Friday, May 27, 2011

Poetry Revision 101, Lesson Two: Countering the Bobblehead Reflex

When I was about 13 or so, I wrote this poem:

The Poet,
before the invention of tweezers.
Amber are the eyes of love
Through them I see a blazing fire
As I look at you with wild desire.

Topaz shine the tiger’s eyes
Before he leaps upon his prey
I will hunt you night and day
And love you till the sapphire moonlight goes away.

Like diamonds shines the morning sun
As it illuminates an onyx sky
And turn it aquamarine,
First low, then high.

The night is gone
But soon it will come,
And again they will shine,
lapis lazuli, moonstone, and diamond.

Ah, finally got that published!

It’s a testament to how satisfied I was with this poem when I wrote it that, 25 years after, I can retype it from memory. Though I have no copy of it anywhere that I’m aware of, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how it went. To this day it remains the only poem of mine I know by heart.

The reason is obvious: the rhyme scheme is so heavy, the poem is easy to recall. That was the original function of rhyme, of course. In the days before stories were easily transmitted via print, they had to be memorized, and the rhyme prompted the lines you might have otherwise forgotten. Rhythm, meter, had the same function, and the poem above, although not perfect, has a pretty steady rhythm to it. This is also the reason why you may know so many song lyrics, and yet not a single poem. Rhyme, meter, musicall these aid recall.

But do they make for good poetry?

That, my darlings, is the question for today, and the brief answer, as my teen angst ditty so aptly reveals, is, not by themselves, no.

So here is Poetry Revision 101, lesson two: if you employ rhyme, meter, or any other formal devices in your draft, rewrite without them, and see if you still have a poem.

Let’s test this premise using my old poem. You can seequite obviously—that I attempted to “poeticize” my hormonal stirrings in as many ways as I could. I still remember finding the article on gems in my old World Book encyclopedia and copying down the list of all the gems. My goal—and I achieved it!—was to use all the gems mentioned in the article, including those, like lapis lazuli, I had never heard of at the time (imagine my distress when I eventually noticed that the article was not a definitive list, that, in fact, it oddly omitted common gems like rubies and emeralds!). Something in me had clued me in to the fact that a good poem needed to have some good content, and off I went, geek that I always have been, to the comfort of the sort-of-leather-bound World Book, where all the world’s knowledge was neatly organized alphabetically in twenty-six volumes. Hey, it was a start. What I failed to realize, however, was that making information rhyme was no more poetic than listing it alphabetically. I had a nifty concept, I had some nice SAT words, I had a good ear, but I had NO POEM. Take away all these devices, and I had a tired analogy, woman:man :: tiger:prey (did I get that from the Flashdance soundtrack???).

Such a faux pas is easy to see in a thirteen-year-old’s work, but not so easy in an adult’s. However, the difference is just a matter of degree. The adult writer can just as easily be lured into thinking a poem’s great because it sounds great, or because it has a nifty concept. This is especially easy to fall for if you’re working in form. You’ve written a classic sonnet, by golly, in perfect iambic pentameter and everything. It just rolls off the tongue like . . . well, you know. Its clever phrases haunt you like jingles. But is it any good? There’s only one way to find out.

Please note that I am not suggesting you never write in form or use rhyme and meter. That would be pretty silly. What I’m saying is that these are components of a good poem, and not enough by themselves, in the same way that a profound revelation sloppily written would not be a good poem either. A good poem must both have good content and good form. However, rhyme, in particular, is so satisfying to the ear that it can cloud even an experienced poet’s judgment. You might not notice that your content is poor or that you are employing cliché, because you are so thrilled by the sounds of your words that all your attention is taken up by your ears. Think of it as bobbing your head along to a song without listening to the lyrics. If, on the other hand, you write a test draft without rhyme, meter, or whatever other cutesy device you employed in the first draft, and you still have a good, satisfying poem, then, by all means, continue working in rhyme and meter or other devices in subsequent drafts.

Scary. I know. But you should know that a poet’s—a writer’s—worst enemy is self-satisfaction. Murder your darlings, Arthur Quiller-Couch used to say. Poems like my gem poem are often fun to write—the rhyme urges you on, and, even when you get stuck, finally finding a way to keep the poem going according to the plan can be like getting the right answer in Final Jeopardy. The poem came so easily, sounds so good—how can it not be? One thing you can do is use the shelf method. Put the poem away and don’t look at it for at least a couple of weeks. When you return to it, the initial thrill is hopefully gone, and you’ll be able to evaluate it more objectively.

Hopefully, it won’t take you twenty-five years.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Black-Eyed Peas & Quinoa Salad

As promised, today I’m participating in the 32 Poems Blog’s call for “Recipes for Poets.” I’m not a “great” cook or anything like that, but I enjoy cooking very much the same way some people enjoy shopping (which I definitely don’t!). You put together an outfit, and, though you may never wear it, it holds such promise! Surely anyone who wears an off-the-shoulder black silk dress and four-inch stilettos is part of some walking party. Or, perhaps you wear the outfit, but wind up getting blisters on your feet and being cold in the restaurant where you could just as well have worn jeans and a stretchy sweater. For a moment, however, as you turn this way and that in front of the dressing-room mirror, you’re one of The Beautiful People.

This is pretty much the way I feel about food. I spend more time than I should watching Giada de Laurentiis serve couscous appetizers in Japanese soup spoons to a small gathering of friends sitting around a white linen table oceanside, bathed in golden sunlight. There never seem to be any bugs, no one complains about the heat, no one’s on a low-carb diet. Everyone is thin and beautiful, and in between bites of crostini, they do yoga and travel to bed and breakfasts in Tuscany with their Dresden-doll toddlers, who also love crostini and arugula. Let’s not even talk about Ina Garten, who just walks outside her kitchen door to her neoclassical rows of basil and flat-leaf parsley whenever she needs them for a recipe, and serves Tuscan bean soup (and crostini) to the construction workers restoring the nearby windmill.

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant ChefClearly I’m not alone in my romance with food. It’s officially a genre. In fact, my current read is Gabrielle Hamilton’s food memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. I still make a veggie version of the fried green tomato recipe in the back of Fannie Flagg’s book. I remember my husband reading me passages from Like Water for Chocolate in some kind of attempt to woo me about a thousand years and twenty pounds ago. Reading Jane Kenyon’s “Fat” and smoking Kools (I never did find Pall Malls here) after pigging out at the all-you-can-eat buffet at House of India. Diane Lockward’s What Feeds Us is an entire poetry collection exploring the relationship between food and . . . everything! What better way to tap into this vein than to cook? Think of it as ekphrasis.

Black-Eyed Peas & Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is the forgotten supergrain that many health nuts are now rediscovering. Unlike rice, it’s chock-full of protein and low in carbs. You can bring out the natural nutty flavor by toasting it before you cook it, as I do below, but it pretty much will taste like whatever you season it with. This salad is a nice picnic or barbecue side and can be served warm, room-temp, or chilled, if you want to prep ahead and refrigerate overnight. I use black-eyed peas because they’re cute, but you can substitute another bean if you like.

¾ cup uncooked quinoa, washed
¼ tsp. coriander
1 ½ cups water
1 can (15 oz) black-eyed peas, drained
1 cup each chopped parsley, green pepper, onion, and carrot
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped fresh dill

3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. chili oil
1 tbsp. honey
¼  tsp. red chili powder
¼ tsp. garam massala
¼ tsp. lemon pepper
¼ tsp. salt

  1. In a large pan, toast the quinoa and coriander together, until the quinoa starts to pop. Add water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together in a small bowl.
  3. Fluff the quinoa and add the remaining salad ingredients. Toss with the dressing. Serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Please Stop Explaining: Poetry Revision 101

Don't speak
I know just what you're saying
So please stop explaining
Don't tell me cause it hurts
Don't speak
I know what you're thinking
I don't need your reasons
Don't tell me cause it hurts

—“Don’t Speak,” No Doubt

May is the perfect month to think about revision. If you wrote a bunch of poems for National Poetry Month in April, you now have a bunch of drafts and might be wondering where’s a good place to start revising. I’ve got a great one for you: stop explaining.

Mentor and Muse: Essays from Poets to PoetsIt’s not an original idea. In fact, I just read a great article about it by David Keplinger called “Hiding Your Heart’s Desire.” In my perpetual quest for the perfect poetry textbook, I just picked up Mentor and Muse: Essays from Poets to Poets. I read Keplinger’s article first because of the title, thinking it would be about combating the Hallmark monster. Instead, it’s a fine meditation/exercise (all the articles in this so far great book follow the same pattern) on the value of cutting back the explanation in your poems. Keplinger’s exercise involves choosing the two best lines in the poem and rewriting it from scratch. That sounds like fun, but first you must understand what I mean by “explanation.”

My long-time guru, William Zinsser, talks about trusting your material. This is ever more important in poetry, where we often reach for the improbable connection, the funky analogy, the bare-bones language. Will my reader understand what I mean when I talk about the tiger in my cup? Maybe I better explain I mean the whiskey in my coffee. And so, we find ourselves explaining away our poetry as if we were teaching instead of writing. The problem with explaining is that we deny the reader the pleasure of discovery. To touch back on my other guru, David Bottoms, we philosophize too much. The job of the poet, Bottoms explains, is to “make the world material on the page, so that the reader can abstract, so that the reader can take what clues the world offers and decipher meaning from them. The poet wants the reader to participate, to experience the event in a vivid way.” When we explain what we mean in a poem, it’s like we’re chewing the food for the reader. The poem is predigested, and the reader gets no flavor, no joy, no interaction. It’s like those horrible workshops where the writer keeps interrupting with “what I meant was . . . .” Like those horrible moments, explanations don’t work. Either your writing is meaningful, or it isn’t. Interpreting your own poem isn’t going to change that.

But maybe I should stop explaining.

Behold an early draft of a poem by my old student, Justin Simmons:

The Perfect House

Vintage wallpaper used to cover the walls, but even the intricacies of this baby-blue floral
pattern cannot conceal the scars and bruises left behind.

Mahogany flooring imported all the way from Argentina, but these wooden puzzle pieces cannot keep firm the foundations of this family.

A furnace used to warm the house during winter, but cannot warn the hearts of its inhabitants.

A French door made of white cedar, but for its superior wood type it cannot muffle the wails of an unhappy infant.

A thousand thread-count white linens made of the finest Egyptian cotton in an antique crib, but these white threads are no more than a rag in the eyes of a child.

Vibrant images of butterflies painted on the walls of the nursery, but the wings of these butterflies cannot carry away the sorrows of a heavyhearted child.

Toys in abundance, but these idle ornaments are unattainable to the little fingers that want to play with them.

It would appear that this is the perfect house; perfect wallpaper; perfect flooring, perfect furnace, perfect door, perfect linens, perfect paintings, and perfect toys.

This is not a bad draftthe poem contains the one thing all poems need in great abundance: stuff. The carefully chosen details are all tactile and specific: vintage wallpaper, imported flooring, white cedar. Each of the details Justin chose spoke to a whole era of fancy décor. The problem is, he didn’t trust us to understand what he means. Each detail, each line, contains an explanation, a clarification of the obvious symbolism involved. The poem is so weighed down, all a reader can do with it is discard it. The poem doesn’t let me think. The symbolism is all wrung out. Take a look at the same poem, sans the explanations:


Vintage wallpaper used to cover the walls.
Mahogany flooring imported all the way from Argentina.
A furnace used to warm the house during winter.
A French door made of white cedar.
A thousand thread-count white linens
made of the finest Egyptian cotton in an antique crib.
Vibrant images of butterflies painted on the walls of the nursery.
Toys in abundance.

Despite being cut back to less than one third the length of the first draft, this poem now weighs much more. We are allowed to focus on each detail and its potential meanings without the distraction of chatter. Even the reduction of the title is suddenly imbued with symbolism. “The Perfect House” is explanatory, but the single word “Perfect” invites us to dwell on the concept of perfection itself, and its desirability given the obvious context of the “perfect” items in the poem. With each material detail, we notice the absence of any humans, any family, in this poemwithout having to be told. The new last line of the poem is especially impactfulsuddenly, we understand that all these things the poem has laid out before our eyes are nothing but toys, playthings with no real life. The last wordabundanceinvites further scrutiny. What sort of abundance is this? The poem is now full of irony, and chilling in its starkness. This is a great poem!

It’s one of those well-known stories teachers love to repeat: how Elie Wiesel cut the manuscript of Night from over 800 pages to less than 200. But it’s a great lesson. Another old-time trick is to envision that every word in your poem (or any kind of writing, really) is costing you money. I like to think of it as $10 a word. Really makes you think about what you need and don’t need in your poem! But it’s also a matter of envisioning your reader. To whom are you writing? Sometimes, when you’re in workshop, you’re writing to students, people who are not necessarily avid or expert readers of poetry. This exacerbates the impulse to explain. Forget them! Write to the best reader you can imagine. It might be the professor, or an editor or other poet. Reading lots of poetry yourself and lots of criticismas alwaysalso helps. This is how you learn what others are capable and not capable of “getting.” Even when you identify an image or a reference that your most expert ideal reader will not get, what you should do is revise the image or reference, and not explain the obscure one. Obscurity is bad, even if you explain it. Just don’t explain, ever.

Don't speak,
I know what you're thinking
And I don't need your reasons
I know you're good,
I know you're good,
I know you're real good.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cooking with Celia?

Cooking is a lot like writing poetry. Think of the ingredients as words; you toss some together, and the whole becomes bigger than its parts. You experiment, fiddle with it. One day cilantro, another day parsley. It feeds you.

It's no wonder, then, that come May 20, 2011, Deborah Ager of the 32poems blog is going to be collecting recipes from poet-bloggers. Here is her rationale:

Recipes for Poets

by 32poems on April 26, 2011

Time management is one of the most important (yet seldom discussed) aspects of being a poet or any kind of artist. Are your eyes glazing over because I wrote “time management”? Stick with with me a for a moment, please.

Since most poets have other work that takes their attention away from art, it’s important to have time management skills. One of the many ways I save time is by cooking healthy meals that do not take long to prepare.

For that reason, I invite you to join me in posting your favorite 20-minute (or so) recipe on May 20, 2011.

I think this is a great idea and I’m going to be posting my Black-Eyed Peas and Quinoa Salad recipe. If you’d like to know more, visit the 32poems blog here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wonder Wheeler

Poet Lesley Wheeler, author of Heterotopia (Barrow Street, 2010), shares her experiences on writing, teaching, the VIDA count, and Wom-po.

When I reviewed Lesley Wheeler’s Scholarship Girl(Finishing Line Press, 2007) for Prairie Schooner in 2009, what struck me about the collection was its resonance with my own experience of being the child of immigrants. What could this collection of poems about Liverpool via Virginia possibly have to do with a Cuban-American who grew up in Miami? I was mesmerized by Wheeler’s tactile memory of a time and place she had not experienced firsthand. The poems from this early collection attempt to recreate the life of her mother in 1950’s Liverpool, but their central metaphor is the author’s own quest for self-definition. They haunt me still.

HeterotopiaWheeler revisits Liverpool in a new collection, Heterotopia (Barrow Street Press, 2010), winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize. Despite the scant three years between these, Wheeler has expanded her repertoire of tricks. The collection features the fourteen-sonnet crown “The Calderstones” at its center, and ranges in tone and style from straightforward narrative poems like “The Dead Man, 1958” to stylistically striking poems like “Split, 1940,” establishing Wheeler as a poet not just of sound and sense, but as a master of form. At the center of this collection is Michel Foucault’s concept. For Foucault, heterotopia is “a real or imagined space of escape, transformation, or revelation.”

Wheeler’s work continues to fascinate me, not just as a poet, but as an academic. The fruitfulness of her imagination is evident in her prolific output. Between Scholarship Girl and Heterotopia, there were  Letters to the World (Red Hen Press, 2008),  the groundbreaking anthology of poems from the Wom-po listserv, which she co-edited with Moira Richards and Rosemary Starace, and which I am so happy to be part of; Voicing American Poetry: Sound and Performance from the 1920's to the Present (Cornell University Press, 2008), a collection of essays exploring the concept of voice in American poetry; and Heathen (C&R Press, 2009), another collection of poems. She is currently on a Fulbright in New Zealand but will return to Virginia in July, where she teaches at Washington and Lee University. Obviously, here is a poet/writer/scholar/critic/editor/teacher/wife/mother/woman/human who’s tapped into something we all wish we could grasp. In her own words:

Q:           Some of the poems in Heterotopia first appeared in the chapbook Scholarship Girl. Could you comment on the journey from one to the other? How did the project evolve?

A:            I’ve wanted to write about my mother’s childhood in postwar Liverpool since I was twenty—I knew I had inherited some powerful stories—but although I had a couple of small pieces that seemed to work, I just couldn’t figure out how to approach the material successfully. The manuscript that became my first full-length collection, Heathen (C & R, 2009), was stuck at a perpetual contest-finalist stage, and I was feeling despair about that, so at the advice of friends I threw myself into a new project, a much more tightly-focused plan to develop these tales and experiences into a sequence of poems. During 2007 I realized that I had a chapbook-length group that I felt good about and that chapbook publication might be a good inroad to publishing generally. I started sending it to a few contests, it was accepted fairly quickly by Finishing Line Press, and Scholarship Girl was out by the end of the year. In the same year that packet of poems earned me a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Those events increased my confidence in the central idea, so I kept writing and reading and thinking until that core sequence was fleshed out into a book-length creature. The additional work gave me time and space to approach the topic from different angles, too—more philosophically in some poems, more personally sometimes, too. It became a book not just about one family but, I hope, about memory, heritage, and place in larger ways. Heterotopia found a home rapidly. I respect Barrow Street greatly so theirs was one of the first contests I tried.

Although I had been writing and reading seriously since high school, I had limited magazine publishing success until a pivotal Kenyon Writers Workshop in 2003 with the brilliant Janet McAdams. Then, for a few years, I got stuck again on the transition from lyric to book. It still amazes me how, starting in 2007, everything began to click. I had done the work but there’s always some luck involved, too, unless you have some high-powered connection who nudges you onto the fast track.

Q:           David Wojahn, who judged the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize Heterotopia won, found it "refreshing to encounter a writer who works with such considerable facility in several different modes--deeply felt personal lyrics, challenging sonnet sequences, and documentary-historical poems of intelligence and depth." In this collection, you have traditional narrative poems side by side with more formally experimental poems like "Split, 1940," in which you use space and lineation to add meaning. How do you feel about writing different styles of poetry? Do you consciously seek new forms of expression?

A:            Yes, I love experimenting with a new form or rhythm or mode. I don’t always pull it off, but I’d like to keep testing myself. The title poem of “Heterotopia” felt idiosyncratic at the time, more of a thought experiment than anything anyone would want to publish. That it works for some readers was a revelation to me: I’m allowed to be this person in poetry, too? I’ve been producing more long poems and lyric sequences lately and I am really enjoying their demands, as well as appreciating space for fuller exploration of a cluster of ideas. Thinking through verse is different than thinking through prose—less linear, more about associations than answers, more physical and emotional.

I fear getting too comfortable, too, because the most interesting work is risky and surprising, isn’t it? I worry about smoothing things out too much, overdoing the closure before I’ve played out the possibilities. I enjoy writing sonnets, and that’s often the first form that comes back when I’ve had a few weeks of not being able to generate work, but often wonder if those narrow rooms are bad for me.

Q:           You are both a poet and an accomplished academic. What is the relationship between your academic writing and your poetry like for you, especially given that Heterotopia is based on Michel Foucault's concept? Do you have any advice for young poets contemplating a simultaneous academic career?

A:            Both poetry-writing and the teacher-scholar career are all-consuming so they’re hard to do simultaneously; I sometimes feel like I’m short-changing both, never mind my children, spouse, friends, family, and larger obligations to myself and the world. Honestly, though, most poets I know are overextended and stressed out, no matter how they pay the rent. I also know that I’m bad at compartmentalizing so I might as well try for synergy. Certainly I get ideas for poems from my research and vice versa. I alternate between both forms of writing and one makes me smarter about the other. It’s a great and rare privilege to be able to talk and write about poetry as part of your job. I love teaching. Still, I’m glad there are poet-accountants and poet-house-cleaners and poet-painters—poetry would be more insular and less exciting if writers didn’t negotiate various worlds.

Advice: do an advanced degree in literary study or creative writing only if you passionately want to and think the effort is worthwhile in itself, whether it ever leads to a job or not. Most people who complete such degrees don’t ever secure academic employment, much less tenure, and even if you do the costs are huge: you earn less than peers who have made similar educational investments, you have very little control over where you end up living (meaning tough family/ relationship choices), you work around the clock, and there’s much less flexibility than there seems to be from the outside. If you don’t feel driven enough to accept those risks and costs, that’s good—better to know what makes you happy and take your own path. If you do have the requisite level of reckless irrational obsession, I’d say go for it, take every opportunity you can without racking up major debt, get to know your professors and classmates even if you struggle against shyness, and make the most of every expensive minute. Many people who deserve that luxury won’t get it.

Q:           The recent statistics from the VIDA organization have many writers rethinking the role of gender in the industry. Could you comment, as a critic, editor, writer, and woman on how you place your work in this discussion?

A:            I have always thought that prejudice controlled resources and opportunities more than most would admit, so VIDA’s statistics don’t surprise me. I’m grateful to those women for publicizing the issues. To me, feminism means an obligation to notice and redress gender inequities however you can. Well, human decency requires that, too! Parallel institutions of support are crucial—presses, journals, mentoring programs—as well as changing institutional cultures from within. I try to be a feminist scholar, poet, and teacher, though sometimes you just get so tired of fighting these old battles and you just want to hunker down with your anapests.

I keep saying I’m lucky and privileged and I mean it; I know I’ve been denied opportunities, lost money, because of my sex, but I know others who have fared much worse, and intersecting prejudices involving gender, sexuality, race, class, disability, and other factors can be huge obstacles for some writers. Look at incredibly gifted Harlem Renaissance poet Helene Johnson. Her experience made her work urgent and vivid—a disproportionate amount of the most powerful twentieth-century poetry in English was written by women, by people of color, by gay and lesbian writers, by those who didn’t see their lives and concerns reflected in mainstream culture. However, she also stopped publishing and largely stopped writing. To continue would have required more drive and resilience than most people have or need. Everybody has to work to change these conditions so poetry publishing is as close to merit-based as possible, although it’s just as important to be open-minded about what constitutes “merit.” I don’t want to keep losing decades of work by Helene Johnsons.

Q:           You are also one of the editors of Letters to the World. What does Wom-po mean to you, and how would you describe it to someone who has never heard of it?

A:            Wom-po (The Discussion of Women’s Poetry List) is one of those parallel institutions that tries to make an advantage out of exclusion by providing a professional network for women poets. I’ve put myself in the business of describing it by drafting an article about it (now under consideration), because I think literary scholars need to assess its influence. I say it’s an “old girls’ network” by design, a democratic and open virtual community founded in 1997, now enrolling about 800 people from across the world, and it’s important to clarify for people that it’s a space for discussing poetry and not workshopping it.

Wom-po isn’t perfect. It aspires to be a transnational community but the North American focus can sometimes seem relentless; I’ve seen lots of prejudices emerge in conversations there; members don’t all benefit equally from participation. It includes a great diversity of voices, but it’s still affected by real-world poetry hierarchies. I’m not sure that it has had a substantial influence on the kind of poetry its participants produce—that’s something I’m still looking for examples of. I am confident, however, that Wom-po is affecting careers through providing information and connections. Gender is important there but so is virtuality. I suspect women writers are often less mobile than their male counterparts, less able to make a splash in metropolitan centers or at elite residencies. This relatively new mode of affiliation can be seriously empowering, especially when electronic acquaintance is deepened through backchannels and in-person meetings. It’s how I “met” you, right?

Right! My thanks to Lesley for taking the time to answer these questions. Though we have never “met,” I feel a deep admiration for her work and an equally deep sense of consorority born not just of our common years in the thought community of Wom-po, but of her poetry, which speaks to me in so many ways.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Winners of the 2011 Big Poetry Giveaway

ShapeshiftingAs promised, I have just selected the two winners of the 2011 Big Poetry Giveaway at my blog via random number generator. The winning entries were 1 and 13, Yazmin Andino of Miami, Florida and Michael Wells of Independence, Missouri. Yazmin will receive a copy of my chapbook, Shapeshiftingand Michael will receive a copy of Ann E. Michael's The Capable Heart. My hearty congratulations to you both, and my deepest gratitude to all of you who participated. I hope you'll come back next year for the 2012 BPG, unless of course the Mayans are right and we're all space kibble by then.
Well, I don't appear to have won any free books myself, but I'm holding out hope that maybe some of the giveaways I entered haven't been decided yet. I entered so many I didn't quite keep track, so.

The giveaway was really good for my baby blog. I doubled the amount of readers I had and I'm very grateful to Kelli Russell Agodon of The Book of Kells for the opportunity to participate, and to all of you who linked back to Writing with Celia and brought me new readers. I hope some of you will now keep reading. I hereby declare (sorry, the extra traffic has gone to my head) May as National Revision Month. What better way to follow up National Poetry Month than by revising all those poems you wrote in April? I'll try to post some of my best revision ideas this May.

But what I am most grateful for is the opportunity to pass on Ann E. Michael's beautiful new collection. Michael, I hope you like it.
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