Saturday, February 28, 2009

Models Party

On Thursday, I went to Erin Dionne's book launch party for her debut title Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies. It was fabu! I'm already jotting down ideas for my party in November.

Models is in its second printing!

It was was a terrific event that featured a reading, music, and even a cookie-eating contest (no, I did not enter).

And I got to spend time with these amazing writers/bloggers/next big things.

Blogging buddies, left center to right: Phoebe (brown sweater), Christine (holding book), Erin (workin' what her mama gave her), and yours truly!

Friday, February 27, 2009

March To-Do List

I feel a little action-disoriented, instead of action-oriented, these days. Oh well, maybe this to-do list will jump-start me out of my malaise.

  1. Write four poems—ramping up for writing a poem a day in April.
  2. Send poems to four publications.
  3. Finish marketing plan for Underlife.
  4. Inquire about readings and reading series. This intimidates me, but I have to begin the process of setting up readings for '09-'10.
  5. Set up a free poetry writing workshop at my local library. (Thought this might be fun since I'm not teaching currently.)
  6. Think about a New and Emerging Writing Series (NEWS) event in April for National Poetry Month.

Goodbye February. Hello March!

So, what's on your to-do list?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Confession (Fat) Tuesday

Happy Confession Fat Tuesday, everyone! Time to unburden yourself of your latest sins. Don't forget to stop by and visit your fellow confessors in The Confessional.

Enjoy today, because tomorrow Lent begins.

Can't tell you why this song is in my head. Maybe because it's so awesomely bad it's good. Or maybe I'm looking toward spring. Or maybe the constant bad news about the economy is wearing thin. Or maybe I'm channeling Jan Brady.


Everybody in my office has had some sort of contagion that keeps circulating among us. Fortunately, I've managed to stay away from it but I have a feeling it's coming around. Hacking coughs, runny noses--I get enough of that at home!


As I packed my bag for work, I noticed that I'm lugging around three poetry books, a novel, the latest issue of Poets and Writers, and a notebook. Why do I need all this stuff? It's not like I can read poetry in the office.

(FYI, the books in my bag are Matthew Dickman's All-American Poem, Sarah Gambito's Delivered, Paul Guest's My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge, and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love.)

At the end of the day, I will take them all out and put them on my nightstand to read. With any luck, I'll get to one of them tonight.


As for the reference to Lent above, for the record, I am a lapsed Catholic. I probably won't give up anything as I have in past years. Not sure why I'm holding on this last vestige of Catholicism because I haven't gone to church in a very long time. Old habits die hard, I guess.


I've been en fuego with poetry submissions: five this month. The flip side is that I haven't been writing much poetry. I'll post my March to-do list tomorrow, which will help me think through what I'd like to do ahead of National Poetry Month.


Do you think our president knows about National Poetry Month?

Monday, February 23, 2009


I took this photo last week at the Ribbit Exhibit.


There's a great article on Kundiman, an organization that focuses on Asian American poets, titled The Love Song Politics of Kundiman: How the Kundiman poetry organization is transforming poetry, one song at a time.


And fellow Wompo member Kate Greenstreet has a wonderful blog I just discovered that features the stories of 104 first-time poets called Every Other Day. Check it out!

20 Poetry Books That I Love

What are 20 poetry books (if there are 20) that made you fall in love with poetry, the books that made you think:, I want to do this, I need to do this. What are the books that kept you going? Don’t put down the books that you think you’re “supposed,” to like, but list the core ones, the ones that opened all of this up for you. Here’s my list (in no particular order):

[Jan’s note: This is a cross-post with Facebook. I don’t believe in tagging, so consider yourself self-tagged. All of these books have taught me something about what it means to be human.]

