One of the difficult things for me as a poet is handling poems that contain details from my “real life” because, once the poem is out there, one cannot control how the poem is read by every reader. Someone will always see something you didn’t intend, or misread something you did intend.
But this is not necessarily a bad thing. If a poem evokes a reaction, that means the reader was moved by it. If I can move someone with my words, that means a great deal to me.
My poem, “Lessons,” has evoked unexpected reactions from a couple of readers. The main reaction they have had is to see the father in a negative light. As the daughter of the father in the poem, I can only see him as a whole, and not the sum of the two instances mentioned in this poem.
I could have included details about how my father wholly supported my mother’s desire to finish her nursing degree, even at a time when he had just been laid off from his job. I could have included details about the encouragement and support my father gave to me and my sisters to do anything we wanted with our lives.
But then, this would have been a very different poem.
Instead, this is a poem about the ways one learns about the body. Lessons we are taught from books, as well as from real life. That is what the poem means to me.
Every so often I come up for air and find a few more items to clear out of the house. Hopefully I am inspiring you to simply look around you and find a few things that can either bring you a little extra walking around money, or that can be donated to a charity or Freecycled. Also, there are often things that sit on a bookshelf for so long that you completely stop "seeing" them. The last one there is a problem I constantly have.
This past week, I:
Filed a few health insurance forms cluttering the dining room table.
Sold the stroller we no longer need to a woman who desperately needed one for her 6-month-old.
Listed on Freecycle and Craigslist an old printer that we're not even sure works anymore, which had been on a desk, unused for at least 4 years, in the craft room.
Listed our Waterwheel table that we bought the first summer in our house and which hasn't been used the past 2 summers and is taking up A LOT of space in the garage.
Finally got rid of a big, overgrown bush that was taking up a prime, sunny space at the end of our driveway. The space is now cleared and ready for me to plant flowers.
I've also hung outside a birdhouse that was a winter painting project and had been sitting in the middle of our basement floor for three months.
It's been a long time since I've announced any chapbook-related news, but here are a few notes:
The deadline is approaching for the Seven Kitchens Press Robin Becker Chapbook Prize. The prize is given for an original, unpublished poetry manuscript, 16-24 pages, in English, by a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered or Queer writer. Deadline is May 15, 2010. $12.00 reading fee. Author will receive 50 copies if manuscript is selected for publication.
The Midwest Chapbook Series, sponsored by GreenTower Press and The Laurel Review, is accepting poetry manuscripts of 20-30 pages from anyone who is living in, from, or closely associated with the Midwest. Deadline is June 1, 2010. $10.00 reading fee. Winner will receive 100 copies and $250 honorarium plus travel expenses for reading in Northwest Missouri State University's Visitng Writers series.
Between April and August, Cooper Dillon Books welcomes submissions of chapbook and full-length poetry manuscripts. Manuscripts up to 35 pages in length will be considered for chapbooks. Cooper Dillon intends to select two chapbooks for publication through this reading period. Deadline is August 31, 2010. $10 reading fee or purchase of book from the press.
My poem, "Lessons," appears in the May 2010 issue of the American Journal of Nursing, which is now on the newsstands. The poem is featured in the journal's "Art of Nursing" section, which is available online as a PDF.