Friday, November 27, 2009

Apropos of Nothing

I continue to have dreams that involve library scavenger hunts and sisyphean tasks.

Surely this is meaningful.

Surely there is a poem to be found in this.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I have decided that if I lived in a cooler town, I would hang out in funky coffee shops and drink loads of chai. Alas, I live in a place where far too many people think those dress-up geese on the front porch are high art. Ah well.

The poetry reading this weekend was amazing! It was a joy to read with such a terrific group of people. Lovely. My husband took some photos, which made me realize I look rather pained and distressed when I read my poems. Weird.


I've been thinking about writing fiction, which seems overly ambitious, but I'm going to do it anyway. At this point, I've begun a new fiction journal/diary. I'm starting with character development. Creating fictional people is rather fun. I have no idea where it's going to lead. My attention span seems much better suited for poetry, most days.

Writing exercise: 5 Random Things

In the interests of fleshing out the characters, I'm trying to write a list of 5 random things about each one on an index card. Each random characteristic should--I think--be something more than 'basic' (i.e. I don't want to list height and weight, or anything like that). I'll start with myself because I am as solipsistic as anyone else and because it's an easy way to warm up. Here goes:

Five Random Things About Moi

1.) I never ask people the question "What do you do?" (as in "for a living.") I dislike using occupation to define who people are. No one can be defined so simply as "accountant" or "baker." It's not that these things aren't relevant; I just think the question is somewhat rude because it indicates I'm trying to pigeonhole the person in some way. I realize this is perhaps the most basic question on earth when it comes to small talk (in America, anyway), so I am probably made of fail when it comes to meeting people and socializing with casual acquaintances and whatnot.

2.) I have recently become obsessed with food in its simplest unadulterated state. Really, I just want to eat things like apples and baked potatoes and homemade bread. I don't like pre-packaged mixes, pre-sliced fruits, pre-washed bags of salad (which always smell like decay to me, yuk.) I'm sure my fear of both pre-cut and chemically preserved foods borders on OCD. So, what am I going to do with that damn box of Rice-A-Roni in my pantry?

3.) I am not particularly religious, but I am open to the possibility that science cannot necessarily explain everything. On the other hand, I think it's also possible that those things which appear to exist beyond science (like a ghost or a near-death experience for example) could very well have a scientific explanation that we're simply not capable of understanding. This may seem paradoxical, but it's not. At least, I don't think so.

4.) There is at least one shelf full of books in every room of my house, except the bathrooms (soggy books=bad). This includes the kitchen and dining room. I'm sure this has much to do with the fact that I own far too many books (if such a thing is possible!) I also like the basic principle of feng shui that visible books in a room increase insight. Why not? Who couldn't use a little more intellectual energy?

5.) I cannot stand the idea of having a television in my bedroom. I need it to be a sanctuary for sleep, a place far removed from the world of sitcoms, reality tv, or the nightly news.

The point of this exercise is to bring characters alive by explaining what they do or believe, rather than trying to create them as 5'5" blonde-haired former strippers or 6 foot tall dog groomers or whatever. While it's easy to do this for oneself, I think it's much more difficult (although absolutely necessary) when it comes to creating believable fictional characters. If they don't seem real (or like they could be real), then they become wooden and flat and boring, and nobody wants to read about them, right?

Monday, November 16, 2009

This Friday...11-20-2009

A Monthly Poetry Series

November 20, 2009

Open Mike 6:00 - 6:30
Featured Poets 6:45 - 7:30

Brothers K
500 Main St.
Evanston, IL


Susan Slaviero is the author of two poetry chapbooks: An Introduction to the Archetypes (Shadowbox Press, 2008) and Apocrypha (Dancing Girl Press, 2009). Her work has appeared in Flyway, RHINO, Fourteen Hills, Arsenic Lobster, Caffeine Destiny and other journals. She designs and edits the online literary journal blossombones.

Kathleen Kirk will be reading from Broken Sonnets, her new chapbook (Finishing Line Press, 2009). Finishing Line will also publish Living on the Earth in 2010, an honorable mention winner in their New Women's Voices series. Her work has also been published in The Common Review, After Hours, Another Chicago Magazine, Ekphrasis, Greensboro Review, Many Mountains Moving, Ninth Letter, and Spoon River Poetry Review. Kathleen is a former editor of RHINO and former associate editor of Poetry East.

