Short Sweets – Chapbook Reviews

So much great poetry by women comes out in chapbooks, but getting this work reviewed and publicized is nearly impossible. One way we want to strengthen communities of women writers is help us find each others’ work. Our plan? Publishing Short Sweets – brisk reviews of chapbooks that get quickly to the heart of the matter – how the work works, why it matters, how to get a copy of your own.

So bring us your reviews! We’ll be writing our own, posting yours, recruiting reviewers, and, happily, networking with other chapbook publishers to cross-promote.

Click here to review reviews: Short Sweets

And we’d love to have your reviews! Read our Writers’ Guidelinesfor more info on what we’re seeking. Then come join the adventure!

The fabulous four weeks…

It’s the countdown to everyone’s holidays and I want to wish you the fullest and most life loving of seasons. My own Thanksgiving, in the company of friends and family and my terrific grown up children put the worries and challenges of living in a world of heartache and frailty aside and when I choose to breath, I felt to air from my lips to the souls of my feet and I remembered that “It could be worse”does not have be part of every Thanksgiving gratitude.Sometimes no qualifier is needed.

As many of you know the contest has been extended to December 31. As a first contest, this is not unusual since it takes some time for folks to discover us. That said, we have 75 entries now, which is small as such things go but perhaps good for those who have entered. And I have, since I need to take my time, started reading the manuscripts. The minimum for my first run through has averaged an hour and often I take longer. I make notes as I go. I need to allow myself time to clear my mind between readings. In my mind, I try not to compare any manuscript to any other poet’s writing, but to clear my mind of comparisons I make notes on every manuscript, noticing especially strong poems, and work that strives and asks questions and goes beyond them. At my best, I read as though this is the only chapbook in the universe, and my delight or my questions rise from that. At my worst, I put down a chapbook and let it sit till later because I know when I am not at my most clear eyed and receptive. So far, I have been touched by my first readings (yes I will do second ones in the next month and a half because I have lived a life of second chances) and this is by no means going to be a simple process to prune down the final group.

To those who have asked for feedback, that will come after the final selection and I will read each manuscript I am tasked with yet again, and notice if you wanted anything in particular in the way of commentary. To those of you who did not ask for feedback, that opportunity is still open and you can always write me saying you would like this.

Today there has been good and bad news, but fortunately the bad is only that my vacuum cleaner Bessie has died after eight years of faithful service, struggling with the dog hair and my tendency to be Clara Klutz. The good news came in from Israel, where they said I am honorable mention (it is good to be mentioned in an honorable way!) in The Reuben Rose, Voices Israel poetry competition. So it was expensive bad luck my vacuum died, but priceless news that somebody actually read a poem I wrote. So pick a moment. Take a satisfaction break Notice not only did you write one poem but many and further you had the courage to send them off into the four winds to land at Wildflower Lane, where each poem is a tangible wonder, where each poet has her name spoken. Yes, I feel there is something magical in reading first lines and second and third….

Peace…Jane

More than Meets the Eye

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Today I light a fire, for the first time this year, as the temperatures plummet, as the reds and oranges of autumn give way to the grays and browns, and I think to myself, it is good to read some poetry to heat me up from the inside out. So I pick up a few of the manuscripts which pile up in my living room (which is also my dining room, kitchen and writing room) and allow the flames to surge and snap and glow.

I am thankful so many have sent in their precious work–it seems I have many treasures in my hands–that I am entrusted with–to honor and give my entire attention. We are approaching sixty-five manuscripts now–which has been the result of so much outreach, so much creative spreading of the word not only by Elliott and myself, but by the women I have spoken to in acknowledgement of their manuscripts. I thank everyone who has told a friend, mentioned it in a poetry group or MFA program. If QuillsEdge is to make it, artistically and financially (ah yes, nothing grows without green–even the Goddess Udjat, the Goddess of the Eye’s name means green) we need to spread our fields wide, as the psalms say.

I am a person for whom poetry is like slow food, a person who needs lots of time to appreciate flavors, textures, visions– hence I start leisurely contemplating the manuscripts. And it occurs to me that when in the past I have sent out my work, the process of how it has been evaluated has remained a mystery. And rarely does a rejection slip or an acceptance, for that matter, lend any transparency as to what it was about the poetry that made it special or resigned it to recycling.(No not even a hint or a shred of what it had or lacked for my readers.) So I have decided to say a little here, and say more in other posts, about my adventures in reading and my process reading your work.

