04 July 2017

On successful experiments and my sudden excitement

I am so thrilled to share that the first five of my visual poetry (or poem-collage) pieces have been accepted for publication! "(Hooded skullcap / plate 171)," "(false dragonhead / plate 170)," "(jack-in-the-pulpit / plate 2)," "(round-leaved sundew & venus flytrap / plate 74)," and "(swamp pink / plate 35)" will be appearing in a future issue(s) of Duende

More than being excited, it is such an incredible relief to have this new experimental work validated by other editors and publishers. Making these pieces was a great leap for me—I did not have a map for how they should be and how they would fit with with my purely textual work. I am also unfamiliar with the landscape of publishing such hybrid pieces. I was confident in my need to create them because the impulse came from the same place that pushes me to write a particular poem about a particular thing with those particular words. But after that, it was like sending out my first poems again. I had no internal sense of their worth outside of what they meant to me on a personal level. It was the first time in years thatafter asking myself: "Is this any good?"—I had no tools to measure or determine the answer. I was taking a big artistic risk and I had to continue taking that risk to find out. 

Because these visual poems are an integral part of my full-length manuscript, it is even more important to me that these pieces are granted some outside legitimacy. I have begun submitting the manuscript to presses and contests, and of course, having visual art pieces (let alone full-color visual art) in the book has made it an even more challenging process. I read the guidelines very carefully to make sure manuscripts containing visual art are even able to be considered, because of limited printing budgets, because of press and editor tastes and preferences. If I am still unsure, I will query the press before submitting and spending a not-insignificant submission fee on a prospect that will be turned away without being read or honestly considered because of these very real and understandable conditions. It narrows my pool of possible publishers considerably. That being said, Pleiades Press actually has a Visual Poetry Series that I am very excited about. I already submitted the manuscript there, of course.

Another challenge I've had to address—because these visual poems are mixed-media collage pieces—is determining whether my use of copyrighted materials qualifies as fair use, and therefore, whether I was legally allowed to publish them as my own creative work. This is such a fuzzy area that some publishers don't want to tangle with it at all, just to stay on the safe side (which, again, shrinks my pool of possible presses). But I did my research here, with the help of poets who work in erasure and other areas of found poetry. I found a few helpful resources here from the Graphic Artists Guild and here from the Center for Social Media at American University and here from Found Poetry Review and here from Jane Friedman's blog. What I learned from all of these, is that the determination of fair use of copyrighted materials (which means you don't have to seek permission from the copyright holder to use and publish it) comes down to four main points:
  1. "The purpose and character of the use, including whether you've made a new transformative work, and whether your use is commercial."
  2. "The nature of the original work, such as whether it is more factual than fictional."
  3. "How much of the original work was used."
  4. "Whether the new use affects the potential market for the original work."
Since I used small pieces from various factual source materials to create a new transformative work that is creative rather than commercial (I'm not selling it on T-shirts, etc.) and has no affect on the potential market for the original work, I've determined, without a doubt in my mind, that these visual poems qualify as fair use. It doesn't mean I'm not a little nervous, with this being entirely new territory for me. But I've done my homework here. And of course, wherever any of these are published, citations for the source materials will always be included. 

All of this is to say, that it's definitely been a challenge working in this new area that is part poetry, part visual art. So this new validation means even more to me because of it. Thank you so much to Duende for taking a chance on me and my experiments. Keep an eye out for their appearance in the near future!

17 May 2017

On visual poetry and vivisecting language

Last month I finished my second series of six poem-collages. The first were paired with my Silence of the Lambs poems. These are paired with my Alien poems. 

I used the same source materials for these as I did for the previous series, which are primarily The MacMillan Wild Flower Book and Gray's Anatomy. Using the same sources helps to connect both series, make them part of a greater narrative that is explored in my full-length manuscript, Catechesis

These are the six poem and collage pairings of this series:

What's the story, Mother?
+ round-leaved sundew & venus flytrap / plate 74

Wait a minute, there's movement. It seems to have lifeorganic life.
+ jack-in-the-pulpit / plate 2

You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you?
+ false dragonhead / plate 170

I can't lie to you about your chances, but you have my sympathies.
+ swamp pink / plate 35

We've got this farwe must go on. We have to go on. 
+ scarious blazing star & blazing star / plate 227

You are my lucky star.
+ shooting star / plate 142

With these last poem-collages wrapped up, I finally decided to take a new leap: I've submitted them for publication to a number of literary magazines as visual poetry. I sent a batch of them to Poetry Magazine, The Journal, A Bad Penny Review, DIAGRAM, Duende, and Maudlin House. Fingers crossed! 

