Author Archives: Lisa Hase-Jackson

$10 Online Writing Workshop Tonight and Every Tuesday

7:00PM Eastern via Zoom (invitation below)

Because no one has to write alone.

A prompt will be offered at the beginning of the workshop and remain available on screen the entire hour.
Prompts and exercises are suitable for any genre of creative writing.
The theme this week is: JUSTICE
A suggested goodwill donation of $10.00 helps greatly and can be remitted through PayPal or Zelle (lisahasejackson@gmail.com), Venmo (@Lisa-Hase-Jackson, or by check (send email for address).

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5121949100

Meeting ID: 512 194 9100 (you will be admitted into a waiting room until the meeting begins)

One tap mobile
+13126266799,,5121949100# US (Chicago)
+19292056099,,5121949100# US (New York)

Dial by your location
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington D.C)
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
Meeting ID: 512 194 9100
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kBT7D7q41

You’re Invited to the Tuesday Writing Workshop at 7:00PM

Fuel your writing streak!

Join us this Tuesday, January 19 from 7:00 to 8:00PM (Eastern) for a writing exercise and to share your work, too!

A prompt will be offered at the beginning of the workshop and will remain available on screen for the entire hour.

Prompts and exercises are suitable for any genre of creative writing. Whatever can be done with poetry can be done in prose (to great effect).

The theme this week is: Justice

A suggested goodwill donation of $10.00 helps greatly and can be remitted through PayPal or Zelle (lisahasejackson@gmail.com), Venmo (@Lisa-Hase-Jackson, or even with a check (contact me for address). 

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5121949100

Meeting ID: 512 194 9100 (you will be admitted into a waiting room until the meeting begins)

One tap mobile
+13126266799,,5121949100# US (Chicago)
+19292056099,,5121949100# US (New York)

Dial by your location
        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
        +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
        +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington D.C)
        +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
        +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
        +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
Meeting ID: 512 194 9100
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kBT7D7q41

Online Drop-In Writing Workshop Noon Tomorrow

Treat yourself to an invigorating hour of writing.
Drop in from 12:00-1:00pm Eastern this and EVERY Thursday for a weekly low-stress Writing Workshop via Zoom.
The theme this week is: DARKNESS
Come when you can, stay as long as you are able.

A prompt suitable for writers of prose and poetry will be offered at the beginning of the hour and will remain available on screen for the duration.

This workshop meets EVERY WEEK. Follow this link for a full listing of workshops and weekly theme: Online Writing Workshops

A suggested goodwill donation of $10.00 through Venmo (@Lisa-Hase-Jackson), PayPal or Zelle (lisahasejackson@gmail.com) or by check (email me for address) helps greatly.

Meeting ID: 512 194 9100
One tap mobile
+13126266799,,5121949100# US (Chicago)
+19292056099,,5121949100# US (New York)

Dial by your location
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington D.C)
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
Meeting ID: 512 194 9100

Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kd0vsMhSjy

Tear Down by John Sierpinski

In this broad shouldered city, in this 50’s vintage motel
arrive to check in at the office, but the cigar chomping
manager has given away our room. A pot of what looks
like tea, but really a poor attempt at coffee sits on a single
burner “hot plate.” Stale-looking donuts wait to be put
out of their misery. Sorry about that, he says with a jerk.
but I’ll tell you what I’m gonna doI can’t wait for this,
I think. For ten bucks more our honeymoon room just
opened up. He winks at my girlfriend. His cigar is
sopped. I grab the key, we are both tired from the road,
tired of this guy. Walk down a few doors past a couple
yelling behind their door. Key in the lock. This “special”
room has mirrors on the ceiling that reflect the filth,
shag carpeting up the walls, stained carpeting on the floor,
a cigarette butt in an ashtray. The word kinky is too kind.
On the floor, next to the bed, there’s a balled up washcloth
Just a minute, I say and head off toward the office.
The cigar-man is talking to a tired-looking older woman.
They both look up. The room isn’t clean (an understatement)
and there’s a used washcloth on the floor. There’s
a moment of silence, then the woman says, They were
only in the room an hour. I’m the one who cleaned the room
after they left. Fatigue has bitten my lip. The woman
hands me a clean washcloth. I turn around and stomp back
to the room. This night is disintegrating into dust. No
wonder the couple two doors down are still shouting, shouting.

