Poetry’s wonderful world of magic — that’s almost redundant. Isn’t the elevated world of a poem necessarily a magical one? The magic comes from close attention –the writer’s and the reader’s — to people, beings, relationships, and things. But every poem needs specifics to ground the reader, to help a reader enter the world of the poem. More
It was great fun to correspond with Matisse’s great grandson in order to obtain rights to use this image on the cover of my poetry collection Femme au chapeau. Happy to say it will be available as an eBook in September! Pre-order price for you is $2.99, until 9/26/16. You can go here to pre-order: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/657130.
Poet Barbara Crooker did a wonderful review of the book on Smartish Pace, mentioning “exquisite figurative language throughout”. She cited my “unusual and surprising subject choices”, such as “the differences between men and women, as revealed in their choice of razors and bathroom accessories (“The Difference”), the unattainable/remote mother (“Piano Lessons,” “Apple Pie Order,” “Laparoscopy,” “Beauty by a Sideboard”), the self-explanatory “Ode to My Purse,” the olfactory genius of dogs (“Dog Sniffing”), the state fish of Hawai’i (“A Pot of Humuhumunukunukuapua’a”), manual typewriters (the hilarious “Ode to a Smith-Corona” which has to be explained by its equally funny end note).”
Best of all, this quintessential ekphrastic poet — check out Crooker’s books, especially her New and Selected — said of my poems about paintings: “Dacus embodies the best of ekphrastic work, which doesn’t merely describe works of art, but responds to them, allows the paintings to take her someplace else, and brings us along with her.”
I’ve been reading around some of my favorite blogs, from Indiana Review’s blog on Five Marks of Oft-Rejected Poems, to Erica Goss at Sticks and Stones writing about the Open Mic Experience (both reader and audience sides). One of the things I LOVE doing as a writer is reading what other writers have to say about their process — whether it’s writing, revising, publishing, reading, promoting, or reading. And this holiday season seems to bring out good reading and writing. Even ideas for gift giving, such as Kelli Russell Agodon’s week-long blog posts about Gifts to Give Writers and Readers (the link is to the post that includes The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems, which is on my holiday wish-list). And the always inspiring Blogalicious by Diane Lockward has an article for poets on how to use prompts — a topic on which Diane is an expert, not only by virtue of her wonderful Poetry Newsletter, but her complex and fascinating book on writing from prompts, The Crafty Poet. It’s a season that makes me want to read more, and of course, want to buy more books!
It’s something only you can give yourself: a space to create, sweet as ripe cherries. To find it, buy it with love for your creative self, wrap it in ethereal sheets of time, and then unwrap it as though you deserve every crinkle of the delicate paper and every silky ribbon of ink. You give yourself permission to NOT write a word. Not even think. To drift, a poet in poet time with the willingness to do absolutely nothing if that’s what comes. To think about writing without necessarily saying anything is permission. Here’s a poem about it from my book Gods of Water and Air.
I’m offering a 10% discount off the Amazon price of Gods of Water and Air during September. Write to me if you want one!
In my purse today: writing conferences, virtual and onsite. While the Associated Writing Programs 2014 Conference rages on in Seattle (the verb is apt), I was on a panel discussion of a wonderful online writing workshop on Facebook. I never left my comfortable chair to go through a security line and drafty airports, but I had the pleasure of conversing with poets from around the country on the topic of the places they write from, and how place influences our work. We came together for a fairly intense day from places as far apart as the California coastline, southern Florida, the upper Midwest, New Jersey, and the Pacific Northwest to discuss the visceral textures and sensory imprints Places have made on us as writers.
I’m going to write more about this wonderful daylong discussion, but for now, I’ll just say I will from now on stop apologizing for writing about my childhood and the ocean. By the way, the AWP site has some great videos of writers talking about their process.
|Purchase Gods of Water and Air|
In book reviews and personal responses to my poetry, readers have revealed to me more about how and why I write than I could have learned through introspection. They’ve also inspired me to write new work. That’s a poem prompt I’ve seen nowhere: “Write a poem based on one reader’s positive comment about your poetry; then revise it based on another reader’s critique.”
Here are some things I learned about my poetic method and content:
* WORK IN LAYERS: “Many of her poems … unfold in delicate layers as one reads on, and with each successive theme she offers the gift of insight, “I toss away/ What I can for a journey into the fault. / But the ground coughs me up. / A shiver and I straighten, /and then again bow/ to all the gods of upheaval.” – Ami Kaye, Pirene’s Fountain, a review of Gods of Water and Air.
* BE PAINTERLY: “In Gods of Water and Air, Rachel Dacus turns a painterly eye onto both the nooks and crannies of our world — ‘hints of rose madder in the cerulean,’ a palm tree’s ‘rigid, rattling arguments’ — and ‘the blue immensity’ that holds us all. — Molly Fisk, author of The More Difficult Beauty and Blow-Drying a Chicken.
* LET SPIRITUAL CONCERNS SHINE THROUGH: “One of the most full-breathed, transfiguring books I have partaken of for a long time.” — personal note from Naomi Shihab Nye after reading my book Earth Lessons.
I always thought I had successfully hidden my urge to transfigure, but it seems, no I didn’t. So I might as well give myself the freedom to write as a spiritual being — that is, someone interested in the life’s layers and epiphanies and doubts informed by a core faith. I really can’t help but write from it.
The biggest thing all reader responses have shown me is that there’s nowhere to hide — a freeing revelation! So thanks for the feedback, comments, and praise, and especially the reviews and critiques. And thanks very much for reading!
|Gods of Water and Air|
Lynn Domina, a poet with three published collections (so she should understand the value of a book review), undertakes a blogging goal that leaves me breathless: reviewing a poetry book every week. Since I can barely make it through reading a book a week, I’m in awe. Not only her productivity, but her eloquence and insight are impressive. These aren’t fluff reviews; they’re the real deal. Lynn’s reviews offer analysis and comment, and are delivered through such finely close reading as to delight any poet intrigued by craft. (What poet isn’t?) She pays close attention form, whether received or nonce, authoritatively analyzing its structure and bringing her own tastes subtly into her analysis. I will be following her weekly reviews.
Because of Lynn Domina’s attention to craft and form, it’s a natural that she should review Diane Lockward’s recent meaty and thought-provoking craft/prompt book, The Crafty Poet. I’ve given this book to poet friends because I believe it to be uniquely suited to stimulate and support the writing of poetry. The prompts in it go deeper than free association, with ideas not just for inspiring but also for shaping the poem. Each craft tip invites the poet to use several devices, with a range of choices in each device. Diane includes sample poems that were written in response to the prompt. I’ve never seen a craft book structured as an anthology.
Disclaimer: I have a poem in the book, so you have to take my rave review with that grain of salt. It was written in response to Diane’s “Craft Tip #26: When the Poem Won’t Show Up.” The tip/prompt makes use of an initial phrase, chosen by you or a group leader, after which you free write for twenty minutes without stopping. Here’s my poem:
I received a great literary Christmas gift among many this year. This one was an offer to include in my daily writing practice an idea suggested by someone else, a launching pass (appropriate for a rocket kid). So today, having a minor stomach bug and needing to rest, I decided to try one and challenge a friend to join me.
This is the prompt for December 26: