Tag Archives: poet

Internet Literary News, July 2014

Nadine Gordimer

In July, I found myself looking back at some literary masters, publishers looking at new ways to sell books, writers thriving on social media, and a few lessons, bad and good, in our ongoing efforts to live the writing life. Please enjoy.

Martin Ott

The Loss of Nadine Gordimer

I was saddened to hear the news of the loss of one of my favorite writers Nadine Gordimer. In a year of saying goodbye to some of our best writers, this one hurts.

Issues of Re-Issues

Writers have a hard enough time finding readership — do we really have to worry about deceased literary heavyweights vying for a share of the marketplace? Last month, I highlighted new poems from Neruda. In July, Grove announced that it is issuing a lost story from Samuel Beckett. Scribner is also reissuing Hemingway’s classic novel The Sun Also Rises with a previously discarded first chapter. It seems as though publishers are starting to mimic movie studios in the way they mine old material to obtain a new audience.

Don’t Go Into Poetry for the Money, Honey

Kate Angus penned a great article at The Millions about how, even with the proliferation of MFA graduates and the hard work of small press and mainstream publishers, Americans seems to love poetry just not poetry books.

Writers Who Run the Literary Internet?

Flavorwire published a spotlight on 35 writers who run the literary internet. While it looks as though a few on the list purchased followers and  reach on Twitter, most of the writers highlighted here are worth following.

Let Amazon Run the Library System (It Runs Everything Else in Literature)

No Forbes isn’t the Onion, but it saw fit to publish Tim Worstall’s article “Close the Libraries and Buy Everyone an Amazon Kindle Unlimited Subscription. We all know the public library system is no engine of efficiency, but it provides more than just books to our communities (such as computer and internet access). Digitization is part of the future, obviously, but we need to find a way to support those of us who can’t afford the internet fast lane.

Odds and Ends

Here’s a few other links I found entertaining:

The First Asian American Superhero: The Green Turtle

What Writers Can Learn from Goodnight Moon

Computer Engineering: a Fine Day Job for a Poet

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Internet Literary News, June 2014

Pablo Neruda photo

In June, poets were in the news with freshly discovered work from a master, a new US Poet Laureate, the loss of an influential voice, and insights into Anne Sexton’s Pulitzer Prize selection. All this, plus more from Hachette v. Amazon.

Martin Ott


Do you sometimes wonder what the world would be like if one of your favorite writers published new work? Seix Barral, Pablo Neruda’s longtime publisher, announced that 20 Neruda poems have been discovered in his archives and will be published in late 2014 / early 2015.

Pulitzer Prize Poetry Politics

Interested in how Anne Sexton won the Pulitzer Prize? In the Poetry Foundation blog, David Trinidad gives us insights into the world of Pulitzer Prize judging  by digging into the Chronicles of the Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry and revealing how judges’ arguments over books by Plath and Roethke provided the backdrop for Sexton’s selection.

New US Poet Laureate Will Do…?

I’ve always thought it was cool that our country had a post for a poet, but I’ve always wondered what it practically means for the art, craft, and popularity of what is, in actuality, a niche market filled with more writers per reader than any other genre. Best of luck to our new US Poet Laureate Charles Wright, who was quoted as saying upon selection: “I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do…but as soon as I find out, I’ll do it.”

Alan Grossman RIP

The poetry world was saddened by the loss of influential poet and scholar Alan Grossman. Winner of countless awards, Grossman was known for a serious style that bridged Romantic and Modernist traditions.

Amazon Looking to Bury the Hachette?

Yes, it’s all about money. As Amazon and one of the big publishing houses Hachette dig in for a fight over pricing and revenue, Evan Hughes at Slate provides insights into a lost opportunity by publishers to thwart the latest Amazon power grab. Chuck Wendig also provides an even handed and humorous look at these two “stompy  corporation” on his blog that I highly recommend.

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To Be a Poet

Guest Post by Christopher Soto

Christopher Soto Photo

“Dad, I want to be a poet.”

He didn’t understand what I was trying to tell him and, honestly, I didn’t understand either.

