Friday, November 30, 2007

Happy End of NaBloPoMo

Whew! Thank goodness we're at the end of NaBloPoMo. While posting every day is not that hard, it does wear a bit thin--especially on those days where I don't have anything interesting to say.

Congrats to those participating in this and in NaMoWriMo. Writing a poem a day is hard enough so writing lots of words a day is incredible. And while I stopped at 11 poems, that 11's more than I wrote in the previous two months.

So like my fellow participants, I'll definitely pull back in December. But I'm not going far. You'll see me all month and into the new year. I'm just happy I can return to a normal sleep pattern instead of posting late in the evenings.

Goodbye NaBloPoMo. Hello last 30 day of 2007.

Wow!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

NaBloPo Mo 11

At the Movies

I remember my mother sneaking candy and sodas
in her purse past the Circle 6 box office,
me handing the tickets to the usher
and entering the dark cave
with its silvered glyphs on screen,
but that doesn’t matter.
I’d study the movie listings
like the betting line for the race track.
What will it be this week, E.T?
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan?
Poltergeist? While other girls
collected Barbie dolls I collected
ticket stubs. On Sunday afternoons
you’d find us slumped in our
orange and yellow cinema seats
hiding our eyes in our hands—as if that ever worked.

Now, I ignore the actors with their
overhyped breakups and televised makeups,
the massive salaries and big studio budgets,
which translates into $10 tickets and $20 popcorn
for you and me. What matters is the end
when the credits role, the moments before
the house lights shine us back to life,
that moment when I can’t remember
who I am and what I stand for.
It is the drama and the theater of it all.
It is me and my son, just like me and my mom,
watching the world end and begin again,
our hands greasy from hot buttered popcorn.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Split This Rock

Looking to add your poetic voice to the political dialogue? Check out Split This Rock. This event has been in the works for more than a year. I'm *hoping* to go, but we'll see. At the very least, I hope the organizers add podcasting and a video component to the event.

Split This Rock Poetry Festival:
Poems of Provocation & Witness
Washington, D.C.
March 20-23, 2008



Split This Rock Poetry Festival calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national network of activist poets. Building the audience for poetry of provocation and witness from our home in the nation's capital, we celebrate poetic diversity and the transformative power of the imagination.

Featuring readings, workshops, panels, contests, walking tours, film, parties, and activism! See the website for the incredible line-up of poets, including Mark Doty, Sonia Sanchez, Martín Espada, Naomi Shihab Nye, and many more. Split This Rock is cosponsored by DC Poets Against the War, Sol & Soul, Busboys and Poets, and the Institute for Policy Studies.



Also of interest: Poetry Contest--January 15 Deadline: The contest benefits Split This Rock Poetry Festival. $1,000 awarded for poems of provocation & witness; Kyle G. Dargan will judge. $500 for 1st, $300 for 2nd, and $200 for 3rd place. 1st place winner will read the winning poem at the festival. The poem will also be published on the festival Web site. All winners receive free festival admission. The $20 entry contest fee benefits the festival. Postmark Deadline: January 15, 2008. Visit the site for guidelines.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Confession Tuesday




This photo is one I took a few weeks ago when I took the kids to the New England Aquarium. I spent more money on parking in Boston than on admission. *sigh* Kids loved the jellyfish exhibits.

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I’m shocked that we’re now full force into the holiday season. I mean, Thanksgiving was less than a week ago and already I’m singing Christmas tunes in my head. I must be getting older because I find myself muttering, “Gosh, where has the year gone?”

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I’ve been at my current job 6 years, 9 months, and 11 days.

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I had to cancel on the workshop I had hoped to attend tonight. Babysitting issues.

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A Cave Canem member sent this out on our listserv. This sums up exactly how I feel for not being paid as a writer.



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Speaking of writing, I hope the writers’ strike going on in Hollywood and other major cities in the U.S. gets resolved quickly. I’m a fan of the TV shows Heroes and Law and Order: SVU and I have to tell you, I’m disappointed in what I’m seeing. Now I know the studios are pushing product to air the shows already finished. But I’d rather they shelve the remaining episodes than put out a bad product.

