Friday, April 29, 2011

Improbable Places Poetry Tour: Ekphrastic Fantastic!

Thursday, May 5
7 p.m.
17 Cox Visual Art Center
17 Cox Court, Beverly, MA

What’s this tour all about?
Well, It’s Montserrat College of Art’s way of bringing together student writers, local poets, area businesses, and enthusiastic listeners to celebrate the power of poetry and community. Each month a new venue and theme will be selected. This month’s venue is 17 Cox Visual Art Center and the current exhibition, Good Work(s).

A poem about visual art, huh? That’s right, folks. This month the theme is Ekphrastic Fantastic! The Good Work(s) show at 17 Cox champions kindness as well as content and features the work of 8 artists known for their good work and good character. What better way to champion these fine folk than to write a poem in response to their work?

What kind of prompt is that?
That’s Ekphrastic Fantastic! And here’s what you do:
Step 1: Visit the Cox 17 website to view the Good Work(s) exhibition.
Step 2: Use the work of any of the 8 featured artists as inspiration for your poem. Feel free to snoop around the artists’ websites.

Hey, I’ve got just the poem for this month’s tour. Can I read it? We are accepting submissions via email at and in the Writing Center, located on the 2nd floor of Montserrat’s library. The deadline is Tuesday, May 3rd. We’d love to read your work!

I don’t write poetry, but I sure am interested in this tour. Can I still attend the event? Absolutely! Come and listen and cheer on the readers at 7:00. Even Better – Make a whole night of it -Come to the Good work(s) reception at 5:30 and the Artist Talk at 6:30.

Wait! I’ve still got questions! Just talk to Colleen Michaels, Montserrat’s Writing Center Director. She’s at or 978-921-4242 ext. 1254.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Few Shout Outs and a Thank You

There's a terrific New Letters on the Air podcast featuring Cave Canem fellows John Murillo, Dwayne Betts, Randall Horton, and Marcus Jackson. They discuss their love of the work of Etheridge Knight, and the formation of the own poetry collective called "The Symphony." Check it out!


Susan Rich will be one of the presenters at this years Massachusetts Poetry Festival. Here's a post about her presentation, "Speaking Pictures: Beyond Ekphrastic Workshop" at the Peabody Essex Museum on Saturday, May 14.


Congrats to Tayari Jones for her feature story in Poets & Writers.


Also, congrat to Collin Kelley, who is blogging for P&W.


And a thank you to my friend Phoebe, who, in the midst of all my Mass Poetry craziness, sent me a copy of one of her favorite poems, Dedication for a Plot of Ground by William Carlos Williams. Thanks, Pho. I needed that!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Confession Tuesday

Happy Confession Tuesday! Share a bit of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.

Here's an Easter photo of us at Coco Key Water Resort. After the Easter Bunny made an appearance at the house, I surprised Alex and Ella with a day trip. We had a blast!


This is the "all flat-out" confessions today, as in I am too busy to breathe much less confess.

As you know, the Massachusetts Poetry Festival is less than three weeks away (May 12-14). There's a crazy amount of behind-the-scene work that needs to happen before then. My focus right now is working with a designer to get the program book designed and printed, as well as getting T-shirts and banners and signage (oh my!).

So between my day job, working on Mass Poetry stuff at night, and the kids the rest of the time, I am flat-out, borderline miserable. I'm had to put off writing completely until after the festival. There are just not enough hours in the day and too much on my plate.

That being said, the festival will be amazing! It's really going to be a terrific event with more poets, musicians, and performers than in any other weekend in Massachusetts. I'm very proud to be a part of the planning committee. This is my attempt at literary citizenship on a grand scale.


Until the festival passes--after which I'll be doing the dance of joy, then sleeping like Rip Van Winkle--my blog posts will be sporadic. *sigh*

Happy Tuesday, Folks!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What Is Your Work?

After commiserating with my dear friend and YA author, Erin Dionne, earlier this week about balancing work, family life, and a writing career, she sent me a link for an exercise by writer Cheryl Renee Herbsman. I thought it was a good one, so I’m going to modify it and share it here.

This exercise was inspired by Mary Oliver’s poem "Messenger," which beings with the line “My work is loving the world.”

Read the poem, then ask yourself a pared-down version of the first line, “What is my work?”

It is meant to be a soulful question, much like what gives me joy or what is my purpose? But asking questions like this always helps me to center myself. It is a constant struggle to try to balance all those have-to responsibilities against what I really want to do, which is write. Sometimes I need a reminder about what's most important to me.

Here is the exercise (my interpretation):

1. Find a quiet spot where you won't be disturbed about 20 minutes.

2. Get quiet inside. Breathe. Listen to the birds outside your window or listen to the silence or listen to music if that inspires but doesn't distract you. Don't skip this step. If you don't get quiet inside you won't be able to hear the quiet voice that has the answers.

