Friday, March 30, 2012

Musings on Femininity and Verse

So this week I was a productive Katie.

I was invited by one of my thesis committee members (flashbacks!!!) to be a part of her panel on gender and literature as part of Festiba. I was honored to join in, and said "of course! yes! I would love to!" and put it on the back burner of my ADD brain.

I figured I would just kind of run the same presentation as I did at AWP, no biggie.

But as the days ran closer, I started to feel -- well, that I was missing out on an opportunity to evaluate my own poetics. The panel was, after all, a research panel, and... I should probably do some actual research, yeah? And since I defended my thesis about a year ago now, my views on poetry have changed, matured, ripened (I like to think, anyway).

And so this past weekend, I embarked on a reading journey through criticism. No, it wasn't nearly as boring as it sounds. I came to a few personal conclusions that I touched on in my presentation. Why don't I share them with you?

1. Poetics are always changing and evolving, and that's completely ok.

2. The best poetry engages the conversation between form and content. Poets who are aware of this can use it to further their message in a powerful way.

3. My poetry is all about looking back and revisioning what it means to be a woman, a human being, broadening the discourse to allow for those marvelous shades of gray.

4. I do this by revising myths to be a source of feminine power and strength through my content.

5. I do this by revising and challenging form and meter to embody the feminine voice

6. Most importantly, as a poet, I acknowledge that there is no one answer to any question. There are many ways to be a poet, to be a feminist. I'm only beginning to discover a voice that works for me. Poetics are always changing and evolving in response to the world around me.

So there you have it. My current poetic philosophy. Let's see if it changes tomorrow :-)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Death at the White Camellia Orphanage

So I know my blog is mostly about poetry, but...

Tomorrow happens to be the release date for A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, a fantastic novel by the even more fantastic Marly Youmans.

As I was reading the first chapter (which, yes, if you click that nice little link you'll get to read it, too!) I found that there was, indeed, poetry hidden within the prose. To be expected, though. Marly's a talented poet, too! How crafty... the first chapter ends at a rather suspenseful moment. Which means only one thing... I'm buying the book X-D

I've known Marly for about a year now; we met at West Chester last summer. She's an author, poet, blogger, and mom extraordinaire . How does one woman do it all? I'm honestly not sure and I'm still trying to figure that out for myself... but she must have some sort of super power, that's all I'm going to say..

Anyway, her latest book comes out tomorrow, so check it out!

Here's some more information on A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, since, well, you probably don't just want to take my word for it.

In A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, Marly Youmans gives us a beautifully written and exceptionally satisfying novel. The book reads as if Youmans took the best parts of The Grapes of Wrath, On the Road, The Reivers, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and crafted from them a tale both magical and fine. Her rich language and lovely turns of phrase invite the reader to linger. Ironically, there is at the same time a subtle pressure throughout the novel to turn the page, because Youmans has achieved that rarest of all accomplishments: she has created a flawed hero about which we care. A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage is one of the best books I have read.

--Raymond L. Atkins

From the Flap:


After a death at the White Camellia Orphanage, young Pip Tatnall leaves Lexsy, Georgia to become a road kid, riding the rails east, west, and north. A bright, unusual boy who is disillusioned at a young age, Pip believes that he sees guilt shining in the faces of men wherever he goes. On his picaresque journey, he sweeps through society, revealing the highest and lowest in human nature and only slowly coming to self-understanding. He searches the points of the compass for what will help, groping for a place where he can feel content, certain that he has no place where he belongs and that he rides the rails through a great darkness. His difficult path to collect enough radiance to light his way home is the road of a boy struggling to come to terms with the cruel but sometimes lovely world of Depression-era America.

On Youmans’s prior forays into the past, reviewers praised her “spellbinding force” (Bob Sumner, Orlando Sentinel), “prodigious powers of description” (Philip Gambone, New York Times), “serious artistry,” “unobtrusively beautiful language,” and “considerable power” (Fred Chappell, Raleigh News and Observer), “haunting, lyrical language and fierce intelligence” (starred review,Publishers Weekly.) Howard Bahr wrote of The Wolf Pit, “Ms. Youmans is an inspiration to every writer who must compete with himself. I had thought Catherwood unsurpassable, but Ms. Youmans has done it. Her characters are real; they live and move in the stream of Time as if they had passed only yesterday. Her lyricism breaks my heart and fills me with envy and delight. No other writer I know of can bring the past to us so musically, so truly.”

