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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Share Your Submission Stories

Until Robert Hershon, editor of Hanging Loose Press, took a chance on Sherman Alexie, he was just a Wellpinit Indian from Spokane, WA, you'd never heard of. William Stafford often told the story of not feeling quite legitimate until the The Hudson Review (correct me if I'm wrong? Was it Poetry?) took his poem, "Traveling Through the Dark." 

I don't know about you, but when I get together with other poets, I love swapping submission and publication stories. I love hearing about someone who sent relentlessly to a magazine for 12 years, collecting a half a dozen or more blank rejection slips, then finally getting the word on acceptance. I love hearing about the little poem that could--a poem that came back in the mail ten or twenty times, and then BOOM: acceptance, Poetry Daily, six anthologies, the works. 

But I am not picky. I am not looking only for stories about big magazines or huge sums of money for book contracts. I love first poem acceptance stories (my first poem was published in Denali, the literary magazine of Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon (don't tell me you've never heard of Denali?): I was thrilled to pieces to see my work in print).  And I love hearing what's been said on rejection slips, both the form part ("Dear Poet . . . ") and what gets scribbled beneath it. 

If you care to share your stories, please post them here or send them to me via marthasilano@yahoo.com. With your permission, I will use your name and story at an upcoming panel on the submissions process, which I'll be sitting on this April at Get Lit! in Spokane, WA, where I hope to run into Sherman Alexie, that National Book Award author. 

Thanks in advance for sharing!

Friday, January 23, 2009

New Prez, New Day a Dawnin' . . .

Yesterday I woke up thinking: how is he going to possibly deal with this mess? 

Yesterday I listened to snippets of his goings on--the closing of Gitmo, the moving forward with using human embryos in the name of science, and of course his commitment to pumping endorphins into the economy. 

The daily news continues to be grim, grimace-inducing. 

The Dow just keeps falling (some days I wonder: could it go to zero? Who's to say it couldn't go to zero?) 

Every day more layoffs. 

I heard yesterday on the radio that for every one person laid off, another person gets laid off as a result. Example: Joe Schmoe loses his job, so he starts brown-bagging it. He postpones his vacation. He decides he'll read his favorite magazines at the local library instead of subscribing. He cancels his newspaper subscription, too, while he's at it. Get the drift? So then the guy who used to make his sushi gets fired. And then it goes from there. The former sushi guy is cutting back now too--he can't afford a new laptop. And on and on. I hadn't thought of it quite this way before (thanks for that, Market Place). 

But then we have this thing called hope. It's sort of infectious, you know? As in, this downturn is predicted to last 18 more months.  That's not so bad. I mean, I thought it would take years. 

And look at all the good stuff Obama has already been able to do in just three days! I mean, poor women can get abortions again! Hurrah! 

So that's where I am. Oh, and writing poetry about it. I wrote earlier on here about how exciting it was to know that people would be writing poems about Obama (never thought I'd live to experience that), but now there's (thank to Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker)  a poem-a-day First 100 Days poetry blog--and check it out: I'm the Day #3 poet, writing her heart out about what we all know is possible. 




Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jenny Browne & Matthew Dickman in Seattle

Yes, it's true--Jenny Browne is coming all the way from San Antonio, Texas, and Matthew Dickman from Portland, OR (I know, only 160 miles, but sometimes it seems much farther when you're traveling on the most boring stretch of Interstate 5) to grace us with their wit, word-smith wonder, cerebral gymnastics,  inner/outer beauty, and general awesomeness. They've both been published all over the place and are reading from their new books (which you must buy unless you are really strung out) at Open Books this Tuesday night, Jan 13, at 7:30. If you're free and just hanging out at home folding socks or something, you'd be a fool to miss this. See you there!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Come Together: Imagine Peace

If you're looking for a good pre-inauguration read, try this new collection of poems from the folks at Bottom Dog Press. Here you'll find some of the usual suspects (Wendell Berry, Robert Bly, Carolyn Forche, Robert Creeley, Sam Hamill, Audre Lorde, Denise Levertov, Kenneth Rexroth, Kenneth Patchen, Robert Pinsky, Gary Snyder, Martin Espada, etc.) reminding us in their crafted words of the destructive power of war. June Jordan's "The Bombing of Baghdad" wastes no time getting down to it:
 
". . . we bombed Iraq we bombed Baghdad
we bombed Basra/ we bombed military
installations we bombed the National Museum
we bombed schools we bombed air raid
shelters we bombed water we bombed
electricity we bombs hospitals we 
bombed streets we bombed highways . . ."

