During the month of May, Black Lawrence Press author Charlotte Pence is on board to critique poetry manuscripts. Charlotte’s poetry merges the personal with the scientific. Her first book, Many Small Fires (Black Lawrence Press, 2015), received a Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award. The book explores her father’s chronic homelessness while simultaneously detailing the physiological changes that enabled humans to form cities, communities, and households. Director of the Stokes Center for Creative Writing, she is also the author of two award-winning poetry chapbooks and the editor of The Poetics of American Song Lyrics (University Press of Mississippi, 2012). Pence is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Redden Fund, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Alvin H. Nielson Memorial Fund, the Discovered Voices Award, New Millennium Writing Award, and many others. Her new book, Code, is due out in July.
Charlotte is accepting single poems, folios, chapbooks, and full-length collections for critique. The fees and parameters for each of these categories are as follows:
- Individual Poems, up to 2 pages in length, $20
- Folios, up to 7 pages in length, not to include more than 5 poems, $50
- Chapbooks, 16-40 pages in length, $195
- Full-length collections, 45-80 pages in length $325
All manuscripts should be formatted in 12-point font.The deadline to submit work for this consultation program is May 31. Charlotte will complete her work and respond to all participants by June 30.
Charlotte Pence's Statement of Purpose
“A poem is an event, not the record of an event.” --Robert Lowell
The above statement underscores my continual amazement at what a poem can build with black font on white paper—an experience for a reader rather than a paraphrasable point. A poem is not merely intellectual; rather, the experience of a good poem is physical, transportive, and hopefully transformative. But to have that experience, to be moved along with the poet, we need to know where we stand. Identifying the dramatic situation, exploring the conflict (however quiet it may be), and reveling in the vividness of language all help to transfer the writer’s experience to the reader.
Yet, building a poem is not the same as building a book. When I wrote my previous poetry books, (two chapbooks and one full-length), I thought of the book itself as a player in the poetic drama. The frame of the book itself extends the workable canvas. I see a book as something more akin to what Anne Carson created in Nox, in which the text was printed on a forty-foot long page folded like an accordion. While one does not need to literally connect all the pages, there is a liberation that comes from viewing a manuscript as an interconnected being, an ecosystem in which roots, fungus, rain, worms, and so on are all acting out the great majesties of their individual—and interconnected—lives. I’ll look at your manuscript not simply as a collection of individual poems, but as an ecosystem. I’ll help to draw out the motifs, linguistic play, forms, etc. in an effort to present a singular object that utilizes the powerful frame the book provides.
Given my own interest in the interconnectivities between disciplines, I consider our own deep human history—harkening back to our love of sound repetitions, keen ability to decipher patterns (i.e. navigation by constellation), and the fact that our species is unique in its need to command a group’s attention. This last is a question poets too often ignore—how to gain the reader’s attention and then succeed in sustaining that attention. As your reader, I’ll note moments when I could predict what comes next, when the language feels recycled rather than revelatory, when moments, personas, and worlds feel too pat and thin. Equally important, I’ll be sure to note when the language, form, or imagery delivers something wholly unexpected and pleasing. These moments of strengths are ones that will serve as the guiding point when I make suggestions for the poem or the manuscript as a whole. Drawing out the wonderful idiosyncrasies unique to your voice and vision then exploring them more deeply is a key component to revising an inspired manuscript into a successful book.
In my own work, I like to uncover and analyze relationships between seemingly dissimilar subjects. My poetry collection Many Small Fires, for example, combines the subject of homelessness with theories of anthropological evolution, specifically the anatomical changes that enabled communal living within our species. My current manuscript in progress plays with DNA and code. Bringing in differing subjects, texts, and voices all add contrasting pressures. Poets I read and enjoy change based upon what I am working on, and thus, I enjoy a wide range, though James Wright, Anne Carson, Tracy K. Smith, Aracelis Girmay, Bradford Tice, Jericho Brown, Lucille Clifton, Robert Hass, César Vallejo, and C.D. Wright are all poets I tend to turn to time and time again.