Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mid-Week Round-Up

I spent some time last night with a friend trying to figure out how best to write a grant proposal to fund an upcoming poetry project. The mid-October deadline has put us into high gear. We're trying to find the right balance of attracting the local university community, while increasing our connections with the surrounding artist community. We have to show a benefit--direct or indirect--to the city. Without going into details, the project has a wide scope, so narrowing the focus and being as specific as possible might be the way to go.


Dear Poetry Foundation, please tell me why there are so few poets of color in your Essential American Poets audio segments. Please tell me Donald Hall had more of a selection to choose from than this. I subscribe to this podcast, among others of yours, and the lack of inclusion of a diverse body of writers is shameful.


Ten Rules for Changing the Game,” by Thomas Sayers Ellis.


Six Questions with Carl Phillips, the new judge of the Yale Series of Younger Poets, is up at Post No Ills.


The VQR Story continues.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Confession Tuesday

Welcome to Confession Tuesday, folks. Time to fess up! Share a little of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.

I started to update the Blogger template for the Poet Mom blog, but I found myself getting anxious looking through the new designs. I can appreciate change, but I really like the dots. I did, however, figure out how to create pages in Blogger (but don't bother clicking on them yet, still working on content). Baby steps!


Even though the blog makeover has been on my to-do list, I have used it as an excuse not to work on my manuscript or apply for a fellowship due at the end of the week. Procrastination? Table for one.


Revising a manuscript is like getting a deep tissue massage: it hurts like hell, but you feel better for it in a few days. Hmmm ... at this point I would prefer (and would appreciate) a deep tissue massage.

I'm into the nitty gritty: tweaking individual poems, making slight adjustments to the order, and creating the front and end matter. The Misery Islands poem still needs some attention. But right now the manuscript stands at 50 poems. My hope is to finish it up this week, and then send to a few more poets for review. The goal: to finish manuscript #2 by November 1.


After this week is over, I'll be able to devote myself to writing poems again. I miss writing and posting my drafts on the blog. Heck, I miss writing for the sake of writing. Hope to get back to that very soon. Sleep--that's on my list, too.


As I read this, I realize how focused I've been. But I also feel very overwhelmed--in a good way--by the amount of work I need to do. At the same time, I've never been happier.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Howl: The Review

After the kids went to bed, I saw the movie Howl On Demand.

Based on the trailer, I wanted to like it more. James Franco does a great job matching the cadence and mannerisms of Allen Ginsberg. The movie, however, lacked a real plot. There are three stories: scenes of Ginsberg talking about "Howl," the obscenity court trial, and the animated segments of the poem. None of the three was worth the hour and 24 minutes I can't get back.

It would have been more interesting to do a deep dive into Ginsberg's life and lifestyle around the time "Howl" was written. The film heavily relies on animation to drive the story. But by the end, it felt as if the producers ran out of money to make the film they wanted and gave us this. I found the mix of animation and plot annoying, and when Howl ended my reaction was: So what?

I paid $6.99 to see the movie at home. Had I spent money for a sitter and $10 to watch it in a theater, I would have been livid.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm Going to Miami!

Ella wakes up at 3 a.m. I wake up at 3 a.m. Ella climbs into bed with me, falls asleep at 4:30. I'm still awake. I'm dead on my feet. Happy Friday!


The Dodge Poetry Festival is less than two weeks away. (Where has the time gone?) Just bought tickets and booked my hotel room. Are you attending this year?


Yesterday, I got a rejection from a journal. Oh well. Time so submit those poems someplace else. Very nice note with the rejection inviting me to submit again in the spring.


I had an early morning meeting with a friend to talk about my manuscript. More tweaking needed before it's ready to send out. Revision is just not my strong suit, a necessary evil--emphasis on the word evil!

Then, I went to a meeting with the Mass Poetry Festival folks. Working on plans for the 2011 event. If you haven't already, check out this year's poetry events!


Last but not least, I was just invited to read at the Miami International Book Fair!! Miami in November? Oh yeah, I'm so there.