Last night’s Heroes episode was so disjointed I got the feeling it was slapped together from leftovers on the cutting room floor. As for tonight’s new L&O, this is the third episode in a row, I believe, in which the main characters get hurt. I mean, in nine seasons Benson and Stabler are super cops. Now, they’re getting stabbed, smashed, and injured by everyone. What’s up with that?

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Which is sadder, that I know so much about the shows or that I think of the characters as real people?


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Today’s theme song: “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” by The Beatles. “Sunday’s on the phone to Monday. Tuesday’s on the phone to me. Oh yeah!”


Monday, November 26, 2007

Poetry To-Do List

I finally completed my grant application for a state artist grant. This is the third time I have submitted my work—and I fully expect to be rejected yet again—but there’s a part of me that hopes to beat the odds. Tomorrow, I’ll drop my submission in the mail and won’t have to think about it until June ’08.

Also this month, I sent my poems out to six publications and so far, I’ve been rejected by Slate and Diagram. OK, admittedly Slate was pie in the sky. It just seems so arbitrary how poems are selected by journals and reviews. Conventional wisdom says that I should send to places I feel reasonably sure I’ll get in. And while I think that’s true, it’s good to “swing for the rafters” now and then.

So for this week, I hope to:

  1. Write two new poems.
  2. Check out a new writer’s group—if I’m not too tired tomorrow after work.
  3. Send poems to two journals.
  4. Start organizing my poems from this year. (YIKES!)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

NaBloPoMo 10

Feedback appreciated.


The Tea Grows Cold

While I tend to my son’s scraped knee.
The steam rises and rolls without me
as the teabag steeps darker and stronger
before my first sip.
Never again will he be so open.
I wash the grit from his glistening cut,
exchange his sobs for apple wedges
as we bite into the afternoon.
How this boy can overwhelm me with love for him
over and over and over again.

The world can go on now
a bit changed, like the cells of the skin
of which we both share. When the moment passes
I pull my spoon across the brown water like an oar
rowing myself back to shore.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Misspent Youth


Sorry, I think my youth was well spent.

I was a good girl growing up. Kind of boring, really. The only child of a Marine/police officer and a nurse, I walked the straight and narrow until my mid-20s when I moved from home. I never stayed out late, never drank (not really), never missed worked (had a job at 16)—didn’t even kiss a boy until college. Still, they worried about me even when they didn’t need to, but that’s what parents do, as I am surely finding out firsthand.

When I was younger, I wanted to own a nightclub (*smile*)! I remember there being no place really safe for young people to hang out except the mall, so I thought having a club where 16-year olds could dance but not drink would be fun. Then I took an 8 a.m. economics course which cured me of that! Dropping it allowed me to focus on subjects that I loved, such as English lit. I took a creative writing course and knew liberal arts, specifically poetry, was something I wanted to pursue.

My biggest complaint with the college and university system is that they don’t prepare English majors for the real world. I remember my father saying that with a degree in English I could go into almost any field. But what I needed was personal finance and career guidance on what to do with this major. I still hold out hope that one day I will be U.S. Poet Laureate … it can happen!

I think my younger self would be surprised yet pleased at how my life has turned out. My dad always thought I would be famous for something—being a lawyer or a newscaster. But he has no complaints about how things turned out: married with a beautiful husband and kids. Healthy and happy with a job I enjoy. Life is good.

Again, I’m available for the laureateship at anytime.

Visit Sunday Scribblings for more youthful stories.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Photos

Hope everyone had a great holiday. It was by far the best Thanksgiving meal I've ever had! Unfortuanetly, I was too busy eating to take photos of the actual meal .










Thursday, November 22, 2007

I Promise Blogroll

So this is something cool I've been doing on Thursdays. From the Poets Who Blog blog, I've signed up as an I Promise blogger.

I Promise Blogroll:
Ananda
Betty
Jack
Kimberley

We have agreed to stop by each other's sites every Thursday and leave a comment.

Here are the rules:

1. You do not have to gush over their work, if you don't truthfully feel that way. But kindness and respect is required.

2. You do not have to post new work each Thursday. If you get to a site and don't see a new poem, search through the archives and find one to comment on.

3. If you want to be removed from the list please let me know.

4. If you disappear for over a month you will be deleted from this blogroll.



I've been lucky because there are no slackers (well, maybe me!). The talent in this group is amazing.

If you're interested, visit Poets Who Blog.

