Monday, March 6, 2017


It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog. Part of that is the inevitable busy-ness that seems to follow me these days. Ironic, since I have had a lot of good news on the writing front. But first the busy-ness.
For the first time since moving here, I have a “real” job. I still am doing about 15 hours a week of consulting and contract work, but I also have a part time station in a physical, real academic department, where people introduce me as “the statistician.” It’s similar to my contract work, but it is also harder to slack off/leave everything til the last minute.

Jake is in school, and settling in. It’s good for him and for me. Other than him sleeping through the night, knowing I am dropping him off at 8 and am “free” til 11:30 is the biggest change in my life since he was born. He’s also developing his own little personality and attitude and that’s great. As I’ve said before, I will take all the terribleness that comes with being two if it also means he’s starting to be his own person. He’s surprising me with a new word pretty much every day, which is kind of cool.
Then there’s school. Last semester, I ended my second undergrad career, as my advisor thought I could handle grad classes and I had complete the equivalent of an English major. It was kind of bittersweet. I hear a lot about millenials and how awful they are supposed to be, but honestly, my classmates were for the most part great, and definitely a lot more together than I was, probably til 28. So this semester, I am enrolled in a grad level course, as “non-degree-seeking” while I wait the results of my application for an MFA program. (yes, I applied, re-taking the GRE and all). The class is interesting and exciting but it’s also a LOT of work.

So, that’s where we are in the non-writing piece of things. And, I will say this. I struggled and continue to struggle with figuring out what the balance should be. I am currently reading a book called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” which is probably fortuitous. It’s about some combination of stoicism and being true to your priorities which is exactly my problem these days.
I am doing my best to be a good colleague and be productive in my day job, but the top priorities really are Jake and Sherise, and the writing. And both domains are doing pretty well. As some of you may know, there was some early concern about Jake having some language delays, but that has been pretty much cleared up. His speech therapist says he’s actually now a little ahead of his language milestones. Pretty much every day is a new word (or a word applied to a new concept). Yesterday the word was “stuck”

And the writing. So, since the last time I posted here, I have won two (TWO!!) paying contests. The first, which they announced this fall, was with the national English honor’s society’s publication The Rectangle. That has since been published. Here’s the link (poem shows up on page 9):

I am pretty happy with this poem, although it isn’t aiming for anything really big.


The other award is a major one. It’s the annual poetry contest with the Southern Indiana Review. Here’s the link to the announcement. If and when I can share the actual poem, I will. But this is a poem I am very proud of and a big deal.



That’s where it’s at. Cross your fingers for me, re grad school. Official word is theoretically coming this month.


Friday, June 10, 2016

La Belle

After a long publishing hiatus, my poem “La Belle” was published a few days ago as part of the third volume of The Avenue, a special themed issue titled “Woman”. Here is a link to the Amazon page for it. There are a lot of great stories and poems here, and at 12 dollars, it’s definitely as much fun as 4 cups of coffee.

I just wanted to share a little bit about my poem and about what I think are the benefits of my current project of taking classes and getting geared up the take an MFA.

This poem was written as part of a poetry workshop class, run by the inimitable Karyna McGlynn, a year and a half ago. It was 15 or so really cool undergrads and me, sharing our work, helping each other get better, and learning a lot about poetry. Karyna is a successful poet and had a lot of great insights about the craft, but also the industry (if that’s the right word for such a non-industrial enterprise).

This poem is a good example. It’s an ekphrastic poem, which is something I wouldn’t have even thought of doing before this seminar and was originally written as an assignment for the class.

Of course, the first draft was pretty raggedy and that’s the other cool thing about workshop classes. Getting input from 16 thoughtful people (or even six thoughtful people and ten people who are obliged to pretend to be thoughtful) can only make it better. I am dramatically happier with the end result than I was with the first version. Thinking back, even the less pleasant or thoughtful of the classmates (and there weren’t many) still taught me SOMETHING over the course of the semester. 

