Posted in Full Cry, News

Good News for Love Poems

From the Wikihow page on "How to Write a Love Poem"
From the Wikihow page on “How to Write a Love Poem”

We’re still more than a week away from Valentine’s Day, but I have an early gift for my husband: two different love poems that have received recognition lately.

First of all, “Mouth: To Say,” from Full Crywill be featured on Poetry Daily on Saturday, Feb. 8. Two other poems from my first book have been chosen by the site in the past few years, and I’m eternally grateful to Diane Boller and Don Selby for their support.

“Mouth: To Say” first appeared in New South, which nominated it for a Pushcart Prize, and it was also translated into Spanish for a bilingual reading series by Manuel Iris, who noted that the sounds of words didn’t quite work in the same way in the Spanish. Amor doesn’t really start with “tongue against teeth and end on lips” the way the word love does.

In addition, a revised version of the poem I read my husband at our wedding, now called “Vows,” is part of a set of three poems awarded a prize by the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Foundation. This amazing fund has been supporting young poets with large awards for the past decade, and while it will be partnering with the Poetry Foundation from now on, they will continue to support the work of hardworking poets in their early careers. I’m honored to be a prizewinner for a second year. You can see this year’s poems on the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg website under “2013 Prizewinners.” (My previous win is listed under “2010 Prizewinners.”)

One more note: the final image of another poem from this year’s prize, “Felicity, OH,” was inspired by a Facebook photo of the daughter of friends of mine. Also named Felicity, she preferred to wear her swimsuit to Trader Joe’s one day…


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.