My co-conspirator Elliot, wild of red hair and sprit, says when she reads excellence, extraordinary-ness, she always exclaims “I wish I had written that!” It is the quintessential Eureka and she has, I think, hit the ultimate gold nail on the head. Yet because I tend to complicate things to infinity (just saying–obsession is a priceless pathology for a poet) I write down pages and pages just noticing what I need to notice in every manuscript. Of course this is about as likely as me memorizing the all of the Holy Sonnets or the Books of Moses (or the Books of Mrs. Moses or Grandma Moses) but still, it is something that is my process. Nonetheless, realizing it will only get in the way–I give it up immediately after I displace the yellow dog (gently, with a milk bone) off her (my) chair to read in the living room decorated by pictures of Navaho women weaving. First, I read the title. (How linear–but a title is important) I usually feel and smell the manuscript (I grow to maturity in the touchy feely days) and I pop on my seriously electric blue reading glasses. I sit down for the time it takes, minus pacing and pee breaks I keep reminding myself–Jane look, see (See Jane, see Jane read) now deeper and now again. So I read in and then aloud since that is the heritage of our craft. I had some learning differences, still do, as a child. This is allowed me to feel fine about taking twice the time and doing half of what normal people do. It allows me to look at the craft deeply and delight in it, to recognize “ah, a Sestina or a Petrarchan Sonnet, an Ode or an Elegy . It gives me permission to consider content and complexity–individual,historic, common and uncommon, earthy and ethereal.It allows me to take journeys into exotic places. And incredibly important for me, it opens up the music of the poetry–that music that propels and pulses the words.

Because comparing manuscripts is impossible–so much greater than simply comparing apples to oranges–we are talking not merely planets here, but solar systems, galaxies,nebulas and black holes, quasars and pulsars–I know I am in for the ride of lifetimes. Not only your’s or mine…

Yet the evaluation itself is truly subjective in its least definable. It is individual and cellular–our reckoning of poetry. And if I don’t get chosen or choose one manuscript that does not mean it should be discounted in any way. Each work has a validity, a reason and right to be–it has its own beauty,courage and expression. To quote Sweet Honey and the Rock, “It is the sons and daughters of life (your life) longing for itself.” It is bread. It is meat. It is fruit. It is.

So as I head towards Thanksgiving, I say a blessing for each dear poets, in a conspiracy (conspire means to love) of abundance and creation. After the turkey flies off your table– before the maids come a milking, I write again. Until then and always,savor your own unique and juicy possibilities. In common measure, Jane

Poets that shaped us deeply – Alicia Ostriker

Alicia Ostriker:

All poets have their chosen ancestors and affinities. As an American poet I see myself in the line of Whitman, Williams, and Ginsberg, those great enablers of the inclusive democratic impulse, the corollary of which is formal openness. As a student I wrote in traditional closed forms, as did they—before they discovered the joy and meaning of open forms. To write in open forms is to improvise. Improvisatory verse is like doing a jazz solo: we know what we’ve just done, and the next line has to be connected to it, has to grow out of it somehow, but there is an essential unpredictability. This is an American invention because we act, in America, as if the future is partly shaped by the past, but is not determined by it. We are (a little bit) free.

Older Women Poets Kicking Butt – Happy Birthday Anne Porter!

And in the realm of women poets who got serious late in life then kicked poetic butt – Happy Birthday Anne Porter! Anne published her first collection, An Altogether Different Language, in 1994, when she was 83 years old. The collection was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Today is the birthday of poet Anne Porter (books by this author), née Channing. She was born in Sherborn, Massachusetts, in 1911. When she was 16, she met artist Fairfield Porter, and they were married by the time she was 20. She had been writing poetry since she was seven, but now, as a busy mother of five, she didn’t have much time for her own pursuits. The choir and women’s group at the Methodist church were her only social outlets, apart from playing hostess to her husband’s artist friends. Sometimes she modeled for her husband’s paintings, but they weren’t portraits of her; she compared the experience to being an apple in a still life.

