Saturday, December 31, 2011

Poetry Action Plan 2012

It's the last day of the year! Time for merriment and a little reflection. In other words, it's time to list my poetry goals for the upcoming year. I call this my Poetry Action Plan (PAP).

A PAP is simple way to structure your writing goals so that they goals become habit. Your plan should be flexible enough to morph and change as your life changes. Here are a few tips on how to do just that.

  • Define your goals. What is most important to you as a writer? Is it practicing your craft? Do you want to read your work in public? Is this the year you finally complete your manuscript? Whatever it is, name it, claim it, and put it at the top of your list.
  • Be realistic about what can you achieve. Having a focus is essential. Pick four or five goals and stick to them.
  • Track your progress. It’s one thing to make goals, and another to keep them. List items you can quantify so you can gain momentum as you reach your next goal (ex. submit to 25 journals, write two poems a month, etc.).
  • Prepare for setbacks BUT be open to opportunities wherever they appear. Small acts, such as jotting down a word or phrase or mailing one submission to one publication, will keep you moving forward through times of uncertainty.

In 2011, my goals were to:

Write a Poem a Week
Not so much. I’m finishing the year at 38 poems.

Support the Massachusetts Poetry Festival
Achieved! This should count for two goals.

Support Manuscript #2
Achieved! Misery Islands will be published by CavanKerry Press in 2014. Woo hoo!

Start Manuscript #3
Not so much. This project requires research and time—two items in short supply in 2011.

Attend a Weeklong Workshop
Not so much.

Continue to Support Underlife
Achieved! It’s taken two years but I think I’m nearing second print run status. Maybe.

In 2012, my goals are to:

Write a Poem a Week
The writing comes first, no matter what.

Read a Book a Month
Poetry books I read all the time, but not reading other genres is embarrassing.

Support the Massachusetts Poetry Festival
I know I can do this. The challenge becomes how can I do it better and smarter? How can I help produce a top-notch event more efficiently? How am I contributing to the event’s success, and how can I help make connections that will benefit the festival in the future?

Start Manuscript #3
This project I will start now but not flesh out until the summer. The topic is race relations and busing in 1960s Boston. I’ve decided not to push it through but really use this time as an opportunity to learn about myself, my surroundings, and my history.

Attend a Weeklong Workshop
C’mon, FAWC. Don’t let me down again.

This is the roadmap. I encourage you to modify your writing goals throughout the year. Good luck, and Happy New Year!!

What Are You Doing New Years Eve? by Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-L...

Friday, December 30, 2011

Speak Up!

Wednesday night, I read at the Speak Up Spoken Word Open Mike Series with two of my most favorite people in the world, Colleen Michaels and Kevin Carey. The series, held at the Walnut Street Coffee Cafe in Lynn, is run by storyteller extraordinaire Tony Toledo. An award winning storyteller in his own right, Tony makes everyone feel welcome, from poets to musicians to people who just want to share a story.

The crowd for this weekly Wednesday night event is a loyal one. It is an amazingly friendly, quirky, box-o-chocolates kind of happening--a cool series to close out 2011.

Tony Toledo


Clay on the guitar.

Joe spins a story for the crowd.

When we read "in the round," one of us leads off and the poet who follows has to come up with a poem that loosely flows with the first poem. So if Poet 1 writes a poem about a yellow bird, Poet 2 scrambles for a similar poem. Usually, you hear Poet 2 saying something like, "I don't have a poem about a bird, but I do have a poem with the color yellow ..."

Anyone who reads after me knows my poems are short. In the words of Mr. T, "I pity the fool who has to follow me in the round!" (I'm really the fool in between these two talents!)

At the end, we received the customary container of Fluff, signed by the audience.

(Did you know Fluff was created in Lynn? Well, now you do!)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks.

Here we are, the last Confession Tuesday of 2011. Let’s make every word count!

I hope you all are enjoying the holidays. My parents have been here for a few days; it’s been nice spending time with them and watching them play with the kids. We tend to do a lot of prep work before the holidays so I'm wiped out. Now I’m hoping to slow down and really enjoy this time with family and friends.

I want to spend the last week of the year living in the moment. I want to be present with the people who truly matter.


This time last year, I was digging out of a massive snow storm along with the rest of New England. But in December the temp has hovered in the mid-40s. Go figure. Let’s hope the mild weather continues. No one has been more disappointed than my daughter, however, who wished for a white Christmas. I, for one, am thrilled I'm not firing up the snow blower.


Poetry? What’s that? Yeah, it’s been that kind of a week. Looks like I’ll end the year with 38 poems, which is nowhere near the poem-a-week pace I set out for myself last January. Oh well, that’s what the new year is for—to start fresh and begin again.

Also in 2011, I will finish the year with less than 300 blog posts. At some point, I made a conscious effort to post less and to not explain myself. Yet, I’ve never missed a Confession Tuesday.


Last To-Do List for 2011
  1. Write one poem
  2. Send out two submissions
  3. Clean office and basement
  4. Get organized around Mass Poetry
  5. Write end-of-year blog posts

Monday, December 26, 2011

Poets in the Round: Speak Up! December 28

Speak Up features: January Gill O'Neil, Colleen Michaels, Kevin Carey

December 28
Speak UP! Spoken Word Open Mike Every Wednesday Evening, 7:30 p.m.
Walnut Street Coffee Cafe
157 Walnut Street
Lynn, MA 01905-1168

Ladies and Gentlemen of Speak Up, we are closing out 2011 with a BANG!For the first time in our Speak Up history we are featuring three poets in the round.

Each person in their own right is a poet wonderful. Each poet has already been a Speak Up Feature on their own. The three of them are fast friends. They have been given the green light to cut loose, to raise hell, to whisper, to yell, to cuss, to declare they are wearing no underwear. It will be a night to remember.

Come watch the fireworks with Kevin Carey, Colleen Michaels and January Gill O'Neil. Some things make me grin just thinking about them. This is one. See you Wednesday.

