Clips from JaxbyJax 2018!

 

Yesterday I read poetry at JaxbyJax 2018, and it was an absolute blast! Chris Gabbard and I read in the Whiteway Realty conference room, a cozy space that offered many lighting options for me. I read best under dim lights, and every time I plan to read in public, I worry about whether the venue will work out. I was so happy with our environment this time; I really felt in my element!

For my three reading times, I chose different poems. The only repeats came when my 5:30 audience called for an encore (I promised if they called for an encore, I’d read them some of my favorites). All three of my readings were blessed by a kind, attentive, and encouraging audience! And who is a writer without her audience?

We went Facebook live during each reading, and I’ve shared the videos below! Enjoy!

A clip from the 3:30 reading:

The second half of my 3:30 reading, featuring a set of poems for my great-grandmother, Citti:

A clip from the 4:30 reading:

A clip from the 5:30 reading (with encore and excellent audience questions) 

I’d like to offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks to Brad and Darlyn Kuhn for organizing and promoting this year’s festival! Congratulations to the many other local writers who performed yesterday! Jacksonville is a lively, literary place, and each iteration of JaxbyJax enlarges and enriches our writerly community!

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Appearing at JaxbyJax 2018!

I am excited to announce that I will be reading at this year’s JaxbyJax Literary Arts Festival, where local writers read their work all across Riverside! This will be my third appearance at JaxbyJax, and my previous venue partners, Andres Rojas and Sohrab Fracis, will also be reading this year!

JaxbyJax will take place on Saturday, October 13, 2018. Festivities begin at 1:30pm with a student showcase and the readings last from 3-6pm. Writers share a venue with a partner and trade off reading every 30 minutes. I’ll be reading with Chris Gabbard at the Whiteway Conference Room (upstairs), 2720 Park Street. Chris kicks off our session with his reading at 3pm, and my readings will be at 3:30pm, 4:30pm, and 5:30pm.

What am I reading? Poetry, poetry, poetry! Lots of new poetry!

More details are posted on the JaxbyJax website. And here’s a link to the Facebook event.

And look, a flyer! Be there!

FINAL POSTER JBJ18_Poster_11x17 copy

Jill Khoury Discusses Her Teaching with Poetry Barn and the Value of Online Poetry Workshops

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I’d like to share this online interview I conducted with Jill Khoury. I was inspired to interview Jill after taking her online poetry workshop, Writing Poems From the Body, at The Poetry Barn.

Jill’s course was my first Poetry Barn class, but I have since taken two more, and I’ve found them to be incredibly exciting! Each month-long course is organized around a theme (poetry and spirituality, poetry and the body, poetry and gender, just to name a few), where the instructor offers you readings, prompts, critiques, and discussions. Classmates also critique each other’s work, and the courses are wonderfully encouraging.

Writing Poems from the Body wasn’t my first experience with Jill or her compelling work. Several years ago, Jill and I joined other disabled writers in a dialogue on blindness and writing through Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature. And last year, I reviewed her book, Suites for the Modern Dancer, for The Deaf Poets Society. When I saw her workshop on the schedule at The Poetry Barn, I knew her course would be an exciting opportunity!

About Poet-Teacher Jill Khoury

Jill Khoury is interested in the intersection of poetry, visual art, representations of gender, and disability. She is a Western Pennsylvania Writing Project fellow and teaches workshops focusing on writing the body. She holds an MFA from The Ohio State University and edits Rogue Agent, a journal of embodied poetry and art. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, including Copper Nickel, Bone Bouquet, Lunch Ticket, and diode. She has written two chapbooks—Borrowed Bodies (Pudding House, 2009) and Chance Operations (Paper Nautilus, 2016). Her debut full-length collection, Suites for the Modern Dancer, was released in 2016 from Sundress Publications. 

How did you discover Poetry Barn? How did you get started as a teaching artist for Poetry Barn?

Poetry Barn started out under a different name: Rooster Moans Poetry Collective. As best I understand it, the Collective began as a few poets workshopping together and then expanded into a venue for teachers and students to become involved in online workshopping. Poets Susan Yount and Lissa Kiernan were members of the original collective. I had recently been in contact with Susan Yount because she’d published a poem of mine in Arsenic Lobster, a journal she edited. I don’t remember the details but I’d asked about teaching online and she introduced me to her friend Lissa who runs Rooster Moans aka Poetry Barn. This is just one illustration of why my online poetry community means so much to me. Being able to transcend geography and the limitations of my disabilities is a godsend.

