Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Here's a photo from last night's Waterline reading at Babson College. Despite the rain, it was nice to see so many friends and coworkers in the audience. Special thanks to fellow reader Lindsay Coleman for sharing her poetry.
If the weather had been better, I would have taken pictures of the Glavin Family Chapel, which is a non-denominational center for worship on campus. It is a beautiful building enclosed by stain-glass windows. This picture does not to the structure justice in the least.
You have one day left to enter my poetry giveaway. One lucky winner will win 5 CavanKerry books. Enter by April 1!
Yes, for those who were wondering, I got up yesterday morning and colored Easter eggs with the kids. Since I'm traveling to Atlanta on April 1 for my reading with Georgia Center for the Book (woo hoo), there was no other time to do it.
Guess I'll be having Easter eggs for lunch today.
Oh, Read Write Poem ... say it ain't so!
Yesterday, I gave an interview for the North section of the Boston Globe. Should run next week for National Poetry Month!
I haven't been this happy in a long time. Bring on April!
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Wow, it’s almost April. This month has been a sort of mile marker for me since the divorce (which becomes final in late April). Through some of the more difficult moments, I’d tell myself to just make it to April, and then I would reap the benefits of all the hard work setting up reading dates and poetry events for Underlife. AWP Denver is smack-dab in the middle of everything, which will be a mini-vacation for me. And let’s not forget that I will be writing a poem-a-day through it all. I've needed a focus through it all and poetry, in one form or another, has been there for me.
Not sure what the future holds but I’m ready for what’s next. Bring on National Poetry Month!
In order to keep up with the poem-a-day challenges, I’m trying not to commit to too many things. I’m finding it difficult to protect my time. I’m not complaining—this is a good problem to have. I just don’t want to overpromise and under-deliver, which I am prone to do.
Speaking of which, I am writing this confession early because I promised my kids that I would do one of the following before school:
a) Color Easter eggs
b) Play Monopoly Jr.
c) Read books
Overcommit much? Well, let’s just say I hope they sleep in today.
My son, Alex, has a new phrase he’s been saying around the house: “tartar sauce.” I think this is his form of an expletive. Something doesn’t go his way, I hear, “tartar sauce!” Can’t decide if it’s very cute or a sign of things to come. Now that I think about it, I should show him what tartar sauce is.
As for Ella, her new phrase is, “Testify!” Here’s what a typical conversation looks/sounds like …
Mom: “Ella, let’s order pizza for dinner tonight.”
Mom: “Really, Ella? What does that mean?”
Ella: “I dunno. I heard it in [the movie] ‘Monsters vs. Aliens.’ That’s what BOB says to Ginormica after beating up the aliens.”
Mom: “OK, Ella.”
Ella: “Mom, just say it. It’s fun.”
Mom: “One of these days, I’m going to take you to a Southern black church so you understand what it means to testify.”
Ella: “Is the pizza here yet?”
Monday, March 29, 2010
For NaPoWriMo, I’m doing a hybrid challenge by participating in prompts created by Read Write Poem and the Poetic Asides PAD Challenge. This year will be a challenge because of the amount of travel I’m doing, but I’m optimistic about the kind of poetry I will write … well …under duress. (*smile*)
For the record, while my sidebar counter says otherwise, I have a few drafts started but have yet to post them. I may refine them a bit before making them public. Still, it's good to be writing poems again.
Thanks to Rigoberto Gonzalez for this blurb on the National Book Critics Circle's Web site.
Tomorrow, I'm reading at Babson College, but on Thursday, I'll be at the Georgia Center for the Book to kick off National Poetry Month!
From the Poetry Atlanta blog:
Poetry Atlanta and Georgia Center for the Book team up to present another Poetry Atlanta Presents... with two fantastic poets performing and signing their latest work. The reading is Thursday, April 1, 7:15 p.m. at the Decatur Library, 215 Sycamore St. Admission is free and free parking is available in the deck behind the library. This event is made possible by a grant from Poets & Writers.
