Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Joseph Legaspi and Evie Shockley

Joseph Legaspi and I have been coming to Dodge since 1996. But this year, he was a festival poet! On Saturday, he mesmerized the crowd with poems from him first book, Imago. The consummate reader, he engaged the audience, made us laugh and cry, and allowed us into his world, as only an experienced reader can.

Joseph follows in the footsteps of our friend, the late Phebus Etienne, who was a festival reader in 2002. I believe she was there under the tent with us, watching him give a reading that was nothing less than inspired.

Later in the day, I had the privilege hearing Evie Shockley read from her book, Half-Red Sea. I would describe her poems as melodic, edgy, and thought-provoking. I find that there is always something to discover in her verse.

Listening to Evie’s words on a rainy Saturday added a layer of soulful melody that I will now hear every time I read her work.

Check out both of their books.

Ladies First, Ladies First!

Left to right: Me, Aracelis Girmay, Evie Shockley, Jarita Davis, and Mendi Lewis Obadike.

Confession Tuesday

You know the drill.

I started writing these confessions Sunday night after I got home from Dodge. So I won’t talk about the festival in this post, other than to say I’m already looking ahead to 2010.


Don’t you wish you had $700 billion dollars to do something else besides bail out Wall Street? Yes, I know … well … I believe we need this money to prevent the whole system from collapsing but damn! Couldn’t we feed people, or pay off debt, or create new jobs with this money? Seems like better solution than bailing out the people who caused this mess in the first place.


On the poetry front:

In October, I’m participating in The Boston 30/30 All Star Poetry Event! Me and 39 other poets are writing a poem a day for each day in October. I’ll post first drafts starting Wednesday.

A group of us from my writers group are participating in the Mass Poetry Festival. The Salem contingent will have an open mic space sponsored by the organizers. I’m looking forward to participating with my friends in a new space. More info to come.

And my publisher is hosting a shindig this weekend! Looking forward to meeting the folks working on my book, and the other writers who are also with CKP. Very cool.

Alex turns 5 on Saturday. Time to plan a party!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Conversations on Craft: Mark Doty

Admittedly, I arrived late to this one-on-one session with Mark Doty. He began his session by reading one of his poems (I think it was called “Apparition” from his latest book Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems), and then breaking it down for the audience, explaining some of his thoughts behind the poem. The conversation opened itself to questions and answers. Here are some comments from his talk.

  • Doty discussed the “so what” factor in poems, that feeling of writing a poem, getting to the end and then saying … OK, how is this relevant? Good poem, but so what? How does a writer overcome it? Goes to show that all poets have the experience of writing a mediocre but technically sound poem, yet uninteresting to the writer. That led the conversation down the path to revision.

  • Why is it that we learn to do something well, such as write a poem, and then we get bored with it? We don’t think the piece is good enough, or we use the same words or devices over and over again. Be conscious of your habits. If you write a line and find yourself saying, “Oh, that sounds like me,” then it’s time to shake things up.

  • There are always discoveries to be made about our poems, which can keep us from boredom. Doty says, “It’s easy to over-control our poems out of the fear of the unfamiliar. Losing control is scary, but it can be useful.”

  • The question of questions came up in our talk, as in using questions as a poetic device. Doty suggests the following exercise: “Take a draft you’re working on but not done with, note the places you may have a question in the poem. Insert questions along the margins. Not all questions you’ll keep, but there will be one question that may be able to open you. Questions in poems are like trap doors, and maybe you will get to another level under the poem.” He adds, “When you look at the poem to revise, or to rein it in, you should work to keep only what’s essential.”

  • I liked this quote, “Confound your usual means of making, and it will confuse and remake you.”

  • Doty told the audience about an exercise that C.D. Wright uses with her students. When a poem you’ve written feels too tight or too pat (meaning too perfect, or too easy), she suggests rewriting the poem backwards. Start from the bottom and work your way up, either word by word or line by line. Rephrasing the parts of a poem can help to get it where you want it to be.

  • There was a question about how Doty gets to the lines he writes. He explained that most poetic lines are written as 10-syllable lines. Dickinson shortened her line, which makes the reader feel the pressure of what’s not being said. Then there are other poets, such as Ginsburg, Whitman, and Crane, who expanded the line as if the margins didn’t exist. This interplay between line and sentence is one way to speed up or slow down the reader, and is a way to shake up your poems.

