Tag Archives: Carrie Addington

A Little Collaboration Please

This blog is definitely a little dusty over here at Book Dust. Since my Bread Loaf 2013 experience, I’ve been diving into the deep end of the lap pool that is my writing, completing a grueling 30:30 with some amazing writers (Phillip B. Williams, Nathan McClain, Aricka Foreman, Keith Wilson,  Steven Kleinman, and Diana Khoi Nguyen in spirit), diving head first into revision, and actually sending out my manuscript with reckless abandon despite the rejections that continued to pour in. I’ve had some successes but in the invariable up and down that is the submission process, I continue to work on my new collection. The differences in me and my writing pre- and post- Bread Loaf are glaring to say the least. I’ve met some quality poets who have been honest enough to teach me things about myself in every conversation.

And then there are the days when my two worlds (hair vs. poetry) collide and yield a remarkably fun and artistic result. Recently, for my job with Bumble, I hosted around 80 attendees at an event in the up and coming neighborhood of Brookland in DC. In doing so, I ran into a photographer who was kind enough to volunteer his services to document this inspirational hair event. He did great work and it seems the experience released a bit of his own creative spirit. He began brainstorming about doing a collaborative series where he documents the artistic process of artists. I knew it was a stretch to photograph a poet without seeming to cliche or expected in the portrayal (writer bangs head against wall, writer drowns in vodka, etc.), but we decided to give it a go. We both knew the collaboration could blow up in our pretty little faces but in we went.

Moe Nazemi is a professional delight to work with. He made this silly girl feel very comfortable in front of the lens, and he was patient as I giggled and laughed and screamed in between serious shots because I felt so darn uncomfortable being “serious.” Before the shoot, we got creative with research looking at shots we admired like those by Sally Mann and started getting creative with the shoot. It was literally an artistic collaboration, which was very refreshing for this poet who was beginning to fall down her own rabbit hole of revision. Moe and I decided I would work on a piece that I was revising  during the entire shoot. We wanted the “working” shots to remain authentic and hopefully catch me and my many grumbly faces during my process.

Defeated Face Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

Defeated Face
Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

Giggly Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

He came the day of the shoot with an idea. This one idea he had yielded the most creative, fun, and artistic shot of the day. The photo below showcases his creativity, his photography skills, and his ability to capture emotion in one image. Additionally, he managed to change how I will forever look at my front room. I am now completely creeped out by myself. Case in point:


Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

Then we tried a series, where we took words form the poem I was revising the whole shoot and wrote them on a backdrop. Here’s the result:

Crazy Carrie Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

Crazy Carrie
Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

I can't handle myself.  Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

I can’t handle myself.
Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

Still Giggly Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

Still Giggly
Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

And then, to finish, the wonderful Moe helped me acquire some head shots.

Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

Photo Credit: Moe Nazemi Photography

I did something out of my comfort zone. I collaborated in ways I didn’t expect would propel the work forward. I finally finished the revision of that damn poem that was haunting me. I learned something new about myself (I’m really uncomfortable in front of the camera), and I met a talented photographer who I cannot begin to give enough credit to. If you need a photographer for head shots, events, artistic collaborations, weddings, or whatever you want to capture, Moe Nazemi Photography is the real deal. He has a lot of creativity in that head of his, and this collaboration has spurred creativity in me, for my work and for the next photo shoot with Moe!


Finding That Poem’s Voice… Again

SpeakerWe’ve all been there. We inhabit the voice of the poem, we create such a unique, wonderful speaker that we wish we could clone it immediately and allow it to penetrate various other poems. We aim for a series. I’m in the muck of that right now.

Usually in this instance, I recreate the space, the circumstances that surrounded and do some sort of ritual in an attempt to conjure up a voice that even moderately resembles the original. This time, I can’t even remember where I was, what I was wearing, if I was drinking (which would explain a lot), or the mind frame that got me to the voice I want to revisit again.

I long for that speaker. Much like I’ve longed for the feel of good shoes on my feet, a chilled glass of rose (who am I kidding, a bottle), or even that one person who sets the rest of the world at ease around me. I long for that speaker.

This particular voice in this particular poem is one that I secretly want to inhabit. The speaker is everything I want to be. She’s crass and brave and her mind is slightly warped with a lusty tongue. This particular voice is haunting me.

