River City Poetry

buffetI like the buffet as much as anyone.  I can stack my plate as high as I want.  If I don’t like it, I don’t have to finish it.  And if I can’t eat it all, who cares?  I’ll just dump it and go back for something else.

I actually hate buffets.  Human-horse troughs of congealing food.  All the precious smells get swirled together, and people take pride in that stack of plates.  I typically feel guilty, too, if I don’t eat enough to equate out to the value of the price of all I CAN eat.

But I do like the idea that my life is like a buffet plate.  I can put as much as I want on that plate.  I can shuffle things off if it turns out that I don’t like the taste of something.  And I have gotten to taste some great experiences over the last ten years.

I have also realized that I have a larger appetite than I gave myself credit.  For years, I’ve dreamed of running my own poetry anthology.  When I was in the Wichita State MFA program, I began to map out my own aesthetic for such a journal.  But I never did anything with it.  I worked for other people’s journals, reviewed submissions, worked out publishing budgets with submission fees, juried contests for youth and adults, and went through my own struggles as a poet to get published.  The whole time, I felt a great inadequacy for starting anything myself.  I’m too busy.  My teaching load is too heavy.  The girls are just at that age.  I’m committed to this or that at church.  And it’s not like I have time to write my own poetry.  My plate’s just too full.

But it really came down to the idea that I’m just not qualified.

It’s the same feeling I carried around for years about poetry.  It’s why I got an MFA in Fiction instead of Poetry.  It’s why I’ve avoided being labelled the ‘teacher poet’ that writes ‘mommy’ poems.  And I suppose there are folks out there that would agree that I’m NOT qualified and that my poetry remains two-dimensional.  But at this stage, I would just encourage those folks to head on down to the other side of the buffet where the wasabi peas and cucumbers are kept so that they could get something on their plates more to their tastes.

River City Poetry will be several things, but first–a poetry website.  We’ll use the model of small independent presses everywhere, but the internet will be our primary media.  We’ll showcase ten poets in the fall and ten poets in the spring.  We’ll run a summer writing marathon with daily posts and prompts in June.  And we’ll make it a special point to review chapbooks–because these little golden minutes of work never get the kind of attention they deserve.  We’re also going to be active collaborators in the Wichita area, tapping into the energy so inherently part of this place.

The website is currently under construction with a ‘soft’ open in May.  Want to be considered for our summer sampler of poetry?  You can submit up to three poems to rivercitypoetrysubmissions [at] gmail.com .  Our summer sampler will be a one-time issue meant to high light the aesthetic we want to encourage in future submissions.  Our first full reading period will be in August and September.

I sure am looking forward to it.  Come be a part of River City Poetry with me.

The Poet’s Companion

This blog post was recycled from the original post in July of 2013.

While I have taken any number of fiction courses, and I definitely remember the hours I spent in survey courses as an English undergrad, I took no poetry classes.  I did manage to take one poetry workshop, but I remember little of it.

During the Tallgrass Writing Workshop [2013], I was excited to get to spend time with Amy Sage Webb.  Not only did she critique ten of my poems, she gave me a list of suggested reading to help me broaden my education and understanding of poetry. As I work my way through the list, I’ll be sharing some items here.

Poet's companionThe first is probably familiar to many poetry students in workshops across the country: The Poet’s Companion.  This book has been both insightful and accessible.  While I have experience with literary criticism, I was looking for something more along the lines of The Art of Fiction.  While instructional, it is definitely NOT dry.

What are your favorite ‘writing manuals?’ Do you have volumes that you return to over and over?  Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Prompt #30: The End

npm2013_logoEven as I typed out this last prompt, I found it a little anticlimactic. Is that it? All the prompts? I’m done then? I don’t really want to be done. 
No worries. While the prompts won’t continue in the same daily fashion, I look forward to sharing the many great poems that have been shared with me, either in the comment section or via my email at aprilpameticky@hotmail.com . I also will share with you more information about materials that have inspired my own writing journey.  So despite the fact that National Poetry Month is drawing to a close, we will Write On.

Prompt #30: The End… or Telling a story in Reverse

Our brains are uniquely wired to follow narratives.  We love stories.
But sometimes stories don’t unfold naturally, with a beginning, middle, and end.

Try to tell a story in reverse, with the last thing first.  For added depth, consider one of the poetry forms we explored earlier in the month.

Here’s one example I’ve been experimenting with:

Two Fathers and a Birthday

 His reaction was instant,
the flush sweeping up his face—
I image the tiny capillaries bursting from the force.
His hands balled fists,
the nails digging dried and dead cells from the centers of his palms.

Causal Relationship I
A kick, lashing out, not even from the hip, just the knee,
as if tapped by a reflex hammer,
sweeping the feet out from under the tiny body
that slammed into the floor,
the air compressed from lungs
so that the ragged cry was delayed.

Causal Relationship II
At four he should’ve known better,
but daddy pointed and smiled
and it seemed so funny just to hall back and hit that guy in the balls,
the guy who was teasing him,
and daddy didn’t like him anyway,
so that’s just what he did,
just hauled back like a pitcher on the mound,
let his fist go like a rock flying from a sling shot.

Causal Relationship III
Her chubby fists clutched at his ears, a tree-monkey,
and he had both hands full of her knees so that she wouldn’t go
tilting backwards.  She felt safe,
which was all that really mattered.
He teased the four-year-old who had picked
on his daughter, calling him four-year-old names like
pooper-scooper, and dookie-head.
He didn’t see the fist coming.

Causal Relationship IV
The sling-shot fist landed with precision,
was rewarded with a high-five,
while daddy with a tree-monkey struggled NOT to buckle,
his face a Dali.

I sat on the couch, considering another piece of cake,
mildly concerned that the 55 gallon fish tank
might be the real ‘victim’ in all of this if it didn’t survive,
and I couldn’t wait for the whole slew to get the
hell out of my house.

Prompt #29: Paying Homage

As April draws to a close, I find this nearly-last prompt bittersweet.  While I am enthused to begin revising my new body of work, I have enjoyed simply responding to the prompts with no direction other than inspiration.  I think we are often too busy writing ‘productively,’ that we forget to write for the joy of it.

Prompt #29: Paying Homage

Do you have a favorite poem?  Something that speaks to your heart, always giving you a little zing every time you read it?

For me, just about anything by Khalil Gibran moves me.  I realize that his poetry may have fallen out of ‘fashion,’ or worse, that modern poets find him sentimental.  That doesn’t change the way his work moves me.

Consider your own favorite poem [I realize you may have to narrow your search down arbitrarily].

Then choose a line.  Use it as the first line of your new poem.

I liked the line “Humanity rages like a tempest, but I sigh in silence,” from Gribran.  Feel free to search through http://www.poemhunter.com/ and http://www.poets.org/index.php .

Prompt #28: In the Company of Strangers

Prompt #28: In the Company of Strangers…

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides Blog #200

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-200

“Take the phrase ‘In the Company of [blank],’ and replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then write your poem.  Possible titles might include: “In the Company of Strangers,” “In the Company of Poets,” and “In the Company of Abraham Lincoln.”