Archives For Poetry



Thanks to Claire Trevien of Sabotage Reviews for her insightful comments on my chapbook of science poems, Tiktaalik, Adieu.

“This is a chapbook that uses science, not as a crutch but as a system. Pedersen’s poems are scientific in the way that they query and correct themselves; she is a writer who’s aware that science is a process of evolution, of testing and re-testing, and this comes through.”

You can read the entire review here.



Add Slipstream literary journal to your list of places to submit! The journal published one of my poems, “Decay,” in their themed issue 34 (Rust, Dust, Lust), and I was so impressed with the contributor’s materials sent to me. In addition to the journal, I received a postcard with the journal cover art, a copy of the most recent newsletter announcing upcoming contests, and a copy of Nicole Antonio’s Another Mistake, winner of the 2014 Slipstream Poetry Chapbook Competition. The chapbook is beautifully written and printed, and comes with a bookmark featuring an endorsement by Amy Gerstler, “Another Mistake is a powerhouse chapbook….a hyper-awake, penetrating, gritty, humane, fearless literary voice.”

Next Themed Issue

Slipstream has an upcoming themed issue “Elements.”

We are currently reading for Issue #35 and are seeking poetry that explores the theme “elements.” Creative interpretations are welcome. Submit up to five (5) poems in one document file only. We also are seeking artwork for the issue. Please do not submit again until you have received a response on the status of your current submission. DEADLINE for submissions is: May 1, 2015. No previously published work please.

Slipstream describes the type of poetry that is appealing as “poetry with contemporary urban themes and a strong voice.”

Chapbook Contest

The next chapbook contest deadline is approaching! Deadline for entries: Dec. 1 every year. $1,000 prize plus 50 copies of your chapbook.

More information on Slipstream’s website


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)

ghost town nvIt’s close to Halloween, and I’ve had this nagging thought on my mind; it has to do with allowing myself to evolve as a writer without being hemmed in by past accomplishments, writing styles, etc. I think of this dilemma as being haunted by the ghost of poems past. One particular poem is both an anchor and a problem for me. It is, in many ways, one of the more successful poems I’ve written (according to editors), which sets up pressure to have all other poems follow in its path, to conform to the style of writing that worked so well this one time. This expectation becomes a weight that keeps me from moving forward. I just found a copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones (embarrassingly, I have so many books double and triple-stacked in rows on my bookcases, I didn’t realize that I even owned it), and she wisely points out what a huge mistake it is to try and control your material before it is even written down. That’s what these hauntings are, a gordian knot of expectations that encourage you to control the material or shape it in ways that are preconceived (actually limiting you).

I used to write narrative and image-based poems, and that has been a difficult pattern to break. The newer poems have a different style and subject matter, and will likely be taken by a new group of journals, which means wading into unknown waters and facing a steep learning curve with new editors. I’m excited about the prospect, but it’s tempting to go back to the writing style I know and the journals I am most familiar with. I’m using an old English proverb as my mantra these days, sticking to what’s elemental and not chasing after what’s not important:

Catch not at the shadow and lose the substance.

I’m using Writing Down the Bones to keep me anchored to the substance of writing. More on Natalie Goldberg’s books in the related content.

Twyla Tharp, choreographer, says “If you only do what you know and do it very, very well, chances are that you won’t fail. You’ll just stagnate, and your work will get less and less interesting, and that’s failure by erosion.” Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit, is one of my favorites.

Burdened Children 1930 by Paul Klee 1879-1940I saw a class advertised this week in the UK, offered by Pascale Petit through Tate Modern, and thought I’d share it for those of you lucky enough to live near London. If you aren’t near London, the ideas presented in the class could be a resource for your writing, particularly if you are a visual person. The class is called “Taking a Line for a Walk,” and the title comes from the painter Paul Klee, who said that a “drawing is simply a line going for a walk.” Pascale takes this idea of Klee’s and uses it as a starting point for poetry writing. Her course description:

“First lines are a gift. We don’t always know what is coming next, where the journey of the poem will lead us. In this six-week course the group follow Paul Klee’s advice of ‘taking a line for a walk’, paying attention to where the poem wants to go, what colour and tone it wants to be, and embark on surprising adventures with language and image.” Klee’s image to the left is Burdened Children, 1930.

More info here:

This overlap of the line in painting and in writing seems to invite a playfulness that can overcome that “I-don’t-know-what-to-do-next-with-this-poem” feeling. I have several art books at home, and I’m looking forward to some free writes based on the paintings.

