Showing posts from 2011

A sonnet, on demand

For my Facebook friends who wanted to see the Parisian sonnet I mentioned... The poem appeared in the latest issue of the International Poetry Review, one dedicated to contemporary poetry from Romania.Since 1975, this fine publication has been bringing together poetry from around the globe, in the original language and in translation, as well as poetry from English-speaking realms. Mark Smith-Soto edits this journal, with the able assistance of a number of associate, consulting, and guest editors. The journal is published out of UNC-Greensboro.A two-issue subscription is $12. For more information about the magazine, visit this webpage.

So - this sonnet - based on a December stay in an apartment in the Second Arrondissement, a place of amazing contrasts and a low incidence of tourists!

2nd Honeymoon
Moonlight on watered cobbles of Montorgueil: limp endive, aging coquilles, cigarettes bob down the gutter. “My feet,”I plead,hobble past cave et boucherie, Stohrer’s baguettes. We sleep among the …
Poetry, Wordsworth said, is emotion recollected in tranquility.
For a definition of "tranquility," see the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities.

Home to the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame and home base for the North Carolina Poetry Society, Weymouth Center has a busy calendar of chamber music, garden events, and lectures. Those occupy the ground floor and the surrounding terraces and gardens.
But for a writer, Weymouth is upstairs. The second floor of the historic home - actually two homes joined together, plus - has several rooms for writers to just write. Nothing else. Just write.
I joined the elect earlier this month, when I spent five days at the Southern Pines center. North Carolina writers have completed more than 600 residencies there - if all were as productive as mine, then we have Weymouth to thank for many, many books.
I sat at my desk in the Paul Green room, overlooking the gardens with their bare architectural trees and winter-blooming camellias,…

Remembering the Old Home Place


Blood Clay by Valerie Nieman | Our State Magazine

Our State magazine is one of the gems of North Carolina - a state magazine that is chock-full of information and entertainment. I was so pleased to see Blood Clay get  such a nice notice there.

Blood Clay by Valerie Nieman | Our State Magazine
A poem from Wake Wake Wake - remembering AWP, taping this segment in the uproar of the book fair, while I was tired and really, really cold - but enjoying the whole experience!

PRE: Blood Clay - Valerie Nieman (2011-08-31)

Passing it on

I collect books - what writer doesn't? I fill the shelves and love to look at the colors of the spines and typography of the titles, remembering when I heard this poet read, or sat on a workshop led by that fiction writer.
So it's tough to give up a book. I lend with reluctance...knowing that books, once loosed, tend to be like wandering hounds, always headed for the next porch down the road.
But sometimes the book and the person come together. One young man went away with my (third) copy of Breece D'J Pancake's stories, and told me it changed his life. That book didn't come back, but it is where it needs to be. I'll get another.
A couple of weeks ago, a former student stopped by my office at North Carolina A&T State University. She had just landed a job as a schoolteacher, and one of her new duties would be teaching some creative writing.
"I don't know where to start," she admitted.
I rolled back to the bookshelves that loom ominously behind …

J. California Cooper and John Edgar Wideman Short Fiction Prize

Entries are being accepted now for the North Carolina A&T State University Creative Writing Program 2011 The J. California Cooper and John Edgar Wideman Short Fiction Prize. The deadline is Oct. 31 (postmark date).
Dr. Anjail Ahmad writes: "This competition seeks to honor the literary legacy of two of America's greatest writers. Both J. California Cooper and John Edgar Wideman have authored numerous collections of short fiction and novels among their accomplishments. They have been celebrated for their rich depictions of African-American families via their ability to translate the breadth of Black American experience into poignant tales of urban and rural life. Both Cooper and Wideman have labored long in the literary trenches of American literature, and as award winning writers, they each have championed the experiences of Black Americans by dealing with themes of pride, love, family, identity, the effects of racism and a people's will to triumph. Through their crea…
Come one, come all!
The Fall Community Day at Weatherspoon Art Gallery at UNCG will bring together poetry, music, and of course, incredible art. From 1-4 we'll "peek behind the mask" of superheroes and saints and write persona poems.
This is also part of the "17 Days" art event in Greensboro - and 100,000 Poets for Change worldwide.

The Big Tent

BookMarks comes back to Winston-Salem on Saturday, and these days it's downtown in the Arts District. This makes for an interesting melange of books, art, and good food (check out Sweet Potatoes!)
The first time I participated in BookMarks, it was set up on the fields of Bethabara Park, sharing space for the day with a gathering of Porsche aficianados. Booklovers walked the gravel paths and enjoyed views of the foundations of a Mennonite community. Readings and panel discussions pulled people into tents that offered shade from the late summer sun but allowed the literature to leak out!
I'll miss some of that "big tent" atmosphere, because it was a visual reminder of where we are as writers. Whether we write historical fiction or contemporary short stories, paranormal romance or poetry, accounts of worlds grittily real or loftily imagined, we are all under that big tent of the word.
And it's the word that matters. There is a lot of discussion about "platforms…

Welcome, bloggers!


Personal archaelogy

I was up early, watching a UNC-EX program on the crocodile god in Egypt. Lots of images of sand sifting through ruins, and archaologists digging layer by careful layer.
I've been asked lately about how a book begins, and it seems at least for me it begins only when there is enough history accumulated. What happened when I was 5 or 11 or 23 or 36 is still there, like the ruins buried in the desert. Then something new occurs that reaches right back through the layers like a shaft dug straight into the past.
It's a certain slant of light .... a note from an old bell ... the way a dirt road curves into a forest and the sky reflects from a crescent puddle.
Then, and only then, my senses and emotions awakened, is there a sense of a story waiting to be told.
And interviewers have asked, of course, how much overlap there is between author and character. Does Tracey in Blood Clay represent my feelings in her sometimes caustic comments? Is she me?
Well, no. But she has some parts of me,…