Tuesday, November 10, 2015

October Roundup

October was a great month for Dirt City Writers!

Jennifer Lynn Krohn had her poem "Bloody Mary" published in the Yellow Chair Review's Horror Issue, and her poem "Reading the Cards" published in Rose Red Review's Autumn issue.

Weird Sister published an excellent interview with Carrie Murphy about her new book Fat Daisies.

Ty Bannerman and Mike Smith launched City on the Edge, a biweekly podcast delving into the history and culture of Albuquerque. We're all big fans already!

Marie Landau had poems published in SOFTBLOW, Rust+Moth, and Bird's Thumb.

Nora Hickey was photographed with her muse, Jughead, for Pyragraph.

Can't wait to see what November brings! Hopefully not just a bunch of beards.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Jealousy

By Jennifer Lynn Krohn

 I’m at that stage in my writing career where people have started to ask me when I’m going to have a book come out. I’ve earned an MFA, published several poems, found a community of writers, and completed a manuscript. It would seem the next logical step would be to get that manuscript published, which is why I’ve been sending it to contests and publishers. However, as I wait for an editor to recognize my genius, my friends have started to get their books published (like fellow Dirt City writer Carrie Murphy, who will be celebrating the release of her second book of poetry August 29th at The Tannex), and I can’t help but feel that horrible slimy thought “Why not me?” burrow into my brain. I don’t want to be jealous, but not wanting to be jealous is like trying not to think about pink elephants. I try not to think about it and pink pachyderms dance through my brain. I don’t believe I’m alone in feeling jealousy, though most people won’t admit it.
     The absolute worst jealousy comes when a friend wins a contest that you also entered.  What makes this jealousy particularly potent is that a lot of contests inform people that their manuscript has been rejected by submitting the announcement of who has won. When the winner is a stranger, you can just honestly be sad that your manuscript wasn’t selected. But when the winner is a friend, there’s conflict. Suddenly you realize you were competing with that friend all along (which is not true, as the initial reader who rejected your manuscript is probably different from the initial reader who loved your friend’s). Your friend celebrates, as you are told once again you’re not good enough.
     The important thing to remember is to be gracious—even if you’re feeling petty and awful. Congratulate the friend, and, this is important, say nothing about also being in the contest. Tell yourself, over and over if necessary, that you’d rather lose to someone you know than to some stranger. Remind yourself that even if you never get your book published and secure your place in the canon, it is kind of cool to be able to point to books on your own shelf and say, “I knew that author before she was famous.”
      One of the best ways to deal with jealousy, whether it’s the acute “I can’t believe I lost to you” kind or the more general “I want to publish a book too” kind, is to go to the friend’s book release or reading, buy a copy of the book and have them sign it. First of all, if you’re like me, buying a book always improves one’s mood. Second, you get to feel like a literary insider. You were there from the beginning before so-and-so became famous, and if your friend doesn’t become famous, you know some of the great underrated authors of your time. Third, your friend will probably write something gracious, kind, encouraging, or funny when they sign your book. Your friend knows you and knows that you’re struggling to achieve the same thing. They appreciate your support and want you to succeed too. Later when you’re reading your friend’s book, if you feel the jealousy reappear you can flip to the front and read what they wrote. It’s always good to have a reminder why you were friends in the first place.  Fourth, you’re earning karma points for when you do eventually get a book published and want to have people show up to your own book release.
     Once I have acquired my friend’s book, I still wait until that nasty jealousy has passed to read it. Usually you’ll have received other rejections that you’re now focused on, or maybe you have looked at your manuscript and realized, “Crap, I need to revise this.” If it’s the latter, realize that it is a good thing that the manuscript you are now unhappy with got rejected. Time, I find, usually softens jealousy—though in fairness I haven’t had a friend make it on to the New York Times bestseller list yet so in that case time may actually increase it—so when you sit down and read your friend’s book you can enjoy it. Jealousy will make good writing bad. It will discover faults that are not there. Even if the writing is flawed, there is a certain pleasure in feeling “I know this person” as you read. There is the excitement of realizing that you read an earlier draft of this poem or story—that you have insight no other reader will. Those are pleasures worth having.
     If you mention that you’re feeling down about being bookless, people may mention other authors who didn’t publish a book until age 29, 40, 55, or 80. Do not seek solace in an author who didn’t publish until they were older than your current age. If you do, that age will become a deadline. At 25 it might be comforting so say big-shot-author didn’t publish their first book until they were 33, but at 34 you’ll feel like a failure. Just avoid comparing your career to famous authors in general—it’ll always be an exercise in masochism.
     Finally, don’t forget your own achievements. At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that I have published several poems and completed a manuscript. Years ago I was jealous when I heard of people publishing a single poem or of people compiling a manuscript. I was once jealous of people being able to sit down and write something that they would be willing to show another living soul.  I’m sure that if I ever publish a book I will be jealous of those who published a second one or whose first one received a lot of attention. The thing about writing is that there is always something more. There is always the next novel, essay, poem, or story that you’ll have to sit down and write. You’ll never be able to say, “Yes, I won at writing,” because for each mountain you climb there will always be a taller one. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Dirt City Presents FAT DAISIES by Carrie Murphy Book Release Reading

Join Dirt City Writers for a public reading celebrating the release of Carrie Murphy's second book of poems, FAT DAISIES (Big Lucks, 2015). Featured readers will be Carrie MurphyJennifer SimpsonMark Gregory Lopez, and Nora Hickey.

CARRIE MURPHY is the author of the poetry collections FAT DAISIES (Big Lucks, 2015) and PRETTY TILT (Keyhole Press, 2012), as well as the chapbook, MEET THE LAVENDERS (Birds of Lace, 2011). She received an MFA from New Mexico State University. Originally from Baltimore, MD, Carrie works as a teacher, freelance writer, and doula in Albuquerque, NM, where she is a member of the Dirt City Writers collective.

Hosted by:
The Tannex
1417 4th SW between Lead and Cesar Chavez in Barelas
This event is FREE (donations accepted).

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Mike Smith at the Gold House

Last night at the Gold House, Mike Smith read a brand-new work in progress, which pairs excerpts from his childhood journal with retrospective rewrites of these seemingly insignificant moments, like when he and his brother constructed a barricade of snow logs to prevent their dad from pulling into the driveway. He wrapped up with "Notes from a Slowly Dying Suburbanite," a hilarious Jack Handy–inspired piece that was published last year in The Baltimore Review

Mike was followed by John Mortara, who read deranged (in the best way) tweets from the year they were on Prozac and expertly crafted action movie–derived love poems (who says Alien isn't super romantic??). John is on tour promoting their new book, some planet (YesYes Books, 2015).

Friday, May 1, 2015

In Honor of the End of National Poetry Month (Farewell, Cruel Friend)

By Nora Hickey

During my senior year in college, I was obsessed with Sylvia Plath. At my small, liberal arts, verdant Michigan school, all seniors had to design and implement an “individualized project” that had some connection to our major. I had stumbled upon literature after my dreams of working with dolphins were crushed by poor biology grades and my quick realization that words were as powerful as a laboratory. And, during senior year, I discovered Plath—a commanding wordsmith with a salacious backstory to boot. She quickly became the focus of my senior project, and books by and about Plath soon piled up in my room. I started using her journals (beautifully, rawly presented unabridged) as a sort of daily talismanI would open the book at random, point to a line, and let this guide me through the day. One of my friends’ senior projects involved photographing her friends in a staged photo that replicated a picture of an influential person. I chose a snapshot of Smith Collegeera Sylvia Plath, her hair long and her face wry. For spring break, my mom and I drove to Indiana University where her juvenilia was kept in a sun-filled, spacious library. That year, as I drank shitty beer from kegs and showered less frequently than I should have, Plath was in my ear. I brought her up in conversations, wanted people to see her brilliance, her “blood jet!” The secret was, though, that I wasn’t sure I understood what was happening in her poetry myself. I was in love with her language, yes, because it rang out in such vivid pain that I couldn’t ignore it. But I was also captivated by her life storythe depression, the suicide attempts, the electroshock therapy. I cranked out a thirty-page paper on her poetry in relation to her husband’s, the poet Ted Hughespoems about herand the committee passed it. I think it’s somewhere in an old brick house in Kalamazoo, collecting dead flies and dust. I didn’t know that I would keep writing poetry back then, but ten years later, I’m still at it, still prodding language from bodies and land, from beauty and brutality. I still visit Plath, but with less of my sensation-seeking young eyes, and her poetry continues to mark me, but in a different way. This time, I am awed by her drive, talent, cunning, and vision, her abilities as a poet. “If my mouth could marry a hurt like that,” she asks of the vibrant flower in “Poppies in July,” and I know, I will wed her words over and over. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

National Poetry Month: Playing with Poems

By Jennifer Lynn Krohn

If you inhabit the more literary parts of the Internet, you probably are aware that April is National Poetry Month. Poets and fans of poetry (usually the same people) will share their favorite poems on social media, will write a poem a day, give readings in small bookstores and coffee shops, and generally get up to shenanigans involving iambs and rhyme. However, for poetry lovers it often feels like the rest of the country is suffering from metrophobia—the fear of poetry. Introduce yourself as a poet, and the person you were talking to starts eyeing exits in case you break out into verse. Ask your friend if they would like to go to a poetry slam with you, and they suddenly have a headache or need to wash their hair—even if they’re bald. I have a few theories for why this fear exists: people feel that they can’t understand poetry and no one likes feeling stupid; it is a Pavlovian response to any subject one associates with high school essay writing; or they think poetry is all about death and despair. However, one thing poetry isn’t usually associated with is play. Poetry isn’t always serious business, and these next exercises are fun ways to encounter words. Hopefully poets and non-poets alike can enjoy them.

1. The Exquisite Corpse
The name of this exercise doesn’t really do much to disabuse poetry of its reputation for morbidity. This is the exercise most people are probably familiar with though. Get a group of friends together. One person writes down a line and passes it to the next. That person writes down a line, folds the paper to conceal the line before his or hers, and passes it to the next person. Continue passing it around. Once done, unfold the paper and read. The poem created from the group effort will often be silly, funny and, sometimes, surprisingly poignant.

2. Nonsense Poems
One of the biggest complaints about poetry is that the person reading it doesn’t know what it means. While many poems are often dense with metaphors, symbolism, allusions, and five-dollar words, sometimes a poem actually has no meaning. It’s a nonsense poem. The most famous nonsense poem is probably Lewis Carrol’s “The Jabberwocky” from Alice In Wonderland. It first stanza goes:

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.

At least half of the words in the stanza above are not real words. Carrol made them up. One way to write a nonsense poem is to start by writing a description of an everyday thing. I would suggest setting a timer for five minutes and to keep your pen moving the whole time. Don’t worry about polishing it. Once done, start replacing words with made-up words. The only criteria you should have for these words is that they sound good. This exercise allows you to explore sound without worrying about that all-important meaning.

3. This is Just to Say
One of the more famous American poems is “This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams. It is written as if it is an apology left on a kitchen table or on the fridge. The speaker apologizes for eating plums and then proceeds to describe how delicious and wonderful those plums were. For this exercise the writer will mirror Williams and apologize for some small mundane transgression like wearing someone’s sweater without their permission or spoiling the end of a TV show. However, while the poet apologizes, they should also describe why that transgression was so enjoyable.

    One of the reasons I love poetry is that is has allowed me to have a close relationship to my language. I’ve seen many people who claim they will never understand poetry, yet who have one poem that they love and return to again and again. I’ve also seen people say they will never understand grammar or understand how to get the words in their head onto the page. They are alienated from their own language. Even though they speak it every day, its minutiae are too great for them to overcome. I suspect it is because writing is deadly serious and in turn deadly boring stuff. However, the whole world once appeared that way, and we learned to live in it, often through those silly childish games we played. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Jennifer Lynn Krohn at The Mas Tequila Review Five-Year Anniversary

The very talented Jennifer Lynn Krohn read a poem of hers that appeared in issue #6 of The Mas Tequila Review, along with a poem by Liz Napieralski. Richard Vargas hosted a great reading to celebrate Mas Tequila's fifth anniversary, and while it's hard to pick a favorite out of the bunch of poets who read on Saturday, Rich Boucher's ode to McDonald's scores points for most delightfully strange love poem.