Putting together a book of poems

I’ve been putting a poetry manuscript together in response to a submission request from a press asking for books written by women over fifty. I figure I'm well over fifty, so why not? The requirement is to compile a book of sixty to one hundred poems. I've been gathering my poems for the book during the last month or so. I've written a lot of poems - certainly more than the requirements of this submission, but the big question is: how many of them are good enough to put in a manuscript hoping to win a $1000 prize. As of today, I think I've completed the gathering phase. The next step is to organize them. I really had no idea how to do that. I've submitted to chapbook competitions before but never a full-length book. So I went to my poetry book shelf and looked at how some of my favorite poets (Ellen Bass, Billy Collins, Maxine Kunitz, Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar, etc.) do it. Some just number the sections, some use the title of one of the poems in the section as the title of the sec … [Read more...]

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New writing and old

I've started to write about something new. I haven't a clue yet where it's going so I don't want to reveal the topic yet. I just want to let you and the world know. That's a way to keep me accountable. I can't go ahead and disband this new writing project because I've now put it out there. You all know and I know you'll keep me going. I'm also going through some poems I've written over the years. I'm looking for material to submit. I wrote the one below back in 2011 at my favorite poetry workshop at Esalen Institute in Big Sur California. Unfortunately my favorite three poets/instructors, Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, and Joseph Millar, aren't doing this workshop anymore, though I went to a workshop at Esalen with Joseph about a year ago. That was wonderful as well. So the theme for this poem was "changeability." We were asked to make changes from line to line, using word series, thoughts, length of line, and language. Other aspects of this theme are: anaphora - repetition of th … [Read more...]

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After a two-year hiatus, I’m returning to Esalen

I'm kicking off the holiday season by going back to Esalen in Big Sur California tomorrow to take a five-day poetry workshop with Joseph Millar. But I've made up my mind already. Just being back at Esalen after a two-plus-year break is all that matters. Of course I love being there to write. But what I really I love is just being there - period. I've worked with Joseph many times before, usually when he leads poetry workshops with Ellen Bass and his wife Dorianne Laux - a fantastic trio of poetry brilliance. He also helped edit a lot of the poems that appear in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. He has a wonderful gift for honing in on the good and what can be improved about the poems he hears and reads. Here's a little information about Joseph that I lifted from his website: Joseph Millar's first collection, Overtime, was a finalist for the 2001 Oregon Book Award. His second collection, Fortune, appeared in 2007, followed by a third, Blue Rust, in 2012. Millar grew up in Pen … [Read more...]

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Africa Trip Part 6 – back in Nairobi

We spent our last night in Africa in Nairobi at the same hotel where we started – the Fairmont Norfolk. It was nice to get back into civilization again with a working wifi system, a TV, and a lovely place to have dinner. We retrieved our luggage containing our city clothes that we had stored there, and immediately sent a big load to be washed.   The highlight of our stay in Nairobi, and probably one of the main highlights of our whole African trip, was meeting a young Nairobi man, Pascal, for breakfast the next morning. I had heard about him through my friend and writing instructor, Ellen Bass, and our tour director, Anastasia’s Africa, helped arrange the meeting. My husband Bob and I spent an hour with him talking about the Kenyan orphan situation – out of 30 million people in Kenya, 1.3 million are orphans caused by HIV/AIDS and cancer deaths of the parents – the economy, the Chinese poaching, and the corruption in the Kenyan government. After breakfast we walked into Na … [Read more...]

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Introducing Chanel Brenner, poet extraordinaire

I met Chanel last May at a poetry workshop led by Richard Jones. I was immediately taken by the poem she wrote during the workshop and that we have something in common - we each have lost a son. Chanel's grief for six and a half-year-old Riley who died from the rare disease Arteriovenous malformations (AVM)* is still new. And her beautiful poetry shares that grief with her readers. Here is Chanel's story, reminiscent of friends of mine who left after my son died. My Friend From Another Life She sits across from me, wearing a purple sundress, her dark hair relaxed around her face.           “You look really great,” she says, her voice thick with surprise, her eyes approving as they scan me from head to coral painted toenails. It’s not what she’s said, but what she’s left out, “compared to a year ago,” the last time we had lunch together at this restaurant, shortly after Riley died.           She scooted away after that, one email at a time. First, “If you ever need to … [Read more...]

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Esalen (Big Sur, California) here I come!

I’m looking forward to going to Esalen at Big Sur, California on Sunday. I’ll be there for five days to attend a poetry workshop led by Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, and Joseph Millar. I’ve taken this workshop several times before so I know what to expect – lots of poetry writing, sharing what we write late each day, and always very gentle, encouraging feedback. I’ll also know several of the people there. Like me, they are Esalen and poetry junkies. Although I usually like to go to Esalen at least once a year, this will be my first time in almost two years. Perhaps the work of my book got in the way last year – definitely a poor excuse. Because my mantra is always: “Take care of myself,” I never should have let myself skip a year. But I’ll make up for it very soon. Usually I go to Esalen without my husband, Bob. The last time he went was to celebrate my sixtieth birthday there. Here’s the piece I wrote about that time over a decade ago. Turning Sixty As sixtieth birthdays go … [Read more...]

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