Tag Archives: The Writer’s Almanac

“Praising the Familiar” by Brian Fanelli

We hardly write about each other now,
comfortable in daily routines. You lean in,
press your back to me each morning
as we linger in bed.

I scroll through my phone,
share news over coffee.
I used to karate chop the air
over headlines I disliked.

You taught me to uncurl my fists,
put down the phone, find beauty
in the familiar, such as the taste of blueberries
at breakfast, their sweetness like thickened wine,

or the way the cat dashes
from window to window,
trying to paw at birds, or how you leave
lipstick prints on mugs once done.

So here is a poem in praise of those routines,
the warmth of your back pressed to mine,
the groan of floorboards after you shower,
the way you pull a chair out and always sit across from me.

You showed me there is holiness in the everyday,
the first morning light, the quiet of those hours.

Brian Fanelli’s poetry collections include Waiting for the Dead to Speak (NYQ Books), winner of the Devil’s Kitchen Poetry Prize, and All That Remains (Unbound Content). His work has been published by The Los Angeles Times, Verse Daily[PANK], World Literature Today, The Writers Almanac, and other publications. He teaches at Lackawanna College.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September Digest for Zingara Poetry Review, Including News and Events

Milestones: School began two weeks ago on August 21st with a Monday morning College Convocation and an afternoon viewing of the eclipse from the backyard of a neighbor’s home. We spent most of the afternoon and early evening visiting with friends old and new and enjoying a variety of delicious foods. We also had the unique opportunity to observe the behavior of backyard chickens as well as a growing hive of bees. As you might guess, the chickens were just beginning to settling down to roost at totality and seemed a little confused that it was time to get back to hunting bugs only a few minutes later. The bees, only slightly befuddled, went into their hive one minute then popped back out the next.

None of the resident or neighborhood dogs seemed to notice anything different about the moment, except, perhaps, that their silly pet parents seemed awfully preoccupied with the sky.

Tuesday, August 22nd marked the first day of classes, and like many other first year writing instructors, I found my English 110 classrooms filled with eager deer-eyed students ready to prove they are ready handle a college workload (in most cases), a spirit that was dampened by Thursday afternoon when an active shooter and hostage situation developed in a restaurant near campus.

In fact, two of my students were confined to their dorms, located adjacent to the restaurant, and sent emails notifying me they would not be able to attend their 1:40 PM class. Because police contained the situation rather quickly, and it did not technically happen on campus (though we have an open campus), the president did not cancel classes, a choice that has resulted in a great deal of flack and general outcry from parents. At no point did the alert messages sent by campus security mention that there was an active shooter, only that there was an” incident” on King Street and to avoid the area.

Needless to say, with so many charged events, the first week of classes was both exciting and exhausting; busy and disheartening. Fortunately, and thankfully, the second week of classes was much closer to normal, though I fear my freshmen students are already a little worn out. As you can imagine, their parents have become extra vigilant and are demanding frequent updates.

During these same two weeks in my Intro to Poetry class, we discussed Gregory Orr’s “Four Temperaments and the Forms of Poetry” as well as completed several in-class writing prompts. Out-of-class poetry assignments have included writing an Abecedarian poem, a question poem, and a student choice poem, so my Labor Day weekend plans includes reading and responding to new poems by new poets.

Now, for this month’s digest.

Editorial Busy-ness: 
  • Poetry Picks have been filled until March and there are still submissions to consider. I even selected a few extra poems to publish on Holidays – that’s how great this year’s submissions have been.
  • Submissions closed on August 31 for this reading period. They will reopen in December.
  • I am reviewing poems published between July 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017 with an eye for six to submit to the Best of the Net awards.
  • I have selected six poems that were published, or slated to be published, on Zingara Poetry Review in 2017 for submission to the Orison Books 2018 Anthology of Spiritually Engaging Poetry. I am awaiting releases from their authors and will post a notice on the site with the poem titles once I have them.
Of Interest and Inspiration:
 