Today, I am trying to conjure her up. So I begin by listening to “Tide of Voices: Why Poetry Matters Now” by Mark Doty where he emphasizes, “Poetry’s work is to make people real to us through the agency of the voice.”  One section that sticks with me, as I begin my search is as follows:

“The project of poetry, in a way, is to raise language to such a level that it can convey the precise nature of subjective experience. That the listener would envision not just a mouse but this particular one, in all its exact specificity, its perfect details. Such enchanted language could magically dissolve the barrier of skin and bone and separateness between us and render perception so evocatively that we don’t just know what it means, we feel what it means.”

Off I go, wish me luck.

Gargoyle Magazine

Thank you to Gargoyle Magazine for accepting two of my poems in the Summer 2014 issue. Love the expedited process for submission and acceptance.

Additionally, love the description they have given themselves. I fit here.

“Gargoyle has always been a scallywag magazine, a maverick magazine, a bit too academic for the underground and way too underground for the academics.”

The Debate on the State of Contemporary Poetry

I’m not at all getting into the muck of this back-and-forth that has occurred as of late, but I am calling attention to it. Two totally different intentions.

June 20th, Ron Charles wrote a piece in The Washington Post titled “Why is modern poetry so bad?” His piece is in reaction to the original discussion that was instigated in the July issue of Harper’s Magazine titled, “Poetry Slam: Or, The decline of American verse.” by Mark Edmundson. Edmundson, a professor at the University of Virginia utters words like “small, in retreat, painfully self-questioning, oblique” to describe contemporary poetry today. Then he does the unthinkable. He names names. Brave? yes. Accurate? Well that’s up for debate. And causing quite the ruckus.

My favorite line in the entire piece is when he states, “One can’t generalize about it all.” Pot meet kettle. Edmundson does indeed proceed to generalize across the span of poets he lists, leaving a splattered mess of poets in his wake who are apparently up to no good at all with their work. The take away he leaves us with: the poems of greats like Hass, Bidart, Pinsky, and Olds are good but not “good enough.”

What is good enough? Who defines “good” in regards to contemporary poetry? And better yet, if readership of contemporary poetry is continuing to dwindle then dare I ask, does it even matter? A companion asked me the other day: isn’t poetry a dying art? (I have chosen not to name said companion for obvious reasons).

The only good part to this debate is that it might force those of us still writing in a contemporary poetic landscape to stretch our intentions, to consider the readership, to possibly recognize when we are and when we are not playing it too safe. A little challenge never hurt anyone, right? On the other hand, a complete degradation of those essential to the literary canon is somewhat hard to swallow.

I wasn’t the only one having a reaction to the discussion. Seth Abramson posted “Why Is Contemporary American Poetry So Good?” on the Huffington Post. Abramson calls attention to the fact that poetry is in fact in its heyday with more poetry being published, read and written than ever before. He makes a rebuttal to Edmunson’s pieces that is impressive in its scope and ability to showcase how far poetry has come. More specifically, how much more “mainstream” it has become.

The debate is rich and necessary. It reminds those of us in the thick of writing poetry to push ourselves beyond our predetermined limits and to continue reading and continue to fight for the essence of American poetry: “American poetry nourishes and enlivens and congregates and educates and in some cases even saves us the very same way poetry has always done for those with the willingness to stop speaking and listen.” Touche Abramson!

Community: noun – a unified body of individuals

One take away from last year’s amazing trip to Erice, Sicily to work with the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference: the essence of being a writer is directly hinged upon the community you create for yourself. At least for this writer.

Six years post MFA I’m finally “getting out there” in terms of establishing and becoming a part of a poetic community. I was a bit of a recluse for quite sometime, still am in a lot of ways, which is in direct conflict with my personality, but so goes it. In realizing the benefit of a supportive and encouraging group of writers to have surrounding you, what I have become more settled with is that sometimes your best, most supportive community is far-reaching. It’s not under your nose in all cases. It’s not even 10 minutes of DC traffic away. Sometimes you have to travel internationally, across email communication channels, or all the way to the abyss that is the west coast to find that which you seek: open minds, warm hearts – and by that I mean a warm reception where people are welcoming and encouraging most the time, but brutal and honest in the times you most need it.

