Thursday, May 31, 2007

Poem for Poetry Thursday

I was inspired by a piece read by Vito Salm at last night's NEWS reading. I've posted pictures from the event here.

This poem was fun to write but I'm still working on the order. The spellings should be correct so if you have any questions about individual labels, let me know.

Happy Poetry Thursday everyone!

Labels People Have Given Me over the Years

Boo Boo • Baby girl • January • Daughter • Jan-i-wan • Grandbaby • Cousin • Good eater • Jan • Kindergartner • A handful • Stanley’s girl • The new girl • Catholic school girl • Hard-headed • Ugly • Slim • Skinny • Stick • Stick girl • Sounder • Brownie • Toastmaster runner-up • Liar • Angel Gabriel in the Christmas pageant • Choir girl • Gracie • Pianist • Junior • Thief • Duranie • Flat-chested • Student driver • Concessionist • January-February • Black girl • Nigger • Couch potato • Honors student • President of the Spanish club • Friend • Whitney Houston • Wannabe • Island Jan • High school graduate • Persistent • African American • Assistant manager • Gen-Xer • Drunk Girl • Virginian • Card-carrying Democrat • Mudpuppy • College graduate • Entry level • Moviegoer • Virgin • Person of color • New Yorker • January • Poet • College graduate • Customer service representative • Anemic • Tawdry wench • Admin assistant • Dragback • Taken • Inappropriate • Babe • Girl Friday • Rude bitch • FiancĂ© • Bostonian • Marketing assistant • Web editor • Wise guy • Creep • Sister-in-law • Auntie Jan • Mrs. O’Neil • Daughter-in-law • Sweet baby • Writer/editor • Up-and-commer • Preferred shopper • Carnivore • Person of interest • Snorer • Good eater • Speedy • Snoopy • Preggers •Big as a house • Member of the 100,000-mile club • Homeowner • Neighbor • Ambitious • Nigga •Queen of the universe • Red Sox fan • Big as a house • Senior writer/editor • Mourner • Award-winning poet • Elastigirl • Rock star • Good cooker • Mommy

NEWS Recap

Once again, I am amazed at the wealth of talent that graces our little reading series. Last night, we featured readings by Erin Dionne, Robyn Bradley, Christine Junge, and Vito Salm. The fact that the majority of us are bloggers is just one of those happy accidents.

It was great speaking with audience members afterwards, finding out about various projects and interests, and how they bring literature into their day to day lives.

Community--it's all about community. Enjoy the photos! (Sorry, some of them are dark.)

Christine Junge

Robyn Bradley

Erin Dionne

Vito Salm

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I'm a Times New Roman Girl

Didn't think a Slate article about fonts would be interesting, but I was wrong. Shame on me, considering I know a hell of a lot about fonts--even have a poem or two about them.

For the record, I had a Brother word processor that I won as a result of a bet. Admittedly, the bet was scribbled on a napkin in a South Carolina bar over tequila, but that's another story (and it's a GOOD one!).

Long ago, I used to work for a retail cookie chain--not Mrs. Fields--and my former district manager said that if I stayed on for another year he would buy a word processor for me. I stayed, and he fulfilled his end of the deal. (He's one of the good guys.) Anyway, the processor's default font was Courier, and the machine lasted all through my undergrad college experience. Once I got my first computer for grad school, and IBM Aptiva, I'm pretty sure the WordPerfect default font was Times. So I've stuck with the Times family ever since. It's a great everyday font that transfers 98 percent of the time to Macs when sharing files. And it looks elegant without being pretentious.

I'm also partial to Galliard and Georgia (the Blogger composing font). But enough about my favorite fonts. Tell me about yours.

Getting My Ducks in a Row

(OK, they're Canadian geese, but you get the point.)

Sometimes the only way out is through. So in order to get myself on track, here’s my poetry to-do list for the entire world to see.

This week

  • Prepare for tomorrow's NEWS Reading
  • Write one poem
  • Write next Poetry Thursday article
  • Write article for side project
  • Send poetry out to two publications
  • Research cool side project—more on that later

(I’d do more this week but I have friends visiting from Texas. They’ll join us for the Red Sox-Yankees game on Friday! Woo Hoo!!!)

Next week

  • Write one poem
  • Start prepping to team-teach a seminar at Brookline Adult & Community Education
  • Research publishers/contests to send manuscript
  • Do a minor revision to manuscript—I want to add a few poems to my current collection
  • Research local and regional organizations for grants and fellowships
  • Look into writing a commentary for NPR—this is a dream of mine that I’ve been mulling over for a long time

What's on your to-do list?

