04 December 2012

Keeping Up with Poems

It seems all my poems have come into print at the same time for the year.  If you would like to see my work, online and for free, please check out the following links.

The Adirondack Review Winter 2012 Issue for my poem "The nights are long, here.  Nowhere a torch."

Boxcar Poetry Review Fall 2012 Issue 31 for my poem "Lullaby"

Scareship (Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazine) Issue 8 for three of my poems:
"Extinction Existentialism"
"At the Center of the Controversy" 
"Taxonomy Without Autonomy"

PANK Magazine October 2012 The Queer Issue for my poem "Float" 
(It includes and audio file of me reading the poem)

And finally, this Fall Niche Magazine featured the University of Idaho and me in their MFA Spotlight

I am so grateful to these journals, their editors and readers, who put my poems into print.  Thank you all!

30 November 2012

Onward, Onward! Twitter, Surveys and More!

First off, I broke down and got a twitter account.  If you would like to check out my learning curve, I would appreciate it.  You can follow me @poetryphone

This year I was asked by Band of Thebes blog to take part in their annual author survey of the best LGBTQ books of 2012.  I was honored to be a part of this survey.  I have used it to guide my reading for the past three years!

Check out what I and 86 authors had to say about the books of 2012  HERE!

22 October 2012

New Work in PANK Magazine

Folks, sorry for the radio silence.

I do have some good news to share though, my poem "Float" appears in PANK Magazine's third annual Queer issue.  Even more exciting, my poem sits right next to my good friend John Myer's piece called "Asking Where".

You can hear me read my own poem for free at the website.  Also, it is NSFW (not safe for work) so please don't crank the volume when your immediate supervisor and the Church Lady are hovering over your shoulder.

Everyone should read this poem (but my grandmother).

Cover Art by Jessica Furtado

30 September 2012

Niche Magazine Interview

If you haven't read Niche Magazine yet, please do yourself a favor and check it out.  Its first two issues are online and free.  Best of all, the magazine is GORGEOUS!

Niche Magazine also features a monthly MFA program spotlight.  For the month of October (my favorite month!) they are featuring the University of Idaho's MFA program.  Thank you to the editor Katya Cummins for interviewing me and also poet Nayelly Barrios for thinking of me.

You can check out the interview HERE.

Oh, Slow Depth, my chapbook gets a little love as well.

10 September 2012

When Words Aren't Enough: Poems Becoming Art

My former coworker and all-around talented lady Christina Claassen was busy preparing works for the employee art show at Village Books in Bellingham, WA.  She had asked me last spring if she could use some of my prose poems as a jumping off point.  I told her to run with it.

On my last day in Bellingham for the summer, I sneaked up to the Book Fare Cafe located inside Village Books and took a gander at what she had done to my poems.  The results were thrilling.  For those of you who don't know, I started college by declaring a major in studio painting.  Things didn't work out for that degree, but I have always had a deep respect for the visual arts.

One of the poems "Sending You a Letter I Wrote While Drinking" appeared in Issue 3 of Ghost Ocean Magazine.  You can find it here.  Here is the first piece of artwork from the series.

The other "Carbonite Dream #1" appeared in the first issue of Psychic Meatloaf: Poetry Journal.  You can read that poem here.  Here is the second piece of art that Christina Classen put together.  I have dibs on this one!

She said that she has plans to complete four more pieces of art for the other four poems in the series.  I am excited to see them all lined up one day.  To see more of what Christina is up to, you can visit her blog Musings of a Crafter.  She makes beautiful things in all the areas of her life.

24 August 2012

An Interview with Bruce Snider

Bruce Snider is the author of the poetry collections PARADISE, INDIANA, winner of the 2011 Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize, and THE YEAR WE STUDIED WOMEN, winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry.  His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the AMERICAN POETRY REVIEW, PLOUGHSHARES, GETTYSBURG REVIEW,POETRY, and BEST AMERICAN POETRY 2012. Originally from Indiana, he was a Wallace Stegner fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University.  He is currently the Jenny McKean Moore Fellow at George Washington University in Washington D.C.

Jory Mickelson: I have read the poems in your new book Paradise, Indiana several times now.  They continue to bring me back to them even after I have put the book down.  Looking at lists of town names, I came across a Paradise in California, Nevada, Michigan, and Montana...Can you tell me a bit about how Paradise, Indiana came to be?  

