The Fate of Orphaned Poems.

Okay, I’m running with the hybrid manuscript idea. It’s all put together and proofread – and it reads smoother than either book did separately. I’ve sent out The Blues Handbook (that’s the title I settled on) to a contest. I’ll send it to two or three more in April, depending on money. Book contest submission fees are getting pricey. But that’s another rant for another day.

Where does that leave the orphaned poems, the ones that up until awhile ago were strong enough to be in a book but are now are just floating in limbo (and not the good kind of limbo, with a pole and reggae music)? Some of these have been published or won awards, so I can’t ignore their existence.

I identified three categories of these leftovers, and I have a fair amount of each group: approximately twelve toxic love/relationship poems, ten or eleven “what the hell’s wrong with humanity”/social commentary poems, and eighteen or so surreal poems. I’ll take those groupings, try to pen a few more poems that mesh with the categories, and get three chapbook manuscripts ready to submit by mid-summer.

This will work well with my writing schedule. I planned on writing poetry through April and May, and then focus on short fiction for the remainder of the year. On non-creative days or days when I don’t feel like laboring over prose, I’ll edit and refine the chapbooks.

But any idiot can come up with a plan. Now I have to execute.

I just can’t leave things be.

I've been (obsessively) tinkering with my two poetry manuscripts.

I had an idea to combine them. At first this seemed impossible. I had 60+ pages of urban, soulful, narrative poems, and 50+ pages of surreal and disjointed abstract poems. But I've been playing around with the pieces and it might work. The themes wander along similar lines, as does the imagery. Also, I trimmed cellulite from some poems, and divorced myself from others - not sure what I ever saw in them, anyway.

My recent poems are cleaner, shorter, and less elaborate than my early work. I'm tempted to revise the older poems. But I can't bring myself to change them into something more like what I'm writing now. It feels like someone else created them, and they're perfectly fine in their own way, and I just can't make them anything more than what they are. And I'd be ecstatic to have them published in a book, but I'm growing farther and farther away from them.

When I looked at the recent poems in light of the others, they fit together reasonably well. They bounce against each other, causing an interesting amount of friction. The surreal ones seemingly tug the other ones in that direction more so than standing alone.

I need to come up with a title. Maybe a hybrid of the two manuscripts’ names...perhaps the The Blues Handbook or My Own Brand of Truth or something entirely different?

It would make me slightly less anxious to know there's only one manuscript out there and not two of them that may never get published. Of course on the slim chance either gets accepted on their own in the meantime, all this babbling is all null and void.

Brief Update

I have two poems in the Spring 2009 issue of MO: Writings from the River.  The poems are titled Where We Find Truth and Runaway.  This is the last year this journal will be published under this title; it will undergo a fashionable name change to The Front Range Review.  I'm sure it will continue to be a quality publication dedicated to publishing an interesting mix of established and emerging writers.

I also just received word that my poem Expecting will be published in the Spring 2009 edition of Oracle, the literary magazine of Brewton-Parker College in Mt. Vernon, Georgia.  I am happy to have the chance to contribute - a big thank you to editor Rachel Allen.

Hopefully this is the sign of things to come.  You know, publications and acceptances and stuff like that.

So lately I’ve been doing almost everything but writing.

But that's about to change.  Work (day job) has been hella busy, and so has daily life, but I am about to get back to manufacturing prose and poetry.  I'm four or five poems away from a first draft of the truth handbook, and have several short stories that are in various states of existence.  I have a little down time this weekend, so I'm about to get back into my creative zone. 

Game Plan.

I’m 75% done with the truth handbook. My estimate - I’m 10-12 poems away from being finished with the first draft. It’ll probably take me writing 20-25 poems to get to those 10-12 that actually fit with the rest, but so be it. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, I’m almost at the finish line, insert appropriate cliché, etc. My goal is to have the manuscript tight and refined by April or May – then I’ll have two poetry manuscripts to throw at the book competitions and open calls for submissions. Plenty of unpublished material to submit to lit mags and contests as well. After that, I want to rededicate myself to writing fiction for the remainder of the year.

When putting together my first (still unpublished) book, My Own Brand of Blues, I used to just write poems that were eventually drawn together into a manuscript. Now I'm writing poems to go into a book - though of course not just for the book, but in large part, most of the new pieces I’m composing will go into it. I find this somehow focuses me...even if there's not even a chance anyone will publish these manuscripts at all. Sigh.

The Beauty of Feedback.

Lit mag editors who give constructive criticism with their rejections do a great service to the writing community. I realize time constraints prohibit most from giving feedback aside from pre-written rejection slips or emails, but when a writer sees why his/her piece didn’t make the cut, it is enlightening.

For example, I recently received response back from an online journal that rejected several of my works. However, included were responses from the editorial staff that gave me insight into why my poems weren’t up to their standards. Some suggested changes that I think would damage the original creative vision of the poem. Others made suggestions of cutting out fluff that wasn’t needed – edits I agreed with and did right away. Instantly those pieces became stronger because of those comments.

Even if I disagree with an editor’s opinion, it’s enlightening to see how my writing is perceived. For example, one poem did contain a commonly used phrase, but I had employed some wordplay that I felt took that phrase away from its clichéd meaning. However, the editorial staff instantly stamped this phrase as hackneyed. Have I eliminated the line from my poem? Not yet – I still feel the wordplay is slick, and I’d have to come up with a line better than it before I just give up on it. But their comments have me thinking about it, revisiting its structure, trying to find a way to circumvent the cliché.