So, let me leave you with this oldie but goodie, Big Willie style!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

October Mass Poetry Events

October will be a poetry-packed month in Massachusetts! Take a look at these upcoming Massachusetts Poetry Festival events:

The poetry events at the Boston Book Festival. On the evening of October 14th, there will be a Poetry Slam at Berkeley College with two teams from NYC taking on two teams from Massachusetts. Then on Saturday, October 16th we have arranged for two readings. One will feature Ed Hirsch, Elizabeth Alexander and Ellen Dore Watson. The second will feature Kevin Young, Meg Kearney and Jill McDonough. There will also be poetry workshops by UMass Boston, Grub Street and PoemWorks.

The Kerouac Festival, September 30 to Oct 3. There will be both prose and poetry over the course of the Festival.

North Shore
Salem Athenaeum, Sunday October 3rd, 2-4 p.m. Poets from Salem and Newburyport will read, including David Berman, Jennifer Jean, Claire Keyes, Len Krisak, Jean Monahan, J.D. Scrimgeour, Deborah Warren, and Anton Yakovlev. Hosted by yours truly.

Olson Centennial Celebration, October 8-10. Many events, including poetry, dance and music.

Cape Cod
Cape Cod Festival, October 16—with writing workshops, a session on Yeats with Dan Tobin, a book fair, and a keynote reading by Susan Donnelly and Aafa Michael Weaver – all at Unitarian Church of Barnstable (Route 6A, Barnstable Village, near the intersection of Phinney’s Lane)

New Bedford
Favorite Poem Readings, October 17. At the New Bedford Whaling Museum , 2-5 p.m.

Veterans Medical Center, Veterans Poetry Workshops, October 19 and 26.

Frost Festival, Lawrence Library, October 23. Poetry reading with George Kalogeris, David Ferry, and Megan Grumbling.

The Concord Poetry Center and Concord Festival of Authors. Poetry readings, Friday evening, October 29, at Concord Academy with Joan Houlihan, Cammy Thomas, and Daniel Tobin; and Sunday, at the Emerson Umbrella with Ellen Doré Watson, Jim Schley, Doug Holder and Lawrence Kessenich.

Perugia Press Winners, Jones Library—Readings by Carol Edelstein, Jennifer K. Sweeney, and Melody S. Gee.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Managing the Creative Struggle

The comment I hear most from readers of this blog is “How do you get so much done?”, or some derivation of that.

The short answer: I don’t sleep much. It’s 5 a.m., and I’ve been up for a while plotting the creative part of my day: blog post, manuscript revisions, free write, etc. But the truth is my quality of life would suffer without creative outlets. So beyond work and family life, this is where I put my energies.

My son draws the most fantastic crayon drawings of superheroes without giving it a second thought. He doesn’t “plan” anything. For me, however, I have to make time to be creative. The struggle comes in when I push away the must-do items for writing and revising.

So for anyone struggling to make space for creativity, I offer these simple tips:

  1. Define your goals. At the end of your creative period, what should be the outcome? A first draft? A plot outline? Hard to know where you’re going if you don’t define what you want.

  2. Don't let yourself off the hook. The dishes in the sink and unpaid bills will still be there after you write. Don’t get derailed. Honor this time and use it wisely.

  3. Change your playlist. How many of us have that old favorite, “I’m no good at this” playing in our heads? Time to hit “shuffle” and move on to more positive messages about our projects, don't you think?

  4. Surround yourself with like-minded people. This is where community comes in. Check in with other writers and artists about their projects. You’ll find you’re not so alone in the struggle, and they’ll offer the encouragement you need to keep going.

  5. Allow for spontaneity. Here's the real challenge. Be open to being creative when you least expect it.

Making time for creativity is not an indulgence, it’s a necessity.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In Verse: Women of Troy

In Verse is a multi-media project that combines poetry, photography and audio footage to create "documentary poems" for radio, the web, print and iPhone. This installment of features poet Susan B. A. Somers-Willett and photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally as they document the lives of working mothers in Troy, New York.

Confession Tuesday

It’s the last Confession Tuesday of the summer (*big sigh*). Time to share a bit of yourself with us, and we promise to do the same. Everybody’s doing it. You know you want to. How’s that for peer pressure?!

I have been gushing about the Salem Lit Fest, but I can’t put my finger on why exactly. Maybe I needed the lift that comes from not working and not having the kids to watch. I loved being surrounded by my community—literally: my neighbors and my writing community. It was the energy boost I was craving but didn't know it at the time.


I’m trying to ride this feeling as long as I can. So far, so good.