When her Fairfield Porter died in 1975, Anne lived with her daughter Elizabeth, and then on her own after her daughter married. Porter felt alone and vulnerable in the quiet empty house, and fell down the stairs twice. She knew she couldn’t live on her own any longer, and was all set to move into an assisted-living facility when her daughter and son-in-law invited her to move in with them. They built an addition to their house just for her, with vaulted ceilings like a cathedral. It was there, at a modest desk surrounded by her late husband’s paintings, that she began to devote more time to her poetry. She collected bits of it on whatever scrap of paper she found lying around, and turned it over and around in her mind, and only when it was nearly complete did she sit down at her old typewriter and commit it to the page.

50 & Counting!

50 FABULOUS MANUSCRIPTS have arrived! There are days when one shows up at 76 Wildflower like a single rose. And days when the mailbox becomes a bouquet, and the mail person knocks on my door and one day wonders what a QuillsEdge is? I tell her, a QuillsEdge is a poet, a Carol or a Kay or a Krista or a Jean or a June. A QuillsEdge comes in any variety of envelopes with secret surprises in the wrappers, and it is harder and harder not keep from jumping in and reading every single one. Yet for that I must wait a while longer, until both Elliott and I can sit down with some good java and take our time with them and compare our notes. But before even that I am coming up with a template which notices all those wonderful poetic things which makes the poetry–the heart, the soul, the craft.

One of the wonderful bonuses of this labor of love is that I decided, early on, to do things a bit differently, (and as time goes on you will see how different a press we are inventing or re-inventing) and so I try to call each contributor, to say thank you and got it, to ask how you heard about us, and for those whose manuscripts we will be reading for review, what would be helpful for us to notice about your poetry that would nurture you as a writer? Each call has been a blessing for me–my goodness, I’ve never spoken to anyone in Spokane before! And I am thrilled at the diversity of voices from different regions. This is a banquet –a genuine banquet. Thank you all for this thanksgiving

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October days

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Yesterday I happily catalogued the new entries for the chapbook contest. I could not help but peek at a poem here, a poem there. So many talented women are entering. And while a first contest is always challenged to find enough submissions to defray costs and produce the best book possible, because I am finding such great achievement in these submissions it will make all the P & J I have to eat over the coming time totally worth it! If you see this, I would ask our followers to spread the word so other kindred poets know we are here, and want to work for a very worthy cross-section of women poets over fifty. To everyone I hope the fall is beautiful and full of harvested sweetness. Jane

Live on Sapling Issue #250 – Interview with Jane Seitel about QuillsEdge Press

“Sapling,” from the wonderful folks at Black Lawrence Press,is a curated, streamlined weekly e-newsletter. Each issue profiles a contest, a small press, and a literary journal, and features an interview or article. For issue 250 they contacted QuillsEdge to feature us, and Jane did this great interview. Read on!

This week Sapling talks with Jane Seitel, Editor at QuillsEdge Press.

 

Sapling: What should people know who may not be familiar with QuillsEdge Press?

 

Jane Seitel: In March 2014, with my “co-conspirator,”

Elliott batTzedek, QuillsEdge Press made its

debut as a chapbook press featuring “indispensable poetry from women over 50.” Launching the press at Split This Rock Poetry Festival in Washington DC was as much a social and political statement as an artistic one. While I am older than Elliott (who recently hit the half century mark) both of us came from a time of speaking out against the status quo and rallying for political and social change. We came to adulthood during a time when poetry flourished as a vital expression of re-visioning our world. Writing race, class, gender and resistance was our embryonic ocean. And now, as older women and poets, we are noticing the political and social tide imperiling the generations born during and after World War II. In a country idealizing youth and beauty, what becomes of the beauty and worth of the older and elderly? In poetry as well, we have found a divide, in part a generational divide between the old and the young. While reading for presses and publications, and having submitted myself, age seemed at times a divide. When I was part of predominantly younger reading panels, there seemed a difference of aesthetics, perception of content, craft,  etc. I was surprised to find there was not a single active chapbook press exclusively for women over fifty; yet, at the same time, many women well past fifty were taking up the pen and passionately writing all sorts of poetry. When I started writing poetry at 56 I showed my first work to a woman friend who was also an award winning poet and prose writer. She asked me if I didn’t feel myself becoming more invisible as I grew older? She asked if I was devoted enough to write poetry, even if I should go unacknowledged?

