Today we are pleased to feature Kate Cumiskey as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this podcast, she discusses two factors that relate to her writing process in today’s political and social climate: community and inertia.
She reflects on the beginning of her writing career, where she felt a sort of isolation before being introduced to Atlantic Center for the Arts, which gave her a literary community that she feels changed her life and fueled her growth as a writer. With this experience, Kate encourages writers “to build a community which enhances your work.”
She also explores the importance of tackling current events in one’s poetry, explaining, “If writers—serious writers—do not write about what’s happening in their nation, then who is going to speak?” Although writing about topics like these are so critical to Kate, she admits she has difficulty approaching the heartbreaking and terrifying current events she sees happening in the news, government, and even her own classroom. To help her discuss these important topics, she plays with the idea of changing point of view and suggests that we remind ourselves that there is still good in the world and that we must remind ourselves that “there is honor in our politicians, there’s honor in our government and there’s honor in the American people.”
She closes the conversation with two poems: one published with Superstition Review that examines honor and a new poem that uses second person to approach her fears about America today.
Date: August 10 Time: noon to 3 p.m. Location: Changing Hands, 300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix Cost: Free
About this Event
Come together with creative writing community organizers in Phoenix, AZ for the second meeting of the #PhxLitServ on Saturday, August 10, 2019 from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Changing Hands Phoenix (300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85013).
Where the first meeting brought everyone together to meet each other, share goals, and collaboratively determine what the #PhxLitServ should be, the second meeting will focus on setting up structure, identifying initiatives, and organizing committees.
Please note: this meeting is not open to the public. You must have an access code to register for the meeting. Members will receive access codes, agendas, and more information about the meeting via email. You must be a member in order to attend.
#PhxLitServ is open to any individual organizing a recurring event, teaching a class, or providing some other kind of creative writing program, product, service or space with a six month history of actively serving the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. All genres and forms are welcome. Membership is free.
Stop by The Newton for a storytelling competition.
10 STORYTELLERS. 6 MINUTES. 1 WINNER.
The Storytellers: Each month, 10 storytellers take the stage to share a six-minute story. To put your name in the Electronic Hat, sign up to be a teller on the front page of this website starting the day after the last SLAM. The SLAM lineup is posted the weekend before the show on this website and on the SLAM’s Facebook event page.
The Judges: Audience members are picked at random the night of the show before the SLAM starts to be the judges.
The SLAM: Five judges score the stories on a scale of ten, with the total maximum points available set at 30. The highest and lowest scores from the judges will be dropped. The remaining scores are tallied to compile the storyteller’s final score.
The Winner: The storyteller with the most points at the end of the night wins $30!
Founded in 2011 by Dan Hoen Hull, The Storyline is a series of live storytelling nights that create a space for diverse stories without checking boxes. Several storytelling shows have sprung from their origins within The Storyline Collective including …And Then It Got Weird, Yarnball and The Whole Story. The Storyline Slam continues in that tradition as a monthly slam competition, aimed to further storytelling in The Valley and foster a spirit of fun in the community.
Location: The Newton, 300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
Hey there, folks! We’re proud as all get out to announce that past contributor Hannah Lee Jones was recently featured on Copper Canyon Press’ Official Facebook Page as part of their #MeetTheInternMonday segment. The whole Q&A can be viewed here. Hannah Lee Jones’ work was featured in the Poetry section of our 16th issue, and can be read here. Jones is also responsible for the blog Primalschool.org, a wonderful community resource for poets and writers pursuing their craft outside of the MFA system. Check out her work and her website as well, and drop us a line in the comments section below!
Good afternoon, everybody! Today, we are excited to announce that past contributor Mary Sojourner, featured in the Fiction section of both our 3rd and 10th issue, will be teaching a women’s writing circle at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe this Sunday, April 2, from 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm. Details can be found here. This wonderful opportunity coincides with a reading/book signing of Mary’s new book “The Talker,” out now from Torrey House Press. The price of admission is just purchasing a copy of “The Talker,” so if you’re at the reading and want your copy signed, joining the writing circle is a breeze! Come through, hear selections from “The Talker,” and come together as part of our wonderful writing community!
I was flattered and excited when Superstition Review asked me to write a blog post about the craft of poetry writing. I’d just started an MFA in poetry, so I felt particularly attuned to this question of methodology, though I was also more than a little aware of my own subjectivity as a writer who is continually learning.
It’s with that spirit that I’m writing now to SR’s student-poet readers: less as an authority than as a fellow practitioner with a few best practices, ones that work for me and might also work for you.
The first thing that I have to say is this: If you’re like me, you’ll want to interrogate the aims of your poetry, especially as they relate to your reader.
I think it would be false to suggest that every poet faces the beginning of the writing process with a pre-determined notion of what he or she wants to write or hopes to accomplish by writing. In fact, poets debate about this: some suggest that if you don’t know from the beginning what you want to say, you won’t write anything very convincing, while others, especially those who advocate writing as a form of learning in itself, tend to suggest that you need to begin to write before you can really know what you want to express. Likewise, the question of audience is itself a dicey one; not every poet feels the need to imagine (or even feels comfortable imagining, or believes it is right or productive to imagine) the eventual possible interaction between the poem and its reader.
Still, I do feel that there’s something rewarding in the experience of considering, as you write, what you feel is at stake in what you are creating. What are you trying to communicate, not just literally but at all the levels of meaning that your poem might contain? Do you envision the person who reads your poem being different in some sense for having read it? Where might that difference lie – in emotion, in contemplation, in imagination? Do you want your reader to recognize himself or herself in your poem, or do you want to confront this as-yet imaginary person with the strange and unexpected – or maybe both?
Recently I had a dream in which people and events from my own life were rather surreally interwoven with the plot of a TV show I’d been watching late at night. It occurred to me that this subconscious fusion was a testament to the evocative quality of the show, which had so captured my emotional attention that in my dream, the boundary between my life and the fiction had become indiscernible. What if this type of interaction between text and reader were a goal of our poetry? How might that change the way we approach the writing process?
Of course, the relationship between writer and audience isn’t the only important one in poetry-writing. The experience of belonging to a community of writers – some of whom, we hope, will also be our readers – is for many people fundamental to writing poetry. And this brings me to the second thing I’d like to say: If you’re like me, you’ll feel better equipped to write when you learn from and participate in the work of invention.
What I mean by this is perhaps simpler than it might seem. Despite all the recent noise (much of it coming from outside the community of contemporary poets) about how today’s poetry is unmusical or prosaic or unoriginal, the stunning uses of words that I see every day in new poems have been enough to convince me that exciting things are happening and, critically, that there is a wealth of knowledge in those words – not just about poetry as an art in some larger, more monolithic sense, but about the poetry that I myself want to write.
That’s why I think it’s worth reminding yourself, as you read and write and change, not to be afraid to take lessons (figuratively speaking) from other poets who are writing today and whose work stirs you intellectually and emotionally. Don’t be afraid to admire, learn from, and even appropriate structures, syntax, and diction – new ways of choosing words and ideas and stringing them together. Think about how the formal inventions that you see in contemporary poetry might enhance the stories you want to tell in your own work.
At the same time, being part of a community of writers means being willing to experiment yourself, to add your own vision to the body of ideas about how we might express what we want to say. So don’t be afraid to invent. Instead, use the structures and strategies that excite you as a springboard for developing your own approach to the organization and language of poetry. Allow other voices to learn from yours, too. Be willing to imagine yourself as an equal participant in this world, someone whose perspective cannot be replicated.
And finally, as much as poetry is about these smaller communities of readers and writers, it’s also very much about the world at large. That’s why I’d like to end by saying this: if you’re like me, you’ll find it helps to keep your eyes and ears open.
Plenty of writers have waxed eloquent and effective about the virtues of looking around you: of eavesdropping, of people-watching, and ultimately of getting glimpses of your environment that you’ll find can inform your writing in surprising and satisfying ways. I’ve discovered that this is particularly true for me as a poet. I’ve found that when you write poetry, it helps to look for images in your world that interrupt or influence the direction or the rhythm of your thoughts. It helps to watch how other people live and how they shape the individuals and environments that surround them. You don’t have to assume that your poetry must necessarily be confessional or non-fictional or that you are obliged to be the “I” of your poem when you write in the first person. Although some people talk about poetry as an inherently non-fictional medium, you can in fact use the world around you to create beguiling fictions in your poems: fictions that are informed by lives and places that your work manipulates and reinvents in imagination.
I’ve prefaced each of these sections with the phrase “if you’re like me” because you might not be. One very happy thing about the community of contemporary poets is our diversity – not just the diversity of our experiences or our perspectives, but the diversity of our methodologies and our ideals. So maybe the best advice I can give is that you pay attention to yourself – to what works for you as a writer, to the best ways for you personally to approach language and ideas and the peculiar project of writing in verse. But you might at least find in these suggestions a place to start: techniques to explore, to resist, or to use as a platform for developing your own convictions about how we write.