Friday, August 29, 2008

September To-Do List

August has been a work-heavy month. Not much poetry happening for me, at least it didn't feel that way. But now that I have this long, luscious weekend ahead of me, I'm overjoyed to get back to poetry and my famous to-do list.

  1. Find a poem to read at the October inauguration of Babson's new president.
  2. Write a poem a week. Time to get back into a routine. I seem to do better with pressure so maybe I should get back to writing a poem a day.But for now, I just need to put pen to paper and write.
  3. Start working on poetry project for manuscript #2. OK, I've put this one off because it involves research. But I'd like to complete this new section of poems by the end of the year.
  4. Submit! Submit! Submit! At some point this week, I realized that I don't have many poems in circulation. Since my book comes out next year, it would be nice to have some poems in print before the book's release. So I'm looking to submit to four journals/poetry projects this month.
  5. Add bio to blog. I think I need to put it somewhere on the site, somewhere that I can update.
In two weeks, I'll revise this list, as a means of keeping myself honest.

If you post a to-do list on your blog, let me know because I'm curious to see what's on your list.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Quick Hits

The Stacey Lynn Brown story still has legs.


Rev Livingston weighs in on the contest system.


Kevin Carey has a must-read essay at Writers on the Job.


And who is attending Dodge this year?

Pre Pre-K

(Break out the tissues for mommy!)

Last night, we attended an open house at for Alex, who will be attending pre-k this year. He was so excited he ran toward the school doors. I'm so happy for him--it was wonderful to see how ready he is for this. But am I ready?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Confession Tuesday

The dog days of summer are upon us. Bet you've got some confessions bubbling up inside you. No need to hold back. Share your confessions here or on your blog, and be sure to check out those of the confessors. If you'd like to officially join The Confessional, let me know.

Last week I had strep throat. Didn't tell anyone beyond my husband. Just too busy to stop. Treated it with antibiotics from my last bout of strep. I'm through the worst of it, and while I usually blame my disease-carrying children for illnesses, I attribute this outbreak to stress.


Missed Ella's third year checkup because I was too busy to go. My husband took the kids this morning. She's fine, and it all worked out. I'm feeling a lot of mommy guilt about this because I had to work. And I like seeing the pediatrician—it's validation for me: "See how well my kids are doing." I like watching Ella step on the scale and knowing the empirical, firsthand evidence that she is off-the-charts great, even though I know this. But not taking Ella is yet another example of how busy my life is. Makes me think my priorities are "effed up."


I've been swearing a lot, another sign that my priorities are out of whack.


For dinner last night, I made the best g.d. (I'm swearing again) crab cakes. If there's one thing I can do well, it's crab cakes--light with plenty of crab meat. Not much breading. Yummy! They were so good my daughter said, "This is the best dinner I've ever had, mama."

I rock!


On the poetry tip, I'm still psyched about reading at my college's inauguration.


Not much in the way of writing lately. In fact, I worked on Sunday instead of taking my usual "me time" at Starbucks to write. Like my exercise routine, I hope to get back on track this week. My plan is to write two poems before the end of the month.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Cautionary Tale

For all of us who enter contests on a regular basis, here are some words of warning from poet Stacey Lynn Brown. An excerpt from her blog:

"... I'm telling my story far and wide, to anyone who'll listen, because the poetry world is small, and it's hard enough to get your work seen and taken seriously. Because it's supposed to work out if you're lucky enough to get that phone call and win that prize. Because poetry presses should be in this because they love poetry and want to produce quality books--not because they have issues and poetic insecurities of their own and need to feel validated and in control. I'm telling this story because once you sign a contract and give up your finalist position in other contests, you shouldn't have to start over at square one--all because an unethical press broke the law and its word.

And I'm telling you this because their new book award contest opens for submissions September 1st, and I want every poet out there who is considering sending their manuscripts to reconsider. Your work deserves to be seen and placed in a press with ethics and integrity. I know it's tempting to just blanket the market and hope for the best, but if you hit with this press, it could happen to you, too, as both of the last two contest winners had to enter into legal action against this press--and neither has a book to show for it.

The name of the press? ..."

Rock Climbing

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Get out of town!

I’m exhausted. Physically, mentally—you name it! Suffice it to say that much of it stems from the job I love so much.

Now, you know I rarely talk about work on this blog, but this is too cool not to share. I have been asked to read a poem (not my own, thank goodness) at the inauguration of Babson College’s 12th president in October! I will read a poem by one of the poets featured in our Thompson Poets Series. I pick the piece and read for two minutes after the greeting, so I am featured early in the ceremony, before the installation of the new president.

