Houston Poetry Fest 2014

Every year in October, poetry is celebrated in style at the weekend-long Houston Poetry Fest. Next weekend is this year’s festival.

I’m pleased to announce that my poem “At the El Felix” is being published in their anthology this year. I’ll also be reading some of my poetry at the opening night soirée. Here are the details in case you’re in town and want to join us:

Friday, October 10, 2014
7:30 pm.
Willow Street Pump Station (downtown)
811 North San Jacinto Street

For more information about the festival and to see lists of the other readers over the weekend, please click the HPFest link here.

I hope to see you there!

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Featured Poet: Bucky Rea

One of the more interesting and off-beat (in the best sense) poets I went to college with is Bucky Rea. He wrote the kind of poems I admired — sometimes funny, always thoughtful, their unpretentious depth a pleasure. He is also responsible for one of my very favorite lines of poetry of all time. We were assigned in one of our workshops to write a poem based on a fairy tale, and his, written about “The Three Little Pigs,” contained this sentence I will never forget: “It is the season of teeth and judgment.”

Bucky Rea is a Founding Penguin at Invisible Lines and the Events Coordinator for the Houston Poetry Fest.  

***

Ekphrases

 

Every poem is ekphrastic, conversing
with God’s art of sea tides,
sunsets,
flowers, emotions, or the evil
he puts in our hearts.

Every song is ekphrastic, celebrating
the artifice of sex,
the sculpture of seduction,
the architecture of orgasm,
the tie-dyed skies in the morning after the storm, or
the wars God uses to paint the canvas of earth
with nations, glory, and mud.

Every painting is ekphrastic, capturing
the improvisation of time as
it consumes
my sunlight,
the symphony of creaks
and pops in my aging knees,
and the ballet of violence
these laugh lines
carve on my face.

 

Something Fun To Do This Friday Evening

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  We had a good one.  It didn’t go exactly as we had originally planned — we had unexpected houseguests at the last minute — but we had a fantastic holiday and really excellent weekend.  I especially enjoyed hanging out with old friends who no longer live here but were visiting for a few days.  Now it is time to get ready for work and school tomorrow, to put up our Christmas decorations, to get back to normal for a few weeks till the next major Series of Holiday Events.  (I genuinely love this time of year.)

In the midst of it all, for those of you in the Houston area this coming weekend, here’s something you might enjoy doing Friday evening.  There’s going to be a book launch for the new Mutabilis Press anthology, entitled Improbable Worlds, and one of my poems is going to be in it.  (Yay!)  The poem is called “Recipe for My Daughter.”  I hope you’ll join me at the launch!  Here are the details:

Friday, December 2nd; 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.; The Jung Center of Houston; 5200 Montrose

And here’s the website for Mutabilis Press:

http://www.mutabilispress.org/

MP’s website also has information for purchasing the anthology, in case you’re interested.  (I was also published in their 2005 anthology Timeslice, in case anyone wants a copy of that as well.  It had a lot of really fantastic Houston poets in it, and I was thrilled and humbled to be counted among them.  Improbable Worlds will be featuring poets of Texas and Louisiana, if I’m not mistaken.)

If the book launch for Timeslice is any indication, I and many of the other poets featured in the book will be signing copies the night of the event.  (I’m also happy to sign any copies other than that night, if you’d like.)  I hope to see you there!

A Little Contest

First, I want to thank everyone who is reading this blog.  I really appreciate it!  In my stats, it looks like a LOT of people are reading every week, which is both surprising to me and flattering.  I promise next weekend I’ll get back to posting prose about things which are more interesting, but this week I want to send out a little thank-you to everyone who’s reading by way of a little contest.  (Maybe that’s not how blogs are theoretically supposed to work, but I’m going to do it anyway.  I’m new at this.)

