Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Saddest Place on Earth by Kathryn Mockler

Poems by Kathryn Mockler
Edited by Jason Camlot
Cover Art and Drawings by David Poolman

Publisher's Description:

Deeply interested in American politics and the absurdity of our mediated relation to the political sphere, the beautiful and entertaining narrative poems in The Saddest Place on Earth follow absurd premises to their most logical conclusions. Here, God appears on Oprah, Hurt Feelings and Anger rent a cottage together on Lake Huron for a week in August, and the saddest place on earth is discovered in a Chinese restaurant at the end of a stripmall. Kathryn Mockler's approach to language and the world results in an extremely engaging, moving and often hilarious poetics of deep disorientation.

Sample Poem:

                        Rock Out

This weekend I'm going to rock out, he said.

Good for you, I said. I'm planning to kill myself.

Really? Why?

Because I don't want to live anymore. Living is a big waste of my time. I've got better things to do.

What else could you possibly have to do besides living?

Oh, lots of things, I said. Reincarnation for one and being an angel. Being an angel keeps you really busy.
I don't think I'm going to heaven, he said. You're lucky if you think you're ending up there.

I guess I am lucky, I said.

Then he said: Have a good one.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Things to Avoid for New Poets

Below is a list that I compiled with students in my poetry class.

Obviously there are great poems that include elements on this list; however, these are words, phrases,  rhyme-patterns, metaphors, etc that I've found are overused by writers new to poetry, and the use of these elements or words can and, most often do, result in one-dimensional, cliché poetry.
  • centre justification
  • capping first letter of every line
  • overly dramatic or overused words such as tears, soul, quivering, being, yearning, pain, existence
  • hearts/heartbroken/hearts beating/bleeding hearts
  • love poems (I love my parents, my boyfriend, my grandparents)
  • poems about homeless people (unless you’ve been homeless)
  • excessive use of abstract words like hope, joy, love, alienation, loneliness
  • predictable hard end-rhymes, sing-songy rhymes
  • referring to the sky as inky
  • using the description blue-black
  • using different font sizes or types
  • cliché phrases or dead metaphors as in “cherry red lips” or “out like a light” or her "sea blue eyes"
  • references to stars in the sky
  • excessive use of adjectives
  • excessive use of “ing” words – climbing, falling, pumping, yearning, glinting
  • using sound effects: crunch, crunch, crunch
  • antiquated language – thou or shall or wanton
  • avoid vast generalizations or general language
  • pat poems - poems that are closed because the poet directly explains the theme of the poem to reader or the metaphor is so obvious that the poem becomes one-dimensional
  • trick poems - poems that trick the reader to thinking that he or she is reading a poem about a person and then we find out that the subject of the poem is really a dog or bird 

One of the most effective ways to learn how to write contemporary, publishable literary poetry is to read poetry that was published, in say, that last ten or twenty years.

This is the hard part because there's a lot of stuff out there that you won't like.

But go to your local bookstore or library and start pulling books off the shelves. Read a few lines from each poet and ask yourself--what draws you in, what makes you stop reading?

Buy the books of the poets you like and read them over and over. Underline favourite passages and try to figure out what these writers are doing that has had such an impact on you.

Then go back and look at your own poems from the point of view of a reader.

How-to books are okay for learning the elements of poetry, but your teachers should be other poets. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Word on the Street interview series: Kathryn Mockler | Open Book: Toronto

The Word on the Street interview series: Kathryn Mockler | Open Book: Toronto

Word on the Street Toronto

Check out this year's Word on the Street Toronto on Sunday September 23, 2012 at Queen's Park Circle, 11am - 6pm.

I'm reading from my poetry book Onion Man (Tightrope Books) in the Vibrant Voices of Ontario Tent at 1:15 to 1:30pm with these great authors:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Interview Series: I Don't Call Myself A Poet


This project began with students of CMW1001: Introduction to Writing – Poetry at the University of Middlesex in Spring 2012. Students were each assigned to interview a poet, and collaborated in class on developing a pool of “burning questions.” The initial project produced 68 interviews, but the site plans to grow! It was inspired by Angela Rawlings’ The Great Canadian Writers’ Craft.