How much freedom are you allowed with the design of your Poetry Barn workshops?

Lissa gives us a lot of creative freedom! I was able to design this course entirely. It is and continues to be the only course that I’ve had the maximum amount of freedom in choosing material and how to present that material.

How often do you teach with Poetry Barn? Have you taught different workshops or do you teach the same classes every year?

I’ve taught the Writing Poems from the Body class twice with them, and I’m teaching it again in the fall of 2018.

What are three principles you strive to build into your Poetry Barn workshops?

Risk-taking, close reading / helpful critique, and safety. The first pertains to a value that I hold dear in my own and others’ writing—being able to take risks with content, writing process. language, or poetic form. Risk is going to seem different to everyone, however. Of course, what is extremely risky for one poet might not be risky for another. I aim to push each student just slightly out of their comfort zone, but it’s also okay if they don’t want to go there. I think close reading and helpful critique is also a core motivator of the workshop. I also allow my students to indicate what depth of critique would be most helpful for them. Some students are writing with the goal of eventual publication in mind already. Some students are just there to generate work and want to worry about deep revision later. Some students are writing for catharsis or self-inquiry. Suggestions for revision are not useful to them because they are not interested in revising. The great thing about teaching in a venue like Poetry Barn is that as a teacher, I can meet every student where they are. It’s not for credit. It’s for enrichment—whatever enrichment looks like to the individual. Lastly but importantly, safety is important. When teaching a workshop like Writing Poems from the Body, situations can get really vulnerable really quickly. It is of paramount importance that everyone’s journey into the subject of the body is heard and respected.

How is the online format similar to in-person workshops? How is it different?

The thing that it’s hard to replace from an in-person workshop is the face to face meeting. It will always be a lovely thing to feel that unquantifiable but delicious feeling of being poets sitting around a seminar table writing, reading, and engaging one another. However, there are many limitations on an in-person workshop. Geography and scheduling, for example. In my first time teaching Writing Poems from the Body I had students from all over the US plus Australia and Norway. Some were university students. Some were professionals. Some were retired. Since the class is asynchronous, people with all these different geographies and schedules were able to come together and form a cohesive unit.

What is some advice you would give to a new workshop participant about writing critiques?

My recommendation would be similar to any new workshop participant, whether online or in-person. Be respectful. Be specific. Take your time. Give praise and advice in the spirit you would wish to receive it.

Which features of class or community design help the Poetry Barn workshops to be constructive and civil spaces?

The Poetry Barn classroom has discussion questions available as a course design choice. I like to generate discussion even before the first poems are turned in. In Writing Poems from the Body, the first discussion question I offer is to share your journey toward embodied writing. People come to it from different places, in different ways. My intention is that the more that students participate in discussion, the more they will see themselves as a community. The more they see themselves as a community, the more they will respect one another. Also Lissa has built respectfulness into the courses literally. On the pages dedicated to poem critique, she has a list of good advice for workshopping that shows up every time someone starts a critique.

And lastly, who are the poets you return to again and again? What are the poems you can’t stop reading?

Rather than always-returning, the way I read poetry is ever-expanding. There is so much new work coming out all the time that examines the subject of the body in some way. I want to read it all! Here’s a list of ten books in my queue right now:

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I’m so grateful to Jill for her thoughtful answers — and to the folks at Poetry Barn for continuing to provide quality instruction in a civil and accessible environment!

Celebrating National Poetry Month 2018!

Dear readers, it’s that time again! Time to spend 30 days of April showers celebrating poetry — reading it, writing it, thinking about writing it! I’m excited to report some fantastic festivities at both campuses where I teach! Follow the hyperlinks to find the Facebook events for each item.

Downtown Campus Spoken Word Open Mic, Tues Apr 10, 10AM-12PM

Join FSCJ poets Donna Cobis, Kelsi Hasden, and me for a spoken word event celebrating National Poetry Month. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to come ready to share their favorite poems or original verse, but no shade will be thrown if you attend simply to cheer on your classmates or colleagues. This event will take place in C-101 at Downtown Campus and is my collaborative creation with FSCJ’s Library and Learning Commons and Downtown Campus Student Engagement.

Poetry Month Workshop Series

I’ll be teaching a series of three workshops at the UNF Writing Center this month! These are open to UNF students, staff, and faculty, and they are not sequential: you can come to one, two, or all three!

