Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Poetry Action Plan: How to Meet and Surpass Your Writing Goals for 2009

(This article was written for Read Write Poem.)

I love the change that comes with a new year. All of my annual failures and misfires are wiped clean. I’m given another chance to get it right, starting in January (so appropriate, don't you think?). So the end of the year becomes a time of reflection and evaluation: how far have I gotten on my 2008 poetry goals, and how will the next 365 days be different from the last?

2009 promises to be a year full of chaos and uncertainty. What you create for your poetry goals will be the thing you hold on to when you’re not sure if you’re a real writer. Or when the rejections flood your mailbox. Or when you just can’t find the time to write. Make your time count with a clear, concise list of goals to lead you through those times of doubt.

In 2008, I created what I call a Poetry Action Plan, or PAP for short. The word “resolution" just doesn’t speak to a life change, which is what makes an action plan successful. For a change you can believe in, you must find a way to incorporate your writing goals into your day-to-day existence. Poets take pleasure in the act of doing, so your goals should inspire your creativity and spark your curiosity.

Here are some suggestions for creating a PAP. Use them as a starting point, and modify as you see fit throughout the year.

  • First, it’s important to define your goals. What is most important to you as a writer? Is it practicing your craft? Do you want to read your work in public? Is this the year you finally complete your manuscript? Whatever it is, name it, claim it, and put it at the top of your list.
  • Next, be realistic about what can you achieve. In previous years, I’ve put too much emphasis on making multiple changes at once. What I’ve come to realize is that my writing suffers when I don’t have a focus. So pick four or five goals and stick to them.
  • Keep track of your progress. It’s one thing to make goals, and another to keep them. List items you can quantify so you can gain momentum as you reach your next goal (ex. submit to 25 journals, write two poems a month, etc.).
  • Don’t get discouraged. In 2009, something will derail you: writer’s block, rejection, or bad timing. Be open. Look for opportunities wherever they appear. A few stolen moments riding the subway may lead to a new poem. A Saturday night with seemingly nothing to do could be an opportunity for an informal writing session with a friend. Small acts such as these can get you to your goals sooner than you think.

For the record, here’s my PAP for 2009:

  1. Develop a Marketing Plan for Underlife. What does this involve, you ask? Getting to know the poets and poetry lovers in my region. Publishing in as many journals before the book is released in October. Updating my mailing list with current reviewers. Deciding which conferences to attend in 2009 and 2010. And, lining up as many poetry readings at bookstores and college campuses as possible.
  2. Write a poem a week. No matter what, I have to practice my craft. Again, I like having a quantifiable number (in this case, 52 poems) that I can point to and say, “I did this. I wrote more than 50 poems.” I did not make my goal in 2008, but I have nearly 50 poems to revise in the New Year. Not bad, if I do say so myself!
  3. Complete a second manuscript. I've put this one off because it involves research. But I’d like to complete a new section of poems for the manuscript by year’s end.
  4. Write an article for a top-tier magazine. I’d like to have something published in O, The Oprah Magazine. There, I said it.

Spelling out my goals gives me power over my fears. And I fear success more than failure.

I wish you health, happiness, and great success in your poetry goals in 2009. Please share your goals here or at RWP. What are your creative endeavors for the New Year? What holds you back? And how do you push through those times of uncertainty to achieve them?

Confession Tuesday

These are my last confessions for 2008!

Thank you for coming here every week to read my dirty laundry. Although, admittedly, my laundry is on the cleaner side of dirty! *smile*


We’ve had a great Christmas week. As I type, my parents are packing for their return flight home. For all the craziness that goes on around the holidays, this is the one time of the year I do get to relax because my mom and dad spend lots of time watching the kids. And, this week we have a few activities scheduled for them, which means less stress for everyone.

Overall, this holiday was less stressful than in years past. Making the decision early on to downsize Christmas opened up more activities with the family. I’m not the crafty type, but I did everything this week—from baking cookies to making ornaments. Even got my dad into the act, which, if you knew my dad, is a hard sell, indeed!


My husband, Tim, gave me a great piece of advice. He told me to rest this week. Seems simple enough, but he reminded me that I want to feel as if I had a vacation while I’m away from work. So, on his advice, I’m managed to get in a few workouts at the gym, catch up with friends, shop with my mom, and go on a few dates with my husband—as well as spend lots of craft time with Alex and Ella.


On the poetry front, I’m finalizing an article and prompt for RWP, and writing blog posts for this week. And I’m in the midst of putting together a local poetry reading for Inauguration Day (note to self: create flyer this week).

I’m a little sad that I've written only one poem this month, and will end my annual poetry total under 50 poems this year. But I’m squarely looking ahead at all the poetry I plan to write in 2009.

What am I most looking forward to in 2009 (besides health and happiness for friends and family)? Being able to say, “My first book of poems, Underlife, will be published this year!”

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Q for the Poet

From A-Lotus:

"How do you feel/think about self-publishing? I mean, many poets out there are doing that, and I was wondering about that versus small presses--in terms of pros and cons!"
Admittedly, this is not my area of expertise, so I'm hoping others will chime in with their opinions.

The pros: Self publishing makes it easier to control your own "literary destiny." In other words, you control the cost of the books, the inventory, and the marketing. Lots of sites such as lulu.com make it easy to print and purchase books. And if you have a strong local network, or a good online presence, you can probably sell all of your initial print run.

The cons: you do everything yourself. I'm not that detailed oriented, so I don't want to worry about how my books get distributed. I don't care about tracking book sales or lugging a trunkload of titles to sell at my next reading.

Even the smallest of publishers can use their contacts and market insights to help your book find its readership. In theory, the publisher takes the risks and absorbs the costs. All you have to worry about is helping your title find its audience. Maybe there are more similarities between a self-published title and one distributed by a press. But for me, I've never wanted to self publish. Too much work, which takes me away from the creative process.

Does that help? I'd love to hear what others think about self publishing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

You're A Mean One Mr Grinch

Confession Tuesday

A late confession! Nothing I hate more than posting confessions in the afternoon. Ugh.

I'M OFF FROM WORK UNTIL JANUARY 5, 2009! (Yes, I'm shouting—from the rooftops!)


AND I HAVE MY LAPTOP BACK!! (Another reason to shout!) Thanks J.R., and Merry Christmas!


My parents arrived this past Sunday, so already they've been a big help with the kids and getting ready for Christmas. We've been doing a lot of last-minute shopping, which is great because mom and I enjoy the large crowds. Even in this year of cutting back, we shop for sport. *smile*


While I love my family dearly, I'm feeling the need to walk—no, run—to Starbucks for some "Me" time. Maybe it's because I grew up as an only child, but too many people in close proximity asking questions makes me want to flee the scene.


Besides summer, celebrating the New Year is my favorite time of your. The New Year is a do-over, a blank slate, a chance to get it right again. I'm creating my 2009 Poetry Action Plan this week—the next time I go to Starbucks! Also, I'm working on a few poems but nothing I'm willing to post yet.


I confess, these confessions are lame. What can I say, my head is full of tinsel! But I'd love to hear from you, so tell me something about you. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, December 22, 2008

2009 Book List

Confession time (and it's not even Tuesday): I make these damn lists and never read the books on them. Can't use the kids as an excuse anymore like I'm so used to doing. *smile* I mean, there are 162 Red Sox and 82 Boston Celtics regular season games. And the playoffs ... forgetaboutit!