John Sierpinski has published poetry in many literary journals such as California Quarterly, North Coast Review and Spectrum Literary Journal to name a few. His work is also in eight anthologies. He is a Pushcart nominee. His poetry collection, “Sucker Hole,” was published in 2018 by Cholla Needles Press.

 

Interview with Margarita Serafimova, Winner of this Year’s Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award

Zingara Poetry Review is pleased to present this interview with Margarita Serafimova.

Margarita Serafimova is a Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist in nine other U.S. and international poetry contests. Her work appears widely, including Nashville Review, LIT, Agenda Poetry, Poetry South, London Grip, Waxwing, A-Minor, Trafika Europe, Noble/ Gas, Obra/ Artifact, Great Weather for Media, Nixes Mate, and Moria.

She has had four poetry collections published in Bulgarian and is the recipient of the 1st place prize for the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award. Established in the memory of poet and editor Tony Quagliano, the biennial prize is awarded for an outstanding body of work by a poet who “consistently strives for cutting edge and avant-garde innovation.”

First, a poem from her most recent chapbook, A Surgery of A Star:

Weeping: Clarinets

The circle allowed us for an instant – an instant
in eternity –
to step out of it,
and then, it closed.

*

Your work has garnered the 2019-2020 Tony Quagliano award. Tell us more about this distinction. 

This international biennial prize awarded by the Hawai’I Council for the Humanities honors author Tony Quagliano by ‘recognizing an accomplished poet with an outstanding body of work’.  Under the award eligibility rules, “the poet must consistently strive for ‘cutting edge‘ and ‘avant-garde‘ innovation, which means experimental, innovative, ‘pushing the envelope‘ literature.” To quote the award-givers, “winning poets exemplify what Tony loved—poetic innovation that embraces experimental craft and a joy in unexpected language”.

The criteria for the award entail having, as a poet, “a body of work over a period of years” that corresponds to the requirement of innovation. The recognition comes with a $1000 prize.

I’m honored!

Your latest collection, A Surgery of a Star (Staring Problem Press), contains poems that are described as “cutting edge” inventive poetry. Tell us a little about how form and content work together in such brief poems as ‘L’éternel Retour to capture this sense of “piercing intimacy” that reviewers mention. 

‘L’éternel retour’ (Eternal Return), first published in LIT Magazine by The New School, is one of the poems, on the basis of which I was awarded the 2019-2020 Tony Quagliano International Poetry Prize. It is also a centerpiece of my chapbook, A Surgery of A Star (2020).

This poem is a good example of how work usually happens in my creative process: the poem simply occurred to me, in its entirety, while I was going on about my day, not sitting down writing; I recorded it in my phone, and never revisited a word. Later, I self-translated it from the Bulgarian original into English. So, my poetry-making is organic; content and form are inherently merged from the genesis, they never exist separately, I don’t work on making them come together.

I never have any poetic goal, in terms of either form or content, in mind prior to writing a poem. Poems happen to me of themselves, dropping in my palm like ripe fruit. I usually express my feelings in free-verse micro-poems, three-four lines, sometimes, just two; so, the form is relatively stable and easy. Sometimes – again, without any design – it happens that I write longer poems, but almost never longer than a page. As for the content, it is invariably impulsive and has its origins in my lived experience. I don’t write poems deliberately and I don’t write directly from my ideas – aesthetic, philosophical, social, political – so much as from my emotions and sensations. My foremost concern is authenticity: to capture an expression of what I experienced emotionally that rings true; the poem has to resonate, to feel right, above all. If it does, that’s it. I am satisfied, I do nothing more. I don’t deliberately seek for what would be the accurate or the best expression, but I have been cultivating all my life a free mind that speaks its own mind, so to speak, and when it does, poems organically occur out of the intensity of my emotional life.

