March 28, 2012

The Poetry of Place: Northern Minnesota

I search for poetry that rises from the roots, flows like the winding St Louis River to Lake Superior, and surges inside, wave against wave. I search for moments of the past that cast their light upon the hands. It is in the body, visceral and geologic, in the stones broken for mineral deposits, in the cities on ice. It is in the scent of wintergreen and yarrow. I search for the knock and echo of the pileated woodpecker, the call of the bittern and the Canadian goose. In the hidden things, the just whelped wolf pups playing amid the tangle of shadow and light, the endless roads taken by the wild and civilized or the wind, in the encounters and surprises, in breath and word, I find my music.

Writing about place offers poets the opportunity to explore stories that are layered and deep. There is a wisdom in the landscape and secrets spoken without our knowing. Writing that begins or ends with the land is a way to ground ourselves, hold to the elemental and enduring, and access the part of history or heritage right before us. "The Blessing" by James Wright begins:

March 19, 2012

Resources for Poets

Here are some useful links for poets. The databases offer listings of places that publish poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.  Other resources I've listed provide information about opportunities, grants, conferences, classes and literary events.  The last links are specific to Minnesota poets.  Check Poets & Writers and AWP if you live elsewhere.  

Databases of Literary Magazines

This database lists over 4000 markets for fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Its features include a submission tracker and weekly email that let's you know what's new and what's no longer available. It's free, but they do ask for donations.

Poets & Writers:
The website features a database of literary magazines (over 700). Poets & Writers is a good resource for writers; it features articles about writers and writing, presses, and it also has useful information about deadlines for contests, calls for submissions, and writer's conferences.*
Directory of CLMP Member Publishers
CLMP stands for Council of Literary Magazines and Publishers. Basically, this is a resource for literary magazines and publishers, but this list of members will guide you to several member/ publishers who are committed to independent publishing and quality programs.
Resources for Information and Support
This website offers profiles of Minnesota artists and writers, opportunities, a calendar of events, and calls for proposals.  You can set up your own profile and post your events.
Lake Superior Writers:
This is the Duluth writer's organization that supports literary arts. The Duluth Poet Laureate program, classes, contests and information is available for members ($30)
The Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis
This organization offers classes, mentors and literary events.  They administer the McKnight Fellowship grants and other contests like the Loft Mentor Award.  Membership is about $60 for out-state members (now it appears you can donate smaller amounts and be considered a member).
Association of Writers and Writers Programs (AWP)
This national organization connects writers and writing programs. Membership (individual one year is $65) gives you access to a magazine, calendar, articles, and resources. AWP has an annual conference and book fair.   
New Pages
This website is useful for writers. It has listings of literary magazines, calls for submission, reviews of literary magazines and books, and interesting links.   
Moving Poems
This website features "best of the web" videopoetry.   
Poetry Websites:
The Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary
organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience.
The Academy of American Poets
This website offers a listing of poets, poetry, essays about teaching and writing, interviews, and other useful information.   
Arts Funding in Minnesota

Arrowhead Regional Arts Council 
to see the listing of all the Regional Arts Councils
The ARAC serves the Arrowhead region of Minnesota.  It awards grants for individual artists and organizations. See the website for application guidelines and deadlines. 
Minnesota State Arts Board
MSAB is our state agency that promotes and help develop the arts.  See the website for individual and organizational grant opportunities and deadlines. 

March 12, 2012

New Worlds

"Speak a new language so that the world will be a new world."  Rumi

Once in awhile, a few words can rise like a wave and break. Like these. I heard them on the radio, an interview by Krista Tippett on NPR: "The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi with Fatemeh Keshavarz."

As a poet, I consider the craft and vision of this sentence.  So few words, and two are repeated: new and world. It's written as a command: speak a new language! There's cause and effect, departure and arrival; there is an authority in the voice, a knowing, a mystery.  Somehow, like a wave that breaks on the beach and bounces back, the words fall back, rearrange themselves in my mind.  These are words translated, a world translated.

Keshavarz was speaking about Iran, but this applies to many things.  She also uses the poem in such a way that it rises and breaks like a wave and then meets other waves in a back wash.  It is often the case that poetry has this sort of resonance.  Keshavarz said:

"Language can take over our lives and make us not see things. He [Rumi] actually has a fabulous verse, he says (Persian spoken). "Speak a new language so that the world will be a new world." I mean this is the most sophisticated, philosophical approach to language. Now we talk of language as being constitutive of experience, but that's exactly what he said. You know, 'get yourself a new language and then you will be able to see a new world.' So that the world will be a new world, speak a new language. The world will be a new world, so speak a new language.  Speak so the world will be new.  Speak!  It is what the world needs."

Of course, we are born into a language that we grow up speaking. Besides learning another tongue, I think Rumi is also talking about discovering the untried in one's own language:  new words in new places.

Next time you are working on a poem, try this.  Get a dictionary, or use the lingo from a particular field of study or work (think of boats, technologies, specialized fields of knowledge), or reach into your own history to find the interesting phrases or foreign words that came into your life.  Think about the unique ways that we talk in church, in a medical facility, in a math class, to a lover, or to an authority. Try transferring that to another context.  Get out of the rut of the usual and expected things, and try the unexpected.

Random or aleotropic techniques can help you break out of a tired pattern.  Look up the noun or verb that you want to change, count down seven words in the dictionary and try that word. Collect words from the eleventh line and fifth word in from any book and use them to make a poem.  Close your eyes and let your finger fall onto a page of the Bible, a cookbook, a repair manual, a dictionary, or a newspaper.  Take that word and make a poem.  Make a poem by collage.  Make a poem that names seven different shades of a color.  Experiment.

Language is a sea that we navigate. See if you can find a new shore.  

To listen to the interview between Krista Tippett and Fatemeh Keshavarz, go to