Let it Drop

I want to write something to you for the end of the world,
but I can’t peel this orange. It pushes back the seam between
thumbnail and thumb, and there it stays, and stings. Do you
know the feeling of stepping in a pool of slush in your sock feet
as you take off  your boots—when you are in the seam
between away and home, outside and inside, your public and
private selves? The slush is dirty meltwater from road-driven snow.
It is possible, entirely possible, that you have tracked lead, soot,
other poisonous particulates, into your kitchen as you stand by
the back door and worry this seam—as I worry so many seams,
am aware of so many seams. This is why I can’t comfort you, can’t
exalt your year just ending, can’t help you put on a brave face
and a party hat for the one that’s yet to come. We will all just have
to let it happen, count down and let it drop like the orange that it is.


Will 2014 Be the Year I Solve My Chapbook Problem?

So, I’m ending this year feeling a little bit like I’m spinning my wheels. I spent a long time earlier in the year working on a chapbook and then entering it in a bunch of contests because I really wanted to accomplish that before going back to submitting individual pieces.

But …

Then a long time passed and nothing happened (yet — I think it’s still out at a couple of places. Wait, “think?” —  Yep. We’re dealing in pretty high volume here, and I have zero belief that two publishers will say yes to it, but if that does happen, I’ll cross that happy bridge when I come to it. But yes, you’re right, I should absolutely retrace my steps and figure out where all I sent it, lest some type of Three’s Company-type slapstick disaster occur).

Anyway, then it started to feel as if maybe my prior moderate success with individual poems was a fluke, would never happen again, etc., etc. The more time went by, the more that seemed to be true. Don’t get me wrong — I do (mostly) enjoy the creative process for its own sake, but I really like the submitting, publishing, “Ah, here’s my contributor’s copy!” part, too.

So I got busy with Duotrope and submitted many, many poems and enjoyed decent success with those. I had poems accepted by several great publications (which I will resume telling you about *soon*), met lots of nice people online and in person, and was really excited and pleased. And still am — and grateful, too.

But here I am again, in Chapbookland. Or Nochapbookland. I have a manuscript that I like a lot, and I keep thinking that someone else might like it a lot, too — but I can’t seem to connect with the right publisher.

I’m thinking it doesn’t help that the manuscript is made up of persona poems with a pretty strong narrative thread. When I inevitably get the “you didn’t win, but here’s who did” notice, the winning piece often seems to be about, say, the passage of time on a farm, sharpening the saw blades in the weathered, old shed where Dad once skinned a live deer because that’s what you have to do sometimes. You get me? A rural, beautiful, kind-of-disturbing-in-parts recounting of personal experience. There are spikes of narrative here and there, but the writing is mostly lyrical.

I admire things like that, don’t get me wrong — I just can’t write them.

So … any thoughts on how to crack this nut? Am I entering all the wrong contests? Should I let go of the contest thing (and the prospect of prize money) and just focus on finding the right match?

If you’ve done a chapbook, how did you find your publisher, and how did you know it was a good fit? (And no, I really don’t want to self-publish. I know, I know … but I just don’t.)

Many thanks, and whatever your writing goal is, I hope 2014 is the year you reach it!




Fig Wasps

I tell you a tale as big as a kite,
and I fly it into your fig tree.

It rattles the wasps from their
work in your figs, their offices

of pollinating, egg-laying, death.
They are annoyed, and they sting

with the knowledge that
there’s no tale bigger than

their own. It is, they are certain,
the greatest story the sun ever told.



If it’s Tuesday p.m., check out Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.



Publication Spotlight: Graze

Here is the second in a series of posts in which I call your attention to some great publications (that happened to publish something of mine). This time, we’re taking a moment to appreciate Graze.

Graze is shaaaaaaarrrp. And food-themed. And on paper, bless them (fingers crossed there, because I have been in two publications’ final print issues now, and—great as online publications can be—I don’t want to kill another beautiful, tangible object).

