Help fund an Inter-Generational Poetry event in Northwest Ohio

Though I love my hometown, it’s not exactly known as a literary place. Sure, Toledo is the birthplace of authors like Millie Benson, but it can be incredibly difficult as a young woman to find a literary community to fit into.

That’s why, at the end of last year, two Toledo-area women started the Women Unbound reading series, which is dedicated to showcasing female writers and artists in the Toledo, Northwest Ohio, and Southeast Michigan area. Their events are every two months, and the most recent was in February.

Their next event, which will take place in April, is an intergenerational poetry reading that will feature the work of women from 9 to 99. Lorraine and Kayla, who started Women Unbound, want to take this reading a little further and present the work of each reader in a chapbook to be given free to people who attend the reading.

Please help Women Unbound raise money for printing, promotions, and more via their campaign at GoFundMe.

You can watch Lorraine and Kayla performing their own poetry from the December event here:

Reading Surge

With my completion of the very difficult (for me) Mansfield Park by Jane Austen and a discussion with some of my future classmates about our recently-read books, I realized how very far behind I am in the 100 Books Challenge.  More than halfway through the year, and I’m still in the 30s!  (Mansfield Park made 33.)

With that in mind, I now know how desperately I need to get cracking on my reading list.  I know I should be reading more than I have been, especially since I’m going to school in the fall, but work this summer has really not been helpful to my summer reading, and I haven’t spent nearly as much time as I should immersed in my books.

So instead of going to the library to fill up on “junk” books — grabbing every young adult novel in sight, as I normally do — I’ve decided to do something different.

I’m going through my own personal library and rediscovering books I haven’t touched in ages.

The first three books on my Rediscovering list:

  1. The Great Wing by Louis A. Tartaglia.  I received this book when I was in grade school and we read it as a class.  The book is a parable based on the migration of a flock of geese.  It really is a beautiful book — at least, that’s how I remember it.  Honestly, I should probably re-read it before making judgments.
  2. M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang.  This is the book on which I wrote my Honors thesis while at the University of Toledo, which I did during my second year of college.  You can read more about the book here, since it’s much too complicated for a brief summary here on this blog, but the book had a huge impact on my life and the way I thought of myself, since I’m half Asian-American and half European-American.
  3. Dread by Ai.  I’m not a huge poetry person; I really enjoy writing it, but I don’t usually go out of my way to find a poet.  Ai’s work is totally different for me.  For some reason, I fell in love with Ai, especially the collection Dread.  It’s terribly sad and very dark, but somehow still beyond beautiful.

I’m reading these three books this week, though by the time you read this I’ll probably have at least one of them done.  All of them are under 150 pages, with the actual play portion of M. Butterfly under 100 pages, and I’m definitely familiar enough with M. Butterfly to zip through it.

After I finish these, I plan to read a few other books: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, loaned to me by my boyfriend; The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which I haven’t touched since high school; Legend by Marie Lu; Erin Morgenstern’s beautiful novel The Night Circus; and, naturally, the entire Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.  Brave New World is the only one I’ve never read, and the rest will all be re-read.

Threaded throughout the re-reads, I’ll be making an attempt at Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  I know it’s very strange I haven’t read it yet, but — like Mansfield Park — I was always for some reason unable to make my way through it.

Do you have any book recommendations?

30 September: Current Progress

It’s the end of September, and you know what that means – time for the monthly update!

This month, there was a lot going on in terms of planning for the UT Writer’s Guild, so I didn’t make much progress on most of my larger projects.  However, I did make a lot of progress at my writing job, which I feel is pretty good – right?

In the most recent (September 26) print issue of UT News, five of my stories were printed:

There are several other things I’ve been part of, as well!  The Writer’s Guild recently co-sponsored a poetry reading event for Banned Books Week at UT.  UTWG will have its next meeting Friday, October 7 at 5 p.m. in Student Union Room 3016 on UT’s Main Campus.

I feel like I got so much accomplished this month, even if I really didn’t do much at all… I’m still working on the following projects:

  • The Final Experiment (editing)
  • The Rules (on hold)
  • …and a couple other things

From now until December, though, I’ll be concentrating on preparing for and writing my National Novel Writing Month project, tentatively titled “Victorious.”  Check back soon to learn more about this project!

UTWG and The Mill to co-host poetry reading

The UT Writer’s Guild and The Mill literary magazine will host a Banned Books Week poetry reading Wednesday, September 28 at 7 p.m. in Room 2240 of the Field House on the University of Toledo’s Main Campus.

The featured poet at the event is Zach Fishel, a graduate student at UT.

The reading, presented in open mic format, will also feature The Mill editor in chief Peter Faziani and UTWG president Michael Beers reading their own work.

Several other students will read at the event as well, including members of the UT Writer’s Guild.

Banned Books Week 2011Banned Books Week is an annual event sponsored by the American Library Association to raise awareness of books banned and challenged in schools and libraries. Banned Books Week encourages the sharing of literature and ideas between and among groups.

Contact UTWG vice president Feliza Casano (feliza [dot] casano [at] rockets [dot] utoledo [dot] edu) for more information or to sign up to read.  You may also contact Feliza for more information about the UT Writer’s Guild.


