I cannot conceive of more concrete evidence of America as a failed state than our regular need for heroic teenage bullet sponges. Tate Myer is the latest victim of America’s childish obsession with guns. Usually, when a news item erodes what little faith I have rebuilt in people, I can console myself with the fact that it’s reporting by exception. But in America, a day without gun violence is the exception.


My poem What He Didn’t Know Before was published in the new issue of The West Review. It’s such a strong issue. And I was so happy to have my poem alongside To Be Honest, Not At All Like Fine Wine by Donna Vorreyer, whose newest collection, To Everything There Is, I’ve read through a few times this year.

I’m expecting two more journals to publish accepted poems before the end of the year: The Mildred Haun Review & Poetry Salzburg Review. Both are supposed to be 2021 issues, anyway. I also have some poems being held by a journal that’s published me before.

Submitting can be frustrating, tiring work, but when I’m consistent, I usually see results. My lifetime acceptance rate is somewhere around 3% of the total poems I have submitted. Though I think it’s a bit higher in recent years as I’ve developed as a writer and my name is more recognizable within certain literary enclaves.


See that little icon in your browser tab? That’s new! I finally got sick of Terminal telling me I was missing favicon.ico, and used favicon.io to make one. It’s just my initials, but now this feels like a Real Website. I did the same for the booksite. I also put a larger png of the favicon in the footer, and cleaned up some of the text there.

An enlarged copy of this website's favicon: a circle containing the author's initials (APD) on a light blue background (hex code #31b0d5)
A 192px copy for some reason

No other updates to this site. I think it’s serving its purpose as a digital landing page for my writing; though I suspect more people actually view my Instagram, which is not saying much.

The booksite

Lots of small, unremarkable progress on the backend. Mostly applying & paring down tooltips, keywords, & notes. One update is that I changed the subtitle from the simple & obvious “Poems” to “A reliquary”. Some background here:

I was talking to a potential editor (more below), and after I explained that Rachel Zucker’s conversation with Tina Chang was a major turning point for my conception of the book, they told me about Nikki Finney’s Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry: Poems and Artifacts. It clicked for me that my booksite—already pushing against what a collection of poetry looks like & how it exists in the world, and with the pictures, recipes, & notes—is more than a collection of poems. Its scope is larger.

A screenshot of the homepage of the author's forthcoming booksite, with the subtitle 'A reliquary' & the author's name magnified.
A small, meaningful update

So the booksite is now “A reliquary”—a collection of relics. There’s some religious connotation there, which I’m happy to lean into, since the poems, images, & recipes (and people contained within all of them) are the things I have faith in. I don’t believe any higher power has ever existed—and if it does, it’s clear to me that it is unworthy of praise. These relics are what most influence my behavior, what shape my worldview, and provide a framework for my moral & ethical bounds. They’re also expressions of how I, my worldview, & ethics developed. It felt correct the moment the word popped into my head as a possibility.

An editor

Maybe! I had a video call with someone early this month to discuss my project & their availability. The timing may not work out on their end, but I’m hopeful that this person, who’s part of my local poetry community, will decide to take this on. And that I can afford their quote.

I want an editor because I don’t know how objective I can be about these poems anymore. Or, while I can probably be honest about individual poems, I don’t know if I can still clearly see the connections between them, or evaluate the collection as a whole.


How… how does this work? No one’s ever asked me to read their manuscript before they submitted it for publication. My sense is that poets just help each other out by offering limited developmental feedback, but how do you initiate this conversation? Should I offer to pay? How many readers should I reach out to? I think in a future post, I’ll elaborate on the deep discomfort of asking people to do favors for me.

Cover art

I’ll have some original cover art for the release. Currently, the “cover art” on my homepage is the following image:

An anterior view ultrasound of the author's right shoulder before a venogram, showing blood obstructed in the subclavian vein. The dark areas indicate blood vessels where blood is stagnant.
A scan of a still captured by my ultrasound tech before the venogram to remove my blood clot

It works on a certain level, given the ethos of my project. But it’s also a low-quality, somewhat inscrutable image. And the collection really isn’t about recovery. Some poems are, but not many.

So the new cover art will be an NFT minted specifically for my booksite, which is part of a collection one of my friends is developing, and which should be available before my booksite is ready. I won’t reveal the image before the release, but I will link to the project from here when it’s live. I want to tell you all about it because it’s very exciting to me, and I’m so proud of my friend for developing it! But it’s still under development, so I don’t want to misrepresent anything in case they revise.

