EveryMom, or How—and Why—to Support Wisconsin Writers
by Wendy Vardaman & Sarah Busse
The Milwaukee Journal, Sept. 26, 1920, on the founding of American Poetry Magazine
How does a well-meaning writer—say poet, say woman, say unemployed, say Wisconsin, say middle-aged—support the writing of not just herself, but also her friends/ children/ acquaintances & others she feels friendly toward? Last November Wendy was a panelist for “How to Support Wisconsin Writers” at the Wisconsin Book Festival. Instructions were loose, the four participants a small sample of state writers from genres covered under the Council for Wisconsin Writers’ Awards, which actually doesn’t, now that we think of it, include all writing, and which (by coincidence?) as it turned out meant mostly poets, though others were invited. We give a lot of thought to “how to support Wisconsin writers” at Verse Wisconsin and Cowfeather Press, small projects that exist to do just that. Wendy arrived with a page of preliminary thoughts, sorted and prioritized. Call her over-prepared.
It had occurred to her that panelists might mean different things by “support” or even “Wisconsin writer.” She was eager to hear what others had to say, panel and audience, but the discussion kept veering into anecdotes about writing rather than ideas about how to support writers, what it means to support writers, or maybe even more importantly, how to identify the problems of writers whom we don’t already know, then try to support their work. It’s the feeling of unfinished business that prompted this essay. As always, we invite response from you about what and who supports your writing, as well as how you support other writers.
For the MFA-holding, teaching poet in the group, support meant bringing a willing audience in front of a credentialed poet. Others supported his writing when they provided an audience for him, and he supported others, and advised us to support each other, by doing the same.
So here is the first clear, and relatively easy, idea: Start a reading series. When your friends come to town or nearby, they’ll come read in the series, and vice versa. There’s lots to like about this idea. It provides an incentive for poets outside your town to visit; it gives you outlets to read when you do a book tour; you’ll encounter new writers and new ideas, assuming that your friends have different ideas and sometimes bring their friends whom you haven’t yet met. And if you have a few people read at the same time (and their friends aren’t identical), then bringing them together will also bring their audiences together, always a bonus with poetry, since audience tends to be small and a little inbred. Including different kinds of writing—fiction or non-fiction—might draw more people to a series. Probably fewer people than you think will actually buy your book, but if you can at least swap yours with a few other poets, that’s good, yes? This is pretty much how lots of poetry series work, whether you’re organizing them in Door County or Sheboygan or Chicago.
Our concern about starting a new series is that, at least in a place like Madison, they seem to contribute, just by virtue of their proliferation, to walling-off poets in groups rather than bringing them together, if for no other reason than that events get scheduled at the same time, making us choose among readings or just avoid the whole problem and burrow in at home, writing or scrolling through Facebook. Or people do similar things, sometimes at oddly similar times. In March, Madison offered three different groups—the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, the Bridge Series, and the Monsters of Poetry—at three different art venues—the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the Chazen at the UW, and a private gallery—that featured a reading of a large group of poets responding to works of art. It’s simultaneously exhilarating, dizzying, and perhaps a little unbelievable, to imagine that there’s this much demand for ekphrastic poetry, even in Madison.
Before you start a series you might think about what’s already there, who your audience will be, and how you might expand that audience, as well as about readers and how to expand the pool. It would be good to talk to people—friends and not friends, poets and others—about that. And look around you. What’s missing? Who is missing? What’s needed? A lot of reading audiences tend to be fairly homogeneous, whatever their stripe. Exceptional series deliberately invite different kinds of poets/writers/other artists together: those inside and outside universities; people from different cities; people traveling through paired with local poets; those with different aesthetics and audiences, of different backgrounds and ages. Crosshatxh, a series that existed for just one year in Madison, paired page poets with spoken word artists, Madison & Milwaukee, university poets & those with other kinds of day jobs/no jobs; the living & the dead. Wendy learned as much or more going to a handful of those readings, organized by Laurel Bastian, as any other reading series she’s ever frequented. (Sarah, unfortunately, was home momming during this series—which is probably another essay. Or maybe not—anybody ever consider how to provide reading/ listening opportunities for parents of young children with limited childcare? Now there's an unmet need!)