  • Then I got up the nerve to ask what Doty thought of contemporary poetry. With so many MFA programs and spoken word poets, I wanted his opinion on the growth of poetry. Of course this is a great thing, with many more writers and ways to publish than when he started writing. It’s more than just publishing, it’s community groups getting together to read poems, or as simple as one friend printing a poem and sharing it with another. His students are not afraid to mix styles and not be labeled as one type of poet writing in a particular style. They mix genres and they mix media.

  • Young writers (and by young I believe he meant beginning or emerging writers) don’t want to be marketed to or reduced to a member of a consumer group. People want to be thought of as individuals and are looking for authentic experiences, and that is why so many people are drawn to poetry today.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pictures from Dodge

I'm home from the festival, dog tired but with lots to talk about over the next few days.

These photos were taken Saturday during the driest part of the day.

Please, Make It Stop!


Question to the Blogger

If there's several thousand people there, how do you manage to have personal conversations with such great poets? Are you very bold, or does that mean you have "arrived" as a poet?

The Dodge Poetry Festival venues are set up so that there are one-one-one sessions, group sessions with three or four poets, and larger readings in the main stage tent, either 30-minute readings by one poet or 30 poets reading for 5 minutes each. The events outside of the main stage tent can hold 200-500 people at a time.

The great thing about Dodge is that the poets make themselves accessible. For instance, I ran into Sharon Olds when she first arrived for yesterday's session (she's a former teacher of mine), and Robert Hass I caught in the book tent. Martín Espada I spoke with briefly after his reading. Also, most sessions, whether they are readings or conversations with poets, leave time for questions and answers.

I don't know if I'm bold (and I certainly haven't arrived), but I make it a point to speak with as many people as I can at these events. I’m not one to pass up an opportunity like this. Besides, I love talking about poetry and, in particular, the Dodge Poetry Festival. Here, I can talk about poetry and be understood without any explanation. And it gives me a chance to listen to powerful, thoughtful words and ideas among people who practice the craft that I depend upon for my very survival. I can’t put a finer point on that.

Blogging about it is my way of sharing this experience, which is nothing short of life-affirming every time I attend.

Thanks for the questions and comments. Keep ’em coming!

Dodge Log: Day Two

Saturday, we had several hours with no rain. In fact, the sun almost came out for a few minutes. *sigh* The weather has been brutal these past few days.


I was impressed by the range of poems spoken throughout the day. The featured poets seemed genuinely happy that their works were well received, so much so that many of them tried out new, unpublished poems. Sharon Olds read odes. Franz Wright read new poems. Mark Doty read a very new poem about a three-legged stag (I know, that description does not do the poem justice—and I can’t think of the poem’s title). And, of course, Robert Hass read new poems about the death of his brother.


Got a hug from Sharon Olds. We chatted about my kids and her new book. And I was able to tell her about my new book. *smile!*

Also, I met Martín Espada today. He has such a powerful voice and quite a presence that meeting him was quite a thrill.


My friend, Joseph Legaspi, gave an unbelievable reading today. He deserves his own post with much more detail. Coming soon.


The undercurrent in all the sessions: politics and poetry. It’s so apparent how much writers need each other, now more than ever. Poets tend to be outsiders, so being in a group of outsiders was comforting. Think of it: all of us huddled under an oversized tent, taking shelter from the vitriolic political climate. This poetry fortified us so that we will be able to go back into our lives and do some good.


My favorite line of the evening, our call to action, so to speak, happened during the Poetry Sampler. Before he began reading, Robert Hass talked about the Iraq war, throwing out body counts and the numbers of lives lost on both sides, and how the Bush administration and John McCain call The Surge a success. Hass then goes into a litany, asking, “Where is Walt Whitman?” “Where are Rosa Parks and Henry David Thoreau?” And then the line I’ll remember beyond this night:

“Something has gone wrong with the moral imagination of America.”

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Going Public with Private Feelings

Left to right: Sharon Olds, Linda Pastan, Lucille Clifton, Mark Doty.