1. Live or Die (Anne Sexton)
2. The Dead and the Living (Sharon Olds)
3. Elizabeth Bishop: The Complete Poems (1927-1979)
4. 45 Mercy Street (Ann Sexton)
5. Good Woman (Lucille Clifton)
6. Words Under the Words (Naomi Shihab Nye)
7. The Gold Cell (Sharon Olds)
8. Imago (Joseph Legaspi)
9. What Work Is (Phil Levine)
10. The Simple Truth (Phil Levine)
11. Local Time (Stephen Dunn)
12. Stephen Dunn: New and Selected Poems 1974-1994
13. Different Hours (Stephen Dunn)
14. Natural Birth (Toi Derricotte)
15. Nappy Edges (Ntozake Shange)
16. The Selected Poems of Frank O’Hara
17. Captivity (Toi Derricotte)
18. Picnic, Lightning (Billy Collins)
19. Tell Me (Kim Addonizio)
20. Against Which (Ross Gay)
21. Thomas and Beulah (Rita Dove)
22. What the Living Do (Marie Howe)
23. Velocities (Stephen Dobyns)

(I know, there are 23 on the list. I'm not good at following directions.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscars, BABY!

Oscar night is my Super Bowl Sunday!

Tim watches the kids and makes an Academy Award-worthy meal for me, complete with champagne. The phone is always nearby so I can call my friends to dish about the best and worst of the night's fashions. And this year, I'll pop in on Facebook to chat about the awards.

Here are my Oscar picks (the short list).

Best Actor: Mickey Rourke
Best Actress: Kate Winslet
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger (But Robert Downey Jr. is my dark horse)
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz
Best Film: Slumdog Millionaire

2009 Trashfinders Ball

Last night, Tim and I went to the Trashfinders Ball, a neighborhood charity event that celebrates trash. Yes, trash. (Read the Salem News article about the Trashfinders Ball.)

(Sean Devlin, the organizer, left, holding wacky thing.)

More than 150 people showed up for this party that has now become a local legend. Trashfinders brought their best trash finds to win the title of 2009 Trash King or Queen.

The items were judged on the story behind it and its uniqueness. This year’s Trash Queen brought a “personal dryer” (next to the Queen's throne) from the 1960s. The owner said it worked until last year and could dry ¾ of a load of clothes.

Also, there was a fashion show! The dress was trashy chic: old curtains, vintage prom dresses, gently warn tuxedos, duct tape, yogurt containers, bottle cap earrings, electrical cords—you name it, it was there.

So here’s what I wore: a skirt made out of shredded O magazines.

And my husband made me a purse from the cardboard box that comes with a Dr. Pepper 12-pack. Needless to say, I was stylin'! All things considered, I got a lot of complements on my trashy couture!

Last night was about more than recycling. The Trashfinders Ball was (is) a celebration of what we find. It takes a special kind of vision to salvage something out of the garbage and make use of it. This event says more about what we keep versus what we throw away, while celebrating community, charity, and creativity.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Birthday Pictures

Last Saturday for my birthday, Tim and I took the kids to Coco Keys Water Resort, which is an indoor water park. We spent the night at the adjacent hotel and had a blast! Couldn't think of a better way to feel young that to be a kid for a while.

My one complaint: it was cold. The Web site says it's 84 degrees but it felt like 64. It was goosebumps-cold moving from venue to venue. Our smiles mask our how cold we truly were.

Superhero pose.

Look how cold he is.

Quick Hits

The poem posted on Thursday took a few days to write. As a result, it threw me off my blogging schedule. Actually, it threw me off all schedules. If I have a poem brewing, I tend to put everything aside to finish it. So , I have a few blog posts that are waiting to get out. And, if I can eke out a little more time, I may flesh out one more poem this weekend.


To the spammers and advertisers out there: I'm glad that you like my blog, but I have no desire whatsoever to advertise here. Don't care if it's mommy products or diet products, I'm not interested.

Is anyone else being asked to advertise on their blogs? I find it annoying and invasive.


Does it bug you that lit journals are relying more and more on contests to generate revenue? I miss the days when I could enter without a fee. I know that the revenue goes to supplement print and production costs. But I've simply stopped entering contest because 1) I can't afford it, and 2) the practice simply bothers me. We put too much value on contest winners (spoken like a person who has only won one in her life—but it was no-fee contest). I will say that I'm more inclined to enter a contest that offers a copy of the publication or subscription with my fee.


(Unrelated to the post above) I got an acceptance to Crab Creek Review. Woo hoo! I've been trying to send out a few submissions a month and it seems to be paying off. I like the idea of poems being out there working for me.