For 2009, I have decided to shop from my bookshelves and read the things I've put off reading for years. These books are collecting dust on my bookshelves. Now in theory, I have a reasonable chance of reading one title a month. Notice there are no poetry books here. That list is really more fluid for me. And while I devour poetry books, I'm playingt catch-up from the 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival.

So there are 13 books with space for two recommended ones. I should do a midyear check-up to revise this list. But if I get through eight titles, I'll consider this year in books a success.

2009 Book List

1. Another Bullsh*t Night in Suck City, Nick Flynn (2008 carryover)
2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou (classic fiction)
3. Brothers and Keepers, John Edgar Wideman (nonfiction)
4. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (classic fiction)
5. A Personal History, Katherine Graham (autobiography)
6. Graceland, Chris Albani (fiction)
7. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (classic fiction)
8. 100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (classic fiction)
9. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, David Sedaris (nonfiction)
10. Secret Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz (fiction)
11. White Teeth, Zadie Smith (fiction, a re-read for me)
12. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Audre Lorde ("biomythography")
13. Themes for English B, J.D. Scrimgeour (nonfiction)
14. Need suggestion (something fun)
15. Need suggestion

So, what's on your book list for the New Year?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Storm Central

(Tim and Ella)

This photo was taken yesterday when we had just a mere 6 inches of snow on the ground. Now, we have at least one foot. On the news today, our local weatherman said that it's snowed more than 40 hours since this burst of winter rolled into the Northeast--and it's still snowing!


My parents are in town from Virginia! Gosh, it's good to see them. The kids are so excited. We only get to see them a few times a year, so having them here means that Xmas is just a few days away.


Got to get a few last minute gifts, and then I'm done with Shopfest 2008.


The snow, coupled with lack of laptop, has meant less blogging. But now that my parents are here, I should have more time to write, blog, post, plot, and scheme for the new year.


I'm thoroughly enjoying the Jan/Feb issue of Poets & Writers. This issue is the annual spotlight on up and coming poets. A good read for a snowy afternoon.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Q for the Poet

From time to time, someone asks a question that makes for a great blog post. Today's Q comes from AmbiguityLotus.

"I was wondering--how do you get past the attitude/feeling of, 'My poems aren't good enough for publication?' I'd like to hear your thoughts about that as that's how I feel most of the time, aside from being intimidated about the process!"

First of all, I don't know any poet who hasn't had that feeling at some point. It's like the flu—no matter how many shots you get, it never really goes away.

I carry with me the same fears that I had in grad school when I was surrounded by talented people who never thought their work would see the light of day. Later, when I was starting a family and not writing regularly, I felt as if I would never get published. I lacked those small successes poets have that encourage us to keep trying. Then my college cohorts started getting published in good journals, reading in cool venues, and getting grants. Let me tell you, it was a wake-up call! I felt life was passing me by. I did the only thing I could do with young kids in tow—I started this blog.

So here I am, blogging away two years later. Not a moment goes by that I don't a tinge of self-doubt, as if I'm getting away with something. Posting poems was (and still is) a great way to get immediate feedback when I couldn't attend workshops.

Poetry is subjective and personal, so it's hard not to be intimidated about the process. But the best defense against doubt is hard work and persistence. Getting published means swallowing a lot of rejections. Try not to make it personal. On any given day, you may find the right reader at a journal or zine who will give you the chance for publication. Keep busy. Try not to let self-doubt creep up on you. Use it as a motivator. Do something every day to keep you moving toward your goal.

Does that help? I welcome comments from other writers about how to keep fear and self-doubt at bay.

Free Poetry Books for Organizations

My publisher, CavanKerry Press, has a very active GiftBooks program through which they donate poetry books to underserved communities including shelters, hospitals, urban schools, libraries, prisons, and the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, they have gifted more than 8,500 books.

But this year, several of the organizations whose members have received books in the past have declined to take them, possibly because of reduction of services and staff, and more of a focus on food and clothing.

If you know of any charities who might need books, backchannel me at jgill27494 [at] aol.com.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Elizabeth Alexander Is the Inaugural Poet!!!

Wow! Hurray for Cave Canem's own Elizabeth Alexander chosen as the inaugural poet!!

From the Washington Post (may require a password):

After a hiatus of more than a decade, poetry is returning to the inauguration of the American president.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced today that Elizabeth Alexander, a prize-winning poet at Yale University who grew up in Washington, will read at the swearing in next month of President-elect Barack Obama.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Confession Tuesday

Ho! Ho! Ho! Time to find out who's naughty and who's nice. Time to confess. Time to wipe the slate clean and look ahead to 2009!

Yes, they're cute. But their cuteness hides the hacking coughs and runny noses these little disease carriers have been harboring for days. Admittedly, they have been downright nice lately so I'm sure Santa will make a house call soon.


I am about 65% through my holiday shopping. Like most people I know, I'm sticking to a budget. All of this global economic confusion is unsettling, and is starting to affect more people I know personally (job losses, tighter budgets, cut funding, etc.).

For me, cutting back has less to do with saving money that it does a fundamental change in attitude. And I couldn't articulate that point until I heard this great podcast from Marketplace Money. Here's an excerpt from a story called "Shrinking Your Gift Footprint."

"Linda Decker glances at a couple of Tousignant's pieces but doesn't buy anything. Thrifty shoppers like her are known as New Simplifiers. That term was coined by Harvard Business school professor John Quelch.

John Quelch: The key thing here is that the simplifier is being motivated by a desire to manage their life in a less complicated way. So it's more the reduction of complexity rather than the simple act of saving money."

And I had one of those Aha moments. It just feels wrong to spend money this holiday season on things that may someday end up in a landfill. I like the idea of a reduction of complexity. Making time for the people and things that matter. I've been doing this for the past few months by seeking out more meaningful experiences for my family instead of buying things. And I've been getting rid of clothes and toys like a mad woman, donating them to charities in hopes that our stuff can be appreciated by someone in need.

Am I alone in this or have others been having the same thoughts this holiday season?


Speaking of the people who matter, I haven't visited many blogs lately. Sorry. I feel like that friend who says, "Let's do lunch sometime," but never calls. Part of the reason is because my laptop is still not working. But, I should have it back tomorrow, which means I'll come by to visit more often.


I have more blog content/poetry to-dos floating around in my head than I can possibly post about, but this week I'll give it a shot!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Quick Hits

(Snow Miser)

Happy Sunday! I spent much of yesterday watching holiday specials with the kids. It's fun to go back and watch some of those wacky holiday specials. Hands down, our family's favorite is "The Year without a Santa Claus." But was it really necessary to create the sequel, "A Miser Christmas?"

I truly enjoy watching the kids get excited about these same low-tech, story-driven holiday specials Tim and I enjoyed growing up. They're so anti-Sponge Bob, it's great!


Sometime this past week, maybe Wednesday, I hit the 50,000 mark with unique visitors! So whether you come here regularly or got lost on your way somewhere else, thanks for stopping by the Poet Mom blog.


Also earlier this week, Afaa Micheal Weaver appeared on a local Boston public television show called Basic Black. He’s wonderful, and looks incredibly dapper—I might add! You can't help but be moved by this interview.

Friday, December 12, 2008

December To-Do List

(Triumphs, tenacity, tears, and taxes--the 4 T's of poetry!)

I created this list a few days ago, but this is the first chance I've had to post (still having laptop issues). So some of these goals I can cross off this list, others … well … I still have a ways to go!