Intimacy with another person, or another living being, or another manifestation of life on Earth, or being itself as a deep sensе of self, is very important to me existentially, as is visual beauty. They naturally manifest themselves in many poems that occur to me on the subject of ‘You’ or the couple as a modus of being, in which some image of the sublime is mirrored. Or, a more plural ‘we’ bond – identification with some small intimate community. My inner attention is trained on those phenomena, those moments, and that intense mental attention often produces Eros-driven works; Eros in the sense of the binding life-principle opposed to Thanatos, or annihilation. The exquisitely piercing or blessing-like balmy nature of such moments, which my mind is focused on re-producing as a verbal sight, is an existential reality for me, in my actual every-day life; it is not an abstraction or a concept. That energy of the immediate living, combined with my attraction to images and my taste for condensed language, produces highly concise visual pieces; a kind of passion. I delight in revelation – when I discover, by means of looking at things, a sense of some truth underneath their surface, inside of them, I am thrilled. If I feel energetic, which I often do, forming words is then my impulsive response – verbal expression that photographs the distilled essence of the real-life happening I witnessed. As the bosom of things is usually inseparable from their outward appearance, their imagistic presence, their truth is manifested to my eyes, which are always looking, and not to my rational brain.

How do you develop a keen eye for the imagery that appears in your work?

 All my life, I have derived a keen pleasure from contemplating beautiful natural occurrences and living beings – trees, sunlight, birds in flight, surf breaking, the moon and clouds, clear air, statues, wind moving, the sound of it in high branches, the aura, the force of it, light in water, elegant fish, a desired face. I am dedicated to looking at them to the point of saturation; I’m devoted to them. It is only natural that a part of me exists as a medium for words reflecting them. As mentioned, poems usually occur to me from actual instances of physically looking at the many faces of the Earth – the serene heavens, the magnetic soil, the soaring blue depths. Or, when I am relaxing indoors, in some pretty room, cinematographic images appear in my mind’s eye, merging fantasy, actual experience, and artifacts from the collective unconscious; then, words naturally crop up from those vivid images. Normally, my mind produces a verbal rendition of an image after the latter appears clearly in my imagination as it were against a deep dark background. As a poet, I operate from my vision. It gifts me exquisite feelings, which trigger utterances, as a sort of existential witness-bearing to the intricate beauty of existence. My role is to make sure I am at all times genuine so that I won’t fail my moments.

What kind of considerations go into building and ordering a collection of poems?

In my experience – which includes four full-length collections in Bulgarian published in 2016-2020, a chapbook in English in 2020, another one forthcoming in January 2021, and a full-length collection in English to appear in 2022 – I haven’t used rational or professional ideas as tools to structure my books. I am not an educated or professional poet; I’m a natural, self-made one. I’ve been rather impulsive, even arbitrary in my selections and ordering. I will group together works that were written in a particular period, which has marked them with a common timbre or a family of evolving moods. Often, I will arrange them in chronological order, following their natural rhythms and progression. In this way, real life serves as the director of the narrative. I will use a title that is an important signifier of the mood or underlying energy – it will be a blind-eyed choice, not a thought-through one, no considerations outside of my own gut feeling would apply (the reader is never there). I might pull in works from other periods as well, if they have some tie to this underlying binding drive or symbol. In other cases, I will group together poems belonging to a certain relationship; a gallery devoted to a single lover. Or, the collection will be dedicated to some cross-cutting presence, some comprehensive, systemic passion in my life. For instance, my debut full-length book (in Bulgarian) is entitled ‘Animals and Other Gods’ – it gathered all of my works of adoration of animals and birds, and other forces of nature, expressing my exultation from focusing on their subjecthood and their power, their glory, written over a long period of time, many years, different styles and moods. My second full-length collection, ‘Demons and World’, similarly encompassed poems written over diverse periods in my life, all somehow linked to an elusive feeling of yearning for, and choosing, the world over darkness. ‘A Surgery of A Star’ is very much about erotic desire as a capacity to transcend.

How does writing poetry fit into your professional career as a lawyer?

I don’t spend much time writing my brief poetry, it occurs to me while I am doing other things, including legal work. I then just need to take a moment to commit the lines to writing so I won’t forget them. Self-translating and submitting take more time, which I manage, being a freelancer, an independent expert; I manage my own time. However, even during a brief recent period when I was employed as an international lawyer in a fast-paced environment managed by others – during the pandemic – I was able to protect my inner energy and my spiritual space remained intact, nothing was able to stop my poems from coming. Regardless of how busy and strained at work I was, I would be walking in the park with my dogs, or returning home from the supermarket, or even sorting out evidence in a case file, and poems would simply enter and lighten the scene. It helps that I always bond with the people I have to interact with during the day, with the space I inhabit – rooms, garden, stairs, windows, with the neighbourhood, the environment that contains my life. I am quite selective and once I am able to focus on a thing or a person because I chose them, I can then love them – on a spectrum of ways – and investing myself so, I can decorate as it were the space for my poetry, make it habitable for it. Then, I share it with the people around me, whether it’s expected or not. I could not care less about conforming.