 

The editors view QuillsEdge as one antidote to the creative and social invisibility that older women poets may experience.  As editors, we brainstorm ways in which we can publish chapbooks which express the brilliance and diversity of older poets, but also hope to become a public presence, educating the poetry community about why our community’s  writing is a valuable resource. In our mission statement, welcome all women to submit, to allow us the view each in her chosen diversity as straight, dyke, queer, trans and all the permutations of modern self-identity. We view our contemporaries as a new generation redefining what it means to be an “old woman.”  We want to read poetry that astonishes, makes inspired and startling connections, that cherishes the tradition of the craft of poetry and reaches towards new expressions. We intend to take the time to notice and appreciate each potential contributor.

 

Our first contest, which opens on September 1, has, for its theme, “On the Edge.” Barbara Crooker, an extraordinary poet,  is our final judge. As part of the mission of the press, we offer of a variety of ways to enter. You might simply submit your manuscript or, as an opinion at minimal cost (to help you and help us to fund our shoe string startup) decide you would like one of the editor’s to respond to your manuscript withtwo page letter or a phone call. Our focus is to acknowledge the strengths of your poetry and also address what might enhance the manuscript. Since poets work in relative isolation, for some writers, this service may be of some value.

 

QuillsEdge also has a website, where we post press news—of sister presses, book reviews, and other posts to join together poets in our community. We value our community’s input. You can find us at our QuillsEdge Press website or on Facebook.

 

In the essay “To invent what we desire”  Adrienne Rich asks What does a poet need to know?  At QuillsEdge, three of these things speak directly to us as older women and poets:

 

~That you yourself, through recombinations and permutations of the languages you already know, can re-create fierce change, for yourself and others, on a page, something written down that remains.

 

~That this in itself can be a means of saving our life.

 

~That this in itself can be an activity of keenest joy.

 

Sapling: How did your name come about?

 

 

Jane Seitel: Our name, QuillsEdge, although deliberated upon for weeks on end, turned out, at last, to be the happy accident of my keyboard. We had settled on the putting together Quill and Sedge, as QuillSedge, when having a mind of its own, my unconscious trickster capitalized the E instead of the S. Both having more confidence in the right than the left hemisphere, we laughed and popped the cork. So telling it slant, as Emily Dickinson wrote, QuillsEdge was inked into the world.

 

Sapling: What do you pay close attention to when reading submissions? Any deal breakers?

 

Jane Seitel: We seek: Poetry with impresses on us your unique literary fingerprint— something we have never read  before with the ability to thrill us or to give us pause. We adore poetry that is transitional, transitive, willing to undertake new structures and expression while maintaining a  deep commitment to craft.  We need to see a clear engagement to life in the contemporary world with tenacity, vibrancy, innovations as well as expressing the timely and the timeless.  So send us your most deeply resonant and personal. The poetry embracing brave questions that obsess you, and demands you to hone and perfect it over time.

 

What we do not want is poetry that is solely memoir, or poetry that comes from a place of racism, intolerance, that is ego driven with mean spiritedness. We do not appreciate “sloppy” poetry (although one mistake or two does not a manuscript unmake) which has been dashed off without attention the details of language and syntax. When we see poetry which seems seamless, or approaches what articulates those maddening struggles of the world and your personal  we say Yes!

 

Sapling: Where do you imagine to be headed over the next couple of years? What’s on the horizon?

 

Jane Seitel: Part of what has always depressed me about publication is that although you may be a first or second runner up, a nice letter is the sum total of the appreciation expressed by many presses. Part of our mission is to find new ways to publish more of the poetry which is not strictly “the winner’s” poetry, but to find ways of anthologizing works by other noteworthy contributors. Also, we have a commitment to making these chapbooks artful by using superior and imaginative papers, really noticing font and style, by commissioning woman visual and graphic artists, and designers, and working with the poet so that her vision of her poetry is expressed though presentation. As part of our continuing quest to honor women over fifty, we will continue to resource the women’s community for services contributing to our publications.

 

Sapling: As an editor, what is the hardest part of your job? The best part.

 

Jane Seitel: I have edited for other publications and also done screenings at presses. To view each manuscript threw fresh or new eyes, is always in my awareness. I  need to stay with a manuscript, even if perhaps, the organization of the manuscript does not seem ideal; to see beyond certain idiosyncratic issues of composition and read into the soul and substance of the poetry itself.

