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Silence is Golden

Between teaching, writing, and running a poetry press, I haven’t posted in a long time. Luckily, no one was holding her breath. So much has happened, mostly to the world (not me, particularly). But last spring as I drove to Texas, destination the annual AWP conference and Bookfair, little did I know it was to be my last trip for quite a while. Covid-19 has been running most of my life (and yours, I assume) since then.

With all this time, it’s a wonder that so few are reporting tremendous progress with their writing. Anxiety, as we could have foreseen, is the anti-creativity. We try–but we fiddle, spiral, stumble, fizzle. I look at the two collections that I was sending out in the 2000-teens and feel only a mild meh. The themes feel tired, the language pleasant enough but not capable of fighting off a deadly virus or evicting a toxic president. The stakes have shifted under my feet, and my focus has therefore been much more on helping my students find the fire and patience they need right now and on bringing into print the spectacular books of others.

Check out Brad Richard’s Paradise Kingdom, Lisa Lewis’s Taxonomy of the Missing, Annie Kim’s Eros, Unbroken, or Kathleen Winter’s Transformer, just to mention a few. In In Ayaz Pirani’s Happy You Are Here you can experience a mind shaped by three (or more?!) cultures, or in JoAnne McFarland’s daring Identifying the Body explore the limits of your courage, while in Nadia Colburn’s The High Shelf you can join the struggle of trying to create a profound meditation in the middle of this mess that is our current world.

The poems of Roy Guzman, Layli Longsoldier, Leah Umansky, Joseph O. Legaspi, Frannie Lindsay, Patricia Smith, Ross Gay, Jane Hirshfield, and so many more are carrying me through this time as well. I’m not worried about my silence because I’m working hard. I hope you have been too.

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Presses with Open Readings for Full-Length Poetry Manuscripts

This is a wonderful resource, just forwarded to me by my good friend Marilyn McCabe. It takes so long to do this kind of research, and it’s pure gold when someone who does it then goes on to share it. Thank you, Tom Holmes!

The Line Break

In the past, I have created such lists as all the Small, Independent, and University Press Poetry Book Publishers (which was up-to-date as of 3-6-10 with 687 presses) and all the Journals with “Review” in Their Title, Who Accept Poetry, and Who Have a Website (which was up-to-date as of 2-29-12 with 344 journals.) The first lists I made were Poetry Book Contests with Spring & Summer DeadlinesPoetry Book Contests with Fall & Winter Deadlines (scroll down), and Poetry Chapbook Contests (scroll down).

Now, it’s time to start a new list, and I’ll keep it here and I’ll update it as I can. Currently, these are the only ones I remember or that other kind people have reminded me of. The list will grow, and if you know of any open readings, please note them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list…

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A New Way to Publish

So at The Word Works we have a unique imprint that is just gearing up for submissions. The catch? Only those who volunteer time at nonprofits that have a literary component to their missions can submit. In March and early April, nonprofits can nominate their volunteers and The Word Works will invite those folks to submit a mansuscript by May 1. The Hilary Tham Capital Collection then publishes two of the books each year, inviting a new judge each year to make the selections. For information or the nomination form, email

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Chapbook Madness

At the end of each semester I have my poetry students create a way to share their work publicly, either as a blog or as a chapbook. First we look at scads of groovy chapbooks that I have collected over the years, old and new, made by artist-bookmakers and by fellow students, well-known examples of the book-maker’s art and kitchen-table specials. We look at first-edition T. S. Eliot and Robert Frost; we look at last semester’s poetry students; we look at early efforts by the writers we have studied in the course. I show them numerous examples of chapbooks that evolved later into full-length books. We pass around chapbooks that unfold like puzzles; that can be read from either end; that incorporate visual art, that include CDs, that are bound with leather, cardboard, cloth, tin, tyvek, bark; that cost $10,ooo to produce or that cost, pretty much, nothing.

