July Poetrio 2012

Sunday, at 3:00 p.m. at Malaprop’s Bookstore/café, the Poetrio series continues with three poets: James Davis, Kyle P. Harper, and Laura Walker.

Letter writing, a vanishing art

A book is more than a collection of letters and pages.

The week before Fathers Day I completed a book design project that is a “legacy of letters from a decorated World War II hero…” Or so the back copy states.

Reading a manuscript like that, at times, seems voyeuristic. The compelling part of the book is the context of knowing that the author was three when his father passed away suddenly. He grew up hearing friends and family tell him “You sure look like your Daddy” or “I knew your Dad, he was one of the best.” The letters that the author collected for the book shares who is father was and what kind of man he was. But most importantly, for the author, it was the only way to hear the voice of a father he never knew.

At times, during the process of designing the cover and page layout, I glimpsed that boyish tenderness of the author (now in his sixties) as he ached for the presence his father. I cherished Fathers Day all the more as I thought of the author.

A couple of things come to mind as I wrap up this project and send it to press. First, the art of letter writing seems non-existent. The last letter I received was from my oldest child who placed it in my boot for me to find one morning. It was a simple note written in colored pencil. It is placed in my journal. I glance at it periodically.

Last time I received a hand-written letter was years ago. There are the seasonal holiday letters that begin filling my mail box every year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. They usually arrive as letters printed out on decorative stationary purchased at Kinkos or Office Depot. But hand-written letters? Do people still do that in our culture?

Secondly, the legacy left behind of those letters written prior to, during and after a major historical event impresses me. What kind of legacy might we leave our children and grandchildren with a mountain of un-memorable text messages. What will our tweets and status updates mean a half century from now? Will Twitter be obsolete by then? Or Facebook? Can you imagine your grandchildren asking you, “What’s Twitter?” After you explain the whole social media birth of micro blogging they giggle and say, “Twitter is so 2012. I can’t believe how primitive that seems.”

Emails may convey some of the gravitas as a written (or typed) letter. However, as Luddite as this sounds, I still have hand-written letters from family and friends placed in an old shoe box. Letters and notes from a woman who became my wife are stored in a similar fashion. A typed note from my grandfather, when age had crippled his hand-writing, is placed in a book of his poems as a reminder and memento. As a child, my grandmother wrote a brief letter to me each birthday and placed a stick of gum in between the folds. I looked forward to that letter each year. You can’t attach a stick of gum to an email.

Besides, I doubt anyone in our culture would wait, anticipate and enjoy a letter that arrives annually. Everything is so urgent… almost panicked. Why isn’t someone responding to my emails, texts, tweets? It’s been 30 seconds! (Place emoticons here.) In my own life, I notice how differently I process social media and online content. There lacks a linear stretch of the intellect when processing clusters of data points from Twitter, Facebook, HuffPo, etc. My attention span fatigues when I have to wade through a barrage of emails, updates and tweets.

Yet I enjoy the long articles in the Atlantic Monthly, London Review of Books, The New York Review of Books or the like. It stimulates my mind. 700-word news articles for the most part bore me. There’s nothing there but a nut graph. No context. No history. No personality or narrative trajectory. Just a Google-like, or Wikipedia-like, democratized collection of information. There’s nothing there to engage my mind. Nothing that challenges my mind, beliefs or values. A book on the Battle of Agincourt offers nuances that blog posts, tweets and texts don’t offer.

Reading through a legacy of letters, like the book I am ready to send to press, captures the exchange of ideas in a sustained, generational conversation between a father and a son. The more our culture engages in the scatterbrained conflagration of data items, I suspect civil, engaging conversation (like letter writing) may become obsolete.

Vanishing art

Anyone remember when you used to capture a photo and had to wait weeks to see how the negative film exposed to light translated by silver halide salts to a produce a positive image on paper?

An evening of poetry at the Downtown Books & News

Tonight, 7:30 p.m., Downtown Books & News presents an evening of poetry hosted by Jeff Davis and features Evie Shockley (recently selected for Holmes National Poetry Prize), Holly Iglesias, Luke Hankins and Tina Barr.

How to write a business bio

Or not. Here’s what professional copywriters will tell you. There are two steps to writing your business bio:

  • provide an overview of your skills and experience.
  • include related or interesting facts to punctuate your credentials.

Pretty simple, right. Wrong. Why is it so difficult to write in third-person? About yourself? (And I need send this to the publicist later today.) So, I wrote a first draft. It works. It’s short. Simple. To the point. But something is missing. So, I searched a couple web sites for help. Here’s a few basic principles I gleaned from Terje Johansen:  [1]

  • write in third person
  • list facts, not wishes
  • cite relevant experiences
  • belong somewhere
  • write tight
  • add a hook

Here’s a few things to add to that list:

  • audience
  • storytelling
  • social media

The business bio I’m writing is to be placed on a publishing house’s web site. So that audience will be authors and readers. A dash of storytelling to the bio helps readers remember who you are because of the narrative you share. And be sure to include your LinkedIn info. Here’s what I plan to send to the publicist:

Matthew Mulder began his career in a quiet Wisconsin studio of a calligrapher where he learned a hands-on approach to color, design, typography and the ancient art of Celtic knots. As creative director, he brings more than sixteen years of experience to the art department and provides creative, strategic solutions to the publishing business. After-hours, Matthew is a culture-maker in the literary community of Asheville, North Carolina where he is invited to present his work to audiences at bookstores, cafés, and fine art centers. His published work appears in such literary journals as Crab Creek Review, H_NGM_N, Small Press Review and others. Follow Matthew on Twitter @mxmulder or LinkedIn.

