Friday, September 28, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Boston: NEWS Reading Series -- Sunday, September 30

Spread the word ...


Join us as we present the New & Emerging Writers Series

Sunday, September 30, at 4 p.m.

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

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


• Kevin Carey--a Pushcart Prize nominee for his poem, "Shredding Me;" his work has appeared in several collections including the Paterson Literary Review and Still Waters: A New England Anthology of Mystery Writers

• Lisa Cohen--head moderator at Wild Poetry Forum, her publications include the Loch Raven Review, Stirring--A Literary Collection, and others

• Catherine Hathaway--local poet, UMass Amherst alum

Hope to see you there!

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

Contact for more information or visit our web site at

* * * *

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:
October 21 Poetry
November 11 Focus on Fiction

Monday, September 24, 2007

Poetry Postcard Exchange 2

From JillyPoet:


The 5 Wh-Question Meme

From Poefrika:

Here are 10 questions masquerading as five. Yes, it's a meme. Please participate if you can, because these things always teach us about you and about writing. Tag if you want to, but tag people that you think wouldn't mind becoming tagees. With these questions, share your experience and your opinion, and whatever else you care to stick in there.

Here goes:

1. Who's your hero? Why (Not necessarily a writer -- do not include deities or family)?

My literary hero is Lucille Clifton. She's a prolific poet and well-versed on African American and African culture. And, she wrote with lots of children around.

2. Who's your favorite dead poet? Which of their poem do you like best?

My favorite is dead poet is Whitman, with Leaves of Grass/I Sing the Body Electric as a personal favorite. I often recite lines to myself when no one is around. I'm also a big fan of the late Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Frost, Anne Sexton, Audre Lorde, and Langston Hughes.

3. What well-known poet/writer have you met? What was the occasion?

Since I am a fan of poets, I seek out opportunities to hear them whenever I can. Some of the following I have studied with, some I have met at reading or events such as the Dodge Poetry Festival.

Allen Ginsberg
Stanley Kunitz
Lucille Clifton
Billy Collins
Rita Dove
Robert Bly
Grace Paley
Toi Derricotte
Cornelius Eady
Sonia Sanchez
Sharon Olds
Galway Kinnell
Phil Levine
Yusef Komanyaka
Mark Doty
Ruth Stone
David Ignatow
Glyn Maxwell
Sekou Sundiata

I've also met lots of up-and-coming poets, too. I'll take advantage of any opportunity to talk to a writer, famous or not. I'm not saying that I've had long conversations with them, but I have shaken their hands and told them how much I enjoyed their work.

4. How do you recognize a bad poem? What are its characteristics?

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck ...

Seriously, I think some of the most mediocre poems come from well-known poets. But I blame the publishers for that. Take the New Yorker magazine for example. It seems as if a small number of established poets get in automatically, even if their work is not very good. I find this true of many of the top-tier journals and reviews. In the case of the New Yorker, I hope this changes once poet Paul Muldoon, the new poetry editor, takes the helm.

5. Why are some poems entitled untitled? What's your take on that?

I don't understand untitled poems. The title sets the tone for the poem. It is the unofficial first line, so not having a poem title is a wasted opportunity. Of course, I'm interested to see how others feel about the untitled poem.

Thank you for answering and posting the gems on your blog/site. We'd love it if you could leave a comment here telling us where to look. Memes are a good way of discovering people and sharing knowledge.

How 'Bout Them Apples

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Poetry Postcard Exchange

Look at this terrific handmade postcard I received from Carolee a few days ago, a reminder that I should start posting the poetry postcards. Fabulous!

If you are interested in exchanging a poem on a postcard, e-mail me at I'll post all of the postcards, with permission of course. Postcards I've received so far will be posted this week. And if I've promised a poem to you, don't worry--it's coming!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Hi, My Name Is ...

Happy Sunday Scribblings!

