Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Boston Poet Tea Party: Schedule

Even if you're not in the Boston area, click on the image to enlarge just so you can see what it means to schedule 88 poets in one weekend. Phenomenal job! Hats off to Jim Behrle for bringing us all together. (Check out Jim's interview with WBUR.)

At the Pierre Menard Gallery, where the Friday night readings were held, was the exhibition Imagine It Thick In Your Own Hair, a response--and a benefit--to the Gulf Coast oil spill. The images behind me are from the exhibit.

I wish I could have stayed longer, or go to the readings today and tomorrow because the lineup is stellar. But I had friends visiting from out of town, and Sunday I'm throwing a party for my daughter's 5th birthday.

This is shaping up to be an extraordinary weekend.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Where in the World Is January O'Neil?

Upcoming Readings!

When I set up these dates, it was the dead of winter. Fast forward to Friday—I have four readings in nine days. And I’m psyched for each one!

If you’re in the Boston/NYC area, I’d love for you to come to one or all of the following events.

July 30
A Boston Poet Tea Party Poetry Marathon
Pierre Menard Gallery
Cambridge, MA, 7:24 p.m.
A weekend of poetry as 88 poets read for 8 minutes each. I’m reading at 7:24 p.m. How precise!

August 3
Jackson Heights Poetry Festival
Elmhurst, NY, 7 p.m.
Sign-up starts at 7 p.m., readings begin at 7:30. Join us at Terraza Café, on Gleane street and Roosevelt avenue, off the 82nd Street Stop on the 7 Train! You can find directions here.

August 6
Reading with Jennifer Jean and Colleen Michaels
Hillside Public Library
New Hyde Park, NY, 7 p.m.
An open mic follows features so bring a poem or two to share.

August 9
Stone Soup Poetry
Out of the Blue Gallery
Cambridge, MA, 8 p.m.
Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Play Dates and Pot Luck

Spent last night hanging with Jennifer Jean and Colleen Michaels as we plan for our reading in NYC on August 6 (see sidebar for more info). As I mentioned in my confession, it was time for a play date/pot luck. Much needed girl time while our kids played into the night.


I was kicking myself for not taking photos on our evening, but how much of my life needs to be content?


A bit of old news, but Underlife was a finalist for the 2010 Paterson Poetry Prize. Sherman Alexie won the award for his book, Face. Here’s the full list of award recipients. And congrats to Nin Andrews, also a finalist, for her collection Southern Comfort.


Congrats to Martha Silano, whose third book The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, was chosen by Campbell McGrath as the winner of the 2010 Saturnalia Book Prize. Very cool.


Also, congrats to Thomas Sayers Ellis for his interview in Publishers Weekly, and on his highly anticipated release of his second collection Skin Inc: Identity Repair Poems.


Sending good thoughts to FW today.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Confession Tuesday

If it's Tuesday, it's time for your confessions! C'mon, share a little about yourself and we promise to do the same. If you're confessing on your blog, let me know so I can stop in and say hello.

I confess I’m sad that August is almost here! Even though I have lots of travel planned, and my daughter’s birthday is next week, it feels as if the end is near. A girl can get used to life without snow and winter coats. Of course, I probably should move out of New England for that.


After returning from vacation, my natural urge to pull back and take stock is kicking into high gear. I feel the urge to save time, spend less, trim down, and throw out!

I’m feeling the need to savor the warm days and enjoy the cool nights. Time to invite people over to the house for play dates, potlucks, and drinkypoos.

With my travel and back to school shopping just around the corner, I need to keep my spending in check. Time to start saving for something else worth my time.

September may be a good month for a purge.

Time for a "life cleanse." More on that later.


Also, it's time for me to get moving. Haven't worked out at all this past month. I've spent much of my free time working on the manuscript instead of getting to the gym. I can feel (and see) the difference.

Last night was the first time all summer that I've taken the kids for a walk. They've had an active summer at day care because they've gone swimming nearly every day. Me? I spend my days riding a desk. Time to trade in the desk for a bike.


North American Review has a review of Underlife and a new poem of mine in the Winter 2010 issue (yikes … winter!) Thanks to Vince Gotera and NAR for the kind words! It really is a nice publication, one I will subscribe to in the near future.


