Friday, January 16, 2015

Theatre of Words and Music

Join me on Saturday for the Theatre of Words and Music. Should be a ton of fun!

TWM featuring January O'Neil, Michael G Martin, and White Veins
Saturday, January 17
7 p.m., Salem Athenaeum 
337 Essex St., Salem MA 
$8 at the door.

I'll have Misery Islands on sale. Hope to see you there. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. Hope you've had a good start to the New Year.

To celebrate 2015 and the release of Misery Islands, we're giving away two signed copies!
Go to my Facebook page and leave a comment to enter. Names will be picked on Wednesday, January 14 at 6 p.m. EST.

Watch the video on FB that the kids and I put together (see picture above).


Now that the holidays have passed, and the kids have gone back to school (YES!), I've been able to recover from the end of year wrap-up. I'm actually looking forward to teaching a new round of classes next week. Didn't know how tired I was until I put the focus back on my homelife. Suffice it to say I needed the break.


As you know, I'm doing another poem-a-day challenge. And even though it's been a struggle, I actually like everything I've written. Some need more work than others, of course, but the so-called stress I create for myself when I do one of these exercises is ... pleasant. Unfortunately, if I don't write first thing in the morning, I'll stay up late a trying to write a draft. Maybe tonight won't be so bad.


Much of my free time has been spent working on the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. Our committee just completed the review process for proposals. There's lots of work to be done, but it's good work.


Come out on Friday, January 16 to hear Mass Poetry's cofounder Michael Ansara read his poetry!

Readers and Writers Guild
January 16, 2015
Friday at 7:30-9:30pm
Preston Culter Room
Christ Church Hamilton/Wenham
149 ASbury Street
Hamilton, Mass

Michael Ansara is the co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Mass Poetry. After 25 years as an activist and organizer, he founded and led three businesses. He serves on the boards of Mass Poetry, Echo Ditto and Tupelo Press. He has 3 children and 5 grandchildren and lives with his wife Barney Arnold in Carlisle, MA. He began writing poetry seriously 10 years ago and has studied with Lucy Brock-Broido, Joan Houlihan and Barbara Helfgott- Hyett.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Inventing Situations

Happy New Year, folks! 

I'm starting 2015 with a poem published in the latest issue of American Poetry Review (APR)! I don't subscribe to many journals, but APR has been been coming to my mailbox since before my children were born. It's taken me that long to get in, so it feels great that my poem "At Wolf Hollow" found its way into their pages--in the Jan/Feb issue no less. 

Happy to be included with John Skoyles, Alex Dimitrov, Beth Bachmann and many others. 


Also, if you notice my January poetry count, I've written my first poem of the year. I'm doing another poem-a-day challenge with a group of friends. Of course, it's day 3 so I'm now two poems behind. It's 5 a.m. and I'm up listening to Talking Heads of all things trying to bring the count to even. Here's hoping David Byrne's strange and beautiful voice brings something out in me. 


Title of this post comes from the Talking Heads' song " Found a Job" from More Songs about Buildings and Food.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Confession Tuesday

It's the last (Confession) Tuesday of the year. Share a bit of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.


This is my last visit to Starbucks for 2014. I managed to squeeze in a few minutes between a kids' sleepover, play dates, and afternoon basketball practice. Heck, I'm just thrilled to do a Tuesday post on Tuesday.

In my Poetry Action Plan post, I talked about these guiding ideals for less stress:

  • Laugh more
  • Love more 
  • Save more 
  • Stretch more
It almost feels like a cliche to talk about finding balance and telling stress to take a hike. Everyone's too busy. Everyone's overextended. This is the new normal. Most of the time I can handle the pressure, but when it affects my home life or my writing life, it's time to slow down a bit. The idea of making a conscious effort to do these things seems silly. I mean, how hard is it not to check email or stay in the moment when it really counts?

Turns out, it's really friggin' hard for me.

Whenever I make these resolutions, the ultimate goal is to make the actions as routine as breathing. If I need to do it in an obvious or public way to accomplish it, so be it. 


I will finish off the year with 48 poems, unless I find enough time to finish three drafts and write two poems. Probably not going to happen. It's not about the quantity, it's the quality. But who knows, I'm up for the challenge. I'm looking forward to next week, however, when the kids are back in school and I can find a little time to get back into the swing of things.

Happy New Year, folks!

Poetry Action Plan 2015

Is it time to look at goals again?

I absolutely love love love the idea of a clean slate. I love mapping out a direction, veering off course occasionally, and finding my way in the end. I love ending the year a little stronger, a little more curious than before. That's why having a plan for the year is important. How can I know where I'm  going if I don't know where I've been?

Focus has been difficult for me the past few months. Stress has played a major part of my day-to-day interactions, so much so that as I approach year’s end, I’m not sure what my goals should be for 2015. In any case, here’s a quick look back on 2014. (My reflections are noted in red.)

2014 Poetry Goals:

Be Present
This goal is almost too squishy to be a real goal. I want to keep pushing myself as an artist through daily (or almost daily) observations, my gratitude journal, and this blog. Again, this doesn't feel like a real goal, and yet it’s the key to everything.
***I think I was present until late October. Once the fall semester kicked in, I found it hard to stay centered.

Focus on Misery Islands
The long wait is almost over. Misery should be out in September. Time to figure out exactly what I can do for book #2 that’s different from book #1.
***Despite a few delays, Misery Islands was born! I did what I could to promote it, but I see the first few months of 2015 as my time to give it a proper launch.

