Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Sound of a Peach

Is anything more delicious than a perfectly ripe peach? Maybe having your peach poem read on the radio.

This past Wednesday night poet Julie L. Moore read my poem, "Prunis Persica," from Temptation by Water, on the weekly radio program, "Conrad's Corner," at WYSO in Ohio. Please take a listen:

If you're unable to see the recording above or get it to play (it wouldn't work for me on Firefox, only on Safari), then use this link.

You can also read the poem online at Redheaded Stepchild.

Julie's reading makes me hungry for peach pie or peach ice cream.

Note: If the above media player doesn't work or show up, try this one:

Or this one:
PS: I'm experimenting with the media player so any feedback will be appreciated.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Sound and the Poem

Since I recently posted about the online journal, Soundzine, I thought I would mention a handful of other places where you can find poetry and audio combined. It makes so much sense, I think, to provide audio for poetry, an oral art, and to provide readers an opportunity to also be listeners. If I can't get to your reading on the other side of the country, perhaps I can hear you read your work online.

The Cortland Review was, as far as I know, a trailblazer in providing audio to accompany the poems in the journal. You can find an alphabetized list of all their holdings HERE. It's huge. You can also search by poet's name. The site also provides a list of other online audio sources.

Rattle, although a print journal, has found a great way to make the poems and the poets audible. Editor Tim Green invites poets published in the journal to submit recordings of their work. He then posts the recordings at the journal's website. An extensive ARCHIVE is maintained. It provides access to both the poems and the recordings.

Linebreak is a unique publication. It uses a weekly newsletter format, sending those who subscribe one poem per week, always on Tuesday. Most of the poems are accompanied by a recording by one of Linebreak's readers, usually another poet who has been featured in the past. All the poems and recordings are archived online. When you get to the page, scroll down a bit to find the subscription form. I encourage you to subscribe. I don't think I've ever received a poem from this source that I didn't really like.

Another unique addition to the poetry / sound combo is qarrtsiluni, an online project created by Dave Bonta and Beth Adams. Every three months or so they put out a call for submissions for a themed issue. Usually, the issue is farmed out to a guest editor. Once the poems have been selected, they appear a day at a time in the journal. Each poem is accompanied by an audio which is available for download. Past issues are maintained in their entirety at the site.

Dave also keeps a nifty blog called Moving Poems. This site is for poem videos. Some of the videos are made by other people; some are made by Dave. I love this site for both the poetry and the lovely videos. The right sidebar contains a long list of other sites that provide poetry videos. If you're interested in how the videos are made, Dave often links to his other site, Via Negativa, where he provides more detailed explanations of how his own videos were made. While you're at Moving Poems, you might want to subscribe to Dave's weekly newsletter. This comes out each Saturday and provides links to the videos that were posted in the past week.

Finally, I want to mention Nic Sebastian's Whale Sound. If you go to the home page, you will find the current poems. Every few days Nic posts 3 recordings she's made of poems by other poets. She is an outstanding reader (as well as a fine poet herself) and more than does justice to the poems. The site keeps an indexed list of all poets who have had poems on the site.

Happy listening.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Word Rant

I want to place a restraining order on the word  "actually." Forever, not temporarily. The word has used up its lifetime quota. Overused and misused, it's become a sort of verbal punctuation mark or a space holder. Well, actually. How many sentences now begin that way? Actually, a lot. How many responses begin that way?

When the word is correctly used, it should register some surprise. For example, John has been warned one hundred times not to go to the lake. He knows he shouldn't go. But he goes. When his mother finds out, she might justifiably say, "You actually went?" But if John simply went to the lake as he often does, why would his mother say, "You actually went?" Yet chances are that she will say that.

Or the word should register some contrast between what was expected and what occurred. For example, if you go to a certain vacation spot because you've been told that the weather is amazing, but then it rains every single day, you could justifiably say, "It actually rained every day."

Even on the news programs, I hear the word abused horribly. As commentators assume a casual demeanor, they liberally pepper their commentary with actually. On "Master Chef,"  a tv show I like, when the hopeful chef is asked what ingredients she used, she replies, "I actually used such and such," when there's no need to use that word. We hadn't expected her to use different ingredients. We're informed, but we're not surprised.

The word is a verbal tic. It's driving me nuts. Once I become aware that someone is over-actualizing, I can't stop noticing it. I lose sight of whatever else the person is saying. I'm counting actuallys (or is that actualies?).

When I hear someone overuse, misuse, and abuse actually, I know that person is not a poet. Imagine a poem with actually at the beginning of each line or each line containing one actually. Wouldn't that actually be dreadful?

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Sound of Poetry

Photo by Georgia Simandan
Several months ago Kathleen Kirk tipped me off to a cool online journal called Soundzine. This journal combines poetry and audio and art. Lovely combination. Each poem is posted along with an audio recording and a relevant piece of art. I decided to submit some poems and was happy to have three of them accepted. Those poems appear in the current issue. They are "Invective Against the Bumblebee," "The Fruitful Woman," and "Anniversary." You can visit them HERE. Since "Invective Against the Bumblebee is posted first, it gets the artwork—a creepy bee.

This issue includes 30 poets as well as 3 Spoken Word poets (a separate category in the journal), 6 prose writers, and 27 artists under Art & Photography.  I was happy to see the aforementioned Kathleen Kirk included among the poets.

Each poet is given a choice to record his or her own poems or to have one of the journal's regular readers make the recordings. I chose to do my own. I took that as my opportunity to finally learn how to use Garage Band. So that took many days, but I think the sound quality is a tad bit better than Quick Time. Also, I've never been able to figure out how to add a music track to a Quick Time recording—is it possible?—something that was possible and not too hard in Garage Band. I wanted to add music tracks behind each poem. Garage Band has tons of tracks to choose from, or you can add music from another source.