Over the past year I’ve been blessed with continued relationships with Elizabeth Weiss McGolerick,  Shelley Puhak and Ethelbert Miller. I’ve also expanded my circle to the far reaches of Dubai with Ms. Hananah Zaheer , Ms. Ara Tucker in Jersey, Sonja Livingston in Tennessee, Hope Maxwell Snyder in WV. You see my point.

862459_10200858395248723_1575216453_nAnother instance of community was given to me last weekend in Lost River, WV. The kind souls and proprietors of the Guesthouse at Lost River, a cozy little retreat away form the hustle and bustle of the city life DC offers, have been our neighbors and friends for the two years we’ve owned our little “home away from home.” A few weeks ago, Jesse & Gary of Guesthouse fame and friendliness, proposed to my husband that I come down and share some of my work with them and their guests. My first response was “Thank you, I’m flattered” followed quickly by “I’m not sure how many people I can bring you or what you’d gain from it all.” They were less than concerned with what I could offer them. Their response: “We are doing it to support you!” And support me they did. We chatted often about the ins and outs of the reading, setting a date in April to coincide with National Poetry Month. As I visited over the months prior to the reading I’d see flyers for the reading posted in local businesses, I’d hear business owners telling patrons to attend, local friends were rallying the community to hear some poetry.  I was absolutely taken aback by the sense of community.

I’m not sure this blog post has an epiphanic takeaway as much as it serves as a gigantic “Thank you” to my community.

“By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say ‘We loved the earth but could not stay.’” ― Ted Kooser

Invisible Disabilities

6460_106918074940_3438260_nAs my annual cardiology appointment approaches (on April Fool’s Day no less), I find myself in that annual state of nostalgia that occurs every time around this year. It might have something to do with the fact that my husband and I trek 4.5 hours south of DC to visit my original cardiologist and surgeon. I am more than loyal in this respect.

When I moved to Northern Va over a decade ago I tried to find a new home in the cardiology mecca that existed up here. Instead, I found crowded offices that treated patients like cattle, ushering you in and out before you had time to process any of what they were telling you. Well-oiled machines: yes. The safe space I had been accustomed to: no.

453fb830a28f434d1c4288a6712507aaIt is necessary to point out that I fall under the category of “high-maintenance patients” in that I have a lot of questions and an even higher amount of anxieties. I have invisible disabilities. I need coddling. Thus, I travel to Virginia Beach where my original surgeon, Dr. Gottimukala, practices.

He and the pacemaker technician, April, have been with me in this journey of my heart since the beginning. They consoled me when I first heard of the diagnosis. They have learned the ins and outs of my anxieties and know exactly how to deal with me. They know what I will and will not tolerate. They take my calls, deflate my panic, and they give the kind of hugs that mean something. What I appreciate most: Dr. Gotti will spend as much time as he needs to with me without making me feel like I’m a hassle. I recall one visit, in the midst of diagnosis as well as my divorce from my first husband, when he walked in with his kind face and said, “How are we doing today Carrie?”  I didn’t answer. I sobbed. For at least ten minutes. He pulled up a chair, handed me a box of tissues and waited for me to finish. It could have been hours. He would have waited. Luckily it was not, I managed to pull myself together.

There’s something poignant about the literal and figurative breaking of the heart occurring at the same time in a small office of cardiology in Virginia Beach under neon lights. I remember bringing them a gift basket full of chocolates and crackery snacks after that. I think it’s the only gift basket I’ve ever bought anyone just because I thought they were deserving of it. That’s saying something.

I also appreciate Dr. Gotti’s one-liners. My first surgery went off without a hitch and as he emerged from the surgery he told my dad, “She’ll be walking down the aisle at 70 beats per minute.” (The surgery occurred four weeks before my wedding.)  My second surgery to replace the battery a few years ago went off well too. He appeared out of the operating room and told Jason that in twilight during the surgery I professed my love for him. It might have been partially true. I do love him.

I had my first implant when I was 23, so the issue of having a pacemaker was compounded by the fact that I was young, and believed I was “invincible.” My struggles were different. I was concerned with more vain issues like scar size and placement, and I found myself bothered by displacement issues. The waiting rooms were commonly  filled with patients three times my age. This was an issue I wanted to combat and which is discussed in the article “For Young People with Pacemakers” which gives a shout out to the Facebook group I created, “Young Pacemaker Patients and Supporters.” The group was created to allow younger recipients and their families a safe haven and communal space to share their challenges and concerns. It’s pleasing to see the group has grown in the last few years to almost 300 members.

