Thursday, February 28, 2008

New Poem

... sort of.

I just got some not-so-great news from a friend. So this is just me riffing.

Valentine (Belated)

My love for you is an act of faith, like a shadow slipping around a shadow,
like a confection, like eating my heart out, like a comma, like a gemstone,
like a slip knot, like vocabulary, like wild patience, like rock salt, like cast iron, like silkworms, like a big city with narrow streets, like humidity, like onomatopoeia, like departures, like arrivals, like onions, like what’s not but what is, like brevity, like echo, like travel, like from this day forward, like sickness, like health, like death, like parting, like amen.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Call for Readers: NEWS Reading Series

The N•E•W•S is back!

Our literary community-building effort had a successful year: six evenings of strong poetry, fiction, and nonfiction by up-and-coming writers in their genre. We enjoyed work from more than 40 writers, including Charles M. Boyer, Kara Provost, Jarita Davis, Lauren Barnholdt, Colleen Michaels, and many others.

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

The dates for the spring series are as follows:

*Sunday, March 9
Mixed Bag—all genres, all styles: fiction, nonfiction, & poetry

*Sunday, April 6
Poetry Extravaganza

*both events begin at 4 p.m.*
Where: The Regent Theatre screening room?
7 MedfordStreet, Arlington

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

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

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

Hope to see you at an event!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday …eh, Monday night … everyone!

  1. My college friends and I have an Oscar pool every year, and this year I won! What did I win you ask? Bragging rights for the next year, and a complicated system of payback dinners bought by the losing participants, although no one ever collects. (Blog that, Special K!)
  2. Truth is, I saw maybe a quarter of the nominated films, down from my usual average of half. Really wasn’t into the Academy Awards this time around.
  3. After Oscar’s big night, and another late night in front of the TV, I decided I needed to spend less time watching Law & Order reruns and Anderson Cooper. So for this week, I’m staying away from television. I look at it as a temporary lifestyle change. Besides, I wasn’t getting much done in the evenings because I got sucked into all sorts of programming.
  4. OK, tonight I caught 10 minutes of a L&O episode. There. I said it.
  5. As I type this, I’m sitting in my newly cleaned office listening to one of my favorite albums, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles. I love the arrangements on this album, how all the songs fit together line one prolonged movement. Hope it will fuel a new poem.
  6. I’ve also decided to listen to a different piece of music each night while I write. Tomorrow, I think I’ll listen to Coltrane.
  7. In other news, I got a rejection slip from The Antioch Review. A fine journal, but I can’t tell you how disgusted I was when I opened the letter and found food stains (I think they’re food stains) on the slip. The dark spots were small yet noticeable. So to The Antioch Review or any understaffed, student-run lit journal: please have the decency to wipe your food-stained hands before mailing your rejections. Yuk.
  8. I am reading this Friday (see previous post) and I am nervous. I mean, I have a few days before the reading yet I feel myself getting anxious. A friend says I need to make eye contact with the audience, but when I do that I lose my place and flub my lines. So Thursday night I’ll spend time with a video camera preparing for a 10 minute reading. How silly is that?

    If you have something to confess, leave a note for Carolee or me and we’ll be sure to check in with your blog.

Monet's Garden Café Reading Feb 29

It is time to get "The Last Word" at Monet’s Garden café

Friday, February 29 (leap day!).
8 p.m.
Monet’s Garden café in the Red Brick building
95 Rantoul Street, Beverly, MA

There will be four excellent readers followed by an open mic.

This Friday's readers:

-Bill Coyle's poems and translations have appeared in the Hudson Review, The New Criterion, the New Republic, and Poetry, PN Review, Ars Interpres and in the anthology The Other Side of Landscape; his book The God of This World to His Prophet, won the New Criterion Prize in 2006; as well, he teaches at Salem State College.

-January Gill O'Neil's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Literary Mama, Field, Callaloo, Seattle Review, Stuff Magazine, and Cave Canem anthologies II and IV; her first poetry book, Underlife, will be published by CavanKerry Press in October 2009. She is a senior writer/editor at Babson College.

