I’ve had a lot of fun this last month as my new collection, Tamp, has found its way into readers’ hands. Thanks to all of you who have ordered the book, and extra thanks to those of you who’ve reached out to let me know what you think about the poems. Just as the days are growing warmer and longer, I’m very aware of how much I hope to accomplish this summer. I have several writing projects that I want to move forward in at least some way. And there also has to be time set aside to submitting our work. To that purpose, I offer this list of one dozen submission opportunities. It’s tempting to pretend most journals are taking the summer off, and maybe we should take it off, too. But neither is exactly true. A lot of great journals, like these 12, are open right now, and would love to read whatever you’ve been writing. Good luck!
Exacting ClamExacting Clam is an online and in print quarterly journal from Sagging Meniscus Press, publishing short fiction, poetry, book, art and music reviews, essays, interviews, and visual art/illustrations. https://www.exactingclam.com/submit/
Florida Review & Aquifer: The Florida Review Online We are looking for innovative, luxuriant, insightful human stories—and for things that might surprise us. Please submit no more than one piece of fiction, nonfiction, graphic narrative, review, or digital story at a time. Poets and visual artists may submit up to (but no more than) five poems or artworks as a single submission. We charge a $2 or $3 submission fee depending on category. https://floridareview.submittable.com/submit
Tipton Poetry Journal The Tipton Poetry Journal is published quarterly both in print and an online archive. The Tipton Poetry Journal publishes about 35 poems each. Poems with the best chance for acceptance are quality free verse which evokes a shared sense of common humanity. The Tipton Poetry Journal is published in Indiana, so themes with a regional focus are encouraged. Submissions are read year-round. http://tiptonpoetryjournal.com/submission.html
Waxwing We read submissions of poetry, short fiction, and literary essays Sept 1 to May 1; translations of poetry and literary prose are read year-round. Each issue features approximately thirteen poets, six prose writers, and six authors in translation. Poets should send one to five poems, and prose writers one story, essay, novella, or novel chapter (or up to three short-short stories or micro-essays). https://waxwing.submittable.com/submit
Qu Qu is a literary journal, published by the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. The Qu editorial staff is comprised of current students. We publish fiction, poetry, essays and script excerpts of outstanding quality. Payment upon publication is $100 per prose piece and $50 per poem. Next reading period opens May 15th, 2023. http://www.qulitmag.com/submit/
The Stinging Fly We publish new, previously unpublished work by Irish and international writers. Each issue of The Stinging Fly includes a mix of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, alongside our Featured Poets and Comhchealg sections, occasional author interviews and novel extracts. We have a particular interest in promoting new writers, and in promoting the short story form. We plan on being open again for submissions from May 16 until May 31 2023, for Issue 49 Volume Two (November 2023). http://www.stingingfly.org/about-us/submission-guidelines
Baltimore Review Summer The Baltimore Review is a quarterly, online literary journal. Submit one short story or creative nonfiction piece, no more than 5,000 words. Submit three poems. Our current submission period runs through May 31, 2023. www.baltimorereview.org
2023 New American Fiction Prize The New American Fiction Prize is awarded each year to a full-length fiction manuscript, such as a story collection, novel, novella(s), or something that blends forms, like a novel in verse. The winner receives $1,500 and a book contract, as well as 25 author’s copies and promotional support. Deadline is June 15, 2023. There is a $25 submission fee. https://newamericanpress.submittable.com/submit
The Fairy Tale Review Founding Editor Kate Bernheimer will edit the twentieth annual issue of Fairy Tale Review. Vol. 20 will not have a theme. We are looking for your best new work. Writers may submit a single prose piece up to 6,000 words or up to three prose pieces under 1,000 words each. We welcome short fiction, essays, lyric nonfiction, and creative scholarship. Submit up to four poems totaling no more than ten pages. Submissions will be accepted through July 15, 2023. http://fairytalereview.com/submit/
Poetry South Poetry South is a national journal that considers all kinds of poetry. Though we pay particular attention to writers from the South — born, raised, or living here — all poetry within our covers has a claim to the South because it is published here. The magazine has a tradition of including poets from other regions in the US and other countries. We are looking for a great mix of styles and voices that will appeal to our audience and breathe new life into the poetry of the South. Send 1-4 unpublished poems in Word or RTF format. Our annual submission deadline is July 15. https://www.muw.edu/poetrysouth/submit
Masque & Spectacle Masque & Spectacle is a bi-annual arts and literary journal.We publish short fiction of all genres, up to 7,500 words. We are looking for unpublished nonfiction essays, literary analysis pieces, and personal essay/memoirs of up to 7,500 words. We are looking for all forms of poetry, including formal and experimental work. Submit work to be included in our next issue between May 1 and July 31, 2023. http://masqueandspectacle.com/submission-guidelines/
Thanks for reading. Please feel free to share these opportunities with other writers. If you’re not already receiving these posts directly to your inbox, please subscribe.
