Risking Sentimentality

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I recently got my contributor’s copy of Kindred. “Grand Cayman,” the poem they published, is one of my personal favorites. It’s about my husband and a really great vacation we took and how transformative being in love in a new place can be. I am not great at writing love poems, and maybe this poem isn’t the best poem I’ve ever written. In fact, I found it hard to place and I’d almost given up on it when Kindred accepted it. So I’m really extra grateful to the editor, Amanda Mays, who makes a point to curate her issues with work that is beautiful and life-affirming. One of the things that scares writers the most, I think, is the possibility of accidentally falling into sentimentality. So much of what is published in many literary journals today leans toward expressions of violence and ruthlessness. I like reading that kind of work! We live in a violent, ruthless world. But I also like reading quieter work, even uplifting work. I like feeling connected to other people via more than just the worst commonalities we share.

So maybe “Grand Cayman” is sentimental. The memory that inspired it definitely is. When I picked up writing again in earnestness after many years of only picking at it, one of the things I told myself I would do was to risk sentimentality. One always hopes not to go veering off the edge into Hallmark territory, but just being open to the possibility of accidentally writing a sentimental poem or essay or short story opens the door to really feeling the emotions that turn into writing. In other words, there’s an authenticity of emotion that can come from risking sentimentality.

This whole issue is lovely, full of work that risks sentimentality while never devolving into something saccharine or mawkish. As a bonus, bonus, bonus (!) my very talented friend Melissa Oliveira has two poems included in this issue too! I have never been so excited to see my work placed alongside another person’s.

P.S. In other great writing news, I just got an acceptance from The Fourth River. They’re publishing two of my poems in their spring climate change issue. Boo, climate change, but I’m also really pleased to appear in this journal.

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Well, well, well.

I found out today that Cherry Tree has nominated my poem “The Exotics” for a Pushcart Prize. This is very exciting. Very.

So many cool things have happened because I submitted to Cherry Tree’s inaugural issue. I got to see my poems placed side-by-side with other truly excellent poems, short stories, and essays. Verse Daily featured “The Exotics” on its site in September. And now a PP nomination.

The lesson here is submit to Cherry Tree. They are committed advocates of the writers they publish.

(P.S. I keep returning to Cherry Tree’s website over and over to make sure I’m not hallucinating this news. That’s how unbelievable this nomination is to me.)

New Poem Out

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I recently got my copy of Bellevue Literary Review’s fall issue, and I’m just so smitten with it. I have been long interested in war literature, so to have one of my poems included in a collection of such accomplished authors all writing on the topic of the effects of war is, to put it mildly, mind-bendingly trippy. I’ve had a chance to read most of the poems, all wonderful, but I’m even more excited to begin reading the prose.

So far, my favorite poem from this issue is “Titus Andronicus Wakes Up in a Nursing Home” by Charlie Bondhus. Just a stellar, stellar poem. The kind that makes you wish you had written it yourself.

Summer Slugging

The good news is that we’ve had a wonderful summer so far full of travels and visitors. We also know this may be our last full summer in our beautiful house on this beautiful bay, so we’re trying to MAX IT OUT. Our swimsuits are always wet and pooling water in the bathroom.

The not as good news is that writing is coming sluggishly, if at all. A lesson I’m having to learn over and over (and over and over) and over and over again is that I have to put in just as much effort–even more, I guess–to write bad and average poems before I can write any good poems. And then if I’m lucky enough to write a good poem, it’s back to writing bad and average poems again. So when I’m on a streak, like I am now, of hating absolutely everything I write, it’s important to remember that the bad poems are important too, that I learn from them and build upon them in order to reach the better poems. I’ve also noticed that when I begin experimenting with style or content or line, my poems all suck for a while (of course they do) until I begin reaching the point where my experiments are less forced and more…well, they evolve into poems I could have never written before had I not forced myself to step outside my rhetorical box and try something new.

Every writer goes through something like this. The difference is in the past I would hit a phase where I felt congested and frustrated, and I would just assume that I’d reached the end of my well (bucket?) of talent. Might as well retire. I won’t ever write anything good again!

Now I realize that that’s histrionics and anxiety disguised as self-defeating fact, that the only fact is that as long as I keep writing, even through the really bad stuff, I will continue to grow and improve as a writer and poet. You can’t exhaust your bucket of talent.

Bad poems matter too!

On Recognition and Near Misses

“I was most impressed by the work of Matthew Lippman and Kate Gaskin. Their poems seem to contain an emotional charge drawn from their respective life experiences, rendered in explosive language that jumps off the page. It is not always a comfortable feeling, but it makes for very exciting reading.” –-the review review

A friend sent me a link to a review of the inaugural issue of Cherry Tree, in which my poetry specifically is mentioned. Super surreal to see my name. I had the greatest experience working with Cherry Tree’s editors, and when I got my copy of the journal, I was delighted by how strong all the work is! It’s pretty unbelievable that my poems have been singled out. Up until this moment, I knew rationally–but not really emotionally–that someone other than myself is finally reading my poems.

In other (non)news, I got word that while my application for a work-study scholarship to Bread Loaf was rejected, it made it to the final round of discussions. I’ve had a lot of similar near-misses lately. They’re always so bittersweet. On the one hand, I know I’m growing stronger and more competitive as a writer. On the other, I still lost. Oh well, ever onward, right?

New Poems!

While Dominic and I were away on a week-long Caribbean vacation (so hard!), The Southeast Review published my poem “First Wife” as part of their Writer’s Regimen AND my copy of Kindred (and in it, my poem “Comet”) came in the mail!

Kindred is an especially beautiful publication for such a small literary journal. You can buy a copy, and support small presses here!