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Blogging Poets: Jessie Carty

Way back on April 26 (in the heat of running for Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere), I posted that I wanted to do a better job of informing my readers of other poetry blogs. Well, it's taken longer than I expected, but here is the first in what I hope will be many Blogging Poets posts.

To kick things off, I thought I'd start off with poet and blogger
Jessie Carty, who is one of the harder working poets I know. Based in
North Carolina, Carty makes multiple submissions weekly, networks with
other poets (online and off), teaches, and still finds time to maintain
an excellent poetry blog:

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Folded Word Press recently released Carty's collection Paper House
(which actually briefly made the poetry bestseller list), and I asked
her to share one of her favorite poems from the collection. Here it is:

Paper House, by Jessie Carty

Fold a sheet of striped

notebook paper in half.

Draw the shape of a house.

Trim the edges to form a roof.

Where you want windows,

cut a flap.

Place pieces of furniture

or people to peer at

when you peep

through the paper windows.

On the first floor, in the kitchen,

Mom raises

her stick arms. She
can almost

touch the ceiling.

She's closest to the door.

Above her is a bedroom

where a girl looks out a window.

She's next to a desk

with her arms out straight

as if in the midst of

3rdgrade calisthenics. To the girl's

right is another room

with a bed, a lamp. Downstairs,

next to the kitchen,

Dad lies on the couch wearing boxers.

Black and white can't show

his cigarette dripping red-tipped ash

onto the carpet, forming a hole.


What are you up to?

The first word that comes to mind is:
trouble. But, I doubt I'm actually up to much of that. Mostly, I'm
trying to learn how to balance teaching (I just started adjunct
teaching at RCCC in Concord, NC), blogging, housework and that other
thing--what is it again? Oh! The actual poetry part of being a poet.

What do you try to accomplish with your blog?

I started my blog so I could talk about
my MFA experience. I went back to school just a year into a return to
writing after a five-year gap, so I wanted to try and wrap my brain
around being a full-time worker and a student/writer. The blog,
however, has evolved into a place that people actually visit! Each week
I share poems in progress, speak about the process of trying to obtain
publication and just in general speak about what it is like to be a
writer and reader. I like connecting and helping writers who are all at
different stages in their careers/journeys as writers.

Is there anything you'd like to try with your blog that you're not currently doing?

I asked around about having guest bloggers, but no one has taken me up on that yet!

Blogging and social networking is
one way to build a community of poets; reading poetry at live events is
another way to build community. What are your thoughts on poetry
community and building an audience for your poetry?

When I was writing poetry as an
undergrad back in the 90s, I did so in a sort of vacuum. There were a
few people with whom I shared my writing, but the number was very, very
small. I enjoyed the creative writing classes I took, but building a
community of writers wasn't really emphasized at that level. I think it
is the biggest reason I stopped writing in my late 20s. When I came
back to writing after a 5-year gap, I quickly found myself seeking out
other writers at local events and online. Finding these other fantastic
writers has kept me going. If I have a chance to teach creative writing
at the college level, even for undergrads, I want to make a point of
fostering community. And I do see it more as community building. Sure,
most of us, want readership, but I generally see myself as a teacher
first. I want to help other writers because I learn so much from the
act of teaching.

You are the founder and editor of Referential Magazine. Could you explain the magazine, including how it works, what writers should know before submitting, etc.?

I had been toying with the idea for Referential
for quite a while, but I wasn't sure logistically how it would work.
When the magazine started back in January, I made a call for poetry,
fiction, nonfiction and art. I weeded through all the e-mails and
selected Scott Owens' poem "13 Ways of Angels" as the first featured
piece. I also picked other poems, stories and art that would appear on
the website.

Once these initial items were up,
authors could then pick a poem, story, piece of art (or an individual
word or line in a piece) from which to "refer" their own work. Every
few months I send out another call for new featured work that does not
refer from anything on the site.

Back in June I added editors for each
genre which has helped with the workload but has increased the response
time. You still should have a response, in most cases, within 30 days.
The only thing I hate about running the magazine is the number of
submissions we receive that do not refer to one of the published pieces
as is stated in the guidelines. That is a red flag that you didn't even
take the time to skim that one page, let alone actually read a poem or

For an example, here is Helen Losse's poem "Concerning Apple Pie,"
which referred from Scott Owens' original poem. Helen's poem has then
inspired an art referral as well as a photographic notation.

Folded Word Press released your first poetry collection Paper House earlier this year. How did you go about getting that first collection published?

Paper House is a revised version
of my MFA thesis. I sent it out for about 6 months--to contests and
open reading periods--before I started getting tired of it. I just
wasn't sure if I had it in me to go back through it for more revisions.

At about the same time the new managing
editor of Folded Word (I actually had started the press name when I had
my YouTube journal, but I had transferred ownership several months
before that to my assistant), contacted me and said she wanted to see
my manuscript. I was shocked! She accepted the manuscript, and we spent
several months fine tuning it into the collection it is now. (See what
networking can do for you?)

Were there any surprises during or after publication of the collection?

I was a bit surprised by how hard it
was to schedule events at bookstores and such. I know part of the
difficulty came because I was working with a new small press, but also
because poetry, in general, has a harder time finding a home on the
shelves of stores. Thank goodness my publisher did go with one of the
national distributors, or I'd have had no luck at all getting into

Also, I was surprised by how helpful it
was to have an editor work with you. I eyed some of the big publishers
and prizes but having an editor go through the book poem by poem with
me (challenging me) made the book much better. I don't think I would
have been able to produce a collection that I liked so well if I had
just continued working on my own.

It always seems like you're submitting and publishing poems. Do you have a writing and submission routine?

Every year I try to update my whole
submission strategy, but this year I started with a list of places I
wanted to submit to. I made the list from journals that I read:
subscriptions, online, found in Best American Poetry and Poet's Market that interest me along with journals that had previously sent me comments. I try to send to those places first.

As the year goes on, and I hear of new
journals (or new to me), I add them to the list so I always have a few
places that I can send work to. Once a week I go through the poems I've
recently revised, the ones that feel "done," and I group them up to
send out.

I used to send out less than once a
month but taking a few hours to just do it once a week keeps me from
feeling overwhelmed. I feel, at times, I write and revise a bit too
much. But after years of not writing, I fear gaps when I don't write!

Who (or what) are you currently reading?

I'm, as always, probably reading too
much! I just finished Maureen Sherbondy's chapbook "Praying at Coffee
Shops." I'm in the midst of Best American Poetry 2010 as well as the NC Literary Review.
I also read a lot of fiction and nonfiction, but I wanted to catch up
on a back log of lit mags and poetry books I had purchased (or been
given) over the last year. Each day I also read quite a few blogs and
online literary magazines. As I type this, I'm scanning through some of
"ken*again," "Ragazine," "The Dead Mule" and "Pedestal." Can you ever
read too much?

If you could pass on only one piece of advice for other poets, what would it be?

Can I cheat and say two?

First and foremost is to read. Read
poetry. Read blogs. Read graphic novels. Read literary magazines. Read
whatever interests you but read and read often.

The second would be, when revising,
read (there is that word again) your work out loud to yourself. Even if
you aren't a performance poet, hearing the sound of your words out loud
makes a huge difference!


I encourage everyone to read Jessie Carty's blog:

And her book Paper House from Folded Word Press.

Plus, allow me to refer you to her Referential Magazine.

Also, check out Jessie's tweets @jessiepoet


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


Also, Jessie mentioned it during the interview, so why not bring it up again? If you haven't already, be sure to check out the 2011 Poet's Market (edited by me).

Click here to learn more.

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