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Showing posts from April, 2015

Napo 22 and VIPF BEGINS!

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So it begins! The Valley International Poetry Festival!

Yesterday, we kicked it off with a lovely anthology release celebration and reading at the Mission Historical Museum. It was, in one word, magical. Truly. We sat out on the lawn and had a beautiful little picnic and poetry reading as the sunset. The only way it could have been better? If there was wine.

I was honored to have three poems in the anthology this year, and I read one of them at the reading. Always, though, the best part of the event is reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Some of the highlights of the night were meeting Laura Pena, my long-distance critique buddy, chatting up Shirley Rickett and checking out her new poetry collection, Transplant, and holding the new anthology, Boundless, in my hands.

The fun continued today at UTPA, where Mary Ann Escamilla and I hosted a poetry reading with PW Covington and Shirley Rickett for the campus community. It was relaxed, laid back, and a little low key. Toni…

Photo Shoot! and Napo 21

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So, I had a new experience recently!
A photoshoot!
Whaat?
My thoughts exactly.
But it actually was pretty fun. There I am, soaking it all in and getting my goddess on! Here's how it all went down:

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of getting interviewed for Beyond Arts Magazine. They cover all the arts events and happenings in the RGV, San Antonio, and Austin. It's actually a pretty nifty little magazine. Anyway, they wanted to do a little story on me and my award/book. Coolness, I say, and agree, not really sure what I was all getting into.
The interview goes well enough. I meet with Alyssa, the writer, at a local coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon, and she asks me smart questions about my book, my influences, and feminism. We have a great little chat, and then, as we're about to say our goodbyes, she asks me, "Oh, are you down for a photo shoot a little later in the week? We'll need some pictures for the magazine."
In my mind, I'm thinking it's just …

Napo 20

Today truly was just a freewrite. I'm beyond busy, which maybe comes across in this poem :-P

The prompt was to write a pastoral. I went for a quick walk in my horribly overgrown backyard. I got bit by a few desperate mosquitoes. I saw some hummingbirds battle over the last drops of nectar in the feeder. I destroyed a few spiderwebs with my forehead. Meh.

Napo 20

The weeds take over if you let them, Drown out everything you’ve planted Carefully, in a moment when your life Was something less chaotic. No, This isn’t the clean, neat garden You’d planted, complete with herbs, Chocolate mint, tarragon, and sage Growing in their tiny garden boxes, Gardenias, lavender, phlox, blooming In their flower boxes, the fruit trees trimmed to maximize efficiency.
No, it’s absolutely overgrown – the rain Kept coming and you were too busy To tend to it, to clip, mow, or weed, And now the garden is beyond repair – Overrun by whatever took root. But somehow, beauty finds a way to thrive, in the swoo…

Napo 19

Today's prompt was to write an erasure poem. I've never done that before, so this was, well, interesting? That's a good word.

I took a women's health article about weight loss, and chiseled this nonsense from it:

There may be no magic pill for weight loss, but dietician Julie Upton, MS, RD, of Appetite for Health stays on top of the science behind taming your appetite naturally. Here, she deciphers recent research and shares six foods that will keep your appetite in check.
Feel like you need some help with hunger management? You're not alone. Most of my clients who struggle with weight loss or maintenance also struggle with hunger. Of course, it's no coincidence — it's hard to walk around feeling famished, particularly when you're faced with the temptation of high-calorie treats everywhere you turn. No wonder willpower wilts!
The good news is that several new studies have identified compounds in certain foods that trigger the release of hormones in the s…

Napo 18

Today's Napo is about my grandmother. I inherited a lot from her -- my name, my chubby feet, my stubbornness. Probably most marked, at least recently, has been my spinal condition, though. My mom and my grandma never got along, so I never really got to know her very well before she passed away. 
So this poem is a little bit about that. I'd like to write more about my grandma Grace, about our relationship that really isn't one, and yet, how she shapes the way I move in this world still. 
Today's prompt was to write a poem about things I know for certain. When it comes to my grandma, that list is pretty short, but hmm...
Napo 18
Things I Know About Her
I know you had to be beautiful once, We all were in a moment in time When the sun danced on the tip Of your nose, when your skin Smelled of raspberries, your hair Like gardenias, when you wore spring Across your shoulders like a shawl.
I know your life must have been marked With beauty, five daughters, each one A heavy bl…

Napo 16 and 17

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So, yesterday was pretty special. I was honored to read a poem at the wedding of my friends Rodney Gomez and Sara Herrera. Being invited to do this was just so humbling. When Rodney told me about his plans for this evening, my heart melted. I eagerly agreed.

