Teachers Act Up!

Thoughts on Teaching, Language, and Social Change from Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor

Girl Scout Cookie Sales…Again(!)(?)(meh)


Cookie sheet

I find this season a burden.  I don’t like being a salesperson and this is why I chose to be something else.  A parent must accompany a girl scout because selling door to door is CRAZY right now when everyone orders on amazon and who knows who will open a door these days! But these are the plus sides so far of selling cookies:

  1. Time with my amazing daughter and watching her present herself to clients with her clipboard.  It’s a glimpse of her power.
  2. Time with my neighbors.  I never get casual time to just see who is behind blue house or green.  We get a peek inside their mask-ed walls, incomplete puzzles on the table, nuzzles with cats, some chickens.  Lots of smiles and goodwill and some great eclectic design.
  3. Time to walk.  I forget how nice it is to take steps in the cool evening at a casual pace, up and down walkways.
  4. Girl scout cookies bring up lots of positive memories so time to watch others’ smile, especially young women.  Their sighs of joy are so sweet.
  5. Knuckle power.  Many of our neighbors do not have door bells so my daughter is getting her knuckles worked out and I think of this as good preparation should she need them in the future.
  6. Time to get over the fear factor.  It was after dark when we walked yesterday.  It was strange and weird.  There are different people walking after dark at 7:30pm then the school children in the dark at 7:30am.  So it’s time to see a different side of public life.
  7. Time to talk about what people need and want to know.  We didn’t have change and then we did.  Most boxes are $4 except for two that are $6.  One is gluten free; one is vegan; none are sugar free or fat free; none of them are free.  Yes we take checks, cash, donations. The Girl Scout troop number is 12051. We don’t know when we will be back to deliver them (shoot).  We can leave them on your porch if you’re not home.  Yes, there’s a new cookie, Lemon ups.  Yes, the troops is saving for activities, eventually a hoped-for trip abroad.  And yes, she can take care of your cats and dogs.  It’s a lot of information and my daughter got fluent in all of it, had great answers, and it was nice to watch a ten year old coming into herself.

Other than that, I find girl scout cookie sales a time that I wish would pass more quickly but for now, day one, it was alright.


Cookie Seller

Academic Social Networking – Oxymoron?

First, I love the word oxymoron.  I love writing the word moron in a word that means to write something contradictory and the that moron and academic are oxymoronic.  The view of an academic sitting alone, absorbed in books may seem like an oxymoron to an active social media life but what better distraction from writing papers or grading them on a laptop then to drift over to a new tab and check with what our interesting friends are doing on facebook and instragram, posting pictures of Christmas trees made of broccoli, Frozen themed birthday parties or big sighs after viewing Hamilton or Little Women.  I am distracted all. the. time.  I am trying to stay current with the world through the changing platforms beyond facebook: instagram, twitter, snapchat, wechat, whatsapp, whatthef**k.


Backdrop: Judy Chicago painting in the permanent collection at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

And now, I am learning there are more social networking sites on which I am behind.  I thought not clicking endless emails from academia.edu was cool, I was ignoring the fad–reminiscent of when I was a hold out for the answering machine, then the cell phone, then the iphone, then the tweet.  Now I want it all. I don’t want to miss the president’s rants or wars; I want to know when the mayor shoots the canon in my hometown and that it’s not a bomb.  Yes, I want to know what you think is the best date night dinner.  Now, I find that I can also know what you published, where, how many citations you have, what theory you’re reading, and what the most current thinking is on teaching and learning languages.  To play this new party trick I feel I must spend time updating my profiles on these many sites.  And so I have.  I am playing. Are you playing too? I turn to you, oh tech savvy social media friends, to learn how you navigate all of this cybersphere and still have time to cook dinner.

I forgot to add that I am really current now on my wordpress blogging…..

Here’s part of what an academic does at the end of the day when she’s too tired to plan her class further, write her next book, read her students’ papers and books, review that tenure file or article.







Graduate student question: I was told that I should start attending and presenting at conferences as a new graduate student, what do you recommend?