Monday, May 28, 2007

If You're Having a Birthday This Year ...

I saw this little jewel in the Boston Globe today so I thought I would share it with you. This is great for anyone who needs a good ol' kick in the pants.

In the Globe's Astrological Forecast, the section begins: "If Today Is Your Birthday," but I've retitled it since my birthday was in February.

If You're Having a Birthday This Year:

This is the year, so don't blow it. Make those changes, resolve issues that have plagued you for years and, most of all, don't fear failure. Go after your dreams, hopes, and wishes. This isn't the year to sit and think--it is an action year, so start the ball rolling.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Simple

Simple? I don’t do simple. Don’t know how. Nothing I do has ever been simple or easy. If I have too much down time I really don’t know what to do with myself. In reality, my challenges are the blessings that come from having everything I need. My family is healthy and happy, so the stresses come from balancing a full-time job with a two-hour daily commute while trying to launch a writing career. I’m OK with that.

Keeping things simple means keeping things boring. Sometimes, my to-do lists can fill up the back of an envelope. But having a physical record of the things I have to do, and the things I want to accomplish, keeps me on track. What can I say, I wouldn’t be nearly as happy if I had a simplier life.

Despite all of this, I do like simple pleasures. I love my daughter’s open-mouth kisses, and my son’s big, bright smiling eyes. When my husband rubs my back after a long day, he gives me goosebumps. I love watching Red Sox center fielder Manny Ramirez hit a home run. I especially like the way after he hits the ball, he drops his bat and stands at home plate a second or two before he runs around the bases, as if he knows he’s just done something great. That’s usually the feeling I have after writing a good poem. For a few moments, it’s perfect. Doesn’t get any simpler than that.

I should mention that my favorite magazine, ironically, is Real Simple.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

What Will You Be Doing This Weekend?

For days, I have been thinking about this long weekend. Why does an extra day make such a difference to my psyche? Guess it helps that it's a 90 degrees and feels like summer.

So this Memorial weekend, I'll be standing in front of the hose--if the kids will let me. We'll be gardening, going for ice cream, and taking Alex to see his first movie. Tim and I will cook a few steaks on the grill and enjoy a glass (or two) of wine while Alex and Ella play baseball in the backyard. Did I mention there's lots of Red Sox baseball this weekend? As for "me" time, I'll find it. Can't keep me away from my writing sessions at Starbucks. And I foresee a much needed shopping trip in my future

I'm sad that I haven't been blogging much these last few weeks. Still haven't gotten my groove back, but I will do my fair share of reading and posting in the evenings. I feel like a noisy neighbor popping in to see what y'all have been doing. Whatever you've been up to, I can't wait to read about it.

Hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend (and a great weekend, even if you don't celebrate the holiday). Lastly, I want to offer all of the families with troops abroad my sincerest gratitude and wishes for safe and speedy returns.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Poem for Poetry Thursday

This is one of those poems where the title may be better that the actual poem. But it could be the start of something. The piece is my take on the Poetry Thursday prompt on dialogue. Hee Hee Hee -- it certainly was fun to try something different.

What I should do is go back and watch the movie and see what else to add. I should also add that the last line is a direct reference to Naomi Shihab Nye's poem "Making a Fist."

Conversation between Naomi Shihab Nye and Mr. Spock from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Despite the reconnaissance, the reports
to the contrary, the space-time continuum
and all its distortions, this is the
mother of all I told you so’s. Going where
no one has gone before … what does your superior intellect
tell you now? You serve but never lead.
I bet you thought a man with enough
smarts and backbone could
survive anything.
Not true.

You've walked from one end of the galaxy
to the other but you always saw
the end at the beginning.
Forever this has been your truth
your human truth.

Spock, if you are still with us,
curl your hand into a ball.
Make a fist.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

NEWS: Focus on Fiction

It's time to announce the next reading for our New & Emerging Writers Series (NEWS).

First of all, let me just say that it's been a pleasure working with Boston Erin putting this series together. Her energy and vision has really shaped this budding series into something special. I'll have the good fortune of hearing Erin read her prize-winning fiction, as well as hear four other talented writers, on May 30 at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, MA. Come by and see for yourself!


New & Emerging Writers Series (NEWS): Focus on Fiction
Boston-area writers share their work, their talent, and their love of the written word.