The poem itself has just been published, so go check it out. The song that it is responding to is “Lady Marmalade”, by LaBelle (sound familiar?), which was Patti LaBelle’s vanity group from the 70s. It’s vaguely based on some actual experiences, from my time in Montreal in grad school, when I had a good friend who sung in clubs and did a very great cover of this song. I hope I’ve captured something of what the scene was like in Montreal for this kind of music, in this context. I also like to think it says something about the male gaze, which brings me back to themed issue.  Finally, and perhaps most of all, it’s about what lasts and what doesn’t last and how some experiences just exist outside of time.
In any case, check it out. The poem itself is unlikely to be such an experience for you, but you never know.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Real Life

Having recently spent seven hours in an urgent care clinic, I got to thinking about the things that draw me away from writing. Not just the things that take time away from anything I can carve out to be creative, but things that disturb the head space that I seem to need for anything remotely creative to come out.

It’s been a hell of a year and a half for writing.

Hurricane Jakey has been a blessing. My son is a very cool little person and I wouldn’t trade him for anything. But he’s been bad for my creative process and not just in a “I need to be in the right state of unhappiness to write well” way. I learned that I need more sleep than the average person to be anything other than a dreary zombie. I did not get a full night’s sleep for more than 11 months. I wanted to die. At least temporarily for like ten hours. The first night he slept through the night, close to his birthday, I felt like crying. Such a small thing I had taken for granted all my life. Going to sleep and safely assuming I’d be that way til my alarm went off. It was useful to know that it was possible to be too depressed to write, that whatever the optimal level of misery was for the creative process, it was less than infinity.

Everything flows from that. It was a hell of a year and a half for work, and I am only now digging out from under the various work projects I committed to and am behind on. The publications took a dip, the billable hours took a dip, and I have no doubt that I was not doing my best technical, professional writing. Or data analysis.

Oddly, my chronic health issue has been the least of my problems. Having Crohn’s Disease makes it always unclear whether you have a stomach flu or a flare or food poisoning. I’ve been blessed in general to be pretty good most of the time. My recent adventure turns out to have been, not a flare up as I originally thought, but E. Coli food poisoning. That coincided with my final paper for my lit class.

And speaking of class, it’s been an odd combination of a drag and really invigorating. It’s nice to have any contact at all with adults, but honestly, the fall semester, my first semester back, was not a lot of fun. It’s undoubtedly all what I put in, but I found myself doing the bare minimum of creative writing, even for class. I think the quality of what I produced was higher, but I just didn’t click with anyone in the class, or for that matter, my American lit class. This semester, my creative writing class was canceled, and I focused on the lit class and it was really great. Seriously, Post-colonial lit with Professor Aboul-ela is great and it seems to attract smart people.

Anyway, back to writing. It feels like something is coming unstuck. I hope that’s right. Now that I am less than 2 months behind on work and don’t owe anybody a term paper, I am feeling less stressed about everything and the writing is slowly coming back. Jakey starts day school in the fall and I am honestly looking forward to the extra 8 hours a week of absolute free time that I can fill how I choose.

I am working on a poem about castrating cows, which continues the theme I had earlier of farming accidents. Although, it’s not that different if you take the perspective of the steer.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Rejected by Whom?: Red Neck Poems

It's been a busy six months. I still don't know how stay at home parents get much done other than child care, but I have been writing a little here and there. I took another couple of courses that have just finished up, including intro to creative writing (which I took after, instead of before the slightly more advanced poetry writing workshop). I have been accepted into the creative writing concentration at U of H and next semester will be doing a Poetic Forms course in addition to post colonial lit. So, expect lots of limericks about colorism.
But the writing: quality feels like it's going up, despite the pretty low rate of quantity. I am submitting my stuff to somewhat higher profile journals, although I am never sure how to tell a good journal from a less good one, other than some look pretty awful. Submitting to a few contests here and there, which brings me to It advertises itself as being all judged by poets and so in theory, the Sixfold process is a good one. Be judged by other poets and so many other poets that you are sure to come up with the “true” measure of your work, compared with others.’ I was a little skeptical because it felt a little gimmicky, but what the heck.
I submitted two poems and dutifully did three rounds of voting. One was a long and (for me) playful poem about the movie Live and Let Die and verbal games that couples play with each other. The other was a poem about a rural couple who are still together after a long time. Nothing earth-shattering.