The ironic part of this is that I’m editing the inauguration program and collateral materials, so it’s weird being behind and in front of the scenes. But this inauguration is about the community, so folks from the entire Babson community are being asked to participate. And this is the kicker—I march in the procession and sit on the stage with the new president, chairman of the board of trustees, and some kick-ass honored guests. Me! How weird is that?

Anyway, it’s quite an honor. No telling how many people attend these things (1,000+?). Despite my deep, abiding fear of reading in public, I’m going to do this. I’m all about opportunity recognition—a very popular phrase at the #1 school for entrepreneurship in the world. (That’s my Babson plug.)

So, any advice on reading a poem to a very large, non-poetry crowd? *GULP!*

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"I like to call them 'Poetry Quirks.'"

Goodnight Mom tagged me for a meme on quirks. I wrote my so-called quirks out and they seem too unremarkable to share. So my twist is to talk about my poetry quirks.

Hell, it's 4:30 a.m. and I can't sleep. I'm limited to six quirks so here we go.

1. I like to write with a certain type of pen, Microball Onxy fine tip, always in blue ink. Nothing else will do. And while I prefer writing in a journal, I can write a poem on any little scrap of paper I can find.

2. I mull over poems I'm the process of writing in the car on way to and from work. I don't physically write while driving but it's a good place to ponder and pull together words. I jot them down as soon as I hit the parking lot.

3. I have a hard time writing long poems. None of my poems are longer than two pages. I like the idea of really exploring topics with pages and pages of writing but I can usually do that in three-fourths of a page.

4. When I attend poetry readings, I tend to look down and close my eyes when other poets read. Helps me listen to the words and block out the surroundings. But often it makes me look distracted or worse, asleep!

5. I get extremely nervous speaking in public, which makes reading poetry public challenging. But once I get into it and feel out the crowd I'm usually OK after the first poem or two.

6. I hate being "tagged" in memes. For Kristi I'll always make an exception but I don't like the pressure of having to answer someone else's questions. In most cases, I'll suggest that people self-tag themselves to participate. Not poetry related but it is what it is.

Here are the rules:

1. Link the person who tagged you. (See quirk #6. Self-tag yourselves!)
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours. (Mission accomplished.)
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them. (Again, see #6.)
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Sweetest Taboo

From an earlier post on My Rules of Poetry, I was thinking about what qualifies as taboo subject matter in poetry and fiction. Specifically, this question came to mind: Are there any topics out there that you won't write about?

Is sex, money, and religion off the table for you? How about the personal stories of friends and relatives--do you change the details to protect the innocent? I'm not talking about choosing topics or words for shock value. But have you ever not written a poem because topic crosses a line for you?

I'm curious. What topics are off limits in your poetry or writing?


On a separate note, what happened to the recording artist Sade (the title of the post comes from a song by the same names)? Has she retired from the music industry or is she planning on a comeback?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Confession Tuesday

Confess. You know the drill.

This is sad. It’s after 11 p.m., and I’m in bed on my laptop watching the Olympics, blogging, and I have two chats going on simultaneously. *sigh*


I have spent a lot of time watching what my friends call “televised crack,” aka The Olympics. It’s so easy to get sucked into the drama, but I’ve always loved the games and what they represent on a global level—the best of the best brought together in fair competition. Yes, the ages of the Chinese female gymnasts are suspect, but the sport is still exciting to watch. And the Michael Phelps story—how could you not get drawn into history in the making?


This past Saturday, Tim and I had a rare evening out, sans kids (woo hoo). We went to a Red Sox game (they lost), and after, we went to a local bar. When the Phelps relay race came on, the band stopped playing and the bartender turned up the TV volume. Yet you couldn’t hear it because the crowd kept shouting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” It was a very cool moment.


I want abs like Dara Torres. Oh, to look that good when I turn 40 next year is my goal. Of course, I don’t swim so getting that swimmer’s body may be an uphill battle.


What is up with all of the beach volleyball coverage? I’d rather watch judo or fencing than four people playing volleyball in the sand.


Today, we received a letter from Alex’s new school telling us what to expect at the start of the semester. In September, preschool begins for my baby! He'll need a backpack, change of clothes, and family pictures to share with his class. The letter also told us what he should bring for lunches and snacks since this is a nut-free school (love that phrase “nut-free!”). But to think of my little one as a school-aged boy is just amazing. How did we get here?

Note to self: take first day of school off from work.