Visual poetry is such a vague and open category of creative work. It's so hard to determine what makes a visual work "poetry," except that a poet made it. It must intersect with a poem or a text in some way. Dissect a poem or text or experience. Vivisect it with the scalpel of a visual, mixed-media language. Cut open words and living, breathing images spill out. I've shared here slices of my six new Alien poem-collages.

I feel strangely vulnerable having finally sent these experimental works out into the literary world to be considered by editors. I've never thought of myself as a visual artist, but I guess I'll need to broaden my self definition now. 


I'm on an interactive panel discussion next week at the Poetry by the Sea Conference in Madison, Connecticut. I will be talking with Jehanne Dubrow and Moira Egan about the intersection of poetry and perfume, which will end with a writing prompt and Q&A. If you're planning to attend the conference, please come to our panel on Friday, May 26 at 8:30 a.m.!

22 April 2017

Good news for National Poetry Month!

First piece of good poetry news: last weekend I finished the last piece for Catechesis, my first full-length poetry collection! It is a total of 27 poems and 12 poem-collages: fairytale-girl poems, Silence of the Lambs poems & collages, and Alien poems & collages. I'll give the manuscript a little breathing room, and then I'll start looking for open calls at presses.

Second piece of good poetry news: my poem "Wait a minute, there's movement. It seems to have life
—organic life" has been accepted for publication in the Spring 2018 Issue of Passages North! This is the first out of my six Alien poems to be taken by a literary magazine, so it is very encouraging for the rest of the series. Riding the high of this acceptance, I've just submitted the remaining five poems to another crop of journals.

After nearly four years of working on this manuscript, it's a very strange feeling to be finished. I've been entirely project-focused in my writing for such a long time now, but I no longer have a project on my desk or even waiting in the wings. I'm itching to get back to writing new poems but I have no idea what direction they will move in. Writing the Catechesis poems has made me so much more confident in my voice and style, my relationship with language. There has been so much self-discovery and growth. But for the first time in a few years, I don't have a ready subject. I'm both nervous and extremely excited about what comes next. I'm going to try pulling back a bit and waiting for the next project to float to the surface.

Happy National Poetry Month, friends!

23 February 2017

Blackbird Whitetail Redhand

I am so thrilled to announce here that my second chapbook Blackbird Whitetail Redhand will be published later this year by Porkbelly Press. Congratulations to my new pressmates, whose chapbooks will also be appearing this year: Maggie Woodward, Eloisa Amezcua, Kristi Carter, and M. Brett Gaffney! Funny-but-awesome-side-note: We just published Eloisa Amezcua's poem "Mission Bay" in issue 3 of Cherry Tree! So I am especially excited to be in the same lineup and, eventually, to read her new chapbook.

There are fifteen poems in this chap, all of the poems about my three fairytale-girls from my nearly completed full-length manuscript: the Girl with no Hands, the Girl with Cloven Feet, and the Girl who Gave Birth to an Apple. Although they are a significant chunk of the larger manuscript (and there are certain publishing downsides to this), I decided after much internal deliberation that these poems deserved to have their own separate platform, showcasing them as a tightly-woven group. After talking with a close poet-friend, I found that I could make them distinct in both manuscripts by changing up how they were ordered. That's when I realized I could have my chap and eat it too. 

Blackbird Whitetail Redhand is what had been the entire first section of my full-length manuscript. Letting them cozy up together in a chapbook allowed me to try out new ideas for ordering the larger manuscript, ideas that I had so far resisted. I broke my fairytale-girls up and wove them throughout. Now they appear as a sort of refrain in the manuscript, one that changes a little each time. The themes, images, language can talk more easily with the other sections, illuminating different ideas as they are bridged from one section to another. I love what this chapbook has allowed my larger manuscript to become. 

I was straining to find a title for this chapbook manuscript last fall because all of the obvious choices felt very bland and played out. I knew the mouthfeel I wanted for it and the aesthetic: a list of three simple nouns that evoke fairytale. As with Kate Bernheimer's story collection Horse, Flower, Bird: flat, minimalist, and very fairy. I also wanted to do all I could to avoid using the word "girl," since I use it quite enough in the poems themselves and it seems to have become a bit of a trend in recent book titles. My love of compound words then swooped in and unriddled my title problems. I chose a noun to represent each of the three fairytale-girls (ones that appears in the poems themselves), each noun with a color in it. The colors themselves are actually quite significant: black(bird), white(tail), red(hand). This is the unofficial color trinity of fairytale (especially regarding women) that shows up in story after story. Snow White is, of course, the easiest of these stories to recall, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. 

I am incredibly happy with the way all of these little poem decisions turned into this new chapbook. And I am especially excited that it is now with Porkbelly Press and editor Nicci Mechler. They create such beautiful handbound books (with a general design sense that I am in love with) and I truly cannot wait to see what this manuscript becomes in their capable hands.