Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Writer's Notebook featuring Marjorie Manwaring

Thank you, Crab Creek Review editors, for asking me to participate in the Writer’s Notebook.

I wrote the first draft of the poem “You Ask About the Letting Go” over six years ago, worked on revisions for about a year, and then, in frustration, let it lie fallow for about 3-1/2 years. I wasn’t sure it was ever going to go anywhere. Then I started working on it again last year while at a residency at the Whiteley Center. I think the long period of time away from the piece was helpful; it provided me with a certain detachment I hadn’t had before and allowed me to go in and make some “surgical” changes that were needed.

I hadn’t looked at old versions of the poem in some time. But because I’m a pack rat—computer-wise and otherwise (though I’m trying to change my ways!) I had copies of every draft on my hard disk, the earlier ones transferred over from a long since departed computer, and with a few mouse clicks I had the history of the poem before me. (I save a poem with a new version number each time I make substantial changes to it. I find that makes it easier for me to take risks in revisions, because I can “always go back to the way it was.”)

It surprised me that the first line of the poem as it stands now was unchanged from the 2002 version. Early first lines are often “throw-aways” for me—just placeholders that allow me get to where I really want to be. I suspect the line in this poem might have been one of those rare ones that floats into my head unexpectedly and becomes a kind of obsession.

I was in graduate school in 2002 and had been immersing myself in the work of H.D. (Hilda Doolittle). I had originally been attracted to her because of her early poems like “Sea Rose” and “Garden.” I soon realized that while her Imagist work was what she was most known for (“Oread” is her most anthologized poem), her life’s work went way beyond the “no excesses” mantra of Imagism and was informed by her fascination with, among other things, alchemy, mythology, psychoanalysis (she was actually a patient of Sigmund Freud!), and the “re-visioning” of myths and religious stories (“Helen” and the long poem Trilogy are two examples). Friends described H.D. as intense and prone to trances, and she details some of these experiences in Notes on Thoughts and Vision. H.D. was able to access liminal states, what I’ve also seen referred to as “borderlines,” “the wild zone, and “the marginal world.” She once wrote in a letter, “I seem a very between-worlds person.” (Friedman, Penelope’s Web)

I think it’s likely that this notion of “in-between states” influenced “You Ask About the Letting Go.” I like to think that maybe some of the “re-visioning” I’d seen in the writings of H.D. and other poets like Adrienne Rich, Hélène Cixous, and Anne Carson may have influenced how I went about tackling the subject matter of the poem—I knew the scene I wanted to set the poem in, but I didn’t want the voice to be the expected voice.

In terms of the poem’s form, my comfort zone was narrative poetry, but I was reading poets who were writing in fragments, whose words carried mystery and gained cumulative associations when used in circular and repetitive ways. My hope is that some of what was intriguing and pleasurable to me in reading those works managed to find its way into this poem.

Friedman, Susan Stanford. Penelope’s Web: Gender, Modernity, H.D.’s Fiction. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1990.

Web sites:
www.mmanwaring.com (includes information on how to get a copy of Marjorie’s chapbook Magic Word)

www.dmqreview.com (the DMQ Review, an online poetry and art journal)


Sunday, October 12, 2008

With Thanks to Natasha Moni

Annette & I are thrilled to be editing Crab Creek Review. Since coming on, we have been busy trying to continue the upward swing of the magazine and reach out to new readers and writers, but we want to take a moment to say thank you. We feel so lucky to have joined into such a strong team. And we hope our expanding team of people will help make things easier for all and help make our journal stronger for our readers. Thank you all for your help and support.

We also wanted to take some time to thank the last editor, Natasha Moni, who did so much for Crab Creek Review to keep it going and active in the literary arts world. We are so thankful for all that she did and also for her continuing ongoing support and friendship.

So this week, we'd like to share with you a lovely thank you post our incredible poetry editor, Lana Hechtman Ayers wrote for Natasha to let us all say thank you more formally and share a little more about her and what she did. We wish Natasha well in her travels, her writing, and her life. Good luck to you, Natasha! We will miss you!

--Kelli & Annette

* * *

As Natasha Kochicheril Moni, Crab Creek Review's former editor-in-chief, heads to sunny California for her next big adventure in life we wish her a thrilling journey.

Natasha came aboard as a staff editor for Crab Creek a few years back, just as all the long-time editors were about to part ways. She soon found herself one of two remaining staff, the other, Emily Bedard, pregnant and about to exit for her adventure into new motherhood. Natasha had two options—let the journal die a quiet death or try to recruit a whole new staff to keep it going. Crab Creek Review is an independent, nonprofit and all its staff members have always been volunteers. Finding folks who have the skill, time, and energy to donate to nonprofits is a daunting task. Add to that the fact that the coffers were pretty near dry, so in addition to finding qualified staff, she'd need to raise a lot of funds just to get out an issue or two. Crab Creek had been around for over twenty years and was always one of Natasha's favorite journals. She understood that one less literary journal meant much less beauty and goodness in the world, the potential silencing of necessary voices.

So Natasha rose to the occasion like the true hero she is. She consulted friends, former editors, advertised on Craigslist, did whatever it took to find a staff that would be willing to go the distance with her. Then she undertook the intimidating fundraising campaign. She wrote letters, applied for grants, hit up family and friends. In a short time, her tireless efforts were rewarded with enough funds to publish for nearly two years. Managing a literary journal is a full time job she had to cram in with gainful employment, relationships, and her own writing life. Natasha gave of herself no matter the sacrifice to see to it that Crab Creek not only stayed in business, but also surpassed its reputation as one the finest literary journals in the country.

