Who Writes Better?: A Battle of the Sexes

The fine folks at Grammarly (a grammar checker) were kind enough to share the following infographic with me. I wanted to share it with y’all because I think it’s an interesting debate. What defines “good” writing anyhow? Is it the characters? Plot? Description?

Checking out my Goodreads list reveals that so far this year, I’ve read six books written by women and four books written by men. The thing is, I don’t really pay attention to the gender of the person writing; I tend to focus more on the type of content or plot I’m interested in at the moment. But my statistics would say I prefer women.

Hmmm, what do you think? Are women or men better writers?

Image courtesy of grammerly.com

Image courtesy of grammerly.com

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An Update, Some Great News, and a Poem for Your Monday

Hey gang,

As I shared in my resolutions update, I’ve been wondering how to restructure my blog so as to better facilitate posting more regularly. One of those ways involved making a three-sheet spreadsheet. Another includes making some tweaks to featured posts.

On this note: I’m trying a new format for Poetry Monday. Rather than posting a video of me reading the poem, I’m going to still share a poem, but in typed format, then give a few sentences as to why I like it. If this goes well, I’ll keep doing it. If not, I’ll go back to videos in a few months.

The great news: I got word on Friday that my chapbook,”Field Guide to Fire,” will be published by Finishing Line Press! No word on a publication date yet, but I’ll be sure to post when I know! Now that I’ll be on the author side of things, I’ve got a kick in the pants to support other authors and catch up on reviews I’ve been dragging on.

velociraptor_FINAL

Why raptors? Why the heck not?! Thanks to Beth Colletti for helping me with this image.

Speaking of reviews, I know I don’t usually post star ratings, but I’ve come up with a system. I’ll give books “Raptor Ratings.” The highest rating is five raptors. Why raptors? Why the heck not?!

Now for the poem. I’ve posted quite a few poems by Kim Addonizio on my blog, but given my recent publication news, she’s the first that comes to mind. I’m over the moon with this news, so I want to share a poem that makes me feel unstoppable!

“What Do Women Want?” by Kim Addonizio (from Tell Me)

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Photo courtesy of goodreads.com

Kim Addonizio - How badass is she? So badass. Photo courtesy of pirenesfountain.com

Kim Addonizio – How badass is she? So badass.
Photo courtesy of pirenesfountain.com

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.


Why I like it
: My word, the sass! I love the no-holds-barred brashness of the language. “I want it to confirm/your worst fears about me.” I mean, damn! Addonizio dives head first in the face of what is expected of women and says, “Screw you!” I love those last lines. They’re so affirming, as if to say, “This is who I am, and I’ll be this ’til I die.” I read this poem and I have insta-confidence. And, of course, I just love red dresses.

Musing on Three Years of Waiting

dearsister_newcover_1

Image courtesy of AK Press

In December of 2010, my poem “Smooth as Scales” was accepted to an anthology titled “Dear Sister.” At the time, I knew that the manuscript didn’t have a publisher. So began the wait.

But let me back up a bit—
I should mention that the subtitle of the anthology is “Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence.” Before I submitted to this anthology, I’d gone through an event that qualified me to submit. I tried to convince myself that nothing had happened, but my nightmares and panic attacks told a different story. Looking back on that part of my life, I’m reminded of Jennifer Percy’s quote: “…The imagination of the event is so often more terrifying than the reality.” I know this is not true for everyone, but it was for me. I kept replaying the event constantly in my mind. In some ways, I think that rumination on the negative made me sick and my nightmares worse.

I thought about this event so much that I felt I had to write it out; otherwise, it threatened to poison my body. “Smooth as Scales” came to me. I read it to a dear friend of mine, and she later encouraged me to submit to “Dear Sister.” When my poem was accepted, it was like being told, “What you went through matters no matter what anyone else says.” It was a validation not only of my poetry, but (perhaps more importantly for me at the time) it was also a validation of the pain I had endured.

Spring forward to Winter 2012: Myself and the rest of the anthology’s contributors got an e-mail saying that the anthology was going to be published! Following that e-mail and swell of happiness were proofs and bios and media kits. It was all worth it. The anthology was published by AK Press on January 15, 2014.

Dear Sister Box of Books

In these past few years, the less-than-pleasant part of my story that appears in “Dear Sister” has simply become part of my life’s tapestry. I’m in a very different place now than I was when I wrote the poem. Seeing it in print, I think, has helped me close a chapter. I’m healed…now it’s time to pass that healing on to others.

Since the contributors of this anthology are far-flung across the nation, we were all encouraged to set up our own events. I held a poetry reading at Bernardsville Public Library this past Sunday with some lovely readers from Adanna. We all read works that revolved around the theme of healing and grief. Below are the lovely ladies I read with.

Adanna Dear Sister Reading

Stepping behind the podium to welcome everyone to the reading was an incredible feeling. Everyone read beautifully, and I loved speaking with each person at the small gathering. It reminds me of a quote from the last section of the anthology: “Forgiveness is a possibility that happens in conversation.”

If you’d like a copy of “Dear Sister,” e-mail me at roaringout@gmail.com. I still have some copies. Each copy is $10. I’d be happy to mail one out to you!

