Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Welcome to 2016!

Oh my goodness. Another year has passed. I can't believe it, or how long it's been since I've updated this blog. Ridiculous.

Last year, I posted a picture of my writerly accomplishments, so I thought this year I could continue with that "tradition." This year, I had some success in publications, I won the Helen C. Smith award, I made some great headway on my next poetry manuscript, I taught an amazing creative writing class, but I think most importantly, I learned that regardless of what's going on in my life, I have the capacity to thrive. Looking back, 2014 taught me I was mortal. 2015, you taught me I was IMmortal :) And I'll get to that in a bit.

But starting from the left, top.

We have the Pleiades book review from winter 2015. In that issue, I published a review of Octavio Quintanilla's If I Go Missing (Slough Press, 2014). In the next little book there, Pleiades summer 2015, I have a review of Mary Meriam's Irresistible Sonnets. Yes. This year I continued reviewing books, but at a slightly less feverish pace than in the past. Reviewing is still important to me, but it's just so darn time consuming. I love reading others' poetry, but constructing an academic argument about it takes a lot of effort. I still plan to review, maybe 2 or so books a year, and maybe more if I find another great venue (that pays. because, time.).

Moving on! Next to the Pleiades is a nifty little book, How to Write a Poem (TS Press, 2015) that includes one of my poems as an example! It's such a cool book about the writing process, and it's one I referred to when teaching poetry (especially the revision of poetry) in my creative writing class this fall.

Me at Langdon Poetry Weekend
Let's talk about The Langdon Review. I LOVE this publication, and this year, they featured twelve, yes twelve, of my poems, in addition to a funky little feminist essay about why I write in the first place. Yes. My Slue Foot Sue poems found their home there. The coolest thing about The Langdon Review, though, to me, is that it's released at the Langdon Review Weekend in Granbury every September. What a fantastic festival! I attended and presented there this year, and the experience even included a blast of a road trip with none other than former Texas Poet Laureate Jan Seale. How lucky am I? Very.

Next, we have Boundless 2015. This year, I didn't help edit the anthology, which meant that I had the opportunity to submit. Even better? Perhaps. They took two of my back poems. Like Langdon, Boundless is also released at a festival, and I had a wonderful time yet again, as I always do, at the Valley International Poetry Festival.

Next, we have Boundless 2015. This year, I didn't help edit the anthology, which meant that I had the opportunity to submit. Even better? Perhaps. They took two of my back poems. Like Langdon, Boundless is also released at a festival, and I had a wonderful time yet again, as I always do, at the Valley International Poetry Festival.

VIPF Pachanga 2015

Free State Review was released in early 2015, and I even have a little anecdote about that journal :D They ran one of my more, um, snarky poems, “Eve Finally Makes Adam a Sandwich,” which, as you can probably imagine, is a feminist reimagining of the garden of Eden with, sandwiches, because you know, feminists and sandwiches have a tenuous relationship. And so do feminists and Eve. And Eve is my girl. Anyway, I’m getting off track, the anecdote.

I was sitting at on my AWP panel this past spring, and we come to the point of taking questions. Since I’m moderator, I’m looking all serious and acting all tough (that’s what AWP moderators do, after all). Our panel was about revisionist mythmaking, and one of the spectators asks something to the effect of, “how is your work original if you’re just re-imagining myth? Isn’t that just rehashing what’s already written?”

And my little tummy dropped. Probably my big tough moderator persona disappeared and I wasn’t really sure what to say. The other panelists look equally tongue-tied, so I put on my big girl panties and reached for the mic. Before I could, though, another audience member stood up:

“Can I just add something? I’ve read Katie’s work. She’s amazing. She had this poem about Eve making a sandwich for Adam, and, well, it was probably the most original poem I’ve ever read. So, to answer your question, her work is definitely not a rehash. Just read it.”

I had never seen this man before in my life.
Me sporting a Free State Review t-shirt!