Wednesday, May 30
7 p.m.
The Regent Theatre screening room: 7 Medford Street, Arlington, MA 02474. Admission is free.

Readers include:

  • Erin Dionne, featured in BREVITY & ECHO: An Anthology of Short-Short Fiction
  • Robyn Bradley, winner of The Center for Arts in Natick 2007 Annual Short Story Contest
  • Christine Junge, MFA candidate, Lesley University
  • A.E. Akillian, MFA graduate, Lesley University
  • Vito Salm, local author

Reception to follow at The Book Rack, 13 Medford Street, Arlington, MA 02474. Sponsored by The Book Rack bookstore, 781-646-2665.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Words I'm Not Going to Use in My Poems Anymore

Today I went through the poems I wrote this year, and I began to see some patters in my writing. I tend to use the same words over and over again when what I really need is a good thesaurus.

This is a list I can see myself adding to, but here are the words I will no longer allow myself to use in my poems ... at least for a while.

  • dark
  • dumbstruck
  • poem
  • unspoken
  • disappear
  • underlife
  • fingertips
  • flower
  • sky

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Save the Cheerleader ...

My mom just called to tell me that the SciFi Channel has a 21-hour Heroes marathon on now, leading up to Monday's season finale. Next to Red Sox baseball, this is the best show on television.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Random Thoughts on a Friday Night

  1. Home on a Friday night ... what's up with that? I remember when I was the life of the party. Now, I'm thankful for my laptop, a cup of hot tea, and a little peace and quiet.
  2. Rain, rain go away! The high today was 46 degrees. This is why I loathe May in New England.
  3. Because of the rain, the Red Sox had to postpone their game tonight with the Atlanta Braves. And while I am a Braves fan, I'm all about the Red Sox, baby! I really should blog about them more. I mean, they do have the best record in baseball.
  4. Yesterday I worked the equivalent of a double header editing the names of the graduates in my college's commencement booklets. I was at my desk for roughly 14 hours. Good thing I only have to do this once a year.
  5. My husband Tim has really pitched in this week cooking dinners and grocery shopping. He's usually helpful around the house, but this week he really came through since I was preoccupied with work.
  6. Alex is potty training, bless his heart. He's getting better at it but, as many of you know, training is not without its "accidents." But since he's been doing so well, we're due to take him and his sister to Chuck E. Cheese over the weekend.
  7. Chuck E. Cheese has about the worst pizza I've ever had! Definitely geared to kids.
  8. Ella's my sweetheart. I love both kids, but she still needs me in that motherly way: to kiss a boo boo or rub her back before she goes to bed.
  9. Been thinking a lot about my lack of writing this month. Not much poetry or blog posts in May, but I hope that's all going to change. I feel like whatever limbo I've put myself in, I just have to write my way through it.
  10. Also, I've been thinking that maybe my poetry is plateauing. I want to take my poetry in a new direction but I don't know how to do that exactly. Do I write through it or look for exercises to get me there? Hmmmm. Something to think about on this rainy evening

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Poem for Poetry Thursday

Happy Poetry Thursday!

I don’t write much about my work at a college, but commencement is on Saturday. Today is the day the marketing department formats the commencement booklets. Specifically, we read all of the names of the graduates and check for misspellings and correct order. Can you say tedious? So I won’t be around much today. Hope you read your poems tonight.

Bear with me on this first draft.


I remember my father’s worst days.
His clumsy mythology crosses my mind
tonight like shadows on a cave wall.

My father, who grew up on Bank Street,
was an angry little heap. Went to school
with a layer of newspaper inside his holey shoes

the only thing separating him from the streets.
His knuckles rough like the back of a penny
from punching the brick wall behind his house.

Imagine the growl of hunger,
the fire of poverty. Can you even begin
to comprehend my father

watching his father dig a ham bone
out of the garbage to use in a soup
for that night’s dinner?

I should forget, as you have tried,
your sad, perennial stories
but they grow and bloom inside of me

that tight bud of sorrow
opening in me like a fist
over and over again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

January O'Neil reads "The Kerning"

Yep, here I am again reading at the Super Hoot last Sunday.

(Note to self--look at the audience every once in a while!)

Hey, Magazine Editors!

(I'm taking the lead from Nic at Very Like a Whale.)

Please edit your submission guidelines! What's the deal: Are blog-posted poems acceptable, or not?