Coming up… Join me Tuesday, May 16, at 7:00 p.m., as I speak with Erica Nichols-Frazer about her book, Feed Me, in Birch Bark Editing’s InConversation series. The event is free but registration is required. I hope to see you there.
In my previous post, I had a wonderful conversation with J.D. Isipabout his new collection Kissing the Wound. One of the threads in these poems explores the way we are connected to place. One of the places J.D. writes about is The Carmelitos Public Housing Development where he grew up. While reading Kissing the Wound, I admired the way he was able to write about that place and others from multiple views such as from the present and the past, from the inside and the outside. I mentioned to J.D. how place-based writing is always on interest to me, and I asked if he had any advice for writing about place. I’ll share J.D.’s response here:
J.D. Isip: Yes, after reading Tamp, I can definitely see how important place is to you. My time in Carmelitos was from my childhood, over forty years ago. I think that distance in time helped me to be more objective. I like a lot of the ideas of psychogeography, the idea that there is a spiritual imprint on a place that never goes away, that there are times that keep playing over and over just beyond our vision. One might say that I write about Carmelitos from a place of disdain, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. It was a difficult place to exist in, but, going back to the idea of trauma, I think any place can be difficult to exist in depending on what you might be going through. Yes, I lived in the hood at the height of the Crips and the Bloods, but how does that compare to a middle-class woman in a seemingly loving relationship who just can’t find the will to get out of bed, the depression is so bad? So, for me, I try to think back to whatever I was holding onto – maybe it was my mom or my brother, maybe it was the beautiful neighbor boy who was kind to me, maybe it was my white-hot hatred for being poor or hungry. Whatever it was, I think you have to excavate it like an anthropologist (or whatever Indiana Jones was). You have to be willing to look at a past where you weren’t always right, where you made mistakes, where things weren’t always black and white.
My best advice here, and again, after reading your work, I think you might agree, is you have to talk to everyone you can who existed where you existed. Get their stories. See what they verify or contradict. If you can, use their voices. I like having other characters speak in my work. Yes, I am giving them those words, but I feel like there’s a little more ethos there. It’s like, “Oh, I believe everything about Spoon River, cause all these dead folks told me so!” Also, one of my mentors, Frank Gaspar, told me that the more specific you get in the details, the more universal your message can be. So, it’s not just this tree or that flower, it’s the specific kind, the color, the stage they are in growth, etc. For Camelitos, in “Carmelitos Ever After,” I wanted to take the reader through that psychogeographic journey – this is what was, what is, what ever shall be.
DL: One of my favorite poems in Kissing the Wound is “Leaving Krypton”. I quickly knew that I’d love to share this poem on my blog because the conceit is so interesting and makes for a wonderful prompt. Thanks to J.D. for allowing me to share the poem here.
Leaving Krypton for Anne
It is better you had not stayed long enough to know what alchemy binds us to a place, how extracting yourself begins a dissolution, the cloud-capped towers, the cracked cement slab you’d jump every day on your way to school, the band you worshipped, a dog you pet in your sleep, friends, parents, all
melt away before you think to look back, you think turning around, just a glance, will be too much for you and you are right, some ancient knowledge forces your stare forward, drowns out the chain-reacting atoms, the splitting crust of a world where once you were essential as its gravity, its rotation, its sun—
But, O! What crests into view? A light you never felt pulls you closer, a strength you’ve never had takes over, and you are flying this foreign galaxy, feeling yourself for the first time yourself, arms outstretched, open to embrace a brand-new atmosphere, the sweet air, a woman you kiss to sleep, adopted parents, friends, all
will need your new powers to survive this new adventure: x-ray vision to see the imposters; piercing heat to bore deep into layers of tradition, stubbornness, scars; a cold breath for those who call you a false god; and the wisdom to keep that shrunken city from this place as a reminder we never fully lose the past, but what we knew is gone
the instant that we leave it.
DL: One reason I love “Leaving Krypton” is because it is infused with all of the qualities of place-based writing. Even though a specific place isn’t named, the reader gains a sense of the place based on the place’s specific imagery. The sense of that place is expanded by ideas of what will be left behind as well as what will be gained, as well as the strengths that were gained (and will be exported) as we leave the place we’re from. The title allows us to connect the place with the fictional Krypton even though we retain the sense that a more-realistic setting is being described. I asked J.D. if he could relay the inspiration for this poem, and how he came up with the idea to write it from the angle of what I assumed was Superman.
