I am the mother of a first grader. Ella starts kindergarten next week, but Alex starts today. *sigh*
I started writing this at 3 a.m. Believe it or not, the not-sleeping thing is getting better (I slept five hours). So now I’m wide awake and feeling deliriously productive, like I have all the time in the world. Scary.
Today, my son goes off to first grade. *Sniff. Sniff.* Where does the time go?
I hate the end of summer. Feels like death to me. Goodbye warm weather, hello frozen white stuff. OK, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. No, I don't think I am.
On Monday, I was in minor car accident. I’m OK. Everyone involved is OK. I’m hoping that bumper damage is the extent of the repair. Still, it sucks.
I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts about how poetry journals are struggling across the board. Many print publications are trying to figure out how to survive in the digital age. Some have gone online, while others cut staff and lower page counts.
Sadly, the list of publications I subscribe to is short. And I hate subscribing to journals I don’t have time to read. My list:
The Dodge Poetry Festival is just around the corner. Are you in or are you out? (I’m in!)
Had a fabu, albeit brief, visit with Joseph Legaspi and his Boo this weekend. They experienced the chaos that is my life raising two kids under age 7. Good time had by all (see pics in previous post). Lots of poetry talk, too.
On Sunday after our guests departed, the kids and I headed to the beach. It’s only the second time this year we’ve gone to the beach. What can I say? It's been a very busy summer. I think we can get a few more beach visits in before the weather turn cool.
Well, not sleeping has allowed me to continue reading through a friend’s manuscript, look at my own manuscript, start a new poem, and work on this blog post. Guess there are benefits to burning the candle at both ends.
Come back, C. Dale. Come back!
So, I have questions for all of you who read this blog: How we can get back to the pleasure of the art rather than the jockeying for position, awards and writing personal attacks masquerading as "literary criticism?" How do we set a larger place at the poetry table for those working outside the academy? How do we make the art of poetry interesting and compelling to the next generation that doesn't want an MFA or teaching gig? How do we take the insular and make it open?
I like working from the inside out—creating events, venues, publications, etc. that everyday poets and poet lovers want to be a part of. You [Collin] do that, too. The effort doesn’t guarantee mass audiences or increased readership. but I take satisfaction from reaching one person at a time. How do most revolutions start? One person at a time.
We need to have enough Hawkeye/Norma Rae/Peter Finch (from the movie Network) moments where we collectively say, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!” Until then, the status quo remains in place. Civility stays at arms’ length, same poets read at the same events, and nothing changes. This system seems to be working for someone, otherwise we’d all be standing on the tops of tables demanding change. I put my money, however, on you [Collin], on me, and to those who care to make change in the poetry community happen by any means necessary.
I thought Read Write Poem was on its way to shifting the balance but it collapsed before it took off. Starting the conversation, doing something—those are steps in the right direction.
How do we make poetry more open?
Hi, January. I'm intrigued by your comment about the next book and how you've "already mapped it out" in your head. Can you say more about how that works? I've never been able to think in those terms, just taking the poems as they come and then forming a book in the aftermath.
Let’s see. Underlife reads like a first collection of poetry. I’m very proud of the work but that’s what it is. I feel less connected to that work now that it’s been in print for a few months. The second manuscript expands to more social themes but also deals with personal issues such as divorce. I’m really really really ready to let go of those poems.
With my next project, I want to explore Boston’s cultural past (I live north of Boston, but I’m originally from Virginia), particularly its relationship to civil rights and race relations in the 50s and 60s to the present. I’m also consumed with the idea that I am a first-generation, post civil rights beneficiary, raising children who are second generation beneficiaries. In other words, I am a recipient of all who have struggled and overcome before me, but my kids don’t have those experiences to draw from. How do I raise them with that sensibility, yet let them be whoever they were meant to be? As I type this, I don’t fully understand it myself—which is part of why I need to do this project right now.
So, I’m giving myself a wide berth here. This is how I’ve scoped the project as of today. I may end up with six poems or 60 poems that touch on this subject. Hoping to explore new forms and touch upon something deeper. I’ll need a few months for research and writing, but most likely will do a heavy bit of writing in the spring. At this point, I feel like I need to forge into new territory, which is exciting and thrilling at the same time.