Complete Manuscript #3
After I revise, I’m hoping I can cobble out a new collection. Maybe two.
***Well … I do have enough for a manuscript. But it needs more of something I just can't name yet. Love? 

Complete the Juno Project
These poems are waiting on me to write them. This could be m’script #4
***I wrote a sonnet crown in November, but I haven’t looked at these poems since then. The plan is to pick it up in January …eh … next week.

For 2015, my Poetry Action Plan (PAP) is based on de-stressing:
  • Laugh more
  • Love more 
  • Save more 
  • Stretch more 

Notice I did not say write more. I did not say write X amount of poems, win a big grant, read at a bunch of colleges and bookstores, etc. The idea of being present is always with me and helps me stay grounded. Trust me, I’m probably more interested in book sales and scoring big publications than your average poet. But I’m happier if I listen to my creative side more often than my business side (but both are important).

So without further ado, my 2015 PAP.

Risk More
Risk more? What’s more stressful than risk? I don’t know. I’ll let you know how it turns out next December. In terms of writing, the real question I’m asking myself is, what am I risking every time I approach the page? What am I risking in my personal life? I think I need a new challenge. But maybe what I need is more laughter and more love, which means I need to be more vulnerable. Again, what’s more stressful than that?

Market Misery
I want to get Misery Islands into the hands of new readers (read: nonpoets). That takes a lot more creativity on my part. How can I find a broader audience for my work? I want to reach those people who say, “I don’t read poetry, but I like your work.” Those potential readers are open to something new.

Finish the Third Manuscript
I bet I could finish it up this week if I really set my mind to it. But it needs a little love, and I need to iron out the rough spots. At one point, I wanted to have this book finished before Misery was published. Now I don’t care as much. I just want my poems to shine.

Complete Juno Cycle/4th Manuscript
I don’t know what the Juno poems will be, so I’m giving myself a wide berth here. I’m pushing up against uncomfortable subjects—can’t back down now.

While on the surface, these goals are similar to last year's. But the first goal supersedes all others. Here's to trying and failing and failing again. I'm in it for the long haul.

Want to create your own Poetry Action Plan? Check out last year's post.

Good luck!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

How You Like Me Now?

Recently, I read a Facebook post by poet Sean Thomas Dougherty as he looks back at his professional career and on being a literary citizen. He says, “... through hard work, sincerity, kindness, and a dedication to my art, and the support of so many friends, I continue to grow and accomplish a good deal. So much of success in literature is simply that: kindness and hard work.” I believe that wholeheartedly. (If I could add to Sean's sentiment, persistence is the engine of hard work. It gets you into those places that talent alone can’t reach.)

I can bitch and moan about the system as much as the next poet, but it’s important to convey my complete and utter gratitude for the year that was 2014. Sean also reminds me that we don’t do this work alone. Being a literary citizen mean supporting the work of others just because it’s the right thing to do. Without community, poetry becomes irrelevant. So, here’s my top-10 way-cool accomplishments/events/shindigs list, none of which would be possible without you, dear reader, dear literary citizen.

  1. In November, Misery Islands was released! Book #2 is alive and well in the world taking its first breaths. There were times this year when I didn’t think it would see the light of day, but CavanKerry Press came through with a beautiful book. I am ready to guide it into the New Year with lots of love and light.

  2. While I didn’t publish many individual poems, about 10 of them were picked up by online journals or lit mags, most notably the Academy of American Poets, New England Review, Paterson Literary Review, and American Poetry Review. APR should be out any day—the Jan/Feb issue. Fitting. I also published a few notable articles, including this one on the passing of Maya Angelou.

  3. Dodge, Dodge, Dodge, Dodge, Dodge! Need I say more? 

  4. It was another successful year for the Mass Poetry Festival and Mass Poetry. I’m often recognized for my work with the organization, but the unsung heroes of our group includes Michael Ansara, Laurin Macios, Jackie Malone, Brandy Moore, Nicco Mele, and a host of amazing, dedicated volunteers and visionaries.

  5. This was the year I felt most connected with my poetry circle of friends. Can’t explain it because we’re always moving in and out of each others’ lives. But this year felt different—good different. Maybe because there was a lot to celebrate for all of us. My tribe: Kevin Carey, Erin Dionne, Rona Jaffe Award-Winner Danielle Jones-Pruett, Jennifer Jean, Lis Horowitz, Jenn Martelli, Colleen Michaels, J.D. Scrimegour, and Cindy Veach. Special shout out to Afaa Michael Weaver, Joseph O. Legaspi, and Susan Rich. Love, love, and more love! 

So for the next few days, I celebrate myself. And you! You’ve given me the fuel to continue one more year. 2015 goals to come.

How you like me now?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Verse inspired by the Misery Islands

Thanks to Will Broaddus at the Salem News for this article in the Salem News! (My kids were surprised and thrilled to see their picture in the paper.)

Here's an excerpt:

"The poem 'Misery Islands' narrates her journey and describes the two islands, but is also a reflection on the poet’s recent divorce.
'We were never of one body,' she writes. 'You said wind. I said water. / And whatever has connected us has disappeared.'

The image draws on the fact, which O’Neil describes, that one Misery island can be reached from another by wading at low tide.
Most of O’Neil’s poems work in this way, illustrating life lessons in figures of speech that are directly drawn from experience."

Read the entire article, and buy the book!


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