I am once again attempting to complete NaPoWriMo (or GloPoWriMo if you’re free from these United States) during our cruelest month. I don’t always end up writing 30 poems in 30 days, but since social distancing has become our new way of life, I want to carve out time every day to write a new poem. This year’s participation also gives me the chance to interact with some of my closest (distanced) friends, and I hope sharing the work we create this month will bring us (virtually) together.
For my first poem, I decided to use the early bird prompt posted on March 31st, although as usual, I seemed to have strayed from the prompt’s instructions by writing about birds in general rather than a favorite bird. Do I have a favorite bird? How does one select a favorite bird? I sense a new self-quarantine project emerging.
Anyway, here’s my poem for Day 1. It’s an erasure that uses the introduction to this Wikipedia entry as a source text.
If you haven’t written your NaPoWriMo poem yet, you could use the favorite bird prompt or the prompt from today’s post, which references one of my favorite poems of all time including all time yet to come.
But, since no other readers will be using a projector tonight, I decided to wait until the final Open Studios of the month to try and share some of my visual work. In the meantime, I promised to post some pictures of my daily Tarot card erasures here. (As always, you can click on a picture to enlarge it.)
I am less interested in the fortune telling properties of Tarot cards than I am in their origin. I like the idea that a rich Italian aristocrat might have commissioned a hand-painted set of playing cards that included extra allegorical trump cards on a whim. I like to imagine a world where people play ordinary card games with Tarot decks. I also love seeing depictions/interpretations of Tarot cards in popular culture. For instance, a particular Tarot card plays a major role in the film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. You might not know this, because you are possibly an adult person who does not read large quantities of YA fiction and/or watch a lot of television and films whose target audiences are adolescent girls. But I watched City of Bones while I was knitting the other night, so I know all about it. Those cards were hand-painted, too. Everything comes full circle.
Several of the other residents, mostly visual artists and nonfiction writers, had questions about The Deletionist, how it works, and how often I use it to make it poems. (I can answer that last question by saying that I experiment with my deletionist button fairly often but find I only rarely get truly interesting results.)
This morning the first batch of two week residents for January left VSC, and this afternoon the residents who will be here for the second two weeks of the month arrive. It was difficult to say goodbye to new friends, especially Amanda, Laurel, and Steph, who will finish her MFA at George Mason University (my alma mater) this semester. (I didn’t even attempt to say goodbye to Lee Ann. She just needs to stay in my life forever. Burlington and Boston are not that far apart.) In Maverick, we also lost Marie, Pam, and Lisa, so right now the studio feels empty and full of ghosts.
I wore my Camp Fox shirt to protect me from lonesomeness.
“The Deletionist is a concise system for automatically producing an erasure poem from any Web page. It systematically removes text to uncover poems, discovering a network of poems called ‘the Worl’ within the World Wide Web.”
I took some screenshots of some of the most interesting early pages (click to enlarge):
So far I really like the way these “deletionist-ed” pages have turned out. I have been listening to Nick Cave, and I think he agrees with me.
Tonight Leonid Lerman, a visiting sculptor here at VSC this week, gave a slide talk about his work and life. I am a little in love with him. I found his talk/work so inspiring that I went back to my studio around 9 p.m. and wrote a long (7 page) erasure about prophecy and the future and my obsession with apocalyptic visions.
You can see the first page/section of the poem, titled “Forecasting the Future” below. (Click the picture to enlarge the screenshot.)
The river has begun to win its battle with the ice, but the sky today stayed grey and clouded. I’m still working on my semi-secret Jane Eyre project, and today I decided to create a playlist for Jane to listen to as she wandered the countryside.
I wanted to imagine her rocking out as she walked melancholy along the moors. I also wanted to revision the party scene where Jane is sitting quietly in the corner wearing her best dress (the silver grey one) so that it looked more like the Robyn video for “Dancing on My Own.”
I have wanted to do a writing residency at the Vermont Studio Center since I first finished my MFA program in 2000. Obviously, once I learned I’d been accepted, I started plotting and making plans for my time here. I have high hopes for them all.