And with every acceptance comes a rejection, from The New Yorker. HA! What can I say? I was feeling supremely optimistic when I sent in my poems. I believe in aiming high. Besides, shouldn’t every writer have one rejection notice from The New Yorker? I’ll wear it like a badge of honor. Once rejection certainly won’t stop me from trying again in a few months.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Q. for the Poet

This question comes from a student at Salem State College. I've edited the question for brevity.

" ... I enjoyed your poems and your readings in class. I never knew that the
revision process
was so intense. I have written many poems and to be honest I've only revised two of them. For some reason I can’t get myself to revise them or change them. I like them the way they are. When I wrote those poems I wrote them just to have fun. ... Maybe someday I will like to write a poem book and include some poems but how will I be able to revise them if I think they are just fine the way they are. Thank you so much for sharing your revision process I know that it’s really going to help me!"

There is no rule that says you have to revise your poems. If you like them, then you should keep them as is. Nothing wrong with that.

But, if you decide to publish a book of poems, you’ll have to be much harder on your work because your publisher will be merciless. Revision is a necessary step in the publication process. And if your poems are good, which I think they are, they will stand up to whatever you do to them. Here are some suggestions for approaching the revision process.
  1. Put your poems away for a while and then look at them with fresh eyes. Are they as good as you once thought? This is your opportunity to make your images accurate and unique, and to cut any extra words that may slow the poem down.
  2. Read your poems out loud—to yourself. That’s a good way of hearing the rhythms in your work. Chances are, if you stumble on a word or phrase, you should look consider revising.
  3. Have another writer read your work. It’s hard to be objective while you’re working so closely on them, so have someone you trust take a look.

Maybe there’s a better word or line break that will open new possibilities to the reader. You’ll never know until you sit down to take a second look at your poems. Hope that helps.

Keep those questions coming!


Alex, Ella, and I spent the weekend at Storyland, a fairy-tale amusement park in New Hampshire. This park is perfect for young kids. Couldn't have had a better time. It helped that I spent the weekend with really good friends, including the beautiful and talented Erin Dionne and family. The weather was perfect, with just enough parents and kids around so that this mom could catch her breath every now and then.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tiny Cool and Little Lady

Taking a mini-blogging break while I hang out with Tiny Cool and Little Lady. Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bits and Pieces

A shout out to Jennifer Jean’s intro creative writing class at Salem State College. I had the great pleasure of sitting in last night. I read from Underlife, and we talked a lot about my poems, poetry in general, and the book publishing industry. Very fun.


Results from my completely unscientific blog poll, Who Would You Like to See Become U.S. Poet Laureate Someday.

The top vote-getters:

Naomi Shihab Nye 31%
Mark Doty 17%
Nikki Giovanni 11%
Martin Espada/Li-Young Lee 8%
Elizabeth Alexander/Cornelius Eady/Gerald Stern 6%


Have you read Dan Nester’s series of articles "Behind the scenes at The Great Paris Review Poetry Purge of 2010"? Read what it’s like to be de-accepted from The Paris Review.


Hear audio of poet Jarita Davis on WOMR’s Poet’s Corner.


Aimee Nez is blogging at Ploughshares.


One word: Storyland!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Few Words on Wednesday

Last night’s writers workshop was a held on the second floor of a very old building with no air conditioning. It was a smaller group than usual, and I guess you could say I took the lead in leading the workshop. At the end of the evening I was all ready to share my "Misery Islands" poem but I pulled back. Just didn’t think it (or I) was ready. There are still some tweaks I’d like to make. Three of the eight sections of this poem could be tighter.

The hard part for me in working on "Misery" is putting aside the emotional parts and working in service of the poem. I’m getting there. More revisions to the poem today, then back to working on the larger manuscript.


For some reason, I planned four readings in eight days, two of which are in New York. Also in the mix is my daughter's 5th birthday. What was I thinking?


I’ve added some nifty sharing tools below. Feel free to spread the love.


My mini-list of things I’d like to do before summer ends:

  1. Go to a Red Sox game
  2. Eat lobster
  3. Go to lunch with an interesting person, someone new

What's left on your to-do list before summer ends?


