The Prickly Pear Poetry Project on Publishing
By Tammi J Truax
One of the beautiful things about the work that is generated in Prickly Pear Poetry Workshops, and hopefully after participants attend them, is that it is the rawest of writing. By that I mean that the audience at the moment this kind work is created is irrelevant.
My literary partner, poet Kyle Potvin and I founded the Prickly Pear Poetry Project (P4) simply to share the profound healing power of reading and writing poetry when one is at any stage of processing the cancer experience, which is always in many different ways, life changing. Often traumatic ways; physically, emotionally, even financially. We had both experienced that pain and witnessed others experiencing it, and we had found solace in poetry that quite literally helped us endure it. It was something we couldn’t keep to ourselves and we designed a writing workshop that we team-teach at oncology and community centers and churches. We teach participants from diverse backgrounds how to tap into their experiences and release them onto the page. We share the published work of well-known poets such as Jane Kenyon and Donald Hall as well as our own. We prompt them to produce work that we often share in the group in a work-shopping atmosphere that is always filled with light even when going to the darkest places. We strive to equip them with the tools to continue doing this on their own. Many do. This kind of writing is often a form of journaling; a daily writing meditation exercise. As every seasoned writer knows these first drafts often become significant pieces when reworked at a later date, after both the writer and the writing have had some time stew.
It is later in their journeys that our workshop participants may want to market their work, as both Kyle and I have done in our professional lives. This is best done, I believe, when one is just entering the grisly world of publication, by submitting to journals. Just one example but perhaps my favorite would be the Bellevue Literary Review, … “a forum for illuminating humanity and human experience. The BLR is published by the Department of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. We invite submissions of previously unpublished works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that touch upon relationships to the human body, illness, health and healing. We encourage creative interpretation of these themes.”
Kyle’s work has been featured in The New York Times, The Huffington Post and even on the BBC. Sometimes a call for submissions is put out for anthologies on the themes of cancer or medicine. Writers can find out about these calls through social media forums such as the P4 Face book page where they are often posted. Over the years Kyle and I have both had poems published in books that way. One can also quietly share their work with the world on the world wide web in a number of different ways. It is generally only at a later date in ones’ writing career that he or she may have a polished manuscript of poems they seek to publish as a book. That by no means needs to be the goal. The value of your creation is in the creating of it. But if you seek to share it, by all means, do so. There is most likely someone somewhere who might find solace in it.
Tammi Truax is a freelance writer, newspaper columnist, and museum docent living in Portsmouth, NH, where she also raises organic vegetables, flowers and children. She also affiliated professionally with the Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program, Portsmouth Community Radio, and The NH Humanities Council. She is co-founder of the Prickly Pear Poetry Project: Processing the Cancer Experience Through Poetry. When not reading and writing she can be found in a local coffee shop, yoga studio, or hiking trail. Say hi if you see her. Her ‘other website is www.aintiawriter.blogspot.com T4tu@comcast.net