Poems by Jan, Colleen, and Kevin online.

Speak UP! Spoken Word Open Mike meets every Wednesday at the Walnut Street Coffee Cafe, 157 Walnut St, Lynn, MA. Come to the Walnut Street Coffee Cafe this Wednesday for the best in poetry, storytelling, jive talking, ranting, listening and just hanging out with each other. Sign up for the open mike lottery starts at 7 PM with the actual talking kicking off at 7:30 PM. Jim Chalmers, the owner of the cafe, is delighted to host Speak Up. He has bought a PA, installed lights and moves the chairs around for us.

If you enjoy Speak Up please buy a beer (or a coffee or a dessert) this Wednesday. It helps his bottom line considerably. Thanks.

At 7:30 all the folks who want to speak will be in a lottery that decides the speaking order. The Featured Performer for the evening goes on at 8:30. We pass the basket to get them gas money home. Folks are invited to share a poem they have written, one they love, tell a story, read a memoir, talk about your week, talk about what pisses you off, share who you love, cuss up a storm, or blow kisses at the crowd--Speak UP! is a Free Speech Zone. We have a three obscenity minimum. Say what you have to say-in five minutes of course.

Tony Toledo, SPEAK UP! EMCEE Coin giver
Excuse me, are you going to finish that pie?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas Eve Day!

Oh my goodness. Not since age 13 when I woke up the day before Christmas morning thinking it was Christmas have I been so excited about the holidays! The house has been decorated for a solid month. The presents are wrapped and and waiting to be opened. And the kids are more excited than ever.

This year, we'll be tracking Santa's journey through NORAD, having crab cakes made my yours truly, and decorating cookies before Santa shimmies down the chimney.

Note to self: Don't light the fireplace tonight.


Since my parents came into town on Wednesday, it’s been a mad dash to finish up the Christmas shopping. I’m almost done. Will stop by a local store to get the last gift.

It’s been fun watching my mom and dad spend time the kids. Wonder if they will enjoy playing on the Wii tonight?


While my parents are here, I’m hoping to get in some writing time as well as getting back to a workout schedule. Also, I haven’t had a vegetable in three days. Ugh. My body HATES me.


After Christmas, I will hit the ground running with Massachusetts Poetry Festival planning. It is on like a mofo. Lots of moving pieces I have to corral. But, the festival is shaping up to be OUTSTANDING! So much to look forward to in 2012!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why I Write #75

Why I Write

2012 Book List

Every year I say I'm going to read a ton of books, and every year I fall flat. Can't remember the last time I plowed through a fiction title that wasn't a Captain Underpants or Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. I read a few poetry books a month but other genres collect dust on my shelves.

These books, however, I'm really looking forward to reading. Some I've carried over from past years.

1. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn (memoir)
2. Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halprien (nonfiction)
3. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (biography)
4. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones (fiction)
5. The Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walter
6. The Gift by Lewis Hyde (nonfiction)
7. The Anthologist by Nicholas Baker (fiction)
8. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (nonfiction)
9.Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption by Jerald Walker
10. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (classic fiction)
11. Notes from an Accidental Band Geek by Erin Dionne

13. Skin, Inc. by Thomas Sayers Ellis
14. The New Black by Evie Shockley
15. The Undertaker's Daughter by Toi Derricotte
16. The Book of Orgasms by Nin Andrews
17. Flood by Kathleen Flenniken
18. Blue Front by Martha Collins
19. One with Others by C.D. Wright
20. Nox by Anne Carson
21. The One Fifteen to Penn Station by Kevin Carey
22. Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith

My poetry list is dominated by women. Any suggestions for good reads on either list? That reminds me, I need to update my Goodreads info.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Confession Tuesday

Ho Ho Ho! It is the holiday edition of Confession Tuesday. Naughty or nice? This is the stuff we want to hear about. Share a little of yourself today or expect a lump of coal in the mail from me!

Since my writers’ retreat a little over week ago, I have not written any new poems. Not one.  *sigh* What can I say? The holidays have taken over. But tonight, I’m going to my writers’ workshop and I’ll bring one of my poems written during the retreat. Thankfully, po-biz stuff--sending out a few submissions and getting a grant application together--has kept me busy (and sane). Feels good to have poems out there working for me. Will try to send a few more poems to publications this week. Also, Mass Poetry Fest planning is kicking into high gear.

On Wednesday, the Calvary (read: my parents) arrive. And Thursday is my last working day of 2011, so I’m planning on getting organized and doing as much writing as possible by the end of the year.


I’m cautiously optimistic about some exciting news coming my way in January. Fingers crossed. Will reveal the details when it’s official.


Just downloaded Amy Winehouse’s posthumously released album, Lioness: Hidden Treasures. Love it. I wish Amy had given us a fully fleshed-out album in the years after Back to Black. But it’s nice to have one more collection of her work in the world. Such a loss.


What’s up with the Elf on the Shelf craze? Isn’t Santa enough? Moving around a toy elf to keep the kids guessing equals one more thing I have to keep up with on a daily basis.


Ella and I were talking about Santa while I was on Twitter. She asked me, “Do you tweet with Santa?” So I said, “Yes, and I can tell him if you’ve been naughty or nice.” Santa is on Twitter, at @santa_claus and @noradsanta.


I’m keeping this blog post short in anticipation of my year-end wrap-up/looking ahead posts. Happy Tuesday, folks!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cookie Monsters

This weekend was a tale of two cookie decorating parties. Here are a few photos from the one I held on Saturday for Alex and Ella's classmates and their parents.

And photos from Colleen Michaels' cookie decorating party yesterday:

The "Rihanna" cookie

That Colleen knows how to throw a party! Her gathering was a mix of friends and serious cookie decorators, young and old. Colleen made the icing and cookies from scratch, and if she could she would have made the sprinkles and toppings herself!

Both parties were special, and served as reminders of how blessed and nurtured the kids and I are by this community. It's fun to get together with friends, eat, and make a big ol' delicious mess!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

All the Lonely People. Where Do They All Belong?