So tomorrow I will drive down and back in a day to Virginia Beach for what will be a relatively quick appointment to ensure my broken lead in my pacemaker hasn’t wreaked too much havoc on anything. See Image B for a depiction of a broken lead. F1.medium

People are always surprised when I tell them I make the drive to visit him rather than find a doctor more locally. My priorities are different. My expectations are different. My experiences are demanding of difference.

Oh Facebook Friends, I Duped You

It recently occurred to me in a coffee-time conversation with a good friend that the capacity of individuals to share in and embrace each other’s happy moments is quickly dwindling. Said friend mentioned that the world we live in today has various social media platforms on which to parade around our achievements and happy moments in front of the masses, friend or foe. I was already aware of this shift in communication, and I also knew I was overly participating in the new trend. Then the poignant moment came. He said, and I’m paraphrasing: people are so inundated with each other that no one wants to be happy for your achievements, your progress. But they are quick to jump on the bandwagon of celebrating the negative. It’s a silent participation in your most intimate moments.

UnknownThis may seem obvious but I was hesitant to accept it as reality. I have already begun the downward decline of my appreciation and enjoyment of said Facebook craze, but I decided after this conversation stuck in my craw that I needed to test this theory.

Let me begin with what I concluded from my “test.” 1.) My friend’s hypothesis is true. The masses participate more in random comments or negative observations. 2.) The positive received very little love in the way of “likes.” 3.) People mostly subtly participate (and by that I mean they stalk the hell out of your wall).

Here was my test:

  • To my pool of over 300 friends (maybe 10 actually know of and love the ugly parts of me), I posted a few random comments regarding the ways of the world or something that happened to me. I ensured each of those posts contained a slightly or obvious negative undertone. 
  • The first post received 22 “thumbs up” and 11 comments.
  • The second post received 19 “thumbs up” and four comments.
  • Then I posted an announcement of an something positive. I received two likes the first week (the usual suspects). In the following weeks it slowly raised to nine likes (again the usual suspects).

I found myself genuinely disappointed. What I had feared social media was doing to our ability to interact and communicate with each other was actually happening. A general google search on the subject will bring you a slew of articles that broach the subject and mostly with the results and reactions we’d expect.  The stats yielded from studies will leave you wanting to deactivate everything immediately. The breeding of passive communication and pure laziness has taken over for the fine art form of interpersonal communications, a skill listed on my c.v. for decades that seemed mostly unnecessary until recently. It’s actually considered a practiced skill now. You can interact with other humans without the use of social media or technology? Hired!

Forbes magazine tried to get us to stop the madness before the new year was rung in with an article titled, “3 Reasons You Should Quit Social Media in 2013″ which highlights a UK Study in which 50% of respondents noted that social media has an overall negative effect on their lives.  We all know we should. We simply can’t help ourselves. I can’t help myself.

Last week I was in a funk for what seemed like entirely too long and for reasons I couldn’t identify until I began drafting this post. I was genuinely disappointed with people in general and decided I did not want to contribute to it anymore. I also did not want to continue giving those who don’t actively participate in my life a glimpse of what it’s like. Why call me or visit me if you can virtually do it on Facebook, right?

Now I do realize the irony of the fact that I’m writing this blog post which will post to my Twitter and Facebook accounts accordingly, but I suppose I justify the madness if it helps promote a business, or in this case a writer’s work. So that’s how I’ll trek on.

Just yesterday a good friend told me they don’t have a Facebook, a Tweeter (ha!), or anything of the like. I asked why and the response was so simple and so refreshing a thought: I have never liked people eavesdropping on my conversations. It’s hard to escape a life like that when everyone knows everything. I like me time and it’s hard to be present in certain moments when you are clouded by crap.  

Ostranenie: Making Strange

An article in the March/April issue of Poets & Writer’s Magazine by Tony Eprile recently gave me that all too forgotten feeling of “ah-ha.”

Eprile begins his piece by talking about the examination of the woodpecker and the act of pecking wood out of hollow trees. This grabbed my interest as we have recently identified several pileated woodpeckers on our property in West Virginia. We have observed, heard, and at it’s most basic sentiment simply enjoyed them as little pets on our property. However, not once have I stopped to ask, how can they do what they do. I have seen. I have not observed. Eprile, I personally thank you for this challenge.

