Guest Blogger Theo Eliezer of Momma Tried Magazine on Issue 1, the Importance of Body Diversity, and How to Order Issue 2!

MT_Local

Local Honey by Xavier Juarez with Georges by Jeff Nelson

Long time readers of Nola Femmes may remember my last guest blog post from 2013 when my partner and I were gearing up to print the first issue of our indie publication, Momma Tried magazine. Looking back on that piece now it seems like I wrote it a lifetime ago. So much has happened since then: we were super fortunate to raise the money for our printing costs thanks to hundreds of people via Kickstarter, our first printer dropped us because they said our content was “clearly intended to cause arousal” (but we found a new more progressive printer in Iceland!), we had the most wonderful launch party at Parse gallery, and to top it all off, one of our most exciting developments has been getting the magazine stocked internationally in Paris, London, and Amsterdam! International distribution was one of our most ambitious goals when we first started working on self publishing the magazine, so it’s incredible and surreal that our New Orleans nudie mag is now at the Tate Modern!

 Creating the second issue of Momma Tried has been amazing and challenging, and we’re so proud of the finished result. As with Issue 1, I conceived of and art directed three nude photo editorials and recruited friends to join us in making them come to life, including the very talented photographers Daniel Ford, Josh Smith, and Sarrah Danziger. All of our our nude editorials feature people that are members of our New Orleans community: artists, teachers, bartenders, musicians, indie filmmakers, drag queens, activists, and contributors whose work appears elsewhere in the magazine, all collaborating in the creation of images that celebrate the body, gender expressions, and sexuality in a range of diverse forms. As part of our ethic of embracing the nuances of everyone’s varying identities, none of our model’s bodies have been digitally retouched in the photos that you’ll see in the magazine. It just seems so much more healthy, interesting, and artistically valuable to show how beautiful and charismatic people are without photoshop changing the way their bodies look. In addition to our amazing models, a number of our contributors are also New Orleans-based artists, such as photographer Xavier Juarez, whose candid approach to photography (seen in the layout sample above) is so dreamy and intimate that I feel like I was right beside him as he captured each photo.

 We’ve come so far in the past year between sending Issue 1 off into the world and working so hard on bringing together a new group of over 60 artists and writers, and now we’re incredibly close to printing our second issue! The very last step of the process is underway: we’re raising money for our printing costs with a presale campaign (via Kickstarter) that allows our readers to purchase the issue at the normal retail price, and through everyone’s backing, we hope to have the funds needed to send the issue to our printer by mid-October! If you’d like to learn more about Momma Tried, are curious to see more samples of content for Issue 2, or want to preorder your copy, please check out our campaign, and share it with friends who might be interested in reading our next issue of Momma Tried! We hope you love it!!

 

 The Momma Tried Issue 2 presale campaign will run from Tuesday Sept 8th – Wednesday Oct 9th

 For more about Momma Tried: www.mommatriedmagazine.com

Contact: editor@mommatriedmagazine.com

Hot Reads 9/7/14

Women, women, women. In retrospect it seems that last week my reading was all about women and all the myriad ways they think, feel and engage in this world. I think I have a really great line-up of articles to share. Enjoy!

Photo via The Guardian

Photo via The Guardian

From The Guardian: Mary J Blige interview: ‘The UK is a better place to make music than the States’
Tagline: The soul singer talks about her month in London making an album with the cream of British talent including Disclosure, Naughty Boy and Sam Smith – and why she just had to meet Mitch Winehouse.
Favorite quote: “When I’m singing, I don’t think about anything but what I’m doing. I could look crazy in that moment, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m just trying to get all this stuff out. Because it feels good to get it out. It feels good to sing. It’s like you can fly almost, when you singing that stuff.”

From The Washington Post: Being informed and fashionable is natural for women.
Favorite quote: “Is it so inconceivable that a smart, accomplished woman would have both the latest issue of the Economist and the second season of “The Mindy Project” downloaded on her iPad? Sorry, but modern women see no contradiction there.”

Photo via Goodreads

Photo via Goodreads

 

From The Rumpus: Interview with Maya Angelou by New Orleanian Whitney Mackman
Favorite quote: “I don’t expect negative, and when I find it, I run like hell and holler “fire!”

 

 

 

From Slate: That Screaming Lady
Tagline: Lena Dunham, Jill Soloway, and other funny women on what Joan Rivers meant to them.
Favorite quote: “She ran at comedy full-tilt and punched a hole so big that any girl who wanted to give it a try could walk right through.”

Photo via Slate

Photo via Slate

From The Daily Mail UK: Margaret Atwood on being called offensive and man-hating
Tagline: Almost 30 years after the publication of The Handmaid’s Tale, her work has lost none of its ability to unsettle.

Favorite quote: ‘Social media was supposed to make us all aware of one another’s point of view, but it self-sorts,’ she says.‘People turn off anything they don’t already like and only pay attention to people who agree with them. That can be very polarising.’

