Thursday, October 29, 2009

Talking with Gaye Gambell-Peterson: Wine from Creative Juices

Poet/artist Gaye Gambell-Peterson answered my questions about her new book, MYnd mAp, from Agog Press ($15). It's a very unusual collection: 14 poems paired with full-color collages.

Catherine: Is this a collection of individual poems or was it conceived as a book? When did you know you had a book?

Gaye: MYnd mAp, the book of collage + poetry, was just that, from the very moment the seed got planted. Years and years ago I had clipped out the title words when stockpiling snippets for collage-making. I lost that scrap, but the book idea stayed in a corner of my mind. I let it just be. It ripened.

This book includes 14 full-color collages. Which came first, the poems or collages? Were the poems inspired by the collages? For example, in "otHYR waters" the "baby raspberry" appears in the collage as well as the poem.

Gaye: When it was time to harvest, I listed geographic terms as titles. After that, I piled graphic bits to fit those categories. Then I wrote poems, with the appropriate collage collection spread before me. As each poem became infused with new layers of word images, I would fortify the art with more visuals. When the words written were taste-perfect, I glued down the amassed paper elements. So, you see, the process for each poetry + art set was a back-and-forth one.

Look for many repetitive components within each set. I let seven sets age for quite a while, and then quickly doubled the book as I approached my self-imposed "get real" deadline.

Catherine: In this book you make inventive use of white space, and invented variant spellings for individual words, such as "eddge," and combine them sometimes with "eccentric" capitalization such as in the poem titled "rivYr". You even use some red type along with the usual black type in "TerrORtory", my favorite poem in the book.

Gaye: One of my goals was to create a book that was unique. I am ALWAYS driven to be outside-the-box. How many ways could I do that? Spelling, space, color - one idea leads to another: wine made from my creative juices. It poured freely.

Catherine: Tell about putting this book together and printing it.

I knew I had to publish the book myself - illustrations in color would double the cost. Who, but me, would be that brave/foolhardy? Making MYnd mAp real was, and is, a complex satisfaction - beyond profit considerations.

My first poetry & art book, pale leaf floating, was so easy with editor Rebecca Ellis to guide me. Her Cherry Pie Press used Hobblebush Books to make real a lovely (if I may say so myself) volume. I queried Hobblebush and found Sid quite willing to produce this 2nd book. He was amenable about all aspects, and creative in his own right. He always found a way to do what I envisioned, and even allowed me to change my mind a couple of times. We did it all by email.

Catherine: Anything you want to add?

Gaye: Of course. Three things.

1. As a poet I often make my writings universal in their spin, but MYnd mAp is completely autobiographical. Images are very specific to my story. I make no apology for that.

2. In 2008, my mom died of a sudden illness; she was almost 99. Her death was also just weeks before Cherry Pie Press invited me to be ninth in its Midwest Women Poets Series. Since Mom ALWAYS believed I'd author a book someday, I was impelled to do two things. I dedicated my 1st book, pale leaf floating, to her. I named my publishing imprint for this 2nd book in
honor of her. Agog Press. A Grand Ole Girl she was.

3. Marketing is a whole 'nother thing - pushes me outside my comfort zone more than making a book does. For instance, it was a push (ultimately rewarded) for me to ask admired poets to write blurbs for either book.

~I will be reading from MYnd mAp at Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid, on Wednesday, December 2, 2009 (with Rebecca Ellis as co-reader). Please, do be there - 7 p.m.

~During January 2010 I will exhibit the original collages used in both books - in the Gallery of the University City Public Library. Tentative date for opening reception: Friday, January 8th, 6 p.m. Check for updates.

Catherine: Want to order Gaye's book? Here's where to write.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Brown Study

My book's not out as promised. I haven't even seen galleys yet. A disappointment, but that's print publishing. Meantime, I'm reading recent literary journals and books, to fuel the illusion that I'm moving forward even if the cherished book is stuck in production. I have been impressed by these new self-published books:

Vocal Folds (poetry) by Stephen Koritta
MYnd mAp (poetry and art) by Gaye Gambell-Peterson

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good Quotation: "Individual Power"

"Control of attention is the ultimate individual power. People who can do that are not prisoners of the stimuli around them. They can choose from the patterns in the world and lengthen their time horizons. This individual power leads to others. It leads to self-control, the ability to formulate strategies in order to resist impulses. If forced to choose, we would all rather our children be poor with self-control than rich without it.

"It leads to resilience, the ability to persevere with an idea even when all the influences in the world say it can’t be done. A common story among entrepreneurs is that people told them they were too stupid to do something, and they set out to prove the jerks wrong.

"It leads to creativity. Individuals who can focus attention have the ability to hold a subject or problem in their mind long enough to see it anew."- David Brooks, The New York Times

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Publisher Seeks Novels

SWITCHGRASS Books, the fiction imprint of Northern Illinois University Press,
seeks submissions of full-length literary novels set in or about the Midwest by
authors with Midwestern ties. Mail manuscripts to Northern Illinois University
Press, Switchgrass Books, 2280 Bethany Rd., DeKalb, IL 60115. For submission
guidelines, please visit
(Looks very legit!)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Natural Bridge Literary Hour, Tues. 5-6 p.m.

I'll be the guest of Kenny Squires and Jamie Nelson, third-year MFA students at University of Missouri-St. Louis, on the campus radio station, Tuesday 5-6 p.m. The best way to listen is live on the internet at There's a link on the page to stream it. Online it'll be crystal clear. The program is called The Natural Bridge Literary Hour, and I will talk about poetry, my new book (Meet Me: Writers in St. Louis), maybe about blogging, certainly self-publishing, and whatever else comes to mind.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Hopelessness of Copyright

Just returned from a panel discussion with law professor, university counsel, expert on Internet, and technical-research librarian: In short, for writers, copyright is hopeless. Because writers aren't organized like musicians, and won't be soon, the Internet (and Google's book-scanning, and office photocopying, and's cut of the take on your e-book, and so on) has made a morass of the laws surrounding published material and dimmed the rewards you may have expected as a writer. There are laws but few feel bound by them.

So, for best results: Write your book. Publish it yourself and own all rights. If you like, release portions of it electronically and LICENSE the material -- meaning anybody can read it or listen to it, but nobody is allowed make money from it -- with a license. Take your payment in good will and prestige. Then use those to make money not from your writing but from readings, or leading classes, or becoming a small-press publisher, or serving on discussion panels, or editing, or advising, or -- get a day job.

After the panel I thought, "This sounds so hopeless," but it suddenly occured to me that this is exactly what has happened to me, and what I do.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

On Profanity

Recently I had a finger pointed at me for using profanity in my work. I checked my books and found three such words in a poetry book of 92 pages and three in a prose book of 239 pages. The accuser was one who uses profanity much more casually than I – but, “irregardless,” this was a lesson to me: Whenever profanity is used on paper, it draws attention and sticks in people’s minds. People remember it – out of proportion to the rest of what you’ve written. That is why, if it is used, it should be rarely and with forethought. Unlike the issue of erotic material, I know where I stand on this one, and why my stance is right.