Bruce Snider: When I was first coming out in college, I took a course in the literature of rural America and was struck by the fact that there wasn’t a single gay person in anything we read.  Even outside of class, most of the gay writers I was discovering wrote almost exclusively about cities (usually New York or San Francisco) or about gay resort communities like Fire Island and Provincetown, so it seemed as if my own life and experiences as a young gay person from rural Indiana were as invisible in American literature as they had been in my home town.  For years I’ve wanted to write something about what it was like, at least for me, growing up where I did.  Of course, I hope Paradise is a lot more than that, but that’s how it began.  And in that sense, especially in the way that it’s trying to address certain longstanding silences in American literature, I see it in conversation with such American classics as Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio and Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, both of which use town names (invented, in their cases) for their titles.  I also see the book as coming out of a tradition of American literature, and particularly gay literature, that’s fascinated with the idea of the lost paradise.  These books, of course, are by their nature elegiac.  I’m thinking specifically of some of Mark Doty’s books, My Alexandria and Atlantis, as well as Andrew Holleran’s Dancer from the Dance.

JM: After writing this book, and seeing it in print, has your view of Indiana changed?  If so, in what ways?

BS: It’s definitely made me aware of how much has changed since I was a kid.  The small town I’m from is still quite conservative, very Republican, but my old high school now has a gay and lesbian group.  My parents have become close friends with a lesbian couple and their two adopted African American sons.  In fact, there are quite a few gay couples that now live in the area.  It’s increasingly a different place in terms of gay and lesbian visibility.

JM: The poems in Paradise are largely narrative.  It is almost as if the poems inform one another to tell a story that stretches across this collection.  Would you agree with this idea?  What themes or stories do you think the poems tell?

BS: Yes, I think that’s true.  At a certain point, I actually began thinking of the book as a long poem rather than a collection of individual poems.  I became aware as I wrote that some of the sections wouldn’t live well outside of the book.  They were dependent on other poems to give them backstory and context.  Once I accepted that was how the book would operate, it freed me up to really move around, to tell small stories that accumulated to reveal a much larger story.  At the center of it all was, of course, Nick’s death and its effect on the people around him.  But I wanted his death to be contextualized by other deaths as well as the history of the region.  I was interested in the way that loss can make us see place and history afresh.  In fact, as I was writing, I often found myself returning to some lines by Richard Rodriquez, from his brilliant essay about AIDS and San Francisco, “Late Victorians,” in which he writes, “We have become accustomed to figures disappearing from our landscape.  Does this not lead us to interrogate the landscape?” In some ways that what I think my book is doing, exploring how loss defines and transforms our sense of place, home, even country.

JM: Dancer from the Dance is one of my favorite novels.  It combines the epistolary form, humor and loss in such an elegant way.   I recommend it to every young gay man who is looking for something to read.  Could you talk to me a bit more about the elegiac tone of your book?  What things are being mourned in Paradise? What are the speakers of these poems unable to regain; it feels as though a great deal of things are being lost, not just one young life.

BS: Yes, Dancer from the Dance is a great novel, one of my favorites, too.  And the epistolary frame contains a very interesting conversation about the urban and the rural that really struck me the first time I read it.

Certainly there are a lot of things being mourned in the book, but to be honest I really just focused on the loss of Nick (and the other literal deaths) and tried to let everything else emerge as unselfconsciously as possible from that.  Aside from the book’s absent people, I mostly found myself thinking a lot about imposed silence—the inability to speak grief in the moment of grieving, or for that matter the inability to speak desire—which for me is the other great tragedy of the book. 

I’ll admit I had some reservations when I first decided to write about a young gay man’s death.  In part because I was aware at how often gay love stories end in death. And I didn’t want to perpetuate some Celluloid Closet notion that the gay lover must always die, nor did I want to perpetuate the old suicide myth from movies like Ode to Billy Joe, which seem to suggest that most gay people in rural America eventually off themselves (in fact, of course, most either move to cities or find ways to make lives for themselves where they are). That’s one reason I wanted Nick’s death early in the book, so that hopefully it would be less about a gay boy who commits suicide and more about how the people close to him survive and cope with that loss, particularly the poems’ speaker.  More than a story about death, I wanted it to be a story about grief lived out in a very particular landscape.

JM: Nick seems the central figure in this book, although he is entirely absent.  Everything we as readers learn about him is mediated through the speaker in the poems, through memory, and also through what is not said.  Nick's death and absence creates a sort of negative space in the life of the book that not only allows the reader to fill in the gaps with their own projections, but also to feel the crushing weight of what has gone missing or is just out of reach.    