Oscars, BABY! The Academy Awards are my Super Bowl. Will be posting my picks and my take on this year's presentation later today.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Poem

Rent to Own

His days are spent hunched on bad knees
cleaning durable microfiber, generic,
rent-to-own living room sets
covered with juice stains, pen marks,
blood from a knife wound, smelling
of urine, human or otherwise.
You’d be surprised how many people
pick their noses and leave the evidence
under the arm of an armchair, he tells me.
Roaches, bed bugs, pet hair, dander—
you name it, it’s there, in the fibers,
the polyester pillows and dense cushions.
Steam vapor removes almost anything,
even tar from a chaise owned by a guy
who works at an asphalt company,
working his ass off in ten-hour shifts
to afford his slice of America.
What lies beneath is a mutiny
of forgotten cheese curls, Cracker Jacks,
paper clips, socks, hot dogs, barrettes,
crayons, condoms, needles.
He is a priest keeping secrets
for the sex worker’s love seat,
or the sectional repossessed
the day before Thanksgiving.
They think it’s theirs but know it not,
and treat it as such, without permanence.
Still, it will go on to fit someone else’s
wide bottom or skinny hips
just like new, gently used.
And this work that makes
the back crack and muscles ache,
this salvation in salvage
is a dirty job that someone has to do.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Hello folks! It’s time to fess up. Share a bit of yourself with us, and don’t forget to visit your fellow confessors in The Confessional.

Yep, I’m 40.

The buildup to 40 was great. Then I went to the gym and had to put my age into the elliptical’s settings. *Reality sets in.* I know age is just a number, but it feels like jumping into cold water.


After seeing the TED presentation of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the book Eat, Pray, Love, I bought the book. I rarely buy best sellers—why would I want to read a book that almost everyone else has read? What’s the point? Despite my flawed logic, I was drawn into Gilbert’s story and her personal philosophy on writing. I found myself wanting to tap into her energy. So I again encourage you to check out her presentation about the notion of genius and creativity.


Finally, I’m working on a poem that’s worth finishing! In fact, I have two poems in the works. When I’m writing on a new piece, I push off all other creative tasks to finish it, including blogging, submissions, revisions, etc. Needless to say, I’m behind on just about everything else (hence, this post is shorter than normal).


I managed to send out two submissions with a third in the works. Doesn’t feel like I’ve been productive this month but all evidence points to the contrary.


Will post birthday photos here and on Facebook tonight.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Kiss me, I’m 40!

This is what 40 looks like.

Growing up, my image for 40 was my father wearing a multicolored T-shirt that said, “Over 40 and Feein’ Sporty!”

Really? Is that what 40 is about? Well … yes … sort of.

Every birthday, I make the claim that this age is my best age. I’ve never looked better, never felt better, and never been more accomplished as a wife, mother, and writer. That’s not to say that this past year hasn’t had its share of hurdles and setbacks. I’m in love with my life, so I look forward to this next year and beyond with all the grace and hope I can muster.

Put another way, as my boss tells me, I’m entering my Cougar years!

So here are a few things I’m grateful for on my 40th birthday.

1. My family and friends
2. Having poetry in my life
3. Having my first book published in my 40th year
4. Working for a financially sound college! WOO HOO!
5. Being physically fit
7. This blog
8. Facebook (I *heart* Facebook)
9. Hot tea with lemon and lots of sugar
10. All of you, for reading when you know you should be doing other things. Thanks for spending a few minutes out of your day with me.

As for dad's shirt, he claims he can't find it, but I'm sure it's around somewhere waiting for me.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

TED Talk: Elizabeth Gilbert on Genius

Give yourself the space of 20 minutes to watch this TED lecture from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love.

Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses -- and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius. It's a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

In her discussion, she describes the creative process for poet Ruth Stone. Without saying too much, as someone who studied with Ruth years ago, the description of how a poem moves through her is pretty accurate.

Lastly, I’m a huge fan of the TED series. In a fit of sleeplessness, I was able to watch the lecture on my iPhone because there’s a handy little TED app now available. Very cool.

Roses My Husband Sent Me for Valentine's Day

Love you, SB.

Notice the National Poetry Month posters in the background. Waiting for the 2009 poster to grace my office door.

