Partial Genius: cover & first blurb

Black Lawrence Press, August 2019

I’m so excited to share the cover of my forthcoming prose poetry collection, Partial Genius, as well as the first blurb, which was written by my poetry hero Heather Derr-Smith. Thank you so much for your support!

I love this book so much. A work of meticulous craft and profound originality, Mary Biddinger’s newest collection of prose poems is one of the best books I’ve read on our historical moment and the decades that led to it. PARTIAL GENIUS reads like a dossier of the psychological landscape of late capitalist America and the end of empire. In the tradition of John Ashbery, but wholly original in her own vision and voice, Biddinger draws from a deep well of poetic intellect and wit to illuminate the existential threats and imaginative possibilities of our collective self-destruction. In “The Subject Pool” the speaker watches a man tattoo AU COURANT around her thigh. The tattoo artists has no idea. Every poem is chock-full of revelations in every detail. Reading this book felt like sitting by the fire in some secret location with a double agent, smoking her pipe telling tales of all that went down right in front of our collective faces, while we were all driven to distraction by outrage. To paraphrase Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, She’s got it all in this book.  –Heather Derr-Smith

New year, new poems

A glimpse of 2019 so far.

A new year always feels fresh, and I’m entering this one with a lot of goals. There’s a new poetry collection in the works, and I’ll be teaching two of my favorite classes, both at the undergrad level (advanced poetry writing and writers on writing). This will also be my last semester of a six-year gig as assistant chair and undergraduate advisor in my department, which means that starting in the fall I’ll teach more, spend less time in office hours, and hang out at the Press instead of the advising office. I am looking forward to this, though have a lot of book management to attend to in the meantime (moving them from one office to the next).

This is also the year of Partial Genius, my new collection of prose poems, which is due out in August from Black Lawrence Press. Stay tuned for updates on that, including cover and blurbs in the near future.

That’s a wrap.

The fall 2018 semester had its highs and lows, like all semesters, but there were so many fierce poems and that is what I’ll remember going forward. In 2019 I’m making some changes that will enable me to be more of a writer again, less of a spreadsheet-navigator and email-wrangler, and though it will take some maneuvering I’m thrilled to be following this trajectory.

In addition to finishing a new collection of poems, in the new year I’ll be starting work on a teaching book of prompts. I’m imagining this to be ideal both for classrooms and for independent writers of all levels who might want a new door into poetry. It will be fairly small, handsome, and inexpensive. It will also include some writerly self-care advice; I teach a class that addresses this subject and would like it to be part of the book. More information on the project soon.

Finally, thanks to all of the readers and fellow writers and friends who have made this past year overwhelmingly okay. I’m setting serious goals for the new year. Best wishes to you and your goals, too.

Charleston gratitude

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A million thanks to the College of Charleston MFA program and Crazyhorse literary journal for the lovely visit. We had a robust turnout for my poetry reading, as well as for the talk that I did regarding first books of poetry and publishing. What a gorgeous place to visit, too!

Now we’re heading into the final weeks of the semester, but the warm weather and delightful company surely did some good. Before we know it, we’ll be planning for AWP Portland, though I have a few student poems that need annotating before that happens.

 

Crazyhorse Reading Series & THEY SAID event recap

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The release party and reading for the THEY SAID anthology was an absolute delight. Much gratitude to Juliet Cook, Diane Kendig, Black Lawrence Press, and Visible Voice Books for hosting. It was a memorable night of celebrating our collaborative poems and reading work by other authors from the volume. What a treat!

This week I’m heading to the College of Charleston for the Crazyhorse Reading Series. It’s Thursday, October 25th at Randolph Hall, Alumni Hall. Details are here on the website. I will be reading poems from Small Enterprise and from my forthcoming prose poem collection Partial Genius, as well as work from a new project (!!!) or two.

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Autumn events

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Photo courtesy of the High Arts Festival.

Autumn is a beautiful time in Ohio, and this is a busy month for poetry events. Last Friday I had the pleasure of serving on a literary arts panel for the High Arts Festival (pictured above) with fellow writers Eris Eady, Noor Hindi, and Mwatabu S. Okantah, and David Giffels as moderator. Tomorrow (10/6, 7:30 pm) I’m looking forward to reading at the Cleveland celebration for They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing at Visible Voice Books in Tremont. This volume is newly released by Black Lawrence Press, and it’s magnificent.

Later in October I’m packing my bags and heading to the College of Charleston for a poetry reading and craft talk about first books of poetry. My biggest piece of advice there: don’t be afraid to take risks in your collection. Growl a little. Show some teeth. Also, the right press and editor are out there, even if your classmates or writing group friends or Twitter frenemies aren’t always sure what to make of your work. I always felt like my intrinsic weirdness was a liability based on what others told me, but it ended up being an advantage instead.