JI: Thank you for asking about this poem, means a lot. One of my best friends, Anne, whom the poem is dedicated to, had hit a real crossroads in her life. I talk a little about it in Kissing the Wound, specifically the prose piece, “A Wedding at Cana.” She’d been in this long, emotionally abusive relationship, her work situation was getting pretty bad, and she had just, pretty late in life, accepted that she was a lesbian. I mean damn, one of those would put me under! After a lot of me and other friends telling her to leave this place, she finally did. She did it for her and for her son. And it was one of the bravest, scariest things I’d ever seen a person do.
I wanted to write something to say goodbye. Superman is one of my favorite characters, so of course I thought of him. But I actually thought of Kara, Supergirl. But Anne and Kal shared more, so I just followed Kal’s story. And I threw in a couple of nods to things she’d know were me saying goodbye – the “O” for Walt Whitman and the “cloud capped towers” for Shakespeare. I wrote it in one night, and I read it to her as she was driving away. We both cried. My hope was that she would see her move as so much bigger than it was, and that she wasn’t only running away from her past but running toward her future. I’m a cheesy person. It took everything in me not to say somewhere, “The S stands for hope” – but it’s implied.
Prompt: If you’d like to use “Leaving Krypton” as a prompt for your own poem, then you probably need to begin with the title by which I also mean you begin with a fictional place. This should be informed by your own interests and likes. J.D. Isip loves to call himself a nerd because he likes, among other things, comic books and superheroes. Krypton is immediately recognizable to most readers. So begin by selecting a fictional place to draw on that will also be fairly recognizable: Gotham, Neverland, The Emerald City, Mansfield Park, Yoknapatawpha County.
Begin your poem, not with this fictional place but with details from the real place that you are writing about. Or from your life if you’re writing about yourself. Think about J.D.’s “cracked cement slab you’d jump every / day on your way to school.” That could be from anywhere, but it feels meaningful because the reader understands it’s from personal experience.
The important factor about the fictional place you pick is that you must know some strengths about the character related to that place. Because you will want to draw on those strengths as your work through your own poem.
I think this is an exercise that can be applied, not only to poetry, but to creative nonfiction and fiction. Give it a try. And if you are able to write something from this prompt, send it to me. I’d love to see it.
J.D. Isip is originally from Long Beach, California, but has lived the last decade or so in Plano, Texas. He received his MA from California State University, Fullerton, and his PhD from Texas A&M University-Commerce. He is a Professor of English at Collin College in North Texas, and he serves as an editor for The Blue Mountain Review. His poetry, plays, short fiction, and essays have appeared in a variety of journals and magazines. His first full-length collection, Pocketing Feathers, was published by Sadie Girl Press (2015). His new collection, Kissing the Wound, was published earlier this year by Moon Tide Press. In Kissing the Wound, J.D. asks readers to look through a multiversal lens to consider how our lives and our loves, our traumas and our triumphs, fold in on one another. J.D. was kind enough to answer some questions about Kissing the Wound, as well as to offer advice about how to approach writing about trauma, and how to mix forms—including fragments—to inform a larger narrative.
DL: I love the title of your newest collection, Kissing the Wound, and how it speaks to the ways our most traumatic experiences shape us. I’m thinking too of the beautiful opening lines from your poem Tornado Radio, “Nostalgia, defined, is a scar in your mind, / that pulled at or picked, bleeds across time…” Do you have advice for writing about trauma, particularly the difficult task of stepping outside of yourself to craft personal experience into art?
JI: Thank you so much, Denton. The story behind this title, but also behind a lot of things I’ve written and revised over the years is that we (the writers) are sometimes too laser focused on a particular idea. This can be useful, and I personally love many poets who would fall into this category (Victoria Chang, Richie Hofmann, and Patrick Phillips come to mind) of being meticulous almost to the point of obsession. With this book, I had picked the title Number Our Days early on. There’s a lot of Bible in much of what I write, so it seemed a good choice. Plus, the fragmented nature of the book seemed to pair well with this idea of trying to count or recount the days we live, have lived, and will live. Well, very late into the editing process, my publisher calls me and says, “We have a problem, J.D. Neil Hilborn has a book and a poem called Our Numbered Days, and, man, I just don’t feel comfortable doing something that sounds so much like that title.” I kinda panicked, but I had just finished a poem that I moved to the front of the book – “Kissing the Wound.” I suggested it as an alternative, and my publisher, Eric, was like, “Oh man! That’s perfect! It’s better!” That was that.
See, in my mind the book was about recounting, about “memoir-izing” my past in lyric form. But, as you point out, it was much simpler than that. It was about trauma, both individual and collective. What I want to say, the advice I would give here about writing trauma, is maybe not something I always follow, but it is certainly something I strive for. I think it’s important for us to push against two impulses: one, to relive the trauma in some masochistic or voyeuristic way; two, to homilize the trauma to the “all things happen for a reason” point of dishonesty. Instead, I think it’s better to pluck out the particulars, as much as you can remember, and let the scene and/or the action take the lead over whatever “lesson” we are trying to communicate. Also, be gut-wrenchingly honest, or what is the point? I think of student papers where maybe they spend pages talking about a really screwed up relationship with a parent or an abusive love, then the last paragraph is, “But I am happy that happened, or I wouldn’t be who I am today. I don’t even think about it anymore.” Um, Sure, Jan.
