Some really valuable advice in this article… please poets, don’t post your work on Facebook or your personal blog. Read it at open mics, share with your friends privately, workshop it with poet peers, and then when it is ready, submit!
I read stories. A lot of them. I read for The Journal, the literary magazine at Ohio State, and I read (and edit copy) for Raleigh Review, an up-and-coming litmag founded by MFA alums from North Carolina State University. When I’m not reading for either of these magazines, I’m handling every last submission for Reservoir, where I’m the fiction editor, and helping to judge the book-length poetry and nonfiction contests run by my MFA program. I’m fairly sure this all added up to about two hundred stories last semester, from flash to novellas, and maybe another fifty poems, dozen essays, and thirty-five poetry collections.
And sometimes I come across people online or in real life who have no insight at all into this process, a great many misconceptions as to how their work is being read. People who submit scattershot for years on end without success, or—and…
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A review of Ripened Wheat, published by Bitter Oleander Press “I read the entire book in one sitting . . .”Posted: February 5, 2016
Ripened Wheat is a book of selected poems originally written by Hai Zi and translated by Ye Chun published by Bitter Oleander Press. Bitter Oleander Press began publishing in 1974 and also produces an international literary magazine entitled The Bitter Oleander. You can read my review of their Spring 2015 issue here. The poems in Ripened Wheat are in chronological order and sectioned by years. The print quality is high with an attractive front and back cover.
The book’s title is taken from one of the poems with the same title, as well as the poem’s moving last lines, “Both minds full / of the foot-deep earth / the ripened wheat!” From a personal perspective, I found the book’s title a bit paradoxical, in the way Hai Zi died so young at his own hand and the prosperity typically indicated by a field of ripe wheat ready for harvest. Not to mention that the poems themselves were harvested from Chinese into English.
Chun begins with a detailed introduction that provides a summarized biography of Hai Zi, how he took his own life at age 25, to the extent in which he wrote, and the importance of his poetry today. Chun states, “During the five or six years before his death, he wrote about two hundred and fifty lyric poems and several epics and verse dramas.” Later in the introduction, she continues to explain that though he is known in academia for his long poems, most admire him for his shorter lyric poems, and those are what she has translated and included in this collection. She began translating his work about 15 years ago and has “translated seventy of his lyric poems that [she] liked most and believed could be rendered effectively into English.”
The introduction to Hai Zi is important to the overall effect upon the reader when reading Chun’s translations—understanding the challenges with mental health that he faced and the fact that he took his life at such a young age. There is an ongoing thread of sadness and despair that is unavoidable. The first poem “Self-Portrait” quickly reminds the reader of all of this and though it’s only six lines long, I read it several times before continuing.
The mirror is a bowl
on the table
is the potato in the bowl
Growing out of the earth
these warm bones
The word choices are strong for most of the poems, but I did find that some of the poem topics or lines seemed too simplistic. Particularly when compared to the other translated work. It’s possible that not only are some things literally lost in translation, but also culturally there is likely some significance I missed. That said, most of the poems were rich with imagery and sounds that kept me engaged—I read the entire book in one sitting.
The references to nature are common and often refer to life-giving resources such as water, food, and mother. One of my favorite translations is a series of twelve numbered stanzas beginning on page 75 entitled “This Thoreau’s Got Brains.” The second stanza reads:
Fortunately he’s not a woman
or there’d be a pair
of winter bears
swaying on the road
pouting their lips
toward his breasts
Topics range from the physical to the natural, to specific metaphors for reincarnation and religion. Light is also a common theme throughout the poems, with focus on the moon, sun, stars, and lamp light. One specific poem entitled “Moon” ends with the powerful lines “The moon breaks its own heart / The moon is heartbroken” just like my heart is breaking for Hai Zi with each poem.
If you are looking for a publisher for translated work, Bitter Oleander Press is not currently considering full manuscripts of poetry, but they do offer an annual book award each year. They have several titles for sale on their site, including a collection of original poems in English by Ye Chun entitled “Travel Over Water.”