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope you all have a wonderful turkey day today. I'm looking to sharing my holdiday with you in pictures and words later tonight.

Be well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

NaBloPoMo 9

Very new draft--still needs work but feedback appreciated.


Poem About Fonts

First, you must know your place in the family
Do you bring them close or push them away?
Whatever. You must learn to love the differences.
You must wish, albeit briefly, that this is
where you want to be. Next, you must address the
anatomy of text. You are, after all, the ninth letter.
You were chosen for a reason. Recognize the reason
but keep it to yourself. You can talk to old
photos, but those conversations are sure to be one sided.
Be kind to the books on the shelf, but not too kind--
save that story for another day. What keeps this family together?
Surely there is L O V E, because the lack of it creates a yearning.
Watch the L as it listens intently to the O’s rounded mouth
every modulation harkens a celebration
of bloom and gloom, and the origami of the V,
whose seductive valley makes her limbs rise
despite the obvious digression, in spite of
the E always looking away.
Your family defines you—every inclination,
every ascension and decension,
is in your character. It’s in the words
you carry with you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Confession Tuesday

Again, taking a page out of Carolee’s book, here are a few confessions for Tuesday.

1. I was trying to write a sonnet but the words aren't coming. In November, I wanted to try more formal verse, but no such luck yet. Truth is, I have no gift for rhyme, but I’m not giving up. Hope to devote more time to the sonnet after turkey day.

2. Heard a great podcast with Robert Hass from the Poetry Foundation's Web site, and I was encouraged by his poem "Sonnet."

3. Will write a new poem tomorrow, damn it.

4. I’m off from my job for the rest of the week—Woo Hoo!

5. I’m waiting for a letter that hasn’t arrived yet, literally and figuratively. And this letter carries good news. I’m not trying to be coy—I’ve hinted about it for weeks. I just don’t have any solid info to share.

6. On my nightstand are two books I'm reading simultaneously by Olie and Afaa. I love switching between the two. Olie, I’ve so much about the Aubade through your beautiful poems.

7. Can I tell you how much I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving on Thursday? I’ll have to wear the stretchy pants for all the food I will eat. Although my parents are in Virginia, I'm thrilled to be spending time with Tim's very large family. Must remember to take some leftovers.

8. Is it wrong to go to the gym on Thanksgiving morning?

9. If there was a Law & Order cable channel, I would watch it 24/7.

Monday, November 19, 2007

From NPR: Black Women Shine in This Year's Poetry Prizes

Black Women Shine in This Year's Poetry Prizes

From All Things Considered, Nov. 18:

"Four of the most prestigious poetry prizes went to African American women this year. Some say the accolades are well overdue. Fueling this trend are a growing number of literary organizations that nurture the work specifically of black writers."

Much deserved praise to Lucille Clifton, Natasha Trethewey, Tracy K. Smith, and Elizabeth Alexander—and to Cave Canem! It's nice to see the larger awards reflect what's going on in poetry—that poetry is thriving. And the voices once thought as underrepresented are now receiving the attention they so richly deserve. It gives me hope for the next generation of writers to find venues and audiences for their works.

Woo hoo!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Few Things ...

Just a quick post to say I'm still working on a sonnet. It's not as easy as it looks. I don't have a natural ability for rhyme, so I'm struggling. But I've had this desire to write one as well as attempt more formal verse. Hope to finish it up tomorrow.

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So I'm officially not writing a poem a day anymore. Just can't keep up; although, I'm happy I was productive enough to write eight poems, and am looking to write a few more poems this month.


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I am still participating in NaBloPoMo.


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Hope to take some photos this week to post on the blog.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Franz Wright



Saturday afternoon, I attended a poetry reading featuring Franz Wright. I have seen him read a few times over the years, the most memorable was at the 2004 Dodge Poetry Festival. If memory serves, he was on a panel and the conversation turned to MFA programs, and how he felt they were ruining poetry. He was boisterous and animated and unforgettable. Maybe he was having a bad day.

Since that event, in the times I’ve seen him read, he’s been generous in sharing his work as well as his writing process with the audience. Here are a few observations from the reading.

1. Franz Wright and his father James Wright are the only father and son to win the Pulitzer Prize.

2. I found Franz to be soft spoken, reading from all of his collections, but focusing on Earlier Poems and his latest title, God’s Silence. He didn’t speak very much between poems, and didn’t leave a lot of time between reading the title and the poem's first line. Also, he was monotone in his delivery.

