I am supposed to be doing something important right now

To post or not to post. To repeat old habits, or to start new ones.

That is how I concluded last week’s blog post. Further, I revealed that I wrote multiple drafts of the post. From a few different angles. And did not plan on posting them online.

However, a little bird told me it might be worth reading. So, in the tradition of chapbooks, I pulled together the scraps and assembled a small e-book.

The e-book runs 4000 words. Part one is a preface (basically, last week’s blog post). Part two contains five short chapters of blog extras. Consider it bonus material. Like 90s audio CD hidden tracks. Part three is a collection of twelve confessions.

The e-book is available FREE for those who have Kindle unlimited. Otherwise it is a meager $0.99 to download a copy.

Hope you enjoy it. If you like what you find, please leave a comment below or give it a starred review on Amazon. Much gratitude!

Patience – your writing finds the right audience

Have you ever written something that developed a life — even an audience — unexpected? The final chapter of a literary biography I read recently featured an introductory note that caught my attention. The author stated that of all the essays he had written during his long career the final essay of the book received the most attention. And the most requests for permission to reprint it in various publications.

Those were different days, I reflected. A time when permission was requested to reprint material an effort to share thoughtful writings. Rather than copy, paste, click and post.

In a very small way, a similar observance was made regarding a piece I wrote more than a decade ago.

This was back in the days before iPhones, Facebook, or Twitter. A time when SMS messaging — later texting — was a novelty that would be the most used mobile data service. But that was a couple years away.

A reader of my blog requested a review of a poem. I was suspicious of the request. Thought it might be a college student seeking someone to write his or her literature paper. I accepted the challenge.

At the time, I was writing book reviews, essays, interviews and such. Mostly for local publications. But a few journals and magazines on the West Coast published some of my work. I reached out to Len Fulton of Small Press Review and asked if I could submit the poem review. He graciously agreed.

I wrote a review of Charles Simic’s poem “Old Soldier” in an esoteric manner that could not easily be passed off as a high school literature paper. I sent off the review for publication. And waited. Months went by. Issue after issue of Small Press Review arrived in the mail box. Impatient, I posted an abridged, clumsy version of the review on my blog. A month later I submitted it to editor, publisher, and friend Pasckie Pascua who published it in the September 2005 edition of The Indie. When the November-December 2005 issue of Small Press Review arrived I was surprised to see my review had — in fact — been published.

The review of Simic’s poem “Old Soldier” remains one of the most read posts on this blog. It is embarrassing to me for a couple reasons. One, the lack of virtue in my life. The selfish rush to be published. Patience is a virtue I am still learning to practice. Another reason for the embarrassment is that the online, perennial version of the review is a shadow of the original. The writing that appeared in the Small Press Review has never been released online. And maybe that is best for now.

The review of the poem is the final chapter of a book manuscript I finished. As of this writing it remains unpublished. But maybe one day it will greet an audience of its own. And maybe wander online as well.

Typewriter poetry and blogging — updated

Some days all you need

A poem for a friend composed on a manual typewriter

At least eight years ago, an old beat up manual typewriter provided a platform to compose poetry and other writings.1 It was an effort to return to an intentional practice of crafting poetry and prose without distraction of disruptive media.

For years and years, a notebook, journal or sketchbook was never far from reach. But one night after a long night of poetry and music at Beanstreets followed by an even longer time of coffee and conversation at Old Europe, a friend convinced me to try blogging.

Photo courtesy of @mxmulder

Sample journal page of poetry

The immediate response to blogging was infections.2 Connecting with people all over the country, sharing writing samples or books read and being part of an active digital community was exciting. And the feedback on written work was quick — sometimes within a couple days or hours. The practice of writing allowed me to hone the craft of creative writing and exposed me to other writers across the country. One of those bloggers actually showed up at a poetry gig I did. She was on a cross-country trip to visit friends and wanted to visit in real life.

Over time, I noticed that my practice of writing notes, daily sketches and other activities had all but disappeared. Relying on keyboards, display screens, hard drives and servers presented became a crutch. My writing drafts and sketches appeared deceptively crisp and final in neatly formatted text documents and web blog interface windows.

So, I pulled the plug. Returned to handwriting and typing as practice.3 Some friends and fellow poets saw a few samples of typewritten work and suggested I post it on my blog. It was a novelty. A curiosity. So, I did.