 

From The Daily Mail UK: The Secret Torment of Joni Mitchell
Tagline: Unflinching insight into the reclusive 70s icon’s battles with a disease that makes her skin crawl, is haunted by stalkers and the heartache of giving her daughter up for adoption.
Favorite quote: “I’d come through such a rough, tormented period as a destitute, unwed mother. It was like you killed somebody. I had some serious battles for a twenty-one-year-old.”

From Brain Pickings: Famous Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary
Tagline: Reflections on the value of recording our inner lives from Woolf, Thoreau, Sontag, Emerson, Nin, Plath, and more.
Favorite quote: “We are creatures of remarkable moodiness and mental turbulence, and what we think we believe at any given moment — those capital-T Truths we arrive at about ourselves and the world — can be profoundly different from our beliefs a decade, a year, and sometimes even a day later.”

From Luna Luna Magazine: Gossip as a Mean of Bonding
Favorite quote: “It’s a shame that humans bond so effectively over gossip that can destroy someone so easily.”

wall

Book List: Unbeknownst to me, August was Women in Translation 66016-witmonth3252btext1Month which was created to  “Increase the dialogue and discussion about women writers in translation”. Our list this week is via Maclehose Press   and features such countries as Portugal, Italy, Germany, and Mozambique in its list of books by women. We have some catching up to do! Next year we’ll be ready.

 

And our poem of the week is by Laurel Blossom. Big thanks to Laurel for granting permission to post her poem, Radio. I’m dedicating this poem to my dear friend, Harriet, whose car was stolen a few days ago.

Radio

No radio
in car

No radio on board

No radio
Already stolen

Absolutely no radio!

Radio broken
Alarm is set
To go off

No radio
No money

No radio
No valuables

No radio or
valuables
in car or trunk

No radio
Stolen 3X

No radio
Empty trunk
Empty glove compartment
Honest

In car
Nothing of value

No radio
No nuthin
(No kidding)

Radio Broken
Nothing Left!

Radio Gone
Note Hole in Dashboard

Warning!
Radio Will Not Play
When Removed
Security Code Required

Would you keep
Anything valuable
On this wreck?

No valuables
In this van

Please do not
Break in
Unnecessarily

Thank you
For your kind
Consideration

Nothing of value
in car
No radio
No tapes
No telephone

_______________________

Don’t forget to check out our Pinterest board during the week for more Hot Reads and have a great reading week!

The Deafening Silence of Unacknowledged Submissions

In 2010 I sent out my first poetry submission to an online literary journal. It was The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, a journal I identified with as a Southerner and a Southern writer,and read regularly. I was thrilled that my very first submission had been accepted and I still have a special place in my heart for The Mule. In the years since, I’ve submitted to a variety of print and online journals. I rarely send out simultaneous submissions and I only submit to ones I actually read and that I think match my aesthetic. For me, sending out my work to a gazillion zines is a waste of time and doesn’t make sense. I carefully consider if I want to be a part of the journals I choose, if I will be proud and happy to get accepted or  just ho-hum about it. I’ve been lucky to have been accepted more than rejected and I think it’s because I’m thoughtful about where I submit. I’ve also been lucky to receive advice on tweaking particular pieces that the editor felt was almost right but needed a little more expanding. In both of the cases, I felt they were right and I appreciated their POV and that they took the time to work with me on those pieces. So, thank you Mike Joyce and Meg Tuite, for your support and time and for sharing the wisdom of your experience. It was greatly appreciated.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????So it was with some consternation that I finally realized more than three months after submission that a certain journal has ignored me. I submitted several poems to a journal back in early May that I read and really like. It has published some of my favorite writers and I like that it has a strong bent toward women writers. I was excited when I received an acknowledgement of my submission and settled down for a 90 day wait for a decision, as noted might be the case in the guidelines. About 10 days ago I went on the journal website and saw that a new issue had been published six days previously. What? But I haven’t heard from them, not a word. I immediately sent an email inquiring as to the status of my submission. It’s been over a week and they have not replied. Now I’m pissed. And I’m pissed that I’m in a position that pisses me off. I know this happens to writers on occasion but it’s never happened to me. Obviously, they didn’t want my work and that’s O.K. I don’t get bent out of shape when I get a rejection. People have differing opinions, differing aesthetics. I don’t take it personally, my stuff just wasn’t a fit for whatever reason. What pisses me off is the feeling that I didn’t even rate a form letter rejection. That’s just not right. It’s rude. It’s not good P.R. nor good business. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth and makes me not want to read this journal ever again. But, you know what? I will read it again because it’s a fine journal that publishes some fine women (and men) writers and I won’t deprive myself of reading their words. In fact, I recommend you read Stone Highway Review yourself and see if I’m not right.

Just don’t submit to it unless you’re OK with being ignored if you’re not accepted.

