Beautiful Sentence #14 ~ Victor Hugo

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“Death has its revelations: the great sorrows which open the heart open the mind as well; light comes to us with our grief.” – Letter to Edouard Thierry

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The Writer’s Handful with Carrie Etter

Carrie-small
Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

After a bit of hiatus, I am so very pleased to bring you The Writer’s Handful again. And I am even more pleased to have CARRIE ETTER, a remarkable poet and sudden prose writer, join us today. You must find Carrie’s work and read it immediately. She will break your heart. She will make you laugh. She will cause you wonder. She will speak to you as though you are close, close enough to touch. And her words will touch you.

Welcome Carrie!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

It’s marking season, as it were, one of those times of year where I have weeks of marking to do, and I find it hard to write when I’m doing so much marking, so I probably won’t write again until after it’s done. I don’t like the situation, but I’ve learned to work with it.

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?imagined_sons72_0

At age 3, on the large paper that’s half-lined, half empty space, I wrote (and drew) a story about ducks.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m reading four things in uneven rotation: H.P. Lovecraft’s Classic Horror Stories (a gift from a student), China Mieville’s The City and the CityDylan Thomas’s Collected Poems, and the current issue of New American Writing.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

I can’t really think of concrete advice I’ve been given, at least broad principles, that I’ve found especially useful. I had a personal revelation while working on my PhD at the British Library. I was thinking I’d give up on writing a difficult poem, when I realized that if I faced the same situation in my PhD–an established critic whose argument directly conflicted with mine, say–I’d have to find a way through it. I had to approach writing with all the rigor I approached writing criticism. That’s since been a touchstone.

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

I’d aspire for my writing to be like a dolphin, intelligent and elegant.

Image from Wikipedia
Image from Wikipedia

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Originally from Normal, Illinois, Carrie Etter has lived in England since 2001 and is a senior lecturer/associate professor of creative writing at Bath Spa University. She has published three collections, The Tethers (Seren, 2009), Divining for Starters (Shearsman, 2011), and Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014), and edited Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (Shearsman, 2010). Individual poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, The New Republic, The New Statesman, The Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere. She blogs athttp://carrieetter.blogspot.com.

Thank you Carrie Etter, for taking the time away from poem making, marking, reviewing, and blogging for this little chat. And thank you, everyone, always, for reading. – PMC

The Writer’s Handful with Fleda Brown

Fleda Brown 2011 4x5 color-2011

Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

I am so excited to have Fleda Brown contribute to this week’s Writer’s Handful. Fleda is a fabulous poet and nonfiction writer, and her latest (her eighth!) collection of poems, No Need of Sympathy was just released by BOA Editions. If you don’t already know Fleda’s work, you really, really should. Why not start with this latest collection and work backward? You won’t be disappointed. I promise. And to tide you over until your Fleda books come in the mail, let me invite you over to Fleda’s blog, My Wobbly Bicycle.

Welcome Fleda!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not? 

Oh yes. I’m blessedly “retired,” and I write almost every morning. This has been a relaxing day, since I didn’t feel the pressure that always accompanies starting a new poem or essay.  I revised a longish poem, worked on one that’s not even at finished first draft stage yet, I proofed and suggested some small changes in an essay coming out this fall in The Georgia Review, and I turned what had been a prose poem into a lineated poem for a downtown Traverse City poetry project I was asked to contribute to. The poems for this project will be read instead of seen. I was listening to it in my head and realized its cadence is better with line-breaks. It’s been interesting working today. I’m in our guest cottage at the lake and the painters are spray-washing. It’s like writing inside a waterfall.

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

My father and I together did a re-write of “The Night Before Christmas.”  It began, “T’was the night before No Need of Sympathy coverChristmas/ and all through the house / not a creature was stirring / not even a louse.” I no longer have a copy, but I remember it got sillier from there. My sixth grade teacher loved it.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading a Nineteenth century novel, North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell, I started it because we’re at the cottage and I’d read everything I brought with me. This book was here, and my husband, who’s written a great deal about early women’s fiction, recommended it to me. It’s set in England and deals with the rise of manufacturing in the North, comparing it to the genteel South of England. It’s a romance, and the heroine does a lot of thinking about the philosophy and morality of each before she chooses a husband. It’s a fine novel and quite contemporary in some ways. I plan to write about it in my blog post this week. [My Wobbly Bicycle, 38.]