We were sitting together at lunch in downtown Long Beach when I told him that I would not be taking the job at his company after my graduation from college. Instead, I would be dropping my double major, graduating early, and moving to San Francisco to write.

“I want to be a poet.”

In San Francisco I shared my room with a queer latino photographer and a cute french boy. We lived in the basement of a three story house, in the hood, with fifteen other people. I spent my nights drinking beer and reading about anarchy. I spent my days recovering from hangovers and writing about the juvenile detention center where I once volunteered.

I finished writing my first novel in that house and, somehow, I got a phone call from Deborah Landau at NYU while living there too. On the phone, I was offered admission to the MFA program (emphasis in poetry) at NYU. My decision was made quickly.

“I want to be a poet.”

After living in San Francisco for a number of months, I decided that I needed more writing material, more life experience. I wanted to backpack the country! And so I left all my belongings, pulled all my savings, and took to the road– spending time around Rhode Island, New York, Illinois, and eventually Tennessee (where I learned how to garden).

I spent a month in the woods of Tennessee, sleeping alone in a tent, using my jacket as a pillow. I woke to new mosquito bites and the sight of hippies shitting in the trees. My meals were plucked with my hands, my showers taken from the stream, and I never felt so free.

“I don’t want to be a poet.”

Sitting at a bone-fire below the naked sky, I realized that I didn’t want to be a poet anymore. I didn’t want anything. We were reading excerpts from our journals as if there were auditoriums of people surrounding us. And we knew that the degrees, teaching jobs, and publications would never make us more of poets. We already were poets, words fluming with the smoke.

Earlier this year I gave up a job and a double major. Then I gave up a new city, my belongings, and my savings– to travel, to write, to learn contentedness. I don’t want anymore. I am not an aspiring or emerging poet. I am a poet.

In the Fall of 2013 I will begin my MFA at NYU and I will continue writing in this fashion- as if nothing exists except for the poet and the poem, as if my poems understand all that I am willing to give in order for them to exist, as if they would never ask me to give everything. And we will be free together.

About the Author 

Christopher Soto is a queer latino poet from Southern California who published his first chapbook, How To Eat Glass, with Still Life Press in 2012. He is currently an MFA candidate at New York University.


Filed under Guest Blog Post, Poetry, Uncategorized, Writing

Writeliving Interview – Charles Harper Webb

I first met and became acquainted with the work of Charles Harper Webb more than 15 years ago, and I think of him as one of our essential Southern California writers. I’m thrilled that he took the time to give us a look into his writing life.

Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

I’ve had a lot of influences, so I apologize to those I’m leaving out.  That being said . . .

My parents—both avid readers and language aficionados—made me aware early of the power and pleasure of words.  Both of them spoke well, and were very witty.  Humor, both verbal and physical, had a strong presence in the house where I grew up.  My mother, a librarian, kept me well-supplied with books.

My earliest literary influences weren’t poets. Twain, Dickens, and Dostoyevsky were among the first non-children’s authors that knocked me out.  Other than children’s poems recited by my mother when I was very young, the first poets I loved were Poe, Eliot, and Dylan Thomas.  A friend in high school English turned me on to Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti.  When I loved their work, and said, “I wish I could write something like that,” he said, “Don’t whine about it.  Try.”  So I did.

Ron Koertge, Gerry Locklin, Edward Field, James Tate, and Russell Edson had a big impact on me when I was first beginning to publish.  I’m sure their influence is still evident today.

Ed Hirsch, whom I worked with at a writer’s conference some time later, also had a major influence on me, as did Robert Pinsky, with whom I worked at another writer’s conference.

My wife and son have also influenced my writing in many ways, all for the better.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

Experience has installed a kind of Geiger counter in my brain that begins to tick when I’m in the presence of something interesting that might yield a poem.  I jot down what that something is, then, when I get a chance, start writing about it in a free-associational way to see what shows up on the page.  Writing poetry is an act of discovery for me.  If I’m lucky, something amazing turns up.  If I’m not lucky, no problem; I try again.  I work hard at my craft, but to generate anything worth working on, I have to trust my unconscious mind.