Several series in Wisconsin regularly bring poetry about visual art, as well as poets and visual artists, together: the previously mentioned Bridge at UW’s Chazen Museum and the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; Pewaukee Arts Council in Oconomowoc; Vision and the Word in Eau Claire, just to name a few. Others bring together music/poetry/spoken word, like First Wave’s Just Bust monthly open mic in Madison, and the always creative Bonk! in Racine. The Encyclopedia Show in Chicago (run by Shanny Jean Manny and Robbie Q.) ups the ante without being a slam, styling itself as a fun and entertaining poetry variety show with a theme, artists/writers/poets of various persuasions who write to an assignment, and comedy.
Questions of who gets invited, how and from where/ what groups, whether there is an open mic component, and whether there will be other kinds of writers/ musicians/ artists/ actors are all important to establishing a reading series, as are questions about why do we read? How often? When—and for whom? And are we ready? It might be better to read out loud in our writing groups more, less often (but better-prepared) for an audience. Maybe it’s time to reintroduce the art soiree? The hootenanny? Little groups that jam together—poetry/ art/ music/ whatever—have a few drinks and understand that they’re just messing around for fun/ a little practice and to get the creative wheels turning.
Beyond the reading series, the open mic, the opportunity to slam or jam or be a ham, though, there’s a LOT, besides pen and paper, that poets need or might use or may not even know they want in order to write better and connect with other poet-readers. For all the thinking we’ve done around these issues at Verse Wisconsin, we haven’t spent much time talking about why we should all want to find ways to support one another. Maybe it seemed so obvious to us that it was a good idea, we never felt the need to explain. But let’s step back a moment and break it down. Wisconsin is a largely rural state. The more distant we are from cities or universities and the infrastructure that they create, the more we need to create / maintain/ locate this infrastructure ourselves: for learning, critiquing, publishing, connecting with new ideas and groups, and expanding the public space for poetry, by which we mean the amount of attention and resources our culture has for the poetic word in its spoken, visual, performed or written forms.
In the professional poet model, all of these things are provided by the university system: by different academic departments, professors of creative writing, professional organizations founded by and for professors, university-based journals and presses, visiting writers, reading series, social events at which to meet distinguished visitors, travel and research grants. And yes, universities are wonderful, and a limited number of these things are publicly accessible, like readings and conferences, if you can learn of them and get to them, and if you can afford to pay for them yourself. Wherever there is an institution with any sort of expectation of longevity involved, however, we also have to look sharply at who these programs support, and why. A university program is naturally going to be interested first in supporting the writers on the faculty, or coming up through the ranks as students. Their sense of community will be filtered through their own definitions and their very real need to prove, again and again, their worth to the larger university community—funders and stakeholders, private and public—in order to survive. When seen in this light, it becomes clear that university poets are strangely not free to offer equal support or attention—even when and where they might desire to—to poets outside of their own institutional definitions.
Even among credentialed poets and writers, those who emerge from a decent program with an MFA, however, there are far fewer jobs than qualified teacher-writers. More and more of us are otherwise- or under- or un-employed, and more of us will be so in the near future. And even if you do get that job, even if it lasts, even if it’s tenure track and you succeed in acquiring a permanent position, the reality is that this system is changing (and perhaps disappearing) with about the same rapidity as the New Jersey shoreline. Sure, some clever scholar-authors at some universities will protect their low-lying disciplines with the hydraulic pumps of the Digital Humanities (if they can figure out they operate). Some territory may be saved entirely by quick thinking and fortification. Some areas may not be as threatened as others. But some humanities disciplines and programs at some universities are going underwater, and some folks are going to be stranded. The model of the best/ brightest/ most talented poets being nurtured and sustained by a network of good, well-paying jobs that offer enough flexibility to write year-round and even require that for promotion, is just not one that’s going to endure, anymore than, apparently, Lower Manhattan.
But you knew that already. You know what stranded looks like. You may have been stranded a time or two yourself or seen it happen to a poet friend. And so it’s really you we’re looking at when we think about how do we (and by that we mean you and us) support this writing—yours and ours—and the writing of those who may not be lucky enough to have access to a computer or to this community of poets or to the time to figure any of this out, let alone access to a whole university network. It isn’t a new question. Women and people of color and working class and other marginalized writers have always had less (often far less) than the best access to top-tier support systems, educations, jobs, publishing opportunities, or an “even” playing field. And sometimes they come up with work-arounds to their lack of access and resources. Creative ways to make do and do more with less.
