November PAD is almost here

Over two months of writing a poem a day

Anyone interested in the November PAD (Poem-A-Day) Chapbook Challenge? Details are available on Writer’s Digest website.

It has been awhile since I mentioned the writing exercise I often practice of writing 30 poems in 30 days. A couple of years ago I stopped posting poems on this blog under the advice of a published poet. Poems posted on blogs qualify as “published” and therefore are ineligible to be published in a literary journal or magazine.

So, I started writing poems for friends and others on a manual typewriter and posting the photos—like this short poem for a fellow poet, writer and friend: “Some days all you need.” Or this poem written for the wonderful staff at Dunkin Donuts who always know my order and have it ready for me before I get to the counter: “Never look a doughnut dealer in the eyes.” It is not that I wouldn’t like to get published in a literary journal or magazine, but I really enjoy the process of writing to a specific person or persons.

Due to unemployment followed by new employment challenges, the practice of using the manual typewriter to compose poems ceased due to circumstances I can not share at this point. But I kept composing and writing offline—analog, if you will. In lieu of a manual typewriter, I discovered an app awhile ago. There’s always an app for something, right? During the last month or so, I composed several poem sketches. In the next weeks, I shall share some of these visual poems. Tomorrow, the first one will be posted.

For the month of November I plan to compose a poem a day. Who is with me?

The “elevated” platform of self-publishing

Poets and Writers - Self Publishing

For the last few years, Poets & Writers highlights the independent publishing scene in America. This year is no different.

Recently arrived in the post is the November/December issue of Poets & Writers. In the past, it has been my practice to read each issue from cover to cover. However, (and in light of my post last week that elicited much conversation: Are trade publishers gatekeepers?[1]), I abandoned protocol and started on the self-publishing special section.

As I am still reading and processing the articles in this issue, one item caught my attention that I would like to share. Reportedly, more than 391,000 books were self-published in 2012.[2] That is a large number of self-published books. To be honest, I may have read only a handful of self-published works that year. An article in Poets & Writers offer some perspective on the matter. I would like to learn your response to the following:

A highly regarded agent recently remarked that the odds are stacked heavily against self-published authors—that only three or four titles really “make a splash” each year.[3]

[1] Closing out the blog post, I asked: “What are your thought about publishers as gatekeepers?” One commented suggested that publishers “think that they are [gatekeepers], but they’re not. They are commercial retailers…. They buy what sells. The quality only needs to be high enough not to send readers screaming.” Someone else commented that “I depend on publishers to be gatekeepers. While I know that they publish a lot of crap and don’t publish a lot of great stuff… I still believe that the ratio of things I’d enjoy reading to things I wouldn’t is higher among traditionally published books than among self-published ones. I’m sure I miss some really great reads this way, but I just don’t feel I have time to wade through the slush pile myself.”
[2] Jason Boog, Galleycat, “Bowker Counted 391,000+ Self-Published Books Last Year,” October 9, 2013, accessed October 23, 2013,
[3] Kevin Larimer, Poets & Writers, “Self-publishing Perspectives,” November/December 2013

The return of Strange Familiar Place to print

Comic Stroll 2013

After a long sabbatical, Hudson and Heather Stillwater return to print in the comic strip “Strange Familiar Place,” a slice-of-life drama. Previously unpublished comic strips of “Strange Familiar Place” are now available in limited distribution in the fall issue of Comic Stroll, a publication of the Southeast Chapter of the National Cartoonist Society (SECNCS).

One of the SECNCS members provided me copies of Comic Stroll on Monday. Later this week, copies will be distributed at the annual SECNCS meeting as well as VA and childrens hospitals in the region.

Make your lives extraordinary

During the last few weeks I have read an exhaustive non-fiction book on one of the darkest times of modern history. The result of reading such a book penetrates my soul. I wish I had time to share my thoughts and feelings regarding the book I finished reading, but due to mega commuting and long work hours allow me to share this video that merely scratches the surface of what captivates my thoughts.

Are trade publishers gatekeepers?

First quarter books

In a book cover designer LinkedIn group, the question came up, Do you think publishers are “gatekeepers?”[1] (For reference, please read this blog post provided by Dave Bricker.[2])

Too often I read self-publishers complain how the Big Six dominate retail/distribution options. Or trade publishers denigrate self-publishers as buffoons. In Dave Bricker’s blog post, he  offers that it is not an “us versus them” scenario. It is a competitive marketplace. Both publishing options are viable. Additionally, both options are equally challenging.

One contributor offered that publishers are like brands. While another contributor reminded the group that publishing is a business.

The article sparked additional thoughts in a different, yet related, line of thinking. First, if trade publishers are brands, should they publish inferior quality literature simply because it’s good business? Next, if publishers do pursue that path, what does that say of their brand?

Dave responded to my questions in this manner:

We indie publishers enjoy the luxury of indulging in a bit of artistic snobbery, but we don’t have conglomerates to support and we’re rarely presented with the opportunity to grow rich by “selling out.”

Ultimately, I suppose we’re all trying to make money and offer the highest quality books we can. One could make a compelling argument that a single “less than excellent” blockbuster could finance a whole lot of artistic expression. It’s a bit like wildlife advocates supporting zoos. A little captivity is acceptable if it supports a certain amount of conservation in the wild.

I love that line: “It’s a bit like wildlife advocates supporting zoos.”