Luckily for us, the angelic staff running the behmoth at the campus copy center can format a manuscript into a saddle-stapled booklet, and the student only has to choose font, arrange page layout, print the ms, and present a simple cover design. Some students (once they’ve seen the rusty staples on the older chapbooks) opt to saddle stitch with linen thread. Some create elaborate covers and we have the copy center produce just the text booklet. While we only create enough for the class and a couple of friends, students leave knowing that any Kinkos or Staples can enlarge the print-run.

But we also look at the blog as a way to share work. Students can quickly brainstorm the pros and cons. On the downside, suddenly anyone in the world can see (and possibly steal) your work. On the upside, anyone in the world can see (and possibly appreciate and even respond to) your work. Speed, cheapness, ease, and “never go out of print” are other advantages that students notice.

I don’t introduce the blog option until I am sure everyone has fallen in love with chapbooks, and thus we reenact the movement in publishing of the last 20 years: some remain fiercely loyal to the actual pages in their actual hands, while others of the poetry-loving community realize that there is, oh yes, a magic to sharing your work online. Accessible to anyone, from anywhere in the world? To a writer who by the very nature of the beast works in such solitude, the idea of connecting beyond the backyard or the workshop is intoxicating. One of my students this fall shared that his blog had been visited by someone in Germany only an hour after he had created it. He had a reader! A stranger!

But one of the most moving things for me is watching them truly fall in love with the book as an object. Maybe it takes having someone assign you the task of sharing your work publicly, having then to imagine your own words inside a book, but very quickly they feel it: the cover, the page, the sequence, the binding, the table of contents, the titles, the page breaks, the proofreading, the font… These each take on an identity. A weight. Meaning. Beauty. The Book.

I am pretty sure that as long as there are poets around, the book cannot die.

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Post-gig Depression for the AWP Attendee?

Funny. I get post-gig depression after a reading, but never do I feel anything but madly energized after the circus of the AWP Conference and Bookfair. Living in the boondocks, I have to make this battery-charge last all year.

From the minute I pull up to the underground loading dock and start to recognize the faces of other vendors, to the final frenzy of box-packing and checkout four days later, I drink in the aura as deeply as I can with every breath, conversation, glance, laugh, and coveted cover art image. So many had good news (my books is out! I’m a finalist! a poem in X journal! an agent! a fresh angle on an old problem!) and so few were there merely to rant or to inveigle. My cup, however insatiable it is the other 11.9 months of the year, ranneth over.

This year at the elevator (poof) I bumped into Judy Halebski, whose chapbook I bought at my very first AWP. I loved it so much that I reviewed it, predicting that it would soon bloom into a full-length collection, and it did, so that the very next year when we ran into each other, she was shining with the good news; Space=Empty was out. Since then, her second book has also been published, Space/Gap/Interval/Distance.

And the reading I had proposed was a joy: Poets Look Back on Their First Books: a 20th Anniversary Celebration of Fred Marchant’s Tipping Point. Audience members commented afterward that the sense of mutual support and community were palpable, the warmth and integrity of the poets (Fred, with Nick Flynn, Laura McCullough, Joan Houlihan, and David Rivard) so invigorating. I felt the same way, and am strengthened for the year of work ahead by the presence of so much goodness there.

Some complain about the pushpushpush of Po-Biz: so much work and so little reward. Objectively, I know what they mean. I am terrible at the self-promotion the world of poetry calls for, and yet I just can’t feel the sour disappointment that poetry’s relative famelessness causes for many. With tireless colleagues like Karren Alenier (my partner in crime at The Word Works) and innovative colleague presses like Lisa Bowden’s Kore (with whom we shared a kick-ass reading), I feel the miracle, instead, of being part of a living, breathing organism that is this strange beast: poetry managing to stay alive, vital, and necessary in the land of malls and cell phones.

No depression here! Only gratitude and a certainty that I’m in the right place at the right time. I hope the rest of you feel the same.


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Hello world!

At my desk: therefore, in a good mood.

At my desk: therefore, in a good mood.

Welcome to Nancy White’s blog. Nothing too fancy, just articles on the writer’s life, my poetry publishing progress, books under surveillance for review, and the teaching of creative writing.


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