BS: As I wrote the Nick poems, I began to work toward that sense of “presence through absence” that you mention. I was trying to capture the way, when you lose someone, that the evidence of the former life is suddenly so palpable around you.  The person's clothes, books, even the landscape itself, feel more infused with the loved one’s presence than ever, which of course paradoxically also makes the absence more palpable.   

JM: Your poem or series of poems called "Afterlife" are some of the most lyric in the book.  They are both darker and I would argue oneiric in nature, even though only the first two contain references to waking.  I also noticed in the acknowledgments that they used to be called "Mourning."  Could you talk a bit about this poem (these poems) genesis?  

BS: The “Afterlife” poems actually emerged from a writing exercise that I do sometimes with my friend Shara Lessley.  (Shara’s my main reader and a wonderful poet, who just released a beautiful book called TWO-HEADED NIGHTINGALE from New Issues Press, which is fabulous.  I recommend it to everyone).  We give each other a line or an image, some bit of “seed” language, from which we have a strictly timed hour or two to write a poem. We often use these “sprints,” as we call them, as a way to warm up the writing muscles each morning.  A couple of summers ago, I was visiting her in North Carolina and I ended up producing a series of fragments from our sprints that would eventually become the “Afterlife” series. 

At that point I’d written a number of poems about Nick but none in which the speaker was confronting Nick’s absence in the immediate present of the poem.   I hadn’t originally thought of these poems as oneiric, but I can see what you mean.  I was definitely interested in capturing that raw, stunned, strangely lucid quality that grief can bring, particularly in those moments of waking when you feel as if you’re discovering the loss all over again.  In the earliest drafts, I called each of the poems “Mourning” (and published some of them under that title), but in the context of the whole book, that title seemed to state the obvious.  I eventually came up with “Afterlife,” which was originally the title of a very different, failed poem that never made it into the manuscript.

JM: I wanted to return to the idea of visibility, specifically of queer writers and characters.  What is your take on the current visibility of queer authors and queer literature in the wider publishing world?

BS: There are some excellent queer poets getting lots of attention right now. I’m thinking specifically of D.A. Powell, who’s a major American talent, and even emerging poets like Eduardo Corral, who’s gotten lots of kudos for his first book.  I don’t get the sense that being queer hurts or helps your cause as a poet these days.  As always there are wonderful writers who don’t get the attention they deserve—queer and otherwise—but as far as I can tell, it doesn’t have anything to do with sexuality. 

JM: Do you believe there is something like a gay aesthetic in literature?  How would you define it, if you can?

BS: To be honest, I don’t think much about a “gay” aesthetic or identity aesthetics in general.  The gay community is so diverse and any queer person’s aesthetic will be influenced by many factors, only one of which will be sexuality, that I don’t think I could identify a common or dominant gay aesthetic.  I do think, though, that there are qualities that a number of gay writers share or seem to appreciate, “camp” being the first one that comes to mind.  But I don’t think of camp as an aesthetic.  It’s more a tonal quality that may have originated from within the gay community, but that many gay (and even some straight) writers possess.

JM: Then do you think that the idea of a gay aesthetic in literature is something that still holds currency? 

BS: I guess I’d have to say not for me, but then I’m not sure it ever has.  I generally just to write what interests me and let other people figure out the rest.

JM: Saving the criticism and analysis for the critics and postgame commentators then, where do you find yourself drawing inspiration from these days?  What poems or projects are underway?

BS: I’ve always been interested in the idea of the poet as a kind of historian, not as a recorder of facts, exactly, but of feeling and circumstance, so I find myself inspired by events or subjects that I don’t see people writing about.  As I’ve said, that’s definitely how PARADISE came about, as a response to an absence. 

Right now, I’m working on a new book tentatively called, “The Hall of Human Origins” and it continues with some of PARADISE’s themes, but it’s largely inspired by the fact that so many of my straight friends have recently had their first kids.  Everyone around me seems to be reproducing, so sometimes it feels a little odd to be someone like myself who isn’t and probably won’t.  I’m especially interested in this because the culture often holds up children as the ultimate expression of a couple’s love.  If you’re a gay couple, however, who can’t mix genetic material to produce a child, what does it mean, if anything, about your lives and the nature of your relationship?  How does it affect your sense of life and death, of the natural world, that sort of thing? 

I wrote a number of poems about this while working on PARADISE and have continued over the past year, so I’m close to having an early draft of the manuscript.  But we’ll see.  These things usually take me longer than I think.