2009 Kundiman Asian American Poets' Retreat


2009 Kundiman
Asian American Poets' Retreat

July 8 - 12, 2009
University of Virginia, Charlottesville

In order to help mentor the next generation of Asian American poets, Kundiman, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Asian American poets, is sponsoring its 6th annual poetry retreat where nationally renowned Asian American poets will conduct workshops and provide one-on-one mentorship sessions with participants. Kundiman hopes to provide a safe and instructive environment that identifies and addresses the unique challenges faced by emerging Asian American poets.

* Myung Mi Kim (author of Commons, DURA and Under Flag)
* Rick Barot (author of The Darker Fall and Want)
* Staceyann Chin (author of The Other Side of Paradise and pioneering spoken word artist)

To keep the cost of the retreat low, participants are not charged fees for workshops. Room and Board for the retreat is $325.

Application Process
Send five to seven (5-7) paginated, stapled pages of poetry, with your name included on each page. Include a cover letter with your name, address, phone number, e-mail address and a brief paragraph describing what you would like to accomplish at the Kundiman Asian American Poets' Retreat. Include a SAS postcard if you want an application receipt. Manuscripts will not be returned. No electronic submissions, please.

Mail application to:
245 Eighth Avenue #151
New York, NY 10011
Submissions must be postmarked by March 2, 2009

For more information, log onto our Web site. Questions? E-mail queries at

Mission Statement
Kundiman is dedicated to the creation, cultivation and promotion of Asian American poetry.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Alex and Ella's First Poetry Reading

All week, I tried to find a babysitter for Alex and Ella so I could go Jarita Davis’ poetry reading/open mic, sponsored by the Robert Frost Foundation. Didn’t think my kids would sit still for it. I mean, poetry readings can be long and it’s tough for kids to be quiet for extended periods of time. Tim was working, and with no luck finding a sitter, I took them with me. The reading was at a Mexican restaurant called CafĂ© Azteca, so at the very least I thought they’d get a kick out of eating out on a Tuesday night.

Well, chalk this up to mommy underestimating how well-behaved her kids can be, because they were terrific. I brought coloring books, which kept them occupied the whole time. Ella caught a little cat nap on the way, so she was good to go all evening. But poor Alex did not take a nap (he thinks big boys don’t need naps). After 8 p.m., he started to fade bit, getting restless and anxious.

Now, Jarita is an amazing poet. Her poetry touches upon her Cape Verdean-American background. She also writes about the history of the whaling industry off the Massachusetts coast and the Cape Verde islands. She read for about 20 minutes from her chapbook “There Should Be More Water” as well as some newer poems. The crowd of 30+ people truly enjoyed hearing Jarita’s lyrical works.

Unfortunately, in my huff to get out of the house, I forgot my camera. So no pictures of Jarita (sorry J!). I was lucky to get the shot (above) with my iPhone of the kids before the event started.

After Jarita read, I participated in the open mic. Have to say that I’ve never read to a crowd with my kids in the room. So I read two poems, one about each child. When I told Alex I was doing this, he rolled his eyes and said, “Then everyone will know who I am!” Sorry, kid, everyone in the room already knows your mom.

I read my two poems and after I sat down, Alex said, “I really liked what you read.”


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Do you have something you want to share or reveal about yourself? Well, by all means, talk to me—and be sure to visit the confessors in The Confessional.

My mother's surgery has been postponed a few weeks. She's fine. I'm hanging in there. Thanks for the support, everyone.


I wish I was going to the AWP Conference in Chicago. For those who are going, I'm looking forward to reading the blog posts and Facebook updates. For those like me who are planning to go Denver in 2010, the dates are April 7-10!


True Confession: I hate being tagged for memes. The 25 Random Things meme is well meaning, but I don't want to do it. I usually comply when asked, but I like answering them without the pressure of having to answer them. And I'll never tag anyone. It's just not my style.


Tonight, I'm hoping to attend a reading with Jarita Davis for the Robert Frost Foundation in Lawrence, MA. And on Wednesday, I'm thrilled that Tom Sleigh is coming to Babson. Should be a busy poetry week.


This past Saturday, I spent some time with the Bagel Bards. They are a group of Boston-area poets who gather on Saturday morning at an Au Bon Pain for three hours and talk poetry. Members come and go, but may linger throughout the morning talking about everything from poetry to politics. I think more communities should duplicate this idea. Would be nice to hear of more of these groups popping up as we move toward National Poetry Month.