If everyone who reads this posts a similar query on their blog, we could reach every poetry magazine editor out there. Inquiring minds want to know!

Post the question. Let’s get this party started.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I’ve been tagged for a meme by Jim at Between the Invisible Landscapes, so here are five songs that really knock my socks off. Really there are too many good songs to choose from, as my iPod will attest to, but here goes …

Five songs I never get tired of hearing:

  1. Come Rain or Come Shine—Ray Charles. This was the song Tim and I danced to at our wedding. I ljust adore his version of this classic.
  2. Vultures—John Mayer. My new favorite. Not tired of hearing it yet.
  3. Makes Me Wonder—Maroon 5. Very pop, but I like it and I think Maroon 5 keeps reinventing itself
  4. Tyrone—My Morning Jacket. Love this version of Erykah Badu’s song.
  5. Can’t Get Enough—Mary J. Blige. Gotta give it up for my girl, Mary J.!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

Why does Mother’s Day for me translates to time away from the kids?

I am here at Starbucks sipping on a cool beverage, looking a bit pensive because I took my own photo with my camera's auto timer (hee hee hee!). The kids are spending time with Dad today. They made tea and toast for me this morning--gotta love that. They’ve bouncing off the walls today for some reason, zigging as I insist on zagging. So on this beautiful day, I am out with the camera, basking in the sound of my own thoughts—a priceless luxury to someone with little time and lots of big ideas.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you in the blogosphere. And a special Happy Mother’s Day greeting to my mom. Love you!
(In truth my family is priceless, and a few moments alone is all the gift I need.)

January O'Neil at the Super Hoot!

Here I am reading my poem "Night Work" as a winner of the 2007 Eagle Tribune/Robert Frost Foundation Spring Poetry Contest yesterday.

(It's taken me all morning to get this video uploaded--wish I could figure out how to edit the graphics.)


Friday, May 11, 2007

Congratulations, Ms. Lucille!

Earlier this week, the Poetry Foundation announced that Lucille Clifton won the 2007 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. She is an exceptional poet, knowledgeable in the craft and in the ways poetry can educate and entertain. Her style is all her own, with her subject matter, lack of punctuation, her economical use of words, and use of lower case letters and the “i”--to name a few of the qualities that makes her poetry unique.

I choose not to have any regrets in life. But, I will always, always, ALWAYS regret not taking a class with Ms. Lucille. Came close once. She was scheduled to teach at NYU while I was a graduate student, but took she ill and wasn’t able to be in New York City that semester (got stuck with a poet/instructor I hated). She’s also a friend of Cave Canem, so I’ve been in close company with her, but never had the opportunity to study with her.

It has been my privilege to see Ms. Lucille read many times, in venues as intimate as a country church and as large as 5,000 standing room only. Like Phil Levine, she is a living representation of how I want to live my life as a poet. As a black women, she has said in interviews that when her first book came out, she had six children under the age of 8. So when I think there’s no way I can find time for poetry, I think of her. And when I think of her, one word comes to mind: true.

I really could go on, but suffice it to say congratulations to Lucille Clifton for winning such a prestigious honor. You are an inspiration to us all.

“won’t you celebrate with me”

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

~Lucille Clifton

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Poem for Poetry Thursday

Happy Poetry Thursday everyone!

I have to admit, after posting a poem every day in April, I've been slow to post anything this month. Also, it's warm outside so my brain is now switching over to spring/summer mode.

Writing this week's poem felt like I was still able to tap into that place I go to create something new. Like exercise, my poetry muscles are in shape now, and fall back into a routine when needed. I did use the new, hip-and-cool Poetry Thursday Randomizer this week. After a few tries, I thought long and hard on the word "shade." The poem still needs work, and I'm not sure about the title.

Looking forward to reading your poetry this week.

Collateral Damage

The forsythia are dying,
as sure as my name is May.
They were goners before my hands
snapped the twigs, leaving nothing
but their jagged edges to bend in the wind.
Such is the life of those
sequestered into hibernation.
After winter’s long silence
there’s a need to possess
this bit of beauty.
Soon the petals will close and shrivel
then the tulips, the daffodils—those bigmouths
rendered speechless under the afternoon shade.
They had to know this was coming,
this change, this grieving.
If you speak to the cardinals,
they’ll tell you to lower your expectations.
But the bees, they’ll confess
it was over before it ever began.