Hot Reads 8/17/14

Another week has passed and another list of great reading to share with you. First up are three essays about New Orleans. Well, we can never get in enough reading about our city, now can we? One is about cocktails and culture, one has all the color and flair of the French Quarter and one of its legendary characters, and another features one woman’s unique way of coping after Katrina and how it changed her life. All three are wonderful in different ways.

Photo credit: Pableaux Johnson for The Bitter Southerner

Photo credit: Pableaux Johnson for The Bitter Southerner

First up, from The Bitter Southerner (an online journal I just love): “No.4″ in their Cocktail Series featuring SoBou bartender Abigail Gullo.
Favorite quote: “Steen’s Cane Syrup is such an integral part of my own life that I’ve often worried that eventually I’ll be drowned in a great wave of the sticky-sweet cane juice, preserved forever like a gluttonous bug in amber.”
Note: True dat! If you grew up in Louisiana or Mississippi and didn’t have Steen’s in the house, what was wrong with your family?

 

 

 

 

 

 

From The Oxford American: “The Chess King of Decatur Street”
Favorite Quote: “Acers pushed his plastic chair back, stood, and made a grand bow, sweeping his arm from high above his head to down around his ankles. “Dear sir,” he cried, “we shall not speak of things that cannot come to pass.””

Image Credit: Dadu Shin for The New York Times

Image Credit: Dadu Shin for The New York Times

From The New York Times: “What the Sparrows Told Me”
Favorite Quote: ” My father had been told that he had terminal cancer 40 days after Katrina. He didn’t know a Mugimaki flycatcher from a Hudsonian godwit. But during his last days he loved to watch the birds come to his feeders. If watching birds could help my father die, maybe it could help me live and teach.”
Note: I remember well the eerie quiet after the storm, the absence of birdsong. It was a sweet moment when I realized I was hearing the tweets of the first returned birds.

 

 

From Unclutterer blog: Modified Principals of Sanitary Design
Favorite quote: “This list may seem restrictive, but we have found when items do pass the test, they last longer, we use them more often, and we have very little mess to clean up afterwards.”
Note: Despite the dry, textbook title of this piece, it has some good ideas about what to take into consideration when you’re about to make a purchase. This was a timely article for me because lately I find myself thinking, “I wouldn’t have bought this if I’d realized what a chore it would be to keep clean”!

Photo Credit: Antoine Bruy

Photo Credit: Antoine Bruy

 

From HuffPo: “Photographer Documents The Men And Women Who Choose To Live Off The Grid”
Favorite quote: “These are, in some ways, spontaneous responses to the societies these men and women have left behind. This documentary project is an attempt to make a kind of contemporary tale and to give back a little bit of magic to our modern civilization.”

 

From Women Writers, Women’s Books: “5 Life Lessons From Women Writers”
Favorite Quote: “And finally, Maya Angelou, Pam Houston, and Amy Tan taught me that laughter, and in particular the ability to laugh at yourself and life’s absurdities, is key to moving from merely surviving to thriving.”

 

MILLENNIALS_COMBO-master495From The New York Times: “The Millennials Are Generation Nice”
Favorite Quote: “Taken together, these habits and tastes look less like narcissism than communalism. And its highest value isn’t self-promotion, but its opposite, empathy — an open-minded and -hearted connection to others.”
Note: This piece made me look at Millennials in a deeper way, as more than social media addicts and narcissists.

 

 

Our book list of the week comes from Bitch Media:  “Hot Off the Small Press”, “As summer is quickly coming to a close, take some time to bask in the sun and soak in a good book. Here are some short, sweet, stellar reads for the rest of August, all works are recent releases from independent publishers.”

And, finally, our poem of the week is “Long Gone and Never Coming Back” by Michael Gillian Maxwell on Literary Orphans.
Favorite Quote (rather,stanza):

“a soldier in fatigues, just back from deployment
tattoos on his knuckles, his face a mask
of sorrows and regrets”

Have a great reading week, y’all. Don’t forget to check in with our Hot Reads From NOLAFemmes.com Pinterest board.

Hot Reads 8/10/14

From our Pinterest Hot Reads board, a list of our favorite reads on the internet during the past week. Enjoy!

huffpoflapper1. From HuffPo: “Dating in the 1920’s: Lipstick. Booze, and the Origins of Slut Shaming”
Favorite quote: “The new woman of the ’20s was totally different from her mother. She worked and voted. She smoked, drank and danced. She dated. She celebrated her new freedoms in style. She was a flapper.”

2. Also from HuffPo: “The Real “L” Word (Especially in the Bible Belt”) Is….”
(H/T: Part Time Monster)
Favorite quote: “Ministry isn’t always a sermon or a church service. No! Ministry is about loving people — all people. Jesus was radically inclusive. Just look at the woman at the well and the lepers, all considered abominations by the religious people. Jesus loved them, and He included them. That’s what I want to do with The Dandelion Project.”