3. Write at the top of the page: What is my work?

4. Start writing. Even if you don't know what to write about, write anyway. If it helps, you can start by writing about what your work isn't.

5. Ignore the critical voice in your head that says this is stupid. That voice is wrong.

I’m waiting for a quiet moment to try this. But when I do, I may—or may not—share my results. I’d rather act on them and tell you about it later.

Read Cheryl's original post.

Good luck!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fifth Stop on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour

True to its name, The Improbable Places Poetry Tour made yet another improbable stop at Boot, Straps, and More Thrift Store last night.

It was so much fun to sit among the second-hand (sometime third- and fourth-hand) items that lined every inch of the store. You could not help but be inspired. I jotted down an idea for a poem during the reading.

What I love about the Improbable tour is that community members who would never read a poem much less attend a reading bring a poem they've just written. There are usually a few first-time readers in the audience. Even my kids read original poems last night!

Kudos to Colleen Michaels for being the conductor of this poetry train!

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera but a snapped a few pictures with my trusty iPhone.

J.D. Scrimgeour
Items sold in the thrift store go to benefit Beverly Bootstraps.

Tony Toledo reads a poem written at the thrift store 20 minutes earlier about the mannequin standing next to him.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday! Time for your confessions. Share a little of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.

The photo above the Grolier Poetry Book Shop. If you look closely, you'll see a poster for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in the window. I didn't design it, but I am working on the marketing for the festival so I'm very proud of this year's look and feel.


Ah, April. You are a bit cruel, aren't you?

I'm extremely disappointed not to have made it through this April's poem-a-day challenge. The festival has pretty much overtaken my free time. I'm writing sporadically, and will probably come back to writing poems regularly in late May. Ugh.


Last evening, I let the kids ride their bikes in the street--first time this spring. And I found myself deliriously happy watching them ride around in circles. It's clear how much they've grown, how confident they have gotten with a little age under their belts. Maybe it was the idea that spring is here and darkness was about to overtake us. I'm just happy I get to experience these mom moments.


As I type this, my daughter is watching her Schoolhouse Rock DVD.  Current episode? "The Shot Heard Round the World," one of the history lessons. I'm glad she loves these mini school lessons as much as I did when I was a child. Schoolhouse Rock is better than much of what is on television for kids today.


I confess that my favorite Schoolhouse Rock clip is "Conjunction Junction, what's your function!" Do you have a favorite?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Improbable Places Poetry Tour: Flower Shop

On the fourth stop of the Improbable Places Poetry Tour, members of the Montserrat and Beverly community gathered to celebrate the power of poetry and community. Inspired by the poem “One Flower” by Jack Kerouac.

Kudos to the media team from Montserrat College of Art for the lovely presentation.


FYI, next stop on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour:

Thursday, April 21
7 p.m.
Boot, Straps, and More Thrift Store
198 Rantoul Street
Downtown Beverly

What's this tour all about? Well, It's Montserrat College of Art's way of bringing together student writers, local poets, area businesses, and enthusiastic listeners to celebrate the power of poetry and community. Each month a new venue and theme will be selected. This month's venue, Beverly Bootstraps Thrift Store, is chock-a-block full of bargains for a cause

2011 Pulitzers in Fiction and Poetry



For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” by Jennifer Egan (Alfred A. Knopf), an inventive investigation of growing up and growing old in the digital age, displaying a big-hearted curiosity about cultural change at warp speed.

Also nominated as finalists in this category were: “The Privileges,” by Jonathan Dee (Random House), a contemporary, wide ranging tale about an elite Manhattan family, moral bankruptcy and the long reach of wealth, and “The Surrendered,” by Chang-Rae Lee (Riverhead Books), a haunting and often heartbreaking epic whose characters explore the deep reverberations of love, devotion and war.


For a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to “The Best of It: New and Selected Poems,” by Kay Ryan (Grove Press), a body of work spanning 45 years, witty, rebellious and yet tender, a treasure trove of an iconoclastic and joyful mind.

Also nominated as finalists in this category were: “The Common Man,” by Maurice Manning (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a rich, often poignant collection of poems rooted in a rural Kentucky experiencing change in its culture and landscape, and “Break the Glass,” by Jean Valentine (Copper Canyon Press), a collection of imaginative poems in which small details can accrue great power and a reader is never sure where any poem might lead.

Monday, Monday

It's a venti hot chocolate kind of day.

It's also Patriots' Day, the running of the Boston Marathon, Pulitzer announcement day, and a day off from me. So while the kids are having some school vacation fun at our local Y, I have escaped to Starbucks.

Was just outside talking to one of the Mass Poetry Festival organizers on a headset while another festival organizer walked up and asked for flyers. Even on my days off, I'm working. But it is good work.


