Archives For Poetry

If you found editor Jeffrey Levine’s article from 2011 “On Making the Poetry Manuscript” helpful, then here is his new and improved version. Today is tip #1 Ordering the Manuscript. Check every Wednesday on his blog for a more detailed discussion of his 27 points. I’m in the middle of this process with my first full-length collection, and all insights are appreciated.

Jeffrey Levine

sharpenerThis and every Wednesday for the next little while I will be expanding on many of the 27 points covered in my earlier post about making the poetry manuscript. If you’ve not read that original post, it’s called “On Making The Poetry Manuscript” (October 12, 2011) and is available here.

But first . . . many poets have asked me recently about the Tupelo Press Writing Conferences: what sets them apart from other manuscript workshops and writing retreats? What can I expect to come away with?

It’s important to me (and might be to you) to distinguish what Tupelo Press Writing Conferences are about, because great writing is at the heart of any successful publishing career, and because (as you’ll see further on) if you’re to make your manuscript a more successful swimmer in a sea of manuscripts, there are things you need to know.

So, here are a…

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It’s time for ModPo 2014, the free online course in poetry taught by Al Filreis of University of Pennsylvania through the website. The course runs September 6th – Novermber 15th, 2014. Sign up is free.

I have taken the course before, and I’m enrolling again to fill in gaps I missed the first time around. My favorite aspect of the course is its structure: video discussions of poems by a group of University of Pennsylvania students led by professor Filreis. My second favorite thing is the 40,000 participants who sign up to learn more about poetry. The no-cost model is also a bonus. Professor Al Filreis offers this course as a community service outreach. If you are in the Philadelphia area, you are welcome to stop by in person for some of the ModPo live web broadcast discussions. New this year, a meetup in Prague with professor Filreis for European participants, and a weekly meetup at a New York Public Library branch for those nearby. (See the course descriptions and the course forums for meetups that are planned as the course continues.)

From the Coursera website:

In this fast-paced course we will read and encounter and discuss a great range of modern and contemporary U.S. poets working in the “experimental mode,” starting with the 19th-century proto-modernists Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman and ending with 21st-century conceptual poetics. Aside from providing a perhaps handy or helpful survey and chronology of 20th- and 21st-century poetry, this course offers a way of understanding general cultural transitions from modernism to postmodernism. Some people may wish to enroll as much to gain an understanding of the modernism/postmodernism problem through a study of poetry as to gain access to the work of these many poets. Participants do not need to have any prior knowledge of poetry or poetics. The instructor, Al Filreis, rarely lectures, and frequently calls for “the end of the lecture as we know it”; instead, the video-recorded lessons will consist of collaborative close readings led by Filreis, seminar-style — offering models or samples of readers’ interpretations of these knotty but powerful poems, aided by the poetry-minded denizens of the Kelly Writers House on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.


Filming for ModPo, photo from



I recently discovered a great segment on PBS NewsHour about poetry and medicine titled “Student physicians embrace poetry to hone art of healing.” It features interviews with former poet laureate Natasha Tretheway and physician poet Rafael Campo. The two discuss how poetry can broaden the education and empathy of medical students and physicians. Rafael Campo has written six collections of poetry, the latest of which is Alternative Medicine.

If you have problems accessing the video, the url is

The most interesting bit for me was the idea that patients who are trying to describe their illness are often using the language of poetry, of metaphor and simile, to communicate. A patient might describe pain by saying, “I felt like I was hit by a truck” or “a knife was stabbing me.”

Where to publish poems with a medical theme

If you have poems on the themes of illness, health, or healing, be sure to look at the Bellevue Literary Review here.


Also, Louise Aronson MD has collected a list of journals where physicians and poets can publish literary writing with a health theme here.

Raphael Campo

rafaelalternative medicine

More about Rafael Campo on his website.

Natasha Tretheway


More about Natasha Tretheway at the Academy of American Poets and at the Poetry Foundation.

More information and lesson plans for the classroom

PBS NewsHour page with more information and lesson plans for teachers about poetry in the classroom:

PBS NewsHour Article: Raphael Campo uses his stethoscope to explore rhythms of poetry

PBS NewsHour Article: For these medical students, poetry nurtures the soul

PBS NewsHour Lesson Plan: Discovering your voice through poetry



The Goodreads Giveaway program makes it possible for readers to receive copies of new or soon-to-be-released books, and for authors to increase awareness of their books. There’s no cost other than the mailing fees. I have been on both sides of this service, and it seems to work well.