I visited my local museum this week and looked not just at modern art but Old Masters. I had Pascale’s course in mind as I thought about the lines in this painting (the flamboyant feathers) and the painting’s somber tone. This is “Tronie” of a Man with a Feathered Beret by Rembrandt. Interestingly, I have been somewhat stuck on an Isaac Newton poem but found that viewing a roomful of 17th century still life paintings at the museum gave me some good details and thoughts on mood that I could use in my writing.

rembrandt high

Pascale teaches at The Poetry School in London as well. Happy to have discovered her insights. She has written five books of poetry, most recently What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo. Her blog can be found at

whitman portrait

NOTE: This course will be offered again in September 2014! See the site link below to register.

There is a great 10-week course beginning September 7, 2013 for anyone interested in learning more about modern poetry. There is no cost, no text to buy, and the online videos/poems can be viewed on your own time schedule. Al Filreis, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, teaches the course. A writing friend took this same class last fall and is taking it again because she enjoyed it so much. A background in poetry is not required. I signed up and look forward to filling in gaps in my knowledge of contemporary poetry.

More about the course here including a Q & A and video: Modern & Contemporary American Poetry

Course description (from the Coursera site):

About the Course

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, most of 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.

I discovered a new poet recently, Jennifer Boyden, and wanted to share a favorite poem, “The Misunderstanding of Wool.” One of my current interests is ecopoetry and landscape in historical poetry, and Boyden’s work examines the world in disquieting ways. The poem was originally published in The Adirondack Review and is included in Boyden’s second book, The Declarable Future.

The Misunderstanding of Wool
Jennifer Boyden

As if animals aren’t terrified of the blades
of their shearing. In the thrift stores, it is easy to see how
the wool of this town has been misunderstood.

It isn’t hard to find the ruins: woolen sailor pants, the funeral
suits and interview jackets, hats for shrunken heads, and now-
baby sweaters.

When I have assembled the pile, I begin to teach the wool
the old ways of their sheep and rabbits.
I remove false eyes of pearl buttons, cut the tags
of secondary origins. And then

I teach them heartbeat and bunching into corners, teach them
grass height for hiding and grass green for food, hawk shadow,
owl call, magpie lures and mimics.

The dry woolens must be reintroduced to oil
if they are to make it. They will need to be given back
to fear of the coming dog and bramble snags.

They must never trust water, or anything
that beckons with the reflection of ourselves.


I particularly like that the poem manages to depict the current, urban landscape that is, at the same time that it evokes the landscape that has been lost.

Jennifer Boyden’s two books are pictured below. The Mouths of Grazing Things won the Brittingham Prize in Poetry, and The Declarable Future won The Four Lakes Prize in Poetry. All of Boyden’s poems are arresting, and the framework with which Boyden views the world is both detailed and compassionate. I’m looking forward to future publications and readings.

Bio from her website ( Boyden won a PEN Northwest Wilderness Writing Residency Award, which allowed her to live and write for nearly a year in a remote cabin in southern Oregon, and a Washington Artists’ Trust grant for a suite of essays about walking, how environment shapes movement and idea, and observations about how personal and public identities are affected by corporate influence and the removal of nature.


Chapbook Publishing

August 18, 2013 — 4 Comments


I’ve been working on a chapbook manuscript this month, since fall submission deadlines are approaching. I’ve found some online resources that are helpful and others that are confusing or out-of-date. Entry fees seem to run between $15 and $20, and length between 16 and 38 pages. It’s common for chapbooks to be published through contests, though there are publishers that will consider manuscripts outside of contests, such as Finishing Line Press. Check back each year because chapbook publishing seems to vary based on demand, the finances and staffing of the presses, etc. The publisher of my first chapbook, Main Street Rag, for example, is not currently holding chapbook contests.

There are three approaches to publishing a chapbook: contests, approaching a publisher on your own, or self-publishing. I don’t have experience with self-publishing, so these resources cover the first two options.

The most up-to-date sources for current contests are Poets & Writers Magazine and listings. Newpages has a scrollable listing, and for the Poets & Writers online site, I went to the grants and contests section and then entered “Chapbook” in the search box.

There are two main lists that show up in Google results for chapbook contests and publishers: Poetry Society of America chapbook contests and These two lists formed the basis for my research. These lists are not arranged by submission deadlines, and they have many links to sites that are not current. I added new information relevant to each list as I found it. It is worth checking back frequently to see if updates are available.

