Happy National Poetry Month: Some of My Favorite Poetry Collections

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I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t know the first thing about poetry. It’s one of those creative things that I always wished I was good at, but I’m really, really not. I mean, did I write tons and tons of poems about my high school crushes? Of course I did, but that’s about as far as it went. And I took a couple of poetry classes in college, neither of which connected with me because:

A) One of them was taught by a poet who consistently name-dropped, made us buy his newest book, and at one point passed out one of his own poems without his name on it and made us critique it while he just sat there, smirking.
B) One of them involved, like, looking at photos and then making noises, and doing “public poetry” that was a lot more like performance art. Don’t get me wrong, I love stuff like that when other people do it, but there’s a reason I’m a writer and not a performer.

So while I would never pretend to be a poetry expert, I do know what I like. In honor of National Poetry Month, I thought I’d share some of my favorite poetry collections. Some of these are more well-known and some of them are less well-known, but I connected in different ways with all of them

E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1913-1962

When I was in high school I was a big nerd, which won’t surprise you at all. I had an E.E. Cummings poem hanging in my locker. I liked him so much that my senior year English teacher gave me her copy of this book, which was incredibly nice. It’s huge but that didn’t stop nerdy high school me from carrying it around everywhere. I know it’s a pretty big cliche for a girl to like E.E. Cummings, but seriously, there are such good poems here. Like the one that Michael Caine used to flirt with his wife’s sister in Hannah and Her Sisters! Full disclosure: I used an E.E. Cummings poem for a reading at our wedding. If you’re looking for a wedding-appropriate poem, it’s pretty much him or Neruda.

Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day by Nikki Giovanni
I’ve written before about how much I like this book. You can read one of my favorite poems from it, The Rose Bush, here.

Pretty Tilt by Carrie Murphy
Carrie Murphy is a Creative Lady and an absolutely wonderful poet. If you like this blog, you’ll love Carrie’s book Pretty Tilt. It’s all about girlhood, sex, high school, and feelings. So many feelings! You can read more about it here and check out one of my favorite poems from the book on The Hairpin.

Crush by Richard Siken
I’ve told this story on the internet before, but I found Richard Siken’s Crush by total accident. I was wandering through the library at Miami and pulling random books off the shelf, which was a fun way I spent my time when I should’ve been doing something normal. Anyway, I came across Crush, read a poem or two, and immediately thought, “What in God’s name is this wonderful book?” I fell in love with it, read it over and over, and then I made Dan read it. It’s basically a perfect book and you can read one of the poems here.

Strange Light by Derrick C. Brown
Derrick C. Brown opened for Eugene Mirman the last time I saw him, and I was blown away. His poetry’s hard to explain. It’s funny (he was opening for a comedian, after all), but it’s also very serious. I like Strange Light a lot, but his poetry is extra-good when it’s performed. You can watch/listen to A Finger, Two Dots Then Me, but be warned: it will make you feel a lot of things. Fun fact: Derrick C. Brown officiated the wedding of David Cross and Amber Tamblyn! Don’t worry, I can always relate anything back to Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

What about you guys? What are your favorite poetry collections? Let me know!

Creative Ladies: Anne Leigh Parrish

Anne Leigh Parrish, 1

Anne Leigh Parrish is the author of Our Love Could Light the World, as well as many other things. I appreciate that she took time out of her busy schedule to answer my nosy questions about process, inspiration, and book recommendations. You can find Anne on her website, her Facebook page, and on Twitter @AnneLParrish.

Thanks again, Anne! If you’d like to be interviewed for Creative Ladies, just send me an email at welcometoladyville@gmail.com.

What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.

Writing has been my main gig for almost twenty-four years – that’s how long it’s been since I stopped working outside of the home in any capacity, a privilege made possible by my very hard-working husband. Of course, into that mix came two children who are now grown and much more on their own. I juggled child care and writing for quite a while. And then my daughter was diagnosed with a tricky chronic condition that required careful monitoring several times a day. A typical day starts for me around 7:30 a.m. My husband and I both work at home. We read the paper, he walks the dogs, and we repair to our respective offices. At that point, it’s a matter of producing new material or editing old material; promoting myself through Twitter – I have over 10,000 followers now – Facebook, Google + groups, and so on. I usually knock off around 3 to 3:30, though my husband keeps it most days until 5:00. He’s a lawyer, and his time is a lot less flexible than mine. Evenings, I’m willing to admit, are spent in front of the television.

What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?

You know, I don’t have a whole lot, to tell you the truth. Sometimes I can be moved to take an enthusiastic interest in my garden, or in a new recipe, or an art exhibit. I do spend a fair amount of time reading, particularly on my Kindle, which I adore. I’m one of those people who reads a book for a while, then puts it down, starts another book, puts that one down, and returns to the first book. Having a Kindle spares me a tower of books on every table in my house, although there are still plenty of books in every room.

What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.