-Laurette Viteritti is a writer, artist, and teacher from Beverly, Massachusetts. She has published chapters from her novel in progress, Letters from Utah in the literary magazine Upstreet and was awarded a semifinalist nomination from the Boston Fiction Festival in 2006; her work has been broadcasted over radio in San Francisco and the Berkshires and has been featured in the Boston Globe. She has published a novel, The Jewel of the Lotus Flower with Writer’s Club Press and has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College.

-Deborah Warren's poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Poetry; her books of poetry include The Size of Happiness and Zero Meridian, which received the 2003 New Criterion Poetry Prize.

Note: dinner is served before 8pm with a nice selection of homemade soups and entrees, as well as dessert items and excellent coffee. Also, the cost for the audience is $5 per

Jimmy Kimmel's F*ck*ng Ben Affleck

This is a scream! Funnier than the Sarah Silverman song.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Jan's Oscar Pics

Best Picture: No Country for Old Men
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis
Best Actress: Julie Christie
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem
Best Supporting Actress: Ruby Dee

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sunday Scribblings: Passion

I have a passion for movies. There are few modes of expression that have such a wide appeal than the images on the silver screen. I grew up on movies, so much so that my first job was at a movie theater. This day I think of that time as one of the best in my life.

As I type this, one of my favorite films is on AMC: Die Hard, the original. With a young, sarcastic Bruce Willis, before he went completely Hollywood—and completely Planet Hollywood. Many great lines and quotes from this movie, like: “Yippee-ki-yay, mother. ….” You know the rest. Here are a few other favorites:

  • “There is no spoon.” The Matrix
  • “I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.” Say Anything
  • “You're either in or you're out. Right now." Ocean’s Eleven (remake)
  • “An ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure.” Steel Magnolias
  • “So let it be written. So let it be done." The Ten Commandments
  • “I am big. It's the pictures that got small.” Sunset Boulevard

So for this Sunday Scribblings, share the movie quote or line(s) you’re most passionate about. These are quotes so good they find their way into everyday speech. You say it, and everyone understands. Or you think about it, and you're instantly brought back to a moment in time.

Naturally, I’m awaiting the Academy Awards tomorrow night. I’ll post my picks for the top five categories tomorrow.

Black Bear

There’s been a black bear sighting in our neighborhood this week. Let me tell you that our neighborhood is 100 percent residential. (This is not the bear, BTW.) My understanding is that they hibernate during the winter. Of course, this knowledge comes from watching Yogi Bear cartoons years ago.

So my husband found an article about the sighting, full of tips for what to do if confronted by a bear. Keep in mind that black bears grow to about 5 feet and can weigh 100 to 600 pounds.

From the article in the Salem News:

According to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, black bears usually shy away from humans. But here are some tips on what to do if you run into one:

  1. Stay calm and never approach the bear.
  2. Wave your arms and appear as big as possible.
  3. Make noise by banging objects or shouting. Do not imitate a bear's growl or other animal noises.
  4. If all else fails, throw things at the bear to get him to move on.
  5. In the unlikely event that the bear bluff charges, experts advise standing still since the bear usually uses this bluff charge as a warning before turning and moving off. If attacked by a black bear, be aggressive and fight back.
Be aggressive and fight back? If a bear catches me in its sights, I'd say my last prayer. Of course, if I could fight it off with my bare hands (get it…BARE hands), think of the poems that would come from the experience.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Snow Day

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful …”

It’s snowing here in Eastern Massachusetts. Fortunately, the college decided to let us out early. So not only did I leave work before noon, I was able to stop at Starbucks to get a little writing done.

Haven’t been blogging much this week because I’ve been tightening up my manuscript. So no new poetry this week, but I have been tapping into the local poetry scene.

This past Wednesday I was able to attend a reading with poets Danielle Georges and Richard Wollman. It was held in a gallery, which is such a nice space to hold a reading. And Richard is a sculptor, so it was only fitting that the reading was held in a space for artists.

Now that my revisions are in, back to blogging—and a to-do list.

  1. Get back to writing poems! At least two this week.
  2. Work on upcoming NEWS reading series dates with the fabulous Ms. Dionne!
  3. Start working on second manuscript. No resting on laurels for me. I have enough poems for a book, but I need to revise. Also, I want to write a series of poems for this collection.
  4. Send out poems. Haven’t done this in two months so I think it’s time.
  5. Clean desk/get organized.