Had a terrific weekend. Went to the gym twice, paid bills, cleaned the house, slept, made plans for me and the kids, spoke to my parents about an upcoming visit, and, of course, worked on plans for the festival. As I write this, a wave of gratitude has overtaken me. I love this life. It's not perfect, but it's all mine.


Five books on my nightstand:
  • The New Black by Evie Shockley
  • Bringing the Shovel Down by Ross Gay
  • Lucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
  • Words for Empty and Words for Full by Bob Hicok
  • Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls by Erika Meitner (and her book Ideal Cities is in the photo above)

Time to write a poem.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday in the City

Happy Saturday! I'm recovering from a hectic week--I gave seven readings in five days. Whew!

Monday is Patriots' Day, which is a holiday in New England. And with the kids with their dad this weekend, I have a little extra time to conquer my to-do list and to get some much needed rest. Yahoo!


Today, I'm headed into Somerville to visit with the Bagel Bards. Then I'll go to Cambridge to hang up posters and flyers for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. I'll stop by the Grolier Poetry Book Shop and other area bookstores. Looking forward to walking around the city. I'll also find a quiet spot to write.


Tonight I am one of three judges for a poetry slam at Endicott College. Starts at 7. Swing by if you're in the area.


Sunday morning, I will be on Magic 106.7's radio program Boston Life, 7:30 a.m. I will be talking about the poetry festival. Here's hoping I don't sound too goofy.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mass Poetry Festival Fundraiser: April 14

This is a fundraiser for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.

Fred Marchant and Carla Panciera
Reading and Book Signing

Thursday April 14, 7:30 p.m.
Montserrat College of Art, Paul M. Scott Library
Beverly, MA
A reception will follow.

The library is located in the main building at Montserrat, 23 Essex St. Beverly.

Suggested donation: $20
Students: $10

There will also be a raffle for various items related to poetry, so bring your wallets! To read more about Carla and Fred, go to and see gorgeous photos of the handsome poets plus their background material. If you have any questions, please contact Claire Keyes at

National Poem in Your Pocket Day

Did you know that April 14 is National Poem in Your Pocket Day? As part of the Academy of American Poets' National Poetry Month celebration, they are encouraging poets and poetry lovers to carry a favorite poem to share with others today.

While the Academy has a list of recommended poems, I wanted to spotlight a poem from a friend. The poem is "Shredding Me," by Kevin Carey, whose first poetry collection, The One Fifteen to Penn Station, is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press. This poem was nominated for a Pushcart Poetry Prize.

"Shredding Me" is the poem in my purse today!

Shredding Me

I was liberated by my shredder
a fifteen page cd/disc crushing
super shredder.
I emptied a drawer of old bills
fed the crisscross steel jaws
with late payments
and a side of overdues
and a dish of slips
marked paid with check numbers,
proof of my existence,
I fed that grinding machine
a list of capital expenditures,
credit cards, car insurance,
utility bills, how much water
I used,
how many times I flushed,
how often I bought socks
and underwear and sneakers.
I was liberated from my debt-ridden past
with the simple passage of paper,
memories chewed one hundred times
and swallowed,
so why not I figured
why not these bills
the ones I haven’t payed yet
the ones due a month from now
(out of sight, out of register)
and if that didn’t work
then I would shred the late notices
and the collections and the revocations
and the suit from the bank,
who might come to bulldoze my house,
and even though the shredder warns
about getting your tie caught
I’d stuff him in anyway
squeeze him through the credit card slot,
the one with the extra tough teeth,
and I’d shred the cops that came looking
for the bank guy,
cut right through their badges
and their handcuffs,
remember it’s a super shredder,
chews squad cars and FBI microphones
and uniforms and combat boots
and members of the national guard
who come looking for chewed up cops,
who come looking for talking bank heads,
it even shreds tanks and planes
and rocket propelled missiles,
if they end up wanting my money that bad,
and when I’m finished with my credit history
and any traces of my future debt
I might slip in a few personals
maybe shred some mistakes I’ve made
some laws I’ve broken
old lies I told myself
myths I had created
perhaps even shred a big idea I had once
that got going all wrong,
and when I was finished with that,
maybe I’d step into the shredder myself
let those hungry teeth chew my socks
then my toes
then the bone and the marrow
let them make me into biodegradable pieces
small red-white bits of me
that could be scattered
around the fields of the world,
like Johnny Appleseed
pulled me from his pouch,
let the wind plant me
firmly in the ground.

Also, read a fiction piece by Kevin, "Home for the Holidays," at Apple Valley Review.

My Visit to NSCC

I had a blast visiting the campuses at North Shore Community College! The photo above is of the Danvers campus. This is Carl Carlsen, who is introducing me before my presentation.

This photo is after my presentations at the Lynn Photo. I had the pleasure of meeting NSCC President Wayne Burton (far left) and faculty members from the English Department.