3. Aaaaand, three times the charm. From HuffPo: “These Are the Things Men Say To Women On the Street”
This is shit that happens when you’re just walking down the street minding your own business. No favorite quote here. The pictures tell the story. huffpo

4. From Humanistic Paganism: “A Pedagogy of Gaia: How Lammas Changed My Life” by New Orleans blogger and activist Bart Everson.
Tagline: What can we learn, and how can we teach, from the cycles of the Earth — both the cycles within us, and the cycles in which we find ourselves?
Favorite Quote: “We may discover unexpected depths and make new connections if we are open to possibilities.”

photo(2)5. From Thought Catalog: “How and Why To Keep a Commonplace Book”
Favorite Quote: “Some of the greatest men and women in history have kept these books. Marcus Aurelius kept one–which more or less became the Meditations. “
Note: I’ve keep one of these little books off and on over the years. Here’s two of my old ones. For me, it’s a creative addition to traditional journaling. Plus, I love quotes.

 

6. From TammyVitale.com: “Things That Strike My Fancy”tammyv
Favorite Quote: “So each new creation we allow to come through us may have been written/sung/painted/danced/spoken before, but in this instance it is filtered through our unique human experience and so it must be something new under the sun. Bayles and Orland, in Art and Fear say: Each new piece of your art enlarges our [everyone' else's] reality. The world is not yet done.”
Note: this is a really great essay on nurturing inspiration in your art and writing.

7. And our list for the week comes from Part Time Monster: “Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books I’d Give to Readers Who Haven’t Read Southern Literature”
A great book list that you should check out. I’d add Mystic Pig by Richard Katrovas,  Atchafalaya Houseboat: My Years in the Louisiana Swamp by Gwen Roland and French Quarter Fiction: The Newest Stories of America’s Oldest Bohemia edited by Joshua Clark.
What book would you add?
8. And finally, great poem of the week is “Don’t You Miss the Phone Booth” by Kate Peper on Rattle. Well, don’t you? If you haven’t thought about it, read this poem. Really.
A little snippet:

Oh, sure, back then it meant people couldn’t reach you 24/7,
photos snapped from your cell at a dinner party couldn’t be sent
to your loved ones in Zurich, or your pre-teen’s thumbs
couldn’t get the workout from texting, but hey—

Early Summer Is a Woman Who Craves Strawberry Pie

Tomorrow is the first day of summer, so the calendar says, but it’s been summer in New Orleans for a couple of weeks already. Admittedly, we enjoyed a longer-than-usual period of cool Spring weather but Ms Summer has arrived in all her blazing glory abuzz with the drone of cicadas during the day and the croaky choir of frogs at night. These early summer days are still somewhat benign. We can walk the streets pretty much comfortably with a light breeze cooling our skin, passing under shade trees and store-front awnings. We can eat outdoors in the courtyards of our exceptional restaurants. We can walk to the snowball stand for nectar cream snowballs with  condensed milk, slurping our way back home again. (Later, we’ll drive.) We can work in the garden in the middle of the day without worrying about needing a hat or a jug of water nearby. We still feel fresh, still feel the ghost of winter’s bitter cold that makes us luxuriate in early summer’s warm air.  But the high summer days of humid, hot, weary bedragglement are just waiting around the corner.

For now, it’s still nice to sit out on the patio in the afternoons with a good book and a slice of something creamy and cool to eat like strawberry pie. Back in April I was up in Mississippi visiting my dad and sisters and my sister Vicki made a fresh strawberry  pie that she promised tasted just like Shoney’s. That’s all I had to hear. When I was a kid, a trip to Shoney’s was a treat and the strawberry pie (or fudge cake) was to die for. Her pie didn’t disappoint and the first bite made my photomouth pop and my eyes close in ecstasy! I’ve been craving it ever since so when I saw some juicy red strawberries at the grocery, I bought two pints and made the pie. Trust me, you won’t find an easier recipe or a more delicious one.

photo(1)

Fresh Strawberry Pie

1 cup sugar
3 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons strawberry gelatin mix
1 cup water
1 pint strawberries, halved
1 pie crust

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and dry gelatin and stir well. Add water and cook on medium-high heat until thick and clear, stirring constantly. (Clear as in no longer a cloudy red, not no-color clear.) Set aside and let cool.
Arrange strawberries over the pie crust. After the filling cools, pour over the strawberries and chill.
Serve with whipped cream. Do not spray whipped cream directly into mouth before topping the pie.
Nevermind. Do it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A few years back on a hot August morning I was feeling particularly prickly with the never-ending summer heat and wrote this little piece. It was subsequently published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. I expect I’ll be in the same old moody mess come this August.

But not yet.

Chimera
(A Wild and Unrealistic Dream or Notion)

All I want on a Sunday morning is to luxuriate
in my laziness. I want to watch old movies
with the volume turned up loud,
the newspaper crackling as I shift
my supine body on the couch, the words
of duplicitous politicians and photos
of narcissistic socialites mashed under my ass.
I want to gaze out my window where heat rises
on the street like steam from a gumbo pot
while I lie, cool as a nectar cream snowball,
in my Maggie The Cat slip, painting my toenails
a color called Bad Influence.
I would sip Southern Wedding Cake coffee
from the chipped china cup I knocked off
the bedside table in a moment of passion
and savor a fresh chocolate croissant,
tender flakiness that melts on the tongue
like vampires melt in the sunlight.
As the sun climbs the sky, I’d meander into the afternoon
with the expectation of an early summer storm when
we would go upstairs and slip between our cool,
white sheets and not be heard from again
until Monday morning.