The Academy Awards are this Sunday. This is my Super Bowl! Will post my Oscar picks this weekend.

What are your plan this weekend?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Borders Open-Door Poetry

Borders (the book-store chain) had created a sort-of interactive section on their site for poetry. Open-Door Poetry is a stylized video presentation on poets discussing poetry and reading their works. The series includes readings by Donald Hall, Paul Muldoon, Patricia Smith, and Mark Strand, yet most of the poets featured are "transformative" poets who do not fit the clichéd image of a poet.

There is a free poetry contest: the top five poems submitted in text and video will be published with Strand in a "Best of" collection. And you can get free poetry advice from Paul Muldoon. The site also has a blog, which, I believe, doubles as a space for freewriting.

Check it out!

Confession Tuesday

  1. I took a few days off from blogging/e-mail. Sometimes it's just nice to unplug for a while.

  2. Also took time off from writing poetry to work on manuscript revisions. Almost there.

  3. That being said, I just got a new iPhone for my birthday! Once I figure out how to get my old number to the iPhone, I'm in business, baby!

  4. I'm still blown away from the time I spent with poet Natasha Trethewey. She read at Babson on Feb. 13, and spoke to students at a Q&A session the next day. I was able to spend a little quality time with her, including driving her back to her hotel after the reading, and lunch the next day.

  5. The reading was excellent. Natasha's poem strikes a serious chord, which requires the audience's full attention. You could tell the audience took in every word, respectful of her words and the space her words created.

  6. Usually I share details when I attend an author reading. Yet, because I spent so much time with her, I feel respectful of her privacy. Sounds corny, I know. She was full of wise insights and sass—and I'm not sharing any of it. Some things should remain private.

  7. Spending time with Natasha on my birthday made the day complete.

  8. I will share this photo I snapped during the Q&A.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ten Questions with Reginald Shepherd

Nic at Very Like a Whale has a dynamite 10-question series. Check out this latest installment with poet Reginald Shepherd.

Writer's Meme

A while back, Delia tagged me for a meme, an award of sorts. There are two rules that come with the award: 1. write three writing tips and 2. award three other bloggers.

So I wanted to respond, but instead of tagging (I don’t believe in tagging), consider yourselves tagged. Share some your writing tips either here or on your blog.

Three writing tips:

Make space in your life for writing.
This is key. When I do this, I am saying to my family this matters to me—respect my needs. Of course, it helps to have a husband who allows me to be selfish.

Besides writing in the late evenings and early mornings, I try to get out to Starbucks just to have some quiet time. I try to do these things as much as possible, without any expectation of writing a poem every time.

Know your community.
I mean this in a few different ways. It’s important to know what other writers are doing in terms of forms, subjects, and styles. So in additional to reading blogs and online journals, I read print journals and reviews, listing to poets read their works, and to maintain relationships with other local writers.

Do something daily toward your writing goals.
Whether you’re working on your manuscript or mailing out poems for publication, try to do something everyday toward your goal. Can’t tell you how many times I’d said, “I’ll get to it tomorrow,” and then nothing gets done. All of those seemingly small things matter. You can write in your journal, post on your blog, send a query e-mail, or share a poem you’ve just discovered with a friend.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ella's New Haircut



I think she's happy about the new look -- hard to tell with that puss of an expression.

John McCain: No, You Can't

This is the McCain version of the Obama video.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Show Me Some Birthday LOVE!

That's right, Poet Mom is 39! January born in February, on Valentine's Day.

FYI, I have an article up at Read Write Poem (thanks Deb).

Show me some birthday love and tell me what you're up to this February 14.

Happy VD, everyone!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How to Market Your Book

These notes were taken from two separate panel sessions at AWP on marketing your book and setting up promotional book tours. Now some of you may know this stuff, but as a newbie author who will be doing these things next year, I was happy to have the advice. And, it’s just interesting to see how other writers promote their works.

Feel free to share your own experiences/insights. Or, tell me I’m just plain wrong.

1. You know the expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression?” Well, that’s true when it comes to your first book. Ideally, you want your first book to do well because you have a story to tell. Yet, there’s no telling how long it will take a publisher to accept your next manuscript.