To that final point of, to paraphrase, moving from “Dear Diary” to something more universal, or at least welcoming to readers – read, read, read. What you are talking about is something that we learn by watching (reading) others do it well. How can I read Audre Lorde or John Keats and feel like I have anything in common with them? But I do. Why? Because I may have never felt romantic love for a woman, but I have felt love… and longing, and all of that. I think when you read widely, your writing starts to feel more like you are in conversation rather than screaming from a soapbox. You’re not under the impression you’re the only one who ever said this or felt this, but your story adds to what has come before. So, yeah, there’s my traditionalist leanings showing!
DL: Kissing the Wound is described as containing “poems and fragments”. I would describe some of these fragments as prose pieces, even as essays. How do poems and nonfiction overlap in terms of their autobiographical qualities? Are there other ways the two forms connect in your mind? Are there challenges to interweaving different genres into one cohesive book?
JI: I love that more and more writers are crossing genre lines or hobbling together so-called “new” genres. Not to get too pedantic, but I think we generationally tend to congratulate ourselves for innovation that has always been there. Take this delineation between poem and play and essay and recipe and whatever else. Alexander Pope, Christine de Pizan, Borges, Eliot, tons of folks were crossing those genre lines decades, centuries before us. But, we forget, and it is always nice when some memory of “permission” stirs in us: Can I do this? Why the hell not?
That preamble is my way of saying, “I know what I am about to say has probably been said before.” Years ago, I had started jotting down “fragments” I thought might be part of something bigger. A book? A memoir? Poems? Maybe. For the most part, I was a little desperate not to lose these moments or images that would pop into my mind. I’ve seen a lot of friends and family die now, and it pains me to see them try to recall something. You see it in their face, in that disappointment: they can’t, it’s gone forever. As writers, we have this unique gift to preserve a little time. That’s how the fragments started.
Because they are more like prose, these pieces definitely lean more into the “lesson” aspect, or homily. Unlike poems, I feel like prose needs to land somewhere for a reader (a poem can just leave you hanging – many times, that’s the point). Donald Murray said that all writing was autobiographical, and I tend to agree. Walt Disney chose Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as his first feature based almost exclusively on the fact that he remembered reading the story to his daughters. Charlie Brown is basically Charles Schulz. If we accept that whatever we write is going to tell our story, I think it gives us permission to tell bigger stories, stories with more characters, stories where we don’t have to be at the center of the action.
The first prose piece in the book, “How Long Was I Gone,” helped to pull the whole collection together. The night I wrote the first draft, I sent it to my friend Allyson (who wrote my spectacular forward). I was over the moon because all of a sudden I had this idea of how to tie everything I had been working on together. My first book was published in 2015, so it had been years since I had even thought about pulling together another collection. However, just like with that first book, I think when you know you’ve landed on something you have to follow your gut. That’s tricky, because there are many, many writers who will tell you, “My gut tells me every day I should be jotting out a whole collection.” I mean, if that works for you, awesome. Darren Demaree, Nicole Tallman, and Jenn Givhan are my friends who do this—and they just pump out gem after gem. For us mere mortals, it takes a little more time. I think you have to trust your writing to lead you… and you can’t do that if you’re trying to keep up with others. I am a lot happier being able to be truly happy for my friends getting published all over, getting all of the awards – rather than grousing about things being unfair, or “they’re just so much more talented” or “so much more connected” etc. Who cares? Do you. You’ll be okay.
Oh, the interweaving of the prose and poems. One, I saw someone on Twitter griping (shocker, I know) about “people who divide their poetry collections into individual sections”; it’s such a specific and therefore hilarious thing to be miffed about. I have done it with both of my collections, and I am doing it with my third collection. I don’t have any plans to stop. It helps to have those guideposts. It gives you more freedom so your collection can be about one overarching idea but also several smaller ones. Not that a collection has to be about anything, but I tend to like collections that are about something. I feel like the hodgepodge approach is an odd one. If I wanted a grab bag of subject matter, I can just read a poetry journal or magazine. Anyway, the prose pieces in Kissing the Wound started working as these kinds of guideposts, too. I could group them with poems that would, hopefully, emphasize or challenge the point or lesson of the prose piece. I liked that idea of having my cake and eating it too – here’s a lesson, but do I actually buy it? Should you? I had a lot of fun pulling it together, moving things around. I was lucky to have a patient and enthusiastic publisher. And good friends to read over drafts! So important!
