Saturday, May 31, 2008
All day it smells like rain,
the feeling that something is coming
but never does.
The wind jettisons
young leaves from the trees
and there you stand
under its canopy
protected from a sky
you can barely see.
Everything you know says
dig in, till the garden until
it yields that one lousy tomato,
the one you spent
your whole paycheck to grow.
All you need is right in front of you
says the dirt,
says the thunder crack
of a humid afternoon.
You write the number
in the black earth and wait
for rain to wash it away.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Dear Friend of Frost,
I wanted to alert you to book party--a small fundraiser we are having at the South Lawrence Library on Friday May 30. Even if you can't attend the live event, I think you'll be interested in the book we are producing.
You are invited to a book party for One On A Side
launching the book version of Seamus Heaney's Frost lecture and reading
Friday, May 30, 2008
Lawrence Public Library, South Branch
135 Parker Street
Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door and include a copy of One On A Side. Every copy of this unique volume that you purchase benefits the Robert Frost Foundation's work in the Lawrence schools, libraries, farmers' market, and cafes on behalf of poetry.
Whether or not you can attend the party, see the Frost Foundation's site for information on ordering the book.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
I am conflating two ideas here: “How much money does a writer need?”, which begins the nplusone article, versus “What does it mean to be a career poet?” The only way to answer that is to take a look back, and then fast forward to my poetry life now.
This is me and Joseph Legaspi on the steps of Carnegie Hall after our baccalaureate in New York City. We had no idea how we were going to support our lives and our art. We thought it would all just “work out” somehow. We chose grad school and creative writing degrees because we loved poetry. I don't think we grasped the concept of using our degrees in the same way doctors and lawyers use them. All we wanted to do was write good poems. No more, no less.
In 1997 when this picture was taken, I was working full time at Associated Press making a salary in the mid 20s. Since then, I've managed to work steadly in NYC and in the Boston area using my degree in the writing field. And while my salary has increased, it feels as if I'm living off of those late-90s wages with the uptick in gas and food prices. That's for another post.
Does a degree guarantee a successful career as a poet? Well, no. Look at all the successful writers who never stepped foot into a classroom as a student. But it also depends on how we define success. Recently I was paid $50 for a poem in a magazine that most people outside of Phoenix, AZ, will never read. It was the first time my poetry garnered a fee. I call that a rousing success financially, but something I can do without the MFA on my wall. Nothing gives me greater joy than reading to a few interested listeners who are genuinely engaged in my work, though I have yet to earn money reading poetry in front of a crowd.
Being a poet is more than practicing a craft, it is a calling. But can I make a career out of it? I have a hard enough time answering the question, "So, what do you do for a living?" Ever try to tell someone you've just met you're a poet? It's not that easy.
Poets manage somehow to muddle through financial ups and downs. We get by with teaching, odd jobs, and freelance work. Or we go the publishing/journalism route. Maybe you are that rare bird who has found employment in an arts-related position. Or maybe you're independently wealthy and insurance, rent, or kids are not issues. Whatever your source of income, I think it's possible to make a career out of poetry.
My perspective? Career poets always have their hands in something else: leading workshops, working as guest editors, and judging contests, etc. We fill out grant applications by day and write by night, or vice versa. We invite fellow writers into our homes to break bread and share verse. We submit our work with no guarantees we'll see any compensation for what we do, and yet poetry thrives. Go figure.
I worked very hard at NYU to earn a degree that would serve me well in life, yet I knew I was entering a field that would pay next to nothing. But Joseph's book, Imago, is doing extremely well. And my book comes out next year. This is my version of the writer's life, of being a career poet--earning almost no money from my craft. Still, I have that ol' college attitude that says it will all "work out" in the end.
I'm sure after a long weekend you have much to confess. Ease your conscious here by telling all, and let me or Carolee know when you do.
"It's been a hard day's night, and I've been working like a dog." That sort of describes last week at work. We had a major shakeup, and without going into to many details, we'll be feeling the aftershocks for months to come.
Like most people, if I'm not a home I'm at work. So to have stress in one of the two places I spend most of my time is not good. With any luck, our department will come through this stronger than before. But I'm not looking forward to this transitional period. I'm just not a transitional girl.
Had a great Memorial Day Weekend visiting with friends and spending time with the kids. Tim and I managed to make it out for couple time with dinner and a movie. The highpoint was having a cookout in our backyard with 15 friends and neighbors. We have a very tall maple in our backyard, home to hundreds of inchworms. I don't think anyone escaped them as they descended from our trees into plates, cups, hair, etc. It was as if everyone left with parting gifts!
We saw "21" at the movies—I give it a B-. Wish we had stayed at home to watch "Recount" on HBO. (Both are Kevin Spacey movies.)
No movement with the book. With any luck, I'll have a cover to share with you during the summer. I've asked a well-known poet to write the foreword for my book. When that is approved, I'll reveal who the mystery poet is. (Yes, I'm confessing that I'm not confessing here.)
No poetry either, but making plans for upcoming projects. It does feels strange not writing, but I don't feel guilty about it. Not in the least.
There's been a lot of dialogue in the blogosphere this article about the financial component to the writer's life, which has sparked posts on what it means to be a career poet. Well, I can't let this opportunity pass without adding in my two cents. Any chance for me to talk about the business side of poetry is a good one. So I'll jump into the fray tonight on this topic near and dear to my heart.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”~Samuel Beckett
When I was about 8 years old, I spent the summer with my grandparents and aunt in Atlanta, GA. (As a mom, I now understand the value of that free time for parents.) Looking for activities, my aunt set me up with swim lessons at the local recreation department. Seems odd that someone from the Virginia Beach, VA, area needed swim lessons, but no one in my family swims.
So there I am, in my Supergirl swimsuit--which I loved--ready to learn how to swim with 10 other kids. After getting in the pool, the first thing the instructor tells us to do is open our eyes underwater. Well I just couldn’t do it. The feeling of standing chest-high in chlorinated water staring at my feet is still fresh in my mind. I still remember one of the kids saying, “I thought Supergirl could do anything.” *Sigh.*
Needless to say, I did not finish the lesson and never returned to class. To this day, I keep my eyes closed in a pool, and I’m not a strong swimmer. Now that I am a mom with active kids, I’ve been pondering the idea of taking swim lessons. But something in me doesn’t want to try. If I don’t try, I won’t fail. Silly, I know, but some lessons are hard to unlearn.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
The craziness continued today and will go on for a while.
I did have company last night at my house—another poet mom with her daughter! A welcomed distraction to my anxiety.
Two other surprises came my way on Wednesday. Copies of the publication Edible Phoenix came in the mail. The magazine had contacted me about publishing my poem, “In Praise of Okra” a little over a month ago and now the poem is in the Summer 2008 edition. Well, I’m more than pleased with how it came out. And, they paid for my poem—a first for me. It looks great!
Robert Lee Brewer from Poetic Asides/Writer's Digest sent me this nifty little button for the completion of NaPoWriMo:
So I’m posting this with my heartfelt thanks to Robert. He’s also sending out a certificate, which is not necessary but cool nonetheless.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I am posting later than usual—guess I’m still giddy from last night's reading. When I envision how my poetry will be received by a crowd, the Inkwell Bookstore event sums it up nicely: to read in front of a crowd without sucking.
I did flub a few words last night. Note to self: must practice reading before a video camera. Better yet, it’s time to memorize a few poems. I’ve always wanted to recite a poem or two of mine by heart—now seems like as good a time as any.
The title from my last poet, “An Embarrassment of Riches” was used last night by a Boston Red Sox radio announcer just after pitcher Jon Lester’s no-hitter. Sometimes I enjoy the radio call more than the televised version—of course, I didn’t have a choice in the car.
Congratulations to Jon Lester and thank you to the Red Sox for providing an embarrassment of riches for Red Sox Nation. Only took 86 years to get to this point, but since 2004 we’ve reaping the rewards of your hard work. It’s a good time to be a sports fan in Boston.
There was a beautiful full moon out last night. I was going to take a picture but I was too tired when I got home. I wanted to see Red Sox highlights as soon as I walked into the door.
We had an employee cookout on campus today. Yum! Can’t get enough ribs and chicken. Excuse me, FREE chicken and ribs!
Haven’t written a poem this month. Haven’t really missed writing but I feel as if I’m ready to jump back in it. It does bother me that my poetry count for May is a big, fat zero.
Taking tomorrow off from work to revise a few poems, mail submission queries, and goof off!
Here are a few photos from my iPhone.
Jarita before introductions.
Jarita in action.
What a terrific crowd!
It's hard to get folks to come out for anything these days, but the fact that we had a full house on a Monday night blew me away. Visiting Falmouth was well worth the two-hour drive.
Special thanks Inkwell's events publicist, Steve, for his all-out effort to promote the reading. With flyers like this (see below), how can you go wrong?
Monday, May 19, 2008
Tickets are on sale for the 12 biennial Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, September 25-28 in Waterloo, New Jersey. Can't wait! Lots of new names as well as festival favorites reading this year.
Just look at the lineup! For me, there’s one standout I just have to highlight:
Taha Muhammad Ali
Tracy K. Smith
Thomas Sayer Ellis
Joseph O. Legaspi
Beth Ann Fennelly
Naomi Shihab Nye
You go, Jo Jo!
Saturday, May 17, 2008
So here's my gratitute list, in no particular order:
- My husband's love
- My son's patience
- My daughter's wet sloppy two-year old kisses (with tongue)
- A warm sunny day after the weather folks said the opposite
- Fresh vegetables
- Music. Music. Music.
- Time to hear myself think, and time to write the occasional poem.
- Old friends, new friends
- Happy and healthy family
- Money in the bank
Now back to my regularly scheduled cynicism.
Friday, May 16, 2008
From Powells.com :
Top Ten: Thursday, May 15.
- Pocket Poets #04: Howl: And Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
- Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
- Red Bird: Poems by Mary Oliver
- Love: Ten Poems by Pablo Neruda
- Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins
- A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
- Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
- Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford, 1937-1947 by William Stafford
- The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
- Whitman: Poetry and Prose (Library of America) by Walt Whitman
For the poets on this list not with us anymore, I understand that that their works have endured long after their deaths for a reason—because they're damn good. But casual readers stick to what they know: dead poets. And there are so many wonderful, talented writers out there if readers would take the time to look for them.
Am I wrong here?
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The Practical Writer: From Inspiration to Publication by Therese Eiben and Mary Gannon (Editors)
Here's a description.
Poets & Writers Magazine presents the one book that every writer needs on the journey from the writing studio to publication. An essential volume from an organization renowned for providing reliable advice, The Practical Writer is filled with valuable information that will help emerging writers make intelligent choices and professional decisions at every stage of their careers. Filled with the insights and expertise of authors and other publishing insiders, it covers a range of topics: revising a manuscript, choosing a title, applying for grants, conducting research, evaluating an agent, understanding contracts, working with an editor, finding a literary community, promoting a book, and much more. With The Practical Writer, writers will know how to make the most of every aspect of their journey.
I can’t wait to dive into this one. Thanks E!
Monday, May 12, 2008
Confession Tuesday needs its own holiday. Be sure to drop a note to me or Carolee and fess up!
First of all, I should have Happy Mother’s Day to my mom! During the past year, she has been reading my blog. And while I did speak with her yesterday, I’m officially saying hello via the blog!
Mother’s day was sunny and brisk in New England—perfect weather to take the family to Fenway Park and walk around the field (see photos below). The Fenway trip was quite the contrast from how I usually like to spend Mother’s Day—alone! And if the park hadn’t been open, the bulk of the day would have been spent (sans kids) shopping and writing. But I’m learning that these occasions are more important for my kids than for me.
Told Tim I didn’t want a present this year, just new Red Sox shirts for the kids. But what he gave me was the best gift ever. He gave me a card and wrote that he would take me out to dinner wherever I wanted to go, including dancing!
Dancing is one of my favorite things but we never go. You know what I mean ladies—if it wasn’t for the occasional wedding we’d never step out on the dance floor. So I have my feelers out for a place to go dancing in Boston that’s not a scary, 20-something meat market. An 80s dance night will do.
I’m enjoying not writing poems, but I’m getting the urge again. In the meantime, I’m
revising my April pieces. I’m quite pleased with my work but I can already see pieces I will probably cut for one reason or another. Hope to send out to five publications later this week.
Lately, I’ve been asked to participate in a lot of poetry-related activities, such as hosting the Super Hoot. I’ve also been asked to read at a few venues around greater Boston. Very cool.
I was reading Steve Fellner’s post for the NY Times on his first book collection and found myself hit with the cold water of reality:
“A few weeks ago, when I received my first royalty check of $27.08, I received the news: 138 copies. My first book of poems, Blind Date with Cavafy, sold a total of 138 copies.”What a sad but all-too-true reality for poets. My deepest fear, and I know this will happen, is that one day I’ll find my book in some bookstore in the $0.99 clearance bin. Now that’s a true confession.
I'm just thankful Ella did not run across the field.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
The Super Hoot showcases the poetry of the winners and honorable mentions of The Eagle Tribune’s Spring Poetry Contest. An open mike and reception was also part of the festivities. Last year, I was one of the contest winners.
While this year’s Hoot was not well publicized, the audience was a generous one. I was deeply honored to host, and just downright lucky to hear the work of this year’s winners firsthand.
Whenever I hear talk of poetry as a dying art, events like this prove that assumption wrong. Poetry lives among everyday people who just enjoy the sheer act of reading and writing a poem. Today was a celebration of some of this year’s best poetry north of Boston.
Friday, May 09, 2008
If you find yourself out and about in the Lawrence, MA area, join me at the Super Hoot!
Featuring Winners of the Eagle-Tribune/Robert Frost Poetry Contest
Saturday, May 10
Lawrence Library, Frost Room, 3rd Floor,
Come celebrate The Second Annual Super Hoot featuring winners of the Eagle-Tribune/Robert Frost Poetry Contest, hosted by January O'Neil. Open mike following the event.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Monday, May 05, 2008
I spend time this past weekend reading the poems I wrote in April, as well as combining poems I hadn’t revised since last March, which included NaPo ’07 poems. Now I have a healthy batch ready to be pulled apart and put back together again. Not all will make the cut for a new manuscript, but if two-thirds make it I’ll be thrilled.
Sunday, I went to a poetry reading in Boston at Forest Hills featuring Danielle Legros Georges, Lainie Senechal, Afaa M. Weaver, and Sam Cornish, Boston’s first poet laureate. It was a rainy afternoon, and I was accompanied by local poet Colleen Michaels. The reading was held in a chapel on the grounds—surprisingly, the audience was a lively one. I always think readings in chapels will be solemn affairs, but I give credit to the audience for really responding to the works of four talented poets.
After the reading, we chatted with the poets and met poet and organizer Harris Gardner, who sets up this reading and others in the Boston area through an organization he founded called Tapestry of Voices. As strongly as I feel about poets having a community, it's nice to see someone organize writers to read in venues all over Boston.
Because I was out of the house, I missed the Boston Celtics and Red Sox play crucial games! Fortunately, both teams won and all was right in the world.
Much of the weekend was spent keeping up with the kids. It was a rainy weekend but we managed to get the out of the house and have some fun.
Since today (Monday) is Cinco de Mayo, Tim and I celebrated by making guacamole from scratch and margaritas. Yum!
I probably won’t post much but I hope to read and post on other blogs this week.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
In all seriousness, I’m taking a few days off from the blogosphere to spend some time with my husband and kids. I also want to look at my poems and start to put together a manuscript.
One thing I don't want to lose is my newfound ability to tap that rock my poems seem to hide under. So I'll try to write for 10-15 minutes every day and see what happens, but no pressure to write, complete, or post a poem for a while.
So I’m here, but not really here.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
- Number of poems written in April.
- Number of poems you’ll keep and revise.
- List the titles of your top three NaPoWriMo poems.
- List your three least favorite NaPoWriMo poems.
- Favorite line from one of your NaPoWriMo poems.
- Favorite poem by a NaPoWriMo participant.
- What surprised you most about writing a poem a day?
- Now that you’ve started the momentum, what’s next?
Here are my answers.
1. Number of poems written in April: 30
2. Number of poems you’ll keep and revise: 19
3. List the titles of your top three NaPoWriMo poems.
What My Kids Will Write About Me in Their Future Tell-All Book
4. List your three least favorite NaPoWriMo poems.
How the Body Forgives
5. Favorite line from one of your NaPoWriMo poems.
"They will say I loved them so much it hurt."
6. Favorite poem by a NaPoWriMo participant.
Kelli Russell Agodon's "New Year"
7. What surprised you most about writing a poem a day?
That it was easier than last year. Given that my kids are toddlers and require more of me, I'm surprised that I wrote almost every day. Some days I had to double up to stay on track, but generally I started a poem midday and posted it around midnight.
8. Now that you have the momentum, what’s next?
Taking a day off next week (I hope) so that I can organize, start revising, and begin to send out poems for publication.