Monday, November 30, 2009

Poéfrika Interview with January O'Neil

Check out my interview at Poéfrika: A green Weblog of creative, African-inspired writing.

Rethabile is a wonderful poet, as well as the editor of Canopic Jar. Spending time at Poéfrika reminds me that poetry is truly universal.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

You Can Go Home Again

I'm back in Boston, baby! Spending time at Starbucks—my home away from home.


The PAD Challenge is mercifully coming to a close. I now have 21 drafts, including the Misery Island long poem, which I have not posted (and probably won't). Wish I could have written 30, but I'm OK with the amount I produced. In truth, it was crazy for me to attempt a writing challenge now, but maybe a healty dose of crazy was what I needed.

Three poems I liked, in no particular order.

One poem that will never see the light of day again.

So the big question for me involves the revision process. More important, do I incorporate the new stuff into my current manuscript, or start a new one? I need to set a new timetable for this. It's easy if you're trying to incorporate one new poem into a collection, but I have at least 14, including a long poem, that would certainly give the book an arc. Either way, I'll take December to do as much revision as possible, and see what manuscript #2 looks like at the end of 2009.


Here's a question to you, dear reader. What is your strategy for putting together a collection? I lived with the poems in Underlife for a while before theybecame a manuscript. What approach should I take with a second book? Thoughts?

Saturday, November 28, 2009


BFF is not even the right way to refer to my sister. But I have known Special K, as I like to call her, since 1986 or so when we worked at the local mall back in Norfolk, VA. She got married a month before I did. Our kids are months apart in age. We have always been there for each other in sickness and health, and she's been with me through the divorce. (If you've read her blog, then you know that this past year tested the "sickness" part of that phrase. But she and her beautiful family have made it through to the other side and are thriving.)

When her kind offer came through to spend Thanksgiving with her family, along with a free plane ticket, how could I refuse? I mean, I tried refusing. I made up my mind to spend turkey day alone while the kids spend the holiday with their dad.

The picture above is from King Spa and Sauna yesterday. Never in my life have I been to a spa like this! Too surreal to properly describe, but let me just say that if you go, GET THE MASSAGE AND BODY SCRUB. It is a life-changing event. Kristi's advice to me was, "just go with it." And sure enough, I was thoroughly scrubbed in places that rarely see the light of day. Again, too surreal to properly describe, but may make a great poem.

The day before, we did a fundraising walk through downtown Dallas—my first 5K ever! And later, Kristi's husband, Jon, made the most amazing Thanksgiving meal. I would not have been a part of any of this without Kristi's generous offer.

So, while I'm thankful for many, many things this holiday season, I'm beyond-words thankful for my BFF Kristi and her family for making me forget, for a few hours, that my life is changing—and for reminding me how wonderful it can be to say YES!

I loves me some KDB!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Trot

While most of you were at home prepping the turkey for your Thanksgiving feast, I walked my first 5K!

Up at the crack of dawn, I went with Special K to volunteer and then walk the Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot. It's an 8-mile race and 5-mile "fun walk." The walk lived up to it's name. Wasn't hard at all (or maybe I'm in better shape than I think). Below are photos from the event.

Here's Kristi organizing some of the volunteers (she's on the planning committee).

Isn't it nice to get to a finish line?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

PAD Challenge 20

Airport Poem III: By Way of

I am terra firma by way of earthship,
by way of mist and fog to clear blue easy.

I’m in transit; don’t know what state I’m in,
by way of upgrade, by way of centigrade.

I’m flying over the inner cities of America,
over dirt and trail, over brick and click,
over cardboard, glass, aluminum, and tin.

I am hope by way of heart.
I am conjoined twins named Progress and Excess.

I am the trees that fall in the forest
but everyone denies hearing.

I am a nation in foreclosure.

I am every cigarette butt and bottle cap
left by the side of the road.

I am pawn shops and corner shops
with sidewalks paved in scratched lottery tickets.

I am everyone named “Lucky” and “Chance.”

I am every child who won’t come home tonight.

Every three minutes, someone kills two birds
with one stone. The crime is never reported.

I am Killington, by way of Stone Mountain,
by way of Death Valley.

I am every sex shop and tittie bar
named Golden Banana and XXX.

I am every mill town and boarded up factory,
the assembly line disassembled, the layoffs,
layaways, and laid to rest.
I put the depressed in depression.
I am America reconstructed; I am a force at work.

I dig a ditch, I fill a ditch.

My collar is white, my collar is blue.

I am the missing $ .23 cents out of every $1
that a woman is supposed to earn
but doesn’t.

I am every God damn it and Lord have mercy.

I am America by way of Africa,
Mexico, Ireland, Poland, and India.

Land that I love,
I fly over you,
look down at you,
dream my American dreams about you.

Every second of every day,
I am cardboard
I am glass
I am aluminum
I am tin.

PAD Challenge 19

Airport Poem 2: First-Class Poem

The air is rarified here, and someone is always asking
if you want more. Is your heart full? Can we fill it for you?
Even the ice cubes in my cocktail are nonstop.
Please take this hot towel and wipe away your pain.
Would you like to see the cockpit? We’ve turned it
into a greenhouse. If you’re seated in an exit row,
we’ll let you fly the plane. Have a Denver omelet
over the Midwest, because in Denver
they’re just omelets. Our complements.
All noise, pollution, poverty, sickness, and death
have been cancelled. You can keep your tray table
in the unsafe and downright position at all times.
In case of emergency, the oxygen masks are filled
with nitrous oxide, but not to worry—the rescuers
are trained to save you first.