(I don't know if you're like me, but sometimes I need to be given the specifics of our warring--not to the point where I am sickened, but enough to make me continue to work to end the conflict in Iraq.)

Lawrence Ferlinghetti's ("Populist Manifesto No. 1") caught me with its mixture of humor and finger-pointing rage at the so-called poets of the world:

"Poets, come out of your closets,
Open your windows, open your doors,
You have been holed up too long
in your closed worlds.
Come down, come down
from your Russian Hills and Telegraph Hills,
your Beacon Hills and your Chapel Hills . . .
No more chanting Hare Krishna
while Rome burns . . . 
The hour of oming is over,
the time of keening come .  . .
All you den mothers of poetry,
All you zen brothers of poetry,
All you suicide lovers of poetry,
All you hairy professors of poesie,
All you poetry reviewers
drinking the blood of the poet,
All you Poetry Police--
Where are Whitman's wild children  . . ."

Oh, this is good stuff. 

Along with names you'll find familiar, you'll also find work by the highly skillful but lesser known who, it turns out, also know how to turn a mirror up to the saber rattlers and the fabled peacemakers: Susan Rich, Derek Sheffield, Barbara Crooker, Sarah Zale, & Holly Hughes, among many others. 

I hear from editor Larry Smith that this book is moving fast off Amazon's warehouse shelves, and since there's some demand for it they're selling it at cost. You can also order directly from the kind folks at Bottom Dog Press

For those of you in the Seattle area, mark your calendars for a reading of local contributors (myself included) at Elliott Bay Books on Sunday, January 25, 4 pm. 

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Winter Quarter Beginning Eve

I'm thinking about the 8-year old who shot and killed his mother when she asked him to do his chores. 

I'm thinking about the photo in the national section of our local Sunday paper, a photo of a woman who'd just completed a tour in Iraq, her hubby holding said child. She hadn't seen her baby since last October, her baby all of six months old.  

(Do not expect me to have my syntax all completely figured out. I am just back from a 5-mile, 37 degree bike ride. And it was windy.)

I am thinking about the Army recruiter in Houston who committed suicide. It seems he hated being a recruiter more than being in Iraq. He begged to be re-deployed, but the Army said no, he had to continue his recruiting job. I think I would commit suicide too if I had to snag young people from malls and tell them about the glories of free college and seeing the world.

I am thinking about my nephew, a father of four children (the youngest in diapers) in Afghanistan. I know he believes in the cause he is fighting for. I know we should have been focusing on Afghanistan, if anywhere, from the beginning (and not freaking Iraq) but I do not want him there. I don't want anyone except Afghani's in Afghanistan.  

I am thinking about pre-requisite checks, Accuplacer scores, rosters, whether or not the classroom is mediated. Whether or not the woman at the beach who was muttering to the sea gulls should be medicated.

P.S. I heard someone talking on the radio today about adding a week to the calendar--a week that begins at 12:00 midnight post-12/31. The ball would drop, and then . . . we'd have--let's call it Janus Week--and during that  time you could: (1) take stuff to Goodwill, (2) exchange a few gifts, (3) do a little reading for pleasure, (4) maybe teach yourself how to change a tire. Then . . . pause, pause, pause, breathe, breathe, breathe, then maybe vacuum under the bed, then maybe iron your cloth napkins, then maybe straighten out the basement a little more . . . then . . . Happy New Year, and it could all start in again--the school lunches, the swim lessons, the signing of permission slips, the paying of bills and the commuting, and all the rest. Good idea, yes?