Saturday, October 31, 2009

Literary Reviews

Though I have no list to order what I ought to do next in terms my "writing career," I am now on step two or three, theoretically. Today I submitted my work to some literary reviews, in order to get my rejections out of the way. I did the Ampersand Review and the Ward 6 Review. Though most reviews allow you to submit up to five poems, I decided to only submit three: "approaching Lost," "Muse," and "Owning" (formally named "Firsts"). In retrospect, I should have included "Willing Back Grandmother" but I was concerned about bearing my work with too much melancholy material, especially since "approaching Lost" is so gritty and bleak . I didn't want the reviewers to think of me as morbid or overtly sexual. But that's the issue with poems, they are what they are and not the sum total of their maker. It's still always a little unnerving when you have to share your poetry with others without them making some sort of snapshot of you based on thethings you say in your work. It is for this reason that I am of the camp that believes poetry stands aside from its creator.
Poets & Writers (http://www.pw.org) has a catalogue of reviews for budding and professional writers alike. I wasn't able to rifle through them all but I did enough research on the two I submitted to to be confident of my submissions. Although the Ampersand Review was so hilarious I thought I ought to submit a more funny poem. Maybe. I decided to send them a poem with ampersands instead, hopefully that counts for something in addition to the fact that I think it's a damn good poem. Either way, they're the final say. And as stated before, I'm simply getting my letters of rejection out of the way. Perhaps if these three do not work, next time I'll try writing something funnier.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How You Like These Apples?

I discovered an interesting poet on CaveCanemPoets.org
whose primarily subject matter is religion. It strikes me because of the way she captures it; though Lauren Kizi-Ann Alleyne writes free verse, she does best with structures of her own making. In truth, anyone that can write within the confines of a set format, whether traditional or self-made, and still relay something as powerful and full as Allenye does is inspiring. I struggle with format more than benefit from it. Sometimes, I start a poem anticipating it a sonnet, pantoum, or villanelle and get completely lost in the rules of the format and as a result the subject matter suffers. That's one of the reasons I am so in awe of this lady. To talk of a such a loaded topic as religion and frame it so well is a good bit of skill and talent.

Allenye is an islander; she was raised in the twin republic of Trinidad and Tobago, another one of the reasons why I like her. In 2002, she received her Master's in Creative Writing from Iowa State University; and in 2008, she received her MFA in Creative Writing and Graduate Certification in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality from Cornell University. She has been published in The Caribbean Writer, The Banyan Review, the Black Arts Quarterly to name a few. In 2003, she was declared winner of Altantic Monthly's Student Writing Contest among other honors. She is now a visiting assistant professor at Hobart and William Smith College in Geneva, New York. I am going to include three of my favorites: "Fear and Trembling, "Ash Wednesday," and "Taste of Apples." Enjoy!


Fear and Trembling
-- After Kierkegaard
Lauren K. Allenye

And there are many ways to come undone
—some more exquisite than others. Ask Eve,
she will tell you apple-lust unwrapped her
left her cold and with a word for shiver.
Lot's wife is witness that a backward glance
is enough—nostalgia pillared her. But,
I imagine the somewhat greater deeds:
picture the Red Sea unstitched like a braid;
the lion's den, its many hungry mouths;
Isaac's bewildered screams: why, daddy, why?
And what terrible choice to peel back doubt
like a bandage, without question or lack
to say Here am I, to renounce relief:
step in, seize the knife, and to know belief.


Ash Wednesday
Lauren K. Allenye

This is where the journey begins: at the end
of a thumb blackened: imprinted: set apart:
sacrificial: hairshirted: mea culpa & I'm sorry,
Lord, so sorry: surrender: reconciliation: a pact:
the body reviled: the body denied: the body
transformed to holy hunger: the temple
sealed for a necessary restoration: gutted:
these the stripes: this the desert: the constant
question/confession: despair: this is where
the journey begins: on the knees: supplicant:
eyes desperately shut: give me a sign:
& is this even prayer: I mourn a simpler faith:
the mustard seed: the certainty of ashes: mass
the sun piercing the window: its stained glass


The Taste Of Apples
Lauren K. Allenye

These days there is speculation; they say it was not an apple Eve held to Adam’s mouth
and ground against his teeth; it was a fig, they say,

maybe a mango, perhaps a pomegranate, a plum – fruit more exotic and tempting,
more worthy of the Fall. I know apples, polished

skin like blood like wine like war binding tight the white flesh, the black pits
pressed into the narrow center sleeping like sin like sex

like hunger. They say Paradise was tropical, filled with sultry days and balmy nights
too unlike the chill autumn winds needed for apples

to thrive, to come to full fruit. They say it comes down to the geographic impossibility.
I know apples, the way the taste of them knots

the tongue in thick accents, the sandy bite, the sharp sound of separation and the jagged hole
it leaves, the tempered flow of juice of tears of sweetness.

