The Morning Expands to Admit You: April 2015 PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 1

Resistance may be futile,
but many things are not
quite as they’ve been billed.

How the pebbles fly up into
your wheel wells as you drive,
startling your dog, your child,

or you. The morning expands
to admit you; it seldom resists
at all. I wish I could remove

the balky things from your world
sore feet and squeaky hinges,
a certain tic above your eye—

unless you love them.
Unless I’m one of them.
Unless you love me.



but i was not there.
were u? (My phone
in my pocket,
scrolling, scrolling,
telling lies
I couldn’t tell yet.)
couldnt tell anything
couldnt see anything
didnt hear u bc
of 2 many circuits,
all coming 2 life,
all at same time.
where were u
when i was not,
or were u?


For PAD Challenge, Day 5 (write a text message poem) and for NaBloPoMo.



One day, I will solidify like butter;
it will be, at last, too late to change.
I will be kept in a refrigerated room,
behind glass. Tour groups will come
to look at me; I will be an example of
poor diet, inactivity. The wages of sin.
Children who beg for corn dogs will be

asked, Do you want to be like the
Butter Lady? No one will know that
my ears still work, and my brain,
which will strain through creamy
sludge to instruct rigid limbs
to punch, kick, smash the glass,
let the warm, kind air come in.




For PAD Challenge, Day 3 (prompt: Write a poem that scares you.) Also for NaBloPoMo.


Sairy and Esther

Under an almost-full moon,
over two short glasses of milk,
in milk-white, moon-white gowns,
Sairy and Esther argue about
which one is more important.

Sairy says she is everything
that ever was, ever is
and ever shall be.
World without end.

Esther says nothing is ever
like that; everything changes,
and it’s best to keep moving,
not pretend at stillness
when we are always traveling
so fast we can’t feel it.

Sairy and Esther agree,
as always (or sometimes),
to divide the world in half,
its actions and descriptions.

Sairy is an old woman.
Esther is pouring out
the leftover milk;
a half moon turns
around once, slips
down the drain.

Sairy and Esther
spoon in their bed;
it is big enough
for two to be.


For Day 2 of PAD Challenge (prompt: Write a full moon poem).


OK, I Changed My Mind … PAD, Day 1

As soon as I finish this post, I’ll do another one, for Day 2 of the Poem-a-Day Chapbook Challenge (aka PAD). That’s right — I’ll be posting all 30 of the poems I write this month. Wait … Didn’t I say just a few days ago that I wasn’t going to do that, for a number of eminently sensible reasons?

Yep. I sure did. Yes. But then I realized that:

1) It’s really depressing and isolating to write a poem based on a community prompt and then not share it with that community.

2) The poems I write for these things are often very “prompt-y” and not necessarily what I’d want to submit, anyway.

3) Last year, I talked to a couple-few editors at reputable literary publications who don’t think this kind of thing warrants the scarlet PP (for “previously published”). At least one of my PAD poems (maybe more — how is it that I forget these things?) actually found a home in print.

4) I’m more interested lately in submitting chapbooks and full-length books, and for those, no one cares about PP for the individual poems, as long as you acknowledge where the PP occurred.

5) It’s good to be less precious with poems and to realize that you really can make more. Even if all the poems I write in November are down the well, December will come.

6) This type of challenge, while I do work at it, is also play. If I’m going to play a game, I want to really play it — to go balls to the wall (which, by the way, I recently learned does not mean what I thought it did), as it were.

One thing I didn’t like about PAD last year is that it lives in the comments on someone else’s blog, not on my own. But there’s no reason I can’t post my PAD poems here, too. I also recently learned about NaBloPoMo, which is a challenge to blog daily all this month (you have until the 5th, if you want to sign up and do it, too).

So … I’m going to post daily here and at Poetic Asides (home of PAD). I’m going to link to Open Link Night at dVerse Poets on Tuesday afternoons, as usual, and I’m signed up for NaBloPoMo. If I’m going to PP 30 poems, I might as well PP them all over the place and have a good time doing it.

That’s a lot of talk … Here’s my Day 1 PAD poem, based on the prompt to write about some kind of match:



Whittle it down to matches;
the tree is only the start of fire,
sunlight locked in its heart
like a memory of leaves.
No leaves now, it is wood
in a box; strike sulfur tip,
bring to wet, lichened log.
Cousin!, the match says.
I have returned.