3. Doesn’t matter if you are an emerging poet or an established poet, audiences really don’t respond during poems. While I believe the audience of about 30 people enjoyed the reading, they just listened. Very few giggles or groans of appreciation. Personality, as a reader, I find the silence unnerving.

4. Of the many poems he offered, I particularly liked Wheeling Motel.

5. In his Q&A session, Franz talked about how poets must deal with more than despair as their subject matter. Franz thinks of some of his poems as quite witty. He says that recently he’s let more of his personality come through in his work. He considers himself a distinctly “minor” poet, and that he loves the minor poets. In fact, he thinks post WWII American poetry is some of the best poetry every written--there's certainly enough choices out there.

6. The poet was very open when questions were asked about his father, James Wright. He writes a lot of father poems but he considers it a way of continuing the conversation with his dad. Franz was 25 when his father died. He loved and admired his father but now that he’s gotten some perspective, he realizes that his father “was a terrible parent.”

7. And on writing, Franz doesn’t sit down regularly to write. He keeps lots of notebooks and jots down phrases and ideas during the day. A few weeks later, those fragments somehow come together into a pattern once the conscious intellect takes over.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: "I Carry"

When I saw the prompt, the first thing I thought of was this poem by e.e. cummings. It’s one of the first poems I remember reading by him—I think I was about 18. With its awkward phrasing and use of repetition, it moves me every time.


As I look at the first line, with no space between the word “me” and beginning parens, I notice there’s no space around any punctuation mark. It’s pleasantly odd because the parentheses sets off a digression of thought, but really that’s the meat of the poem. It represents a sort-of symbiotic relationship, or dependency, between what is inside and what is outside, as well these two people—albeit, one sided. We really don’t know if the love is requited. We just have a sense that this passion flows like blood from one romantic soul to another.

(I can't get blogger to tab correctly, so "i fear" in the first stanza should be right justified.)

Did I mention that this poem is a sonnet?


i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)




~ e.e. cummings



Visit Sunday Scribblings.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

NEWS photos

We had terrific turnout for the last NEWS reading of 2007. It was a wonderful afternoon full of Young Adult fiction. Also, it was a celebration for our sponsor, The Book Rack, that marked its 32 anniversary on Sunday.




Lauren Barnholdt reading from her novel, The Secret Identity of Devon Delaney.



Erin Dionne

Phoebe Sinclair








Congratulations on a successful reading! Looking forward to hosting more NEWS readings in 2008.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

There's No "I" in Poetry

I was listening to a recent podcast at the Poetry Foundation’s Web site on the “I” in poetry. The critic asserted that since the Confessional Poets (Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, for example) of the 1960s, “I” is the most overused word in poetry. This has lead to an abundance of “me” poetry: me to a lover, me to my parents, me to my children, something bad has happened to me. And it all wraps up in a nice little bow—my relationship to the rest of the world.

So I wonder: is the “I” overused? Have poets lost the ability to write detached, objective poetry? Have we lost our ability to write about the universal? Can we write a poem about things and situations but not have it relate to ourselves directly?

As one who writes in the confessional vein, I welcome the thoughts of writers but especially readers. What kinds of poetry to you gravitate to, more personal poetry (first person) or that which talks about the broader spectrum of the human condition (third person)?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NaBloPoMo 8

(This was a postcard poem I decided to revise.)


Poem for My Since-Born Son

The heart knows who’s in charge
That overworked muscle
Shifting from side to side
A beat inside a beat
A belly inside a belly
This is your water song
Your song of yourself.
You are more than a bag of words,
And bigger the than the imagination can hold.

Confession Tuesday

Taking a page out of Carolee’s book, I’m sharing a few confessions with you on this Tuesday evening.

1. Day 13 and I am NaBloPoMo-ed out! Well, I’m not keeping up with the poem a day thing. I knew once I got a day behind it would be hard to catch up. There’s a part of me who wants to get back on pace, but often I stay up writing until 1 a.m., only to get up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym. The upside is that I'm writing poems again.

2. That being said, catch-up poems #8 and #9 (coming soon) are lame. I know. I get it.

3. Last night, Tim got a black eye playing basketball. Poor baby. When you look at him straight on, his eye is so purple he looks like he’s wearing eye shadow.