  1. Write five poems this month (one down, four to go)

  2. Mail out four submissions. I'm kicking myself because I missed a deadline. Drat!

  3. Write an article and prompt for RWP (the article is done), prompt is next.

  4. Post daily in December (OK, this one starts today!)

  5. Map out writing project for new manuscript (Done)

  6. Create timeline for second manuscript (Done)

  7. Read two books this month

  8. Create 2009 Goals

So what's on your end-of-year to-do list?

Inaugural Poet?

The speculation continues ...

From the AP:
There's buzz about all sorts of names. Among them: Philip Levine, a Midwesterner whose writings are attuned to the working class; Robert Pinsky, former poet laureate who created the Favorite Poem Project; Yusef Komunyakaa, whose work is heavily influenced by jazz; U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan.

No matter who might be selected, "It would be a wonderful gesture, and a reminder to our country that the arts are present in everyone's daily lives, whether they realize it or not," said Gary Soto, an award-winning poet and novelist from northern California.

(Thanks, C. Dale, for the link.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Some Assembly Required: Putting Together Your First Poetry Manuscript

(This article was written for Read Write Poem.)

This is it. You’ve spent years polishing your poems. You’ve shared them in workshops and at readings, even published a handful of your best work in a few journals. Now it’s time to tame those wild poems for your first manuscript. What now?

Assembling a full-length manuscript can be both challenging and exhilarating. It’s the culmination of months and years of hard work. And while the process may feel as if you’re attempting to solve a Rubik’s Cube, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the end result of your poetic “sweat equity.”

Start by organizing your poems by topics or related themes. Do your poems speak to you in a certain way? Do they work chronologically or through a persona’s voice? You should notice the emergence of a narrative arc, or a natural fit between and throughout the collection. Consider putting your strongest poems in the beginning and end of your collection, because it helps to frame the rest of the book, giving you a solid foundation to build upon.

For my first collection, I spent hours laying out poems on my office floor. I needed to do this visual exercise so I could test the strength of each poem. I wanted to make sure that the first poem, and every one that followed, was able to stand on its own. I spent a good amount of time grouping strong poems in sections, removing the weak ones, and filling in the holes.

The distance from the end of one poem to the start of the next works only to enhance the tone. You’ll find your poems working together, taking advantage of momentum and seizing on the expectation. As a reader, I enjoy exploring the evolution and range of a poet through the choices he or she makes. But too much of a particular form or tone can spoil even the best collections. You want your manuscript to bob and weave—to feel organic yet structured at the same time.

I am of the school that in a poetry collection, less is more. I recommend leaving out your weaker poems. Most poetry manuscripts average between 40-72 pages, so you want the reader to experience the best representation of who you are as a writer. This is survival of the fittest, or Thunderdome—only include the poems you feel are rock-solid. In the long run, you’re much better off with a small collection of well-rounded gems than one filled with unfinished lumps of coal.

After the hand-wringing, the midnight organizing, and the Zen-like approach you’ve now adopted to get you through the process, carefully vet your work. A good way of doing that is reading your newly arranged poems aloud, from beginning to end. Pay attention to the repetitions and the silences. Don’t be afraid to move pieces around. Do you still hear that music? And this goes without saying, but carefully proof your collection for grammar and punctuation errors. Nothing is more off-putting to a publisher than good work riddled with careless mistakes.

One thing I did do was send my first manuscript to a broad group of poets and trusted friends. The edits I received were tremendous, and while I didn't take them all, the different perspectives helped to shape the final manuscript.

Lastly, take your time. You have been living with these poems for years, and, in some cases, decades! There’s no rush, except maybe in your own mind, to publish your work. Be faithful to the poems and don’t send out anything that’s not ready for publication. When in doubt, trust your gut.

Believe it or not, this process is F-U-N! Sure, it could cause the onset of gray hair, but it will show you where you are as a poet. Don’t let the process intimidate you. Once your first collection is finished, you can say goodbye to those old poems and start something new.

Full disclosure: my first book, Underlife, will be published in October 2009 by CavanKerry Press. Manuscript #2 is in the works because … well… there’s just a long gestation period before manuscripts go to press. Yet, being in the position to create a second manuscript is a dream come true—a position I never thought I would be in when I was creating my first.


Now, I am by no means an expert in assembling a manuscript. So if you are in the process of putting together your first or your 10th collection, give us your insights. Any advice on how to organize a poetry manuscript? Leave a comment here or at RWP.

SNL: Obama Plays It Cool

My new tagline: "Given a choice, I choose cool."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Confession Tuesday

You're either in or you're out? Which is it?


No better time to blog than the evenings when the house is quiet.

It's been go go go this past weekend, but Saturday I was able to sneak away for a little "me" time to write. The alone time gave me a chance to finish a poem I've been struggling with for more than a week (without my laptop, I might add). Yes, I'm referring to the potty poem. Also had the chance to write out my December to-do's and think about a list for the New Year—I'll post the lists this week.


The potty poem took a week to write because my laptop is down. Turns out to be the monitor light, which is good because I contemplated buying a new one. Bah-humbug!

Writing that poem was a real test of will. Since I started it on a laptop, I felt I had to finish it on a computer. I worked on my husband's computer at odd hours, which didn't allow me to get into any rhythm. But I really felt like I had to stick with the poem, and because I did, I feel other poems brimming under the surface. Haven't felt like that since April.


Despite the sagging economy, I do go to Starbucks a lot, mainly to catch my breath. And I don't even like coffee! I try to go every week to the same location where the college kids hang out. The staff knows me, and while it's never too crowded, time of day is everything. I enjoy writing with noise in the background, but I don't eavesdrop. I prefer writing while listening to iTunes.

I can write in any Starbucks, or any coffee shop for that matter; I have difficult time writing at the library—too quiet.


Just finished an article for RWP. That will post in a day or two. I'm pooped!

Speaking of poop, an Ella/potty-training update!

Ella had breakthrough! She's been sleeping through the night wearing underwear and not a diaper. And, she pooped in the potty on Sunday!

(Sorry, was that TMI? This is the Poet Mom blog, after all!)

Christmas: A Retrospective, 2004-2008

Sadly, "our" Santa for the last four years broke his leg, but this jolly fella filled in nicely. Even gave the kids hugs after listening to their long list of demands ... eh ... presents!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

CALLING ALL POETS: 1,000 Inaugural Poets Project

Great idea, Brett!

January 20, 2009 Inauguration Day poetry events across the country.

If there isn't a reading scheduled in your area, set one up at a library, cafe, art center, or anywhere you can get, invite all poets. Put up a bunch of flyers, notify local media, get word out.

Every willing poet is asked to write an original "inaugural poem" for President Barack Obama and read it for the first time anywhere at your nearby Inauguration Day Poetry Event. The most debut poems at a single time in the history of the world.

Please pass the word.

Most of us are still suffering from the post-election blues. But what a way to kick off this new era in our democracy by reading poetry inspired by our new president. I really hope this idea takes off, so if you decide to host your own event, please let me know.

I'm trying to start something in my neck of the woods.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Confession Tuesday

True confession: I hate posting confessions in the afternoon. Sorry folks, the day got away from me.

Feel free to post a little something about yourself, and we'll come by to visit your blog. And, don't forget to check out the "sinners" in The Confessional.


After a terrific Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, I'm in the holiday spirit! I mean, Christmas Eve is almost two weeks away! It also helps to put up your tree on November 30.

We spent most of the holiday weekend running the kids ragged with activities, so much so that they wore us out! By Sunday we needed something to do—hence the Christmas tree. This year, the kids thoroughly enjoyed decorating the house. They were just so excited that Christmas is almost here.