One of the first photographs of a poem I composed on a typewriter was written for a friend. It was posted about this time of year — in 2011.4 A few days later I followed up with another poem5 that was later read at poetry event where I and other poets were dubbed “the next generation” of Asheville poets.6

I do not claim to be the first person to post an image of a poem typed on a manual typewriter. But I noticed a trend in that direction about a year after posting those images of typed poem sketches.7 Not sure exactly if I started the trend. Probably not. Maybe other like-minded individuals who sought to return an organic practice of handwriting and typing as a mode of composing their visions and ideas.

After relocating to the southern boarder of the Great White North8, I continued using the manual typewriter as a mode of composing new work — both poetry and prose. Some of this was due to the original intent of the practice — crafting content without distraction of disruptive media. Some of the use of the manual typewriter was due to a period of time that I was without a functional laptop and no internet access. A local writers group saw a lot of typed first drafts from that manual typewriter. One of those typed drafts was later published as a short story.9

Most recent first drafts have all been handwritten if not typed on one — of now two — of the manual typewriters. Blogging. Well, that has atrophied. Maybe I’ll post some photos of typewritten drafts this year as a way to keep the blog active. But, to celebrate an eight year anniversary of analog writing — I’ll keep most of it offline and on paper.10

Keep your stick on the ice and remember to use the lowercase L key when typing the numeral one.

NOTES:
[1] In truth, I composed poems on an electric typewriter prior to that. Did it for decades. Did not own a personal computer until… well, that is another story.
[2] That was when there were a mere couple million web blogs in the world. Now, there are some platforms, like Tumblr, boasting 100 million blogs. The blogosphere has become quite congested.
[3] Examples of some the 30 poems in 30 days journal posts with photos: here, here and here.
[4] April 1, 2011, blog post.
[5] Poem: “Never Look A Doughnut Dealer in the Eyes”
[6] “Rhyme and reason” by Alli Marshall, Mountain Xpress, April 6, 2011. Accessed April 2, 2018. “https://mountainx.com/arts/art-news/040611rhyme-and-reason/”
[7] Examples include Typewriter Poetry (though it seems the web site has not been active since March 19, 2015), Remington Typewriter Poetry (this site too has become inactive with the last entry posted June 2016), and the most popular is Tyler Knott (though his web page has an archive going back to 2003 (which is odd because he uses Tumblr as a platform and Tumblr was launched in early 2007… maybe he migrated his content from some other source to Tumblr… but I digress) the posted images do not begin until 2012 (unless I am mistaken).
[8] A reference to Bob and Doug McKenzie, fictional brothers who hosted the show Great White North (a reference to Canada, aye). For sample episode view Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pPRaD6TKLc
[9] Left of the Lake published “Mortal Coil” in 2015. https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2015/08/31/publication-of-mortal-coil/
[10] Original post published on April 21, 2015 https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2015/04/21/typewriter-poetry-and-blogging/

Typewriter poetry and blogging

Some days all you need

A poem for a friend composed on a manual typewriter

At least five years ago, an old beat up manual typewriter provided a platform to compose poetry and other writings.1 It was an effort to return to an intentional practice of crafting poetry and prose without distraction of disruptive media.

For years and years, a notebook, journal or sketchbook was never far from reach. But one night after a long night of poetry and music at Beanstreets followed by an even longer time of coffee and conversation at Old Europe, a friend convinced me to try blogging.

Photo courtesy of @mxmulder

Sample journal page of poetry

The immediate response to blogging was infections.2 Connecting with people all over the country, networking, sharing and being part of an active digital community was exciting. The practice of writing allowed me to hone the craft of creative writing and exposed me to other writers across the country. One of those bloggers actually showed up at a poetry gig I did. She was on a cross-country trip to visit friends and wanted to visit in real life.

Over time, I noticed that my practice of writing notes, daily sketches and other activities had all but disappeared. Relying on keyboards, display screens, hard drives and servers presented became a crutch. My writing drafts and sketches appeared deceptively crisp and final in neatly formatted text documents and web blog interface windows.

So, I pulled the plug. Returned to handwriting and typing as practice.3 Some friends and fellow poets saw a few samples of typewritten work and suggested I post it on my blog. It was a novelty. A curiosity. So, I did.

One of the first photographs of a poem I composed on a typewriter was written for a friend. It was posted about this time of year — in 2011.4 A few days later I followed up with another poem5 that was later read at poetry event.

I do not claim to be the first person to post an image of a poem typed on a manual typewriter. But I noticed a trend in that direction about a year after posting those images of poem sketches.6 Not sure exactly if I started the trend. Probably did not. Maybe other like-minded individuals who sought to return an organic practice of handwriting and typing as a mode of composing their visions and ideas.

Here is to a five year anniversary of analog writing.

