Tuesday, September 20, 2022

When Poems Get Legs


Getting a single poem published in a literary magazine whether in print or online usually requires effort, time, and lots of patience. Recently I was published in licketedy split time, putting in minimal effort.


How did this happen?


A friend with many connections, working informally on behalf of a magazine editor, sent out an invitation to send poems within 10 days on the theme of teeth. This editor—Taku Chikepe—is a man  from Zimbabwe who is currently a divinity student at Duke University as well as the founding publisher of The Sailors Review. Apparently, some people’s endorsement is enough to merit publication.


I sent my poems on September 1 and by September 18, “Kabuki Dragons” (see page 29) was in beautiful page layout presto change-o. And there were others I knew published there such as Anne Harding Woodworth and Diane Wilbon Parks. That we were published came as a surprise, a pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Prize Winner


What makes a poetry manuscript a prize winner?


As a small press editor with over 40 years of experience, here are some of the things I expect when reading a manuscript for The Word Works Washington Prize:


— The manuscript conforms to such standards as easy-to-read type like 12 point Times New Roman on 81/2 X 11 pages with a table of contents and page numbers.


— The contest rules have been followed. For example, the Washington Prize is read blind which means the manuscript must not include your name or acknowledgements that list where individual poems have been published.


— The poems demonstrate a mastery of poetic craft. I do not consider lineated text to be poetry. Free verse should demonstrate inclusion of lyricism, rhythm, metaphor, something that indicates the words selected are sensitive to language.


— The manuscript has poems that “talk to each other.” This might mean subject matter, poetic form, stylistic elements. And the poems seem to work well with each other.


—Selected poems address the human condition. This might mean addressing big life events like birth, death, love, marriage, war, political struggle, domestic abuse.


—Individual poems or the overall manuscript teaches the reader something new.


—The poems exhibit that the poet is taking a calculated risk which might be in form or subject matter.


The bottom line is what makes this manuscript different? What makes this manuscript memorable?

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

NYC Reading at the KGB






The last time my work was public in New York City occurred June 2005 Symphony Space Thalia Theater for the world premiere of Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On, my opera with Bill Banfield and Nancy Rhodes. So, reading at the KGB Bar on April 25, 2022, in lower Manhattan with Susana Case and Margo Stever (the organizers of this event featuring Broadstone Books authors) as well as Myra Malkin and Mervyn Taylor was a long overdue treat. The 2nd floor bar where the KGB Monday Night Poetry events occur was full up, including a couple of forthcoming Broadstone authors. The KGB organizers also had fired up their Zoom platform allowing remote audience to attend the event and that’s where my friends had assembled.


I dedicated “Wunkirle, Most Hospitable Woman,” my opening poem to all the people who are opening their homes to the refugees of Ukraine escaping former KGB agent Putin’s war. Wunkirle refers to the sacred ladles sculpted by the Dan people of Africa and is a poem from my first book of poetry. Often these ladles as works of art have legs. Here’s the poem:



(Most Hospitable Woman)


After you receive your guests,

come to me, Spoon Mama

on those supple legs—

muscles flowing like milk

and scoop the agony from my gut.

I have got a lot

but your bowl is large

as your reputation

and though the invited

came for rice

give them each

a portion of pain

and let them then

as I will do

thank you

for your generosity.



Wednesday, March 30, 2022

2022 AWP Writer's Conference & Book Fair


What is the purpose of going to a writers’ conference? It depends on who you are. The Steiny Road Poet recently attended a couple of days of the AWP Conference & Bookfair. She had a few reasons for going and the introduction found on the AWP website is a good place to begin answering the question about why a person might go.


“The AWP Conference & Bookfair is the annual destination for writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers of contemporary creative writing. It includes thousands of attendees, hundreds of events and bookfair exhibitors, and four days of essential literary conversation and celebration. The AWP Conference & Bookfair has always been a place of connection, reunion, and joy, and we are excited to see the writing community come together again in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2022.”


Steiny is a writer—a poet as you, Dear Reader, know, a publisher—co-editor-in-chief of The Word Works, and perpetual student—always ready to learn something new. As a poet, Steiny has a book published in 2021—how we hold on—that had not one in-person reading or opportunity for a public book signing.


As a publisher, Steiny could support some of our authors. The Word Works had a table registration carried over from 2020 when the Covid pandemic shut everything down and there were 2022 Word Works authors Chloe Martinez and Cheryl Clark Vermeulen to meet and one author Henry Crawford and one translator Andrea Jurjevic whose books were published in 2020 but had not been feted publicly. Steiny put on her Poet hat to help them sell books. One discovery was, by using Venmo, publishers could beat the problem of swiping buyer credit cards which are slow to process in a big convention center without buying into communications services.


Steiny also attended several panels, one led by Word Works author Chloe Martinez on ars poetica, another on fair use and copyright with participation from a hometown confrere Richard Peabody who talked about how he was sued by Mattel for his anthology on Barbie dolls, and an Alice James Books tribute to the late Jean Valentine moderated by Anne Marie Macarie. So always something to learn at AWP.


However, more important than selling books or seeking out stimulating panels is meeting with writers known or first met. That is the joy of attending a writers’ conference. 2022 was a small conference with registration counted at 8,000 and it felt like there was lots of time to feel that joy despite wearing masks!



Photo: Emily Holland of Poet Lore talks with Word Works author Henry Crawford.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Marilyn Monroe Poem


Some poems take on a life of their own. Such is the case with my poem “Against the Wall,” which was first published in Beltway Journal by Kim Roberts. It’s also in my latest collection of poetry how we hold on from Broadstone Books.





It was recently published again in I Wanna Be Loved by You: Poems on Marilyn Monroe edited by Susana H. Case and Margo Taft Stever. To promote this book, Susana and Margo have been sponsoring readings where a selection of the poems are read by the poets who wrote them. It’s interesting to hear all the different ways Monroe has been seen. While I read in one of these Marilyn marathons,  I’d say my best reading of my Marilyn poem was done in a studio setting with tango music backing me up.