Saturday, October 31, 2009
Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y'alls neighborhood
The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller
Friday, October 30, 2009
I hate this expression, but it's truer than ever: I'm busier than a one-armed paper hanger! This week has been nutty. With book revisions, writing projects, and potential readings in the works—I'm FLAT OUT! Not to mention that Halloween (and daylight savings time) is almost here—how did that happen?
Will November be a calmer month? Probably not, but I'd rather be busy than not these days.
It's taken me 48 hours to write this post.
So the big news of the day is that I will be poetry editor for the online magazine Bread & Circus! It's a terrific online arts and culture magazine that wants to expand its reach into poetry. I'm very proud to be associated with this project. Go check us out!
The Underlife cover is going to the printer, if it hasn't gone already! If you know anything about printing, you know that the glue binding, and waiting for the books to dry, takes a bit of time. I'm guessing I'll have copies in hand by the end of November. I spent a little time yesterday making final changes, so things are finally on the move! Thanks to CKP for making Underlife possible.
This is starting to feel real to me.
Finished up an article for Read Write Poem, and stating a new one for Bread & Circus.
My poem, "What Mommy Wants," has found a home with The MOM Egg! I'm thrilled because it's one of my favorite poems. Also in this issue are poems by two of my favorite poets, Rethabile Masilo and Jennifer Jean. Check it out!
Just found out that Underlife is being adopted at a college! Woo hoo.
Also confirmed that I'm reading with Cave Canem at an NYU reading on April 16, 2010.
If you haven't read Kelli's posts on publishing her second manuscript, do so today. Give her a virtual hi-five. It takes tenacity (read: a set of stones) to stick with a manuscript you believe in. The vast majority of poets never publish a poetry book, but I firmly believe that talent and persistence are the two best weapons in the publishing industry. Kelli has both.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
He is a 2009 recipient of a Whiting Writing Award!
I had the great pleasure to read with him a few weeks ago at the Mass Poetry Festival. Please also won a 2009 American Book Award.
According to the Cave Canem listserv, this is the seventh year in which someone CC-related has received a Whiting:
Jericho Brown 2009
Doug Kearney 2008
Tyehimba Jess 2006
Thomas Sayers Ellis, Tracy K Smith, and John Keene 2005
A. Van Jordan 2004
Major Jackson 2003
Terrance Hayes 1999
I feel lucky and privileged to be a part of this group. Congrats again, Jericho! Couldn't have happened to a nicer person.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
It's Tuesday! Y'know … the bridge between Monday and Wednesday? Time to share a little of yourself and we'll do the same. Don't forget to check in on the folks doing time in The Confessional. If you'd like to be added to The Confessional list, let me know.
What is it about fall brings out my self-reflective side? In my last post on the authentic self, I talked about getting out of my own way. But I never mentioned the things that keep me from being the person I want to be. The truth is, I'm riddled with character flaws. Here are a few.
- I overcommit my time to projects I could care less about, which causes me to procrastinate
- I have a hard time saying no
- I'm fickle
- I'm a perfectionist
- I'm controlling
I spend much of my energy suppressing these traits; rather, I'm pretty good at turning a negative into a positive. For instance, I procrastinate when I have too many to-do's, but waiting until the last minute helps me to organize and prioritize the important stuff first.
Also, I spend a lot of time wondering if I'm making the rights choices for the kids. Am I doing the right things for them? Am I too hard on them, and how will that influence them as adults? Ugh.
I like confessing in the early morning under the cover of darkness before the kids wake up.
Last week, I turned in my galley edits and now I'm waiting on the approved copy to be blessed by the powers that be. Once this is done, it's my hope that Underlife will come back in late November, just in time for the holidays!
While I am trying to pare down my activities, it won't happen anytime soon. On tap this week are the completion of two articles, sending in an application to read at a poetry festival in '10, completing an interview for a lit journal, and working on the Misery poem. My hope is to finish the poem this weekend.
