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Thursday
Apr052012

Happy National Poetry Month!

 

Hello fellow poets & poetry lovers & lovers of poetry lovers & even lovers of lovers who don't love poetry --

Welcome to the cruellest month, aka National Poetry Month, aka National Poetry Writing Month, aka the month where some of us attempt to write a poem a day, and others of us, well, um... don't. We LOVE and ADMIRE all of you that are keeping up, and hope that you can forgive those of us are not.

Like, um... me.

Yes, I have not yet written one new poem. But the month is just warming up, and I have been reveling in the poetry of others, as well as revising and reconfiguring a couple of my own manuscripts and flinging them back out into the world.

Also, I have been working hard promoting and providing feedback on the literature of others and generally making the world a better place.

Various things that I have been accomplishing lately include consultation work as Inlandia's Publications Coordinator, and leading my multi-genre Inlandia Creative Writing Workshop, which has been ridiculously fun and has introduced to me the work of some very talented women (yes, somehow we have morphed into an all-female group). I am currently preparing my syllabus for the next workshop session, which will begin on April 12. And I have also been trying to corral my administrative-oriented literary endeavors (and therefore increase my productivity by reducing, um, distractions -- like Facebook, laundry, and hungry and bored kitties and kiddos) by implementing OFFICE HOURS. Generally speaking, I am available for all things Inlandia-related on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8-12, with only the occasional emails and other urgent matters answered in-between as needed.

 

I'm also very excited as always by the Big Poetry Giveaway that Kelli Russell Agodon coordinates. I will be posting very soon with my offerings, and can't wait to start clicking around to see what everyone else is doing. But here is a hint: I've been thinking a lot about chapbooks lately. In fact, I was recently interviewed by Laura Madeline Wiseman about my experience publishing my electronic chapbook, what Desire makes of us. Also -- and this is not exactly timely, but no one has ever accused me of me being punctual -- a poem and illustration from what Desire makes of us was recently featured on The Nervous Breakdown, along with their signature self-interview.

In other poetry news, while I've been waiting for a press to pick up the entire My Skies of Small Horses manuscript, I have been playing around with a shorter version of it and am preparing to send it out into the world. This condensed version contains my poem "Miss Carriage", which won me a prize last year, as well as other poems that have appeared in No Tell Motel, wicked alice, and Crab Creek Review. So I hope you will all keep your fingers crossed. I love the chapbook as a form because of the way reading one can become such an ethereal experience, and am finding that this iteration of the manuscript makes the strangeness of these poems all that much more apparent. (Hopefully that's a good thing.)

And speaking of chapbooks (still, and again), in getting ready for my upcoming reading which is happening on May 20, at Beyond Baroque, as part of the Hitched reading series alongside friends Judy Kronenfeld and Lavina Blossom, I realized that I am just about out of books. So, I have just placed a fresh reorder from Dancing Girl Press for more copies of (al)most delicious so that I will have some on hand during the reading.

 

Nude with Coral Necklace by Amedeo Modigliani

When I submitted work to The Nervous Breakdown, I sent them a group of poems that included the centerpiece (centerfold?) from this collection, "Nude with Coral Necklace", which they *loved* but ultimately turned down because the formatting was too complex for their website's platform. This made me sad and a little bit frustrated, because in a perfect world a poem's format should never be what makes or breaks an acceptance, but the reality is that that is how the publishing world works sometimes, says she-who-has-nearly-torn-her-hair-out-tyring-to-format-poems-that-she-loves-which-she-has-accepted-for-publication-but-now-is-stymied-by-how-hard-that-formatting-has-become-now-that-it-has-to-be-recreated-in-html.

So, rather than submit it elsewhere for now, I will satisfy my urge to get it out into the air by reading it at Beyond Baroque. Unless I chicken out. (It's a long, complicated poem.) But in honor of the chap, here is one of the poems that appears nowhere else on the web, and hope to see you at Beyond Baroque.

 

Draped Nude by Amedeo Modigliani

 

Draped Nude


The spotted and striped rug
grounds me; the dark walls recede

Foregrounded flesh
softened like fruit left on the sill:
I will never spoil

This white cloth he has placed across my hips
a demure sash
that merely draws the eye

designed not to conceal
but to enhance
so that your eyes may linger
briefly
at that dark tangle

then lift
to the bent waist
ripe nipples
the shrugged slight shoulders
        leaning gently in your direction

Somewhere amid the strands of my hair
is one of his, lost
in the damp paint
as he leaned in too close

You are leaning in too close

even as you are pretending to
look away

Thursday
Feb092012

Celebrate Black History Month

Just passing along two great things to do in honor of Black History Month: Poet Nikia Chaney is leading a free series of workshops at the Fontana library (the first started last Friday, but if you missed it there will be another tomorrow) AND award-winning novelist Susan Straight will be giving a talk on race, gender and familial relationships at the Perris library. See the flyers below.

