Friday, October 25, 2019

Tobi Alfier - Hmmmm…..

Do you ever have one of those days or weeks when every time you think of one thing to do, you think of thousands more? Like planning out the Art Walk with the open mic’s and different moderators; trying to figure out where to go first and what to do next? Welcome to my week. Some of the things I thought about…

  1. On October 20th, you all had the privilege of hearing John Brantingham feature at Space Cowboy Books. John and his wife Ann are the nicest people—I bet you loved them. Ann is an amazing artist, drawing correctly proportioned and beautiful leaves and plants they come across in their workshops and hikes in the high sierras, and elsewhere.

As I’m sure some of you know, John’s brand new book is “finding mr pembrooke”. He also has a book from last March entitled “Crossing the High Sierra”. Ann just did the cover art and some interior art for “Redshift 3” from Arroyo Seco Press, an anthology of tanka and haiku. She’s also working on projects she only hints about on Facebook. 

Which reminds me of the first line of this blog. One of the many things that you want to keep your eyes open for soon is the podcast of John's reading, to be posted here as soon as humanly possible. Also, we need to bug John to update his Amazon Author's page to include new books! Always something to do! 
Whatever Ann & John brought with them for Space Cowboy Books, you may wish to consider buying (then please do a review on Amazon). Note: if you’ve ever bought anything on Amazon, you are an Amazon customer. So you can buy something at Space Cowboy Books and still put a review on Amazon.

  1. You may remember that I promised Susan Tepper I’d do an Amazon review of “What Drives Men”. Well I finished the book, and after thinking about it for a few days, I wrote the review. It was only 95 words, but it said everything I wanted it to say. Two things about this:
Susan is an excellent, not aggressive, marketer—mine was the twenty-sixth review of this book, but I never felt pushed to do it. It’s something we should all think of doing—asking readers of our books to put reviews on Amazon. It can be done in a very kind way and you don’t need to feel weird about it (on that note, if anyone has read Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies, or Sanity Among the Wildflowers, both published by Cholla Needles, I would truly appreciate it if you’d post a review on Amazon), and it’s not hard to do. Click on the reviews, then click on “add a new review”. It takes just a couple minutes. I wrote what I wanted to say separately, then copied and pasted it into the review box. Amazon will send you an email so you can edit it, and after they review it, it’s posted. It’s a nice thing to do, plus it will help you develop reviewing skills that may be new.

  1. Let’s talk about titles. – You may know that I moderate a LinkedIn group—Poetry Editors and Poets. You’re all welcome to join. It’s a Q&A and discussion group. A few times a year we have a “post your poem” day, but it’s not a workshopping group.
A woman asked if there was any reason to put titles on poems when submitting to journals. With the exception of Simon Perchik, who has earned the right to do what he wants, yes, you should.

There has been a lot of discussion on this. The funniest post was from a gentleman who suggested that she write haiku, and in his example, it had a title, and it had four lines. I don’t know very much about Asian forms of poetry, but I’m pretty sure that haiku is not titled, and even though it doesn’t have to be 5-7-5 the way we used to think, it’s never four lines, unless one gets technically involved in life's unknown truths. Normally I would have deleted his comment, but I left it because of the way he used it—as an example, and then gave it to her. I’m pretty sure it’s incorrect but I don’t know. If someone else mentions it, I’ll learn too.

On the workshop front regarding titles, I have only had one workshop leader in nine years at Tin House who was not a great match with me. My fault. Tin House always publishes the faculty, and you can select who you want. It’s the only leader I’ve ever had where work produced was never accepted for publication. Also my fault. It wasn’t a good poem:

Bikes lay flat on lawns, wheels spinning
like sideways Ferris wheels reflected in a fun-house mirror.

His diamond is 24, a jewel of a wife, her specialty
the air around our planets.

Who knew the colors of Saturn’s rings came from
the smokes exhaled from our very own Earth –

from a pin-hole at the top
like egg white sucked through a shell at Easter.

Before our eyes could be imagined the widest range of
slippery blue, the planet pulsing down below,
lights of traffic encircling like the armor of a goddess.

Mercury is in retrograde, we must be cautious.

His wife, her other specialty the sweet smile of the Southern Belle,
dreams each night in clean white down.  She rides the waves,
she surfs the heavens, she tends her garden on Pluto.

The slate gray of infinity pierced by the earrings and tattoos
of tiny stars.

Far, far below, her hand held up to shield her view,
she sees The Great Wall of China in assertive splendor.

Titles were hugely important to this workshop leader. For this poem we were given the option of “From Earth to Pluto” or “From Pluto to Earth”. We wrote the poems based on a series of questions we had to answer and then write. And though this poem was never accepted, and though we did not click, I learned a lot about titles—consider them to be like license plates. Each car has a plate that no other car has. It’s your job to make sure that’s how you think about your titles (several years ago this leader received a $100,000 Genius Grant and I didn’t, so who am I to blame anyone but myself for not maximizing my week!).

4.      Time to look through the woodpile and submissions. How are you all doing? 

A ton of windows opened October 1st.  This month I’ve only written three poems and I’ve only done three submissions. That is so not like me. Maybe it was all the doctors, etc. We’ve talked about that before, about when life gets in the way of our writing, dang it.

In the words of Insurance Executive Wallace Stevens, when other things are in the way:

    I certainly do not exist from nine to six, when I am at the office.
Wallace Stevens

 Damn straight!! Let’s have a great week everyone. I’m taking care of the dentist and physical therapy for you, that’s three extra hours you’re “not in the office”. Observe well. Write well. Title your writings so they’re memorable. I’ll just sit here with the nitrous oxide on and envy you all!!

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

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