Reasons

I have been remiss. Already. And during National Poetry Month, of all months. But…there are reasons. Some positive reasons; some negative; some just…reasons. But I have been writing. I am 18/23 in an attempted 30/30 for April, I have finished two book reviews, and spurred on by a request from a journal I love, finally completed an essay that I have been thinking about writing for months. The poem drafts are stronger than I imagined they would be, assuaging some of my fears about having lost my poetry mojo.

Reading books of poetry has been a big part of my little sabbatical. In no particular order, digging in to these collections has brightened, enriched, and inspired my April.

I am reading aloud a wonderful YA novel in verse called House Arrest to my sixth grade students. They are completely engaged in the short, poetic journal entries that make up Timothy’s story, and it will be a good way to bring us to the end of the school year, which seems ever so near and yet so far away. (Unlike all of my college professor friends, I do NOT finish teaching at the end of the month – June 6 for me. Keep me in your thoughts…)

And this week has brought GPN – good poetry news, for those not in the know. A poem of which I am quite fond is featured in the newest issue of Juxtaprose here. And another poem is in the current issue of Poet Lore, one of the first journals I started to read and aspire to when I came back to writing seriously around 25 years ago. It has been a while since any new work has appeared in print or online for me, so it feels like coming home.

I do have to say it’s a little embarrassing to have other bloggers continuously link back to the post where the Revival Bloggers are listed when I hadn’t posted anything in two weeks. Some ringleader I am.  But this is about writing, right? And I HAVE been doing that.

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I’m me, and what the hell can I do about it?

Today’s post title courtesy of “Introducing Álvaro de Campos” by Fernando Pessoa (translated by Edwin Honig) – also a reminder. In a week of reading LOTS of poets and poems, my usual despair kicked in. How did he/she do that? Why is that so incredible? Why can’t I write like that? And today, Pessoa gave me answer: because I’m not (insert other poet’s name here). Because I’m me. And there really isn’t anything I can do about it, and that’s okay.

Of course, reading and borrowing techniques/ideas from other writers has always happened. Hell, even Shakespeare did it. But there’s a difference between learning from other writers and comparing yourself to other writers. The first can be productive – the second is mostly demoralizing.

So, today I have been trying to focus on just writing, my writing, not writing to fill a prompt or to mimic another writer or to try and imitate someone else’s success. So far, so good.

Other highlights of the day:

Zucchini Walnut Bread from an Amish bakery at the Farmer’s Market. Enough said.

One of my Bishop/Lowell poems “The Running Away” is featured on the website of The Labletter. Four of these poems were featured in their 2014 print issue, and it is kind of them to give this poem another life online.

Extract(s): A Daily Dose of Lit has accepted a flash piece of mine that should appear some time this week (perhaps tomorrow).

Lowlight of the day:

Catching the trailer for The Giver. Another book I love that the movies will probably ruin. (See also The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Hours…I could go on…)

Hoping that tonight will be submissions night – I have 6 or 7 planned, but I’d be happy with 3 or 4. Because that’s me.

Today’s Soundtrack:

  • Walking (knees can’t take running three days in a row any more): Tape Deck Heart by Frank Turner
  • About Town: Future Islands – Singles and Manchester Orchestra – Cope
  • Writing – MaybeSheWill – I Was Here For a Moment and Then Was Gone
  • Reading  – Morning Parade – Morning Parade and Morrissey – The Best of Morrissey

Risky Business

Take a risk!  I have received a few entries in my book giveaway contest, but I am still taking poems until Friday. Write me a sonnet!

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Reaching out and trying to promote the book has been difficult for me. I am not naturally an extrovert – although I’m not shy, I’m also not bold, so to cold contact reading curators, etc. to set up events has been uncomfortable. But taking the risk has paid off so far. In the past month, I have appeared at an author’s fair, had a launch reading in the community where I work, and have booked three other readings in areas that will be new audiences for me. People have responded well to the work, so even though I will never be completely comfortable with this aspect of the “po-biz,” I can say that I am conquering my fear.

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On my residency this summer, I set a goal of submitting to journals with a more difficult chance of acceptance. Some are still pending. Others have received the good-old form rejection. But a favorite journal of mine, Labletter, accepted four poems from my Bishop/Lowell series for their 2014 issue. I believed in these poems finding the right home, and now they have. That risk brought great reward.

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And, speaking of risks, tonight I created a new folder on my laptop with 107 poems that could be a second manuscript. I will do a little fidgeting in the next couple of months – placing poems into possible categories, looking for image threads that reach across poems, swapping poems in or out based on emerging themes. And, when my two weeks of winter break comes along, there will be paper. Patchwork fields of paper. Hopefully a risk worth taking.

The Return of the Prompt – and a Giveaway Contest!

I stopped writing weekly prompts a little over a year ago because I was burnt out from thinking more about how to write a prompt than I was thinking about how to write. I do enjoy working from a well-written prompt, however, and I still believe in the value of prompts for pushing writers into ideas and forms that may not have come up otherwise.

So, in celebration of the release of my book A House of Many Windows, I offer you today a challenge and an opportunity to win a free copy of said book! How, you say? How can I win?Comp_09 (1)

It’s easy. Simply write a poem based on the prompt directions below and send it to me via email at djvorreyer(at) gmail(dot)com. I will choose a winner that will be published here on the blog, (of course, removed for you later if you choose to submit it elsewhere) and that winner will receive a free copy of the book in his/her very own mailbox.