Another true confession: In the picture, you'll notice a glass of white wine on the mantle. Tim and I had one of those "why the hell not" moments and had a glass of wine at 10:30 a.m. *smile* That was a good day.


All of this holiday cheer has turned into action. I'm 60 percent done with my holiday shopping—under budget, I might add. I just can't stand last-minute impulse buying for a holiday that comes around the same time every year. Even wrapped up the kids' holiday photo for Christmas cards early.


Sad news for me: I think my laptop is a goner. When I power up, the screen remains black. When it first happened, I was working on a new poem. Just the beginnings, but a kernel of what I know can be a really good poem if I stay with it.

I managed to save the poem to my flash drive, but I've had trouble working on it without my laptop. Have I just gotten so used to composing on screen that I can't write with pen and paper, or is the idea of buying a new computer getting to me? Tomorrow, I'll ask my coworker to take a look at my laptop for best recommendation. As for the poem, hope to post it tomorrow. I'll suck it up and finish it from my husband's PC.


Also coming tomorrow, December poetry to-do list.

Monday, December 01, 2008

World AIDS Day

Bloggers Unite

Showing my support for an important cause. You can get more information here and here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

The picture was taken at my local Target around 11 a.m. As you can see, no lines, no waits.

After yesterday's Thanksgiving feast, I decided not to go out this morning before the crack of dawn, even though I was awake. Instead, I looked at all of the circulars, checked my e-mail for coupons, and visited online retailers to comparative shop. And when it looked as if I could knock out most of the kids' Christmas items in one swoop, I jumped at the chance. Besides, I love shopping in crowds.

To my surprise, it wasn't that crowded. The only place I would not recommend going is Toys-R-Us. Save the anxiety and shop online. I walked in, looked at the lines trailing to the back of the store, and walked out. Besides, I found everything I was looking for at Target.

This year, Tim and I are putting an emphasis on the joy of the holiday season by de-emphasizing toys and gift giving. We don't have a lot of money to spend, nor do we want to. But, I do like a good sale. I did so well that I'm halfway done with my holiday shopping.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Our day starts around 10 a.m. when we go to Champions pub in Peabody, MA, where the whole town comes out for a drink. In past years, after Champions, we've gone to the local high school football game between the towns of Peabody and Saugus. But this year, with Tim 's knee healing from surgery, we'll skip sitting on cold, metal bleachers and go to Tim's mom's house around noon. Because some are sick and others live too far away, there will only be 17 of us around the table.

Sending love to Skip, Michele, Jimmy, Johnny, Mike, Sarah, Josh, Kate, Nick, and Victoria. And much love to Mom, Dad, the and the folks in Virginia and Atlanta, GA.

My food coma commences at 2 p.m., cyber shopping at 8 p.m., and the annual running of the mall shoppers starts at 5 a.m.!

Whether you're in the U.S. or not, what are your plans today?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Have not posted a photo in a while, so here I am at goofing off at Starbucks.
Here's a roundup of a few of my (new) favorite things.

Check out the Poetry Foundation's podcast featuring poet Elizabeth Alexander, as she discusses poetics and our newly elected president.

YA author (and blogger extraordinare) Erin Dionne has an interview at Fumbling with Fiction. Be sure to leave a comment!


(Thanks to C. Dale Young for the link.)

Typealizer analyzes your blog's personality. Here's what it says about Poet Mom:

ESTP - The Doers

The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities. The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

I took the Myers-Briggs test a few years ago and had the same breakdown. No pretenses here--I am my blog.

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday everyone! Time to share a confession. Tell us a little something about you, and be sure to check out the other confessors in The Confessional.

(Note: This week's confession is a little bitchy.)

Tim had his knee surgery last week, which went very well and now he's on the mend (thanks for all the well wishes). But with Tim down for the count, that means taking care of three people instead of two. Guess I didn't realize how much Tim does around the house, including the outside. I spent the last two days raking leaves—I *loathe* raking leaves.

What I haven't done this past week is take time for myself. No reading or writing at all. I know that this is the time when my family comes first. But last night, I was so tired from raking leaves, cooking meals, playing with the kids, and doing laundry that I went to bed at 8 p.m. *sigh*


Never thought being a wife and mother would demand so much from me. I'm thankful for what it's given me, but resentful for what it's taken away.


Well, I did do one thing for myself. Saturday night, I attended the Somerville News Literary Festival. It was a community-supported event with almost 200 people in attendance. The headliners included Junot Diaz, recipient of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," and Afaa Michael Weaver, who was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Ibbetson Street Press. An eclectic group of writers filled out the more than three-hour evening with poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. While the long wait seemed to bother Junot Diaz, most of us didn't mind the wait at all. He read last, but was worth waiting for. Also, I had a great conversation with author Steve Almond.

Took all of my strength to get out of the house, but I'm glad I made it out for the night.


This week, I'm looking at my poetry to-do list, creating a new one for December, and a marketing plan for the late-2009 release of my book Underlife.


We're one month away from Christmas—where has the year gone?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wish List

Like many of you, I have been compiling a holiday shopping list. I’m slashing gift amounts, and, in some cases, not giving gifts to a few friends this year (sorry guys!). Can’t afford to do it, and I feel that most of us have more than we could really ever use in a lifetime. But I saw this idea proposed on one of my listservs and wanted to share it with you.

Given this economic downturn/recession/depression, it’s very likely that poetry books, as well as sales for all books, will plummet. Think of all of the small, independent presses struggling to survive this December--yikes!

No, we all know of someone who has self-published a book or chapbook, or who has worked with small presses to publish their first or second books. This holiday season, consider giving and asking for those books.

This is the start of my two lists, which, admittedly, has books from big presses and independents.

Books I’d Like to Give
· The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
· Children’s book of poetry (looking for recommendations)
· New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver

Books I’d Like to Receive
· Space Walk by Tom Sleigh
· All-American Poem by Matthew Dickman
· Queen for a Day by Denise Duhamel

Also, consider giving a gift subscription to a journal or review.

If you have some book-related suggestions for the holiday gifts, please post them and I'll compile a list in a few days.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Will Happen to Your Writings After You Die?

I’m so fascinated by this story. Vladimir Nabokov's final, incomplete novel, The Original of Laura, will be published in 2009. It’s been locked away for 30 years by his son, Dmitri, who is going against his father’s wishes and publishing it.

Now, I have to wonder why Nabokov and his wife didn’t just burn anything he didn’t want released. Apparently, this book is as scintillating as his most famous work Lolita. Surely, it can’t be Nabokov’s best work because it’s unfinished. But leaves us an interesting question—would you burn such a treasure or give it to the world?

Moreover, have you expressed your wishes to family members regarding your writings? If something were to happen to you today, what would happen to your unfinished poems and stories, essays, and manuscripts? What happens to all those journals and scraps of paper that you’ve collected over the years? And all of those juicy blog posts—what if they ended up in a collection you had nothing to do with? Not much you can do after you’ve gone, but there’s plenty you can do now.

So what should happen to your great (and not-so-great) works after you die?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Poem

Renewable Energy

It starts in the back
and carries all over the body.
Happiness, like a light sweet crude
streams through the veins,
self-lubricates your smile
as your son taps a melody
to the song your daughter sings
against the last dregs of daylight.

Can it be that simple? Happiness,
that composted emotion
has turned your one-time
trash heap of a life
into a grand patch of green.
Or is it that you’ve become
what surrounds you:
a beauty so arbitrary
it’s renewed with each use.

