Monday, July 20, 2015

Site Notice

I have stopped posting to this site with respect to my use of the Poet Tarot Cards. I continue to use them on a routine basis to prompt more in-depth exploration into my creative pursuits. I may at times report on them to some degree on my regular blog site or my official web page, but they will not follow the routine that I had established for over a year.

These Tarot Cards are a unique creation in themselves. If interested in them, you can obtain them from Two Sylvias Press.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Vol 2 NO 4 - Find Your Tribe

I suppose it would be hard think of  writing poetry without the existence of some community. Unless we are reclusive writers who show no one our work and shove it away inside a drawer.

The Three of Muses came out of the deck to me today and I have noticed that she is not a recluse. In fact, she seems to be a very social creature. 

Unless we are hiding our work, then there must be people who at some point will witness it. I believe the muse interested in our well being as poets than the broader audiences to our work. 

The muse is about all things creative. Encouragement, inspiration, commitment, things like these that support us in our work. The muse is telling me that poets need to find their tribe. Find people, peers that share the same fears, same desires, same obstacles to their art. But above all these persons should be about encouragement.

When you are in a rut, you need someone who was maybe there last month but pushed through. You need someone who can reinforce a positive work ethic. Someone who has a vision that is broad enough to encompass others, a tribe of poets.

This tribe or circle of other poet/artists could be of support in many ways. For example:

  • form critique groups
  • cooperative writing days or smaller periods of time
  • an online network or forum
  • conduct classes or workshops to share the craft
  • support others by showing up for readings
  • even contact with artists in other disciplines - painting, music, photographer...
  • share victories both small and large (poem published in a journal or publication of a whole collection) 
I'm also feeling that  people in your tribe must be positive influences. Such support is a counter balance to the inclination we all have to get down when the going is tough. Publication dry spell, writers block, they happen to everyone. The tribe can become our antidote to restore our artistic work to health. 

Think about who you interact with. Think about what you can give to that community. The group has to be about encouragement and support. Taking care of each other because that is what tribe do. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Vol 2 No 3 - Ace of Quills - Get A Grip on Your Creativity

Once again, the Quill suit has come up for a second time in a row.  I'm hearing the word new. Maybe new project or new commitment. 

Presently I have some ongoing projects that I don't devote enough focused time to keep the excitement going. I tend to drift between projects. I'm not sure that is such a bad thing as long as I have a scripted road map to get where I want to be going. I need more focus, less procrastination. Yes, probably less Facebook and twitter.

I'm pretty sure the planner is my friend. There are periods of my life that I have lived by the planner. I think I rebelled at some point and was less committed to detail planning.

My regular job is somewhat crisis driven and I use a planner in conjunction with it, but I also get frustrated that I situations do not allow me to always work within the structure of a well planned day.

My writing, on the other hand, could work perhaps better scripted. It could (if I insist) help
eliminate many of the time grabs that often make my writing sessions much more lackadaisical. (a word that makes me feel like a lazy writer)

I'm thinking that perhaps less spontaneous use of social media would mean less interfering with any creative sparks or momentum that I otherwise would be able to build on.  I'm thinking that Ace of Quills is one smart girl.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Vol. 2 No. 2 - Six of Quills - Sharing the Good Times

I'm late posting this, but on Sunday I drew a new card from the Poet Tarot deck. The card was the Six of Quills. You might note the card on the left has a lady standing in what appears to be a trophy cup.

I think what this lady is saying to us is that in our creativity we all need to seek victories in all sizes. It could be publication in an online venue or it might be scoring an acceptance for your work in one of your very favorite print journals. It could be a contest or the publication of a full collection of poetry. When we have these victories no matter the size, we can encourage others by sharing what has been achieved. Not in a gloating manner but in such a way that others in the community can celebrate with you and benefit from the encouragement of success.

I honestly have never been jealous over another writer's success. I'm all too into celebrating their achievement. It also reminds me that those milestones are real and can happen to others. How frustrating would it be if every poet was busy writing and submitting and no one you knew ever had work published. You would soon feel the whole process was feudal.  You efforts would seem worthless and you might well convince yourself to quit.

I don't think the Six of Quills wants us to gloat, but I do believe she wants us to share the good news. I have known people in other walks of life that are pretty self-centered but thankfully at least among the poets I know, this seems to be a rarity.  The day I get bent out of shape over someone's good news related to their poetry is the day I need to walk away from writing it.

Obviously the Six of Quills values our writing communities as she sees it important for us to both example and encouragement. This takes me back to last week and the Seven of Mentors. Since drawing that card I have been contemplating attempting to put together a work-shopping group to share work on a routine basis. I'm mulling over persons to approaching about this. It is an ongoing result of the last card I drew.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Vol. 2 No. 1 - Seven of Mentors - Growing without killing your unique voice.

