Register for Poetry March Madness 2015


March Madness is all about elimination. The competition winnows out teams one by one until only the best of the best remains. The games are thrilling and sometimes heartbreaking, but it’s the quick elimination of the weaker teams that ratchets up the competitive drama.

Many poets struggle with revising their poems, especially when they have to cut lines or stanzas. Although we know a poem could benefit from pruning, our attachments to our work interfere with our ability to lose the words that weigh a poem down.

In this online workshop, you’ll spend two weeks trimming the excess from your poems. You’ll eliminate bulky lines and unnecessary words. You’ll learn to let go of attachments to the phrases and stanzas that don’t really belong. And you’ll get practical advice for decluttering your space (whether it be hard drive or desk), as well as how and when to let go of the poems that just aren’t taking off.

In April, when it’s National Poetry Month, many of you will try to write a poem every day. Let’s spend the weeks leading up to that shaping, polishing, and revising our old material.

What you’ll get:

  1. Prompts to help you revise and condense your poems.
  2. Advice on how to declutter your hard drive and writing space, organize your work, and let go of drafts that aren’t working.
  3. Intensive one-on-one critique of two poems throughout the beginning, middle, and end of the workshop, guiding you through multiple stages of deep revision. Critiques available via email, phone, or Skype/Google Hangout.

Cost: $20 (Note: Nobody will be turned away for inability to pay. Please contact me at if you need to make alternate arrangements.)

To register:

  1. Fill out the online form:
  2. Submit payment via Paypal to (If unable to use Paypal, please contact me to set something else up.)

Frontera Fest Special!

Last month, I had a one-act play I’d written produced as part of Frontera Fest, a local theatre event. It was quite an event, and even if we don’t make Best of the Fest next week, I’ll be very happy with how things went. But that’s the subject of a longer post for later. For now, I’m happy to announce that I’ve published an e-book version of the script. (There will be a print run sometime later this month.) And for the duration of Frontera Fest, it will be available for just $0.99!

Hand in Unlovable Hand is currently available at the following online retailers:

Or, you can buy direct from Payhip:

This offer is only good until the 15th. After that, the price goes up. So get it while the getting’s good!

(Note: This play contains mature themes and is not suitable for all readers/audiences.)

Pulitzer Remix, Weeks 3 and 4.

April has been a busy month, with little time for blogging. So I slacked off on linking to the Pulitzer Remix poems. But it’s the last night of this project, so time for one more roundup!

April 15th: “Stranger

April 16th: “Break Free

April 17th: “Open Window

April 18th: “Ennui

April 19th: “It’s not being sure that keeps him alive

April 20th: “We are all trying to leave our bodies behind

April 21st: “Kitchen

April 22nd: “For one thing

April 23rd: “Summertime, and the living is…

April 24th: “Scene

April 25th: “Summer, Ending

April 26th: “On the subject of her martyrdom

April 27th: “A Hot Thing

April 28th: “Financial Times

April 29th: “She couldn’t get over the city

April 30th: “High Summer

Pulitzer Remix, Week 2

Over at last week’s Pulitzer Remix roundup, Drew Myron asked me to describe more about the Remix rules and the composing process. And I’m happy to oblige!

The two big Pulitzer Remix rules are as follows:

Each poem you produce  should be created from words and phrases that appear in your Pulitzer Prize-winning source text. You can rearrange terms and make changes such as modifying verb tenses, adding plurals, inserting pronouns, etc. but should not deviate wildly from the original text to produce poems “inspired by” the novel, for example.

Poems you produce must alter the source text in some substantial way. You should apply one of the techniques suggested in the “strategies” section — or one of your own invention — to produce a poem whose language and meaning differ from that of the source text. This is in adherence to section 2 of the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry. Poets who incorporate long unaltered passages from their source texts into their poems risk being removed from the project.

The editors suggest the following strategies (though of course, we’re free to make up our own):

Select and rearrange. Choose interesting words and phrases from a section of your source text, then rearrange them into a poem.

Black / white-out.  Use a magic marker or white-out pen to erase consecutive sections of your text, leaving words and phrases behind that make up your poem.

Write a poem using only dialogue spoken by a specific character. For example, if The Great Gatsby was your source text, you could write a found poem from only the words spoken by Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Nick Carraway, etc. during the course of the novel.

Cut it up. Photocopy pages from the text, then cut the words and phrases into strips. Put them in a bag, shuffle them up, then draw them out randomly and rearrange them until you have a poem.

Get technical. Use online tools like the ones detailed below to help scramble and rearrange your text in interesting ways.

I’ve been using the black-out and “select and rearrange” (though I’ve been calling it cut-up….oops) methods so far this month.