The 2011 Massachusetts Poetry Festival--all will be revealed in due time. (HA! How's that for a teaser.)


I’m really bad at remembering names and faces, especially with people I meet at readings and events. Unless we’ve been trapped in an elevator for six hours, I probably know your face but can’t place the name. Don’t take it personally. I’m working on it.


For those who know my fondness for writing at Starbucks, did you know I don’t drink coffee? I think it’s kinda gross, actually. I’m a huge tea drinker.

When I’m there, I drink hot chocolate, even in the summer. And now, it’s a mental trigger to go to my local Starbucks, snag a table, order a grande (or a venti if I’m staying for longer than an hour), and get to work. The baristas know me and prep my order before I reach the counter. I may give them a shout out in my next book.


Speaking of shout outs, a virtual round of applause two of my favorite poets with new books: Jim Brock’s Gods & Money, and Kelli Russell Agodon’s Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room. Go and tell them how fabulous they are! Hugs to both!


It’s just before 5 a.m., so after I post this I will take the next hour to compile first-round edits from folks reading manuscript #2. Extremely favorable comments overall. I’m still struggling a little with the order in the first section, and I need to take out a few poems because it’s a bit long. But I’ve very happy with its progress.

Next steps: revise and send to a few more readers. Then compile, review, and send out. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Hoping to send out my collection in a month or so. Still no title yet.


It's your turn. Fess up!

Monday, September 20, 2010


Thanks for the link, Jennifer.

Here's the Emily Dickinson poem, "Some keep the Sabbath going to Church"

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church --
I keep it, staying at Home --
With a Bobolink for a Chorister --
And an Orchard, for a Dome --

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice --
I just wear my Wings --
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton -- sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman --
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last --
I'm going, all along.

Steve Almond

I don't think there's a genre that Steve Almond hasn't attempted. He calls himself a failed poet but I know better. At the Quick Fiction: Utter Amazement event, he was utterly amazing, which was hard to do at the noisy venue. He read his from his piece in Quick Fiction, as well as his self-published title This Won't Take but a Minute, Honey. If you haven't read Steve's work in The Rumpus, go do that now ... then come back here.

I had a chance to pick up his second self-published title, Letters from People Who Hate Me, a slimmer-than-slim volume of really vicious rants directed toward Steve, and his witty, sardonic responses. Well worth the $5 for this gem.

I've known Steve for a while now from traveling in the same Boston literary circles. (Don't think he remembers we had dinner together once in Cambridge, before My Life in Heavy Metal was published.) So anytime I hear him read, whatever he's reading, I know it's going to be good.

(And yes, Steve, we can still game this place!)

Members of the Salem Writers Group

L-R first row: Vanessa Ramos, Kevin Carey, Claire Keyes, me, Dawn Paul. Second row: J.D. Scrimgeour, Jennifer Jean, Colleen Michaels.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Salem Lit Fest Recap

The Salem Lit Fest ROCKED!

On Saturday, Erin Dionne and Kat Black gave an excellent talk on the writer's life at Cornerstone Books. They talked about their efforts to write and market for the young adult audience. They've been able to use social media to reach different market segments, from librarians to book groups. It was fascinating to hear how they keep projects moving while working full time and maintaining a family life. Lots to relate to in this talk.

Later in the afternoon, I made it to the Quick Fiction: Utter Amazement session. It lived up to its name--a rapid fire pace of story after story after story. Unfortunately, the Gulu-Gulu Cafe was incredibly loud with the restaurant sounds and a screen door in need of WD-40. Still, all of the writers gave us samples of some of the best short fiction being published today. I especially enjoyed Steve Almond's reading (more on Steve in a separate post), and William Walsh's story "Stephen King." Go visit Quick Fiction online and experience the awesomeness (that's right, I said awesomeness!).

And now, I must sing the praises of friend and poet Jennifer Jean. She planned not one, not two, but three poetry events--all of which had packed houses.

The first was an event at Cornerstone Books called Thursday on Saturday, the weekend version of Jennifer's series Thursday Theatre of Words and Music. She and co-founder Laurette Folk welcomed Fishwives Music, based on Jennifer's Fishwives Tales poems; Jack Scully, who read poems by the late Mike Amado; and I stepped in to read for poet Mignon Ariel King, who was unable to attend. After a break, there was an open mic filled with very emotional, well-crafted works. I left Cornerstone's feeling satisfied.

If the fest had ended there, I would have been happy. But, Sunday's events took it to another level.

Admittedly, I had low expectations for Sunday's attendance. I mean, who comes out Sunday at 10 a.m. to hear poetry? But I was wrong, thank goodness. How can you go wrong with members of the Salem Writers Group: Kevin Carey, Claire Keyes, Colleen Michaels, me, Dawn Paul, and Vanessa Ramos. We are The Dream Team ... well ... at least in my dreams.

In The Life of the Poem, each of us discussed how one of our poems made it to publication. The nice part was that there was a loose definition of "published." We told stories about how our drafts were conceived, revised, and given life as video, art instillation, contest winner, and published in print and online. I learned things in this session I didn't know about my fellow poets. Very cool.

Event #2 was Poets in the Round. Wish I had recorded the event. After one poet read, the next person read a piece related to the previous poem. We make tenuous connections that seemed to somehow flow seamlessly. I found myself reading sex poems at 10:30 a.m.--go figure. It's not easy reading unplanned poems but it worked. Remarkably, it worked.

Even if it was just us reading for 2.5 hours, I knew it would be fun. We just went with it, and that made all the difference.

I'm exhausted, yet filled with an indescribable feeling from this weekend. The 2010 Salem Lit Fest was a great success. And it lays the groundwork for all the amazing poetry events coming up: Dodge, the Mass Poetry Festival at the Boston Book Fest, AWP DC, and the 2011 Mass Poetry Festival.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Update from the Salem Lit Fest

If last night's crowd is any indication of turnout for the Salem Lit Fest, then the weekend will be a sellout!

Here's a photo of Salem's own Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader, our emcee for the lit fest's opening event. There was a reading from the winner of a lit fest-sponsored writing contest, and a reading by Lily King, author of Father of the Rain. Lovely woman. She shared her process--bought her journals to show off her handwritten draft. And she read from chapter four of "Father." Wish I had snapped a picture but forgot to ask. I won't make that mistake today.

I'm stepping in tonight at the Thursday on Saturday poetry reading for the fabulous Mignon Ariel King, who is unable to attend. Hope everything's OK, Mignon.


Just finished my Guggenheim fellowship application!! Yea! It's out of my hands. Probably bad form to make my intentions so public but I just feel such overwhelming relief I just have to share. No guarantees. But it's out in the world now. Whew!


I'm out like a scout, off to catch Erin Dionne's presentation with Kat Black on Writing as a Career Choice. Should be a good one.


I'm wicked late. Forgive the typos.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Back to School

On Tuesday, I had the chance to speak with Jacqueline Jones LaMon’s MFA students at Adelphi University. We sat around a big conference table and talked about Underlife and poetry in general. The whole experience reminded me of my workshop days at NYU, sitting around a table exchanging poems and offering critiques. Ahh, memories ...

The grad students asked terrific questions, everything from how the poems were arranged in the book to being truthful in poems. They kept me on my toes, stumped me a few times, but it was great fun reading and discussing my work with such an engaged group.

Wish I had taken a picture of the class for the blog. Drat!


My advice to the students, besides keep writing no matter what, was to participate in the poetry community. I encouraged them to go to readings, support each other when they read publicly, buy books, organize or volunteer at a literary event, subscribe to literary publications, etc. This is how poetry grows and thrives.


Don’t forget the Salem Lit Fest is happening this weekend. There’s a kickoff event tonight at Cornerstone Books. Hope to see you there!


Still working on a fellowship application. This is the last day to turn it in. Nothing like procrastination as a motivating factor. *sigh*


Happy Friday, folks!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Poets in the Round

(L-R, Jennifer Jean, Claire Keyes, Colleen Michaels, Kevin Carey, J.D. Scrimgeour, and Dawn Paul--Members of the Salem Writers Group.)

This is a photo from our rehearsal for the Life of the Poem and Poets in the Round sessions at this weekend's Salem Lit Festival. If last night was any indication, our sessions will be a spontaneous mix of craft, poetry, insights, and laughter. Thanks again to Jennifer for planning the events.


Today I'm driving down to Adelphi University to speak with students. Can't think of a better way to spend this day.