PAD Challenge 18

Airport Poem I: Transit

The ticket agent announces
that your heart has left the gate.
You are not leaving this place.
Not you. Not today. This is where
the soul makes its own accommodations
with the other sad bags
stacked like luggage
waiting to be retrieved.
Something in you rolls over
to the next gate, the next city,
the next destination,
both restricted and constricted,
neither here nor there
but always in transit.
In the dream of your next life,
you will return as an eagle
and you will soar.

Dallas Bound


  • I made it on the 8:20 a.m. flight out. And not only did I make it, I flew first class! Thanks American Airlines, and to Jon and Kristi!
  • Maybe all I needed to get out of my writing funk was to sit on an airplane, because I've written three poems! Maybe I will finish the PAD Challenge after all.
  • Was going to take a picture of my first-class meal—a Denver omelet with real silverware—but I thought it too gauche, even for me! J
  • Yes, I've flown first class before. But it's been years.
  • Can't figure out if the universe if smiling on me, or feels sorry for me.
  • Here in Dallas with Jon having a cocktail after chopping onions. Nice!


Thanks, Google, for the free Wifi and Bean bag chairs.

Uploaded by

Thanksgiving Meme

Well, I didn't make the standby cutoff for the 6 a.m. flight, but the next round of flights at 8 looks pretty good.

In the meantime, here's a Thanksgiving meme. I don't tag, so consider yourself tagged and let me know where your answers are posted.

1. Which do you like better: hosting Thanksgiving at your home, or going elsewhere?
Going elsewhere! No muss, no fuss!

2. Do you buy a fresh or frozen turkey? Organic? Free-range? Tofurkey?
Frozen for us. Not sure if I could tell the difference between frozen and fresh.

3. Do you make stuffing or dressing? What kind?
Stuffing! And I don't make, I eat it.

4. Sweet potato pie or Pumpkin pie?
I like both, but I think sweet potato pie is underrated. Have you ever tried a white potato pie? It's interesting.

5. Are leftovers a blessing or a curse?
The blessing of a bountiful feast. It's like watching the movies Bring It On and Bring It On Again. You know you don't want to go in the second time, but you do anyway! (Does that make sense? Remember, I'm stuck in an airport!)

6. What side dishes are a must-have in your family?
Sweet potatoes. Also, I like to have green veggies next to all the autumnal colors on the table, like asparagus.

7. What do you wish you had that might make Thanksgiving easier?
I wish my parents lived closer to us. I miss her home cooking.

8. If/when you go to someone else’s house for the holiday, do you usually bring a dish? If so, what is it?
I am the dish! But again, if we're talking strictly food, sweet potatoes.

9. What is your favorite after-Thanksgiving activity.
The post-Thanksgiving meal nap!

10. Share one Thanksgiving tradition.
I enjoy catching up with my neices and nephews. I don't see them very often (and I'm not seeing them this year because I'm traveling), but I love having conversations with them now that they're a little older and wiser.

11. Share one Thanksgiving memory.
We used to go to a local pub in the center of town at 8 a.m. and have a few drinks on Thanksgiving morning! Once the kids came into the picture, that all but stopped. But it's one of my favorite memories.

And then, there's the year the Norwalk virus moved through the household with lightening speed. Yeah, as far as memories go, we still talk about that Thanksgiving in astonishment. Ugh. (Remember that, Jo Jo?)

12. Name five things you’re thankful for.

1. My kids--the two most precious people to me in the world.
2. My parents and extended family
3. My coworkers (and my job!)
4. A little book called Underlife
5. Keeping my self-respect in tact, and living this life without any regrets.

And you! Thanks for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Blogging from Logan

  • It’s 5:23 a.m. and I’m waiting to fly standby from Boston to Dallas to see my BFF Kristi and her dear, dear family. This is going to be full of quick hits. Forgive the typos, folks.
  • Was psyched about arriving to Logan Airport without any difficulty.
  • Was even more thankful to Google for the free Wifi!
  • No lie—there was a woman her—a pass anger I think—using a hula hoop! Not sure why. Couldn’t tell if this was airport entertainment or something else. If she does it again, I’m going to get the nerve up to snap a picture.
  • Wonder how many airport poems I can write between here and Dallas.
  • If I can’t get on this flight, I have a good shot at getting on one of two 8 a.m. flights.
  • I’m besides myself not being around for the kids this Thanksgiving. But I think I need a break and maybe they do, too.
  • That being said, I have forgotten how much I love flying. I love airports. I love the in-betweenness of it all.

· I’I'm passenger 7 of 10 waiting on standby, but it looks like the first 5 passengers have boarded. Keep your fingers crossed@

More to come!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday before Thanksgiving! Share a confession with us and we'll do the same. Don't forget the turkeys hanging out in The Confessional -- gobble gobble!

Have you ever read the bottom of a Kleenex box? This is what was on the bottom of mine:

Say goodbye to the stiff upper lip …

Tell calm, cool and collected to take a hike. Whoop it up! Laugh, scream, cry and holler! And when tons of stuff stuffs up your nose, blow it loud and blow it proud! Show your heart and show some tears … of joy and sorrow, in awe and pride. Just let it out!

I was reading this in tears at work Monday morning thinking about being away from the kids on Thanksgiving. The kids will be with their father on Thursday. I was planning on spending it alone. But my very bestest friend, Special K, made an offer I couldn't refuse. So on Wednesday, I'm flying standby to Dallas to spend Thanksgiving with Kristi and her family.

The crying came not from leaving the kids so much as this being the first Thanksgiving not as a family. Not only does the family dynamic change with the divorce, my relationship with my in-laws changes, which is incredibly painful because Tim's family is amazing.

