Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Books read in 2013.

Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. Kindle digital file.
Carrol, Lewis. Through the Looking Glass. Kindle digital file.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Kindle digital file.
Whithaus, Melanie. Enigma. 2013.
Whithaus, Melanie. Motherhood. Kindle digital file.
Dickinson, Emily. The Laurel Poetry Series. John Malcolm Brunnin, ed. Dell: New York, 1960.
Bartholomew, Mel. Square Foot Gardening. St. Martin's Press: PA, 1981.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. Kindle digital file.
Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Del Ray: New York, 1968.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom's CabinKindle digital file.
Rosetti, Christina. "The Goblin Market." Kindle digital file.
Lorentz, H.A. "The Einstien Theory of Relativity A Concise Statement." Kindle digital file.
Colleridge, Samuel Taylor. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Kindle digital file.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. "Nature." Kindle digital file.
Poe, Edgar Allan, "The Raven." Kindle digital file.
Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Masque of the Red Death." Kindle digital file.
Lovercraft, H.P. "The Shunned House." Kindle digital file.
Hodgson Burnett, Frances. The Secret Garden. Kindle digital file.
60. Images from the Machine Age Selections from the Daniel Cowin Collection. International Center of Photography: New York, 1997.
59.The Family of Man. MoMA: New York, 1955.
58. Tina Modotti Masters of Photography. Aperture: New York, 1999.
57. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. In Focus: Los Angeles, 1995.
56. Duane Michals. Thames & Hudson Photofile: London, 2008.
55. Caponigro, Paul. Meditations in Light. The Morris Press. 1996.
54. Gibbons, Bob. Wilson, Peter. Night and Low-Light Photography a Complete Guide. Blandford: London, 1989.
53. Wynn Bullock. Aperture Foundation: New York, 1976.
52. Araki. Thames & Hudson Photofile: London, 2007.
51. A Tedious Explanation of the f/stop.
50. Triptychs Buffulo's Lower West Side Revisited Photographs by Milton Rogovin. Norton: New York, 1994.
49. Sternfeld, Joel. Walking the High Line. Steidl: Germany, 2001.
48. The Photographs of Ben Shahn. The Library of Congress: Washington D.C., 2008.
47. Beck, Tom. David Seymour (Chim). Phaidon: London, 2006.
46. A Year of Mornings. Princeton Architectural Press: New York, 2008.
45. Meehan, Les. Creative Exposure Control. Amphoto Books: New York, 2001.
44. Morris, Wright. Photographs and Words. The Friends of Photography: Carmel, CA, 1981.
43. Marchant, Deborah DeWit. Traveling Light. Impassio Press: Seattle, 2003.
42. Eudora Welty as Photographer. Pearl Amelia McHaney, editor. University Press of Mississippi: Jackson, 2009.
41. Holga Shooting Tips
40. W. Eugene Smith Masters of Photography. Aperture: New York, 1999.
39. W. Eugene Smith An Aperture Monograph.  Aperture Foundation: New York, 1969.
38. Karuse, Jim. Photo Idea Index: Things. How Books: Cincinnati, Ohio, 2009. 
37. Valli, Marc. Dessanay, Margherita. Microworlds. Lawrence King: London, 2011.
36. Don McCullin. Thames & Hudson Photofile: London, 2007.
35. Focus: Passages. Lark: New York,2010.
34. Baloji, Sammy. The Beautiful Time. Museum of African Art: New York, 2010.
33. Rollins, Henry. Occupants. Chicago Review Press, Inc.: Chicago, 2011.
32. Besson-Evans Photographing America 1929-1947. Thames & Hudson: London, 2009.
31. Snapshots The Photography of Everyday Life 1888 to the Present. SFMoMA: San Francisco, 1998.
30. Walker Evans, Photographs for the Farm Security Administration. Library of Congress, 1976.
29. Man Ray. Thames & Hudson Photofile: London, 2006.
28. Eugene Atget. In Focus: Los Angeles, 2000.
27. Chase, Jarvis. The Best Camera is the One That's With You. New Riders: Berkeley, CA, 2010.
26. Lotti Jacobi Photographs. Pocket Paragon Book David R Godine Publisher: Boston, 2003.
25. American Photography: Past into Present. Seattle Art Museum: 1976.
24. Ansel Adams in Color. Little, Brown and Company: New York, 2009.
23. Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph. Aperture Foundation: New York, 1972.
22. Josef Koudelka.  Thames & Hudson Photofile: London, 2008.
21. Robert Capa.  Thames & Hudson Photofile: London, 2008.
20. Jaques Henri Lartique.  Thames & Hudson Photofile: London, 2010.
19. Josef Binko. Torst: Prague, Czech Republic, 2006
18. Harry Callahan Masters of Photography. Aperture: New York, 1999.
17. Berenice Abbott Masters of Photography. Aperture: New York, 1988.
16. Henri Cartier-Bresson Masters of Photography. Aperture: New York, 1997.
15. Busselle, Julien. B & W Photo Lab Printing Special Effects. Rotovision: New York, 2000.
14. Peter Beard.
13. f number https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-number
12. Paul Strand Masters of Photography. Aperture: New York, 1997.
11. Edward Weston Masters of Photograpy. Aperture: New York, 1997.
10. WEEGEE Masters of Photography. Aperture: New York, 1997.
9. The Photographs of Marion Post Wolcott. The Library of Congress: Washington D.C., 2008.
8. Milton, Michael.  100 Ways to Take Better Black and White Photographs. David & Charles: London, 2005.
7. New Liberal Arts
6. Take Better Photographs: 22 Steps
5. Dorthea Lange. Phaidon: London, 2011.
4. The Photographs of Lee Russell. The Library of Congress: Washington D.C., 2008.
3. Bronkhorst, Adam. Lo-fi Photo Fun!. Chronicle Books: San Francisco, 2012.
2. Andre Kertesz. Thames & Hudson Photofile: London, 2007.
1. Hedgecoe, John. John Hedgcoe's Photography Basics. Sterling: New York, 2006.