My biggest task this week: finalizing plans for the book launch par-tay. Woo hoo! Crab cakes and okra for everyone!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
First, I think this is the person I was meant to be. I live my life without regrets. I mean, everything I’ve ever done has brought me to this point, and from my point of view this is a pretty good spot (mother, poet, careerist, community advocate). So the question becomes, “How do I get out of my own way?” Or, how do I stop being the person I don’t want to be?
What I’m focused on now is paring away at the projects, jobs, and tasks that I don’t enjoy, and making space for the people and projects that bring me joy. Life is too damn short not to provide the best life for my kids and me. It’s short and it’s always changing. So I am (re)dedicating myself to my own personal truth. Here’s what I know.
- I want to live every day as if it’s my last
- I want my kids to continue to grow up healthy and happy
- I want to be a loyal and supportive family member, friend, and community member
- I am a lifelong learner; poetry and literature is my vocation
- I love food
- My personal wealth is not based on my bank account, but on the richness in of my life
- I take pleasure in work; more specifically, I take great pleasure in a job well done
- I am stronger than I give myself credit for
My authentic self will change over time, but these are my core values. This is what I believe to be true.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
I miss summer. I look at the leaves in my front yard knowing as pretty as the foliage is, I need to go out there and rake! Is it too early to start saying Bah humbug?
Turned in my galley proof edits for Underlife today. Woo hoo! Now things should move quickly.
Do you know why proofs are called "galleys"? According to Wikipedia:
Galley proofs are so named because in the days of hand-set type, the printer would set the page into "galleys": metal trays into which the type was laid and tightened into place. These would be used to print a limited number of copies for editing mark-up. The printer would then receive the edits, re-arrange the type, and print the final version.
A long, overdue congrats to Trashfinder, poet, and Renaissance man Kevin Carey. His screenplay "Peter's Song" (written with Ed Boyle) won Best Screenplay at The New Hampshire Film Festival 2009!
The latest Crab Creek Review is out, and I get to share the space with JillyPoet! Congrats to Jill, and to editor Kelli for such a wonderful issue.
Good news all around!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
If it's Tuesday, it's time to confess! Feel free to tell us something about yourself, and we'll do the same. Be sure to say hello to the folks doing time in The Confessional.
I'm still buzzing from all the excitement from the Mass Poetry Festival. What a great weekend! It was wonderful to see so many poets and non-poets come out to enjoy so many wonderful performances. Was good to see friends from my undergrad and grad days at college. And always nice to spend a few hours with Joseph Legaspi.
The whole weekend served as a reminder that better times are just around the corner.
Joseph says I have "girl crushes." And he's right. I have crushes on certain poet bloggers: here, here, here, and here. *smooches to you all!* If we lived closer to one another, we would get into more trouble than we could handle. Thank goodness the blogosphere is bringing us all a little closer.
I'm cutting the fat out of my schedule!
This week, I'm taking a long, hard look at what I do and how I do it. Haven't been sleeping or exercising much—more worries than I can count. And I'm not writing enough for my liking. So I hope that with a few adjustments (such as going to bed by 11 p.m.), I can work in a writing session at 5 a.m., and schedule a gym visit after work. Fortunately, my job seems to be more manageable these days, which helps immensely.
What I have been doing, which seems to work for me, is taking lots of deep breaths and walking during the work day. All of these things feed into my attempts at navigating this new path I'm taking with the kids. The rough spots have been and continue to be rough, but the kids just seem to roll with it. Maybe I've done a better job of keeping them on track than I think.
Time for a debt diet, also known as a money fast! I'm not spending any money tomorrow or Thursday. (Will probably buy a salad for lunch today.)
As usual, lots to do on the poetry to-do list. But given my last comment I may try to pull it back to a few key items. On tap this week: giving feedback on the Underlife galley proof (yippee!), working on my long poem, setting up a location for the pre-launch party, visiting blogs, and catching up on my reading.