Much of this conversation touched on how poets use their lives as material for their work. Here's a quick sample of what was said at this session.

1. Linda Pastan uses her life as the object of poetry. She wishes she could write in persona or about topics that let her gain distance. But ultimately finding the truth in her life can be uplifting and reaffirming.

2. Lucille Clifton: "The things that have happened to me have happened to everyone. If we can talk about the complexities of our lives, we can talk about the good things, too."

Also, she said, " As we are complexities, we make the mistake that the shameful things that happen to us belong to us alone. I write about these things as a way of getting to the human."

3. Sharon Olds: At one point, Sharon said that she spoke a vow to never discuss her personal life. And then recently she decided it would be more helpful to reveal these things. In fact, she couldn't remember why she took the vow in the first place. She thought for a moment and then said, "Are we in public or are we in some great big personal?"

4. Mark Doty: "What we think is too painful to put into the light looks different or looks less awful than we think." (I have more from Mark Doty that I'll post later.)

How to Teach a Poem

Friday is a day for teachers and the topic of teaching poetry, and our first session was with former poet laureate Robert Hass.

Hass started his discussion on haiku. He talked about traditional haiku and how the form has seasonal topics, but only in the first and third position. He also recited several haiku from memory and made connections to projects with children writing haiku today.

Then the discussion evolved into what are we teaching and how do we teach. Hass has primarily taught at the college level. He said “I have never not been interested in poetry.” So for teacher, difficulty becomes how to translate that passion in a meaningful to students at any age. In other words:

How do you teach a poem?

“To some extent,” Hass said, “I think we have wrecked poetry because we want students to learn how to analyze.”

After sharing some of his teaching experiences from teaching kindergartners (imagine!) to the upper levels, he went on to say, “…to convey complex forms of joy and sorrow, that’s what we do as teachers, find ways to make poetry live and not deaden it through rigor.” Teachers must emphasize rigor to expand imagination, and then they must “teach imagination.”

Hass offers two suggestions for teaching poetry.

Teaching poems you love rather than teaching the ones that are less interesting but deemed required. You’ll probably get a better response teaching something you’re interested in.
Have student recite poems. Get them invested in the poem, and offer little insights about the author or conditions under which the poem was written.

After taking questions from the audience, and there we many thoughtful questions asked, Hass read some of his newer, unpublished poems. I felt lucky to that he wanted to test them out on us. Many were about his younger brother, who passes away recently.

Lastly, Hass spoke about a concept I want to know more about: The Gift Economy. I believe the idea is that poetry and the arts offer the recipient something that can’t be bought or sold. Poetry gives us insight through individualism, freeing you into yourself.

I’m fascinated by that. I hope to run into Hass today so he can further explain the concept.

Dodge Log: Day One

Yesterday, I left Massachusetts just after 4 a.m., met my travel partner Jarita Davis in Connecticut, and arrived after a rain-soaked drive to Waterloo Village in Stanhope, New Jersey, home of the Dodge Poetry Festival. This place has become a touchstone for me. It’s a place where like-minded people come together to listen and have conversations about a craft that most people could care less about. That’s what makes this place special.

For those who have never been, you buy a ticket for the event and wander from venue to venue. The events are outside but held in tents. The main stage tent holds somewhere between 3-5K people while the smaller tents hold 200-500 people. No pressure to buy books, but there is a healthy collection to choose from.

On Friday, I was on festival grounds from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., leaving only to check into the hotel and grab a bite to eat. Today and tomorrow promise the same intensity. Admittely, I almost fell asleep during Lucille Clifton’s reading—I know, I know, heaven forbid. Not a reflection on her, of course. I was up very early Friday morning and the day caught up with me.

While the festival ends on Sunday, I will post as much as I can—and now I have more content than I can handle.

And a warning—forgive the typos!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hello from Dodge

Wet! Wet! Wet!

It rained all day at the Dodge Poetry Festival, but that didn’t stop the poets or poetry lovers from enjoying a day filled with verse!

Unfortunately, I'm having trouble loading photos, and, quite frankly, I'm exhausted. So I apologize for the lame post. More to come tomorrow.

For the folks to recognized me today at the festival, thanks for the kind words. You made my day!