Calling all Book Lovers: Books for the Taking!

Here’s the deal: I’ve cleaned out my bookshelves and have amassed a few piles of books to give away.  I’m a hardcore collector of all things literary. The books listed here are great, and I’d love to keep them. But my shelves are getting full, so I want to spread the bookish wealth.  This list has an eclectic mix so I thought I’d reach out to the community to see if anyone has an interest in claiming any books.

If you are interested in having me send you something on the list, please send an e-mail to roaringout@gmail.com that includes the title(s) you would like and your mailing address.  Then I’ll ship them to you free of charge!

This is all on a first come, first served basis. I’ll be crossing off the claimed books as soon as someone nabs them. Feel free to spread the word about this too!

Please contact me by August 15. All books not claimed by then will be donated to a local used bookstore.  Let me know if you have any questions and thanks for helping me clear my bookshelves 🙂

Anthologies

A Mother’s Heart – ed. Ellyn Sanna

Literature: The Human Experience – eds. Richard Abacarian and Marvin Klotz

Fiction

Crewel – Gennifer Albin (Advanced reader copy)

Dominion Legacy: The Book of Grace – Adrienne Bross (This book was written by a good friend of mine. I have

read it and want to pass on the book so more people can read it)

Emotional Roller Coaster: A Depicted Mind – Valerie Mitchell (poetry)

Missing Pages: Out of My Life – Elijah Brown (poetry)

That Hideous Strength – C. S. Lewis

Literary Journals/Magazines

5:00 AM – Issue 33

Adanna – Issue 1

Adanna – Issue 2

The American Poetry Review – March/April 2011

The American Poetry Review – May/June 2011 (2 copies)

Beloit Poetry Journal – Summer 2007

Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts – Vol. 9

Denver Quarterly – Vol. 45, No. 1

Five Points – Vol. 9, No. 1

Georgia Review – Winter 2009

Georgia Review – Spring 2010

Iowa Review – Vol. 40, No. 2

Lyric – Number 12

New England Review – Vol. 30, No. 3

New England Review – Vol. 31, No. 2

The New Yorker – Feb 8, 2010

The New Yorker – July 23, 2012

The New Yorker – July 30, 2012

The New Yorker – Aug 13/20, 2012

The New Yorker – Sept 3, 2012

The New Yorker – Sept 10, 2012

The New Yorker – Sept 17, 2012

The New Yorker – Sept 24, 2012

The New Yorker – Oct 15, 2012

The New Yorker – Oct 22, 2012

The New Yorker – Oct 29/Nov 5, 2012

The New Yorker – Nov 12, 2012

The New Yorker – Nov 19, 2012

The New Yorker – Nov 26, 2012

The New Yorker – Dec 10, 2012

The New Yorker – Dec 24/31, 2012

The New Yorker – Jan 7, 2013

The New Yorker – Jan 14, 2013

The New Yorker – Jan 21, 2013

The New Yorker – Jan 28, 2013

Pen America – Issue 12

Ploughshares – Spring 2008

Poetry – November 2008

Poetry – February 2010

Poetry – September 2010

Poetry – February 2011

Poetry – January 2012

Poetry – February 2012

Poetry – March 2012

Poetry – April 2012

Poetry – May 2012

Poetry – June 2012

Poetry – September 2012

Poetry – October 2012

Poetry – November 2012

Poets and Writers – March/April 2011

Poets and Writers – May/June 2011

Poets and Writers – July/August 2012

Poets and Writers – Sept/Oct 2012 (2 copies)

Poets and Writers – Nov/Dec 2012

Poets and Writers – March/April 2013

Poets and Writers – May/June 2013

Prairie Schooner – Winter 2004

Rattle – Summer 2010

Relevant – Mar/April 2012

Relevant – Sept/Oct 2012

Relevant – Jan/Feb 2013

Threepenny Review – Spring 2013

Tin House – Vol. 12, No, 2

Tri-Quarterly – Fall 2000

The Writer’s Chronicle – May/Summer 2011

Writer’s Digest – July/August 2012

Writer’s Digest – October 2012

Writer’s Digest – November/December 2012

Writer’s Digest – February 2013

Writer’s Digest – May/June 2013

Spirituality

365 WWJD: Daily Answers to What Would Jesus Do? – Nick Harrison (a devotional)

Authentic Beauty – Leslie Ludy

Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door – Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler

Extreme Encounters (a devotional)

A Gentle Thunder – Max Lucado

In Search of Holiness – Loretta Bernard and David K. Bernard (has some underlining throughout the book)

Habitudes #1 – Tim Elmore

Habitudes # 3 – Tim Elmore

More Than A Carpenter – Josh McDowell (2 copies)

Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis – Jimmy Carter

Power for Living – Jamie Buckingham

Prison to Praise – Merlin Carothers (2 copies)

Poetry Still Has Teeth

During my first day in the Drew MFA program in 2009, students gathered to hear the faculty talk about a current favorite poem of theirs.  I’ll never forget when Alicia Ostriker, my first mentor, read Jane Mead’s poem “Concerning that Prayer I Cannot Make.”  At the time, I was fresh out of college, living with my mother whose mental illness was, unfortunately, getting the best of her, and wondering how and why my relationship with God was changing…and frightened by it all.