Writing plans and projects:
My year in Tarot — For several years I have been receiving a tarot card accompanied by a very generalized reading from www.astrology.com/tarot every day in my email. I believe that everyone who subscribes to this service receives the same card, which seems to be a flaw in this particular divination system. Since the cards, as in any Tarot reading, are pulled at a random, it is also possible to receive the same card two days (or more) in a row. I thought it would be interesting to do an erasure of each day’s Tarot card/reading over the course of a year. So that is what I’m doing and will be doing for the foreseeable future. Right now the erasure I made for the card I received on January 6th (the Devil) is my favorite.
Taylor Swift sentence poems — Honestly, I am always looking for ways to write poems about Taylor Swift. I would argue that I am not (yet) obsessed with Taylor Swift, but I am awfully interested in her/her work/listening to her songs on repeat/watching her videos on YouTube/wearing my official Taylor Swift shirt that says “Like Ever” on it. I am also always looking for a new way to approach writing a poem. I’ve recently become interested in writing a poem that consists only of one grammatical sentence. So I’ve begun a series of one sentence Taylor Swift poems. So far, my favorite one is called “If I Were 14 Years Old, I Would Think Taylor Swift Is a Genius,” which is also a line I once used in an OK Cupid profile.
Secret Jane Eyre poetry project — I am obsessed with the novel Jane Eyre and the Brontës, and lately I’ve become more and more interested in experimenting with visual poetry. I’ve been doing quite a bit of erasure poetry lately (You can see two examples here at Printer’s Devil Review. Be aware that the cover of this issue is a little provocative and perhaps even NSFW, depending on how prurient your workplace is.), but I think I want to push my boundaries some more, and I think Jane Eyre will help me accomplish this goal. There’s not much more to say about this project other than I made two separate trips to the art supply store here in Johnson, VT.
Complete erasure chapbook based on the collection of Cornell University nature-study pamphlets I found on Project Gutenberg. While visiting my mom in San Diego this summer, I discovered this amazing collection of nature-study pamphlets curated by Liberty H. Bailey, Jr., a renowned “plantsman” who apparently created “nature study” while teaching agriculture at Cornell. The language and style of these pamphlets both delight and baffle me. I brought 10 completed erasures based on these pamphlets to Vermont, so now I want to edit, order, and expand my collection with a few more poems.
Create a full length poetry manuscript, tentatively titled In the Past You Were the Future. I would like to try and fit my chapbook Focus on Grammar, my Letters from the Future series (read two of them here at Anti-), my apocalyptic postcard poems, and some other poetry into one cohesive manuscript. I also imagine I will have some editing of individual poems and some writing of new poems to complement the existing poems to do. Wish me luck!
Reorder and revise All About, my manuscript of loosely linked prose poems. I love these poems, and they have been well received by editors and audiences (at poetry readings), but this manuscript needs some work. Because I wrote it over a year and a half, and usually wrote a short series of 3-5 poems each time, I’m having a lot of trouble ordering in a way that creates a logical, engaging narrative. I also suspect that when the poems are in a new order I’ll discover some continuity errors and overused words. I’ve already found the word suddenly in at least six places.
Write new poems. Maybe about the future. Maybe about the hit television show The Voice.
Work on some prose projects I’ve been considering. Why not?
If I finish all my planned projects, or take a break, I plan to read some (if not all) of the books I brought:
The Babies by Sabrina Orah Mark
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
Building Writing Center Assessments that Matter edited by Ellen Schendel and William J. Macauley, Jr.
Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir
ESL Writers: A Guide for Writing Center Tutors edited by Shanti Bruce and Ben Rafoth
The Haiku Handbook by William H. Higginson
In the Pines by Alice Notley
Isle of Youth by Laura Van Den Berg
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Life of Poetry by Muriel Rukeyser
Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Frasier
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Paterson by William Carlos Williams
The Pillow Book of Sei Shnagan translated by Ivan Morris
A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
The Self Unstable by Elisa Gabbert
Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams
Tsim Tsum by Sabrina Orah Mark
Some of these books are ones I want/need to read for work. So, I suppose that, as a last resort, I could also do some work for work while I’m here.