Short answer: Go to as many conferences as you can afford; present at no less than 1 conference a year and no more than 5, otherwise you will not have time to properly prepare for each presentation in a way that allows you to push deep, clear thinking and attract networks of peer scholars.


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Long answer:  Conferences can be great places for renewal, reminding you of the passion you have for your field of study and helping to connect you to diverse scholars working all over the region, nation, or world in areas of overlapping interest. A benefit of traveling to conferences is the opportunity to review a full menu of current scholarship, taking you beyond the things you can read in print which usually represents data that is years old due to publication processes, even if it has the current calendar year as the publishing date.  At conferences you can meet mentors who can rise off the page and expand your network of peers and teachers in the field.  Conferences can save you so much time–pointing you more clearly to relevant scholarship to read, invigorating new ideas, approaches to methodological problems or theoretical insights.  And conferences can be fun, a place to meet and socialize with new friends in new cities where happy accidents of thinking and being can occur.  I never regret going to a conference once I’m there if I’ve stayed within the number of conferences I can afford in terms of time and mental resources.

However, there is also a flip side.  Conferences can be very expensive and very time consuming.  One can feel left out of the “in-crowd” as a newcomer or a non-regular.  If you don’t know how to plan to attend stimulating panels, you might find yourself in rooms listening to presenters who are unprepared.  You may feel your time and money would have better been spent at home writing and/or moving your own research or scholartistry forward.

Although I have experienced some of the above negative feelings, I don’t think I have ever left a conference wishing I hadn’t gone. There are just too many opportunities and there is always the book room! If I ever feel unimpressed by presenters at a conference, I turn to the book exhibit and always find a new and inspiring resource to help with my teaching or writing or thinking.  Feeling some degree of loneliness and disappointment can be overcome but missing out on meeting friends in the field face to face or seeing their new books–I am still excited about this after so many decades of conference attendance.


What conferences have I attended and recommend?  For many years I have attended big national conferences for education (AERA), anthropology (AAA), and creative writing (AWP).  These conferences have big funding and attendance which allows them to host an unusual variety of scholars engaged in innovative thinking and doing around the world.  Usually, I can’t afford to attend them all in the same year and I exhaust myself when I attend all three.  Each time I attend I find myself forming a new relationship with a scholar friend who I meet by chance or by organized effort and reuniting with people I’ve met before.  I highly recommend these conferences.  Other large-scale, international or national conferences I have attended but not regularly include AAAL, ACTFL, and TESOL.  I recommend them all but never more than 2-3 per year.  2018-2019 I attended too many and I have promised myself: never again.


I love to attend smaller and/or international conferences outside the U.S. because it often gives more intimate space to connect with scholars from near and far.  Some of these I’ve attended include ISLS, iFLT, Georgia TESOL, Georgia FLAG, International Bilingual Education conferences, SALSA, Hong Kong Gender Studies conference, Polish English studies conference, EITS English Teachers of Israel conference, Atlanta Writers Association, Georgia Poetry Society, JOLLE, UGA Children’s Literature Conference, ICQI Qualitative Inquiry Conference, and many others.  When these  are local, they are easy for travel, lower cost and allow me to attend selectively while also maintaining work at home.  Other conferences like ISLS are in beautiful, global locations where I learn as much from the people as the new place (once I attended in Aruba and learned so much about multilingualism and translanguaging from local encounters!). CILS/ISLS will take place in Chile 2020 http://www.isls.co/conference.php and takes place every other year.


Should you attend conferences, yes?

Which conferences–I can’t really tell you that. You have to figure out what makes you feel alive, connected, and “at home” in schools of thought and subject or that challenge you in positive ways forward.

How many? Not more than 5 per year, less is often more (with little exception and I’ve often broken my own rules).


How to apply for conferences, put together panels, and stay connected afterward–that’s for a new post!  Please let me know what new questions you may have and remember: only 50% or less of what I write is good for YOU!