Life, how people overcome adversity, how they make peace with what cannot be changed. Anything beautiful inspires me, particularly flowers, but also manmade things – my home is full of original art I’ve picked up here and there. I’ve gotten more interested in glass – fused glass, in particular, and the way it catches the light. I suppose that’s a function of living at latitude 47! Seattle is very far north, and our winters are dark.

In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

I try to emphasize elegance, beauty, and balance.

How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?

So often it begins with a scene, two people in a state of conflict or misunderstanding, some sort of strife, real or imagined. From there, everything I write tends to grow organically. I don’t outline. And yes, I stare into space a lot, and play a lot of online solitaire. Then there comes a point of pulling out all the underlying themes and movements in a piece and making sure they’re in sync – or knowing, to my own satisfaction – why they’re not.

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’d have to say the novel I just finished writing, What Is Found, What Is Lost. It was very hard to write, a lot of details to keep track of, since it spans the lives of four generations of women in one family. And after what I thought I had one solid version, I restructured it completely. I’m happy with it now. I hope my readers will be, too.

Anne's desk, which belonged to her grandfather and her father before she inherited it.

Anne’s desk, which belonged to her grandfather and her father before she inherited it.

What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?

Being overeager. I began as a short story writer – and wrote only stories until about 2012. Anyway, the mistake I made was to submit everything I wrote, from the very beginning. This, obviously, led to a huge amount of disappointment, because those early stories weren’t nearly good enough to get published. I was dogged, though, and kept on sending out everything I finished, even as I jumped into another story. The one good thing to that particular madness was that I was able to develop a relationship with a number of editors who took the time to respond to my submissions personally. I learned a lot from their insights.

Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?

I’d have to say Alice Munro. She had no formal education as a writer, in that she didn’t earn the beloved MFA degree (nor did I); she wove writing into the rest of her life, which was largely domestic and consumed with raising children; she took huge literary risks and stretched the reader’s expectations. She was fearless in what she wrote. Unapologetic about her focus on women and women’s lives.

What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I do well right after breakfast. That tends to be a very creative time of day for me. Right after dinner I can be pretty focused, too. I guess I need to have my batteries fully charged in order to be brilliant, or what passes for brilliance in my case.

Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?

I watch a lot of shows on Home and Garden network; anything that has to do with history; old movies. Lots of television, in other words.

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

Well, since I just mentioned her, anything by Alice Munro. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Wolfe. Tiger Moon by Penelope Lively. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.

What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?

Know, at the outset, that writing is hard work and don’t expect it to come easily. Focus on the craft first, and later on what you really want to say. If you don’t hone the skill, the message, however fine and essential, gets lost. Also, I’d say don’t worry too much about what other people say – unless they’re talking specifically about craft. Don’t let people make you feel bad about specific artistic choices you make – they’re your choices, after all. As long as you consciously making them, and not just following a habit, or something you’ve learned to do.

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

When life shoves you around, shove it back.

Wednesday Link Party!

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Happy Wednesday! I hope y’all are having a fantastic week. Chasey was home for break last week, so I spent my weekend hanging out with my family, eating cupcakes, drinking White Russians, and laughing until I couldn’t breathe. The usual. The downside of this is that I WENT TOO HARD (i.e., I talked a lot while my throat was sore) and I completely lost my voice. I mean, I can barely speak at all. I can’t even hum. Feel free to give me any hippie throat remedies–right now I’m drinking a lot of Yogi Throat Comfort tea, drinking water like it’s my job, and avoiding speaking as much as possible. It sort of stinks. Let’s hope that by next Wednesday, I’m back to annoyingly humming along with everything I listen to. On with the links!

Just a little something on Rookie about how the Kardashians are pretty interesting and not all that bad. Honestly, their family dynamic reminds me VERY MUCH of my own. Once H. told me that if my brothers were actually my sisters, we’d be just like the Kardashians. I can’t disagree.

Lemon + Ginger. My faves.

I like Claire Zulkey a lot, and I enjoyed this post about her writing.

MAGIC MIKE 2 IS GOING TO START SHOOTING THIS FALL.

Our Community rewatch is still going strong. Here’s a scene from one of my favorite episodes. It prominently features a Sara Bareilles song because OF COURSE it does.

Helpful: Yogi Principles for Dealing with Anxiety

I deeply enjoyed this discussion on Rookie about class. It’s a subject I think about a lot, and it was super interesting to read the opinions of people who are much smarter than me.

I’m of the opinion that Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream is one of the most sublime pop songs ever written, but I never knew that music theory could actually explain why it’s so perfect. I’m one step closer to isolating the element I love about pop music and then creating the most personal, killer playlist ever.

Y’all read the horoscopes on The Rumpus, right? You’ll like them even if you don’t normally like horoscopes.

Creative Lady Carrie Murphy and Birds of Lace are curating 30 days of poetry in honor of National Poetry Month. Neat!