My son and I have a hard time not laughing at his new look. Poor baby.

4. Also, I’m late on putting up NEWS poetry series photos. Will do that tomorrow.

5. I have been sending poems to journals, six online and print journals in the last two weeks. This time around I’m swinging for the rafters, meaning that I’m sending to some big deal journals to see what happens. Why the heck not? Might be fun to get rejected by the New Yorker. *smile*

6. OK. Truth be told, I’ve been distracted with some extremely good news … one I’m hoping to reveal next week!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Next to You


What can I say? Seeing The Police was a chance of a lifetime! They've still got that spark. Hard to believe their stuff was alternative and edgy 25 years ago. I mean, they started a punk band, but managed to grow and be successful in video age, and now the band is legendary.

They played all of their hits, including "Next to You" (the title of this blog post). Regretfully, they did not play "Roxanne" or "Demolition Man." Now I understand Roxanne--I've heard Sting play it every which way possible. But "Demolition Man?" Come on! That's the one song I wanted to hear.

I'd love to hear Sting, Stewart, and Andy record new material, but I wonder what it would be like? Would it be edgy or contemporary (read: boring) middle-of-the-road music? I have hope for the former because it was just the three of them performing on stage: no back-up singers or musicians filling in. It was raw. No elaborate sets or lights or props. Just three mates at the top of their game--and all of us looking on in awe.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Police

Tonight, Tim and I are seeing The Police play in Boston. We're been looking forward to the concert for a long time. So I'm off to the last NEWS reading for 2007, and then Sting, Stewart, and Andy!

Needless to say, I doubt I'll post a poem for Sunday. Have a good afternoon.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

NaBloPoMo 7

The Blue Eye Trick

It wasn’t the glass eye
my history teacher removed
from its socket
as easily as a contact lens,
or that he would slam it on his desk
and warn us that we’d end up like this
if we didn’t settle down,
but how afterward,
in the wake of our astonishment,
he’d pop his blue eye back in
take one, long panoramic view of the class,
and turn back to the blackboard
to continue his lecture on the Middle Ages,
as if nothing ever happened.

Friday, November 09, 2007

NaBloPoMo 6

Skunk’s Song

It’s the coat, really,
True black and prized
like a smart black cat
with a bright white racing stripe
down its back, a coat so black
it contains night, the moon,
even me. I understand this urge
to rise up and take the dark.
My tight-fisted dreams are all animal.
And that slow pungent scent
wafting through the chilled November air
is a declaration of war
for all who cross our dream path.

Mark Doty


It's been a while since I've been excited about hearing a poet read his or her work. But I was strangely giddy about hearing Mark Doty speak at Babson College.


Normally, I don't talk about where I work, but Babson is a top-ranked business school. And while we're not known for liberal arts, the College embraces the arts and tries to incorporate creativity into everything it does. Mark's appearance coincided with an ongoing project by our Arts and Humanities division on the concept of dwellings, homes, and residences in literature. He read a mix of poetry and prose in front of about 100 students and few faculty members (and me).


So here are a few random thoughts about Mark's presentation:



  1. Since Mark is a teacher, his presentation was appropriate for the student audience. What I mean by that is that most college students, by nature, would rather be texting, or on Facebook, or on a Playstation somewhere rather than hearing poetry. So rather than a typical reading where it's poem after poem, he tone was extremely conversational, even sparked a few laughs from the crowd.

  2. If you've never heard Mark read before (I've heard him many times, in large and small venues), he's deliberate and measured with his words. And his facial expressions help to lift the lines right off the page.

  3. Even though I have one of his poetry books, Sweet Machine, I had forgotten how rich his poems are. They sometimes go on for two or three pages—his poems need room to breathe. Mark takes a subject and examines it from every angle. I'd say his work is almost three dimensional, if that makes sense.

  4. After telling the audience he was going to read one more poem and one more essay, he said, " It's always good to know how much is coming so you can adjust your attention." Perfect for a room full of students on a Thursday night.

  5. Keeping with the theme of home and homelessness he queried: who are we if we are no longer familiar with home? And what happens if the people, animals, and things in this world were no longer a part of it, how does that change the concept? He read from his book Dog Years, and spoke openly about grief and loss—everything from pets to relatives to past loves.