2. There’s a prevailing theory that literary readings don’t sell books. Book reviews sell books. I don’t know how true this is, but once your book is published, send out review copies yourself. If your publisher has the means to do it, great. But most publishers are young upstarts with little resources for items such as postage. And, no one knows the local media better than you.

3. Send out advance copies as early as possible. Even three months in advance may be too late.

4. Set up readings five to six months in advance of the book’s release. This makes it easy to plan multiple readings, as well as helps in scheduling with booksellers.

5. Use your friends and relatives to help set up readings in other cities. For example, I have an aunt in Atlanta who has connections in her community. She may be able take the first step to coordinate an event. (Yes, I’ll be calling you soon, Aunt Mary.)

6. If you’re an unknown entity, a double bill will draw more people to your event. You don’t have to read with someone more established that you, but pick someone with community roots to fill those seats.

7. Be open-minded about the venues. Bookstores and colleges are great. But a reading for a book club at someone’s house with a Q&A after may net you more book sales, and grow your reputation.

8. I’m preaching to the choir here, but blogs and virtual book tours are still relatively new but just as effective as a book review in a print publication.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Confession Tuesday

1. This is my daughter, Ella, with a new haircut—courtesy of her brother, Alex. She looks a bit mangy now. He cut a big patch of hair from the front. *big sigh* Alex was very professional about the whole thing. He got a towel and wrapped it around her neck to catch the hair. And after he was found out by his dad, he was extremely sorry for what he had done.

2. I’m pissed that it happened while Tim was watching the kids, and I’m having a hard time shaking it off. But I know he feels awful about it.

3. I know. I know. It’s hair, it grows back. We’ll take her to get it cut in a day or so and it will be fine. Meanwhile, Ella doesn’t care about it. She just loves her brother, which is how it should be.

4. I’ll get a poem out of this. *another big sigh*

5. On a brighter note, Natasha Trethewey is reading at Babson tomorrow. And I’ll have a little time to speak with her one-on-one. How cool is that?

6. I turn 39 on Thursday.

I think that’s enough for today. *really big sigh*

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Scribblings: Fridge Space

Here it is. The fridge.

1. In a weird way, I more feel comfortable showing you my desk, the inside of my car--even my underwear drawer. But the fridge? Yikes.

2. Our fridge is about two years old. The original one that came with the house was mustard yellow and had a funny smell. I was thrilled when it finally broke down so we could buy this sleek, black energy-efficient model. And, because it shows fingerprints I can always tell which little one has been inside!

3. I would have posted yesterday but I had to go shopping. The fridge was empty!

4. OK, Tim did the grocery shopping today.

5. There are veggies in the veggie trays. No beer, "malternatives," or sodas because we're cutting back.

6. Just out of eyeshot is our menu list. We plan our meals about a week at a time, so when we do our shopping we get exactly what we need.

New Poem

It's taken me days to get to a point where I can call this a draft. And I'm not sure about the format.

In New England, Jimmies are know as chocolate sprinkles, which is different that the multicolored rainbow sprinkles used on ice cream and desserts. But recently I had a conversation about Jimmies and the myth that they were named as a reminder of the Jim Crow era.


How is it that chocolate sprinkles can make that old hurt ache. Jimmies. Jim Crow. My father, 16, USMC and underage, traveling to boot camp at Parris Island. August 1953, he rode in the back of the bus with the other Negro privates. Their lunch, a small, bare table in a restaurant’s corner. Ham steak and cold fries, and after, vanilla ice cream—the rub—half-melted, doused in brown speckles, color amidst the absence of color. My father, who has always lived in harm’s way, swirls his spoon against the bowl looking for something good. He does not look beyond this moment, puts up no defenses, not that this confection could substitute for the rainbow and what is missing. So don’t tell me the history of Jimmies. Let them remain a sweet confection cascading down my father’s summertime swirl. Let the hard candy crunch and dissolve between his teeth. Let only the faint taste of chocolate reward my memory.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Continuing the Conversation

(Left to Right: Tim Seibles, Joseph O. Legaspi, Cornelius Eady, Sarah Gambino, Toi Derricotte, and Oliver de la Paz)

I took this photo at the joint panel between Cave Canem and Kundiman, in which they explained how the two groups are linked.

