Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

Jason Carney: Starve the Vulture

November 10, 2014

Jason Carney, an alumni of the Wilkes Graduate Creative Writing program, is due to release his memoir, Starve the Vulture, in January of 2015 with Kaylie Jones Books. Starve the Vulture has already received excellent feedback, including a review from Kirkus Book Reviews which states, “Carney will easily win sympathy for his life, in which he has persevered to show others the hard work of his salvation.” The novel opens violently, with a car crash happening right before Carney’s eyes, just before a moment of epiphany which leads to Carney’s “grace”. This traumatic experience opens the novel with an enticing sense of danger, consistent with the chaotic uncertainty of Carney’s early life. There is an immediate understanding that the contents of this memoir will not be for the faint of heart. starvethevulturecorrect

Akashic’s website describes the memoir as, “A lyrical, mesmerizing debut from Jason Carney who overcomes his own racism, homophobia, drug addiction, and harrowing brushes with death to find redemption and unlikely fame on the national performance poetry circuit. Woven into Carney’s path to recovery is a powerful family story, depicting the roots of prejudice and dysfunction through several generations.” (You can head to Carney’s page on Akashic’s site by clicking on the book cover to the right.)

One of the most prominent themes in the book is the importance of tolerance and compassion, and how those two things led to Carney’s redemption. Carney learns–through his relationship with an empathetic gay man dying of AIDS–to set his prejudices aside. When Carney does this, it leads to a greater, horrific discovery about the nature of his personal hatred for homosexuals–but instead of getting stuck in his own tragedy, he shares what he has learned about himself and the root of bigotry to students all over the country. Carney teaches others, when we lash out at a group of people, we learn to do so from personal experience and past prejudice.

Recently, Carney had the honor of performing a TED event at Mountain View College near Dallas, Texas. During his talk, he discussed the origins of his family, the hatred he once held for minority groups, and how he was taught to use poetry to define his world. He recites a few of his poems to a completely enraptured crowd, comparing past crimes against minority groups to modern statistics about the disparity between black and white inmates in America. He urges “White America” to have an honest discussion about the continued segregation of minority groups in our country, the silence of hatred, and the lack of conversation that perpetuates it. Carney closes the discussion by stating, “White America needs to have an honest conversation with itself because we segregate ourselves and we talk about freedom.”

I urge readers to check out his talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8ZiB3gjwo8

Carney’s memoir is one of the most important memoirs you will ever read. I encourage everyone to get their hands on this book, which is available for preorder on Amazon. Until then, I was fortunate enough to have Jason Carney answer a few pre-emptive questions I had about the nature of Starve the Vulture, which you can read below!


Tell me a little about your book. What does it mean to you?

Starve the Vulture is the deciphering of the signs of my life. The breaking down of moments to their meaning, when a person takes a look back at their life trapped within severe moments of adversity.

I know that you mostly write poetry–why the switch? Was this a story you had been planning to tell for a long time?

I have been telling this story for 15 years on poetry stages and college campuses. So the progression from poetry to prose seems like a natural one. I had no intention of writing this story until my mother died in 2007. After my plunge into the final throes of addiction and the car wreck, I went to NYC and stayed on long-time friend and American Poets Roger Bon-Air Agard’s couch in Brooklyn. The next thirty days were spent at the Spring Lounge in Manhattan. Eight hours a day, in the back corner with my laptop. From those crazed and drying out hours of writing came 47,000 words which have been molded and revised into the present thread of the story. The original title of the book was Flowers from my Mother’s Funeral.

How was writing this similar to or different from writing poetry?

Similar in the sense that a narrative is a narrative. The poetry slam thrives on narratives, which I think helped me cut to the core of the scenes and not waste time with bullshit that did not belong. I honed my ability to bare my skin in that arena. You cannot hide in front of an audience. After a while, they become part of your writing ritual. I mean the writer brings this influence into the writing process with them.

Was writing this memoir a cathartic experience for you?

In the sense that this book gave me a gift. I wrote it to heal part of myself. This is the gift of this type of project. All writing should be done first for the writer and second for the audience. You cannot give away what you do not have. You cannot manufacture the treasure either, it will manifest the way it wants to in the writer’s life. The gift I received from vulture was not the one for which I wrote it. However, when it presented itself, I fell to my knees in that dorm room in gratitude. I refer to a spiritual gift here—no money or movie option or publishing contract can give this type of gift to you. It must come from the writing. From the universe to the artist, a thank you for the excavation of their bones.

Writing about things does tend to stir up the past and allows old things to resurface in your mind, were there any memories that came back to you that surprised you while writing this?

