Mouse 14: Jump poems

In my post about poetic difficulty statements (March 22), I mentioned jump tercets (tercet=a three-line stanza). At the workshop, Erin Moure asked us to pick up a poetry book and read three random lines from three pages. Here’s an example using random lines from Sarah Klassen’s new book, Monstrance (which I happen to love):

Teenagers from the Bible Camp near Estes Park,

dozing or in a coma, breathing in and out.

Be afraid of the alien.

Here’s another:

mother raccoon and three masked offspring

of your high-powered speed boat

where he struggled in his narrow bed to breathe

The results can be entertaining. Then Erin had us read random lines from one of our poems, to try to see connections or ways of revising we hadn’t seen before. Most of my poems are less than 12 lines long, so there aren’t a lot of unexpected connections to be found. However, I’ve taken her idea and applied it to whole poems.

I have so many short poems that I tried to expand (as Meira says “Go on!”), but they weren’t going anywhere…until I tried combined them, jumping and matchmaking one poem with another. A poem about bedtime exasperation here and a poem about the sympathetic pharmacist there and boom: we have a two-stanza poem about Ritalin waning. A stanza that didn’t fit into a poem about suicide made a great ending to a crazy dream about a mother running away from home.

Boing. Boing. Boing. Happy hopping.


Happy plaid mice month!

April is plaid mice month, or as most people call it: Autism Awareness month or Poetry month, depending on which community you’re part of. I happen to belong to both. What better time than April to talk about writing a collection of autism poetry! So I’m bringing my mommy and professional selves together (hopefully they play nice) and posting this on both Plaiditudes and 37 Mice.

Today is the birthday of my writing group co-founder (Happy birthday, Joanne Epp) – it’s hard to believe that we only started meeting this past winter after a mutual friend invited us on an outing to the museum and we discovered we both write poetry. For the past four months, I’ve been meeting biweekly with Meira Cook (who’s been called the greatest living Canadian poet) to hone my skills through the Manitoba Writers’ Guild mentorship program. A year ago, I didn’t belong even belong to the writers’ guild yet!

A year ago, I also hadn’t visited the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre parent group, or attended any Asperger Manitoba events, joined the Autism Winnipeg Facebook page, or met any of the PACE (parents of autistic children everyone) entrepreneurs like Mike, Ljubica, and Ruby Lou, who’ve become good friends.

It’s amazing what can happen in a year. Now I’m writing a collection of poems about the devastating and celebratory moments I’ve shared on Plaiditudes: the drug trials and side effects, assessments and diagnoses, close calls in traffic, judgmental stares and kick-ass Christmas performances.

A friend and fellow artist asked why I didn’t write my life as a book of stories in addition my poetry. Perhaps someday I will, but for now, I’m so in love with the art of poetry, the intensity of emotion that just a few devastating or playful words can evoke, that I don’t have eyes for any other genre. Through my blog, I gain perspective and find meaning in the affectionately exasperated “better laugh than cry” experiences of parenting autism, but through poetry, I don’t only find beauty: I create it.

And on Thursday May 3, 7:30, at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church, Winnipeg, I’ll be reading from my collection at Joanne Epp’s chapbook launch, along with two of my favourite poets Sarah Klassen and Sally Ito. The event is free and open to the public.

I’ll be wearing turquoise, but the busy mice in my head will be decked out in plaid.

Good news!

As anyone who’s friended me on Facebook or shared my grocery line in the past week knows, I’ve got good news: I’m getting published! See the note below (the original is away at the framers):

Dear Angeline Schellenberg,

Hope this finds you enjoying early spring.

As poetry editor of the upcoming issue 30 of Rhubarb devoted to Manitoba Mennonite writing, I’m happy to let you know that I’ve chosen 4 of the impressive poems you sent us to run in the issue. I’m hoping that there won’t be any problems with space related to my choices, but that’s in the hands of the design people.

Maurice Mierau

I almost called my sister-in-law/poet in arms to tell her, but it was 10:30 pm when I read the email, so I let her sleep. But I found out the next day that she’s to be published in the same issue! Just a few weeks ago, we made a deal that if either of us had a poem accepted this year, we’d take each other out for supper. Since then, she’s been accepted by two literary journals, and I by one. Bring on the calamari!

I submitted 9 poems (a bigger package than most editors would prefer), and the 4 Mierau chose were about trees, my Oma’s death, a childhood memory of my dad, and a favourite story my grandma told about her sisters in Russia.

I’m very excited to be in Rhubarb, a locally published literary journal of Mennonite writing, but I’m particularly excited about being published there now. I’m in the process of applying for a Manitoba Arts Council grant for a collection of poems about autism, and despite more than a hundred news articles, features, reviews, and award-winning columns, in terms of qualifying to apply as a published “literary” writer, I was right on the line. I heard from the granting official this week that my one (bad) published poem and a chapter in an anthology squeaked me in. With 4 more (good!) poems in a recognized literary journal, I’m set. To apply that is. Convincing the granting committee to award me the cash is another story. I have a meeting lined up with the granting officer to go over my project proposal in the few weeks to make sure it’s the best it can be. And then we wait.

A few weeks ago, I set the goal of either one publication or 10 rejections by Christmas. I didn’t expect to get accepted this early! But I’m not giving up on my 10 rejections. I don’t want to lose momentum. I have one set of poems already sitting on an editor’s desk, and another 4 packages almost ready to go to other magazines across Canada. Maybe I’ll have a second acceptance before the end of the year – who knows! – but I can make darn well sure that another 9 journals have the chance to decide.

But first, to celebrate! My daughter thinks mom’s now so famous that we need to buy a family limo, so I could take her out on the town to prolong the illusion of fame and fortune. But I’d prefer something simpler, some tradition we can return to as a family every time one of my poems earns a paycheque (what can 4 people do for $10 to $50?). One writer I know orders sushi. I’m the only Schellenberg who eats seaweed, so that’s out.

I guess Rhubarb pie would be appropriate, but then what will we eat the day I’m in Prairie Fire? 🙂