So, for me, this Thanksgiving is about acceptance. It's about letting go of old traditions and starting new ones. I'm giving thanks to the people in my life who support me and love me no matter what. I'm just letting it all out.

Kristi mentioned something about a 5K road race on Thanksgiving morning. That's just craziness. Unless there are mimosas on hand, I won't even consider it!


Thanks for bearing with me through the PAD Challenge. Ugh. Hate that I'm behind because now I'm thinking about catching up instead of planning my next draft. But hey, I'm going to have significant time on the airplane to catch up. Wonder how many airplane poems I can write on a five-hour flight?

Will pick up the Misery long poem while I'm away.


My mini to-do list

1. Catch up on PAD Poems
2. B&C and RWP articles
3. Video project--yeah, I have to deal with this project soon
4. Work on new Web site
5. Work out party details


As of this writing, the ship date of Underlife is December 7. I'll confirm that next week. Keep your fingers crossed that maybe the book will ship early!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

PAD Challenge 17

The Writer’s Life

Traces of peanut butter
on the computer keys signals
my daughter has been here.
I imagine her sliding herself in my chair
like a cat looking for the right spot
as she opens to a blank page,
waiting for new words
to enter her thoughts
and take over her fingers.
The imagination blooms
as she turns letters into child’s play.
I watch from the margins,
envy her great body at work
pounding out the most amazing story,
her opus at age 4, about something
that just happened or yet to happen,
like the arc of her life or her first written word.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

PAD Challenge 16

At Fault

Let every fallen leaf become a wish.
Let them swirl and overtake the yard
in a crosswind of grief as you begin
the process of letting go. Nothing left to do
but renounce the love. Feel a great wind
move though you as it attempts to appease the soul,
which feels at fault, even through no fault of its own.
Let it sit beside you on the front porch,
drape its small arm around you like that of a child’s—
maybe you’ll find some clarity in that, some peace
in the unexplainable. Maybe the best thing
is to just sit there, wait for the blood to drain back
into your body. No rush to go back into the house
and pick up where your life has left off.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday's Theatre of Words and Music

A few photos from Cornerstone Books in Salem.

Last night’s reading was terrific! We had a good turnout—maybe 35-40 folks. Many in the crowd came to hear Dawn Paul, who read from her wonderful new book of fiction, The Country of Loneliness.

Reading with a fiction writer and a local favorite gave me the opportunity to share my poems with a new audience. And we both felt that our work complemented each other's, so I hope we can do more readings together in 2010.

Cohost and poet Jennifer Jean did a nice job of setting the scene for the evening, as well as running the open mike. I just love her MJ T-shirt!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Thanks everyone for the tweets and posts about the Barbara Deming grant. I have to admit, this is a bittersweet time. But it's nice to know that my effors are not in vain.


If you are around tonight, hope you can come to Cornerstone Books for my reading with writers Dawn Paul and Synnika Lofton. They’re both very talented so I look forward to hearing their work.

Who: January Gill O'Neil, Dawn Paul, Synnika Lofton
What: Thursday's Theatre of Words & Music
Where: Cornerstone Books, 45 Lafayette St., Salem, MA
When: November 19 @ 7 p.m.


Sadly, I am four days behind in my PAD Challenge. I took tomorrow off to get caught up on a few things, so I hope to write, write, write—as well as take pictures, get together with friends, and BREATHE.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good News!

I found out today that I was awarded an Individual Artist Grant from Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund!! The grant is for the creation of my second manuscript.

The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Inc. provides grants to individual feminist women in the arts whose work in some way focuses upon women. According to the award letter, there were 90 grant applications in this round, and my proposal was one of nine projects selected. Woo hoo!

Such a strange time for me; I must be doing something right.


The next award round is for fiction:

Deadline: December 31, 2009
Entry Fee: $20
Grants of up to $1,500 are given twice yearly to feminist writers who are citizens of the United States or Canada. The current round of grants will be awarded to fiction writers. Submit three copies of a short story or novel excerpt of up to 25 pages, a project description, a budget, and a resumé with a $20 entry fee during the month of December. Send an SASE for the required entry form and complete guidelines.

Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Individual Artist Grants for Women, P.O. Box 309, Wilton, NH 03086. Susan Pliner, Executive Director.

Confession Tuesday

Forgive me, for I have sinned. It's been a week since my last confession … and boy what a week it's been! Happy Tuesday, folks.

Don't forget to say hello to my fellow sinners doin' time in The Confessional.

Later today, the e-vites for my book launch party will go out. I mean, this is all actually happening (read: this sh*t is real. Sorry, I had to go there.).

Also, I have to figure out how many books to order for the launch and send out the e-vite (Oh dear lord— TODAY!). Then I have to figure out the food, find a dress, get a babysitter… I’m just FREAKING OUT!

Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s all good, Jan. It’s all good.


I’m starting to work out in the mornings at home. Didn’t think I was out of shape until I tweaked a calf muscle doing squats. Ugh.


I don't think I look like Michelle Obama but people tell me I do, so there must be some truth to it.


While the Poetic Asides challenge is rolling along—poem 17 is due today—I have 15 written. And while it’s a little early, I can definitely see an arc in the subject matter. That’s terrific because it usually takes months for me to see how the poems “live” with each other. So the question becomes: Do I take a fresh look at manuscript #2 to add in these poems, or do I view this grouping as a separate entity? Hmmmmm.


Just occurred to me that I have my writers’ group tonight, so I can ask them about it.


The arc in my poetry mirrors the arc of my life, which is a good thing. I'm happy these poems exist.