This poem was more a free association exercise, so it is what it is, I guess. All I know is that the Red Sox have clinched a playoff spot--all is right in my world!

Looking forward to reading your posts this week.

Hello, My Name Is …

the key in the door lock,
the hallway you’ve walked through a-hundred-and-one times
thinking OK, this is it. This is my life.
You stir in the middle of the night,
turning to the window where the pulled-back curtain reveals
a flood light triggered by your next-door neighbor's
predawn gym trip.
You can turn away but the light always finds you,
it shines over closed eyelids
though you are not there, not really.
You drift through the morning,
your hand already gripping a phantom steering wheel
on the same ride you’ve taken for years.
All that while, in the well of dust under the television,
beneath the mirror’s dirty reflection, you are there at the surface
crowding the house. You at the door sliding the key in the lock
—past the hallway, past the hardwood's creek,
the relentless floor—cannot guarantee you are who you say you are.
Your name is, one foot out the door.

Friday, September 21, 2007

She Came in Through the Bathroom Window ...

(The view from Joseph Legaspi’s bathroom window)

September surprised me. I thought I would have been more productive, at least blogged more this month. That hasn’t been the case. It comes down to the ebb and flow of creativity, and how it’s impossible to predict how productive a person can be at any given time. But, I also feel this has been a month of great personal growth. I went to NYU last week to pay tribute to a friend, Phebus; finished an article about about her for Callaloo (it was good to get those words down on paper), and read in public twice this month. All of this amidst the bump-and-grind of the everyday. All of this and I’m still here.

This morning, my son woke up at 3:30 a.m.—he needed help going to the bathroom. Back in bed, staring at the inside of my eyelids, I took the opportunity to reflect on the last few weeks. It’s been one heck of a ride; busy doesn't even cover it. Yet, I’m thankful my friends and family are healthy and happy. And I think participating in Phebus' memorial reading reminded me that life does go on.

So, now that it’s daylight, it’s time for me to put my head down and get back to it—doing the things that I do best. Wife. Mother. Poet.

This is my revised to-do list. It represents the things I’ll focus on for the rest of the month.

  • Jena 6 – I was so moved by the protest that I started a new poem. Will finish and post it this weekend.
  • Send out poems to a journal a week – I need to start doing this with more frequency.
  • Devote time to the NEWS – We’ll be announcing fall readers in the next few days.
  • NPR – I've always wanted to write a commentary for broadcast on public radio. This may be the right time to try.
  • Freelance work – I’ve been kicking this idea around for a while. I do so many free endeavors that it would be nice to get a few freelance gigs. Mama would like to put a few extra gifts under the tree this year.
  • Screenplay – For years, I’ve thought that the complicated life of Anne Sexton would make an interesting screenplay. So I think it’ time to jump into this. I’ll conduct research, and then start to write in November. My hope is to complete it by April.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Galway and Sharon

I came across this photo in a box of old pictures from the 1990s. This is a photo I took of poets Galway Kinnell and Sharon Olds back in 1996 at the Brook Farm Inn in Lenox, MA.

One of the perks of the NYU graduate creative writing program was that the administration arranged a weekend workshop at this inn that claims to be the only poetry inn in the U.S. I was a first-year student at the time, and to have the chance to work so closely and intimately with them is something I'll never forget.

Galway and Sharon have always been close, as you can see in this picture. Along with Phil Levine, they were my example of how to live in this world as a poet. I admired (and still admire) their dedication to craft, as well as their respect for fellow poets. They were generous with their time, and patient with all of us who wanted their attention.