Guess I’ve ruminated on this topic for a while. I’m ready to put up or shut up, so to speak.
Thanks for the question, Sandy.
This past weekend I spent a glorious weekend by myself. I missed the kids dearly, but needed the time away from me as much as I needed it from them. I needed "me" time.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I saw the movie Eat Pray Love. I Thought Julia Roberts did a nice job as Liz Gilbert, and I loved watching the scenes in Italy, Bali, and Indonesia. I liked the movie a lot, but not as much as I loved the book—I don't think I'm alone here. Still, it was a great night out with a friend I haven’t seen in a while.
Throughout the movie, however, I found myself identifying with Liz’s first husband (Billy Crudup) in the movie. As much as I was cheering for Liz to find herself, I totally related to his story as the person who was left behind. In fact, I found myself crying through different scenes that really shouldn’t have been big emotional triggers. I never cry in movies.
And the movie's subtle theme of “believe in love again”—well, I’m still welling up over that one. Where is my Javier Bardem? Hello?!
I’m struggling with the concept of forgiveness. I’m starting to believe it’s overrated.
Pet peeve: when people don't respond to e-mails. Now I'm not taking about friends or close, inner circle people. I'm talking about people I'm trying to get information from or do business with. So annoying. Just because we live in the Information Age doesn't mean people have license to be rude.
Looking at last week's to-do list, I knocked off the behemoth: the manuscript. Still working on the following projects.
These random confessions are brought to you by the letter "C."
A bottle of Writer's Block is sure to cure what ails you. I shared this red zinfandel with my BFF Heidi after seeing Eat Pray Love Saturday night. I Ate Drank Wrote and Edited my manuscript shortly thereafter. For those who saw the movie, it was therapy!
A poem from REQUIEM FOR THE ORCHARD, by Oliver de la Paz.
Maybe it's not too late for Alex and Ella.
I keep most everything poetry related: rejections and acceptances, flyers from past AWP conferences, postcards from defunct journals, poetry collections, buttons from poetry organizations I wouldn’t wear under any circumstance (Sorry!). You name it, I keep it. Why, why, why do I do this? Laziness? That feeling of, “I’ll come back to this someday?” Whatever the reason, my office is bulging with poetry-related stuff I have absolutely no need for.
So, I am releasing myself of the obligation to hold onto my poetry clutter.
This weekend, as a much-needed diversion from manuscript revisions, I will be throwing out, sorting, and creating a poetry-friendly environment office that takes less energy to maintain.
These items do not bring me joy. In fact, isn’t it kind of masochistic to hold onto rejection slips? It’s like holding onto break-up letters from old relationships. I have rejections going back to 1996. (OK, I’m keeping my rejection from Slate.com with a handwritten note by Assistant Poetry Editor Maggie Dietz.)
Books and journals are tougher to throw out/give away. I’m sure we all have a few volumes in our collections that aren’t worth keeping. I do feel a little guilt there because I know someone put a lot of effort into producing that college journal or indie press effort. But the truth is it was wasteful for me to bring it in the house in the first place. Maybe I can help it find a good home at my local library. I'm only keeping the items that have a use, or have real sentimental value. In other words, I'm making space in my life for things that bring me happiness.
In case you are having trouble throwing things away:
You, dear reader, are hereby released from the burden of your poetry clutter. You are free. Make better use of your time and energy for poetry.
Now go forth and declutter!
Happy birthday, mom! So happy that we could be a part of your special day.
We’ve had a great visit in Norfolk, Virginia. Not sure how it is when you return to your hometown, but every time I come home, the city seems to have reinvented itself yet again. It wasn’t nearly this cool when I lived here.
Two things I’ve been able to do since I’ve been here: eat well and sleep in. However, I’m ready to sleep in my own bed.
And my favorite moments from this trip have come from watching my son climb this tree in the front yard over and over again.
Already looking ahead to the upcoming weekend, I am completely immersing myself in manuscript revisions. It’s been a while since I’ve had a kid-free weekend, so I plan to make this one count by sleeping in, getting my exercise routine back on track, and finishing up edits on manuscript #2. It’s time. How long have I been talking about it? Need to get into the hands of others for feedback.