That first stanza unexpectedly hit me, as Florence + the Machine would say, like a train on a track:

Jesus, I am cruelly lonely
and I do not know what I have done
nor do I suspect that you will answer me.

Those three lines felt like I had written them. I was disillusioned with silence from God, yet I desperately wanted to love Him, but didn’t quite know what that looked like anymore.  I was rapidly being asked to grow up in many ways by taking care of my mother and shouldering a full-time job while going back to school. I was also the youngest in the MFA program at the time and felt completely inadequate as a writer. And yet I felt I had to swallow all of my insecurities and carry on like a good little soldier.  I certainly did not think of acknowledging my loneliness, anger, and questions.

This poem changed that.  It showed me that it was ok to question and be bold about it.  To this day, I still think of the last line of that Jane Mead poem where, after addressing Jesus, the poet addresses nature and all that is around her, saying, “Listen, I am holy.”

That last line broke me open.  Though permission is not required to write or to feel or to question, I needed it.  I needed that gateway to open so that I could remember my worth as a person.  I later wrote to my mentor that it was in that poem that I saw pieces of the writer I wanted to become.  I realize now that my connection to the piece was deeper than that.  I saw pieces of the woman I wanted to become–thoughtful, observant, full of questions, and, when need be, brazen. Four years later, these are all qualities I now possess.

Last week, a writer at the Washington Post posted an article asserting that poetry is dead. The main question posed in this article is “Can a poem still change anything?”  Here, in part, is the writer’s answer:

I think the medium might not be loud enough any longer. There are about six people who buy new poetry, but they are not feeling very well. I bumped very lightly into one of them while walking down the sidewalk, and for a while I was terrified that I would have to write to eleven MFA programs explaining why everyone was going to have to apply for grants that year. The last time I stumbled upon a poetry reading, the attendees were almost without exception students of the poet who were there in the hopes of extra credit. One of the poems, if memory serves, consisted of a list of names of Supreme Court justices. I am not saying that it was a bad poem. It was a good poem, within the constraints of what poetry means now. But I think what we mean by poetry is a limp and fangless thing.

This response to poetry both saddened and angered me.  I was angered that someone would flippantly say that a medium I love so much is “a limp and fangless thing.”  And I was saddened that someone could misunderstand such a powerful literary genre so completely. To only look at the numbers is to miss the point.  The author’s perspective is one I would expect from someone who has not been affected by poetry.

And I know that not everyone will be.  Poetry is not for everyone. But to make such a sweeping statement about a genre one is not familiar with is ill-informed.  I hoped that the writer would at least include some tidbits about speaking with lovers of poetry, but she did not.

Poet Daniel Nathan Terry wrote a response to the Washington Post article as well (and after reading it, I wondered if I should enter the conversation because his response is so articulate).  I do not have a story that brings together politics, love, and words so eloquently as he does. But, as seen earlier in this piece, I do have a story of how poetry changed me.  And I’m not the only one.

The fact that poets may not have the most followers on Twitter or that they don’t sell out stadiums does not mean the genre is dead.  Poetry may not make headlines, but I have been in small New York bars and witnessed the audience sigh as one when a poem knocked the breath out of their lungs.  I have seen a poet cry when reading her own poem because the words brought back the memory so vividly.  I have sat at countless tables in cafeterias, cafes, and living rooms talking about the power of the exact right word.  And every one of those people has a story about a line of poetry that sticks with them to this day because it’s power knocked something loose in their souls.  It was that knocking that spurred them to action.

Poetry still has teeth.

And in that sense, yes, I think poetry can change a hell of a lot.  Indeed, that may be the only way anything has ever been changed in a lasting manner–one person, one adversity at a time.

For the Man Who Began the Wild Rumpus: An Ode to Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak, author of the children's book,...

I don’t know why, but every time a children’s author passes away, I feel as if I’ve lost a dear friend.  Or perhaps, I have an inkling of why.  I worked in a library for five years.  Three of those years I assisted in the Children’s Room.  One of my duties was to catalog and label the new materials.  Maurice Sendak’s books passed through my hands quite often (as did Doctor Seuss, Mo Willems, Judy Blume, Leo Lionni, and many others).

Authors who illustrate their own work are admirable, and Sendak’s drawings certainly possess a signature quality.  People’s hair is stringy and the edges are sharp. But, ultimately, these renderings are familiar and comforting with their warm tones and whimsical nature.

I must admit that I did not grow up reading Maurice Sendak (I was more of a Berenstain Bears and Corduroy kind of girl).  But during my library days, I read many of Sendak’s books.  I found myself delightfully intrigued by the the mischievous yet playful glint in the eyes of his characters.  Wonder and imagination are so often lost in the transition between childhood and adulthood.  Sendak, thankfully, did not lose that spark.  He brought that rich imagination to his books and breathed it into his timeless protagonists.  And for that, I graciously thank him.

Goodbye, Maurice Sendak.  May you always roam and find adventure where the wild things are.

 

Cover of "Where the Wild Things Are"