No not really. That is not true, when I wrote about spending time with my grandparent from the ages of 7-12 on Friday and Saturday nights, I was surprised at the hidden emotions of happiness

that I had denied myself for many years. The chapter was eventually cut from the book, yet when I read those passages I still tear up and cry. Happiness is hard for me.

I know that you had to change a lot of names for the memoir. Is there a concern that the people you’ve written about might recognize themselves and be angry?

I tried to write folks the way I remembered them being. I wanted to change names when discussing illegal acts. I am willing to put my actions out there, but I don’t have a right to expose anyone else. Those involved will recognize themselves, those not involved will not figure their identity. I will not tell them. The names in the book are not clues either. They are just random choices, they hold no secret meaning or metaphor. Cuban came from the lunch I was eating, Yardstick from the yardstick my son was using as a Light-Saber. And so on.

How do you feel the experiences you’ve had have shaped the man you are today?

Everywhere you go there you are. You are the constant in your own life.

Do you ever feel embarrassment in your professional life because of where you’ve come from, or prouder because of the adversity you’ve overcome that others have never been tested with?

I don’t measure myself against you or anyone else. I am unique to me and as common as everyone. No one is more or less than anyone around them. But I offer for you to under-estimate or overlook me. I like to be an unexpected surprise.

I usually make the last question, “What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?” But you have a story so powerful, so interesting, and very unique. I think a better question might be, “What advice do you have for other members of the human race who are faced with adversity?”

In the words of Jimmy V. “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” Throwing your arms up into the air is a sign of praise as much as it is a sign of surrender. People should be happy for what gifts they do have, especially amid all the clamoring for what they do not have.


Jason Carney Southern HeritageJason Carney, a performance poet from Dallas, Texas, is a four-time National Poetry Slam Finalist, honored as a Legend of the Slam in 2007. He appeared on three seasons of the HBO television series Russell Simmons’ Def Poets. Jason has performed and lectured at some of our nation’s finest colleges and universities as well as high schools and juvenile detention centers from California to Maine. A graduate of Wilkes University MFA Program for Creative Writing, where he was an honored winner of the Etruscan Prize, the Bergman Foundation Scholarship, and the Norris Church-Mailer Scholarship. He is Co-founder and Artistic Director of the non-profit Young DFW Writers.

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The Girl Who Loved Books and Emdashes

January 29, 2014
The Girl Who Loved Books and Emdashes
Thoughts on the Wilkes Publishing Internship
By Kim Loomis-Bennett
 

I am a reader and being a reader made me a writer. I have loved books forever and they have loved me back. Grammar and punctuation did not love me and I pretended we would never meet again—until a few years ago when I entered the Wilkes M.A./M.F.A. program and began teaching part-time in Washington State.

One of my first gigs was a grammar review class. Learning theories acknowledge that students learn more when they teach a new skill to a classmate. When I had twenty-five students counting on me and I was hired to be the “expert,” I knew that I would never have a better occasion to learn the twenty different ways to use a comma or how sometimes subordination adds a touch of elegance to stale syntax.

As the time to intern with Etruscan Press approached, I was direct and told Phil Brady and Managing Editor Jackie Fowler that I wanted to experience the duties of a proofreader and editor. With a green light, Jackie sent me home with books to read and consider reviewing. A few weeks after residency, my first proofreading task arrived in my Gmail inbox.

editCertainly, proofreading led me down roads I had never planned to go, but I loved each fresh challenge. My main technical question concerned the endash (–) so named because it is the length of the letter n and it is often used between numbers: such as, 3:00–6:00, and the emdash (—) which is defined by the length of an m, and can be used in place of a colon, and commas or parentheses that are placed around nonessential information—or to indicate a long pause. Dashes are entirely optional. When I went through James McCorkle’s poetry manuscript, The Subtle Bodies, I was in love with the language, but had to shut down the content reading part of my brain and look at the mechanics. What I found were endashes and emdashes employed inconsistently. This happens when files are transferred from laptops to desktop pcs. Mr. McCorkle loves his dashes, as do I, so my job as a proofreader for a dash-user just happened to be a good fit. And just a few weeks ago, McCorkle’s uncorrected proof appeared in my mailbox. I saw how what is often unacknowledged work bear fruit in McCorkle’s close-to-publication manuscript; I appreciated that background work is a good fit for me. During the internship, I took an additional brief editorial course and found that I want to go even farther and seek a professional certificate. Eventually, I would love to work as a book editor and shape a manuscript from submission to publication. For now, the unexpected offer to continue with Etruscan Press as a poetry manuscript consultant is satisfying.

My internship duties were primarily divided between proofreading and book reviewing. Before I approached Phil and Jackie about writing book reviews, I brought book review skills that I had begun to hone during my M.A. while reviewing memoirs for alumni Donna Talarico-Beerman’s Hippocampus Magazine, and a poetry review in [PANK] that I landed via another alum, Amye Barrese Archer. I wanted to offer Etruscan Press something in exchange for the chance to experience proofreading.