The theme of this issue is Luck. It's issue #13, thus the Lucky Issue. Although my poems have nothing to do with luck, I consider myself lucky to have them appear in the journal. I'm grateful to poetry editor Sherry O'Keefe for taking them.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Poetry Salon: Marie-Elizabeth Mali

Marie-Elizabeth Mali is the author of Steady, My Gaze (Tebot Bach, 2011) and co-editor with Annie Finch of the forthcoming anthology, Villanelles (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets Series, 2012). She serves as co-curator of louderARTS: The Reading Series and the Page Meets Stage reading series, both in New York City. Her work has appeared in Calyx, Poet Lore, and Rattle, among others. Although we've never met in person, we share a mutual interest in using video with poetry and have often communicated about that. I'm happy to have her here in my poetry home for a salon to celebrate her first full-length poetry book.

DL:  Tell us how you went about writing these poems and assembling them into a collection.

MEM:  About half the poems were written or revised during my MFA program and formed part of my graduate thesis. The rest were written since I graduated. The book went through three major overhauls, including two title changes, as I sent it out over a twelve-month period. At first, I threaded the themes of identity (Venezuelan-Swedish-American), spirituality, politics/war, gender, and relationship throughout the book and had three numbered sections. I then decided to group similarly-themed poems together and title the sections. That allowed for the second and fourth sections to come into focus and mirror each other. They’re both made up of seven short, linked poems. I always intended to start the book with the prologue poem in Spanish. The decision to make its translation the epilogue provided a welcome sense of closure to the book, as well as serving to allow people into the poem who don’t speak Spanish.

DL:  Tell us the story behind your cover.

MEM:  At first I wanted to use an image by a Venezuelan artist for the cover as a nod to how much that part of my identity figures in the first section of the book. After I didn’t find the perfect image, I thought about using Frida Kahlo’s, The Little Deer, since the title poem is an ekphrastic poem based on that painting. But I decided Kahlo’s work is too iconic and would narrow the focus of the book in a way that I didn’t want. I then thought about how much fire imagery there is in my work, both literally, since my grandparents died in a fire, and metaphorically, as an image for transformation and loss. I was chatting with Matthew Dickman at the Dodge Poetry Festival last fall and showed him some images of fire that I was considering and he suggested a lit match (Thank you, Matthew!). I found the photo of a lit match on the Getty stock photo website and immediately knew it was the one. I like how short-lived a match flame is and how it evokes the way some people use a single flame as a focus point for meditation, all of which fit my book’s themes.

DL:  How did you select the title for your book?

MEM:  The title of the book comes from the title poem, an ekphrastic poem based on Frida Kahlo’s painting, The Little Deer, in which a deer pierced with nine arrows wears her face. The steadiness of her gaze in the midst of suffering inspired the book’s title.

DL:  What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

MEM:  When readers put down my book and walk away, I hope they feel more awake to the “full catastrophe” of being human (as Jon Kabat-Zinn puts it). I hope they feel more available to fully experience life’s gorgeous and monstrous complexity, more alive to the world, others, and themselves.

DL:  Please choose a favorite poem for us and, if you like, tell us why you chose this one.

MEM:  I’ve chosen “To the Five-Inch Stilettos I Didn’t Buy Twelve Years Ago” because it’s a fun poem to read. It comes from the third section of the book—titled “I Celebrate the Husband”—in which the poems explore many aspects of gender and relationship. This poem came out of a prompt to write directly to an object you did not acquire. I’d wanted to write about a boyfriend’s foot fetish for a long time but hadn’t found a way in until this prompt. The funny thing is, after writing this poem, I read Brendan Constantine’s “Kink” and discovered that the most common fetish is feet and shoes!

To the Five-Inch Stilettos I Didn’t Buy Twelve Years Ago

He wanted you more than I did. My boyfriend,
when he was five, would crawl under

his mother’s table when her friends were over.
He’d slip off their high heels and stroke

their feet. They’d ooh and ahh, call him a good boy.
He’d bite his too-red lips to keep from moaning

out loud. He still bit his lips like a nervous squirrel
when we were together. He begged me to buy you,

said I’d never have to walk anywhere, just wear you
to bed with sheer black stockings, seam up the back.

Now I’m with a man who loves my feet, but
doesn’t want to lick each toe while dreaming

of his mother. Yesterday, I got a pair of sky-high
strappy platforms and greeted him at the door,

a taller, sexier version of wife. Smiling, I led him
to bed and he unstrapped them one by one.

Don’t be jealous, my pretty patent-leather, studded,
five-inch darlings. Wrong time, wrong man.

Now let's gather round as Marie-Elizabeth reads the poem for us.


Time to step over to the table and help yourself to the treats suggested by Marie-Elizabeth. We have organic blueberries, plain macaroons, mojitos, chocolate-dipped macaroons, and dark chocolate. How decadent—and perfect!

Overheard at the Party:

"Wholehearted" is an undervalued word; to my mind it means not blind enthusiasm or unthinking embrace but something more like the full consent of the self to experience, to be present in the glorious and wounding matrix of the here and now. I can't think of a better word for Marie-Elizabeth Mali's poems. She wants "the honeyed sizzle beyond all language,” wants to be a vulnerable and conscious participant in the life of things as they are, awake to love and the struggle to live freely and compassionately.  "How to hold the ocean," she asks, "when the vessel leaks? Rise your wild, / dear animal . . ." —Mark Doty

Before you leave, be sure to pick up a copy of Marie-Elizabeth's book and have her sign it. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the Comments section.

Click Cover for Amazon
 You can visit Marie-Elizabeth at her blog.

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