Rachel Dacus's Blog, page 4

April 25, 2014

Writing a Poem with Monet
It’s April and I’m growing green, but bills cover my desk.The money in my check book dazzleslike the mineral caves carved by the surf at Pourville, where Monet stood at his easel to paint thundering waves.
I sign my check in the lower right as artists will, re-total the balance and turn up a new one. Diamonds a mile down in Monet’s sea crack, chip, and erode. A crash.The hissing wave spreads geodes on the sand.I cross-hatch a sketch on the “payee” line.
Monet painted in a hurry. Maybe I should writemyself broke quicker. I scrawl a verse on “amount.” On “date” I riddle time. Another smash. More gems float away, twinkling,
and my ledger’s full of emptiness, dark water tipped by snowy zeros. A few more lines and I’m emptied out, thinking of Monet
as I lick stamps, close envelopes, and face the slack tide. Here’s a new swell and surge. There’s the pen, glowing in shifting, pastel light.
~ from Gods of Water and Air (Aldrich Press, 2013)
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Published on April 25, 2014 09:25 • 4 views

April 10, 2014

I'm so pleased to have an April Guest here at Rocket Kids: Erica Goss, Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, California, and the host of Word to Word, a show about poetry. She has a wonderful new book out that will spur your own creativity: Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets (PushPen Press 2014). Welcome, Erica!

Activating Your Core Strength as a Writer By Erica Goss
We’ve all been there: faced with a blank page, we stare until our eyes glaze over, devoid of ideas. Writer’s block is like insomnia, a soul-robbing period where our brains refuse to do what we want them to. No more frustrating situation exists for writers.
If we’re smart, we’ll get up and move around. Exercise is good for the body and the brain, and movement gets us out of a rut faster than sitting at our desks. Every so often, we need to shake up our routines.
My book Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets has a wealth of ideas designed to help writers get over writer’s block. I’d like to share the chapter titled “Core Strengths” with you. This chapter deals with exercise, both literary and physical, as a technique useful for writers.
If you are familiar with the CrossFit exercise program, you know that it promotes a group of intense, varied workouts. These include the WOD (Workout of the Day), which is never the same set of movements two days in a row. The CrossFit faithful are convinced that the intensity and the variety of the exercises give them a superior workout.
What do a bunch of sweaty people yelling “arrrrgghhhh!” and throwing twenty-pound medicine balls around have to do with poetry? Well, plenty. If you ever embarked on an exercise program only to find that it became less and less effective, you understand the need to mix up your workout, whether it’s physical or literary. Varying your writing routine can lead to new insights, a more confident tone, and can break you out of the creative doldrums.
Here are some suggestions to help you develop your core strength as a writer:
Change your writing routine. For example, you might be convinced you write better in the wee hours of the morning, or in the afternoon, or at midnight. Try writing at the time of day when you normally feel less effective.
Practice writing in short, timed bursts. Set a time limit – say five minutes – and write. Then decrease the time by a minute until you’re down to one minute. Then decrease it to thirty seconds. Learning to write this way can be very helpful when you get a sudden inspiration but you’re not at your desk.
Change your location. I don’t mean swap your nice comfy desk for the local café – that’s too easy. Remember, we’re using CrossFit for a model here! Take your notebook to a place you have never written before: the edge of the ocean, an animal shelter, the freeway overpass, a construction site, a karate studio, an appliance store, a gas station, a preschool, a pharmacy. Practice those short, timed bursts. Don’t worry if you attract attention.
Vary your reading diet. Always stick to free verse of a certain period? Try some of the New Formalists. Tend to read mostly people of the same gender and ethnic group as yourself? Well, there’s really no excuse for that – but sometimes it takes an effort to seek out what’s different. Read more challenging work, and don’t give up right away.
Write a bunch of poems with titles like “Squat,” “Deadlift,” “Dips,” “Rope Climb,” “Pull-ups,” and “Holds.” Make them muscular. Make them sweat. Then do it again.
Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets is available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Vibrant-Words-Ideas-Inspirations-Poets/dp/0989667634/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1396885012&sr=8-1&keywords=vibrant+words
Erica Goss is the Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA, and the host of Word to Word, a show about poetry. She is the author of Wild Place (Finishing Line Press 2012) and Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets (PushPen Press 2014). Her poems, reviews and articles appear widely, both on-line and in print. She won the 2011 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Contest and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2010 and 2013. Please visit her at: www.ericagoss.com
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Published on April 10, 2014 13:43 • 4 views

April 3, 2014

BIG POETRY BOOK GIVEAWAY! Thanks to Kelli Russell Agodon, this April-Poetry-Month giveaway has become an annual event among a group of poetry bloggers. Here's the deal: I'm giving away these two poetry books in a random drawing:

(1) Stanley Kunitz' beautiful Passing Through, The Later Poems, New and Selected (NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 1995). Kunitz is one of my most favorite poets for his passionate, wild heart and his eloquent and vivid imagery. He has stamped his rhythms and clarity on my own work as I read and admired him over the years. (Disclaimer: It has my name in it, but is otherwise in great shape. Even though I read it a lot!)