While I haven’t been back to The Cave this week, I have been sending out submissions. It’s been a productive week. Sent a copy of Underlife out to be reviewed, submitted poems to two journals, and prepared a grant application.


The Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Artist Fellowship Grant online application is now available.


Today is the last day to submit proposals to the 2012 Massachusetts Poetry Festival. Submit!


Have you been reading Jericho’s pieces at Best American Poetry? Silly question. Of course you are!


Apply to the 2012 Kundiman and Cave Canem retreats!


Poetry books on my holiday list:

Toi Derricotte, The Undertaker's Daughter
Nin Andrews, The Book of Orgasms
Kathleen Flenniken, Flood


Current spin: "Eleanor Rigby"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Miracle Blanket by Erika Meitner

New Poem

A new poem from the poetry retreat. Still raw. Line breaks need work. But here it is.

Thinking of Lucille Clifton’s “if i stand in my window” at the Convent

                                        —St. Marguerites Retreat House, December 10, 2011

Who wouldn’t want to lower her nightgown
or raise her blouse and push her breasts,
nipples tight as a raisins, against the frosted window,
forming rain drops around dark clouds on a cold December morning.
No thing to bear witness accept the 100-year old pines
and a stray doe anticipating the startle of human.
I think of the women here who married God, to have and to hold no other,
their black habits draping down to the floor, and the young girls who stayed here
when the convent was an orphanage, the childhood of girls lived in dorms,
learning to love each other like family with God as their father.
Did they peer out the window down to the lonely bench
and wish for the startle of a boy? A mother’s call? Or a life beyond this?
A breast on glass is nothing but a marker of time.
Who wouldn’t want to raise a blouse and announce
to the world, “I am here?” I am here.

This is the best link I could find to Ms. Lucille's original poem. (Watch out for pop ups.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Painted Word Series

Painted Word Poetry Series - January Gill O'Neil from Zach Despart on Vimeo.

Painted Word Poetry Series - Deborah Landau from Zach Despart on Vimeo.

Thanks Major and UVM for allowing us to share our words with your community.

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. It's not just any Tuesday ... it's Confession Tuesday! Time to unburden yourself. Share a little piece of your life with us and we promise to do the same.

I am basking in the afterglow of the weekend retreat. My hope is to sit down and write tonight after the kids go to bed. The problem is that I'm so tired at the end of the day, I can barely make it past 9 p.m.

"What a drag it is getting old."


On Saturday morning, I took the first of three workshops with Maria Mazziotti Gillan. She opened her session by talking about a metaphorical creature called The Crow. It sits on your shoulder and reminds you of all your insecurities. Everything, from you're no good as a writer, you have no value, no one will ever want to hear what you have to say, to you're stupid, your parents never loved you, you're too fat ... You name it, The Crow has something to say about it. The Crow also protects The Cave, that place where all your secrets lie--in the pit of your stomach.

For this weekend, Maria gave us permission to knock The Crow off of our shoulders and go down into The Cave to release those terrible stories. It's been a while since I had written pieces that surprised me as much as these did. I was thankful for the experience. "Write first, edit later," I kept telling myself. And it worked. I even wrote a poem about The Crow--one of my best poems from the weekend.

Not ready to post my Crow poem yet because it still feels raw. I have to make a few choices about what to leave in and take out.


Yesterday, I wondered if my power animal is really a crow or a dog. A power animal, as I understand it, an animal spirit that protects and guides you in life (feel free to correct me).  So Googling for power animals, I found this description about The Crow:

As a Crow, you are analytical, adaptable, and exceedingly clever. You like solving problems, sharing a hearty laugh with friends, and most of all, enjoying a good meal. Your inquisitive, philosophical nature leads you to constantly question authority and the status quo, sometimes just for the sake of asking, "Why?"
Best matches: Foxes, Wolves, Swans
Watch out for: Wolverines, Bears, Hawks
Yep, my power animal is a Crow.


Will post a poem from the retreat tomorrow.


I also came to the conclusion that while I like writing a poem a day every six months, I much prefer the steady pace of writing a poem a week. So I am determined to keep up the habit in the New Year. I realize that the poems I write daily lack soul.


Have a good week!

Monday, December 12, 2011

In Retreat

Get ye to a nunnery!
(Heard that line a lot this weekend.)

L-R: Colleen, me, Dawn, Cindy, and Kevin

Back from my retreat and it’s official—I have written my way home. The retreat, run by Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Laura Boss, was absolutely terrific.

Red wheelbarrow, anyone?

My traveling companions to St Marguerite’s Retreat House were poets Kevin Carey, Colleen Michaels, Cindy Veach, and Dawn Paul. Since we knew it would be a large group attending this time (29 participants), we went early enough to get the rooms we wanted, which were all on the same wing of the house. The winter retreat is located on the convent grounds of Saint John the Baptist in Mendham, NJ.

From Friday night to Sunday afternoon, we were in six workshop sessions that, for me, produced six poems—all of which I will develop. I say that because last year I wrote as many poems and didn't revise any of them. After writing 20 soulless poems in November, these poems went deep. DEEP! Surprised myself each time. One of the workshop participants said about his experience, “ Being here … it makes writing fun, not like something that you have to do.” I knew exactly what he meant.

This retreat is laid back with writers at all skill levels. From the first prompt, something in me opened up and I was in the poetry zone. I don’t think I have hit that zone at all this year! Maria and Laura put the emphasis on getting the poem down on paper first, then editing later. I think everyone in my writers group felt maybe we tend to edit too much in the beginning. Maybe we kill our poems before we give them a chance to live.

There’s one TV on sight, which I don’t think anyone every turned on while there. The rooms are Spartan to say the least. Plenty of grounds to walk around, contemplate your naval, and then write about it. The food, which is prepared by church workers and nuns, was plentiful, and every meal with lots of fruit and snacks in between.