Happy Tuesday, everyone!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
For the second year in a row, the Massachusetts Poetry Festival was a huge success. Here's an iPhone photo of me reading with Cave Canem. Special thanks to Jarita Davis for setting up the event, and Afaa Michael Weaver for doing the introductions.
My two readings happened in the same location—a church, as you can see by the photo. My first reading with Tapsetry of Voices, a Boston-based group run by poet Harris Gardner. Read poems by Massachusetts poets, I read Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art," then followed up with villanelle and another poem of my own. Reading my villanelle after reading "One Art" just seems silly. But the audience seems to like the choice of poems.
The second reading was with Cave Canem. Every time a CC event happens, the vibe changes. It's amazing and fun and supportive. Love reading with such talented writers. I was able to congratulate Jericho Brown and Tara Betts on their books in person. But it was just nice to be hear everyone's words.
Also had the chance to hear a terrific performance of J.D. Scrimgeour's Confluence, a performance of music and poetry. He and composer/musician Philip Swanson will be releasing a CD of their work in the near future.
In the evening, I listened to Robert Pinsky and Louise Gluck reading OPP (Other People's Poetry). They were terrific. Suggestion from Pinsky: keep a collection of poems by other poets. Type out the poems and bind them together for your personal use. He says you'll learn a lot about the lines by typing them out.
Next up was Afaa Michael Weaver and Anne Waldman. Afaa was amazing, as usual. He's such a wonderful reader. His voice lifts those words off the page. After, Anne Waldman took the stage with musical accompaniment by her son. I've seen her a few times and I have to say I don't get her. I try, but I just get her. I'll leave it at that.
At the end of the evening, just as we were about to drive home, we rallied and went to the Poetry Slam. It was packed! Can't remember the last time I went to a slam but I have a feeling it was in the 90s! It was fun. Not my cup of tea but I enjoyed seeing the passion from participants.
I tend to take many more photos when I'm not responsible for reading. Took a handful of shots but not as many as I would have liked. Too bad because it was a nice day compared to the rain/sleet/snow we're experiencing now.
I have it on good authority that there will be a 2010 festival! It's my hope that I can get involved on the planning side of things. When the time comes, I will be there.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Tonight, I had dinner with the dynamic duo of Carolee (left) and Jill (center)! They're here for the Mass Poetry Festival. These two talented, creative women are just as amazing in person as they are on their blogs.
Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!
This morning, it snowed! Now, we only had flurries but my gosh--it's not even Halloween.
Are you ready for the second annual PAD chapbook challenge?
How awesome is she?
Did you see Jarita Davis' post on RWP addressing the question, "What Is Poetry?" Check it out.
Also, visit one of my favorite shows, Radio Open Source. Christopher Lydon hosts a series of poetry podcasts to coincide with the Mass Poetry Festival.
There's so much going on, I'm finding it hard to focus! Woo hoo! More to come.
The North Shore was one of eight venues across the state kicking of the second annual Massachusetts Poetry Festival. It was a packed house in Salem, as we read poems by Massachusetts poets along with a few of our own. The evening was hosted by J.D. Scrimgeour (front, right center, green sweater) and Claire Keyes (second row, right, red jacket).
I felt very connected to the larger poetry community standing with these established authors, while reading the poems of those who came before us. Last night, we were all reminded of Massachusetts' long and rich literary history. It was great fun listening to the poems chosen and the stories behind their choosing.
Here's the list of readers (in alpha order) and the poets we choose:
Rufus Collinson (Mary Oliver)
My apologies to Bill Coyle (far right in photo) for getting cut out of the picture. What can I say, I didn't take the picture. (Sorry Bill. *sigh*)
Check out the Mass Poetry Web site for the weekend schedule. Hope to see you there.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Here’s where you can catch me during the weekend. Be sure to stop in and say hello!