Keret, Etgar. Suddenly, a Knock on the Door. FSG: New York, 2012.
Marlyn, John. Under the Ribs of Death. McCelland & Stewart: Toronto, 1957.
Keret, Etgar. The Nimrod Flip Out. FSG: New York, 2006.
Lemony Snickett, book 6.  If you have kids, go buy the series.  Wonderful stuff.
Akhmatova, Anna. Requiem and Poem Without a Hero. Ohio University Press: Athens, Ohio, 1976.  D.M. Thomas, trans.
Basho, Matsuo. The Narrow Road to the Deep North & Other Travel Sketches. Penguin Classics: London, 1966. Nobuyuki Yuasa, trans.
Kercheval, Jesse Lee. Brazil. Cleveland State University Press: Cleveland, Ohio, 2010.
Chatwin, Bruce. What Am I Doing Here. Viking: New York, 1989.
Kesey, Ken. One flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Viking: New York, 2012.

Monday, December 30, 2013

An Interview with Melanie Whithaus

I first met Melanie Whithaus in March of 2012 when we ran her poetry in Umbrella Factory Magazine. Her poems in UFM's Issue #9 where her first publication.  In the last year and nine months this poet has had many other magazine publications, two chapbooks and has become an editor of  Wednesday Night Writes.  I have had the opportunity to read both her chapbooks, Enigma and Motherhood. Please enjoy the following interview.

AFI: First of all, thank you for participating in this interview.

MLW: Thank you so much for considering me for this opportunity!

AFI: I enjoyed your chapbook Enigma very much. It's a wonderfully slim chapbook with 12 poems, if you can, tell me a little of the back story. Did you set out to build a chapbook from scratch, or did you make this piece from 12 existing poems? How did you choose the 12? I see you made the cover image too, you are a photographer as well? I saw in your editor's bio from Wednesday Night Writes magazine that you list photography as an interest.

MLW: Thank you very much! I’m so glad you liked it. Many of the poems in the book I wrote back in high school. They were about relationships, friends, and my depression; I thought I wouldn’t have any chance in publishing them individually. They still meant a lot to me and I wanted to see them published elsewhere than online in my personal blogs, so I decided to put them in a book handmade by myself. The 12 poems I chose I felt all fell under the same theme of confusion, hints the title of the book. The poems themselves are hard to understand and describe, and I had a very hard time identifying who I was at the time when I wrote the poems. I like to think of myself as an amateur photographer, haha. It’s a hobby of mine, but I don’t feel that I have enough experience in the field to do anything professionally with it. I’m still proud of the photographs that I do have, especially the cover photo of Enigma. I took the photo while I was in New York on vacation. I fell in love with the city, and I think the tone of the city and the photo fits the word “enigma” very well.