I heard a quote over the weekend (can't remember who said it), but it really resonated for me:

"Even though there is so much darkness in the world, no one can stopping from creating as much light as we want."


Lenovo has fixed my mini-laptop free of charge! It should be back from the mother ship in a day or so.


Started Christmas shopping over the weekend—and so did most of North America, apparently. It felt good to cross a few toys and things off the list. I’m cutting back this year like everyone else. The kids have so much stuff already that I’m working hard to show them the less commercial side of the holidays.

If you’re a friend of mine, know that you are loved but probably not getting a gift from me. If you do, it will be a craft!

Monday, November 16, 2009

PAD Challenge 15

(Need a title.)

The Finest Worksong

She thinks about the young man
making hot chocolate for her
at the coffee shop as he does
every week when she craves
the impersonal sexiness of flirting.
His jet black hair dangles
into his green eyes
while he crafts her drink,
always ready before
she reaches the register.
He smiles, asks how her day is,
and while she knows
it’s his job to whip cream
into a complete and utter frenzy,
she listens intently to talk of football
or crankshafts or whatever crosses
his beautiful, vapid mind
because the surge of neurons
firing in her brain, down the arms,
through the fingertips to accept
that hot cup of wonderful
is enough to lift the wick
of a woman in need of a spark.

Senator Al Franken draws map of USA

Wow! Look at the big brain on Sen. Al Franken, who drew a map of the United States from memory. (Thanks, Dan, for the link.

Thursday's Theatre of Words & Music

Hope to see you there!


Who: January Gill O'Neil, Dawn Paul, Synnika Lofton
What: Thursday's Theatre of Words & Music
Where: Cornerstone Books, 45 Lafayette St., Salem, MA
When: November 19 @ 7 p.m.

Thursday's Theatre of Words & Music features 3-4 established and emerging writers and artists to read/display/perform their work for the public at Cornerstone Books in Salem, MA, on the fourth Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. An open mic will follow featured writers/artists--artists are chosen on a first-come-first-served basis.

January Gill O’Neil’s poems and articles have appeared or are forthcoming in The MOM Egg, Crab Creek Review, Ouroboros Review, Drunken Boat, Crab Orchard Review, Callaloo, Babel Fruit, Edible Phoenix, Literary Mama, Field, Seattle Review, Stuff Magazine, Can We Have Our Ball Back, Read Write Poem, and Cave Canem anthologies II and IV. A Cave Canem fellow, her first poetry collection, titled Underlife, will be published by CavanKerry Press in November 2009. She is a senior writer/editor at Babson College, runs a popular blog called Poet Mom, and is the new Poetry Editor of the online culture magazine Bread and Circus.

Dawn Paul’s stories of people, place and loss have been published in print and online journals including The Sun Magazine, 14 Hills, Talking River, The Redwood Coast Review, Blithe House Quarterly, and New Zealand’s Junctures. She has essays on women and wilderness in the Seal Press anthologies Steady as She Goes: Women’s Stories of the Sea and Going It Alone: Women’s Adventures in the Wild. She also runs Corvid Press, a small literary press, and has created collaborative works with actors, dancers and visual artists. Her first novel, Still River, is available from Corvid Press. Dawn’s new novel, The Country of Loneliness (Marick Press 2009), combines memoir and fiction to explore the possibility of making amends for the past. Dawn teaches at Montserrat College of Art.

Synnika Lofton is a poet/recording artist who has recorded 11 albums—including his highly praised debut album, The New Breed—and 16 CD Singles. His poems have been published in Experience Reality Magazine, Quay: A Journal of the Arts, and UpStreet: A Literary Magazine. He wrote the poem, "Sacred Drum," for the Goddard College Presidential Inauguration of President Mark Schulman. His poems, "Guerrilla Ignition" and "Love's Outlaw" appeared in the documentary, Super-Size Me, Too. Through his Global Poetry Project, his poetry has been heard in France, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, Haiti, Venezuela, and Israel. He currently teaches poetry workshops to at-risk youth, high school students, college students, and adults.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

PAD Challenge 14


In a dark time
there is always chocolate.
Each bite is the perfect bite,
sweeping over the hemispheres
of the brain like a lunar eclipse.
Otherworldly in its sweetness
it awakens some hunger,
some growl in you that can’t be sated—
you feed it and it feeds you.
It lingers on the tiny alcoves
of the tongue, leading you into
some momentary depravity,
into desire and longing and sin.
No one can stop you in this place
infused with darkness,
and what you cannot explain
you accept as indulgence
long after it melts.

Weekend Wrap-Up

This has been a really nice weekend. Not only was I able to be a bit of a social butterfly around the Boston area, it has been an amazingly productive weekend (read: no kids!). The rain has finally given way to 60 degree weather and a bit of sun. Hurray!

I'm wrote this at Starbucks. Unfortunately, Wifi was down so I'm posting after the fact.


I should mention that I had a rotten night of sleep on Friday, which led to me watching the movie The Bodyguard until 3:30 a.m. I mean, how many times has The Bodyguard been on since 1992? Totally my fault for watching the movie, but that made Saturday all the better.

Decided to forgive myself for watching an-awesomely-bad-it's-sooo-good flick and enjoy what was a very wet day. I hung out with my girlfriend Suzie. We ate and shopped all day. I even bought a winter coat—very slimming, indeed!


Later, after more eating, we went to the Somerville News Writers Festival. Last year the event was held in an old V.A. hall, I believe, so the move this year to Arts at the Armory, a community space in Somerville, was a welcomed change.