More Proof that I Require Therapy

Is there anyone who *isn't* overwhelmed this time of year?

I've never felt more completely buried in mundane tasks. I've always been so sure of my organizational skills--I make lists, keep an accurate calendar, and maintain a running dialogue with myself about what I need to do.

I'm beginning to forget things.

I've missed out on a few things I meant to do last week, which has me feeling horrible. I almost forgot a few bills, too. Yeesh. Now the holidays loom, and I honestly don't know how it's all going to get done. I think I applied for about 20 different jobs last week, too. Maybe I should consider going back to school. I keep waffling on this. I might take the GRE next year, just to see how I do. Oy.

I had a dream the other night that I was applying for a job at a university library. I was given one day to find all the information on a list given to me by the librarian, or I wouldn't get the job. It was something reminiscent of a literary scavenger hunt... I needed to locate information on medieval medical techniques, decipher texts in Latin, and figure out computer passwords without assistance. I remember one of the books I had to find (something by Joan Didion) was locked in a glass box, and I couldn't find the key. I was also required to persuade library patrons to engage in a variety of strange tasks, and write poems that imitate the style of several contemporary poets. It was both stressful and exciting. It's also a painfully obvious dream, almost too easy to interpret, which suggests that I grow even more predictable with age.

I must also learn how to blog without sounding angsty. Ha.

I think I'm overtired because I've been staying up late to catch up on Season 5 of LOST on hulu. This is not in any way productive, but my brain is pretty tired by 10:00 p.m. anyway. Also, we no longer have cable (belt-tightening and such), so I need to get my t.v. fix online these days.

I'm looking forward to a much quieter week. Last week was crazy, but productive.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Strange State of Distraction

Autumn has arrived, first in a slurry of rain, and then in these oddly warm Indian Summer November days that can't possibly last. I feel like writing, yet lack the inspiration for anything particularly compelling.

I feel like I am waiting for the skies to clear, for something dramatic to happen, but can't (for the life of me) imagine what it is. This week will be hectic, with heavy mom duties and such--although some are pleasant, like taking Z on his first college visit!

Sometimes, I wish I were a visual artist, or sculptor, or a quilter... I feel this compulsion to be creative using my hands, to get out of my headspace for a while, although I tend to be no good at escaping the cerebral. No good at all. I am so often accused of "overthinking." Is this really such a bad thing? Who knows?

I have some pieces floating around in the ether, poems and such. I recently got a personal rejection from Ninth Letter, with one of those quickly inked "please try us again" cursive scrawls that mean somebody considered the poems publishable, if only for a brief moment.

I have learned to be so much more circumspect about rejection in all its various forms. It tends to slide by like a gust of air, a chilly breeze I was expecting but hoping to avoid all the same.

In the meantime, I am redesigning my website, and hoping to get started designing the winter issue of blossombones next month. We'll reopen for submissions in February, and I'm considering an all poetry issue. I'd like to have a little extra space, to take a few more writers' work for summer, as I often turn down some lovely pieces for the sake of time and journal space. I don't like to overwhelm, but rather to showcase a few stellar pieces in the hopes that visitors will read the whole issue, rather than just peruse a few poems.

New guidelines should be up with the winter issue, possibly sooner.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why I Read Poetry and A New Chapbook Review

Everybody reads fiction, it seems. I like fiction too. (And non-fiction, for that matter, with the exception of outrageously solipsistic memoirs by People Who Bore Me, like politicians and war generals. Bleh.)

When it comes to literary aversions, I think there are two kinds of people: those who don't read at all, and those who don't read poetry.

I love reading poetry. This is not only because I write it and have an interest in the art form. I am attracted to the singularity of focus required for reading it, the compression of narrative forms, the intensity of the language itself. I remain somewhat flummoxed by those who say they don't like or understand anything written in verse. Really? It's not any more difficult to read than prose. Honest.

The best poems (and collections of poems) transport the reader to an alternate world. It might be an unrecognizable future (or past), but it might also be firmly planted in everyday experience, only with the volume turned way up, the colors brighter and more vibrant. It's a place where the world takes on layers of complexity, and that will always be a place that fascinates me.