Galway is 80 now and no longer teaching at NYU, but Sharon still teaches there; although, I don't think they still do this weekend retreat. (Twelve college students spending the we together--I don't think so.) I'm just grateful to have this memory, and to be able to share this experience with you.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Thoughts and from Phebus’ Memorial Reading

I am still processing the love and kind words spoken about Phebus. Dante Micheaux, arranged a wonderful evening of celebration at New York University’s Lillian Vernon Creative Writers’ House on Friday night. Poets Sarah Gambito, Aracelis Girmay, Joseph O. Legaspi, Vikas Menon, Dante Micheaux, Khalil Murrell, Mendi Obadike, Gregory Pardlo, Evie Shockley, and Ron Villanueva filled the night with stories and recollections, as well as Phebus’ brave poems. I was happy to be included as one of the readers.

We selected poems in Phebus’ unpublished manuscript titled Chainstitching, reading in the order that the poems appeared in her collection, which gave the evening its flow. The emotions ran from joyous to somber and back to joy again—in no small part to the loving musical tribute that Mendi and her husband brought to the evening (THANK YOU!).

I think each of us felt that we got a little closer to Phebus by sitting with her words. And then to speak about her, for her—it just felt good to be able to praise her instead of mourning her loss.

Being there with so many wonderful poets, and being back at my old stomping grounds, NYU, renewed my spirit. I have her to thank for that.

My one wish for Phebus' legacy is that her manuscript gets published someday.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Big Apple

I'm off to New York City to participate in a memorial reading for friend and dear poet Phebus Etienne.

My apologies to Carolee for not participating in this weeks' Traveling Poetry Show. I'm stretched a little thin right now but hope to catch up with all of the wonderful Thursday poems very soon.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Boston: NEWS Reading Series--Readers WANTED!

The N•E•W•S is back!

Our literary community-building effort got off with a bang this past spring: three evenings of strong poetry, fiction, and nonfiction by up-and-coming writers in their genre. We enjoyed work from more than 20 writers, including Charles M. Boyer, Kara Provost, Emmuella Morris, and many others.

If you missed it, you missed out! Now we’re back for Round Two.

We are looking for more writers ready to present their material in public. Fiction, poetry, personal essay—all forms are welcome. Each reader will have 15 minutes to share their work with the audience, so you could read a couple of short pieces or an excerpt from a longer work.

The dates for the fall series are as follows:

*Sunday, September 30 Mixed Bag—all genres, allstyles: fiction, nonfiction, & poetry
*Sunday, October 21 Poetry Extravaganza
*Sunday, November 11 Focus on Fiction

*all events begin at 4 p.m.*

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

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

We can promise a fun afternoon filled with food, good company, and good cheer. You bring the good writing.

If you are interested in participating, or would like more information, contact either of us via e-mail or the Web site. We'd also love it if you could start spreading the NEWS to fellow writers.

Hope to see you at an event!
January & Erin

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


It’s hard to do anything today—work, write, eat lunch—without remembering where you were on 9/11. This year was particularly strange because it’s on a Tuesday, the actual day of the week the attacks occurred. So I couldn’t help but think about what I was doing six years ago: trying to figure out how in the heck to get down to Norfolk, VA, for my wedding with my then fiancĂ©. I’ve blogged about my remembrance of 9/11 previously so I'll just provide the link.

As difficult as the day is for many of us, life goes on. Today was spent in meetings, editing brochures, a little crisis management, but also hugging the kids, talking Red Sox baseball with my husband, and making dinner. And something extra special, I attended an open mic and literary conversation at a local bookstore.

There was some talk about the day but not much. The evening was about the writing in this group where 70 percent of the participants were new. Out of my comfort zone, I listened to others talk about their writings (which was very good), read two of my own poems, and reminded myself that this is what community is all about.

In some small way, by doing the routine things that I do, and being there for the people I love the most, this is the best way to honor those who died on 9/11.

(As I type this, Boston Firefighters are singing God Bless America at Fenway Park during the Red Sox-Devil Rays game.)

You are with us always.

Monday, September 10, 2007

NYC: Memorial Reading for Phebus Etienne

Come celebrate the work of the poet Phebus Etienne, dear friend, graduate of the NYU Creative Writing Program, and Cave Canem Foundation Fellow, who passed away in March.