How has living, writing and teaching in Southern California shaped your work?

I think being in the entertainment capital of the country has reinforced my instinct—also reinforced by years as a professional musician—to shun the pedestrian, and make my poems as entertaining as I can.  I also think being in LA has heightened an already-present tendency toward strangeness, absurdism, hyperbole, and surrealism in my work.  That’s part of the natural environment here.

Speaking of natural environment—I suspect that living in LA has worked against my impulse to be a nature poet.   If I’d lived someplace more pastoral, I suspect that impulse would have been easier to follow.

Has your background as a trained psychotherapist influenced your poetry?

I started studying psychology in order to better understand the human psyche, and thus become a better writer.  I hope that happened.  I think it did.

I know that working as a therapist had a profound effect on me personally. Being allowed to look deeply into other people’s . . . what to call it—souls? . . . is humbling, and humanizing, and broadening in the extreme.

Revising, for me, is very similar to psychotherapy, in that I listen to a lot of rambling (my own), then try to pick out and foreground what is important in all that has been said.

Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?

I’ve heard Edward Hirsch say something to the effect that “Everyday life is the enemy of poetry.”  The contemporary world seems to conspire to keep us from the kind of patient observation, uninhibited emotionalism, and intense inferiority that is necessary to write good poetry.  Every hour that I manage to write is an hour wrested from the powers of social responsibility and psychic darkness.

What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?

I have a pin-prick-sized hole in the flesh of my right ear.  I inherited this from my dad.

On the other hand, if you read my work carefully, you’ll find out more about me than even I know.  Not that everything I write about happened to me . . .

About the Author:

CHW by stream

Charles Harper Webb is the author of ten books of poetry, including Shadow Ball: New and Selected Poems, and What Things Are Made Of.  Editor of Stand Up Poetry: An Expanded Anthology, Webb has received the Morse Prize, Pollak Prize, Saltman Prize, and Kate Tufts Discovery Award, as well as grants from the Whiting and Guggenheim Foundations. He teaches at California State University, Long Beach, where he has served as both Director of Creative Writing and MFA Director.

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Writeliving Interview: Marge Piercy

We’re proud to present an interview with groundbreaking novelist, poet and memoirist Marge Piercy. Woman on the Edge of Time made an impression on me when I read it in my teens, and Gone to Soldiers later challenged my thinking about what women and men should and could write about.

Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

Influences are a matter of adolescence and early adulthood. After that, if you’re real, you’re on your own path. American prosody comes from Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson and that’s where I started. I read widely and had an excellent education in British and Irish literature in the Honors program at the University of Michigan and in grad school at Northwestern. In the latter, I began an intensive exploration of American literature which I continued after I left to work.

Allen Ginsberg opened my eyes to the possibility of writing far more directly and emotionally out of my own experience and politics than I had been led to believe was something that could be done.

I’d say the news is a far more extensive influence on me, the economy, what happens to people I know or don’t know but feel for than any “influence” of the sort you mean. I’m not in the academy but out in the regular world. At the moment about half my town is out of electricity from the snow hurricane – people without heat or water. NSTAR seems in no hurry to get them back up. I just wrote a poem about that. That’s my influence of the moment.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

My creative process is to sit down at the computer and work. I write most days I am not on the road for gigs. More ideas swarm in me than I can get to before they evaporate. I write. I read aloud. My cats approve but often I don’t. I revise. I try again. I revise again. I turn the poem about trying different line breaks, verse paragraph or stanza breaks, beginnings, endings. I look at my imagery with a cold eye. I put the title through several revisions, usually. The first time I perform the poem, I find the weak spots and go home and rewrite again.

How does writing both fiction and poetry impact the other genre?

There’s very little cross over between the fiction and the poetry. Generally an idea comes with the genre attached. One exception happened recently when I jotted notes while I was doing a miniresidency. I thought it would be a poem. Then when I sat down to write it, it became an essay instead. It was just too prosy and diffuse to be a poem, but it was something I wanted to write about. “Gentrification and its discontents.”