Marketing & publicity

I haven’t been very active with my publicity plan & timeline, except to stay present in my literary communities and continue submitting individual poems. To that end, I’ve been attending all my regular open mics.

Open mics

I don’t really think of open mics as publicity so much as literary citizenship, but it is a way to keep my name on people’s lips, so feels like it placing under the “publicity” header isn’t wrong.

I attended Poetry in the Brew’s December event, featuring Carolyn Connolly. Decembers are always thin, but we ended up with a respectable crowd of ~25.

Live at Portland Brew East, 11 Dec 2021
Credit: Christine Hall

On the 14th, I attended Black Dog’s December virtual open mic, featuring one of our hosts, Sandy Coomer, reading from her new collection, The Broken Places. They announced that starting in January 2022, they’ll be holding the event live from the Lipscomb University campus, simulcast on Zoom. This seems perfect, since the series regularly includes readers from England & India.

I’ve also started sporadically attending Rattlecast. They’re live weekly on Sundays, usually at 8pm Eastern. I hate Sundays (a relic of being raised Catholic), and rarely want to do anything those days. But it’s an international audience, attracting excellent feature writers, hosted by the editor of the literary journal with one of the largest readerships.

I think of open mics as a great space to unveil new material. As in: newly completed drafts. I find it helpful to stand in front of a live audience and read baby poems to get a sense of how the audience receives them and how they inhabit the space. (I haven’t found this to be true of virtual events, unfortunately.) Of course, in that case, a lot depends on the audience & space. Some audiences (white ones) don’t tend to give much feedback; some spaces have bad (fluorescent) lighting, lots of echo, or are physically uncomfortable (stools). Still, I’d always rather be in a room with the poet/audience.

Open mic etiquette

If you're one of those people who writes poems during the open mic to read during your 5, please stop doing that.

First of all, it's so fucking rude to not give each reader the attention they're going to give you.

Second, those poems are always terrible. Work on it in your private time; bring it back next month.

The layout file for poems includes code to build navigation tabs that hold the notes, any publication history, & lists of related poems within the booksite (based on keywords I apply to them). Generating the lists of related poems hasn’t caused me any trouble, but I had an issue in which the publication note either wasn’t rendering, or was being duplicated. I did identify the issue and resolve it—by taking the lazy route.

About this poem

Here’s the About this poem tab working correctly:

I originally tried to write some logic that would check the frontmatter for a value in the notes key and, depending on whether there were multiple notes (as an array) or a single string, format the tab as a list or a paragraph.

Additionally, if the poem had been published (indicated by the publishedFlag frontmatter key), it would add a line containing the value in the journal key and format the whole tab as:

  • a list if there were any notes.
  • a paragraph if there were no notes.

At first, I added the logic that grabbed the publication note inside a for loop, so for every array item in the notes, it would generate the pubnote. That was easy to identify & fix. I’m not entirely sure what caused my other issue—the pubnote simply not rendering. It seems to have been related to my use of YAML chomp modifiers. If I used one to prepend the notes value (if it was not an array), the pubnote didn’t render.

String theory

To glimpse the depth of my confusion on chomp modifiers, see this Stack Overflow answer on how to apply the 63 different modifier permutations.

Eventually, I noticed that when I formatted notes as an array (even if there was only a single note), everything rendered correctly with no errors. Of course, that meant that the About tab would always be formatted as a list if it included a note (though not if there were a pubnote & no notes, as above). Which… fine. I dislike the inconsistency, but I’m tired of fucking with it. Here’s that code:

{% capture aboutTitle %}
  {% if page.layout == "poem" or page.permalink == "dedication.html" %}
      About this poem
    {% elsif page.permalink contains "recipe" %}
      About this recipe
    {% elsif page.permalink contains "workout" %}
      About this workout
  {% endif %}
{% endcapture %}

{% if page.notes %}
  {% if page.notes.first %} <!-- if the NOTES frontmatter contains a list -->
      {% for item in page.notes %} <!-- create a list item for each NOTE -->
      {% endfor %}
      {% if page.publishedFlag == true %} <!-- include the publication note in the list -->
        <li>This poem was first published in <cite class="journal">{{page.journal-}}</cite>.</li>
      {% endif %}
  {% elsif page.notes %} <!-- if the NOTES frontmatter does not contain a list but does contain a string -->
    {% if page.publishedFlag == true %} <!-- create a list if there's a publication note -->
      <li>This poem was first published in <cite class="journal">{{page.journal-}}</cite>.</li>
    {% endif %}
  {% endif %}
{% else %} <!-- the NOTES frontmatter is empty -->
  {% unless page.publishedFlag == true %} <!-- there's no publication note -->
  <p>No notes about this poem!</p>
  {% endunless %}
  {% if page.publishedFlag == true %}
    <p>This poem was first published in <cite class="journal">{{page.journal-}}</cite>.</p>
  {% endif %}
{% endif %}

So my comments in there are not totally accurate, but all the notes & publication credits are rendering legibly on each poem, so I’m content.

