Where, What, and When I’ll Be Teaching in June

So it’s a known fact that I no longer teach summer school. I haven’t for many, many years, because I need that time to focus more on my writing. However, I will be teaching some brief Creative Writing workshops this summer for three marvelous CW organizations, and YOU can take them! Yes, that’s right! And since I’ve had a fair number of questions about them, I’m just going to distill all the information into this post now for you. I will list them in order of when they begin. Enjoy.

CLASS #1: Creating a Zine (a.k.a. “Zines: The Ultimate Adventure in Creative Control”)
WHEN: 4 Thursday evenings, June 9-30, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
WHERE: Writespace — IN PERSON — in Houston

DESCRIPTION: Have you been looking for a way to share your short writings, including ones you’ve created in other Writespace workshops? The subversive, underground art form of the “zine” (short for fanzine) has been the literary world’s best-kept secret for nearly a century. From its roots in science-fiction and fantasy to its established presence in the modern world as a place for art, poetry, and politics, these informal magazines are the ultimate adventure in self-publishing. And best of all, zines are for everyone, every interest, every ability level, and every subject! You need not be a great or experienced artist. Come explore the wide and diverse world of zines through creative writing, art, and craft with award-winning published author Angélique Jamail, the creator of the popular zine Sonic Chihuahua. In this course, you will create your own zine filled with whatever your imagination will allow! This class is appropriate for all skill levels. Attendees will also have an opportunity to participate in Zine Fest Houston, a welcoming mainstay of the zine community, in November.

(Apologies to all those who really want to take this class but who live outside of Houston. If there’s enough interest in my offering a Zoom version in the future, let me know, and I’ll see about making that work. You can leave a note in the comments section of this post or contact me about it directly.)

REGISTER FOR “CREATING A ZINE” BY CLICKING HERE. (The deadline for early bird pricing is Friday, June 3rd.)

CLASS #2:  Daily Dose of Poetry
WHEN:  (one night only!) Monday, June 13th, 6:00-7:30 p.m. (central time)
WHERE:  ON ZOOM through Write About Now as part of their weekly poetry workshop series

DESCRIPTION:  In this class participants will use short poems and exercises as models for writing poetry and poetic fragments, and will practice techniques to increase observation and lyrical thinking. We’ll look at mentor texts and have a discussion on language and form. We’ll also have exercises in metaphor and imagery. Attendees will get a chance to write short form poems and use the techniques covered in class to enhance their daily writing practice.

REGISTER FOR “DAILY DOSE OF POETRY” BY CLICKING HERE.

CLASS #3:  Poetry: Grounded in Place But Not Confined
WHEN:  4 Tuesday evenings, June 14 – July 5, 6:00-9:00 p.m. (central time)
WHERE:  ON ZOOM through Grackle & Grackle

grackle painting by Kerry James Marshall

DESCRIPTION:  Michelle Brittan Rosado wrote that poetry of place “can be a way to dissolve the self into an anonymous landscape” as well as “a map to find ourselves, a space in which to reassemble the annihilated and recover the displaced.” How often has your childhood home been the setting for your dreams? How often have you returned, in your writing or art or imagination, to the site of a notable first experience? What are the landscapes, real or metaphorical, we have inhabited? What liminal spaces inspire, motivate, or even unsettle us? The places which have mattered most to us live in our subconscious mind long after they stop being physically part of our lives. In this four-week class, we will look at poetry grounded in places both real and imagined. We will dissect both what makes a poem resonate with a reader and what makes particular locations so important to us. In this generative workshop, we’ll use a variety of prompts to experiment with form and style. You can expect to write new poetry each week and have at least two of your poems workshopped in a collaborative and respectful setting.

Grackle & Grackle also offers discounts to those who need them. (The following discounts are followed by their promo code words.)
15% sun
25% squawk
35% sweat

REGISTER FOR “POETRY: GROUNDED IN PLACE BUT NOT CONFINED” BY CLICKING HERE.

SO! I hope to see you at any and/or all of these fun workshops. And please do spread the word about them to anyone you know who might be interested. Thanks!

Come Write Poetry With Me For An Hour

The title of this post is not an exaggeration.

I’m going to be leading a workshop called “Daily Dose of Poetry” on Monday June 13th through WAN (Write About Now) as part of their weekly virtual workshop series, and I’d love for you to join me!