The only problem? I don't really write love poetry. I'm a feminist poet, and, well, us feminists have a pretty conflicted relationship with love poetry, because so often it comes across as objectifiying -- written by a male subject to an unmoving female object. Bleh. Or it comes across as cliched, overly sentimental, gushing and bleh. So, in short, although I love the idea of love and love poetry, it's just something I find difficult to do well. Or maybe it's just that love is such a powerful force in our lives as human beings that it's so difficult to find words that give it justice.

Anyway, this event was a perfect opportunity for me to try my hand at writing some love poems, but hopefully, in my own voice. …

Napo 15

Today's prompt was to write a poem about urgency. I didn't have too many ideas, so I kind of pulled this one out of nowhere. I'm going to revise this one and work it out some more, but I want to write a poem about a little girl hearing the ice cream man's song, and it proclaims spring's resurrection, kind of comparing the little girl to Mary Magdalene and the ice cream man to the resurrection. Meh. This draft doesn't include all of that, so... I'll work at it :)

Reawakening

The world was dead, quiet, not a single bird Or cricket sang. The nights were long, endless, winter hadn’t loosened her grip yet. The season was for mourning, coming to terms With the reality of a lifetime of slate skies, The cold and lifeless ground, crocuses Forever sealed inside their bud like closed fists. So when, early in the morning, I stepped out Barefoot onto the cement outside,
I had to suspend my disbelief at the warmth Of spring’s fingers on my face, the smell Of life, the s…

Napo 14

A tiny anecdote about my day before I share this poem:
I often blog about trying to write fiction. I am trying. My best. But it's hard, you know?
I've written a handful of stories over the past two years, and now, I'm just getting to the point of submitting them. In fact, one of them was just published in The Thing Itself! I am so incredibly proud of that, because it means that my efforts aren't futile, but to be completely honest, it's amazing how fiction comes so, UNnaturally to me, compared to poetry anyway.
Or maybe I struggled this much with poetry, too, only it's been so long ago that I don't remember?
Anyway, today was kind of funny.
I got a rejection letter from a literary journal from a fiction editor. It's a nice rejection with a few suggestions for revision, an encouraging note to try them again. But the curious thing? At the end of the email, it says, "Oh, and by the way, congrats on your big Texas Institute of Letters win..."
:-D

Napo 11, 12, and 13! And an Announcement!

I spent the morning writing. Is there any better way to spend the morning? No. There is not.

Yesterday, I left off with my AWP recap. Today, I want to tell you about what happened the next day, on Saturday, April 11th, which was probably one of the most memorable of my life so far.

I was awarded the 2014 Helen C. Smith Prize for the Best Book of Poetry by the Texas Institute of Letters for my latest collection, Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots.

!!!

Yes, you read that correctly! I had received word about a month ago, but was told not to say anything until it was officially announced at the awards banquet and annual meeting. So, I had to sit on this bit of wonderful news.

Anyway, that's why I had to leave AWP a day earlier than expected. I needed to be in Houston to receive my award. Unfortunately, the reception for the award happened a day early this year, on Friday, so though I missed that, I was at least able to attend the banquet.

So, Friday morning, I wake up at the ungodly hour of 3a…

Napo 10

Alrighty! Let's recap some more. 
My AWP 2015 experience.
After our panel, Celina and I decided to hang out together. We headed to a panel featuring (gasp) Ana Castillo! The panel was put together by Feminist Press and featured her and one other author. Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately?) we were late because our own panel's conversation went on a little long, and so by the time we found the place and walked in, Ana had already read. But we did catch the conversation afterwards, which was just as enlightening. The main thing I took away from this panel was that a lot of women really don't feel like they have permission to write. One woman asked Ana who gave her that permission, and Ana said, quite frankly, she gave it to herself.
How can we do that as women? Give ourselves permission to be this outspoken, out there writer? I think supporting one another is hugely important, encouraging other women to be brave and bold, but my goodness, at the end of the day, I think it&…

Napo 9 and Our AWP Panel recap!