Would you like to be added to Marly's mailing list for information on future books? Of course you would! Here's how:
1. Please send your email address to smaragdineknot[at] gmail [dot] com.
2. Mention you'd like to be added to the mailing list in your email.
3. Techno-minions will respond when they feel so moved. Occasionally. Possibly from time to time. When they crawl out from under the beds with the dust bunnies.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Poetry Pasta and Vino One Year Aniversary

That was on Friday. We, of course, had a poetry reading to celebrate! I can't believe it's already been a year. I love going to the poetry readings at Carinos :) In fact, they're my favorite of all. Never fails to draw a good crowd.

Here are a few pictures from the evening. The highlight was seeing the Texas Poet Laureate Jan Seale in action again, in addition to other talented artists including Brian Carr (author of Short Bus) and Xavier Garza (author of... too many to name!).

Ok! Edward, general manager of Carinos, even had a fancy dancy banner printed for us. Gosh he's wonderful. From left, that's Alan Oak, Jan Seale, and Edward Vidaurre.

Here I am, stressin' over my poems! I'm going through this phase where I try to memorize my poems and recite them, Dana Gioia style. Ok, he's the master, not me. But whatever, a girl can try, yeah? Oh, maybe not after one too many peach bellinis though... which happened to be the case this particular eve X-D Notice the empty glass behind that lovely orchid.

Me! Again, doing what I do best, twirl my hair!

I had to post at least one picture of Xavier. Man that guy knows how to tell a story....

So all in all, a wonderful evening. Pictures are, as always, courtesy of Illeana Garcia Spitz.

I hadn't gone to a reading in the valley in awhile, so it was nice to be out and about again, feeling all warm and fuzzy part of the poetry community. It sure is nice to be among friends!

In other Katie news...

I'm really struggling with a poem lately. It's driving me up the wall. I've been working on it for the past three weeks, and I'm ready to throw in the towel. Don't you hate it when that happens? :( I have mediocre scraps, but I just can't get the little sonnet to a point where I'm happy with it. Perhaps, perhaps, I just need more time to brood.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

AWP Day II, Part 2!

Ok so maybe I haven't been the best of blogger lately, and maybe I apologize.

But I've been having a rush of poems!

It feels fantastic X-D Ok, more like a little maddening, but also fantastic. I've written 3 poems in the past 5 days, 3 POEMS. That's really fast for me... I'm a pokey poet in general.

Ok, back to the AWP story...

After stopping by the Crab Orchard Review table, I realized I had just a little bit of time before the ONE panel I was really looking forward to seeing. So I head on over to the Alice James Books table (which, is probably my favorite major press) to just meet the editors, and see what they've got forthcoming. I start fiddling through the books, and look up to see a familiar face. Huh? Do I know you?

It was Stacy Gnall! No, I didn't know her, but gosh she looked familiar! And then, sitting in front of her was a stack of suspiciously familiar looking books... Heart First into the Forest. The book I reviewed for BOXCAR a few weeks back! Ah hah... we talk a little bit about MFAs and PhDs and other alphabet soups of degrees. She was actually really nice. It was great to meet her in person :)

Ok! So then I head over to the ballroom to the panel "Literary Necromancy" hah! It was an interesting title, but an even more interesting panel. I walk in, take a seat, and guess who I find? Molly Peacock! I get to talk to her JUST A LITTLE BIT  before the panel begins, and I get to thank her for the lovely lovely blurb she provided for my forthcoming book.

The panel was actually REALLY informative for me. There were four biographers, and they talked about how they went about writing the story of someone else's life: ethical concerns, formal issues, and research stuff. It was a pleasure hearing Molly talk about her process for writing, talk about how she had gotten to know her subject's living ancestors, and the story of how her subject chose her. Now I'm even more convinced that I have to read The Paper Garden! It's been on my reading list for awhile. Molly said the subject was close to her heart; that there were amazing parallels between her life and Ms. Delany. Which... got me to thinking about a certain project that's been up my sleeve for the past year or so that (like much of everything else) is just a silly little idea in my pretty little head.

ANYWAY! I had to sneak out of the panel a little early, regrettably, because I had my own panel to head off to. And boy, was it fantastic! I arrived and found my ladies standing outside the room. At this point, I'm getting just a little nervous. I'm going through what I'm supposed to say and do in my mind, running through everything, hoping and praying I don't screw everything up X-D Is it ok to admit you're nervous? I did.

Once we get into the room, I start feeling a little bit better. I stand at the podium, watch a surprising amount of people file in and take their seats. We hand out programs, and, I hear my name!