The Challenge

Think about all of the windows and doors that have been a part of your life: the bedroom window from which you watched the stars or mooned over a crush; the door you slammed in your mother’s face; the window of the place you feel most at home; the door to your first apartment or family home; the tiny window near your office cubicle that offers you the smallest, most perfect square of sky.

A line in the penultimate poem of my book asks you to “think of the doors you have walked through and thought/I’m home. The windows you have opened near your bed/on a hot night. The lives you would have led/had one of them been nailed or painted shut.”

The prompt challenge is to: write about one of the windows or doors you remember and how it represents a thing or a moment that made a difference in your life. And, since I just took a sonnet workshop with the wonderful Molly Peacock, your poem should be sonnet-like. By that, I mean having any of the following elements that work for you:

  • work with the “magic proportion” (formally, an octave and a sestet; informally, a “front-loading” of sorts)
  • have some attention to music (follow a formal rhyme scheme if you like – or no rhyme but other musical elements of language)
  • have approximately 14 lines

Remember, the definition of a sonnet in contemporary poetry is pretty broad – don’t feel you have to get Elizabethan unless that really works for you! I will take emails for a week, then choose a winner. So throw open the nearest window, and get inspired!

Houston, we have a book…

Wednesday night, I was lucky enough to have good friends, colleagues, and students come out to hear me do the first reading from my book, which is now officially real. A launch, some call it, and I think it’s a good metaphor. Up until now, everything has been flight preparation- checking and double-checking the instruments, following procedures, managing glitches, making sure that everything was ready for this unveiling. And now that the launch is over, the book is flying through the atmosphere, waiting to burn through its first stage.

I was a little nervous preparing for the reading, and I usually am not. Part of that was the sheer thrill of actually holding the book in my hand. But part of it was knowing that students were coming, students who were at the youngest 12 and at the oldest, high school age. How in the world could I structure the reading of poems about a woman’s dark journey through disappointment, depression and finally joy so that it had some meaning for them? I think I found my answer in using the title’s controlling idea of the window, and even the adults in the audience who were veterans of readings said that they found it a unique way to travel through the poems.

I also had some trepidation about the Q&A session they had built in- who, if anyone, would ask that first question? And
would I be able to answer without sounding like a bumbling fool? So I did front load the reading with the cryptic statement that the book took both 20 years and 18 months to write and suggested that someone may want to ask about that later. That worked, and once one question was asked, many more followed.

Now that the book is out there in space, I will have to continue to check in with mission control (my editor at Sundress), maintain communication ( schedule readings), and plot my course ( hopefully find reviewers and others ways to get the book into the broader world). I welcome any advice from more experienced rocketeers, and I look forward to boldly going where at least I have never gone before. Vorreyer, out.

A fortnight and odd days

Another two weeks since the last post. Sigh. All those things I mentioned last time that were going to keep me busy? Wasn’t lying, that’s for sure. And today, when I should be at the last day of the Riotfest festival in Chicago seeing The Replacements, I am home sick with a fever and sporadically napping to prepare for another busy week.

But, along with all of the crazy scheduling, there have been wonderful things, one being the arrival of this box on Wednesday last:

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It is even more beautiful and exciting than I imagined. I will have a launch reading at the Hinsdale Public Library this week that will include colleagues and friends and probably some students in the audience. I am especially proud to show my students that perseverance can bring you something you thought was just a dream. It’s certainly not the end of the journey – but it is a super exhilarating step!

I’ve had a short run of acceptances after a dry spell, and I also have applied for an exciting opportunity this summer about which I will remain irritatingly vague until I get word in about a month. I got to see my son this weekend (for two days, anyway), and I leave on Thursday for the Kentucky Women Writers Conference.

Still busy. But in a good way. In a writing way.

Yikes.

It’s been two weeks since I posted here, and there’s really no excuse other than I’ve been getting back into the rhythms of middle school. The constant buzz. The blurting out. The manic panic of teenagers changing their mindset from summer to bummer. (I’m the bummer…as are all of their teachers.) The excitement of the first class where 29 kids all take out a notebook and write for 30 minutes without stopping. (That would be my excitement…)

The end of August also merited time to relax as September will be jam-packed with many of the things I love best: good friends (visiting from England), good food (a group visit to Alinea, the best restaurant I have ever been to), good music (three days of Riotfest in Chicago with my son coming home on the Megabus to join us), and poem-related goodness!

On the poetry front, I will be at the Aurora Catch an Author Fair this Saturday, September 7, to promote The Imagined Life of the Pioneer Wife alongside other Illinois authors, including my friend Kristin LaTour. And – fanfare, drumroll, let the marching band commence – on the 18th, I should officially have my book and will be welcomed for a launch reading at the Hinsdale Public Library. (Should is in italics as we have been waiting for a delayed proof…but I think we’ll make it!)

Also, after a bit of a dry spell with new work, I also have poems and flash fiction forthcoming in six different journals, all of which should publish sometime in September/October. I’d say that’s a pretty exciting September!

Of course, I was saddened by the passing this week of Seamus Heaney. I feel lucky and blessed to have been able to attend a reading/talk last year at the Art Institute. My post about that reading is here.

Thanks for sticking with me, and I promise to keep you up-to-date and be back in a schedule of reviewing and doing more than just popping by my own space once this crazy month is over. Happy Back-to-School to you all!