Hosts Tim Gager and Doug Holder keep everyone on track with time. But it was clear than that all of the authors were happy to be there. Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish came in from another reading. Rick Moody, author of Garden State and (one of my favorite books) The Ice Storm, came in from New York to read. And Margot Livesey read her wonderful work. There were a few no-shows, most notably John Buffalo Mailer, playwright and son of Norman Mailer, who couldn't be there because he was called back to Hollywood, as the story goes, to work on the rewrites for Wall Street II.

Anyhoo … The highlight of the night for me was getting a copy of Steve Almond's new book This Won't Take but a Minute, Honey. He's written several books including Candy Freak and My Life in Heavy Metal, but the new title he has self published. And get this … no ISBN. For those not familiar with ISBNs, that's the unique code given to a book. The number makes it easy to track. In general, bookstore are reluctant to sell titles without ISBNs.

The book itself is a smaller trim size It's about 60 pages of essays and stories. In fact, the essays and stories are separate. So if you're reading stories, you have to flip the book upside down to read the essays. I like that. (Sorry for the lousy photo. Doesn't do the cover justice.)

With I had more time to chat with him because I'm completely fascinated with this approach. I'm always looking at innovative approaches writers use to get their work in front of an audience.

All in all, it was a really great day.


As for today, I have been an organizational queen, making my lists (there are three) and checking them twice. It's rare that I knock off 10 tasks in a day but I'm almost done. Woo hoo! That left plenty of time to hang with the kids. Gave us plenty of time for them to help me make the meatballs for my spaghetti sauce. Yummy!


This weekend I lived deliberately. I was in the moment and it felt great. Now, if I can only apply this sensibility to the rest of my week.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

PAD Challenge 13


Early morning,
the wind and rain clap their hands
in thunderous applause.
Droplets smash all around the house,
and for a moment, it’s as if
I’m being praised for something I did.
I think, “so much applause, I must
have done something brilliant or right.
Keep those joyous explosions coming.”

The rain is continuous, relentless
in its encores and ovations.
Certainly, making a poem
out of water is reason to cheer.
“Congratulations,” says the rain,
“because you are here,
a little damp, but still standing.”

PAD Challenge 12

Toward the End

And then there’s a moment of realization
where he knows he’s made a mistake.
Maybe it happens as he takes a drag
from the day’s first cigarette,
or while he gulps the mid-day coffee—
new habits to shed an old life.
You want to tell him you know
he knows, but don’t. Instead,
you stand there in the astonishing quiet,
in the wake of stale smoke
watching him throw away
a large Styrofoam cup full of butts.

Wet Dog

It's raining horses and cows in downtown Boston! I'm at a Starbucks after just getting my hair done (HA!). I always seem to have hair appointments on rainy days. As a friend of mine told me yesterday, "Maybe I should stop making hair appointments—then we'd have better weather." Yeah, that'll never happen. Everyone looks like a wet dog today.


Taking some Me Time today since the kids are with their father. Right now, I'm working on one of the three poems I need to complete for my PAD Challenge. Why did I start this challenge again?


I'm a little stressed out. No, I'm FREAKING OUT about all that I have to do before the book launch party. The date is December 16. Have to send out e-vites on Monday.

The location is set. Starting to plan the menu. I've been envisioning this event for two years, so I should be more prepared. But the book has been "an idea," there but not really there. It was always "out there." Now, we're weeks from publication and a month from the party. And I know this is just the beginning. In the works are videos and a Web site. Not to mention all the other cool stuff coming down the pike in 2010. Good googly moogly!


"Oh, must we dream our dreams and have them, too?"
~from Questions of Travel by Elizabeth Bishop


Tonight I'm attending the Somerville News Literary Festival. It's a well-attended neighborhood event that attracts a lot of talented writers. If the venue's not too dark, I'll post pictures on the blog.


Lastly, here's an excerpt from an article from one of my favorite sites, Zen Habits.

From the article, "How to Focus on What Truly Matters."

In my life I’ve gone through periods of intense, driven productivity – months where everything fell into place, and my goals almost seemed to accomplish themselves. At the other extreme, there have been times in my life where I was completely overwhelmed, burdened by my different projects and responsibilities – and frustrated because so many of them not only challenged me, but didn’t matter to me. There were days when I asked myself how did I end up here? How did I end up working on all these things that aren’t who I am, and that don’t represent where I am going?
The article has a lot of good advice, and so does the site.


Happy Saturday!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Somerville News Writers Festival

This is a fun event. Hope to see you there!


The Somerville News Writers Festival
Nov 14, 2009
7 p.m.

Also, visit the book fair
11a.m. to 4 p.m.

All at the Arts at the Armory 191
Highland Ave Somerville, Massachusetts.

Some of the readers include:

Rick Moody

Frank Bidart

Sam Cornish

Margot Livesey

Tam Lin Neville

Lise Haines

Steve Almond

and more.....

Tickets: Only a ten spot

The Kundiman Poetry Prize for Asian American writers

Kundiman Inc. is pleased to announce the inauguration of the Kundiman Poetry Prize in partnership with Alice James Books.

The prize is open to emerging and established Asian American poets. The award of $2,000, publication of the winning manuscript, and sponsorship of a reading make this a highly desirable prize.

Submissions are accepted from November 15, 2009 to January 15, 2010. Guidelines for submission are available on the Kundiman Web site.

Alice James Books is a cooperative poetry press with a mission is to seek out and publish the best contemporary poetry by both established and beginning poets, with particular emphasis on involving poets in the publishing process. For more info, visit Alice James Books.

