Posts Tagged: poetry

Happy National Poetry Month: Some of My Favorite Poetry Collections

pretty tilt
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: Gina Abelkop

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I’m so excited to feature Creative Lady Gina Abelkop on the blog today. She’s a writer who also runs a DIY feminist press. She took the time to talk to me about her process, her inspirations, and her role models. I really loved her advice for other creative ladies. Thanks to Gina for the interview! You can find her on her blog, at Birds of Lace, and on Twitter @themoonstop. And remember that I’m always on the lookout for Creative Ladies! If you’d like to be interviewed, email me 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.

My main creative endeavor is writing (poetry, prose, something in-between), but my day job is in circulations & marketing for an institutionally-funded literary journal. A normal work day involves me getting up at 6:15am, blearily reading some of the internet before work, and then getting to my desk at work at 8am. From then until 5pm I’m on Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook for my day job as well as doing other things that would be uninteresting to write about here. When I get home, if I have the will/energy, I’ll sit down with some poems I’ve written and edit, or work on a current project which involves creating poems out of mixed-up interviews from one of my favorite artists; I’m also working on tiny poems that respond to her sculptures and paintings. My creative time happens in starts and spurts throughout any given day with not much of a schedule to it.

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

I run Birds of Lace, a DIY feminist press that I founded in 2005. I do layout (by paper & scissors, still!), design, photocopying & mailing of chapbooks by exciting writers whose words I love. This year I’m printing all the chapbooks and broadsides with a letterpress, which is really exciting! I’m enrolled in an 8-week letterpress class at a local studio, in which I will learn the ins-n-outs of letterpress while also having access to their equipments and ink. I also love making collaged postcards to send to friends far and wide, and have also made wire-wrapped jewelry, created linocut prints and built funny objects out of whatever’s around just for the fun of it. The older I get the lazier I get (sad but true), but I also love creating glamorous encounters on my own body via make up/clothing/hair etc. Additionally, I co-edit Finery, the online journal-arm of Birds of Lace, with Carrie Murphy, so I’m often reading submissions.

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

Lately it’s been the following, a mix of all-time favorites and current obsessions:

Visually: The Flintstones, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Rachel Feinstein’s paintings & sculptures, the Yuba River (specifically Edward’s Crossing), Utah desert, the Italian film ‘The Great Beauty,’ Pedro Almadovar’s ‘I’m So Excited!’ (specifically a choreographed dance routine scene), the ocean, dank/overgrown forests
Sonically: Blood Orange, Sky Ferreira, Dum Dum Girls, Four Tops, Tori Amos, Joanna Newsom, Erykah Badu, a local radio station called EZ FM that plays lots of swoony ’50s ballads, Rufus Wainwright, Beyonce, Marina & the Diamonds, Rasputina, Sly & the Family Stone, Dixie Chicks
Words: Alfred Starr Hamilton, Danielle Pafunda, Lucas de Lima, Anna Joy Springer, Carrie Murphy, James Baldwin, Willa Cather, Emily Dickinson, Jennifer Tamayo, Magdalena Zurawski, Tavi Gevinson

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In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

fetid, femme, uncomfortably-bright

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

I’ve never been very good at structuring my creative time, so I generally just work when I feel moved to work. Staring into space happens for sure, and also being sidelined by a song or video or my dog or a tabloid story. So far my timeline for producing a poetry manuscript seems to be about three years, and during those years traveling, seeing live music, going to museums, swimming in natural bodies of water, dancing with friends and various other activities inform the way I write and what I write about.

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

Birds of Lace is the thing I’m most proud of and find the most easy joy in. I’m proud of the friendships that have happened via BoL, the networking of like-minded feminist artists, a loose knit community of sorts. I’m proud to be a part of something that helps proliferate voices and words I find absolutely necessary, both pleasurable and useful for living. I’m proud of the writers whose work I get to publish and I’m proud to offer a space for writing that may have trouble finding a home elsewhere due to being too messy/emotional/gross/psychotic.

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

Oh gosh. I fail and embarrass myself all the time in my writing, but thankfully it’s rarely public. There are old poems of mine online that I wish weren’t there anymore, which has taught me that a.) one is always rapidly changing their feelings about work they make and b.) not to rush into publishing new work. A creative challenge that ended up being really empowering was making a short video for the release of my book Darling Beastlettes. I’d never made anything with video before and totally winged it– created the music by using a tape player to record music looped on my record player, and had the tape playing live as I shot the video, and also asked a friend to play improvised piano behind me when we shot in her bedroom. Enlisted the help of another a friend and built a backdrop in her yard, made fake blood from a recipe off the internet. Then used iMovie to edit which was incredible– I’d never used it before and it was SO EASY. To feel like you could just do this thing you’d never done before and didn’t know the first thing about doing: yes! Make it up as you go along. It doesn’t have to look “professional”, it just has to look like you made it.