Did I mention I will be seeing Eat Pray Love?
Mini poetry to-do list:
And the unofficial item from this list is to give some serious thought on how to market Underlife. The book has been out for more than six months, so now I want to plan what to do for the next six. There are so many possibilities that I have to narrow down my options, figure out what’s most effective, and move with purpose for the rest of 2010. Hard to do because I'm still in summer mode.
Speaking of Nin Andrews, did you catch her poem posted on the Academy of American Poets website? "Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness" was the Poem-of-the-Day selection on August 13.
And, thanks to Susan Rich for her post on Underlife. We'll be reading together in November at Porter Square Books in Cambridge--very cool.
Lastly, congrats to Jim Brock on the release on Gods and Money.
My favorite moment so far came yesterday watching a bubble/water gun fight between my dad and Alex and Ella. Just watching my parents be kids again did my heart good.
While I’m here, besides getting lots of rest, I plan on shoring up the manuscript and starting new work. A Starbucks visit is in my future. I’m also hoping to connect with the English faculty at Old Dominion University, my alma mater. As an alumna, I'm hoping they find a spot for me to read this year but they haven’t been very forthcoming.
Eat. Pray. Love. Yea! Going to see the movie at some point this week.
The book and the movie bring up lots of idea about dropping out of real life for a while for some soul healing self-discover. After going through a divorce, I empathize completely with Elizabeth Gilbert’s quest to feel her life again. So I’m looking for little ways to take the spirit of the movie and infuse it into my daily life. Water gun fights are a start.
The Summer of Fun continues!
I know. I know. All poets are underrated. Let's steer clear of that line of thinking and celebrate the poets who are not getting the attention they so richly deserve.
Jennifer Jean was a guest blogger for The MOM Egg last week (woo hoo!). Check out her piece, “A Legacy of Peace.”
Letter to the editor from Terrance Hayes from Poetry magazine. "Poetry should reflect more than its self-reflecting self." Too bad there's not a place to offer comments because I think Terrance made a brilliant case for the role of the poet (all poets) in today's society.
I’m exhausted! After four readings in 10 days, I’m pooped.
You name it, I haven’t done it. I haven’t written, read, or checked in on blogs in the last two weeks. Don’t even think I’ll make a to-do list because it’s just too overwhelming. However, I don't have any readings until September, so I’ll have a chance to recover over the next few weeks.
Can I tell you how grateful I am to be reading my poetry in public? My community expands with every single reading and for that I am eternally grateful.
For the rest of this week, I’ll work on my second manuscript in hopes of getting it out to share with fellow poets to review. I’d like to have it ready for them by the end of the month. What I need is a solid block of time to work on it, which I haven’t in a very long time.
I tend to focus on one project at a time instead of multiple pursuits.
I did pick up Eat Pray Love again to finish. Yes, I started reading it more than a year ago. Yes, I do love it. But something in me wasn’t ready to finish it. However, I’m looking forward to the new movie despite Julia Roberts.
Also, I started Elizabeth Gilbert’s follow-up book Committed. I'm enjoying reading it on my Kindle for iPhone. I can read it late at night without turning on the light. In any case, I’m about 20 pages into it and I’m just not sure she can sustain the narrative. It reads as if she’s stretching the story. Can’t imagine what it might be like to write the follow-up book to a blockbuster hit.
Listening to Aretha this morning, “If you want a do-right, all-day woman. You gotta be a do-right, all-night man.” Amen!
Many thanks to host Chad Parenteau, one of the hardest working poets around, for leading the open mike. Great crowd--lots of readers flowed in as the night progressed. Many regulars and a few newcomers to Out of the Blue.
And then, there was the poet known only as "Imagination" ...
I think every poetry reading needs Imagination. Not sure what astral plane he crossed over from, but he certainly made the evening more colorful.
As difficult as it was to go on after Imagination, I did.
A good time had by all. If you get a chance to check out Stone Soup, this popular, long-standing reading series is well worth the time.
In a word: magical. Hmmm ... maybe quirky is a better word.
I spent the evening with 50 of my closest friends and neighbors who are just amazing, creative, unsung talents. There was a live band and lots of homegrown entertainment, from owl calls and trumpet players to short stories and sea chanteys. Audience participation goes without saying. And yes, I read two poems--even brought the kids on stage with me as I read.
