Monday, July 21, 2014

At the INK! Performance Slam on 7 July 2014

On the first Monday of this month, 7 July 2014, I had the pleasure of being a featured performer in our community's monthly INK! Performance Slam. As the showcard below says, it's "The Cedar Valley's #1 Talent and Open Mic." This particular INK! was number 21, so the series is almost two years old.

The Octopus Bar in Cedar Falls has been the home of INK! since the inception of the series in 2012. Because of recent bar closings in our town, the Octopus is now quickly becoming the go-to place for emerging music acts as well as established ones. If you're on facebook, you can "visit" the Octopus bar here.

Anyway, back to INK! (Which, by the way, you can check out on facebook here.) That evening, I had the privilege of being on the same bill with Jerica Crawford, one of my former poetry students and now a mainstay of the local poetry scene. Great performance, Jerica!

Josh Hamzehee, one of the INK! organizers, filmed many of the performances that evening. And he very kindly shared two videos: me singing the Van Morrison song "Moondance" and also reading one of my own poems, "Aswang." Thanks, Josh!

Vince Gotera, "Moondance" at INK! July 2014
Vince Gotera, "Aswang" poem at INK! July 2014

Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. If you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince, then find the word comments and click it once.

Ingat, everyone.     See you at INK! first Monday next month?

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Virtual Blog Tour

The "virtual blog tour" is an excellent, friendly way for writers, artists, and other creative folks to bring attention to their own work as well as that of others. It begins with an invitation from another artist or writer. Then in your blog you acknowledge the person who invited you, answer four given questions about your work and your process, and then invite three other people to participate. These people then do the same thing, referring their blog readers to the blogs of three more people, and so on. It's a wonderful sort of "pyramid scheme" that's beneficial for everyone: the artists and writers as well as the readers of their blogs. We can follow links from blog to blog and then we can all learn about different kinds of creative process and also find new writers and artists we may not have known about before.

The person who invited me to take part in the blog tour is Bruce Niedt. He and I met a few months ago during NaPoWriMo in April 2014. (That stands for "national poetry writing month" during which poets around the world write a poem a day and share them with one another. It's also called the Poem-a-Day challenge.) We discovered each other's work during this process and found that both of us enjoy writing in (and playing with) poetic forms, not just traditional inherited forms like the sonnet, but also more recently invented forms such as the hay(na)ku.
Bruce W. Niedt is a "beneficent bureaucrat" from southern New Jersey whose poetry has appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Writer's Digest, Writers' Journal, The Lyric, Lucid Rhythms, Tilt-a-Whirl, Mad Poets Review, US 1 Worksheets, Spitball, Chantarelle's Notebook, and Edison Literary Review. His awards include the ByLine Short Fiction and Poetry Prize, first prize for poetry at the Philadelphia Writers Conference, and two nominations each for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He has workshopped with Jane Hirshfield, Marge Piercy, Molly Peacock, and Stephen Dunn, and is looking forward to working with Billy Collins in January 2015. Bruce's chapbooks include Twenty-four by Fourteen, a collection of sonnets and other short poems published by Maverick Duck Press, and Breathing Out, from Finishing Line Press. His "poetry and miscellany" blog Orangepeel is at
As this bio states, Bruce will be studying with former US poet laureate Billy Collins next year. Interestingly, Bruce a few years ago "improved" a poetic form that Collins invented. This form, the paradelle, was intended by Collins as a parody of the villanelle form. I believe, in fact, that the beginning of the word "parad-elle" echoes the word parod-y. It's a notoriously difficult form, where lines are repeated (line 1 of a stanza comes back as line 2, then line 3 comes back as line 4) and then all the words in the opening 4 lines of that stanza are reassembled into a different order in lines 5 and 6. For example, here is the opening of Collins's inaugural attempt, "Paradelle for Susan":
I remember the quick, nervous bird of your love.
I remember the quick, nervous bird of your love.
Always perched on the thinnest, highest branch.
Always perched on the thinnest, highest branch.
Thinnest love, remember the quick branch.
Always nervous, I perched on your highest bird the.
This type of thing goes on for two more stanzas (line 1 = line 2, line 3 = line 4, lines 5-6 recycling the words from those 4 lines). And then a fourth six-line stanza reuses all the words from the previous three stanzas.

Notice though that at the end of Collins's first stanza, there's a leftover "the" tacked on. That's part of the joke, the hoax. The projected poet writing this paradelle — not Collins himself who's gleefully giggling on the sidelines — is not up to the task and ends up with leftover words. Just click here to see the whole poem. Hilarious.

What happened, however, is that many poets did not take the paradelle as a hoax. They thought it was indeed a medieval French form, as Collins had stated in the footnote he appended to "Paradelle for Susan." And people began to write them in earnest. With quite a lot of success it turned out, and an anthology of paradelles eventually appeared: The Paradelle, edited by Theresa M. Welford.

Okay, getting to the point of my story. Bruce was one of those poets who took on the paradelle. But he followed a different tack that will give you a sense of Bruce's particular genius. I'm guessing he couldn't see the sense of the first four lines and their odd repetitions (line 1 = line 2, line 3 = line 4); what Bruce saw instead was a resemblance to the traditional blues stanza: a statement, the statement repeated, and then a response to that statement, with the third rhyming with the first two. So Bruce "improved" Collins's paradelle by making a blues paradelle, or as he called his first one, "Paradelle Blues." Here is the opening of that poem by Bruce:
Well I feel so bad now,
Can't write a paradelle;
Well I feel so bad now,
Can't write a paradelle;
A paradelle so bad,
Feel now I can't write well.
Brilliant. The form now makes sense as a blues song, and yet satisfies all the word-repetition requirements of Collins's form. Check out Bruce's whole "Paradelle Blues" here.

