Saturday, April 21, 2007

Reading on April 1

No Joke! I was asked to read as a part of Malaprop's "Poetrio." (Brilliant name, eh?) I was the representative "local." Left to right: Susan Meyers, Me & Susan Tichi.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I have found I have reached a new point in my "career" where it would behoove me to list events.

Women and Words is a one day conference in Asheville that I have been asked to participate in.
I'll be giving two sessions: one called "Getting up the Gumption" and the other is a workshop about how to read one's own work in public. For more information visit WNC Woman's website.

Also note that women who register can sign up for 15 minute sessions with NC Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer!

Friday, April 6, 2007

New Blog

I have posted a few of my old blogs from my old account, but am making a fresh start of blogging.

from December 2005 - "Eve's Night Out"

Last Friday night was Eve's Night Out (a local open-mic (mostly) poetry reading).It was such an amazing evening, I must go on record about the group and the several factors that make this an exceptional reading. First, it is only for women's voices. Men are encouraged to attend, but they may not read. If this seems exclusionary, it is not intended to be hurtful. Rather, the emphasis is on this being a safe place for women to speak their minds/hearts/souls. The fact that this reading is just for women has been very healing, nurturing, and empowering for many who attend.

Second, most women have worked through The Artist's Way which sets the tone as one where each voice, no matter how divergent, is supported -- every creative attempt, encouraged and lauded. This atmosphere is critical and there are few other poetry readings where it is so evident.Third, this is just a reading. There are no critiques, but there ARE compliments - genuine ones. This is not a "pat ourselves on the back and tell each other how great we are" group that pumps each other full of hot air. However, when someone does read something literarily exceptional, you can be sure she will be praised. When a woman writes her own healing and closure into a poem, you can be sure she will be affirmed for doing so. When someone opens her mouth and sings some divine melody (or one rendered in a quavery thin whisper), you can be sure we will hummmm along and sing her praises when she is done. If someone would write something truly terrible (which we don't believe happens), we see the gem in it.

The last thing that makes this group exceptional is the fact that we are located in the middle of nowhere - in a county pop. 16,000 sandwiched between two counties pop. 18,000. Yet we draw women from an hour away who drive winding mountain roads because we are so well fed by the positive energy of the evening. We leave inspired to write and to be kind.

Five months ago I was honored to be asked to co-host Eve's Night Out. I hope I do the evening/energy justice. The group has provided me so much inspiration and confidence that I am utterly indebted to it. I am completely dependent on it too. It spurs me to write (I must have new stuff to read each month). It inspires me to write (I get such good ideas from the women who attend). And it validates my work, because finally, I have an audience (it is not just my chicken scratchings).

The first night I attended, I knew something inside of me had shifted -- that I was on the right track to finding and using my voice.

I love the fact that the Eve's Night Out women have dedicated themselves to writing a peace poem a month. The fact that we always start late because we are so busy chatting with each other. The fact that we stay late continuing those conversations. The fact that all this takes place in an independent bookstore that we support.

Long live Eve's Night Out. Be well, all you women who have ever attended.

from December 2005 - "Love Stamps"

One of my favorite parts of the day is when I sneak out of the house for forty-five seconds, run down the slope of my drive, cross our bridge over Jack's Creek, and get the mail. (If I run, I get a teeny-tiny bit of exercise and the children are unlikely to come to much harm in so short a time.)

Every so often, among the bills and junk, I get one of my SASEs back from some literary journal. I can recognize them instantly because they were once tri-folded, have a return address label in the center, and bear a LOVE stamp in the upper right-hand corner.

Each submission I send out now has a SASE with a LOVE stamp. These LOVE stamps are reserved for the mail I'll be getting. Any stamp will do for the actual submission, though I prefer the pretty & unusual ones.

As I jog back up to the house, tearing the envelope open, the stamp reminds me - regardless of the news I receive, I loved myself and my work when I sent it out. Each time I send out another submission and affix that LOVE stamp, I remind myself again.

It takes time. Every good and published writer has a stack of rejections and persevered with self-love, rarely self-loathing.

I have begun my stack.

from November 2005 "On Writing Poetry - Part I"

I am overly competitive. To a fault. Part of the problem was that this trait served me well while in the academic world: I excelled in the classroom and received a lot of praise for my accomplishments. And despite a late start, it propelled me in athletics. I was not the most skilled player, but I sure wanted to be and I wanted to win. Still do.