I worked harder on the book reviews than I expected to. While polishing them, I found my reviewer’s voice: a reader/writer that writes for readers/writers. Silly to say, but before the internship, I hadn’t considered my published book reviews as publishing credits. I followed up venues for book reviewing online sites that were in the Internship course packet. I was excited to see my reviews appear in Founding Editor Lori A. May’s Poet’s Quarterly and The Small Press Book Review.  As I heard back from gracious authors who appreciated the time I took to review their books, I realized that the more I submit my work, and the more conversations that I have with writers, an intimate and reciprocal writing community exists. I may have never considered writing book reviews as a regular goal, but because of breaks given to me by Wilkes alumni and the internship, I will continue reviewing. On February 1st, I am launching a book review blog to feature my wide-range of reading interests and books that I choose, instead of my editors. I can be indulgent and celebrate exceptional writing talent at the same time. I am not saying goodbye to the Wilkes Creative Writing Program as I had expected to. I forged and fostered relationships that weren’t forced but are authentic. One of my writing mentors, Neil Shepard often said to me, “Onward!” and that’s the plan.

Kim Loomis-Bennett is a life-long resident of Washington State, besides a detour into Oregon where she met her husband. Her poems and book reviews have appeared in The November 3rd Club, The Copperfield Review, Poet’s Quarterly, and Hippocampus Magazine. Recent work is included in The Prose-Poem Project and The Far Field. She has served as poetry editor for River and South Review. Kim also teaches part-time at Centralia College. She has an M.A. and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. Her work, Soiled Doves: A Poetic Sequence, published in 2011, is available as an e-book.

Accents Poetry Chapbook Contest

April 25, 2012
2012 Poetry Chapbook Contest

(Click here to download the submission form)

Accents Publishing is happy to announce its 2012 Poetry Book Contest. Two winners will be selected – one by an independent judge, Lynnell Edwards, and one by the Senior Editor and founder of Accents Publishing, Katerina Stoykova-Klemer. Each winner will have his/her submission published and will receive a $250 cash prize and 25 perfect-bound copies. All contest entries will be considered for regular publication with Accents Publishing, as well.

The entry fee is $10.00. Multiple submissions are allowed, as long as each one is accompanied by a separate entry fee and submission form. Winning books may be pre-ordered at the time of submission for $5.00 each.

A complete submission should include the following:

  • A completed submission form
  • Your manuscript, including:
    • An acknowledgement page, if necessary
    • Two title pages — one with name and contact information, one without
  • Your biography or CV
  • A check or a confirmation of payment via Paypal (see below) covering the $10 entry fee, plus any optional book pre-orders

Please do not include a SASE, as notification will be made by email only.

We will accept submissions until June 30th. Winners will be announced in July. The contest is open to any poet writing in English. Employees of Accents or family members of judges are ineligible to participate. Simultaneous submissions will be accepted, but please notify us immediately if your manuscript is accepted for publication elsewhere.

Manuscripts should conform to the following guidelines:

  • 20 to 30 pages of poetry
  • Table of contents
  • Single spaced
  • Numbered pages
  • 11 pt font minimum

Your name should not appear anywhere within the manuscript. Please do not send the only copy of your work, as manuscripts will be recycled.

Entries should be mailed to:

Accents Publishing
Attn: Katerina Stoykova-Klemer
P.O. Box 910456
Lexington, KY 40591-0456
USA

More information about Accents Publishing is available at http://www.accents-publishing.com.

The Hudson Prize – Early Bird Special

February 22, 2012

Now is a great time to enter your manuscript in The Hudson Prize! Now through the end of the month, save $10 off your submishmash submission (full rate $25, early bird rate $15).

THE GIVING OF PEARS by Abayomi Animashaun, 2008 Hudson Prize Winner

Each year Black Lawrence Press will award The Hudson Prize for an unpublished collection of poems or short stories.

The winner of this contest will receive book publication, a $1,000 cash award, and ten copies of the book. Prizes awarded on publication. Past winners include Jo Neace Krause, (fiction) Daniel Chacón, (fiction) Abayomi Animashaun, (poetry), Patrick Michael Finn (fiction), Sarah Suzor (poetry), and B. C. Edwards (fiction). 

Entry Period:

February 1 – March 31 

Submission Fee:

Early bird rate $15; Full submission rate $25 

How to Enter:

Visit http://blacklawrence.homestead.com/hudson.html for contest details and submission instructions.

Beyond National Poetry Month

April 11, 2011

In celebration of National Poetry Month, we bring you a thoughtful reflection by Brian Fanelli, poet and Wilkes University Creative Writing Alumni.