"Katie?" a woman asks. Huh? I look up, and we shake hands, after I give her a confused glance. Gosh, I think to myself, my memory must be going, I'm usually pretty good with faces...

And then she introduces herself as Kim! Kim! From "The Sphere!" Ahh hahh! One of my online poetry critiquing buddies. No wonder I didn't recognize her, we'd never met in person... I had to give her a hug. I'm a hugger. A big time hugger.

Once the panel gets underway, I start my little "talk" which was more like me introducing everyone, talking a little about Mouthfeel Press, and the little I know about the history of border literature. You see, I think us border ladies have a pretty important task ahead of us. So much border literature is masculinized... and there really aren't very many women who actually publish from these regions. Why? Well it's certainly not that we're not writing. But perhaps there isn't much of a markets? And that's what Mouthfeel Press' job is! To help broaden the conversation, give a woman's perspective and voice to the borderlands.

So that's the kind of stuff I talked about... and I read some of my latest poems that I think illustrate a woman's perspective of the borderlands. And my fellow authors read and discussed their poetics, too. Aye, I'll never get tired of listening to Laura Cesarco Eglin's accent in Spanish... hearing her read is an absolute pleasure! And she also brought up some really interesting issues about translating, since she's so talented knowing like a million languages X-D

I also really enjoyed hearing Maria Miranda Maloney's poems. You see, I mostly think of her as "publisher," but obviously, she's a poet too! She has some amazing experimental works. And of course! Elisa Garza's poems are lovely too. Hearing her read, I felt like I was back in El Valle, and just in time, too, because I was feeling a little homesick. She does a marvelous job capturing the cultural landscape.

Anyways... there were a lot of questions, too. People were asking about the markets in publishing for women's issues, translations, and language. The panel turned into a really fascinating discussion about our influences and work. Ah, it was wonderful. But! I glance down at the time. My plane's leaving soon! So I sneak out just in time.

But I couldn't leave without taking a picture of myself next to my sign! Here it is! :)

And then I had to scurry off... because, plane to catch and Bruno to get back to. I was so sad to leave AWP, but at the same time, it would, too, be nice to be home.

I've got a lot more to say about news, but for another day, I suppose! Life's been a good crazy lately.

But! I do have a reading tomorrow. As always, check out my side panel for more info. But I'm reading with Jan Seale again X-D Which I'm beyond excited about.

Off to practice reciting my poems!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Katie's AWP Adventure: Day II

Katie seriously needs to take a break from obsessively checking Duotrope's Digest. I mean, really.

I'm getting all giddypants about a few journals that appear to be "holding" a few of my poems. Stop obsessing! Stop obsessing!

So to take a little break from all this madness, why don't I tell you a little bit about my second day at AWP?

I wake up in Chicago on Saturday morning. I'm up pretty early, mostly because I'm nervous for the panel I'm moderating. My nervousness wakes up BruBru, because we're... well, weird like that.

So after getting ready, we head to the hotel's breakfast area and had a yummy start with tons of coffee (which probably didn't help to ease my giddiness) and conversation in an atrium. Que bueno!

We head outside, and what do ya know -- it's snowing! I'm from South Texas; I'm easily amused. I stop to pose for a picture (and aren't you glad I did? lol).

It's about ten in the morning when I arrive at the conference. I consider going to a morning panel, but then I decide against it. Everything's going to be rush rush from here on in, and I wanted a little time to find some people I've been meaning to track down.

My first stop? The Fifth Wednesday Journal table! One of my AWP goals was to meet the editor. As you probably know, I'm an Assistant Poetry Editor there, and I wanted to thank him for giving me the opportunity to work there and gain some editorial experience. My next planned stop was to visit the Adanna table and meet the editor, Kristine Waldeyer, because... ::drum roll please:: two of my poems will be featured in the next issue! I end up chatting with Kristine for a bit, and buying her chapbook, Eve Asks. If you don't already know, I'm pretty much obsessed with Eve (yeah, look at my next two book titles: The Garden!? lol). I'll let you know what I think of it soon, though I'm sure I'm going to love it.

For AWP, I decided to do a "pay it forward" kind of book experience. For every book I sold, I vowed to buy one! I came home with a little armful of books B-)

AnYwAyS! Now that those two mandatory stops were completed, I noticed I still had a bit of time before MOLLY PEACOCK's panel (you know I couldn't miss that, right?). I make my way over to the Southern Illinois Univeristy table, and I have to ask... "Is Allison Joseph here?"