JM: Thanks for such a great discussion.  I look forward to seeing more of your work.

07 August 2012

It is Still Happening... *UPDATE* **EDIT**

***Apparently it was all a fraud and the victim made up the story.  You can read it HERE.  This makes me even angrier.  Although this was a hoax, I think the points I made in response are still valid.  I'll stand by them.****

***Apparently, the crime may be a fraud.  If it is, this angers me even more than the initial incident***

Read the update HERE.

Back in October of 2010 when the media "discovered" queer youth suicide and bullying, I was angry that so many people treated it as something new.  I grew up in rural Montana and saw plenty of bullying based on sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. I was subject to some of it both in high school and at the first college I attended.

I posted my feelings about the "It Gets Better" campaign and wearing purple here.

When I looked at the internet yesterday, I was faced with another example of violence and bigotry from  the area where I grew up.  (Which turned out to be a hoax.)

In reading and thinking about such incidents, I realize that my prejudice against "liking" something on Facebook to produce change is a symptom of my age.  I started educating myself about LGBT issues and gay rights (as they were called back then) in 1997, before the internet was used to organize, proselytize, and foment large numbers of people.  To me, using the internet seems secondary to actually writing letters, placing phone calls to officials, meeting with them or going into their offices.  Not to mention showing up for protests, rallies, and community meetings.  I remember living in Missoula in 1998 and 1999 the Gay Town Hall meetings would draw hundreds--TWO HUNDRED+--people to discuss issues and concerns like violence against members of the LGBT community.  

What would 200 plus people going to city council meetings and the mayor's office demanding that action be taken to make the community safer look like?  Today, this seems almost unimaginable to me.  

Most people's activism is reduced to an angry comment on a blog or news article, or liking something on Facebook.  We might tweet a link.  Sometimes, if we are really moved, we donate money to an online organization and let others do the dirty work.

This isn't so much a call for for a grassroots activism to work for good (it is), but my own way of trying to understand how we can reorganize our communities to make our presence felt.  Know.  Present and unavoidable.

We've given too much away.  Too much of our voice.  Too much of our money.  Too much of our motivation to act.  We let others call the shots for us so we won't have to.  We let companies (even nonprofit ones) replace our connections to one another and to our queer past.  Don't believe me?  

My partner and I can always identify other queer people by the purple and yellow equal sign bumper sticker on their vehicles.  This isn't a symbol of gay pride.  It's an add for HRC.  Nothing more and nothing less.

I have given my own power away as well.  And even as I speak about doing more than just posting something online I am not unaware of my own hypocrisy using a blog to spread the word.

How can we continue to take direct action and make an impact OFF the internet, as well as on it?

01 August 2012

Well It's Now August and it Seems...

Well, it's now August and it seems that I have taken the entire summer off from this blog.  I've been reading.  Reading books for pleasure.  Reading books for projects I have going.  Reading tourist information signs.  Reading the slush pile for a chapbook contest.  Reading magazines from 1942.  I even read a manuscript that was a hybrid of poetry and recipes for a fellow writer.

I have also been looking at art this summer.  I saw Ray Turner's portrait show Population.  I saw the fantastic show Man Ray | Lee Miller: Partners in Surrealism.  I saw several pieces of graffiti that I liked.    I saw how when the water bends the rocks around it into sand is also a kind of art.

I am slowly, slowly working on an interview with a poet, whose work I love.  How have you spent the summer months?

01 July 2012

A Snippet of My Reading List

June   (total page count 1,929 )

1.     Winter Stars by Larry Levis (poetry) 87 pages.
2.     Elegy by Larry Levis (poetry) 81 pages.
3.     Writing for Art: The Aesthetics of Ekphrasis by Stephen Cheeke (nonfiction) 186 pages.
4.     Aloha from Hell by Richard Kadrey (fiction) 438 pages.
5.     Cortege by Carl Phillips (poetry) 69 pages.
6.     The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz 279 pages.
7.     Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition by Anthony Bourdain (nonfiction) 312 pages.**
8.     The Half-Finished Heaven by Tomas Tronstromer (poetry) 97 pages.
9.     Lorine Niedecker: an original biography by Jane Shaw Knox (nonfiction) 48 pages.
10.  From the Devotions by Carl Phillips (poetry) 81 pages. **
11.  Winter in the Blood by James Welch (fiction) 176 pages.
12.  Pastoral by Carl Phillips (poetry) 75 pages.

