So there I was late one night, furiously browsing the submissions lists on various websites and bookmarking contests and magazines. Unlike most, I don’t choose magazines by rank or so-called “quality.” I choose by feel. I want my work placed in magazines where they’d feel at home, and where I’d feel at home. I don’t want to pretend to be someone I’m not, especially when it comes to my writing. I don’t want to live that kind of lie. I’m the kind of person who wears running tights and running shoes, hair in a messy tangle of braids, wherever I go. I don’t give a rat’s ass about convention. To hell with dressing for success. I dress for me.
I seek literary magazines where I could walk comfortably through the pages in my running tights (or better still, run comfortably through the pages in my tights), magazines that are open and honest, that don’t pander to the grad-school-formula writing style but instead welcome clarity and oddity and, most importantly, magazines that aren’t afraid to take chances and push boundaries.
So when I saw a submission call for skinny poetry, I thought: Hmmm. I’m a skinny runner woman, I’m sure I could write skinny poetry. How hard could it be?
Well, it was harder than I thought. The skinny poetry form was devised by acclaimed poet Truth Thomas and consists of eleven lines. The first and last lines can be any length and but must contain the same words, in any order. The second, sixth and tenth lines must be identical. And, oh yeah, all lines but the first and last can only be one word.
It took me hours of days to come up with something worthy. The first attempts, while sounding decent, fell flat. There was no emotion or meaning behind them. Finally I decided to write about what I love most: running mountain trails.
It was a fun exercise in word economy, and the power of cadence and timing. Here’s the beginning, with a link to the full poem:
Bear smells dream my mouth
Read the rest here.
P.S. The picture at the end is of me running out in Eagle River, beyond Baldy Mountain, where a trail leads back into the valley. This was late spring, the mountains still capped in snow but the trails clear, the air cool and fresh.
And here’s a picture of Wednesday’s trail run. See the lamppost there in the right-hand corner? We were running on the lighted ski trails (though of course no need for lights in the summer). Whenever I see a lamppost out in the middle of the woods I always, always think of the first book of the Narnia series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the lamppost that led the four children back to their real world.