UTWG sponsoring Poetry in the Park

The University of Toledo Writer’s Guild is sponsoring a poetry reading and social event called Poetry in the Park Friday, September 23 at Wildwood Metropark.

The brown-bag event is free and open to all University students.

At the event, students are invited to bring at least one poem to read: either a poem they wrote or a poem by their favorite author.

Poetry in the Park will take place at 5 p.m.   Interested students can meet the group in the Student Union South Lounge between 4 and 4:30 p.m. to carpool over.  On-campus students who do not have cars are encouraged to meet UTWG officers there.

Attending students do not need to bring a poem, particularly students not registered as UTWG members, but are certainly encouraged to do so.

To learn more about the event, contact UTWG vice president Feliza Casano at feliza [dot] casano [at] rockets [dot] utoledo [dot] edu.

More information:

The University of Toledo Writer’s Guild is a student organization of the University of Toledo dedicated to helping students develop their writing, network with others with similar interests, and provide new opportunities for student writers.

UT Students: The Mill Magazine

Students at the University of Toledo can now submit poetry, short prose and art to student literary publication The Mill.

The Mill, founded in Fall 2010 by UT English Department graduate students, is a literary publication by students, for students at UT.

The student publication was first published during spring semester 2011 and will print a new issue for fall semester 2011.

The editors of The Mill will be accepting submissions until October 14, 2011 for their November 2011 issue.  Students can submit up to 5 poems or one short story up to 1,500 words.  According to their website, they prefer flash fiction and experimental pieces in light of the length restrictions.

You can find The Mill online on their Facebook page or their website.

Workshopping: Poetry

Third in a series about writing workshops.  The first article was about general workshop guidelines and the second about short fiction.  The fourth will focus on scripts and the fifth on workshopping and editing long fiction.

This week, we’ll talk about workshopping poetry, including how you should format your poems, what specifically to have, and how to go about critiquing it.

Part 1: What to Bring (and How to Bring It)

When you decide to bring poetry into your workshop, you may want to make sure you do a few things before actually having it critiqued.

Firstly, go over the poem and make sure all of the words are spelled correctly – specifically, that they are spelled correctly according to how you want them spelled.  Because poetry is so flexible in its use of language, spelling things correctly or incorrectly actually can have a real impact on the way it is interpreted.

Your poem should also be in the format you want it to be in.  Poetry, unlike prose, can be formatted in any way you like, because sometimes it is the actual physical position of the lines that contains meaning.  If that fourth line in the seventh stanza needs to be tabbed over two inches, feel free to do so – it could have a strong impact on your reader.

Once you’ve tackled those two things, you can start in on the actual content.  Poetry differs from prose in that imagery is the most important thing.  Make sure your images are well-crafted and memorable – while it’s never helpful to use cliches in writing, using cliches in poetry is a horrendous beginner’s mistake because unique ways of seeing, hearing, or experiencing something is the point of reading a poem.

These basic rules apply to all types of poetry, from lengthy dramatic monologues down to 17-syllable haiku.

Part 2: How to Read It and How to Critique It

There are very particular things you should look for when critiquing poetry in a workshop because poetry has particular needs associated with it.  Unlike short fiction or scripts, poetry doesn’t necessarily need a plot – just a theme.

With that in mind, consider the following when you read and critique poems.

Take special heed of what precisely the author is trying to do in regards to spelling and format.  As I mentioned above, spelling and format are both pretty important to style and tone, which are vital in poetry.  If something is spelled incorrectly and shouldn’t, that needs to come up in the discussion.  If something is spelled correctly and shouldn’t, that also needs to come up in discussion.

It’s also important to look at what the author is trying to say and whether or not it’s working.  In one poetry class, a student brought in a poem titled “Human Pet” – but the subject of the “pet-like” treatment wasn’t being treated like a pet but rather like an object instead.  While that may seem like a small nuance, those small nuances of language are important for the poem to work the way it should and to actually be effective.

As mentioned above, a poem don’t really need a plot because its beauty often lies in the images and texture of the language.  Identify and examine each image in the poem and see how it works.  Is it unique?  Does it make you think about the topic of the poem – or at least the item it is describing – in a new or different way?  For example, does that description of a teenage girl’s bangs help you understand why her teacher is in love with her?  Does the line about flying crows help you see the underlying beauty in life on a farm?

While all three of these basic poetry-critiquing rules are important, it is the third rule which is most important, because the imagery of a poem can make or break it.  Always take a good look at the images as well as how they tie together; if you can help a writer in your workshop manage this well, it will greatly benefit him or her as a writer.


Workshopping poetry is much, much different from workshopping prose!  If one member of your group regularly brings in poetry, you should probably get yourself familiar with the genre.  Ask him or her what poets his or her work is drawn from and take some time to check a book out of the library.

If you’re interested in poetry yourself after reading this article, I highly recommend you start reading poetry!  If you’re inclined towards prose, start out with the poet Ai, who writes in dramatic monologue style.  I recommend her collection called Dread – it’s the first collection of hers I have read and it is absolutely fantastic, if a bit dark.