Glass Woman Prize: Supporting Women’s Writing

Well, National Poetry Month is over and I’m pleased with myself for writing as much poetry as I did. I posted new poems 22 out of 30 days which is the best I’ve done for NaPoWriMo, ever. Last year I didn’t even attempt it so I feel good about this year’s effort. Not that I think all the poems were good ones, but the exercise made me stretch, made me write when I didn’t feel inspired on my own, made me think hard. I had to look for something to inspire, something I don’t do on a regular basis. The NaPoWriMo website was helpful as was reading the work of other poets that gave me ideas or nudged my memory about long-forgotten events. It was a good thing.

A big thing (for me) that happened in April was that I was notified I was a finalist for the 15th Glass Woman Prize for my micro-fiction piece “Something About SW”. I was astonished! I had no idea anything of mine was up for consideration. The Glass Woman Prize is curated by Beate Sigriddaughter to encourage women writersto acknowledge, transparently, who we are, and that who we are is not trivial and unimportant, despite the fact that it is not typically rewarded in a man-made and money-motivated world.

Stats from the website:

As of April 2014:

$10,430 prizes went to 41 prize winners, including $430 in anonymous donations.

5905 direct submissions were read, and an additional estimated 1000 from sources other than direct submissions.

116 stories were posted or linked to the Glass Woman Prize page.

I am honored to be a part what Beate has built and is continuing to build. The winner of the 15th Glass Woman Prize is “Simulacra” by J.P. Reese which I first read on Fictionaut where I commented, “I don’t like how this makes me feel which is what makes it so brilliant.” And I meant it. A good story doesn’t have to make you feel good, it has to make you feel and this story makes you feel, big-time.

I urge you all to go to the GWP page and read the winner’s and finalist’s work and read Beate’s own work, which is phenomenal. The level of talent Beate has gathered for the GWP is amazing and the work is powerful and inspiring. Again, I am in awe of what Beate has done for women’s writing. I hope you will give her your support by reading the work.

“Sand Dollar” by J.P. Reese

Art by Daria Bagrintseva

Art by Daria Bagrintseva


Sand Dollar

Washed ashore, I am the coin
of mermaids in your palm.

Your eyes see only treasure,
not the measure of my end.

The sand moves, sculpted by wind.
Endings clarify, chasten.

Lifted from a suitcase, I am the memory
of sun slashed across a cheekbone,

wind-ruffled sea grass, the curl of foam
that spumes above green waves,

bonfires that sear the night sky,
a kiss from one whose footprints

disappeared beyond the dunes.
I am the arid bone of flowered stars.

~ J.P. Reese, Dead Letters

__________________________

Poetry month has passed (I think it’s Fiction Month now) but poetry will live on for me, and many others, everyday. I’ve been reading a lot of poetry chapbooks and books this year. J.P. Reese’s Dead Letters is a wonderful little chapbook of very personal and touching poems Her manipulation of language is creative and musical and, like music, brings forth your own memories resulting in a feeling of kinship. I highly recommend it. Being a collector of things mermaid, this one is a favorite of mine. I love how it evokes summer nights and memories of long, lazy days at the beach. The last line is gorgeous and hit me like fireworks when I read it. Perfection.

Women Who Write: Valentine Pierce

This is the final interview in our four-part series featuring Louisiana women poets in celebration of National Poetry Month. Each profile has featured a poet from New Orleans or Southeast Louisiana including interview, biography and an original poem selected for this feature.

Valentine Pierce

Valentine Pierce

Valentine Pierce is a New Orleans poet, writer, graphic designer, visual artist and actor. A bit of her wisdom: “We are all many things, a vessel of triumphs and trials, worlds within the worlds of all the people in our lives, singular wonders and curiosities of humanness.” Pierce’s debut book, Geometry of the Heart, was published in 2007 by Portals Press. She has been a resident writer at A Studio in the Woods in 2006, had her artwork displayed at Tulane’s Carroll Gallery, and performed in several productions at Ashé Community Art Center. She even won two awards from the American Academy of Community Theatres—to her surprise.

Fishwife

Melissa is a late baby,
Born in the waters of the Atlantic off the U.S. coast.
Her mid-November birth so far from land destines her
To be a fishwife, to hurl her insults at and spin herself down
Back into the waters from which she came.
No land is near enough to this child of the waters.
Even though her foul-mouthed sputterings
Come as tropical storm winds
And sheeted rain far across the waters,
By the time they reach us they are merely a severe rainstorm,
An accustomed annoyance;
Her voice echoes in the thunder but rallies no fear.
We will feel her wet, latent fury but no one
Will be running for higher or distant ground.
She will die as she was born—helpless and hopeless
In the mid-Atlantic waters in late November.

