Saturday, November 17, 2007

White space, line breaks, love hate

I'm obssessed right now with white space
and line breaks. I took a deliberate break from using both
features while writing Tinderbox Lawn, choosing to focus
on small blocks of prose, sans titles. It was fascinating to try
to capture / retain the sound of line breaks and white space
without using either one. Right now I'm trying to decide
whether to re-engage with them, or continue on with
my tidy little poetry bricks.

Deliberately not using them (like deliberately
not using a particular letter or deliberately choosing
alphabetic sequences) has made me think
more deeply about their uses and misuses.
I feel bored with conventional line breaks, bored
with lopping off lines to tidy up the seams of a poem
or because it feels easier than a comma.

It isn't that I want rules; it's that I want to know,
for myself, in my work, what sound a line break
makes; what sound white space makes. To use
the page more expertly, with more musicality.

Thoughts on this? How do you know when to
break a line and/or how do you know when to
isolate a line or stanza within white space?

(I should add that my investment in poetic
structure clashes wildly with my inability
to figure out how the hell to get my blog posts
to stop slicing sentences in half. I have to write
each post in a tidy little block lest it sliver itself
in its final published post version. I intend to
seek technical, if not spiritual, guidance in this matter
because it impacts my writing, although of course
this is, in itself, an interesting exercise.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Knockout is here

and has a charming blue tin man on the cover.
It's precisely the right weight and feels slick to the touch.

Order/subscribe/gawk at:

The first issue has poems by Marvin Bell (who starts things off
by taking a huge risk, with a stunning address to President Bush
and Lady Laura, and a condemnation of poets whose work
plays it safe, poets who refuse to challenge the status quo),
Carl Phillips, Charles Jensen, Joseph Massey, Denver Butson,
me, and more. Really -- there's nothing here not to like.

I'm intruiged by a new poet, Kimberly Lambright. Her work
is tender and forthright at the same time.

If you're in Spokane, don't miss the reading Dec. 1st.

I understand "ham flowers" now

Matthea Harvey = rock star

The reading was perfect -- a model for what a reading
should be. And the new book is brilliant.

For more on this topic, as well as other literary adventures.
see Elizabeth's new blog. Yes, she's given in and joined
blogspot (speaking of which, can anyone help me
figure out how to link to a livejournal blog from
my blog? Is there a trick for this?).

Find her at

Monday, November 12, 2007

Knockout in Spokane

Knockout, a fiesty new literary magazine, is having
a reading to celebrate its first issue.

Several poets (including yours truly) will read
at CenterStage in Spokane, WA
on Saturday, December 1st.
Address: 1017 W. 1st Ave.

Jeremy tells me it's a ballroom, so I assume
ballgowns, tiaras, and tipsy heels
are all welcome attire.

Matthea Harvey at Open Books, Seattle

Matthea Harvey will be reading at Open Books
on Wednesday, November 14th at 7:30pm.

Open Books is in Seattle's Wallingford
neighborhood at 2414 N. 45th Street.

Expect soft, silky weirdness and imaginary babies.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fun With Fonts

I had an amusing conversation with
one of my fabulous VRZHU Press editors
the other day. The folks at the press
are mulling over which font to use for
the book (forthcoming!). How
charming to talk with someone about
such precise details as font and white
space -- to think about presentation
and art and beauty, the book as a
canvas, and not just reviews,
networking, copies sold.

Thanks to Michael and Dan;
thanks to Truong and Mandy
for writing blurbs that
live secret lives as tiny poems.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bechdel blogs

I'll soon be teaching Alison Bechdel's FUN HOME
in my GLBT Literature class. The book delights me,
not least because it reminds me of reading
Bechdel's comic strip DYKES TO WATCH
OUT FOR while working at a feminist bookstore.
The comic strip was included in the underground
dyke publication LESBIAN CONNECTION, which
arrived in the mail folded lengthwise and stapled
about 100 times (lest a man, or a non-lesbian,
find the publication and read it, thereby causing
it to self-destruct).

I miss some of those funny little details --
the staples in LC; the smell of the bookstore,
which was filled with incense and shrines to
various goddesses; potlucks and softball
practice. It's nice to see Bechdel's success,
to see an out lesbian writer gain mainstream
attention without selling out or closeting
her subjects.

She has a blog, too, which I just discovered:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Solitude, Audience, Looking Away

Writers spend lots of time alone. We all know this, know that
sometimes it gets lonely. LOTS lonely. Lost too. Lately I'm
learning (re-learning? Surely I must have noticed this
before) a hard lesson: the fact that very few of the people
close around me ("close" as in proximity) care about
the words I use, care about the poems and books I'm making.
Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis don't
know I write, or don't care, or think it's something hobbyish,
something to do between turning off TV and washing the dishes.
I guess until my father died, I didn't feel the sting of this
so much. He was a good audience, my father; aside from getting
hurt or angry, occasionally, at the political content of my work,
he cared a lot that my work got written. Understood it as work,
as a form of labor and also ardor. Perhaps I'm experiencing
a turning point (some of you have passed this point already
and can tell me what to do): anticipating an outward audience.
Not expecting much, or anything, from neighbors.
Looking for an audience across the country, overseas, out,
far off, and knowing I'll never meet them. Writing for
strangers instead of nearbys. I wonder if this shift is necessary
in order to reach more readers, or if it's not a shift at all,
just a growing awareness of what was there all along?
Perhaps it's just a sense of melancholy after being asked
one too many times lately by strangers if I have kids.
Yes, I think, several. They look like books. You can take
them home with you and read them. You can get inside
their skin. Since this is not an answer anyone wants to
hear I say nothing. It's strange, having your best self,
your most cherished self, your sacred-self invisible to
others. Of course, being gay, this is true all the time.
Anyway, instead of feeling this as sad I want to
make it beautiful -- think of it as an opportunity,
a reaching-out. It isn't that I want applause; I don't.
It's that art requires a certain kind of dialogue
in order to grow. Maybe the difficulty of hearing
that dialogue here is that I live in a small town.
But I think it's more about the lack of interest
in art, in artists, in a culture that values clutter.
So who do I write for? Who have I been writing
for? What feels different now? I wonder
if any of you think consciously about audience
and struggle with this sense of invisibility.
I wonder, too: is it tied to gender? Have
I under-reached all along, because as a woman
(a woman educated primarily in the company
of men, educated amongst and by ambitious
men who discounted me all along) I see my
place as always-already local? Or does it go
back to (as it must) this war, a country increasingly
alienated from its neighbors, a country frightened
by borders, a country cut off? Is what I'm
feeling the trickle-down effect of The War
On Terror -- a sense of isolation from those
around me, a sense that words are not enough?