I've written reviews for Inside Higher Ed, and it was a paying gig. That's kind of dried up, but I've continued writing book reviews for free, mostly to just finish up any commitments I'd made to review certain books. And plus, I read a lot anyway, so this practice of reviewing helps me to not only plow through books, but also reflect on them. It slows me down.

And plus, it's good literary citizenship. And maybe I get karma points?

Anyway, aside from all of this, it's time consuming. To think about what a book DOES and how it works doesn't just happen. I'm not that smart, people (I know, I know, big shock right?). To write a decent review, I typically have to read a book at least twice, and I have to mull it over, agonize a bit, and then of course write, revise, edit, submit...

It'd be nice to get paid, ya know?

So, over the past couple of weeks, I've been scouring for literary journals that will pay reviewers. Because it's a labor of love, sure, but it'd be nice to justify this work with, say, a budget to buy more book :)

Here's my list!

1. 32 Poems -- $25
2. Agni -- $20 per page for prose
3. Antigonish Review -- $50 (Canadian books only)
4. Bear Deluxe – negotiated
5. Blunderbuss – modest 
6. Capilano Review -$50 per page
7. Cascadia Subduction Zone -- $10
8. Cincinnati Review -- $25 per page
9. Flapperhouse – $0.01 per word
10. Georgia Review -- $50 per page
11. Grasslimb -- $10-25
12. Gulf Coast -- $50 
13. Impressment Mag -- $25
14. LARB 
15. Kenyon Review
16. New Letters -- $35 and up
17. New Myth -- $30
18. Room -- $50-$120
19. Shenandoah
20. Southern Indiana Review -- $50
21. Sycamore Review -- $50
22. Three Penny Review -- $400
23. Virginia Quarterly Review -- $500 
24. West Branch -- $200

A big shout out to Jessica Piazza's Poetry Has Value, which I used to help narrow my search.

Do you know of any other journals that also pay for book reviews? Please let me know in the comments, or email me at kghoerth at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Manuscript Musings

I have to say, I've been enjoying my summer vacation so far. 

I know, I know, I'm only about a week in, but so far, so good! I've been writing everyday. Every. single. day. I get up, make coffee, write. And everyday that writing has been fruitful. What an amazing feeling! Most of what I've been doing is sifting through and cleaning up my Napowrimo poems from last month, but also generating some new material along the way. For the past two days, I've been working on a new mini series of poems about Lobo Girl, the feral child legend of southwest Texas. I think her narrative will fit nicely into my Slue Foot Sue narrative, braided together so to speak. They're both feminist reimaginings of masculinized folklore, that celebrate "wild" women who defy the rules. 

Speaking of my book... this week I've also taken a critical look at it, reorganized it, and trimmed it back a bit. I like its new shape. I decided to take out the "body" themed poems from the mss. and save them for the next book entirely. That way, when I finish "Lost Chronicles" I'll already have a little head start on my next book, "Love Poems to Desdemona". So, I've rationalized this move to myself, and I'm fairly satisfied with the results. This sets me back a bit on the "Chronicles" project, but I still expect to be done by the end of the summer, and, well, I think it will make for a more cohesive, stronger narrative arc to both books.

So the state of the manuscript? Pretty darn good.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Summer Starts... Today!

Oh summer vacation, you couldn't come soon enough :)

Today was my first "official" day of summer vacation. Yesterday, I spent the entire day (literally) finishing up grades and posting them. I went to bed so exhausted, so spent and grouchy that when I awoke this morning, I didn't quite realize what that all meant -- that I'm now totally obligation free for the next month.

Whaat?

It really hasn't sunk in. Maybe on Monday morning I'll wake up and feel free...

So what do I have going on this summer?

A few things.

Actually, tomorrow I'm really excited to visit my old high school and serve as their "keynote" poet for their poetry night. It's kinda special to me, actually, because, like so many youngsters, I did my very first poetry reading at this same poetry night in 2003... that's... too many years ago to count. Lately, I've actually begun really ENJOYING school visits. In the past, I really hadn't and only did them because it's something I should do, but now, they're growing on me. I see them as purposeful, and perhaps the most significant thing is that I always leave inspired by the kiddos. So I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

I'm also teaching Summer I session. I'm teaching two reduced seat time 1302 rhetoric courses. This will keep me busy for the month of June and shouldn't be too terribly painful.

