Archive for the ‘Arts’ Tag

The Potomac Journal 2013   Leave a comment

The Orange Chorus

The Orange Chorus (Photo credit: FreeWine)

 

To read the poem, click here:

 

http://thepotomacjournal.com/issue13/Poetry/Peterson.html

 

My poem Greek Chorus was recently published in The Potomac Journal’s winter issue. It was great to see this poem in print for two reasons. First and foremost, it’s been awhile since I’ve gotten something published. Life has been pretty hectic with the big move to Michigan and a new routine, so I haven’t been submitting as much as I have in years past. So it was a big help to jump start my motivation to get submitting and writing again to see this poem up at the Potomac.

 

This poem also reminds me a lot of what I left behind. I wrote it after a particularly bad episode during my illness last year kept me in the hospital for the weekend and prevented me from attending a Dire Literary Series event in Cambridge Mass. Joking with friends who attended, I said next time I’ll just have them escort me in an ambulance and I can read from a gurney before being wheeled back to the ambulance. A close friend of mine replied, “That seems doable, they have hospitals in Boston, right?” It was a line too good to NOT put into a poem!

 

Greek Chorus reminds me how far I’ve come personally, and how much I’ve been able to overcome in a short period of time. As difficult as the past few years have been, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s given me plenty of inspiration, as well as the strength and patience to be a better person than when I was diagnosed. I thank the Potomac Journal for picking it up when they did, and giving me the opportunity to reflect upon it.

 

Every Day Poets 2012, Part Deux   1 comment

Posterior wall of the pericardial sac.

Pericardium goes put put patta patta ping!(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

Every poet has one, that filler poem you send out just because the guidelines say at least three poems, but you only have two that you really feel are a good fit for the journal. The one you never expect to have published, that, secretly, you admit to yourself isn’t very good. The red headed stepchild of your repertoire, as it were.

 

For a long time my filler poem was one called Poetry Odetry. It was written in about fifteen minutes as an example of alliteration for my students. These guys were members of my after school poetry club, and ranged in age from eight to thirteen, so I wanted something very basic, not fraught with a lot of metaphor or heavy meaning. I just wanted a lot of words that started with the letter P, just like my last name, since the exercise I was going to have the kids do would be to write an alliterative poem around their own last names. It wasn’t something I wrote with the intent of having it published, except for removing a section of the poem where I had a list of P words, I did very little editing before sending it out as my plus three. And that was OK with me.

 

So imagine my surprise when Every Day Poets not only accepted P.O. and published it in November, but used it as an example in Every Day Inspiration. Reasons for the acceptance were cited as it being a fun poem that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Which, of course, it doesn’t.

 

That makes me want to take a second look at the poems that haven’t found a home yet, that I think are far and away better than my alliterative exercise. Do they take their themes too far, and border on the melodramatic? Am I saying something in them that’s been done to death?

 

It’s amazing what you can learn from filler poems. Not least of which, that you’re not always the best judge of what in your poetry works, and what doesn’t.

 

Have you had a poem or story accepted that you never thought would ever find a home? Tell me about it in the comments.

 

To read Poetry Odetry, click here: http://www.everydaypoets.com/poetry-odetry-by-helen-r-peterson/

 

To read the Everyday Inspiration post, click here:  http://www.everydaypoets.com/every-day-inspiration-51/

 

 

 

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013   Leave a comment

English: A clock made in Revolutionary France,...

The time has come to get writing! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

And so another year is over, now is the time I sit back, look over what I’ve written this past year, where I’ve submitted, and, more importantly, the things I did not write or submit.

2012 was not very productive when it came to my writing. The poet who is famed by her friends for submitting material an average of 600 times annually  barely cleared 100 submissions. The novel which I began in 2011 has been sitting dormant most of the year, with maybe 500 words added.

In my defense, I did remarry and move 800 miles last year, two events that took up not only a lot of time, but a lot of physical and mental energy. I also did a lot more reading than I had done in 2011, researching for new writing projects as well as giving my brain a chance to soak in something a little less stressful than the reality of court dates and lease signing.

But it’s a new year, all of that is behind us now, we’re happy in our new home, with room to spread out, a sunny yellow office and a table fit for two laptops, plus printer and lamp. The time has come to jump back on the horse and get some writing writ.