2019, July: Seat in the Shade Poetry Series


2019 Seat in the Shade: A Summer Poetry Readings Series (7th season)

Hosted by Poetry for Educators founder, Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor (www.teachersactup.com)

Weeknights in July: July 16, 23, & 30  in Athens, Georgia

Time: 530-7pm

Place: Hendershots  http://hendershotscoffee.com/

Address: 237 Prince Ave, Athens, GA 30601

phone: (706) 353-3050

Contact information: Melisa (Misha) Cahnmann-Taylor,






Athens, Ga. – A July of poetry reading and discussion of the poetic craft featuring top Georgia poets will be hosted by University of Georgia College of Education professor Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor June 16, 23, & 30 at Hendershots on Prince Avenue, Athens.

This is the seventh year for the event titled, “Seat in the Shade: A Summer Poetry Reading Series,” and starting on July 16 will feature poets each Tuesday weeknight at 530pm. The finale on Wednesday July 30 titled, “Poetry by and for Educators: Readings from the Collective,” will feature Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, and emerging UGA teacher-poets. On the Hendershots stage, 237 Prince Ave, Athens, GA 30601.
Cahnmann-Taylor, a professor in the department of language and literacy education and founder of Poetry by and for Educators, developed the summer poetry reading series seven years ago in conjunction with her Writing Cultures poetry class.

Here is an overview of the schedule and brief description of each featured poet (High Res Jpgs available for each reader):

Date July 16


July 23


July 30


Poets Deidre Sugiuchi


Jericho Brown

Sarah Baugh,

Theresa Davis,

& Collin Kelley

Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor

& Teacher Poets


Bios for Poets

July 16  Deidre Sugiuchi & Jericho Brown

Deirdre Sugiuchi is finishing her fundamentalist boot camp memoir, Unreformed, which takes place at Escuela Caribe, a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic. Her work has been featured in Electric Literature, Guernica, the Rumpus and other places. Sugiuchi has been awarded residencies at the Albee Foundation, the Hambidge Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Wildacres. She was a recipient of the Mark Austin Segura Award for Nonfiction. She is the co-founder and curator of Athens, Georgia’s New Town Revue music and literature series. She’s also a public school librarian.


Jericho Brown is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and he is the winner of the Whiting Writer’s Award. Brown’s first book, Please (New Issues 2008), won the American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament (Copper Canyon 2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. His third collection is The Tradition (Copper Canyon 2019)His poems have appeared in The Bennington Review, Buzzfeed, Fence, jubilat, The New Republic, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, TIME magazine, and several volumes of The Best American Poetry. He is an associate professor and the director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University.




July 23  Sarah M.C. Baugh, Theresa Davis & Collin Kelley


Sarah M. C. Baugh is a writer and portrait photographer born and raised in Central New York. Her work can be found in Gulf Coast and Sand Hills, and she was a nominee for Best New Poets 2017. Sarah makes her home in Athens, Georgia with her husband and two daughters.


Theresa Davis is an educator, storyteller, poet, author, poetry slam champion and the host of the award winning open mic Java Speaks. She has performed on stages across the nation as a poet and keynote speaker. A classroom teacher for over 30 years, specializing in cross curricular education, Theresa continues her passion for education as a teaching artist. As a slam poet, Theresa has competed individually and on teams for over a decade and in 2011 won the Women of the World Poetry Slam. In May 2013, her first full collection of poems entitled “After This We Go Dark” was published by Sibling Rivalry Press. “After This We Go Dark” became an American Library Association Honoree, and the book can now be checked out in local and college libraries around the world. Her latest poetry collection “Drowned: A Mermaid’s Manifesto”, released with Sibling Rivalry Press, in fall of 2016 received the award“Ten Books All Georgians Should Read”. In addition to being a teaching artist and outreach poetry coordinator for Georgia Tech for 6 years, Theresa hosts and participates in many of the lit events around Atlanta. Her one-woman show “Then They’ll Tell You it’s all in Your Head” Made its debut as a part of 7 Stages Home Brew series in fall of 2017. Theresa is the Literary Events Coordinator and The Charles “Jikki” Riley Memorial Library, facilitator for The Arts Exchange.


