Monday, February 27, 2012

Social Media: Friend or Foe?

I recently came across an interview with Dana Gioia in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Conducted by Evan R. Goldstein in June 2011, the interview focuses largely on Gioia's reading practices. He reads copious amounts. The volume of his daily reading is all the more amazing in that he still teaches. Although I couldn't possibly come close to equaling the amount of reading he does, I was reminded again that writers read, a practice sometimes ignored by young writers.

But I was surprised by Gioia's response when asked how his reading of professional journals had changed in the past 10 years. He replied:

I used to follow a great many journals in my field, which is modern and contemporary poetry. Today I read far fewer.  Most publications now seem more or less interchangeable—the poetry mostly forgettable and the critical prose generic. Perhaps I’m getting old and tired, but I’ve noticed that most of my peers also seem to follow these publications with less interest. Perhaps we are in a poetry slump.

I now read about half a dozen journals regularly, plus the online Contemporary Poetry Review. I also check Poetry Daily, which provides links to poetry reviews from across the U.S. as well as the U.K., Ireland, Canada, and Australia. I also rely on friends who constantly send me links, off-prints, and copies of journals.

Journals change, sure, and so do readers. But with so many journals to choose from, I find such a blanket dismissal surprising. I wonder which half dozen journals Gioia does read regularly. I wonder, too, if he is in a poetry slump or if poetry is in a slump.

Having read that response, I was not then surprised to read Gioia's response when asked if he reads blogs: "I don’t read any blogs regularly, although half the people I know seem to be blogging.
 I read them only when friends send me links in their emails."

Given how much print material he reads each day, it's easy to understand why Gioia wouldn't have time for blogs, but that's a lot to miss.

When asked about Twitter, Gioia replied: "I  never use Twitter. In fact, I am deeply suspicious of the massive communications overload that the media obsesses over and glorifies. So much of this activity is just covert advertising for products and celebrities. The objective is to capture and commercialize every moment of people’s time. What we really need is more quiet and less phony connectivity."

Certainly there's a good deal of truth in this. And yes, we need quiet time for reflection and solitude for writing. But there's also the practical reality that if we want our work to be read these days, we need to make some use of social media. Yes or No? Is time spent on social media wasted time or is it part of the work we need to do to stay in touch with other poets and to assist our publishers who simply do not have large budgets for lots of advertising? Honestly, many of my Facebook friends are very well-known poets who I'm happy to hang out with, albeit if only virtually.

One reader of this interview made this comment: "Gioia's dismissal of social networking is the voice of someone who mocks what he does not understand. A shame for a scholar to let his own ignorance be his certitude."


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Good News Department

Temptation by Water has received not one but two new reviews. I'm delighted with and grateful for both of them. The first, by Emma Bolden, appears in the Alabama Register. Bolden begins, "In her fourth collection of poetry, Temptation by Water, Diane Lockward offers a series of meditations on the nature of human desire and how nature itself goes against the fulfillment of our desires. Lockward’s poems are at turns wry and wicked, sensual and satisfied, mournful and obsessed with making meaning out of 'the wreckage of absence' which so often makes up our lives." Read the rest of the review HERE.

The second review, by Michael Meyerhofer, appears in Midwest Book Review. Meyerhofer begins, "'Save your water and green vegetation,' Lockward writes in 'The Temptation of Mirage': 'What I want is the desert.' But how can we argue with her when she presents the reader with the 'eternity of sand' like 'an open-air coffin,' not to mention the cereus with 'its creamy petals like white silk,' the fruit 'red as a splash of blood'? And that's the beauty of Temptation by Water. Beyond the subtly brilliant way in which these poems are ordered, the poems themselves shine with a crisp lyricism eclipsed only by their humanity and honest lack of pretension." Read the rest of the review HERE.

How lovely to be wicked and brilliant. Suddenly, I'm in love with adjectives.

Chef and author, John Ross, has begun two of his recent columns in the Long Island Wine Press by quoting from my poems, both found in my second book, What Feeds Us. The first article, "Your own pasta is well worth the effort," begins with a quotation from "Linguini." The second, "Tropical taste in the shape of a pear," quotes from my poem, "Organic Fruit." That's a concrete poem in the shape of an avocado, a feature of the poem that's lost in the article but can be seen if you follow the link to the poem.