AFI: I love poem “Intoxicated” perhaps it's because I identify with the line “where kisses only take place in dirty basements/and outside along dirty fences”. It feels like a tribute to youth. Rather than pressing you for the details of this poem's construction, let me just ask: what was this poem's process? And I can't shake the feeling that “Intoxicated” has a lyric quality. It feels like the second stanza could be a refrain, and other stanza could be verses. Are you influenced by music? Are you musically inclined?

MLW: The poem is about innocence and youth, but also how easily it can slip through your fingers. To me, innocence is bliss, not just ignorance. It’s about growing up, but also learning how deal with life when the dust clears. All the stanzas were personified events in my life. I wanted to make something simple sound so exciting and alive. The last line of the poem was completely true, and I have never forgotten those woman’s words. In a way, they’ve defined not only this poem, but who I am as a person. She told me to never stop writing, and here I am doing this interview. Am I musically inclined? Haha, not at all. Music inspires me, this poem in particular considering the rhyming, but I can’t read sheet music to save my life.

AFI: Another one of my favorites has to be “Blood Rush.” Again, what was this poem's process? It has cyclical feel to it, and a loss of innocence dimension that happens between 1978 and 1979. The dates seem important to the piece. Despite the I voice in the poem, I cannot imagine this is autobiographical. Where you even alive in 1978? There is something more to this narrative poem than meets the eye, right? What is the inspiration? It's really very stunning.

MLW: “Blood Rush” has always been one of my personal favorites, and no, I was not alive in the 1970s, haha. Once again, the poem is about a relationship, it coming to a dramatic end, and how the narrator deals with the changes in her life (which obviously isn’t very well come the end of the poem, haha). The narrator is almost self-abusive when it comes to her relationship because she is desperately wants to be with this person for the rest of her life even though she doesn’t truly love him. She loves the idea of him; the guilt then consumes her, and she dies with her lover even though she will be eternally unhappy. In a way, the poem reflects the relationship I was in at the time. As for the time period, I’ve always been inspired by periodical pieces, but honestly I think I just chose the year 1979 because of the Cold War and the space race. Something about that year stood out to me, and I felt it fit the tone of the poem.

AFI: The late 1970s certainly were tumultuous, I was very young, but I do remember the time. It is a great time to set such a poem. Let's talk about your background a little bit. I love to ask this question: when did you decided to be a poet/writer? Was there a specific event, an a-ah moment or a grand revelation? Who are your biggest influences, and who are your role models? Tell me about Southeast Missouri State University and what you're current studying? Plans for graduate school?

MLW: Oh gosh. I think I decided to become a writer than I was in the second grade? I wrote my first book during that year, but didn’t do much more with writing until I was about 11 years old. My older brother was writing a short story for class, and I decided I wanted to do that too. I wrote my first novel called The Wonderful Night. Oh goodness, I was so proud of that piece of junk, haha. At first it was a good thirty pages with my 14 pt comic sans font, but once I finally edited it years later, I had a ten page “novel”. I wrote a number of novels back in middle and high school, but it was all just for the fun of it. I never imagined I would get somewhere with my writing. But as I’ve grown and began to understand all the details behind writing a novel, I haven’t been able to write one since. They’re too daunting. So basically, I started writing for fun and I fell in love, and now it’s become my life. My biggest influences would have to be various friends I’ve made in the literary world, along with my favorite authors such as JK Rowling, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates, and Charles Bukowksi. Also my family and friends have been very supportive over all these years. I’m currently a senior and studying creative writing at Southeast Missouri State University where I also study small-press publishing. The staff and the friends I have made have all been very supportive of me. But I can’t wait to get out of here and move on to my next adventure: grad school. Ideally I would love to go somewhere in New York or Chicago to receive my MFA, but more than likely I’ll end up staying in the St. Louis greater area.

AFI: I chose Goddard College for grad school, it was a great experience. I think you should get off to grad school. Your blog is fantastic. How long have you been at it? Have you had any revelations as an artist as a result of keeping your blog? Also, your social media presence is impressive, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Have you received good response from your fans/followers?