VW recently learned about a Milwaukee editor, Clara Catherine Prince (aka Mrs. Carl Homann), who in 1919 founded American Poetry Magazine, the second oldest poetry magazine in the country. On its 10th anniversary in 1929, the Milwaukee Journal congratulated Prince, calling her magazine “one of the two little magazines of verse that seem blessed with longevity. The other is Harriet Monroe’s Poetry: A Magazine of Verse….[American Poetry Magazine] has an imposing list of patrons and patronesses including Hamlin Garland, Edwin Markham, the Viscountess Astor and the Princess Troubetzkoy”(MSJ 11-16-1929). On its 20th anniversary, Prince was again lauded by the local paper: her publication was the “official organ of the American Literary association, an organization which has grown from ten Milwaukee poets to a group of 500 poets and writers”(MSJ 9-19-1939). Prince was presented “the Golden Scroll award for 1937, by the National Poetry Center, Rockefeller Center, New York City” for her service to poets and poetry. APM suspended publication for awhile in the 40s due to “lack of support,” later resuming and appearing until 1957; Star Powers, who died in 2010 and was also a President of the WFOP, was its last editor. Prince was herself, of course, a poet as well as a novelist. Wendy has been in contact via e-mail with Prince’s great-granddaughter, Sarah Gorham, founder and director of Sarabande Books in Kentucky, who told us that Prince went on to found Wisconsin Poetry Magazine in 1954, published until 1967. Neither Gorham nor Wendy could figure out if Wisconsin Poetry Magazine was essentially a renamed American Poetry Magazine, how Powers ended up as APM’s editor or why Prince then started WPM, which appears to have overlapped with APM for a few years. Whether they collaborated at any time, or Prince simply handed off APM to Powers and then missed editing, is also unclear. Gorham says that there’s a family story that Prince had some connection to Poetry's start, too, but Gorham hasn’t seen any evidence of that.
After similar beginnings and enviable longevity from both publications through difficult financial times, one magazine became the country’s largest institution related to poetry, and the other disappeared with hardly a trace. We’re dismayed but not surprised by the not entirely incidental fact that Poetry hasn’t had a single female editor-in-chief since Monroe, even though the fortune that made its recent expansion, and the Poetry Foundation, possible was donated by a woman. Of course, many women have been part of Poetry’s “editorial staff,” “support staff,” or “advisors.” Among those women happens to be Wisconsin poet Jessica Nelson North who was born in Madison. (You can read LaMoine MacLaughlin's essay, Jessica Nelson North: Recalling The Reaches Of Silence And Sound, in an earlier issue of VW.)
One thing we took away from the “Supporting Wisconsin Writers” panel, in fact, is this: poets, particularly female ones, are in a unique position to speak about “how to support” writers, because we are used to doing this work for ourselves, used to having less access to resources than other kinds of writers, and used to collaborating and organizing ourselves in groups to make things happen—as if we were planning a bake sale or a book fair or some other event at our children’s school. This vision is the antithesis of the institutional model. It offers more flexibility, possibly greater creative amplitude, and a more intimate connection to one’s immediate community (measured not necessarily in geographic terms, but also possibly in terms of connection to specific readers, to smaller, more defined sets of like-minded individuals). It’s also more dynamic and flexible over time: magazines, reading series, local groups that meet in libraries and coffee shops, can gain energy and then dissipate as need, desire and ability dictate. There’s a level of directly responsive connection and even intimacy to this sort of work that is absent in a larger and more professionalized arena.
Is the story of women as poetry publishers, despite exceptions and changes in the nature and valuation of women’s work, often that kind of a story, with so many individuals just identifying necessary tasks, then working without compensation or recognition, then being forgotten after the fact? Do we find meaning, and therefore choose work, through relation rather than profession?