Collin Kelley is the author of the poetry collection Midnight in a Perfect World, just published by Sibling Rivalry Press. His other poetry collections include Better To Travel (Poetry Atlanta Press), Slow To Burn (Seven Kitchens Press), After the Poison (Finishing Line Press) and Render (Sibling Rivalry Press), chosen by the American Library Association for its 2014 Over the Rainbow Book List. He is also the author of The Venus Trilogy of novels – Conquering VenusRemain In Light and Leaving Paris – also published by Sibling Rivalry Press.




July 30  Melisa Cahnmann & Teacher Poets


Melisa (Misha) Cahnmann-Taylor, Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia, is the author of Imperfect Tense (poems), and three scholarly books in education. Winner of NEA “Big Read” Grants, the Beckman award for “Professors Who Inspire,” and a Fulbright for nine-month study of adult Spanish language acquisition in Oaxaca Mexico, she’s served for over ten years as poetry editor for Anthropology & Humanism, judging the ethnographic poetry competition. Her work has appeared in Georgia Review, American Poetry Review, Women’s Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, Barrow Street, and many other literary and scholarly homes. She posts at her blog http://teachersactup.com

Another synagogue shooting & another poem

How To Eat Matzoh in Mixed Company

              ~April 28, 2019


Slip it

from plastic wrap like an Easter

present, or cover it in chocolate, cracked

like an egg. Starve for it,

drink to bear it with pickled

fish.  In soup, crushed to pulp,

or spread thin with pale

cheese, lox bandage

on top, read it: braile

message about the cost of becoming free.

Hold it as tasteless example,

lesson, shield & don’t stop

shattering a synagogue’s windows with your teeth.


Eat it

standing up or lying down or leaning to the left

on this wet and yeasty night so everyone

can hear it, so everyone knows you hate

to eat it, but you eat it year after year, singing.

Dear Editor, Dear Scholar, I’m so sorry

Dear editor of the book, the person who requested I write a chapter,

I haven’t forgotten you.

I keep remembering, like a bad dream where I’m late to work,

I’m locked out of my house, my kids have been sitting on the curb for days.

I remember you.  But I don’t quite remember enough.

I can piece together the request, but none of the key words

work in the search engine where I seek to find the whole invitation, again.

Yes, I did receive your emails, your reminders that the chapter was due, due soon, due now, past due,

so busy then and I put it into a folder, whose title

I forget and I can’t even remember what precisely I was to write about.

But please know you’re not the only one.  I’ve lost my way

in numerous cities, missed appointments, deadlines, airplanes, birthdays.

I sincerely don’t wish to disappoint.  I meant it then, when I said yes.

At the time, I really thought I could do it all.


*true story.  I really am sorry.


“Yeah, I won’t do public school. We are highly opposed.”

“Yeah, I won’t do public school. We are highly opposed.”

This was just published on a local mommy blog I belong to.  It was posted by a parent looking for Pre-K options if “money were no object” and getting ideas.  I added they should try the lottery for public school and if they don’t get in, choose private.  This spawned another parent’s response.  “I would sit in before going public. I’m a public school teacher and my kids will go private” with the following explanation:

“In private school the discipline needed for a school to run well is allowed. In public school it is not. If private schools paid well with the benefits of public, I would still be teaching private.”

Gosh, I wish a private school could pay her enough to leave her public school classroom….

The ‘public’ school is required to serve all children and that means there can certainly be discipline problems.  This teacher-parent later acknowledged that private schools are hardly immune to discipline problems but that they are much less “extreme.” So what is it about public education to which so many parents are highly opposed when children are as little as four years old?

Children who look different.

Children who don’t have as many financial resources.

Children who don’t have two parents at home.

Children who don’t have generational income or more than enough resources.

Children who don’t speak English as a first language.

Children who don’t have a parent in jail.

Children who don’t have a parent who has died.

Children whose home nurturing doesn’t match as neatly with school expectations.

Children who are resilient, children who are different, children who are invited into the public system.

