Sunday, April 20, 2014

from january: meryl moves to colorado

It's funny because, as I write this, I'm in Fort Collins with my family, visiting Meryl for the first time, but last January, that hadn't even been planned, and I was too busy being a hermit to really engage in the fact that one of my best friends, and best poet-friend, was moving away, fourteen hours away, from our humble, snowy state.  Her husband, who is an incredibly talented tattoo artist, found a job out here, where he's incredibly happy, much to my Meryl-missing chagrin. 

So Opal and I took her out for one last hurrah and had some fancy cake and felt sad and good, all at once.

Monday, April 14, 2014

a few photos from the david mitchell event

When a visiting writer comes through, sometimes I get to head out and photograph them for the U of MN's English Department.  David Mitchell was so impressive in his theatricality, I couldn't help but keep snapping--a very dynamic reader.  He read four pieces, and I am ashamed to admit I haven't read anything of his yet, but--I know when I do, they will be five-star reads, which is not an easy thing from this discerning reader.  He's good.

* To anyone who might stumble here on keyword, looking for images to use of David Mitchell, you are more than welcome, though I'd love to know it if you do!  Just, you know, for curiosity's sake; feel free to leave a note in the comments.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Blog Tour

Remember last year with The Next Big Thing?  This year is the blog tour, and I thank Athena Kildegaard for inviting me to play along.  I first encountered Athena's work when I was a judge for the Minnesota Book Awards--I love her elegance, her wise way of seeing the world.  We're also lucky enough to have nabbed some of her poems for a later issue of Tinderbox Poetry Journal, so you can watch for those too.  When these questions are answered, I'll send you on to see Valerie Wetlaufer and Brett Elizabeth Jenkins, who are taking the baton from me. 

What are you working on?

I've begun research for a new project.  I actually have no fewer than six concepts for a new book going, and I dabble in each, but I've decided to put the energy-thrust into one, which seeks to answer the central question:  What do we tell our children about death?  A lot of the book examines the personal (the passing of my father-in-law, our own bodies and lumps and whatnot, my interactions with my children), but also opens out into cultural, historical, faith-based, and other ways of processing the concept of death, dying, and the afterlife.  There are all kinds of levels in which I am researching, from the science of death to The Egyptian Book of the Dead to the funeral industry to Kali to ghost stories.

Too:  Promoting Nestuary.  Sending Hush out to presses for consideration.  Reading poems for Tinderbox and Midway.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

I can't quite answer that, though I can speak to how I'm often self-conscious of my own work when considering it in relation to other poets' work:  I have often found words like "confessional" and "maternal" come up in a negative fashion in the literary world, which I can understand--there's something about sentimentality, something about women's work that might make a person think of anything from greeting card fodder to hysteria. 

Some work that has helped me think about these things:  Sarah Vap's The End of the Sentimental Journey.  Sharon Olds being my first love in poetry. 

I also have found myself working a great deal in hybrid forms:  memoir clashing against verse clashing against mythology clashing against reportage clashing against internet fads clashing against scientific fact.  I think of it as braiding, as resurrecting and reforming. 

Why do you write what you do?

I think of what I do as translating the world.  It's something I could not stop myself from doing:  I have a kind of filter, a kind of seeking of linkages.  It's the way I pattern the world, I think. 

I write of things like becoming a mother or witnessing the passing of someone I love a great deal because I know these are also, quite often, universal experiences.  And people turn to poetry for comfort and for figuring out what might have just happened:  what was it that I just went through?  My work is a kind of answer to that.  One of so many.  Poetry speaking back to poetry speaking back to observation speaking back to a whole train of things. 

How does your writing process work? 

Right now, I'm trying something new.  I'm keeping a set of five writing notebooks for my five separate books (the one on death, the one about Alaska, the one about women and violence and the south, the one that is a sequence of profiles of women, the notes from everyday life) in a little muppet-fuzzy lined carrier, and I keep all notes, all lines, poem drafts, clippings from magazines, photocopied poems related to the topic, etc. in each.

My days go a little something like this:  drop my daughter off at preschool, come home, take notes from a documentary, check emails and submissions for Tinderbox and Midway, shower, fetch daughter, have our day and evening and at night, sometimes I can work on a new poem, sometimes I can work on another project.  Sometimes, if a new poem isn't coming, I read poetry, or I revise a poem.  Ease myself in.

Next Up:  Valerie has already written her blog post, and Brett's is just around the corner.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

big poetry giveaway

It's that time of year again, and we have Kelli Russell Agodon to thank for the fifth annual Big Poetry Giveaway!  I will be giving away two copies of Nestuary as well as a copy of Lightning at Dinner by Jim Moore.  If you go to Kelli's blog, you can see links in her sidebar for the myriad giveaways going on this month.  All you have to do is leave your name and email address in the comments and I'll draw three winners at random.

I've kept this list, fireplace in winter, on Good Reads--books of poetry (and poetry-ish things) that have made my brain and heart zing.  Both, it's true.

I've been asked:  how can you help a poet or writer that you adore?  Go to their readings.  If it's at a bookstore and maybe you already have their books, buy others.  Booksellers notice who brings in book-buyer and might invite that writer back.  Write reviews--even the smallest note on a website like Good Reads or online bookselling websites make a big impact.  Tell them, tell others, buy their books for people who might be interested.  You know.  Love 'em.  Be their cheerleader.  I guess that's what fireplace in winter is about.  I have a prose version too.

PS:  Are you a poet too?  Consider submitting to Tinderbox Poetry Journal, which will launch June 21.  Check it out on the solstice too--we've got an amazing line-up, I promise.  We read poetry and hybrid forms, as well as critical work and the like.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Nestuary at AWP

This year I wasn't about to give birth (Finn, born just days after AWP Boston 2013), but I am learning that family will often disrupt my lofty plans:  instead of flying out to Seattle this year, we put money aside and started Maya in preschool the day before she turned three. 

Which means I've been a bit virtually on-the-edge-of-my-seat as Nestuary debuted at AWP this year, and apparently it has done well!

Thank you to my beloved Meryl for sending me the bottom three photographs.  ♡

And very soon, you can order your own copy in the Small Press Distribution catalog, and my book launch will be on March 12th at SubText Bookstore in St Paul.  I'll also have a reading in early April in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

advice to a beginning poet.

My father's literature student at university wrote a few poems and wanted advice.  I didn't write a lot (there are so many resources out there to try) and nothing on the poems themselves.  But I wanted to share here--this is what I told her.  

 -- -- -- -- -- -- --

My suggestions:

- Read.  Read.  Fall in love with poets.  Try to answer why that poet appeals to you so much.  Keep on eye on the acknowledgements page:  read the journals mentioned.  Read everything by that poet.  Then read everything that inspired that poet.

- Daily writing practice.  Exercise.  Try The Daily Poet and A Writer's Book of Days.

- Find a poetry partner.  Exchange poems.  This keeps you accountable to something outside of yourself.

- Hazel & Wren is a fun online resource for developing poets.

- Check out the treasure trove that is The Poetry Foundation

- A few books to check out:  The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayes, which is an excellent guide.  Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird is a get-out-of-bed writing book.  Natalie Goldberg has a handful of books on writing that are lovely.  See also:  Letters to a Young Poet, The Triggering Town.

Of all the suggestions I think that matter most above, the one that tells you to read is the one I'd do the most.  It's a gift.  Make a poetry anthology of your own by photocopying and printing out out favorites.  (I love mine.)

Keep writing.  If it brings you joy, don't stop.

molly sutton kiefer