Feeling very grateful today for my two wonderful children. My day begins and ends with them. They are my silver linings. My happy noodles.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

For Colored Girls - Official Trailer (2010)

Thanks, Tayari, for the heads up.

"For Colored Girls" brings to the screen Ntozake Shange's Obie Award-winning play, a poetic exploration of what is to be of color and a female in this world.

Confession Tuesday

It's Tuesday, my friends! Time to confess. Tell us what's on your mind and we promise to do the same.

Tomorrow would have been my 9th wedding anniversary. I’m in a much better place than I was last year. And I was smart enough to schedule a reading at Adelphi University in Garden City, NY, so I will be thoroughly distracted by something that brings me pure joy—speaking in front of students. My thanks to Jacqueline Jones LaMon for inviting me to the program (and for looking out for me).


Have you ever read poems in front of your coworkers? Yesterday, I read two poems from Underlife at our employee “town meeting.” I was the last person on stage—that’s right, the only person keeping 300 people from the refreshments in the lobby. The reading went well, but it’s weird reading my poems in front of people I see five days a week. Much easier to read in front of strangers.


This weekend, I’m all over the Salem Lit Fest. I’m excited to attend many of the events during the festival, as well as be a participant. Special thanks to Jennifer Jean for setting up our poetry panel (Life of a Poem) and reading (Poets in the Round), also for hosting us tonight at her house for a rehearsal. When our little group gets together, mayhem ensues.


Last year: famine. This year: feast!

To-do list:

  • Finish one of the two fellowship applications I’m applying for (Ugh).
  • Write two poems
  • Submit poems to two publications
  • Revise Misery Islands long poem/Tinker with second manuscript
  • Update blog (read: makeover)


If you're on Twitter, let's get "poetry" to trend today. Use the hashtag #poettues, which is Robert Lee Brewer's tag for his Poetry Tuesday convesations. Heck, if "Oompa Loompa" can trend, let's give poetry a shot.


Life is good. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Poetry Shines at the Boston Book Festival

Here's a brief rundown of the poetry events at the Boston Book Festival, October 16. See the full listing:
Poetry Shines at the Boston Book Festival

Saturday readings and workshops

First reading:
*Kevin Young
*Meg Kearney
*Jill McDonough

Second reading:
*Elizabeth Alexander
*Edward Hirsch
*Ellen Doré Watson

*Grub Street: poem generator workshop
*PoemWorks: free writing exercise
*UMass Boston's MFA program: poetry workshop and café for teens

Major and Me

Wasn’t sure what to expect from Major Jackson. In all these years, our paths have never crossed, even though we are Cave Canem fellows. And after the article in P&W magazine, I was a bit intimidated. Holding Company, his latest collection, is a definite contrast from his previous collections Leaving Saturn and Hoops. I enjoyed hearing him read poems from his new book; his 10-line structured poems are some of his most personal poems to date.

For me, it was interesting to hear an established poet get a feel for new poems vs. older work. When Major read, it was as if he was looking for the natural rhythm that comes so easily to his earlier work. It will come. Yet, there was a certain vulnerability in how he read those poems, something beyond rhythm. I could hear it in his voice. I think we forget sometimes how difficult it is to put ourselves out there in our work, and then reveal our most personal feelings in a public setting. He certainly seemed more comfortable reading from his previous two books, which he has practically memorized. But from my perspective, I enjoyed hearing the formal poems as much as his earlier ones.

After the reading, a few of us went to a restaurant around the corner, which is where the photo was taken. It was nice having a few minutes to chat about mutual friends, MFA programs, and upcoming readings. Admittedly, I was charmed. And, my uncertainty about what to expect from Major easily melted away. He was just as nice and generous as he could be.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Salem Literary Festival

Next weekend, September 17-19, the Salem Literature Festival is taking over Salem, Massachusetts!

Here are a few events to check out (read: these are the ones I'm attending/participating in):

Saturday, September 18

1 p.m. Erin Dionne and Kat Black: Writing as a Career Choice
Cornerstone Books
Middle-grade authors Erin Dionne (THE TOTAL TRAGEDY OF A GIRL NAMED HAMLET, Dial press, January 2010, ISBN 0803732988, $16.99) and Kat Black ( A TEMPLAR’S APPRENTICE – THE BOOK OF TORMOD, Scholastic Press, February 2009, ISBN 9780545056540, $17.99) will read from their books and will discuss writing as a career choice. This event is geared primarily toward the young adult, but all are welcome.