Thursday, October 15 – Salem, MA
7 p.m., Salem Athenaeum
North Shore poets will help initiate the Massachusetts Poetry Festival with a reading and celebration of poetry from the Commonwealth. J.D. Scrimgeour will host. Among the readers will be: Rufus Collinson, James Connatser, Bill Coyle, Amy Dengler, Diane Kendig, Claire Keyes, Ruth Maassen, Rich Murphy, January O'Neil, John Ronan, Dan Sklar, and Suellen Wedmore.
Saturday, October 17 – Lowell, MA
Noon, St. Anne's Church
Tapestry of Voices is an eleven year old poetry organization, co-founded by Harris Gardner and Lainie Senechal; based in Boston with more than 150 affiliates from the Greater Boston Area, most of whom are widely published. TOV has produced numerous programs throughout Massachusetts, including the Ten Year Old Boston National Poetry Month Festival and two on-going monthly Boston venues. The participating poets in Poetry Voices Past and Present, presented by Tapestry of Voices will read from beloved poets from the past such as Anne Sexton, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, T.S. Eliot, Longfellow, Lorca, Neruda, and others. Each poet will also include two original poems thematically related to each past poet creating a wonderful blend of past and present voices. This hour of poetry is sure to leave you wanting more.
- January O'Neil will read Elizabeth Bishop
- Joanna Nealon will read Emily Dickinson
- Laine Senechal will read Edna St. Vincent Millay
- Doug Holder will read Robert Lowell
- Walter Howard will read Longfellow
- Richard Hoffman will read William Meredith
- Gloria Mindock will read Constance F. Woolson
- Harris Gardner will read Anne Sexton
- Diana Saenz will read Stanley Kunitz
3 p.m., St. Anne's Church
A sampler reading of Cave Canem poets, featuring: Metta Sama, DeLana R.A. Dameron, Tara Betts, January O’Neil, Jarita Davis, Jericho Brown, Lillian Bertram, Kamilah Aisha Moon, Jacqueline Jones LaMon, Venus Thrash, Joy Gonsalves, and Johnny Davis. Founded in 1996 by poets Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady, Cave Canem is a home for the many voices of African American poetry and is committed to the artistic and professional growth of African American poets. The organization has grown from an initial gathering of 26 poets to an influential movement with renowned faculty and a high-achieving fellowship of 287 poets in 34 states. Its programs include a week-long summer retreat, first and second book prizes, a Legacy Conversation series, writing workshops, publications and national readings. Cave Canem fellows have published over 150 books and have received many prestigious awards—Guggenheim and Lannan Literary Fellowships and the Whiting Writers’ Award, among others.
Don’t forget to sign up for the Gluck-Pinsky-Waldman-Weaver reading Saturday night beginning at 7 p.m.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I seem to be on a Walt Whitman kick these days.
It’s feast or famine with me—and today was a feast! I received proofs of Underlife! It’s so pretty! Can’t tell you how good it feels to hold these poems in my hands.
Also, I received a proof for a poem I have in an upcoming issue of The MOM Egg, and copies of CKP Newsletter arrived. This issue features a conversation with Joseph Legaspi and me talking about our books. When its posted on the CKP Web site, I’ll let you know. Lastly, I confirmed that I will be reading with Afaa Michael Weaver on February 25 at Salem State College.
Today was a good day.
Recently, I watched Dead Poets Society on a movie channel. Did you know that the film is 20 years old? I wonder writers view the movie as cheesy or as a sentimental favorite. In any case, here’s one of my favorite scenes, featuring Ethan Hawke and Robin Williams. Enjoy.
Hi folks. Time to share a bit of yourselves with us, and we'll do the same. Don't forget to visit the folks hanging out in The Confessional.