After the panel, he came up and introduced himself as the editor of Free State Review!

But of course.

Anyway, for this anecdote alone, and because of the general tone of the publication, it holds a very special place in my heart.

Next! riverSedge. This journal is a part of my “regular” job. I work on it with the Creative Writing Department at UTRGV. Again, I helped judge the poetry contest this year, so it goes into this picture. For the next issue, I’m editing the interviews section, so, um, would anyone like to submit? You know you want to.

In the bottom row, we have the Texas Poetry Calendar. I have a poem about Luckenbach in there! I’m always delighted to submit to this publication. The editors over at Dos Gatos are amazing. I’m yet to do a reading with them, but that’s one of my goals for his year, should my work get accepted into the 2017 calendar (I’ve already submitted! Have you?).

Then we have The Raintown Review, which is a neat journal of primarily formalist writing. I have a poem in there, “My Last Game at the Diamond.” I found out about Raintown through my time as a part of the Eratosphere poetry workshop, which, come to think of it, is something else I’d like to do again in 2016.

And last but not least, bottom right, we have Concho River Review. I have a poem in there, too, called “Winter in South Texas.” It’s written in Sapphics, which, upon looking back at last year’s blogpost of goals, is one I’m happy to say I’ve achieved. Concho River Review also has a little anecdote to go with it – I’ve submitted there a gazillion times, and they finally picked up a piece. Why was I being so persistent with them? Well, I’d heard so many good things about the journal, and they publish a lot of my friends, so I figured I just had to keep asending and eventually, they’d pick up SOMETHING. SOMETHING. I was right. Persistence is key.

A few other things that happened to me, as a writer and human being, in 2015 that I feel need noting:

Me at AWP
1.    I presented at AWP. I survived the craziness of travelling to Minnesota and my spine didn’t collapse and I didn’t even hobble very much around the conference. It was incredibly good for my self-esteem. I can do things! While this was my second time moderating a panel, this time, it felt more nerve-wracking mostly because my health condition. But I didn’t let that get in the way. I did it. And I had a blast.

2.    I won the Helen C. Smith Award for the best book of poetry in the state from the Texas Institute of Letters. Yes. I did. That really happened. I’m still basking in the afterglow.

Creative Writing class reading 2015
3.    I had an amazing writing summer. Amazing. My next manuscript found its shape. Now it’s just a matter of filling it in, giving it the depth and complexity it needs to be awesome. And also, it needs to be fatter because Publisher likes his manuscripts with a little extra around the spine. Har. Har. Har.

4.    I taught an AMAZING creative writing class. AMAZING. AMAZING. I am so proud of my students. TWO of them got published in our local newspaper. We organized a reading in the community. We knocked everyone’s socks off. Maybe some undies, too. With this class, I feel like I’m coming full circle, at least a little bit. I’ve gotten a taste of mentoring others, of basking in their success. And you know what? It feels awesome. I love teaching. It’s almost better than writing.

5.    The most significant accomplishment of 2015? You know what, it can be summed up in one single word: THRIVE. Despite the shitstorm that has become facets of my life, despite my health issues and despite personal bullshit, I’ve proved it to myself that I can do this. At the beginning of 2015, I remember I was sitting in my office, surfing facebook as I oft do, with a shitty pain in my back as I scrolled through my feed, watching my friends run the Causeway 10k in South Padre Island. I said to myself, I want to do that.

And I did. Come June.

And I won.

And then, throughout the entire summer, Dad and I trained and trained and trained and we ran the McAllen Marathon (half) together. And next year? We’re going to run the full marathon. It will be my first ever.

McAllen Marathon 2015
I remember when I was in the hospital, when the surgeon told me I was going to need some bolts put into my spine, my first emotion was fear. And then, it was regret. I had lost my chance to run a marathon, to kick that off my bucket list. It was a life goal I wasn’t going to be able to achieve. I’d put it off for too long and now it was impossible. I’d always thought of myself as invincible, immortal, able to do anything if I worked hard enough, because always in my life, that’s been true. But here was something I just couldn’t do. More than anything, THAT was what bothered me most lying in that hospital bed (maybe because I was on a lot of morphine so pain wasn’t a big thing and I wasn’t thinking straight).