The workshop will be synchronous, live, and interactive on Zoom. It starts at 6:00 p.m. central time and actually lasts until 7:30 p.m. The workshop will be generative and also give you a chance to share the poetry you write in the workshop for feedback or just accolades.

This class is appropriate for all levels: if you are a seasoned writer and want to revive or enhance your practice; if you are newer writer and want more prompts to help you generate ideas; if you just have a lot of thoughts swirling around in your head and aren’t sure how to rein them in so you can get some sleep. There’s something for everyone in Daily Dose of Poetry.

If you want the official course description, here it is:

“In this class participants will use short poems and exercises as models for writing poetry and poetic fragments, and will practice techniques to increase observation and lyrical thinking. We’ll look at mentor texts and have a discussion on language and form. We’ll also have exercises in metaphor and imagery. Attendees will get a chance to write short form poems and use the techniques covered in class to enhance their daily writing practice.”

And if you subscribe to WAN, I think there’s even a discount on the already quite low registration fee. Here are the other workshops being offered in June:

So come join me on June 13th! Register here for the event on Eventbrite. I look forward to this relaxed and low-stress poetry party with you!

National Poetry Month: One Last Post For This Year

Hey there! Earlier this month I posted an invitation for people to send me Book Spine Poems (a type of found poem) that they’d constructed, and I want to share this one by Chuck Wemple.

Speedboat

My Uncle Napoleon
The wave in the mind
The traveling circus

Bad girls of the Arab world
The face of war
Last night at hot slit
Our women on the ground

Against interpretation

***

Thank you to Chuck, and to everyone who participated in this year’s National Poetry Month celebration here at Sappho’s Torque! It was a real pleasure to feature so many excellent poems. 

Also, I’m already curating next year’s Poem-A-Day series (!!!) so if you have a poem you’d like me to consider for it, drop me a line in the comments or via email: forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com.

And now I’m going to go rest a little bit and try to get caught up with my semester, which is rapidly drawing to a frenetic close. Monday Earworms will resume tomorrow, and I’ll be sure to update you on how things are going with my family’s LLS campaign and my efforts to excavate myself from the stack of grading that appears to have buried me.

Cheers, y’all.

National Poetry Month: Saba Husain

Dear reader, it has been such a joy to share so many poems with you this year for National Poetry Month. I’d intended to include more different types of posts this year — prompts and poetry-adjacent things and such — but ultimately I just had such a wealth of people’s poems to share that I bent to that impulse as the month wore on.

Today I’m pleased to feature a poem by Saba Husain to round out our poetry celebration. I hope you’ll enjoy it, as I hope you’ve enjoyed this whole month’s series.

The Missing Planet

Oblivious to the red blood moon
we strung the universe on a wire hanger
in order of distance from the sun:

Neptune’s swing entangled
Saturn’s rings, and sent Jupiter
spinning towards Mars.

While the lunar jaw dropper was witnessed
from Sri Lanka to California,
I counted generations on my fingertips,
and imagined faces I’d never met
turned towards the sky.

In another time and age I’d be
on my knees at the spectacle,
having dallied enough nights on my driveway
to know a Texas sky.

Grandson, hold on to the blue green
sphere you plucked from your mobile,
tuck the Earth under your pillow,
let the moon orbit your eyes.

***

Saba Z Husain’s work has appeared in Sequestrum, Bangalore Review, Barrow Street, Cimarron Review, Texas Review, Bellevue Review, Houston Chronicle, Aleph Review, Synkroniciti, Equinox, and the anthologies of Mutabilis Press, Ankelbiters Press, Lamar University Press, Southern Poetry Vol. VIII: Texas, and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the 2021 and 2020 X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize, and semifinalist for the 2020 Philip Levine Poetry Prize. Saba serves on the board of Mutabilis Press.

National Poetry Month: Autumn Hayes

I only recently first encountered Autumn Hayes’ poetry at this month’s Mutable Hour reading, and wow! Powerhouse.

Sonnet #1

What’s that thorny thing you clutch so close
Pricking the blood to your palm’s numb palm? A rose
Wild-born, lightning-crooked bush? A ball
Of pig iron painted black? A dying sun with spiked rays?