  6. As someone who cringes at the though of having to explain poems to an audience, I was so impressed by how open Mark was about his life and lifestyle. He spoke of, but didn't read, his poem "Chanteuse," which is his remembrance of Boston in the 80s and being in love. Again, Mark spoke openly about the 80s AIDS epidemic and how the process of change was rapidly accelerated then. This is partly why he sees himself as a carrier of stories; much like a chanteuse singing these stories which otherwise might go untold.

  7. When one of the students asked how he writes about the subjects he chooses, Mark said that he doesn't make things up. "I examine things that happen to me, and then I start to make things up." The details can move—the sequence of things, objects, and dates—for the greater good of the poem (or prose). And while there are some writers who have to make up details to tell stories (fiction writers, for instance), he has no problem digging in his own life.

  8. In his closing, Mark put in a plug for the teachers and their writing assignments. He commented that it may be difficult to try something new,"… But if you don't do anything good, you won't do anything better. Stretch yourself. Use the conflict in your writing assignments to energize your work."

  9. Lastly, we spoke briefly after his reading. I told him about my writing life, and he was very gracious and offered some advice.

  10. So today, I am content and reflective. It was so good to feed my poetry soul.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

NaBloPoMo Week One: A Few Thoughts

Writing a blog post or posting a photo every day for a month is easy. But writing a poem each day is hard work! I’m not going to complain about it, I’ll just hunker down and see what happens.

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That being said, I’ve already written more poems this month than I have in the past two. Woo Hoo!

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Last night I went to a local writers’ workshop, which was fun. But I’m psyched about tonight because poet Mark Doty is reading at the campus where I work. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell there’s no advertising being done by the marketing department—and I should know because I’m in the department! Oh well, I hope we get a good turnout.

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I do like the forums developing at Ning with NaBloPoMo. Very cool.

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Must start posting pictures soon. I haven’t taken any pictures lately, and I like finding visual representations of art and poetry in my community. Will try to do that this weekend.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Boston: NEWS Reading This Sunday!

Come celebrate with us at the final N•E•W•S Reading for 2007!

Join us as we present the New & Emerging Writers Series

YOUNG ADULT AND CHILDREN’S LITERATURE

Sunday, November 11 at 4 p.m.

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


And help us say Happy Birthday to The Book Rack—32 years young!

Shindig immediately following:
The Book Rack
13 Medford Street, Arlington
Visit www.book-rack.com for a listing of store events.


Readers:

• Lauren Barnholdt—author of YA novels Reality Chick and Two-Way Street, both from Simon Pulse, and The Secret Identity of Devon Delaney, for middle-grade readers from Simon & Schuster’s MIX series.

• Erin Dionne—2006 PEN/New England Children’s Book Caucus Discovery Night honoree, author of Beauty Binge, forthcoming from Penguin’s Dial Books for Young Readers, spring 2009.

• Phoebe Sinclair—YA novelist and National Novel Writing Month participant.

Hope to see you there!

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

Contact news_readings@yahoo.com for more information.


* * * *NEWS is coordinated by

Erin Dionne and January G. O'Neil

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

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

NaBloPoMo 5

Mussels

As the afternoon converses
with the day’s dying light
at the beach near our house
my son and husband find a few mussels,
opened and empty,
shimmering along the shore.
They put some in their pockets
to add to his collection of big kid things:
feathers, uneaten acorns, rocks from the driveway—
currency for a toddler crossing into boyhood.
Meanwhile, my husband knocks on the door
of middle age, rubs his back that aches from bending.
His patience grows weary
from small talk with a small child.
They walk back to the house
in the summer heat
without speaking.

In this place they call silence,
away from my constant preening
and his sister’s machinations,
he takes his little sandy hand
across another country,
reaches for his father’s with all the strength
his four-year-old hand can muster.
Neither is willing to let go.

Monday, November 05, 2007

NaBloPoMo 4

Sideways

Thank goodness for those who travel in this world sideways.
You know who they are—the ones who’d rather push than pull.
Fate will never shove a bookmark between the pages of their lives,
their covers sketched out in beautiful landscapes, never portraits.

Consider yourself lucky that this is not your folly. You take
what you get and call it a day, under your breath muttering
please may I have some more? The evening news with its
tainted toothpaste and recalled toys is your torture debate.