Both articles contain recipes that sound incredibly delicious. Check them out.

Given all this food talk, I've decided to share with you a recipe I recently made that was fantastic—if I do say so myself. Oddly, I wasn't at all sure I wanted to make this dish as the ingredients struck me as odd—sour cream, catsup, peaches? But it was one of the best dishes I've ever made. And it was pretty, too. I don't think "casserole" is the best name for this dish but can't come up with a better one. Perhaps you can?


6 chicken breasts split and boned
3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons paprika
½  cup butter
½  cup slivered almonds
1 ¼ cups water
1 can condensed beef consomme
2 T catsup
1 C sour cream
6 small individual cans of diced peaches, drained
1 C parmesan cheese

Preheat  oven  to 350   
Dredge chicken breasts with mixture of salt, pepper, paprika and flour. Reserve remaining flour mixture.  
Brown chicken on all sides in hot butter. Remove to a 3-quart casserole.   
Lightly brown almonds in drippings left in skillet.
Stir in remaining flour. Gradually stir in water and consomme. Add catsup, cook and stir until  thickened.   
Remove from heat  and  stir in sour cream. Pour over chicken and bake,  uncovered, for about 1 hour.   
Arrange  peaches on chicken.
Sprinkle with cheese and return to oven for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Nance Van Winckel and the Art of the Photoem

Click Cover for Amazon
I recently used a poem by Nance Van Winckel as a prompt in my Poetry Newsletter. When I requested permission, Nance told me about a new project of hers called Photoems. I checked out the Photoems website she sent me to and immediately was intrigued by this new art form. I then asked Nance to do a Q & A with me so that I could learn more about her project and spread the word about it.

Nance lives in Spokane, Washington. She is married to the visual artist, Rik Nelson. She is the author of 5 books of poetry, most recently No Starling (U of Washington P), and three books of short stories. She is also the recipient of two NEAs, a Pushcart, and several other prizes. She has taught poetry at colleges, festivals, and writing conferences, and has served as poet-in-residence at various universities. She also served as editor for the journal Willow Springs. She currently teaches in the MFA in Writing programs at Eastern Washington University and Vermont College of Fine Arts.

According to Nance's website, "She melds photography (her own) with small poems she 'graffities' onto the photographic surface." Let's take a look first at two samples of this cross-discipline art.

Kid You Not Was How We Loved You Best

 Giddied-Up Was How You Liked You Best

DL:  Many people consider graffiti defacement of public or private property. But at your Pho-toems page, you say, "And as with poetry, graffiti tackles the big emotions of love and grief and, perhaps most of all, of sheer being, unequivocal presence." How did you come to regard graffiti as an art form?

NVW:  The path by which I came to graffiti and the one by which I came to photography are themselves entwined. My husband is a visual artist and he has always loved looking at graffiti when we travel. Since I'm usually the one carrying the camera, he'll often turn to me and say, "Shoot that wall, would you, honey?" And later, after I'd get these pictures on my computer, I'd find myself admiring the graffiti too: its color, its passion, often a wild abandonment, and a crisscrossing of conversations taking place on an edifice as people tagged back to one other.

Over the past seven years, I've been experimenting with digitally adding my own little textual responses to the walls I liked. A wall speaks to me. To stand and look at such a wall is to recognize that there are others who aren’t like me and/or don’t like me. From early times of wall-writing, people have had that basic urge of “graffiari,” to scratch, to say, I am here too. I live among you. Read this and remember me.
I do, however, try to keep gang insignia out of my work. If some appears in a photo I've shot, I often bury it under some other graphic image. I don't want messages of violence in my work.

Interestingly, the graffer is often staking claim to boarded-up buildings he or she perceives as wastelands. Unclaimed walls as unclaimed spaces. In other words, I’m thinking about the graffer as a kind of urban pioneer. Of what’s unoccupied and/or abandoned in the urban landscape as frontier. Open to its next use. A reuse. My musings have to do with the American impulse to go out and take that which seems to be available. It’s how many of us came to be here, and it may be deeper down in our psyches than we can know.