The name of the site, “I Don’t Call Myself a Poet,” was inspired by a phrase used by some of the poets interviewed, who pointed instead to poetry as a process, practice, engagement, or as one identity among many. It conveys the often self-deprecating nature of British poets and poetry, as well as the sense of community, of being part of poetry rather than being “a poet”, described in many of the interviews.

Read More

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sound Poetry: Angela Rawlings

Christine Leclerc Interviews Angela Rawlings

This interview also appears in the Dutch magazine Ooteoote.

Poet, editor and interdisciplinary artist Angela Rawlings is the author of Wide slumber for lepidopterists. Her work has been published/performed in Canada, Belgium, Iceland, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.

Over lunch with friends from the Vancouver women writers group, Rhizomatics, I learned that Rawlings had an extensive collection of water recordings. I was lucky to catch her with a few moments to spare as she completed the cheekily-titled Sound Poetry and Visual Poetry project at the Queensland Poetry Residence in Australia.
Read More 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ghanian poet Kwame Dawes discusses newly-established African Poetry Book Series BY Sarah Langs

Ghanian poet Kwame Dawes discusses newly-established African Poetry Book Series

Advice for Sending Your Work to Literary Journals

Advice for Sending Your Work to Literary Journals
by Kathryn Mockler

Research the journals where you are sending your work. Read their mission statements and read the work they publish. Do your homework. This is common advice but is rarely followed. Sending out work that doesn't fit the tone or the mission of the journal is a waste of everyone's time.

In addition to researching the journals you send to, research writers you admire and whose work you think is similar to your own. Go to their websites and see where they've published and send your work to the same journals. 

Simultaneously Submissions
In the old days simultaneous submissions (submitting your work to more than one literary journal) were frowned upon. Literary journals expected writers to send a story or a small group of poems to their journal and then wait six months to a year for a response. If one followed this rule, it could potentially take up to ten years to get a single acceptance. 

Most journals now accept simultaneous submissions as they are easy to keep track of with submission systems like Submittable. However some print journals stand by the old rule. It's always best to read submission guidelines. In any case, keep good records and inform the journals right away if your work is accepted elsewhere. 

Print vs. Online
Initially there was a stigma attached to online journals; they were seen as "less than" or not as prestigious as print journals. But that view has changed in recent years as writers realize that their chances of having their work read increases if their work is published in an online format and then shared on social media. 

It's a good idea to have a combination of both print and online publications in terms of what book publishers and granting bodies like to see. And what writer wouldn't want to see his or her work in print in The Malahat, The Paris Review, or The New Yorker, but in terms of online journals not being legit publishing venues--those days are gone. 

Just take a look at Joyland or The Puritan or Diagram or Drunken Boat to get a sense of how vibrant and diverse the online publishing format can be.

Journals reject work not necessarily because of bad writing but for many reasons. Perhaps your writing doesn't fit with the journal's mandate or they've already published too many stories about sticker collections or they are working within a particular theme. A rejection doesn't always mean the journal hates you and your writing.

Author Michael V. Smith notes in an interview with The Rusty Toque, "Rejection is all part of the business, so if you aren’t rejected, you aren’t in the business. I take rejections as a good sign—I’m being a writer." 

Use rejection as learning tool. Re-examine your work. Can you improve? Ask yourself why does this keep getting rejected. If an editor offers some advice, consider it.

Learn to cope with rejection. Send out your work often. This will help you develop the necessary thick skin. Get over yourself and press on. For every rejection, send out your work five more times.

Resist the temptation to send nasty emails to the journal or to the editors who have rejected your work. Most often the people working on literary journals are volunteers. They are not out to get you. They are curating, and just because your story doesn't fit with their vision doesn't mean they are terrible people or that you are a terrible writer.

The literary community is a small one, and it's best not to burn bridges.

Publishing Contracts


A poet must know punctuation. Here are two articles in favour of the semi-colon.

The New Yorker: Semicolons; So Tricky Posted by

The New York Times: Semicolons: A Love Story By BEN DOLNICK

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Believer Interview with Amy Gerstler

Poet Ali Liebegott took a road trip across America. Destination: the Emily Dickinson house. She interviewed female poets along the way. In previous installments of the series, she introduced the trip, spoke with Maggie Nelson, and visited with Sarah Bynum. Here is interview #3.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Canadian Women in the Literary Arts

CWILA: a great new literary initiative founded by Gillian Jerome:

Here's a description of CWILA from their website:

"CWILA (Canadian Women in the Literary Arts) is an inclusive national literary organization for people who share feminist values and see the importance of strong and active female perspectives and presences within the Canadian literary landscape."

