A Poet's Double Life

For poets working outside the literary world.


Poet Resolutions 2013

2013-goalsIn my year-in-review post, I promised to share my resolutions for the New Year. Each one of these goals pushes me a bit outside of my comfort zone:

Teach a poetry workshop: Yes, I think I’m ready. I’ve toyed with the idea several times, but haven’t made the time to do it. Some of the ideas that come to mind are found poetry, erasure poetry, or maybe even a workshop on finding the journal that’s right for your work. Actually that last topic is not a bad idea.

Write a sonnet: To me, the sonnet is the pinnacle of poetic form. I love reading them, but have been very intimated by the thought of writing one because I’ve read so many good ones. But I do have one on my mental list of poems I need to write, inspired by Adrienne Su’s “Asian Driver”. It will probably take me the whole year to find the courage to write it.

Six poems published: Same number as last year. The over-achiever in me wanted to set the bar at 10 publications, but I’m going to try to get her to take it easy this year. Either way means I have to continue to Write! Write! Write! Submit! Submit! Submit! and that’s the part that pushes me.

Share my poetry: Last year I realized that publications aren’t the only way to share my work. I posted my April poems on Facebook, but took them down at the end of the month. The November poems are still up there, so that’s a step in the right direction. But to push myself outside of my comfort zone, I will start posting more poems to this blog, like “Winter Solstice.” Maybe I can make the Three-Minute Poem a regular feature.

Talk to more double life poets: I know they are out there. I read their work, but I don’t reach out to them. I want to feature their work and their creative process on this blog. I want to learn from them.

Blend double lives more: I started doing this when I updated my LinkedIn profile. I don’t know what this will looks like or how to do this, but I have a feeling it will be an interesting journey.

Let me know some of your writing resolutions for the New Year by leaving a comment!


To Be or Not to Be. . .Separate

The fundamental question for a double-life poet is, “Should I keep poetry separate from my working life?” Wallace Stevens turned down an appointment as the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard because he didn’t want to be forced to retire from his job as an executive at The Hartford. William Carlos Williams felt being a doctor and being a poet were “two parts of a whole” and often scribbled poems on the back of prescription pads.

I faced this question while updating my LinkedIn profile. It’s funny how the most innocuous tasks make you rethink your whole raison d’être. Anyway, it’s been almost a year since I graduated from VCFA, but that information wasn’t on the résumé. Neither were my writing and presentation skills mentioned anywhere and none of my recent poetry publications were listed. Isn’t my MFA important to me? I’ve only mentioned it in 10 of the 40+ posts I’ve written for this blog. And don’t I want to use my writing and presentation skills more? Start to blend my double lives more?

And then that ultimate negating phrase popped into my head, “Yes, but”

Yes, but what type of message is that sending?

Yes, but this is a professional website and poetry doesn’t fit.

Yes, but the poetry stuff and work stuff should be separate.

Adding this information was simple – selecting the school, degree, and year from the drop-down menu, typing the words,LinkedIn Profile “writing” and “publication” in the summary section, and copying and pasting the link to my latest publication. I mean, that’s what makes me unique, right? That I like to tell stories with data, that I like to write, that being a poet in a professional world, I wrestle with and simplify complexity, have a more acute sense of empathy, am creative, and can infuse life with beauty and meaning. And just like that, my poetry and non-literary career became one.

I look forward to the day when poetry and my non-literary career can peacefully coexist in my every day world and not just on my LinkedIn résumé.

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Poets Speak Out on the Connecticut Tragedy

Rock Me MercyIn the wake of the tragedy in Connecticut, I’ve found no words to express the sadness I feel for the young lives violently taken out of this world, the caring adults who tried in vain to protect them, and the families who now experience unspeakable grief and pain as a result of this horrible event.

Fortunately, other poets have. I’m sharing a few of the poems here:

Rock Me Mercy by Yusef Komunyakaa

Hi Mommy (my first haikuby wolfman  

 An Essential Journey Back to Light by Nicolas Cable

 Crumble Life Poem #48 by Christopher Poindexter


Year in Review 2012

2012 YIR

I’m taking a page from the playbook of my poet-friend and blogging guru, Tara Lynne Groth of WriteNaked, and doing the hip thing: a post what I learned and accomplished this year.