Thank goodness for US policies and laws that welcome all these children and more into the public system.  What a great country we have when all children can expect to have access to a good education and that parents who want to opt out, can certainly do so. I love sending my children to a public school and giving them access to experiencing all kinds of diversities that may not be present in private options: neurodiversity, racial diversity, social class diversity, religious diversity, gender and sexual orientation diversity, marriage diversity, etc.. My public school is a “good” school, more so because there are happy teachers; there is diversity of many kinds; and lots of parents with resources who give extra in numerous ways.  Not all public schools are so wonderful, I know that.  I am privileged by my resources and neighborhood.

If parents do have extra resources and choose a private school, I am all about choice (of many kinds)! Parents can choose private school and still support public schools too!  Anyone can attend a neighborhood school’s social events and get to know one’s neighbors and community. One can pay private school tuition and give a little extra to the local public school’s PTO/PTA to improve school resources. One can visit and observe pre-K and other grade level classes at the public school, and make as informed a decision as one can before opting out to private school education–the public option may be better than one thinks! Finally, if one decides to go private, one can ask good questions about diversity in that environment: what can be done better so that all kids have access to diverse perspectives even if they are limited in what may be a more homogenous, private school environment?

Check out this awesome blog post by a Los Angeles teacher–really wonderful points discussed in relation to the Charter school movement out there.


The above blog is directed to “mostly white parents” so if you do not identify as white, I think this may not be as much interest as some of the work by Nikole Hannah-Jones about race and education specifically.


Coda: I am not changing anyone’s mind.  Anyone who believes public school = bad; private school = better, I think it’s terrific they can have that option.  But I don’t wish that option be such a financial burden that parents resent paying taxes to support their public school or vote for more resources to be funneled into private or private-like options.  I wish parents, regardless of school choice, could see support of public education as  public good that in the long run will help their child and community more than they know.

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com


White Flight Justification Songs

I am so sick of White People.  I am also sick of Black people.  I am sick of Jewish people, Hispanics, Mexicans, the Irish.  I am not yet sick of Norwegian people, but I might as well be. I am sick of tribalism, the male and female kind, even the Trans kind.  And while I am sick of it, I also [ironically?] hunger for it.  I look for the me-group with the yoga mats and the quinoa, the running groups and the ‘in town’ groups; the “I read” groups and the “I write groups;” the I-have-children-in-public-school groups.

So what I am sick of is the language of tribalism, the coded ways we raise up our “in groups” and demoralize our out groups.  We use coded terms, we obfuscate and play language games.  We call one group “recipients of government hand outs” and another group (e.g. farmers) as recipients of “government assistance” for example.   One school is “good” and the other is “bad.” Can we stop the code? My head is spinning.

I’m sick of it.  I understand survivalism and I understand why we gang up on each other. This is what humans have always done and continue to do.  And we teach tribalism to our children, making educational decisions that are “best” for them, but are just replays of the same ole tribal songs to maintain unfair status quo.  We can shrug our shoulders or we can try to name the crazy. In the spirit of public schools as one of the few places with potential to bring diverse tribes together in the U.S., I wrote this poem, trying to find dizzy language through a new song.  We all want “good” schools and what is “best” for our children, but at what cost? Whose? To what end?


moreover bigger or oversizer, formerly earnest earner,
under arrest him ate him, e-race him, tear-er asunder commuter,
all burrs and tsk-tsk-ers, ergonomic errors in words, perverse
universes of his-es and hers-es, funeral service’s hesitant
compute or pardon me sir, er, murmurs preceding er, Mister?
used in place of a name we name or rename, a game of er not:
poorer, browner, blacker marker of either/or er? burned
by your-er voracious more-ers, not veracous turners
to universes of verses to aver, to declare spring, rooting
for truths, veracity digger to ver, Spanish infinitive “to see”
as in see, er, what I mean?


Poem published in Tayo Magazine here: http://www.tayoliterarymag.com/melisa-misha-cahnmanntaylor

What can we do to advocate for tribes of difference, for unity in diversity? We can support public education.  Here’s a link to actionable ideas including the very simple act of rating your child’s public school at https://www.greatschools.org/.

We can volunteer and make that school a better place.  We can dispel the myths that “good” isn’t also code for class and race privilege, that we can change what we mean by goodness.  We can talk to our neighbors, our families, our friends.  We can change the song.