I recently won a book from the Goodreads Giveaway program, and since this book is being promoted by a publisher rather than an individual author, I thought I’d share what materials I received. This promotion is for Harryette Mullen’s new poetry book, Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary. I received an advance copy of the book, a catalog of new titles from Gray Wolf Press, a thank you note, and an invitation to follow Gray Wolf on social media. The marketing materials are an added bonus. For all other Giveaways I’ve won, I received just the book. If you win a book, the expectation is that you will provide a brief review of it on the Goodreads website.


I gave away copies of my own book through a Goodreads Giveaway earlier this year. I was able to select how many copies of the book I would give away, the length of the Giveaway, and what geographic areas of the world could sign up (I chose US, UK, NZ and CA). Several hundred people entered. Goodreads collected the names, selected the winners, and I was responsible for mailing out the books. (It has to be a print book, not an ebook.) If the publisher initiates the Giveaway, they will most likely be responsible for mailing the books, not the author. Several of my winners were from outside the US, so that was a unique opportunity to get my work into the hands of readers who might not get the chance to hear me do a reading in person. You do need a Goodreads author page to do this, but it is free to sign up. Most of the winners followed through with reviews.

Goodreads Giveaways are one way to build awareness for a new book coming out, but you can also do a Giveaway for a recently released book. All entrants will put their Giveaway books on their want-to-read bookshelf. Goodreads also sends out emails when books on the want-to-read shelf are out for publication. I would absolutely do the Giveaway again when I have another book, and the only things I would change are the length of the sign-up time (I did two weeks and four might have been better), and the number of countries I include in the drawing.

An author’s blog can be linked with an author’s Goodreads page. It allows for an additional source of traffic to your blog, and the Goodreads Giveaway program provides a widget for the Giveaway that you can use as a promotional tool on a website.

More information on the Goodreads Giveaway program is on their website.




I’m typically not a super-organized writer when it comes to my desk. The Post-it notes and scraps of paper with ideas jotted on them, the three ring notebooks and composition books have finally gotten out-of-hand, and I think I have discovered the digital solution to my “filing cabinet of ideas” needs. Evernote has been fun to explore. It is a free application that syncs across platforms: iPad, iPhone, Mac. I can make notes, take pictures, include web content from my internet research sessions, and access all of these notes from anywhere.



If you like to write on paper, for example in a Moleskin notebook, you can do that and take pictures of the pages to use later.

So far I have used Evernote to keep track of steps for long-term projects, such as promoting a new chapbook. (I don’t tend to use daily calendars much as I don’t need to be specific places at specific times. I just need to follow the steps to these larger goals.) I have weekly to-do lists with check boxes to mark off, and when I complete a list, I can either delete the file or leave it as an archive. I’ve created lists for Books to Be Read, Books Read, and New Poem Ideas. All of these are long-term, yearly lists. The system is working so far as I always know to go to these lists rather than search the desk for the latest scrap of paper.

There is an option to upgrade to a paid Premium Evernote service that offers even more tools, but I have not bought that level of service just yet. I also don’t put personal information on the site.

Author David Brown used Evernote to keep track of his research for a nonfiction book. You can read more about his process on the Evernote blog here.

If you have used other digital systems that work well for you, please share in the comments. I have a huge weakness for paper and paper products, but I’m willing to change habits when the new system works and solves a problem.

The Evernote website is here.


A new class is starting the end of June for six weeks through the International Writing Program at University of Iowa on How Writers Write Poetry. The class will feature lectures on aspects of craft and the writing process. I took the Walt Whitman course this spring through this program, and it was excellent. Start date is June 28, 2014 for the poetry class. Stay tuned for classes in fiction, nonfiction, and translation. How Writers Write Fiction starts Sept. 27, 2014. There is no cost to join.

Assignments are optional, but there is an opportunity to post your work and receive feedback. A brief description of the course:

How Writers Write Poetry, a six-week course beginning on June 28, 2014, is an interactive study of the practice of writing poetry. The course presents a curated collection of short, intimate talks on craft by two dozen acclaimed poets writing in English. Craft topics include sketching techniques, appropriation, meter, constraints, sound, mindfulness, and pleasure. The talks are designed for beginning poets just starting to put words on a page as well as for advanced poets looking for new entry points, thoughts about process, or teaching tips. The course will be taught by University of Iowa International Writing Program Director and poet/translator Christopher Merrill as well as Black Rainbow Editions Editor and poet Mary Hickman.


