Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hello #PlaidSaturday! Support an Artist. Gifts for the Poet: Mary Oliver Quote or Wuthering Heights Scarf!

From the Etsy Shop: WhiteCellarDoor (many other quotes available too!)

I love this quote:

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

From Mary Oliver's poem "The Uses of Sorrow." 
She claims to have dreamed this poem in her sleep.


Wuthering Heights Scarf from the Etsy Store STORIARTS!  Fantastic.  They have other books too: Romeo & Juliet, The Raven (by Poe), Pride & Prejudice and more!

Scarves are $42.
Gloves are $26.

~ Kells

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Forget #blackfriday - Buy Books from Authors. Shop Indie #supportauthors #buylocal

~ Kells

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

One of My Favorite Vintage Images that Says "Pay Attention": Snoopy in the Macy's Day Parade

I love this photo. The idea that they live in a place where a Snoopy balloon walks by at eye-level and to be missing it entirely.

To me this photo says, "Be present, pay attention, or you'll miss something."

It also says, "Be grateful for the overlooked beauty in your life."

What are you forgetting?  

May your day be full with remembering and gratitude. And may you never miss the best parts of your life's parade. 

~ Kells

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Do You Believe in Dream Visitations? Thoughts about Dreams and John Lennon visitations...

So I oddly fell into this subject as I have recently been thinking about the poets and artists who have visited me in my dreams.

I think about dreams a lot, how there are certain dreams I have again and again.

I even backed this Kickstarter project called Shadow.  Here's the link to their app:

At first, it was mostly Pablo Neruda who came into my dreams though he would instruct me to do things.  Then Sylvia Plath started to show up more. I watched her onstage and in another dream we were friends, she would serve me tea, told me: 

There's always a skeleton

in your poems because there's a crisis
in poetry.
And I've been trying to use that in a poem since.

But a returning and most helpful artist in my dream world is John Lennon.  So I began googling this, and it seems since his death, John Lennon has been quite busy on earth:

Stories from John Lennon's Afterlife--visits from beyond the grave

In my dreams, unlike Neruda who always had a task for me "Write a poem about my hat, tell them I keep my notes in it" or asking me things like, "Have you seen my typewriter?" and "What year is it?" When I see John Lennon in a dream, I know I can bounce ideas off him or ask him questions.  He's always calm, and he's always sitting on this same couch, smoking.  

He is my favorite dream visitor because he is helpful beyond belief in my manuscript, my life, my writing, anything.

Of course, John Lennon could just be my self-consciousness in dream-human form, being the gentle face that allows me to go deeper.  But I like to think John Lennon has enough free time, he can visit poets. And I don't mind him smoking, in a dream, it's just atmosphere.

I've heard Walt Whitman visits poets. Frank O'Hara too.  I'd love a dream visit by O'Hara.

Two other famous people I've recently dreamed about were Bob Hope and Don Knotts. Don Knotts was my doorman and Bob Hope was inside in the lobby. I kept wondering why these two comedians returned to me.

I honestly am not sure about any of this. But love to think about it.

So do you have anyone that visits you in your dreams? Consistently?

I think there should be a list of famous people who visit the most frequently. And maybe there is.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Good Article: Setting up a Book Tour by Eireann Lorsung

Really wonderful post on the details of going on a book tour. Lots of good info here!

Last summer, two major things happened: my second book came out, and I got my Belgian residence permit (meaning I could travel outside of Belgium for the first time in a year). My plan was to go to the US to see my family, and while I was there, to travel around to give readings in support of the book. I wanted to meet writers, visit bookshops, and see parts of the country I never saw while I lived there. Since coming back to Belgium, I’ve gotten a few requests for information about how I did this tour. I’ve written up my process below—there’s a lot of it—and I hope it’s useful.


