Thursday, October 30, 2014

What I Am Reading (and Loving): Ellen Bass - LIKE A BEGGAR


LIKE A BEGGAR by Ellen Bass
Published by Copper Canyon Press, 2014.

Beautiful, surprising narrative poems.  I read this book completely in the first sitting.  I am ruining my copy as I carry it with me everywhere. Pages are being dog-eared, pencil marks throughout of my favorite lines and poems. This is how I know I have fallen for a book of poems.

She had me with the first poem called "Relax." Here it is:


Relax


Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she’s a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat–
the one you never really liked–will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn’t plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up–drug money.
There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice–one white, one black–scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.


************

I can't recommend this book enough. Ellen Bass just keeps getting better!


~ Kells
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Some Hints & Suggestions for those entering The Russell Prize from Two Sylvias Press...



Already submissions are coming in for Two Sylvias Press's new The Russell Prize, a monetary prize for a poet of any age who has not yet published a book or chapbook.

There have been a few really outstanding entries, but there have also been some I already know won't make it to the next level. Why? Because they are what I call the "5 minute entry," reading them, it feels as if about 5 minutes has been spent on the entry.

So this blog post is to give you some suggestions and note for how to have a strong entry for this prize or maybe something else.




1) Read the guidelines carefully:

http://twosylviaspress.com/the-russell-prize.html

and follow the guidelines. If it says, three poems, don't send four. If it says no attachments,

don't send your poems in an MS Word or PDF document. Send everything that's asked for.



2) Answer thoughtfully.

Three things that we ask for are: a) a bio b) a description of why the money would be helpful

and what you are working on (up to 400 words), c) how you heard about The Russell Prize.



Share as much as you can to explain your project and what you have done and plan to do in

the poetry community. This is not the time to dash off something like, "I would use the money

to help with bills and to finish my manuscript" and leave it at that.  You have 400 words to s

hare your goals and  dreams. You have 400 words to set you apart from probably 400 other poets.



Yes, I think there could be that many entering. So really take more than five minutes, or an hour, and write the best description you can. Remembering, we know *nothing* about you. We need to learn who you are in the bio, in the description, and in your poems. Impress us. Don't be afraid to tell us that you have won a prize or where you've been published, or that you volunteer in the schools. 



3) Proofread! 

Double check you answered all the questions. Make sure you included all your

contact info, the best things you want to share. Read your bio & description out loud.




4) Be professional.  

 In your description, your bio, your correspondence. All of it. Take it seriously. Represent 

yourself the best you can and share your best self. Use your manners, but also use your own

personality and style as well. Be clear and specific in everything you write to us.

Remember, we have to read every single entry. We want to love you and your work.




5) Make sure your submission is clean and easy to understand and read. 

Put things in the order they were asked for. Look it over on the page or ask someone else to read it

before you send it off to make sure it's clear and easy to understand.




6)  Open with a clean clear opening note: "Dear Kelli & Annette, Below is my submission

for Two Sylvia Press' The Russell Prize, which I discovered while on your website. "

Then beneath that, clearly include the information that is being asked for.







Some definite No's:


Do not begin "Dear Sirs."

Do not think being flip, uncaring, or cool is cute or impressive.

Do not think you are the best just because. Show us you are the best person for us to choose.



Extra credit:  

You've researched our Two Sylvias Press, you know who we are, who we publish, and what our mission in the literary community is.

You're actually a reader of one of our poets, publications, or maybe even own one of our books.

You follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or backed us on Kickstarter.

We are who you'd want to ask to prom. 
We are a press you'd be proud to sponsor you and perhaps in the future, 
     when your manuscript is complete, publish your book.
You believe in what we do and want to support us.
You believe that great writing is good for the world.




And when it's over, if you're not chosen, don't take rejection personally and don't view it as rejection. Realize there are a lot of poets already competing for this prize. We wish we had more to give. We wish we could choose many of you.


On a personal note, this prize means a lot to me as it's named after my family and is a tribute to parents. If you read the note, my father passed away right when I graduated from college, he has not been able to see anything I'd done in my life as an adult. I'm not taking this first choice lightly.

We want to choose someone who is doing good work in the world.  We want to begin to establish a prize that will go on to support poets.  We want this to be yearly (though honestly, next year, there may be a small fee to enter just to weed out the people who aren't serious, who just mail three poems and a smiley face. They should not take away our time in really being able to support the poets who care and who deserve this).  

But this is this year, and hopefully some of these tips can help you.  Be specific, thoughtful, and thorough are probably the best advice I can give.  And good luck to you.


For more info on The Russell Prize from Two Sylvias Press:


Learn more about Two Sylvias Press here.

Learn more about Two Sylvias Press' Authors here.

Learn more about our publications here.



Deadline for the Prize, November 2... (But another hint, don't wait until the last day).







~ Kells
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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Letter from Anne Sexton to her then 15 Year Old Daughter (1969)


I've read a lot about Anne Sexton, but somehow missed this--

From Anne Sexton to her 15-year-old daughter Linda, 1969:
Wed — 2:45 P.M.
Dear Linda,
I am in the middle of a flight to St. Louis to give a reading. I was reading a New Yorker story that made me think of my mother and all alone in the seat I whispered to her “I know, Mother, I know.” (Found a pen!) And I thought of you — someday flying somewhere all alone and me dead perhaps and you wishing to speak to me.
And I want to speak back. (Linda, maybe it won’t be flying, maybe it will be at your own kitchen table drinking tea some afternoon when you are 40. Anytime.) — I want to say back.
1st, I love you.
2. You never let me down
3. I know. I was there once. I too, was 40 and with a dead mother who I needed still.
This is my message to the 40-year-old Linda. No matter what happens you were always my bobolink, my special Linda Gray. Life is not easy. It is awfully lonely. I know that. Now you too know it — wherever you are, Linda, talking to me. But I’ve had a good life — I wrote unhappy — but I lived to the hilt. You too, Linda — Live to the HILT! To the top. I love you, 40-year old Linda, and I love what you do, what you find, what you are! — Be your own woman. Belong to those you love. Talk to my poems, and talk to your heart — I’m in both: if you need me. I lied, Linda. I did love my mother and she loved me. She never held me but I miss her, so that I have to deny I ever loved her — or she me! Silly Anne! So there!
XOXOXO
Mom



~ Kells


 
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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Susan Rich's book featured on The Next Best Book: Win a FREE COPY! Follow the link!

HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!  

Need a little creativity in your life, a little poetry?

Follow this link to sign up to win and copy of Susan's book and participate in the Next Best Book discussion on CLOUD PHARMACY!

Deadline: Oct 8th at Midnight!




~ Kells
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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Confession Tuesday: Looking Up & A Quote Not By Meryl Streep





Dear Reader,

The best part of growing up and growing older is the realization that you get to choose how you spend your time and who you want in your life.


I confess when it comes to time, I realize I have no idea how many minutes I get on this planet, but I get to decide how I use them. Each fall I think about how I am spending my time and how I want to spend my time to make sure they are in sync.


I make sure that I am not *mindlessly* doing anything-- surfing the internet, shifting papers around, eating snacks. The day "can get away from us," as they say, but really, we are letting the day walk out the door without us.

Now that my workyear has restarted, I am trying to make sure I doing what's best for my writing and Two Sylvias Press, my two focuses when it comes to my work. Sometimes, I find I'm wasting time on Facebook, what do I do?  Either delete a post, log off, deactivate my account, or there's this fantastic app as well, humorously called "Self Control" (you can download it here --;  
http://selfcontrolapp.com/)


~
I confess that Marilyn Monroe has been on my mind lately. Here's a candid shot of her at Costello's restaurant.

I could look at her photos for hours. Her expressions were always said so much.

~


I confess when it comes to friendships and relationships, I realize I can only keep the most kind, supportive, and loving people in my life.  I am not a fan of drama or on-again, off-again relationships. I think the best of people and am a very open and trusting person if you're my friend. But every so often, I take inventory of the people I'm spending my time with and decide if it's both healthy and good for me to have that person in my life.  If it's not, I create boundaries, borders, walls, and everyone once in awhile, large moats with well-fed crocodiles.


If you've ever seen Meet the Fockers, you'll know the dad (Robert DeNiro) talks about "the circle of trust." This cracks me up because I realize that I do have various circles of friends in my life and in my head, and these circles help me sort out what I can share with whom.


~

I confess a few weeks ago this quote was rounding the internet being attributed to Meryl Streep, but I connected with it. It's not her words, but it's a good quote for living a life:




“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.” 


- José Micard Teixeira apparently, for  Meryl Streep



Dear friends, 

Life is hard enough as is. Be easy on yourself and each other.

Amen.

~ Kells
 
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Monday, October 06, 2014

Useful Tools & Apps for Poets & Writers (focus on Mac apps):



I so dislike clutter or confusion in my life or on my computer because it fills my head and blocks my writing. Because of that, I find ways to be as organized as possible.

This is a challenge for a creative mind. Of course, as I say this and on my desk--file folders and a stack of favorite poetry books.  But here are a few tools I use that might make your life easier:



1)  Self-Control:  Best app for writers EVER! (I think it may just be for Mac users, but I bet there's a MS type app somewhere out there.)

Turns off the habitual places you go to without turning off the internet.  Hooked on Facebook?  Can't stay off Twitter?  No worries. Self-Control lets you block these sites while still being able to use the internet for research (REAL research, not looking up photos of George Clooney's wedding.)

Self Control; (price: FREE! - you're welcome.) http://selfcontrolapp.com/



2) Dropbox:  It shocks me that people still save their drafts on their laptop.  Not only does it take up space but as someone who has ruined my last Mac by spilling a pot (yes a POT) of coffee on it, it makes more sense to save it in "the cloud." Also, if you're at a reading or out and need to pull up a poem, you can do it. You can immediately attach poems to send out from your smartphone.

Hugely recommend this. I now pay extra to store photos on it. TOTALLY worth it for me to know I have everything safe and reachable from any location.


Dropbox:  https://www.dropbox.com/home



3) Evernote:  This is my online journal.  Where I save articles, info about a poem I'm writing. I have a file for my 4th manuscript where I keep information until I can sort through it.  Like a virtual Twyla Tharp creative box.

Evernote: https://evernote.com/


4)  Toodledo: My online TO DO list.  Love it. I'm a listmaker. I've tried a million of these. This one is the one I ALWAYS return to.  You can sort by product, date, importance or other ways.  Once I have something I need to do on here, I never forget it.  And it syncs with your iPhone (and probably other smartphones).

Toodledo: https://www.toodledo.com


5)  Pocket Reader: This used to be an indie app, but now hooked into Google. Whatever.  This is what I use during the day when I come to articles to read. I save them to my pocket app then read them in bed on my iPad (I sound like I'm a techie, I'm not. I just like to read a lot of books and my iPad is the best lightest bookbag ever.)

Pocket Reader: http://getpocket.com/apps/google-reader/



6) 23 Insanely Easy Ways to Declutter Your Online Life:

I found the Facebook links to friends I don't really connect with her. I found the ONE TAB Google Chrome extension here.  I found better ways to do things.  Check it out.



I think that's a good amount to get started with. We can be overwhelmed by our tools, so find what work for you and stick with them!



~ Kells
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Thursday, October 02, 2014

Poem from James Wright: "Lying in a Hammock..." (This is my summertime life.)

If I had a top ten list for poems, this would be on it.




Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota


Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,   
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.   
Down the ravine behind the empty house,   
The cowbells follow one another   
Into the distances of the afternoon.   
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,   
The droppings of last year’s horses   
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.   
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

BY JAMES WRIGHT

James Wright, “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” from Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose. 
from the Poetry Foundation: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/177229

~ Kells
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