 

Sapling: If you were stranded on a desert island for a week with only three books, what books would you want to have with you?

 

Jane Seitel: Being a triple Gemini, I would probably find a way of taking 9 books in my carryon! However, the first three I would put in would be “Arts of the Possible” (essays) by Adrienne Rich, the second would be an large book with lots of pictures I got from the used book store on World Mythology and the third would be an unlined book of perfectly blank pages.

 

Sapling: Just for fun, if QuillsEdge Press was a person, what three things would it be thinking about obsessively?

 

Jane Seitel: QuillsEdge obsessions: Where did I put my tale feather? Can I fly now? Duck, Duck, Duck or Goose?

 

***

Jane Seitel is an Expressive Therapist and educator (Lesley University, M.Ed) and received her MFA in Poetry from Drew University in 2011. Recent publications include  Prairie Schooner, The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Bridges, Midstream, Split This Rock and Lilith. She received the 2010 Charlotte Newberger Prize, and was a finalist in the 2013 Florida Review Editor’s Prize and 2013 So To Speak Poetry Award. She is the founder of QuillsEdge Press, a chapbook press dedicated to publishing the poetry of women over fifty. She is currently a doctoral student at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

***

For more info:

 

http://quillsedgepress.com/

 

The Manuscripts Are Arriving! !שהחינו

 

The flood gates have opened and the manuscripts are coming in!  Jane and I just opened the first three to arrive and we are THRILLED!  All three:

1. followed the guidelines (which means the guidelines are clear and easy to follow!)

2. Included checks in the proper amounts (we have a 1st taker on a paid review/feedback!)

3. Are VERY STRONG writing! We know that there is an amazing amount of great poetry by women over 50 out there, and we’re going to prove it.

Happy poets, happy editors, happy Press Work day at Jane’s all day today. Email blast going out soon, then a publicity strategies conversation, then invitations for poets we love and admire to be on our advisory board.

Keep those manuscripts coming!

Editor’s Note: On Starting a Press

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Hello all. The sun is doing its job on this beautiful summer’s day & I thought this would be a good time to add a note. Elliott has been posting word of the contest on websites near and far—I have been putting in leg- & headwork into reading samples of small press chap books, some of which are remarkable, as well as getting info on the ins & outs of printing, paper, book design, art, etc.—all the material stuff that goes into establishing a press.

Like most small presses, start ups are hard. I had the idea of doing this over the last two years, as I became aware that older poets faced particularly challenges, amongst them a presence as specialized chapbook press. Elliott agreed, so here we are doing this out of conviction with a small bit of start up money squirreled away. We know this is a hard time for everyone, especially for seniors, financially. So let me take a moment to address entry fees and the add-ons we offer for things like manuscript evaluation and having a copy of the winning book sent to you.

Personally, I hate entry fees. I remember all the ones I have personally have written checks for and how I’d fume when I didn’t even get a rejection notice! Undertaking the press, however, I have developed a bit of a different perspective. Like it or not, fee taking is a necessary practice if a press is to have a chance to do what it sets out to do and as is necessitated by the task. Employing a book designer, a printer, seeking out art is all part of the creation of a chapbook of poetry. So lately, I am very conscious that when I sent out to a contest or journal which includes a submission fee, it needs to go to a press I feel is a asset to the community of writers, and I want to support. Because I take this view, then acceptance becomes only one of two positives, since the action in itself gives me an opportunity to support something I feel good about.

You may notice there are “add ons” to the entries. One of these, an opportunity to have one of us either speak to you or write you about what we see are the strengths of your manuscript and what you may want to think about in revision or restructure, is something I feel is a service to contributors as well as a way of funding the start up. Many poets live in relative isolation and, while it is a terrific thing, don’t have regular, productive and supportive input into their poetry. So this service, which is, by all comparisons, modest in cost, may have value to certain members of our writing community. The other add on is receiving a copy of the book selected. While we will henceforth hope to have a wide range of voices represented, this will give you an idea of our starting point, and may have value in your creative process.

I would also encourage you to browse other chapbooks and presses to get an idea of what you think makes a great chapbook. We offer some links to some of these presses which we consider our sister organizations. My best to everyone for a summer of joy and enrichment, and if you decide to send us a chapbook, I can assure you it will be read with appreciation, seriousness, and delight.