What do you think?

NOTES: [1] Terje Johansen provides the basics of writing a business bio . Here’s a couple other resources: 16 questions to help you write a douche-free bio and A Great Professional Bio.

Quote: Natalie Goldberg

“Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important.”

Natalie Goldberg

What does a goat and a mule have in common with social media?

There’s an old proverb that goes something like this: one should avoid the front of a goat, the back of a mule, and every side of a fool. If you don’t want a private message, comment or opinion printed in 60 point, bold type headlines on the front of The New York Time, you shouldn’t email it, tweet it, post it to Facebook or your blog. That’s what prompted the following advice to job seekers:

1.) Don’t post inappropriate pictures or make any comments on the web that could be offensive to anybody.  If they’re already up, delete them now!

2.) Mark all of your settings on any type of social media as private.  Don’t let people who aren’t connected to you view your pictures or read your comments.  If friends posted a ridiculous comments, delete them now!

3.) If you want to share your personal beliefs, call a friend.  Don’t share them through social media.

4.) Google yourself because future employers will.  If you find things that you don’t think a future employer would like, find a way to get rid of it!

5.) I’ve shared all of the negative things about social media but don’t forget that there are a lot of positive things too.  If you’re actively volunteering, fundraising, running a marathon, or writing a motivational blog these are all things that can help you get a job.  Make sure these are public to future employers.

Link

It’s just common sense and good business practice. Yet it seems missing from the American culture as people display their most private details and opinions. If you truly want to maintain private details avoid the internet entirely. But if you are using the internet for social media and emailing, remember that the internet is immediate, permanent, and global.

June 2012 Poetrio reading series with Donna Lisle Burton, Alice Osborn, and Erica Wright

Sunday afternoon, June 3rd at 3 p.m., the Poetrio monthly reading series continues with Donna Lisle Burton, Alice Osborn, and Erica Wright. Details here [link].

From Malaprop’s community outreach director, Virginia McKinley:

Poet and visual artist Donna Lisle Burton. . . . has two previous collections of poems; is also an accomplished painter, portraitist, and photographer; and has four decades of experience as a special education teacher. Of Donna Lisle Burton’s third collection of poems, LETTING GO, award-winning Asheville poet Pat Riviere-Seel has written, “Do not be misled by the title: once you start reading, there will be no Letting Go [sic].”  North Carolina Poet Laureate Cathy Smith Bowers has offered this additional appreciation: “Reading the poems of Donna Lisle Burton is like happening upon a cache of tender and beautifully crafted love letters.  Among the objects of her most intimate affections are lovers both old and new — parents and siblings and children; students and friends; flowers and bridges and mills.  And, finally, her luckiest of lovers, whoever might open the pages of this exquisite book.”  The variations on letting go that are gathered in this collection are not entirely beautiful or easy, and not always for the reasons one might anticipate. . . .

Alice Osborn is another transplant to North Carolina. . . . AFTER THE STEAMING STOPS is her most recent collection of poetry; previous collections are Right Lane Ends, and Unfinished Projects.  The latter prompted these remarks from writer Homer Hickam: “I love Alice’s poetry.  She gives me thoughts I’ve never thought, and dreams I’ve never dreamed.  She uses words like a master potter — molding the clay of the mind into vessels that hold not things, but life, place, and time.”  AFTER THE STEAMING STOPS seems a book more of broken dreams than of new or unexpected ones.  There is no sentimentality in the face of death, departures, endings. . . Before the fierceness of nature and life, love becomes fierce — but after the fact, and nearly as helpless as the child who declared, “I’ll find my own way!” — and bicycled off as a tornado approached, “no clue dueling cyclones ate children / near the road he and Daddy drive on every day to school.”

Erica Wright. . . . serves as poetry editor for Guernica, a magazine of art and politics, and teaches creative writing at Marymount Manhattan College. . . . Of her 2011 book, INSTRUCTIONS FOR KILLING THE JACKAL, Christopher Crawford observed in a recent review for the literary magazine Neon, “Wright is not afraid to use the darkest of imagery combined with a violence of language. A great number of the poems here are in tercets and couplets and Wright makes good use of these forms[,] which allows her to move her short, sharp-edged anecdotes with disquieting ease from beginning to end. Wright’s poems often follow the tracks of her thoughts through various twists, turns and enjambments. The darkness that informs these images is always just below the surface, the music in the lines is subtle and tense . . . The poems give a sense of someone trying to find something while at the same time avoiding it, leaving the scene while simultaneously confronting it. . . .”  Erica Wright’s imagery, settings, and situations often recall the elements of tall tales — but tales whose paths soon wind toward mythical landscapes, the unsettling territory and characters of fables, a realm of constant metamorphosis and of faith mingled with superstition. . .

Hope to see you at this month’s Poetrio reading series.

Tonight’s Malaprop’s reading featuring Sebastian Matthews, Sybil Baker and Chris Hale

Just received this email from Malaprop’s regarding tonight’s, June 1st, reading at 7 p.m.

Triple reading event, featuring new poems by Sebastian Matthews, and selected poems from his most recent collection: MIRACLE DAY: MID-LIFE SONGS; a reading by Sybil Baker from her novel INTO THIS WORLD; and a reading by novelist Chris Hale from her just-completed memoir, LINE OF SIGHT.

I’m very excited to learn of Sebastian Matthews’s new collection of poems.