Somerville News Writers Festival VI

If you're in or around Boston, this event is for you!

Somerville News Writers Festival VI
featuring Pulitzer Prize Winner Junot Diaz and Afaa Michael Weaver

Saturday, November 22, 2008
7-10 p.m.
Dilboy Hall, 371 Summer St
Somerville, MA

Sponsored by Grub Street and Porter Square Books


The Lineup:

Junot Diaz
Afaa Michael Weaver
Steve Almond
Jennifer Haigh
Timothy Gager
Marty Beckerman
A.C. Kemp
Meg Kearney
Ifeanyi Menkiti
Dan Tobin
Burt Stern
Douglas Holder

Hosted by Nicole Pierece with musical guest The DoubleNecks

Confession Tuesday

If it's Tuesday, I'm confessing! Share something about yourself here or on your blog, and I will respond in kind.

Tuesday morning, my husband, Tim, will have a second surgery on his knee to repair his shredded ACL. Oh, how the body can be unforgiving. This is second surgery for the same injury this year. So I'm off for the next few days taking care of him and the kids, and Tim's mom will be around to pitch in, which is such a big help. I will be in the waiting room with my laptop and a book, catching up on e-mail, to-do lists, and writing.

While I would rather have my husband healthy with all of his parts intact, I'm happy to have the days off from work. Now, the key is using my downtime well.


After I take my son the preschool, but before I go to the hospital, I'll have a few hours alone with my daughter, Ella. That means a little mother-daughter special time! Often, I feel that she get left behind in the shuffle. Not sure exactly what we'll do, but I'm guessing a trip to Dunkin' Donuts is in order.


Finished reading Patrick Phillip's second poetry collection, called Boy. I enjoyed reading it. In fact, I can't remember the last poetry collection I read cover to cover.

Speaking of covers, when I was deciding on a cover for my book, I looked at as many covers as I could to get a sense of what other poets did for their books. Let's just say that there's a range, and a topic of another blog post. But if you haven't seen this cover, it is striking. Maybe the biggest motivator for buying this book.

True confession: yes, I do judge (and buy) books by their covers.


Cold weather is starting to move in, so I have to work extra hard to stay motivated—and it's only November! But I've made progress on November's to-do list; I'll post an update tomorrow. I'll post a new poem tomorrow. It will give me something to do while I'm waiting for Tim.


Thanks for the kind words regarding my Open Letter to President-elect Obama. I'm sure whomever he chooses to read at his inauguration will be a fine choice. But what a great opportunity for the poet selected for this event. I hope it's someone unexpected—when you hear the name, you immediately say, "Yes!"

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday, Monday

I always dread the beginning a new week, which usually is a continuation of the stuff I didn't want to do last week!

I've been offline the last few days doing family stuff: raking the last of the leaf fall, spending time with the kids, and decluttering. Not very exciting, and not worth posting about. Even took a break from my home away from home—Facebook! But I have been writing a bit. Well, I decided to put an end to my nonwriting so I'm allowing myself to write crappy poetry. Hope to post a poem a day for the next seven days. And, I haven't posted any pictures recently, so I'll be better about that this week.

So, how are you today? What's new?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Open Letter to President-elect Obama

Dear Mr. Obama:

I think I speak for the world when I say we are thrilled that you will be the 44th president of the United States. Unfortunately, you have a staggering number of immediate problems that you must tackle on day one. But here’s one problem I can help you with—selecting a poet to read at your inauguration!

No doubt, your installation as president will be the most-watched event EVER, if your election-night acceptance speech was any indication. And seeing in recent photos that you read poetry, specifically the poetry of Derek Walcott, I feel it is my honor—no, my duty—to offer a range of selections for you to choose from on this very special occasion.

Two poets that I think would aptly capture this historic moment would be Lucille Clifton and Natasha Trethewey. Both are well regarded in the literary community for their talent, their ability to inspire, and their deep reverence for the past.

Other well-regarded poets you might consider include Mary Oliver, Terrance Hayes, Mark Doty, and Naomi Shihab Nye—all of whom have the capacity to reach across all cultural divides to recognize and celebrate the best of what this country has to offer. Of course, Billy Collins is good with large crowds; but, quite frankly, it would be nice to hear from poets who represent the broader spectrum of verse in the United States.

Lastly, if asked, I would be honored to read a poem at your inauguration. Surely you know I’ve had some recent experience reading at an inauguration. Maybe you feel it more fitting for me to be the next U.S. poet laureate, or head of the NEA. Well, I gladly accept, as it has been my dream to work to expand the reaches of poetry to both poetry lovers and nontraditional poetry audiences.

As you know, Mr. President-elect, poetry is thriving in this country, and there are many wonderful poets I’ve left out of this letter. Feel free to leave a response on my blog if I can be of service.


January O’Neil (a.k.a. Poet Mom)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday! It's time to enter The Confessional with the other confessors and tell us something about you. So what are you waiting for? Let's get right to it!

I am in a post-election funk. I'm slowing weaning myself off of CNN—its colorful graphics, not to mention Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper. Makes it easier when they continually speculate on where the Obama girls will go to school—not newsworthy to me.

But this did strike me as newsworthy. Check out these amazing campaign photos on Boston.com's Web site.


My husband is having a second knee surgery next week. They're re-repairing his torn ACL. He reinjured it over the summer while playing volleyball with his nieces and nephews. It's tough getting older—your head tells you you're still a teenager but the body says otherwise. And he's an active person so I hope this surgery does the trick. Of course, I said that last time.


Just had lunch with the beautiful and talented YA author Erin Dionne. Her first book, titled Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies, will be released in early 2009. She is my guinea pig, so to speak, because her book launches months before mine, but we're brainstorming ideas about how to best promote both of our titles. It's nice to go through all of the pre-publishing stuff with a friend.


As for poetry, I managed to get two submissions in the mail. But I may have to abandon the idea of writing a poem a day in November. Seems I always start with the best intentions, and fall short on my follow-through. Well, I'm happy at this point to just write a poem a week.

Friday, November 07, 2008

New Poem

November 4, 2008

They stood there in line with me,
listened intently to conversations
around us, the giggles and whispers,
stifling their joy as they have for years,
decades, centuries—the absentee voters.
And when we entered the voting booth,
I heard their weeping. Their hands on mine
darkening the circle on the paper ballot,
our grip on the pencil tight enough to break,
the weight of us overflowing.

(The last line is taken from the first line of Philip Schultz’s poem “The Amount of Us.” )

Inauguration Redux

Not that inauguration! This one ...

If you want to see and hear me read Mary Oliver's Sunrise at Babson College's inauguration, click here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Morning in America

The First Family.

I had to turn on the television this morning to make sure last night really happened. Had to make sure the results were not being contested, that the election had not been rigged and somehow victory had been taken away while I slept.

But happily, last night did happen and the results are the same--Barack Hussein Obama will be the 44th president of the United States. And here we all are, standing on the steps of history.

Now what?

I’ve been impressed with the droves of ordinary Americans the last few months working so hard on both sides to elect the person who they think will best lead the country into a new era. But surely we don’t think the work stops here? Surely we don’t think one person, or our congressional leaders, can do it alone? The problems plaguing this country are just too big.