MLW: My blog is fantastic? Haha, I never would have thought that, but thank you! That’s very encouraging actually. I try to keep all my social media up to date so I can reach the biggest audience I can get. I would say I have a decent amount of followers as an up and coming artist, but who doesn’t want more? Networking with other writers and publishers is definitely key as well.

AFI: Tell me a little about your magazine Wednesday Night Writes? What is your role in the magazine's organization? How far do you plan to take this magazine? What are the magazines objectives for the future? What do you think are the roles and responsibilities of literary magazines?

MLW: Wednesday Night Writes all started on Wednesday nights after our weekly night class. We went to the local Denny’s and talked about class, other stories/books we’ve read, and publications. We finally decided we wanted to start our own literary magazine. There are six of us on staff currently and we all play the role as co-editors. It’s a new magazine and we’re trying our best to work out the kinks. As for the future, we just hope to publish as many great and upcoming writers as we can. I’ve learned that lit mags are A LOT of work. Between reading submissions, editing, formatting, building a website and a following, it’s hard to sit back and admire all the work you’ve already done. It takes a lot of responsibility and dedication to keep a mag up and running smoothly.

AFI: I too have found literary magazines to be a lot of work. You seem very new on the publication circuit. The half dozen publications you list on your CV have happened very quickly. You seem to be on your way to success. What is the end goal and what is your current process? Many poets and writers have publication as their ambition and yet so many poets and writers don't even bother to submit their work. What is your advice to someone who wants to be published? Which of your publication experiences has been the best?

MLW: I like the think I’m on my way to success, and yes, everything has happened very quickly. I didn’t start publishing until about two years ago and since then it’s been a real rollercoaster. My goal in life is to be on the New York Times bestseller list. Maybe not as popular as JK Rowling, but definitely a mentionable name in the literary world. I love being published. It brings such a sense of accomplishment knowing that my work is being praised by people outside my comfort zone. My advice is to never stop trying; someone is going to like your work, it’s just a matter of finding the right publisher. My best experience is when I actually had a book launch this past summer for Enigma at the bookstore/publishing house I was interning at, Rocking Horse Publishing.

AFI: Motherhood, your second chapbook, just released. How much different was the process with this publication from Enigma?

MLW: Motherhood was actually a mini-chapbook that started off as an art project. It’s only five poems and I didn’t have any plans to do anything with it other than hand it out to a few friends. I really made the book just for my own pleasure. Now I’m in the works of listing it on Amazon as an ebook. The difference between Motherhood and Enigma is that I had a common theme in mind when making Motherhood, and the poems are much more up to date. Lately, my poems have been about motherhood (even though I myself am not a mother) and what it means to be a mother. The description of the book pretty much summarizes up my thought process: “The collection highlights the author's fascination with the idea of what it means to be a mother with pregnancy scares, miscarriages, and abortions in mind. To her, simply loving a child–born or unborn–considers you to be a mother.”

AFI: Enigma starts with a Charles Bukowski quote and you inscribed my copy with a Ernest Hemingway witticism. If you will indulge me, leave me with something good: give me some serious Whithaus wisdom.

MLW: I love Bukowksi. I’m such a fan girl that I actually have a bluebird tattoo because of his poem “The Bluebird”. I can honestly say haven’t read much Hemingway, but I have great respect for him. Some of my own advice? Whithaus wisdom? Haha, I’m not my father! But I guess my best advice is going to be lame advice, and that is to never give up. Believe me; I know what it’s like to be your worst critic, especially after being diagnosed with depression. Just keep trying and prying and begging and writing and networking and you’ll eventually get noticed.

AFI: Thanks again for participating in this interview.

MLW: No, thank you for interviewing me! It was a great time. Thanks again!

Melanie Whithaus is currently studying for her undergraduate degree in Creative Writing at Southeast Missouri State University. Her work has been featured on websites such as deviantart.com and fanfiction.net, and her blog can be found at melwhithaus.wordpress.com. She has poetry published with Umbrella Factory Magazine, Scapegoat Review, and 1of25 magazine; short stories with Crack the Spine literary magazine, The Rusty Nail literary magazine, and Palaver Journal; and her self-published chapbooks Enigma and Motherhood. Her writing is known for its raw, straight-forward voice, and her “no holds barred” style.

Anthony ILacqua believes in the independent press, small or large, as the best representation of modern literature in America and the ideal place to connect well developed readers to the best writing available. Anthony's novels Dysphoric Notions and Undertakers of Rain are available from Ring of Fire Books. His screenplays have been made into widely praised animated films at Rocket House Studio. He currently works as fiction editor for Umbrella FactoryMagazine.
Blog: http://anthonyilacqua.blogspot.com

Monday, December 23, 2013

Reflections of Enigma the poetry of Melanie Whithaus Part 3: Enigma, a review.

Available HERE
Enigma is slim volume of 12 poems by Melanie Whithaus. When it came to me, by mail on that hot-end-of-summer September day, I was immediately drawn to the cover photo (also by Melanie) of raindrops on a window, possibly a windshield. These raindrops gave me the feeling of something far away and foreign to the hot September I was experiencing.

The writing of Melanie Whithaus is known for its raw and straight-forward voice, and her “no-bars-held” style. These words are written at the end of her bio on the back cover of the chapbook. So, here we are, a sunny September day, Enigma and me.

The first poem is the title poem for the chapbook. “Enigma.” This is a scant piece: Were we once dinosaurs/or are we merely/ fantastical creatures,/longing to be real? I'm left dumbfounded. This is a quiet, nearly peaceful piece. There is nothing raw about this poem. This poem is not a hot sunny September day, as I am living it. This poem is not a raindrops on windshields sort of day either. This poem is something softer, something remarkably more vulnerable. This poem begs of cloud watching or pillow talk. On my first reading of this poem, I know that I should find a different place, both location and head-space to read the remaining 11 poems.

A sultry end of summer evening led me to the walled in cement backyard of our North Denver abode. In the dwindling daylight I resumed the reading of Enigma. In a way, I was waiting for the rawness. I found the straight-forward voice. I gave up on the “no-bars-held” style. What I found was a tough-as-nails feeling in the poetry (and possibly the poet herself) that successfully wove vulnerability and sensuality in the continuity of voice.

“Dear Lover” and “Blood Rush” quickly stand-out. Both poems have a narrative quality to them, they each tell a story. The story goes on for a duration of time that, like a raindrop reflecting the image of the world inverted, goes on forever, maybe even within the walls of second. “Dear Lover” starts last Tuesday, the narrator and the lover are both eight. They live an entire life, “a happily every after” sort of life complete with a white farmhouse and seven children (an eighth on the way). But what's so striking is the ethereal longevity of it: last Tuesday...we were eight. It begs the notion that even at a young age, the uncertainty, the severity of life plays on our daydreams and builds our short unions.

Melanie Whithaus gives us 12 poems in this chapbook. The reoccurring themes: love and loss of love, death, childhood reckonings of disasters and triumphs and living life as an adult with love and loss of love, death, childhood reckonings of disasters and triumphs. “Intoxicated” is not only my favorite poem, but I think it's one where we meet the poet, the vibe and it combines all the above mentioned themes. “I'm ten drinks down the line/and I'm running out of time,” starts the second stanza. We get the idea that the narrator, much like the drunk woman who tells her to live her life, is doing anything but. Ten drinks down the line, and it's really heartbreak for a person, a place and a time. Ten drinks down the line maybe there's a resolution. But what makes “Intoxicated” so extraordinary is at it's basic level it is cathartic like a soiled love affair and it's the comfy buzz that was two or three drinks ago. It's the uncertainty of age, which is so easily toiled with self-doubt. The poem has a careful construction. The poem is a promise of the poet's future too, by which I mean, Melanie Whithaus here in “Intoxicated” is only a fraction of the poet she is going to be.

Enigma has the startling moments of the raw, straight-forward voice, as promised. It also have more lucrative moments rich in white-space and wonder. It is a great mix of tough-as-nails and vulnerability.

Next: An interview with Melanie Whithaus.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Reflections of Enigma the poetry of Melanie Whithaus Part 2: Poets and the importance of the literary magazine.

Available HERE
On my first day of graduate school, I could hardly contain my excitement. It was a cold Vermont January. The Goddard College campus was not only very far away from my home of Denver, Colorado, but it was nearly foreign when compared to my daily existence. And the wildest part of all, that first day, I checked into a dormitory room. It was the first dorm I ever used. And my first roommate was already there. “Hello,” he said. “Hi,” I answered. “What's your focus?” he asked. “Focus?” I repeated. “Yes,” he said. “What do you write?” “Oh,” I said. “Fiction.” “I'm sorry,” he said. “What?” I asked. “My condolences,” he said. “What's your focus?” I asked. “Poetry,” he said. I recall the conversation here in exact clarity, this was the only conversation I had with that particular roommate. He and I did not room together after that first semester. Sadly, this conversation became the embodiment of poets for me.

I had been to poetry readings. In the early 1990s I went to the poetry slams that happened in the darkened late-night coffeehouses that skirted my neighborhood. The poets there were edgy, I thought, dark maybe. There was a black T-shirted guy at the Mercury Cafe one night who single-handedly ended my curiosity about poets, poetry readings and “the scene.” He stood at the mike and took a long pull from his cigarette and reflectively leaned in: “This poem is about yuppies and why I hate them!” he began. It's been well over 20 years since that night and I still remember that line.

But these are only two poets. And I've only explained two experiences. I still read poetry: Baudelaire, Longfellow and Rosetti are on my nightstand. So is Melanie Whithaus's book Enigma. There has never been much of a shift, not for me. I read Elizabeth Bishop in bath a few years back and I read Langston Hughes over the few days before my son was born. I've always gotten something from my reading of poetry. It makes me think differently about images and it makes me feel differently about words. I know that poetry is important. Do you?

At the onset of Umbrella Factory Magazine, Mark Dragotta and Janice Hampton and I talked in pairs or all three about the magazine's concept. We talked about what a magazine should be. We talked about expansive growth, possibilities and taking over the world. Our conversations never left the world of prose: fiction and nonfiction. I think it was Mark who, almost as an afterthought said, “what about poetry?” Blank stares. What about it? None of us knew the first thing about it. Partly because it was not our background and partly because it was not of interest to us, poetry and its place in UFM was now subject for debate.

And really, there was no debate. We found a poet who started with us. His work was invaluable to the formation of the magazine and our role in the system of literary magazines. When our first poet left, he went to become the head editor of another magazine. And Julie Ewald, our current poet and poetry editor has been with us since issue 3, and her influence has shaped not only my impression but the flavor of our magazine. In the 16 issues of Umbrella Factory Magazine there has always been room, and plenty of it, for poetry and for poets.

For a moment, it's probably prudent to break down both sides: the poet and the literary magazine.

The poet has more work to do than the “why I hate yuppies” guy. Sure, there is the raw emotion, the truly uncensored heart of the artist that fits into the strophes and staffs and stanzas. I suspect this is only a small portion of the work that's done. Yeah, reading at the open mike night, or an organized poetry event is part of it too. The readings must be rehearsed. I know in early days of UFM when we hosted readings, many of the poets who read were very polished, professional, well spoken (even when reading). The work of a poet may well start with the raw energy of “yuppies and why I hate them” but this cannot be where it ends. A successful poet is one who reads poetry incessantly. A successful poet is one who labors over a piece, a stanza, a line or a word. A successful poet probably will not begin a poem with “yuppies and why I hate them.”

What becomes of a poem? The way I see it, the poet has three options for a single poem. First, the poet gets involved in the reading circuit. In this regard, the poem will get a revision during every read which means that the poem then becomes fluid. Second, the poet can take a handful of poems and assemble them into a larger project called a chapbook which I discussed last week. And third, the poet gets involved in the literary magazine circuit.

Literary Magazines are not altruistic affairs.

Let me tell you who I think the market is for literary magazines. I think the sole market for literary magazines are for the writers and poets who submit to them. Oftentimes, I wonder if these writers and poets even read the magazines they submit to. And if there is a reader who is not a writer or poet, this reader is related to the writer or poet who contributes to the magazine.

So why do it? Why have a magazine? Well, I'd think that most magazine founders, not unlike us, believe that they are doing something different, revolutionary and important. Of course, there is a selfish side to it. When you work a magazine, you work a magazine. It's great for the CV, networking and meeting other editors and other magazines. It's a great place to meet other writers and poets. It's what we do. It's a vehicle to get a wider audience for both the magazine itself and the writers and poets within it.

It all begins with the literary magazines. This is the place where writers and poets get started. Smaller journals, especially the independent magazines, make the evolution of literature possible. Without the work done by writers and poets and distributed by the literary magazine, what we read, I believe, would all become corporate template literature. And that's not literature at all.

Next: Part 3 :Enigma, a review.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Reflections of Enigma the poetry of Melanie Whithaus: Working in Projects

Available HERE
One of the editors of Lenswork magazine, Brooks Jensen, explains in issue #107 (July-August 2013) “Problems with a pile of prints.” Jensen explains that photographs, piles of them, present a problem simply because there seems not to be a “finished” project. Dipping further, it's simply this, a vast amount of pieces and no real whole. The idea of a project, according to this editor, leads to artistic growth. I suppose the idea of a stack of photographs is simply this: there is a stack that a viewer must wade through with no real direction. Jensen goes on to suggest that the photographer complete a “book” of photographs. Book, here is loosely assigned names such as Blurb book, a folio or a chapbook. And elegantly stated: “The photographer who finishes a book is not the same photographer who started it—.” (P 10)

I do not disagree with Brooks Jensen. I have been delighted to read the editor's comments in this beautiful bimonthly photography magazine. I think that Lenswork is a wonderful commentary on the creative process. And the photographers they feature have been challenged by the magazine's high standards. And incidentally, the photographers they feature have to think in terms of a project because each contributor provides a finished portfolio of work.

I don't think the creative process is very different between photographers and poets. It's a funny comparison, I know. But let's consider, for a moment, the notion of an individual poem and an individual photograph. Either can be a work of absolute brilliance, beauty and a complete-sovereign work all onto itself. However, can you really know the artist by just one small piece?

As many of you know, I am the editor of Umbrella Factory Magazine. We feature fiction, nonfiction, poetry and art. We do not often get much art, (or photography for that matter) which is unfortunate. Poetry, however, is the bulk of our submissions. There are so many poetry submissions that it oftentimes takes three of us to wade through the work. I can comfortably say that we publish about 1% of what we read. On one hand, it's fierce competition for poets. I think this is probably true with all literary magazines. There are just more poets than magazines. I daresay there are probably more poets than readers of poetry. This does not make poetry any less important. On the other hand, poets who carefully read, and follow the submission guidelines and artfully craft or tailor their work to an individual editor/magazine's tastes have a higher rate of success in publication. At Umbrella Factory Magazine we require 3-5 poems in our submission guidelines. You can image a poet who sends us one poem gets a quick rejection. We believe, as I'm sure all literary magazines believe, you cannot know a poet from one poem alone. 

Can you know a poet from 3-5 poems?

The limitation of 3-5 poems in literary magazines is simply due to layout, size and aesthetic. It makes for a more diverse and readable magazine issue to have three poets at four poems each than one poet with 12 poems. This is the magazine aspect to it. And I think we do get acquainted with a poet with this small amount of work. This is not where the poet should end. A publication of 3-5 poems in a literary magazine is not the end all product a poet should produce. Rather, this should be the launch pad for a larger piece of work, or a project.

Going back to Brooks Jensen's suggestion: a Blurb book, a folio or a chapbook how does this fall into the world of poetry? Seems pretty simple to me. In the earlier statement, let's pull out the title of photographer and insert poet. “The poet who finishes a book is not the same poet who started it—perhaps one of the best reasons to produce something like a Blurb book, a folio, or a chapbook.” A chapbook, a brief primer.
Definition: a small book containing ballads, poems, tales, or tracts. History: A chapbook is a pocket-sized booklet. The term chap-book was formalized by bibliophiles of the 19th century, as a variety of ephemera (disposable printed material), popular or folk literature. Many different kinds of literature have been made into chapbooks, such as pamphlets, political and religious tracts, nursery rhymes, poetry, folk tales, children's literature and almanacs. When illustrations are included in chapbooks, they are considered popular prints. The term is derived from chapmen, chap coming from the Old English céap meaning "deal, barter, business", a variety of peddler, who circulated such literature as part of their stock. The term is also in use for present-day publications, usually poetry, of up to about 40 pages, ranging from low-cost productions to expensive, finely produced editions. (Wikipedia)
A couple authorities on chapbook: Ohio Reading Road Trip.
Keith Wilson's writeup is brilliant.
If you want a downloadable template try this form.
And if you want to formulate your chapbook because of a contest, look here: newpages.‎
Or the Poetry Society of America.

Why now? I bring it up only now because I've just spent some time with Enigma poetry by Melanie Whithaus. It's a slim chapbook in the classic format. It's also a great introduction to the poet as she is now. It's a snapshot of a moment in the evolution of the creative process. It is, as we'll discuss in the coming weeks, a group of poems formed into a project that is a final, completed project.

Next: Reflections of Enigma the poetry of Melanie Whithaus Part 2: Poets and the importance of the literary magazine.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Undertakers of Rain: The process

Available Here
As a writer, I've learned that it's only the first draft that's any fun. After that it's self doubt, tedium and a certain level of suspicion that torture is waiting for you at ever turn. That being said, if you are a writer, or if you know a writer please know it's only the first draft that's fun. I'm amazed at the writers I know, or even the would be writers I know who labor over the first draft. The first draft is not for self editing, self doubt or self censorship, these things only lead to bad ends.

When I consider the first draft, for anything I've ever written, well, it was good times. Every manuscript is a pile of notes and grand ideas and endless possibilities. Every first draft is like endless gin and tonics on a clear bright warm summer afternoon and it's the sort of gin drinking that is a comfy buzz, never a drunk, and never a hangover. The first draft is the only part of writing that's any fun, have I said this already?

There is plenty of time for tedium.
There is plenty of time for self doubt, self censorship. There is plenty of time to think about how horrible it is, how awful, how short of the mark. This is the second through three hundredth draft.

The second draft.

The time comes to start working. That pile of notes and the endless possibilities begin to become a short list of notes and limited possibilities in the second draft.

Choices. Decisions. Realities. That's that.

Then comes the formation of a manuscript. Here things must be in a reasonably readable form. For me this happens long after the second draft. It happens after the third draft. In fact it comes much later on. Undertakers is not exactly different. I remember being very keen on this manuscript after the third or fourth draft.

Here's what happens when the excitement clouds good judgment:

September 2009: The first draft completed
December 2009: After a few revisions, I thought this was ready publication.
January 2010: I let a few trusted friends read it.
April 2010: I submitted this to a small press contest. It was rejected, thankfully.
April 2010: I submitted this a literary agency. It was not a blind submission, I knew someone there. Again, a rejection; again, thankfully.

The manuscript got one or two reads and revisions in 2011, and again in 2012.

January 2013: I submitted it again, this time to Ring of Fire. There are a couple of reasons why the manuscript was accepted this last time. First, it had several revisions over a period of three years. Second, I already had a relationship with Ring of Fire because they published my first novel, Dysphoric Notions in September, 2012.

For those of you who have never thought about the process of publication here's a thumbnail.
November(2012): I received an email from my publisher that they wanted a second novel.
January: I submitted the novel.
February: It was accepted. We drew up the contract.
March: It went to the publisher's editor.
May: It came back to me. I reread the novel, I looked over the editor's notes. I sent the novel to my editor (That's Janice). I read the novel again and looked over Janice's notes.
June: I sent the novel back to the publisher.
July: I got the electronic version of the novel and reread it again. I sent a few changes to the publisher.
August: I got the “PROOF” copy of the paperback. Those beautiful letters P-R-O-O-F, those five letters meant only one thing to me—I would not have to read the novel again. I read it for the last time then.
September: I sent the last changes and corrections back to the publisher.
September-October: I got some input on the cover. As a bragging point here, the cover image is one of my photos. Steve Penner, my publisher, designed the cover. We came to the final product some time in early October.
November 1: The book released.

The whole process took four years. I wrote the first draft in the first 8 weeks of the four year process. And the last several steps to the novel's release took an entire year, and that is very-very quick by comparison. So, that's the process.

The whole process has really yet to begin by November 1, 2013, when the novel released. Now comes the marketing, now comes the promotion, now comes the selling of the novel. This process, although a direction relation between action and results, is not what the first days of the writing of draft number one.

The process of a novel is not dissimilar, I'd think, to the process of anything. The process of writing a novel seems to be of interest to many people. I think about National Novel Writing Month, also in November, and I think of the number of people who do it. I recently looked at a continuing education catalog and I was both surprised and delighted to see the number of novel writing courses offered. True, it is an incredible process, the writing of a novel, and that process takes patience, vision and discipline. But, writing is only a small part of it.

Anyone out there endeavoring to write a novel, this is all I have to say to you: just write it. Write it no matter what. Write it knowing that it may never get read. Write it because you want to write it. Write it because you must. I have long held the belief that there are two pursuits: making love and making art. Write your novel because it's the right thing to do.

Last thoughts

Thank you for your support. Thank you for buying my book. Thank you for reading.