As I have been lackluster with my blogging as of late, I'm hoping to enliven this poetry blog with a regular chapbook review feature. I'd like to begin with the very first chapbook produced by a terrific poetry journal, Goblin Fruit...


Review of

Demon Lovers and Other Difficulties
by Nicole Kornher-Stace

I was unfamiliar with Ms. Kornher-Stace's work until I read it in Goblin Fruit, and I was intrigued enough to purchase her chapbook, which is saddle stitched and beautifully constructed by the editors of GF; the cover is colorful and professional, constructed of sturdy, slick, high quality cardstock, and the pages are very clean with no rough edges. It's small, but stunning.

Of course, the most important aspect of any publication is the work itself. The chapbook alternates between a set of poems entitled "The Demon Lover's Child Grows Up," a four-part series of persona poems that speak in the voice of the Demon Lover's child, and a set of related poems constructed in other voices.

The Demon Lover's Child poems trace a narrative arc through his infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The first poem in the series really sets the scene for the book, not only with the promise to reveal the tale of the Demon Lover's Child, but also with the promise inherent in the poetry itself, which demands the reader's attention:

Don't you? I screamed. Don't you know me?
Oh cold you are. Am I so easily forgot?
What of the moss I crushed your spine into,
the snowdrifts, bluebells, autumn leaves?
What of the words I singed, spark-bright, coal-dark,
into your skin? (14-19).

Much like the mother of the enraged demon child, I find myself marked by the words that are indeed "spark-bright and coal-dark."

One of my favorite poems in the chapbook is called "The Changeling Always Wins." What mother has not been haunted by the fear that she is at the mercy of a terrible baby, something not of this world? My favorite image in the poem comes toward the end, when the mother questions what she might find should she look inside the infant, "A clockwork heart, a clot of earth, / a vein-fine plait of baby hair tied thrice, / which I might recognize?" (34-36).

What an ominous piece! The voice of the mother weaves together the unspeakable and the familiar so deftly, the reader feels both sympathy and terror. It's a beautifully crafted poem.

The most challenging poem, "Other Difficulties" brings the chapbook to a close. This poem seems a bit less connected to the previous pieces, although the images, use of language, and subject matter do give it a coherent feel. I love the use of epistolary form, and imagine the characters of Fetch and Catch represent the importance of duality and illusion. It's a fitting end to an excellent chapbook, although I must admit, I was craving a one last installment in the voice of the Demon Lover's Child for the final piece.

To read a few of the poems or purchase Demon Lovers and Other Difficulties, you should click here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fall(ing) Behind

Holy crap. It's November.

I don't know if it's some kind of wacky law of physics that time actually moves faster as you get older, but this sometimes seems to be the case.

I gave away mad amounts of Halloween candy yesterday--about 60 full size candy bars! We had loads of trick-or-treaters this year. It was crazy. Last year I felt like we had but a handful of little goblins. Go figure.

I love this time of year--the cool weather, the impending sense of quietude, the need to hibernate in a warm, cozy house. It's a homebody's dream.

I will be taking my son on his first college visit in about a week-and-a-half. It's a strange feeling--bittersweet, gratifying and scary, too.

Life remains quietly busy. Here's what's new:

Two poems--most seasonally appropriate for Halloween/All Souls:

"Why Everyone Can't See Ghosts" appears in The Medulla Review.

Two terrific journals, so I'm delighted to be included. I'm in excellent company.

I've also started a food blog. You can visit it here. I'm still not sure what compels me to start another blog when I'm barely keeping up with this one.

Also: (god, is it to early to be blogging about this? I always feel weird promoting "forthcoming" stuff. It never quite feels real until I actually see it! Anyway, it's exciting news, so I want to share it....)

My very first full length collection, Cyborgia, has been accepted for publication by Mayapple Press! I'm thrilled, and nervous, and it still doesn't feel real to me yet. I really love the manuscript, and I've been working on it for a long time... I'm so delighted to have found it a home!

I have a reading coming up, too... I'll be at Bros K coffee shop in Evanston on November 20, where I will be a featured reader along with Rhino editor Kathleen Kirk. Very exciting! The reading starts at 6 p.m. (open mic), and the featured readers begin at around 6:45 p.m. Come see me! You know you want to :)