I talk about these two groups on my blog a lot but for those who don’t know, Cave Canem (CC) is an organization dedicated to the development and growth of African American poets. Founded by poets Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady, CC is celebrating more than 10 years of nurturing writers. Five years ago, poets Joseph Legaspi and Sarah Gambino mirrored those efforts to form an Asian American poetry community. And so Kundiman was born, giving voice to some of the most talented yet underrepresented and underserved writers in the literary community.

AWP is a terrific forum for discussions on publishing and academics, but maybe it lacks enough space for “the writing life.” Many of the panelists talked about their experiences as the only one (the only black, the only Asian) in a creative writing class. I’ve certainly taken workshops where I’ve had to explain—sometimes justify—my experiences beyond what’s written in the poem, which sometimes leads to answering question for all blacks. If you’ve ever had that feeling of being the only one of your kind in a group, then you know what I mean.

What the two groups reflect is the strength of the collective. As proof positive, there are more African American, Asian, Latino/a, and Gay and Lesbian writers in contemporary modern poetry being published, receiving tenure, and winning awards than ever before. There’s something to be said for affinity—because this is not just about race or ethnicity, but finding a safe space to nurture emerging voices.

This session was about coming together and continuing the dialogue. It is my great hope that these both groups can collaborate on all sorts of projects. I’d like to see other underserved and underrepresented groups like these begin to flourish, until there's a time when we don’t need Cave Canem and Kundiman. Did I just say that? What a tough thing to wish for.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Natasha Trethewey at Babson February 13

2007 Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Natasha Trethewey at Babson on February 13

Who: Natasha Trethewey
Pulitzer Prize winning poet

When: Wednesday, February 13, 2007, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Sorenson Center for the Arts, Babson College, Wellesley, Mass.

Tickets: Admission is free; the public is welcome.

Natasha Trethewey is author of Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin 2006), for which she won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, Bellocq’s Ophelia (Graywolf, 2002), which was named a Notable Book for 2003 by the American Library Association, and Domestic Work (Graywolf, 2000). Domestic Work was selected by Rita Dove as the winner of the inaugural Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet and won both the 2001 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize and the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Poetry. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Study Center, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. Her poems have appeared in such journals and anthologies as American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, Gettysburg Review, and The Best American Poetry 2000 and 2003. Currently, she is Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Emory University.

Born in Gulfport, Mississippi, Trethewey earned a B.A. from the University of Georgia, an M.A. in poetry from Hollins University, and a M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Massachusetts.

She has taught at Auburn University, the University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill, and Duke University where she was the 2005-2006 Lehman Brady Joint Chair Professor of Documentary and American Studies.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sarah Silverman

"I'm F*cking Matt Damon" on Jimmy Kimmel

Too funny!

Split This Rock: Chapbook

At AWP, one of the many gems I picked up was the spring issue of the Split This Rock Chapbook, produced by the Beloit Poetry Journal.

It features poems of witness and resistance by poets who will be featured at the Split This Rock Festival, March 20-23 in Washington, D.C. This chapbook includes Jimmy Santiago Baca, Robert Bly, Mark Doty, Martín Espada, Carolyn Forché, Sam Hamill, Joy Harjo, Galway Kinnell, Stephen Kuusisto, E. Ethelbert Miller, Naomi Shihab Nye, Alix Olson, Alicia Ostriker, Ishle Yi Park, Sonia Sanchez, Patricia Smith, Susan Tichy, and Pamela Uschuk.

Also had the chance to attend the Split This Rock panel at AWP and was blown away by E. Ethelbert Miller, Martín Espada, Alix Olson, and Alicia Ostriker.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Confession Tuesday

(A "masqued" Joseph Legaspi and me.)

  1. See that photo—that’s what really goes on at AWP!

  2. Y’know how sometimes I just don’t have anything to blog about? Well not today! I have so much content that it's bursting out of me! Good information and commentary from AWP. I've had to restrain myself from posting everything in one day! But I have posts lined up for the next week, so you'll just have to wait and see what's coming up next.