A combination of individuals, small organizations, and non-profits, rather than universities, have supported both of us as “Wisconsin writers.” Besides friends and family, writing groups and the poets who organize them have provided steady support; so have particular editor-poets, mostly women; community-based poets who organize readings and reading series; those who take an interest in bringing poetry to the public’s attention, either by reading or creating projects involving poetry, usually without compensation for their work; those who run book stores that carry local poetry; Wisconsin’s poets laureate, working to bring poetry to the public’s attention; poets who have said yes to interviews; non-profits and volunteers at the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, the Council for Wisconsin Writers, the Wisconsin Book Festival, the Wisconsin Academy of Letters, Arts & Sciences, Madison's public radio station WORT, especially the program "Radio Lit"; small non-commercial organizations like Fireweed Press, MadPoetry.com, and Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf. Though it gets in the way of writing, Verse Wisconsin also supports our poetry, bringing us into contact with new work and new ideas; so more help comes to us from poets who contribute good work, poets who review, and everyone who comes to VW’s events and conversations, as well as those who help VW exist, including subscribers, donors, proofreaders, those who hand their magazines to friends and leave them in the dentist’s office, and those who buy an extra subscription and donate it to a library or somewhere else where those who don’t know Wisconsin poetry might pick it up. “Support” after all has multiple definitions. Financial support, though we would never argue against money, can be a two-edged sword. Bigger is not necessarily better, although it is more visible. Lack of funding can force creativity, and also allows the artist/editor/curator to maintain a wider freedom to do what they envision with no strings attached.
For us, support is less about selling books or providing an audience on a given occasion, and more about helping and being helped to practice, reflect on, and improve our art in order to live a more meaningful life, wherever we are in our artistic journey. This statement gets directly at why we writers should take time to support each other. Because meaningful support does take time—time we could be writing, editing and submitting our own work.
One important assumption that we make at Verse Wisconsin and have never acknowledged: we assume every poet wants to improve. As the writing center at Sarah’s alma mater used to put it, “Every writer can be a better writer.” And we at VW add our belief, “every writer wants to be a better writer.” We assume every poet, therefore, is willing—and looking for ways—to stretch themselves through what they read, who they converse with, what they attempt to write, and the critique they seek out. At this point, it may be fair to admit that if there is a poet out there who is perfectly pleased with what you’ve written, perfectly happy with the books you have published and the reviews and readers they have garnered—in short, if you believe yourself to be of adequate expertise—then whoever you are, whatever rung of the ladder you inhabit, we don’t have all that much to say to you.
But for the rest of us, who do strive to improve, who wear the eraser out more quickly than the pencil lead, who know too well our work is flawed and seek out those who might help us see the flaws clearly, whose reach still exceeds our grasp on a daily basis, we must build this necessary infrastructure for ourselves. Not only to know our flaws and go to work on those, but also to know our value. We don’t envy teachers the too-often bored and disenchanted gazes of the students they meet every day. On the other hand, those very faces, and the administration that hired them to teach, and their colleagues, act as a sort of mirror reflecting their place in the writing world and attesting to their worth in some measure. That there is a crisis in higher education does not negate the formal recognition their profession has allowed them. For the rest of us, we must provide for each other that same mirror. Not by gushing, “Oh I love your poems,” though that is always nice to hear. But by taking time to figure out specifically what lines, tropes, or rhythms it is in a particular poet that you most value, how they impact you as writer. And then to have the guts to testify to their importance publicly, through reviews, through sharing their poems when you read your own, through quoting or responding to them in your own work. This is how we build connection and prove worth.
One of the strengths that poetry has to offer our particular time and place in the cultural conversation, it seems to us, and one that we are free to attest to at VW, is the absolute lack of the possibility of objectivity. Poetry is not science. We cannot duplicate another’s poem, even if we sit at the same desk, use the same pen or computer keyboard, drink the same blend of coffee, read the same books. As readers, we are better able to appreciate your poem the more we know about both the poem and the poet. The more intimately we know your voice, the more able we are to respond to nuance. This is why we ask for three to five poems in a submission. Music lovers know this. Those of us familiar with Aida or “My Funny Valentine” or “All Along the Watchtower” know that our familiarity helps us appreciate variation, change, growth. Knowing Verdi or Dylan or Springsteen or Ellington’s early work well helps to give further perspective on the later work, no?
Why should we think that someone completely unfamiliar with our work and words would have any advantage at all in writing about it? In judging its value? A fresh take may be helpful, of course, but it shouldn’t be the only sort of reviewing available and it shouldn’t necessarily be privileged. The cult of objectivity and anonymity in poetry comes with its own inherent biases. What does a judge look for in texts he is unfamiliar with? What pleasures are the most immediately felt? And what pleasures take time, and appreciation of nuance, to enjoy. Whether we’re talking about poetry or sex, these are questions worth pondering.