So following a three week spring break from my weekly selection of Poet Tarot Cards - I'm back with the start of a second year of examination and thoughts resulting from the random drawing of  a card from the Poet Tarot deck each week.

The first card is a suit card from the Mentors. It's a Seven of Mentors and I think the keys remind me that there are many doors one can go through in the path to improving their writing. Perhaps the spider is telling me to beware of some of the door or that some of the doors may lead to challenging paths.  I feel like the skeletal figure in a dress is perhaps my guide.

Have you ever written in a vacuum? I mean not just written in solitude, I think most of us do that often.  But written work and shown it to no one?  Not even rewrites?  I think that would be writing in a vacuum. You just write and it's there and nothing happens. And maybe that's what you want.

But for your writing voice to enter the world, in print or at readings, you want your writing skills and your creativity to come together at an apex.

I'm in the process of exploring a new writing group (small in size) to workshop work.  So maybe this card is providing me some valuable thoughts about how this might work and benefit or not one's work.  Three things coming to me and they are:

  1. Knowing when to accept and reject feedback
  2. Avoid over-compensating your own voice for that of another successful writer
  3. Be genuine 
In coaching, work-shopping, or sharing material for peer feedback in any way, staying open to the thoughts and experiences of others can surely benefit my work. Balance I think is critical. Knowing when make changes and when not to. Knowing what you can do to improve without sacrificing the uniqueness of your own writing. 

The Seven of Mentors seems to be reminding me that there are things we can do to better our self and our own work. They should be used to enhance our art - not dilute our unique voice.  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Week 57 - 58 - and 59 A Spring Break See you April 26th

I decided after 56 consecutive weeks of using my Poet Tarot Cards as a companion to my creative work to take a break. For one think, I was coming up on the AWP Conference in Minneapolis and I had a lot on my mind. I wanted to focus on the event itself.  Arriving back in town on Sunday the 12th felt I needed a week to decompress. AWP provided me with a lot to think about and I brought home an enormous amount of new reading as well.

So, after just over a year dedicated Traot generated perspective on art/creativity - I have taken a bit of a spring break. After 56 consecutive weeks, I don't think that is too much to ask.  But I will be back next Sunday to draw another card and seek inner guidance. So check back on Sunday the 26th when I will hit the deck again in examining greater insight to the creative process in connection to my poetry and writing in general.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Week 56: Seven of Letterpresses, - Creativity Has It's Own Clock

This week I drew from the Poet Tarot deck a suite card from the Letterpress series. The Letterpresses focus upon completion.  I don't know about you but this is a scary topic for me.

I suppose the discomfort or fear that comes with any conversation related to finishing any type of art project, including writing is that somehow getting said project completed is not always on our own schedule.

One of my favorite issues of Poets and Writers that comes out each year is the one with the debut writers. I think usually there is a dozen writers that have made their mark during the current year with a first major manuscript published. What I like about the issue is that  it will have a short bio and then some information about the length of time it took to complete the work, but that is not all, how many times was it sent out before it was selected. There are exceptions but so many of these  are in fact years in the making. I suppose if there is any comfort in these bios, it is that these people were generally not an overnight success.

Am I glad that it often takes so long? Of course not. But the truth also provides some comfort because if everyone was publishing overnight then of course I would be concerned that I was an aberration and that would be particularly discouraging.

The Seven of Letterpresses is clearly wanting to keep me focused on the norm. That is that from  first conception until a piece of artwork or a poem or a collection of poems is completed takes time and we are best to not get too impatient. Any successes seem to be tied to a methodical work. Allowing the process to move itself forward, but knowing at the same time it will not advance at any certain pace, but at varied stages, The writer's clock ticks at a pace that only it can set. The only control that is left to us it that if we stop the project stops was well.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

kisses are a better fate than wisdom

kisses are a better fate than wisdom... 
for life's not a paragraph...
 and death i think is no parenthesis 
e e cummings 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Week # 55: e e cummings Master of Uncharted Territory and AWP

The e e cummings Tarot card rules my week. This is probably a good thing because I am embarking on uncharted territory in so many ways.

I am feeling unsettled. I am both unsettled and and anxious. Unsettled because I am back to being a pretty ardent self critic.I know that self criticism has it's pluses, but it also has a very slippery downside. Once you let it take control it seems that it can more negative than any writer or artist needs to deal with. When that critical voice is questioning most everything you are writing it can become a self fulfilling prophesy. You think there is something  wrong with everything you are writing and soon you lose the ability to free yourself to take the risks you need to take to be the best at what you are doing.