I have copies of all three Houston Poetry Fest anthologies in which I’ve been published (including this year’s), and I’m offering a signed copy of each to three lucky readers who subscribe to this blog in the next week.  That’s right, between today (October 16th) and next Sunday (October 23rd), subscribe to this blog — and get as many people as you know who might be interested to do the same.  At the end of this week-long period, I’ll put all my subscribers’ names into a hat and draw three, and those three will win one of the aforementioned signed copies.  Yay!  You can get an extra shot at winning one of them if you convince others to subscribe as well.  (Sure, why not?)  You’ll have to let me know you’ve done that, of course.

You might be wondering how to subscribe?  There’s a widget on the menu bar just to the right.  Your right.  Yup, right there.  —>

It should be pretty self-explanatory.  You can enter your email address and then get an email whenever I post something.  (Usually once a week, on the weekends when I’m slightly less frantic, just like all of you, probably.)

Thanks again to all of you for your kind support!  Sometimes watching my blog stats sort of makes my day.

Best of luck.  My next post will be about spiders.

Houston Poetry Fest 2011

I am so pleased to have been selected as a Juried Poet again this year for Houston Poetry Fest!  This long-established Houston tradition celebrates poetry and local poets in grand style with a weekend of events and a new anthology of the Juried Poets’ work, which will include my poem “Recipe for My Daughter.”

I will be reading at the Sunday afternoon event, which begins at 2:00 and will be held at UH-Downtown, at the Willow Street Pump Station, address 811 N. San Jacinto St.  Plenty of others will be reading as well, and you can pick up your own copy of the anthology at any Houston Poetry Fest event.

Here are more details about the festivities:

Friday, October 7th, 7:30 p.m. — Open Reading with David Ray Vance, Jerry Hamby, and Juried Poets

Saturday, October 8th, 1:00 p.m. — Traditional Open Reading hosted by Robert Clark

Saturday, October 8th, 7:30 p.m. — Saturday Evening Reading with Jill Haugen, Erica Lehrer, and Juried Poets

Sunday, October 9th, 2:00 p.m. — Sunday Afternoon Reading with Ysabel de la Rosa, Bradley Earle Hoge, and Juried Poets (including me)

All events are free and open to the public, although donations will be accepted.  The festivities are sponsored by Houston Poetry Fest and by The Department of English and The Cultural Enrichment Center of The University of Houston – Downtown.

For more information, see the website:  http://www.houstonpoetryfest.info

Thanks for supporting poetry and the arts in Houston!

Hey, Look! A Poem.

So in the spring of 2010, I began having some serious anxiety about my poetry.  Here I was, with a degree in poetry from the University of Houston, two books of poems under my belt, and a job teaching Creative Writing and English at a tiny high school which had developed enough of a reputation for Creative Writing that at least a couple dozen kids a year applied there because they wanted to be writers.

That’s all great, I thought, but a part of me was slowly turning to dust inside because I hadn’t written what I thought was a decent poem in several years.

To be fair, I was embroiled in writing a novel and had made some forays into memoir.  And I had always considered myself a fiction writer more than anything else, even from the time I was a child.  (I think the first time I read one of my short stories in front of an audience was during fourth grade, and yeah, I knew then that Story was It.)  But though I’d begun my education at UH as a fiction writer, about halfway through I felt stymied and switched to poetry, and then I wrote nothing but poems for about three years.

What did I learn from that?  Simply, how language works.  How to navigate the relationships between words.  So after writing only poetry for a while (other, of course, than the literary analysis essays — about other people’s poetry — required for some of my classes), when I came back to fiction, the result stunned me.  My stories were a lot better.

But back to 2010.  I hadn’t been writing poems.  I had barely been scraping together enough time to draft more than a chapter or two per semester on my novel, thanks to my job teaching high school.  I was coming slowly out of what some might have called a mid-life crisis but which my artist friends assured me was really an artistic crisis.  My identity, which had for most of my life been at least partially wrapped up in my ability to be creative, was suffering due to a lack of time for anything creative.  After having two kids and continuing to teach high school full-time, I had quit my hobbies (dancing, painting, jewelry making), and I was treating my writing (and please forgive me for this) like a hobby.

