submitting on others’ behalf

Mindful of this recent conversation, Whale Sound is now accepting submissions sent in on others’ behalf. Text added to submissions blurb:

Whale Sound also welcomes submissions on behalf of others, so feel free to propose work by other poets. I do need the author-poet’s permission to use his or her work, though, so please also include relevant contact info and I will reach out to get that permission if the work is accepted.


the forestry student

For Dave Bonta‘s Festival of the Trees for September. This Tree Hugger Central piece may be part of the ongoing tree poem series (two more forthcoming in Salt River Review and another in MiPoesias – yay!), but maybe not, because it’s not about a particular tree.

the forestry student

there is congress in the foothills
the high country in spring
stands open like temple doors and speaks
in clean ways

Douglas fir and Ponderosa
pine expound here
heart-sharp arguments
blue spruce and mountain hemlock
knife-scented claims

a girl alone walks the pine forest
her familiars at home
are mahogany and teak forest
banyan and jacaranda

in crisp noon she tells
their distant stories
feels the Colorado mountain rooted
beneath her feet and listens
to the strangers

these high copper columns mantled
with living bristle with
green-silver needle
call for deep listening
and hearing speech

a song of home rises
off the bright alpine meadow
and a wind-woman in bells drifts through

she makes wheedling arguments in
wind-ridden voice but the girl
shakes her head
and walks on

naming each new tree
saluting it
with all the nerves in her hands
with all the meaning in her voice

hi-tech new Whale Sound feed – with audio player!

I changed (was obliged to change by glitches in the original, are you listening, Hipcast?) the online audio storage mechanism for Whale Sound and now I see that the Whale Sound feed suddenly features a nifty audio player for each post! So you don’t have to go to the actual site to hear the poems. This wasn’t happening with my previous audio host.

I welcome it, even though it means less actual visits to Whale Sound itself. I’ve long read all the blogs I read through Google reader and get aggravated when the content is formulated in a way that forces me (if I’m interested enough) to leave the reader and click through to the blog itself.

Facebook and getting your poems heard

Dear Poet X: Thank you for your submission to Whale Sound. I’d like very much to read your poem for the site and will begin to work with it soon.

If you are on Facebook, it would be great to have you friend me there — that way I can tag you when your piece is up. I have observed that easily 85 percent of the referral hits received by Whale Sound are from Facebook – either via tagged Facebook posts or via its Networked Blogs application.

If you prefer to limit your Facebook friends, you could also just ‘like’ the Whale Sound Facebook page, since I also tag Whale Sound poets there once their poems are posted.

Of course, you may not be on Facebook at all, in which case, just ignore everything I just said!

please contact my agent

Whale Sound: Dear Poet X – I am writing to ask your permission to interpret your poems ‘X’ and ‘Y’, publicly available at links Z and Q, for the audio anthology I am building at Whale Sound.

Poet X: Please contact my agent, who handles all these types of requests.

Whale Sound: Dear Poet X’s Agent, I have been referred to you by Poet X re: the request below. Would you let me know if this might work?

Poet X’s Agent: Dear Whale Sound – Are you able to pay for this permission? I can give you information regarding a fee for a grant of online audio rights if you are.

Whale Sound: Many thanks for getting back to me. No – this whole project is just gratis pro-poetry stuff. I am not paying or receiving payment for anything associated with it. Does this mean I can’t use the poems?

Poet X’s Agent: Unfortunately, Poet X is uncomfortable with the idea of their poetry appearing online in audio form. Thank you nevertheless for your query and good luck with your anthology.

I’ll be your poetry agent, if you’ll be mine

Dana said on Facebook (no idea how to link to Facebook posts):

Rather than clamoring to get our own work into journals, we should clamor to get other people’s work published.

I responded:

I totally agree with you, Dana. I’ve been thinking about this very issue recently. I’m not sure we are the best submitters of our own work, for a variety of reasons.

Why aren’t we the best submitters of our own work? Because it’s hard for us to see past it. We easily become overly-enamored and overly-identified (or, sometimes, overly-disenchanted) with our own work and therefore don’t always assess the publication we are targeting as a home for our work realistically. Because we are stressed, overwhelmed by ever-burgeoning possibility, blindly optimistic, or just humbly (and crazily) always hoping for the best, letting the chips fall where they may, since one never knows, after all… etc, etc.

I submit that it’s much easier for a third, more detached, person to accurately gauge the connection (or lack thereof) between a submission and the target journal. Of course, you would want that third person to have the skills & knowledge necessary for such gauging, and you would want them to have a demonstrated understanding of what you are trying to accomplish with your work. But find all that, and I predict that your publication rate will soar, if someone else starts submitting on your behalf.