It should be interesting for Bruce Niedt and Billy Collins to meet since Bruce has surely outparodied the parodist: "Paradelle Blues" complains about the difficulty of writing the paradelle while simultaneously reinventing it!

Okay, that's my intro to Bruce Niedt. Check out his work. Links to his collections are in the bio above. And here is a link to his virtual blog tour post in Orangepeel: "Billy Collins and the Virtual Blog Tour."

And now let's get to the four "virtual blog tour" questions:

1. What are you currently working on?

I am about to start to begin work on a collection of poems about Philippine mythology. Some of my existing poems will fit into this project, "Aswang" and "Born from Bamboo," for example. Starting in August, I will be on sabbatical from my professor job to study Philippine myths and then write more poems about them.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Boy, that's a tough question. I'm not sure what's different in my work from the work of other poets except that it's a reflection of my own interests. One of these is my focus on poetic form, particularly inherited traditional forms, and stretching them so that they still retain that form (sometimes only tenuously) and yet become something new. For example, the poem "Aswang" mentioned above is made up of three sonnet stanzas, with a separate one-line closer. Within these sonnet stanzas, I use slant rhyme which is sometimes so slant that a person not watching for the rhyme scheme because they don't recognize that these are sonnet shapes will see the poem as free verse. I like that kind of blurring and on-the-fence sitting.

3. Why do you write/create what you do?

I don't really know that either. I'm driven to do it. I've been writing poems since I was in first grade, I believe. Or perhaps I should say I've been versifying. With my job as a creative writing professor, I sometimes don't have much energy left over for my own writing, ironically. That's why I'm really looking forward to my upcoming sabbatical, which will allow me to devote all my creative energies to the poems on Philippine myth. That's also why I appreciate NaPoWriMo — it's a concentrated challenge to write a poem a day, and I love challenges. I can't always devote such poetic energy year-round but can achieve it for a month.

I don't know that I'm really answering this question. I'm probably dancing around it.

Each poem is for me a little world, a little universe, and I love the challenge of trying to say something I didn't know I was going to say — as Stephen Dunn advises us to do — and then I love even more being able to get out of that little world and leave it a complete universe unto itself.

4. How does your writing/creating process work?

Man, these are tough questions. I think ultimately one's creative process is invisible to oneself. We don't know how we do it. We just do it. Or . . . we think we know how it works but it works some other unseen way. So much of the process is within the unconscious. That's how, as I said earlier, we are able to say something we didn't know we were going to say. That's how the creating becomes discovery rather than exposition of something we already know about.

At any rate, I can tell you what I think is happening. Often a poem starts for me with a scene or situation seen darkly as in a dream; or a phrase spoken by someone heard within the inner ear; or a strange, marvelous imagined person who is quirky and mysterious and begs to be known and unraveled; or sometimes something not even as developed as those . . . just an image: a flash of color, a sudden remembered scent, a snippet of music. Such things become the beginning of the little world I mentioned earlier, and the writing of the poem opens a doorway or window or maybe just a keyhole into that world. And the writing uncovers the world, shows me what it's made of, what its marvels and magics are. Then, as I said, I try to finesse that glimpse into an entire universe before I leave and return to everyday life and then the next poem.

Allow me to introduce to you the three people I'm inviting to participate. Two writers and a visual artist.

First, Meena Rose. I have known Meena for several years; we first met through NaPoWriMo. We are also friends on facebook and her gentleman caller, as people used to say, is an old friend I introduced to her. Meena is a poet whose blog "Two Voices, One Song" is a shared project with the poet Claudette Young (so you get two poets for the price of one!). Here is the bio she gave me:

Meena Rose is a multi-lingual world traveler and transplanted Oregonian; a mother of three children (one boy and two girls) who works as an analyst by day promoting creativity through writing, storytelling and role playing wherever she goes. Meena blogs at

Second, Barbara Jane Reyes. I have known Barb for many years also, through Filipino American literary circles. We also a share a place: San Francisco. We were both raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and many of our subjects and interests overlap. I have also had the pleasure of publishing Barb's poems and reviewing her books in the North American Review. Here is Barb's bio.

Barbara Jane Reyes is a Pinay poet and educator based in Oakland, California. She is the author of Poeta en San Francisco and Diwata. She blogs at

Third, Chris Durietz. I met Chris in a facebook group of native San Franciscans. We were both born and raised in San Francisco. Interestingly, I knew her older brother in high school, though we weren't close. I think I might have known her younger brother too; at least his yearbook picture seems vaguely familiar. Besides the blog mentioned in her bio, Chris has blogs for her photography and graphic design.

Aloha! My name is Chris Durietz, and I live in Honolulu. I love nature, photography, cooking and eating good food, growing lovely things in pots, and listening to jazz music. I am also a freelance graphic designer. For this blog tour, I'll use my food and photography blog at

Next Monday, July 17, visit their blogs to see the continuation of our virtual blog tour.

Comments, anyone? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. If you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince, then find the word comments and click it once.

Ingat, everyone.  

P.S.  Here are links to the virtual blog tour posts by the three people I invited.
Meena Rose — Two Voices, One Song

Barbara Jane Reyes — Poeta y Diwata

Chris Durietz — Good Reason to Smile

(Added 6 August 2014.)

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