Sunday, September 29, 2019

New Audio: Right Click

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Listen to "Right Click" on Spreaker.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Prime Passage: "I am marvelously on the alert," from The Waves by Virginia Woolf

"They want a plot, do they? They want a reason? It is not enough for them, this ordinary scene. It is not enough to wait for the thing to be said as if it were written; to see the sentence lay its dab of clay precisely on the right place, making character; to perceive, suddenly, some group in outline against the sky. Yet if they want violence, I have seen death and murder and suicide all in one room. One comes in, one goes out. There are sobs on the staircase. I have heard threads broken and knots tied and the quiet stitching of white cambric going on and on on the knees of a woman. Why ask, like Louis, for a reason, or fly like Rhoda to some far grove and part the leaves of the laurels and look for statues? They say that one must beat one's wings against the storm in the belief that beyond this welter the sun shines; the sun falls sheer into pools that are fledged with willows. (Here it is November; the poor hold out matchboxes in wind-bitten fingers.) They say truth is to be found there entire, and virtue, that shuffles along here, down blind alleys, is to be had there perfect. Rhoda flies with her neck outstretched and blind fanatic eyes, past us. Louis, now so opulent, goes to his attic window among the blistered roofs and gazes where she has vanished, but must sit down in his office among the typewriters and the telephone and work it all out for our instruction, for our regeneration, and the reform of an unborn world.

"But now in this room, which I enter without knocking, things are said as if they had been written. I go to the bookcase. If I choose, I read half a page of anything. I need not speak. But I listen. I am marvelously on the alert. Certainly, one cannot read this poem without effort. The page is often corrupt and mud-stained, and torn and stuck together with faded leaves, with scraps of verbena or geranium. To read this poem one must have myriad eyes, like one of those lamps that turn on slabs of racing water at midnight in the Atlantic, when perhaps only a spray of seaweed pricks the surface, or suddenly the waves gape and up shoulders a monster. One must put aside antipathies and jealousies and not interrupt. One must have patience and infinite care and let the light sound, whether of spiders' delicate feet on a leaf or the chuckle of water in some irrelevant drainpipe, unfold too. Nothing is to be rejected in fear or horror. The poet who has written this page (what I read with people talking) has withdrawn. There are no commas or semicolons. The lines do not run in convenient lengths. Much is sheer nonsense. One must be skeptical, but throw caution to the winds and when the door opens accept absolutely. Also sometimes weep; also cut away ruthlessly with a slice of the blade soot, bark, hard accretions of all sorts. And so (while they talk) let down one's net deeper and deeper and gently draw in and bring to the surface what he said and she said and make poetry." -p.131-2
Virginia Woolf self-published The Waves through The Hogarth Press, 1931

Friday, September 13, 2019

M. Allen Cunningham's New Book Q&A: First Teaser

Q&A will appear from Regal House Publishing, fall 2020.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

New Interview in Poets & Writers

The current issue of Poets & Writers (Sept/Oct 2019) features my extensive interview with Ben George, Senior Editor at Little, Brown and Company.

Our wide-ranging conversation touches on the day-to-day experiences of a New York editor, the role of luck in publishing, the value of mentors, what it's like to spend an hour discussing a single paragraph, the plight of "midlist" writers, and lots more.
"In any editing experience you have to make the art the most important consideration, even as you keep the artist’s personal feelings in mind while you’re doing that. This is why I feel so privileged. As the editor, I’m being invited into the workshop, where there’s sawdust on the floor and half-finished things. It’s a delicate space for the writer. You’re being trusted, and you need to acquit yourself well." -Ben George 
Read the complete uncut version of the interview online HERE.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Tell Yourself the Ages Are Listening

Artists and writers: At some point, or several points, you’re going to receive the message that your work is insignificant, that your commitment to the work is futile, that you and what you represent as an artist do not matter.

At some point, or several points, you’re going to wonder what use there is in continuing to do and share your work. 

It’s unlikely that you will escape this unpleasantness. But when it arrives, remember that almost nobody escapes it — that you’ve come to a new threshold, and this one also you can cross as you’ve crossed other thresholds before it.

Take the upleasantness as a sign of your progress, of the strength of your commitment to the work. Take it as a reminder of how far you’ve gone, and as a renewal. 

Face the deafening silence, let outright rejection wash over you. Then say to yourself, if you can, "Art is freedom, beginnings are beautiful, rebeginnings even more so," and honor your practice by showing up even when nobody else will — especially then.

You’re strong of heart, with fire in your belly, and you’re endowed with gifts and disciplined in the daily work, the lifelong work, of honing these gifts.

From the start you knew this work would be one of the hardest things you could choose to do. Stand back and realize: there’s no surprise in this turn of events. Don’t look around for those more “lucky” than you. 

Don’t review your prior hours and days in terms of “waste.” And don’t think in terms of “arrival,” only in terms of the work at hand. Not “accomplishments,” only beginnings. 

Give yourself, if necessary, to posterity, or to your ancestors. Tell yourself the ages are listening. Do what you have to do to reorient yourself.

Then: notice the light in your window, the shape of the words inside you or already there on the paper, the instructions coming through the music even on your thousandth listen.

Ready now, enclosed in frightful privacy, get to work again, if not for yourself then for those of us you may never meet. We’re full of faith in you and we are waiting.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Prime Passage: "Good Sentences Are Why We Read" by Joe Moran

Among teachers and critics and in the community of writers, we need more advocates for attunement to the sonic properties of prose. Joe Moran's recent essay on sentence-making consoles me (and probably also the underrated writers I most admire). I immediately printed it out for use with my creative writing students. Here's a prime passage, but follow the link at the end to read the whole.
"When the writer has a tin ear for the sound of a sentence then the reader knows, just as when she hears flat or pitchy singing, that something is wrong, even if she can’t quite say why.
I can let a book fall open and tell, just from reading a few sentences, if I will like it. However compelling the subject of a book might be, I find it hard to carry on reading if its sentences are boring. I should be more forgiving, since I have written my share of boring sentences. I am not. Neither are you, even if you don’t know it yet. You think you are looking past this sentence into what it is saying—about life, love, the existence of angels, the design of the injection-molded polypropylene stacking chair, whatever it is— but no. You think you care what this is about, but really you care how it sounds. You are reading it for its sentences."