What are your thought about publishers as gatekeepers?

[1] Dave Bricker, LinkedIn group, book cover designer, “Gatekeepers and Self-Publishing,” December, 2012 accessed October 13, 2013 Gatekeepers and Self-Publishing
[2] Dave Bricker,, “Gatekeepers and Self-Publishing,” November 25, 2012 accessed October 13, 2013 Gatekeepers and Self-Publishing

What poets wear

What Poets Wear

When you think of poets gathering together, what you see? What impression do you have of poets? Do all poets wear black turtlenecks, coordinating berets and dark sunglasses?

There appears to be a cultural impression of poets that promotes stereotype or mythos. Years ago I read a biography of a well established senior poet who was visited by a younger, celebrated poet of the next generation. The long-time partner of the senior poet observed that the younger poet was more enamored by the mythology surrounding the senior poet than the actual, published work of the senior poet. Similarly, our culture seems to have that perception of poets—they are more interesting to observe as an unusual creature of bizarre habits and deviant ways rather than an artist of lyric and verse.

Do you see that as well?

Another aspect to this impression informs young and/or aspiring poets that they need to act or behave in a certain manner because that is what culture dictates—that is how poets are supposed to act. If young/aspiring poets do not participate in the activity of cultural stereotypes, they tend to think that their craft is illegitimate and they will not be taken seriously for their poetry. Further, what impact will this have on the actual art created by young/aspiring poets? Will it change the subject matter of their work? And so on.

Has anyone else observed this?

This weekend I joined some local poets downtown. There were no black turtlenecks or berets worn. Someone did wear a pair of dark sunglasses. And no, it wasn’t me.

Does this make me look Luddite?

Image Luddite

When I looked at my office desk earlier this week, this question came to mind: Does this make me look Luddite? On the desk was a book on the subject of graphic design, a daily desk diary, a periodical, a mechanical pencil (not pictured), a tin of tea and cup of tea (also not pictured) and a smartphone (not pictured, because it was used to capture the image).

It does not escape my attention that I could use an internet search engine to locate similar content that I found the printed book. But I chose the book. And there are plenty of cloud based software applications that I could use to plan and track daily activity. But that was not my choice. A mechanical pencil is easily replaced with a keyboard and mouse. Again, that was not my choice. To my knowledge, tea cannot be digitized. At least not yet. And the smartphone. Well that is a device that continues to intrigue and perplex me. It is advertised to make life easier, smarter. But I have yet to get it to produce a good cup of Earl Grey tea on a misty morning when I’m tearing down the mountain to get to the publishing house to invest in another book project.

What is the first poem you read?

Poem Quote - Trees

My grandfather often recited “The Raven” to me when I was I child. I memorized portions of the poem before I was able to read it. Once I was able to read “The Raven”, I was fascinated by how different the poem looked in print compared the how I experienced the recited work. Poe became an early favorite poet to my younger self.

The very first poem I read (and enjoyed) in primary school was “My Beard” by Shel Silverstein. Later, in junior high, I read “Chartless” by Emily Dickinson and “If” by Rudyard Kipling. That poem became a constant reminder to me during difficult years in a rural country high school.

The public library in that small village where I lived during those high school days primarily carried poetry books of Robert Frost and John Greenleaf Whittier. Their poems became early favorite poets. The university library was a sacred place once I discovered Edmund Spenser and many other books of poetry.

Compared to the small village library, the university library was one of the wonders of the world to my developing mind. “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer is one of my favorite poems of all times. The first book I bought at an antiquarian bookshop had that poem in it. That anthology remains one of my treasured books.

I asked friends on social media a few weeks ago: What is the first poem you read and enjoyed? Here’s a list of some of those poems:

  • Margaret Atwood’s “You Are Happy”
  • Whitman’s “Song of Myself”
  • Edgar Alan Poe’s “The Raven”
  • “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost
  • “Snowbound” by John Greenleaf Whittier
  • “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll
  • Wordsworth’s “Daffodils”
  • “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer

This is a good selection and variety of poetry and poets. What about you? What’s your story? What is the first poem you read and enjoyed?

Found poem commemorating AVL 100TPC 2013

As promised last week, here is a found poem I constructed based on the poets who read at the Asheville 100 Thousand Poets for Change event.

Poem for 28 September, 2013

Do not wonder when I say it directly to your ear,[1]
“I am writing a letter to my dead sister. . . “[2]

We anticipate the leap into freedom. [3]
We make our vows in the beach dunes. [4]
We need visual signs of healing. [5]

All that remains is the small few. . . [6]
A home where the family never can return. [7]

They sold their own inheritance. . . [8]
And must return to the center. . . to learn more. . . [9]
It is possible to have everything. . . or at least twenty dollars. . . [10]

NOTES: Each line in this found poem is from the following poets who read at the Asheville 100 Thousand Poets for Change event on September 28, 2013.

[1] Britt Kaufmann
[2] Barbara Gravelle
[3] Steve Brooks
[4] Jeff Davis
[5] Jessica Newton
[6] Jeff Davis
[7] Caleb Beissert
[8] Britt Kaufmann
[9] Jessica Newton
[10] Brian Sneeden

100TPC Quote Brian Sneeden

100TPC QUOTE Sneeden

From 100 Thousand Poets for Change Asheville, a quote from a poem by Brian Sneeden: “It is possible to have everything… or at least twenty dollars…”