How has it been writing during the pandemic? 

For the first six months, I was in a new city, starting a new job, with strong personalities as my colleagues, with whom I shared many important things in common and equally, various cultural and other differences, which all bred tensions and strife. But we overcame, and populated our interactions variously with kindnesses, excitement, closeness, joyful surprises – in addition to the pressure of not being according to each other’s expectations. Throughout this process, I held on to my sanity by being a worshipper of the sublime oaks in my area. I was their scribe, the recorder of their crowns. They elevated me and sustained me. A full-length manuscript emerged from us. I called it ‘The Oak Odyssey’ because I was always going home, from the moment I set sail. So, this is how I traversed the rise of the pandemic. Now, I am in the Greek islands, where I feel eternally at home, the sea reminding me every waking hour of what is permanent and what is impermanent. Everything is.

Our Voices

Stark naked ballerinas with rapiers,
skin heated by some sun,
and these naked rapiers.
A scent, a long shine.

*

where the light sneaks in by Mike Jurkovic

The psychic took my personal check and I
quickly questioned all her projections.
Surely she knew my grifter past before predicting
Ten weeks on The Times Top Ten,
Amazon Prime’s Big Pick.

Have you read my stuff
it’s freaking depressing I said.
A curt evaluation I’ll concede but
I don’t see stars anymore
just bullet holes where the light sneaks in.

We need your truth she said
and I thought: Wow!
What a blurb that would make.
Let Kirkus charge me now!

This country ain’t piss she said
lending credence to my last submissions,
heft to my whole oeuvre.
Can I quote ya I asked
w/o grimace, my standard scowl of the day.
Twenty six ninety nine she said
w/o fanfare or delight.

Mike Jurkovic is a 2016 Pushcart nominee and his latest book is  AmericanMental, (Luchador Press 2020). His CD reviews appear in All About Jazz,.  He is the Tuesday night host of Jazz Sanctuary, WOOC 105.3 FM, Troy, NY.

Virtual Writing Workshop 7:00pm Tuesday, January 5

Hello Writers!
Every Tuesday beginning January 5 from 7:00 to 8:00 PM Eastern and Thursday at Noon Eastern, log on for a virtual write-in. Come when you can, stay as long as you are able.
A prompt will be offered at the beginning of the workshop and will remain on screen for the entire hour. All prompts and exercises are suitable for any genre of creative writing. Whatever can be done with poetry can be done in prose (to great effect).
Our theme this week: January and New Beginnings
A suggested goodwill donation of $10.00 helps greatly and can be remitted through PayPal or Zelle (lisahasejackson@gmail.com), Venmo (@Lisa-Hase-Jackson), or by check (contact me for address).
Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5121949100

Meeting ID: 512 194 9100 (you will be admitted into a waiting room until the meeting begins)

One tap mobile
+13126266799,,5121949100# US (Chicago)
+19292056099,,5121949100# US (New York)

Dial by your location
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington D.C)
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
Meeting ID: 512 194 9100
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kBT7D7q41

Online Writing Workshops Tuesdays in January

You’re invited to an Online Writing Workshop at 7:00pm Eastern every Tuesday in January (Zoom details below).

Here are this month’s themes:  

  • January 5: January and New Beginnings
  • January 12: Darkness
  • January 19: Justice
  • January 26: Success

A prompt will be offered at the beginning of the workshop and remain on screen for the entire hour. All prompts and exercises are suitable for any genre of creative writing. Whatever can be done in poetry can be done in prose (to great effect).

A suggested goodwill donation of $10.00 helps greatly and can be remitted through PayPal or Zelle (lisahasejackson@gmail.com), Venmo (@Lisa-Hase-Jackson), or by check (contact me for address). 