Have you tried the new pretzel M&M’s? Delish!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. Time to confess a little something about yourself. You know you want to!

What things do you put off or avoid to feed your creative self?

Jennifer and I have been talking quite regularly about the impulse to create vs. balancing everything else. Does this sound familiar … you’re up late at night or early in the morning writing, revising, making lists, sending out poems, etc. Meanwhile, the household chores go undone. Grocery shopping waits. Bills will get paid tomorrow … all to finish a line or correct a stanza break. I don’t know how we find the time to write, but we do.

Why just this morning as I walked across my crumb-laden kitchen floor, I decided to forgo sweeping to finish this blog post.

Maybe we don’t honor our creative selves enough—or maybe we devote too much time to craft. I’m not sure, because writing is a joyful yet selfish act. I've certainly opted for cooking hot dogs instead of roast chicken for dinner just so I could speed up the nightly routine. The quicker I can get the kids to bed means a few more blessed moments jotting down the next poem.

Jennifer sent this poem by Louise Erdrich to me. Something to think about when deciding what to do with your time.

Advice to Myself

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic--decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

~Louise Erdrich

Monday, July 19, 2010

Over the Rainbow

I don't know what makes me happier, the four kids on top of this two-story playhouse, or the rainbow over their heads. A sign of things to come.


Time for a new to-do list.

  1. Finish the "Misery Islands" poem. The draft is almost there. Just some tweaking and more revision needed.
  2. Continue to revise manuscript. Will finish by July 30.
  3. Prep for speaking with a class at Salem State College this week.
  4. Website makeover
  5. New poem?
  6. Review two books by July 30. I'm way behind on reading and reviewing. Ugh.

I feel like I should be doing more but I don't think I can until next month.

Summer is kicking into high gear. I don't think I have a free weekend until the end of August. As busy as I am, I'm feeling incredibly grateful for the time with my kids and my best friends (you know who you are!).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Old Navy: A Love Story

July '10

November '09

June '09

April '09

Despicable Me

I have the day off today (gotta love the summer flex schedule), so the kids are I are going to see Despicable Me. We're all pretty psyched about it; although, I'm not crazy about paying $13 for a 3D movie ticket. Yikes! Higher ticket prices means we'll be going to the theater less and less.


Lazy weekend planned hanging out and visiting friends. This is more than "me" time, it's "we" time! All the kids play together while the adults relax and eat. The Summer of Fun continues.


I'm very close to finishing the "Misery Islands" poem. I want to finish it this weekend so I can bring it to my writers' workshop on Tuesday for review.


Here's a mini poetry roundup of blog posts by others that caught my attention this week:

* Diane Lockward talks about poetry book contests and poetry manuscripts
* Oliver de la Paz shares this thoughts on his long poem "Requiem for the Orchard"
* Copyblogger: "73 Ways to Become a Better Writer"
* And my favorite ... AWESOMESAUCE!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Revision Process for Manuscript #2

For what seems like months, I have been fretting over revising my second manuscript. With Underlife, I felt I had “lived” with many of the poem for a while. I was comfortable with the order, and only made minor tweaks down the line. This time around, the process seems accelerated—like speed dating!

I started putting together manuscript #2 in June 2009, and then last month I blew it up. I added more recent poems. During the first go-round, I left out poems to avoid certain painful topics. But just like life, I can’t leave anything out. By leaving out poems about divorce, the first version seemed as if it was missing something. Then there was the "Misery Islands" long poem—I must have started it in September '09. It was ambitious, beginning with great sound and fury. At some point, backed away from it. Maybe I was too close to the breakup to really work on it.

So last month, I dove into these projects in earnest. (All those times I said I was working on the long poem or the manuscript—I wasn’t. Not really. Not like this.)

If you know nothing else about me, you know I am goal oriented. When Jennifer Jean and I decided to go on our writer’s retreat, I put a stake in the ground with a deadline. I started what is now the working copy of the manuscript.

Here are a few bullet points about my process, because I’m tired of paragraphs:

  • This iteration has 55 poems/ 63 pages. That’s trimmed down from 77 poems/85 pages.
  • I laid out all 77 poems on the floor and took out poems I didn’t want to include.
  • Because I write about the same themes from different angles, I chose the best poem(s) on similar topic for inclusion.
  • I’ll keep the others for future projects.
  • On the second pass, I put them in their current order.
  • I have two out of eight sections of the "Misery Islands" poem to finish.
  • One-third of the poems, including "Misery," needs revision.
  • No title for collection #2 as of yet.