I'm anxious because I want so much to move on past this questioning phase. I'm anxious to push myself and to try new things  or try things differently. Unchain myself from predictability. And While I am anxious or wanting to do this I am on the verge of something about two and a half weeks away. That would be my first trip to an AWP conference.

Currently there are two overriding aspects of the conference that create nervousness. One is that it means I will be taking a week's vacation time from my regular job. People who know me well also know that I always have accrued vacation time that hovers at or near the limit I am allowed to carry without being truncated. That means if I go over the limit, the I lose and new time I would acquire until I bring it back under the limit. My vacation time is generally used a day here, a half day there. Tag a day onto a weekend or a holiday to maximize time off. My job tends to be crisis driven and when I take time off I come back to more stress. So just taking a week off is freaky.

The second aspect for which I am experiencing some consternation is that I hear war stories about the conference. Some of these are very veteran attendees. Some people try to be helpful by writing essays or blog posts with suggestions of what to expect or how to get the most out of it. Still, each one seems to emphasis survival.  It doesn't help that well meaning people use such titles as:

I could go on, but you get the picture. It's insane, not a place for introverts, it's a beast, there are lots of dos and don't and that 11,800 people in agony is an old number - it will probably top 14,000.

If there is anyone out there who doubted I might be experiencing a little high anxiety about now I'm guessing  that partial list above has built a strong case. But I digress....

Mr. Cummings (or cummings) is probably who I need for this trip. This seems like the Poet Tarot card I should have drawn the Sunday of the trip - but maybe there is yet a better one in store for me then. Maybe Mr. Cummings is just softening me up a little before in hope that come the 8th (departure date) that my feet will seem steady and I will be of (mostly) clear mind to experience this event and by experience it mean learn some things, garner some excitement and come away persuaded that I can better meet any challenges, including that nasty Nemesis of all artists of any stripe self doubt. 

Things I believe I need to embrace:
  1. spontaneity
  2. experimentation
  3. the possible instead of impossible    
  4. quieting the fear
Looking at the weeks card - I hear Mr.Cummings warning me not the turn away from uncharted territory but to use it learn new ways for it is in fresh language and unique approaches that art blossoms. 

So AWP can serve as a beginning of uncharted territory - My goal is to tame the beast, come home with a fresh perspective and energized (after a day to decompress).  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Week 54: The Four of Letterpresses - Look fro ways to learn & grow

This card reminds us that there is a wealth of information that can be obtained by turning to others. Be it workshops, small groups of like minded artists, or one particular person who has some area of expertise that you can benefit from by interacting with them and learning from them.

Look for free events put on by bookstores or libraries or even an online course as sometimes free ones are offered by online colleges instructions.

I have already identified one such class coming up that is online. It will be starting in about a week.

Going to AWP15 I can also look for opportunities from individuals and discussion panels. This Spring and Summer - make an effort to learn to improve myself.  Never stop growing in knowledge and experiences.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Week 53: William Yeats

If Yeats (this weeks card) is to carry any message with it, it surely relates to change.Why? Because Yeats poetry straddled the Victorian era with  romantic poetry and the twentieth century with modern poetry that had a flavor of political and social discourse.

I think it must be true of every poet after a while that they have an early voice or style and as they progress through the years that may change. Presumably the quality of the poetry will improve but  this is obviously not guaranteed.

But for many, change is scary. Doing something a little different than you did before can be downright frightening and can paralyze you, so to speak. But a Yeats has demonstrated we can move on in our work to new styles, new voice, new themes.  Anything that brings freshness to art has to be positive because art is about the new. It's about bolder, different, risk. If we all do the same thing the same way, that becomes old and stale. That becomes boring.

We may be carrying old baggage in our writing life that provides no positive value. Shake it off as the song goes...

This week consider these possibilities:

  • Try a different poetry form or invent your own
  • Do I have old work scattered that could be brought together in a new manuscript? 
  • What new directions can you move with your work? 
Yeats gives up a template for shaking up our writing life. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Week 52: King of Letterpresses - Walt Whitman

It's been fifty-two weeks since I started this project of drawing a Poet Tarot Card to see me through the week. That's a full year of this project.  This week the card is the King of Letterpresses - Walt Whitman.

So, what can I learn from Whitman?  My first thoughts about this poet are the following:

  • He self published 
  • He pretty much rejected established poetic forms in favor of free verse
These two things are a testament to Whitman's fierce independence. I think independence is something that all artists can benefit from.  Striving to be independent is a way of insuring that we are he would be true to himself.