You break your heart and sew it back together the very
next day. While they see roses on their morning commutes
you see trees waiting to burn. While you look up to heaven
they hear the occasional beating of wings.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

NaBloPoMo #3

Yep, I'm a day behind my poetry posts. And, I'm sleepy--not a good combination.

Today's poem comes from Starbucks. I liberally picked phrases from this blurb that was on the back of my grande hot chocolate. Here's the quote and then the poem.

The Way I See It #282

Childhood is a strange country. It’s a place you come from or go to – at least in your mind. For me it has an endless, spellbound something in it that feels remote. It’s like a little sealed-vault country of cake breath and grass stains where what you do instead of work is spin until you’re dizzy.

-- Lyall Bush, Executive director of Richard Hugo House, center for writers and readers.

(Also, there's a Ntozake Shange reference in the poem.)



****


Childhood Elegy


Childhood’s a strange country,
one in which I now need a passport;

it is my lost and found, my place in between
when the rainbow isn’t enough.

Back when my nickname was Trouble,
I was all cake breath and grass stains.

What did I want to be when I grew up?
A superhero, of course. In June’s humid evenings

I’d tear the blossoms out of honeysuckles
to suck the sweet nectar from its center.

That’s what it was like, one big
hide and seek—and I was always “it.”

I’d draw pictures for hours
ntil blisters formed under my skin

while the colors blended black
into a ruined sky.

Oh, my little other, my dark one:
hold onto your teddy bear

and never let go.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Money


Next to poetry and family, money is my favorite topic.

It’s not about being rich, but feeling secure. It’s about being responsible financial citizens, and passing that knowledge along to the next generation of financial citizens. Funny that we live in a society that feels more comfortable talking about sex on TV, yet ask your neighbor how much he owes on his credit cards and he’ll punch you in the face.

I believe I make more money now that my mother or father ever did at their jobs, and they both worked for the government. Of course it was a different time, but they did their best to pass along to me a sense of worth. In other words, they taught me to only spend money on the things that will last. Since I’m an only child, the message that resonated loudest in my teens and twenties was that I should not have to depend on a man for my security. Save. Invest. Prepare for the future.

I wish there message had been a little more direct: Don’t get a credit card. Like many college students, I got a card—an American Express—and took my friends out to lunch often. Then when I graduated in the early 90s, I couldn’t find work in my field right away. So I floundered, having just enough money to cover my expenses and debts. Fortunately, the hole I dug was not that deep, so I shoveled my way out over a period of years, never missing a student loan or credit card payment.

When I met my husband, we felt that having financial stability was key to building a relationship. Again, it’s more than money—it’s about communication. So during our courtship, marriage, and the first few years after, we paid off two cars, probably $15K in combined debt, $35K in my student loans, and put a good down payment on our house.

This year has been difficult because my husband has his own business that he’s trying to grow without racking up debt—not an easy thing to do. So it means the business expands at a snail’s pace. But he’s positioned himself for growth next year. And I have a few irons in the fire that should also get us on track. With any luck, we’ll be back on pace to do the near impossible: pay of the house in the next 10 years.

Why do I say all of this to you? Because so many people are struggling with debt. Imagine not having to send your money every month to a credit card company. Imagine having a paid-off house. What cool stuff could you do for yourself, your family, and your community? I believe money is meant to be enjoyed. We’ve gotten so used to credit cards that we can now use them at fast food restaurants. How crazy is that? But we have to use it responsibly. Like fire, it must be handled with great care.

Today, we try to live a debt-free life. We live by simple tenets: don’t buy things we can’t afford, don’t spend more than we earn, don’t carry credit cards, use a budget, and save for the future.

My greatest wish is for everyone is to cut up the credit cards, live on less than you make, and save for the wonderfully rich future that you deserve.



(image: Andy Warhol Dollar Sign, 1982© The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.)

Friday, November 02, 2007

NaBloPoMo 2

A few notes about this poem.