For us, it was a chance to do something purely for ourselves. We bonded over poetry, of course, but who knew Dawn was good at ping pong? And after our group poetry reading on Saturday night, the Massachusetts crew, as we were referred to often, stayed up late with Bob, another friend and participant (not from Massachusetts), who played his guitar into the wee hours. Who knew an acoustic version of “You’re So Vain” could bring out the Carly Simon in all of us?

Bob and Kevin

By Sunday, I couldn’t have written another poem if I tried. I was happy to get home and see my kids. Now the trick is figuring out how to bottle up those good feelings and access them again and again and again.


Friday, December 09, 2011

Writing My Way Home ... Again

Today I am off to a weekend writers’ retreat called Writing Your Way Home: A Poetry Weekend Intensive. Located at an an English Manor House in Mendham, NJ, the workshops are run by Laura Boss and Maria Mazziotti Gillan. Woo hoo!

The purpose of this retreat is to give writers the space and time to focus totally on their own work in a serene and beautiful setting away from the pressures and distractions of daily life.
This time around, there will be five of us from the Salem Writers Group attending (read: road trip!). Looking forward to hanging out with my poet friends in this idyllic setting.

I wish I could attend a weeklong class or retreat to do a deep dive into my work, but being a single parent makes it difficult to leave home for even a week. So this little getaway will help me center myself, especially with the holidays upon us. I attended last year and felt renewed and rejuvenated. Now if there was a spa on site that would be perfect!


I need this weekend like I need plasma.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

10 Questions for Poet John Ashbery

The interviewer calls Ashbery, "America's Most Important Living Poet." Maybe one of the most important, but the most important? Hmmm ...

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Confession Tuesday

If it’s Tuesday, it’s time for your confessions! Share a bit of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.

First Tuesday in December and I am recovering from another kidstastic weekend. Alex and Ella had seven play dates between them. Great weekend, but man am I beat. I even cooked meals for two of the seven get togethers. Whew!

I have a habit of saying yes to opportunities and clearly I may have overdone it. But we had fun. Can’t say I would have done it any differently, I guess.


Still thinking about my reading with Afaa on Friday night. Specifically, I’m thinking about how to bridge old, established poems with work from my second manuscript.

Have you ever been to a poetry reading where a poet reads from a new book but hasn’t found the rhythm between poems yet? He or she doesn’t know where to pause. Or worse, hasn’t considered the order so the reading seems like a mishmash of disconnected pieces? Well, I do not want that to be my story, which is why I’m testing the waters in every reading with new work. I want to get my timing down before Misery Islands is published, figure out what to say in between the work.

And of course, with the difficult subject matter or divorce and repair, reading these poems give me an opportunity to redefine myself.


I’ve been wondering if the lettered shirt I wore on Friday night was overkill.


This weekend, I’m traveling with friends from my writers’ group to Mendham, NJ, for what is turning out to be our annual writers retreat run by Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Laura Boss. I’m looking forward to getting away from the daily distractions and focusing solely on my work. In other words, mommy needs a play date of her own.


“The universe does not like status quo.”

Monday, December 05, 2011

Afaa and Me

Every now and then I get these great reminders of how wonderful it is to be a poet. Friday night was such a night, when I had the honor of reading with Afaa Michael Weaver at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Cambridge. Afaa has been a friend and mentor for years, so any opportunity to hear him read is one I cherish.

If you've never been to the Grolier, it is a postage stamp of a bookstore, with walls and walls of poetry books lining the vertical shelves. On this night, 30 audience members crammed in for an evening of verse.

I was nervous about the reading. This was my first reading after the announcement of the publication of my second book, Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press 2014). The night before, I decided to read some poems from Misery--the divorce poems. I wasn't sure how they would be received or how they would work with poems from the first book. But I did it, and I think the new work was well received. But my stomach was in knots up until I took the podium.

Afaa read from two new manuscripts. One of which, The Government of Nature, will be published in 2013 by University of Pittsburgh Press. He weaves his poems together with the history of someone who has "been there and done that," giving voice to people and experiences that make you realize the things hidden inside all of us are universal and profound.

I told the audience I was reading one more poem and then sitting down to listen to Afaa. After which, he chided me, saying I should never defer to the next poet, no matter what. Lesson learned!

We took questions from the audience, and then the conversation turned to Cave Canem (CC) and the state of African American poetry. It's always good to talk about CC, how the organization has grown from its humble beginnings. We shared a bit about the difficulty writers of color have had navigating the publishing waters, and how poetry as a whole is strengthened by diversity of thought and experience.

The conversation was much deeper than what I described. Many in the audience were moved by Afaa's words. Sorry, you just had to be there to take it all in.

Many thanks to the staff at the Grolier for taking us in.

If these walls could talk, what would they say?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Behind the Improbable Scenes

Want to know more about the Improbable Places Poetry Tour? Watch this short compilation put together by Colleen Michaels and Montserrat College of Art.

Very cool!


This is the picture I did not post on Thanksgiving. I walked to the beach and snapped this shot near a lighthouse. It's been so warm the trees just don't know what to do.


TGIF! It's been a long but productive week. Productive with everything but the items on Tuesday's poetry to-list.


I've been playing around with my new iPhone 4S. It is wicked cool, especially to someone who just gave up a first-gen iPhone. The customer service rep called it a "Silverback" and told me I have "evolved." Get it?

Despite it's coolness, rumors of the lack of battery life are true.


Check out a terrific interview with Nikky Finney on NPR's Talk of the Nation.


Hope you can join me tonight at the Grolier reading with Afaa Weaver. For some reason, I'm a little nervous. Not sure if it's because I'm reading some new work from my second book Misery Islands, or because I'm reading at the Grolier. The bookstore is steeped in history.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Afaa Michael Weaver and January O'Neil: Grolier Poetry Book Shop

For these who don't know, the Grolier is the oldest poetry book store in North America. Hope you can make it to the reading!


