I’m coming to the end of my guest blogging here and realize, despite some verrrrry long posts, that I’ve still got a list of ideas, trends and influences on poetry that I’ve not yet written about. It’s a loosely-linked miscellany today. First, a question for readers.I’m doing some research for a book Jeffrey Skinner’s writing (to be published by Sarabande) on being a poet. He’s got a general question for poets though we’d love to hear particularly from you teaching poets on this. Respond here or on my Facebook page. In return, you’ll have our undying gratitude.
"As a teacher, or when giving a poetry reading, what are some questions you've had about writing poetry from students and audience members?"
Has anyone gotten an unusual version of the “Please describe your writing process” question? In how many ways have students asked why they should read poetry at all? What is it about the writing process—and its result—that is so unendingly mysterious?
- I make no secret of the fact that Sarabande Books is one of my favorite literary presses. And it’s not just because I’m good friends with the folks who run it (more on this tomorrow.) I’ve watched Sarabande continually publish some the best short fiction and poetry over the last decade, but it’s been most exciting to read their nonfiction releases. And I read them all. I asked Sarah Gorham to talk about what they look for and are most pleased with having published:
We're committed to three genres: poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction and will always publish a fairly equal balance of all three over our lifetime. Nine years ago, we began a gradual expansion of CNF, which is where the most exciting advances are, at least in our opinion. Some recent titles as example: Jenny Boully's Book of Beginnings and Endings, Patricia Vigderman's The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner, and Ashley Butler's Dear Sound of Footstep. This is also an area of few publishing venues. The lyric essay, collage-style essays, non-linear narrative essays, etc…. collections like these are being published by only a handful of presses.
2. In preparation for an in-depth interview with Marilyn Nelson (published in the fall 2009 issue of The Writers Chronicle) I read all of Nelson’s published work at the time, much of which was young adult novels in verse. I was stunned, not only by the research that went into these books, many of which are historical novels, but by the production values, the gorgeous illustrations, and the wide readership (and prestigious awards) her books have garnered.
“The stories I tell make a contribution to the popular knowledge of U.S. history, and to interracial understanding. And my poems demonstrate to young (and older) readers some of the traditional pleasures to be taken from poetic form.”
There’s a desire among young adult publishers for poets to write young adult novels in verse. Narrative, lyric, historical, or fantasy, what better way for children and adolescents to be exposed to what poetry can do? And what a boon for poets to have someone from some quarter asking for our work?
To my knowledge, the only literary press that publishes young adult fiction is Persea Books. Their young adult list consists primarily of anthologies, but there are two books written by poets (Meg Kearney and Gary Soto.) I love Persea and think Gabe Fried is onto something. I hope they continue to travel down this road. And that other literary presses follow.
3.I’ve been watching Dzanc Books develop since it was founded in 2006, always impressed with their enthusiasm and literary civicmindedness (to coin a phrase.) They publish books, run the Emerging Writers Network, publish literary magazines, and, closest to my heart, sponsor a Writer-in-Residence program which places published writers in primary and secondary schools, where they teach creative writing. Dzanc is nonprofit and has come with an ingenious way of funding their WiR program by sponsoring a national Dzanc workshop day, asking writers across the country to lead a workshop of their choosing in their own community, and charging a reasonable fee, which goes to the program.
I signed on this year, and will be running a multigenre workshop called “New England and the Sea” from James Merrill’s home in the seaside village of Stonington, CT. Joining me in running the workshop are the current James Merrill fellow, fiction writer Jedediah Berry, and my husband, Bill Taylor, a well-respected shipwright. The workshop runs on Saturday, April 9th from 2 to 4 PM. See Dzanc for the details and to sign up. We’ll have a great afternoon in Merrill’s beautiful apartment and hope to raise a good chunk of change for Dzanc’s Writer-in-Residence program.