Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Pie As Lovely As a Poem

Christmas is over for this year. I’m not a big Christmas fan. Sorry. The shopping is awful. I never feel like I’ve selected the right gifts or enough of them. The house decorating feels onerous. And most Christmas music, for some reason, just makes me sad. Then I always feel like a bit of a freak because I'm not just loving the holiday season.

But this year went well and the holiday was lovely. I did almost all of my shopping online and I reduced the number of gifts given. We opted not to put up a tree since we weren’t having anyone over to see it. Instead, we just put up a little fake tree on the fireplace stoop. I didn’t listen to much Christmas music.

My daughter had us over for dinner along with my brother and sister-in-law from North Carolina, their single son, their married son and wife and two-year-old boy, and one of my sons. My daughter, who is just the most fabulous daughter ever, made an amazing dinner—filet prepared as a roast and served with mustard and horseradish sauce, sides of potatoes au gratin (not from some crummy mix but made from scratch!), roasted carrots, roasted broccoli, salad, and homemade popovers. I contributed a pimento dip with crackers and artichoke squares for the hors-d’oeuvres and two desserts—boccone dolce and peppermint chiffon pie in a chocolate krispy crust. Both desserts were quite spectacular, if I do say so myself.

Chocolate Peppermint Chiffon Pie
 This is the very last piece of the pie which I intend to eat tonight. This looked even more delicious on Christmas when I made it. The chiffon has now settled just a bit.  Hungry? Okay, here's the recipe:

A few tips: Make the shell first and put it in the fridge. In fact, it can be made hours ahead. For the chiffon filling, use the candies that are round and white with red stripes. Candy canes will also do. Crush in a processor. When you are heating the first six ingredients, take your time. The gelatin must be completely dissolved or the chiffon will not hold together as it should and you'll get some little jelly-like lumps. No fear, though, it will still be delicious. Finally, the egg whites and the heavy cream must be beaten until stiff. Otherwise, all is in vain.

Now I’d like you to write a poem about pie or some other tasty dish. Why? Because I’m co-editor of the upcoming Food and Women issue of Adanna Literary Journal. The submission period is open from now until February 1. Check the guidelines here. And then please follow them. (I know that sounds snippy, but it’s amazing how many people just ignore the guidelines and that usually means more work at the receiving end—unnecessary, annoying work. And you don’t want cranky readers, do you?) We are not reading anonymously, so be sure to include your contact information on each page of your submission.

Now get out your pen and get cooking.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Yes, Virginia

Each Christmas I like to revisit the following essay from the The Sun. My grandmother read it to me many years ago. I've always remembered it. If you don't already know this piece, I hope you'll enjoy it. I also hope you'll have a Merry Christmas if that's what you're celebrating. And I hope you'll have a wonderful New Year. Thank you for being a Blogalicious reader.

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's The Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial September 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

Here's Virginia's letter:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in THE SUN it's so." Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


Here's the reply:

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Trio of Holiday Gifts for Poets

Poets love nothing more than books. A book is always the right gift for a poet, and if it’s a poetry book, then it’s the perfect gift. We poets devour books of poems, but we also love craft books and prompt books. Why? Because we’re always honing our skills and always looking for new ideas for poems. So I have a trio to suggest for your poet pals. And don’t forget to be good to yourself as well!

Now some of you might wonder why I’d be recommending craft books other than my own. Here’s why: Most poets need and want multiple books on craft. We can’t get enough of them. My own shelves are loaded with craft books. Each one has something to offer that the others don’t. That’s certainly true of the three I’m about to recommend. Together, they should keep you and your friends growing and writing for a long time. I have them arranged here in what seems to me a logical order, from craftiest to promptiest.
Click Cover for Amazon
 1. The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, by Diane Lockward, Wind Publications, 2013

This book includes craft tips, model poems, and prompts based on the craft elements in the model poems. In addition, each of the ten sections includes a Q&A with one poet about the craft elements in a single poem. Each section ends with a short bonus prompt that can be used over and over again. The material is organized by craft concepts such as Diction, Imagery / Figurative Language, Line / Stanza, and Syntax. Fifty-six poets, including 13 former and current state poets laureate, contributed the craft tips, model poems, and Q&As. An additional 45 accomplished poets contributed sample poems written to the prompts, two for each prompt. The book is craft-oriented and is ideal for classroom, workshop, or individual use. Of the three titles recommended here, this one places the most emphasis on craft.

Named a Best Book for Writers by Poets & Writers Magazine
In this resource for poets, Lockward offers practical advice and insights about establishing sound, voice, and syntax in poetry while also providing writing prompts and other poems as inspiration.

I received your The Crafty Poet in the mail today and found that I was only a few pages in when I was compelled to go get a pen. Not sure why, since I just held it in my hand while I read, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with sitting down to a feast without a fork.
                     —Jane Ebihara

Writers and teachers of writing: If you’re looking for a book that illuminates the nuances of poetic craft, then you’ll find The Crafty Poet to be a terrific teaching tool. It’s also a powerful text for individuals seeking to break through creative blocks. You’ll encounter model poems with accompanying prompts, interviews with poets, discussions of process and inspiration, and more.
                    —Caitlin Doyle 

This book has a spectacular array of model poems and information from poets on how they see the craft. It will get you writing and it will help you keep on writing poems.
                    —Sheila Bender

Sample Bonus Prompt
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2. Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry, edited by Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen, Dos Gatos Press, 2011

This is a collection of sixty-one prompts contributed by fifty-eight poets, including Naomi Shihab Nye, Ellen Bass, and Oliver de la Paz. The book is organized into seven sections under such concepts as Springboards to Imagination, Exploring the Senses, and Structure and Form. The exercises range from quick and simple to involved and multi-layered. Prompts include such intriguing titles as "Metaphor: Popcorn, Popcorn, Leaping Loud," "Aping the Masters: Poems in Imitation," and "My Mother's Clothes." The book's focus is on prompts, but most of them are preceded by some discussion regarding purpose and benefits; you will find some craft material included in those discussions. The contributing poets were asked to follow a suggested format, so you will find clear step-by-step instructions and sample poems that were written to the exercises. Ideal for the classroom, workshop, or individual writing space.