The lists here are conceptually simpler. Here’s an example from the same poem as above (Dust):

As you can see, those are all poems that start with ‘A’; the list is much longer. So I have some work to do in order to restrict the keywords. I don’t want it generating an unwieldy 5 lists of 10 poems, as it is on some poems.

Unfortunately, because the book is a static site, it can’t generate a random list each time the page is loaded. I could generate a random list with Liquid, but it would only be randomized when the site is built, which I’ll only be doing once per version. Possibly Javascript could handle this, but:

  • I don’t know Javascript.
  • I’d probably have to reformat the content in my repo to make it available to Js on the client side.

Anyway! Here’s how the Related lists are built:

{% assign thisSeries = page.series %}
{% assign thisKey = page.keywords %}
{% assign items = site.poems | sort: "title" %}

{% if thisSeries or site.data.poemlists | where: "allowedKeywords", "thisKey" %}
{% if thisSeries %}
  <h5>More poems in the <b>{{ site.data.poemlists.series[thisSeries] }}</b> series:</h5>
    {% for poem in items %}
      {% if poem.series == thisSeries %}
        {% if poem.permalink == page.permalink %}
          {% continue %}
        {% endif %}
        <li><a href="{{ poem.permalink }}">{{ poem.title }}</a></li>
      {% endif %}
    {% endfor %}
{% endif %}

{% assign allowed = site.data.poemlists.allowedKeywords %}
{% if page.keywords %}
{% for key in page.keywords %}
  {% if allowed contains key %}
    {% if key == "ars poetica" %}
      <h5>More ars poetica:</h5>
      {% elsif key == "singing" %}
      <h5>More poems to sing:</h5>
      {% elsif key == "body" %}
      <h5>More poems about the body:</h5>
      {% elsif key == "funny" %}
      <h5>More poems with a laugh:</h5>
      {% else %}
      <h5>More poems about {{ key | capitalize }}:</h5>
    {% endif %}
      {% for poem in items %}
        {% if poem.keywords contains key %}
          {% if poem.permalink == page.permalink %}
            {% continue %}
          {% endif %}
          <li><a href="{{ poem.permalink }}">{{ poem.title }}</a></li>
        {% endif %}
      {% endfor %}
  {% endif %}
{% endfor %}
{% endif %}
  {% else %}
    <p>No related poems!</p>
{% endif %}

The allowedKeywords asset is meant to keep things under control, but that list ballooned too. And I’m just noticing that the {% else %} clause (for poems with no matching allowedKeywords) at the end is not rendering. So there is something wrong there

Personal matters

In an earlier post, I mentioned applying for a Fulbright. Adorable. I suppose I’d get nowhere if I didn’t have some kind of ambition. I did not have time to organize that mess of an application, so I won’t be thinking about it until maybe next year, after the NEA application, which is open for poetry in 2022.

And the Buffalo Bills. Ole triflin-ass team of my youth. At least you can say they’re reliable.


Last week, I returned to my office for the first time in 20 months! Just for a day, but it was precisely the change of pace I hoped it would be. A few of my coworkers also came in, and it was so nice to see & interact with other humans. I don’t like having my professional life invade my home, and I focus better (on any project) when I’m not where I live. Most of my colleagues & I are now “flex” employees, who can effectively decide where we’ll work from on any given day; I’ll likely spend 1 day in the office per week.

New (unpredictable) normal

I lived through another tornado—the 11 December tornados that hit six states. Nashville can technically experience a tornado anytime, but December is the second least likely month for those conditions to coalesce. We’re not supposed to have to worry about this now. I’m holding together gratitude for experiencing only minor cosmetic damage to my roof with fury that we keep choosing to allow these conditions.

I have a lot to say (big surprise) on the climate emergency, but I’ll end by saying I’m livid to acknowledge that these events will only increase in frequency & unpredictability, and that I’m helpless to do much other than relocate to an area that seems like maybe it will be safer.