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!

oh winter….

Women of the Quill,

I appreciate everyone’s patience. Had we known winter would be so challenging, we would perhaps have made this a spring to summer contest. However…the final judging is in sight…because everyone’s schedule has been skeltered, Barbara has set aside time to judge beginning the second week in March. If you would like me to send along you manuscript reviews before the final judging just let me (Jane) know. Most are done and I would be happy to share your’s with you. If I do not hear from you, they will all go out after the final judging.

For me, this has been a winter of challenges. Ice and falls, floods that came indoors from burst pipes. I am sure we all have experienced these, especially as the years wind by. And it is probably too long since I have written, although I am not sure how many read this form of communication. To those who do, I thank you for your patience and understanding…and pledge Elliott’s and my good intentions in a season of adversity.

May you all be warm and savor your favorite comfort food and soup of the season.

Beauty is on the Inside

Women of the Quill,

It is six in the morning and I have read all the manuscripts and handed them off to Elliott, the significant other of the press. Now it is her colossal job to read your unique work with her unique vision and insight. We are working with due diligence but with care. Then we together will select the final manuscripts to send to our esteemed judge Barbara Crooker, who has a new book of her own! Her collected works are now available from FutureCycle Press, and you can order one to read with great enjoyment. (info@barbaracrooker.com)

Because we have been blessed and because of the added month of extended submissions, the press, thanks to you all, is on more solid ground. We have the money for the chapbook winner, to file for nonprofit status, and maybe even pay an accountant to do our taxes. (We are poets after all!) And we hope to announce a New Year’s surprise soon, which will give you the opportunity to preview more of the extraordinary poems we have read and have astonished us. In the meantime, sit tight–stay warm, meditate if you are into that or ice fish.  And do consider writing your next poem, as a moving forward.

The work for me also continues. For all of you who asked for manuscript evaluations, this is my morning’s work, and has been for a week now. Each of you get who asked for this get my undivided attention for an hour to an hour and a half.(Not bad for fifteen bucks, a grand opening special!) When I write to you (or you receive a call) I will try to notice both the beauty and strengths of your poetry, and possible directions and ways to explore and revise at the same time. Going deeper is one of my focuses. Using every tool of the craft which may enhance your individual poems, is the other.  Often the best places to look carefully at exemplary poems are to go back to those favorite poets each of you shared with us, and notice how they do what they do. In fact, just yesterday I read again, considered again, Elizabeth Bishop and her poem, “One Art.” The poem took her years to write, and went through dozens of revisions. Now there’s perseverance!

My best to you all. Jane

Reading time….

It is time to hunker down with some steamy coffee and a thick stack of manuscripts. It is great to hear new voices in a New Year. And so many fine poems–so many heart to voice poems; so many poems of life & vision. In this process, the poems go from Jane’s home, where you sent your manuscripts, to Elliott’s & then we discuss the manuscripts together to come up with a list of finalists to send to Barbara Crooker. While we are doing this, we encourage you all to read your favorite writers & a someone new, to listen to your favorite music & discover or redicover music; to open up to 2015 in renewal and possibility!

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