What I learned is simple: Write! Write! Write! Submit! Submit! Submit! ‘Nuff said.

Now—on to the month-by-month highlights of 2012

January: Graduated from Vermont College of Fine Arts with my MFA in Writing.

February:  Participated in peer review with fellow VCFA alum. Made 2nd presentation for the job.

March: Worked like crazy. Not much else. 😦

April: Wrote 30 poems for April Poem-A-Day Challenge. Turned 40!

May: Attended Raleigh Review writing workshop with Dorianne Laux and Joe Millar. Made 3rd presentation for the job.

June: Attended 17th Cave Canem Retreat.

July: Launched this blog, Poet’s Double Life.

August: Attended a professional conference in Chicago, wrote poems, and took tons of photos.

September: poetrySpark! “Professional Disagreement” published in Mused: BellaOnline Literary Review.

October: Worked like crazy and got an “exceptional” annual performance rating. Attended a new open mic.

November: 29 poems for November Poem-A-Day Challenge. Five years at the job!

December: Three April poems published in the Best of Fuquay-Varina Reading Series anthology. “The Truth About Fire” accepted in Pedestal Magazine’s December 2012 edition.

I’m still working on my New Year’s resolutions for an upcoming post!

I’ve blogged about work poems and how work experiences influence my poetic subjects. But a recent article in Harvard Business Review discusses how poetry has a positive influence on the personal and professional development of business professionals by:

  1. Teaching us to wrestle with and simplify complexity.
  2. Helping to develop a more acute sense of empathy.
  3. Developing our creativity.
  4. Teaching us to infuse life with beauty and meaning.

Sounds like lessons we all need to learn.

Read the full article here: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/11/the_benefits_of_poetry_for_pro.html

Special thanks to double life poet, Anna Weaver, for sending me this article.


Lessons Learned from the November Poem-a-Day Challenge

For the past three years, I’ve done the poem a day challenge for National Poetry Month in April. But at Cave Canem , I learned about 30-for-30–writing a poem a day in the months with 30 days (April, June, September, and November)—and decided to give it a try.  Here are a five things from this experience:

 #1:  November is a good month for the challenge. It is far enough away from April (sorry, June) and not crazed with poetrySpark like September. Also, doing a PAD challenge in November is a show of solidarity with my prose-friends attempting to write 50,000 words in a during NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month. I’ve decided to do the challenge in April and November from now on.

 #2:  It is impossible to do a PAD challenge alone: Although I was only one among my local poet-friends doing the PAD challenge out of season, I discovered that the Poet Laureate of Rockland Maine was doing the challenge too. Also the numerous Facebook comments and email responses to the poems reminded me there were people who appreciated that I was writing poems—no matter the month.

 #3:  I don’t need prompts: Unlike the April PAD Challenge, I didn’t follow the Poetic Asides blog. Doing a challenge without prompts meant that I had to be open to the inspiration coming from anywhere: a photograph, an email from a friend during her vacation, or a story I heard

IPhone Poem "At the Bottom of Mercury"

IPhone Poem “At the Bottom of Mercury”

on NPR. When I got stuck, I cultivated those seeds in my poetry notebook, scrolled through my iPhone notes, and found the time to write 5 poems from the list of poems I needed to write. It felt good to finally bring these ideas to life on the page. Now I have something to revise.

 #4: I need to trust that a poem will come out. So much went on this month: the first week of November, my mind was preoccupied with the Hurricane Sandy aftermath in my hometown; the second week, a close friend of the family died and my mother and I attended the funeral; the third week, I caught a cold and had no energy for much of anything; and last week I had a good friend visiting from LA and spent almost every night out. Not to mention that Mercury went retrograde from November 6th-26th, making any form of communication that much more difficult. And I still managed to write a poem every day! You’d think I would have learned this lesson by now, but obviously I needed this experience to become a true believer.

 #5:  I need to share my poetry more: Typically I post the daily poem to my Facebook notes (which can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look) and send it via email to about 30 family and friends who don’t use Facebook. I’ve tended to keep the poems slightly hidden in case I want to publish them later. But I’m having a change of heart. Out of the poems I write during the challenge, I submit about 6 or 7 and they go through extensive revision before I send them out. I’m starting to so I feel okay about posting them to a wider audience, so come April, I will also post the poem-a-day here.