5 p.m. Quick Fiction’s Utter Amazement
Gulu-Gulu Cafe

Meet us at Gulu-Gulu's for a phenomenal line-up of readers whose work has appeared in the literary journal Quick Fiction, including Steve Almond, Brian Evenson, Kim Chinquee, Myfanwy Collins, Michael Thurston, and William Walsh. We don’t even know what to expect, other than a whole lot of utter amazement.

7 p.m. Thursday on Saturday: Thursday’s Theatre of Words & Music
Cornerstone Books

Thursday’s Theatre of Words & Music presents an evening of poetry and music celebrating the creative process. Featuring poets Mignon Ariel King and Jack Scully. Also, musician/composer Sarah Eide and poet Jennifer Jean will perform their collaboration of genre defying musical works, based on Jennifer Jean’s powerful and moving Fishwife Tales. Open mic to follow features.

Sunday, September 19

10 a.m. Life of a Poem
Salem Athenaeum

How does a poet go from inspiration to publication? How is a fully realized poem created? And, does a the best poetry appear whole and in an instant, or does it gestate in parts for years? A panel of poets will read one of their published poems and discuss the unique process of its creation; the panel discussion will be followed by a Q & A, and poetry writing prompts. Poets include: Kevin Carey, Claire Keyes, Colleen Michaels, January O’Neil, Dawn Paul, and Vanessa Ramos. Hosted by Salem poet Jennifer Jean.

11:30 a.m. North Shore Poets in the Round
Salem Athenaeum

Poets of the North Shore will take turns reading one poem each in response to the previous reader; this will be an exciting, lickity-split-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style reading! Poets include: Kevin Carey, Claire Keyes, Colleen Michaels, January O’Neil, Dawn Paul, and Vanessa Ramos. Hosted by Salem poet Jennifer Jean.

4 p.m. Poetry Reading
Gulu-Gulu Cafe

David Blair, William Delman, Jill McDonough, and David Rivard read from their poetry at one of Salem’s hottest gathering places. Come for the top-notch poetry, and stay to raise a toast to SLF 2011!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mission Possible

I’m DYING to give you the scoop on the 2011 Massachusetts Poetry Festival. I have the date. I have the location. We’re almost there. If I told you now, however, I’d have to kill you.


A few nights ago, I spent the evening with poet Colleen Michaels as we sat down to go over my second manuscript. She brought chocolates and bread, and I supplied the Prosecco. It was a great exercise to talk through my poems after receiving other valuable comments from friends via e-mail.

I'm having trouble with the first section. Do I make a bold statement, or start with a gradual progression? Also, the Misery Islands poem, which is in the third section, is almost there. Just needs some tightening up. I've enjoyed the process of assembling this manuscript because I've learned a lot about myself and how I organize a collection.


I submitted poems to three publications this week. Woo hoo! I love this in-between time because I haven’t been rejected yet. Anything can happen. Yes, The New Yorker could take my poems. Hell, anything’s possible. Remember, I believe in aiming high. *smile*

Still working on fellowship applications.


Most people balk at procrastination, but I embrace that side of myself. It helps me prioritize and focus what needs to be done in the moment. If I have too much time, I tend to waste it.


I’m challenging myself to write a new poem today at some point during my hair appointment, child’s birthday party, or kids’ sleepover tonight. Life is nothing without its challenges.

On Sunday, I’m going to hear Major Jackson read at the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge. He attended the Cave Canem retreat in its first year—I was there in its second year. Not sure if our paths ever crossed but it will be nice to hear his new work.


What are your plans this weekend?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Time Is on My Side

5 a.m. I should be writing a poem but blogging in the mornings is much easier for me. I hear the kids in the next room starting to stir. I have a strict rule that they can't get up before 6 a.m.--they're usually pretty good about playing together or, at least, leaving mommy alone until six-zero-zero.

(I spoke too soon. Here comes Ella. Ella: "Mommy, can I come in your room yet?" Me: "No, sweetie. Not until six-zero-zero.")