  3. While at AWP, I came up with some great ideas for a new poetry collection and a potential anthology project, and well as discovering new journals to submit send poems.

  4. Yesterday, I met with a friend to discuss cover options for my book. Selecting artwork is an involved process because it’s become more of a marketing tool. I want a cover that compelling and impactful. It is a process that we should take our time with, yet I’m anxious because it means the book is really happening. I keep thinking my publisher will realize they selected the wrong manuscript. Oh heck, I have a contract. I’ve got to get that song of self-doubt out of my head.

  5. A really scary and sad moment happened while at lunch with my friend. An elderly man collapsed in the campus center where we work. He wasn’t seated near us but we certainly heard the screams. In a sense, I think he was lucky that it happened in such a public place because the paramedics arrived quickly and others were able to help. Still, it was a truly upsetting moment; I don't know if this man lived or died. Hope he’s OK.

  6. It’s Super Duper Tuesday. If you live in a primary state, go out and vote because it matters. I’m voting for Hillary but will be happy if Obama eventually gets the democratic nomination.
  7. Focusing on Super Tuesday has kept me from reflecting on the Pats Super Bowl loss. I still don't want to talk about football, mainly because I'm a baseball fan. Talk to me about pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training in a few days. But no Pats talk, please.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Yes We Can - Barack Obama Music Video

I'm not in the Obama camp, but I thought this is an excellent video. As one of my CC listserv members put it, the video has "Common, John Legend, Will-I-Am, Scarlett Johanssen,
Kareem, that lady from Grey's Anatomy, homeboy from OZ, and a few other people are in it."


The State of the State

(Sorry so dark. L to R: John Barr, Lee Briccetti, Kevin Larimer, Tree Swenson, Alice Quinn.)

I attended a Thursday session on the state of U.S. contemporary poetry. The panel, called Serving Poets & Poetry: Surveying the Field, featured participants from four major poetry foundations. In attendance were Kevin Larimer (Poets & Writers magazine, host), Tree Swenson (Academy of American Poets), Lee Briccetti (Poet’s House), John Barr (Poetry Foundation), Alice Quinn (Poetry Society of America). Here are some notes from the session.


Tree Swenson from Academy of American Poets (AAP) says that the job of their organization is to remind everyone that poetry matters. Efforts like National Poetry Month, created more than 10 years ago by the AAP, keeps poetry in the public eye.


Poets House is the equivalent of a presidential library for poetry. Housed in NYC, it is one of the largest—if not the largest—collection of domestic and international poetry. If you have a book, you should check to see if it’s there.


I keep harping on this but I think it's remarkable. Quinn, former poetry editor for the New Yorker and current head of the Poetry Society of America (PSA), said that the biggest change to happen in contemporary (U.S.) poetry is the success of Cave Canem and the publishing of so many African American poets.

Now if I am to extrapolate from Quinn’s comments, Cave Canem, Kundiman, Con Tinta, and other affinity groups—because these groups are not only based on race or ethnicity, but commonalities—represent the prevalence of the power of the collective. I believe that the representation we are seeing now in contemporary poetry may be the most diverse we have ever seen. However, we still have a long way to go.


The Poetry Foundation has been operating in its current configuration for five years. Poetry magazine’s readership has increased from 11,000 to 30,000, and their poetry podcasts receive 25,000 a week.


All groups agree that the poetry is on the rise. Interest in writing programs is on an upward swing. But why are poetry book sales so low? Swenson asserts that “the unit of consumption is not the book, but the poem,” meaning that accessibility to downloadable poems, or even photocopies that one person gives to another, has contributed to flat sales but increased interest. Additionally, book sellers are notoriously hush-hush about book sales. Coupled with the explosion on independent presses, it’s hard to gage how well the marketplace is truly doing.

Meanwhile, longer, deeper works of prose are in decline.


The Poetry Foundation touts it Poetry Out Loud program, which encourages high school students to memorize poems through competition. About 175,000 students participate annually.


There was a question posed about how best to support writers. Are contest are good way of doing that versus giving money outright to poets in the form of grants and funding?

Swenson feels that contests are important to the audience of readers more so than the poet. It speaks to who is being recognized by his/her peers.

Poetry Foundation underscores the fact that they are not a grant program agency, but an organization that seeks to adds value to the economic life of the poetry community.