Write Your Poem,  Wed, Apr 4, 2-3PM

Have you ever wondered where a great poem begins? Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced poet, we’ll discover the roots of captivating poems! This workshop is the first in the Writing Center’s 2018 National Poetry Month Series. Grab your favorite pen and your vivid imagination, and we’ll start writing together. Students, faculty, and staff are welcome. 

Critique Your Poem, Wed, Apr 11, 2-3PM

More than rhyme schemes or syllable counts, a poet needs to know what makes a poem tick. What takes a handful of smudgy lines to a full-fledged draft? What takes a poem from good to great? We’ll explore techniques for critiquing poetry in the second installment of the Writing Center Poetry Month Series. Students, faculty, and staff welcome. 

Perform Your Poem, Wed, Apr 18, 2-3PM

Let’s lift poetry off the page! Bring your works in progress or your favorite poems! We’ll explore the techniques that performance poets use to electrify their audience in this third installment of the Writing Center Poetry Month Series. Students, faculty, and staff welcome.  

Student Poet Showcase, April 9, 12-1PM

Students, it’s your turn in the spotlight! Join the UNF Writing Center, English Graduate Organization (EGO), and UNF faculty poets for an informal poetry reading to celebrate National Poetry Month! We are all about showing our appreciation for poets, past and present! Bring your own work or your favorite poem to share — or just come to listen and get a free dose of poetry. Students, staff, and faculty are welcome! 

Poetry Feedback Fridays, April 6 & 13 at 2-3PM

Join our visiting poet for an informal small-group conversation about poetry, careers in the arts, and the writing life. Bring your poems for individual critique, or bring your curiosity. Beginners and experienced writers are welcome — no prep needed! Students, faculty, and staff are welcome!
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Do you have an exciting project or event for National Poetry Month? I’d love to hear about it! I’ve got more poetic features to share, so stay tuned to the blog! 

In the Works

 

It’s time for an overdue update! Happy December to all!

I’ve had a busy semester of writing, teaching, reading, and workshopping. Here are some of the highlights!

Presentations

In October, I spoke at an event for Blindness Awareness Day hosted by UNF Leaders and Activists for the Disabled (LAD). Though the talk ended up being an hour, we recorded the first 20 minutes, and you can watch them here:

In November, I spoke about breaking disability stereotypes at another UNF event. This time it was the 3rd annual Community Learning Opportunity, hosted by UNF THRIVE, an organization that serves students with autism.

Later in November, I gave my second presentation as part of  UNF Sigma Tau Delta’s Brown Bag Series. My talk was called Poetry, Passion, and Grammar. We explored some of my favorite poems and charted their unconventional use of intuitive grammar features.

Publications

My poems “Mint” and “Natural Compliance” appeared in the latest issue of Clemson University’s South Carolina Review, available only in print. These poems are especially important to me because they each honor a loved one who is no longer living. “Mint” was written for my great-grandmother, and “Natural Compliance” was written for my friend, Christina.

The December issue of Wordgathering features two of my pieces – a mini essay and a book review. The mini essay is called “Life of a Disabled Person as Rendered in Video Game Language“; it’s a satirical look at the social obstacles disabled people face.

The second piece is a full-length review of Border Songs: A Conversation in Poems by Ona Gritz and Dan Simpson. Border Songs is a brief beautiful chapbook that explores themes of myth, identity, love, faith, and acceptance.

Workshops

I have recently discovered the phenomenal Poetry Barn – an organization that offers physical and online poetry workshops! In November, I took Jill Khoury’s workshop Writing Poems from the Body, a month-long course on exploring how our bodies shape our work. It was an intensely creative and productive time for me, so I immediately signed up for their December workshop, Foremothers: Imitating Women Poets, taught by Joshua Davis. Class just started this week, so I can’t wait to see what’s in store!

In the Works

I am, as always, writing writing writing. I am revising a piece on sacred singing and blindness for an academic disability journal. I’m planning an essay-length review of Rachel Carson’s extraordinary Under the Sea-Wind. And I’m prepping my Intro to Creative Writing course for spring!

Book Review: Suites for the Modern Dancer

I am excited to share my latest publication, a review of Jill Khoury’s Suites for the Modern Dancer. Khoury’s book is a full-length poetry collection, published by Sundress Press in 2016. My review was published in Issue #5 of The Deaf Poets Society. Here’s how the review begins:

I indulge in the fantasy of maneuvering effortlessly to a shady oak, slim volume of poetry in hand, and losing myself for an afternoon. With birds and breezes for companions and sunlight unproblematic on white pages, my escapism thrives on the act of reading, rather than the text itself. In reality my reading of standard-print texts is mediated by real and artificial voices. I can’t follow the text visually unless I enlarge it myself, so I download books to my phone and use VoiceOver’s text-to-speech features. Such readings are mechanical but precise. If I follow along with a large-print version of the text, I almost forget that I am reading collaboratively.