Reading Phebus' poems are her friends Sarah Gambito, Aracelis Girmay, Joseph O. Legaspi, Vikas Menon, Dante Micheaux, Khalil Murrell, Mendi Obadike, January Gill O'Neil, Gregory Pardlo, Evie Schockley, & R.A. Villanueva

Memorial Reading for Phebus Etienne
Friday, September 14, 7 p.m.

Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House
58 West 10th St. (between 5th and 6th Aves.)
New York City

Reception to follow

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Jan Baby

Tonight I'm testing out my new printer/scanner/copier/time machine. That's me, circa 1970.

Sunday Scribblings: Writing

I’ve met some amazing women and men in the blogosphere. I've enjoyed the powerful yet simple stories offered by everyday people—creative, caring, concerned, need-to-be-heard, can’t-stand-it-anymore, look-at-my-new-puppy people. And it all stems from the writing.

As vast as the blogosphere is, it can be as familiar as the coffee shop down the street where you may greet a neighbor, or have a heart-to-heart with a friend. It’s really a personal space. Yet the most public of venues. People everywhere share the breadcrumbs of their lives with the utmost detail. Someone posts a haiku about a dragonfly with a dragonfly photo. Someone posts a letter written to her dead mother. Someone posts her daughter's picture and talks about the first day of school. On and on it goes: the human condition. In this space, the ordinary details become extraordinary.

Why do we come back to the blogs we visit? What is here in the blogosphere that we can’t find in the real world? Think about it—we’re reading other people’s stories. Every time I post something, the subtext is saying, I don’t know you, but here I am and I’m sharing this piece of my life with you. Please read. Technology has made it possible to find something funny, or larger than life, or thought-provoking with the click of the mouse.

And the writing. Let’s not forget the good writing that makes me, as a reader, care about the small stuff: a list of words that you absolutely hate; the last bloom of the summer hydrangeas; a homemade chocolate cake; how you don’t like your kids sometimes; how hard it is to make ends meet. We forgive a lot here—the typos and sometimes poorly constructed sentences. It's not about that. It never was.

That’s why I come here to the nebulous. It seems as if we write about the truest part of ourselves, and our responses can be a pat on the back or a kick in the pants. And I don’t even know your names. Or how you really look. Or your job. Or the car your drive. Or how you take your coffee in the morning. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you’re a jerk. Or an insomniac. Or on the edge of financial ruin. Or terrible at sex. All I know is that you have something to say, and I have a moment to read your story.

For more of the small stuff, visit Sunday Scribblings.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Wanna know where to find poetry on the Web? The Poetry Foundation asked a few poets where they like to visit. You can read the article titled Poetry Blog-O-Rama on their site, and then tell me a few places for poets and writers that you visit on a regular basis.

On a side note, I'm happy that the poetry community has found another home. Rob Kistener has started a site called Writers Island, with prompts and postings for Tuesdays.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thursday Poem

Thursday is still my favorite day of the week. There is poetry today in the cool September air. There's poetry hiding in school books. There's poetry in the changing leaves. And because Delia is hosting the traveling poetry road show this week, poetry blooms again in the blogosphere.

This little poem I wrote for one of my postcard poems. Seems fitting for so much change around me. No title yet, but it is the start of something golden and true and real.

Looking forward to writing a poem on next week's prompt.

Today I plant impatiens
to conceal the mass grave of my garden,
where flowers die in summer’s late wane.

The low hanging heads of the hydrangeas
have forgotten how blue they truly are.
But memory never allows for such subtraction.

A flower remembers its long, slender stem,
the water pooling at the roots. It remembers
what it means to be in love with itself—

light gushing light. The curious jewel of an eternal bud.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

September To-Do's

The start of a new school year always seems like a time to reassess the year, and overall it’s been a pretty good one. I *think* I’m starting to find a balance between my family life and my poetry goals. My secret, if you will, is dedicating an hour an evening to something—anything—a chore, a poetry to-do task, something that I can finish but feel like I’ve accomplished a task.