Kundiman was founded in 2002 to provide opportunities for Asian American poets to perfect their skills through education and performance and to promote Asian American literature as a vital part of American letters. Its programs include a summer poetry retreat, held annually since 2004 and a reading series in New York City.

Kundiman’s partnership with Alice James Books for The Kundiman Poetry Prize is made possible through the support of Fordham University.

PAD Challenge 11

How to Love

After stepping into the world again,
there is that question of how to love,
how to bundle yourself against the frosted morning—
the crunch of icy grass underfoot, the scrape
of cold wipers along the windshield
and take what the day brings.
What song to sing down an empty road
as you trudge out on your morning commute?
And is there enough in you to see, really see,
the three wild turkeys crossing the street
with their featherless heads and stilt-like legs
in search of a morning meal? Nothing to do
but hunker down, wait for them to waddle away.
They walk slowly, as if they want to be startled
back into this world. Maybe you do, too,
waiting for all this to give way to love itself,
to look into the eyes of another and feel something,
anything, to see them safely cross despite
your idling car groaning its displeasure
in the early dawn.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Good Stuff

What is it about my kids and Old Navy mannequins? Maybe it's the dog.


All caught up on my poem a day challenge ... for now. (read: vicious cycle) Feels pretty good to have 10 poems written.


Looks like Underlife will ship in early December instead of late November. *sigh* You can always pre-order the book from and get a jump on your holiday shopping!


Forgot to mention in my Confessions that I’ve written an article for Read Write Poem called, “How to Sing, or the Fine Art of Reading Poetry in Front of an Audience.” Check it out!


A few days ago, I found online one of the best made-for-TV poetry series I’ve ever seen. It’s called Voices and Visions, produced by PBS and the Annenberg/CPB Project. The one-hour bios document the life and death of the following 13 poets:

Elizabeth Bishop
Hart Crane
Emily Dickinson
T. S. Eliot
Robert Frost
Langston Hughes
Robert Lowell
Marianne Moore
Sylvia Plath
Ezra Pound
Wallace Stevens
Walt Whitman
William Carlos Williams

You can see clips of these bios, but you can also watch the full episodes on demand for free.


My Lenovo mini-laptop is back with Lenovo for repairs. I'll miss you, old friend. Be well. Come home soon.


Thinking of my dad today on Veterans Day. Hi dad!

PAD Challenge 10


Everything has a tell—the last tiger lily still in bloom, the lone green pepper growing in the left-for-dead garden. I catch glimpses of the barely visible, like the sad refusal of a season to end. Yes to the wind. Yes to my child’s hand fastened inside of mine after a long, late walk, and my almost unwillingness to go inside the house on this balmy November night as stars flood the sky with light. In this absence, there is presence. The shift in the breeze reveals its true nature: the tiny gifts we carry out of this world we take with us to the next.

PAD Challenge 9

(This is my take on Kim Addonizio's poem "Heart" from her new book Lucifer at the Starlite.)

*Made a few edits since the original post.*

First Marriage

That abandoned field.
That house in foreclosure.
That strip of highway pockmarked with potholes.
That roadside diner with gum stuck under the table.
That self-service gas station, that rest stop on the way to somewhere else.
That playground. That convenience store full of lottery tickets.
That strip mall, that Christmas shop selling happiness 365 days a year.
That emergency room. That community center.
That donut shop on every corner.
That yellow house in need of a power wash.
Those gutter pipes. That overgrown lawn.
That abandoned place that only exists in memory.
That building scorched by fire, too badly damaged to save.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks! Time to confess. Share a piece of yourself with us and I promise to do the same. Don't forget to say hello serving their time in The Confessional.

Lately, I've been feeling drained. What is it about this time of year that makes me want to hibernate? Just can't seem to check things off my to-do list or get enough sleep. After careful consideration and much market research (not really), I decided to take a drastic step ...

Drum roll, please ... To get caught up on all of my projects, *I have decided to not watch television this week.*

Anyone who knows me knows how much I *love* TV! But I'm mired in projects and commitments and not making much progress. Thought it was time to cut out the idiot box to see if it helps my productivity and improves my sleep habits.


So far, not helpful. I stayed awake way too long last night writing this post.


On Sunday, while walking back from the park, Ella tripped on the sidewalk and fell flat on her face. Ugh. She has the biggest fat lip I've ever seen. More than 24 hours later, the swelling seems to be going down but she looks as if she's been in a ring for a few rounds. Poor baby!


Starting my holiday shopping this week. Fortunately, I don't have to buy presents for anyone who's been naughty this year. You know who you are.


The PAD Challenge is kicking my a$$. I absolutely hate being a poem behind. And I've already used up the extra poem I wrote just in case I got behind so I'm officially in sad, sad shape.

I do like that I'm writing, however. The subjects are linked so I can put the poems together as a chapbook, or part of a larger piece. I'll take a look at everything in December to weed through 30 days of poems.


I've put the Misery Islands long poem on the back burner, but only temporarily. I need a solid block of time to work on it. The weekend looks like my next best shot at completion.


Reading Kim Addonizio's Lucifer at the Starlite and Jericho Brown's Please.


Last five songs played in rotation on iPhone:

1. Obsessed remix, Mariah Carey

2. Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys

3. I'm on a Boat, Incredibad (so wrong yet so funny)

4. Sexual Chocolate, Hot Chip

5. Ol' Skool Company, Prince


Twitter: I get it now. @januaryoneil

PAD Challenge 8

(This poem is just not there yet--a draft in the true sense of the word. But I've never written a poem with a song lyric so for me it's a stretch.)