(Note on this poem: A couple of years ago I heard meteorologist Margaret Orr call a storm a fishwife. I’d never heard of a fishwife and didn’t know how it applied. I did some research and learned about fishwives and why some storms are called such. In November 2013 I finally got to use that word, which had been sitting in the word box of my mind.)

 

What is your earliest recollection of the desire to write down your own thoughts?
I don’t recall when I started writing—grade school, I guess. That’s what we called elementary school back then or grammar school.

Do you remember your first poem? What was it about?
The first poem I ever had published, according to my mom, was in the school bulletin at Joseph S. Craig, when I was in the second grade. The only line I remember is “on the outside looking in.” I remember the first poem I ever got published, in 1983. At that time it was titled “Always Strong.” I revised it so the theme was more universal and retitled “Soul of the Universe.” It was published in the now defunct Day Tonight/Night Today.

Is writing your full-time occupation?
Writing was my full-time occupation. I was a journalist for about 30 years. I was a journalist, photojournalist, layout person, editor, managing editor and press chief. I also had a weekly column, “Marrero Musings,” in the Times-Picayune for seven years. And I did freelance writing. Now my full-time job is graphic design and most of the published work is poetry. I also have odd jobs including freelance graphic design, sewing, and crafting.

Is poetry your primary genre? Do you work in any others?
Poetry is my primary genre but I write in a variety of genres from simple prose to essays to plays, to one-act-shows. I really don’t categorize my work in the sense of right now I am going to write an essay or now I’ll write a poem. I just write and let it happen. I even have a novel in progress—since July 2005. It is called “Dead North.” It got it’s name from the Federal Flood commonly known as Hurricane Katrina. It is a novel about a major hurricane. I’ve been interested in hurricanes all my life and said to myself, hey, “No one has written a novel about a hurricane.” It seems centuries ago that I read a book about a major storm that brought a bad spirit to a certain island. That was part of my inspiration. Hurricanes were the other part and I had tons of secondhand research. A month later I began to get firsthand information. I am not sure that that novel will ever be finished because going from poetry-length to book-length is a feat.

I write short stories, too. They have never been published because most need a tremendous amount of work. I did have one critiqued about 10 years after I wrote it. The ending was weak but the person who critiqued it, a writer I respect, said it would only take me about 20 minutes to fix then ending. He was right but I’ve never had it published. I have a three or four other books that are laying around in a bin somewhere, too.

I even have a whole book, a short one, called “Boundaries of a Life,” which is journaling and poetry about coping with grief. Hmmm, perhaps I need to pull that one out.

As you can see, writing is my life—paid or unpaid.

Do you have a favorite place to write or a routine that’s particularly conducive to your creativity?
Generally, whenever the muse strikes. I don’t usually decide to write, that is decided by my muses, my environment, my mood. Writing just happens for me. But, if I were to choose a place, it would be my home because there are no interruptions. I don’t have to be concerned with time, place, space. When my children were young, it was after they went to bed. Generally thought, poetry hits me in the midst of everyday living and I write it then to keep from losing it.

Where was the strangest place that inspiration hit you for a poem and how did it turn out?

Probably the seafood market that was once on St. Roch at St. Claude. I wrote a poem on a napkin with a burned out match. I can’t remember the name because I was a teenager but I still have it somewhere.

Oh, wait, once, in a restroom I pulled a paper towel off a shelf. When I had entered I wondered why so many of them were on the floor. When I pulled mine, a second one just floated down like a butterfly so I wrote a brown butterfly poem about it. Don’t know where that poem is right now.

Are there any recurrent themes in your poems? If so, why do you think that is?
I think the only recurring theme in my poems is life. That’s what I write about. The here and now, the hurt and happiness, the smiles and tears.

I am somewhat a collector of words. Do you have any favorite words?
I collect words and phrases. Often they end up in poems. Can’t think of any phrases to share but some of my words have to do with poems like Onomatapeia and iambic pentameter. I also collect names because they are amazing Like Beth Kneebone, She Ping, Cleopatra Pendleton, William Dear, Freeman A. Hrabowski III., and Jacqueline Goodchilds are just a few I have on my desk right now.