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

My friends are totally my heroes. To name a few: Elizabeth who just worked her ass off for several years to become a nurse, Aerin who created Praxis, a community space in San Francisco, Carrie Murphy who doulas and writes and lives with an honesty and sincerity that knock me out, Rhani who offers free queer & trans yoga classes in her apt. Juliet Cook & Margaret Bashaar & Kristy Bowen & Gina Myers & Danielle Dutton & Susanna Gardner & Belladonna* collective & Roxane Gay & JD Scott & Shanna Compton & Joyelle McSweeney & Kimberly Ann Southwick & all the magical others who run indie/DIY presses/journals for wayward words. Joanna Newsom, Laverne Cox, Marina Diamandis, Kate Bush, Annie Clark, Erykah Badu, Carey Mulligan, Rachel Feinstein, Jane Campion, Sarah Silverman: all famous-type folks who make work I find vital to my ability to keep believing in and loving this world.

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

Definitely night time. My ideal schedule would involve going to bed at 2am and waking up closer to 11, as I enjoy staying up and putting a movie on while I bind chapbooks/collage/look through magazines and books for inspiration, write along to music etc. As it stands I generally try to be asleep by 11/11:30 since I get up around 6am, so I’m learning to adjust my creative time-clock!

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

Walks with my sweetheart & dogs, naps, movies, teevee shows, dancing, reading, vaccuming (ha! but seriously), swimming when it’s the right season, reading lots of trash and not-trash on the internet.

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

The Vicious Red Relic, Love by Anna Joy Springer (for combining so many written/visual forms)

Lorna Simpson’s photography monograph (for mind-alteringly brilliant photographs that tell wild, important stories)

It’s So Magic by Lynda Barry (to restore your faith in humanity when you need to)

Collected Essays by James Baldwin (Baldwin teaches me how to live in a world that is terrible and difficult and beautiful)

Dance Dance Revolution by Cathy Park Hong (an example of how one can create a world totally their own– make your own rules)

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown (non-didactic self-help to learn how to live with less shame about who you are)

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

Do it! Do it however you can/would like to. Photocopy zines, start an online journal, make videos with your shitty camera, collage using discarded magazines, start a press, write write write. You don’t have to show anything to anyone if you don’t want to: keep it locked up in your room or post it online, whatever feels right. Ask to trade your zine with people you admire. Write letters to people you admire/appreciate. Nothing has to look or read or feel a certain way. You need very little to write: pen & paper. Send postcards with tiny poems on them. Make beautiful meals for yourself and your friends. There are so very many ways to be creative and all of them are important and often fun and gratifying (though also often difficult and/or frustrating). Appreciate your creativity and the ways it contributes to the world; appreciate the many creativities of others and try and let that be generative for you too. Be a part of the exchange of creative energy in this world.

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

It’s a long one, and less a motto than words to live by but:

“Art has to be a kind of confession. I don’t mean a true confession in the sense of that dreary magazine. The effort it seems to me, is: if you can examine and face your life, you can discover the terms with which you are connected to other lives, and they can discover them, too — the terms with which they are connected to other people. This has happened to every one of us, I’m sure. You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discovered it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that they are alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important. Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to them from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it. This is irreducible. And it’s true for everybody. Now, it is true that the nature of society is to create, among its citizens, an illusion of safety; but it is also absolutely true that the safety is always necessarily an illusion. Artists are here to disturb the peace. They have to disturb the peace. Otherwise, chaos.” –James Baldwin

Photos by Keith Aguiar

Creative Ladies: Erin Dorney

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Erin Dorney is a poet and librarian who also loves to embroider and make collages. Basically, she is living a creative dream life, and I’m super excited to feature her interview today. Erin talked to me about her daily routine, her creative processes, what she does to relax, and more. She also talks about the visual interview series she and her organization The Triangle started, and it’s such a cool idea that I’m sort of jealous I didn’t think of it. You can find Erin on her website, on Tumblr, on Twitter @edorney, and on The Triangle.

What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)?

My nine-to-five job is as an academic librarian, a position which actually gives me a lot of creative license. I do marketing and outreach for our library and am always trying to find unique ways to reach out to college students and expose them to new ways of thinking.

I’m also a poet, which I would consider my main creative gig. I’ve have had work published a few places and am currently working on a couple of chapbook manuscripts. In my writer capacity, I co-founded an organization called The Triangle. We host and promote literary events in southcentral Pennsylvania and publish interviews and reviews on our website.

Describe what you do on a normal working day.

I typically work 7-8 hours a day at the university. My actual schedule varies based on the meetings and appointments I have. I am really lucky to have a lot of flexibility in my hours.

When I’m done being a librarian I get to work on my creative writing and other projects. I don’t have a habit of writing every single day. If I feel in the mood to write I will, and if not I take care of logistics stuff for The Triangle (answering emails, event planning, arranging interviews, etc.). Sometimes through that sort of work I come across something (or someone) online that inspires me and I’ll go back to writing or revising my own work. It’s very fluid. I also workshop writing that my friends have shared with me and give them feedback about my reaction as a reader, things I like, things they might consider revising, etc. I really enjoy the process of editing.

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

I’m learning how to embroider right now, which is fun and challenging. I haven’t done any sort of sewing since high school. I also love making collages and recently submitted some of my work for a local juried art show. I haven’t heard back yet (and I also don’t really know how juried shows work) but I’ve got my fingers crossed! I also dabble in graphic design, creating posters and things for The Triangle.