Dodge Poetry Festival

I'm off to the Dodge Poetry Festival in Stanhope, New Jersey. Check in later today/tonight for my first blog post. Pictures and pithy little stories coming soon!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Confession Tuesday

It’s time to do the do, folks. Time to fess up! Tell us a little something about yourself. And while you’re at it, stop by The Confessional to see who else is sharing this week.

Dodge Dodge Dodge Dodge Dodge! OMG I am quite dizzy with anticipation. I don’t know what I’m looking forward to most, the stellar lineup of poets and artists, or time AWAY from my family. I love them dearly, but for self-preservation, I desperately need some ME time. They know I’ll be back a much happier person.

This past weekend, Tim had a boys weekend away! He and his college friends got together for their annual Olympic-wannabe-tribute-to-maleness known as the Fat Owl Open. When the boys were in their 20s, they participated in 10-12 sports that included basketball, tennis, track and field, etc. Now that they’ll all pushing 40, the sports have morphed into darts, pool, cards, beer, and other less strenuous activities. And while my husband prevailed and took the fuggly trophy …

(Fat Owl trophy)

He reinjured his knee, the one that underwent an ACL replacement earlier this year. Needless to say, it’s damaged and needs repair again. *sigh*


Looking back over my poetry goals for September, I thought I’d update to see how far I’ve gotten:

1. Find a poem to read at the October inauguration of Babson's new president. Done.
Chose Mary Oliver’s “Sunrise.”

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.

Sadly, I’ve written one poem, but have worked on another. It’s a tough one, a 9/11 poem. Hope to post one more poem by month’s end. Also, I’m participating in a poem-a-day project in October, culminating with readings at two or three great venues in Boston in November.

3. Start working on poetry project for manuscript #2. See last entry.

4. Submit! Submit! Submit! 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. Hey, I still have a week to submit. I need to get organized and get cracking on this.

5. Add bio to blog. I think I need to put it somewhere on the site, somewhere that I
can update. See previous post.


Lastly, I had the most amazing experience at my son’s swim class on Saturday. Those who know me know that I can’t swim. Well, I guess I can swim, but don’t ask me to save your life if you fall off a boat or something!

Since Tim was having his boys' weekend, I took both kids to swim class. My son is a fish and loves the water. But my daughter is more like her mama: squeamish, tentative, and doesn’t like to get her hair or ears wet. (I’m not even addressing the stereotypes about blacks and swimming, so don’t go there!) As it became apparent that I have no real aquatic skills, the instructor, who was a kind and generous, matronly woman, gave me a swim lesson.

Actually, this lesson in floating was more of a life lesson. She asked me to unlearn everything I knew about water. She said these magical things such as relax, breathe, let your body be light, let your guard down, drop the tension, focus on yourself, it's OK to sink. C’mon, it's OK to sink?

When I did, I found that I was buoyant for a few seconds; however, when I thought about what I was doing, my head went under. Even so, the instructor said that it’s OK to give in, let my feet touch the bottom of the pool. I just have to trust that the water will sustain me, and trust that I won’t drown.

The experience blanketed all parts of me as mother, poet, wife, being in the world—just too many ways to extrapolate this information. Kids have no fear but adults bottle it up, and I'm certainly no exception. After, I thought, "Is swimming really that simple?"

Because of Dodge, I won’t be able to take the kids to the next class. But I’ll be back the week after. Maybe I’ll finally learn how to swim.

January Gill O'Neil's Official Bio

Photo Credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Here's my official bio, which I'll update periodically:

January Gill O’Neil is the author of Misery Islands (fall 2014) and Underlife (2009), both published by CavanKerry Press. She is the executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and an assistant professor of English at Salem State University. Recently, she was elected to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ (AWP) board of directors. 

Misery Islands was selected for a 2015 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. It has also been selected by Mass Center for the Book as a Must-Read Book for 2015, and is a finalist for the 2015 Massachusetts Book Award. 