With this historic moment brings the opportunity for each of us to carry this energy and enthusiasm into our communities to work for change at the local level. President-elect Obama has done something in his stump speeches and in last night's acceptance speech that our president has never asked us to do: he's asked us to sacrifice. This is a time to cut back and take personal responsibility for ourselves, and to help our neighbors. If a high tide raises all boats, then I don’t think it takes much to improve the quality of life for all citizens. Maybe we, as individuals, organize efforts to clean up neighborhoods, or help out local food banks, or start literacy program for a community center. After yesterday's historic moment, anything is possible.

Through this election, this has been the thing I can't wrap my brain around yet: if we are all responsible for the fate of this nation, what can I do to make things better. What is my culpability, and how can I help? If "we are the ones we've been waiting for," a line Obama has used often on the campaign trail, and if we have finally "arrived," what do we (what can I) do now?

Now, the real work begins.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Night Blogging

Even though I am currently watching Spider-Man 3 with my son (we're fast forwarding the scary parts), I will be blogging for the next few hours. Stop in and say hello.

Two questions:

1. If you voted, how was your voting experience.

2. Are you doing anything special to watch the elections (any parties or special dinner menus)?

Tonight, Tim is bringing home Chinese food and a little champagne--just because.

Looking forward to checking in with all of you, too.

Confession Tuesday: Election Edition

I voted!

I never thought I would see the day when I would have a chance to vote for a Black man. I mean, really. We’ve come a long way as a people, not that we’ve gotten to the Promised Land that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of, but the fabric of this nation has been forever changed by this historic election.

So what is my confession? In my heart, I am and shall remain a Hillary Clinton democrat. It’s taken me up to this past weekend to jump on the Obama bandwagon. Her experience, her grasp of the issues and economic situation, and ability to work across the aisle would have made her a good president. And because I cannot leave my gender at the door, she is the most qualified woman to ever run for president. While I think Obama could run again in four, eight, or 12 years, when will we see a woman president? (Please don't get me started on Sarah Palin.) I confess that I think the glass ceiling is much harder to break than the color barrier.

But Obama earned this opportunity and earned my trust. When I look at him, I see a clear choice over McCain. I see the opportunity to work with Congress to clean up the economic mess and get back to the surpluses of the '90s. I see a chance to repair our reputation globally. I also see my parents in Virginia, who have always gone the polls an hour before the voting, not just this election, because they remember a time when they did not have the right to vote. And then there are my elderly grandparents in Georgia, who will gladly stand in long lines with everyone else to vote for the Democratic ticket. With any luck, Obama will pick up that traditionally Republican state, too.

I believe that we are one nation. Not a Black America or a White America, but one nation. One people. Today is a moment in time when the United States holds itself up to a mirror to see what it’s made of. Are we ready to confront ourselves, who we really are as a people? But make no mistake—this is not history coming full circle. This day is one stop on a continuum. As a CNN analyst said, in the voting booth, we vote who we are, not necessarily who the candidate is. If that premise is true, then I am a person who believes words matter. I believe in the power of change. And I believe that Barack Obama is not only the right man for the job, he is right man for the times.


One last confession: while standing in line, I started to cry. Then when I got to my car, I couldn't stop the tears.


What’s your confession today?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

My friend, Suzie, said that I should read Barack Obama’s speech from the 2004 Democratic National Convention, called The Audacity of Hope. Suzie teaches inner city kids in Boston—fifth and sixth graders who come from poor and lower-middle–class backgrounds. She’s using this speech to teach about rhetoric and the power of words. Now I saw his speech live, but she’s encouraged me to read it because, as we all know, words can bring about change.

Since we’re on the eve of a historic election, I found it only fitting to read this speech, a speech by a politician no one had ever heard of before the speech. And now he could be the first Black president of the United States.

And in case you're so inclined, here's the first half of his speech:

I, Too

Can’t believe we are at this transformational point in U.S. history. It’s more than two years of campaigning and wondering and hoping. It’s the dream of my family, relatives, and ancestors taking flight. It’s history coming full circle. And here we are on the cusp of change.

This Langston Hughes poem has been on my mind today.

I, Too

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Quick Hits, and a To-Do List

Daylight-Savings time is a joke for parents of young kids! Doesn’t matter that we gained an hour this morning, the kids were still up at 5 a.m. waiting for me to get up.


I have spent half the day in front of the TV watching CNN—I am wired for the election! Believe me, more on this to come.


Been thinking about my writing lately. I really got sidetracked by work summer and into the fall. But now that the stress level has eased, I’m trying to get back in a rhythm by doing the things that worked before. So I’ll probably blog more, because I think blogging really does help my writing. And I may attempt more writing prompts and challenges, including this one.

Although my 30/30 September poetry challenge didn’t go well, I’m trying again in November to write a poem a day with the goal of having enough poems for a chapbook. Not sure if I’ll actually produce a chapbook, but I like the idea of having a concentrated bundle of poems more closely related than anything I’ve ever written.

So, Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides (at The Writer’s Digest) is setting the pace for the Chapbook Challenge. And even though I’m a day behind (big surprise), it’s not too late to participate, and to find out what makes a great chapbook.


Poetry To-Do List

Here it is for November.

1. Complete the Poetic Asides Chapbook Challenge (30 poems)
2. Write a series of poems on a theme, which is a goal of mine for the 30-poem challenge
3. Send out poems to five journals
4. Write two articles--one for RWP, one as a freelance submission
5. Read one fiction book and one poetry book
6. Memorize two poems: Mark Strand’s Keeping Things Whole and Tony Hoagland’s Reasons to Survive November

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Reasons to Survive November

This is one of my favorite poems.


(Listen to the audio.)

Reasons to Survive November

November like a train wreck –
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.

The sky is a thick, cold gauze –
but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.

– Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.

I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
in a room by myself

with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
like a disconnected phone.

But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,

and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over

and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into the land of my enemies.

(Tony Hoagland, from What Narcissism Means to Me. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf, 2003.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

All Hallows Eve

Supergirl and Bumblebee the Transformer wish you a Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

You Campaign in Poetry

Admittedly, this is not my idea--it's been making the rounds on a few listservs. But it seems like a fun idea.


Former New York Governer Cuomo once said: "You campaign in poetry; you govern in prose."

You are invited to compose variations on Cuomo's text and post your responses here.

You ______________ in poetry; you ______________ in prose.


You campaign in ____________ ; you govern in ______________.

Feel free to post more than once, post on your own blog, distribute this text to others, collect versions of these sentences from people you meet, and post those here, too.

The responses are to be as spontaneous as possible. Maybe this is the start of that political poem you've always wanted to write.

Good luck!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Billy Collins - "Litany"

Confession Tuesday

Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages—it's Confession Tuesday! Time to share the highs and lows. What's on your mind? Tell us a little about yourselves and we'll do the same. And stop by The Confessional to see who said what and why.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Friday's post on The Creative Economy. I encourage you to keep the conversation going, and respond to other comments in that post.


We're one week away from the U.S. presidential elections. Lately, I've watched CNN incessantly … it's my crack! Can't get enough of it or that magic map. Thank goodness the Boston Celtics start their regular NBA season tonight so I have something to watch after the elections.

In all seriousness, I haven't spoken much about the elections but I do plan to post about it in the next few days.


I'm trying very hard not to beat myself up for not being a more productive writer. Admittedly, I'm coming off a very busy period with lots of poetry and travel. So now that I'm entering a slower-paced period, I'd like to start writing poems, but not just any poems. I'd like to write a series of poems with a focus. Between writing, submitting to journals, working on manuscript #2, and working on a marketing plan for book #1, I should really give myself a break.