This is what poets should do: poets should pair up. You submit my stuff and I submit yours. I steep myself in your stuff, and you steep yourself in mine. I scour the field with your stuff in mind, and you, vice versa. At the end of 3-6 months, we compare notes. What’s the publication score? Is this partnership working for both of us, or working at all? Should we continue or call it quits?

400 years of KJV


Challenges to the authority of the King James Version are a proper part of the critical scrutiny to which all texts should be submitted in an open society. What is remarkable is that such scrutiny does not subvert the affection that English speakers have for the KJV. The principal reason for this affection, even for readers who use other translations, is the aural quality of its prose. Modern translations are normally intended for private study, and so are usually read silently. The KJV was, as its title-page pronounces, ‘appointed to be read in churches’: it was a translation intended to be read aloud and understood, and so it was in countless churches, chapels and households. Its prose has a pulse that makes it easy to read aloud and easy to memorize. When Adam ungallantly blames Eve for the fall, he says (in the KJV) ‘she gave me of the fruit and I did eat’ (Genesis 3: 12); he uses ten simple monosyllabic words arranged in a line of iambic pentameter, which was the verse form used by Shakespeare. This is prose with the qualities of poetry, and it would be hard to think of any modern translation of which that can be said.

submit to Whale Sound!

Whale Sound is accepting submissions.

I’m still out there looking for stuff I want to read and definitely won’t stop with that, but I scared myself yesterday thinking that if I kept Whale Sound to an invitation-only format I might build a fuzzy comfort zone and stop pushing the edges of anything. There are poems out there that are beyond me, and scary, and that I probably would never choose if left to myself, even though their name really is Whale Sound and Whale Sound needs them to balloon and prance about and be capable of anything.

So send me your poems!

seeing sound

This is the first line of Chrissy Klocek-Lim‘s Boulder Caves, now up as a recording at Whale Sound. Isn’t it beautiful?!

I think so! Little by little I’m getting better at understanding where a recording is just by looking at the visual track as presented by the Audacity software I am using. The pauses, the emphases, the endings, the overall sound quality, and what needs fixing. And the ways Audacity’s editing tools and capabilities can be creatively used in one way or another. For example, if I have two different ideas about how to read a particular segment of a poem, rather than record the whole thing through twice, I have learned I can simply repeat the segment in question during a single recording, each version with its own twist, then decide during playback which way is better. If the recording is otherwise final, I just have to delete the non-preferred segment and recheck timing/pauses in the revision.

It takes a long while and many recorded versions to get to ‘final,’ though. And I find that I’m getting pickier, the more I understand the software and manage to improve recording quality.

I only have one metaphysical/strategic problem with the otherwise excellent Audacity software.

Once you get to the point of exporting your project file as an MP3 file (the sine qua non of web dissemination, it appears) Audacity has upward of 90 ways to categorize your “music” file. Take your pick in 90 different ways – blues, grunge, jazz, country, rock, techno. I mean, truly – you name it, ad the most nauseous musical nauseum.

It seems that those of us who are trafficking in mere poetry, however, have almost NO choice but a pathetic “Other” with which to categorize our MP3 export.

Really?? Not even a simple ‘Poetry’?

Are you listening, Audacity?!

All Whale Sound process notes

‘Are you a text addict?’ continued (Whale Sound notes)

I once took a course (why? where? God knows) that posited a global cultural continuum. At one end of the scale is attention to time, said the course, and at the other end, attention to personal relationships. So that the closer a society is to the ‘prioritizing time’ end of the scale (Germany and the U.S., hello!) the further it necessarily is from the ‘prioritizing personal relationships’ end of the scale. In general, claimed the course content, ‘developed world’ cultures tend to fall closer to the ‘time is cooler’ end of the scale and ‘developing world’ cultures to fall closer to the ‘personal relationships are cooler’ end of the scale.

I remember finding it all kinds of interesting, primarily, I think, because I never would have thought of time and personal relationships as dueling opposites.

And so, so what?

Well, that was a roundabout way of explaining why I explicitly list the exact timing of each recording on Whale Sound right up front in each post, so that everyone knows precisely how much of their lives they will give up (and therefore make unavailable for personal relationships…) if they click on the play button and listen all the way through.

The Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day program (bless its cotton socks) has this vital timing information embedded in the image of the audio player that comes across my feed. (You have to click on the player to activate the actual time figures, but hey, I can live with that.) You Tube and Vimeo are good this way too.

Unfortunately, Whale Sound‘s audio-hosting service (Hipcast, are you listening?) only provides an audio player that tells you how long you have been listening, not how much longer you still have to listen.

As a text addict, what I can’t live with, in the absence of accompanying text that gives me that explicit info, is NOT KNOWING how long I will have to sit and listen. How much of my life am I being required to give up to this exercise?