Poetry Society of America list of chapbook contests

  • Main Street Rag, suspended chapbook contest
  • Susan Blalock Chapbook Contest/Permafrost renamed Midnight Sun Contest
  • Slapering Hol Contest only accepts manuscripts if you have never published a book or a chapbook
  • Wick Poetry Center Contest is open to residents or writers associated with Ohio list of chapbook publishers*

  • Moon Pie Press is currently not considering submissions
  • Main Street Rag, suspended chapbook contest
  • Floating Bridge contest is open to residents or writers associated with Washington state
  • Slapering Hol Contest only accepts manuscripts if you have never published a book or a chapbook
  • Wild Honey Press is located in Ireland and isn’t currently considering manuscripts

*Several names on the list are not contests but publishers that you would have to approach yourself.

Finishing Line Press will let you submit manuscripts any time during the year, though they are not listed in either of these two resources.

New contests that have started:

  • Arcadia (August deadline just passed)
  • Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Chapbook Contest

Don’t forget the Poet’s Market book (from Writer’s Digest) as a resource. It also helps to attend bookfairs, such as at the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference to see the types of chapbooks being made by publishers.

Things to keep in mind about chapbooks:

  • It isn’t necessary to have all of the poems published before submitting a manuscript, though it really helps to have at least a few listed on the acknowledgments page. My first chapbook had roughly 30% published poems.
  • Poems can be ordered in a variety of ways. Often in a short chapbook there is a unifying theme.
  • Length can vary. Put your strongest work in and don’t feel obligated to go to the maximum page length.
  • Read and follow the guidelines for each press. Some chapbooks are printed in a specific size and font that limit how long a line can be, and how many lines can fit on a page. Some manuscripts are read blind with no identifying information, and others are not.
  • Most contests allow electronic submissions, and almost all will have a reading fee. The reading fee supports the press, and often there is a perk in exchange for the fee such as a subscription to the literary journal or a copy of the winning chapbook.

An earlier blog post on putting together a manuscript references Jeffrey Levine’s (editor of Tupelo Press) page of tips, including ordering poems, proofreading, and submitting. Mr. Levine’s tips are available here. My blog post is below as well.

The chapbook publishing market is experiencing a resurgence, and some of the contests (The Diagram/New Michigan Press) had 500 entries last year. In many of the contests, you may be competing with poets who have already published a chapbook or book.

Poets & Writers has an article on how to make and bind your own chapbook here.


“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Is it my imagination or is the pace of the poetry world increasing at an exponential rate? If I take the above quote from Alice in Wonderland and replace “go” with “publish,” that about sums up writing for me. I attribute much of this to the internet and social media. Through Twitter, I hear of 10 to 25 new (to me) literary journals a week—more than I have time to research. My writing pace hasn’t increased, and I’m not sure that my acceptance rate has, either, but the system makes it easy to send out as many simultaneous submissions as I have time to upload. It is easy to feel that I am falling behind (particularly with other poets posting acceptances on Facebook and Twitter), or falling into a trap of thinking that I can capture all that is going on in the poetry world by spending hours online. My current strategy is to view the internet as a river. I can dip into it when I need to, and it will always be there as a resource. Writing and publishing are not the same process, and the internet doesn’t need to be conquered.

To maintain a sense of balance, I write in a notebook every day, and it evolves into what it evolves into. It’s a way of staying focused and offline.


Here are my journals from last year. These are not poems but sketches, notes, lists, musings and more. If you’ve ever done Morning Pages from Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way, the journals are a version of that, though closer to an art or nature journal. I resisted the idea of a formal schedule for years, but I’ve finally accepted that it is the only way I can meet all of my goals without frittering away my time. To keep myself honest, I record my progress for the day on a desk pad calendar—whether I completed the journal, drafted, edited, or submitted poems (and where). Not all jobs have to be done each day, except for the free write/journal. I experimented with pulling jobs out of a jar for a time, but I tend to fall into blocks or patterns—editing for three days, drafting for a week, submitting for two days, etc. I have several books I’m reading to help with establishing a schedule, and I’ll review those as I find good points to share. I’ve heard of writers dividing a day into two blocks marked by a noon walk, with the morning dedicated to writing and the afternoon dedicated to other projects. Artists’ retreats such as the Vermont Studio Center or the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts seem promising as a way to focus on work and build community without distractions.