“Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder”


I haven’t posted personal work in awhile and I figured I probably should, seeing as this is a poetry blog. Recently I’ve been running into a qualm with the idea of ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’, namely people believing that the sentiment holding true having some kind of say in whether or not love is true. I wrote a newer poem about the idea, and then realized that I had already written a poem about my feelings on the sentiment back in high school. So to parallel the two different points of my life, I have decided today to post the two poems one right after the other.

This first one was written when I was eighteen, so back in 2010:
distance

And this one was written this week, at the age of twenty-two in 2014:

distancesolves

What are your ideas on this well-used idiom?

Edit: I had to re-do the poems in graphic form as the post editor isn’t letting me put the correct line-breaks in the poems.

Review: A Must Read for Poetry Lovers and Those Looking for God


A five star review today from reader Janet Kalmadge- personal reviews like hers just absolutely brighten my day!

I started following Amber on a poetry site. Then I found her blog. She is so open about her life and writing projects. This book is an extension of that openness. Of what she is seeking and questioning. When it comes to God and religion, that is not always easy to do. Her poetry is beautiful, often raw. This book is filled with deep meaning, pondering and answers. I shall always treasure this book.

 

Thank you, Janet, for the kind words! I hope I’ll only be able to get better as I continue to write, and keep being able to give more of myself to my readers. I treasure your support.

Things I Do to Stay Sane: Enjoy Children at Mass


I don’t talk too much on my professional blogs about my faith, partially because I hope that my writing does it enough for me, partially because I run a separate Catholic blog for that kind of thing and partially because I like to hold my faith a little closer to the heart to prevent me from coming off as preachy and having a holier-than-thou attitude. But this particular practice of mine has been consuming my religious poetry lately, and so I feel the need to mention it.

I enjoy having children at mass.

And I’m not just talking about the adorable sleeping babies or the kids attempting to sing the Alleluia three keys off tune in the pews ahead of me who are otherwise very well behaved. While I appreciate the parenting prowess of the people watching those kinds of children, I feel like it is a bit too easy to love and appreciate the kinds of children who are subdued.

I’m talking about the shrieking children who get hoisted up on to Daddy’s shoulder to be taken out in the middle of the rite of transubstantiation. I’m talking about the kid who pushes his little brother halfway down the pew. The baby who I notice attempting to steal my keys while I’m otherwise occupied, holding hands with his mother during the Our Father. The siblings who line up their toddler devotional books on the seat and then push them around making such loud train noises that I can barely make out the deacon listing off the Prayers of the Faithful. I’m talking about the troublemaker kids who make mass seem, for the most part, like it’s more trouble than it’s worth. The ones who take the silence of sacredness and rip it to shreds with no remorse, biting on Bibles with a giggle and a twinkle in their eyes.

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Don’t get me wrong, it’s distracting. I don’t like being distracted at Mass- I’m the kind of churchgoer who prays a rosary beforehand and gets irked when the choir begins practicing early and interrupts the flow of my thoughts. This isn’t about inherently enjoying the presence of rowdy children at mass- this is about consciously choosing to do so.

 

I especially was brought to think about this a couple of Sundays ago at a morning mass at the Spirit of Christ parish. I sat next to a lovely woman in a beautiful chapel veil. She had with her her husband and three small children- the boys seemed both younger than four, and the daughter was still in the newborn stage. The daughter slept in her father’s arms the entire service- he even propped her up as if on a table when we knelt to pray, which was probably the single most precious thing I have ever seen- but the boys were an entirely different story. They sang out, they screamed, they laughed- they pushed each other, they tried to take the toys of the girls in front of us, they sat behind me in my spot when I stood for prayers; one of them tried to stay behind during the Eucharistic procession and ended up barreling through a couple people to get back next to them. The mother dealt with this with the patience of a saint- she took interest in what they were interested in, spoke in a soft, even tone to them and tried her best to give as much of her attention to the mass as she could spare form keeping her boys in line. The presence of those boys would normally have grated on every one of my last nerves. I don’t personally like when things are out of turn, ever, and boy were these little blonde angels out of turn.
Instead of let myself fill up with anger and indignation, however, I cleared my heart and quieted it. I thanked God for the existence of such lively, creative children. (Which turned out to be ironic because the homily for that day was about giving God thanks ahead of time, so that was kind of a smack in the chest for me). Instead of becoming irritated, I felt myself being filled from the outside in with a warm, joyous glow. I can’t really fully explain the kind of love that I felt then- it started with those boys and then just kind of radiated in and out, washing over all of that excess noise that comes with being at a crowded mass. It’s not as if I couldn’t hear all of those distractions out there any more- far from it. I was aware of them, and I was grateful for them. I was happy for the signs of abundant life there in that church, echoing and feeding into the Eucharistic mystery. I wanted to hug that mother and thank her for bringing her children. When it came time to say the Our Father, the youngest boy gripped my hand hard and stared up at me with the most calm blue eyes I’ve ever seen and smiled. For once, I wasn’t afraid to look at someone’s eyes. It was all the acknowledgement I needed. I left mass that day refreshed and energized in the middle of feeling lost and afraid regarding my impending thesis deadlines, graduation in a month and a half, and eternally uncertain writing career.