 In general, the poems I read got better each round, suggesting that overall, the better poems were getting through.
My own poems made it through only one round of voting, so had a total of six votes. I had two 6’s (meaning, they thought my poems were the best of the six sets they read), I had two 1’s (my poems were the worst), and two 3’s. This isn’t exactly the perfect middle of the perfect scores, but it’s pretty close.

Being insecure, I started with the feedback from the two 6’s. It was constructive, thoughtful, and had suggestions for improvement. The 3’s were less positive, and while I didn’t agree entirely, they were written by people who had read and thought about what I wrote.

The 1’s I had saved for last. One of them had no comments at all. The other had this feedback, reproduced in its entirety: "Red neck poems with incorrect capitalization and punctuation do not appeal to me. Sorry, but writing a good poem is different than writing a good poem with bad punctuation and capitalization. Appreciated the themes with everyday life in them."

I think that kind of speaks for itself. I probably won’t do the sixfold thing again. It seems as much of a crap shoot as sending stuff to a particular editor. If it’s a journal I like, I at least know the editor has tastes that somewhat gel with mine.

“red neck poems”


Friday, June 12, 2015

The finite universe of time, and enjambments

Since the last time I posted, the big news is that I am now a dad. Most people reading this blog already know this, but just putting it out there. Being a dad takes time. And energy. So, that's where the writing has been. I have slowly eased back into writing a few poems here and there. Not nearly as many as I was before Jakey came, but still some pieces. I have resisted the urge to write sacchariney odes to childish innocence, but perhaps that's a mistake.

So, the volume of writing is down, but I am actually pretty happy with the quality of the little bit I have been doing. Far fewer pieces that I am embarrassed by and a few I am a little proud of. Quality over quantity or lowering standards.

Nothing new on the publishing front, but I was happy to be shortlisted for the Fish poetry prize.

The feedback I got was that the poem was very nice but I really need to work on my enjambment. Ironically, this was a reworking of the first piece I used in my poetry workshop class last semester and my prof, Karyna, gave me the feedback- wait for it!- that I need to work on my enjambments.

So, I still need to work on my enjambments. I have since tweaked "some kind of record" somewhat, so we'll see if it finds a home.


Friday, October 3, 2014

beautiful, and nothing hurt

Just a quick update. An online ebook has published a poem of mine, "beautiful, and nothing hurt"

The outfit is called Caffeine Presse, they were formerly Wednesday Night Writes, and I am really happy with their treatment of the poem. It looks really nice on the page.

Here is the link to the e-book.

My poem is on page 8.

This was one of those poems that was a long time in taking the shape it needed to take. It was originally a two page monstrosity, overly didactic, and kind of a download of only quarter formulated thoughts and unconsidered emotions. I had to get a lot of distance from it, and sometimes the best way to get distance from something is to hack it to pieces and build it back up.

The contrast between start to finish is pretty dramatic. I am happy with the end result and embarrassed by the beginning.

The title, incidentally, comes from the epitaph in Kurt Vonnegut's book Slaughterhouse Five:
"Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt."

Ironically, enough, also about getting some distance.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

moonlight, the serious moonlight

Amongst the rush of classes starting, I had another poem published.

I called it "moonlight, the serious moonlight" and, unsurprisingly, it was published in an online magazine called The Moon Magazine. I wrote the poem a few months ago, and there it sat. Moon had a call for poems and writing on "the shadow knows/facing the dark side" and about dealing with your own shadow.

The poem seemed to fit, so I sent it in.  Here is my poem. I was listening to a lot of David Bowie:

Also, check out the whole special issue, a lot of nice, dark writing. They also have a lot of older themed issues as well.