Two of the R’s

This weekend saw beautiful, sunny autumn weather, and lots of time to focus on the two R’s that I actually enjoy. (Well, the second R isn’t really an R – but since I love writing, I am willing to let it slide. But the third R isn’t an R, either, and no one likes math – and who says ‘rithmetic except someone who isn’t very skilled at the other two r’s?)

I finished reading Reza Aslan’s Zealot – intriguing in many parts, but some sections were quite dense and difficult for me, which is a surprise since I usually like his writing. (Was also reading as an e-book, which makes it way too tempting and easy for me to skip pages. I have decided I cannot read non-fiction well electronically.) I did enjoy the book, and I also enjoyed his skewering of a news analyst who couldn’t seem to ask him an appropriate question about the book.

I also have been immersed in a lot of reading about education lately. I am quickly reaching the early stages of teacher burnout, and all of the rhetoric about the Common Core and “higher standards” seem to be forgetting the fact that all students are not ready intellectually or emotionally to be “pushed” a grade level or more beyond their typical learning curve. And then there’s the teaching of writing – because of testing and the desire for “data,” more and more schools are returning to one-size-fits-all rubrics and canned writing programs to deliver scores that will make them look good. Goodbye, creativity. Goodbye, loving language and learning to express yourself clearly and articulately. This article from Slate discusses the SAT writing exam, and it’s just one reason why I am finding it harder and harder to do my job well.

Poetry has, of course, made its way into the mix. I finished Ada Limon’s This Big Fake World, which I purchased at the Kentucky Women’s Writers Conference. What a lovely blend of storytelling and character development over the course of these poems. If you’d like to find out what happens to our hero, the lady at the hardware store he secretly admires, and Lewis, who writes letters to Ronald Reagan, you can pick up this charm of a collection here. And I have been reading journals – my contributor’s copy of burntdistrictthe newest issue of Menacing Hedge (make sure to check out the prose poems by Kallie Haladays), and catching up on Dave Bonta’s series of erasure poems from the diary of Samuel Pepys. (The link is to the latest poem – check the site for more.)

As for the second R, I am working on putting together a new chapbook manuscript for an upcoming contest I am interested in. All newer work from my residency this summer – a sort of wilderness journey/love story in some sort of post-tragedy landscape. (Most of the poems were inspired by language from the the journals of Lewis and Clark.) I think I have an initial ordering – now to have trusted poetry pal Kristin LaTour look it over. (You can also check out Kristin’s regular column about vintage thingys at Luna Luna Magazine.)

And, as always, trying to write at least one new draft a week. Sometimes failing, but always trying.

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