January’s poems and articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Harvard Review, Green Mountains Review, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Paterson Literary Review, Rattle, Ploughshares, Sou’Wester, North American Review, The MOM Egg, Crab Creek Review, Drunken Boat, Crab Orchard Review, Callaloo, Literary Mama, Field, Seattle Review, and Cave Canem anthologies II and IV, among others.Underlife was a finalist for ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award, and the 2010 Paterson Poetry Prize. In December 2009, January was awarded a Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grant. She was featured in Poets & Writers magazine’s January/February 2010 Inspiration issue as one of its 12 debut poets. A Cave Canem fellow, she runs a popular blog called Poet Mom (http://poetmom.blogspot.com/).

Previously, January was a senior writer/editor at Babson College. She earned her BA from Old Dominion University and her MFA at New York University. She lives with her two children in Beverly, Massachusetts.

Last update: 6/12/15

Monday, September 22, 2008

Quick Hits

Today is the first day of fall. Fall? What happened to summer? OMG!


Susan at Black-Eyed Susan has a great idea for older blog posts called Little Lovin' Monday. Here's the description:

Beginning on Saturday through Tuesday evenings, post a link to previously posted work that generated zero to few comments. Works can be short stories, essays, poetry or visual art. On Monday let's have a marathon posting of comments. Show even greater appreciation for your fellow bloggers by commenting to a new piece as well as the shared link.


Say a little prayer for Goodnight Mom's Kristi, daughter Eva, and family. Little Eva starts chemo treatments this afternoon. Please stop by and say hello.


I'm convinced that this PBS Palin poll is a hoax. You can vote as many times as you want and still get the same poll split.


Song playing on my iTunes: Mariah Carey's "Make It Happen." It's the only Mariah Carey song I can tolerate.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dodge Poetry Festival -- One Week to Go!

I am over-the-moon excited about the Dodge Poetry Festival. Just one week away.

What does this weekend mean to me? Look at this fabulous lineup of poets and artists:

Janet E. Aalfs
Joy Harjo
Brenda Shaughnessy
Chris Abani
Ken Hart
Vivian Shipley
Debra Allbery
Robert Hass
Evie Shockley
Simon Armitage
Brenda Hillman
Charles Simic
Renée Ashley
Edward Hirsch
Patricia Smith
Coleman Barks
Jane Hirshfield
Tracy K. Smith
Jan Beatty
Susan Jackson
Lisa Starr
Coral Bracho
Charles H. Johnson
Madeline Tiger
Lucille Clifton
Ted Kooser
J. C. Todd
Peter Cole
Maxine Kumin
Skye Van Saun
Billy Collins
Joseph O. Legaspi
Paul Violi
Mark Doty
Betty Bonham Lies
Peter Waldor
Thomas Sayers Ellis
Jeffrey McDaniel
BJ Ward
Martín Espada
Naomi Shihab Nye
Luke Warm Water
Beth Ann Fennelly
Sharon Olds
Joe Weil
Sarah Gambito
Linda Pastan
C. D. Wright
Forrest Gander
Patrick Phillips
Franz Wright
Aracelis Girmay
Robin Robertson
Kevin Young
Patricia Goodrich
Steve Sanfield
Nina Israel Zucker
Kate Greenstreet
Roger Sedarat
Luray Gross
Ravi Shankar

The biggest problem I have at Dodge is deciding which session to see because they're always interesting and funny and thought-provoking and reaffirming. And in such a heated political season, I can't wait to hear how poets are responding.

So I have two questions for you.

  1. Are you attending Dodge this year? Be sure to say hello (unless you're creepy).
  2. And from this list, who do you recommend that I see? Which poets should I move heaven and earth to see? Doesn't matter if they are emerging or established poets, I'm open to all artists.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Confession Tuesday

You’ve got something to say. Something that’s been building inside of you all week. Well, it’s time to unburden yourself. Tell me everything—leave nothing out! And check out your fellow confessors in the Confessional.

Today, Tim and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary on Monday! Woo hoo! The weekend was about recognizing this important day, so yesterday was been decidedly low key. But I will say that Tim is terrific husband and father, and my life as a wife, mom, and poet would not be possible without his love and support. (Love you, SB!)


Monday morning, I woke up thinking that Dodge Poetry Festival this weekend. I mean, I woke up giddy thinking that I had a mere four days of work before escaping to the middle of NJ for a weekend full of poetry. In my head, I was planning blog posts and queries to other writers about who was attending this year. Of course, I also look forward to shedding all of my labels and just being a poet for a weekend.