For the next few days, I'm applying for two big fellowships. You probably know what they are but I'm afraid to jinx myself so they will remain nameless. A friend of mind says that money buys time--I'm hoping that's the case. It would be nice to devote larger chunks of time to writing. I'm usually up late at night or early in the morning working on something poetry related. But having more time would allow fewer distractions and allow me to conduct research, which my next project absolutely requires.

(Ella from her bed, "I want time to move faster!" Me: "six-zero-zero!")

If I don't receive a fellowship, nothing changes. I continue to do what I do and look for ways to gain an extra hour here and there, maybe use a babysitter with more frequency. But money also buys choice; I'm ready have a few more choices when it comes to how I spend my time.


One thing I did this week that has made a difference--leaving work on time. Sounds like a no-brainer, but it feels as if I've gained an extra hour to spend with the kids. Our evening routine is less compressed, which makes a smoother transition into the evening hours.

(Ella: "I really, really, really want to hop in your bed. Really." Me: "OK, Ella. Hop in." )


When do you find time to write? Are you a late-night person or an early riser?

(Ella: "Do octopi travel in herds?" Me: "I don't know for sure, Ella, but I doubt it. Let me research it and get back to you.")

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

You've Come a Long Way, Baby!

This is Ella on her first day of kindergarten. Yep, that's my baby!


Last night, I met with my writers group in Salem. Always a good reality check for my poems. I love that there are first-time group members commenting on my work with the same vigor and interest as the regulars. And it's just nice to get out of the house on a Tuesday night and talk about poetry.


Terrance Hayes, The Ride: Finding a Love That's Gonna Last


Do you know what the word "refudiate" means? Neither do I. But apparently Sarah Palin's combination of "refute" and "repudiate," used twice during the summer, has made it the Word of the Summer according to Merriam-Webster. No judgements here. Just a big ol' sigh. *SIGH*

My spell check refutes the word refudiate.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Confession Tuesday

It's Tuesday, but not just any Tuesday--It's Confession Tuesday! This is the day you tell us a little something about yourself. Surprise us. We promise to do the same.

Today, Ella Rose starts kindergarten. Woo hoo! She is so excited to start, especially since her brother started a week earlier. Now, both of my little ones are in school. Sadly, they're not so little anymore. Pictures to come.

It's been a while since anything has excited me as much as the start of a new grade.


Is there anything new and exciting going on in poetry? I'm feeling a bit blase about poetry these days. In business and technology, you can point to an industry or a product and clearly spot the trends. But because poetry is somewhat insular, I'm wondering what's "the new next" for poetry. Is it a new form? A new poet shaking up the establishment? What the latest technology to take poetry to the next level? (Please don't say e-readers--we're not there yet.)



Last night, I was fiddling with the order of poems in my second manuscript. Such a balance trying to get the poems to flow. But I'm getting closer. I'm waiting for the first-round feedback to trickle in this week. Then some more tweaks and another round of reviews before I feel comfortable enough to send out to a publisher.


Check out the latest version Ouroboros Review. Aside from the top-notch poetry, there's an interview with Kelli Russell Agodon and me. Very cool.


The holiday weekend gave me a chance to knock a few items off my To-Do List. But there's still much to do this week:

  1. Work on two upcoming poetry events related to the Mass Poetry Festival. One of them is a regional event I'm co-organizing with Salem/Newburyport poets for October 3.
  2. Revise manuscript (ongoing).
  3. Apply for two fellowships. One of them is due 9/15.
  4. Update blog. I keep putting it off for some reason.
  5. Write two new poems.
  6. Submit work to three publications.


Last week was so stressful that I'm trying to take a few minutes out of each day to walk. Even if it's a 10-minute stretch, I need to do something to center me. Besides, I want to wring as much summer as possible out of these warm September days.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day

Happy Labor Day. Hope folks in the U.S. are enjoying a day off from work.

Since I'm kid-free this weekend, I had every intention of knocking everything off of my to-do the list. HA! I did manage to go to Erin Dionne's annual Labor Day BBQ:--lots of fun. So today is a Labor Day of sorts for me, as I work through the items on my list, which makes my list a Labor of Love List!


On Saturday, Jennifer and I made a pilgrimage to the Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Cambridge, the oldest poetry bookstore in the country. Unfortunately, they were out of the books I wanted to purchase; Thomas Sayers Ellis' Skin, Inc., Terrance Hayes' Lightheaded, Rita Dove's Sonata Mulattica (everyone I know who has read Rita's book says it's amazing), and Major Jackson's Holding Company. Great for the bookstore that popular books are not in stock. However, I picked up D.A. Powell's Chronic, which I'm very excited to read.