Actionable ideas to support Public Education: https://fmps.org/engaging-community-partners-to-support-our-schools-2/

What University Professors Really Do

Much of the public perceives the “cushy” life of the University Professor.  My fingers ache from the keyboard and it’s only 10:34am (I’ve learned to type really fast to get more done, more quickly).  I am thinking about all the things I’m doing while I am “not teaching” and thought I’d share a little list with the great public who helps fund our public higher education system (which, yes, still costs each student too much money in the U.S.).  While I wish we were in a national system that helped pay for public education and I agree that it costs too much, I also want our paying customers to know that professors at public universities are doing a lot of work to earn our reasonable, state-provided salaries.  What work  you might ask?  Let me take a few quick minutes to type out a brief list of things I’ve been doing in my summer time “off” aside from teaching summer school:

  1. Tenure letters.  These accumulate over the summer.  Other faculty who are going up for review at their institutions require faculty of “peer and aspirant” institutions to review their cases. This requires reading several articles, books, c.v.s and then putting our assessments into carefully written language then sending shortened versions of our c.vs and signed hard and electronic copies of the letters.  This is unpaid and invisible work.
  2. Reviewing articles submitted to journals.  Like the above, but you review (for free) an article written by a peer writer to determine if it merits publication and to give critique on numerous aspects of the article’s qualities.  This is unpaid and invisible work.
  3. Reviewing grant proposals.  Like the above but sometimes these reviews require trips to DC or other locations to review proposals en masse and discuss in order to arrive at the winners.  This is often unpaid, at times very modestly paid, and often invisible work–though sometimes it can come with a turkey club sandwich and chips.
  4. Reviewing student work: comprehensive exams, dissertation prospectuses, dissertations, and other writing.  Faculty chair and are members of numerous commmittees for doctoral students who need similar review of their work.  Faculty prepare by helping to write questions for the students to answer; reviewing and editing the answers; authoring new questions for students to answer; helping to craft and shape a student’s ideas for their own work; sometimes co-authoring and other forms of mentorship.  Due to this being in a wide range of “instructional duties” this is often invisible work but it also can take the most and most important time. This is how we maintain and grow fields of knowledge.
  5. Writing letters for students.  Students who have (or maybe have not) taken your classes will later ask you to recommend them for jobs, educational opportunities, awards, etc.  And you will write them letters of recommendation that have various deadlines, nuanced content requirements, varied ways to send the letters, some online forms of varying lengths.  This is unpaid and invisible work.
  6. Meetings.  Oh yes–meetings about things that help the university to run such as serving on the University Arts Council or serving on Promotion and Tenure Committees that help recognize colleagues as they pass through (or do not) review processes; Leadership and awards committees and many other duties that require groups to sit together; set agendas; and hopefully plan for actions to be taken outside of the meeting.  More often, these are meetings to talk about and plan other meetings.  This is unpaid and invisible work.
  7. Review of research and ongoing professional upkeep.  To remain current and active as a scholar one must continue to maintain one’s own time to read and review new articles, new online resources, new books, new new new.  There’s always a new idea or new project or new publication.  Faculty spend a lot of time invested in staying current and this is why we appear to be paid for our “free time” but this is often invisible. This time becomes more visible when it results in the end products such as grants or publications.  The former is currently much more favorable to the latter.
  8. Review of grant opportunities and publication invitations–like #7, this work becomes visible when it results in a successful end product like an awarded grant or high visibility publication.
  9. Collaborations, networking with other scholars in your field–hard to explain but saying yes to various social and professional opportunities that may require a lot of personal time is also an important part of a process that can result in the visible products of grants and publications.
  10. Giving back to my community by planning with local libraries, educational leaders, and poets to offer my services to the city that I call home.  This resulted in a public poetry reading series and at other times includes guest speaking engagements in various settings related to my work as a professor and poet.  These are most often unpaid and may have some visibility with communities about which I care.