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Who cannot bang the steering wheel
while listening to the Stones
after a long, hard day of taking it:

I was born in a crossfire hurricane

Open G with a capo on the fourth fret.
Recorded in what sounds like a trash can—
down and out, kicked to the curb lyrics,

the needle pulls the grove
as the vocals hitch a ride
on the riff in 4/4 time.

And I howled at my ma in the driving rain
The best blues songs gut you open,
praise the unhappiness inside of you,
the low-down dog in you.

Listen to Mick howl into the mic
reaching for that unrecorded starlight
bending and stretching the notes

cause it’s all right now

In fact, it’s better than alright
Panning for gold
in his raspy voice

in a song that sounds
like you’ve just arrived
instead of just left.

Monday, November 09, 2009

PAD Challenge 7

Day 7: For today's prompt, I want you to pick a plant (any plant), make that the title of your poem, and write a poem. Pretty simple. (Or is it?) Most people, including myself, immediately think of plants as organic creatures, but, of course, "plants" can also be places of employment or spies you can see, there's always room for breaking outside the lines.

Two Sides

Are there two sides to every story?
I think about this as I slice a tomato in half,

the red swirl of hemispheres
divided into thick, beefy curves.

Vine ripened, savory interior
of pulp and pleasure,

fruit from a garden
I both love and hate.

One side holds what I know.
One side holds what I don’t.

One side loves completely.
One side is incapable of it.

The flesh speaks a language
I don’t understand

Hard to believe what was nurtured
from seed will end in salt

and my closed mouth wrapped
around my tongue in silence.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Tae Kwondo

This is one of those proud mommy days I'm privileged to have. Yesterday I watched my Alex become a yellow belt in Tae Kwondo! He was awesome. Not sure who was more nervous ... yes I am--I was!

Lately I've been running late or behind trying to fit as much as I can. Didn't read on the registration form that testing began at 10 a.m. We arrived at 10:30 a.m. Fortunately, it worked in our favor. Also fortuitous was Ella's sudden urge to take a nap. While she missed seeing her brother break a board with his hand, she got a little rest after a restless night.

Photos are from my iPhone (forgot to bring my camera).

Also reposting "The Illusion of Flight" from a few days ago. (tabs are not showing up in Blogger)

The Illusion of Flight

When he enters the studio
he is a young master in training,
leaving behind his Star Wars
and superhero characters
for something more heroic.
He bows,
cinches the white belt around his waist
and begins the way of the foot and fist:
a rapid fire of front kicks and back kicks,
side kicks and roundhouse kicks,
punching with the skill of a warrior,
almost mystical in his concentration.
Watch his body glide his open-hand strikes,
giving him the illusion of flight—
this man cub,
expressionless in his execution
but happy in an existence
far away from here.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

PAD Challenge 6

The Blower of Leaves

They swirl like kids at recess,
tumbling in and out of formation,
twirling about in their autumnal alliances.

The trees have given
shade and cover,
all that I have asked for,

only to be thrown out
in lawn bags with the morning trash.
Such is the way with givers—

they offer their splendor
until a new season comes
in the commerce of change.

Fall baptizes the cool air
While the leaves rain down
on the uncut grass.

I am not the one
who created the tall maples
standing watch over our house,

but today I am their god,
I am the blower of leaves
creating a microburst of gyration—

a million brilliant ambers twisting
in the thinning October sun.
No matter how much I clear,

my lawn is their landing strip.
Nothing is ever easy or true.
I do not seek perfection

but revel in the process.
Always there is sky
waiting to fall.

The rustle of leaves
is the sound of gravity
pulling my dreams

back to earth.

Friday, November 06, 2009


Whew! I'm on track to write three poems in one day. There's nothing worse than getting behind in a writing challenge because I'm constantly playing catch-up. It produces more stress than necessary. Isn't this supposed to be fun? It is, until you find yourself slumped over your computer at 1 a.m. *sigh*


When I go through one of these challenges, I develop tunnel vision about what I'm posting. I'll make an effort to lighten things up over the weekend.


The leaves have all but fallen off the trees. The foliage is past tits prime, and though I've been writing about it, I haven't posted many pictures. Time to break out the camera for a day in the life of a Poet Mom. Life is good, my friends!

Happy Friday, y'all!

PAD Challenge 5

Day 5: Write a growth poem. This could be psychological or emotional growth, physical growth, or however you'd like to take it.

(Again, the tabs are not showing up in Blogger)

The Illusion of Flight

When he enters the studio
he is a young master in training,
leaving behind his Star Wars
and superhero characters
for something more heroic.
He bows,
cinches the white belt around his waist
and begins the way of the foot and fist:
a rapid fire of front kicks and back kicks,
side kicks and roundhouse kicks,
punching with the skill of a warrior,
almost mystical in his concentration.
Watch his body glide his open-hand strikes,
giving him the illusion of flight—
this man cub,
expressionless in his execution
but happy in an existence
far away from here.

PAD Challenge 4

After the Cleaving

The kids play in a leaf pile in the front yard
scurrying about under a thickening sky
as they throw leaves into the chilled wind.
All afternoon, I listen to their child’s play
grinning my joy against their brilliance.
I can’t help but wonder
why doesn’t he want this anymore?
in that internal dialogue
one must speak after a cleaving
to keep things whole. I hold this secret
tight as a jacket around my skin.
Meanwhile, the clouds hover above us
in a stalled darkness over everything,
while my little birds build and rebuild
their nest of leaves. So rowdy in our grief,
I mask what I don’t completely understand.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

PAD Challenge 3

Day 3

Prompt #1: Write a positive poem. Like how great writing a poem a day through November is.
Prompt #2: Write a negative poem. Like how un-great technological hiccups in November are.