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?)



Something Good in My Mailbox Today

Came home to find a SASE of mine, stuffed full. Never a good thing … unless it is. (Which it was, this time.) Very excited to have a poem accepted for Pearl, in an issue to come out at the end of this year.

To make it that much better, the acceptance letter came from an editor who shares my first name. “Dear Marilyn … We’re pleased to accept … Sincerely, Marilyn.” Fun!

And I just checked my cover letter and confirmed that I did divulge that a draft of the poem they want to publish appeared at Poetic Asides during the November PAD challenge. So, it’s all legit, and I can breathe easy and be happy …


So … What Do I Do in May?

NaPoWriMo is humming along … I can’t believe we’re on day 21 already. Because I’m also doing Robert Brewer’s Poem-a-Day Challenge, this has been a very busy and fun month. I came late to NaPoWriMo, and during the time when I was catching up, I realized that while writing Facebook posts or articles for my real job, I was thinking about things like line breaks and rhyme.

By the end of this month, I will have written 60-some poems that are all posted on blogs — this one and Brewer’s. So … what does that mean? I do like to submit for publication, and editors seem to be all over the map as far as what they consider to be “previously published” and thus, dead on arrival as far as they’re concerned. I knew this. I posted anyway. 

The thing is, posting poems scratches some of the same itches for me as publication does. Some … but not all. In fact, in terms of feedback and connection with other writers and … get this — people who like poetry but don’t write it themselves — posting has proven to be a way more effective itch scratcher than the whole submit-and-wait routine.

But … I do like having the imprimatur of someone else’s approval. I do, I do, I do. “Someone else,” as in an editor who sifts through however many submissions and selects what he or she considers to be the tippy-top, best of the best, creme de la creme, ne plus ultra (or … “This one would go well with that other one we accepted from someone else.” or … “This one’s OK and would fit the funny little space we have on page 5.”). You get the picture. I am an approval hound. I love (LOVE!) blog comments, but I also love (LOVE!) acceptance letters. 

Even if I am, in terms of future publishability, throwing away 60-some poems this month, I would never say that’s a waste. It feels somewhat thrilling, in fact, to gleefully toss out something that is so precious (in terms of the labor that goes into each one, and the fact that each is a singular event that will never happen again).

Also, I have found some editors here and there who don’t consider blog posts to count as publication. In recent months, I’ve submitted some of my November Poem-a-Day efforts, always disclosing that they were posted on Brewer’s blog. Results have been mixed … but then, they always are.

Still, I’m not sure what I’m going to do once this double-challenge month comes to a close. I don’t think I can keep posting as frequently as I have been, but I don’t want to pull way back and stop posting poems altogether, because it has been immensely gratifying to connect with an audience, read other poets’ great work, and feel a lot less isolated as a poet than I did before. 

On a related note, I have a pressing need to get a chapbook published. I’m at a stage where I’m somewhat reliably getting individual poems published here and there — which is so gratifying, but it’s starting to feel a bit scatteredy. And then, on the blessed day when my contributor’s copy arrives in the mail (for most poets, including me, this is also known as “payday”), I look at the other bios, and *everyone else* has a chapbook or two, or a full collection. Or seven of them. 

I wonder … should I put most of my energy in May into pulling together a chapbook? I would still want to submit individual poems here and there, as the spirit moves me, but it might be fun to sloooooow doooooown, take the time to consider past works, and really focus on putting together something cohesive.

On a somewhat related note — because in chapbooks, it’s understood that some/many of the poems will have been previously published — I wonder what makes sense as far as how often to post poems here? I do post each Wednesday at Brewer’s blog, even during non-challenge times. Maybe once a week here, too, and then I’ll hoard any others that I write next month, and thus resume being at least a little bit coy about this whole thing?

Poets, during non-NaPoWriMo times, how often do you post poems on your blog or someone else’s? And how does that compare with the number of poems you hold back? Those of you who are playing the same game of Publication Poker that I am — as opposed to essentially self-publishing everything via your blog — what has your experience been, vis a vis the viability of poems that you’ve posted?

Many thanks to all of you … for all the comments and poems and good times this month, and also for any thoughts regarding your blogging/submitting cycle between one NaPoWriMo and the next!