The featured poets:
January Gill O’Neil is the author of Underlife (CavanKerry Press). Her poems and articles have appeared in The MOM Egg, Crab Creek Review, Ouroboros Review, Drunken Boat, Crab Orchard Review, Callaloo, Babel Fruit, Edible Phoenix, Literary Mama, Field, Seattle Review, Stuff Magazine, Can We Have Our Ball Back, Read Write Poem, and Cave Canem anthologies II and IV. In 2009, January was awarded a Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grant. She is featured in Poets & Writers magazine's January/February 2010 Inspiration issue as one of their 12 debut poets. A Cave Canem fellow, she is a senior writer/editor at Babson College, and runs a popular blog called Poet Mom.
James May's work has recently appeared in The New Republic, The New Ohio Review, and 32 Poems. He is the editor-in-chief of New South and soon to be married to the poet Chelsea Rathburn.
Thanks to Collin Kelley for setting up the reading!
Saturday, March 27, 2010
The Waterline Reading Series presents
January Gill O’Neil and Lindsay Coleman reading their poetry
Tuesday, March 30
Glavin Family Chapel
My next reading is April 1 with Poetry Atlanta. Can’t tell you how excited I am about this event because Atlanta was a second home to me growing up.
Oh, Saturday. What a relief it is to have some time free time with the family. Some weekends I'm really good at planning activities with the kids--this is one such weekend. On those weekends when I'm hurting for things to do, it's a disaster. I even have a little "me" time in place on Sunday. Everybody wins!
Lots and lots of laughter today!
Trying to figure out the easiest and cheapest way to go from Boston to NYC (poetry reading) to Baltimore (poetry panel) and back to Boston (poetry awards ceremony!) within a 24-hour period. Craziness!
Haven't taken any kid pics lately. Hope to post a few this weekend.
Gearing up for the numerous NaPoWriMo challenges starting April 1. My goal is to start today and write 30+ poems through the month of April and maybe beyond. Takes me a while to get started (say ... three months into the New Year), but I always, always complete this behemoth of a challenge!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Yesterday, I arrived home from work to a wonderful surprise: In the mail was Kay McKenzie Cooke’s book, Made for Weather! It’s beautiful. Hardbound, with a lovely little bookmark as part of the design. It was an international book exchange; she has a copy of Underlife and I have a copy of her latest title, all the way from New Zealand. Very cool! Can’t wait to read it.
Also arriving in the mail this week was Jessie Carty’s debut collection Paper House. Woo hoo! For those who don’t know, Jessie runs Shape of a Box, YouTube’s first literary magazine—which received a nice little write-up in the current issue of Poets & Writers. Congrats Jessie!
Have you signed up for my book giveaway? It’s free and open to all. Special thanks to CavanKerry Press for the donation of books.
Tonight, I’m going to Cornerstone Books in Salem to hear poets Tim Gager and Gloria Mindock read their work as part of the Thursday Theatre of Words and Music series. Hope to see you there!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Last week was difficult. Part of me just shut down—even with Alex and Ella. Just didn’t want to be around them, which is not me at all. On Monday, I was overwhelmed and grief-stricken. By Friday, however, I felt a shift inside, that this torrent of emotion was subsiding. And yesterday, when I came home from work, I felt lighter. The downdraft hanging around had left. Probably had the best night of sleep I’ve had in seven days.
Why the change? I don’t know. Time. Spring. Family. Good friends. Laughter. Going back to the gym. Good food. Doing the things I love. Poetry. Knowing my place in this world. All of the above.
Free poetry books. Need I say more?
My interview with the beautiful and talented Erin Dionne is up at her blog.
Jill says I’m a very organized person. I’m really a procrastinator. My spin on things? I do what I like to do first, and the rest has to wait.
Since the release of Underlife, my time is at a premium. I do most of what I do between 8-10 p.m. after the kids go to bed. I wish I could do more—life is just too interesting not to be involved.
But I have to be careful about overcommitting myself, which I am prone to do.
I had forgotten how much I like to travel. In promoting the book, I’m taking a fair amount of trips in April.
After my reading at Babson College in Wellesley, MA, I’m flying to a reading with the Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur, GA. The Georgia trip means that I will be staying with my grandparents and seeing two of my BFFs. And then, AWP Denver! Woo hoo! (All of the dates are listed to the left of this post.)
