So much good stuff
So little time
We appreciate that time is a valuable resource and with so much excellent content on the Blue Nib it is hard to chose what to read first. The archive now contains thousands of poem, articles and stories by hundreds of writers. To help you, our editors will prowl the archive each week and select some favourite pieces for you to read.
The tub is full
and the night is overflowing
the beautiful beloved
of a forgotten confession
give birth to a silent,
but infallible, compass
I saw untouched hunger
brimming with dark legacies
is a rare orchid
cut open with a scalpel
grace of blade
on folds of fever
not all nocturnal songs
I saw one just crouching
under the eaves of
hanging its lyrics on
the beams of porch lights,
wide awake with intention
on a garden where the rest
of the pregnant symbols
have been spared.
What if Eros
was also a tender leaf
falling in autumn,
or a marigold of colour,
decomposing in soil?
The wind gathers, travels
into every crevice,
as the months move.
I sit in sunset,
watch swans float
on Lough Corrib,
how they arrive
at the brink,
Seagulls speak to me
from other worlds.
When the stars dance
as they arrive at night
in a sheet of sparkling
pleasure, into our hearts.
my heart also moves,
raw and bright.
The Lady Chapel and the Virgin
You have been my harbour.
Safe as stone, quiet
as the grave slabs beneath
my feet. I have wept here
for my damaged vessels;
filled them with hope
and tears. Then
everything was inundated.
The sea spilled itself
and filled you up. Kneelers
bobbed along the aisles.
Today there is no altar
in the Lady Chapel, it is
flotsam, and two gilded angels
are sulking back to back.
But it has been rinsed clean.
And she is still standing,
with a candle at her feet.
Her face is as mild as milk
and her infant’s face is
carved with light.
She brought you to bingo
to slice through numbers
with a black marker
on Monday nights
to keep you sober
and from the vodka
for your own safety,
to keep you out
of the kitchen drawer
and the cold, blue bathroom
that didn’t have a key.
You collected the bottles
maintained your nails and
highlights, everything else
on a landslide, slid away
and your only break
from those four yellow walls
was into a big book
and two fat ladies.
The wolf whistles pierced
in the musty parish hall.
Kelly’s Eye, key of the door,
and all the others.
The call lodged in throats
waited to rise and shout,
the black slashes
marked a full house.
A sneaky trip for mouthwash,
then back to front seat denial
and another bag search.
The yellow walls heard
the coughs to muffle the breaking seal,
the broken spiral of a new litre
to where it all went wrong.
Astonishing because the women writing in previous centuries have been repeatedly erased by a canon created and maintained by the gender privileged male.
Astonishing because if a woman had the passion to write in the dark, in between all of the other care put on her by society, if she maintained that passion and wrote anyway, she had to put her head above the parapet and become a target of silence or disapproval quickly followed by erasure.
Some like Anne Enright took this as permission to write as she liked, since no one was watching anyway. See LRB, Sept 2017 (London Review of Books)
Some made their way forward in a native tongue long neglected by the centre.
Some changed their names to non gender identifiable letters, or names that could go either way.
Cartoon about Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
Sure, he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger did everything he did… backwards and in high heels. My point is that women are doubly challenged. They must do twice as well as men. There aren’t enough of us in the centres of power to be the deciders of what is culturally important.
It is the time to be strong together. We have learned from Waking the Feminists, the world wide resurgence of feminism in response to fascism, #MeToo movement, that standing together is effective.
When a theatre director casually tweets “Them’s the breaks, ladies.” referring to the lack of to Irish women playwrights, actresses, directors in the 2016 commemoration of the Easter Rising, one woman was fired up enough to start a movement and Wake the Feminists was born. Using social media and open access, she was able to bring us back into the fight for equality.
And here we are again, this time in the field of poetry, fighting against the erasure of women’s poetry as adjudicated by men. Fighting to be included in the society which we continue to propagate and hold together.