The Grolier Poetry Book Shop presents
Afaa Weaver and January Gill O'Neil
Friday, December 2
7 p.m.
at The Grolier Poetry Book Shop
6 Plympton Street
Cambridge, MA

A native of Baltimore, Afaa Michael Weaver (born Michael S. Weaver) has been a Pew fellow, a Fulbright scholar in Taiwan, and an NEA fellow in poetry. His first book of poetry Water Son, was published in 1985 by University Press of Virginia. He has had plays produced professionally and worked as an editor and freelance journalist. His short fiction is included in the anthology Children of the Night. His prizes include a Pushcart, the PDI Award in playwriting from ETA Theatre in Chicago, and the May Sarton Award. His 11th collection of poems is Kama i'reeh (Like the Wind)(2010), a translation of his work into Arabic by Wissal Al-Allaq. Weaver works as an editor and a translator, principally in Chinese. He maintains a translation website called Poets Cafe. A major interview with Weaver was published in the Summer 2011 issue of Contemporary Literature. In early 2013 Weaver's 12th collection of poetry, The Government of Nature, will be published by University of Pittsburgh Press. His Academy of American Poets website is Weaver lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Confession Tuesday

It’s Confession Tuesday. You know the drill.

The kids are back after their wild and wacky (and unexpected) road trip. I’ve never seen them so happy to be back at home. It’s kind of nice, really. We finished decorating the Christmas tree, made dinner together, visited with a few friends—they even did their chores without complaining! This is how I know they missed being at home.

What can I say? I missed them and they missed me. And now, all is right with the world.


I am entering the brave new world of online dating. Maybe it’s not new, just new to me. I’m keeping an open mind about the process. After all, I thought I was done with this phase of my life. The whole idea of entering the dating pool again is exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. My world is pretty full and fulfilling as it is, but finding someone to share it can only enhance it.


At the very least, I’ll get a few poems out of my experiences.


We are about five months away from the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, and there are more hands doing the heavy lifting earlier in the process. Currently, we are shoring up the list of headliners and filling in the lineups of panels, sessions, and workshops. The festival marketing, which is my area of expertise, will start to heat up in January, so in December I will get all of the design work and ad specs ready for submission in the New Year.

The deadline for proposals is coming up! Submit!!

This week’s to-do list:

  1. Revise three poems from the November PAD challenge
  2. Send out submissions to four journals 
  3. Scope out my third manuscript project
  4. Start organizing Mass Poetry stuff
  5. Read a fiction book
  6. Work on MCC grant application

All of these things I’ve slacked on in the last month—I really need to stay on task if I’m going to finish the year strong. Not easy to do with the silly season upon us.

Happy Tuesday, folks!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


If you had told me this weekend I would not have blogged or written one poem, I wouldn’t have believed you. But it’s true. I did not write one poem, send out any submissions, or blog. In fact, I stayed away from social media for the most part. It felt pretty good. Guess I needed the break.


My break took a bit of an emotional detour when I found out, after the fact, that Alex and Ella went to South Carolina for the long weekend with their dad. *big sigh*

I’m just not going there now.


What did I do with my time? Put it to good use! I finally swapped out my summer clothes for winter wear. Went shopping on Black Friday. (BTW, every day is Black Friday for me.) Raked the last of the fall leaves. Set up the Christmas tree, wrapped presents, and cleaned the house. Also managed to spend a lot of time with friends.

The kids come back in a few hours. Can’t wait for them to decorate the tree!


It's been 60 degrees for the past few days. My daisies are growing again. No wonder I haven't been in the mood to swap clothes.


So my poem-a-day challenge ends at 20. Playing catch up now becomes more about completing the task rather than writing good poems. I certainly have enough to work on in December so I’m happy with the outcome.


I did manage to do a postcard mailing for the Mass Poetry Festival. I compiled a list of all the indie bookstores in MA, RI, and NH. The cards are addressed and ready for mailing. And I did it all by myself. Felt good to do it, but I won’t do it again without help. Now that was work! Good work, but work nonetheless.


Hello, Starbucks! I’ve missed you.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

RIP Ruth Stone

I had an entirely different post planned, talking about my morning walk to the beach, my new iPhone 4S (it is SWEET!), and Thanksgiving plans. But that changed upon hearing the news poet Ruth Stone has died at age 96.

It was my great pleasure to study with Ruth and Toi Derricotte at Old Dominion University in the late 80s. Her book, Second Hand Coat, was just published during that time. I remember her fiery red hair that went down to the center of her back. I also remember her to be wickedly funny and very nurturing—just what I needed as a young poet. Ruth was a big advocate for writing down poems whenever and wherever they happened. She felt that she didn't write the poems, they moved through her and it was her job to catch them.

After Ruth’s second husband’s suicide, she raised three daughters as a single mother on a farm in Vermont. I remember hearing stories about the hard times when they didn’t have heat or running water. Her life was certainly the meat for her poems, which had elements of science and the natural world. Her husband’s suicide was also a reoccurring theme, as well as aging. Even with her failing eyesight in the later years, she was still writing poems and reciting them from memory.

This morning, I can’t seem to find Second Hand Coat or Simplicity, but I did locate my copy of In the Next Galaxy, for which she won the National Book Award in 1987. Picking up this book is like reaching out to a long, lost friend. In truth, Ruth and I lost touch after college. I’m just thankful for the time our paths crossed for a brief moment in time. She will be missed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks! This is the giving thanks edition of Confession Tuesday. Share a little of your pre-Turkey selves with us an we promise to do the same.

This afternoon, Alex and Ella will leave to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with their dad. I admire them. Leaving home is always tough for them (and they let me know it last night). But I know they will have a good time with their father and his new family. So I am thankful that despite the multitude of changes in their lives during the past three years, they are healthy, happy, and well-adjusted kids. 

I am thankful to be their mom.


By the same token, I am thankful for the gift of time. Alex and Ella will be gone until Sunday, which means I'll have some much needed me time. They say you should always put the oxygen mask on yourself first before the kids. Well, this holiday I will be putting the mask on myself first so that when they return, I will be more rested and centered for them.