When we force ourselves to look at something that grinds on us just a little differently, its amazing how completely different we receive that experience. Just by making myself give thanks for the noisiness at church rather than grumbling about it, I was open to the grace that comes in the midst of and-paradoxically- through chaotic living. I don’t believe that you need to be particularly faithful to do this, though prayer certainly helped me, and I am certain that the love I felt at that mass was a direct gift from God.

But for those of us who aren’t religious or are looking for more of this kind of calming experience in a more secular kind of way, I would venture to say- find yourself a new perspective. Meditate on it. Write it into a poem (as I often do), a journal entry; a short story. Go on a walk and speak a new way of living to yourself, and see how amazing it is when that new way of living simply opens up through the act of willing yourself to see it.

So see your job as a live-giving experience. Assume the best out of the actions of people you consider your enemies. Seek for the love in the annoying things your siblings do. Take those rejection letters as abundant opportunities to make yourself a better writer. Be thankful for readings and signings with low attendance, for the room for growth and humility they provide. Forgive your lover for the small things, try to see their hobbies through their eyes. Enjoy the mischievous children at Church. The benefits are incredible.

Things I Do To Stay Sane: Join a Poetry Club


It’s really easy to fall into the trap of believing that writing, of any kind, is a job that is purely done on one’s own. I could go for several days talking about the hows and whys of that not being true- both in positive ways and negative ways-but for right now I want to focus on writing groups.

When I started this whole writing thing as kind of a hobby back in high school (lord, I’m getting old) I really thought that I didn’t need anyone else’s opinion on my writing. I knew what was best for my style, I knew what was the best thing for me to talk about and I knew what sounded good or not. Creative Writing classes existed purely so that I had somewhere where people were forced to sit and listen to my genius, but I didn’t have any obligation to listen to anyone else.

Since then I’ve realized that that kind of attitude is not only idiotically self-absorbed, but it was also toxic to my art. My poetry was less poetry than it was creatively spaced pity partying spanning several relatively expensive art journals. I once heard in a writing workshop for short stories by Jim Daniels that the problem with a lot of amateur artists is that they spend most of their time telling people how they feel instead of showing how they feel. And they never learn how to, because they refuse to admit that there is anything to being relatable beyond laying bare their own feelings. They never learn to take into account the places from which their audience will be coming. What kind of feelings will scare them. What kind of things they don’t want to admit to. The things that are easy to say, but shouldn’t- and the things that should be easy to say, but aren’t.

Being part of a writing community can help ease one’s own ignorance on that front. There’s nothing better than sitting at my university’s poetry club, listening to other students read their pieces for a half-hour on a prompt given not even an hour before that. Some of it is downright awful, and some of it is heart-breakingly beautiful. Both kinds of pieces can come from just one poet, depending on the week. And both kinds of pieces gets me, as a poet-listener, just that much closer to understanding who an audience is. What kind of particulars I can point out to. What kinds of beauty I forgot to pay attention to today. What kind of hurt or joy I forgot certain kinds of feelings could bring. Listening to the writings of others in a non-professional setting (I’ll talk about the benefits of a more professional setting later on) is more beneficial than I could have ever imagined.

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You see, I only thought that this kind of inspiration could come by sitting in a room with a bunch of poets who all want to be published and make names for themselves with their art. The kind who compete and submit and go through the same agonizing process of waiting and being rejected, or the unexpected euphoria of acceptance, as I do in my own journey. But the thing is… getting better at your poetry, and getting better at being yourself, isn’t achieved by surrounding yourself only with the kinds of people who do the exact same thing that you do. It’s surrounding yourself with the people who will make you better, regardless of how closely they fit to your own ideals.