What tether have you fashioned to control
Its swing and land? A synthetic cord? A bow
Of metal marrying metal? How heavy does it hang
Welded to the weight of the wait? Does it ripple your gut

To hear it hum through the anxious air? Where
Does it cling to your body? At elbow? At knee? For me
It’s my right. Elbow, that is. Swift shrug, shoulder flick
And the air at least has been stabbed. A fuzzy brown cuff

Holds it in place. Where do you keep the tool that can sever
The tether? Behind your back? Like it’s the weapon?

***

Autumn Hayes is a freelance writer and poet; her work has appeared in Xavier Review, Storm Cellar, The Washington Spectator, 3:AM, Teachers & Writers Magazine, and the micro-fiction anthology 140 and Counting¸among other places. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, she has taught reading, writing, public speaking, math, drama, and vocational welding in Los Angeles, Houston, and the Mississippi Delta. She holds an MFA in poetry and teaches English in her hometown. Find out more at autumnhayes.com.

National Poetry Month: BJ Buckley

I first encountered B.J. Buckley’s work one of the times when I was a judge for the Poetry Super Highway annual contest. I love this poem “Butter” and am pleased to feature it this year on my blog. 

Do you have any childhood memories connected to food? Does anyone not? Bread and butter are intimately linked to my memories of childhood happiness, specifically watching the homemade pita loaves puff up in the oven as they finished baking, and then spreading butter on them so soon it melted while the knife was still spreading it. That smell is still, to me, the scent of joy.

Butter

The cats are on the table licking butter
from my supper of stale discount bread,
whole grain loaf passed over in this whitebread
town. It’s nearly Christmas, and this memory
from childhood – December and real butter
in defiance of the lack of cheese or meat.
My father never shook the dust of Ellis Island
from his shoes. Year’s end he pinched
so on the Holy Morning we’d have oranges
in the toes of our stockings and nuts in their shells,
almonds and walnuts and filberts, Brazil nuts
and pecans, and ribbon candy made by the Cockney
man who had a tiny grocery, Greek cookies from
Mrs. Panopoulous whose first son had ended his own
life years before my sister and I were ever born.

My father drank his coffee half milk and so much
sugar that even we with our Irish sweet tooths
could barely get it down. I know from letters he wrote
to Bridie, sister left behind and never married,
that he longed for fish from the Shannon where it met
the sea, for Kerry butter, which you find now
in every market as if it were nothing special.
Those December dinners of whole wheat
thick spread with yellow are what I most remember,
more than the scrimped-for ham and sweet potatoes,
black olives and cranberry sauce in cut glass dishes,
the good silver hidden all year under my parents’ bed,
next to the string-tied shoebox with the captured
leprechaun from the Old Country and the suitcase
of graying photographs, the loved and lost
whose names were faded as their faces.

The cats are licking delicately their soft paws,
their pretty whiskers, cleaning their foreheads
and their ears. They smell of kibble-fish
and Kerry butter, of milk and wheat, a scent like
the hands of my father, making us our suppers
in the solstice dark, and then his thin clear tenor
that sang us off to sleep.

                                          at Yuletide, 2019

***

B.J. Buckley is a Montana poet and writer who has worked in Arts-in-Schools/Communities programs throughout the West and Midwest for over 45 years in schools, libraries, hospitals, senior centers and homeless shelters. Her work has appeared in Whitefish Review, ellipsis, Sugar House Review, December, Sequestrum, About Place Journal, The Comstock Poetry Review, and many others. Her book Corvidae, Poems of Ravens, Crows, and Magpies, with woodcut illustrations by Dawn Senior-Trask, came out from Lummox Press 2014. Her most recent work, the chapbook In January, the Geese, won the 35th Anniversary Comstock Review Chapbook Prize. Visit her website here.

National Poetry Month: KB Brookins

I’ve been a fan of KB Brookins’ work ever since we shared a stage at Malvern Books a few years ago. Rather than belabor that point, I’ll share what other people are saying about their work. First, here’s the blurb for their newly released collection How To Identify Yourself with a Wound:

“In How To Identify Yourself With a Wound, KB chronicles their experiences — of Blackness, queerness, transness, class — and the spaces between. There is no doubt that due to various forms of inequity and colonialism, society views certain identities as ‘wounds,’ but what does it mean to define yourself outside of the pain of being marginalized? In this book, KB recognizes inequity and subverts it. In this book, the main speaker tells their own stories, and they don’t shy away from the complexities of harm and the mess that it leaves.”

And here are some blurbs for it from other authors:

“The poems in How to Identify Yourself with a Wound pull no punches. Raw honesty paired with concise language inhabit and fully embody a life shaped by the intersection of race, class, sexuality, and gender. This is my favorite kind of poetry, necessary and urgent, revealing and saving and healing and re-creating both poet and reader.”
— ire’ne laura silva, author of CUICACALLI/House of Song, 2020 Saguaro Poetry Prize judge

“As KB navigates burning issues of love, identity, race, and enforced gender, bearing witness to how intimacy can be a battleground, a declared truce, or an Eden, How to Identify Yourself with a Wound is never less than compelling and absorbing: ‘Let me tell you the story of a tenderness the world refused to call / beautiful but it lives.’ The powerful lines, the no-holds-barred voice, and risk-taking candor of these dynamic debut poems make the reader hungry for a whole volume.”
—Cyrus Cassells, 2021 Poet Laureate of Texas 

How to Identify Yourself with A Wound makes good on its promise to go directly to the source of pain, to explore & commune with it. As KB reminds us, ‘Slipping between genders sometimes causes a fall, after all.’ These poems also tend to the wound caused by the fall, excavating sharp memories, naming the trauma for what it is, and making room for a love without limits. Read this book when you need a good cry, or a knowing look across the room: when you need to be reminded of what tethers you to yourself.”
—Ariana Brown, author of We Are Owed.

“Our identities are more than formal structures that can be easily cut and pasted into headline categories like race or gender or sexuality. They are a collection of moments and events that drive us, head first, into the only names left for what we are. KB’s How to Identify Yourself with a Wound is a fresh and energetic examination of the transformative process known as self-inquiry. Without hesitation, KB digs into what is often left unsaid about the internal querying process that leads one to the identity of nonbinary. Readers can expect to witness the origins of an audacious and empowered advocate whose lyric and inquisitiveness bodes well for the future of poetry.”
—Faylita Hicks, author of HOODWITCH

Without further ado, here is the powerful title poem from that collection.

How To Identify Yourself With a Wound (circa 2017)

To the black spot on the vein of my left arm for the weekly plasma donations
To the brown scar under my chin from running too fast on a freshly mopped floor
To the altar I called my dorm bed to K who fought her sanity to sleep next to me in To the poems I’ve started
& stopped for femmes with dyed fades & nails plunged in bubblegum pink
To dollar tree black nail polish for always being there
To the top coat for staining my favorite jacket
To the scars blotched all over my legs from scratching mosquito bumps
To being a “tomboy” in elementary & middle school
To the manuscripts I didn’t finish to the fragments that choked them out
To the stretch marks on my stomach & forearms & shoulders
To S for being able to wear tampons to Matt for introducing me to clowns
To the animals of past lovers I miss more than the lovers
To D & B & all the other what if’s minimized to a timeline
To my people that have transitioned to another celestial plane
To you, the witness of what happiness does to the brain
To the body for housing a trauma that is timid
To T for loving me though he didn’t know how
To the holes in my jeans to wide hips to my hips & wounds for always being uncontainable—

*a version of this was published by Pidgeonholes in 2020.

***

KB Brookins is a Black/queer/transmasculine poet, essayist, and cultural worker from Texas. Their writing is published in Academy of American Poets, Huffington Post, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. KB is the author of How To Identify Yourself with a Wound (Kallisto Gaia Press, 2022) and Freedom House (Deep Vellum Publishing, 2023). They have earned fellowships from PEN America, Broadway Advocacy Coalition, and Lambda Literary among others. Currently, KB is a board member with Ground Floor Theatre and Texas PRIDE Health, MFA candidate at The University of Texas at Austin, and freelance artist/consultant. Follow them online at @earthtokb. 

National Poetry Month: Carla Hagen

I’m pleased to feature Carla Hagen on the blog tonight and her poem “Pilgrimage.”