Spent a good portion of the afternoon yesterday at Starbucks working on my Misery Islands long poem. It's not finished, but it's starting to take shape. I've never written a long poem with sections before, so the prospect of working through difficult subject matter in this format is thrilling. So far, I've written five out of eight sections. Once the draft is done, it will need a heavy revision. And for the first time in my blogging history, I don't think I'll post it when it's complete. Well, if I do post the poem, it will live here for a day for feedback. I think I'd like to have the poem available for submission to various journals.
As much as I hang out at Starbucks, I don't drink coffee. Don't like it—never have. I do like their hot chocolate and iced tea lemonade, however.
I'm more of hot tea with lemon kind of girl, with lots and lots of sugar. What can I say? I'm from the South; we like our tea sweet!
Last night, I introduced the kids to Star Wars. Back in 1977, this was the first movie released. Now it is the fourth movie in the series. Try explaining the reasoning behind watching the fourth movie to a six-year old. Besides, the newer movies are more graphically enhanced—more real and somewhat violent compared to the original. It was fun to watch Mark Hammill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher in their heyday. And the movie still holds up to this day.
The Mass Poetry Festival is happening this weekend! I'm reading once on Thursday and twice on Saturday. (More details in a separate post.) I'm excited and strangely nervous about reading. I've looked forward to reading, as well as seeing so many talented poets share their work. Lots of friends and bloggers out and about for the weekend.
The festival marks the ramping-up period before Underlife is released next month. (Next month? Holy $%*+!) As you know, my to-do list is long and scary. Every time I knock something off, there's another three things that need to be done. I'm not complaining, though. I've been waiting for this all my life.
Monday, October 12, 2009
That's how I'm feeling today. I'm sitting in Starbucks and have resolved not to leave until I have made some headway (dare I say complete) my Misery Islands long poem. Can I tell you about my happiness today? What is it about sitting in Starbucks that brings me such joy? It's noisy, but I've plugged in my headset and am ready to go. I've even allowed myself a good hour to goof off so I won't be tempted mid-poem.
Lastly, here are a few photos from the weekend.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
The other day, I had lunch with a fellow poet and we started talking about the unsaid in our writing. In general, why are we afraid to approach certain topics in our creative space? Are there topics that shouldn’t be put on paper and made into art? Why are we afraid to write about what frightens us? I mean, isn’t that what our poetry is for?
In this age of Reality TV, it’s hard to believe that there are topics that are too taboo. Once we put these thoughts on paper, they live and breathe outside of us. I’m not even talking about publishing poems, but the act of creation using our raw subject matter can be daunting.
Personally, not being able to write about certain topics is hindering my creativity. I have a lot to say but am afraid to write about it. Part of my discomfort comes from approaching painful topics such as divorce. Also, part of me is worried that I’ll write the same poem over and over again. Maybe I’m not ready for it. But when I do start to write about it, I won’t be able to stop.
I think about poets such as Sharon Olds, who seem to say—and publish—it all, yet I wonder what qualifies as the unsaid for her. Can’t imagine what it must be like to reveal such personal family details. Yet, I admire her ability to tap into memory and turn it into poetry, seemingly without any self-editing. It must be hard for Sharon, but she's able to put aside her fears and just "go there."
Are there topics so personal you choose not to write about them? If so, are you worried about going to those dark places, or are you concerned about who it might affect?
Saturday, October 10, 2009
This morning we took my parents back to the airport. Sadly, the house is much quieter without them. Can't thank them enough for the visit.
Right now, I'm sitting with Ella watching Alex in his tae kwondo class. Trying to keep Ella occupied while I type is tricky.
Hope to devote 10 hours to poetry during the next three days.
More to come!
Thursday, October 08, 2009
That's right, I'm at Starbucks. Took today and tomorrow off to spend a little time with the 'rents before they leave on Saturday. They're good about giving me space because they know how little time I have to myself. Work has been chaotic (in a good way), but it's time to breathe a little bit.
After Starbucks, I have a dentist appointment. It promises to be painful.