I’m also reading Maurice Manning’s poems, The Common Man, and Debra Bruce’s Survivor’s Picnic. I’m going to talk about them for my commentaries on IPR’s “Michigan Writers on the Air.” They’re terrific books, each very different. I’m particularly interested in how Bruce writes about her cancer, since I’ve had cancer, too, and I’m working on poems that seem to keep bringing that in.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

Donald Hall, who has been extravagantly generous in his help to young writers, read and commented on poems years ago that eventually appeared in my first book. When that book was accepted by Purdue University Press, I wrote to him, all excited. He wrote back to say, “That’s wonderful! But remember there’s always something else out there. Even if you win the Nobel Prize, you won’t be satisfied. So concentrate on each poem. Don’t let the hunger for prizes and publications distort your work.”  Or something like that. I keep that in mind.

cat1If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

I will choose a cat, because my dear cat Wally is lying with his big feet hanging over the top of the bureau beside me at the moment and he opens one eye to convey to me that he wishes to be included. He is gentle but steadily persuasive. He does not have an agenda except eating. His ears are sensitive to every fluctuation in the environment. He licks himself with great abandon. In short, he, like Christopher Smart’s cat Jeffery, worships in his way. He, too, writhes his body with eloquent quickness, sharpens his claws upon wood, and every house is incomplete without him. If you wish to know all of the ways my poems are cat-like, you must read Smart’s poem, not mine, but I’m most hopeful you’ll read mine as well. Especially, ahem, my new book from BOA Editions, No Need of Sympathy, out this October.     

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Fleda Brown was born in Columbia, Missouri, and grew up in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She earned her Ph.D. in English (specialty in American Literature) from the University of Arkansas, and in 1978 she joined the faculty of the University of Delaware English Department, where she founded the Poets in the Schools Program, which she directed for more than 12 years. Her books, essays, and individual poems have won many awards. Her sixth collection of poems, Reunion (2007), was the winner of the Felix Pollak Prize from the University of Wisconsin. She has co-edited two books, most recently On the Mason-Dixon Line: An Anthology of Contemporary Delaware Writers. Her collection of memoir-essays, , was released in 2010 from the University of Nebraska Press.

Fleda has read and lectured in secondary schools, retirement communities, libraries, bookstores, a prison for delinquent adolescents, Rotary Clubs, AAUWs, and many universities and colleges, from Oxford University, Cambridge, to small liberal arts colleges. She has slept in a bunkhouse and has read with cowboy poets in North Dakota, and she has read for the Governor of Delaware and for the Delaware Legislature. She served as poet laureate of Delaware from 2001-2007, when she retired from the University of Delaware and moved to Traverse City, Michigan. In Traverse City, she writes a monthly column on poetry for the Record-Eagle newspaper, and she has a monthly commentary on poetry on Interlochen Public Radio. She teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop, a low-residency MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, and she spends summers with her husband, Jerry Beasley, also a retired English professor, at their cottage on a small lake in northern Michigan. Between them, they have four children and ten grandchildren.

http://fledabrown.com/

→Thanks so much, Fleda, for the chat. Wishing you all the best with the new collection! And thanks to everyone, as always, for reading. -PMc←

The Writer’s Handful with Daniel Nathan Terry

Drayton Hall SC_Ben with Umbrella and Umbrella without Me

Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

Today I am so excited to share with you a brief conversation with Daniel Nathan Terry. Many of you already know the work of this fine poet (and fiction writer—Dude! Welcome to our playground!) I was lucky to be on the program with Daniel at Southern Illinois University’s 2012 Devil’s Kitchen Fall Literary Festival (sponsored and curated by Grassroots Undergraduate Magazine.) His work is stunning. Check it out immediately.Front-Cover-of-Waxwings-194x300

Welcome Daniel!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

I worked on revisions of the few poems from my current manuscript that remain unpublished. Well, I call them revisions, but I think of them simply as poems that are not finished yet. It’s all drafting, to my mind, until the poem lets me know that it’s done with me. The one that just finished with me has been very difficult to get out. It’s about the stillbirth of one of my best friend’s daughter and the movie Wings of Desire (Sky Over Berlin). I have been negotiating with the poem since 2009, trying to free it from the movie, but, in the end, it would not abandon the film and so it is called “This Day Needs Peter Falk.”