It's official: I'm in a poetry recession. I haven't been writing. Need to jumpstart my creative economy. The quick fix? Have to start back doing my 15-minute freewrites. I need to write without judging myself, and get back to posting my work. Along with reading newly purchased poetry books and attending poetry events, this is a stimulus package I can believe in.


Waiting to hear back from here.


Oh yeah, I turn 40 on Saturday.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Book Trailer: Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies

Run, don't walk, to the nearest bookstore and pick up the new YA novel Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies by the beautiful and talented Erin Dionne!

Check out her Web site and blog for contests, giveaways, and free music downloads.

Yea Erin! You ROCK! XOXO!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

What Are You Reading?

I’ve been on a poetry buying binge. Here are the latest additions to my nightstand reading:

Sixty Poems, Charles Simic
After the Poison, Collin Kelly
An Apron Full of Beans, Sam Cornish
All American Poem, Matthew Dickman
Space Walk, Tom Sleigh

Next purchase: Delivered, Sarah Gambito

What was the last poetry book you purchased?


The 2009 National Poetry Month poster is out from the Academy of American Poets. What do you think?

(FYI, I have every poster in my office at Babson going back to 2000. Visit the gallery of posters.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Praise for The Inaugural Poet, January, 2009

This is an excerpt. Read the whole poem at Starting Today: poems for the first 100 days.

Day #14: Cornelius Eady

Praise for The Inaugural Poet, January, 2009

Perhaps it’s an impossible task
On an impossible day. A young poet
Fixes her gaze along the plaza,

Looks at this latest version of America in the eyes,
Looks in the camera at all the places we’ve touched
Or torched.


Love this poetic shout-out from Cornelius to Elizabeth.

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. Time to fess up! Also, I need to update the participants list (aka The Confessional). If you are a regular, be sure to let me know so I can add you to the list.

My mom needs surgery in a few weeks, so I will be flying home to Virginia just after my birthday. Without saying too much about it, she’ll be better after surgery so for now please keep her in your thoughts for me.

I’ll be away from Tim and the kids for almost a week, which will feel like forever. We’re in the process of reworking schedules and getting extra hands in place. But it will all be fine. It will all work out. It always does.


I’m glad the month of January is over. Of course, February is no better and not any warmer. In fact, it’s snowing now. Winter sucks.


Despite the above news, February is shaping up to be a busy month. Lots of poetry readings and fun events filling the calendar. Saw Sam Cornish read last night, and will see Tom Sleigh at Babson in a few weeks. And then there is my birthday. More on that later.


Got an acceptance from ouroboros review and a rejection from Willow Springs. (W.S. did send along a hand-written note. Cool.)


Last three things I looked up in Wikipedia:
· hermetically sealed,
· Ponzi scheme
· crenellated

I know of all the words but I didn’t understand exactly what a hermetic seal is, or who Ponzi was, or how to fit crenellated into a poem. Now I know. Thank you, Wikipedia.


Last song played on iTunes: “Notorious” by Duran Duran.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Sam Cornish

For those not in the know, Sam Cornish is Boston’s first poet laureate. Since 2008, Sam has reached out to schools and communities to bring poetry to the people. However, he’s been doing that long before he received his laureateship.

The author of 13 books of poetry, Sam’s been a favorite on the Boston literary scene for more than 35 years. And, he and I are with the same publisher! His latest book, An Apron Full of Beans, was recently published by CavanKerry Press.

Admittedly, I arrived late because I got lost driving around Harvard (parking in the area is horrendous). I heard the last 20 minutes of Sam’s reading and talk. His work touches on many themes, from racism and injustice to movies and pop culture. He said that Apron is arranged like a dream, with poem dipping into the past, present, and future. Some poems detail the reality of everyday living. Some are memoir. And some look back to address different generations. But all feel genuine, as if the poems are born out of a life filled with experiences.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Poet Mom's V-Log

My first video log. *Sigh*

New Langston Hughes Poem Discovered

This is Weekend America's last weekend on air. *sigh*

But in typical Weekend America style, here's an audio clip on the newly discovered Langston Hughes poems. This is also his birthday weekend.


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