Do you have any tips to share regarding motivation and/or discipline in completing a piece?
I don’t know what tips would be useful because writing is such a personal art. Sometimes you have to stay still, stay home, skip the television program to work through a piece, sometimes you have to set it aside long enough for other things to fill you mind and then go back to it because it becomes fresh again that way. Sometimes you have to leave home and go to a park or a retreat. When I had the opportunity to be the writer-in-residence at A Studio in the Woods in 2006 it was the first time in my life that I could spend every waking moment writing. And I did. I was amazed at the amount of work I completed in one month. I wish I could do that all the time. I have several friends to thank for that for constantly telling me to submit until finally I gathered up my courage and did it. My fear was that I didn’t stand a chance because there are so many great writers in New Orleans. I came back from Phoenix, AZ, where I was living with friends after the storm.
(Editors note: the storm = Hurricane Katrina)

Who are some of your favorite poets and why?
Goodness. That list is so long: Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, all of the Black Renaissance poets, just about every poet in this city, the poets I recently met at the Acadiana Word Lab, most of the poets I’ve met in my life. What I like is the work, the words they put down, the sound, rhythm, music of the words, how they approach their topics whether main stream or taboo, the many ways writers write. I am probably not explaining this well because it is impossible to say exactly. I just know that poets inspire me, cause me to challenge myself, bring me great joy and sometimes bring tears to my eyes.
I have been inspired to write many poems based on hearing other poets read their work.

Finally, do you have any upcoming readings or appearances you can share with us?
My next events are workshops at the Algiers Regional Library April 19 and 26, 2p. It’s called “Stand Up, Look Up, Speak Up: How to present your work in public.”
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Thank you, Valentine, for sharing your work and your thoughts with us today.

Thanks to all of the wonderful women poets that participated in this series. It was great!

To read all interviews for Women Who Write, click here.

Women Who Write: Julie Kane

This is the third in a four-part series featuring Louisiana women poets in celebration of National Poetry Month. Each profile will highlight a poet from New Orleans or Southeast Louisiana including interview, biography and an original poem selected for this feature.

Julie Kane

Julie Kane

Our featured poet today is Julie Kane. Julie’s poetry collections include Rhythm & Booze (University of Illinois Press, 2003), which was Maxine Kumin’s selection for the National Poetry Series and a finalist for the Poets’ Prize; Jazz Funeral (Story Line Press, 2009), which won the Donald Justice Poetry Prize, judged by David Mason; and Paper Bullets (White Violet Press, 2014), a new collection of light verse. Together with Grace Bauer, she co-edited the anthology Umpteen Ways of Looking at a Possum: Critical and Creative Responses to Everette Maddox (2006), which became a finalist for the Southern Independent  Booksellers Alliance book prize in poetry. The nonfiction Vietnam memoir that she co-authored with Kiem Do (Counterpart: A South Vietnamese Naval Officer’s War, 1998) became a History Book Club featured alternate selection. Recently she wrote the libretto for Starship Paradise, a one-act opera with music by Dale Trumbore that was produced by Center City Opera Theater of Philadelphia. Her poems appear in over forty anthologies and in journals such as Barrow Street, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, and The Southern Review. They have also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. The 2011-2013 Louisiana Poet Laureate,she has also been the George Bennett Fellow in Writing at Phillips Exeter Academy, the New Orleans Writer in Residence at Tulane University, a faculty member of the West Chester Conference on Form and Narrative in Poetry, and a Fulbright Scholar to Vilnius Pedagogical University in Lithuania. Currently she is a Professor of English at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and a Contributing Editor to Light Magazine.

THOSE SUNDAY DRIVES

You used to bore me with your monologues
on drives through old “New Awlins” neighborhoods:
what family had what house when you were young
and where some candy store or bank had stood.
Who cares about the past? I used to think.
We Yankee Irish pulled up roots a lot,
escaping relatives with chicken coops
and cabbage boiling in a kitchen pot.
But that was all before the hurricane
our Mason-Dixon love did not survive—
a minor loss beside a thousand dead,
four houses flooded out of every five.
So much has changed: Time speeded up her clock,
and now I bore all riders with my talk.

What is your earliest recollection of the desire to write down your own thoughts?
When I was seven years old, I had a collection of fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen with several blank white pages at the end. I knew with absolute certainty that I was supposed to write my own story on those pages, and I did, printing it in pencil. It was about a girl who was helping her mother make whipped cream, but she whipped it too long and it turned into butter, and then her fairy godmother appeared and granted her one wish, and she turned the butter back to “wiped cream.” I still have that book.

Do you remember your first poem? What was it about?

I don’t remember the very first one, but I have a copy of one I wrote in 5th grade, when we were studying logging in our social studies textbook (God only knows why). It begins: “The loggers are busy cutting trees / with saws that sound like bumblebees . . .”

Is writing your full-time occupation?

Ha! Advice to any aspiring poets out there: don’t quit your day job! I am an English professor at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Before I got my doctorate, I worked for many years as a technical writer and editor.

Is poetry your primary genre? Do you work in any others?

Yes, it is my primary genre, but I also publish creative nonfiction, and I write scholarly essays and book reviews about literature. Last year I wrote the libretto for a one-act opera that was produced by Center City Opera Theater of Philadelphia.

I’m always interested in the writing process. Tell us a little about yours. Do you ponder a poem for a while, keeping it in a draft stage and working on it periodically or do you write it all at once, as the inspiration and words strike you? How much editing do you do on a piece?