(in order by video lineup)

Robert Hass, Kate Greenstreet, Lucy Ives, Daniel Khalastchi, Sridala Swami, Alexandria Peary, Richard Kenney, William Trowbridge, Dora Malech, Tarfia Faizullah, Nick Twemlow, Kiki Petrosino, James Galvin, Kwame Dawes, Shane McCrae, Teemu Manninen, Carol Light, Larissa Szporluk, Michael Dennis Browne, Caryl Pagel, Marvin Bell, and Mary Hickman.

Sign up on the IWP website here.

Found Poetry Review

May 12, 2014 — 4 Comments

found poetry

I came across this journal when I was looking for some unique places to send found poetry. Found Poetry Review says that “found poetry is the literary version of a collage. Poets select a source text or texts — anything from traditional texts like books, magazines and newspapers to more nontraditional sources like product packaging, junk mail or court transcripts — then excerpt words and phrases from the text(s) to create a new piece.”

One example from this issue:

Travels with Sarah

by Johanna Donovan

Across the hotel, a wind almost
shakes the trees from their cages.

I’m afraid of myself here, at the bottom
of the sky.

My heart is the shape of Spain
and even the rain is sick of Italy.

Go out, go out wherever you are.

I hum the lake. Every night it’s there
in my ear, leaving, arriving…and I’m

reminded of a snowless winter light
years ago when I loved someone

too young for me. How we have fallen
behind in the story.

Mind the pigeons plumbing through
the sky like dirty hands through water!

I’ve forgotten what I wished for;
perhaps it has come quietly.

Source: Cento from the final lines (and one mid-poem line) of poems by Sarah J. Sloat: “Postcards from Paris”, “From the Back of My Mind”, “”Rioja”, “Here on Business”, “Outdoor Cafe, October”, “Hive”, “Waterfall”, “Across the Time Zones”, “Mid-March”, “Train 21” and “Snow Path.”

My favorite verb in the poem is “plumbing” from the next to last stanza. This style of writing would appeal to anyone who likes the magpie approach to poems, collecting shiny bits here and there and connecting the dots.

Annie Dillard says this about found poetry:

“Happy poets who write found poetry go pawing through popular culture like sculptors on trash heaps. They hold and wave aloft usable artifacts and fragments: jingles and ad copy, menus and broadcasts — all objet trouvés, the literary equivalents of Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans and Duchamp’s bicycle. By entering a found text as a poem, the poet doubles its context. The original meaning remains intact, but now it swings between two poles. The poet adds, or at any rate increases, the element of delight. This is an urban, youthful, ironic, cruising kind of poetry. It serves up whole texts, or interrupted fragments of texts.” — Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard has her own book of found poems out. It’s titled, Mornings Like This: Found Poems.

annie dillard

To find out more about submitting to Found Poetry Review, guidelines are on their website here. has more information and examples of found poetry here.



Big Poetry Giveaway! Winners

Two winning names were drawn for the April Big Poetry Giveaway and the winners notified (thanks Andrew and Karen)! It was a fun process, and I’m sure I will participate again next year. Several participating Giveaway poets gave away more than two books, and I like that idea. I already have titles in mind for next year’s Poetry Giveaway, so hope to see many of you again! A big thanks to everyone who stopped by and left nice notes about either the books or my blog.

I visited almost all of the participating blogs and found some great reading ideas for summer. My summer reading list is ambitious (poetry, nonfiction, and a course in Shakespeare’s plays) and  I also have plans to investigate hybrid forms of writing, starting with this book:


rose metal


Flash Nonfiction

Flash Nonfiction is written by Dinty W. Moore, one of the editors at Brevity magazine. I’ve read one of the 26 essays in the book so far, by poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and it was excellent. Each essay describes a different point of entry for flash nonfiction and provides an example piece of writing.

From Amazon:

Unmatched in its focus on a concise and popular emerging genre, The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction features 26 eminent writers, editors, and teachers offering expert analysis, focused exercises, and helpful examples of what make the brief essay form such a perfect medium for experimentation, insight, and illumination. With a comprehensive introduction to the genre and book by editor Dinty W. Moore, this guide is perfect for both the classroom and the individual writer’s desk an essential handbook for anyone interested in the scintillating and succinct flash nonfiction form.