I chose Prompt #2

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

November To-Do's

Four days into the challenge and I'm a day behind! Would have written #3 last night but Ella woke up and kept me up past midnight. That's prime writing time.

I do have a poem written, but I want to hold it until later. It's my poem-in-the-bank poem. If there's such a thing as a poetry savings account, this is my "emergency fund" poem. Hate to dip into the account on day 4.

Enough of the savings metaphors ...


In October, I prepared for the Mass Poetry Festival, wrote one of the two articles I needed to write, and reviewed galleys, and started--but did not finish--a long poem. This month ... well ... is just fugly!

November To Do List

  1. PAD Challenge
  2. Submit request to read at a large poetry event in NJ (you know which one)
  3. Plan Underlife book launch party. Woo hoo! (Consider yourself invited.)
  4. Finalize video projects #1 and #2
  5. Write two articles for B&C
  6. Read Collin's book (*sigh* Sorry Collin.)
  7. Interview with Joseph Legaspi
  8. Build Web site
  9. Update marketing plan (and start implementing it)
  10. Coordinate reading dates
  11. Apply for a Artist Fellows Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council
  12. I know there's something else ...

My head hurts.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, y'all! Thank you for stopping by and sharing a little bit of yourselves this week and every week.

Now tell me, what's going on in your life? And don't forget to visit the sinners hanging out in The Confessional.


This morning, I dropped my mini-laptop! The cord wrapped around my leg and I pulled it off my nightstand. Now, the screen is not displaying correctly. *Sadness* Guess I'll be sending it back to Lenovo so they can repair it. Damn. Damn. Damn.


Yesterday afternoon, I signed divorce papers. The divorce is far from final, but this was a big step toward ending our eight-year marriage.

It's been a tough few days, despite a really nice Halloween. And that's been a perfect description of this time: great joys tinged with deep sadness.


Dear friend Cindy gave me a card with this quote:

A woman is like a tea bag -- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.
~Eleanor Roosevelt


Still don't know why I decided to do the Poetic Asides Poem-a-Day Challenge, other than I am writing again. Maybe my most productive months for poetry are April and November so I'm going with it.

Also, I'm ready to deal with whatever may come out of the writing process. I've never used writing as catharsis but clearly this is where I'm at. Who knows what will come out of this somewhat fruitful time; I'm thankful you're coming along for the ride. Yesterday's poem is the first poem I've written in a long time that is almost in its exact form. Once I got going, the writing was automatic. It felt great.


All last week, I worked with the publisher to get Underlife ready for print. It went to print at the end of the week! I feel like I'm in labor; although, the due date is not until the end of November.


My to do list is downright scary. Too scary to deal with today.


Is living well really the best revenge? Is it better than epoxying pennies to the hood of one's car? I'm just asking.

Monday, November 02, 2009

PAD Challenge 2

From the Poetic Asides blog: For today’s prompt, I want you to write a poem in which you look at something from a different angle.

Today I've been reading Ellen Dore Watson's The Sharpening. She has a poem called "You Get Up," which inspired my poem. And I borrowed a phrase "starless time" from one of her other poems.

There are tabs acting as mini-stanza breaks that are not showing up in Blogger.

You Get Up

because daylight won’t save you
because a child’s cry reverberates across
the deepest caverns of your heart, which is
dark and stained with old, rotted love,
yet you’ve given what’s left of it to them,
these cherubs with the faces of God.
How can you not get up, fix breakfast,
take out trash, pack lunches, brush teeth, wash faces,
kiss the tops of their heads as they hug you goodbye
with a long, firm squeeze that says please come back.
You sit in traffic like a slug on a highway full of slugs,
thinking this where you are.
But you do it, you do it all and more
because there’s no one else, not any more,
because it is what it is, even in this starless time
with more questions than answers,
despite that mocking voice, yours or his,
—you just can’t tell anymore—which says
in this awful mess you’ve been given
these silver linings who call you mommy.
Get up.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

PAD Challenge 1

Why am I doing the Poem-a-Day Chapbook Challenge?

1. I don't have enough in my life to keep me busy.
2. I'm a glutton for punishment.
3. This is the best way to push myself into an unprotected space.
4. The meds have worn off.
5. All of the above.

Day 1 Challenge: write a poem in which you (or something) enters something new. (Not crazy about the title.)

Home Improvement

Home Depot makes me weep.
I travel down aisles like a tourist
in the kingdom of tools
as I look for an extension cord,
a rake, lawn bags—
things you took with you
when you left for good.
I push the metal cart,
quiet as a carriage,
along the hardest of cement floors,
so unforgiving it makes my back ache.
Look at all that needs replacing:
wrenches, screws, a drill.
I reach for caulk to rim the bathtub,
a florescent light to replace
the burned-out halo
that flickers randomly
above my head
whenever I inhabit the kitchen.
There is no permanence
in these objects,
but a sort of emptiness
from what remains.
When the snow comes
there are these snow blowers
and the multitude of shovels
standing ready for the hard
New England winter
I know is coming. How unfair
to be in this beautiful store
with its sky-high shelves,
and rows and rows of normal
unable to find improvement.
All I see is loss.

Reasons to Survive November

I absolutely love this poem, and I certainly feel it more passionately now than in years past.

(Listen to the audio.)

Reasons to Survive November

November like a train wreck –
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.

The sky is a thick, cold gauze –
but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.

– Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.

I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
in a room by myself

with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
like a disconnected phone.

But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,

and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over

and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into the land of my enemies.

(Tony Hoagland, from What Narcissism Means to Me. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf, 2003.)


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