DL: I’d like to go back to the idea of the word “fragment” as you use it alongside “poem”. Can you talk about what a poem is or does, for you, in its perfect form? Is it supposed to center on a single moment, an image, an emotion? All of the above or something else?
JI: I did an interview a couple of weeks ago, and I thought of an answer to this question after I said whatever I said during that interview. So, thank you for this chance to redeem myself! For me, poems are questions at their heart. They can sometimes sound like statements, proclamations, edicts, arguments, solutions, and all of that. But not so far behind even the most self-assured poem is a do you think? And I don’t think there is any other genre that has that consistency (except maybe American musical theater). The gift of a poem, then, is that it comes alongside you when “shit doesn’t make sense,” and it says, “Yeah, why is that?” Not, “so let me tell you why that is.”
Prose pieces allow ideas to breathe. That is important. But poems, for me, are in a bit more of a hurry. Prose are the divorced couple in front of the lawyers or the marriage counselor. Poems are the fights before bed, the one liners to poison the kids against the other spouse, the angry sex. You can probably guess which I like reading more. But I make a point to read both and read lots of everything. I think it would be foolish to think prose take longer to write than poems. That was not the case in Kissing the Wound – generally speaking, the poems almost all took longer than the prose pieces. And, because I set up the prose to be fragments – meaning I didn’t have to flesh out each scene, just layered them on top of one another – they were even easier to pull together. Truth be told, we always have a little more fun doing the thing we don’t always do. It was really fun, even freeing to play between genres.
DL: I often ask writers about the process of submitting their manuscripts for publication. Can you describe the time between writing and publishing these stories? How did you connect with Moon Tide Press?
JI: It took me years to write the manuscript, a solid eight years of plugging away. It’s not because I am meticulous or anything like that. It’s because I work full time as a professor, like most other artists I know. I like to think if I were given some sort of writing fellowship, I’d just crank out book after book, year after year. But that’s not true. I’d probably do what I did with my dissertation and with this book – let it simmer for years, then bang it out when I finally get tired of simmering.
I gave myself $300 to send out manuscripts to contests or editors. That’s honestly not a lot when you consider most contests are $25 or more to enter. There are also editors who will take manuscripts via email, so that costs you nothing (no printing, no postage). Moon Tide Press had been on my radar because it’s pretty big in Southern California, where I grew up. You have Red Hen Press, Write Bloody Publishing, and Moon Tide Press – those were the places I was a fan of in grad school, and the places where I had met or seen most of the writers they published. Eric Morago picked up the press years ago. I didn’t know that—but I had read his first collection a while back, and I watched him do some of his slam stuff. I was a big fan (Eric’s easy on the eyes, he has lots of fans).
Anyway, I wrote to my friend who published my first book, Sarah Thursday with Sadie Girl Press. She’d semi-retired at the time, but she was enthusiastic about me getting another book out. I think that’s important. You need to have a group of folks doing this writing thing who you can turn to who will give you honest feedback. This isn’t your mom saying she likes the pretty things you write (though that is nice if you can get it). It’s the friends who will tell you this is what you were meant to do, and they aren’t bullshitting you. They have no reason to. She told me about Moon Tide being open to unsolicited submissions. That’s worth knowing about. A lot of places, especially big publishers, are not going to look at your work unless they have sought you out (this is rare). It’s often in contests where “unknowns” get picked up by the big presses. That’s good, but the odds are generally stacked against you. Especially if you didn’t go to a specific MFA program, didn’t publish in the big magazines, haven’t gone to AWP.
That’s all to say, yeah, I got a lot of rejections. But not as many as I feared. And, as luck would have it, I got an offer for a chapbook the same week Eric accepted my full manuscript. I felt terrible about having to turn down the chapbook, but the publishers were so excited, and that I learned you shouldn’t feel bad if you have to say no to a publisher. They probably have dozens of folks waiting in the wings and, if they are decent folks, they are gonna cheer for you – after all, they just chose you. It should make sense to them.
My friend R. Flowers Rivera came to do a reading at my alma mater, and when I came up to talk with her afterward, she said, “So, when am I going to see a book from you?” This was maybe 2012, and I told her I had submitted to contests for years, but nothing ever came of it. She said, “If the contests don’t pick you, pick yourself. Send out your manuscript.” It took about a year and some kismet with a friend from high school, Sarah, but I got my first book published a few years later. The point is that if you feel like your work needs to be out in the world, you will find a way. It might take some hustle. It might take years. It sounds cliché, but you just have to keep at it. Also, honestly, and you probably know this well, just be incredibly humble when dealing with publishers. They are almost always doing it as a passion project, and they are almost always getting paid far less than they are worth. Being patient and humble goes a long way.