The nice part about not having so much to do outside the home is that I can spend more time with the kids. I'm very happy that All Hallows Eve is upon us. Hmmm … maybe this is the year to introduce "The Raven" to the kids. Halloween photos to be posted Nov. 1.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Who Should Win the National Book Award

Who do you think should win the National Book Award in Poetry?

Year after year, we hear people say that such and such should have won, or I think blank should have won. Well, here is your chance to say who YOU think should win, not necessarily who will win.

Who should win the NBA for Poetry?
Frank Bidart for Watching the Spring Festival
Mark Doty for Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems
Reginald Gibbons for Creatures of a Day
Richard Howard for Without Saying
Patricia Smith for Blood Dazzler

View Results

Create your own myspace poll

Friday, October 24, 2008

Your Creative Economy

This morning, I woke up to find the Dow Futures down, way below market levels. And sure enough, they are sagging this trading day, which made me want to frame this post in a way that resonates with the creative community and creative souls in the blogosphere.

Personally, this global financial downturn and run-up to the U.S. presidential elections are making me tense. Now I'm not a fatalist. Nor do I plan to start buying massive quantities of food in bulk and raise chickens in my yard (but yea for those who do). I understand that the Dow is not a good indicator of what's really going on in credit markets or oil futures, and that all of this is cyclical (so no lectures on the economy, please).

I want to pose some questions to you to see how this public turmoil is affecting your private space. The goal is to start a dialogue. Feel free to address one or all of these questions at any time, or add your own to the mix.

  1. As a creative entity, how is the recent economic downturn affecting how you create?
  2. Has the downturn affected how you write and what you write about?
  3. Are you making choices on how you spend your money (new poetry books vs. paying bills)?
  4. Has the downturn changed how you enter contests, or look for grants and sources of funding?
  5. Has the downturn changed how you submit poems/manuscripts for publication, given the cost of postage and reading fees?
  6. Has the current state of your state led to opportunities? Have you found a silver lining?

The unrest in the U.S. weighs on my mind, and is hitting my pocketbook* in small ways. It makes a difference how often I go to Starbucks during the week to write. Do I spend that money on myself or spend it on gas for the car? It affects how many books I buy and what subscriptions to journals and reviews I maintain. Now more than ever, I take advantage of online submission software rather than mailing. As for my writing, I think this distress has made it harder for me to focus on the art. I'm not one to shut the world out to create, yet on some level all of this is taking up space in my brain.

So I'm curious. Is your creative economy up or down?

*I carry a purse. Pocketbook is just an expression. *smile*

SNL Thursday: " Dubya endorses McCain/Palin Ticket

Will Ferrell makes a guest appearance on SNL Thursday with Darrell Hammond and Tina Fey.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Confession Tuesday

To steal a line from O magazine, this I know for sure: it's time to confess! Post a confession here on this blog or on your own. And stop by The Confessional to see who else is sharing this week

True Confession: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays deserved their game 7 win against the Boston Red Sox. There, I said it! If the Sox have the bases loaded and can't bring runners home in the 8th inning, then they deserve to lose. The Sox had their chances. And, quite frankly, the Rays have been terrific all year.


This past Saturday, my son Alex slid down a set of stairs in our house and got a small gash under his chin that required stitched. *sigh* My son's first real boo boo! My husband, just the salt of the earth, scooped him up and took him to the emergency room on a Saturday night. But Alex was a brave trooper through the whole experience. I, on the other hand, was a wreck.

Then on Sunday, I left the house to run an errand while Tim watched the kids. I left a bottle of children's Tylenol on the counter for Tim to give to Alex to help manage his pain. Thought the cap was secured on the bottle; but lo and behold, Ella poured some in the medicine cup and took a swig.

She's fine. Turns out that for her weight, according to Poison Control (what a name!), she would have had to drink 85 percent of the bottle to be in real trouble. I think Ella only had about two tablespoons and no signs of distress after the incident.

KIDS! Try as we might to keep them safe, they keep testing their limits over and over again.


Let's see … the 30/30 poetry challenge is more like a 10/10 challenge! My intent was to write more poems, but I just had too much travel happening in October.

I did manage to send an entry to the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prizes. Typically, I don't enter contests but this looks like a good one.


Now that my poetry-related travel is over for a while, it's time for me to come up with new goals for the remainder of the year. I'll post a new to-do list this week that will consist of as much reading as possible, since I have not been reading much poetry or fiction. My writing has felt forced and stilted. I'm hoping to break out of my slump with a new set on challenges in November.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sarah Palin Rap

Amy Poehler rocks the mic with her Weekend Update Sarah Palin Rap.

New Poem

Poem for My Son After Receiving Stitches

A missed step and many tears later
I find myself holding a small boy
crumpled in my hands like a paper towel.
Under your chin a gash has opened,
allowing me to see what you’re made of—
me, the person who gave you life
as you try your unintentional best
to take it away. The body must heal
the fissure it has inherited, spackle itself
into place, all of those processes
you feel happening inside but can’t explain.
Yet all I can do is hold you, tell you
about the mythology of throbbing,
the body’s plight, tear and repair,
and how you are the needle, the thread,
holding me together.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Poetry Friday

Last Friday was a complete blur! As part of Babson's inauguration, I was honored to read a poem of my choosing, Mary Oliver's "Sunrise."

That's new president Len Schlesinger and Jack Welsh, former CEO of General Electric Company.
As if the day couldn't get any better, I was accompanied to inauguration by Joseph Legaspi made it up from NYC. Coincidental, he had a reading in Boston and was able to join me for the big event.

Here he is, reading at the Fresh Press Cafe in Brighton, as a part of Boston College's Filipino American Writers’ Night.

Also reading was Sarah Gambito, pictured below, along with Bino Realuyo and Lara Stapleton.

Even I had a chance to read two of my own poems at the open mic--icing on my very, big cake.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Babson College Inauguration

I'm in the unique position of working behind the scenes of today's inauguration ceremony at Babson College, and being a part of the festivities!

Babson officially installs its 12th president, Len Schlesinger, today at 2 p.m. I will be reading Mary Oliver's poem "Sunrise" as part of the event. If you would like to see me read live, or check out the ceremony, come back to the Babson's Inauguration Web site just before 2 p.m.

The event is being streamed live, and my portion is early in the program. I should be reading between 2-2:30 p.m.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Joseph Legaspi and Sarah Gambito reading in Boston

My very good friends Joseph Legaspi and Sarah Gambito are reading in Boston. Hope you can make it!

Filipino American Writers’ Night
October 17, 2008
6–8 p.m.
French Press Cafe
2201 Commonwealth Ave, Brighton, MA
@ Boston College Stop of the B-Line

Featuring acclaimed poets and novelists: Sarah Gambito, Joseph Legaspi, Bino Realuyo, and Lara Stapleton. Open Mic to follow.

Confession Tuesday

Time to fess up! What's on your mind? Confession is good for the soul, right? So tell us something you've been holding back, and we promise to read, empathize, and maybe even laugh with you. Isn't that was community is all about? Also, be sure to check out the regular confessors in The Confessional.


Here's my big confession. I forgot it was Confession Tuesday! Gosh darn it, Columbus Day threw me off. So today's confessions will be short but sweet.


Had a phenomenal time at the Mass Poetry Festival. The poetry community came out in full force for the state's first-ever poetry festival. What did I enjoy most? I spent the day with the poets in my Salem Writer's group, who are terrific poets and just fun to be around. Also spent time with Cape Cod poet Jarita Davis, and was privy to conversations with poets around the state. However, could not find intelligent words to have a conversation with Martín Espada. Couldn't manage more than "I really enjoyed your reading." Lame!