He was also a risk taker. as evidenced by his self publication. 

Considering these examples I must consider if I am true to myself when I write? 
Do I rake risks with my work or am I inclined to play t safe?

Perhaps it was his independent nature that kept him striving for something better. Leaves of Grass was revised many times, including on his death bed. Always looking for the right words.

Would I take something of my own and revise it if I knew I were on my death bed?  Would You? 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Week 51: Nine of Quills

My Poet Tarot card drawn this week was the Nine of Quills.  This card offers a reminder that just as there are bumps along life's road, there are bumps in a writer/artist life.

Just as much of life is beyond our own control, there are things that happen that get in the way of our creative endivers.

Sometimes we find that a project that is really important to us is not going  as planned.  Maybe we are experiencing a block that has paused progress. Or maybe we have had some criticism of work thus far and this criticism has caused us to question all our work thus far.

Criticism can be very helpful. It can also cause us to surrender or own creativity to the view of someone else. First it is important for us to listen to others with our heart. To be objective of what they say, but also to know that the decision of where we go from this point is up to us. We must trust our own instincts after assessing criticism.

The Nine of Quills wants us to use times like these to make whatever adjustment (if any) is needed and then decide how to proceed. This card wants us to learn to embrace challenges.

Maybe we need to step away for a while and come back with a fresh perspective and pick up where we left off.  Maybe we are to modify our work or perhaps hold fast to our original view.  These things are important to us...

  • patience
  • trust
  • flexibility
When our creative life gets bumpy, we can turn to these three virtues and deal directly with whatever that challenge is.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Week 50: Robert Lowell - The Personal Bleeding Into Writing

This weeks Tarot Card connects me to Robert Lowell. My first impression, another tortured soul of a writer. But I also know Lowell to be an influence on numerous poets from his time period. Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, W.D. Snodgrass to name a few.

Lowell's best known work is probably Life Studies. You might credit Lowell with the beginning of the Confessional Poetry period or at very least he was an early player. His life, his struggles became entangled with his writing. Like other confessional writers of this period his work was both celebrated and criticized. In part perhaps because at times connected others so precisely in his work that the ethics of it was called into question.

So what can I learn this week from Lowell?  Do I have the ability to write from an internal perspective of my own life? Is their value in this?  I have long been touched in a positive way by the work of Sexton and Plath. I have been especially drawn to poetry that can be a bit on the edgy side. Maybe dark at times. This is not to say that I don't appreciate more uplifting material as well. I don't consider myself a Goth. Is there therapeutic value in writing confessional poetry? How do I feel when I read poetry that gives enough insight into other personalities as to know who is poet speaking about?

So I ask myself this week if there is value in incorporation one's own life history into poetry?  I have to a degree done so in the past, I think at times unknowingly  but sometimes will full knowledge as will.  I think very often I have been aware of the bleed over into poetry of some personal aspects of life and I have to say I am not always really  free about letting everything in. Yes, I do sometimes self edit out things I might be uncomfortable with. Actually, I  more often edit out things I think others might be uncomfortable with. In revision, I have been known to sanitize so to speak. I'm not sure that I'm happy as I look back at this because it says to me that I am not always genuine. But in the moment of revision, it is harder to feel this way as I am more likely to be driven by fear, discomfort, or  shame.

Lowell may have had it  right to dig deep into is life. Such writing can bring us insight into ourselves. But is that the best writing to submit for publication? I suppose that is an answer that only each writer can answer for him/herself  For right now, I do not have a static answer for this question today. It will have to wait.

But I will be communing with Lowell this week about these things. My views may shift as I explore these questions. At some point I will update where this all has taken me.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Week 49: Ten of Mentors - Don't Hesitate to Fix What's Broken

This card is a tough one for me because it gives me permission to make changes to things that are not working.  Sometimes I will struggle through something past a reasonable period of time. I don't like to give up. I often equate this with failure. Yet, failure is very much a part of art. It's how we learn. How we improve. How we find new and unique things.

I've got a manuscript right now that is not working in the present form. That doesn't mean that  there are not good aspects of it. It could perhaps be split apart into two or more manuscripts to work on. This is in fact what I'm going to work on this week. When something ceases to inspire then stand it on it's end and make something else of it.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Week 48 : Nine of Muses

I've drawn the Nine of Muses before. This Tarot Card calls me to seek harmony between my home, my work and my art. If I can do this, if I can establish a balance in my life overall and do so withing my artistic lifestyle then I can truly celebrate success.

This means I must make time to write but I must remain focused on my broader life as well. I cannot exclude on area of my life at the expense of another.

When I am doing as the Nine of Muses expects of me, then calm should prevail as opposed to drama.

Make a calendar of my writing related chores for the next two week - just as I do my schedule at work or household tasks. See how I can be more at ease in my overall life.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Week 47: The Eight of Letterpresses - Seeking Collaboration

A busy day of reading and writing and submissions. I usually reserve Saturday for submissions but having missed yesterday, I mad certain I got it done today.

So, with all of the above out of the way I have gone to my Poet Tarot card deck and selected at random the one to guide me this week.  It's the Eight of Letterpresses.

It appears that the Eight of Letterpresses is not a big fan taking the safe road on a journey. Not very interested in seeing me limit myself. No the Eight of Letterpresses likes to see me exercise my creativity.
Sweat a little. Get uncomfortable. Try something different.

Maybe step out of my comfort zone by contacting an artist in another field - a painter, a photographer and collaborate on putting poetry and picture together.

Now I've done this in reverse. I've supplied poetry that  an abstract artist has painted and the works have been shown in a gallery. But the Eight of Letterpresses is shaking his head. Nice try.  No, I need to use someone else's work to inspire poems.

I need to think about another artist that I know who I could ask to collaborate with, or hope that fate leads me to someone altogether new to try such a project with. This is probably not going to come together in a week, but I need to start considering possibilities this week.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Undoing the Damage of Haste

“Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It's what everything else isn't.” Theodore Roethke

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Week 46: Roethke - King of Mentors

An so I've drawn Theodore Roethke - The King of Mentors Card this week. A man who was not only a remarkable poet but an exemplary teacher as well. Professor Roethke was noted for taking a special interests in the students studying under him.  He was more than a teacher, his role was more personal and could well be describe as that of a mentor.

As for his own writing, Roethke was a keen observer of the world around him incorporating much of what he took in to his work  and  he displayed and almost magical command of words.

So what is Roethke asking of me this week?

  • I feel like Roethke wants me to be a better observer. To look for every opportunity to develop some theme, some story, some image to bring to life in poetry.
  • Also, to be new and fresh with my approach with language usage but also expand my word knowledge base 
  • I feel like his special interest in student writers/poets also has a special message. No matter what our level of experience there is someone out there who could use encouragement, direction,  be a sounding board, help workshop a poem. Look to be of help to others.
  • Remember those who have helped you in some way with you work. Keep them in your thoughts that good karma will come their way. Form time to time, drop them a note and tell them you appreciate the help they have been to you. Or tell them to their face if possible. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Week 45: Frank O'Hara - Examining Authenticity All Week Long

It's been several weeks now since I drew a "poet" card. I seem to have hit a run of suite cards. Nothing wrong with that but just the same I was delighted when the Frank O'Hara card surfaced.  I really kind of feel I need an actual poet to commune with at this moment.

O'Hara at times seems too forthright for his own good. Still, you have to admire that about him, I think he wants me to examine my own authenticity. In what ways are I or am I not authentic? This is a bit of a scary request but I promise to journal on the subject this week. I suspect there is a good reason to or this would not be coming up now.

Frank O'Hara was a patron of the arts - emphasis one the plural. What can I learn from him about merging art forms? Or Poetry forms?  How can I bring my own creativity to new dimensions? When I think about exploring and experimenting with poetry do I get nervous or inspired? When asked about my work can I defend it with passion or do I act like I had no part in it?

So many tough questions Frank. We have a week together to explore these.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Week 44: Three of Mentors - The Critics Role

As artists we create what we are called to and that process at times calls us to tweak or sometime majorly rework a poem. We've all become used to this on one level or another.

We also from time to time seek honest criticism of  something we've written. That criticism is important to each writer but it can sometimes be difficult to accept. It can be a delicate matter for newer writers but with time even seasoned poets and writers find such criticism difficult to keep in perspective.

The Three of Mentors is mindful of both the need for honest feedback on work, be it in workshop or an individual critique.
It's important for us to discern the nature of the comments offered about a particular piece of work. A sincere person making suggestions is offering an opinion about your art and while it may not always be the the changes you want to make you owe it to yourself and the process to consider such advise.  The difficult part is to determine what value to assess the suggestions. The Tree of Mentors reminds me to be of open or receptive mind.

It's okay to consider the spirit in which the suggestions are made. Probably more often than not the spirit in which it is made is indeed offered as constructive criticism. Occasionally there may be other motives that are less honest in intent. Learn to discern who and what you can trust. Always fall back on your own intuitive judgment - it may mean accepting changes suggested, modifying suggestions or changing nothing at all. Remember, the critic is there to help you and not bring you down.