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Super Fan Bingo!

June 27, 2020

poetry bingo

Ok, super fans! It’s time to shine! I know you are out there.

Take a screenshot or download the grid, check the boxes, win a prize! I promise it will be good!

Small print rules:  playing with a friend is OK; past accomplishments are accepted, no matter when they happened (e.g. beach may have been last year…); doing things right this second in order to check a box is totally fine!

Alcestis in the Underworld Reading

June 24, 2020

Like every other public event this spring, Gaithersburg Book Festival got canceled, and then had to work out a way to go virtual. The video above is my contribution. Please visit my publisher’s website and buy the book! (She has signed copies!)

Catching up with Amie Whittemore — now a Poet Laureate

June 22, 2020

When I interviewed Amie Whittemore last December, she mentioned she was asked to serve as Poet Laureate of Murfreesboro for 2020 and looked forward to using this role to engage more closely with writers in her community.  Surely, one doesn’t let an opportunity like this slide! How many Poets Laureate do you know? So, of course, I asked Amie to catch up all my readers on what fame is like and how everything is going—from her workspace, where Sage the cat keeps an eye on productivity. img_1978

NM: Last time we talked, you just learned that you have been selected as Poet Laureate of Murfreesboro, TN. The Murfreesboro Cultural Arts Laureate Program is a notable honor for local artists, providing recipients with further opportunities to educate, advocate, and represent the community through their own creative initiatives. Laureates serve for one year with an optional one-year renewal. You are part of the 2020 cohort, along with a painter and a photographer; this is the third year of the program.  Can you tell me more about the program?

AW: The program is designed to recognize leaders in the arts, across artistic genres, to be advocates of arts and artists in our community. For me, that means trying to connect community members to poetry through a variety of projects, including some collaborations between the painter and photographer laureates and myself.

NM: How long have you lived in Murfreesboro? When you applied for the program, did you have a project in mind? 

AW: I moved to Murfreesboro in 2016, so I’ve lived here for a little over four years. The inaugural poet laureate, Kory Wells, a friend of mine and wonderful advocate for the arts in Murfreesboro and Rutherford County, suggested that I apply for the program. I was a bit nervous about doing so, as I have a tendency to overfill my plate. The application process requires applicants to indicate a potential community project, and it was thinking of such a project that helped me get over my trepidation about taking on this role.  Read more…

Oksana Zabuzhko Talks History and Women Writing

June 16, 2020

…and Rosie Goldsmith reads from my translation of “An Album for Gustav.”

Here’s the passage–and you can read the rest of the story in the book, Your Ad Could Go Here.

It was true: a sort of deeper, collective memory had come alive in us, even for those who weren’t aware of it—a dam had burst open, our horizons fell back, and in one instant, millions of people discovered themselves to be in possession of knowledge and instincts they never suspected existed, of which they had never thought themselves capable. Perhaps, that was the law of history: when a nation acts as a single collective soul, its collective memory, by some incomprehensible means, proves to be greater than the sum of its constituent parts.

Oksana Zabuzhko, translated by Nina Murray

Minor Heresies Review

June 14, 2020

 

How exciting is this? Sandra Joy Russell, a fellow translator and writer, reviewed my short collection Minor Heresies for Apofenie Magazine. It is such a thrill to have a perceptive reader give close and generous attention to one’s work. Please check it out.

[S]he attunes her reader to the poetic query of citizenship, and particularly diasporic citizenship—to what do owe … the spaces in which we find ourselves, be they political, national, or cultural. What do they owe us?

–Sandra Joy Russell

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Publisher: Cat Dossett

June 8, 2020

Pen and Anvil Press has what I consider the best mission statement I have seen in my decade-plus of publishing poetry and translations:

We want to celebrate and publish writing which is durable, compact, useful, lovely, and relevant; and we take the view that this mission does not limit us to any particular genre, language, or literary mode.

I “met” Cat virtually because she kindly chose a poem of mine to be included in Cicadas’ Sex Songs, one of the four animal chapbooks she edited.  So, let’s start there and talk about the practice of publishing chapbooks.

Cat Dossett reads at Hawk and Whippoorwill

NM: What do you find particularly rewarding/challenging about publishing chapbooks? 

Cat Dossett: Chapbooks are mainly a promotional item, something for the author to give away or sell at a low price. To provide such an item to an up-and-coming author and to add another feather to their cap of editorial bylines is a gratifying thing.

On a more selfish note, I suppose, it has been wonderful to meet active poets from around the world but especially in the New England area, where Pen & Anvil is based. Names from the local scene begin to crop up again and again, poets like Susan Edwards Richmond and Blake Campbell whose work blows me away every time. Reading poetry inspires me to write my own, and I certainly get to read quite a bit of poetry as I sift through chapbook submissions.