The other exception is when I am doing research for a novel or nonfiction, often I experience things that produce poetry. They are about our experiences during research and have no direct connection with the prose work. Examples: Slides from my recent European trip in Available Light; the poem “The happy man” in The Hunger Moon.

Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?

I left graduate school and worked part time living in a slum apartment in Chicago in order to write what I needed to. Staying in academia was stifling my poetry and fiction. It was a hard life. I dressed from rummage sales, ate whatever was cheap, dealt with the experience that nobody but me took me seriously as a writer. That went on for some years. I could not publish serious fiction about being a woman at that time. My poetry got published long before my fiction could. The world had to change from women’s liberation before I could break through with my fiction beyond an occasional short story. I could not make a living from my writing until I was 32. I have done so ever since.

What project(s) are you working on now?

I have a contract with PM Press for a book of short stories. Some of them I wrote years ago, but once I had the contract, I began writing new ones. I’ve written eight so far and hope to write a couple more before the book is due. I have been sending them out and getting them into various zines. I am enjoying working on short fiction very much. It feels good to get back into a genre after two decades away from it.

My agent has a new novel I completed just before I started writing short stories.

I am writing a lot of poetry, as usual.

As I said, I wrote an essay two weeks ago. I am not sure what to do with it.  Usually I only write essays when approached to do so.  Haven’t figured out where to send it.

What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?

I am an avid gardener. Ira Wood and I grow almost all our own vegetables (exceptions being red onions, avocados, artichokes) and bush fruit, sour cherries and pears. I freeze, dry, can. Put up enough paste tomatoes & 4 kinds of tomato sauce so we never have to buy any. I planted what has become a rhododendron forest years ago. Many beautiful trees. A rose garden (no hybrid teas; no bushes requiring poisons) – I actually know a lot about roses and freely give advice. Lots of daylilies. Very few annuals except marigolds & sunflowers that I start from seed. I actually start almost everything we grow from seed, except perennials. Our ornamental gardens are like British cottage gardens, a mix of perennials and bushes. I grow lots of herbs for cooking and medicinal uses.

I’m a very good cook. These days I mostly cook Mediterranean – all the way around.  Provencal, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Middle Eastern, Moroccan. The exception is on the Jewish holidays when I do some traditional Ashkenazi dishes as well as Sephardic and Mitzraki. For over thirty years, I have conducted a Seder for friends and now into the third generation. I update my Haggadah a bit every year and do most of the cooking. We no longer hold it in our dining room as we only have room for fifteen and it has grown far beyond that.

I find that gardening and cooking make a good accompaniment to writing. The rewards are physical and it’s good to do something besides sit on my ass in front of a computer.

About the Author


Marge Piercy is the author of seventeen novels including The New York Times Bestseller Gone To Soldiers; the National Bestsellers Braided Lives and The Longings of Women, and the classic Woman on the Edge of Time; eighteen volumes of poetry including The Hunger Moon and The Moon is Always Female, and a critically acclaimed memoir Sleeping with Cats. Born in center city Detroit, educated at the University of Michigan, the recipient of four honorary doctorates, she has been a key player in some of the major progressive battles of our time, including the anti-Vietnam war and the women’s movement, and more recently an active participant in the resistance to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Writeliving Interview – Rick Bursky

The next writer in the Writeliving interview series is one of LA’s best poets: Rick Bursky. Not only is he a triple threat – poet, ad guy, photographer – but he has also been a good friend and great source of inspiration.

Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

There are so many poets, writers, painters, photographers and musicians whose work I’ve leaned on for inspiration, influence and just plain pleasure. Though the word pleasure seems so thin in this context. But it’s important to constantly immerse ourselves in art, to read great stuff to be reminded of the possibility of beauty and the challenges that come with it. Just some of the poets include Nin Andrews, Charles Simic, Richard Garcia, Laura Kasischke, David Young, David Keplinger, Yannis Ritsos, Alexis Orgera, Dean Young, Stan Rice, Edward Hopper; Rene Magritte, Ian Randall Wilson, Michael Kenna, Lorca; the list can go on and on. Just answering your question reminds me of the debt I owe so many others. Sometimes I think of myself as a reader who sometimes writes. Teaching has also been a wonderful influence on my writing. For instance, teaching the prose poem and introducing students to its many possibilities has sent me on a prose poem binge. Same thing for the ghazal. One of a teachers responsibilities it to inspire students and instill enthusiasm, I’m also a student in my classes.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

My poems probably fall into four or five categories. For most of them it starts with a line. In the first couple of drafts that’s the opening line of the poem but in subsequent versions it moves down or disappears, the line is simply a trigger. I try to write line by line. Make as statement, a line, move on. I’ll often change the subject from line to line. Write a line. Move on. That’s my preferred way to work. I’m writing poems, not stories. I really like the quote, “narrative in a poem is like a almond in a Hershey bar, nice but not necessary,” I think it was Charles Wright who said that. I’m always looking, searching praying, begging for a line to start with. My notebooks are filled with failed starts.  For instance, “it’s simply a coincidence that all the women I’ve ever loved kept anteaters as pets” is a line that floated around for years before it became a poem.

Another way into a poem for me is an image. A man stands on street corner balancing a bowling pin on his head. I just wrote that as an example but I sort of like it. I’ll probably spend the next couple of weeks seeing where that goes. I used to be a photographer. Now I think of myself as a photographer too lazy to go out and look for photographs so I write them out, poems.

Someone once accused me of simply finding strange or interesting historical facts and calling them prose poems. For instance, I wrote about how people first got started photographing children on ponies, wrote about the Brotherhood of Travelling Postcard Photographers in France and how they helped the allied air forces bomb the Germans, wrote that according to the United Nations being killed by bee stings is the 247th most common way to be killed, explained what happened to the single photograph that was taken of George Washington, etc, etc – it’s all made up. But that’s another way I work, an unusual faux fact filtered through language.

Then there’s another poem, a series of poems, I’ve been writing for about twenty years, though I didn’t know they were connected in any way for the first eight or so years. All of these poems take place on a small, ignored island in the Mediterranean where the main source of work is fishing. They could be Greeks, Italians or who knows. I write about life on there.

No matter which poems I’m working on they all start as scribbled lines in a notebook, and I write everything with a fountain pen. I don’t write on a computer, I type on that. Once I get past a couple of good drafts of a poem I type it on the computer, then carrying it in my pocket for a week making revisions and notes. Once I’m sort of happy I let a couple of friends read it and see what they think. Then back to revising.

Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?

Your question suggests that I’ve overcome adversity. The jury is still out on that one. Life is always uphill, if it’s not one thing it’s another. I don’t think I’ve had any more adversity it my life than any other person, perhaps even less than some. You get up in the morning and to work. Some day’s it’s harder than others. Bills come in the mail. Death comes. Lovers leave. Things happen. You can’t sleep, spend nights staring at the ceiling and wondering what comes next. But if you’re a writer you write. No excuses. You write something, anything, sometimes it’s even good. Writing has never been a dream, it’s what I do. Winning the lottery is something I dream of. And come to think of it, as soon as I win I’ll revise this and write that winning the lottery has helped me overcome adversity. Until then, ouch. Of course, good friends, good cigars, good wine and good poetry are essentials.

What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?

I don’t believe in talent or inspiration. If you want to be a writer you write. Anyone could be a good poet. Great poet is another story. I make up for lack of talent by working hard. And inspiration? Nonsense. A poet should live an inspired life.  That’s not something you wait for. That’s something you go out and get.

About the Author:

Rick Bursky’s most recent book , Death Obscura was published by Sarabande Books.  His previous book, The Soup of Something Missing, was published by Bear Star Press. He’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize four times. His poems have appeared in many journals including American Poetry Review, Field, Iowa Review, Gettysburg Review, Conduit, Prairie Schooner, Black Warrior Review, Shenandoah, and Hotel Amerika. Bursky works in advertising and is an adjunct at USC and teaches at UCLA Extension.

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