Celebrate Tax Day with poetry! Featured readers include Christine Beck, Katy Chrisler, D.G. Geis, Robert Okaji, Pamela Paek, D. Ellis Phelps and Ronnie K. Stephens.
My conversation with Mockingheart Review editor, Clare L. Martin.
A MockingHeart Review Conversation with Robert Okaji, author of If Your Matter Could Reform (Dink Press, 2015)
MHR: Hi, Robert. I am glad we have this opportunity to talk to one another about your new chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform. I have a few questions which I hope will illuminate us.
RO: Thank you, Clare. I’m thrilled that you asked.
MHR: The first poem is “Wind” which introduces us to the ethereal voice that has a calming effect but also the authority and power to speak the deepest questions that you explore in the book. I love the wind motif that blows in and out of poems, like a wind. What does the wind signify to you and what can we learn, formally, from paying attention to your use of it?
RO: We share our lives with the wind, yet are able to see it…
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I’m delighted to have two poems appearing in the inaugural edition of MockingHeart Review. Many thanks to editor Clare Martin for her efforts in assembling this publication.
Directive to the Circumspect Texan
When the vowel trips through the consonant and knots
the tongue, remember this: artifice. A making. In one
hand, a knife. On the table, cured flesh and fermented
products. Imagine uncertain lighting, laughter, a narrow
opening and the uphill walk three days into the parametric
world of occlusion. Tell no untruths. Mention refrigerators
and your proficiency with duck. Admit failure and order
a second pilz. Listen. Discuss heat and issues of space,
personnel logistics and the pleasure of July departures.
Cite advertising and Ashbery. Savor what is rightly not
yours. Embrace inadequacy. Forego dessert. Express
true gratitude. Say y’all. Shake hands. Find the door.
Many thanks to Shinjini Bhattacharjee for including one of my poems, with an audio recording, in Hermeneutic Chaos, Issue 11, alongside work by Nancy Bevilaqua, Kenzie Allen, Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick, and others. This is a lovely, well curated publication, and I’m excited to have work in it.
My chapbook, The Circumference of Other, is one of fifteen contained in Ides, the Silver Birch Press one-volume collection of chapbooks scheduled to be released on October 15, 2015. Ides is priced at $15, and rounds out at 283 pages. I believe it will be available through Amazon. Many thanks to editor and publisher Melanie Villines for including my work alongside that of such a fantastic group of poets.
Tupelo Press 30/30 Project (August 2015): Why I’m Writing 30 Poems in 30 Days, or, Poetry Needs You!
Tupelo Press, one of our very best independent presses, could use our help. Like many nonprofits, Tupelo depends upon donations to augment their programs, which vary from a Teen Writing Center to publishing literary works of emerging and established writers. To this end they’ve instituted innovative fundraising approaches to achieve their goals, including the 30/30 Project, one of their most exhilarating and interactive efforts – every month, approximately eight poets pledge to write 30 poems in 30 days, and raise funds by soliciting donations from sponsors (as many nonprofits do via sponsored walks, runs or rides). In August I am one of the participating poets.
I invite you to join me in this project and help out by reading, commenting, heckling, encouraging, insulting, cajoling, praising and yes, if circumstances allow, sponsoring me and donating funds (to Tupelo Press, not me). This might not be of much interest if the poems were simply going to languish in a file somewhere, but such is not the case. They will be posted online daily, warts and all, for the world to peruse. That’s right – you’ll see our daily work, unpolished and raw, finished or not, and if you listen closely you may hear a whimper or two oozing out from Austin.
Why am I doing this? I love poetry and admire small presses. Independent literary publishers produce 98% of the poetry published each year, and Tupelo Press is one of my favorite presses. If I, poet, reader and book buyer, don’t support their work, who will?
Previous participants have sweetened the pot by offering interesting incentives such as baked goods for certain levels of donations. Since I don’t bake in the August heat here in Texas, I’m offering other enticements (although you may consider a few of them half-baked). And of course the donations are tax deductible (at least to those who must pay U.S. taxes). Please consider donating any amount, but I’m offering these incentives at the specified donation levels:
Name That Poem! For a $10 donation in my honor, you can provide a title, and I’ll write the poem during the marathon. Be imaginative. Make the title as long or as interesting as you wish – consider this a dare! But this incentive is of course limited to only thirty titles, and reduces by one every day of the marathon, so reserve your slot soon!
For $35, I’ll produce and send you, in September, a unique, signed, mini-chapbook consisting of any six poems (your choice) I’ve posted on my blog.
For $50, I’ll provide one of my limited edition (only 50 copies were printed), letter press mini-broadsides of “Jingting Shan Hill.” It’s a beautiful piece designed and printed by Emily Hancock of St Brigid Press.
If none of these incentives appeals to you, but you’d still like to help, I’m open to suggestions, particularly for larger donations. But no, I won’t streak a convent for a mere $100. Been there, done that (hey, I was once young, dumb, thin and fast).
If you choose to sponsor me, please visit the 30/30 blog at: https://www.tupelopress.org/donate.php. Scroll down to “Is this donation in honor of a 30/30 poet?” and select my name, “Robert Okaji,” from the pull down so that Tupelo knows to credit the donation to me. And please inform me of your donation and provide your contact info via email at robertokaji at yahoo dot com or through Facebook so that I may acknowledge and send your premium.
If you’ve seen through this blog or other outlets enough of my writing to last your remaining days, you might consider a $129 subscription to Tupelo’s regular subscription series, which garners you ten books from one of the country’s top literary presses! If you choose this option, please specify “in honor of” and insert my name, “Robert Okaji” to show your support for my efforts. Click here to subscribe: https://www.tupelopress.org/books_subscribe.php.
For more information on the 30/30 Project, and to read the daily poems, see: https://tupelopress.wordpress.com/3030-project/ I plan on posting updates two to three times a week, but we’ll see what happens. Things are going to be hectic. No matter what, I look forward to reading your comments. Thanks very much!
This is pure fun! My micro-chapbook, You Break What Falls, is available through the Origami Poems Project. What is a micro-chapbook, you might ask? In this case, it consists of six short poems on one sheet of paper, folded (hence origami) to form a chapbook. You may download it, free of charge, here: http://www.origamipoems.com/poets/236-robert-okaji
Oh, yes. Folding instructions are on the Origami Poems Project site.