I knew up front that my press would not support any kind of reading tour financially. I think this is more and more the case. In my case, because I was not legally allowed to work during the year of waiting and because before that I was on a visa that only let me work part-time, the general financial situation (little money from presses for book tours; none for poets, at least not poets of my stature) was compounded by my lack of ready cash. These things meant that if I wanted to do a tour, I would have to do it extremely cheaply, and I would have to depend on the kindness of people I didn’t know—first of all because I would be arranging everything from far away (six or seven or eight or nine timezones) and second because I would be asking for hosting, event organization, co-readers, etc., all without having much (monetarily speaking) to offer in exchange. That said, since I would be going all that way, I didn’t want to do a couple of readings in the Twin Cities, maybe one in Wisconsin or Iowa, and call it a day. If I was going to do a tour—spending the last bits of savings that had carried my through two jobless years—I was going to do it right. I decided that I would try for ten cities, but that I wasn’t attached to where those cities were. Wherever I could find a couch to sleep on and a café, bookshop, theater, or other venue to read in (preferably with another poet), I would read.
I put out a call on Facebook and Twitter to see who might be willing to host a reading, and lorsung-case-readingwho would be willing to let me stay with them, and I went from there, building a path I could easily do by train (the most affordable way for me—I had the luxury, at this point, of joblessness, and I had six weeks to use up; also, I wanted to see the US by train [I don't have a driver's license] and to use the time on board to write). I concentrated on cities where I knew people I could stay with. That said, I did get offers for readings and places to stay that didn’t make the final cut: there were places that weren’t very accessible for me (trains didn’t go there, or I’d have to make a big detour; places isolated from any other places I had offers). If I had had more time, and more money, I could have gone to twice as many cities. That’s just to say that there are definitely people and venues out there who want to support writers in this way. I found that the more specific I could be about dates, the better it was for the hosts, because it meant less planning and deciding for them. They could just say yes/no, and then we’d work it out. . .

~ Kells

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Confession Tuesday: When It's Hard to Settle Into a Writing Retreat Edition

Uncle Walt, our pet seagull.
Dear Reader, 

It has been over a year and half since I've been on any sort of writing retreat or writing residency.

Two weeks ago, I left my regular life for the retreat lifestyle-- new poems, being offline, an overwhelming desire to create, books and readings, getting lost in my work.

Well, that didn't happen, but let me tell you what did--

I confess I thought I was going to write new poems, but instead I wrote nothing new. 

While we were in a beautiful area, in fact ON the water with a family of deer walking by, porpoises and a gray whale out our window, a seagull we named Uncle Walt who visited us daily, I couldn't write new work.

Looking back I'm not really sure why this happened, but here are some thoughts--

1) There was wi-fi.  While I was cut-off from Facebook (I deactivated my account), I was not fully cut off from the news or real life.  For me, this is essential when on a writing retreat. Time has to be endless, those long days where I can't get lost in a string of internet research or information.  Instead, I knew what was going on the world, and oddly, my creative self just wouldn't let go.

2) The place was beautiful, but maybe too beautiful.  I am used to writing in places that have a more artistic, cabinlike, rustic feel.  I am usually in a big sweater and worried about a ghost or being too hot or too cold.  Here, I had marble countertops. I had a wicker laundry basket.  I felt more as if I was on vacation than on a writing retreat.

3) Anxiety.  This time of year, I tend to have much more anxiety than in the summer. For some reason, I found my anxiety through the roof and had to check in at home. Scratch that, I didn't *have to* do anything. I called home more times in this residency than I have in all of my residencies combined.

Normally, I only use text to correspond with my family so it doesn't take me out of writer's mind. This time, I called home, texted, and at one point, used Facetime to connect. While each time eased my anxiety, it also never let me go deeper. I need to go deep on these retreats as that is where my best work is done.


I confess I did get work done.

So what do you do when you are on a writing retreat and can't write?

1) Organize!  Last year, I wrote a TON of poems, but I haven't even really looked at most of them, just wrote them and left them in my In Process folder until it was time to revise.  So when I couldn't write new poems, I went through each of my poems seeing which had potential and then...

2) I revised. I revised poem after poem.  When I can't write, I know the editor part of my brain is alive and always ready to work. So I revised and revised and revised.  I moved quite a few poems into my "completed" folder, which felt good.

3)  Officially started Manuscript 4!  As I looked at my poems that had been published and the ones I loved, I began to put poems in a folder to see what I had. I have more than I thought. I knew there was a collection in the making, I've been working on it in my head, but I hadn't started organizing it--considering sections, a title, what poems should be included, etc.  Well, since I wasn't writing, I had time to do this. 

3)  Sleep / lay in bed and think about my manuscript.  I don't know what you do when you can't sleep or before falling asleep, but I walk through my manuscript in-process in my head. I visualize the title page, then a section and wander through my poems making connections, ordering them in my head, exploring themes and ideas.

This is something I never really have time to do in my regular life. But I spent quite a few hours in bed (my favorite place) just thinking about this next book.  And usually while doing that, I'd fall asleep, which sometimes took me deeper, or sometimes had me dreaming bizarre things about ouija boards (another story).