17 June 2012

Dear Literary Magpie Readers:

I wanted to let you know about a poetry chapbook contest that is happening right now.  Winged City Chapbooks (the great folks who published my chapbook Slow Depth) is having their annual chapbook contest as we speak.  The deadline for submission is JULY 1st.

The great thing about this chapbook contest is that it is only $7 to enter.  You can submit two separate chapbook manuscripts for the price of one!  Better yet, you will receive a copy of the winning chapbook when it is published.  

This is a small contest put on by a great press.  I encourage all of you poets out there to enter and to pass on the word to those who may be interested.  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me or the publisher.

Here is the website for the contest details: 

Here is the Facebook page:

Spread the word and take a chance on your poems!!

Jory Mickelson

26 May 2012

Beauty-Gate, Synchronicity, and History

If you haven't been following the conversation that's been happening in the gay male poetry community about beauty, aesthetics, class, race, and privilege you can catch up with most of it HERE.

C. Dale Young has done a great job of collecting the multiplicity of voices and views on his blog. (Thanks C. Dale!)

In the time between the end of the spring semester and now, I have been in a Benedictine monastery, to Missoula, Montana, and am now nestled in a town on a bay shadowed by an active volcano.  I have also been reading.

While I have many opinions about beauty and aesthetics, I will let others enrich the conversation that is now happening.  Instead, I would like to share a quote that I came across tonight while reading Samuel Steward's pseudo-novel Parisian Lives.

Chapter 32: July 19, 1939

"The privileges of beauty are enormous.  By its mysterious alchemy the truck driver becomes a king, the delivery boy an emperor.  We are the willing subjects of the one to whom it is given.  He can trample us with his boots, demand outrageous tribute, and we forgive him everything.  We voluntarily blind ourselves so we can no longer see our ruler's arrogance or treachery or inadequacy.  He is baffled to see us prostrate before him.  Come, he says--rise and look into my face.  We turn our blinded eyes upon him an feel the warmth and radiance of his presence, and in our trancelike mindless state we do his bidding like a captive Trilby* before her master."

Whether true or not, I felt it was something to think on further, my quarter to keep the music playing.

*Trilby O'Ferrall, the novel's (titled Trilby, published in 1894) heroine, is a half-Irish girl working in Paris as an artists' model and laundress; all the men in the novel are in love with her

04 May 2012

Not one but TWO interviews with me about Slow Depth!

"Time" by Sara Cannon
This has been a great week for getting word out about my chapbook Slow Depth.

The first interview was with a student journalist at the University of Idaho for the school newspaper the Argonaut.  You can read that interview HERE.

The second interview is by my friend and fellow writer Sannion on his blog The House of Vines.  You can check out the smart questions he asked me, including "Is poetry dead in this country?"  Go Here.

I am blessed to get so much press for my small chapbook!  Thank you to the Argonaut and Sannion.  If you want to order a copy, you can go to the publisher's website Winged City Chapbooks.

29 April 2012

Dreaming James Franco and Hart Crane

Last night, I managed to finally hunt down and rent a copy of Broken Tower, James Franco's art house, biopic picture about the poet Hart Crane.  I didn't have any expectations for the film to be good or bad, but I was excited to see the figure of Hart Crane get some screen time.  When was the last film about a modern queer American poet made?  (Not involving Franco.)

Hart Crane has been looming large in my consciousness the semester.  Reading Federico Garcia Lorca's Poet in New York, got me wondering if Crane and Lorca had ever met.  I found one account of that meeting involving whiskey and a room full of sailors.  I also found Philip Levine's poem "On the Meeting of Garcia Lorca and Hart Crane."  While his poem has it's merits, like heterosexual writers will, he veers away from the queer vitality of that meeting entirely.  The poem negates any chance of desire or tenderness between the poets themselves or the drunk sailors, "Let’s not be frivolous, let’s/ not pretend the two poets gave/each other wisdom or love or/ even a good time."  Why does Lorca and Crane having a good time have to be considered frivolous?

Levine's concern for the poem is imagining his relative in the room with them.  It's Levine's poem and his prerogative and a good poem for what it does.  But in the hands of a queer author, this same material could do more.

But back to my semester with Crane.  I wrote a draft of an elegy to him.  I revisited his poems.  I saw Broken Tower.  While the film wasn't entirely to my liking, I enjoyed a good portion of it.  Hearing Franco read Crane's work aloud was heartening.  It followed me into bed and worked its way into my dreams.  Not in the way you are thinking...