I couldn't get through the last month, which was particularly tough for some reason, without friends and family. I am thankful for you--more than you know.


Between the kids, work, and Mass Poetry, I've gotten a little behind on the PAD Challenge. Hello holiday! Time to play a little catch up. I am thankful for all of the above.


Some new opportunities are on the horizon. Too early to talk about anything but they're all exciting. Just another reminder that I seem to be on right path.


A big thank you to you! No, let's make it a big Dating Game kiss. *smack!* Because of you, my second book will be out in fall 2014. Thank you for hanging in there with me.

So, what are you most thankful for this year?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Massachusetts Poetry Festival Proposal Deadline Dec. 1

If you're interested in participating in next year's poetry festival, get your proposal in by December 1. We're looking for sessions, panels, and workshops rather than individual poets to read. Helpful if you have a connection to the state or New England, but we'll give consideration to all submitted proposals.


The fourth Massachusetts Poetry Festival will be held from April 20-22 in downtown Salem, Massachusetts. The Planning Committee of Mass Poetry is requesting proposals for programming from poets, poetry organizations, presses, and editors. The deadline for getting your proposal for presentations at the 2012 Massachusetts Poetry Festival is December 1.

Submit a proposal.

The Festival seeks programming that encompasses the diversity of Massachusetts poets. We seek diversity of poetic voice, style, vision, language and method. Within that diversity we will select the highest quality of content and presentation possible. We seek diversity of age, region of the state, language, gender, background, race and ethnicity. As well we seek diversity of presentation: readings, panels, poetry and dance, poetry and music, workshops, interactive events, poetry and the other arts.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Good News!

My second poetry manuscript, Misery Islands, will be published by CavanKerry Press in fall 2014!

CavanKerry has been great to me. They have supported me and continue to support me with Underlife, so I'm thrilled to continue my relationship with them. Yahoo!


While their general open submission period is in February, CavanKerry Press will be having an open submission period from January 1-31, 2012, for its Laurel Books imprint.

LAUREL BOOKS are collections of poetry or prose memoirs that explore in depth poignant and critical issues associated with personally confronting serious and life-threatening physical or psychological illness. CavanKerry seeks work written from a personal perspective by the individual who has experienced the illness or by the individual personally and deeply involved with the person who suffered from the illness.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nikky Finney at NBA

Big ups to Nikki Finney for winning the National Book Award! So wonderful. Head Off & Split is a wonderful book. Her acceptance speech is amazing!

I had a chance to meet her this year at a reading at Leslie University. She gave me some sage advice about my second manuscript that came just about the time I was having serious doubts about the collection. (Thank you, Nikky.)
What a triumph!

You Can Take That to the Bank!

I thought last month's improbable tour stop at the tattoo parlor was pretty cool, but reading at a bank? After hours? It ranks right up there!

Colleen Michaels has done it again with her choice of venue for Improbable Places Poetry Tour. Last night, the reading was held at the People's United Bank. The money was locked away in the vault (was hoping to leave with a big bag of money--that didn't happen), but poetry was the true commerce of the evening.

Colleen Michaels

Ella O'Neil and Eliza Michaels

Even my daughter, who never met a microphone she didn't like, read a poem before the poetry crowd.

As someone who has read at Occupy Boston, it was nice to come here and listen to a range of poems about people's relationships to money. And I have to give credit to the People's United Bank. According to Colleen, they never asked who's reading or what topics will be read. They opened their doors to the community, just as they do every day. This time, however, the poets occupied the bank.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Blog Post I Forgot to Post

Should have posted this morning but the day got away from me.

I have good second manuscript news … but I’m keeping it under wraps until there are more details to share!


This morning I woke up at 4 a.m. and wrote three PAD poems. And, they don’t suck! So as of this writing, I am back on track. Maybe I should get up that early more often.


My friend, Jo Jo, sends me poems by other poets in the mail. In his last letter, sent me poems by Joan Larkin. She is fierce.

Thanks, chumpy!


See you tonight at the Improbable reading.

Improbable Places Poetry Tour: People’s United Bank

The next stop on Montserrat College of Art’s wildly successful poetry tour is People’s United Bank, formerly Danversbank, in the old Beverly National Bank.

Think about the old changing into the new, payouts, spare change in your pocket – $$ is all around us, being exchanged in so many different ways!

The reading will take place Wednesday, Nov. 16, 7–9 p.m. 240 Cabot Street, Beverly.

(I'm all over this. Hope to see you tonight!)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Confession Tuesday

If it's Tuesday, it's time for your confessions. Unburden yourself. Tell us a little about your life and we promise to do the same.

This weekend, I was reminded of Newton's Third Law of Motion: for every action, there is always an equal and opposite reaction. While this is certainly true in physics, I see this in relation to emotions and the energy I put out into the world.

I'm amazed when people are not in a good phase in their lives, they bring other people down. This is equally true for me. When I'm in a bad mood, it registers pretty quickly in my life, specifically on the kids.

Feels like I spend a lot of time focusing my energies to stay on an even keel. It's somewhat exhausting. But I'm also the beneficiary of maintaining a positive outlook. I've gotten pretty good at navigating change. I'm more resiliant that I ever thought I could be. And, I can't help but think that my efforts to put positive energy in the world continues to come back to me in waves. Guess it's all about the choices we make.

Poetry helps.

I realize this sounds a bit new age-y. Deal.


Oh, PAD. Why have you forsaken me? I didn't write a poem last night. Was too tired after serving up a spaghetti dinner for Alex's classmates last night. Oh well. Let's see what the day brings.


You might be asking why I would do a poem a day challenge? Well, the key word in that question is challenge. I like testing myself in short spurts. I'm not in a writing groove yet, but I'm getting there. Plus, I love the public struggle of watching so many poets--just like me--trying to keep up. A good reminder that writing poetry is difficult no matter who you are. 