But you know what? Anything IS possible. If you work hard, if you have a fighter’s spirit, if you light a fire under your own ass, you can do anything, even the impossible. 2015 for me was proof of that. No cane. No pain medication. No surgery. Just a big dose of mental toughness and the miracle that is the human body’s will to thrive. Thrive. Not merely survive.

And you know what? Writing works the same way. We make progress one day at a time, and little by little, those determined (sometimes downright shitty) hours of hard work and pain and frustration add up to miracles, to great feats that were once impossible. It takes a lot of gumption. It takes a certain kind of crazy. But you know what? That’s exactly what I am J

Here are my 2016 goals:

1.    Finish next poetry manuscript. I would like to have this done by August and sent to Publisher.
2.    After August, find a new writerly direction before the year’s end. Maybe that’ll be the verse novel I’ve been kicking around in my head. Or maybe it’ll be something else, but figure this out.
3.    Submit my poetry. I’ve gotten slacky slacky with this over the past few years. This year, I want to submit to 50 different publications. I’ve already submitted to one. So, 49 more!
4.    Be more active in the poetry community. Do readings outside of my local area in other parts of Texas. I’ve got a bit of a headstart on this one. I’m presenting at the Kelton conference in San Angelo this spring. I’d like to do Poetry at Round Top if I can afford it (depends on whether or not I can pick up an extra class to teach). Let’s shoot for at least 5 out of area readings this year.
5.    Pursue career advancement. What’s the next step? Where do I go from here? There are a few paths ahead, and I know I’ll be taking one!
6.    Run. Because it makes me feel immortal and I am a goddess after all, in Brooks Glycerin 13’s. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Noche de Palabras, Redux!

Last week, I read at a wonderful event, Noche de Palabras, in Brownville. I had such a fantastic time! I was honored to be the featured reader at this event. There we are, all smiles, above. All of the readers! From the bottom left -- Linda Romero, Amy Becker-Chambless, Ana Hinojosa (I think that was her name!), McAllen's new poet laureate, Priscilla Suarez, Roberto de la Tore. On top, from left -- the owner of the cafe!, little old me, Rossy Lima Padilla the event organizer extraordinaire, Julieta Corpus, and Lupita. What a wonderful night!

My dad and Bruno joined me, too, so that made it even more fun to have my family there with me. 

To be honest, it was one of the better poetry readings I've ever had the pleasure of being a part of. Brownsville is such a lovely town, and it seems as though the people are eager for the arts. And the readers? Fantastic. It was about 50/50 English/Spanish, and the atmosphere was really just inspiring and supportive. I even sold a few books :-D And I tried out my new Slue Foot Sue poems! Afterwards, we stayed to listen to some music and throw back a beer. 

Sorry you missed out? Well, not to fear, here are a few videos :)

Noche de palabras, noche de poesía. Aquí una de las poetas de la noche.Katie Hoerth
Posted by Expresiones Literarias en Español on Tuesday, July 7, 2

Cultura, raíces, dioses y leyenda. Rossy Evelin Lima Padilla adornó la noche con su hermosa poesía.Y Katie Hoerth cerró la noche.
Posted by Expresiones Literarias en Español on Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

Manuscript Mania... Bleh.

Today's blogpost is going to be a rambling mess of my talking about the disarray that is my current poetry manuscript. You've been warned.

Since finishing Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots, I've been having some serious issues getting my barrings straight on the next manuscript. This isn't a new phenomenon for me. In fact, I tend to feel a sense of loss and sadness when wrapping up a book-length project, followed by anxiety to figure out what the next book is going to be about. Maybe it's because people are always asking me, at readings, at work, in workshop, "So, whatcha workin' on now?" or "When's the next book coming out, Katie?" and, well, to be honest, I'm the type of person who's hugely motivated by the idea of end goals.