The French writer and poet, Michel Butor, talks about a too-rigid division between visual and literary art. “Painting,” he says, “is also something we read… literature is also something we look at. The [physical] presence of words ruins…the retaining wall our teaching constructs in between literature and the arts.”
DL:  Tell us how you got into this new form. Has being married to a visual artist played a role in your work? How did you move from poetry to photography and at what point and why did you decide to fuse them together?

NVW:  I'm sure I wouldn't have made much progress with this photo-collage work without my husband's feedback. He has been a full-time working artist for the last 20 years. He occasionally offers some responses to my pieces. Sometimes he'll say simply, "Next, please." You may think this is harsh, but I am keen (with poetry and stories too!) on just letting go of probable failures as soon as possible. Move on. And especially since I am still relatively new to visual composition, I know I have much to learn and am grateful for help in pointing me toward what holds potential. Most of all, Rik has helped me figure out what skills I need to acquire. These have been many and studying them should take me right up to the time of my demise. I'm talking about basic elements of graphic design, visual composition, photographic lighting, lenses, exposures, and on and on! I'm talking about freakin' perspective!

What I have brought to the table are a few Photoshop skills. I confess I am old enough to have learned Photoshop before it was Photoshop. When I worked as a literary magazine editor (Willow Springs), I used a desktop publishing program called Adobe PageMaker. When this evolved into Photoshop, I followed it along. Finding cover art for the magazine and laying out pages were parts of the editing work I especially loved.
DL:  Describe for us the process of creating a pho-toem. Is it similar to the way you compose a poem? Does revision play a role?

NVW:  Roo N Boom Love More Than You was graffiti I found on a crumbling tavern wall. Those words seemed to me, as I clicked the shutter, an absolutely lovely poem. Later when I saw the photograph on my monitor, I decided I could not improve upon the piece with additional language. So I chose to augment that facade with faces from a Victorian photograph album; the page in the album had itself been a collage. So there was a collage within my collage. I'm quite aware that the work I'm doing is, at heart, collage. Often as I work on a photograph, I will think of some text for it, or sometimes when I'm working on a regular poem, a line or a small phrase will hit me as right for a particular photoem in progress. I generally work on about 4-6 photoems at the same time. I move around between them. I may take off a text layer from one wall and try it on another. I aim to see what a wall needs and what might live upon the wall naturally. I like how digital layers are easy to delete and move and alter in seemingly endless ways.

Like any collage artist, I have drawers (computer files really) of parts. Many parts! I am in love with the public domain. Much of the graphic material I use on walls comes from open-use sites (like WikiCommons). I have files of old ads, of etchings and line drawings from old books (some of which I've hand-colored), of old photographs (my family and friends' families), of ex libris bookplates and postcards. Then, of course, I have the photographs that I've taken of the walls themselves (and several trains too!). I've done a whole series set in Butte, Montana, of the tumble-down but still hauntingly beautiful early 1900's buildings. I spend much of my time interacting with the photograph itself—as a visual composition—before I begin to add text and other elements. I want the text to be one element, not necessarily the focal point.

DL:  You've said, "I have not left poetry. I'm just putting it on walls." Are you still writing regular poems, that is, poems that appear on a piece of 8" x 10" paper? And where do the short stories fit in? How do you manage your creative time? Can you juggle several forms at the same time or do you go back and forth among the various forms in which you work?

NVW:  I'll have a new book of "regular" poems, called Pacific Walkers, out next year. I certainly have not left poetry! But I am interested in other ways of getting it out into the world. Yes, I still like the page, but reading—and writing on!—walls has a certain stealthy excitement about it. I like how succinct the wall makes me be. I like the idea of text as physical thing, having paint chips and plaster flecks, having bird shit mixed in with the ink.

It's been helpful to me to teach workshops lately in this field, a class called "Text Off the Page." I teach in the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and I have some wonderful faculty friends there who have wise and intriguing ideas on this subject and are moving in their own off-the-page directions: Jody Gladding with her ecological emphasis (language among rocks and trees!), Mary Ruefle with her erasure books and much else, and Jen Bervin who integrates text and textiles. But we all learn so much too as we work with our students and the various aesthetic issues that surface. For instance, does someone viewing a certain piece in a gallery really want to stand in front of it and read a 100-word poem within it? A question I often pose to students: what does the text you're putting on that shoe (as an example) have to do with its shoe-ness? (I put a link to a video of some of my students' work on my website too.)