Times like these I am reminded how local my world is. This is my community, and I am lucky, lucky, lucky to be a part of it.
Thanks Sean and Michele!
We had six people in our audience. Six. Yet we made the best of it. We put the chairs in a circle and sat for our presentation, which helped make the room a bit more intimate. Then, we read our work in conversation.
This is our first time reading together in a round (although Colleen and I had success with it a few months ago). So Jennifer read a poem, then I read a poem in response to hers, followed by Colleen reading in response to me. Our poems cover similar topics, which made it easier to create loose connections. I wish we had filmed our reading because the audience loved what we did and really appreciated the effort.
Reading in response forced us to choose poems on the fly. I know I read a few poems from Underlife I had never read before an audience. The performance offered another level of connection than having three separate readings. Safe to say that we enjoyed the night as much, if not more, as the audience.
I know that when I commit to readings, there are no guarantees. In this case, it was a beautiful, warm August night--a Friday. And we're relatively unknown poets reading at a library on Long Island. My feeling is that the event was not well promoted. Even if it was, I don't think it would have made much of a difference. The truth is you just never know how an event will turn out. And if I had not done the reading, I would have missed speaking to the audience at our unplanned Q & A, listening to their work at the open mic, and hearing their appreciative words after the event.
Truth be told: having the opportunity to hang out with Jennifer and Colleen--kid-free--for a 24 hours was priceless.
I would LOVE to hear your experiences about readings that did not turn out the way they were planned. Whether you're a poet/writer, or an organizer, I want to hear from you!
Nothing makes a venue more comfortable that a good host. Richard Jeffrey Newman (pictured)was kind enough to have dinner with me and lead the event. It was really nice to see so many newcomers mixed with regulars reading both poetry and fiction.
Very talented poets and writers in crowd.
Admittedly, I found myself looking down through the grading while on stage. It was a surreal experience, one that brings a smile to my face even as I type this. Special thanks to Richard and to Marina Yoffe for inviting me into this wonderful community.
We're back from a whirlwind trip to New York City! I read with the JHPF's First Tuesdays event (will blog about it in a separate post), so I brought the kids for their first visit to The Big Apple. These pictures were taken yesterday in Central Park. We were looking for a carousel and found a carnival instead!
We had a great time, but the highlight of our adventure was a trip to Times Square to Toys R Us, which has a ferris wheel in the center of the store. Talk about overwhelming!
We did lots of walking as well as more firsts such as visiting Rockefeller Center, taking the subway, and buying pretzels from a street vendor. My only regret was not following through on a promise to visit the Statue of Liberty. I just ran out of time. But, as I told my son Alex, that gives us another reason to visit New York. Special thanks to BFF Suzie who came with me and watched the kids while I read poetry across town. Couldn't have done it without her.
In typical Ella fashion, she told me this was the best birthday EVER! I agree with her 100 percent.
I took a lot of photos of the kids this weekend, and this slightly blurry picture is my favorite. How lucky am I to be the mom of these two sweet peas?
Busy weekend that began with a visit from my BFF Kristi and family, and ended with a birthday party for Ella Rose at Chuck E Cheese’s. She turns five on Wednesday!
(Note to parents: Chuck E. Cheese's is not nearly as scary in the middle of summer as it is during the fall and winter when the temperature drops. Fewer kids means a less crazed afternoon on Planet Cheese.)
Tomorrow I’m reading in New York at the Jackson Heights Poetry Festival for their Open Tuesdays event. I’m bringing the kids with me for their first visit to the city. It will be short but sweet, but I’m excited to travel with the kids.
For as long as I have known her, Kristi had never seen me read my poetry in public until coming with me to the Boston Poet Tea Party on Friday. I'm sure it's the same way for many writers out there, but it's just fascinating to think that there are close friends of mine (parents included) who have never seen me read.
Occasionally, I've taken Alex and Ella to my readings. I don't do it often, but when I do, I come well prepared with crayons and coloring books. They like it when I read my poems about them and tell stories. It's good for them to see what I do--gives them a better perspective when I have to spend time away from home.
Do you have close friends or family members who have never seen you read your poetry or fiction before a live audience?