I resolve to write at least a thousand words a day. That should give me at least one gimme day, when I write the three blogs I’m responsible for n a weekly basis. It may even give me a day and a half. If I start with those in the beginning of the week, not only will it free up my creative juices for other projects, it will give me a chance to warm up my typing fingers and my brain, still soggy from the weekend.

I will submit something at least once a day. Just one thing a day won’t be as crazy as five a day, which was what I was doing right before I got sick. Even if life throws us another curveball, I can send something once a day. Giving myself this goal will not only give my work visibility, it will also help spur me on to write new stuff, to edit edit edit, and to reach out to others in the writing community.

Readers make Writers   Leave a comment

Paul Bunyan and his cradle.

Paul Bunyan and his cradle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

The first piece of advice I give any aspiring writer is to read. A lot. Every day. Read a variety of things, fiction, nonfiction, books, magazines, blogs, whatever you can get a hand on, for at least an hour a day.

 

Why? Because even if the writing isn’t very good, you can learn something from it and become inspired in your own writing. If the sentence structure is poor, if there are misspelt words, if the plot is lacking, you’ll probably sit there and say, “I can do better than that!” Hold on to that thought, and once the hour is done, go for it! Write on the same topic, make it better, make it yours.

 

When the writing is good, take notes. Ask questions of the piece. What makes you enjoy the writing? Try to mimic these techniques. Don’t plagiarize the content. Ever.  Play around with the style and themes, try to build on them and make them your own.

 

And, finally, it’s good to research and read on topics you’d love to write about. This is just as important in fiction and poetry as it is in nonfiction. For example, I never know when I’ll stumble across a new unique word that I can use as a poetry title. I’m currently reading Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s new novel, The Long Earth. In it, one of the characters uses the word tracklements, which are the accompanying foodstuffs used on or around the main course. It’s a fantastic word, and I wrote it down immediately on my vocabulary list.

 

I’m also reading up on the folklore of Michigan and the surrounding areas, especially the tall tales relating to Paul Bunyan. I have an idea of a story deconstructing Paul Bunyan’s myth in light of modern issues such as deforestation and global warming. I’m always looking for folktales I’ve never heard of before, or to learn something new about the ones I thought I knew, both for my own enjoyment and to use as springboards for new short stories.

 

What about you? What are you reading, and how does what you read affect what you write? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Fall Open Mic Night at the MSU Writing Center   Leave a comment

Microphones

The Mics are OPEN!!!!!

 

Last night I attended my first open mic reading with my husband since we moved to Michigan in September. It took place at the MSU Writing Center in Bessey Hall, on the Michigan State University campus.

 

We had been invited to attend by members of our writers’ workshop at the East Lansing Library. The group is also sponsored by the MSU Writing Center, and meets every other Thursday. We were happy to see that, as with the writers’ workshop, we weren’t the oldest people in the room at the Open Mic. The performers included several poets, some musicians, and a story teller or two. There was free pizza and drinks for everyone, and each person that got up to read received a t shirt. There was also a raffle drawing throughout the night. I won a 25 dollar gift card to Schuler Books in Okemos, which was a pleasant surprise.

 

The students were very open and welcoming to two old timers like us. There was a poet who went by the name Logic, about our age, who seemed to be a regular in local writing circles, who had a rapid fire delivery and had everyone laughing and shaking their heads at the way he would spin truth into poetry.

 

Overall, it was a good night out, and the perfect way to start November, fresh and inspired and ready to take on that novel I’ve been attempting to write for a year and a half. It’s been sitting dormant for about six months, so it’s time to get writing again!

 

How are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Any great open mics or writers’ workshops in your area? I’d love to hear about them!

 

New Digs   Leave a comment

Vector image of a Michigan state trunk line hi...

 

2012 has been a slow year for me as far as writing new material is concerned, partly because it’s been a very busy year personally. This year I remarried, and relocated in September from the East Coast to mid Michigan.

 

It’s apparent to me, now that we’re settled here, that I was spoiled living equidistant to Boston and New York City. It’s been difficult to find writers’ groups and readings close enough to our new home for us to visit regularly. We’ve found one, a writers’ workshop associated with Michigan State University, but it only meets every other week.  The off weeks I have of course my online workshops and social media, but I kinda miss the days I could jump in the car and find a reading any day of the week within 60 miles.

 

It isn’t all bad for the writer in Eaton Rapids. We’ve discovered the library, and have found that we aren’t the first published poets to live within the city limits. At the turn of the last century Elizabeth Rogers Kellogg was born. Having lived in Eaton County most of her adult life, her poetry gives some insight to me of the town we now call home. I can see in the buildings nearby what once was, can hear the clatter of horse and buggy on my way to Hamlin Square Coffee for my daily cup of chai, and that’s pretty cool.

 

I checked out Kellogg’s first book, simply entitled Poems. It was published in 1969 at the request of her mother. The poems were written in the 20’s and 30’s while Elizabeth was sick with tuberculosis. Many of the poems have a touch of the untrained poet about them, being simple in style and subject but having overly poetic words and turns of phrase strewn about. For example, the stanza

 

 

There is one memory of childhood days

 

Which starts the laughter still;

 

‘Tis when I helped my father feed

 

The hogs their corn and swill.

 

 

 

seems to try too hard, with rhyme and tis, to make pigs a subject worthy of poetry. There is self-consciousness there, either from her illness or from her upbringing in a different age from ours, that clouds the beauty of simple things. However, when her poems lean to more emotional subjects, like love and marriage, the stripped bare truth and pain of her topic shines through.  These are poems worth reading again and again, and make you want to learn more about this woman and her life in an earlier Eaton Rapids, living on the Rogers Centennial Farm, far from her parents in Goshen Indiana. For example, in the poem The Blue Bowl, she speaks of her husband’s great strength, unknowingly breaking a blue bowl on their wedding day. In the closing stanza she says:

 

I repaired things so well they were almost like new,

 

Even reveled in making them whole,

 

But I mended my heart with a costlier glue

 

Than I needed to mend the blue bowl.

 

 

 

With very little, she tells us much about their relationship and her role within it. Without complaint, without whining or pretty words, she reminds us that love has its cost. The way she swaps one thing for another, and the way her last line zings us with the truth, is very reminiscent of Dorothy Parker, without Parker’s self-effacing satire.

 

 

 

This week I’ve discovered that Rogers also wrote fiction. I look forward to reading her novels, and getting a chance to peek further into her world.

 

Poetry in the Barn,Huntington New York May 18th, 2012   1 comment

 

While I’ve been writing all my life, I didn’t start considering it my life’s work until about 6 or 7 years ago. I began as almost everyone does by submitting my work to the big guns; The New Yorker, the Atlantic, Poetry, and getting back in reply form rejection after form rejection.

It was at this point that I met George Wallace. He was reading at Avery Point in New London and I went along with some classmates. I was impressed with his work and we exchanged information. I sent a few poems to his online journal, Poetrybay, and he became the first editor to accept my work. Later on that year, he invited me down to read in Huntington New York at the Historical Society Barn, one of my first featured readings.

Poet Helen R. Peterson reading at the Huntington Historical Society Barn in Long Island

Performing my poem, “The Chicanery of Drunk Boys”

I’ve always been grateful for George’s guidance through my early career, and was pleased to be invited back down to the Barn, five years later, to promote my own book, Melons and Memory. It was a great crowd, the open mic ranged from a ukulele player, to a Haitian immigrant, to poems about ancient torture techniques utilizing milk, honey, and a hollow tree. George himself was out inLos Angeles, so Russ Green, who had hosted my feature at the Cornucopia Noshery in Amityville two months before, was guest hosting.

Poet Russ Green hosting a poetry reading in Huntington New York

The incomparable Russ Green, warming us all up.

The 3 and a half hour drive stretched to 4 that night, thanks to traffic right outside of the city. Fortunately for us, when George left for the west coast, he’d accidentally left his house key with Russ, instead of the barn key, so everyone was still outside waiting when we drove up. It is a testament to the quality of this series that everyone chose to stay and wait the 15 minutes it took to retrieve the spare key.

Man playing a ukelele, woman holding music book.

One of the highlights of my evening, acting as human music stand to poet and musician Ed Luhrs.

As I will be moving to Michigan at the end of the summer, this was probably my last appearance in Long Island for awhile. I will be sad, as Long Island audiences have typically been the most receptive and engaging for me, but it was fitting that I end in the same place I’d begun.