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So, these past few days have really been amazing...

On Thursday, I left town to head over to Minneapolis for the AWP conference.

In short, I had an amazing time, though there was so much more I wanted to do. On Friday morning, I moderated a panel on Revisionist Mythmaking in the Borderlands. My other two panelists were Robin Scofield and Celina Villagarcia. The panel itself went better than I could have imagined. Though I was incredibly nervous at the beginning. I introduced our topic, explaining about Mouthfeel Press, what Revisionist Mythmaking was, and why we feel it's important as women in the borderlands to reclaim these narratives.

Robin Scofield read a series of really interesting poems from her collection, Sunflower Cantos, about a woman traveling through the Borderlands region, encountering all of these stories for various different mythologies. I loved it, especially the connections to native mythologies, because I think that's something we often overlook in convers…

Napo 8

Today's prompt was to write a poem about changing your mind.

I don't mean to get crazy personal, but in terms of my illness, I feel as though I simply had to make a choice to be healthy or ill, and to wear one of those two labels when I'd get up each morning. Deep down, it was my choice, how I decided to frame myself. Most days, I choose health. Sometimes, that's a hard choice to make.

How I Chose To Get Up Again
I was tired of being sick – The mind’s stiffness, growing numb, The glow of the television, the ache Of muscles that ache to move but can’t Or won’t, I hadn’t decided yet. Because the smell of sitting Became too much. Because I was sick Of my tangled hair in my face, Of reaching up for someone else’s hand To rise, because seasons change, Because the body wants to, too, Because flowers bloom and die and bloom again Because even if I wasn’t ready, life goes on, Because I’d already exhausted every episode Of Gordon Ramsey, binged through The seasons of Orange is…

Napo 7

Bleh.

Tough day today. The going is getting tough in general.

But here's a little something. It's a super rough draft that I hope to return to in the coming months. How much do we have to give up in pursuit of money? I've worked my share of crappy service jobs, so here's a freewrite about that.


Cashier Girl

Once, when I was working
at an entertainment store,
a man came up to me to pay
for some, well,
how can I put this delicately?
Porn.

It was my first day at this job.
I'm incredibly nervous.
I'm 17 years old.
The guy tries to make
an awkward situation
less awkward
by making conversation.

It doesn't work.
My hands are shaking.
I'm laughing nervously,
giggling, really.

I'm trying not to touch the porn.
I'm trying not to look down
at the woman on the cover,
her legs open, her fingertips
on her nipples, her eyes
memorizing.

I'm trying not to make
eye contact with the creepy old man
who keeps trying to make eye contact
with me. I ring up the vid…

Napo 6

It's Monday. It's a busy week. I've got meetings to go to, papers to grade, students to scold, a trip to plan. I'm busy.
But still, there's a tiny silence for poetry.
This morning's prompt was to write an aubade. After a bit of thought, I wanted to write a goddess aubade about getting up and recreating the world through a routine. This poems needs more magic, more mightiness. I want to show the magic in the mundane. I want this poem to parallel different creation myths, but on this busy Monday morning, I haven't the time to do the research. I'm leaving this note in hopes that I'll remember to come back and rework this little free write.
The Goddess on a Monday Morning
Let there be light, and there was, She flipped the switch, alit Their bedroom into being, colored Everything the night obscured. She rises from the bed, shakes sleep From her hair, brushes the sour taste Of lifelessness from her teeth. Her bare feet meet the tile, Creating a music of m…

Napo 5

So, it's Easter. Easter was never a big holiday for my secular family growing up. So here's a poem about that!