So Aaron encouraged me to sign up for a poetry workshop at Inprint over the summer (when I do not teach).  I took it.  It was transformational.  (And here I must give a shout out to the most excellent Paul Otremba, who was leading the workshop.)  I wrote a lot of poems that summer, and many of them received a good welcome, but beyond that, I was actually satisfied with my work.  I felt so relieved, every other aspect of my writing career began to flourish in the wake.

* * *

When I began teaching, lo these many eons ago, one of my classes challenged me to write a sestina with six words they chose on the spot at random.  They gave me a week to do it, in what I imagine they must have thought was a fun table-turning moment.  I laughed.  I’m not a trained monkey.  Why should I perform?

“Come on,” they said.  “If this form is so much fun, just do it.”

I sighed.  “Okay, this does sound interesting.  What are the words?”

They came up with them quickly, enthusiastically.  Flower, grace, cold, water, coward, chump.

“You’re on,” I grinned.  “I won’t need a week.”

* * *

So why am I telling you this story now?  I have learned, in the past month, that my poems are making their way into the world again.  Of those poems I wrote last summer, several are under consideration for publication right now, and one has been selected for print in two different anthologies.  I’m also going to be a Juried Poet at Houston Poetry Fest again this year.  I’m jazzed.

So I wanted to share a poem with you.  Since I can’t put any of those newer poems here on my blog while they’re under consideration or about to go to print, I thought I’d share that poem my students challenged me to write way back in the day.  (It has been published, in the e-magazine PHUI and in my book Gypsies, but I own the copyright.)  It’s also sort of an important poem for me because I think when I wrote it I crystallized, internally, the generally stoic nature toward most of the world which I hoped to adopt in my life.

If anyone is interested in the mechanics of a sestina or how to write one, please post a comment.  (And apologies:  one of the lines in this poem is really long, and the margins of the blog template won’t allow it to fit all on one line, and I can’t figure out how to tab it over, so it looks like two lines, but it’s not.)

Enjoy!

For the Cold Lovers
(or, Survival of the Fittest)

I must have been a real chump
to be excited by that rare treat, the flower
you gave me.  Maybe because I had been a coward
then, I thrilled to see the graceful
petals even after they’d fallen – gracefully – into the water
glass on the table in the cold

corner of the room.  (I thought the cold
would preserve (my chump-
euphoria and) the life (in the watery
grave) of the tiny flower.
I was wrong.  It died a pathetic – yet graceful –
death, leaning slowly toward its demise like a coward.)

That plant was a coward,
and so had I been, unafraid of the cold
(the wrong thing to trust) and worried, like a graceful
music box dancer, by the independence which might protect me.  We’re a bunch of chumps –
me, the satin-slippered chick, that slowly dying flower –
and we ought to be put out to sea without food or drinking water

in the hopes that the salt-water
creatures will overturn our craft of cowards.
Then I will try to hold, to comfort the choking girl as she weeps for the flower
(that has already found a grave in the cold
sea) and thrashes about (like the chump
she is proving herself to be) in that graceful

way she has, until I say,  “To hell with this grace
and daintiness, you’ll drown in these waters
if you don’t stop acting like a chump
waiting to be rescued and grow some strength!  The cowards
can’t swim to shore, and the cold
will overtake you if you aren’t wise.  The flower

is already dead.”  She’ll weep for the flower
and the death and the woe until her pathetic, graceful
thrashing convinces me not to care anymore, and I leave her to the cold,
unforgiving, undrinkable ocean water,
letting her gently (tired from the thrashing) weep, a quieting coward
sinking into the deep, the grave of the chumps.

And I, no longer a chump or a coward,
will swim back through those waters, strong of arm and a new grace,
wary now of the cold and unimpressed by flowers.