But I prefer real human voices. My friend and I settle down at the kitchen table with two copies of Jill Khoury’s Suites for the Modern Dancer. His is the 2016 paperback edition, and mine is a manuscript copy in 18-point font. Since I can’t skim the collection by sight, I use adhesive red flags to mark each page I write on.

Read the full essay here.

Poet’s Mind

If you want to understand what it is to be a poet, spend time with people who consider themselves unpoetic—people who feel defeated or confused by poetry. You will keep bumping up against that thing that separates you. It feels like a low cement wall.

The essential separation borders a world where every question has one answer, where every effect has one cause. And that’s decidedly different from the world you believe in, the world you want to live in, the world you know is true. In the poet’s world, everything has multiple answers— not because everything is relative, but because discovery and learning help you see what you thought you understood in a novel light. A new way. You understand that the truth you took for granted is now being filtered differently. It is still true, but it is more true. It is true in a way that envelops more of your experience.

You write because you want to dwell in possibilities, to step over a threshold of autobiography and facts and into a place of identity and soul-making. A place where souls can touch other souls outside of time. A place where an epiphany from 200 or 2000 years ago may still have something to teach you. A place where “right” is not the same as “finite.”

You realize that as a poet working and writing in the world, you have the chance to be extended, lifted up and out, expanded. You realize that when you step into that bigger “I”—not your “I” that agonizes over what to wear to work or whether to stop for coffee—when you take the hand of the big “I,” give your talents over to it, you’re taking the hand of your God. That your work might speak to thousands beyond yourself, that it might reach farther than your physical hands could actually reach. And what other name could there be for such expansion than the name of God? Of a force that brings meaning to a mass of atoms and stardust?

So you wonder how others can be closed off to this feeling, this invitation to an expansive self, this response to an initial Creator and creative spark. You ask, did I invite God or did God invite me? You wonder whether, in a search for the finite rightness of things, others are shutting out the sacred.

Because the sacred is unruly. It’s not facts and lists and statistics. It’s a network of finely spun vitality, and once you accept it, you’re in. You’re there. You can’t abandon the sacred. Recognizing the sacred invites you to reconsider all life. You accept the sacred, you accept responsibility.

A poet accepts responsibility.

Watch my presentation: “Creative Activism: The Poetry of Disability and Disclosure”

In November, I participated in the Brown Bag Series hosted by UNF’s Sigma Tau Delta (English Honor Society). I had the opportunity to read my work and discuss the challenges and joys of writing as a blind poet. Here’s what it’s about:

As a blind poet, Emily K. Michael understands the politics of disclosure. Publishing in disability journals and mainstream literary magazines, she hopes her work will introduce a new story of blindness into genres where disability is seen as irrevocable tragedy or simplistic blessing-in-disguise. But this activism requires a sense of balance, a poem that doesn’t preach. Michael discusses the decisions that shape her process—from creating a poem to seeing it published. She outlines the pressures facing disabled writers and develops her poetics of protest.

Check it out!

Poetry as Activism, The Rhetoric of Empathy, and The Breaking of Beliefs: My interview with Primal School

I am honored to be featured on Hannah Lee Jones’s fabulous poetry blog, Primal School. Her blog is designed as a place to discuss poetry outside the academy, to go back to basics and understand what makes a poem tick. In this interview, she asked me to describe my motivation and process for “A Phenomenology of Blindness,” which was published by Rogue Agent this summer.

About the interview, Hannah says:

[Emily K. Michael’s] poem ‘A Phenomenology of Blindness’ is a lesson not just in poetic craft but also how to talk about disability: ‘There’s a sense with the average non-disabled person that we should try to minimize or hide our disabilities — as if their discomfort is our discomfort. That’s another reason I write as a blind poet; I want people to know that I’m bringing blindness forward. I’m not ashamed. It’s a part of who I am. It’s something that belongs in poetry — not as a novelty but as a reality.’ Read, learn, and if so moved, please share widely — Emily’s work is vital.

Read the full interview here.

“Inside Jokes” published at The Fem!

Today starts a new semester! And the best way to ring in a beginning or ending is with poetry!

So it’s a good thing that my poem “Inside Jokes” was published at The Fem on this day. Read and enjoy! Happy Monday!