Along with this comes the truism that to read well is to know yourself better. We admit to our preferences, and to our blindspots. Reading widely and openly for Verse Wisconsin and book reviewing has helped us gain further knowledge of our own strengths and shortcomings, and that awareness has helped us to write better and to read more sympathetically work that isn’t exactly to our first, original tastes. Acknowledging our own partialities as readers within reviews and editorials, seems to us to remind the audience of a reviewer’s essential humanity. A review, in our opinion, says essentially, “Dear reader, here is my take on this book. This is the necessarily flawed, and perhaps at times, mistaken view of one individual. I’ve given it my best shot and I hope you will too.” We’re all in this together and the art cannot survive in any healthy way if we don’t attempt this work and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Does it take some courage? Yup. But this isn’t a game for the faint of heart, now is it?
Inevitably, in such a community of writers as we have worked towards, we will occasionally end up reviewing the books of poets we know, poets we are even friends with. Again, in the professional/academic model which values a sort of anonymity for the sake of remaining impartial, to review a friend’s work would be questionable at best. However, in our alternative vision, we’re all friends rowing in the same direction. The better we know each other's work, the better we can see the successes and the weaknesses in our poems. If we see you doing some things well and some things not so well, we’ll call it like we see it in the hope that it’s helpful to you. And we trust, you would do the same for us.
As editors we’re passionate too, and subject to our own preferences and blindspots. What good would a magazine be if each one were as anonymous as the next? An editor finds the backbone to shape a magazine through exercising her own individual taste. Even at a publication like Verse Wisconsin, where we strive for (small c) catholicism, we admit to our biases.
What the poetry world needs right now, we would argue, is less anonymity and objectivity—the first one a too common ailment for many of us and the latter impossible anyway, and more small clusters of writers who know each other intimately and spur each other forward and then do their best to get the word out about each other’s work and why it’s important.
An important assumption that we make at Verse Wisconsin and that we have always acknowledged as part of our mission: we assume every VW poet wants to support not just their own work but also the work of Wisconsin poets and writers in general. But what does “Wisconsin writer” even mean? At VW we have thought of it as anyone who does or wants to write in Wisconsin, as well as writers elsewhere with a significant past connection to the state; in either case, an interest in Wisconsin’s writers is also important, as is the willingness to be considered a “Wisconsin writer”—there are probably some people who live in-state who feel less connected to Wisconsin’s writing communities than others living out-of-state. Being a “professional” writer seems beside the point.
Interestingly, the longer we do this work, the more we question the value of the label “Wisconsin” writer as an identity. Identifying our state as a literary geography will only work if writers more locally identify regions and specific areas of poetic activity that they can help define and build. A few examples of where this is already occurring and will (we hope) continue to grow:
• the Sheboygan area, where Lakeland College contributes the annual Great Lakes Writers Conference and Seems magazine, and now a local group of community poets (affiliated with Lakeland though the magazine is not) has brought Stoneboat into existence as a print magazine, blog, publisher, and reading series;
• Viroqua and the surrounding area, anchored now by the new Driftless Writers’ Center;
• The Foot of the Lake Collective in Fond du Lac which hosts a fantastic monthly reading series and has worked to put poetry into new places within the community;
• the larger Fox Cities area, which hosts an impressive Book Festival every year as well as the Harmony Café reading series;
• Door County, with its support for literature and the arts, its high percentage of practicing poets, and its attraction to tourists from out of state.
This list could go on and on, with regions both big and small. And these are only geographic identities. We could also look at cultural (Mead Lake Collective) and multi-cultural groups of various kinds (Hibiscus Collective), writers that are politically active (Black Earth Institute), and groups and publications that are moving poetry in new formal/ experimental directions (the print magazine Cannot Exist), or all of these at once (First Wave at UW), but it seems to us that the crucial challenge is to find ways to identify the group or groups you belong to and to build bonds within and between them that help to distinguish and define all of these various groups as separate and sparky entities. Then Wisconsin will gain the reputation we who live here know it already deserves. And then, perhaps, we can start to look at how to build connections as a larger region of states of writers connected by geography, politics, agriculture and economy and population.
