November: No More Contests! and To Post, or Not to Post?

October filled up quickly — I put together a book manuscript and entered it in five different contests (was going to be four, but I couldn’t resist that last one) and also entered a contest for individual poems.

It was fun to dream, but now I have to write. I find I’m either writing a lot or submitting a lot — can’t do both at the same time and give both the kind of focus I’d like.

After some thought, I’ve decided I’m going to do the poem-a-day chapbook challenge again. If you don’t know what this is, Robert Brewer of Writer’s Digest posts a prompt on his blog, Poetic Asides, each day in November. Many people post their poems each day in the comments of his blog, and I did that last year, too.

If you’re less “publishy” than I am, either because you’re content to post poems and get lots of comments, or because you’re just getting started or restarted and don’t feel ready to submit to literary publications, then I would absolutely recommend posting poems there. It’s almost universally a very supportive environment, with maybe an ideological squabble here and there but lots of people who will read your work and give you very specific praise and only the most gently worded criticism.

Don’t think of it as a chapbook contest — it’s not (there’s no prize, other than acclaim). But it is a great way to make sure you write each day for a month. That’s why I’m doing it again, even though I plan to only post on Tuesdays, the same day I post for Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.

Why hold back? While I was able to place some of the PAD poems I’d posted on Poetic Asides, different editors do have different ideas of what counts as “previously published,” and it was kind of a big deal to end the month with 30 poems that were a bit compromised.

Those who are interested in submitting for publication, I would never advise you to hold everything back and to never, ever post online in some form. Posting on your own blog, a poetry site, or some other online forum can be so gratifying, and again, you will find editors here and there who are willing to accept poems that have been posted. (Do disclose this, however, so there are no unpleasant surprises or hints of deceit — editors don’t like either of those.)

I would advise you, though, to think carefully about what your goals are, and to consider holding back a little something if you can. Do you just want to do the work and get (and give) some comments, and publication beyond the blogosphere doesn’t matter so much to you? Great — go for it! Do you write a bunch of poems, so you can easily spare one each day? Again, great — go for it! Otherwise, I would just say … think before you post, and consider maybe not giving away the whole show.

But what do I know? Ask me in a month, and I might say it felt parsimonious to follow the prompts but not share daily, and that it’s best to go into these things completely open, and hang the consequences. In any event, I intend to comment a lot and post weekly, and thus feel like I’m contributing a little something, and not just mooching the prompts.

Will I see you there? (Or will you be lurking, too?)

 

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Practical Considerations of Dancing, for Open Link Night

The mystery isn’t in the feet,
left and right or left and left,
but in hand on small of back,
silent pressure, a presence
of body through clothes.

In fourth grade, we danced
in gym class, making squares
on green tile floor, lunch tables
pushed aside; this was our barn,
the record player called our tunes,
our movements. We were the interior
of a clock; allemande left, honor
your partner. We knew nothing
about honor then, or we were
learning it. We were too young
to hurt each other much.

If you wonder how you’re dancing,
you’re dancing badly. But I could
no more abandon this watchfulness
than I could unravel my skin,
walk around like that for a while.

In eighth grade, a boy, deer-nervous
and spiky-haired, asked me to dance.
I said no because I knew he was just
making fun of me. I fled to the restroom,
looked in the mirror to make sure I was
unacceptable, all wrong, and thus, right
to decline, right that there was no way
anyone could see me on the edge
of a gyrating circle and want
to pull me closer.

Sometimes you’re wrong
when you’re dancing
or not dancing.

Sometimes you only learn
the mistake later on, once
the streamers have been
taken down, all the punch
drunk, the boy gone home
or somewhere like home.

 

 

For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.

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Broken In

When I was crazy,
I did crazy things;
I’m not going to say
I wasn’t and didn’t.

I was offended by
all those small fissures,
synapses, gaps between
tectonic plates, moving.

How dare they move?
With enough baling wire,
I could fix every place
that was cracked,

hold it all together,
keep it still so that
my children could
never fall off

the face of the earth.
What’s crazy is that
I’ve given it up now,
the whole notion of

fixing; my children
hold on however
they can. Every day,
they watch me open

the same broken gift,
the only one I ever
get, the only one
any of us need.

 

 

For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.

Broken In, for Open Link Night

Aside

Toward Better Karma: Some November Contests

The other night, I spent an hour (no kidding — I was tired) writing a very detailed post about a number of poetry contests that have deadlines in November. Just as I finished, POOF — the post disappeared. Maybe that was a good thing, I thought, because I’m entering some of those contests myself. Perhaps I should play things a bit closer to the vest?

But I’ve kind of felt bad ever since. Type A and competitive though I am, it’s really not in my nature to hoard information in a misguided attempt to increase my odds. If you win any of these, I will celebrate with you, and I believe you would do the same for me.

Still, it is soul-crushing to contemplate spending the next hour reconstructing what I wrote … So here are the links, and I’ll leave it at that. Prose writers, a couple-few of these might be of interest to you, too:

 

Briar Cliff Review (enter up to three poems)

Brick Road Poetry Press (book-length collection)

Cider Press Review (book-length collection)

New Issues (for a first book-length collection)

Perugia Press  (for a first or second book-length collection by a woman)

 

There you go … If you enter any of these, then bonne chance — and I’ll expect a cut of your prize money (we can call it a finder’s fee, if that sounds better to you).

 

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My Feather Road, for Open Link Night

My Feather Road

I mainline birds
until I can’t stop
fluttering; there is

a nonstop stream
under every word
I say. I am learning

to drive this car
made of wings,
lurching down

a street of strewn
feathers. Your car
made of stars can’t

drive my feather road.
Greater love affairs
than ours have ended

over smaller things
than this: certain
blocked exits, gaps

of little consequence
that somehow come
to mean everything.

 

 

 

For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.

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