Honorable Mention in The Hopper’s Prize for Young Poets!

In June, I entered The Hopper‘s Prize for Young Poets. You remember The Hopper, the Vermont-based ecologically minded magazine that published one of my essays in May?  This contest called for a chapbook, a collection of 20-50 poems by a “young poet” (under 35) who had never published a collection before. So I shuffled and re-shuffled my poems, read them to myself, read them with friends, and sent them off!

Well, my manuscript, Natural Compliance, won Honorable Mention (3rd place) in this contest! I’m incredibly excited by such a distinction, and I’m quite proud of my little manuscript. Because The Hopper is so awesome, they wanted to profile me on their website and include a poem from the collection. Their profile features my poem “Kiwano,” hitherto unseen on the wilds of the Internet!

Here is their profile on me and my collection.

I want to thank the friends who helped me create and finalize this collection. You know who you are. We spent hours hunched over coffeeshop tables working and reworking these poems. You read the collection in one fell swoop to soothe my insecurities. You cheered me on. You told me I was worth it, whether I won or lost.

My friends, my readers, you are my blessing.

A little avian poem in a brand new journal!

Today marks the launch of The Deaf Poets Society, a literary journal that features the work of disabled writers. And I’m honored to announce that my poem “Trading Threes” is on this first flight.

Read and listen to the poem here.

This poem is a tribute to the glorious cardinals who sing day and night in my front yard. I hope you enjoy it and take some time to explore the rest of this brand new issue!

Poem Published in Rogue Agent!

The July issue of Rogue Agent is out, and one of my poems graces its cyperpages! You’ll find my piece, “A Phenomenology of Blindness,” in Issue #16 of this journal of poetry, art, and embodiment!

Read my poem here.

Poem Published!

My poem, “Crushed,” is live in the June issue of Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature.

Click here to read it—or listen to me read it for you!

Mosaics Poet Profiles: Kimberly Fujioka

I’m excited to present the work of another author from Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women (Vol. 2)…Kimberly Fujioka.

Kim has been writing since she was a child. She wrote her first novel while she was tossing Hostess Ho-Hos and Ding Dongs off the back of a dump truck at her uncle’s farm. The cows in the pasture all grouped around the dump truck overflowing with day old cakes. If farms were a microcosm of the world, there would be cows who follow and then there would be one who might be named Polaris who would crawl up the apple tree to reach the golden apples, the one who from the vantage point of old age could see the slaughter house in the distance. Kim knows the benefits of aging since she’s almost 60 and has finally started to take herself seriously as a poet.

Kim has written and published book reviews, essays, and poetry, and she has published in print and online newspapers, magazines, literary journals and the anthology, To Japan with Love: A Travel Guide for the Connoisseur.

Kim taught English (ESL) at the university level for 30 years in both the U.S. and in Japan. She wrote several nonfiction books on teaching that are on sale at Amazon. You can find Kim on social media at the following accounts: Book Review Blog, Twitter, and her personal blog. She offers one poem:

The Glass Blower and Me

There is a shape I am searching for,
or is it a process?

The outcome is always the same, and I ask
“Is it love or art?”

I’m thinking if that mountain village, north of Fujioka City in Central Japan,
the glass blowers raise the long hollow metal rod to their greased lips
and blow.

The other end is immersed in blue fire.
Those of us standing around cannot see the glass formation
we are told is inside the stove’s belly,
but we believe it’s there.

We stand around the glass blower, who delicately twirls the hot, metal rod
between his gloved fingers.

We watch and wait for his masterpiece of glass to emerge from the oven, when
he taps me on the shoulder,
leans down to grease my lips, and lifts the rod
up to my mouth.

But I am too eager, sucking in more air than my lungs will hold.
He steps back, moving the blow rod away from me.
It’s noisy in this studio, so no one can speak over the roar of the fire.

We communicate through our eyes.

I look up into his eyes.
He puts the metal rod to my mouth and I try again.
This time I use the breath that is only mine.
He places the rod in my hands and moves slowly toward the stove,
peering in through the small window.
Looking over his shoulder at me, he gives me the okay sign.
I let my breath out slowly and steadily, then he cuts through the air
when it’s time for me to stop.

I don’t know what I’m doing, but he guides me through it.
It’s only him—the glass blower—and me, and my desire.

We enter the blue fire,
unable to stop,
even though I am afraid.

Source:
“Body, My House.” Pilgrimage Magazine 35.1 (2010): 40-41.