As poetry editor for the last two issues it has been a privilege to work with Natasha. Her dedication and integrity have been inspiring. She is both grounded and innovative—a rare combination. Our staff meetings were not only productive, but also great fun. It's been the best working environment I've ever experienced. And most of all, I am proud and honored to have gained in Natasha a true friend.

Her final act as editor-in-chief was to find a way to fill her shoes. In doing so, she recruited Kelli Russell Agodon and Annette Spaulding-Convy as co-editors, thus ensuring the journal's brilliant future. Natasha, you will be greatly missed, but your legacy of excellence at Crab Creek will continue on.

--Lana Hechtman Ayers

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Writer's Notebook featuring Barbara Crooker

Dear Readers,

Today for our series, The Writer's Notebook, I'd like to introduce Barbara Crooker, a wonderful poet whose new book Line Dance came out from Word Press this year. We'd also like to thank Barbara for donating her books and a broadside to help support Crab Creek Review at our upcoming reading; we so appreciate the great support from writers we've received recently.

Below you'll find a couple poems from Barbara and something interesting thoughts on the topic "poetry as therapy."

Thanks for inviting me to join this conversation. I've been thinking lately about poetry as therapy, partly because of an email conversation with a new friend who's a former therapist, and partly because my own dear mother passed away recently, and this weekend, we brought her ashes to Cape Cod, to be scattered on the beach where my father's ashes lie. Mom had been ill with emphysema for over ten years, so I both witnessed and chronicled her slow decline.

Here are two poems from our previous trips:


It's been four years since my father died,
and it seems like I'm becoming him,
driving my mother to this sandy spit
where we vacation with their friends
of thirty years, go to thrift shops
and lobster roll lunches at the white
Congregational church, admire the blue
hydrangeas bobbing along the picket fence.
This year, death's been busy as a surfcaster
on a moon-filled night, blues and stripers
running wild, reeling them in one after another:
Dottie talking on the phone, Merrick dozing
in his recliner, cancer's heavy weather
taking Jean and Clare, and only Mom and I remain.

We're sitting at our favorite restaurant, stirring
sugar in iced tea, hearing the little cubes tinkle
like wind chimes. I want to skip the next chapter,
stay here like this, life rolling on predictable
as morning fog, or thick milky chowder, the sun,
a pat of butter, melting through. Our waitress,
in a white apron and pink uniform, her name scrolled
on her left breast, waits with a pad of paper:
"The meltaways just came out of the oven," she says,
"Can you smell them? I can put them in a box
if you don't have room for now."

previously published in Nimrod


strip the leaves off the sycamores; they scuttle down
the street like an army of fiddler crabs crazed for the sea.
In the hospital, my mother's breathing grows more
and more labored, difficult without the silver ribbon
of oxygen in her nose- This year, we didn't get to see
the ocean off Cape Cod, hear the gulls call, watch the waves
hurl themselves on the sand, or feel the fog turn the night air
milky as chowder. Though she's still here, already she's starting
to fade, a clipping yellowing in a drawer, a snapshot
in a black album. The tide goes out, erasing our footprints;
the wind knocks the last leaves from the tree.

Previously published in The South Carolina Review

So, did writing these poems (and many others) prepare me for the great waves of grief I experienced at her passing? Of course not. And yet. Because the other side of me thinks that emotions not expressed fester inside us, creating worse scars, and other problems. Since she passed in early August, I've been writing and writing and writing. I need more time to see if any of them turn out to be any good, but my heart, at least, is lighter than I think it would be.

Some years ago, a close friend was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. I think we thought if we talked about it, the worst wouldn't happen, but of course, it did. I hadn't intended to write anything, but the poems came and kept on coming during those three years, and they ended up as a chapbook, The White Poems. (Barnwood Press)(http://www.bsu.edu/classes/koontz/barnwood/indbks/bc.htm)

Here's one of the last poems in the book:

for Judy

It is early March, each day a little bit greener,
crocus and snowdrops already in bloom, daffodils
sending up the tips of their spears.
When summer comes, we will take you to the river,
trickle your ashes through our fingers.
You will return to us in rain and snow,
season after season, roses, daisies, asters,
chrysanthemums. Wait for us on the other side.
The maple trees let go their red-gold leaves in fall;
in spring, apple blossoms blow to the ground
in the slightest breeze, a dusting of snow.
Let our prayers lift you, small and fine as they are,
like the breath of a sleeping baby. There is never
enough time. It runs through our fingers like water
in a stream. How many springs are enough,
peepers calling in the swamps? How many firefly-spangled
summers? Your father is waiting on the river bank,
he has two fishing poles and is baiting your hook.
Cross over, fish are rising to the surface,
a great blue heron stalks in the cattails,
the morning mist is rising, and the sun is breaking
through. Go, and let our hearts be broken.
We will not forget you.

previously published in Vol No

It could have been written for my mother. Maybe it could have been written for you?

What's very strange is that the poem was written about three years before her husband and I took her ashes to the river; it's amazing to me how sometimes poems possess knowledge and lives of their own. It didn't stop the pain, but surely it stitched the wound, put a clean patch on it.

So while I don't think poetry is therapy; ie, I'm not writing to heal myself, but rather, to craft an object, the best way that I can, I think that many times it ends up functioning as therapy, in spite of itself. And surely, there's nothing wrong with that.

~Barbara Crooker


Our thanks to Barbara Crooker for her words.

To learn more about Barbara Crooker & learn more about her work please visit these links--

books: Line Dance: http://www.word-press.com/crooker_linedance.html
Radiance: http://www.word-press.com/crooker.html