One of the guys manning the book table smiles. "She's right over there," he says, pointing to her. Ah hah! I recognize her right away -- we met briefly last summer at West Chester. She looked kind of busy, so I thank him and start to walk away, but he stops me. "Do you know her?" he asks.

I get all tongue tied... "ah... ah.... a little! but she doesn't remember..." and before I can finish my sentence, he calls her over. I turn bright red, completely not ready to introduce myself. I didn't need to though! She remembered me X-D I get her to sign my copy of In Every Seam which I happened to pick up at the Pitt Poetry Series booth. And we chit chat about West Chester, and formal poetry in general. She laughs when I say she's one of my heroes. But it's true!

Anyway, that was a wonderful AWP moment for me. She says "keep in touch!" and we hug and say goodbye just before... well... I run out of mildly intelligent things to say. She does tell me that COR is HoLdInG my poems though! ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG.

Yikes, it's almost 5pm here and I haven't even gotten to my panel! Ok, be ready for Day II, Part II in the next installment of Katie's AWP AdVeNtUrE!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Katie's AWP Adventure: Day 1


You will be happy to know I am back and alive after the whirlwind of AWP.

I've been calling it a "whirlwind" since the moment I got there, because really, that's what it felt like! As you know, I'm a South Texas kind of girl. I'm used to life moving at a "South Texas Pace" which is very different from Chi-town...

I had the crazy idea to book a flight that left as early in the morning as possible... 5am out of Brownsville. Yeah, that wasn't my brightest idea. But whatever, Bruno and I, truly zombified, made it to the airport and off we went.

I arrived in blustery Chicago at about noon that Friday morning. Bruno likes to drive, so we rented a car to get around town. Gosh traffic is InSaNe! I'm not used to the hustle bustle.

Anyway, I make it to the Hilton at around 2:30. I was all jitters and nerves checking in, looking for any familiar face. None. A sea of strangers! A sea of writers. Ah, not so bad, perhaps :-)

I wander around the book fair (which was, in one word, enormous!), and finally find my table, BorderSenses. But... no one I recognize! I go up and introduce myself, and am happy to be greeted with a friendly Texas face. I pick up a flyer from the table, and point to the picture at the bottom. "I'm her!" I say, beaming with nerves and giddiness, "here for my book signing!"

Sonia, I learn was her name, tells me that my publisher didn't have my chapbook ready, but had brought many copies of my first chapbook. Great, I think to myself, AWP is off to a fantastic start... but I wasn't going to let it ruin my afternoon.

(A side note: I find out later that there was a problem with the cover art. The artist was being terribly difficult signing over the rights. It's ok, book will be coming out soon soon soon)

Anyway, it doesn't ruin my afternoon in the least! I finally get to meet Elisa Garza, my fellow blogger buddy, Mouthfeel Press poet, and panelist. I'm starting to feel better already. It's always such a strange feeling, meeting people face to face for the first time that you've conversed with a lot online.

About an hour into my book signing (and after selling a few copies of my chap!), I start to feel a bit antsy. So much exciting looking stuff going on -- I want to go and make the rounds. So I do! I stop by tables and tables, including the BOXCAR Poetry Review table and chatted up the main editor, Neil Aiken. I hope to be doing more than just writing reviews for BOXCAR soon!

I also found a group of writers called the Two Year College Caucus, which I had to join because, well, I teach at a two year college. So that was pretty neat to find! Plus, they were giving out free wine, so... you know...

As I'm wandering around the book fair, I stumble across my good friend Lau. Oh it felt so good to see a familiar face! And shortly thereafter, I find Maria, publisher of Mouthfeel Press, as well. We all gather around the BorderSenses table, and now, all feels just about right :-)

Here we are: the BorderSenses crew! I'm at the far right. Yeah, you already knew that.

We all hang out, selling books, chatting with one another, and planning for tomorrow until we're nearly kicked out for the evening. Ah well, tomorrow, tomorrow, we'll catch up some more tomorrow.

Bruno picks me up at the Hilton and I'm beyond tired. Exhausted. "No writer disco?" he asks me.

"No writer disco." I say, shuttering at the thought. Not today, no, I haven't the energy. I need some peace, some quiet, some alone time with my love. I can be that way sometimes. So that's exactly what we do.

Bruno and I cruise around Chicago, and take a late night stroll too. The snow begins to dust, and ahhh it sure was nice. We found the cutest little Irish pub, and enjoyed a few brewskys together before calling it a night. I fall into bed at about one, having been up for twenty four hours.