To-do list

1. Keep up with PAD poems
2. Revise PAD poems and post a few of them
3. Submit poems to four journals
4. Read a novel (can't remember the last time I read a novel)
5. Write a blog post for Mass Poetry


My first gen-iPhone needs to be put out of it's misery. Because Apple is not making compatible software, some of my apps (Facebook, Twitter) won't work so I'm forced to upgrade. So off to the Apple store this week for a new and improved version.


We live in a disposable society. Nothing seems to have lasting value anymore. Except poetry, of course.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Being Flynn

Congrats to Nick Flynn on Being Flynn, adapted from his memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.

Woo hoo!

Monday, Monday

Happy Monday, folks! It was another kidtastic weekend, filled with birthday parties and flag football. Here's a picture of my daughter on a horse named Faith. We went to a birthday party at a horse ranch. I have to say, it was pretty cool for us city slickers.

My daughter really wanted to take the horse home. I had to explain to her that our backyard was too small to keep her, and she would miss all of her horse friends. But who couldn't use a little Faith these days.


Also this weekend, my son won his first flag football game. Unfortunately, his team has lost the previous five games. But the team finally gelled in game #6, which happens to be a playoff game in this league. I didn't see the game because I had to take my daughter to the birthday party mentioned above, but he was so excited afterwards. The team has a chance to go to the playoffs--how funny (and great) is that?


Fourteen days into the PAD challenge and I have 13 drafts. Did not get a chance to revise them--too much kid stuff going on this weekend. So I'll just keep at it until I can get a few free minutes, which may not be until the end of the month.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cornelius Eady - P.O.P

P.O.P (Poets on Poetry) is an evolving conversation between and about poets. By Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Can't wait to see where this project goes.

(Thanks, Jaci.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

BERKELEY: Tension mount at Occupy Berkeley UC encampment

BERKELEY: Tension mount at Occupy Berkeley UC encampment

Look closely and you'll see former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass getting shoved.

(Thanks for the link, @Powell_DA)

Kathleen Flenniken: PLUME

I met Kathleen Flenniken last month on my visit to Seattle. She’s a terrific poet, and now she and her son have created this terrific trailer for her forthcoming book Plume.

Plume recounts her history growing up in Hanford, Washington, near the Hanford Nuclear Site.

If the trailer is any indication, this book will be amazing.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kibbles and Bits

Still hanging with the PAD Challenge. On day 10, I have eight poems written. Yay! Looking forward to the weekend so I can sort my poems and try to revise.


Yesterday, I got a call from the school nurse saying she found a tick above my daughter's right ear. YIKES! Took everything in me not to completely FREAK OUT. It's been warm lately and there are a lot of trees near the kids' school. Ella's fine. Hoping we got it early. Damn tick. (The subject of PAD #8.)


The beautiful and talented Nin Andrews is blogging this week at Best American Poetry. Not only is she a fine poet, she's a wonderful cartoonist. Here's one she did of me! *smile!*


Mass Poetry now has a blog. Go read their blog, which will be updated a few times a week.


I had a conversation last week with poets published by various publishers. I didn't realize the publication cycles of poetry collections are typically three to five years. I think my publisher has a three-year cycle, while others have five years. Can you imagine publishing a book in 2011 and waiting until 2016 for the next title? Ugh. I know it happens all the time; nonetheless, I'm still surprised by the delay.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Confession Tuesday

Happy Confession Tuesday, folks! Thanks for stopping by. Share a little of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.


Day 8 of the November PAD Challenge and I have six drafts. Still haven't found that flow yet. The poems seem forced to me. Here's hoping I get into a poetry groove by this time next week.

I tend to write poems just before I go to bed so maybe tomorrow I'll change it up and use the morning to start a draft. I've been concerned that I wouldn't have time to revise since most of my poems are written on the fly. But I'll have time to look at them more closely this weekend. Once I do, I'll post a few.


And I know this is my process. The fretting. The hemming and hawing. This is the work on top of the work to control that inside voice. I just have to give into the process and not fight it. Easier said than done, however. I want to hit a home run every time.


I'm going to a weekend retreat in December.
Writing Your Way Home: A Poetry Weekend Intensive
St Marguerite’s Retreat House

With poets Laura Boss and Maria Mazziotti Gillan
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, December 9, 10, and 11, 2011
The purpose of this retreat is to give writers the space and time to focus totally on their own work in a serene and beautiful setting away from the pressures and distractions of daily life.

Writing weekend poets will find:
* support and encouragement
* stimulating activities leading to the creation of new work
* workshop leaders who are actively engaged in the writing life
* opportunities to read their work aloud to the group
* a circle of writer friends
* networking opportunities.

I went last year with some friends from my writers' group and we had a great time. It was just the boost I needed to get me focused and motivated heading into the new year.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Fall Back

Ahhh, Monday. You know you're in trouble when it's a "Thank god it's Friday--Oh, god it's Monday" kind of a day.


Despite the time change, we had a pretty good weekend (It's not like anyone sleeps in my household.). Roller skating, kids parties, play dates, and flag football. But I was able to find a little "me" time to crank out a few poems for the PAD Challenge.

Writing a poem a day is like building a airplane while flying it. I have five poems in draft stage, with little time to go back and revise. I'm afraid if I wait too long, I won't go back at all to fix them. Meanwhile, I'm down two poems. I hate playing catch up. Oh well. There are worse things I could do ...

("... like go with a boy or two." Name that tune.)


Check out the latest podcast from New Letters on the Air featuring my former NYU classmate Mariko Nagai. Yay Mariko!


My first-generation iPhone is dying a slow death. *sigh* May be time to pick up a new one.


As I type this, my daughter, Ella, is leaning over and watching me type. So much for Daylight Savings.


Saturday, November 05, 2011

Improbable Places Poetry Tour: Ink

Kudos to the Czarina of Fun, Colleen Michaels, and the team at Montserrat College of Art for this Improbable Places Poetry Tour video.

The poetry reading was held at Good Mojo Tattoos in Beverly, MA, on a warm October night. I love the tattoo footage as backdrop to the readings.