They still say that Eve should have known better, been wiser; should never have strayed,
or disobeyed her creator’s command. But I know apples –

the way the first bite sticks in the throat, the dark rush of knowing, the heady flavor,
the echo of the serpent’s hiss, saying taste, taste and see.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

muse's monologue 1

muse's monologue

"what do you like ba(b)y? cigarello sweets or dull weed?

i have something to confess. i come faster than the

average woman. only be afraid if you can't swim. (haha).

i also may get lost in the music but not lost like can't find

my way lost like time runs faster than my eyes can capture

or darkness flapping its wideness down. something about

your love feels like the rubberiness of cartilage. i don't think

i like it. there is something barbaric about sadness. the sounds like

wailing, bawling, thrusting deep undercurrent to the warmer

things you say. i am holding love in the pitch dark of my eyeballs. few

notice it there. it is a good hiding place. love is an party invitation

i have often not rsvped to. i am a woman who touches herself often

if the right music is playing. will you play the right music for me? do you

know the minnie riperton song 'inside my love' where she belts for

like a minute straight? can you make me come so good i sound like that?"

Friday, October 9, 2009

Relative Sickness

In a poetry workshop, we received a prompt to write a poem about an object. I chose a necklace my father gave me and it became a poem entirely about my feelings about him. Looking back it was not a very good poem, though it was replete with all the techniques I'd learned: concrete imagery, voice, dialgoue, suitable format -- more or less. Perhaps it was all too much. My feelings were much stronger in my mind than my amatuer attempts to demonstrate them, or so I thought. When I look over it now, I recognize them as my feelings, but something about the experience with my father has changed. We have not become any closer or more distant, rather I've moved past anger to resentment, a path leading to indifference. I don't want half-hearted people around me. I want to forgive him but it is hard for me to care. It's a gash that for too long has gone undressed. I often feel that resentment towards an absent father is such a cliche, and another reason why I ought to give up my anger. Still I think this sort of hurt has contributed to the individual I am, and not necessarily in a bad way. I would like to think that I am not the only victim in our relationship. So long as I carry on without a care for my father, it is something deep down that I want, that makes me feel better.
When I discovered PoetsOnline (which has a blogspot to accompany their site) I had to revisit the topic of my father again. Their prompt for the month of October is about sons and daughters or mothers and fathers. I decided to write about my father again. He is the subject of "Relative Sickness." I wish that I could write about my mother but I feel -- and this is probably a terrible thing to admit but true nonetheless -- that I have no strong feelings positive or negative that would drive me to write about her. I appreciate all the love she gives me and care and consideration but there is nothing in her character that intrigues, or bothers me to a point that I would seek to immortalize or verbalize it in my poetry. Perhaps that is more of a reason why I should continue to try.
I will submit my work to their site for the month of October after a few more hours of workshopping, hopefully they accept. The deadline for submissions is November 1. I suggest anyone else out there in cyberspace payng attention to me blog, submit a poem to the site as well. Until then, this is what I've done so far. For more information on PoetsOnline, check out their website at poetsonline.org or their blog at poetsonline.blogspot.com.



Relative Sickness


I want your absence something forgiveable

like a day spent at home because you're sick

the whites of eyes cracking into redness

from the body’s racking itself to sleeplessness,

the eyelids only slightly parted,

the mucus seeming to multiply,

the perimeter of face marked with sweat,

the muscles of the stomach wickedly pulsating,

the nausea rising its mashed tawny and pink bile of yesterday's eaten,

the constriction of the throat,

the swelled scarlet tonsils,

the hacking thrusting the clammed head forward,

then the driness, the voice scratched and unfamilar sounding,

and the room warped after lying still so long.



