Posts Tagged ‘poem’

Two Newly Published Poems

April 3, 2014

I have a couple of new poems up at the fine journal “Vending Machine Press.”  You can find them here.

There’s some really fine work in that issue, but I especially liked “Milk Crates” by Melanie Teague, which I thought showed some really fine use of enjambment and a killer last stanza.

Now, of  course, I saw these are “new” poems but really, they are  newly available. “Subway Poem” stems from a trip to DC for an academic conference a couple of years after I had moved away from the NoVa area after graduate school.

Spoiler Alert: I don’t miss Northern Virginia. I sometimes miss parts of DC, but not often.

Essential Faults was part of a project I did a couple of summers ago, where I wrote a poem for all of Wallace Stevens’s “Materia Poetica” statements. I don’t remember which that one was inspired by. But perhaps I ought to send some more of those out to places. I’ve managed to place two of them, I guess, but I wrote 40 of the damn things, so perhaps I ought to put more of them to work.

This sort of makes me feel as though I ought to spend a little more time on poetry. That sounds like a worthwhile project for summer vacation; right now it’s all revising Paladin all the time.


Another 30 minute writing challenge

March 12, 2011

Once again, with help from a friend I engaged in a 30 minute writing challenge. There was no real goal or application in mind, just 30 minutes of uninterrupted writing on an otherwise busy Saturday filled with baking bread, grading papers, working out….all the usual detritus that I DON’T want to do on Saturday because I’d rather be distracting myself from writing by drinking or reading or playing videogames or some other useless thing.


At any rate, I decided for no particularly good reason, after I was about 5 minutes into it, that I ought to write in syllabics. So I did. Then I decided I should get to 10 stanzas, so I did. Note that I cheated by repeating the first line and first word of second line in every single stanza. Here it is.


A Room, Surrounded.

He is sitting in a room surrounded
by switches and flips them
in patterns only his eye

He is sitting in a room surrounded
by spools of finest thread,
and weaves a net to scrape the floor

He is sitting in a room surrounded
by empty bottles and,
bowls of water with floating

He is sitting in a room surrounded
by the angry voices
of the betrayed and confused

He is sitting in a room surrounded
by picture-hung white walls
with thicknesses of paint too

He is sitting in a room surrounded
by cherry blossom scent;
a hint of decay in the

He is sitting in a room surrounded
by the ugly, leering
gaping faces of his friends,

He is sitting in a room surrounded
by books, pencils, pens
jars of dry ink and dry paint,

He is sitting in a room surrounded
by cracked and creased papers,
scrawl covered sheets, recipes,

He is sitting in a room surrounded
by eggs and stones, sticks and
butter, broken bowls, rotting

Teaching and Poetry

September 28, 2010

Today I told a friend of mine that I really think in order to write effectively, often, and well, I needed to do one of two things:

A: Get out of teaching

B: Stop giving a shit about teaching

He told me that’s not true; that I’m not drawing from the same battery, that I’m just fatigued at the end of the day. I don’t think I agree with that, honestly. To me, teaching English (or writing, comp, rhetoric, lit, whatever you feel like calling it) absolutely draws on the same energy as writing poetry if you’re doing it well. I suppose if you’re teaching in exactly the right situation, that energy becomes a feedback loop of a kind; the teaching actually helps feed the poetry. In my case, though, that clearly isn’t happening, as I’ve written very little of consequence in the past two years and four months, since finishing my MFA. Could it just be fatigue? I suppose it could; I definitely get more active in the summer.

But what I mean is I feel that my teaching, the only way I know how to do it, involves giving not only a great deal of time but a great deal of my creative energy. My teaching is very performative; I am in front of the class, on my feet any time that they aren’t directly working on a test, quiz, or prompt. I am clawing and scratching and tearing and pulling (figuratively speaking) to get them to think. I am talking and joking and projecting not only my voice, but a character that isn’t me so much as it is some guy who will say almost anything to provoke a thoughtful response. I sometimes deliberately make them angry; I say outrageous things to keep them paying attention (I think most of them realize that these are jokes but I am sometimes not sure). I rarely if ever use notes; I let the text we’re working with dictate the discussion we have and sometimes it goes places I am not prepared for, but I’ll go with it. I’ll have notes in the text, sure, but I don’t stand in front of the class and deliver a lecture more than a handful of times in a semester. I don’t think any of this is out of the ordinary for some English teachers, though I definitely had some in the past who just stood up there and spouted the things they wanted us to repeat later.

Hell, come to think of it, I even have props; a yardstick or stick I use to pound my podium or the odd empty desk if I need to grab attention. I throw things (mostly candy, but I always throw new books to the students – carefully. It helps them bond with the new text, I think, when they have to catch it). I even have a ‘costume,’ of a sort; I wear a sportcoat every day no matter how hot it gets in the building; it started as a way to help cover the fact that I was surely sweating through my shirt (my school has no AC and is a brick oven the first two weeks and the last two weeks of any year). Now I can’t teach without it; doing so is unthinkable, because it’s become a noted part of the ‘character’ I ‘play’, and there’s a certain intimidation factor in those first two weeks, as kids are complaining nonstop about the heat and a little awed at the one person in the building wearing a sport coat and a tie.

But the point of this is not to pat myself on the back or explain my teaching style (there are plenty of things I could do better, believe me). The point is, I’m not sure I can keep doing that and write anything worth reading. I get home and my brain is done, my creative centers are fried, my psychic energy is drained. I’ve got nothing left. I can work out; in fact, I crave doing that because I need a physical release. But I want to do anything except write, and of course, there are always papers to grade, as I’m teaching two lit courses and four comp courses at the high school, one college comp course, and I tutor on the weekends online for the same college. This could be part of the problem.

This isn’t just meant to be whiny; plenty of teachers come home and write. Plenty of people with other jobs come home and write good, readable books. I’m genuinely concerned that I can’t keep teaching this way, and hope to have enough of myself left at the end of a day  to write anything worthwhile.

What do you think? Same energy? Same battery? Am I just a whiny punk who needs to shut up and put up (or alternately, give up?) Some way to balance these two? Should I take up pig farming or get a job on a loading dock somewhere?