Read More

The Poetry of YouTube by Luc Gross

The Poetry Of YouTube
"In 2011, we at Traumawien held three public performances in Vienna. They were poetic treatments of YouTube comments featuring professional actors. The actors performed comments from a random selection of videos that had received more than a million views, over 200 comments and were in the German language."

Read More

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Poetry surviving rumours of its demise

Vibrant local community celebrates the joys of the written and spoken word

By Amy Smart, Times Colonist

The debate about poetry's vitality has had a steady presence in print for decades.
There was Joseph Epstein's 1988 piece in Commentary, "Who killed poetry?" and Donald Hall's 1989 defence in Harper's, "Death to the death of poetry." Then Bruce Wexler's 2003 Newsweek editorial "Poetry is dead."
Vancouver-based magazine Poetry Is Dead, "devoted to poetry and the lack thereof," pays contributors with a free issue of the semi-annual magazine. "This will change when poetry undies," it promises.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Your Brain on Fiction: The New York Times Review

By ANNIE MURPHY PAUL Published: March 17, 2012
AMID the squawks and pings of our digital devices, the old-fashioned virtues of reading novels can seem faded, even futile. But new support for the value of fiction is arriving from an unexpected quarter: neuroscience. Read More

Monday, January 30, 2012

media studies and the typewriter poem:

media studies and the typewriter poem

Media studies is commonly associated with the study of digital media structures and related phenomena. But the more media theory I read (and lately I’ve been voraciously reading everything by Marshall McLuhan that’s outside of the well-worn Understanding Media) the more drawn I am to thinking through the defining effects of earlier analogue and digital writing interfaces as instances of media – from paper/pencil to typewriter to command-line...  Read More

Monday, January 23, 2012

Black Coffee Poet presents Ojibwe poet David Groulx

The Telegraph: The mystery of poetry editing: from TS Eliot to John Burnside

If one poet edits another, whose work is it? In the week that John Burnside won the T S Eliot Prize, Sameer Rahim investigates the unseen hands behind that most personal and mysterious of literary forms.

Audio: A Poet at the Window

A Poet at the Window: Conversation with Donald Hall

This week in the magazine, Donald Hall writes about growing old in the New Hampshire farmhouse where his family has lived since the end of the Civil War. Here he talks with Blake Eskin about how this place inspires his writing, why he’s stopped writing poetry, and what it’s like living among so many memories and stories.
Listen to the mp3 on the player above, or right-click here to download.

"Meeln" by bpNichol (audio poem)

"Meeln" by bpNichol This poem is from the 60-minute cassette Ear Rational: Sound Poems 1966-1980, published in 1982 by Membrane Press New Fire Tapes (Milwaukee).

Search This Blog

Literary Blogs

Journal and Press Blogs

  • Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them - Are you on Instagram? Then you can be featured here by tagging your bo...
    33 minutes ago
  • Misty Copeland | UNLIKE ANY “The systemic structure built to keep me in place is the stage I dance on. Black, and woman.” This short film featuring princ...
    2 hours ago
  • Today's (scary) book news.
    2 days ago
  • The launch of Magma 68 will be on Friday 28th July, 7pm at London Review Bookshop, 14-16 Bury Pl, Bloomsbury, London WC1A 2JL. Guest readers are Fleur Adco...
    1 week ago
  • Winner receives $500, publication by Factory Hollow Press, and 1-month residency in Lj...
    1 week ago
  • We’ve always burned people alive, beheaded them, gassed them, and Énard doesn’t fail to remind us. The post The Other in Oneself | Review of Compass by M...
    2 months ago
  • That scene in The Wizard of Oz where the farmhouse is spinning through the sepia-coloured sky (2:25 below). Dorothy lies concussed inside then wakes to loo...
    6 months ago
  • Poetry: Jennifer LoveGrove: JENNIFER LOVEGROVE is the author of the Giller Prize longlisted novel Watch How We Walk, as well as two poetry collections: I ...
    7 months ago
  • Carmine Starnino Robert Moore Nyla Matuk Monarch Tavern
    9 months ago
  • After some legal wrangling, a letter from Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac will be offered at auction.
    1 year ago

Prose Blogs