This material is copyrighted. Small quotes or citations are permissible with the permission of the author. Any attempt to reproduce the above material will indefinitely result in lawsuit.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Draft 1: Summer Short-Short

Summer

It was summer -- I know because it was the only time I ever visited my Uncle Menas and his wife Etta. I imagine that with names so glittered, they were destined for a wooden stage in a shadowy blues night club with old-fashioned microphones like the ones Sinatra would sweep from left to right. Aunt Etta would come out in a crimson bedazzled dress fluttering out down about her ankles; and she would sing a song much richer than her own voice could do justice. The crowd would find the contrast savagely melancholy and her voice, raspy from years of smoking away her nervousness and paranoia, would bump up against the most human parts of your divinity. Uncle Menas would sit behind her, wrenching the tunes from the tight strings they were locked in, all the while with his eyes closed, his whole body transfixed in its duty of medium for the melody streaming out.Together they would pitch the little blues club, perhaps with a name like Starlite, back and forth between dysphoria and delight.

The actual life of Uncle Menas and Aunt Etta could not begin to live up to my elaborate fantasy. My uncle worked as a television cable installer and my aunt, if I am remembering correctly, had no job at all. Still, I can scarcely recall her ever being at home. On the morning of her funeral, I would hear my mother and her sisters talking about the fact of her being a druggie and a thief. I remember her as a woman that would have been pretty except for some thing was always awkward. Her lips were very dark, and she sought to enhance this by wearing even darker lipstick, mauve was her favorite. Being that her lips were also large and in a permanent frown, her mouth seemed to me like that of a clown. Her skin was smooth and all one color, I can't recall a birthmark, scar, mole or blemish anywhere on her, at least the parts I saw. And she was always rubbing herself down with something: sweet smelling lotions, oils, creams. Her skin shone everytime she stepped outside into the fierce light of the summer sun.

At the end of the school year, my aunt and uncle would choose which of their siblings' children, which wasn't many, would come stay at their house for the summer. This particular summer there were five of us; Drew, Uncle Menas' son from a previous relationship; Dale, Aunt Etta's son from an abusive relationship; Charmain, my Aunt Karen's (Uncle Menas' sister) excessly prissy daughter; and Kadiann, Aunt Karen's other daughter, who I suppose to polarize Charmain was by nature a tomboy. We are all various ages, I was 13, Drew was 12, Dale was 16, Charmain was 14, and Kadiann was 13.

I did not get along with Charmain, in fact no one got along with Charmain, save for her sister and that was only half of the time. Drew, Dale, and Kadiann spent most of the time playing video games in the basement which was where all of us would rather be. It was an entertainment center set apart from the rest of the house, you could be as loud as you wanted without disturbing anyone upstairs, which was especially great at night because we stayed up until three in the morning almost every night yelling back and forth and laughing. The basement had a miniature fridge, a bathroom, stereo, and the home computer. Drew, Dale, and Kadiann hardly ever left from down there. They hogged everything, especially Dale, I didn't care so much about using the television because I could always watch television upstairs in another room but I could never use the computer. Dale was always instant messaging girls and fussing at anyone trying to use it.

I was always the odd ball, or so I felt. Of course Charmain was on her own as well but that was because she choose to isolate her herself. Everyday she would get up and go sit out on the porch with a radio Uncle Menas gave her and listen to music and paint her nails all day long. I realized towards the end of the summer that she did indeed make friends, with the guys stomping up and down our block many years her junior. Charmain was pretty, in a monotonous way. She had fair skin, light brown hair, which she styled as adult-like as possible. Sometimes Aunt Etta, if she were home, would offer to curl or krimp her hair. She offered to do me as well but I just remember looking awkward. Charmain had the eyes of a feline, green and maple swirling together. If she happened to style her hair with enough gel that her hair appeared darker, her eyes would become hypnotic, commanding attention away from any and everything around. Charmain was a very well developed 14-year old. She flaunted about in short shorts and midriffs. Somedays, she'd sun bath on the porch in her bikini flipping through a magazine with her sun glasses about her head.


Workshop/Further Revision

Questions for revision include whose story it should be, Aunt Etta's, Charmain's or the narrator's? As of now, everyone seems to be competing to be the prime focus of the short. Is there a way to mesh or relate their stories beyond the fact of everyone sharing a summer together? Also, the title, I am well aware it sucks what to do with it is the question. I thought I might call it Aunt Etta, if it were her story, if it were Charmain's or the storyteller's I'm not so certain. Perhaps if I continue writing with Aunt Etta as the focus, at least that would take care of two things.