Lee Parpart

Lee Parpart's Fundraiser

"I cannot see any basic difference between a handshake and a poem." —Celan image

"I cannot see any basic difference between a handshake and a poem." —Celan

Help me support the vital work of Tupelo Press. Please give today.


$670 towards $500

“...Paul Celan said that the poem was no different from a handshake. I cannot see any basic difference between a handshake and a poem – is how Rosemary Waldrop translated his German. The handshake is our decided ritual of both asserting (I am here) and handing over (here) a self to another. Hence the poem is that – Here. I am here. This conflation of the solidity of presence with the offering of this same presence perhaps has everything to do with being alive.” — From Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric

Hi! Welcome to my fundraising page for the Tupelo 30/30 project, August, 2020 edition.

You are here. I am here. Let's do this.

I am a sucker for one-line summaries of the work performed by poetry. Another favourite comes from Kay Ryan, who called poetry "an empty suitcase that you can never stop emptying." Then there is Patricia Smith, who wrote that "poetry is a throat wide enough for all the stories we need to tell." In my lifetime, that description, and the promise of inclusiveness that it holds, has never seemed more timely or important than it does right now.

When Celan says that there is no basic difference between a handshake and a poem, he's positing poetry as a space of connection. Poetry creates space for transformative encounters that can guide us to new understandings of self and world. I can't think of anything more powerful than that.

Tupelo Press is engaged in the vital work of finding and publishing some of the most beautiful and impactful poetry being written today. Your donation will allow me to push myself to write more while also supporting the work of this outstanding not-for-profit press.

I started playing with language when I was about four years old, and I wrote a lot of poetry in high school. Then, in my early 20s, I veered into journalism and later academe. I worked for newspapers and completed most of a PhD in film theory and history while teaching and publishing in books and journals on cinema and TV.

By 2015, all of this activity had begun to seem like an elaborate way to keep running away from the power and the vulnerability of writing poems. Since admitting that, I've simplified my life, and left sessional teaching for a much more rewarding career in book editing. When I'm not working on other people's poetry and fiction, I'm developing my own craft, taking workshops and classes, writing poems, and exchanging drafts and poetry talk with my poetry partner, David A. Epstein, of Connecticut.

We joke that David is a firehose, whereas I am more like the trickle that comes out after the firehose gets turned off. As a perfectionist who struggles with self-confidence, I have done things to throttle my own output, and I can feel the pressure of unwritten poems rattling my bones.

I'm here to shake up my routines and release some more of those poems at an accelerated pace, while supporting the work of Tupelo Press.

As Kaveh Akbar said recently in a workshop on poetic breaking, sometimes it's important to write a ton of poems all at once without obsessing too much over quality. The very act of keeping your hand moving and letting go of daily drafts generates its own momentum and underscores the way poems can and often do begin with language (which is infinite) instead of ideas (which are finite). That's a paraphrase. Any errors are mine.

Committing to writing a poem a day for August as part of the Tupelo 30/30 project is a way of providing support to a superb press while building accountability into my writing life.

Your support gives me vital inspiration as I write for thirty days this month.

Tupelo Press provides the canvas, I bring my words, accompanied by other dedicated poets, writing thirty poems in thirty days, all ours to edit and submit as we wish. 30/30 poems have been taken by over 90 journals and featured in over 40 published chapbooks. This project helps Tupelo Press keep publishing exquisite and diverse voices that might never be heard otherwise.

Every dollar gives me confidence to write more, and helps the press place more poems in gorgeous books. Help me to help this distinguished press. Give today!