Imogen Heap - Just For Now (live at Studio 11 103.1FM)

If you've never seen Imogen Heap perform, she is simply amazing.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Writer's Way

We all have our writing rituals. Note Ella's routine with her brother's markers.

For the last few months, I've been heading to my local Starbucks on Sundays as my little respite from the family, and to get some writing done. Usually I write to music or some sort of noise I can tune out. I think that's because I'm an only child I have a hard time with silence. When I’m out at Starbucks, I’ll drink hot chocolate (though I may have to switch to iced tea in the summer), but at home I like hot tea with lemon before settling down.

Often the writing starts long before I sit down with my journal. I also listen a lot more to conversations, looking for poetry in the things people say, or don't say. If I'm lucky, I'll mishear a phrase and build a line out of it. And there’s a good amount of free association that happens before pen ever hits the page.

As for the mechanics, I tend to be a late-night writer. After the kids are down for the evening, usually, I’ll open a book of poems to get me going. Then I'll write down a few lines with a blue Uniball Onyx pen and write in my unlined journal. Or, I write on my laptop, which I did a lot of in the month of April.

Now I’m curious about your writing rituals. Specifically, has your ritual changed during the last few months? Does the frequency or location change with the season?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Ocean

Ella, there is an ocean of opportunity that awaits you.

Look for it everywhere, even in the rocks under your feet.

I'll be around no matter which direction you choose.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Happy Cinco de Mayo!


I’ve been slow to post since the end of NaPoWriMo. Truth is, I’ve been catching up on my sleep. What I didn’t count on is being a little out of sorts after the experience. For a month, my mission was to write a poem a day. Now, I have to transition back to normalcy. I’m doing those things I let slide, including exercise, spending so extra time with kids, taking to my husband (hee hee hee), and, of course, watching the league-leading Boston Red Sox.

Today, the weather should be gorgeous, 60s and sunny—a good day to take the camera out for photos of the kids. I really think I need to try something new. I’ll have to give that some series thought.

Maybe this will jump-start my May efforts.

May To-Do List

  • Revise April poems
  • Write four poems in May
  • Debrief NEWS reading
  • Prep for next NEWS reading/create fall ’07 schedule
  • Prepare for Super Hoot poetry reading
  • Send out poems to two publications
  • Send out manuscript to one publisher/contest

Other Stuff

  • Budget—this is one area I let slide last month
  • Shop! (Hence, the need for the budget)
  • Get tennis racket restrung/play tennis
  • Prep for upcoming seminar I’m team-teaching with Erin
  • Be more social—invite friends over for dinner

Tonight, my husband and I will sit out in the back yard with margaritas!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Good Vibrations on Poetry Thursday

Last night was the inaugural event for the NEWS reading series. We had great turnout, and I was honored to be in the company of some phenomenal women.

I think the event was well received. Fortunately, we didn't hit any bumps in the road. Our readers were fabulous, and the audience was kind yet understanding of our grassroots effort. (Don't want to say too much more--I may write about the experience in a separate post.)

I'm going to tell the rest of the story in photos. Some of the pictures are blurry--sorry about that! Thanks to all of the participants, and all those who helped or sent good vibrations our way. Erin are I are grateful for your support.

(Note to self: take crowd shots!)

Megan Mullin, MA candidate in creative writing,UMass Boston

Colleen Michaels, poet, essayist, and adjunct instructor, Montserrat College of Art

Lisa Cohen from Once in a Blue Muse

Phenomenal women!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Boston: Poetry Reading Tonight!

Wish me luck! This is the first time I've read my work in public in three years. *GULP*


Join us as we launch the New & Emerging Writers Series
Wednesday, May 2, at 7pm

Where: The Regent Theatre screening room
7 Medford Street, Arlington

Shindig immediately following:
The Book Rack
13 Medford Street, Arlington

• January Gill O’Neil, winner of The 25th Annual Eagle
Tribune/Robert Frost Foundation Spring Poetry Contest
• Colleen Michaels, poet, essayist, & adjunct
instructor, Montserrat College of Art
• Megan Mullin, MA candidate in creative writing,
UMass Boston

Hope to see you there!

(Medford St is off Mass Ave in Arlington • Parking is
available on-street or in lots off Medford for directions)

NEWS is coordinated by

Erin Dionne January G. O'Neil

and sponsored by The Book Rack and the Regent Theatre in Arlington, MA

Future readings:
May 30 Fiction Night
June 27 Mixed Bag: Poetry, Fiction & Nonfiction


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