(2) My newest book, Gods of Water and Air (Aldrich Press, 2013). Deema Shehabi, author of Thirteen Departures from the Moon, said about my collection: "Each poem in this collection is masterfully written, brimming with observation's ardor. She asks us questions that are to be savored. She begs us to grasp time, rein in it, and let it go: 'Be a net. Catch the world by letting the knots slip.'" This collection, which includes drama (a short play) and prose, as well as poetry, feels to me like a bringing together of memories, desires, aspirations, and practice across the decades I have been writing. A watershed and a new beginning. I chose the cover image for its ancient verity: the motherly quality of the earth arches high over our lives, forever ready to nurture and protect, and for poets a deathless source.

All you have to do to enter is to email me your name and email address: rachel@dacushome.com. I'll draw the name from a hat in May and mail the winner the two books, paying the postage.

If you want to participate, here are the details, at Kelli's blog. Happy National Poetry Month!
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Published on April 03, 2014 11:31 • 6 views

April 1, 2014

What am I going to do for National Poetry Month (April)? This year, I don't have time to write a poem a day, though I used to, and I did it for five consecutive Aprils. But I AM making a special Poetry Month discount offer on my newest book, Gods of Water and Air -- you can get a copy for only $11.00, including shipping, if you order one from me in April. Email me, or send a Paypal to: rachel@dacushome.com. If you want to send a check, I'll send you particulars.

I also plan to follow the progress of poem-a-day poets in several groups, and perhaps jump in during a week that allows it. I love the idea of a national celebration of our art. But I think instead of asking us to write more poems, the NEA (or some agency like it) should send each poet a bottle of sparkling wine or something plus a large cupcake and a laurel wreath. Just for doing what we do! Being American poets and enriching the landscape.

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Published on April 01, 2014 10:07 • 1 view

March 31, 2014

With so much activity honoring our beautiful art confined to the one hectic month of April (taxes and poetry?), I find myself in awe of those who are doing the Poem-A-Day challenge, giving readings, doing book reviews, and creating poetry events. NoPoWriMo, the official site for the 30 poems in 30 days challenge, lists resources. Today's is The Big Poetry Giveaway, which I'm going to participate in. I'm still figuring out the other books, besides mine, I will give away in a drawing, and will post soon about my Giveaway offer. If you have a blog, consider joining the movement! Spread poetry books (including your own) around the world.

I would offer to blog every day about poetry, but I know myself. Promises, promises ...
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Published on March 31, 2014 12:14

March 29, 2014

I'm delighted that IthacaLit, that fine litmag out of Ithaca, NY and piloted by poet Michele Lesko, has published Barbara Ellen Sorensen's interview with me, as well as a couple of my new poems. Barbara's interview focused on topics of importance to us both: imagination, creativity, and spirituality. Barbara, author of the recent collection Compositions of the Dead Playing Flutes, asked me questions that made me dig down into my sources. I especially liked thinking about and responding to this:

Why do you suppose more poets don’t write with spirituality in mind? Particularly those who write poetry inspired by the natural world, not dipping into spirituality seems almost antithetic. I would say that acknowledging any type of spirituality in the poetry world, specifically, is not going to buy you any friends. I would venture to say it is a lonely endeavor to introduce it into poetry. Yet, you do. So the obvious question is: why is the acknowledgment of spirituality necessary and important? 

We talked a lot about this, and my answer occupied a good chunk of the interview. It boils down to this:

Few write about, or know, the whole of the human condition. We need more balance in our poetry. Poets writing from belief are telling an important facet of the human condition, but they are often ignored for doing so because it’s still thought unseemly among intellectuals to believe in God. Or at least to speak of it at the dinner table and in poetry. And it’s absolutely unheard-of to think of Divinity as broader than a Biblical Judge up in the stratosphere.

