My New Thing: Poetry? Word Art?

Hey, Fickle Readers! I haven’t posted here in a while, I know. The truth is, I’ve been hanging out on Instagram and putting together these…things. Not really sure what they are. I like calling it micropoetry, but some of it is only a single line or a single word. Plus, there’s a visual element that I’ve been working with. 


So I’d call these pieces mixed media, but I’m doing all of them on my phone. Which would be one medium.


So what are these things? Are they any good? What should I do with them? Why can’t I stop making them?


Anyway, if anyone’s interested, I’m obsessively producing these little visual/verbal items at @missficklereader on Instagram. Come visit if you’d like to see what’s running through my brain at any given moment!

So I Did That: The Women Who Submit Submission Blitz

Just wrapped up my own brief run in the Women Who Submit submission blitz. The idea is to get up your courage and submit to high-quality journals, which not nearly enough women get published in or even try to get published in. I only managed 7 before I wore out. Add in the one from last night I sent after midnight and before I even remembered this was happening, and I’ve contributed a grand total of 8 submissions to the overall pile. Not quite as good as I used to do, but all I really have time for now.

Mind you, when I was doing this 20 years ago via snail mail, I had all kinds of submission strategies: which journals got the first batch, which had sent personal notes, which I sent to as a hail-Mary pass just on the off-off-off-off-chance they’d be interested, etc. it was also a more labor-intensive endeavor, what with trips to Staples for photocopies, piles of copies that needed to be paper clipped, label printing, making SASEs, filling out 9 x 12 envelopes, dividing everything up in piles to be collated, and hauling it all to the post office to mail. For you young’uns who never had the pleasure of participating in this dance, consider yourselves lucky, because the whole process was a serious pain in the ass.

Then again, there are procedures nowadays that make e-submitting its own kind of hell. Formats! Individual submission managers! And fees, fees, fees! It’s true that these fees are often nominal (and that’s what journals like to call them–“nominal”). It’s also true that you’d pay at least as much, if not more, if you mailed in your work, once you added up the postage, office supplies, and copying/printing costs. Still, those $2 and $3 and $4 charges add up, and the people who get shafted by them most are the marginalized writers who can’t afford to spend $30 every other week to get their work out there. It’s quite a sucky system, and I don’t know what to do about it. Not sure that I even realized how sucky it was until I was asked to pony up my credit card over and over again this afternoon.

On the plus side, I also noticed myself wishing I could get all this submission bullshit over with and get back to writing. That, I feel, is a sign of maturity, at least in me. Twenty years ago, I used to read my Writers’ Market like a kid bingeing on sugar. Markets! Journals! Fame and literary greatness! Oh yeah!!!!!!! Suffice it to say, I didn’t approach this blitz in quite the same way. If past experience is any indication, it’ll be a miracle if I get one poem in one publication this time around. I’d be surprised if I got even one rejection with love (that’s a response from a human being on a rejection slip) from this batch of journals. But whatever. You do what you can do, and there are more venues out there now than there ever were pre-Internet. I’d rather have my work published where I’m welcome than try to crash the gates of the elite lit-mag  institutions. Gate crashing is good to try every once in a while, but in my mind the real game of submissions is about finding your readers. 

Fickle as a Narrator Demeaning a Rape Victim

Wow, Nabokov really knew how to create the most atrocious characters simply by letting them speak in his fiction. This quote comes from Pale Fire. Note that the gender of the “young creature” is most likely male. The fact that it’s hard to figure out the victim’s gender suggests that such details are less important to rape culture than whether victims are some combination of young, vulnerable, and/or forgettable.

I now felt a new, pitiful tenderness toward the poem as one has for a fickle young creature who has been stolen and brutally enjoyed by a black giant but now again is safe in our hall and park, whistling with the stableboys, swimming with the tame seal.

Tales from the Writing Life: The Poetry Cleanse

Hey there, Fickle Readers! I just spent a week writing a poem a night in an exercise called the Poetry Cleanse, and boy do I feel energized! That’s saying something big for me, seeing as how I’m usually lying around exhausted from everyday activities like taking showers, driving cars, picking up stuff from the drug store, etc. Now I know that–hey!–giving yourself the opportunity to write among friends, even if what you’re writing is pretty much crap, actually makes you feel better! Who’d a thunk it?

Here’s how it works:

  1. Get a bunch of poet friends together and exchange email addresses.
  2. Compile said addresses into a giant list, then
  3. Write a poem a day to be sent to the group by a certain time each day. (In our case, midnight.)
  4. The poets in your group read but are under no obligation to respond. This is an exercise that calls for absorption, not workshopping or feedback. You can choose to respond if you like, but you also don’t want to get into a cycle of implying that one piece is better or worse than another. These drafts are all part of one writer’s larger vision. You’re simply called upon to be a reader.
  5. Write and read and give encouragement and support to fellow poets for a week.

And that’s the whole activity. I should say that this was not my idea but instead was suggested by someone else who put the group together. I just wanted to pass this along to all you Fickle Readers Who Are Also Poets out there, because I think it’s a brilliant concept. I, personally, have been experiencing workshop burnout in recent years. I took my first workshop class when I was a senior in high school, and I’ve been grinding away in the workshop setting off and on for about 25 years. Workshops are wonderful places to hone your craft, but I’ve also discovered that at a certain point you have to cut the umbilical cord and strike out on your own. And yet striking out on your own can be isolating, so the Poetry Cleanse concept is a nice best-of-both-worlds scenario. All you have to focus on is getting your work done and looking at what other people are doing.

The sitting your butt down and writing aspect can be hard, but being a silent audience to someone else’s creative process is wonderful.

Writing-wise, what was most helpful for me was catching ideas as they came and putting them into poems as soon as they appeared. So much of poetry is about small moments, small observations, small things, and yet the small is what’s most fleeting in our daily grind. I was especially grateful to be able to snag images that I never in a million years thought I’d be writing about, because in a normal day I never would have stopped to write anything down.

Thanks to my fellow poets in the Cleanse. Looking forward to digging more poetry out of my brain soon!