AWP Portland Panel Preview

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I’m super excited that two proposals that I am on for the AWP 2019 conference in Portland have been accepted. Here’s the scoop:

Season of the Witch: Feminism, Ritual, and Independent Publishing (Brooke Wonders,
Kiki Petrosino, Joanna C. Valente, Mary Biddinger, Annah Browning)

Helen Oyeyemi writes of “…witches who whistle at different pitches, calling things that don’t have names.” What unnamed experiences might a feminist literary magazine or press want to summon? Join the editors of Luna Luna, Grimoire Magazine, Transom, and University of Akron Press as we discuss how ritual, folk practices, and symbols like the witch provide a way of speaking the unnamed, especially in the wake of the #metoo movement.

Maintaining Beginner’s Mind in Your Own Classroom: A Poetry Reading (Amie
Whittemore, Mary Biddinger, Adrienne Su, Keith S. Wilson, Cameron Barnett)

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,” Shunryu Suzuki writes in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, “but in the expert’s there are few.” This panel refutes this dichotomy by featuring expert poets at play and inviting the audience to join the fun. Panelists will read poems inspired by prompts they have assigned each other, discussing the prompts as avenues to beginner’s mind. Then the audience will try a prompt on the spot, bringing the rest home for personal or classroom use.

If you’re heading to AWP in the spring, I hope to see you there!

Update in the thick of July

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I’m not a numbers person, so when I looked at my “Summer 2018” poetry word document and saw that I’d written, apparently, over fifty pages of new poems since the beginning of June, I figured it was some kind of mistake.

I always use a calculator when figuring final grades or balancing my checkbook. Sometimes when I read text with a lot of numbers I find my eye doing the same thing it did when I was a student in classes involving statistics (skipping over the numbers like they are bread crust and I’m a picky kid).

However, it’s Monday morning, somewhat cloudy, and I am adequately caffeinated and showered and realizing that wow, I have written a lot this summer, and it makes me feel good. This may be the most I’ve ever written in a summer, and it’s not over.

With the record number of Akron Poetry Prize submissions on my docket (687!) I had feared I would not have much of a writing summer. But the proof is there at the bottom left of the screen. Pages: 51 of 51. Words: 10,133.

Clearly these are not all “keepers.” And yes, I have trouble generating new work during the academic year, so this is catch-up in many ways. But I’m still rather proud.

PS: I’ve been doing #summerofprompts over on Twitter again this summer. Check it out!

New poems in Waxwing and Tupelo Quarterly

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News flashes times two for this hot June morning.

I am over the moon about having my poem “Heaven and Dirt” published in the new issue of Tupelo Quarterly (15) with such excellent company. This is a recent poem, and I’m thrilled that it found such a fine home.

Also, much gratitude to the editors and fellow contributors of Waxwing XV. I’m honored to have these four poems appear in the issue. “Fantasy Sports” and “History Town” are two prose poems from my forthcoming collection Partial Genius, so this makes me extra excited.

For a year or so I had inexplicable anxiety about sending work out. I am much more comfortable helping other people with their creative work, and really needed to think through my trepidation and take steps to eliminate it. And now that these poems are out, I have no excuses about getting more work into the atmosphere.

In other news, we received a record-breaking total of 687 submissions to the 2018 Akron Poetry Prize competition. You know what I’ll be doing for the next two weeks.

Take on May

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It’s the first day of finals week and I already have that loopy off-my-routine feeling. Waiting for things to grade, and when those things arrive they’ll be magnificent: finals from writers on writing, essays from my grad poetry lit class, and mimetic poems for books on our syllabus. This was an eventful academic year, that’s for sure, and next up (immediately next up) I’ve got plenty of Akron Poetry Prize reading and a compressed, three week World Lit course to teach. And hopefully, later in the summer, new poems.

I’ve got news to share. New poems of mine will be appearing in upcoming issues of Court Green and Waxwing, two journals that I admire immensely. It’s such an honor, and helps put a bit of wind to my sails as I am on the brink of sending more work out. I am also incredibly honored to be on this list, as a recipient of an Individual Excellence Award in poetry from the Ohio Arts Council. I’m thankful to live in a state where these kinds of grants still exist.

I spend a lot of time editing and mentoring and talking about making a sustainable writing life, but at the same time I find myself relying so much on “positive feedback” in order to propel myself forward. I think I have less, not more, confidence as I get older. Is that unusual? I suppose I’ll find out eventually.