Jennifer was my first reviewer. I needed her input to let me know if I was on the right track. I’ll take the next few weeks to rework then revise. They I’ll send it out for review to six or seven poets for the second round in August. Getting multiple critiques helped me immensely the first time around. I take the feedback that makes the most sense to incorporate into the next round. And then, I’ll pass it to a smaller group for feedback. This group will be a broader group of writers and non-writers. You know … readers! Finally, I hope, it will be ready to submit. No firm timelines here but I’d like to have it ready by October for submission.

There are no guarantees the second time around. I just hope the second collection conveys growth, and a certain strength of character. Don’t know why that’s important, but it is. And, I'm happy with the quality of work, and the depth and range of subject matter.

If you’re working on a manuscript, what is your process like? Do you have multiple readers before submission or do you go it along? How’s that working for you?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Video Poems by Kevin Carey, January O'Neil, and Colleen Michaels

Yes, we are very serious about poetry North of Boston.

You've seen "How to Make a Crab Cake." Now watch "Revere Beach Again" by filmmaker Kevin Carey and "Salty Even on Fresh Water" by Colleen Michaels.

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. You know the drill.

This is my new piano!

As a child, I took piano lessons, but my parents never owned one. So I practiced with an electric keyboard, which was not the same as using the full 88 keys. Ever since, owning a piano has been on my life list of things to have, along with a Wurlitzer jukebox and a pool table.

I’m not sure what surprised me more—that a used piano was available and I could have it for free, Or that the person who found the piano was none other than my ex-husband.

Damn. I was surprised by this kindness.

Well, the kids have been banging away at it. It’s in great shape. Now, I need to find a place to put it in my house, which may mean it's time to redecorate. Today, I am off to find sheet music and basic how-to info to re-learn the piano.


This experience is begging for a poem to be written.


Still recovering from the weekend writer’s retreat. It was exhausting to think about poetry that intensely, but the good energy created from the experience will carry me through the rest of the week.


I mentioned that over the weekend I played pool for the first time in years. I learned how to play in college as an undergrad, and perfected my game when I should have been studying (And I have the grades to prove it!). There was a time when I considered getting my own pool stick.

I’m going to look for a cheap place to play pool and practice on a regular basis.


Seems as if my passion for poetry, pool, and piano were rekindled—all in one weekend. Go figure.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Magic 106.7 Interview with January Gill O'Neil and Erin Dionne

January Gill O'Neil and Erin Dionne on Magic 106.7's Boston Life from January O'Neil on Vimeo.

Here's the July 4 interview with Erin Dionne, host Gay Vernon, and me on Magic 106.7's program Boston Life. (It runs about 28 minutes.)

Special thanks to Gay Vernon for taking the time to speak with us, and for making us sound great!

Mark Strand

Jennifer and I spent most of Sunday morning and afternoon picking apart our manuscripts. Can't tell you how helpful it was to sit with her and talk about the individual poems as well as the collection as a whole.

Later in the afternoon, we went to the Longfellow House in Cambridge, MA, to hear Mark Strand read with the New England Poetry Club as the recipient of their Golden Rose Award for lifetime achievement.

More than 120 people came to hear Strand read on the lawn on a very warm July afternoon. He read a few older pieces but quite a few new, unpublished prose poems. When talking about his newer work, he quipped, "When you get older, it makes less sense to beat your head against a tiny, little poem." But we could tell he was testing these poems with the crowd, and finding patterns he didn't realize existed until reading them aloud.

Strand is still handsome, still as charming as I have always thought him to be. This was the first time I had met him, and he said, "Nice to meet you. You are the first January I have met." (I get that a lot!)

Hearing Mark Strand's words was the perfect way to end our writing weekend. I will write the revision process in a separate post.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Morning Garden

Jennifer and I are staying at Morning Garden, which, from what I can determine, is an off-the-grid hostel for large groups. Most of the rooms are dormitory style. Since no one is here this weekend, we’re spread out over two rooms with eight beds in each room.