To-do list? I think I need a “to-don’t” list! But I'm looking forward to NaPoWriMo. I'll start writing poems this week to warm up for April.
Monday, March 22, 2010
• January Gill O’Neil – Underlife
• Nin Andrews - Southern Comfort
• Jack Ridl - Losing Season
• Joseph Legaspi - Imago
• Ross Gay - Against Which
You're probably saying to yourself, "Jan, this is terrific! How can I have these books for my collection?"
All you have to do is leave a message in this post saying you're interested. The contest will run for a week, ending April 1. A winner will be announced April 2; one entry per person. One lucky person will receive all five books. Underlife will be signed by yours truly. This contest is free and open to U.S. and international audiences.
Special thanks for the donation of books from CavanKerry Press. You can find information about all the titles on CavanKerry's Web site under New Voices and Notable Voices.
I'm spreading the poetry luv for National Poetry Month. Now, you go out there and spread the word!
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Last night, I attended the launch of poet Jennifer Jean's new chapbook, In the War. It is a brave account of a daughter of a Vietnam vet, and how she and her brother survived a childhood of poverty and foster care. For Jennifer, this book is about healing, and last night she shined. This book is the first of many great moments for her as a poet and writer.
Will post pictures soon.
I just heard that the poet Ai passed away on Friday. She was a talented writer, known for her persona poems and dramatic monologues. In 2009, she was the recipient of a USA Ford Fellowship. Here's her bio. Rest in peace.
Yesterday, I received a question on Twitter that I needed more than 140 characters to answer.
What is the career path for a poet?
I can only answer from my point of view, but I think the opportunities are wide open. But poets have to define for themselves what it means to be successful.
There's been a lot of talk of careerism and poetry on different Web sites. I think you have to be persistent and talented to make a career in poetry, just as in any field. With the many different ways to publish and the opportunities there are read in front of audiences, you can carve out a niche for yourself. However, the talent has to be there; otherwise, no one reads the books or comes to the readings.
I'd like to see more poets making money from the work they put into their craft.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Boston National Poetry Month Festival
Save the Dates!
Saturday, April 10 – 10 a.m.- 4:45 p.m.
OPEN MIKE: 1:30 to 3 p.m.
Sunday, April 11 – 1:10 to 4:30 p.m.
The Festival will be held at the library’s main branch in Copley Square.
CO-SPONSORS: Tapestry of Voices & Kaji Aso Studio in partnership with the Boston Public Library
*56 Major and Emerging poets will each do a ten minute reading; ALSO*
Featuring six extraordinarily talented prize-winning high school students: who will open the festival at 10 a.m. Boston’s Poet Laureate Sam Cornish will open the formal part of the festival.
Some of the many luminaries include Sam Cornish, Diana Der Hovanessian, Richard Wollman, Jennifer Barber, Afaa M. Weaver, Barbara Helfgott-Hyett, Alfred Nicole, Ellen Steinbaum, Doug Holder, Charles Coe, Kathleen Spivack, Ryk McIntyre, Elizabeth McKim, Regie O’Gibson, Kate Finnegan, Michael Bialis, Susan Donnelly,John Ziemba, (Kaji Aso Studio), Sandee Story, CD Collins, Marc Goldfinger, Gloria Mindock, Tim Gager, Diana Saenz, Stuart Peterfreund, Valerie Lawson, Tom Daley, Molly Watt, Ifeanyi Menkiti, Mark Pawlak, Lainie Senechal, Harris Gardner, Joanna Nealon, Richard Hoffman, Susan Donnelly, Irene Koronas, Robert K. Johnson, and a plethora of other prize winning poets.
This popular tradition is one of the largest events in Boston’s contribution to National Poetry Month. FREE ADMISSION !!!
FOR INFORMATION: Tapestry of Voices: 617-306-9484 or 617-723-3716
Friday, March 19, 2010
CREATING A COVER FOR UNDERLIFE
Do I really understand the title? I must truly understand the reason for the title. But what if others don’t understand the title? Yes, that’s why we need a sweet cover for the PoetMom. I should talk to Jan to find out what it means to her…
Ah, I get it. It’s the stuff in our lives that remains hidden most of the time. The honesty. The secrets. The history. The saucy desires and quiet thoughts. Got it.
