Apr 28 2016

Poet Spotlight: Pamela Taylor on balance in life and poetry

Pamela TaylorPamela Taylor is a data guru by day and a poet by night. She has a doctorate in social psychology from UCLA, a MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is a Cave Canem Fellow. When she is not working or writing, she’s dancing Argentine tango in the Boston area. Her first chapbook of poetry, My Mother’s Child, was published by Hyacinth Girl Press in June 2015.

You recently published your first book of poetry, My Mother’s Child. Tell us a bit about this project and how it came about. Is this your first collection?

My Mother’s Child is my first chapbook. I wrote these poems over a 5 year span. Until I put a collection together, I never understood it when poets said their books took them years to write. I think the earliest poem (“The Climb”) was written in 2009 when I attended a small poetry generative workshop. Many of the poems about my professional life were written during my MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Others, like the closing poem (“There’s a Graveyard in My Belly”), were written during the week-long Cave Canem retreats for Black poets.

When I thought I had written enough poems to go into a book, I printed them out, put them in a logical order, and sent it out as a full collection. That strategy got me nowhere. So I focused on the poems I had gotten published in literary magazines and journals and a few others I thought were good poems. This time, I laid them out and let them speak to each other. The poems arranged themselves in two distinct groups. I sent both out as chapbooks to separate contests. This collection was a finalist for the Imaginary Friend Press chapbook competition. One of the readers, Margaret Bashaar, had her own press and asked if I would be willing to let her publish my collection with Hyacinth Girl Press.

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Apr 25 2016

Playing a game of catch up

What I’m Reading

It’s still poetry, poetry, and more poetry, which you can see on my Instagram.

But I’ve also started reading the first few chapters of In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood, in which she discusses her own relationship with the speculative genre and what inspired her to write her own other worlds.

What I’m Poeming

I keep playing a game of catch up with the 30/30 challenge. I fall behind a day or two, then get caught up and then fall behind and get caught up.

Some of my poems have required “research,” by which I mean the watching of copious amounts of movies and TV in order to get new ideas. For example, I watched both two 1930s movies, Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein with the aim of writing a poem for the Bride (who is only in the movie for about a minute). Of course, in the process, I couldn’t help but write a poem for the monster himself, as well.

The poems I’ve completed this week (all will be taken down at the end of the month):

Goal for the Week:

  • Only SIX poems left to write in the challenge! So polish it off!

Linky Goodness

Alyssa Rosenberg on Mourning Prince and David Bowie, who showed there’s no one right way to be a man: “We’re in a moment in American politics consumed by gender panic, from Donald Trump’s menstrual anxieties to the rise of and backlash to a movement for transgender rights. And now we’ve lost two men who had an expansive, almost luxuriant vision of what it meant to be a man and lived out that vision through decades when it was much less safe to do so.”

Brain Pickings shared The Importance of Being Scared: Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska on Fairy Tales and the Necessity of Fear.

Scott Mendelson explains Why It Matters When Female Stars Are Kicked Out Of Their Franchises: “When you’re a woman in Hollywood, no matter your stature, no matter your billing, and no matter your importance to the television show or film franchise in which you appear, you may well always have a target on your back. At the end of the day, the only indisposable part of the franchise or the hit television show is the guy.”


Apr 19 2016

Burning Tales

On Saturday, I attended the one year anniversary of the Burning Tale open mic, which was held in what is my new favorite venue, Studio Bongiorno. The studio features a fantastic mix of the beautiful and creep with assemblage art and random doll heads on shelves and a full size coffin in the courtyard.

Studio Bongiorno

The feature poet of the night was Abe Becker, who shared beautiful, raw, and funny words exploring the awkward land mines of human relationships. A number of other amazing readers also took the stage, and I was honored to have been able to read two of the poems from my current 30/30 challenge with a kind response from the audience.

I’ll definitely be returning to Studio Bongiorno for more Burning Tales and other events, as well as just to grab some great coffee.

What I’m Reading

A number of excellent poetry books — mostly a poem here and a poem there, jumping around as I post photos of the books I love. However, I did finish God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant, about which I posted a very short review.

What I’m Poeming

I’ve slowed down a bit on the 30/30 challenge. Although, I’ve mostly been able to keep up the pace, I fell slightly behind (just a day). The main problem is that the ideas are not as free flowing as they were at the start of the challenge — something I expected to happen. So, now I’m just trying to slam any words down at the wall, a dragging my feet through the sand level of momentum, which is sometimes kind of painful. I’m still going, though, and I intend to finish.

The poems I’ve completed this week (all will be taken down at the end of the month):

Goal for the Week:

  • Get those poems per day written and posted!

Linky Goodness

Some thoughts about Contemporary Innovators of the Short Story on Electric Literature.

And Gwendolyn Kiste presents my one of new favorite retelling of Snow White in “All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray.”


Apr 16 2016

Poetry Review: God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant

“He got into nails, of course,
because He’d always loved
hands–
hands were some of the best things
He’d ever done”

In Cynthia Rylant’s novel-in-poems, Godgets a job, watches cable, eats dinner alone, marvels at he beauty of the world, sees all the ways life went in directions he didn’t intend it to go, discovers Himself. By grounding himself in the mortal world, He learns loneliness, anger, wonder, and fear. I found myself smiling at each new discover God made about the world he created, as well as each new discovery about Himself. These are accessible poems, beautiful in their simplicity and the way they subtly unveil layers of meaning in their own words and in religion and life. Recommended reading.

“But he finally saw
how pain caused
one of two things:
A reverence for life.
Or killing.
Both grew from the same seed.”

_____________________________________


Apr 13 2016

Poet Spotlight: Jenna Le on Whales, Womanhood, and the Writing Life

Jenna LeJenna Le lives and works a as a physician in New York and writes poetry, fiction, essays, criticism, and translations, which have been published in numerous periodicals, both in print and online. She is the author of two full-length collection of poems, Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011) and A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Anchor & Plume Press, 2016). She has been a winner and finalist of multiple awards, including the Minnetonka Review Editor’s Prize, the Pharos Poetry Competition, and the William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition, among others.

Her poetry has been described as visually precise, culturally aware, poignant, sensual, intriguing. In this interview, she speaks about her most recent collection, her writing process, and about the inherently political ways human beings relate to the natural world.

Your most recent book of poetry is A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora. Tell us a bit about this project and how it came about.

Well, my first book of poetry, Six Rivers, came out in 2011. In the years that followed, I wrote a poem here, a poem there, without any conscious thought of putting a second collection together. As this stack of poems grew, I became increasingly interested by the puzzle of how to tie them all together. I had many, many false starts: I initially thought about using superheroes as the unifying theme for this book (I’m crazy about superhero stories!). Another idea I considered was to organize the collection around the idea of diseases that are transmitted from mother to child, both literal and figurative.

But the obsession with whales snuck up on me, unexpectedly liberating me from the mother-child dyad that had structured my way of looking at the world for so long. I found myself writing more and more poems about the shadowy idea of the whale and what it meant to me. There was something deliciously anarchic about it; it let me rewrite stories that had grown old to me through familiarity in a fresh way. Eventually the sheer preponderance of whale poems in the collection left me with no choice but to make that the central conceit of the book.

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