And then, I'll be doing a reading in Austin in July. Woohoo! I don't have a specific date yet, but hopefully soon.

Of course, with every scrap of time in between, I'll be writing. My main goal for the summer is, by the end of August, to have a draft of my next manuscript in Publisher's hands. I've got about 90 poems in good shape right now (not great shape, but good shape) but the main problem with them is that it feels like there's two manuscripts in them. I've got Body poems (tentatively titled Self Portrait as a Ghost Town) and Relationship poems (tentatively titled The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue). Bleh. The good thing is that I've seemed to recently have hit a vein, so to speak, in my writing, so I've been generating new material -- on both subjects -_- Wouldn't it be awesome to have BOTH manuscripts done by the end of the summer? Uh... keep dreamin' Katie. I keep telling myself, pick one and run with it, girl! But then I get a new idea for a poem and away I go. I have a few months to figure this mess out.

I think what's REALLY keeping me from feeling all summery and free is this health b.s that's dangling over my head. Thanks to my epic grading marathon yesterday, I spent wayyyy too much time in a chair and hurt my back. So that's depressing. And then, even heavier on my mind, is my weird brain issue. My wonderful neurologist is on vacation, leaving me in suspense about the results of my recent scans. She returns in two weeks. So for two weeks, here I am, biting my nails, pulling out my hair, and just in general obsessing about this whole mortality thing. Which, believe it or not, is a pretty good obsession for a writer to have.

So, goals for summer 2016:
1. Don't die.
2. Finish poetry manuscript -- either split it up or make it work. Either way, send to Publisher by end of August!
3. Write two book reviews
4. Submit to residencies
5. Submit poetry packets out at least once per week -- so, let's say a goal of 15 by the end of summer. I did two yesterday, so I'm off to a good start!
6. Do at least one public reading a month. I've got May and July squared away, so figure something out for June and August
7. Successfully teach summer course while keeping my writing schedule going
8. Practice Spanish
9. Exercise five times per week, keep it a priority
10. Enjoy and savor the extra rime. Bake cakes. Play video games. Snuggle the cats. Take a long, frivolous roadtrip with B. Enjoy and life life to the fullest everyday.

On number 10, to be completely honest, I actually find great joy in being productive, in writing, in teaching, and in doing what I do. But, I need chill time too. I'll work on that this summer B-)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Napowrimo 30

I think this is the first time I've ever successfully completed NAPOWRIMO! Woot woot!

The Goddess Washes Dishes

She washes them by hand – she wants to feel
This quintessential part of life, this scrubbing away
Of assemblages of coal, garlic, potato skin,
the peeling of of gossamers of grease,
this unraveling of everything
that baked inside the bottom of the pan,
refused to let go. She scrapes it all away,
she lets it soak, she hums along with the tintinnabulation
of water meeting water, pooling redolent, scented
with the dulcet smell of pomegranate soap.

She breathes it in, finds peace in this dance
Of hands and sponge and dinner plate,
And salad bowl. She sighs with satisfaction
As the flip on the garbage disposal
swallowing everything that ever ailed her

Down its hatch with a mellifluous groan.


I can't say I'm incredibly proud of any of my poems, but some do show promise. Let May be the month of picking up the pieces, of finding something beautiful in these shards. 

Napowrimo 29

Today's task, the day 30 prompt, was to translate a poem. I've always been afraid of translating, but I took a swing at it today.

The Rainy Day

At least that was the story, shit.
The headlights and fender were torn off –
Clean. The adjuster came, two hours
Later – the
Other,
Arrived. What shit, what money, these things of life create --
The deductible, the rain and the train,
when I would go to yoga with serene karma, a Tibetan monk

The rain, days of rain-soaked plumage,
What is it going to create? A café, three readings, receptions,
Concentrating on the money coming and going between buses that stops

Books, breath

Rain of grammatical indulgence,
Snug,
Breathing,
Words that fall closer
To the adjuster that faces the headlights

What a defense