Excerpt from the Design Kickoff Meeting
Eric: Jan, do you mind if the cover is a little risqué or sexy, like your poem “What Mommy Wants”
Eric: You know what I have been thinking about?
Eric: I’ve got a pair of legs.
Jan: [Nervous, excited, weirded-out look]
Eric: I think my legs might be great for your cover. What do you think?
Jan: Ummmm … I don’t know, try it.
Eric: Oh, by the way Jan, they are white legs, but I could make them black if you wanted.
Jan: We’ll see.
Saturday afternoon in my apartment (Me, my legs, and my camera)
What should I do with these legs? They are sexy, slender and did I mention white? Oh and they don’t stand on their own. This seemingly annoying and frustrating feature is what led me to incorporating the legs into elements of “the home.”
A-ha #1! The home is perfect for Underlife. (See “Nothing Fancy,” “Afro Puffs,” “Lighting Bugs”). Since the legs cannot stand on their own, I turned them upside down. Standing in the kitchen with legs upside down, I looked around and noticed the sink. Legs upside down in sink, behind a classic (fabricated) kitchen scene.
A-ha #2! The sink is perfect (See “How to Make a Crab Cake,” “In Praise of Okra”). The process of this shot stirred the creative juices. I had found a link between the legs and Underlife. I was having fun. My wife had to leave the house. The whole scene appeared a bit strange.
After the sink, I was fired up. And realized an even better metaphor for Underlife: the dark, dirty, raw world that sits below one’s home. The basement. Mine could not have been more stereotypically disgusting. The legs and I engaged with the washer, then the dryer. It seemed a bit too twisted. Undergarments draped over her toes and the violent references of ones upper body in a dryer or washer seemed a bit off base. However, its often best for a client to receive concepts that push the bar. Super safe, super risky and then somewhere in the middle. It frames the possibilities and helps them to figure out where they belong on that scale.
After having a lot of fun with the sink and the basement, I found myself really being able to hone in on the message of Underlife, the metaphor of the basement and how the legs could play a part. For Jan to write some of her poems she needed to walk down into the sometimes dark, unspoken territory of her life.
A-ha #3! Legs walking into the basement. I opened the basement door to the outside, to discover that the sun was beating down on the snow covered yard. It was BRIGHT outside, glaringly bright, from the suns reflection off the snow. And it was dark, hauntingly dark, in my clammy basement.
A-ha #4! Light to dark, White to Black. The racial challenge of the “white legs vs black culture that is waved into Jan’s poems” was beginning to resolve itself. They always say, natural light is the best light. As I shot my subject in many positions, playing with the light, the orientation of the legs and the door, I could feel that I had found that middle option on the concept scale.
Dark to light = dramatic.
Stepping down into the dark=daringly going to the unknown or the unspoken.
The natural position of the legs= a quiet sophistication (that I was not able to capture with the sink or washing machine).
The mannequin legs = a twinge of shock value and fun that we were aspiring for.
These four elements, drama, daringly speaking the unspoken, quiet sophistication and shocking fun are all reflected throughout Jan’s poems (I had read the manuscript before starting this process).
And ta-da, Jan had found herself a cover that accomplished what she was looking for. A thought-provoking, meaningful and eye catching cover (that hopefully will sell!). Exactly what our country’s future Poet Laureate deserves.
Because of Jan’s open-minded nature and willingness to fully explore the cover process (just as she had done with her poems) we were able to truly explore the creative possibilities. Without that (and without the legs I inherited from my Aunt Bernice) we would not have reached her goal. A great client like Jan often leads to a successful process that in turn produces an impactful outcome. Thanks Jan, and good luck!
Eric and I worked together at Babson College. I have always been in awe of his talent and ability to explore, connect, and make things happen. He's simply brilliant.
You can see the nearly 20 covers Eric created in this post.
Eric Stich is co-founder and creative director of Setter Advertising, a leading design and strategy firm in Waltham, Massachusetts. Contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Erin Dionne is giving away a free signed copy of Underlife at her blog. Go there and sign up!