For the black-out poems, I start by pulling a page out of a PDF. I scanned about 40 pages of text using an app on my phone, and if I want to work on some black-out poems, I pull out the document and print out the number of pages I need.  Usually, I start by blocking out the proper nouns, since I have yet been interested in writing a poem about a particular character (unless you consider the house itself a character, and then I wrote one last week). From then on, it’s a matter of reading the page over and over and over, penciling out bits at a time. I start small, with conjunctions or adverbs that strike me as irrelevant, moving from individual words to entire sentences. When the piece is done, I pull up the digital file and black everything out using Photoshop, which looks better than my pencil work. The black-out poems have been interesting because they remind me how difficult it is, still, to cut things from my poems. They also reinforce that sometimes, excision is the best route to completion.

For the cut-up poems, I have roughly 20 pages of typed-up sentences and paragraphs from Beloved that I thought might be useful in some way. When I sit down to work on a piece, I shuffle through the pages until I find something that resonates me either thematically or linguistically. I then keep rifling around and pulling lines that builds on the original idea, rearranging as I go. The final lines get taped into my notebook, and I type everything up.

So that’s the gist of it. Check out the poems below.

April 8th: “Lady of the Lake

April 9th: “Return to Form

April 10th: “Ignorance was bliss

April 11th: “Victory of the Soul

April 12th: “Empowerment

April 13th: “Pleasure, Affirming

April 14th: “Springtime Plea

30/30 Project, Days 13-27

Yep, I skipped an entire week of reporting. Blame real life getting in the way of blogging. But I’ve had a fun two weeks. There are some days when I feel drained at the prospect of writing an audience-ready poem before midnight. But I’m still having a great time, and I love getting to know the work of my fellow participants.

One of my favorite experiences so far happened on January 24th when, instead of writing our own poems, we collaborated on a renga via email. I love the way the poem moves from an exterior focus to an interior, domestic scene.

Inspirations over the past two weeks: high school French, the dreary weather (which seems to be on its way out, thank goodness), having to kill some pests and feeling guilty about it, Blas Falconer’s “Teaching Imagination” exercise in Wingbeats, Andrea Hollander Budy’s “The Postcard Poem” exercise in Wingbeats, the memory of driving through Waco at 7 a.m. on a Sunday in December, Susan Terris’ “Twenty Lines for Titles” exercise in Wingbeats, grief/death, Apple’s end-user license agreement, hair, a bread recipe, the memory of seeing Saddam Hussein being executed while I was standing in line at Walmart, the possum that invaded my yard in the middle of the day, sneezes, William Carlos Williams, synonyms, and the haiku workshop I attended this weekend.

Katerina Stoykova-Klemer didn’t have time to read our poems on the air on her January 18th show, but she did mention my chapbook (which is still in pre-order, by the way)! She was able to share our work throughout the hour on the January 25th show. I love hearing our poems read aloud.

I have just under a week left in the project. Please donate to Tupelo Press!

30/30, Days 6-12


How are we nearly halfway through January already? That means I’m nearly done with the 30/30 Project. This week was a little tougher than the first one, but I’m still having a great time.  And I’m definitely still enjoying the work of my fellow participants. Katerina Stoykova-Klemer read a selection of our poems on her radio show again this week; click here to listen to the archive (the first five poems are read starting at minute fourteen, and the others at minute thirty).

Inspirations this week: Hoa Nguyen’s “Mind is Shapely” exercise in Wingbeats;  the cold, rainy weather; Jenny Browne’s “Love Letter to a Stranger” exercise, also in Wingbeats; getting hit by a car in 2010; airglow, and photos of it appearing in Texas; Blas Falconer’s “Teaching Imagination” exercise, also in Wingbeats; Donato Creti’s Cleopatra (see picture).

(And no, Dos Gatos Press isn’t paying me to plug Wingbeats all the time. It’s just my go-to guide when I’m stuck and need some motivation. I’m so glad the press is at work on a second volume.)

Like the work we’re doing? Want to support Tupelo Press? You can donate here. And it doesn’t matter how much; every little bit helps.

And we have pre-order!


That’s right! We’re Smaller Than We Think We Are is now available for pre-order. Finishing Line Press is offering a shipping discount for anyone who reserves a copy between now and February 27th.

I’ve spent today pretty much just bouncing off the walls. If I’m this excited now, I can only imagine how hyper I’ll be when the book is actually published in April.

The cover photograph is my own, taken in the Santa Elena canyon in Big Bend about two years ago. I knew for a long time that this would be my first choice for the cover, and I’m glad the good folks at Finishing Line agreed.

I have a lot of people to thank for their help. Abe Louise Young for being my mentor. My friend Savanni for taking the author photograph used on the website and on the back cover (you can check out some other photos from the shoot here). Kelli Russell Agodon for writing such an informative blog post on how to take good author photos back in 2010. Cindy Huyser, Drew Myron, and Scott Wiggerman for writing blurbs. The Austin Writergrrls for being the best cheerleaders ever.

I’m a very lucky poet.