Additionally, The Bitter Oleander literary magazine accepts submissions electronically through Submittable and postal submissions. They request up to eight poems in English or translations, as well as short fiction stories up to 2,500 words, including flash fiction and prose poetry. They promise a quick turn-around time of 30 days, which can be verified in their Duotrope listing, with an average response time of exactly that, 30 days. Their acceptance rate is competitive and close to only 1%, so make sure to send your best work. They are a print publication, publishing twice a year, with issues selling for $10 each or as part of a yearly subscription at a discounted rate. Submissions are always open, simultaneous submissions are welcome. With the quick turnaround time, treat yourself to an issue or two, discover the types of writing they publish, and submit your own work.
Trish Hopkinson has always loved words—in fact, her mother tells everyone she was born with a pen in her hand. She has two chapbooks Emissions and Pieced Into Treetops and has been published in several anthologies and journals, including The Found Poetry Review, Chagrin River Review, and Reconnaissance Magazine. In January of 2015 she co-founded a local poetry group, Rock Canyon Poets. She is a product director at a software company by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and their two outstanding children. You can follow her poetry adventures on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.
Click here to download the spreadsheet: Poetry Magazine/Journal Ratings for Emerging Poets with Paying Markets
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Poetry month is right around the corner and if you are looking to learn something new, sharpen your poetry skills, learn how to read and understand poetry, further your exposure to a variety of poets, or workshop with your peers, there are many options available!
Most of these classes are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) typically free online courses from universities.
Started Jan 25, 2016
This one already started, so enroll ASAP (not sure when enrollment will close)
Description: “This interdisciplinary course delves into the geography and poetry of the Cascadia bioregion, exploring the area’s physical landscape, its cultural roots, and the innovative poetry produced there. As a participant, you’ll engage in weekly readings of poems and essays, audio interviews, video presentations, and weekly online discussions guided by key questions and moderated by the instructor. The course will include two live panel presentations (one during the first and last weeks of the course) held at Cascadia College and streamed to and archived for course participants.”
California Institute of the Arts
Starts February 1
This one just started, so enroll ASAP (not sure when enrollment will close)
Description: “Why just write poems when you can write better ones? This course is built on the notion that the most exciting writing begins after the first draft. It is specifically for folks who believe that writing poems just to express oneself is like using the Internet just for email. After all, poetry can change the way you and your readers think of the world and its inhabitants; it can break new ground for language; turn a blank sheet of paper into a teeming concert of voices and music.”
Starts March 29, 2016
Description: “Poetry lives in any reader, not necessarily in performance by the poet or a trained actor. The pleasure of actually saying a poem, or even saying it in your imagination—your mind’s ear—is essential. That is a central idea of “The Art of Poetry,” well demonstrated by the videos at favoritepoem.org: the photographer saying Sylvia Plath’s “Nick and the Candlestick,” the high school student saying Langston Hughes’ “Minstrel Man.” Those readers base what they say about each poem upon their experience of saying it.”
Starts April 6, 2016
Description: “. . . explores a diverse array of American Modernist poets and poems. While “Modernism” is notoriously difficult to define, the movement spanned the decades from the 1910s to the mid-1940s, and the poetry of this period marked a clear break from past traditions and past forms.”
A big thanks to Cat Conway at Thank You for Swallowing for publishing my poem “Waiting Around” which is a response poem to Pablo Neruda’s “Walking Around.” You can read Neruda’s original poem here with three different translations: https://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/~cinichol/CreativeWriting/323/MiscPoemsNeruda.htm
after “Walking Around” by Pablo Neruda
It so happens, I am tired of being a woman.
And it happens while I wait for my children to grow
into the burning licks of adulthood. The streaks
of summer sun have gone,
drained between gaps into gutters,
and the ink-smell of report cards and recipe boxes
cringes me into corners. Still I would be satisfied
if I could draw from language
the banquet of poets.
If I could salvage the space in time
for thought and collect it
like a souvenir. I can no longer
be timid and quiet, breathless
I can’t salve the silence.
I can’t be this vineyard
to be bottled, corked,
cellared, and shelved.
That’s why the year-end gapes with pointed teeth,
growls at my crow’s feet, and gravels into my throat.
It claws its way through the edges of an age
I never planned to reach
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It’s always a pleasure to be published along side so many amazing poets in Verse-Virtual, and February’s issue is no exception. This issue includes two of my poems. Click here to read “Lonely Soup” and “Closure.”
To learn more about the Verse-Virtual community read the About page here. This issue includes some poems with the optional theme of “Leadership.” The theme for March will be “Return.” The themes are always optional and can be interpreted differently by each poet.