Monthly Archives: January 2018

How to Write a Poetry Cover Letter

Relevant to my interests. Perhaps also to yours. 🙂

The Watering Hole

We always get questions about cover letters and it’s only because of our work on both sides of the desk (poet and organizer) that we’ve began to understand this a little better. Yes, we work for The Watering Hole, but we have also worked for The South Carolina Review, Yemassee, among others. We’ve been through hundreds of cover letters. Hopefully, this will demystify them for you.

Cover letters change shape based on what you are applying for. Sometimes poetry submissions lay out exactly what they are looking for in a cover letter. Often they don’t. Always, check that organization’s guidelines.

In general for poetry retreats, residencies, and fellowships, the poetry is read first, then the editors make a shortlist of acceptances, after which the cover letters are read, and more cuts are made. However, for publication, the cover letters are only read a month after all…

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Queer Femme Poets – Adele Barclay

So I’ve been working on a poetry manuscript for a while now. A series of glosas riffing on the poetry of other queer femmes. Femmes get a lot done with a little, draw inspiration and strength from each other, collaborate with each other, and generally lift each other up. I think the poetic form of the glosa – a style where you take four sequential lines of someone else’s poem and write your own four-stanza, forty-line response poem incorporating one of the lines into the same point of each ten-line stanza (usually as the last line of each stanza, but not always) – works really well, in and of itself, as a metaphor for femme solidarity and mutual inspiration.
To that end: A small series talking about the poets and poems that are inspiring my manuscript.
 

Cover of Adele Barclay’s “If I Were In A Cage I’d Reach Out For You” (Nightwood Editions, 2016).


 
Some Thoughts About This Book: If I Were In A Cage I’d Reach Out For You was recommended to me by a friend when I put a note up on Facebook asking for the names of queer femme poets I should be reading. I rattled off a list of the femmes whose work I either already had, or had on order either from a bookstore or through the library. When I looked up the author on twitter, I discovered that she’s the same kind of witchy queer poet that I am (turns out we are mirror witches – I’m a Scorpio with a Cancer moon, and she’s a Cancer with a Scorpio moon – which makes me inordinately happy, for weird, woo reasons that I’m more likely to delve into over at Urban Meliad than here. 😉 ). Being my kind of witch, it’s no surprise that she brings astrology, tarot, and kitchen magic into her work (as well as a delicious mix of explicitly formal and more free-verse styles of writing – which have inspired me to write aubades and other interestingly shaped or themed poems since reading it). It’s also no surprise that I love this book for the way she (re) enchants the urban landscape or, maybe more accurately, makes visible the magic that has always been there. I love the way water – the suit of feeling and healing – comes back again and again and again all through this book.
 
Which poem I chose to gloss and why: I chose to gloss the poem “Yukon River Breakup”, though there are a LOT of poems to draw on in this book (“Sea Hag”, “Cardinal vs Mutable”, “Last Night”, “Brackish”, the whole “Sara” collection, though “Sara VI” in particular…). I chose it because of the way she asks how a river breaks (“like a day // or like an egg” – hope & possibilities vs irreparable, disastrous damage), and because I also know that a photograph is a spell, and that humans love to make meaning out of everything. I also chose it because it’s position – the first new moon of a new year – is a good one for the kind of poem I wanted to write, about surfacing with wisdom gleaned from your own depths, and stepping towards a new way of being.
 
 
Cheers,
A.

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Queer Can Lit Newsflash: New Arsenal Pulp Press Books, Queer Canadian Books on 2017 Best Books Lists, and More!

SO MANY GOOD BOOOOOOOOOKS!!!

Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian

Is this December’s Queer Can Lit Newsflash or is it January’s?? Only time will tell! Here are some things that have been happening in Canadian LGBTQ2IA+ bookish world:

Vancouver’s Arsenal Pulp Press has some new books coming out in 2018, two of which are by two of my favourite authors: Amber Dawn and Casey Plett.