As for creative time, I confess most of my day is devoted to making. I work on poems in the mornings, then lunch, a walk, and then I spend most of the afternoons on the visual art. Stories are an altogether different beast. Stories mean clearing the deck. I wait until I feel I have several of the story's dramatic pieces (again with the "parts"!), then I start writing: generally a scene a day. I keep a notepad for scenes to get to . . . eventually. I don't worry initially about the scenes' order. I'm just trying to stay with the people and what is going on dramatically. But when I'm working on that first draft, everything else in my life comes to a halt. I've always loved that poems can weave so much more easily in and out of my day. I am lucky to not have a full-time job, no children, and a very small abode to keep clean.
DL:  How are you getting this new work out into the world? Is there a commercial aspect to your new work? Are the pieces for sale?

NVW:  I have only just begun to tiptoe a bit into the art gallery (and juried shows) world, and I have had some beginners' luck. My first solo show is up right now! (There's a link to a video of that on the website.)  As with beginning to venture into literary publishing, it's been helpful to me with the visual art to begin to get some reactions and feedback now from gallery owners and show curators.

I have just this past month collected some of my work for this new Photoems website, and it is possible for a person to purchase work there. I'm also going for a little cross-over with literary journals, which comes mainly in the form of the "altered ads" I'm creating. These are ads (now in the public domain) which I partially rewrite. A few of these have been published, and others are about to be.

Mostly, I have just appreciated having this site as a way to share my work with friends and especially with others who are also working in the visual-verbal realm.

Readers, I encourage you to visit Nance's personal website where you'll find a good deal of additional information about her work as well as a gallery of Photoems. Then also be sure to visit the online gallery where her Photoems are displayed and available for purchase.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Poetry Only, Please

Although I subscribe to several journals that include poetry and prose, I often find myself skipping over the prose pieces to get to the poems. So it occurred to me that perhaps I ought to subscribe to a few more poetry-only journals. Poetry with perhaps some reviews of poetry books, interviews with poets, and / or a poetics essay. A bit of art would be nice, too. I then set about gathering a list of such journals. Perhaps you might also be looking for a few ideas for new subscriptions, so I'll share the list with you. Those with a single asterisk are ones I just subscribed to. Those with two asterisks are ones I am already subscribed to. Looks like I have a good year of reading to look forward to.

Beloit Poetry Journal
A saddle-stapled journal that has been around a long time. Four issues per year.

*Cave Wall
Combines poetry and art. Two issues per year.

Court Green
Each issue includes a themed section. One issue per year.

Poetry and poetics, reviews by editors. Two issues per year.

Poetry and art. One issue per year. They make it difficult to subscribe as there is no online subscription option. Instead, you are asked to make a phone call to their NYC number.

Naugatuck River Review
Poetry only, focus on narrative poetry. Two issues per year. One is a contest issue.

**Poet Lore
Poetry and Reviews, occasional essay. Two issues per year.

Poetry and interviews. Each issue has a section of poems solicited from a particular group, e.g., nurses, attorneys. Reviews are online. Two issues per year.

*Southern Poetry Review
Pure poetry. Two issues per year.

Spoon River Poetry Review
Poetry and one very long review essay. Two issues per year.

*Sugar House Review
Poetry and reviews. All reviews are also archived online. Two issues per year. A very beautiful journal, perfect bound, glossy paper inside, pretty end pages. Very reasonable at $12 per year. Can download a pdf for your e-reader.

*32 Poems
All poetry. Saddle stapled. Two issues per year.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Invitation to a Reading

Wednesday, February 8
Diane Lockward
Poets Wednesday Series
Barron Arts Center
582 Rahway Ave.
Woodbridge, NJ
8:00 PM

There will be a workshop at 7:00 PM, led by host Deborah LaVeglia.
An Open Mic will follow the reading.
Snacks will be served!

As you can see from the photo, this is a charming venue. Some nice stained glass and the reading room always has art on display. Please come if you're free.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...