This private estate was built in 1846, and overlooks Freshwater Cove in Gloucester, MA. Believe it or not, vacationers from Boston used to arrive here by stagecoach!

The interior is stuck in the 1960s, but the rooms are spacious and comfortable. The interior shots don’t look that great because of all the dark paneling. Just keep looking at outside photos …. Amazing!

Yesterday, we reviewed my great manuscript and today, her project is up for discussion. I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated the one-on-one feedback with a trusted friend and poet.

It rained yesterday afternoon, which became the background noise to our lively poetry conversations. We talked about the revision process, shared poetry books, and took notes on where to submit our work. And yes, there was lots of food all day.

To my great surprise, Morning Gardens has a rec room. Here's a shot of me playing pool! By the end of the day, my head was so full of poetry I had a headache, so it was nice to unwind with a game of 9-ball!

We're going to a local coffee shop to finish our manuscript discussion and to write. I'll have more to say on the revision process, as well as give a recap from the Mark Strand reading, later today.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Weekend Retreat

This is where I'm going. Haven't been on the inside yet, but the outside is spectacular and overlooks the ocean.

So, Jennifer Jean and I are heading up to Gloucester for a mini-writer's retreat. We're going to pack as much work and fun (read: food) into the weekend as humanly possible. She found this wonderful place to stay for super-cheap!

The plan is to go early and fill the time with writing, revision, planning for the future, and food. We're both working on manuscripts and other projects that require more focus than we can give at home. If the weather holds--or even if it doesn't--it should be great fun.


Did I mention the food?


On Sunday, we'll end the weekend with a poetry reading:

Mark Strand
July 11, 4 p.m.
Longfellow National Historic Site, 105 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA
The New England Poetry club presents this year's award to Mark Strand, former U.S. Poet Laureate (1990) and Pulitzer Prize winner (1999) for his collection Blizzard of One. Book sales and signing. Free and open to the public.

Strand's poem, "Keeping Things Whole," has been a touchstone for me most of my poetic life, especially during the past year. I'm excited to hear him read.


This week has been extremely productive; I couldn't be happier. There's something about summer that revitalizes me creatively and physically. And, I've been able to spend time with the kids and get things done, which doesn't always happen.

Weekend photos and updates to come!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

What Makes a Poet an Academic Poet?

This came up at my Tuesday night workshop. What qualities make a poet an academic poet? Is it writing in a certain style, form vs. free verse? Does it refer to the use of obscure (or obtuse) language and references? If the poet writes in an accessible style, can he/she still be considered an academic poet?

If a poet also teaches, does that make him/her an academic poet? Does that make him/her part of “the system?” Does having tenure make a difference? Or am I talking about two different things, teaching vs. writing? What if you went to college and studied poetry. Does that give you entry into that club?

When I hear people say he/she is an academic poet, it carries a negative connotation, as if academics write for a small, exclusive group of like-minded poets. Why is that? I mean, that's always been my understanding going back more than 20 years.

What is wrong with being an academic poet? Or, put another way, are "academic poets" keeping poetry alive or are they driving readers away from poetry?

Thoughts? I'm especially interested in hearing from poets who consider themselves academic poets.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Review of Underlife

Sandy Longhorn was kind enough to write a review of Underlife. Here's an excerpt.

" ... O'Neil celebrates here all that factors into being a daughter, then a wife, and finally a mother. While these are poems of domesticity, they are not overly sentimental, and they always pack a punch. There is wisdom here and a sense that the speaker has earned that wisdom through a life well-lived."

Check out the full review at Sandy's blog, Myself the only Kangaroo among the Beauty. (Great title, BTW.)

Thanks Sandy!

Confession Tuesday

If it’s Tuesday, it’s time for confessions. Share a little of yourself and we promise to do the same. Feel free to post your confessions on your blog and let me know so I can swing by for a visit. Don't forget to visit those sinners doin’ time in The Confessional (see sidebar).

Yesterday, I bought a copy of People magazine. Very out of character for me. I bought it because of this quote from Cate Edwards, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Edwards. The Edwards’ very public break-up has been well documented in recent months.