DL: Are there any upcoming opportunities for readers to hear you read from Kissing the Wound either via Zoom or in person?
Huge thanks to J.D. Isip for speaking to me about his new book. Don’t forget to order Kissing the Wound now. Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll share the advice J.D. shared with me about writing about the places we come from, as well as a writing exercise from J.D. based on one of his poems. Make sure you never miss a post by subscribing.
I can’t say thank you enough to all of you who have ordered a copy of Tamp, as well as for the number of other ways you’ve already shown your support for me and this book! There are hardly words to express how much this book means to me and what a gift it is to know so many of you are reading it.
Tamp’s first week out in the world has been a real whirlwind. It began last week when Marc Jolley, my editor at Mercer University Press, let me know that Tamp had gone into an immediate second printing just before our April 4th publication day.
What was an even greater surprise was to see Tamp pop up in Amazon’s rankings. Over the weekend, the book went as high as #4 for new releases in American Poetry! It ranked as high as #27 in American Poetry overall! (See Tamp there at #27 just behind Maya Angelou and Amanda Gorman?)
If you’ve read or are reading Tamp, I’d be so grateful if you could leave a rating or review on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tamp-Poems-Denton-Loving/dp/0881468738/. Everything to do with algorithms is a mystery to me, but Amazon reviews make a huge difference and will help keep Tamp in the eyes of new readers.
You can also help raise awareness of Tamp by posting on social media and tagging me. Send me photos of Tamp with your dogs and cats, with your adorable children and beautiful landscapes in the background.
And if you’d like to hear me read some poems from the book, please come hang out with me this week from the comfort of your living rooms. I’ll be speaking with Damian Dressick and Christina Fisanick on WANA Live!, the reading series for the Writers Association of Northern Appalachia. You can watch live on YouTube or Facebook on Thursday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
Again, thank you for all of the ways you’ve already shown support for me and Tamp!
I’m counting down the days until my new book of poems, Tamp, will be published by Mercer University Press. The magic date is Tuesday, April 4, 2023!
Here are some very generous, advanced words about Tamp from others.
“Denton Loving’s Tamp reminds us that to grieve is to love, a sacred act that aims for clarity, and yet, mourning, too, makes us acutely aware of the profound questions that agitate the living. Loving’s poems, deeply attuned to the richness of a rural sacred order, both honor and attempt to name that complexity with a music that feels movingly restorative.” —Major Jackson, author of The Absurd Man
“Each poem in Tamp is a world in its own right: each a timeless praise song to the earth, to solitude, loss, and love. With bucolic sensitivity shared by few, Loving has crafted the most convincing wake-up call–gentle, surefooted, hypnotic, and insistent. Tamp is a rare trove of honest, measured assurance, a blessed reminder of what matters most.” — Shawna Kay Rodenberg, author of Kin: A Memoir
“In Tamp, his radiant new collection of odes and elegies, Denton Loving represents the works and days of rural Appalachia, and far beyond, with deep knowledge and delicate authenticity. Loving’s poems occupy the ideal cross-section between two of poetry’s oldest poles, the lyric and the narrative. It matters little whether readers greet these poems as stories that sing or lyrics that bind us in their telling, because the scenes and voices we discover will travel with us deep as treasured memories. Galway Kinnell once said that another word for poetry could be ‘tenderness,’ and this is the quality Loving brings most acutely to the loved people and places he offers tribute in Tamp.” — Jesse Graves, author of Merciful Days
It took me years to write these poems and understand how they could work together as a collection. Now, I’m so excited to know the book is near at hand, arriving into the world and into the hands of readers like you.
The fact that you already read, follow and subscribe to this blog is a great support to my writing, and I’m so grateful. If you’re inclined to support me again, I’d be grateful for you to pre-order Tamp, and there are a lot of simple ways to do so.
A.E. Hines: “Think and write of an example from your life of a time you were forced to wait. This doesn’t have to be a dramatic waiting—it could be as simple as idling impatiently at a traffic light, or waiting for an apology from an angry spouse that you are uncertain will come, or for a potential new love interest to call for that first date. The point is to pick a period of waiting, where the duration feels uncertain, and the outcome is unclear, and you can’t easily escape. What does this feel like? Waiting is not typically considered pleasant—but are there pleasant or helpful aspects to this waiting? Let your waiting be a trigger, and then see what you discover by lingering there.”
As you write your own poem (or scene, story or essay), consider that Hines’s poem embraces the natural world outside of the physical space from which he writes. In this case, the poem’s speaker states that he’s lying with his lover, but many of the images in the poem delve into the wildness of the Colombian mountains which is where the speaker’s hopes for the future reside.
There’s also a celebration of the wild through the depictions of the bats and the monkeys and even in the language used to describe the earth. This prompt gives the same opportunity to embrace the far reaches of our own experience, and encourages us to step into the wider realms of possibility.