This is the time of year when everything I do feels like a pilgrimage to some obligation or another: frantically plowing through my immense stacks of grading to finish the semester; hosting a reading of my students and their original work and celebrating the launch of their literary magazine (tomorrow night); attending a writing conference (Writefest!!) this weekend even though it’s not convenient timing with the school year because at some point I have to make some acknowledgement of my own writing career; even curating this poetry series on my blog every year. Again, not great timing — which is why these posts so often go up late at night — but oh so important in the grander scheme of things. Life cannot only be about obligations and chores and tasks. Sometimes art keeps us alive. I am on a personal pilgrimage to remember that. Busy, busy April is the cruelest month, but these moments of poetry hold me together.

Pilgrimage

Piedras was soft when we drove in,
faded pink and blue, dust rising,
roasted corn and chilies, roosters.

We’d crossed Texas for this:
true border, pure corridos, 
Los Pingüinos del Norte, black and white,

In the market, among onions, piñatas, watermelon,
tall Hilario, chest massive, guitar to match,
Ruben, red button accordion tuned just off key.

The cantina that night served up shrimp soup, salted peanuts.
Nearly empty — just the Pingüinos and us.
Reel-to-reel, rented mike — praying they’d play.

At least one tune. They sing in the kitchen
I pick so many oranges, I’ll turn orange.
Me voy a anaranjar if I pick one more.

Migrant tales follow the tracks of the north-bound train,
Adiós, Estado de Tejas, con toda tu plantación,
I’ll never pick cotton again. Ya no pisco algodón.

Everything’s different now, drug lords the only royalty.
Corridos float in my mind as I cross the ravaged Valley, 
no more Chulas Fronteras, beautiful borderlands,

that country gone.

***

Carla Hagen’s debut novel, Hand Me Down My Walking Cane, won the 2012 Midwest Independent Publishers Awards for literary fiction and historical fiction. Her second novel, Muskeg, will be published in August 2022. Her work has appeared in anthologies such as Voices for the Land and When Last on the Mountain, as well as in journals like Talking Stick, Saint Paul Almanac, Border Senses, and Sing, Heavenly Muse! The Minnesota-Canadian border and Latin America, especially Mexico, inform her work.

National Poetry Month: Tova Hinda Siegel

I received the gift of Tova Hinda Siegel’s Uncertain Resident in the mail during this year’s PoetrySuperHighway Great Poetry Exchange, and Siegel has graciously agreed to let me feature some of her work on my blog during National Poetry Month.

As for her poem “Dishes of Life,” all I can say is that the humor and poignancy blend perfectly, and I totally feel seen.

 

Dishes of Life

The kitchen is now clean.
I gird myself for the inevitable battle
that I do constantly
with my husband and my children.
How many times have I explained the importance –
no –
the virtue of placing the bowls
in the back left of the dishwasher first?
Then and only then,
any overflow will go into the front left.
Unless of course the surplus of plates
has to go there
when the front right side is filled.
Plates must be lined up,
one per slot, barely needing a rinse
because of my foresight
in buying a dishwasher which rinses first.
But it may still have the odor of old food,
so I insist on the door closed.
The glasses must be placed
between the pegs, not on them.
Again, efficiency in mind
and use of space maximized.
I’ve repeated this important lesson so many times
but it goes unheeded.
The deep bowls are perfectly suited
for the back right
where the slots are much wider.
They do not go on the top shelf
which is where
not only glasses go
but also anything plastic
because you know the plastic will melt
if placed on the bottom near the heating coil.

But you don’t know
And I’m always moving the stuff around
because you’ve all refused
to take that extra minute
to keep it organized and moving smoothly.
So I do.
And then I feel accomplished
as if I have just completed a
vital task which will keep
me and my family
in shape
for at least another day, maybe two
because there’s never enough dishes
to run the dishwasher every day.
But they never learn the lesson
no matter how often I teach it.
And the dishes lay at odds with each other
in total disarray, disharmony and disgust
and I am the only one who cares about
the order of life.

***

Tova Hinda Siegel, a writer/poet, is a midwife, cellist, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother of many children living around the world. After earning a BA from Antioch and an MS from USC, she began writing and has studied with Jack Grapes, Tresha Faye Haefner, and Taffy Brodesser-Akner, among others. Her work has appeared in Salon.com, I’ll Take Wednesdays, On The Bus, MacQueens’s Quinterly, Gyroscope Review, PoetrySuperHighway, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Better than Starbucks, and several anthologies. Her first collection, Uncertain Resident, was published recently. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband.