Archive for the ‘poets’ Tag

Napowromo 2013   1 comment

Map of Midwest.

I am here. Writing awesome poetry. 

 

 

 

So, it’s April again. Last year around this time, I was sick, planning a wedding, and working hard to rearrange my life in preparation for a move to the Midwest. There was no way I was going to get any poetry written last year.

 

This year, I’ve got an office mostly to myself during the day, I’m healthy, lawfully wed, and have no plans to move again for at least 20 years, if not longer. It’s a happy place. I have no excuse to not write a poem. Every. Single. Day.

 

And, on April 4th, I’m happy to say that so far, so good. I’ve been focusing on writing fiction this year, so it’s a nice change of pace to start writing some poems for 30 days.

 

I am still working on the David Foster Wallace/ 3 Dollar Word poems project, so I’ve got lots of fun words stocked up as prompts. But I’ve got a lot of life experience from the past year or so to draw from as well. Of the four poems I’ve written so far, only two are big words, the other two are pure inspiration.  I can do this. Yes, yes I can.

 

And so can you! Go out there, get writing!

 

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.

 

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!

 

Everyday Poets September 2012   1 comment

New interrobang tattoo

Interrobang tattooed on the arm of a fellow punctuation lover. (Photo credit: Emily Lewis)

Last week I talked about my recent move to Michigan. The reason for the move was because my new husband, the short story writer Gavin Broom, had gotten a job with a subsidiary of his company in that state. Gav and I have been friends for many years, both belonging to the same online writers’ workshop. A native of Scotland, he visited the US in August 2011, and we were able to meet face to face for the first time.

The attraction, which had been building gradually via email, text message, and Facebook, blossomed into a full-blown relationship.  Five transatlantic flights later, we decided our carbon footprint had grown wide enough, and he proposed in the baggage claim of Logan International Airport in Boston.

My poem in Everyday Poets on September 28th, Interrobang, deconstructs our relationship. It speaks of the questions that are brought up when one marries for the second, or even third, time. How two people used to having their own way come together as one, forging new ways of arranging a living room, folding clothes, raising children.

An interrobang is a unique form of punctuation, which is used for something that is both a question and an exclamation. I thought it summed up perfectly the feelings one has right before a move, a wedding. That feeling of excitement, with so many possibilities ahead of you that you feel the need to question every one. It’s the first form of punctuation that I’ve ever written a poem around, though I have challenged myself to write more.

To read the poem, follow this link, feel free to rate it and leave a comment!

http://www.everydaypoets.com/interrobang-by-helen-r-peterson/

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.

 

Everyday Poets 2011   Leave a comment

 

Child 1

Children, flexible in all kinds of ways!  (Photo credit: Tony Trần)

 

As anyone who has read my latest book, Melons and Memory will tell you, my role as a mother is at the very center of my being. More than my roles as a poet, librarian, sister, daughter, wife or friend, I am identified by others as being the mother of my daughter and two sons. The first thought on waking and the last fading off to sleep is how can I improve the lives of my children every day. It’s led to some easy decisions, and to others that were not so easy.

 

 

 

One of those tough decisions was made after my daughter was born. I had suffered from HELPP syndrome, and had had to have an emergency c section as my liver and kidneys began to shut down. She was fine, the healthiest and heaviest of the three, but in the process of giving her life, I almost lost mine. At that point I made the painful decision to have a tubal ligation. While I was still pretty young, I had had three children, I had my girl. The potential for more children was too great a risk to the well being of the children I already had.

 

 

 

Three years later, it’s a decision I’m comfortable with. I see my friends in their pregnancies, hold their infants, and that desire to have another one is no longer there. But in the beginning, it was very difficult to wrap my head around such a permanent decision. So, as I do with all the bumps in my road, I ironed it out with writing.

 

 

 

The poem, “Closing Down the Baby Factory”, was so good, Everyday Poets published it last year, and I’m so glad they did. While the beauty and joys of motherhood are so prevalent in poetry as to almost be cliché, the topic of choosing to let motherhood go rarely gets the airplay it deserves, in poetry or the mainstream media. It’s important that every woman can find herself somewhere in the arts. One of the goals I’ve set for myself in my writing career is to give them that through my own experiences, no matter how sensitive or graphic it might be.

 

Dire Literary Series, June 1st 2012   2 comments

I was delighted this past month to be invited to feature at the Dire Literary Series, hosted by Timothy Gager. It’s one of my favorite readings to attend on the east coast. For good reason, the features are always well chosen, and the open mic never fails to surprise and delight. Add to it Gager’s monologues, and you’ve got the best night out in Cambridge.

Writer Tim Gager speaking at teh Out of the Blue Gallery in Cambridge Mass.

Tim Gager, warming up the audience

Tim opened the night by sharing his thoughts on the recent incident in Miami involving a man eating another man’s face. He was able to make a very gruesome story humorous and entertaining. The highlight of the open mic portion was series regular Shannon O’Connor reading from her collection of vignettes on riding the T. Shannon’s stories and her deadpan presentations of them are always engaging.

Shannon O’Connor reading during the open mic portion.

The difficult thing for me that night was to find something new to read, while still promoting my new book, Melons and Memory. I’d read a good chuck of it already at Dire during open mics last year, so the material was already familiar to the majority of the audience. I chose to begin with two new poems, The Fear of Big Words and Migratory Patterns. Big Words is especially tricky, as it begins with a word that’s 15 syllables long, and I’d never attempted it live before.

Explaining to the audience that I’m about to pronounce a really big word, for the first time.

Overall it was a fantastic night. As with Long Island, I will probably not have a chance to get back up to Cambridge before the big move to Michigan. It was a great way to end my New England career, surrounded by friends and fellow writers whose work I admire.

So long Out of the Blue Gallery!

The Legendary 2012   Leave a comment

The Legendary 2012

On a number of occasions over the years, I’ve been honored to be included in the pages of The Legendary, edited by the sassy Katie Moore. This year, in February, she published my poems Eros and Phileo.

Both poems take their titles from two of the three aspects of love as defined by the ancient Greeks. Eros is romantic, physical love, and phileo is fraternal love, it’s why we say Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love. There is a third poem in this series, called Agape, on the last aspect of love, but Katie passed on this one and it was published instead by Dead Mule in April, but that’s for another blog post in a couple of weeks.

I wrote these poems towards the end of a brief relationship. After my divorce, I began to date an old friend, someone I had met 18 years ago in high school, and there were times where it was difficult to separate the 33 year old man from the 16 year old boy in the band room.

Writing these poems made me realize that what both of us were looking for was a return to the innocence we’d lost over the years, and the relationship ended soon after. This is one of the advantages of being a poet. Writing gives clarity to the reality that inspires the writing.

To read Eros and Phileo, as well as everything else of mine that the Legendary has ever published, visit their archives here:

http://www.downdirtyword.com/authors/helenpeterson.html

A Reading at Wyld Chyld: Long Island Welcomes Me Back   Leave a comment

I’ve read in a lot of different places in my career. Bars, bookstores, bakeries, all have been subjected to my literary genius at one time or another. But until the lovely and amusing Peter Dugan invited me to come on down to Long Island and read at the Wyld Chyld, I’d never read in a tattoo parlor before.

Helen R. Peterson reads her poetry at Wyld Chyld

Reading to the crowd at Wyld Chyld

Wyld Chyld is part tattoo parlor, part café, divided down the middle so the whir of the needles doesn’t disturb. Located in Merrick NY, it offers a unique intimate setting for a reading. I was the first to read, something I don’t usually like to do, as I like to riff off of what others present when deciding what to perform. But, in the end, it almost seemed as if the open mic readers had read my mind, bringing poetry that had similar themes and influences as mine did.

The other feature was Lloyd Abrams, a local Long Island poet and former educator. His poetry was entertaining and thought-provoking. He and his wife were kind enough to invite me to spend the night at their place and not make the three-hour drive back to Connecticut, but I politely declined, as I had kids to get on the bus in the morning.

The Wyld Chyld crowd

Listening to Lloyd Abrams read while sipping my green tea.

I always enjoy traveling to Long Island, as the audiences are always welcoming and encouraging. That’s why I’ll be traveling down that way again this Friday, May 18th, to feature at George Wallace’s series at the Barn. This will probably be my last Long Island appearance before the big move to Michigan in late August, so if you’ve wanted to see me live, make a point to be there!