Cate writes about the life lessons that her mom continually teaches through actions, such as:

“ … how to continue to live on your own terms when it somehow becomes savaged by people you never invited into it.”

That line really resonates with me. Post-divorce, life is about how to live with the poor choices of others, minimize the damage for the people I love, and find joy again. What I hope I am doing, day by day, is teaching my kids how to go on after someone hurts you deeply. It’s not easy and I don’t always make the best choices. But life does go on. At times, it can even be sweet.


Speaking of sweet, I had a great Fourth of July weekend with the kids. Lots of time spent with friends, making this Independence Day extra special. My son said it was the best holiday ever, which is high praise from a boy counting down the days until Christmas. Fireworks help.


Monday was an extremely satisfying day working with my manuscript—I completely dismantled it!

I decided to add more recent poems. So right now it’s about 84 pages, which I will cut back as I continue to revise. Hard to explain, but by opening it up, I was able to see the collection in a different light. And for the first time, I can see how my long poem, "Misery Islands," fits into the structure. It was a breakthrough day for m’script # 2.


I’m almost done with Misery. And, I finished my BP oil spill poem (a pantoum) in time for tonight's writing workshop. Whew! I haven't worked that hard to revise a poem in months. And that is why I am not a formalist.


This weekend, I’m going on a mini-writer’s retreat. I’ve been pushing myself to have a good working copy of my manuscript so I can work on it this weekend. Looks like I will get there. Woo hoo! More on the retreat to come.


Are you currently revising a long poem or manuscript? If so, tell me about your process.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

A Day So Happy


A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

~Czeslaw Milosz

Friday, July 02, 2010

Boston Life

While you’re up this Sunday at 7 a.m. making your Independence Day potato salad, tune into Magic 106.7. I taped a segment with friend and fellow author Erin Dionne about the writing life. It airs on the show Boston Life at 7 a.m., July 4. Here’s a pic of Erin (seated) with our host Gay Vernon.

If you miss the broadcast, don’t fret! I will post the full show here in a week or so. *And, you can pick up Magic 106.7 through iTunes radio under Adult Contemporary* Cool!


This is my favorite time of day. I lay in bed listening to the fan push the air across the room. Makes me think I should write a poem about it. But then I pick up my laptop and start writing a blog post about air. Oh well.


No big plans this weekend, except for fireworks and lots of kid time. Maybe a beach trip and a cookout. I haven’t taken any pictures lately so I’ll be sure to have the camera with me during the next few days.


On the poetry front, I’m working on a new poem, revising old stuff, and shaping manuscript #2. Also, I have to check out the new submission software I downloaded from iTunes. Full report to come.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

W.S. Merwin to Be Named U.S. Poet Laureate

William S. Merwin has been named our next Poet Laureate.

Merwin is a fine poet and craftsman. I was reading a line from a New York Times article that said, "At 18, he sought out the advice of Ezra Pound, who told him to write 75 lines every day. Pound also suggested taking up poetry translation to learn what could be done with language — advice that Mr. Merwin followed." Can you imagine writing 75 lines a day? That's determination.

I wonder what Merwin will bring to the position.

That same article goes on to quote James Billington, the librarian of Congress, who is "confident that Mr. Merwin can broaden the audience for poetry through technology ... ." Really? This from a man who has never typed a poem on a computer (which is implied later in the article).

Personally, I want the person selected as poet laureate to do something with the position. It’s not required that he/she advance or promote poetry, but the service aspect of the laureateship has become more prominent with our more recent laureates.

From the LOC's website:

Each Laureate brings a different emphasis to the position. Joseph Brodsky initiated the idea of providing poetry in airports, supermarkets and hotel rooms. Maxine Kumin started a popular series of poetry workshops for women at the Library of Congress. Gwendolyn Brooks met with elementary school students to encourage them to write poetry. Rita Dove brought together writers to explore the African diaspora through the eyes of its artists. She also championed children's poetry and jazz with poetry events. Robert Hass organized the "Watershed" conference that brought together noted novelists, poets and storytellers to talk about writing, nature and community.

It is my deepest hope that Merwin uses the position somehow for the betterment of poetry rather than see it as just another accolade.

What to you think of the appointment of W.S. Merwin as U.S. Poet Laureate?


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