Beyond National Poetry Month
by: Brian Fanelli

It’s that time of year again. The temperatures are climbing. The snow is melting. Birds are chirping. And it’s April—National Poetry Month. This year, National Poetry Month has the support of one of the biggest celebrities in the world—Oprah. The current issue of her magazine, O, is guest-edited by Maria Shriver and features a lengthy section on poetry. The fact that a magazine as mainstream as O has caught on to National Poetry Month has sparked more public discourse regarding the relevance of National Poetry Month and whether or not the month does more harm than good for poetry. But what few people seem to be asking is how to get poetry into communities and schools beyond the month of April.

Started by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month aims to “widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic, range, and concern,” according to the organization’s website, www.poets.org.

Poetry, O! Style

O’s special poetry issue caught the attention of New York Times writer David Orr, who in his article, “Oprah’s Adventures in Poetry,” pointed out some of the positive and negatives of a magazine as mainstream as O trying to make poetry cool and accessible to the general public, using quotes about poetry from celebrities such as Bono, James Franco, Mike Tyson, and Ashton Kutcher to do so.

First, Orr cracks that only a “snob or idiot” would complain if Oprah’s magic wand is waved his or her way. He also confesses that he tried to get his latest book about poetry, Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry, covered in the special poetry issue.  Second, he does point out that the magazine runs an intelligent book section under the direction of former Publishers Weekly editor Sara Nelson, who employs some excellent critics, including Francine Prose. Furthermore, the special poetry issue does have its strengths, including a profile on W.S. Merwin, thus exposing him to a readership that may have never heard of him otherwise, despite the fact he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1971 and 2009.

However, Orr also points out some of the absurdities of the magazine’s attempt to seriously cover poetry. He criticizes some of the questions the magazine asks poets, including “where do poems come from,” and the answers that make it sound like poetry is “God’s own electric Kool-Aid acid test.” In addition, the magazine’s spotlight on poetry mostly includes poets already well-known, including Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and Maya Angelou.

Orr also admits, and this can also be said for the attempt of National Poetry Month to make poetry mainstream, that “the chasm between the audience for poetry and the audience for O is vast, and not even the mighty Oprah can build a bridge from empty air.” Some attempts to make poetry cool can seem silly, including a section that features “eight rising poets” posing for spring fashion shoots.

Orr’s commentary about bringing poetry to the mainstream during one month out of the year isn’t totally new. Charles Bernstein, one of the pioneers of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E POETRY, railed against National Poetry Month in his essay “Against Natural Poetry Month and Such.” He wrote, “Promoting poetry as if it were an ‘easy listening station’ just reinforces the idea that poetry is culturally irrelevant and has done a disservice not only to poetry deemed too controversial or difficult to promote, but also to the poetry it puts forward in this way. ‘Accessibility’ has become a kind of moral imperative based on the condescending notion that readers are intellectually challenged, and mustn’t be presented with anything but safe poetry.”

It’s obvious how Bernstein would feel about O magazine getting poets to pose for photo spreads in $500 outfits.

Still, though, despite some of his criticisms, Orr does credit Oprah for at least trying to bring poetry to a wider readership. He again praises the profile of Merwin and the book list the magazine provides for anyone first getting into poetry. But what Orr, O, and even Bernstein fail to address is how to bring poetry to a larger audience beyond the month of April.

Some suggestions about bringing poetry to a wider readership were made by Dana Gioia in his essay “Can Poetry Matter?,” and a lot of the suggestions still work well today, including his idea that mixing poetry with other creative mediums, such as music or art, is one way to bring in new readers. His suggestion for poets to share a poem or two by another writer at a public reading is also a good idea and a way to expose audience members to other poets.

In today’s social media age, it’s easier to bring poetry to others. Why not post a line or two from a poet as a Facebook status or a Twitter update? Poets and poetry readers can also use those networking sites to promote readings and books by other poets. All it takes is a quick click of the mouse.

In addition, anyone talented at poetry should consider spreading his or her knowledge and love of the craft by getting out into the community, doing readings, residencies, and workshops. Community art spaces often welcome such events. It doesn’t take a magazine as big as O to bring poetry to a wider readership, nor should it only happen one month out of the year.

Brian Fanelli

Brian Fanelli is the author of the chapbook Front Man, a series of narrative poems about a fictitious front man of a punk rock band. His poetry has recently been published by Young American Poets, Indigo Rising Magazine, Boston Literary Magazine, WritingRaw.com, Chiron Review, and Word Riot. He finished his M.F.A. in creative writing from Wilkes University in 2010, and he currently teaches writing and literature at Keystone College. Visit him at www.brianfanelli.com.