Plett’s novel is called Little Fish and it sounds AMAZING! You can read an early excerpt of the novel as a work in progress from Plenitude Magazine. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In this debut novel by the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning story collection A Safe Girl to Love, Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman in Winnipeg who comes across evidence that her late grandfather–a devout Mennonite farmer–might have been transgender himself. At first she dismisses this revelation, having other problems at hand, but as she and her friends struggle to cope…

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Queer Femme Poets – Amber Dawn

So I’ve been working on a poetry manuscript for a while now. A series of glosas riffing on the poetry of other queer femmes. Femmes get a lot done with a little, draw inspiration and strength from each other, collaborate with each other, and generally lift each other up. So I think the poetic form of the glosa – a style where you take four sequential lines of someone else’s poem and write your own four-stanza, forty-line response poem incorporating one of the lines into the same point of each ten-line stanza (usually as the last line of each stanza, but not always) – works really well, in and of itself, as a metaphor for femme solidarity and mutual inspiration. It’s also, of course, the form used in Amber Dawn’s Where the words end and my body begins, and her influence on my own writing has been pretty significant.
 
So, to the surprise of nobody, I’m starting this little blog series with that very same book.
 

Cover of Amber Dawn’s “Where the Words End and My Body Begins” (Arsenal Pulp, 2015).


 
Some Thoughts About This Book: This book was the beginning of it all, even before I decided that I could write glosas as a project, as a chapbook let alone a full-length manuscript, because reading it gave me the push to try using formal poetry as a way to unlock my writer’s brain and trick myself into creating Actual Poetry (as opposed to “paragraphs with funny line breaks”, which free verse – or at least MY free verse – can stumble into). Because, in Amber Dawn’s use of the form, she’s not afraid to mess with it, to move things around a little. It felt like permission to do the same – to divvy those quatrains up into the second or sixth or eighth line of each stanza, rather than the first or last, or to stick to the form hard, and then cheat it just a little in the last stanza.
But I also chose to work with poetry from this book, rather than from, say, How Poetry Saved My Life, because I want to incorporate something like a cascade effect into my poems: the four lines I chose from “The Revered Femme Bottom” include a line from the original Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha poem onto-which Amber Dawn built her own piece, and the title of her book echos a poem (“Summer : or, I want the rage of poets to bleed guns, speechless with words”) by femme poet Anurima Banerji. I love this book because it’s a story, told in stand-alone poems, about lineage. Lineage in Kathryn Payne’s “Whores and Bitches Who Sleep With Women”[3] sense of the word; in the “What kind of ancestor do you want to be?”[2] sense of the word. One more map showing where we came from, helping us chart where we go.
 
Which poem I chose to gloss and why: So far, I’ve written glosas riffing on both “Dirt Bag Love Affair” and “The Revered Femme Bottom”, though the one I wrote for Dirt Bag doesn’t really count – I don’t think – because it’s not actually a response to the poem, just a poem of mine written around the bones of four lines from hers. I love that poem because it is, itself, a gloss of another femme’s poem (Chandra Mayor’s “Winter Night”, from August Witch, iirc), and for it’s putting on and taking off of city & university layered over rural & poor, neither of those identities false or complete on their own. I love the other – and my gloss of “Femme Bottom” is a response, as a sometimes-stone femme top dreaming her way[3] back into her body and her desires – because it speaks to learning to recognize and name desire, and for the truth of “no-one could have told you the dearest souls roll rough trade”. My dearest souls so often do. I don’t know which, if either, of the poems I wrote on these pieces will end up in the final manuscript. Solid chance I’ll write at least one more on Amber Dawn’s work. But here we are.
 
 
Cheers,
A.
 
 
[1] You can find this essay, and Anurima Banerji’s above-mentioned poem, in Brazen Femme (Arsenal Pulp, 2002).
 
[2] Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Bodymap (Mawenzi House, 2015).
 
[3] As Amber L Hollibaugh and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha would both say, and have.

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