I can write prose when I am not inspired and produce a lousy first draft, and then go back to it and improve it later, but poetry is different—I have to be feeling inspired to write a poem, or it just does not flow. I handwrite in pencil on lined paper, and I keep crossing out and crumpling up sheets of paper—the first draft of a one-page poem might take me several hours. Then I have to put it aside for awhile, a few days or a few weeks, before I can look at it objectively and tweak word choices or individual lines. Sometimes I will get the idea for a poem but know that I am not ready to write it yet. There are a few poems that have taken me years between the time the idea came to me and the time I felt ready to write it.

Do you have a favorite place to write that’s particularly conducive to your creativity?

I have a huge study with bookshelves and a desk, but my favorite place to write is a little breakfast table that looks out on my yard, with birdfeeders and trees and flowers.

I read an interview where you said you can not force poetry if you’re not feeling
inspired (and I silently cheered!). So many writers advise to write every day, to
actually force yourself, that it’s good practice. What do you think about that p.o.v.?

I think it’s a good idea to write every day if you are working on a novel or a dissertation or
another long prose work, but it does not work for me in terms of poetry. It does for some poets,though.

Where was the strangest place that inspiration hit you for a poem and how did it turn out?

There have been times when I was driving my car and a line or idea would come to me, and I have had to fish in my purse for a pen and the back of one of the deposit slips in my checkbook to try to write it down while driving. Then sometimes I go back to those cryptic jottings and wonder, What on earth was I thinking?

Are there any recurrent themes in your poems? If so, why do you think that is?

Other people are better than I am at spotting themes, since I am inside the poems and they are outside. But certainly, love and the breakdown of contemporary relationships, fate versus free will, alcoholism, mortality, Irish Catholicism, Louisiana nature and culture.

I am somewhat a collector of words. Do you have any favorite words?

I think my favorite is “newfangleness,” from the 16th century poem “They Flee from Me,” by Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder. It means “fickleness.”

Do you have any tips to share regarding motivation and/or discipline in completing a piece?

You have to love the act of writing enough to finish what you start, or what’s the point? There are so many other things competing for our time and attention—there is no need to torture yourself, if you don’t love to do it. It can be hard sitting down in the writing chair and getting started, but once that creative flow takes over, it should be more fun than Netflix or Facebook!

I know that you studied briefly under Anne Sexton at Boston University. What is the one most important thing you learned from her?

She told us not to be afraid to be a fool for poetry—not to worry about whether anyone would like us or respect us because of what we wrote. It was the opposite of the advice my mother drilled into me while I was growing up, which was to always worry about what other people were thinking, to be well-behaved at all times.

You were Louisiana’s Poet Laureate for 2011-2013. Do you remember how you felt the minute you were told that you were chosen?

I was sitting in my office at work, getting ready to teach a night class, when I opened an email message from a member of the governor’s staff. It said that the governor would like to name me the next Poet Laureate. I was so happy and excited, I let out a very loud scream! And then a student who was out in the hall poked his head in my office to ask if I were OK.

Did you learn anything that surprised you during your time as Poet Laureate?

I was stunned to find so many thousands of people who care about poetry, all around the state: from teenaged dropouts in an alternative high school to the Colonial Dames of Shreveport.

There is a burgeoning poetry community online and new lit journals popping up all the time. Some people think it’s just so much “look at me” noise and unworthy of notice while others celebrate more open and diverse opportunities for poets to share their work. What do you think?

I think online publication is wonderful—it means that anyone can find and read your poem online, and that the size of the audience is potentially unlimited. I love the look and feel of a beautiful print journal or a book, but I also love the democracy of online publishing. Also, online forums and listservs and social media make it possible for writers who share a certain interest—such as those of us who write in form, the so-called “New Formalists”—to share news and build a sense of community that counters the isolation of writing.

I find it impossible to name one poet who is my favorite – I have several. Who are some of your favorite poets and/or poems?

It is impossible for me to name all of my favorite living poets, but I can name some of my favorites who are no longer living: the ancient Chinese poets including Po Chu-i, Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder, John Donne, Charles Baudelaire, Constantine Cavafy, William Butler Yeats, Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, Anna Ahkmatova, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Seamus Heaney.

Finally, do you have any upcoming readings or appearances you can share with us?

I have several readings coming up in Washington, DC, next week. Together with the current Louisiana Poet Laureate, Ava Leavell Haymon, I will be reading at the National Press Club of Washington, DC, at 12 noon on April 15. That reading is sponsored by the American Women Writers National Museum. That same evening at 7 PM, Ava and I and two other women poets will be reading at the Arts Club of Washington. The following day, we will read our poems for a taping of Grace Cavalieri’s radio show, “The Poet and the Poem.” Later this month (April 27), I will be taking part in a reading at the Zachary Public Library that will honor the memory of Wilmer Mills, a Louisiana poet who died young.

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Thank you, Julie, for sharing your thoughts with us today!

To read all interviews for Women Who Write, click here. Next Friday: Valentine Pierce.