As VW/ Cowfeather, we volunteer to help poets publish their work in a range of media and make most of the product available for free; we partner with groups with common goals to try and have a bigger impact and hopefully extend the small circles that often originate in our writers’ groups a little farther. Publishing a book, let alone a single poem, is a bit like arcing a pebble into the air above the Grand Canyon and then waiting for noise—it makes more sense at least some times to send up a shower of these pebbles at the same time, or work together to toss something with more weight. That something could be a reading series. Or an anthology or magazine or webzine. Or a program serving others through poetry, working with young people or the homeless or Alzheimers’ patients, for instance. Or a performance group. Or group of poet-artists. Or group of artists in different media who collaborate across arts and share ideas and audience.
“Support Wisconsin writers” can be as simple as writing a review, or buying a book by a Wisconsin author and sharing it with another person, or posting a link to someone else’s poem or book on Facebook or Twitter. Or blogging about another writer or interviewing someone else for your blog. Or reading someone else’s poem in public. Or reading a poem in a place it wouldn’t normally be read. Or sharing news of other groups and poets—their events and efforts. Or teaching a Wisconsin writer to your middle school, high school, or college students. Or donating books and magazines by Wisconsin writers to a literacy program, prison, nursing home, library, or school. It’s probably natural that we’ll be willing to do this more often for our friends than for strangers. But what if we looked outside our circles sometimes to make new friends? So many writers need that.
Many organizations, from institutions to collectives and co-ops—a university, school, library, literary center, community center, publication, literacy program, manuscript or other writing-driven group—could support writers outside their own immediate membership. Most of these groups function by collecting and distributing our support of them in money and time: what we share matters and makes a difference. The biggest challenges for small projects like VW and Cowfeather have to do with the fact that we have no funding, we are not an institution, and we can’t sustain the work we do long-term. Even in the short-term we need help with things like
• creating audience for Wisconsin poets beyond the borders of the state;
• making regional connections;
• reaching younger poets and other new audiences.
Collaborating on a project like VW allows us all, with the help of everyone’s best work, to raise our collective profile as “Wisconsin writers.” We believe it challenges us individually to do better work when we pay close attention to and think carefully in multiple ways about the work our neighbors are doing. Deciding who to invite to a reading series, who to publish in a magazine, whose poem to respond to, quote, or whose book to review—all of these require close attention to the poetic project of another: support, if you will.
Importantly (and perhaps on some level also selfishly), such work helps to build the alternative infrastructure that those of us outside the university also require but often don’t have access to. We try to interest well-known Wisconsin writers in what VW does collectively. We also look to find, reclaim, and connect with poets who grew up here and left, or those who came to school in Wisconsin but then moved on. If you know a poet who has a Wisconsin connection, let them know about VW. Let us know about them. Know poets who aren’t connected to Wisconsin? Do the same. The only way Verse Wisconsin can build an audience for Wisconsin poets as a group is to publish the best work that we have access to and then tell people about it over and over again. We can’t do that by ourselves. If you want your work read in Chicago & Minneapolis & Iowa City & Ann Arbor & St. Louis, we need your help to build those connections. University poets do that through professional organizations and through working with young people who graduate and go elsewhere, creating another connection, another dot on the map. For those of us outside academics, even if we participate in national writing organizations, our connections are more likely local—intra-state rather than inter-state.
As difficult as it is for those of us with “day jobs” or no jobs to cultivate a wider audience, however, it’s hardly an option for the Wisconsin writers we so easily forget: writers in prisons and those recently released; homeless writers; disabled writers; writers emerging in literacy programs; school-aged writers; writers in nursing homes; writers in mental institutions; writers who don’t write because they have to work two or three low-paying jobs to support their families, or writers who are house-bound, for whatever reason, including being a stay-at-home parent without access to other childcare. How do we support these writers, and when do we ask them what they need?
Sarah Busse is one of two Poets Laureate of Madison, Wisconsin (2012-2016). She co-edits Verse Wisconsin and her first full-length collection, Somewhere Piano, was published in fall 2012 by Mayapple Press (Woodstock, NY). She has been awarded the WFOP Chapbook Award, the Council for Wisconsin Writers’ Lorine Niedecker Prize and a Pushcart Prize. She teaches at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival. You can find the summer 2013 schedule here: http://www.continuetolearn.uiowa.edu/iswfest/.
Wendy Vardaman (wendyvardaman.com) is the author of Obstructed View (Fireweed Press), co-editor/webmaster of Verse Wisconsin and co-founder/co-editor of Cowfeather Press. She is one of Madison, Wisconsin's two Poets Laureate (2012-2015).