The challenge for me has been juggling chapbook-making with a full-time job. Fortunately quarantine has opened up quite a bit of time for me, and the press has been able to tie up some loose ends, so to speak. Read more…

Poetry is Like Bread Ghazal

June 2, 2020

Yours truly was honored to join this project.

Language is what the rocks thought of when they wanted to dance.

In these days of quarantine, when a touch is a wave from six masked feet away, we turn again to language, to the essence of language, to the art of language, to poetry.

The “Poetry is Like Bread” Ghazal is a collaborative poem created by a world of poets to nourish us all through the Pandemic and to envision the world After. We take our inspiration from Pablo Neruda: “On our earth, before writing was invented, before the printing press was invented, poetry flourished. That is why we know that poetry is like bread, it should be shared by all, by scholars and by peasants, by all our vast , incredible, extraordinary family of humanity.” This collaborative poem was created with the idea that each poet’s unique voice would join together as one, and that the result would be shared by all. There is no poetic form better suited to do this than the Ghazal.

The Organized Writer: Composure, Part 2

May 22, 2020

The answer—at least the one I found—is to exercise risk mitigation. Sure, getting upset is not the same as getting your basement flooded, but some of the same principles apply.

  • Think ahead; be prepared.  This, of course, requires that you know yourself and know what throws you off. Learn to recognize your reaction. Don’t wait for other people to tell you (because if you wait that long, you might be a mess), but do enlist a trusted friend to talk things through. The important part is to know what it looks like inside your head.
  • Minimize risk. Classic example: Thanksgiving dinner with relatives that test your patience. Employ distance, minimize exposure, use buffers—meaning, sit at the other end of the table (or don’t go at all); set a time limit for how long you are going to be there; and engage with someone or something else (play with the kids as soon as socially appropriate).
  • And remember: do not take on unnecessary responsibility—for example, for keeping the peace or making everyone happy. That is not possible. You can only do what only you can do.

The Organized Writer: Composure

May 21, 2020

This is one of those qualities we recognize immediately on sight, but might find it difficult to describe. My working definition for our purposes is the ability to remains calm, poised, and effective in stressful situations.

If you ride horses, you know what I mean.

I can recall quite clearly a fairly recent experience of losing it.  I was riding a new horse, a mare, who clearly was super-sensitive. What wasn’t clear to me was whether she’d been worked with a light contact or a fairly structured “between the leg and the bit” kind of regime. Turned out it was the latter, but before I was adequately advised, the mare yielded to her skepticism about me and my abilities and really felt like maybe running away. There’s that moment when you feel your seat no longer associated with whatever the animal is doing, and after that, things happen very quickly. I remember thinking, for the first time in my life, what it would be like to jump off that mare.

I didn’t fall though. I was thoroughly scared, but I also knew I’d be doing neither one of us any favors if I continued feeling that way.  So, seat, legs, and contact were restored, a plan was visualized, and lo and behold, the horse and I settled down beautifully and had a great ride. Her traverse was a thing to behold, as it turned out.

So, how to deal with the moment when you lose control?

palomino horse

The Organized Writer: Self-Leadership

May 14, 2020

I can hear you roll your eyes. “Leadership” is a word that has been overused to the point of becoming meaningless. So, let’s call it “responsibility”. Or “agency.”

What are you responsible for today? What can only be done by you?

This is a short question with far-reaching consequences. Some answers are obvious: exercising your body can really only be done by you. Same for exercising your brain. Prioritizing those things is the tricky part. Too many of us treat our minds as less than the essential tools they are.

The flip side of taking responsibility is not taking responsibility when it is not necessary.  I am an only child.  I discovered other people are just as capable of stepping up and doing things when I was, oh, close to 30. Then I moved on to assessing the need to carry emotional responsibilities: especially as a woman, I find sometimes other folks expect me to care deeply about things they care about that have nothing to do with me. In a conflict between two male colleagues, for example, my emotional investment is zero, as long as their behavior doesn’t affect my effectiveness.

When was the last time you asked for motivation?

I find that this, also, somehow feels shameful—one is so consistently praised for being “self-motivated” that one forgets that sometimes, indeed, two heads are better than one and/or you need permission to prioritize the unique things you want to focus on. While you certainly don’t want to be a pest, it is not really necessary to solve every creative problem by yourself.

Here are a few favorites from other writers:

We all have these discouraging voices in our heads; I try to be kind to them and acknowledge their desire to protect me from looking like a fool, and carry on. As with most wisdom, easier said than done.  — Amie Whittemore.

Most days it’s a pot of coffee and the Ramones! I also have a few rambunctious bird dogs that demand daily exercise. — Joey Paxman.

Personally, I have found a few friends that do a fantastic job of putting me into a higher gear, with their support, analysis, or help breaking down my challenges into small, manageable steps. Which, by the way, is a separate and a very special gift.

 

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