News and Blog

Posted in Full Cry, Readings

Upcoming Readings

This Saturday, I’ll be reading as part of a dinner at the convention of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’ve never been to the Southwest, and I look forward to feeling what dry heat is like. Having lived mostly in swampy nfsps logoplaces or river valleys (St. Louis, Cincinnati, DC), I associate summer with air so thick you can chew on it. If you’re in the Albuquerque area and interested in coming to the reading, let me know, though I’m pretty sure the entrance price is steep because it’s a dinner. I’ll also be taking part in a signing around 4:30 pm on Sunday.

This convention is the debut for Full Cry; it should be available on Amazon soon, and I’ll announce it to high heavens when it is. If you can’t wait that long (and you don’t live in New Mexico), you can order it through the NFSPS. According to their website, you should send $15 plus $1.50 postage to Polly Opsahl at 270 Brewster Road, Rochester Hills, MI 48309-1507. Her email address is pollyannop [at] comcast [dot] net.

Also, on Wednesday, July 3, at 7 p.m., I’ll be reading at Horizon Books in Traverse City, MI, if any vacationers are headed to that area for the Fourth of July week and want to get their poetry fix.

And a St. Louis reading is also in the works for the fall!

Posted in News

Two Poems in Anti-, plus a Two-Year Plan

Two of my poems are featured in the latest edition of Anti-, out today online. Anti- is an incredible online journal run by Steven D. Schroeder and a dedicated staff; I look forward to reading each full issue as well as to seeing their “featured poets” throughout the year. I’m honored to be a part of Issue 12—especially to be on the same contributors’ list as the fabulous poet Lisa Fay Coutley, whom I met at Bread Loaf last year, and some great former contributors to the Cincinnati Review, including Sandy Longhorn and Adam Tavel.

The two poems on Anti- each have special meaning to me. One, “Full Cry,” is the title poem of my new book, which will be available online sometime in the next month or so. I’ve carried the phrase “full cry” in my mind since 2006, when I was at a residency at Ragdale in Lake Forest, Illinois. A friend (Linnea Paskow—creator of the book’s cover art) and I had gone into town, deerand we stopped at the Deer Path Inn to ask them a question. They had a set of three oil paintings on the wall, each featuring different aspects of the ritualized aristocratic hunt. I remember “first flight” and “full cry” in particular; the latter phrase has stuck with me since then, and I transferred it between a few notebooks over the years before finding the subject of the poem it could lead, when I rode the Number 17 bus one morning to the University of Cincinnati and saw one of those lawn-ornament deer.

“Aggregate” is a little more personal, recounting some of my experiences while I went through a month-long battle with appendicitis back in 2010. It was a little ugly at times; the images in the poem are not exaggerated. I’ve long since recovered, but that period of extreme illness is one that has affected me profoundly. The poem also references the gas-line repair project that has caused major construction throughout the Cincinnati area for the past few years, and it interweaves words from various prayers for healing from illness.

So, it’s an appropriate transition now to also announce that I’ll be taking part in a Generations in Dialogue mentorship program over the next two years with five other writers interested in exploring what it means to be a writer of faith. The program is sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, where we’ll officially be called Mullin Scholars, and our mentor will be Gregory Wolfe, editor of the fabulous literary journal, Image, which has long been a favorite of mine. It’s glossy and beautiful, smart and thoughtful. You can read more about the mentorship program and the other writers who have been named Mullin Scholars here. I can’t wait to get to know these fine folk.

Posted in Full Cry

The Box Has Arrived

SAMSUNG

My copies of Full Cry have arrived! Thanks to Polly Opsahl from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies for sending them, and to Diane Kistner, of FutureCycle Press, for the amazing design work. It was a pleasure to work with Diane on the book; I can’t thank her enough.

And I can’t wait to share the finished, physical product with you all sometime soon!

Posted in Uncategorized

The Story Behind “Fled”

I’m honored that my poem, “Fled,” from the latest issue of Cimarron Review, is the featured poem on Poetry Daily today. Thanks to Don Selby, Diane Boller, and the rest of the PD staff for all they do.

I wanted to share the story behind the poem, which also appears in my first full-length collection, Full Cry, available soon. In the summer of 2009, I was on vacation with my family at Fox Springs Lodge, a family-style resort in Missouri that features shared meals and group activities like bingo, a crawdad-catching contest, and horseshoe-tossing. Guests stay in cabins or in the lodge itself; it feels a little bit like the location of Dirty Dancing, with less Patrick Swayze and no linen tablecloths.

Mule_deer_doe_backlitThe lodge and cabins are nestled in a valley with lots of trees, so when I noticed I had a voice mail from a friend one day, I had to trek up a rock road to get a better signal for my phone. I decided to walk for the exercise, and as I finished leaving a message in return (not terse, I must confess, not “all business”), a deer ran out onto the road.

The poem describes well what happened next, but what I’ve changed is the context. Being with the doe made me think about the iconography of the hunt in love poetry (which I would soon begin to study at the University of Cincinnati), and I found myself wanting to turn around the paradigms, to have the speaker not be chasing the deer OR the beloved, even though that beloved is a distant, coy figure in his own right, the camouflaged man just out of the scene. So, I shifted the emotional valence of the interaction by placing it within that tradition.

It took me many years to get the poem just right, though. I would let it sit for months and then come back to tinker with it. The short, alternately indented lines were part of what made the poem work, and I finally felt like I was ready to complete the poem after finishing an independent study on Petrarch—I knew after doing some short translations that “Fled” needed some allusion to that deer-obsessed poet. The line about the “ripe season” counters the “stagione acerba,” or unripe season, in which Petrarch sees his white doe in Sonnet 190.

So, the poem mixes actual experience with some crafting of the occasion—sometimes necessary to make a poem work. Thanks to all those who gave me feedback on this one over the years, including my St. Louis writing group who saw the first drafts of it back in 2009! And thanks to Lisa Lewis for thinking that it was right for Cimarron Review.

Posted in Full Cry

Cover Art

NFSPS-Stevens-Ampleman-FullCry

I want to thank Linnea Paskow for the great cover art for Full Cry—you can see her amazing art on her website. I met Linnea at a 2006 residency at the Ragdale colony, and we became quick friends. I knew that I wanted to use one of her collage pieces for my first-book cover (though the book itself was not much more than a twinkle in my eye) after seeing her work on Phantasm at Ragdale, and I loved that she described my use of images in poems as a kind of collage. I’m very grateful that she was willing to let me use “Disclosed” (here’s a full-size image). I can remember that our big dreams back in 2006 were (for Linnea) to have a solo show in New York and (for me) to have a book published. And here we are today!

And thanks to Ragdale for being such a nurturing environment for interdisciplinary conversations about art. Deadlines are January 15, May 15, and September 15, depending on the session you’re interested in.