So, when that end goal is nebulous? I kind of freak.

That's how it's been for me these past few months. Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots was a huge undertaking, and even after ruminating on the theme of feminist goddesses for the duration of my writing which was over two years, I felt that I wasn't QUITE ready to let it go. Let it go, Katie. Seriously. Let it go.

This summer, my main goal, to be completely honest, was to shape my manuscript, figure out what it was all about. For the first month (May) my poems were mostly memoirish, based off my recent experiences with pain, disability, and healing. But meh. I'm really not a very interesting person. And not only that, but I really don't want my condition to define who I am as a poet, much less as a person. So getting some space from that I think was a mental necessity.

So I moved on, began writing different kinds of poems, too, alongside those. At a loss, I went back to the whole idea of writing what you know. And what do I know? Well, revisionist myth, of course.

Enter. More Eve poems. Ugh. I thought I'd been banished from the Garden of Eden when I finished The Garden Uprooted! Apparently not. Then I wrote a small batch of fairy tale poems, which, too, is familiar ground also explored in The Garden Upooted. Meh. Same poem over and over again much?

Then, in early June, I stumbled upon a call for submission for Wild West persona poems from Dos Gatos Press. I love the work they put out, and something in me really wanted to submit to this anthology even if I'd never explored that theme before and had nada. I started looking at interesting women heroes from the wild west and wrote two persona poems I was pretty ok with. Good enough for a submission!

But as I was doing my "research" (ok, reading wikipedia articles don't judge), I read a retelling of the Pecos Bill legend, and low and behold, he had a girlfriend/wife that I'd never heard of. Her name is Slue Foot Sue, a wild child of rural West Texas who among other things rides a giant catfish up and down the Rio Grande. The really weren't many legends about her, aside from those relating to her relationship with the infamous Pecos Bill. Hmmm...

So, I figured what the hey. If there's no folklore about her, then why not write some? And so was born my next project :)

I've got about 15 or so poems about ol' Sue. They're rough, but her story (or, rather, lack of story) has been inspirational. In a sense, I'm creating her narrative, her epic, of her life before she met Bill. And you know what? In my story, she's stronger, faster, and fiercer than he'd ever hope to be. I'm writing her epic in a mixture of blank verse and sapphic meter, though I think I'm going to stick to BV to really give it that umph... maybe just a few lyric poems here and there in sapphics.

It's been fun, and it's helped me to develop a central theme to work towards on my next book. I'm thinking of something along the lines of "The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue and other legends" and sprinkling it with some of my other revisionist myth poems that didn't make it into Goddess.

So phew, ok, now I know what to tell folks when they ask me what I'm working on. Instead of blumbering out "Oh, you know, women, vagina, feminism, body, Texas, revisionist myth, more vagina" I can actually create a coherent sentence. That's probably a good thing.

:-D Onward!

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Life's been pretty darn nice lately.

It's summer and I have all the time in the world to write. Typically, what that means is I stare at my computer and get angry with myself for not having enough ideas. This summer, though, that's not happening at all. I've been writing writing writing.

I've also been participating in several different forms of online workshops, which is helping me immensely, too, to keep on track with not only developing new material, but also revising and polishing my work, which I find just as important (if not more). So the two different types of workshops I participate in are a Skype-type workshop, live with a small group of poets, and then, an online poetry forum called Eratosphere.