I can go on and on but I am getting anxious by all there is to do. I just finished two tenure reviews and am getting started on one of two students’ comprehensive exam question reviews.  100s of pages to read and review for meetings next week for “defenses” as well as my own classes for which to plan 15 weeks of agendas ahead of time so we all know where we’re headed, when and what to read and do for a grade.  I just submitted several poems and articles for publication and hoping some of these will result in visible products.  I just found a grant deadline I missed and worry I need to be more vigilant with my ‘free time’ to seek more opportunities.

Most professors work hard.  We don’t lift and carry and we seldom have absolute 8-5pm schedules.  But many of us never feel like we end our day and you may be surprised by how early we rise, answering emails at the crack of dawn.

Being a professor is a wonderful job.  This profession offers a unique life of the mind with greater flexibility in our schedules than many have.  But it’s not a cushy life.  It’s not ‘just’ about teaching our weekly 3 hour classses or 45 contact hours each semester.  As much as you can give to your program, department, unit or university, this will be gladly received and never enough.  It takes a great big team of hard working people to make universities run.  Universities and the people who work there can seem really expensive, but it’s important to understand the very different roles we each play in helping this beautiful system to activate the critical and reflexive thinkers of our time.  Universities help us better understand our human and non-human world–the problems, solutions, and processes by which we get living done.  We strive for a public voice, one that can provide more nuance and empirically warranted assertions that help us answer “how” and “why.” Blogs are a great stress relief and can make our private, specialized work a bit more public.

And now, back to work….!

Oh putting together manuscript #2…

How many of you, my friends, know how hard it is to land a publisher for poetry book #1? How lucky I felt when Whitepoint Press said yes in 2016 to “Imperfect Tense”–the imperfect version of a manuscript I had been revising for 10 years.

How many of you know that unless you are in the “Blessed” category of loyal and flush small or large presses, that its perhaps DOUBLY hard to get your second book of poetry published.

*do you hear the violins…….

Well, I am up for the challenge. Poetry book #2.  For the most part, my lucky response is: I don’t care if this book, as it stands, gets published.  After all, my job doesn’t require or expect me to publish poetry. I don’t “need” it….and yet.

I put poems together in a book manuscript because I love it, because the poems are like my own bone structure and when the first batches found a spine and a cover, it was like giving birth to a part of myself.  I celebrated.  I had a first birthday.  Then a second.  Now a third.  But a book of poems ages very fast and the celebrations are generally only for the newly born.

For the last 2-3 years I have hatched new poems, more of them, more constantly, urgently–but I take out most of the adverbs (as my students know).  And now I have a new book of poems! And it seeks a publisher.  My first publisher is so small and not taking a look at anything until January.  I can wait.  But what if there’s another press to take a gander between now and then? What if my small press doesn’t want this new book? How does one find a new publisher? It’s worse than buying a car….

You look at (groan) contests.  You pay (double groan) fees of $20-50 per shot, so that a small underfunded press can afford to sort through 1000s of other manuscripts who want a chance at the one publication or three that press may do per year in the genre of poetry.

How many contests do you enter? Which ones? I try to know the press, to like or love the press, to find hope that they may produce a pretty book on good (enough) paper with a lovely cover design.  I try to find lower submission or contest fees.  I try to match my poems with the press vision or with presses who have published poets who I feel a kinship to or editors I might know.  I miss deadlines.  I prepare for rejection, rejection, rejection.  Thanks but no thanks. I steel myself against feeling personally declined.  I reason: there are just too many darn good poets in the world; it’s just not the right fit, the right time, the right trigger, the right title, the right order, the right craft, the right mood, the right the wrong the in between anxiety that the poems are not good. Not good? Not good enough?  Not enough.  Not yet.  Not here. Nahhhhhh.

Read them again. Re-read them.  Read them outloud.  Take out some poems, make some edits, write some new poems, reorganize.  Wonder: am I cutting the poems like a man cutting his own moustache until it’s woefully uneven or gone?

If you are a poet with a book, published or unpublished, then you know what I’m talking about.  Here goes nothing and everything. I hope it won’t take another 10 years…..

I’m all ears for your stories and sage advice!!!

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