I was in UCD’s Masters programme in Women’s Studies when Seamus Deane, after ten years of study, finally produced The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing.(1991) He had left out many important women writers.Well, why would he? He was privileged, empowered to choose what he found important.
When we roused ourselves, diverted ourselves from our studies, our work, our families and our lives to protest, he admitted to being “dismayed.” We were outraged. Until women and men are equal in society, paid equally, valued equally, and adjudicating history together, our literature will reflect white male writing.
In the four previous years, I had been in a Single Honour English programme in Trinity, fighting for the right to study women writers. Taking my research on Nobel prize winning poets of the 20th century to the Modern Poetry professor, he waved his hand to indicate that these women were not of the same calibre, not as important. I recommended I write my thesis on T.S. Eliot “since he had man-breasts.” Stunned by this remark, I nonetheless insisted that I be permitted to make a study of H.D.’s epic poem, Helen in Egypt. I won.
Over and over I have woken up to prejudice, gender bias in every lane of my life. To tell it slant takes cunning, bravery, huevos, and time, which few women have. Yet we make time for our art. Then we must disassemble the editors, the adjudicators of festivals, the owners of the literature, and media, and sneak our good writing into the arena. We learn where to send our work, which publishers, editors and festival judges are likely to read our work and judge it by its merits. By stealth, by slant, through a secondary language, by changing our names just to be read on the same level as men.
Christine Elisabeth Murray started Poethead, a poetry blog some years ago to balance the gender gap in Irish poetry. Women today know they can find and read women poets of today and yesterday.
A Poet’s Pledge is Murray’s enough! response to the publication of The Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets. Fired! on Poethead’s blog provides a preamble to The Pledge. The Preamble provides history of the many women writers that Gerald Dawe might have consulted and included in his text.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand.” Frederick Douglas, 19th C slave, statesman, abolitionist.
Stand with us, sign The Pledge.
December 31, 2017
The Other Side of Writing
by Micheal A Griffith.
I belong to several groups devoted to writing on Facebook and very often I’ll read posts from fellow members stating they feel guilty that they did not write for a day or longer. As a matter of fact, yesterday I did very little writing or re-writing/editing myself and for a while I felt a bit guilty about it. But I shouldn’t have, for I was still doing some work which is found on what I call the other side of writing.
Many writers feel that if we don’t have pen to paper or fingers to keyboard creating stanzas, writing dialogue, or expressing our thoughts, then we’re not being “writers.”
That’s just not true. Lawyers do not always appear in court. Actors are not always on stage or in front of cameras. Chefs do more than just cook. These people research, they take time to reflect, they rehearse and practice, they read, they organize their work spaces and do other “behind the scenes” things.
BEING something does not mean you are only one aspect of that thing; you are ALL aspects of it.
Do you feel that you just can’t write; are the words coming out too hard? Take a break and still BE a writer. Go out and observe people to catch snatches of dialogue or character ideas. Read articles on writing or read some fiction or poetry. Listen to music to inspire ideas. Read and perhaps do mild revision of your old writing, even rejected items. Watch a movie that reminds you of a time in your life you may be writing about. Take a walk and jot notes on things you see. Shop for groceries in the persona of a character. Talk to other writers about their experiences. Organize your files.
Do NOT do as I (and I bet many of us) sometimes do and play games on Facebook, get lost on You Tube or find some other activity to AVOID writing. Do SOMETHING that will help your writing, not just burn an hour or an evening away.
We sometimes put writing off for fear of not making progress. Well… when you see that written out, the contradiction in that way of thinking is pretty obvious, isn’t it?
Do something productive, even if it doesn’t “feel” like writing on the surface. What did I do yesterday in my “non-writing” mode? I organized my submission files, I pressed virtual flesh on Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress and I read other writers’ poetry.
I did the other side of writing.
And today I woke up to write a poem and then write this essay.
Today is a writer’s writing day. And to get to it, I had to to visit the other side of writing.