The first type of workshop is fairly new to me. I think it was around March that one of my Facebook friends, Terry, from Houston posted something about wanting to start an online poetry group. I'm always up for something new, so I asked him if I could join. It turned out to just be him and one other poet, also from the Houston area. Our workshops are fairly informal. We "meet" online once every two weeks for about two hours. We each read a poem and then the other two poets discuss it, giving suggestions for improvement. It works out pretty nicely because we're all good sports, practicing poets, and open to criticism (super important!). It's been hugely beneficial for me for a couple of reasons -- first, it keeps me writing. Every two weeks, I feel the need to have SOMETHING to show for myself. Second, it helps me gauge the reception of my work. Now, Terry and Laura are super nice and never tell me something sucks, but they're more enthusiastic about some pieces than others, which is good to be aware of. Third, it gives me direction for revision and a sense as to how readers view my work. And lastly, it helps me to see and reflect on other poets' writing processes. Terry, Laura and I are all very different in terms of our poetics. I'm a formalist. Neither of them dabble in formal poetry -- Terry's work is very modernist/minimalist with swathes of philosophy woven in. Laura writes colorful imagist work with bits of regionalism mixed in. I think that's a good thing, though. We learn from one another.

The other workshop group I participate in is Eratosphere. I've been an on again, off again member there since 2011. The only reason I end up going away is just because being an integral member of this community is very time consuming, but I always find that my time there is well spent. The poets there are very serious about their craft, so they make me be serious about my craft, too, paying attention to each syllable and sound. It feels good to be back!

Anyway, workshopping makes my work better. I'm so glad that this summer, I've been able to jump in and get some feedback, talk to other poets, and ultimately, learn and grow in my craft. There's nothing better. So between writing, conversing with other poets, critiquing, revising, polishing, and writing some more, my days are pretty occupied.

I would like to add some kind of a face-to-face local aspect to my workshop regiment, but I've really honestly never had much luck in that department here. I've tried starting my own workshops, and while I'm good at drumming up a team, no one stays committed to it. I've tried joining other peoples' workshop groups, but it looks like they have a similar type of problem. So bleh. Maybe someday I'll find a group of dedicated poets to workshop with, but until then, I am doing pretty darn good with online workshops. We shall see.

Meanwhile, long distance workshops are suiting me pretty nicely :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Noche de Palabras

So, I had a pretty eventful weekend! Rossy Lima Padilla invited me to read at the first Noche De Palabras event at Hueso del Fraile in downtown Brownsville. Brownsville's about an hour and a half drive, so I'm typically pretty reluctant to make the trip out there for a short reading, but what the heck, I thought, I'm on vacation!

The event was truly bilingual -- so often, there's just one or two poets who read a piece in Spanish and the rest is in English, including the M.C's intros and words between readers. But this reading was a little different, and it was really refreshing. My Spanish is actually pretty ok believe it or not -- I'm able to understand it, but I don't grasp it well enough to write in it. So of course, my poems were in English, but the other poets were about half and half. I really appreciated the change to hear some quality poetry in Spanish.

The evening's featured reader was Chris Carmona, who is a good friend of mine. He also edited my first book, The Garden Uprooted! So, it was nice to hear his new work and see what he's been up to these past few months. His style is Beat, which is kind of the opposite of what I do. Come to think of it, so many of the valley poets write in that Beat style. I'm the odd formalist out. It's all good. We as poets have more in common than we do differences, and it's always good to experience and get to know work that's different from your own. It makes me consider different points of view as a poet, which adds depth and complexity to my own work. There is always something new to learn.

Anyway, I read new work. Fortunately for me, I've been writing a lot of new material these past couple of weeks, so I figured this venue, a little on the quiet and low key side, would be a great space to try out a new piece or two. In front of a big crowd, I would be too nervous to read new poems that I hadn't practiced. In fact, that Friday, I read drafts of work! Totally unlike me!

The coolest news of the evening was that Rossy, the organizer, invited me back next month to be the featured poet. What an honor! So be on the lookout for an official announcement about that, but it will be in early July (the 10th, I think?).

In other Katie news -- I ran a 10k! And you know what else? I came in 1st place in my age/gender division! Wowowowow. I am so unbelievably impressed with myself. And it wasn't some rinky dink race either; there were over 1000 participants, 44 in my age/gender division. So, that's pretty awesome. The race itself was special for a couple of reasons -- first, it was a run across the South Padre Island/Port Isabel Causeway, so the views were spectacular. Second, it's something I've always wanted to do ever since I first heard about this run, but I'd always been lazy or scared. And third, I ran the race with none other than my own Pops! He, too, kicked some serious ass. Above, that's me, crossing the finish line. B took this wonderful shot which I think pretty much sums up my current mood and state of mind. It's no exaggeration to say that I was smiling the entire run, despite the incline on the causeway, the hot, South Texas sun, and the lack of water stations. None of that mattered when I was looking out at the bay, high on endorphins.

For a while there when I first got sick, I didn't think I would be able to run again. Now, I'm more determined than ever to live life to the fullest for as long as I can. We were made to thrive!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Beyond Arts Magazine

Read the full article here ... just click on the June 2015 issue.
That's me! That's me! That's me! LOL.

It's so surreal to see my face on a magazine, to explore my work through the lens of a reader, to read about myself in someone else's words! But my goodness. I am so grateful to Alyssa for writing this article and for doing such a marvelous job with both the photos and the story itself. I especially like that she emphasized my feminism, because I think that's particularly cornerstone to my identity and my work. Such smartness.

Lately, life has been charmed, truly. I'm writing like a mad woman each day. I'm talking poetry with others. I'm reading. I'm thinking. I'm musing. I'm making crazy progress. I'm dreaming. Don't wake me.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Beautiful Scars Book Release

The erudite scholar, Ted E, Bear, contemplates a book of poetry

A few nights back, I had the pleasure of attending Edward Vidaurre's release of his latest (and third) poetry collection, Beautiful Scars. The event itself was a wonderful time -- a cozy coffee shop setting, inspiring and warm company, and of course, just damn good poetry. It was a laid back evening of celebration for Edward's amazing accomplishment and for our little poetry community as well.

I really admired the way Edward presented himself and his poetry. His reading was essentially a conversation with the audience. It felt like (and really was) like having coffee with a good friend. He talked about his past experiences with poetry and literature, his humble beginnings, and how his journey to becoming a writer was somewhat unconventional (but is it, really?). It was so enlightening and heartening to hear him talk about his work in such an accessible, honest, and down to earth way. His message was one that poetry is meant to be enjoyed by the people, and however it touches you, that's its true meaning. That's a beautiful sentiment.

Anyway, during the reading my back was bugging me something fierce, so I felt all awkward standing there while everyone else was sitting down. But whatever, I wasn't about to let my pains get in the way of enjoying my evening. Besides, I had to stay through until the end so I could buy my copy!

That evening, I came home exhausted, so I left the book on my coffee table. It wasn't until last night that I picked it up. And you know what? I read the entire book in one gulp. It was that good.

The book itself tells a rough narrative of the speaker's life experiences, the grit and dirt of life, love lost and rediscovered, the death and birth of loved ones, the losing and the finding of self. Some poems take place in East L.A, and we see homelessness, riots, poverty. Some take place in South Texas along the Rio Grande River and we see a richness of place that's unmistakable. My favorite poem in this collection is "Eloy, the Lion," which, interestingly enough, Edward also said at the reading it was his most difficult poem to write. It takes the reader on a journey of coming to terms with loss through grief and sadness, but it ends with Eloy, the speaker's step-father, entering heaven. Rubbing elbows with this poem are a series about the speaker's young daughter, so in a sense, Eloy lives on. 

The images are always surprising. One minute, the speaker is an owl, the next, he's an organ donor on the side of the road. There's haikus, there's spanglish, there's blues all intermixing to illustrate the universal human condition -- its capacity to love, its capacity to grieve. 

Anyway, if you can't tell, let me just spell it out. You should read this book. It's accessible, beautiful, and a journey through an emotional landscape like no other.

Congratulations, Edward Vidaurre, on another compelling collection of poetry. I am looking forward to hearing more from this authentic voice in American poetics.