That’s where feedback helps – I wouldn’t be thinking about this line it wasn’t for the comments. Now I have a chance, whether today or a week from now, to take an idea from a brainstorming session and see if it “fits” in this poem to replace the (perceived) cliché. Their comments moved this poem from “finished” status in my mind and challenged me with the notion that it still may need work.

Does this happen for every piece that an editor may comment on? No, there are some comments that I’m admittedly just too pigheaded to accept. But the fact that the right criticism might spur a writer to refine a piece is priceless. It makes writers better at their craft and their next submission more polished, so editors can have a stronger pool of work to review and, in turn, create a superior publication/literary journal. It’s a win/win, in my view. There is only so much we can get out of peer reviews – it is the opinions of editors that really matter.

Editors, I know your time is precious. But when you do have the time, even if it is just for one poem or story, please let us know what didn’t work in our writing. We all want to get better to make your job easier and only submit pieces that are publishable. I appreciate the comments, even if I don’t always agree. I’m sure other writers do as well.

Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is not just a three word phrase to describe the melancholy feeling that the snow covered, insanely frigid, daylight deprived winter months bring. It is also the title of a newly published poem of mine.

Seasonal Affective Disorder appears in the Winter 2009 edition of Main Channel Voices, a print literary magazine based out of Winona, MN. Lucky for me (being the attention whore that I am), the editors chose my poem as one of the sample poems that can be viewed online – click here to read it. After that, look around at some of the other fine works in this edition, and maybe even contemplate buying a copy of Main Channel Voices.

Stay warm, if you can. :)

First Post of 2009.

Meant to post this yesterday, or the day before that, but my truncated attention span got caught up with going places and watching football and and work other minor diversions.  Sigh.

Rather than bore you with the typical clichéd “what I did and didn’t do right in 2008” self-absorbed writer’s blog babble, I’m just going to say last year was good, but I am looking to grow - both as a writer and a person. I want to get my poetry manuscript in the hands of someone who wants to publish it, finish the second poetry book that I am approximately 75% done with, and start back to writing more short fiction. Oh, and get a little more reading time in, since I feel like I’m a much better writer when I’m a more active reader. All of those things seem like accomplishable goals, if I put my mind to it. I can raise the bar to unachievable levels later, there’s plenty of time left in this year to shatter dreams and create doubt.

2009 - A glorious new year of opportunity. Or the same shit in a different toilet. Either way…Happy New Year to all of you.

Ourboros Review

The inaugural issue of Ourboros is online and desperately waiting for you to read it. Don't disappoint it.

Ourboros is an online poetry and art journal that showcases new, emerging, and established poets and artists who are passionate about art and craft. If you take a peak, I think you will agree it is a fine looking online review with innovative poetry. Among the work in this issue is my poem Truth. Check it out when you need a literary fix…

Incoherent babble and upcoming stuff.

Been writing poetry like a madman. About halfway done with my second poetry manuscript, tentatively titled the truth handbook. Hard for me to work on the second book when I have yet to find a publisher for the first one, but I have to push on.

I have yet to learn how to control my muse, so I have not written much fiction lately, but hoping that will change soon. Obviously I let that NaNoWriMo goal slip past me. I didn’t even feign trying. I didn’t even sign up. My bad. I’ll get ‘em next year.

My poem Hello Songs, winner of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire’s August 2008 contest, was recently published in The Poet’s Touchstone. 

My poem Tell Me Lies in a Dead Language, which appeared online in The Shine Journal, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize – click here for proof. Yay!  I consider being nominated a huge honor, so big thanks to editor Pamela Tyree Griffin.

My poem Prophecy will appear in the online journal Stone's Throw, a literary magazine based in Montana featuring writers and artists from around the world. Sweet. Thanks to poetry editor Tami Haaland for the chance to contribute.

My poem Seasonal Affective Disorder will appear in Main Channel Voices, a literary journal based out of Winona, Minnesota. This is my second chance to be part of this “dam fine” publcation, and I definitely appreciate the opportunity.

Well, it’s past 10 PM. Time to write. Such is the life of an insomniac creative. Be good…

Quick Update

I will have a poem in the new print edition of If Poetry Journal titled Invocation of the Muse. I’m excited about this one because it will be my first published prose poem. Click here to see a list of contributors for this edition of If – it looks like it will be a great read.

I also found out my poem An Abundance of Scarcity will appear in an upcoming edition of inscape. inscape is the literary journal published annually at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. The publication, which premiered in 1972, features poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction and visual art. Happy to have this chance to contribute – big thanks to poetry editors Michelle Lassiter and Leif Anderson or the opportunity.

Call for Submissions - If Poetry Journal

Received this in an email today, figured I would spread the word to those interested...

If Poetry Journal now has an online component to its print journal (

It is seeking poems to publish, 2 or 3 a week, along with reviews of poetry collections and interviews with writers. To submit, please send 3-5 poems (in the e-mail no attachments) to the editor Don Illich at

Please say in the e-mail this work is for the online journal. What we like: poetry influenced and inspired by writers such as Thomas Lux, Jennifer Knox, Tony Hoagland, Sandra Beasley, Dean Young, Frank O'Hara, Jeffrey McDaniel, Denise Duhammel, and Billy Collins. Obviously, no payment but the esteem of eyeballs everywhere.