PSA does have awards, but they are directing their energies to sponsoring readings in large and small communities across the U.S., partnering with local organizations and poets to host events. A good example of this is an upcoming Cave Canem reading in Boston (scroll down for Boston info).



Sunday, February 03, 2008


(I am BWS—blogging while Super Bowl-ing. And sweating nails.)

AWP was off the hook this year! I mean, it was jam-packed with poets, writers, teachers, students, and vendors. There were more book sellers in NYC than I could count, and lots of thoughtful dialogue inside and outside of the sessions.

A big event like this allows one to see firsthand that poetry is alive and well in the U.S. And with so many new presses and poetry projects, print will never be obsolete.

Biggest surprises?

  • Despite navigating between two hotels, sometimes in the cold rain, the sessions were easy to get to, and the rooms were not overcrowded.
  • Most of the presentations and all of the readings I attended were excellent.
  • I was plesantly surprised by how many people came up and said that they read the blog. Craziness, I tell you! But much appreciated.
  • The success of so many poets with first and second books receiving awards and earning tenure—that’s awesome!
  • This really shouldn’t surprise me, but the number of CC and Kundiman fellows making waves in the greater poetry community is phenomenal.
  • One word: Facebook.

And this … how much I missed Phebus Etienne. There were times when crowds would spill out into halls after sessions and I thought—I believed—she would tap me on the shoulder to tell me about a great discussion she had just heard.

Biggest disappointments?

  • In general, the conference is overwhelming. Is it possible that AWP is getting to big, or just indicative of what happens with a New York venue?
  • Too much schmoozing. Too many writers trying to be noticed or make deals.
  • Too many aggressive book fair vendors trying to get me to their table, guilting me into buying something.
  • I didn’t say hi to my Facebook friend Mark Doty. *sigh*

More specifics from the sessions to come this week.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hello from AWP!

I’ll post more detailed comments about the sessions and bookfair on Sunday, before the Super Bowl, but here are a few comments my time here thusfar.

These were written Friday morning. Haven’t had time or a reliable Internet connection. More photos to come.


I’m having a FABULOUS time! Better than I imagined. Arrived on Thursday afternoon, and immediately hit the ground running by meeting up with friends for dinner and drinks. Then went to the Bowery Poetry Club/CC Fundraiser (see last post for pics.).


CC is such an amazing collective of poets. Here’s a cool moment to share. In a session with the heads of the Poetry Foundation, Poets House, Academy of American Poets, and Poetry Society of America, on the state of poetry today, I heard a surprising comment from Alice Quinn.

Quinn, former poetry editor for the New Yorker and current head of the Poetry Society of America, said that the biggest change to happen in contemporary (U.S.) poetry is the success of Cave Canem and of so many African American poets. Wow! To hear something like that is amazing. Despite the fact that the New Yorker never really published poets of color until recently, this public acknowledgement is a personal victory for those of who have worked so hard for legitimacy within the poetry community.

Hmmm … maybe I should write an article about the rise of CC.


Thursday was full of terrific sessions. I mean, the conference book alone is enough to give you a workout! Lots of sessions conflicting with one another, which is a good sign of the variety topics. So far, navigating between two hotels has been OK. It’s just really, really cold and windy here.


The conference goers range from MFA students with little to no publishing experience, to heavy-hitter poets. But most attendees are mid-level: those with lots of poems published circulating manuscripts, or those with first or second books in print. Many teach at the college level. And I should mention that AWP is 60 percent poets, 40 percent fiction and other genres.


This year’s book fair takes up 3 floors of the hotel! It’s so massive that I couldn’t find my publisher. Oops! Hope I can pick up the trail of breadcrumbs to find the CavanKerry table later today.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Cave Canem Reading

Wednesday night, Cave Canem held a fundrasier at the Bowery Poetry Club. Hosted by Amanda Johnson, the event was flawless--a great kickoff to the AWP sessions starting on Thursday. I read two poems, and even though there were around 150 people in the crowd (I don't think I've read to a crowd larger than 25), I did pretty well. Here are a few pictures from the evening--sorry they're so dark.

Amanda Johnson (host)

Evie Shockley


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