Instead, lines from Crane's poetry narrated my dreams.  They hovered over my head.  They broke apart and formed new combinations in the somnambulant air.  I have been wondering about how to reconcile certain aspects of my thesis and thanks to Franco and Crane, I think I may have an idea of how to shape it.  Crane's words acted as a numinous spirit, guiding me.  

As often happens, I have to do some of my writing while asleep or watching television or walking or  reading for hours on end.  The work of writing happens all the time, not just when I put the pen to the page.  

15 April 2012

Interview! Interview! This time I am interviewed!

Book lovers, please stop by poet and all around nice guy Eduardo C. Corral's blog LorcaLoca to see an interview about my chapbook Slow Depth.  It's strange to be on the other side of the interview table!


11 April 2012

How Contemporary Are You?

This week, I was reading the poems of the the poet Nazim Hikmet and was thoroughly surprised by his use of modern words where I wasn't expecting to find them.  Granted, my familiarity with modern poetry of the Middle East is limited, but when a reader compares the poems of Hikmet to that of Mahmoud Darwish, Hikmet comes off as very modern.  (This is not to say I like one or the other better!)

Hikmet writes about tank treads across unplowed fields "9-10P.M. Poems" and compares the sun's rays to nitric acid "Letters from Chankiri Prison."  It got me thinking.

I started to remember the poems of the writer Kenneth Fearing, whose "Aphrodite Metropolis" series anticipated using American pop culture in poetry by about 30 years.  Fearing's poems use words like "Pow!"  They encapsulate the 1930s and 1940s and this is their charm. Also their hindrance.  It is hard for a poem to remain "fresh" and timeless if a poem includes references to brand names from Chicago, 1938.

It also calls to mind a book of poems collected from Ancient Greece.  One or two of the poems made reference to plays in circulation at the time of the writer.  Unfortunately, none of those plays survived to the modern day.  The translator (with the best of intentions I am sure) substituted the titles of the original plays with comparable modern versions that an American reader would be familiar with.  For example, play X became "Gone With the Wind."  While I got the gist of the poem, the modern plays totally spoiled it for me.

So this is my writing dilemma of the week: Is it possible to include Facebook in a poem or Twitter in a novel and have it not feel entirely dated ten, fifteen, or fifty years in the future?  I realize there is no way to adequately answer this question, but I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

Follow up: What  "modern" or "contemporary" references have you found in your own reading that seem entirely dated now? 

30 March 2012

The Writer On and Off the Page: Writing, a Public and Private Act

The end of February and the entire month of March have been filled with literary events.  I attended the Associated Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference in Chicago.  While there, I attended several readings and had an author signing with my press.

In March, I escaped Idaho for a bit on spring break and drove to Vancouver, B.C.  While there I heard my amazing friend Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore read from her new anthology Why are Faggots so Afraid of Faggots? (I find myself driving 8.5 hours to attend a reading this year!)

This month I also attended a thesis defense for a fellow MFA poet here at the University of Idaho, a talk by the immanent translator Willis Barnstone, and also had my own reading and chapbook release party with fellow poet Ciara Shuttleworth.

It has been a busy forty days.  Individually, these events invigorate my own writing and thinking about writing.  Collectively, it has been exhausting.  They have also made me consider the writer’s life both as a public and a private figure. 

In a discussion yesterday, a fellow poet said, “A writer is the kind of person who sits alone in a room to make sense of the world.”  The act of writing is solitary.  At its core, writing lonely.

So then what happens when a writer publishes his or her work?

Most often, in order to get the work “out there” a writer must make some kind of public appearance, whether that is online, at a bookstore, or in a coffee shop to read.  The reader, in order to promote their words, must become an extension of them in some sense. 

Your writing is an extension of your inner-world, but then you the writer must become an extension of your words in the public sphere.  Who is leap-frogging whom?

For many writers, this is a painful process.  I know that in my own experience, I dislike talking about my poems to others.  I also hate the cycle of self-promotion that occurs with the publication of a book.  That said, I am finding that having my chapbook come out is a great way to get a small taste for the hustle one must go through to promote a full-length book.

The poet Richard Siken is notorious for remaining circumspect about his own work.  He said in an interview, “You get the page.  I get the rest.”

What role does writing play in your life at the moment?  Have you experienced the divide between the writer as a public and private figure?  Do you have any advice moving from one sphere into the other?


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