Welcome!

Welcome to the new I Was Born Doing Reference Work in Sin.   I’ve made the switch from Blogspot to WordPress in an effort to obtain better organization.   (I’m madly in love with the WordPress tab option!)

I’ve imported all my Blogspot posts—nothing should be missing.

I’m excited about this change, and I hope you’ll continue to follow I Was Born Doing Reference Work in Sin.

Double Ds: Marilyn Nelson

MarilynNelson

Marilyn Nelson is the inaugural poet for the Double Ds!

Nelson is the author or translator of twelve books and three chapbooks. Her book The Homeplacewon the 1992 Annisfield-Wolf Award and was a finalist for the 1991 National Book Award. The Fields Of Praise: New And Selected Poemswon the 1998 Poets’ Prize and was a finalist for the 1997 National Book Award, the PEN Winship Award, and the Lenore Marshall Prize. Carver: A Life In Poemswon the 2001 Boston Globe/Hornbook Award and the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award, was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award, a Newbery Honor Book, and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Fortune’s Bones was a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and won the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry. A Wreath For Emmett Tillwon the 2005 Boston Globe—Horn Book Award and was a 2006 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, a 2006 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, and a 2006 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book. The Cachoeira Tales And Other Poemswon the L.E. Phillabaum Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award.  Click here to read more about Marilyn Nelson and her endeavors.

 

Denise asks:
In A Wreath for Emmett Till, you employ the sonnet with grace and expertise. To what extent did the use of form help you to deal with the subject matter?
 
Marilyn Nelson:
The use of form helped a lot, I think. I don’t think I would have written the poem if I hadn’t imagined the form could be something I could hide behind in self-defense.  I wrote that poem several years ago. I don’t really remember much about the composition experience, except for the frustration of looking for rhymes and the eager, sleepless period when I raced to finish it, because I couldn’t wait to see what was going to come next.

 

Dustin asks:
Where is your favorite place to vacation?
 
Marilyn Nelson:
My favorite place to vacation. I’ve had some wonderful trips, but I don’t usually think of them as “vacations.” One one trip I spent a couple of days lying in a hammock on the beach on Margarita Island, near Venezuela. On another trip, I spent a week visiting one of my college roommates, on Chiloe Island in Chile. Another time, hiked around Fuur, a North Sea island in Denmark. Another time, went on retreat in Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean. I guess I have a weakness for islands. On the other hand, I’ve had a couple of wonderful road-trips in the Kalahari, in Botswana.

WHY I WRITE ~ Arisa White

WHY I WRITE ~ Arisa White

Photo by Sven Wiederholt

I write because I’m trying to love others and myself.

It is a way of getting to.

It’s an opportunity to try on humanity, from varying points of view. If I can write from the perspective of the murdered and murderer, I can discover in myself something I did not know.

To get to a place where I am not ashamed of my secrets.

To not judge.

It’s how I keep myself sane and honest. Growing up with six other siblings, a mother who chose abusive boyfriends as partners, I needed a space to breathe, to remind myself that I had a voice that could be listened to, even if it was only by me. And despite the lies my mother told herself and us to permit and excuse such violence in our home, writing allowed me my own truth.

Writing is raising the silenced and inaudible voices to heard.

I’ve chosen poetry to help me navigate the questions I ask about people and the things people do, and the systems that we create to keep people doing the same, often, unhealthy things they do.

I can’t let things go: I like the challenge of finding the words to remake the moment again. The constant translation of events, situations, and emotions keep my brain turned-on.

I like to be turned-on.

It is truly, the times when I feel safe. Free to take risk, to emote, and to be led by imagination without fear.

Sometimes, I need a knife, a lover, a priest, a compass, and the poem offers direction, listens, loves, and stabs.

It allows me to not be while still being. When you walk in the world as black, woman, queer, poor, and the such, you get read before you reveal who you are. And sometimes, there is no space to learn who you are without being constantly challenged by assumptions, stereotypes, and expectations to perform or produce in a certain way because of those social identities. So writing is restorative, recuperative and permits me to ask myself vulnerable questions about my own who-ness and humanness.

I love it.

Double Ds Move!

Well, I have a lot on my plate. Yes, I’m a big boy who enjoys a full a plate and often seconds, even I have to realize when I need to embrace change to keep everything on my plate balanced.

I have decided to move the Double Ds, which is a monthly column I organize with Denise Duhamel, from Read Write Poem to I Was Born Doing Reference Work in Sin. I hate to move the series from the fantastic Read Write Poems site. Read Write Poem has it all– writing prompts, forums, and more web traffic than my blog; however, I have to think of the project. I am balancing a full-time job, college, Atlanta Pride Committee, Atlanta Queer Literary Festival Committee, Project Verse, Quarrel, Poetry Swap, Limp Wrist, and as of this week, promoting a chapbook that is going to be published by Pudding House Press. I’m a one man show doing all of this, so I have to do what is easiest for me while keeping the integrity of the project. — moving the Double Ds to I Was Born Doing Reference Work in Sin will do just that!

I owe Dana a huge thanks for embracing the Double Ds as soon as I pitched the idea to her. I owe a big thanks to the RWP staff for posting the first entry with Marilyn Nelson.

Please check back for the Double Ds questioning Dara Weir in September. You won’t want to miss it!

Sagittarius Agitprop from Black Lawrence Press

Matthew Frank’s new collection of poems exchanges ideas for music and music for pictures, with completely unexpected freshness and velocity– and this is not the experience of surrealism, but of a current realism that is hastening with the times. And these times are often rude and beyond all correction and all comparison. This book is sort of miraculous. I love it.
-Norman Dubie

In Matthew Gavin Frank’s splendid debut collection, Sagittarius Agitprop, poem after poem is unswervingly bold and astonishing. “Parts of a Feather,” to give an illustration, may be grounded in the experience of newlyweds home from a rainy honeymoon in Venice, but its opening announces that something very different from a personal narrative is at work in a Frank poem: “The superstitious geometry of the rock dove rests/ between its first and fifth rib. And you// rest between it, poised as water. It’s easy/ to call you a disease. Better: a heart or rain[.]” These are striking lines and they move into a startling meditation on art, life, union, and mortality: “Of course, you say, my hands// are the skeletons of everything with wings . . ./ A feather // stripped of barbs is bone.” Frank is a master of deft balance between the material of experience and lyric transformation, never losing his poetic footing or his sense of humor. As the speaker hilariously observes: “A marriage license/ makes a lousy umbrella” (“Parts of a Feather”). These poems are inventive, fearless, and wise. To be Frank, I think he walks on the water that is the page!
-Cynthia Hogue, author of The Incognito Body and Flux

Judge Announcement: The Replacement

This morning it was announced that Dana Guthrie Martin will not be able to serve as a judge for Project Verse’s Week 10: Final Assignment. Click here if you missed the post with all the details.

Matthew Hittinger is stepping in to fill Dana’s spot for the Week 10: Final Assignment. Not only did Matthew serve as the guest judge for Week 3: Simile Vs Metaphor, he has been following Project Verse since Week 1.

Welcome aboard, Matthew!