Easter Morning
We never went to church on Easter mornings, Instead, the day began like any other – I woke up to the house, clean, empty and quiet As a tomb, awash in in the dim blue color of early mornings before the sunrises. I was the first one up and so I snuck Into the living room, turned the TV on, the volume down as not to wake my brothers, let time flow through me as I lay in wait For everyone else to awake from their slumber, For the lights to flip on, for my father’s hushed murmurs, for eyes to bloom open, the pounding of feet down the hall, for the smells of life to waft through the house, coffee, bacon grease, burnt toast, for the sun to stream through the dusty kitchen windows, for the taste of orange juice on my lips, for the kiss on my forehead, a nudge on my shoulder, as if this awakening together happened every single day,
as if it wasn’t some kind of…

Napo 4

Today's prompt was to write a love poem, avoiding cliches about love poems. I need to come back to this idea, though. My goal is to turn this poem into an almost anti-disney princess love poem, poking fun at how love is portrayed to girls. Like, it's supposed to be this transformative thing for us, but in reality, falling in love with B was wonderful, yes, but I'm still me and he's still him, though we've built our lives around supporting one another. Anyway, here's what I've got so far. I'm not happy with the poem itself, but I like the idea of rethinking how we look at and experience love.

Love Story
We don’t have a great love story. We were strangers once, and now we’re not. There was nothing magical about seeing you Across the classroom, no singing birds, no rainbows, Just a florescent light, an empty desk that I would fill. On our first date, we didn’t fall in love – Just got to know each other over soggy calamari, Sweet iced tea, and stories of ou…

Napo 3

Today's prompt was to try a fourteener. I'd never written one before, so this was seriously fun. Supposedly, fourteeners are great for narrative poems, which is something I love writing.

This poem isn't finished, but I like what I've got so far! I'm kind of going for a revisionist Atalanta footrace poem, only my Atalanta is going to intentionally throw the race because she wants to kiss the boy and also feels sorry for him. Hmm...


A Footrace After School

I’ll race for you for push-pop, Johnny called across the schoolyard, Knowing full and well I didn’t have a quarter to My name to pay the ice cream man if I should lose the race. It seemed that bragging rights, that being named the fastest kid
In fifth grade wouldn’t be enough. I shrugged my shoulders, stuck My hands into the empty pockets of my jeans, and stared down at my scuffed up tennis shoes. Johnny was the fastest boy; I was the fastest girl. All week, we’d trash-talked one
another, knowing it would come to …

Napowrimo #2

This is seriously unfinished, but I wanted to make sure I posted something. I am thinking of continuing this poem, connecting the idea of the speaker as a sea monster to the Andromeda story -- to have her learn that her place in this world isn't one of the destroyer, the monster, but one of a "good" girl, a princess, a damsel. So I have a little work to do here yet! Thinking how I can incorporate that better... But here's what I came up with so far:

Elk Hart Lake, Early Autumn
My father brought me there when I was six To practice swimming. It was August, The endless summer fading into dusk. I spent the day there, no longer a little girl, but a sea monster, seaweed clinging to my skin, mud between my toes, and just my eyes  above the surface,  searching the rocky shoreline for my next victim, a grasshopper who leapt too close, a couple fire ants that I could strand on a leaf and send to sea, an autumn dandelion growing on the edge that I could pluck and toss into the…

Welcome, April!

Ah yes.

This morning, I awoke to thunder. It rattled the window, my sleep, my blissful peace.

And so begins National Poetry Month!

As I stumbled out of bed, my thoughts, as they often do, turned to writing. I washed the dishes, put the coffee on, remembering the past few Aprils, how wonderful (and crazy) they've been, and how, in some way or another, I've carved out time to write more poetry during each of them. Some of my favorite poems started out as NaPo poems!

So, this month, I'm doing it once again. I'll be trying to  writing 30 poems in 30 days and sharing them here on the blog. I've got so much going on this month, though, but I'm going to do the very best I can.

May April be the month of shitty first drafts. Of musing. Of ideas.
May May be the month of revisions, of cleaning up the messes.

Today, I cheated just a little. I didn't write this piece in its entirety today, though I did take another swing at revising it. So this is draft 2 of a poem I…