Taking a moment to help spread the word about CavanKerry Press‘ current reading period.
Throughout the month of August, CavanKerry Press is accepting submissions for poetry collections, nonfiction essay collections, and memoir. Selected titles will be published by CavanKerry Press and receive national distribution. Check out the complete guidelines before submitting your manuscript.
Since starting as a member of their Board of Governors, I have been impressed with CavanKerry Press’ interest in receiving more work from queer, trans, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) voices. With their LaurelBooks imprint, CavanKerry is also engaged with work from people living with physical and/or mental illness and disability.
I’m also happy to share that to better meet writers’ financial needs, CK has revised their submission fee to offer a “Pay what you can” structure, with $10, $18, and $25 options. This is an effort to further their ongoing mission as an inclusive publisher and will in no way impact consideration of your manuscript. There are also a limited number of free submissions for writers-in-need on a first-come, first-served basis.
This week, I’d like to introduce a new type of feature on the Influence: community features. In these features, I’ll be promoting events put on by marginalized literary communities and spotlighting their efforts. If you have a community you feel should be highlighted, feel free to message me about it either on Twitter (@JoseAraguz) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For this first community feature, I’m bringing attention to “Artists Undeterred” an art exhibit which opens at the Pride Center of Staten Island on August 11th at 7pm. The opening will feature artist commentary by LeVar “Var” Lawrence and a performance by Open Doors Reality Poets, of which Lawrence is a core member. To find out more about the event and explore links to the featured artists, go here.
This event came to my attention via Ani Schreiber, an artist whose work is part of the exhibit. I have had the honor of having Schreiber’s artwork feature on four of my chapbooks and all three of my full length poetry collections. Her work is marked by a rich directness steeped in realism, imagination, and vision.
For those who might not know, Schreiber is also my partner. We have been together for eight years, married for four of those. Over the years that we’ve been a part of each other’s lives, I have watched Schreiber come to terms not only with her disability but also with herself as an artist. Now, it is a problematic trope to discuss a disabled artist in terms of “bravery” or “admiration,” mostly because it fetishizes and condescends to people who are simply being people. So when I say that I have a great admiration for Schreiber and her work, it comes from a place of artist to artist and is informed by our personal history.
I have been there when she’s had to stop working on a project due to physical limitations and seen the frustration of those moments. I have also seen her suss out new mediums to continue at her work. Watching her do this navigating of the intersection where artistry and disability meet has resonated with me. There are lessons in perseverance that come with an artist’s life that don’t fit into instructional guides, and that drive home that you never know what a person’s been through to get to the creative act.
In the clip below which serves as an introduction to the Open Doors Reality Poets, Ramon “Tito” Cruz reads the following lines:
Soledad es una cosa que no se puede hablar La soledad es una cosa que to puede matar
(Loneliness is a thing of which you cannot speak)
(Loneliness is a thing that can kill you)
These lines point to the loneliness of hardship which the creative act acknowledges. Events like the “Artists Undeterred” exhibit create spaces where the art resulting from this acknowledgment is celebrated and seen.
In an essay entitled “Tough Eloquence,” poet Yusef Komuyakaa writes about the life and work of Etheridge Knight. There’s a story and poem towards the end of the essay that has always stayed with me throughout the years:
“Etheridge Knight died in March 1991. For more than a year before, at various readings, he’d say a poem by Melissa Orion, “Where is the Poet?” He often used to say he wished he’d written it. Of course, he had memorized the poem, as if reciting his own elegy:
So I went to Soweto and asked the wounded
Have you seen my friend the poet?
Oh no, answered the wounded, but we’re longing to
before we die
Maybe you should go to the prisons, they said
where there is loneliness, the poet should be”
Orlando has been on my mind all week, in my conversations with Ani as much as in my conversations on social media, but also in my heart, in my silences and loneliness. In my classroom, we have been having some difficult conversations about problematization and empathy, and I am proud of my students’ generosity to have these conversations, to discuss difficult issues with open minds. It’s done much for my spirit.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who reads this blog and shares in the community, poetry, and positive energy of the weekly posts. I write driven by a faith in poetry, in words being a place where the ideas and emotions of life that overwhelm us at times can meet, mingle, and make a sort of sense to us, glimpses of the reality we share.
“I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your hand because life is short and you too are thirsty.”
This week on the Influence: Poet Lore!
One piece of advice that has helped me grow in spirit as a writer is to pick up and read through every contributor’s copy that comes my way, and seeing that as part of engaging with the community of writers I am (to use the direct and physical metaphor of pages in a magazine) bound to. Doing this, I have come across some great poems and been able to reach out to fellow poets.
This month, I was proud to receive my copies of the latest issue of Poet Lore.
My first encounter with the magazine included work by Jim Daniels as well as Lucille Clifton’s last interview. What moved me to submit, however, was the magazine’s overall format: a selection of poetry from various poets, then a larger/chapbook sized selection from a featured poet, then some essays and reviews at the end. This format says much about the consideration and focus given to the poets and the work included.
This latest issue is a celebration of the female spirit that has driven forward both this country (the cover photo above is from a 1912 Suffrage Parade) and this magazine (PL was founded by Charlotte Porter and Helen A. Clarke in 1889).
The quote above from Adrienne Rich opens up the selection of poetry that, when read through, flows smoothly through the many worlds the poets represent: from junkyards and classrooms in America to the Ganges in India. The featured poet in this issue is Samiya Bashir, whose sonnet sequence enters and opens up the relationship between the legendary John Henry and his wife Polly Ann.
Overall, the editors have done an outstanding job of not only selecting poems for this issue but of ordering them into something that reads like a revelation. The magazine feels like an awesome mix-tape.