Save the Date: Next stop on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour:

Wednesday, November 16
7 p.m.
People’s United Bank
240 Cabot St.
Beverly, Massachusetts

Come and make a deposit ... of verse!

One word: Occupy

Friday, November 04, 2011

It's Just Lunch

While I will not attend the AWP Chicago conference (Chi-town in the middle of winter just doesn't appeal to me), I'm over the moon excited that AWP will be coming to Boston in 2013!

Yesterday, I attended a meet-and-greet luncheon for regional organizations. It was an opportunity for AWP get their boots on the ground, while offering exhibiting and sponsorship opportunities for orgs during  conference.  

Did you know ...?

  • The last time AWP came to Boston was in 1982.
  • For AWP Chicago, of the more than 1,000 proposals submitted, about 420 were selected.
  • The AWP Bookfair is the largest bookfair in North America, with about 550 organizations and presses participating in Chicago. There will be more exhibition space available in Boston so there's the potential for the book fair to grow. Impressive!   

OK, I kinda wish I was going to Chicago, but knowing AWP will be local in 2013 gives me something to look forward to down the road.


My little cold is slowing me down, but I have three drafts written for my poem-a-day challenge. I may post one or two this weekend.


Just confirmed that Afaa Michael Weaver and I will be reading at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop on December 1. That good news was tempered by a rejection from Poetry magazine. Oh well. Can't win them all.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Hump Day

Poem #1 of the PAD Challenge--done!

I forget how much effort it takes to just let go when doing a month-long challenge. The bad ones always bubble to the top. But poem #1 has the potential to be a sonnet. So I hope to tweak it in the next few days while I still have the desire to revise it.

Poetry Reading
Rosa Alcalá, Eduardo C. Corral & Aracelis Girmay
Tuesday, Nov 8, 6 p.m.
Cambridge, MA
Thompson Room, Barker Center, 12 Quincy Street.
Harvard Universiy


Poetry Reading
Patricia Spears Jones, author of Painkiller, is coming to Simmons College.

November 14
6:30 p.m., Room C311
Simmons College
Boston, MA
Sponsored by the Zora Neale Hurston Center of the Department of English
English Liaison with Support From President’s Council
ZNH Center contact: Znnzen@Gmail.Com

I hope I can make it to both readings.


I think I'm coming down with a cold.


I'm wearing open-toed shoes today.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Confession Tuesday

Goodbye, October. Hello, November! And, Happy Tuesday! Share a little of yourself and we promise to do the same.

My trick-or-treaters. I can’t believe how big they're getting. Here are Alex and Ella waiting to hand out candy.

Despite the weekend snowstorm, the temperature was chilly but mild enough for trick or treating. Not much snow on the ground at all. In fact, it was a great night for some ghostly fun. There were more kids out and about that I’ve ever seen in our neighborhood. Lots of parents handing out hot cider and hot cocoa. Lots of good will in our neck of the woods. We had a great time!


And just like that, it’s November. Where the heck did the year go? I mean, I bought my first Christmas present yesterday. Yikes!


Because October was a busy month with readings, November will be a month for writing. If you haven’t done so already, pop on over to Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog and read up on his Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge. I use this challenge as a kickstart for getting into a groove. I will be writing poems and posting most of them online, but not producing a chapbook.

Of course, I have no idea what I will write today. And my writers' workshop is tonight so today I am a poet in search of a poem.


Planning for the Mass Poetry Festival is revving up. We’re in the process of confirming features and scheduling programming. Between those responsibilities and whatever I am tasked to do on the AWP Boston committee, this fall and winter promises to be a busy time. My goal, however, is to stay as balanced as possible.


My focus for November:
  • Wellness (eating right, sleeping, exercise)
  • Family (kids, kids, kids!)
  • Poetry.

With a few exceptions, I had a great October. Here’s hoping November moves just as smoothly.

Reasons to Survive November

As is my November tradition, I am posting Tony Hoagland's poem "Reasons to Survive November." With each passing year, this poem  resonates with me more and more.

(Listen to the audio.)

Reasons to Survive November

November like a train wreck –
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.

The sky is a thick, cold gauze –
but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.

– Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.

I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
in a room by myself

with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
like a disconnected phone.

But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,

and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over

and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into the land of my enemies.

(Tony Hoagland, from What Narcissism Means to Me. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf, 2003.)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Marie Howe - Interview

Interview with poet Marie Howe Hosted by Rose Powell and Theodora Ziolkowski.

University of Vermont
September 23, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

First Snow

The view from my front door.

Craziness, I tell you. Snow before Halloween. See those green trees in the background? .


Saturday, October 29, 2011

OccuPoets Boston

Yesterday, I was part of a weeklong effort by OccuPoets Boston to support the Occupy Boston movement. Organized by Peter Desmond, the weeklong series of afternoon poetry readings were held in support of the hundreds of people camping out, talking to passersby on the street, serving food, organizing events, talking to media, etc.

About 15 poets read to a crowd of 40-50 people, including Fred Marchant, Martha Collins, Molly Lynn Watt, and me. I was incredibly nervous—I never know how my work will be received. But the audience was warm and appreciative of the support from the Boston-area writers community. Four of the five poems I read are from the new manuscript, all of which have to do with the downturn in the economy.

This Occupy effort is centralized at Dewey Plaza at South Station in downtown Boston. What was once a park is now a tent city. Except for the musicians in the background and the city noise, it was relatively calm there. And clean. A little smelly but very organized and orderly. There's even a library on site, that now has a copy of Underlife on its shelves. I definitely got the sense that these 99 percenters are 100 percent committed to change by any (peaceful) means necessary. And with our first winter wallop of a storm coming, the occupiers were readying themselves with tarps and blankets to gut it out.

The contrast of tents and the towering banks in the background just blew me away. As poet Jennifer Badot put it, “How exhilarating to be there!”

Fred Marchant

Martha Collins

Molly Lynn Watt

Organizer Peter Desmond

The Occupy Boston Library


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