NOTES:
[1] In truth, I composed poems on an electric typewriter prior to that. Did it for decades. Did not own a personal computer until… well, that is another story.
[2] That was when there were a mere couple million web blogs in the world. Now, there are some platforms, like Tumblr, boasting 100 million blogs. The blogosphere has become quite congested.
[3] Examples of some the 30 poems in 30 days journal posts with photos: here, here and here.
[4] April 1, 2011, blog post.
[5] Poem: “Never Look A Doughnut Dealer in the Eyes”
[6] Examples include Typewriter Poetry, Remington Typewriter Poetry, and the most popular is Tyler Knott (though his web page has an archive going back to 2003 (which is odd because he uses Tumblr as a platform and Tumblr was launched in early 2007… maybe he migrated his content from some other source to Tumblr… but I digress) the posted images do not begin until 2012 (unless I am mistaken).

[Podcast] Re-release of episode 13

As mentioned last week, here is a re-release of episode 13 of the Coffeehouse Junkie audio podcast. This episode features the essay “The Field” as well as two poems that are discussed in the fourth session of the poetry writing workshop I directed at the The Flood Fine Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

As a side note, each poetry writing workshop I lead concluded with a class chapbook featuring the best of the students’ work and a poetry reading. Additionally, the essay featured in this podcast is abridged and will be released in an expanded version in a forthcoming book.

Here is: Episode 013

As always, I look forward to your feedback. Post comments, question and/or requests in the comment section of this blog post and I will address it in the upcoming episode 15. Episode 14 will be re-released later this week. Thanks for listening!

Book Launch for Look Up Asheville Collection II

Look Up Asheville II by Michael Oppenheim and Laura Hope-Gill

Tonight at 6:30 p.m. the Look Up Asheville II book launch begins at the Battery Park Champagne Bar/Book Exchange. Join the festivities for the launch of Look Up Asheville II featuring photography by Michael Oppenheim and essays by Laura Hope-Gill. Poet Robert Morgan writes: “Look Up Asheville II takes us into the heart of the city’s diverse and colorful history, scene of its current flourishing culture.”

From the event invitation: “Look Up Asheville II features more architectural details captured by local photographer, Michael Oppenheim, accompanied by historical essays by Laura Hope-Gill, with a Foreword by premier author and poet Robert Morgan (Gap Creek, Lions of the West, Terroir). Designed by Michele Scheve, Look Up Asheville II does more than inform readers and viewers of the architectural, social and creative history of Asheville; it celebrates all these with stories and luminous images. The new book contains Asheville’s grand Bed and Breakfasts and more of the exquisitely built churches, inns, museums and downtown treasures.”

Poem Review: “Old Soldier” by Charles Simic

About four months ago I wrote a review of a poem by Charles Simic for an editor, but I have not received word as to its status. So, here’s an abbreviated form of the review.

A couple months ago, my son and I planted seven white pine saplings along the east side of the property. As a three-year old, he doesn’t really “plant” trees but rather roams the near vicinity in search of new wonders to discover. Each dandelion must be plucked and examined and each twig must be picked up and relocated. A chestnut branch, which had fallen during a recent storm, particularly interested his imagination. With chestnut branch in hand, my son defended the homestead from cardinals, squirrels and a trespassing cat.

As I recall my three-year son chasing a yellow rubber ball across the backyard and waving his chestnut branch over his head, I think of how new readers of poetry need to wade into the greater pool of literature by first enjoying what will get their feet wet. This doesn’t diminish the quality of Simic’s work but rather supports the notion that if a poet can speak to the children he will be able to guide them into a broader, deeper appreciation for poetry. The Academy of American Poets recently cited, in their 2003-2004 annual report, that 68% of their active members became interested in poetry before the age of 18.

“Old Soldier” opens with a list of credentials and a storyteller’s wink of wit. The image of this warrior wanting to impishly pull the tail of “a cat lying in the grass” suggests a mischievous tone for Simic’s 22-line poem. The mother figure introduces a contrast of gentleness and the serene garden solitude against the “flying cinders” of aerial bombardment. What’s interesting about the mother figure is that she doesn’t leave the soldier alone but takes him “by the hand.” It’s tempting to wonder if this is a historical account or merely a narrative. Vernon Young, a contributor to the Hudson Review, suggests that Simic writes “by the fable; his method is to transpose historical actuality into a surreal key.“

Simic tells that the soldier’s sword was cardboard and only lacked a horse–particularly a horse which pulled “a hearse/With a merry wave of his tail.” The last lines are striking in that they suggest a ten-year old boy who chooses a funeral horse for his military campaigns instead of a warhorse. Ripe imagery presents numerous literary interpretations.