In my poetry club, the one I’m proud to call home, we’re a pretty similar in that we are all students at the same university. But at the same time, we are commuters, off-campus livers, dorm dwellers and student life employees. We are Math, English, Science, Philosophy, Nursing and Religion Majors.  Some of us write poetry to keep from killing ourselves. Some of us write poetry because we are so enraptured with life that it spills out of every pore. Some of us want to become professional. Are professional. Some of us will never read poems aloud at meetings. Some of us write in diaries. Some of us write on our computers. Some of us Slam. Some of us rhyme. And we’re never better than when we are together, bouncing our souls off each other as easy as laughter.

So if you’re stuck in your writing, stuck in your formation as a poet- join a writing group. If you’re still a student, chances are there are one or two at your high school or campus. If you’re not, there are online places such as Meetup that will help you find a group near you who will fit your specific needs. Can’t do in person things? Try a site like Webook or Wattpad that are online critiquing communities. Start a collaborative Tumblr or password-protected WordPress blog. Heck, even a Wix or Webs site.

Just don’t ever think you have to do this alone. That you even can do this alone. It may seem like a waste of time, or even an added stress. But keep at it- keep going, keep sharing, keep opening yourself to what other people have to say. You just might find that it helps you become better at being able to say things yourself.

Getting Back on the Wagon


I just wanted to update from my last little post of despair. Since then, I have submitted to three new journals with poetry, plus a forth with a short story. I also got an invitation from a friend to go to an Open Mic the first week of September, and with the new school semester starting up, I also have a whole new semester with my university poetry club for encouragement and creative juice-stirring. So, suffice to say, I’m looking much more positive today than I was three or so days ago! Shows how quickly moods can flip, as a writer, from defeat to perseverance and hope! (Which, if I’m going to be honest, I really stay mostly in the latter state of mind, what will all of the great support I have from fans, family and friends!)

Four Star Review for ‘Drunk Dialing the Divine’


A short, yet positive review from Cecilia Lester, a participant in last month’s Book Blog Tour, titled ‘Avant Garde Poetry from a Young Poet’:

 

Amber Koneval has written a collection of avant garde poetry. The poems are in the free-verse style. Her style is unique to me. She goes deep with her  thoughts with each of her poems speaking of God as she sees Him. Her choice of title speaks of the times a person will call out to God and not know why he or she does it. On the back cover, she writes: “Drunk Dialing the Divine is an attempt to capture a glimmer of the emotional struggle of the deeply faithful. Though each poem begins in a negative space, they resist both the angry and the naively optimistic ending—instead finding a ray of hope in the maxim ‘Things are because God is.’”

Thank you for the feedback, Cecilia!

 

Speaking of feedback, today I also received an e-mail from Janet Kalmadge, one of the winners of the June Book Blog Tour giveaway. She has told me that “it really is wonderful” and that my “writing is captivating”; due to her Catholic upbringing, it also “touches a chord”. Thank you for the encouragement, Janet! It means a lot to someone as new to the industry as me to see people who appreciate the collection, and it gives me a real sense that I am truly on the path I am meant to be on!

If you ever feel like dropping me a line to tell me personally what you think of my poetry, whether you want to enthuse or critique it, feel free to e-mail me here. I’m never too busy to talk about poetry!

Book Blog Tour: Interview, Part Two


And here is the second half of my interview, and two poems, over at the Wonderings of One Person, where I talk about upcoming projects and current works.

Don’t forget, you can enter to win a signed copy of Drunk Dialing the Divine here simply by liking me on Facebook, following me on Twitter, and tweeting about the giveaway!

‘Where to Find Me’ Undergoing Edits


Under the suggestions of one of my professors, I’m editing my ‘Where to Find Me’ page  to make it more easily understandable. To be honest, when I started this blog, I had no idea how much I would actually be able to get published. Only a year into my ‘serious’ career, however, I already have published more than sixty poems and a full collection (including those random pieces I published in high school and whatnot). I’ll be  going through and fixing it more over the next couple of days to make it the most accurate record of my publications available, and will be adding links to the websites of publications that I have been included in. I’ve also been editing my website to make it much more user friendly- if you want to take a look at it and leave me some kind of comments or criticism regarding the changes, or regarding changes you would like to see made to the website, that would be wonderful.

I’m going to be finishing up this current semester of college here in the next week, and I look forward to being much more active on this blog in regards to posting and keeping you all updated on how we will proceed regarding how we will be kicking off the June book-blog tour, planned readings and workshops, and if I will ever actually get around to compiling my next manuscript like I keep promising that I will! (I just finished writing my second novel, so I actually will have more time for other writing projects this summer. I don’t think I was fully aware of how time-consuming each different project can be, if you’re trying to complete more than one!)