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5121949100

Meeting ID: 512 194 9100 (you will be admitted into a waiting room until the meeting begins)

One tap mobile
+13126266799,,5121949100# US (Chicago)
+19292056099,,5121949100# US (New York)

Dial by your location
        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
        +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
        +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington D.C)
        +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
        +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
        +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
Meeting ID: 512 194 9100
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kBT7D7q41

My Sister’s Baby Blanket by Alejandro Lucero

At a Christmas party, my sister left behind her baby blanket.
We turned around and drove back through the snowy roads.
My parents kept reminding her they would never forget.

A small square stained with spit and mashed peas; it was no trinket,
and my grandma, the party’s host, already tossed it in the garbage load.
At a Christmas party, my sister left behind her baby blanket.

If she were older perhaps she would have felt no regret.
Perhaps she would have found another to save herself from the cold.
My parents kept reminding her they would never forget

the gift from our aunt who’s now alone in a pinewood casket
and wrapped in her own blanket of roots, worms, and mold.
She missed that Christmas party my sister left behind her baby blanket.

On her last days, we brought my aunt flowers and unripened fruit in a basket.
We said we loved her and all the other things she needed to be told.
My parents kept reminding her they would never forget.

I write these refrains, and think how my aunt and sister never met,
about how their hands will never get the chance to hold
at a Christmas party, how my poor sister left behind her baby blanket,
and how my parents kept reminding her they would never forget.


Alejandro Lucero is a writer from Sapello, New Mexico by way of Denver. He serves as an intern and poetry reader for Copper Nickel. Pushcart Prize nominee, his most recent poetry and nonfiction can be found in Progenitor Art & Literary Journal and is forthcoming in The Susquehanna Review and Thin Air Magazine.

Who Names this Child? by Nadine Ellsworth-Moran

God didn’t name me—
didn’t come to my father
and mother with anointing oil,
declare a greatness
over my weakness.

Yet,
there is a sound,
unnamable, I hear
rising from femur
and spleen, that pushes
through my veins.

Can I call it divine?

This name,
deeper within
that outweighs fear.

Nadine Ellsworth-Moran is a full-time minister living in Georgia. She is fascinated by the stories unfolding all around her and seeks to bring everyone into conversation around a common table. Her essays and poems have appeared in Interpretation, The Presbyterian Outlook, Emrys, Structo, Kakalak, and Saint Katherine Review, among others.

His Agenda by Peter Mladinic

to place a lens before a leaf in the sun
and evoke a flame
to see a magnificent cottonwood green in the pale high desert
to see a hawk on a wooden post
to walk at night a runway where in daylight planes land
to gather mesquite and lay it near a fire pit
to strip naked on a canyon rim and swim in the creek
and towel himself dry and put on clean clothes
to put ice and whiskey in a glass
to sit in a chair and open a paperback, Agee’s
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
to fly in a piper cub over a canyon
to see the green cottonwood alone in a corner of pale high desert
to know the cactus wren is cousin to the javelina
and the sun’s dying fire and wind
and egrets white on the Pecos
below fire-blackened trees.


Peter Mladinic has published three books of poetry: Lost in Lea, Dressed for Winter, and Falling Awake in Lovington, all with the Lea County Museum Press.  He lives in Hobbs, New Mexico.

Seas of Change by Marc Janssen

For you beginnings are never endings 
Every sunrise only rises, rises 
Into the arms of a mild waiting moon 
Tears are history, regret a rare realm. 
No, this ship, my beautiful bark only 
Arrives, it arrives, and arrives, it is 
Never swallowed by darkened horizons. 
But it is disappearing now and I 
Can’t bear it, waiving glad tears on the dock 
Is the most painful thing I’ve ever done.  


Marc Janssen lives in a house with a wife who likes him and a cat who loathes him. Regardless of that turmoil, his poetry can be found scattered around the world in places like Penumbra, Slant, Cirque Journal, Off the Coast and The Ottawa Arts Journal. Janssen also coordinates the Salem Poetry Project, a weekly reading, the annual Salem Poetry Festival, and is a 2020 nominee for Oregon Poet Laureate. 

Interview with Poet KJ Hannah Greenberg

Recently, Assistant Editor, Leslie Effron, caught up with KJ Hannah Greenberg, a regularly featured poet on Zingara Poetry Review, for an interview.

KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs.

Thereafter, she’s been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than thirty of her books published, and has served as an editor for several literary journals.

Read Leslie’s interview  immediately following this poem from Rudiments, Greenberg’s latest collection:

Corporate Life in a Goldfish Bowl
 
“Life,” a simple word, four letters, more complex than

Longer wonders; “conflate,” “promote,” and “purchase,”
Disguises possibilities working beyond corporate tang,
Inherent in the raw unfurling of so many days’ sagacity,
Activated by conversations in which others can’t engage.

Dear cohorts forward generous, eschatological sentiments,
When gold and brown cloth treasures, bookcases’ brimming
With varicolored sleeping bags, fabric backpacks, attitude,
Sidle unorthodoxly behind wooden signs, against fences,
Ride silken threads, otherwise dance among weekly sales.

Secrets despise boundaries, go radically albedo when shushed,
Seek out billboards, megaphones, access to SEO search engines,
Inner city graffiti, slingshot telemarketing, sundry pretty ponies,
Until dry cleaning solvent, white vinegar, and borax get utilized
To remove the dust, sweat, dung of some prized grandiloquence.

Supervisors eventually stay awake late enough to return votes,
Recalling how their managerial reactions, all egregious choices,
Plus, their colleagues’ belief that peers are capable of bunkum
(Children act childish), gets compromised as publicized data
Concerned with juxtaposing innocent referents, urbane jetsam.

Important institutions and individuals yield minor estimations,
Of sociopsychology resulting in maladroit communication events.
Symbolic, linguistic, aretaic, plus normative conceptualizations,
Nonmaterial cultural bits remain linguistically consequential
(Boardroom decisions yet provide silage to all unempowered.)

* * *

Congratulations on the new book launch! Rudiments is based on relationships, both with ourselves and with others. What are some specific instances that inspired the work in this collection?

Thanks! Since my writing is an extension of me, it reflects lived events as well as fictional ones. Per Rudiments, as well as per the rest of my body of work, sometimes, my work is populated by “would have” moments, sometimes, by hyperbole, and sometimes, albeit infrequently, by actual experiences. Mostly, I fashion poetry from my imagination; in actuality, I’m a staid grandma.

I think readers would be most interested in learning what part of the collection process you find most enjoyable? most laborious? most challenging?

I think I like the entire process. Writing is like lifting weights; begin slowly, don’t overdo, yet push yourself to your maximum, whether that maximum is language, nuance, i.e. layers of meaning, poems’ shape, whatever. At the gym, I take pleasure with every set of reps completed, and, later, with the cumulative changes that result from such efforts. Likewise, I take pleasure with every poem individually formed, and, later, with the cumulative effect that is a published assemblage

When working on poems, do you tend to follow one subject throughout several poems at a time? Or do you write each poem as its own entity? For example, when you were working on the collection for Rudiments, were you only writing poems based on relationships, or were you working on others as well?

 Basically, I batch work. I cook similarly and I paint tacit canvases (but not digital ones) similarly. Namely, I rough out ideas/ sentiments for a few works at a time, and then, time permitting, complete them. Rewriting, as ever, takes the most time and skill. Consequently, while I generate material for multiple pieces at a time, I rewrite only one poem at a time.

Once a poem is competed, I offer it and a cousin or two for publication. After a poem is published as an individual work, it becomes “available” for one of my collections. Rudiments is my twelfth published collection of poetry. I have a few more collections in the wings. I’m hoping one will be published next year.

Have you had to face many setbacks with publishing a book during a pandemic?

Some of my titles that had been scheduled for early 2020 have been pushed back to late 2020. As per my publishing calendar, in general,  I’ve had books accepted anywhere from a week to a decade after they had been submitted. Publication time usually averages half of a year to a year after a contract is signed.

Do you prefer to work at home? If so, how do you establish a routine to stay focused on writing?

Yes. My daily routine depends on deadlines. Some projects, such as proofing galleys can take a week or two of dedicated work. Other projects, such as writing individual poems, can take days. The crux being that many, many rewrites (ordinarily several dozen) are usually needed to make any piece publishable, regardless of its genre (I also have novels, short story collections, and essay collections that are published; more than thirty books, overall.)

Do you have any favorite contemporary poets?

Not really. When I was an English professor, I taught classic poets. As a young mom, I liked contemporary writers. These days, my taste is eclectic.

Writing poetry can be viewed as a form of journaling, and therapeutic. Do you feel this way when you write?

Sometimes, yes; sometimes, no. My reasons for crafting poems vary. Maybe, I have a strong feeling to express. Maybe, I have a vignette that I want to depict. Maybe, I have a form of wordplay in which I want to engage. Maybe, I’ve promised an editor a piece or a set of pieces. Other intentions, too, fuel my creations.

What are some must-haves when you’re writing while traveling or outside of your home?

Paper and pen. Occasionally, I use something else. For instance, while I was an undergraduate, I wrote some of the lyrics for a musical of mine, which was produced, on school cafeteria napkins during a dinner.

Whereas I ordinarily compose using software, I hate being electronically bound during vacation. Hence, I keep paper available for scribbling notes and then save the development of those kernels for when I return home.

What are some tips you can give fellow poets when they’re facing writer’s block?

Writer’s block is a griffin—it doesn’t (gasp) exist. Like learning to code, learning to play the oboe, or like learning any other skill set, writing requires discipline. Discipline means following a process as well as means engaging a schedule.

In the decades during which I’ve taught writing to university students or to workshop participants, I’ve discovered that many folks try to skip essential steps. One can no more make a stir-fry without cooking the aromatics low and slow and then cooking the proteins high and fast than one can bypass the idea generation stage, the arrangement  stage, or, much later, the seemingly tedious, but entirely necessary rewriting stage (yes, rewriting is the heart of sound writing—I’ll repeatedly harp on this topic.)

When the writing process is followed, there is no writer’s block. Rather, there is an abundance of usable materials. Students of mine who have embraced this necessary rigor have gone on to have their work published. Some of my students even earn (part of) their income via writing. Contrariwise, students of mine who have insisted on skipping parts of the writing process have wound up frustrated and have produced only unpublishable work.

Speaking of which, interested writers can contact me for private (or group) tutorials. I teach across genres and I teach the elements of literature. I am a well-published writer, an editor for several journals, a former professor, and a nominee for multiple Pushcart and PEN awards. Working with me is empowering but demanding. My availability depends on my publishing schedule.

Leslie Effron is a graduate of the Converse College Low-Residency MFA program. She served as the poetry editor for Salisbury University’s literary magazine, The Scarab from 2011-2013, and her poems have appeared in the Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans. She also gained her Certification of Interior Design from The Interior Design Institute, San Francisco, California in 2015. Originally from Maryland, Leslie found her love for the south and currently lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee where she enjoys pursuing her passion for both writing and interior design, exploring the trails of the nearby mountains, and spending time with friends and family.

Dusk, South Baltimore by Deborah Phelps 

Driving home from the old city row house
To the new suburban home,
I always twisted about, seeking out
My old friend, the orange Domino Sugars sign,
Glowing, a jewel, set in the wires of shipyards.

Admiring too, the rose-pink-gold
Chemically-tinted clouds striating over
The Hanover Street Bridge, as my father
Skirts the parameters of black Cherry Hill
Apartments and Brooklyn Park decay.

Such poverty so grandly lit!
Rose-pink-gold stratus and sundown.

As if Keats himself painted an ode
On the storefronts selling wigs and steamed
Crabs, a sonnet for the stinking
Old-style bars, the front doors ajar.
A rift of ore loaded into the abandoned
Warehouses, their brick-fronts so colorfully
Spray painted with the names
Of those already dead.

Deborah Phelps is a professor of Victorian literature and Women’s Studies at Sam Houston University. Originally, from Baltimore, she lives and works in Huntsville, Texas, home of the biggest penal colony and fastest death row in the nation. But that is a subject in other poems. She has published a chapbook, Deep East (selected by Stephen Dunn) and in many journals, including Southern Poetry Review, Spoon River Review, and Verse.

Drop-In Writing Workshop 7:00 PM 12/15

Drop in from  7:00-8:00pm EDST today for a low-stress Writing Workshop via Zoom.
Come when you can, stay as long as you are able.

A prompt suitable for writers of prose or poetry will be offered at the beginning of the hour and will remain available on screen for the duration.

A suggested goodwill donation of $10.00 though venmo (@Lisa-Hase-Jackson) or paypal (lisahasejackson@gmail.com) helps greatly.

Meeting ID: 512 194 9100
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