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

Photo from author's website
Photo from author’s website

I wrote my first poems when I was quite young. I don’t remember writing them, but my mother has the evidence: a few poems (mostly religious, as my father was and is a Baptist preacher) scrawled in huge block letters on that paper which has the dash lines between each solid one. She keeps one framed on her sewing table to this day. I won’t quote it here, for my own sake. The first thing I remember writing was a short fantasy novel called The Four Kingdoms. I think I was 13 or so, and I was madly in love with Tolkien, Bradbury, and Bradley. It was, I’m sure, terrible, but I worked on it even during school, sitting in the back of the classroom pretending to take notes. No idea what happened to that draft or the maps and drawings I made of the kingdoms and characters. The only thing I truly remember about the story was a queen who had given her life over to controlling the savage storms that besieged her kingdom. She had to forgo any sort of life or happiness and remain in a high tower channeling the storms through her body until they fell as gentle rain on the crops. I was also reading a lot of myth and lore at the time–and poetry, of course, which I was raised on. Yeats was my go to poet at the time.

What are you reading right now?

Kristin Bock’s first collection of poetry, Cloisters. It seems I am always reading that book. It’s like no other book of poetry I’ve ever read, and it continues to give and give to me whatever I need at whatever time it is in my life. So much beauty and pain. It cannot be described; it must be read. I’m also reading Jason Mott’s new novel, The Returned, and Rebecca Lee’s collection of short stories, Bobcat. Both are wonderful, though very different. But then my reading tends to be all over the place. And I am always reading reference books and nonfiction–usually about horticulture or whatever has possessed me at a given time. Right now that is Drayton Hall, a plantation near Charleston, South Carolina that is the model for Sothern Gothic novel I am currently writing between poems.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

I can think of two things–one writerly, one not. The first was from my first writing teacher in undergrad when I was 18 (I think his name Ben Miller–he looked like a very handsome version of John Denver, and I had a massive crush on him). He told me that my stories and poems usually began about a third of the way into my first draft. He was right, though I resisted him at the time and was determined to write “opening lines.” I think that impulse to open something brilliantly before the piece is written is the root of most cases of writer’s block. At least it is for me.

The other came from a rather obnoxious and opinionated customer of mine when I worked in retail. No matter how difficult she was, no matter how demanding, I smiled and did what I was supposed to do according to my job description. One day, as I was completing her transaction, a fake smile plastered on my face, wishing her gone, she said, “You know, if you don’t like someone, they don’t like you either. Doesn’t matter how well you pretend–the other person can feel it.” I was dumbstruck. I thought my dislike of her was a well-kept secret of mine and that she adored me–after all, I treated her like a queen. That insight has proven to be so valuable over the years. Now, I hope, I never fake it. At least not for long.

 

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

A crow–no doubt about it. Beyond the obvious symbolism (darkness, death, memory), I feel, and hope, that my writing is omnivorous, wandering, moving between the world of the animal and of man, the living and the dead. Loud and harsh at times, but always beautiful if caught in the right light. Capable of flight and of being communal but of also walking solitary on the roadside. I think crows appear in my poetry more often than any animal other than humans. And it’s odd–they’ve been used so often in literature, you’d think they would dry up, and maybe they have as an intentional metaphor, but as a subject they seem as boundless as humans. Maybe because we are so much alike. I think that’s why so many people hate or fear them–they don’t like the mirror they hold up. I think it was Coetzee who wrote (and this is a butchered paraphrase at best) something like, “We hate the animals that refuse to be destroyed or subjugated by us, that survive us, that flourish in our trash, in our excesses despite our efforts to eradicate them–the rat, the cockroach, the crow.”

"City of Starlings" by Benjamin Billingsley
“City of Starlings” by Benjamin Billingsley

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Daniel Nathan Terry, a former landscaper and horticulturist, is the author of four books of poetry: City of Starlings (forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015); Waxwings (2012); Capturing the Dead, which won The 2007 Stevens Prize; and a chapbook, Days of Dark Miracles (2011). His poems and short stories have appeared, or are forthcoming, in numerous publications, including Cimarron Review, The Greensboro Review, New South, Poet Lore, and Southeast Review. He serves on the advisory board of One Pause Poetry and teaches English at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, where he lives with his husband, painter and printmaker, Benjamin Billingsley.

For more info about and other writing by Daniel Nathan Terry:

http://danielnathanterry.com/books/

http://www.onepausepoetry.org/explore/poets/profile/daniel_nathan_terry

http://www.thisassignmentissogay.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Where-Thy-Dark-Glances-ebook/dp/B00DUHRLD4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1375345324&sr=1-1

→Thank you so much, Daniel! And thanks to all, as always, for reading. -PMc←