Wingbeats is a fabulous toolbox of innovative and practical ideas that literally every teacher of poetry workshops and at every level, from elementary poets-in-the-schools through the graduate MFA, will find indispensable. Covering a vast range from image to sound to form, the exercises are all concrete and clearly presented—a marvelous way to mine the imaginations and experiences of today’s most dynamic poets. Invaluable!
                    —Cole Swensen

No teacher, no aspiring poet should be without the gentle guidance of this book.
                    —Gabriele Rico

This is sophisticated play. I found exercises that have taken me beyond my ordinary patterns and limitations. Wingbeats will get your pen moving.
                    —The Coachella Review
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3. The Daily Poet: Day-by-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice, by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano, Two Sylvias Press, 2013

The 365 prompts in this collection were all written by the two authors, both of them well-published poets. The book evolved out of several years of their regular writing dates during which they challenged each other with prompts. The book is arranged like a calendar with one prompt for every day of the year, though the user is free to skip around. Quite a few of the prompts begin with a reference to some historical event that occurred on that day. While the book is strictly brief prompts, many of them ask you to employ craft elements. This book is suitable for a beginning poet or one with a lot of experience but in search of some new ideas. It can be used in a classroom to supplement assignments, in workshop groups, or at home by the poet working alone.

Recommended by The Huffington Post Books:
. . . you could use The Daily Poet year after year and track how your writing evolves. Or you can just crack open the book, pick one out at have at it. They're all equally thought provoking.

I see this as an investment in writing exercises for many years over as you can use the same prompt at different times and find it will take you different places. It's my recommendation that you add it to your own library and enjoy the journey.
                          —Michael Wells

The variety of prompts also encouraged creative exploration of topics I might not have considered fertile ground for poetry (candy cigarettes, anyone?). For me, this is the book’s greatest gift to its user: its power to dig deep inside the rabbit holes of your poet’s brain and/or subconscious and pull out work that might never have been pulled out without it.
                          —Molly Spencer

Whether you write to prompts on your own or you use them when you meet with writing groups or with a friend at a coffee shop, there is something here for everyone.
                          —Donna Vorreyer

Sample Prompt

If you need to select just one of these books, I hope I've given you enough of a description that you can choose. But what I really hope is that you will choose all three.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bits & Pieces of This & That

The new issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review has now been posted. As always, you’ll find lots of good reading in this journal. This issue includes the work of 36 poets, one of whom is me. Here’s the entire list:

Elly Bookman, Jared Carter, Stephen Cloud, Kelly Cressio-Moeller, 
Barbara Crooker, Katherine Sanchez Espano, William Ford, Kate Fox, 
Kalima Hamilton, Kathleen Hellen, Elise Hempel, Graham Hillard, 
Edison Jennings, Michael Johnson, Jen Karetnick,
Sandra Kohler, Liz Langemar, Mercedes Lawry, Laurence Lieberman, 
Frannie Lindsay, Diane Lockward, Kim Lozano, David Mason, Rose McLarney, 
Judith H. Montgomery, John A. Nieves, April Ossmann, Colin Pope, 
Connie Post, Doug Ramspeck, Robin Richstone, Lee Rossi, John Ruff, 
Joannie Stangeland, Larry D. Thomas, Charles Harper Webb

My poem is Sinkholes. Check it out.

I was pleased to find my new book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, as one of nine recommended titles on Poetry Super Highway’s Holiday Gift List. It makes me very happy to know that my book has made it into the hands of other poets and that they, in turn, are recommending it to still other poets.

Click HERE for Amazon

I do a few back flips (mentally, that is) each time I hear that the book is stimulating the writing of new poems. This tweet from Julie Brooks Barbour put a smile on my face: "Thanks to The Crafty Poet by @Dianelock, I drafted a poem this morning."

White Elephant Contemporary Poetry Gift Exchange
As if all that weren’t enough good news, it seems that The Crafty Poet took part in the 3rd Annual White Elephant Contemporary Poetry Gift Exchange in Arizona, led by poet and teacher Shawnte Orion. Shawnte wrote about the event at his blog, Battered Hive. Here’s what he wrote about The Crafty Poet:

I also gave away a copy of Diane Lockward's portable workshop The Crafty Poet which includes insight and writing exercises from 56 top poets and two sample poems for each prompt so you can see what other poets come up with. I didn't read my poem that was one of the sample poems based on the Richard Jones’ prompt. But I did read Cecilia Woloch's “Fireflies” and Jeffrey McDaniel's 

Compulsively Allergic to the Truth

I'm sorry I was late.
I was pulled over by a cop
for driving blindfolded
with a raspberry-scented candle
flickering in my mouth.
I'm sorry I was late.
I was on my way
when I felt a plot
thickening in my arm.
I have a fear of heights.
Luckily the Earth
is on the second floor
of the universe.
I am not the egg man.
I am the owl
who just witnessed
another tree fall over
in the forest of your life.
I am your father
shaking his head
at the thought of you.
I am his words dissolving
in your mind like footprints
in a rainstorm.
I am a long-legged martini.
I am feeding olives
to the bull inside you.
I am decorating
your labyrinth,
tacking up snapshots
of all the people
who've gotten lost
in your corridors.

Jeffrey's poem is one of the model poems in The Crafty Poet. It is followed by a prompt based on the poem and two sample poems written to the prompt.

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