Some of Erin's embroidery

Some of Erin’s embroidery

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

Being near large bodies of water. Creating alongside or in collaboration with other people. People’s Instagram feeds.

In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

I asked my friend Rose to answer this question and she said: “Deep, comfortable, simplicity.” I think that is incredibly kind of her and sums things up pretty well.

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

My ideal creative process for poetry would be:
Do handwritten freewriting and other prompts with a group of people. There is something about writing while other people are writing next to me that really helps my best work emerge. A lot of the work I’ve had published was born during writing workshops.
Type up my notes and shape them into poems in a massive Google Doc I have shared with a few writer friends. They leave comments in the doc if they feel so moved and then I revise the poem until I think it’s ready to be shared with the world.

That process is ideal and doesn’t always work out. When I’m by myself and have trouble getting started I often turn to blackout/erasure poetry. I’ve been doing it for about a year now and it’s a great way to get unstuck. Basically you take a text (anything—newspaper article, page of a book, text return, brochure from the doctor’s office) and cross out words with a black marker. The remaining words make your poem. There are a couple of literary journals that publish this type of work, including The Found Poetry Review, where my blackout poem “Clues” (created from an ornithology textbook page) is being published this spring.

Blackout poetry

Blackout poetry

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

The Triangle just launched a monthly visual interview series where we send a disposable camera to a writer a disposable camera and a list of ideas to photograph along with a few short questions. Once the camera is mailed back, we develop the photos and arrange them collage style to give you a unique glimpse into the life of the writer we’ve selected. We’ve done two so far and I was responsible for selecting the images, arranging them, and incorporating the quotes. The series has gotten great reception and I really feel like we’re doing something unique to showcase writers in a non-textual way.

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

I’ve gotten a bunch of rejections from literary journals, which was really hard to take at first. I’m not really embarassed by it, but it taught me the importance of research and perseverance. Poem rejections aren’t personal, it’s just a matter of timing and fit.

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

Meghan Prichard is my best friend and a poet I look up to. She’s always been there for me to bounce ideas off of and I love her dearly.

Alyssa Giannini of Craft or DIY has introduced me to a new world of DIY/DIT creativity including crafternoons and zines.

Kara Haupt’s work astounds me. Um, Lindsay Bottos… swoon.

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

I’m definitely more of a night owl. I live by myself and keep all kinds of weird hours. Sometimes I’m up until 1 AM, which doesn’t seems that late until the next morning when you’re trying to get to work on time! Coffee helps. And I love naps.

Erin's workspace

Erin’s workspace

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

Haha, naps! I like to poke around outside—go on hikes or explore parks. I’m always collecting pretty stones, feathers, and leaves. I watch television on my laptop (Girls, currently, with Seinfeld and Chopped as my standbys). I read a lot…just finished an amazing book of stories by Lindsay Hunter called Don’t Kiss Me. I love to cook but I’m not very good at it yet… I can make a decent quiche, and my soup game is pretty strong.
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What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind is a collection of wisdom from 20 creative professionals, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei and published by 99U. Aesthetically, it’s beautiful, and the content is both practical and inspirational.

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

Always accept opportunities to do things you’ve never done before. If that scares you, even better. Practice sweat acceptance. Teach someone to create.

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

Be kind, make stuff, and smile.

Lady Poem: The Rose Bush by Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni
After Rookie wrote about Nikki Giovanni’s Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, it only took me a hot minute to order it. I haven’t even had a chance to read the whole book yet, but when I flipped it open the first poem I read punched me in the gut. It’s great, she’s great, I can’t wait to read the whole book.

The Rose Bush

i know i haven’t grown but
i don’t fit beneath the rose
bush by my grandmother’s porch

i couldn’t have grown so much though
i don’t see why the back of the couch
doesn’t hide me from my sister

the lightning that would flash
on summer days brought shouts
of you children be still        the lightning’s
gonna get you

we laughed my cousins and sister and i
at the foolish old people
and their backward superstitions
though lightning struck me
in new york city
and i ran
to or from what        i’m not sure
but i was hit
and now i don’t fit
beneath the rose bushes
anymore
anyway        they’re gone

Lady Inspiration: Sylvia Plath

I found this amazing drawing, uncredited, on Pinterest, but I recognized the style and knew it was by Summer Pierre (an amazing artist/writer who I love!):

If you’re a woman with an English degree (i.e., me), you probably love Sylvia Plath. I used to write long, overdramatic journal entries and quote her poems to describe relationships that ultimately meant nothing. Such is life! She’s great, I love her, and everything she wrote was golden. What I like best about Sylvia is that she’s very female. I’ve written before about a type of aggressive femininity that tends to appeal only to women, and that’s what Sylvia has. It’s something I also see in artists as disparate as Dolly Parton and Fiona Apple. These are women who make their femaleness the center of their work, but not necessarily in a way that appeals to the male gaze.

Here’s a quote from Sylvia herself that describes the writing process perfectly:

(If I knew where this came from, I’d tell you)