And then I realized that the festival is next weekend. Drat!

This week, besides dreaming of Dodge, I need to start sending out again to publications and looking for grants. I wanted to do it last week but that didn’t happen. Also, I’m back to writing a poem a week for the month of September.

In October, I’ve committed to write a poem a day for a project/event called The Boston 30/30 All Star Poetry Event. And in November, this group of 39 poets will read their poetry in two Boston venues: The Cantab Lounge and the Lizard Lounge. Very cool.


I have been working on a 9/11 poem, but like most 9/11 poems it’s difficult to craft. But I hope to post a draft by Thursday.


Lastly, like most everyone else in North America, I have been LMAO a this SNL clip from the Saturday night’s season opener. Tina Fey is spot on with her Sarah Palin impersonation. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?"

The line comes from one of my favorite poems, Elizabeth Bishop’s “Questions of Travel.” It certainly rang true this weekend.

So Tim and I took the kids to the Cape to spend a weekend at a friend’s cottage on the beach. We also celebrated 7th wedding anniversary (tomorrow is the actual day).

The cottage is as cute as it can be, probably no more that 250 sq. ft. with a kitchen/living room, bathroom, and one bedroom. We’d spent time here before we had kids, and, I think, we brought Alex when he was less than a year old. I seem to remember our time here as “restful.”

Well, as you can imagine, the cottage, while quaint, was too small for two rambunctious kids! And it didn’t help that it was rainy and cold. Tim and I really had to work hard on Saturday to keep the kids entertained so that we wouldn’t kill them or each other. This trip was definitely not restful. We went to the beach, the park, walked around two neighborhoods … Whew! In the end, it all paid off because we wore them out! Those little so-and-so’s were asleep by 6:30, which gave Tim and me time to eat and enjoy a quiet dinner and some much-needed couple time.

Alex and Ella had a great time. They loved the adventure of staying in a small house and exploring a new area. But what did I learn from this adventure? Sometimes it’s OK to leave the kids at home!

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Poem

(I'm posting this quickly as I am headed out of town for a few days! Enjoy the weekend.)


What someone throws away
you will save, and not question
what failure or flaw brought
this treasure to the side
of the road or you to it.
You do not see abandonment
or the weakness of time.
You see grain, texture,
its handsome nicks and dings
in the raw morning light.
You see a project,
a rescue mission, the one thing that
will bring it all together
if you can just fit that heavy thing
into your trunk before anyone sees you
doubting your life.
You get it home,
buff it down,
shine it up,
the echo of another life
placed in the corner of yours,
waiting for your dearest friend
to marvel at its presence,
admire its “great bones”
under fresh coats of lacquer.
You wait for her to say,
I, too, have been searching for this.
Where did you get it?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reginald Shepherd

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the passing of poet and essayist Reginald Shepherd.

I didn't know him personally, other than a few exchanges in the blogosphere. But I appreciated his commentary and keen eye for observation. I had the chance to meet him at a recent AWP but, as usual, I was too shy introduce myself. It is my great loss.

When a poet passes, the literary community gets a little smaller.

Rest in peace.

Damon Condemns Palin


All day I have written the date, 9/11, and each time, I’ve stopped to pause. "Oh yeah, it’s September 11." Damn. My heart swells and my eyes water. *Pause* Then I get back to the business at hand.

My wedding anniversary is 9/15, so I remember that day as if it were yesterday, attending to last-minute wedding details.

Today I am home working and watching the kids, and later, I will meet a friend to discuss his manuscript. When the house is finally quiet, I will return to working on two new poems, one of which touches on 9/11.

So for all of you working and writing and going about the business of your day, I have one word for you:


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Confession Tuesday

Need to get something off your chest? You've come to the right place. It's Confession Tuesday. Lower your guard for a few minutes and share something about yourself.

Be sure to check out The Confessional to see who's telling all this week.


This week's confession is all about Alex's first day of preschool. (Pictures at the end of the post.)

Poetry has been on the back burner in anticipation of this day. Alex, also known as "The Bug," has been downright giddy with the approach of school. He was so excited that he wanted to pack his lunch on Saturday for his big day. It was all I could do to stop him from sleeping with his backpack!

So the last few days have been about getting The Bug new sneakers and buying a lunch bag--the little things that make the big day seem like a reality. And he was so ready for it. We held Alex back a year because he seemed a little too sensitive. Though he might benefit from being one of the older kids in the class. And I think that was the right move because he is more than ready for this day.

I have been most concerned for Ella, his younger sister. As someone who grew up without siblings, I have a new understanding of this dynamic because I have the privilege of watching these two fight, argue, snatch toys out of each other's hands, say "I'm sorry," share, hug, laugh--daily! What was she going to do now without her partner in crime?

Yesterday, I was up at 5:30 a.m. (Ella was up at 5 a.m., of course!) Even with this much lead time, it was still chaotic. We had Alex's favorite breakfast: pancakes, bacon, and strawberries. Admittedly, I burned the first batch of bacon so now our house smells like burnt bacon. Tim's brother, Dennis, came to witness the madness. It's a miracle we we able to get the kids a quarter of a mile down the street to school with five minutes to spare.

And then he crossed the entrance and that was it. Tim, Ella, and I watched the other kids line up, some missing their parents more than others. The Bug was reserved. He tends to be quiet in new situations, getting a feel for the scene. But once he gets his bearings he's a live wire! I imagined his day as one of meeting his classmates and teachers, and learning the new routine.

As Alex left and we walked back home, Ella cried--and she did enough for all of us. But soon after Tim took Ella to her first Teeny Tiny Tumblers class at our local YMCA and all was right with the world.

When we picked his up, Alex had a huge smile on his face. Ella was the first to give him a hug, and then he gave me a hug--not the obligatory hug but a real "I missed you" hug. On the walk home, The Bug turned to me, with his big "love crumb" eyes and said, "I'm a student now!"

And so it begins ...

Saturday, September 06, 2008


In the Northeast, we’re awaiting the remnants of Hanna. But it has been dry enough outside to get the kids to and from the local Y for gym classes and swim classes. All of this is leading up to Alex’s first day of school on Monday. *sigh!*

Thankfully, Tim is watching the kids now (and, of course, they’re sleeping). I have some time to get organized. I’m re-reading the manuscript of a good friend so I can offer constructive feedback. His work really doesn’t need my input because it’s that good. But anything I can to support him is truly my pleasure. OK, selfishly I’m hoping that reading his work will spark writing of my own.

Also, I’m looking ahead to two poetry festivals fast approaching: Dodge and Mass Poetry. I will blog from both venues with pictures, recaps, and interviews. Be sure to give me a shout-out if you’re at either event.

Happy Saturday!

Song playing on iPod: Smokey Robinson’s Crusin’ ... “I love it when we’re crusin’ together.”

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Confession Tuesday

If it's Tuesday, it's time for confessions. What sins and omissions are you ready to share? Join The Confessional and let the healing begin!

September is here and I feel myself putting on that old armor again. On my morning commute, the highways swelled with traffic. School buses were packed with anxious kids. And I saw leaves on my tree-lined block starting to change. I feel myself ready to hunker down to protect myself. Truth be told, I've had this feeling of dread the whole month of August. Makes it hard to be a positive force in a sometimes negative world.


I think I'm searching for something, maybe a focus or a new goal.


Despite all of that, I had a nice weekend—just what the doctor ordered. Spent lots of time with the kids and Tim, who always make me feel better (see photos below). And managed to get in one more beach day before the unofficial end of summer.


I do have a few wonderful things to look forward to this month: Alex starts school next week, Tim and I celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary, and the Dodge Poetry Festival is right around the corner. All good things to look forward to in the next few weeks.


On the poetry front, my local writing group starts up again (sorry, can't attend tomorrow's meeting). Also, I'll start writing for Read Write Poem again after a much-needed hiatus. I'm using my previously posted to-do list to jumpstart my writing. And, I'm writing 15 minutes a day to get the words flowing.


Finally, I just don't get the Sarah Palin pick as a repub VP pick. As someone who considers herself extremely savvy on political issues, and as Clinton democrat, I need someone to explain it to me.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Salem Willows

Ever wonder what happens to kiddie rides when they are put to pasture? They find a second life at Salem Willows, a old-fashioned boardwalk next to the beach in Salem, MA.


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