Thursday
Jan052012

Nominate your favorite Inlandia author and (possibly!) win a copy of the anthology that inspired it all.

Dear Readers,

Among the many hats that I wear, I am also the Chair of the Literary Laureate Selection Committee for the Inlandia Insitute. The Literary Laureate Program is one of their core programs, fostering creative literacy and supporting the region's authors.

Two years ago a panel of jurors selected Susan Straight as Inlandia's very first Literary Laureate. This felt inevitable and oh-so-right to me. All of her books have an emphasis on 'place', and more often than not that place is the Inland Empire, most notably the Riverside lookalike, Rio Seco. During her term she has worked with elementary students who formed a book club to read her novel for children, The Friskative Dog, and written "Notes of a Native Daughter", a series of essays on place, for KCET, which feature the photography of fellow Inlandian and V.P. of Inlandia's Board of Directors, Douglas McCulloh, among other projects. (For anyone who'd like to read something that speaks to the heart of who the people of Inlandia are, this series is a good place to start.)

Where we live, no matter the duration, influences who we become. Susan cites Faulkner, who "always worked what he called '[his] own little postage stamp of native soil', and Didion, who said, “You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from”, when summing up her own thoughts on place: "there are two kinds of people – those who leave and those who stay."

Susan Straight is clearly one of those who stay.

As her two year term as Inlandia's inaugural Literary Laureate comes to a close, we are inviting your nominations to help us select candidates to be the next Inlandia Literary Laureate. We are looking for someone whose work is intrinsic to the region; someone who loves this messy, wonderful place as much as she does, as much as we do.

Susan Straight has graciously agreed to serve on the panel that will select Inlandia's next Literary Laureate, along with Steve Heller, Director of Antioch University Los Angeles's MFA program, and Cheryl Klein, Director of Poets & Writers Magazine's California Office & Readings/Workshops program. Please help us help them by nominating your favorite regional author.

Here is how it works:

We are looking for someone who is affiliated with the region (either lives and/or works here); who has an accessible body of critically acclaimed work that has been published in last ten years; and who has a willingness to work with the community to inspire, mentor, and promote creative literacy.

 

To nominate, please put the following in one single Word document not to exceed five pages; you may cut and paste information from the web as necessary:


- Your full name and contact information as well as the full name and contact information of your nominee.

- An explanation on why you think this nominee for Inlandia Literary Laureate meets the criteria for appointment and why you are putting forth this nomination, not to exceed one page.

- A biography of the author, not to exceed one page.

- A listing of the author's publications over the last ten years, not to exceed one page.

- A writing sample illustrating why you think the nominee meets your definition of a regional voice vested in the people and places of this unique region, not to exceed two pages.

 

If you know someone who fits this profile, or if you yourself feel you are qualified and willing to take on the responsibilities, please follow this link to upload your completed nomination.

As further incentive, anyone who comments on this post to tell me they completed a nomination will be eligible to win a free copy of Inlandia: A Literary Journey Through California's Inland Empire, the anthology that inspired the formation of the Inlandia Institute itself, and for which we just celebrated the five-year anniversary.

For more information visit Inlandia: A Literary Journey.

 

The window for nominations will close January 31, 2012.

An announcement and ceremony will take place during April at

The 25th Annual Tomas Rivera Conference at UCR.

Wednesday
Dec212011

Books I've Given as Gifts This Year (To Myself and Others)

Greetings, dear Readers --

It's that time of year again. You know, the one where most of us (myself included) pull out the plastic a little (or a lot) more than usual, the house gets decked (mostly with bags full of stuff), and sometimes the cookies get baked, sometimes they don't.

I was taking inventory of the various lovely books that I've purchased as gifts this year and thought I would share them with you all in case you're looking for last-minute gifts and might find some of these of interest.

 

Matthea Harvey's Of Lamb -- Graphic novel based on erasure of Charles Lamb's (auto?)biography that explores the complicated relationship between Mary & her Lamb, bought as a gift for myself

 

Matthea Harvey's The Little Soldier and The Giant Snowflake -- Ostensibly a children's story, bought as a gift for a small child (but kept for myself)

 

The Conference of The Birds -- Graphic novel exploring the Persian myth/fairytale of Simorgh, bought as a gift for my half-Persian sister (but kept for myself, because she probably doesn't even know the story, and I love it)

 

A Zeal of Zebras: An Alphabet of Collective Nouns -- Goes beyond the usual "murder of crows"; wrapped and given as a gift to a small child (but not-so-secretly wanted to keep it for myself)

 

 

Tablet and Pen -- An anthology of Middle Eastern literature, bought as a gift for my sister (and still in line to be wrapped and given but secretly want to keep for myself)

 

 

The Inner Kitchen, a gluten-free, holistic, organic cookbook with illustrations by my sister, Amy Payne, who has done illustrations for my own projects. These illustrations, by contrast, are far tamer, but just as lovely. (Bought two, gave one, kept one...)