A few are boldly writing about these things and we need more. Gregory Orr, a contemporary poet who writes about the spirit without nailing anything to dogma, wrote a wonderful villanelle on this topic. In his long sequence, “The City of Poetry,” Orr writes:

Ask any poet why this is. Talk to him or her
About why many poems blithely
Include deepest grief and horror—

They’ll tell you this city, like the human heart,
Contains it all—spun sugar and gossamer,
But also deepest grief and even horror.

But we have skewed life into only grief and horror in our publishing, but in pursuing literary careerism in our writing, we’re often tempted to overlook the deeper other aspects of life.
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Published on March 29, 2014 11:21

March 13, 2014

As a writer and occasional book reviewer, I'm so impressed by the close reading given my book Gods of Water and Air by poet Ann Wehrman. Her review in The Pedestal Magazine got deeply inside my subjects and even gave me perspective on the way I write. Wehrman took the trouble to put me into a context. Using info from my website's bio -- a reviewer who does research!-- she contextualized me as a California-raised poet, using my own statement about my characteristic decade:

“'she majored in English, French Literature, and counterculture at the University of California at Berkeley during the interesting 1960s.' Counterculture might or might not have been a formal degree program at Berkeley in the 1960s, but one understands a bit of Dacus’s free-spirited nature from that statement."

And she went on to summarize my work this way -- and here's the part where I saw my writing from a larger perspective:

"In Gods of Water and Air, the humor and irreverence of a 1960’s rebel mix with feminist, expressionist, and lyrical motifs as the author openly explores her feelings, relationships, and spiritual musings. Inheriting her late painter father’s artistic eye, Dacus paints with words. Her writing can be indirect and slant, but is always transparent, clear, and immediate, eschewing the often impenetrable poetic structures one frequently finds elsewhere.
It's a flattering review, and what most flatters me is how well she read the book and wrote about the experience. I'm impressed by Wehrman's insight and discernment. To have my writing read so closely, with understanding and appreciation, makes me feel -- well, like writing something new today. Thanks very much, Ann Wehrman and publisher  
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Published on March 13, 2014 09:10 • 5 views

March 8, 2014

Hidden Vault
1. Spring ForwardThe government’s at it again, tampering time and we must stagger behind, wishing Salvador Dali minutes would lag instead of broad-jump.April, the month of taxes and poetry. Lighttrails us like a street urchin dragging his bags. We are thanked for our gifts to government with jet-lag and loss of easeful dark, pumped with big-top minutes and forward-swapped. But where do they keep the acrobat hour? I find in my purse only shadows and stars.
2. Stashed I imagine that Congress stashes that saved hour           in a teak box with mother-of-pearl stars and blue satin lining. Or a big penny jar shaped like a trumpeting elephant, the lock in his upraised trunk. But too many of us have a key, for every fall we find it looted and empty as the bank for sale I once saw. The silver-hinged vault lay open for deposits of dust. Ghost hours danced in that twilight mouth. I can't put my overtime in anything so wide or keep my worries in such an open box.
3. Fall Back When skeletons dance and red devil leaves seesaw, the clock spins backwards. Spring forward, fall back, I repeat to timepieces whose hands I wring. The powers-that-save loose a phantom hour to imp my dreams. Afternoons are still-life, a hummingbird’s whirring immobility. I see now why we must hoard every spark against twilight's snip-end, against the dark dot of a question mark.
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Published on March 08, 2014 07:59 • 8 views

March 6, 2014

I'm thinking of doing a series of small video readings, just for fun, from my book Gods of Water and Air. And maybe I should put it to a vote: which poems would be best to read? Here's one I'm considering.Thoughts? Advice?

I had a beautiful bowl of cherries to paint, stems perfectly arranged, the jade bowl offsetting the pale red fruit. I ate them. Such is the fate of so much art. But only the serious kind.At least this artist won’t starve.Looking at a half bowl of cherriesI still want to create. Maybe a paintingof the pits in another bowl, so much lifegone by. Or perhaps a poem about the greedof the painter for sensuous delight, storyof artists and their models through the agesand also the story of the artthat was never madewhile they became their ownworks of art. Jade bowl. Stems.Hungers ripe and aching.Summer’s half moon warmth.Tender flesh. (Note to self:They were so ripe and cold.Put cherries on the grocery list. The dark ones this time.)

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Published on March 06, 2014 08:53

March 1, 2014

I have poems forthcoming in Drunken Boat, Pirene's Fountain (and four poems in the current issue), and The Same Poetry Magazine! Thanks to the editors of those journals. Stay tuned for links to the poems, and while you're at it--it's Send Out Your Work Saturday (a holiday I just made up).

Fascinating discussion of submitting work in the Facebook Writing Conference today.
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Published on March 01, 2014 09:10