  • This is a protest poem for the Jena 6 incident and its ramifications. I am not one to write overtly political poems, but I've wanted to write this for a long time.
  • It was much easier to write than last night's poem.
  • I feel a great sense of relief that this poem is in the world. The piece is meant to start dialogue, so feedback is appreciate about the poem itself or the issues it raises, as long as the comments are given in the spirit of sharing and healing.
  • I don't claim to have any answers.
  • The lines are not breaking correctly in Blogger.
And now, a comment about the epigraph: I'm having a hard time finding the exact quote from J. Reed Walters. I've heard and seen it written a few different ways, so I'm going with this one for now. And the line "Because of the stroke your pen, we are here" is a quote from a protest sign from the Jena, Louisiana, protest this past September. I heard it in an NPR story and now I can't find it.

Whew! Sorry for the long explanation.

****

Jena


“I can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If the protests at the school do not stop, with the stroke of my pen I can make your lives disappear.”

~ Jena, Louisiana District Attorney J. Reed Walters as he addressed Jena High School students in an assembly last fall.


Because of the stroke your pen, we are here:
the people you sought to abort from history
with a thick white rope.

My friend, we’d like a word with you.

Every day the past tightens around our necks
and its low, constant hum is a new Jena tree
taking root somewhere else.

This is more than a prank. A beating.
It is the geometry of hate, the tip of a scale,
a reminder that inalienable rights are, indeed, alienable,
and that equality, justice, respect, and opportunity
are still not available to all under the law.

We may have come on different ships
but we’re all in the same boat.
My friend, the boat is sinking.

Because of the stroke your pen, we are here
to bring you the bodies
that swung and hung exclamation points
against a terrible wind.

So this is a poem for those who think it’s funny to drop a noose from a branch.
This is for those who claim they have our best interest at heart but don’t,
and this is for those who do.
This is for those who thought the unmaking of flesh would be our undoing.

This is for those who were flimflammed, swindled, railroaded, bamboozled, duped, set-up, double crossed, hoodwinked, and flat out lied-to.
This is for the 40 acres. The mule.
For the women we never looked at and the girls we never raped.
For those in the wrong place at the wrong time,
which was always. Which was never.
For the nameless, homeless, stranded souls who cannot be identified by DNA testing.
For the more than 4,700 people lynched in America.
We ask how many more lives will be thrown away because nothing was done?

And for those who say we should just forget the whole thing,
we say NO. Hell no. Not this time.

May memory grant you mercy
because we won’t give you anything—
not our dignity or our shame
not even the last word,
because by the stroke your pen, we are here.

The Demise of Poetry

If there was any doubt about the decline of poetry's readership in the U.S., here are two stories to support the argument.

Last week, the Lehrer News Hour profiled Copper Canyon Press and other Seattle publishers on the state of poetry presses. No new revelations, but still an interesting look inside the world of print publishing. The story is titled "Seattle Poetry Publisher Finds Method to Adapt to Changing Cultural Times." You can read the transcript, watch streaming video, or download the podcast. They also have an extensive list of poets in their poetry series—nice to see poetry represented somewhere in the media today.

Also, poet Rigoberto Gonzalez wrote an article/blog post for the Poetry Foundation called "In Praise of Online Journals."

Don't get me wrong, while poetry seems to be flourishing online and in local communities, I can't help but wonder in a few years if we will even publish poetry books or journals in print anymore.

*Sigh*


 

 

Thursday, November 01, 2007

NaBloPoMo 1

OK, I'm sneaking this one under the wire, but I've been working on it for days. I'm still counting it as my first NaBloPoMo entry.

This is the first new poem in two months, still very raw, still needs a good scrubbing.


Paraphernalia

On the drive to the grocery store,
I listen to my father enunciate each letter,
add stress to every syllable of his favorite word.
He said if I learned a word-a-day,
I can do anything I want to do in life—
a simple solution for all of life’s hurts.
This from a man who spent his working life
in law enforcement. But at 8 years old,
all I wanted to do was be 9, keep my head down
and make it to 10. No reason
why a word related to personal effects
would affect him enough to translate
the language of what couldn’t be said.

My father, who never made it past grade 10,
learned early how to disguise misfortune for blessing.
So he proceeded to tap out the word on my knuckles
with his free hand, the other gripping tight to the steering wheel.
Is it too much to imagine he knew it was derived
from the word dowry, how this word is now my
personal property, now the bell in my head
that never ceases to ring? I never guessed
my father carried something so massive as to pass it to me.
Yet this is the only word he ever taught me, this legacy
I now claim as the wind in my throat.

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