By this point, I hope your mind is racing with ideas for writing. If not, I’d offer these concrete steps to include in your first draft. One, don’t forget to tell the reader where the speaker is in the physical world. In Waiting for the Diagnosis, Hines says he is lying with the man he loves. Two, include the actions of at least two animals.
If this prompt helps you, I’d love to see the final product. In the meantime, please check out A.E. Hines’ website, and don’t forget to buy his collection, Any Dumb Animal, available from Main Street Rag Publishing, online retailers, and your local bookstore.
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About a year ago, I read a book that completely captured my attention. It was A.E. Hines’ Any Dumb Animal, published by Main Street Rag Publishing. Although Any Dumb Animal is a collection of poetry, it can also be likened to a memoir, moving through time to reveal moments of Hines’ personal life story. I was excited by the mixture of craft and accessibility in Hines’ writing. Many of his poems lean toward the narrative as well as the confessional. The result is that reading each poem feels like you’re being let in on a secret that has the potential to change your personal outlook of the world.
I’m far from alone in recognizing Hines’ talents. Any Dumb Animal received Honorable Mention in the North Carolina Poetry Society’s 2022 Brockman-Campbell Book contest and was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book award. His work has also appeared in some of the best journals of our time such as Alaska Quarterly Review, Southern Review, Rhino, American Poetry Review, Poet Lore, The Greensboro Review, Ninth Letter, The Missouri Review, I-70 Review, and Tar River Poetry, among other places.
He splits his time between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Medellín, Colombia. Last week, I reached out and asked if he would share one of his poems.
Waiting for the Diagnosis
Lying with the man I love, I muse about a farm high in the Colombian mountains where terraced slopes of coffee meander valley to peak and disappear into mist.
There’s still time, I tell him, to plant a thousand bamboo trees, watch them leap into the sky, to nail bat houses to the trunks and hear the flitter of webbed-wings, to hear the night monkeys winding their way in the dark, leaping branch to branch.
Let the shadows come and wrap us in their slippery shawls— there’s still time to dig our fingers into the black brooding earth, to taste the prickly fruit,
to believe we can grow old listening to the bats shriek, and night monkeys howl, to bamboo trunks rubbing together in the breeze, their insistent music like the luxury of creaking old bones.
I asked A.E. Hines if he would share the inspiration for writing Waiting for the Diagnosis, and here’s what he wrote:
“When Any Dumb Animal first came out, a couple of friends contacted me after reading this poem to inquire about my health. “What’s going on?” one asked. As I told my friend, I’m fine now. A few years ago, I did have one of those surprise health issues that stops you in your tracks, and leaves you worrying and waiting for the days and weeks it takes to get into doctor visits, to schedule and receive various test results. That gap in time was the genesis for this poem. I recall coming home after a particularly invasive test and wrote the title in my notebook. At the time, I was in a brand new relationship with the man who would later become my husband. We were still very new, and it was my first serious relationship after ending a twenty year marriage. Like all new couples, we were making plans for the future. But as middle-aged (and previously divorced) adults, we also understood time isn’t always on one’s side, and plans don’t always work out. Growing old (and doing it with someone you love) really is a luxury. This poem lives in the gap, that anxious moment of waiting. Of not knowing if plans will work out. But also in hope that they will. PS: As for me, so far, so good!”
This week’s poem comes from the beautiful book, Crows in Eden, by Todd Hearon. Todd is a native of western North Carolina, and this collection of poems is placed in Eden, a small town in the Great Copper Basin of southeast Tennessee. A century ago, an African-American community was forced out of Eden after the lynching of three young Black men. Hearon’s poems are deeply-felt explorations of that particular time and place, and of the lives of both the victims and the perpetrators. This short poem essentially only 6 lines and an epigraph, is one of my favorite from the collection.
By his own hand to be engraved on copperplate and planted at The edge of town under the sign that reads EDEN POP. 353
When this grave has eaten us alive and slugs have blown the marrow from our souls think not Wildflower Pilgrim as you drive past this blot we were not particles of the scene you seek its promise and its poor mortal glory mirroring your own We were
Ron was a consistent attendee at MHLF, and he never missed the Saturday morning hike led by my friend Tony Maxwell. Each year, Tony chose a walk that would eventually lead to the Pinnacle Overlook at the top of Cumberland Mountain, and Ron was always there. In the photo below, taken in 2017 and shared by Thomas Alan Holmes, you can see Ron standing second from the left, wearing his trademark baseball cap.
Thanks to Tony’s suggestion and Alan’s organization, a small group gathered at the Pinnacle Overlook on Sunday morning to remember Ron.