4) Meditate. I did more of this on this retreat than all other retreats combined.  This was how I emptied my head and tried to allow more insight to enter.

5) Worked on Two Sylvias Press stuff. This wasn't planned, but my partner, Annette, was with me and we both found ourselves getting incredible ideas for the press just randomly during the day.  We had gone on this retreat to get away from our editorial lives, but here we were making plans and jotting down ideas.  

Once I decided whatever happens on this retreat will benefit me, I just let go. I let anxiety happen, the Two Sylvias work be done, the poem be revised, the poems not written, the naps, the thoughts, the meditations, the walks on the beach, the extra long happy hours, all of it.  

I stopped trying to control what was happening and instead just be.

While this retreat did not give me the poems I had hoped for, it did offer more of the left brain things I tend never to do on retreats-- the planning and organizing things, the business/press work, the extra time to talk with friends over drinks and appetizers set out on the coffeetable.

I stopped trying to be productive and just was.  And I think the retreat helped me other ways I may not realize yet. And yes, that's okay too.  


~ Kells

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Monday, November 17, 2014

What I'm Reading: How To Read a Poem by Tania Runyan

So I've had this book on my nightstand for awhile and somehow it never made it down to my office to be written about.

But since it's moving into the holiday season, How To Read a Poem by Tania Runyan, may be a good choice.

What's lovely about this book is that it not only shares how to read a poem, but also includes an anthology with poems by Barbara Crooker, Maureen Doallas, Bob Hicok, and many others.

This would be a great book for anyone who is new to poetry, both as a reader or writer.  

Full disclosure-- My poem from the Virginia Quarterly Review, is in the first chapter on imagery.

What I like about this book?  It explains the tidbits (imagery, sound, line, but also "that A-ha moment," and other chapters that will move the reader inside the poem) that as poets, we know, but others may not.

I like that the book is not overwhelming. Runyan shares a bit about the subject, then there are poems to explore yourself.

As I said, I think this would be a great gift for any of your friends or family who is interested in what you do as a poet, or anyone who has shown an interest in the poem.

As a poet, it may help you look at the poem with new fresh eyes and remember why you read poetry and love it.

How to read a poem. A lot of books want to teach you just that. How is this one different? Think of it less as an instructional book and more as an invitation. For the reader new to poetry, this guide will open your senses to the combined craft and magic known as "poems". For the well versed, if you will, this book might make you fall in love again. How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem "Introduction to Poetry")—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology included.

PRAISE FOR How To Read a Poem: 

While this book says it’s an invitation, it’s really much more. It’s a conversation—between you (lucky reader), Tania Runyan (funny, helpful friend) and these poems (brilliantly brought to the table by Runyan). No reader, experienced or new to reading poems, will want to miss this winsome and surprising way into the rich, wonderful conversations that poetry makes possible. —David Wright, Assistant Professor of English at Monmouth College, IL

Runyan expertly brings you into her world of approaching and interpreting poetry, which is both mysterious and ordered. I would recommend this book to anyone hoping to gain insight into poetry. Prepare to have your heart captured! —Thomas Purnell, Licensed Professional Counselor 

Having taught poetry in high schools for over twenty-five years, I’ve grown tired of Intro-to-Poetry texts that feel they must overwhelm the student with the authors’ erudition or the art’s storied history of technique. If there is truly a need for the news only poetry can deliver, then those tomes make dismal advertisements. Tania Runyan has broken with this flat tradition and, in affectionate conversation with the wit of Billy Collins, produced a model for engaging in discovery of poetry’s value—no prior book-learning or companion text required. Which is not to say her ambition is slight; she would thrill to see novices become lifelong readers, even passionate scholars of the art and poets themselves, but she gets it. Her book reads like a playful love letter—a creative intercession on poetry’s behalf—to the hearts of a new generation, those on whom so much, like the future of the art, depends. —Brad Davis, Poet, teacher, and counselor at Pomfret School

~ Kells

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Support Small Presses, Poets, Writers, & Artists this Holiday Season!

In December, I'm going to be sharing blog posts about Gifts and Books for Poets, Writers, Readers, and Literary Lovers.

What you need to know-- no one is paying me to share these items, they are things I've found on my own and think our cool. They are things I have or things I would shop for. I don't get any kickback, any commission, any free gift for sharing them. The only exception would be any thing I share from Two Sylvias Press, which is, well, my press.  But I still think they are cool gifts and publications.

I'm sharing them because they make my literary heart beat a little faster and because if I was Oprah, they'd be on my favorite things list and I'd be mailing them out to you.

For the most part, these will not be from corporations, but individuals (such as people on Etsy or small companies) as I truly believe in SUPPORTING THE INDIE PERSON or INDIE PRESS during the holiday season.

Look, you're going to be spending the money anyway. You're going to have to get a gift for your Cousin Lisa, give her something that will immediately help one other person, such as a gift from someone on Etsy, or an individual who sells vintage items on eBay, or from an artist's website, or from a small press directly.

I cannot stress this enough.  SHOP INDIE!

As someone with $5 in your pocket, you can make a difference in another person's life just by your shopping choices.  Think about that as the holiday season arrives and settles in.

~ Kells

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Typewriters and their owners: famous authors at work – in pictures: Recommended Reading

Something that caught my attention today:

Tom Hanks loves typewriters, as he made clear when he co-developed an app that emulates the experience of writing with them. After debuting as a writer with a short story in the New Yorker last month, the Oscar-winning actor is taking his fascination to a new level: he has signed a deal to publish a collection of short stories inspired by the machines, which he’s been collecting since 1978.
He’s in good company, as these classic photographs of writers at work reveal.

Susan Sontag

Full Article and more images of writers:


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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Art of “Creative Sleep”: Stephen King on Writing and Wakeful Dreaming: Recommended Reading

Something that caught my attention today:

“Sleep is the greatest creative aphrodisiac,” a wise woman once said. Indeed, we already know that dreaming regulates our negative emotions and “positive constructive daydreaming” enhances our creativity, while a misaligned sleep cycle is enormously mentally crippling.

According to Stephen King, yes: In On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft , which also gave us hiscase against adverbs, the celebrated novelist explores the similarity between writing and dreaming. He considers the role of a daily routine — something many famous creators use to center themselves — in inducing a state of self-mesmerism that produces the paradoxical alchemy of disciplining our minds into unleashing their unrestrained creative potential, something King calls “creative sleep”:
Like your bedroom, your writing room should be private, a place where you go to dream. Your schedule — in at about the same time every day, out when your thousand words are on paper or disk — exists in order to habituate yourself, to make yourself ready to dream just as you make yourself ready to sleep by going to bed at roughly the same time each night and following the same ritual as you go.

from Pocket

Monday, November 10, 2014

On Self-Respect: Joan Didion’s 1961 Essay from the Pages of Vogue: Recommended Reading

Something that caught my attention today:

This article by Joan Didion from 1961. God love the internet and it's ability to archive--

Once, in a dry season, I wrote in large letters across two pages of a notebook that innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself.

from Pocket

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Lost Tapes of Anne Sexton From Harper's

I n early March 1966, poet and public-television presidium Richard O. Moore traveled to the buttoned-up Boston suburb of Weston, Massachusetts, to interview the poet Anne Sexton at the home she shared with her husband, Kayo, and young daughters Linda and Joy. The interview was to be a cinéma vérité–type glimpse into the life of the increasingly famous poète maudite, who just a year later would be awarded the Pulitzer for her second collection, Live or Die. Sexton’s star had been on the rise since the 1960 publication of her first book, To Bedlam and Partway Back, which focused on her psychiatric hospitalization and subsequent return to a degree of normalcy (hence “partway”). Throughout the interview, later aired on San Francisco television station KQED, Sexton presents her home life to the viewer: she reads her work, comforts her daughter, cajoles her camera-shy husband to join her on film, and contemplates death. At one point, she puts on a Chopin record, Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Opus 23. Sexton melts at the opening notes; her demeanor, hitherto coquettish, becomes euphoric. She closes her eyes, arches her neck, and bites her lip as if she’s seducing someone or being seduced. The camera travels down her long, pale arm, which swings just slightly to the beat.
“I’ll tell you what poem I wrote to this,” she says to Moore, smirking. “‘Your Face on the Dog’s Neck.’ Makes no sense, does it? A love poem.” As the music crescendos, the frenetic camera homes in on Sexton’s eyes, which she closes as she exclaims, “Oh, it’s beautiful!” Her joy is overwhelming and carnal and more than a little disturbing. “It’s better than a poem!” she says. “Music beats us.”

Read the whole article here:

(Make sure to scroll down, the recordings are on the right in a long vertical box)

~ Kells
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