I struggled, because of my competitive nature, with my husband’s continuing education once I had graduated from college. After four hard years of study, he finally finished medical school. People would ask me, “What does your husband do?” And I would reply, “He just graduated from medical school.” I couldn’t actually call him a doctor. What, like he was smarter than me?

I’ve come around on this by now, six years later. But I still struggle with my own identity. Especially since I am not currently employed and stay at home with my three children (the ages three and under). I don’t want “mother” to be my only identity because it sets me up to only find value in myself based on their “performance.” (But this is another diatribe for another day.)

This summer, at a 4th of July picnic, I was introduced to a friend of a friend. “What do you do?” another picnicker asked her. She replied matter-of-factly, “I’m a poet.”

I was floored. She claimed it. Outright. Granted, she does have a book of poetry published and is the editor of a literary journal. (See Maria Tabor at and Homestead Review.) But still.

Even though I have yet to land a piece in a magazine or journal deemed “literary,” I have had a few things published. I co-host a local women’s poetry reading. But I still considered myself someone who wrote poetry, not a poet.With the modeled example of Tabor, and the 12 step program outlined in The Artist’s Way, I began the work of changing my self-perception, and the language I used to describe myself.

So, this summer, when I was taken with sudden urge to have a business card, I followed the whim. I bought the perforated sheets, designed the layout, printed them out, and keep them in my wallet. (I have even handed a few out – with plenty of sheepish giggling.) But I put out there, in ink. I claimed my identity because I want grow into it, just as much as I am it now:

Britt Kaufmann
@home mother

from November 2005 "Skeptical of Soapboxes"

While blogging has its merits (predominately calling attention to news/causes/events ignored by the popular media) the fad of blogging has yet to reveal its merits to me. Nonetheless, I find myself joining the ranks.

The blank page has always drawn me. I would create stapled books of reject green and white striped computer paper for myself to write “novels” in when I was 10. I’d buy notebook after notebook, journal after journal, and later, reams of computer paper. So the allure of a blank screen and a supposed audience is not surprising.It is the perceived audience that is troubling.

When teaching high school psychology a few years ago, I know I ran across a phenomenon common among preteen and teenage girls that described them feeling, and subsequently behaving, as though they were always being watched – like an audience followed them. (I don’t remember if this was in Reviving Ophelia, the psychology text, or in one of the countless articles I clipped and photocopied for the class.) It was almost like they were the stars of their own Laguna Beach – their own reality show. But that was just at the beginning of the reality TV show boom, and I can only imagine this self-as-star notion has continued.I can even remember snippets of this from my own experience as early as elementary. As I completed everyday tasks, I would narrate out loud, imagining I was one of those cool kids on ZOOM. The nature of adolescence itself typically places a teen in the middle of two maelstroms: the one swirling about him/her externally and the one somersaulting through his/her insides. Both lend themselves simultaneously to self-importance and self-doubt. I was no exception.

All this comes to mind as I embark on blogging.I have a real fear about self-absorbtive blogging. Even as I type this, I am imagining an audience who cares about what I write as much as I care about writing it – and that is a farce. I pretend I will be “helping” people, but underneath, I am more largely aware that I am self-promoting. I am building the soapbox on which I will stand and proclaim my twisted version of the truth.Always leery of self-publishing, I recognize that the essence of blogging is editorializing with no editing – no one to answer to, no one to fact check you (which is ironic since blogging has been a great tool for fact checking our current presidential claims), no one to help hone a piece to its essence.

So, to begin this blogging endeavor, I feel I need to state my skepticism for the record. State it to remind myself not to fall into the lure of self-aggrandizing. State it for my imaginary audience, so that you too will know I am aware of the fallacy of you. State it so that if someone does stumble across this they know I know the sheer nature of blogging sets me up for a false sense of self importance. Take it all with a grain of salt.

Addendum: I will note that my friend, Katey Schultz, who convinced me to start blogging does use this blogging as part of her daily writing practice to find her style and hone her voice. She has done so quite well, and I’m very proud of her for logging her 100th consecutive day recently. Unlike I predict for myself, she has done a good job of avoiding the pitfalls I will become trapped in.