I wish I could share all of the wonderful stories that were told. Ron was often quiet, especially in group settings. He was one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever met. Those factors combined with his obvious talent as a writer could feel intimidating. And yet he was incredibly kind and generous with his time and energy, and he often surprised us with his witty sense of humor and his always perfect delivery.
Ron published a remarkable body of work ranging from poetry to short fiction and a young adult novel—ten volumes that will keep him and his voice from ever completely dying. We read a few of his poems on Sunday when we gathered on top of the mountain. I didn’t read a poem, myself, although for weeks now, I’ve been carrying around my copy of his 2009 collection, Museum Crows, one of four titles published by Salmon Poetry. The first poem I opened to was, “When you are not there,” a perfect poem for a time of loss.
When you are not there
Five granules of pepper and three of salt lie on the table beside two clear shakers. On the floor a ray of sunlight lands beside the dog dish. It creeps over the bowl while the dog sleeps.
In his dream, he growls, but the sun beam does not hesitate. Its bright tongue licking over the edge of the dry food wets it with light. The dog blows out his breath, feet twitching.
Across the room, a tall glass, empty but for three ice cubes, clinks and settles its coldness. Behind the refrigerator, frail cobwebs, in the pattern of someone’s initials, wave in wind from the furnace vent.
Like the music of fear, the red light of the security system keeps time. When you are still not back, a full, pastel moon peers in the big window over the breakfast nook.
These things, and the bright planet Venus shining through the storm door, will not ask your whereabouts or why the car is not ticking toward coolness in the garage.
But the dog will wake soon and whine for you and fresh food. The philodendra will take a week to miss you. The tall water glass, still on the counter, whispers tragedy in strains of evaporation.
In my previous post, I had a wonderful conversation with Julia Wendell about her new poetry collection, The Art of Falling. One of the subjects we discussed was ekphrastic writing, and particularly her poem, Horse in the Landscape, which works in dialogue with a 1910 painting with the same name (sometimes titled Horse in a Landscape) by Franz Marc.
Born in Germany in 1880, Franz Marc was an Expressionist painter who died in 1916 during a battle in France. Many of his paintings feature animals whom Marc believed had a spirituality that had been lost in humans. This article from wikiart.org mentions that in works such as Horse in the Landscape Marc “tried to emulate the animal’s point of view and experience of the world.” This is meaningful because Julia Wendell makes the same gesture in her poem, shared here with Wendell’s permission:
Horse in the Landscape
I was given the power to gaze and ears pricked to hear across the mustard-yellow distance. I wait and listen.
I was created before Franz Marc ever marched into a trench, created because he yearned for the opposite of movement.
I gaze out to a slice of water, to the stillness of the future, its impenetrable line. Think of all the other horses he never painted during the years he never had.
Surely beauty, for young Franz, lived only in the present tense, in the twitch of an ear, color splashed on canvas, confirming the impulse to be.
I sport a bold red coat and blue mane, more than a century of perception behind me. My heart taps out on its old chest a staccato that just might make the landscape tremble.
For this writing exercise, I ask you to focus on the way Wendell identifies or writes from the perspective of the horse. One of the most important elements to consider in an ekphrastic work is the angle or the specific point of view that the writer/narrator chooses. One way to write about a piece of art is from a more-literal angle, meaning from your own perspective as a person viewing the art work. Sometimes, a writer using this more-literal angle will then enter the image, usually as themselves.
What Wendell does in Horse in the Landscape is to give voice to the horse inside the painting from the very first sentence: “I was given the power to gaze / and ears pricked to hear / across the mustard-yellow distance.”
It’s entirely up to you as the writer to judge which mode is better for the image you’re working with and for the poem (or story or essay) that you’re attempting to write. But for this exercise, do try to capture the voice of one of the subjects within the art work. As I’ve written about in the past, taking on the voice of a non-human form sometimes allows us to better express our very human emotions.
There are other important elements to Wendell’s poem such as the nod she gives to Marc’s tragically short life. You could interpret this poem as speaking in some ways to the waste of war, and there is also a great deal of simple but beautiful description. Your own work can move in similar directions or branch off in a new way. But begin from the perspective of the subject within the work.
Ekphrastic writing is not limited to poetry. I’ve read wonderful ekphrastic prose in addition to ekphrastic poems. For examples of ekphrasis in every genre, have a look at The Ekphrastic Review which might be a great place to send the finished draft of this writing exercise.
You can try this exercise with any painting or any other piece of art. But why not start with one of Franz Marc’s many paintings which you can see by returning to the wikiart.org page. Horse in the Landscape is one of Marc’s best known works. It’s not his only painting that features horses, but he also depicts animals like weasels, cattle, foxes, goats, etc. I’ll leave you with one of my favorites, The Steer, from 1911.
Huge thanks to Julia Wendell for speaking to me about her new book and for inspiring this writing exercise. Make sure you never miss writing exercises like this one by subscribing here: