Sunday, April 30, 2006

Creative Prompt #1 : Making the Political Personal

We promised to occasionally post writing prompts to spark your creative interest. If you have good ideas for a writing prompt, email me and let me know. In the meantime...

Yesterday at the Burning Word Festival on Whidbey Island Carolyn Kizer was honored with the Washington Poets Association Lifetime Achievement Award. The person who introduced her quoted someone (forgive my vague citation) that said Carolyn Kizer succeeded so well with her poetry because she refused to make a distinction between the personal and the political.

Find your personal/political voice and shape it into something powerful.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Blood Orange Review Issue 1.1

It is our pleasure to announce the new issue of Blood Orange Review. To view it, please go to:

Our interest in literature is, thank goodness, a fickle thing. Of course, the power to engage us waxes and wanes (long stretches of craggy-cliff rimmed beaches distract us, as do the endearing peccadilloes of our loved ones and our pets). But, in addition, the kinds of writing we are compelled to read change dramatically from day to day. Sometimes I need the absurd. Other times, it is the ineluctable, curious feel of a mouthful of words; try rolling this bit of a Ted Kooser poem around for a moment: "very dirty panties." Albeit, a bit of a soiled image, but disregarding that, the feel of the assonance, the internal rhymes and slant rhymes are a thoroughly successful visceral experience.

Compiling this issue of Blood Orange Review has introduced me to a variety of writings comprised of intriguing, thoughtful, funny moments. I read some of these pieces months ago. However, I continue to spontaneously recall moments of them as they slip into my consciousness, again and again: Jayne Stahl's bird, for instance, and Derrick Knowles’ one-eyed moose, or Tom Fitzpatrick's befuddled boy on a bus. Maybe a moment in the April issue of Blood Orange Review will stay with you too, dogging along during your daily wanderings. Or perhaps, there will be a combination of words, like Kooser's oddly perfect "very dirty panties" that will roll around scraping and sliding just right, like a handful of river-rounded pebbles.

Heather Hummel, co-editor

How appropriate that Heather would mention ass-onance in conjunction with Kooser’s line “very dirty panties.” Good writing works on so many levels!

The kind of writing I love is something more than “word noise,” as another poet friend calls it. It’s more than a pretty image or the revelation of an interesting event. The writing I love simultaneously gives and withholds: it needs the reader to complete the circuit.

Yes, our interest in literature is fickle, but I have to believe it matters. Why else extend the offer if we don’t believe it’s worth taking?

So, please, take this gift. Read Sally Albiso’s poem to find out about the woman who swallowed her cell phone. Read Molly Meneely’s gem, Pas de Deux. Dive into Andrea Dilley’s photograph, featured on our site. It’s worth it.

Stephanie Lenox, co-editor

Friday, April 07, 2006

Fencing the Conversation

I'll tell you what I've been thinking about lately: mud minnows, skunk cabbage, and the blogs of Iranian feminists. I've been thinking about my students, and how I can challenge them this quarter to think about the spectrum of gender. And I've been perseverating on (three) guitar chords. All of these things will probably show up in my poetry in the next couple of weeks; it is stirring me enough to show up in my writing (it is here with me now, as I work on Blood Orange Review, obviously).

Language is a slippery thing.

I have to admit: I love language and I hate it; language never completely does its job of getting at exactly everything we want it to verbalize. But, then, sometimes, despite the pitfalls, it still does wonders. The creation of Blood Orange Review means that we, as the creators, must define it. But I don't know that either Stephanie or I are quite comfortable with that yet; there is a simple reason why: any thoughtful human being with "control" of a forum for communication should be strongly aware of what needs talking about and not shy away from it.

Noam Chomsky stated in Distorted Morality that we are all hypocrites and if we don't admit we are hypocrites then we must be leveling a willful refusal to acknowledge truth. Hmm. Is it impossible to be thoughtful and a-political? Does a journal that is self-defined as "startling" fail if it is not startling in every-which-way possible? Can we maintain a happy balance of provoking and enjoyable?

What are you contemplating? What is stirring you enough to put into a poem, an essay? Offer it up: infiltrate our thoughts.

H. K. Hummel

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Other Side of Rejection

While making the final selections for the first issue of Blood Orange Review, I found it strange to find myself on the other side of the rejection letter. In my career as a writer, I've collected my share of rejections. I had notions of papering my study wall with them, but I'm too much of a neat-freak and instead I keep them in neatly labeled manila files, Rejections 2000, Rejections 2001, etc.

Here are a few of my favorites, selected from the great archive of rejection:

Howard Junker's admittance in Zyzzyva's rather loquacious form-letter that "I make mistakes; my taste is erratic, my judgment flawed."

From Poetry Northwest (the first one), David Wagoner's petite script on a photocopied slip of paper, "Sorry to say no."

The stately stock of the The Atlantic Monthly form rejection. Every writer deserves to be rejected with such style.

Rejection is an important tool for a writer. It drives a wedge between the writer and her words. It opens enough space for doubt, which is essential not only for revision but for the writer to step back and examine the words as a reader might. As a poet, I am proud of the fact that I can be both sensitive to language and hardened by it. I can listen to that voice of doubt and change. Or, I can toss the form letter in the trash.

The next time you get that thin envelope, or email, just keep Samuel Beckett's advice in mind:

Ever tried.
Ever failed.
No matter.
Try again.
Fail again.
Fail better.

Inaugural Issue - Coming Soon

A self-proclaimed conservationist do-gooder. A professional dancer. A librarian. A playwright. An ex-travel industry employee. This is just a sampling of some of our writers in the premier issue of Blood Orange Review. We are excited to be featuring these unique voices.

For our first issue, we have asked all contributors to answer the question of what keeps them moving forward as writers. Here’s a taste from Jeff P. Jones whose poetry will appear in the forthcoming issue:

That I have the luxury to pursue art, that sometimes a piece of writing will transcend its parts, that on a good day with pen and paper I feel as if I’m fulfilling a purpose—these are things that keep me writing.