A great interview with Ruby McNally, last week’s Creative Lady.

Finally, there’s going to be a show about the Manson family starring David Duchovny, because someone in Hollywood is finally LISTENING to me, dammit!

Image via Kelli Trontel

Lady Webseries: ‘Alone, Together’

alone together

One of the best parts of running Welcome to Ladyville is that sometimes cool ladies send me links to their videos. Well, okay, that sounded way creepier than I wanted it to. What I mean is that sometimes people send me links to their awesome, hilarious webseries, which I always love. And then I get to share those webseries with you guys! Bonus!

The latest webseries I’m loving is called Alone, Together. It’s written and created by funny lady Rosa Handelman and it’s about “the ridiculous, petty, honest and dumb things couples do when they’re alone… together.” Here’s the trailer:

You can also check out the very first episode:

I’ll admit that I saw some reflections of my own marriage in there. Am I always trying to get H. to watch things he doesn’t care about while he reads about sports on his phone? Yes. Does my solution to every problem revolve around food, specifically pizza? Yes. Anyway, I really like Alone, Together and I’m excited for the next episode!

This Show is the Best Show: Degrassi Junior High

degrassi junior high

We’re all familiar with Degrassi: The Next Generation, right? It has it all: Emma developing an eating disorder, Manny Santos saying, “I’m gonna be famous!” and, of course, DRAKE. But TNG (as we insiders call it) is NBD compared to a better, much more 80s show called Degrassi Junior High.

I had no business ever watching Degrassi Junior High, seeing as it was made for Canadian youths in the 80s and I was a 22 year old bored college student in 2008. But did I watch it? Well, let’s just put it this way…did Joey Jeremiah have a wonderful hat collection? The answer is yes, in case you didn’t get my deep Degrassi reference. I honestly don’t know why I started watching Degrassi, but once I heard this glorious theme song, it was all over for me. I was hooked.

It is impossible for me to hear that song without imagining Dan singing along with it, which is true for a weird amount of songs (among them, the Gilmore Girls theme song and Mariah Carey’s Touch My Body). Dan, Liz, and I used to watch the Oxford library’s DVD copies of Degrassi in our weird, dark, sort-of-shitty apartment and it was a glorious time. In retrospect, I think I probably should’ve been doing homework or, like, going to parties, but neither of those activities were “my thing.” Clearly “my thing” was watching Canadian dramas and eating Totino’s party pizzas like a cool person.

Why is Degrassi so great? Pretend you’re on Buzzfeed for a second (you wish) and let me make you a list. Maybe I’ll throw in some GIFs if you’re lucky.

1. THE NAMES. There are characters named Spike, Snake, Joey Jeremiah, and Wheels.

This is a normal hair day for Spike because she is awesome.

This is a normal hair day for Spike because she is awesome.

2. There is a band called Zit Remedy.

See? I promised GIFs.

See? I promised GIFs.

3. This is Zit Remedy’s biggest song. This might be their only song.

That clip is actually from Degrassi High, when the group renamed themselves The Zits (much more grown up). Good luck getting “take your mon-ay!” out of your head. You can’t! It’s stuck there forever! This song is permanently lodged in my brain and I feel compelled to tell strangers that “the one and oooonly Zit Reeemedy is here!” at random intervals. This is my life now.

4. Joey Jeremiah and Kaitlin had a torrid relationship.

The Kim and Kanye of their time.

The Kim and Kanye of their time.

5. Legit drama.
You know how TNG’s slogan was “It Goes There”? Well, Degrassi Junior High really went there, and sometimes “there” was weird, uncomfortable, and not allowed on Canadian television in the late 80s. The episode where a substitute teacher hits on Lucy is so legitimately creepy that I still think about it all the time. Also, when I was researching (Googling) Degrassi facts, I came across a page of Wheels trivia that said he was “the first character to almost get molested in a car” and “the first character to be kicked out of his home and then move into a friends house.” Proof that bad shit is happening constantly at Degrassi Junior High. Wheels may have been the first, but in both situations, he was certainly not the last.

6. The clothes.

Drake just wishes he looked half as cool as Lucy.

Drake just wishes he looked half as cool as Lucy.

7. Sorry, did I mention Joey Jeremiah?
joey jeremiah

At the end of Degrassi Junior High, the school burns down. Yes, you read that right. They ended the show on a real cliffhanger. The school was literally ON FIRE as the credits rolled. Of course, everyone’s adventures continued in Degrassi High, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. I graduated from college, I wasn’t in that weird dark apartment with the neighbor across the courtyard who would play “When You Were Young” on Guitar Hero with his door open so that even now I can’t hear that song without thinking of plastic keys gnashing, and it just seemed wrong. But maybe someday, when I don’t think I can make it, don’t think I can take it, wonder what I’m gonna do, I’ll look around and see that someone’s smiling right at me. And that someone will be Degrassi High, and I’ll get to see that Zits video in context. Maybe someday.