Like those deadly power point presentations you get in office meetings that don’t tell you how many slides there are in the whole presentation (it’s easy! You can get every slide to tell you exactly what number it is out of exactly how many slides, people!), and so you have no idea whether there will be 10 or 1,000 slides. And in double-quick time you stop listening at all and start looking for ways to ESCAPE because this deadly endless black-hole presentation is DEVOURING YOUR LIFE (and ruining your personal relationships) and you will never get the devoured bits back (or want them back, frankly, because by the time they are dug out of the Power Point Maw they will be chewed-up and shrill and bitter and hateful).

All Whale Sound process notes.

draft recordings & gender issues (Whale Sound notes)

Observation 1
Making recordings of poems is not unlike like writing poems. What strikes you as a brilliant vocal/aural insight at 11pm on Wednesday can very easily strike you as so much vocal/aural drivel at 8am on Thursday.

It’s best to consider even what seems like your best recording as a draft and let it sit for a while – at least overnight – before posting.

Observation 2
I wish I hadn’t noticed but I have. At least two thirds of the poems I mark as potential Whale Sound material during my internet poetry trawling are poems by women. Does this matter? And if so, in what way?

I also notice that 75% of the poets on my current ‘have not yet responded to my request to use their poem for Whale Sound’ list are men. What’s up with that?

Whale Sound notes

Dear Poet X: Thanks for agreeing to let me read your poem for Whale Sound and for sharing the following reservation:

I guess my only concern is that I’d want to confirm that they can’t be downloaded or saved, and recirculated in a way that it might get lost that it is your delivery–your voice–and not mine. There’s nothing explicit in the audio (i.e. an ID “…as read by Nic Sebastian…”) to indicate that.

I appreciate your bringing this aspect of things to my attention. The intent behind Whale Sound is to celebrate non-Nic Sebastian poems, and I have been trying to be as self-effacing as possible in pursuit of that goal. I agree, though, that this could lead to confusion – especially when I read poems by female authors – so am changing two things: 1) “read by Nic Sebastian” will now appear in small print below the title of each post, so that readers understand that the reader is separate from the author and 2) I will begin to actually say “read by Nic Sebastian” as part of the audio recording for each post.

audio training – down with the page

I have to admit I’m not good at hearing poems. I prefer to see them.

If I am presented with poem audio, I immediately look around for poem text.


I’ve subscribed to Poetry Foundation’s Poem Of The Day feed, which just sends you a little audio player to click a play button on and that’s all you get (unless you want to click all the way back to the Poetry Foundation website and hunt down that text, goshdarn it.)

It’s not easy, and each time I am well aware that there’s a monumental mental cheat going on, whereby my traitor head transcribes what my ears hear into something text-like that my inner eye can still ‘see.’

We’ll get there, though.

how do you feel about self-promotion, o poet?

Rob Mackenzie is asking over at the Magma blog. Interesting comments thread – mostly UK poets, but the angst and challenges seem to be identical to those faced by US poets.

I agree with the commenter who said (in so many words) that we need to stop trying to pretend that poetry is a commercially viable proposition. It just isn’t. But that inaccurate paradigm dictates so much of the discussion about poetry publication and poetry promotion.

Whale Sound notes

Dear Poet X: Thanks for clarifying the pronunciation of your name for the recording of your piece. I will be posting your piece tomorrow, I’ll let you know when it’s up. I usually tag Whale Sound poets on Facebook as soon as their piece is posted, but you’re not on Facebook! How can you not be on Facebook! All poets are on Facebook!

Dear Poet X: You ask how I found your poem. I found it by browsing online journals and assiduously following links on blogs I read. One of the things I love about this project is that it sends me out to actively trawl for poems. I’m reading much, much more poetry online than I ever was before, and with a careful and focused attention. If I find something I like, I Google the author for other samples of their work and follow those links on, and on. It’s a terrific adventure!

Dear Poet X – Once again, thank you for giving me the opportunity to interpret your work. I was happy with the effort and attention I put into my reading of your work, but acknowledge that Whale Sound is still feeling its way with recording technology, and that the sound quality of that particular recording could have been better. I hope you have noted an improvement in sound on the site since then – it seems that every day I learn some new sound-quality-boosting trick, and I hope it is showing in the postings.

Dear Poet X: Would you mind terribly awfully much if I switched your poem? I’m learning new things through this project every day, and one is how very far from the written page the “right” (according to me!) vocalization lies. So, now I know to sit with, read aloud and practice-record any poem *before* I ask to use it. I still love your Poem X, but honestly hadn’t worked it enough with my voice before asking you if I could use it, and in the end, just couldn’t make it “right” as a Whale Sound recording.