Yesterday, my friend, Mari, reminded me that yesterday would have been poet Phebus Etienne's birthday. She passed away in 2007. Meanwhile her beautiful manuscript Chainstitching remains unpublished.

I posted the article I wrote for Callaloo about Phebus on Facebook.

Friday, September 03, 2010

100,000-Mile Club

At some point during the week, the Poet Mom blog hit 100,000 visitors. Wow! Thanks for reading this blog, putting up with my failings and cheering my successes. I've maintained that I am my first, best audience, meaning this is a space for me first. The fact that people read what's here is a happy accident--100,000 times over! Thank you.


If you're a lurker or a regular reader, stop in and say hello!


For the second night, I've been up around 2 a.m. working on poems. One complete, one in the works. Woo hoo! Usually I post new poems but the finished poem is more personal than others so I'm holding it back. But if all goes to plan I should be posting new work throughout the month. As Kelli says, "Every day is beginning. A new opportunity to create." No more excuses. It's time to write.


As I'm revising my second manuscript and looking at possible titles, I've been reflecting on Underlife. The last poem in the book uses the word underlife, but the word originally came from Toi Derricotte's poem "The Minks." So the use of the word is a tip of the hat to my professor, mentor, and friend.


This has been a roller coaster of the week, and now we're bracing for Hurricane Earl, which should arrive later today in New England. Must call my parents to see how they're doing in the Tidewater (VA) area. If you're in the affected area, stay safe. My thoughts are with you.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Best of the Best

A few of my favorite posts from the past week.

Maybe my favorite post this year, by Steve Almond:

Our job, then, is two-fold: to focus on our own failings as writers. But also to speak more forcefully as advocates for literature. Books are a powerful antidote for loneliness, for the moral purposelessness of the leisure class. It’s our job to convince the 95 percent of people who don’t read books, who instead medicate themselves in front of screens, that literary art isn’t some esoteric tradition, but a direct path to meaning, to an understanding of the terror that lives beneath our consumptive ennui. It’s hard to make this case, though, if all we do is squabble with each other and lament our obscurity.


By Honoree Fantone Jeffers:

For now, though, it’s really about a time lost. I was a girl then, a very young (minded) almost-twenty nine, and that first Cave Canem was the only time in my entire life where I felt truly loved and accepted by other Black people—or people, period. I was completely wrapped up in joy. I know it sounds silly, but that week seemed like one of those sunlit scenes from a film, out of time and place. A scene you hope will go on and on.


By Doug Holder:

I was once writing an article about Robert Pinsky, the former Poet Laureate of the United States. He said the problem most young writers have is that they are afraid to appear stupid. To compensate they use big words, and high-toned rhetoric that sounds pretentious and stilted. Don’t afraid to be stupid. Success is built from failure. They are opposite sides of the coin, but they are still part of the same coin.


By Collin Kelley:

C. Dale had alluded to NER charging earlier in the summer when he posted a poll on his blog asking what readers would be willing to pay for online submissions. The majority said they would not pay. I was one of them. Since then, I've had a change of heart. Here's why.


Thank you, all!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

By the Numbers

In the process for applying for grants (finished an app. last night), I updated my list of published works. Going back to 1996, I've had 25 poems published in 19 print journals or websites. I know it's about quality and not quantity; I just don't submit to many publications. One-third of those acceptances happened in 2008-2009, before Underlife went to press. And this doesn't seem right, but I have one publication to my credit this year. Yikes!


Also by my estimation, this year I've been involved in roughly 20 poetry readings or poetry related events. This is something I have to marvel at because in 2009, I don't think I had more than four things scheduled. I'm just amazed that I've had opportunities to travel, meet people, and share my poetry with the poetry community--virtual and in person. Feeling very grateful today.


Today I sign papers to refinance my mortgage! Woo hoo! I'm saving a bundle, which will allow me to put more away for a rainy-day fund. Hard to maintain a family on one income, so this comes as a really good time. Fortunately, the process was much easier than I thought it would be, and the interest rates are at an all-time low. Yea!


Happy September 1! New to-do list to come.


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