 

I also bought a book on horses for my stepmom, a mystery/thriller for my dad, and various kids' books (Shhh!) for my own kids, plus a book of essays by Oliver Sacks that I have been wanting that I found on the clearance shelf at Barnes & Noble. This is all I can remember right now, but I may have bought even more!

 

So, Happy Holidays! If you are looking for a last-minute literate gift, hopefully my own choices will spur you in the right direction. Now please pardon me while I adjourn to housework now as we have company coming in two hours...

 

Cheerios,

Cati

 

Saturday
Nov122011

Introducing Sheila Squillante!



I didn’t know Sheila Squillante when she contacted me less than a month ago, “out of the Facebook abyss”, as she remarked, to pick my brain about possibilities for a virtual release party for her chapbook, A Woman Traces the Shoreline. It is a prose poem sequence, I learned, soon to be released by Dancing Girl Press, the same press that published my chapbook of ekphrastic poems on Modigliani, (al)most delicious.

Turns out DGP editor Kristy Bowen suggested she get in touch with me. So, strangers? Yes. Not even Facebook friends, not yet. But... just the tone of her note to me was exceedingly warm and friendly -- but not saccharine, not overly familiar. We had exchanged a few messages, so I sent a friend request. Then, another message popped up in my inbox, addressed to multiple poets & editors, with one simple request: “Might I write something on your blog? Answer the burning questions you didn't even know you had about my poetry? Appear in person to read poems for you? Would you like to review [my chapbook]? Do you know anyone who would? Can I cook you a meal to say thanks? I would be happy to, you know.”

Wow. Cook me a meal? My immediate response was to want to help this woman, but I didn’t respond right away. My schedule has been pretty full lately, especially the last few weeks, working on compiling and doing the layout for the 2011 Writing From Inlandia anthology, managing some of the blah administrative tasks for the journals I edit, prepping for the workshop I’m teaching, and, most recently, minding sick children this week. But even amidst all of this, my thoughts kept swinging back to her, and so I sent her another note, asking her to tell me a little about herself, and to send me some of her work.

It was nothing short of mind-blowing. In the excerpt that she sent, Squillante packs in themes ranging from the complexity of women’s roles and bodies, literary theory including Bahktin, who I became familiar with while studying the various movements feeding into the Gurlesque, the body as L’objet, the body as a site of horror as well as well revelation, without ever sacrificing the interiority and domesticity of the speaker’s narrative.

When Squillante described her work to me as being “...filled with ambivalence and terror and grapples with the way the female body (particularly the pregnant female body) gets commodified. It has to do with boundaries and ownership, I guess.” , she didn’t know that these themes -- of motherhood, of women’s bodies, of the body as an object, the complexity of women’s roles, of domesticity, are all at the heart of my own writing, my heart of hearts.

Sometimes the universe, or a clever editor, or luck, or whatever, connects the dots.

Going back through my notes, the first one she sent just happened to be on my oldest son, Jacob’s, birthday. Squillante’s chapbook, A Woman Traces the Shoreline, was written while she was very pregnant with her first child, also a son. So, from one mother to another, one poet to another, I enthusiastically await the release of her chapbook, and hope that -- after this sampling -- you will, too.

~


*

I stare at my belly and he reads Bahktin. I read about amniotomies and they become potatoes thrown by aliens in my dreams. I’m gonna get you! I dream of old loves, of bears, of circumcision. I dream of women, of my own taut skin. I read around in books. I coexist. I am becoming, they tell me, “wholer.”

*

Half terrified, I trace the edges of a heat rash like a shoreline from shoulder to fingertips. I only want to read poems by women, I say. This one has me thinking about the notion of hero. Where is my quest narrative? someone asked.

*

I want to include too much—all the women who write poems, for instance, and birds, les globes terrestive on the shelf with the travel books—un outil de reference pour tout la famille

*

A woman with a stepstool steps in, repositions items on a rack, moves off. A woman in her comfy clothes off until Friday from her job in the shoe department. The coffee shop. The retail bind. A woman covered in cookie crumbs—belly and breasts. A woman billowing, blue rayon and flowers. A woman in the parking lot by the dumpster, her arms airplaning. Open wide! A woman with her small red boy, back to you, a “travel pictorial.” A woman checking her messages, suggesting seaside villas, good places to see. A woman terrifying herself with the notion of inclusion. She waits, tracing the shoreline of her body, a heat rash of expectation.

*

Shirt pulled taut. Skirt pushed softly outward. L’objet. Stranger hands query and quest. Touchez le surface. When. When. When.