Afaa Micahel Weaver shares his reflections on Haiti's earthquake and aftermath at Radio Open Source.
Was missing Lucille Clifton today. On my ride into work today I played the Poetry Foundation's interview with her from 2007 when she won the Ruth Lilly prize. If you really want a sense of who she was--in her own words--listen to this podcast.
I'm paraphrasing, but in the interview she says that when her first book came out, she had six kids under the age of 8. Gives me hope as a parent that I can do what my heart leads me to do and still raise a happy family. Thank you, Lucille.
Happy St. Patty's Day, everyone!
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
On my way home from work yesterday, I listened to the tail-end of an interview on Oprah Radio (satellite radio). She was interviewing some expert (didn’t catch his name) but they were taking about living your best life—Oprah’s mantra. He was promoting a book, and in it, he asks readers to answer two questions as a means of self evaluation.
1. What is your sentence?
2. Am I better person today than I was yesterday?
For question #1, most of us describe ourselves in paragraphs, but if you had to distill who you are to your essence—call it your elevator pitch—how would you describe yourself?
I thought Oprah’s answer was pretty good (I’m paraphrasing because I was driving at the time): “I inspire people to live their best life by living my own.”
Me? “I am a woman, mother, poet, daughter, and friend, using my life to honor the people around me.“
By distilling your life down to a sentence, it cuts out the BS and defines a direction for me and my family
As for question #2, “Am I a better person today than I was yesterday?” Honestly, day after day, I’d have to say no. Some days I feel like I make the lives of the people around me better. Other days it just doesn’t happen. Rarely do I feel negative two days in a row.
This is why I think writers are some of the luckiest people around: we have the ability to examine our lives on a regular basis. Doesn’t make us better, but maybe it brings us a tad closer to the person we were always meant to be.
I forgot to mention that while we were in NYC this past weekend, a group of us went to get manicures. Turns out the spa was doing a promotion for Kirstie Alley’s new show Big Life, which premiered on A&E Sunday night. Apparently, she has her own signature color—this is it.
I didn’t watch the show, but was happy to get the free manicure.
Really enjoyed this past week with two readings and spending time at Poets House. I’m taking that energy forward into this week by:
1. Writing four poems
2. Workshopping with local poets
3. Visiting a writers group
4. Reading a new poetry collection (haven’t decided which one yet)
Monday, March 15, 2010
Poets House is a fitting place for poets and poetry lovers to read, converse, share ideas, and just get lost in words.
Poet Colleen Michaels and I visited the new location, now in a newly renovated space near in Battery Park, near the World Trade Center.
The rooms are drenched with light, even on the cloudiest day (and the rain was torrential during our visit). Inside, it is crisp and white and serene. When you first walk into the main library area, there is poetry exhibit space, a collection of recently published journals, and a collection of books published in 2009.
Plenty of workspace and comfy chairs to settle in and thumb through a random poetry selection. (From the 2009 publications, I picked up books by Rick Barot, Alicia Ostriker, and G.E. Patterson. Colleen is reading Kim Addonizio.).
Poets House has meeting spaces for classes and events, as well as a children’s poetry play area.
I’m sorry we couldn’t spend more time here. It really is a respite for weary poets searching for the right words.
Poets, contact Poets House to make sure they have a copy of your book or chapbook: email@example.com.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
First, a few photos from my alumni reading at NYU.
(L to R ... my fellow readers: Sung Woo, me, John Murillo, and Ishion Hutchinson)
Saturday morning, a little free write and coffee with Colleen.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Oliver de la Paz—Requiem for the Orchard (The University of Akron Press)
Susan Rich—The Alchemist's Kitchen (White Pine Press)
Jessie Carthy—Paper House (Folded Word)
Jennifer Jean —In the War (Big Table Publishing)
And congrats to Kelli for creating this beautiful trailer for her second book, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Friday, March 12
Alumni Reading at NYU
Join Ishion Hutchinson, John Murillo, January Gill O’Neil, and Sung J. Woo as NYU Creative Writing Program alumni read from their newly published books.
Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, 58 West 10th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, NYC.
Actually, it's more than just a road show. My friend, Colleen, and I are taking some "she time" to enjoy the ride to and from NYC. I'm so looking forward to this. Not even the threat of damp weather could knock the smile off my face. Will post photos over the weekend.
Check out my interview with C.J. at Five Fishes.
Two words: crazy busy. Here's two more: flat out!
Hoping to get back to writing poetry as early as tonight. Maybe something to post tomorrow. I must adhere to my to-do list or else I'm sunk.
Now, I’v gone to readings where the writer gets up, reads, waits for applause, and leaves the venue right after. This crowd was both talented and generous, and not looking for anything more than a little applause. And that’s what I love about the generous nature of words. They have the ability to bring people together to exchange stories and share a little history with one another.
- There was a woman who wrote a poem about a piece of driftwood that resembled antlers. She brought the driftwood antlers with her to the microphone to show off (who knew there could be a show-and-tell element to an open mic).
- A couple read a poem they wrote about their long-standing friendship; they read the piece as a dialogue.
- A gentleman told jokes so bad they were actually pretty good!
- Another gentleman participated in his first open mic and read a wonderful short story.
I’m guessing about 12 people participated in the open mic portion. It was so spontaneous and casual. Who knows if any of these writers will publish in a journal or collect their work into a manuscript. On this evening, no one was trying to make a name for themselves. It was just a room full of people filling the night with words.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
PIL Coffeehouse and Open Mic Night
Wednesday, March 10, 7 p.m.
Peabody Institute Library of Danvers
15 Sylvan Street, Danvers, MA 01923
Featured poet: January Gill O'Neil, whose first collection of poetry, Underlife, was released in December 2009 by CavanKerry Press.
Coffee, tea and light refreshments will be served. Performers must pre-register at the Reference Desk or by phone: 978-774-0554.
Hope to see you there!
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
After many days of car shopping and haggling with car dealers, I am the proud owner of a new (used) Hyundai Sonata! It’s a nice ride. Wish I could have gotten a used Subaru Outback but there’s nothing with low mileage available from the dealer in my price range within a 75-mile radius (I don’t do private sales).
Here are a few things dealers should realize about women buying cars:
- We want more than just cup holders and mirrors. We actually care about gas mileage, safety, and what’s under the hood.
- We don’t like to be pressured or talked down to (Do you hear me, Toyota?).
If you can’t find the keys to one of your cars, don't show us something else and think we won't notice (Do you hear me, Honda?).
- Don’t be surprised if we whip out our smart phones and verify prices (I love you, iPhone!).
With a lot of encouragement from friends and my parents, I made this deal by myself. It was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking, but I did it. I did it.
The kids love the new car. They said things like, “I can’t wait to put my toys in it!” and “This the best trunk EVER!”
I pulled back from blogging and poetry talk because, obviously, I had a lot going on over the weekend. Taking the break also allowed me to get some other nagging things off my big to-do list.
March Poetry To-Do’s
1. Write six poems in March. Why six? I need to warm up before NaPoWriMo. This time around, I’m partnering with Jennifer Jean to write two poems a week. I need the kick-start, so I thought I’d give the buddy system a try.
2. Write an article for RWP.
3. Finish two interviews.
4. Read a poetry collection a week. I have too many good books on my nightstand waiting for some attention.
Sunday, March 07, 2010
It is the most wonderful time of the year. It’s time for the Academy Awards (aka my Super Bowl!). Usually, I’m the one getting the list of Oscar nominees together for my friends but, sadly, not this year. I’ve been too busy and time is at a premium these days. Nonetheless, I will be cooking a fabulous meal and watching--and tweeting--about the awards as they happen.
Here are my predictions for the top 5 categories:
Who will win: Avatar
Who should win: The Hurt Locker
Who will win: Jeff Bridges
Who should win: Jeff Bridges
Who will win: Sandra Bullock
Who should win: Meryl Streep
Best Supporting Actor
Who will win: Stanley Tucci
Who should win: Stanley Tuccu
Best Supporting Actress
Who will win: Mo’Nique
Who should win: Penelope Cruz