In the past, after the kids have gone to bed, I’d collapse with a thud in bed. TV on until I drifted to sleep. But now, when the kids go down, I try to accomplish one thing that’s on my list. And it’s helped. Last night I reorganized my office desk, which doesn’t sound like much, but it felt like I was starting again with a clean slate. Fits right in with September.

The other big thing I did during the weekend was start a new journal. Whenever I feel like I need to shake off the past, I create a new beginning in my journal. It’s like starting a new chapter in my life.

I guess I’m finding that these silly, little to-do lists mean something to me. And I have more success when I put them out there for all the world to see. These lists are my way of saying this is what’s important to me. Right now. In September.

  • Poem for Thursday. – What can I say? Can’t let go of having a poem written by Thursday. So that’s four poems this month.

  • Work on a memorial essay for Phebus Etienne – With any luck, it will appear in an upcoming edition for Callaloo.

  • Send out poems to a journal a week – I need to start doing this with more frequency.

  • Devote time to the NEWS – It’s time to kick our New & Emerging Writers Series into high gear with new fall dates. We’re excited to start the series again with some of Boston’s most talented writers. More info to come.

  • Open mic – While the NEWS is fulfilling enough, an up-and-coming bookstore in my area is sponsoring an open mic on Sept. 11.

  • NPR – I've always wanted to write a commentary for broadcast on public radio. This may be the right time to try.

  • Volunteer work – I’m happy to say that this fall I will edit a newsletter for a local charitable organization that helps out people in need. I may also devote some time to their marketing board as well. Cool!

  • Freelance work – I’ve been kicking this idea around for a while. I do so many free endeavors that it would be nice to get a few freelance gigs. Mama would like to put a few extra gifts under the tree this year.

  • Screenplay – For years, I’ve thought that the complicated life of Anne Sexton would make an interesting screenplay. So I think it’ time to jump into this. I’ll conduct two months of research, and then start to write in November. My hope is to complete it by April.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Best Laid Plan ...

Unfortunately, the new community-based poetry project I was working on, called Big Asterisk Poetry Project, fell through.

But I will still be posting poems here on Thursdays, and visiting other blogs to enjoy the fine work I've come to know during the past year.

Sharp-Dressed Man

Can I tell you I had a real mommy moment when my son was fitted for a tux over the weekend. He and my husband are in a wedding next month.

*sigh* My little boy is growing up. *sniff sniff*

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: The End

My daughter loves to look through her rather large collection of children’s books. And she’s very methodical about it. She’ll pull a book off the bookshelf, scan each page, maybe pointing out a duck or a pig, and then looking up at me to say, “the end!” She does it without fail. Then she puts that book aside and gets another one from the shelf, with the same enthusiasm fitting for a 2-year old. But don’t try to read the story to her—she won’t have it. Her imagination must be working overtime.

It saddens me that people in the U.S. are reading less. I’m sure that’s a global reflection of people reading fewer books. So as I sit here with my daughter looking over the pages of a pop-up book, I hope this is a good sign. I hope her love of books is embedded in her DNA. My son really enjoys sitting on the couch as I read to him, which is a good sign. They certainly see me with my nose in a book, a cup of hot tea cooling next to me. And their father often can be found with a newspaper in hand, or a dog-eared paperback in tow.

If we teach by example, then she is also teaching me to take time for simple pleasures. Watching her giggle as she flips through the pages touches me in a way I never could have imagined. It reminds me of the special relationship each of us has with a good book. We invest our time into activity that yields a different experience no matter how many times we do it. My daughter knows this. And one day, despite the statistics, she’ll realize that in homes everywhere, in bookstores and libraries and communities worldwide, a story is being told, and that connects us all.

For more endings and beginnings, check out Sunday Scribblings.


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