This Friday, I will read a Mary Oliver poem as a featured reader for Babson's 12th Inauguration. Surprisingly, I'm not nervous about it, even though I think there will be more than 1,000 people in attendance (*GULP* OK, maybe I'm a little nervous). Bought my outfit yesterday—bough two outfits, actually—and will post pictures of the event over the weekend.


Poems written for my October 30/30 Challenge: 4. Time to get cracking!


I'm in one of those cycles where I'm not responding to posts right away. Thanks for all the kind words. Hope to start responding, as well as visiting your blogs, later this week.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mass Poetry: Day 2

At the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, Saturday was a full day of simultaneous sessions on poetry or poetry-related topics. Whether you wanted to listen to emerging poets, or learn how to make poetry books, or head over to the book fair, there was something for everyone during the day.

My first stop was a noontime open mic for Salem, MA, writers, in which I participated.

We had about 16 readers, all of us reading no more than four minutes. It made for a healthy crowd with a great variety of topics and styles.

Poet and Cave Canem fellow Jarita Davis read at the Cape Cod Writers reading.

Poet J.D. Scrimgeour and musician/composer Philip Swanson performed their collaboration called Confluence: Where Words and Music Meet at The Revolving Museum (probably the coolest venue of the festival).

Later, after a meet-and-great session with organizers and participants, the featured poets read to a packed crowd.

(Former Poet U.S. Laureate Robert Pinsky)

Lucie Brock-Broido, Martín Espada, and Robert Pinksy reminded us all about the great literary traditions we have established here in Massachusetts, from Jack Kerouac to Elizabeth Bishop.

It’s also worth noting that was my first time in Lowell, MA, a city once a thriving mill town. After much revitalization, the city is using all of that mill space to create a dynamic place for families as well as artists and the creative community.

Well, all I can say is that the “creative economy” of Massachusetts got a boost with this festival. And I am optimistic about the 2009 festival and the outreach and events leading up to next year’s event.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mass Poetry: Day One

As with the Dodge Poetry Festival, Jarita Davis and I are together again attending the first-ever Massachusetts Poetry Festival.

Since this festival is in its infancy, organizers are hoping for a good turnout. It's an interesting contrast to Dodge, known an established poetry venue that poets and poetry lovers attend regularly. The organizers hope that the same kind of following with develop over time. Turnout should be good today; the weather in Lowell, MA, should be a comfortable 70 degrees, and, unlike Dodge, no rain.

Last night, we attended the main event, hosted by poet Charles Coe, with featured readings by poets Rhina Espaillat, Reggie Gibson, and Nick Flynn. And later, we went to an open mic hosted by poet Tim Gager. Excellent performances by all. It was too dark in the venues to take pictures, but I'll post pictures from today's sessions and events.

The birth of a new festival--this is a very exciting thing to witness. I believe all of the poets are living in or connected to Massachusetts, which is a nice touch, too. Can't even imagine what it takes to organize a large-scare poetry event from the ground up. If there's anything I can to do help (like shamelessly spread the word), I'll do what I can because any group willing to champion a poetry event during dismal economic times is an event worth supporting.

Poetry is EXACTLY what we need need right now. (Well, that and an economic bailout plan that works!)

I will be reading later today during an open mic, as will Jarita at an afternoon venue. But I will be around all day, camera in hand, enjoying the best poetry the state has to offer.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Poetry has its pros - The Boston Globe

Poetry has its pros - The Boston Globe

"EVERYONE is talking about the creative economy, but the first-ever Massachusetts Poetry Festival is doing something about it.

Today through Sunday, Lowell will host a three-day party, an experiment in how to increase the power of poetry's punch. The festival is a celebration of poetry for its own sake, but could also be a tool to expand and capitalize on a precious cultural asset."

Posted using ShareThis

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Paris Hilton for Fake President

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

Oh Paris. It scares me when you even make the slightest bit of sense ... like I've slipped into the twilight zone.

New Poem

This is 30/30 poem #2.


Evening pulses against the commuter rail
as it groans the last of the weary commuters home,

rhythmic as breaking waves. Under the halo
of streetlamps, the autumn grass grows unhemmed,

each blade a factory at work, silent in its duty
to the soil, the yard, the hands that loved it from seed.

Years come quickly, almost wordless, private as houses,
which makes the walk home even lovelier.

I am grateful for this quiet magnificence.
For the train as it presses on in the dark

like a murmur, like a soft wind quivering
over surburbia, reminding me

that the only thing this life owes
any of us is an ending.

Mass Poetry Festival

This weekend, the first Massachusetts Poetry Festival takes place in Lowell from Friday to Sunday. It will feature some of the Commonwealth’s best poets and most of the events are free. This is a test-run for the festival. If there is enough interest, it may become a bigger annual event, so I hope you can come out and support it.

While you’re at it, come out and support me!

Olive That and More
Open Mic
Saturday, Oct. 11
High noon
167 Market St. in Lowell

This reading will feature members of the Salem Writers’ Group, and alumni of the Salem Poetry Seminars. Some of the probable readers include:
J.D. Scrimgeour
Julie Batten
Kevin Carey
Jennifer Jean
Colleen Michaels
January O’Neil (woo hoo!)

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Deee-Lite Vote, Baby Vote


As the song says, "Vote, baby, vote. Are you registered, baby?"

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Confession Tuesday

It’s time to confess! Share something about yourself with us, and be sure to check out other confessors in The Confessional.

OMG, where do I start?

This past Saturday was Alex’s 5th birthday. Tim and I threw him a party and it was wild! I mean, I’ve never chased so many little kids under the age of 6. First the kids were in the moonwalk (a giant, helium-filled bouncy tent). Then they were in Alex’s room. Then they were somewhere else in the house that required supervision. They didn’t travel in packs like wolves—that would have made things easier. But they split up into groups of two and three. It was like chasing squirrels around the house! Cute squirrels, but squirrels nonetheless.

All in all, it was a fun party with a weird flow. Most important, Alex had the time of his life and that’s all that matters. My sweet boy!


Then on Sunday, I drove back down to NJ to participate in a retreat, with my publisher, CavanKerry Press, and other poets with this publisher. For me, it was a kind of validation sitting with poets who had books or forthcoming books with this publisher. Always nice to put names with faces. Made me wonder if other publishers do this or if I lucked into something special with CKP

I arrived in NYC to pick up Joseph Legapsi, who is also with this publisher, and then we went to the retreat. It lasted a few hours; we filled the time with good conversations and excellent food and drink. And when it was over, Joseph and I went back to the city for a celebratory drink, marveling at how far we’d come since our days at NYU.

Then I was on the road at 5:30 a.m., back at work by 9:30 a.m. on Monday morning.


Because I’ve been busy with traveling, Alex’s birthday, and a nasty cold I picked up along the way, I’m woefully behind on my 30/30 Challenge. I’m still hoping to have 30 poems by the beginning of November.


One of my poems was accepted by Drunken Boat. Apparently, there are two Web zines of the same name—two different projects (I'm sure there's a story here.). The Drunken Boat this month has large showing of Cave Cavem poets. My poem will appear in the next 12 months in the interactive Web zine Drunken Boat, with audio!


Lastly, I have an article about the Dodge Poetry Festival up at Read Write Poem. While I’m usually pretty good at deadlines, I’ve been blowing them lately. Almost missed the window to submit. Sorry Deb and Dana.

Check out RWP's swanky new look!


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