It’s one of my focuses for 2013: to be present. I juggle a lot of balls, like most people, but what I don’t do well is be fully present in some of the moments or experiences I’m a part of. As Eprile writes, “You have to train yourself to see as if everything is brand new….” I don’t do this enough. I will do this more.

I’m pretty sure some of my best “readers” would describe me and my work as intense, long-winded, scattered. I realize these are not positive descriptions but in the same breath I can say there’s a certain part of me that revels in the manic chaos that finds its ways into my perspective. As I describe in one poem, “…window frames become film slides in a View-master.” The blurred perspective sometimes gets too discounted and tossed in the “unappreciative” pile. I will slow down. Just a little. 

If I do more observing, more slowing down of one’s perspective, will that singularity of style be stifled? I’m sure there’s some message about balance in here somewhere. Yoga is always on my to-do list. Eprile goes on to explain this ability to observe as opposed to see “requires training and patience.” Patience? I have none. It’s a genetic deficiency. Now What?

This whole article then lead me to thinking about my first college writing assignment centered around descriptive writing and how much I enjoyed it. In college, I was fine with being directly within a moment, savoring it, letting it dissolve on my tongue and mucking around in it for awhile. Today, I’m so concerned with “what’s next” that the absoluteness of certain moments, the singularity of an experience is wasted on me. I have only been seeing. If that. I will try to observe.

Nostalgia (or lack thereof)

Recently, my friend Ara Tucker over at The Art Dealer’s Daughter posted about nostalgia which is quite the coincidence seeing as how a recent project had me quite nostalgic. Or at least, the project had me attempting to be nostalgic.

Hey, it's better than another sweater.

Hey, it’s better than another sweater.

It wasn’t until the last few weeks when I began working on a sentimental craft project for my brother’s 40th birthday that I began riffling through old memories, stories, photo books, letters trying to muster up some good ole’ memories.

Let me explain for those of you that don’t already know how this will end. It will end badly. I will have high hopes. I will have no patience or crafty talent for that matter. I will remain completely unaware of my half-assed attempt at perfection. Not to mention that said recipient’s birthday was February 4th, so at this point I’m well on my way to being a month tardy. Luckily, he grew up with me. His hopes are adjusted accordingly.

As I sifted through memories, only a half dozen came to mind. Then as I went through my memory bank, I found that it had become quite depleted. And not in reference to my brother of course, but generally speaking.

In that moment, I was feeling guilty for not being able to recall much of my childhood. I don’t think that has any reflection on the quality of it as much as my inability to savor on the chewy goodness of it all. I make memories. I’m in them completely. I’m lucky if I snap a picture or two. Then they either stick or they don’t. Simple as that.

I suppose I’ve always been bad at memory making. I’m not sure I understand at the time the fullness of events that are memory-worthy. I simply have snippets of things floating around in my memory bank. I become nostalgic, not because I am longing for the past and what it had meant to me but because I was longing to simply remember the past, all of it. My memory bank is depleted. Perhaps it’s because I’ve stockpiled my word bank.

Fashion & Poetry

An unlikely pairing to some, fashion and poetry are top of mind as New York Fashion Week has recently concluded. There’s not a lot of obvious poetic quality to such an occasion, and yet there is.

Bumble and bumble fashion week teams have just finished working their creative magic on over 50 shows and perhaps the anticipation of such a time has me thinking “outside of the box.”

During one of my brief stints in slumber one night last week, I dreamt of a NYFW show where Bumble stylists worked their magic on hair utilizing different word themes. A few examples:

  • Confessional poetry: looks with bold structures and endless, inflated mass.
  • Avant Garde poetry: looks with dual texture: smooth and sleek versus dry and textured.
  • Acrostic poetry: looks represented with one letter in their editorial savvy.

It’s not a partnership of easy proportions. In fact there are some characteristics of each that are in quiet opposition to one another, but there are similarities. And what if poetry was put in the hands of those who still think its about mushy love notes and rhyme patterns. What if, you could – in the name of art and creativity – create a whole new audience for poetry in a way that is “fashionable”?

Jeffrey Levine

poetry, publishing, and mentoring

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