On the poetry front … well … no poetry but lots of good stuff happening in the next few months. There are several poetry events that I plan on attending, not as a reader but strictly to listen and enjoy. As much poetry as I write and read, I truly enjoy hearing others share their works. Details to come in the next few weeks.


Lastly, my coworker and friend—let’s call him “Ed”—is leaving this week to begin the next chapter in his life in another country. Ed also designed my book cover so I am very sad to see him go for many reasons. Fortunately, he'll be back before the book is published, which means he'll be around to share in the book's (dare I say) success.

There are people in this world that I am glad to have known and you are right up there, my friend. I’ve done a very good job of holding it together so here’s hoping I don’t turn into a blubbering idiot when you leave. XOXO.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My Rules of Poetry

I’ve been following a few blog conversations here and here about poets and their personal rules of poetry, so I had to offer my two cents.

This is something of an exercise because my rules for poetry will no doubt differ from your rules. What works for me in one poem may not work in another, and may not work for you at all. Also there’s something liberating thinking about the patterns I tend to use and/or avoid in my writing. So without further adieu, here are my rules.

  1. Stay away from rhyme. I’m not very good at it, so unless the rhyme is internal, I avoid it like the plague. Hats off to poets who can, but it’s not for me.
  2. That being said, every few months I leave free verse behind to try a form.
  3. Be economical with words—I get rid of all extra articles, prepositions, and adverbs.
  4. Don’t end a line on an article or preposition.
  5. Look at each line as its own unit. Rather, see if the phrase can stand on its own. I look for the right adjectives, nouns, and verbs to describe the moment. It always pays off in the end.
  6. There is no subject that is taboo in poetry. I'll write just about everything, including family. Although the details may vary, everything is up for grabs.
  7. Poet Toi Derricotte once described what she called a “good line drawer,” where she (mentally) stored all of her good lines in poems that didn’t work. This is certainly a rule I adhere to in every poem. Too often I fall in love with a line that’s just not working. Usually it’s a line too clever for its own good. So I’ll take it out to see if the poem is improved.
  8. (NEW RULE, JUST ADDED) End the poem before it ends. Sometimes I have trouble finding an ending to my poems. So I ususally go back a line or two to see if I passed the ending on the way to a seemingly more clever line.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Kibbles and Bits and Bits and Bits

I’m exhaling from a very difficult work week. This is how I know the summer season is winding down—our four-day work week ended yesterday, so this is my last Friday off. But you can stick a fork in me because I’m DONE!

This weekend is all about taking care of my family, who has not seen a lot of me the past few days. Even when I was with them for meals and bath time, I wasn’t really there. This time also is about taking care of me: getting to the gym, back to healthy eating, and having fun. That’s probably the easiest part because Saturday is action-packed, and Tim and I are going to tomorrow night’s Red Sox game!


I constantly check the mail (e-mail or snail mail) for good news. Lately, even the junk mail has been living up to its name. So after sitting in traffic for 1.5 hours Thursday evening, it was nice to find a check from Crab Orchard Review waiting for me! I have a poem coming out in their next edition, and while I haven’t seen my contributors copy yet, it reminded me that there’s a market for my poetry, and that I can be recognized for my efforts.

It’s not about the money; it’s about knowing my worth.


Lastly, the Massachusetts Poetry Festival released their schedule this week. This is our state’s first-ever poetry festival, modeled after the Dodge Festival—a long time coming in my opinion. While I think it could be a fun time, I really hope it is the first step in trying to unite and broaden the poetry and literary efforts in our state.

Many of the poets reading at this festival are well-established (“the big draws”), but I want real dialogue to flourish from poets coming together at all levels of their careers. MassPop, the organization behind the effort, is looking for financial support, but I haven’t seen any real attempts at community outreach. As we know, much of the best poetry happening now is being created and published through nontraditional channels (blogs, local events, community effots, etc.). Guess I’m not feeling the love, and that’s true of the other poets I speak to across the state about the festival. Time will tell if there is a second-annual event.

Bottom line: I’ve been to many a festival and conference in my day. So how is this one any different?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Confession Tuesday

So, if you're in the U.S., are you enjoying the summer? Is it living up to expectations or somewhere deep inside did you hope for more? And how has the weather affected your plans?

On this Confession Tuesday, I want to know how you're doing. Maybe it all boils down to this: Are you happy?

Am I happy? Overall, yes. But the weather has definitely affected my mood. Summer is too short in New England, especially with all the rain we've been having. I mean, it's August and 61 degrees outside—what's up with that?


Work has been incredibly stressful this summer. I don't talk about work often on the blog because I like keeping my work-life separate. But the long, summer hours are dampening my writing efforts. I wonder if I had the time to devote to poetry without having to worry about money, would I do it? Would I actually write and publish more? Probably not.


Last night, as I was struggling to finish a poem, I realized that I do my best work at midnight. Unfortunately, I get up at 5 a.m. to work out before heading to the office. Writing when the house is dark and quite does wonders for my creativity, but leaves me dog-tired the next day.


I did not go to the gym this morning because I was exhausted! *smile*


My mom's birthday is Sunday and I have no idea what to get her for a present. She has everything she needs so its hard finding something she wants. There, I've confessed! A little help on present ideas would be nice, mom.

New Poem

After Making Love, I Leave to Write a Poem

Already I am making myself lighter,
willing myself to our quiet, unlit office
where fallen hydrangea pedals litter my desk
and the rain leaks through a hole in the roof.
Here, I am most proud of my life:
the blessings of words, the way they shape
this house and the hours that move inside of it.
He knows I go to answer some grim wisdom
his body has pressed into me, perhaps
the new music made by our old bodies
while the night slides into silence.
I feel the bliss of blue, heavy-headed stalks
leaning closer and closer to earth. In this hour,
he is the vase in the room holding my flowers.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Writer's Funk

While I don’t believe in writer’s block, I seem to be unable to complete a poem, even a bad one. I’m in a writing funk, shall we say.

I’m working through it, but I’m not producing anything worth sharing. The good thing is that I’ve been writing every day so I hope to post something mid-week. And for some reason, I’m resistant to writing prompts. But if this internal stalemate continues, I’ll comb the archives of RWP for help.

One great thing to look forward to is The Dodge Poetry Festival at the end of September. Being immersed in poetry for this special weekend always rejuvenates my soul.

In the meantime, maybe attacking a few goals will pull me through.

August To-Do List

  • Finalize fall NEWS Reading Dates
  • Write four poems this month
  • Revise three poems—I have poems from April that need attention
  • Submit poetry to four journals
  • Star organizing a second manuscript

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Confession Tuesday

It's August. What sins of the summer are you confessing this week? Be sure to let me know if you're sharing so I can add you to The Confessional. Also, check your fellow confessors to see what truths and half-truths they reveal.

My big confession this week is that I'll have to keep my confessions short. Yesterday was my daughter's 3rd birthday, so I'm just behind at work, at home, and with poetry. Will post pictures of yesterday's adventure this evening.


With the economy slowing down and our with family cutting back, like so many of us, it makes me extremely happy that we can give Ella and Alex special days like yesterday. Reminds me that the "have to's" in life are not so bad if I can enjoy the life I've worked so hard to build.


Last week, I posted just one poem, but it was the first poem in several months. I had hoped to write five in a week. I did start a few new pieces, so I hope to complete and post them this week.


Haven't sent out any submissions to journals in a while—that's back on the list.


And I plan on memorizing a poem—I think all poets should memorize a poem of theirs and a poem from someone else. While I haven't picked a poem of mine to recite by heart, I'm planning to learn one of my all-time favorites, "Keeping Things Whole" by Mark Strand. When I find myself faced with something I don't want to do, I remind myself of this line: "I move to keep things whole." Then I keep moving.


Most days, I feel like "the absence of field." (That's a reference to the Strand poem—look it up!)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sunday Scribblings: Do I Have To?

When I think about the question, I think about a scene in the 1989 movie Parenthood. Steve Martin is arguing with wife Mary Steenburgen about, among other things, having to coach his kids on a losing baseball team after getting fired from his crappy job. When she says he has to go, he responds, “My whole life if ‘have to!”

I think about that line a lot whenever my back’s against a wall and I’m faced with doing something I don’t want to do. Doesn’t matter what the task is, changing a diaper or writing a poem. Sometimes life swallows me whole.

Lately, blogging has felt like a “have to.” And I feel incredibly guilt for not blogging regularly. If readers take the time to visit, then I like to provide fresh ideas in this space. On the other hand, I’m opposed to blogging with nothing really to say. End result, I’ve stepped back it bit to enjoy the summer. Same with poetry. Just haven’t felt like writing. I suspect that I’m not the only one who feels like this when the weather gets warmer.

But there’s one “have to’s” that I’m very excited about: My daughter, Ella, turns 3 years old tomorrow! She is pure light. Making her day special is my mission today. Yet in the midst of getting a cake and finding a present, I’ll take some “me time” to read blogs, write a poem, and indulge in my all-time time waster: Facebook!

Whenever I can seek a little balance, the “have-to’s” don’t seem so bad.

For more "Have To's," visit Sunday Scribblings.


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