I lifted the following Phillip Larkin quote from the August 9th Edition of Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac and share it here because it nicely encapsulates the spirit practicing poets try most to maintain:
When asked how a young poet could know if his or her work was any good, Larkin answered: “I think a young poet, or an old poet, for that matter, should try to produce something that pleases himself personally, not only when he’s written it but a couple of weeks later. Then he should see if it pleases anyone else, by sending it to the kind of magazine he likes reading. But if it doesn’t, he shouldn’t be discouraged. I mean, in the 17th century every educated man could turn a verse and play the lute. Supposing no one played tennis because they wouldn’t make Wimbledon? First and foremost, writing poems should be a pleasure. So should reading them, by God.”
 
The Writing Life:
 
Music for Writing from the Internet Archive (Jackpot!), a website of archived works, including thousands of 78 RPM recordings (thanks to friend Erik K. for the tip).
 
In Review:


August Poetry Picks:


August Monday Minutes:
 

 

and one prompt: 

 
Looking Ahead: 
September Poetry Picks:
 
“A Glass of Wine Near Birds” by Judith Bader Jones (9/6)
“Inches” by Jamie Lynn Heller (9/13)
“The Artist as Her Own Model” by Andres Rodriguez (9/20)
“The Girl in the Cornfield” by Natalie Crick (9/27)


Monday Minutes (that I know of):

“13 Ways to Sabotage Your Writing”
AND the return of poet interviews!!

Readings and Workshops:
 

Save the Date
: Gary Jackson, Elizabeth Powell, and I will be reading at The Writer’s Place, 3607 Pennsylvania Avenue in Kansas City, MO on Friday, October 20th beginning at 7:00 PM.
I will also lead a workshop the following morning, Saturday, October 21st (details to follow).
 
Hope to see all you Kansas City area poets! 
 
 
 
 

Rick Mulkey’s “Ravenous” Book Launch, Hub City Book Store

Ravenous CoverOn Thursday, August 28 at 7:00 PM, Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, S.C. hosted a book launch for poet Rick Mulkey’s newest collection of poems, Ravenous: New and Selected Poems. On hand to read poems from the collection and celebrate Mulkey’s fifth publication were literary friends and notable poets Tom Johnson, Angela Kelly, and Claire Bateman as well as composer Scott Robbins and award-winning fiction writer Susan Teculve. Light refreshments of soft cheese, hummus, table crackers and a variety of wines were provided for guests attending the standing-room only event.

Hub City Executive Director, Betsy Teter, offered a warm, heartfelt introduction to the evening’s event and expressed gratitude for Mulkey’s considerable contributions to Spartanburg’s literary community. In addition to writing poetry, Mulkey happens to be the director of the Converse College Creative Writing MFA program, also in Spartanburg, and participates in writing groups as well as promotes writers, publishers, and artists in the area. After a generous and deserving applause, audience members settled into their seats just as the setting sun cast an ambient glow through the plate glass window.

Mulkey took the microphone first to thank everyone for coming and explained that the evening’s guest readers had been asked to read their favorite poems from the collection. A happy challenge, according to the readers, who each admitted to having had a difficult time narrowing their choices down to just one poem.

The first of Mulkey’s literary friends to read was poet and visual artist, Tom Johnson, who read “Blind-Sided.” A discursive narrative weaving memoir-like reflections triggered by the poem’s epigraph about the only known incident of a person being hit by a meteorite, “Blind-Sided” presents scenes in which the speaker or other characters of the poem are taken unaware, or literally “Blind-Sided” by the kinds of bizarre events the universe and its inhabitants have a way of throwing at individuals. Both corporeal in its acknowledgement of the pure weirdness of being human and existential in its incorporation of heavenly bodies (such as meteorites), “Blind-Sided” is as satisfying in its lyrical story-telling when read aloud as when read silently. It’s easy to understand Tom’s choice and his flawless recitation was appreciated. As an aside, Johnson has a book of poems just out with 96 Press and an exhibit of his visual art, “A World of Readers,” is on display from September 6 through November 13 at the Pickens County Museum of Art & History in Pickens, S.C.

Next, poet and author of Voodoo for the Other Woman, Angela Kelly, read “Outlaws,” a short poem that she said appealed to her for its subject matter – moonshine. It begins “My father ran moonshine, corn whiskey, / white lightning, Devil’s Rum, from Bramwell / through Bluefield to Bland” (1-3) and contemplates how possessing an “outlaw” gene might nuance the speaker’s life. Kelly’s spunky reading suggests her appreciation for self-sufficiency and her selection provided another facet through which to view Mulkey’s style.

Poet Claire Bateman chose the poem “Music Theory,” one of Mulkey’s newer poems. This persona poems marvels at a son’s ability to play the bass “with so much passion the framed family portraits / in the room beneath his grind against walls” (1-2) and suggests that, on his journey out of the underworld, “Orpheus didn’t look back in doubt, but in amazement, / that…one tuned string…/ could make us believe all would be right” (12-14). Bateman’s soft, lyrical voice had the added benefit of making audience members sit very still as they leaned forward to listen with anticipation.

Scott Robbins, a bit of a rule breaker, read two selections: “The Well-Tempered Clavier” and “Sontagmusick,” from Mulkey’s quartet of poems about Fanny Mendelssohn titled “The Invisible Life.” Robbins began by apologizing in advance should he start singing his selection as he previously set the entire quartet to music so remembers them as song. The first poem of the quartet, written from Fanny’s perspective, evokes a youthful confusion over what she wishes to be versus what she is expected to be: “As father said,” the poet writes, “femininity alone is becoming in a woman. / Yet this morning I woke to write a lied, and last week / finished another” (6-7).  Robbins’ second selection, and fourth section of the quartet, depicts Franny as a successful composer within the salon concert culture, or “Sontagmusick” (despite her father’s avid discouragement). This section contemplates things overlooked, including “the Prussian peasant, the exiled virtuoso, / the swallow’s cry” (6-7) and asks “What story aches behind the tongue?” (10). The entire quartet is a haunting and empathetic study into the fleeting nature of creativity and life, and as apt as Robbins’ rendition was, justice for the entire poem would be hard to capture on such occasion, causing this review to insist readers of this blog read the poem for themselves. While at it, they should explore Robbins’ compositional work of Blue Ridge A Capella.

Fifth to share their reading talent was Mulkey’s biggest fan, and wife, Susan Tekulve, who began by humorously admitting to liking Mulkey’s poems about herself most. As an act of resistance to her preferences, she chose to read “Hummingbird,” which begins “Imagine each liqueur-soaked rose as a potential love affair / on this capricious tour of blossom-scented air” (1-2) and evokes a plethora of sensuous images throughout, illustrating yet another facet of Mulkey’s poetry; and if it were not already clear to anyone who knows Rick and Susan, Teculve’s fondness for her husband and his poetry certainly came through her reading of this poem.

At last, Mulkey returned to the microphone and once again thanked his audience and literary guests before bringing denouement to the event in the very best way possible: by reading his poetry. Included in his selection where “What Superman Feared Most,” which contemplates the daily worries of the average American, “Cheese,” celebrating the working class, and “Earning a Living,” an unflinching look at mediocrity. Concluding his “set” was the deeply touching “Why I Believe in Angels,” a poem that simply has to be among Susan’s favorites.

Ravenous is described as a collection of stylistic variety and deep concerns. This reviewer would add that within these pages readers will also find empathy and irreverence, contemplation and assessment, lyric moments and engaging narrative, prompting me to wonder why you are still sitting there – go buy a copy now! In the meantime, here’s a selection of Rick Mulkey’s poems for your reading enjoyment:

Insomina, at Verse Daily

Betrayal, at Serving House Journal

Connecting the Dots  at Valparaiso Poetry Review

Bluefield Breakdown,  at The Writer’s Almanac

Ravenous: New and Selected Poem
Rick Mulkey
Serving House Books (June 24, 2014)
ISBN-13:
978-0991328147
$12.00

Available at Barnes and Noble.com