Hybrid forms of writing have greatly increased in popularity in the last few years. I found this out the hard way at the AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) 2013 conference in Boston. I attended a panel hosted by Brevity on short nonfiction, and it was standing room only. The leap from poetry to prose poems to flash fiction or flash nonfiction isn’t far. While this book may or may not help you if you are specifically interested in publishing in Brevity (it might be easier to read Brevity first to get an idea of what is being published), it is worth reading if you are looking for a touchstone or jumping off place to explore short forms of writing.

As a side note, Brevity has a nonfiction blog that you can follow. It covers contest information, calls for submissions, news on literary nonfiction, and Brevity magazine news.

Brevity Magazine is here.

I have not yet submitted to Brevity, so I can’t comment on that process, but I did find the AWP session helpful, and the editors seemed genuinely interested in making sure that the experience of submitting to the magazine was a good one.



big poetry giveaway 2014

I am giving away two books through the Big Poetry Giveaway 2014, part of April National Poetry Month and started by Kelli Russell Agodon (more information on Kelli and a link to her blog with details about participating bloggers).


–Anyone with a blog can giveaway 2 books of poems. (The first can be the blogger’s own poetry book. The second must be a book by a favorite poet.)
–Anyone can enter any or all of the giveaways.

Books will be mailed (at no cost to you) anywhere in the world, so leave a comment on my blog to enter (link is at the top of the page under the blog entry title). Also, visit Kelli’s blog for a list of all bloggers participating. You can enter each blogger’s giveaway!

The goal is to share our favorite poets with others as well as to visit different blogs and see who others are reading.

The giveaway runs through April 30th, 2014. The week of May 1, I will choose 2 winners through a random number generator and email you to let you know you have won.

**If you want to participate with your own blog, see Kelli’s site for information on how to sign up by Saturday, April 5, 2014!


I am giving away a copy of my chapbook, Theories of Rain.

Theories of Rain

Theories of Rain

From the book cover:

Lynn Pedersen is fascinated with science, and she often uses the images, facts and language of science as a vocabulary with which to explore other things, the nature of grief, parenthood, communication, the concept of distance. Here one finds Darwin, lunar impact craters, constellations, and poems about language, miscarriage, Michelangelo and Turner, middle age. There’s an incredible vitality in these poems and an abiding intelligence–of ther heart as well as the mind–that makes Theories of Rain a rich and complex collection. ~ Nancy Eimers



The second book is by Arlene Kim, What have you done to our ears to make us hear echoes? (Milkweed Editions)

I heard Arlene read at AWP 2013 in Boston. Her book takes the language of fairy tales and myths and weaves poems that address immigration, the family, the self, and the narratives we tell ourselves. A computer created the last poem in the book by taking the vocabulary of Arlene’s poems and reworking her language for a computer-generated poem that mimics the author’s syntax, grammar, and diction.


From Amazon:

In her stunning debut poetry collection, What have you done to our ears to make us hear echoes?, Arlene Kim confronts the ways in which language mythologizes memory and, thus, exiles us from our own true histories. Juxtaposing formal choices and dreamlike details, Kim explores the entangled myths that accompany the experience of immigration—the abandoned country known only through stories, the new country into which the immigrant family must wander ever deeper, and the numerous points where these narratives intertwine.

Sharing ground with Randall Jarrell’s later poems, and drawing on a dizzying array of sources—including Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Korean folklore, Turkish proverbs, Paul Celan, Anna Akhmatova, Antonin Dvorak’s letters, and the numerous fictions we script across the inscrutabilities of the natural world—Kim reveals how a homesickness for the self is universal. It is this persistent and incurable longing that drives us as we make our way through the dark woods of our lives, following what might or might not be a trail of breadcrumbs, discovering, finally, that “we are the only path.”


Happy poetry month!


Applications are currently being accepted for 24 slots in Amtrak’s Residency Program for Writers. Legal residents of the 48 contiguous United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 years of age or older, may apply before March 31, 2015.

Today we are happy to announce that #AmtrakResidency will allow for up to 24 writers to take long-distance trains to work on their projects. Each writer’s round-trip journey will include accommodations on board a sleeper car equipped with a bed, a desk and outlets. We hope this experience will inspire creativity and most importantly fuel your sense of adventure!

Residencies will be anywhere from 2-5 days, with exceptions for special projects.

There is no cost to apply for the #AmtrakResidency program.

The official entry form is on Amtrak’s site here.

A writer from New York, Jessica Gross, has already done a test-run of the program and her travel experience is published here in the Paris Review.

Highly competitive, but looks worthwhile!

A CNN article “Free time, no deadlines: Amtrak gives writers what they want” summarizes the program and some of the potential train routes that can be taken. (3/11/14)