Michael A. Griffith teaches courses and workshops in public speaking, communications, and creative writing at the college and adult continuing education levels. His essays have appeared in Teaching For Success, Ripen the Page (where this essay appeared in slightly different form in August 2016) and Lehigh Valley Woman’s Journal. His poetry has recently appeared online on sites such as The Blue Nib, Dual Coast Poetry, Stanzic Stylings, Poetry Quarterly, and Dissident Voices. He resides in Somerset County, NJ.
1. Keep your bio short
Your author bio isn’t the place to tell your whole life story. 250 words is a good starting place. Once you’ve got that version firmed up, you can create a slightly longer version for PR purposes, or cut it down to 50 or 100 words for other uses such as contributor pages in a print publications, social media profiles, etc. Many poetry journals have asked me to send them a bio as short as 25 words, which is the same length as this very sentence.
2. Write in the 3rd person
Telling your story in the 3rd person may seem a little pretentious at first, but it does make it easier to talk confidently about your achievements. Give it a try.
3. A little history goes a long way
Ask yourself, “does anyone care where I’m from?”
If you’re writing a series of poems set in San Francisco and you were born and raised in the Bay Area, sure — that detail could be crucial to your bio. But if your work is a paranormal romance set in Russia, do we really need to know you were born in Iowa and now live in Maryland?
Mentioning your birthplace, your year of birth, your parents’ occupation, they’re just some of the default things we put in bios: Mary was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1953.
We begin at the beginning by habit. Boring! Cut to the good stuff that really matters to your audience. Maybe your parents’ occupations are crucial to your own story. Just be sure of that before taking up any extra words in what should be a succinct bio.
4. Your older publishing credits may not matter
Again, this isn’t a dictum, merely a consideration — but mentioning the work you’ve already published MIGHT BE a waste of words.
Think about it: if you’re Ezra Pound, everyone already knows what you’ve written; if you’re a relatively unknown poet, no one cares what you’ve written.
If you’re in the later camp, the only thing that matters is that the details of your life which you choose to include in your bio make the reader want to check out your work.
5. List SOME of your literary achievements
It’s usually wise to mention any big literary prizes or awards you’ve won, plus the most impressive moments from your publication history. This sort of stuff establishes credibility.
If you’re a highly celebrated writer, no need to be exhaustive (and probably no need to read this article further, since I’m assuming your author bio is already killer).
One thing that is common in the poetry world is to mention where you currently teach, since many poets are also academics. While this does establish credibility, that detail is so ubiquitous in bios that it’s rendered somewhat meaningless. Plus, the way things are going in higher education, you might be adjunct-ing at a new school in a new city every 12 months anyway. If you write for fun then it’s fine to mention that in your bio too.
6. Mention the most relevant professional, educational, travel, or personal experiences
Once again, it’s about pulling in the details which will resonate with your readers and which fit snuggly with the topics you’re writing about. If you’re a poet who writes about the sea, your background as a navy seal is going to interest people. If you’re a cancer survivor writing about healthy attitudes towards aging, mentioning your personal medical history is crucial. Writing Mediterranean based poetry? Talk about how you spent a year going back and forth between Spain, France, Italy, and Greece.
7. Get some outside perspective
It’s tough to see your own life and career objectively. So ask your friends, family, and fans what they consider to be the most important or interesting aspects of your life story. Get the advice of your editor, agent, or writing group. And be sure to take good notes on what they suggest!
8. Write multiple bio versions
I always recommend writing a few different versions of your bio. Pass them around and ask for feedback. Then combine the most compelling sections from each version to create an unbeatable Voltron of an author bio!
9. Don’t forget the human touch
Whether you write fiction, essays, or poetry, you’re hoping to make a connection with your reader. Your bio is also a chance to make a connection, so be sure the thing doesn’t read like a Wikipedia entry. Give it some quirk and character. Make the vibe match your aesthetic. Light and chatty. Dark and brooding. Urbane, but with a weak spot for Wendy’s hamburgers. Remind us that you’re human.