Looking forward to taking some fall photos of the whole family while we have good weather. Will post the best of the best in the next day or so.
Thanks for the feedback on the poem. It's a work in process, but it definitely felt good to finish something. The plan is to carve out about 10 hours to write and revise during the long holiday weekend.
Check out a review of Tara Betts' new book Arc & Hue on the Poetry Foundation's Web site. Can't wait to have Ms. Tara sign a copy for me at the Mass Poetry Festival next week. Make sure to get tickets for the Cave Canem reading.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
A cough, a tickle,
a sudden rise and froth
at the back of your throat—
drags you out of bed,
heavy footed, into mine.
You curl into me,
all chatter and conjunctions,
little “c” into big “C”
in the loose alphabet
of mother and daughter.
Your skin, infused with
shampoo and half-sleep
rests against my grain
silent as a star,
each dip and swirl
searching for the right word,
the form of things, how night
wraps its body around day
and asks for nothing but this
small happiness. What keeps us awake
other than the cheap wall clock
pushing the second hand toward day
the sound of no sound, the sound
of drifting, of grieving, of trying to find
a name for this.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
My life is a strange mix of sweet and sour. This is how I'm feeling today:
won't you celebrate with me
by Lucille Clifton
won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
between starshine and clay
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
There is definitely more sweet than sour around me, but sometimes it's hard to see it.
I am now the mother of a six-year old! I've never seen a kid enjoy being six as much as my son Alex. On his birthday, Alex asked me if he was taller. And I said, "Yes, sweetie, you do look taller!" (He asks me that ever year.) But now, he's got a different air about him—a swagger. He's older now. *sigh* What's a mother to do?
What a blessing! Both Alex and Ella are my silver linings.
Last night, after a bout of sleeplessness, I finished a poem. I've had no lack of ideas during the past few months, just haven't had the will to finish anything. Maybe I've been afraid of what I might say in them. There's a part of me that's protecting this very special thing that I do. I don't want it to be corrupted by the other parts of my life. Does that sound strange? It does to me. Maybe it's time to let go and see what happens.
So I have my first draft written in weeks. Will post it later today, and I'll take it to my writer's workshop tonight for critique.
I'm DYING to tell you my good news from last week, but I can't.
I'm expecting Underlife proofs any day now.
And now, the short list, extracted from the big October to-do list:
Monday, October 05, 2009
Saturday, October 03, 2009
It's 7 a.m. and raining. I'm sitting on the bed with my laptop trying to decide whether to get to the gym or listen to the rain for another hour. Haven't been to the gym in two weeks. My parents are here for another week so I have to take advantage of the free time whenever possible.
Then, I'm going into Boston for a hair appointment and seeing friends. Seems like I'm always scheduling hair appointments on rainy days. Was hoping to snap a few pictures but I think the sun is not cooperating.
Will also get a few hours of writing at, you guessed it, Starbucks. Woo hoo! Would like to finish a poem, work on the Misery poems, and make some progress on the video project I've been compiling.
Lastly, Alex, my baby boy, turns 6 tomorrow! Where does the time go? He's so excited. Funny how turning a year older for a child means the world to him, while turning a year older for me … well, that's another story.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Yesterday was a bit of a whirlwind. I was overwhelmed at work yet bombarded with good poetry news, which made the work part of it much more fun.
I'm reading at Salem State College with Afaa Michael Weaver sometime in the spring. He's just the nicest person--he also wrote a blurb for my book so I'm very grateful.
Also, an article of mine called "The Confessional" is up at Bread and Circus.
And, I got some really really really terrific news about my book that I can't go into now, but when I do I'll shout it from the rooftops. Sorry to be so vague. Too early to share details--and you know how I like to share--but when I do you'll understand my excitement!
Also, I wanted to post Dan Nester's article on leaving New York City and poetry scene. Dan and I were at NYU together, one year apart, so I understand his perspective.