Black Lawrence Press

Poetry Consultations with Charlotte Pence

During the month of October, Black Lawrence Press poets Claudia Cortese, Lisa Fay Coutley, and Charlotte Pence are on board to critique poetry. They are accepting individual poems, folios, chapbooks, and full-length collections. The fees and parameters for page lengths for each of these categories is as follows:

  • Individual poems, up to two pages in length, $10
  • Folios, up to 7 pages in length, not to include more than five poems, $30
  • Chapbooks, 16-40 pages in length, $150
  • Full-length collections, 45-80 pages in length, $250

All manuscripts should be formatted in twelve point font.

The deadline to submit work for this consultation program is October 31. The consultants will complete their work and respond to all participants by November 30.

Space in this program is limited, so please be sure to submit your work soon!

Note: Please do not send manuscripts that promote hate speech, are intended to harass or bully a specific person or group of persons, or include glorified sexual violence.

Click Here to Submit

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.

 

By Charlotte Pence

Black Lawrence Press accepts submissions and payment of the entry fee exclusively through our online submission manager, Submittable. We are not able to accept submissions via email or postal mail.

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Upcoming Consultations

November — NaNoWriMo! We’ll have a great crew of experienced fiction writers on hand to critique your-in progress novel.

 

Charlotte Pence

Charlotte Pence’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. New poems have recently been published in Epoch, Harvard Review, and The Southern Review.  

Pence Author page