Peeking at 2018

Conventional wisdom holds that the way to begin a productive new year is to set goals, but I’m loathe to do so because I have a rebellious nature.  I even rebel against my own goals.  How self-defeating is that?

Some of my writing friends have set benchmarks such as accumulating 50 or 100 rejection notices so that they maintain a steady stream of sending out poems for publication. Last year I agreed to shoot for thirty, but I think I only sent work to five or six journals. I did receive two acceptances, though–

“Letter to My Father at the Winter Solstice” at Heron Tree, one of my favorite online journals. They publish one poem a week and then gather all of them together and publish them in one volume. Here is a link to volume 5, which is ongoing: Heron Tree, volume 5.

The other poem I published in 2017 is a contrapuntal poem, a specific form I learned about in a workshop led by talented poet and teacher Amy Pence.  I wrote this poem, “Dependent Co-arrising” from a prompt based on the writing of Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space at Switched-on Gutenberg.

Amy had already led a contrapuntal poetry workshop based on ekphrasis, where we described an image in one column and then wrote from the perspective of a single individual in the next column.

In the second workshop we used intertextuality as a springboard. I wrote four or five contrapuntal poems last year, and found inspiration from this technique for revising other poems I had abandoned.

I took two other poetry workshops in 2017, one with the poet and teacher with Jenn Givhan on narrative poetry and the other with Ada Limón at 24Pearlstreet.  In both of these workshops, I wrote about the pilgrimage I took to Fisterra this past summer.

I have written many new poems in the last year, but I don’t like sending them out into the world because they all feel like works in progress. Maybe once I complete the project I’ll feel better about trying to publish individual pieces.

I suppose when I look back on what I did and did not accomplish last year, I will say that my intention (not a goal), is to continue writing. I find inspiration from reading poetry, walking in nature, practicing yoga, just from being alive, really.

But motivation to write comes from discipline. It requires daily practice. That’s where the workshops factor in for me. The deadlines to write, read, and comment on other poet’s work helps me stay focused.

For more concrete guidance on goal setting for 2018, read “Poetry Action Plan” by January Gil O’Neil at Poet Mom.

For inspiration, take a look at poet Dave Bonta’s erasure poems based on the Diary of Samuel Pepys–this one is titled “Gusto.”

Writing in Community


Pyrenees Mountains, Vierge d’Orisson

Led by Kelli Russell Agodon and Donna Vorreyer, a group of poets who used to blog together in the mid-2000s has gathered once again in an effort to revive our blogs and our communal writing space outside of Facebook and Twitter. 

I’m not sure about everyone’s motivations, but I find that if I have a community of writers to turn to, I stay motivated to write and share my process with others. The 2016 elections and the onslaught of trolls and bots has left me fatigued with and leery of other social media outlets, and so I return to my own private Idaho on the web–my blog!

Of course, blogging is another form of social media, but on my site, at least, I don’t have ads popping up.

My project for today is to begin writing a sonnet crown based on the seven words the current occupant of the White House has banned from the CDC budget papers. I’m going to begin with the word “vulnerable.”

For more inspiration, I recommend this podcast interview with U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith–American Masters: The Poet: Tracy K. Smith.



Round-up of inspiration

Feeling like your insides are drying up like the last leaves to fall from the trees? If you’re in need of a shot of creativity, in addition to your vitamin B check out Robin Reagler’s blog, Big Window. I haven’t visited Big Window in a while, since I moved to this new blog, and she has been busy sharing all kind of visual art, including photography, paintings, and even logos. There’s also a wonderful poem called Some Feel Rain by Joanna Klink.


I was going to write my reaction to Cecila Woloch’s chapbook, Narcissus, a truly lovely book, but Collin Kelley already did such a fabulous job that I’d rather send you to his review. Collin is a personal friend of Ceclia’s and is familiar with the history of her development as a poet. I heard both of them read at Wordsmith books in Decatur, Georgia. Collin’s poems are passionate and elemental in a uniquely masculine way. There is power in the words, and a smooth resonance to his voice. Cecilia has a soft voice, like silk, and her words flutter like the white moths she writes about in Postcard to Myself from the Lower Carpathians, Spring.


If you haven’t already done so, check out Peony Moon, a new blog by Michelle McGrane. Besides writing stunning poetry, which you can read on her blog and in many other places on the web, including ouroboros review, Michelle is a voracious reader. She generously shares the tidbits of wisdom and beauty she finds on Peony Moon. It’s a great place for a daily dose of inspiration.


The Bookshelf Muse, by writers Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman, provides a very useful service for poets ands story writers alike – a thesaurus of words compiled by the authors. My favorite one so far is Sarcasm and Emotional Disrespect. What can I say? I have a mean streak. Even now I’m rubbing my hands together, cackling maniacally.