Friday, October 14, 2016

Barley is the New Poetry (Part 2)

Those of you who have been with us for a long time may remember that time I told a long sad story about how I used to write poetry but that life with a reactive dog had drained my poetic energy. That was a year and a half ago--and I tried to write after that post.

I started being inspired by a lot of things: the Orioles playing baseball in an empty stadium, the way Barley's pawprints looked in the sand, the wiggle of Soth's nose when he watches chipmunks. I took pages and pages of notes. But I didn't write a single poem.

Then on July 23-24, the Litsy app hosted a 24in48 readathon where participants read for 24 hours in the 48 hour time period. Obviously, reading for 24 hours in a two day time period is not something Barley would ever tolerate, but Litsy had lots of different photo contests to participate in throughout the weekend.


One of the contests was Spine Poetry where you pull books off your shelves and stack them on top of each other in a way that makes a poem. I had been snuggling in bed with Bar and a book when I saw the challenge, so I turned to my shelves in the bedroom: the dog books and the poetry books. I pulled out some of my favorites, played around with them a bit, and fell in love. I submitted it and didn't win, but I'd used Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones in the poem and she liked the poem when I tweeted it and started following me, so that's even better than winning in my book.

The poem stuck with me and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I was also taking a 4-week poetry class through Coursera.org and around that same time we had to submit a form poem. I'm 100% a free verse kind of girl, so I was dreading the assignment. However, one of the options was a Japanese tanka, a form similar to haiku but with 5 lines following the syllable count of 5, 7, 5, 7, 7. I started playing around with my spine poetry and rearranged some words, added some words, deleted some words, added some line breaks and pretty soon I had two stanzas that almost fit into the tanka form (one line has an extra syllable).

Still, the poem stuck with me. For most literary journals, it's common practice to submit 3-5 poems for consideration for publication. At that point, I just didn't have them unless I went back to my really old stuff that just wasn't speaking to me. I started searching for different dog publications to see if maybe there was some place the poem could find a home. I came across The Bark magazine. They had a statement that specifically said: "We do accept poetry, but do not have space for all of the poems that we would like to publish. But the shorter the poem, the more likely we might be to find space for it." 

I prepared myself for rejection and sent in my poem anyway. Twelve hours later, I got an email saying they would love to publish the poem and would be in touch when they knew which issue they'd be able to make room in for it.


When I shared the news with one of my poet friends, he mentioned that he'd been in a writing slump, too, so we decided to keep my momentum going and try to get him out of his slump by doing a month-long writing challenge together. For the month of September, we sent each other a couple poems each week, critiqued them, and went back to writing.

I'm happy to say that thanks to Litsy, Coursera, my friend Casey, and Barley, I'm out of my slump. I've been taking advantage of the voice-to-text feature in my phone to jot down ideas while Barley and I walk (or to Barley's chagrin, making her stop in parks and sit on a bench while I type one out). Right now, they're all either about dog walking or have a dog somewhere in them, so I like to think of them as the lovechild of Ted Kooser's Winter Morning Walks and Mary Oliver's Dog Songs.

My editor thinks there should be more cat poems.

The only downside to this is that we haven't been able to find a copy of the fall issue of The Bark in stores--I was sent a copy, so I have my poem in a magazine, but I haven't been able to see it on a shelf! If you happen to be in PetSmart, Barnes and Noble, or other stores where they sell magazines and you see The Bark on the shelf, send us a picture!

P.s. There are some other great articles in the magazine (my personal favorite is a decorating piece from Trading Spaces designer Vern Yip), so it's worth picking up even if you don't love poetry.

14 comments:

  1. Congratulations! I'll take a picture for you the next time I see one. Their fall issue?

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  2. I'm so happy for you that you've come out of your slump, and congratulations on getting published! Apparently you just needed the right inspiration, or the right combination of things to get your mojo back. :)
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. Thank you! It definitely feels like the stars have aligned or something :)

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  3. Congratulations! I remember reading somewhere that writer's block is when your imaginary best friend isn't talking to you ... and that's pretty accurate to describe my experience.

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    1. Thank you! It's definitely good to be writing again!

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  4. Very cool! Congrats! Crafting is my thing and I've been in a slump for a long time. I really need to Start doing some small projects through the mouth to get back into the groove. I miss it.

    Thanks for joining the Pet Blogger Showcase!

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    1. Good luck with the crafting! Hopefully little projects help you get back into the groove, too!

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  5. Oooo I have to go to pet Smart. I will have to look. Congratulations!

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  6. THAT is wicked cool! Congratulations on being published! And what a great way to help break up that writer's block!

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    1. Thank you! It definitely helps to have friends that are willing to hold you accountable for writing goals :)

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