From a tongue-in-cheek but informative gardening how-to for old punks (“Suddenly, you question your plan to wing it and let nature take its course. And you do have a life outside of this freaking garden. You have protest concerts to organize and a cellar full of punk rock anthology cassette tapes to transfer over to MP3.”) to a poem about an eight-sided taco truck on a vague mission of vengeance (oh, hey, I wrote that one), Graze’s Issue Four has something for everyone.

Graze is an incredible labor of love by publishers Cyndi Fecher and Brian J. Solem, along with their art director and associate editor. Everything about it is so crisp and professional, so buttoned-up and perfect (but still very fun—don’t get me wrong), you’d think it has at least double that staff and is being hosed down with sweet, plentiful creative writing MFA program money.

But in fact, it seems to just run on the energy of its publishers and staff. And donations, subscriptions, and single-copy sales. (By the way, you can also buy Graze at many independent bookstores across the country.)

If you live in Chicago, lucky you! Graze hosts a lot of great events pertaining to its food-and-drink theme, as well as music. You can also keep up with those via Facebook and Twitter. I happen to know—from the Issue Four release, which involved bands, DJs, costumes, and a drink or three—that Graze throws a great party.

Wherever you are, please enjoy—and help feed—Graze! (And if you’d love to be part of Issue Five, submissions are open for written work until December 20, 2013, and for visual work until January 20, 2014.)


Previously in this series: Hobo Camp Review.
Next up: Fickle Muses.


Publication Spotlight: Hobo Camp Review

I’ve had a pretty good few months, submission-wise, and I’ve been feeling like before my usual Christmas madness fully sets in—and certainly before I move on to another round of rolling the dice and anxiously awaiting responses—I really should stop and say thank you.

For the next little bit, then, I’m going to spotlight the publications that have recently made my day by giving my work some space in their pages, whether paper or digital. It’s my way of saying thank you, and also pointing you toward what I think are some great publications (and no, not just because they accepted my poems).

Each one has a distinctive character—a theme or a twist or something that sets it apart and makes for fantastic reading. All of them, as it happens, are done as a labor of love by individual editors and publishers, without backing from a university or other such.

First up: Hobo Camp Review.

Besides being fun to say (does anyone else remember Amy Sedaris as Jerri Blank saying, “hobo camp“?), this publication has a great concept: stories, poems, and essays that have the flavor of something that might be read down by the railroad tracks, around a trash-can fire. Dark, gritty … maybe a little smelly. Itinerant.

Even the information at Hobo Camp is fun to read because of its great voice and commitment to the theme. From the submission guidelines:

“While we like to envision Steinbeck, Li Po, McCullers, Bukowski, and Kerouac sitting around a campfire eating hot dogs and beans with a stray dog named Tom Waits wagging his tail at their feet, we don’t want a rehash. We’ve been eating hash here for months and we’re sick of it.”

I had a poem that was a bit of a hobo itself—I wrote it in 2009 and submitted it so many times, to so many places, and it always came limping back—and I love that it finally found a home at the Hobo Camp, in the Autumn 2013 issue.

Head hobo James H. Duncan is also an editor at Writer’s Digest and busy and successful with his own creative work, both poetry and prose. (Oh, and another thing about the collection of stories I’ve linked to—if you order it before Christmas 2013, you’ll help contribute to the Food Bank for New York City.)

If you visit Hobo Camp Review—and I hope you will—tell them FilthyJeans Sabrina sent you. They won’t know what you’re talking about, but I bet they’ll still share their mulligan stew. They’re good people that way.


Your Host

If you need anything while I’m asleep,
please feel free to smash the glass.
I think you’ll find your accommodations
are quite pleasant. We didn’t skimp
when it comes to the shag carpeting—
it’s wall-to-wall and double-ply, also
sealed for your protection. We believe
in safety here. Safety and sanitation,
everything buttoned up just like
God’s own sewing kit. A stitch,
you know, a stitch in time saves
feathers. That’s what they say—
or we say it, anyway. We say
a lot of things around here.
I think you’ll find us downright
chatty. Garrulous as gabardine,
and almost as sacred as mice.



If it’s Tuesday p.m., check out Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.