The students asked great questions about writing poems, inspiration, revision, and the life of a poet. I gave four talks over two days, and while I enjoyed it immensely, it was exhausting. I'm not sure if I could teach on a regular basis, but I certainly respect those who do. And thank goodness for community colleges. While the bigger schools get all the attention, there is a range of activities and opportunities happening at the community college level.

Special thanks to Carl Calsen for being such a wonderful host.

The Liberty Hotel

Join me tonight for a reading at the Liberty Hotel in Boston!


The Liberty Hotel in Partnership
With a Tapestry of Voices & The Grolier Poetry Book Shop


Featured Poets:

The Liberty Hotel

Thursday, April 14, 2011
6:30 P.M.
215 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114ESPLANADE ROOM 5th FLOOR
Followed by an Open Mike

Free Admission, RSVP at

JANUARY O’NEIL is the author of Underlife (CavanKerry Press, 2009), her first poetry collection. She was featured in Poets and Writers Magazine’s January/February 2010 Inspiration Issue as one of its 12 debut poets. A Cave Canem Fellow, she is on the planning committee for the 2011 Massachusetts Poetry Festival. Her publication credits include: North American Review, Crab Orchard Review, Callaloo, Ibbetson Street, among others. She blogs at Poet Mom.

MARSHA POMERANTZ’S collection, The Illustrated Edge will be published in April, 2011 by Biblioasis (Canada). Her poems and prose have appeared in journals in the U.S., UK, and Israel. She has translated poetry, short fiction and a novel from the Hebrew. Her writing has been supported by two residencies at the MacDowell Colony and a Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist grant.

RON SLATE’S first book of poems, The Incentive of the Maggot (2005), was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Prize, and was followed by The Great Wave (2009). He spent 30 years working in business and was vice president of global communications for EMC Corporation. He reviews books at a blog called “On the Seawall” and is writing a novel titled Out of Pocket.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Erin Dionne on Fox News Providence

Go Erin!

Confession Tuesday

It's Confession Tuesday--you know the drill!

I am frazzled. Much of my time has been spent helping to plan the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. Right now, I'm organizing the program booklet, as well as coordinating a good portion of the marketing efforts. I can barely keep up with email. I'm averaging about four hours a night for sleep. But a few big projects are about to move off of my plate. What keeps me going is the knowledge that this will be an outstanding event. But I'm ready to get my life back--or at least a good night's sleep!

This past weekend I did catch on sleep a little, and took the kids to the movies and an Easter egg hunt. So there was a little play mixed in with the work. I needed to pull back from technology for a while.


Needless to say, I've had to put the writing challenges on hold. Hoping to finish the month with a few good poems. And my blog is in need of some love. *sigh*

Lots of readings coming up, which is cool. Today and tomorrow, I'm the Visiting Writer at North Shore Community College. Tonight I'm reading with Jennifer Jean with the Frost Foundation: 7 p.m. at Cafe Azteca, 180 Common St., Lawrence, MA. And on Thursday, I'm reading at the Liberty Hotel in Boston.


And the kicker to last week is that I ruined my thumb drive, which has everything I've been working on for the past year, including my second manuscript. I believe I have copies of the electronic files in email, but if anyone knows how to recover lost files from a damaged drive, please let me know!

Happy Tuesday!

2011 Massachusetts Poetry Festival Schedule Is Out!

A Heruclean effort has gone into getting the schedule ready for the 2011 Massachusetts Poetry Festival. It's up and available, so check it out!


Dear Poets, Poetry Lovers, and Poetry Readers,

We are excited to announce the release of the schedule for the 2011 Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem on May 12, 13, and 14.

Registration for workshops and other events with limited capacity is now open. Workshop seats are limited in number and are available on a first-to-sign-up basis.

We are offering a new feature this year that allows you to create your own personal festival schedule by clicking the + sign next to any event on the schedule, even those without limited capacities. It would help us enormously if you would sign up for all the events you want to attend, those with and without limited capacity, so that we can make sure that we have them in the appropriately-sized venues. Please build your personal schedule, share it with your friends, and make sure that you and they can get to all the events that you most want to attend.

There are more than 125 different poets, musicians, and performers taking part in this year's festival. You can browse through all the participants and events, sign up for workshops, and build you own personal festival schedule by going to:

We will continue to add information and improve the look and feel of the site during the next 10 days. We have several important components to add including the poets with new books for the sequential reading. But we wanted to launch the schedule and registration process so you can begin your planning.

Visiting Writer: North Shore Community College

Join me at North Shore Community College April 12-13.


Poet January Gill O'Neil of Beverly, author of the collection Underlife, will read and discuss her poetry as North Shore Community College's 2011 Visiting Writer on Tuesday, April 12 and Wednesday, April 13. On Tuesday April 12, she will read in the Old Cafe in the Danvers Health Building at 9:30 and 11 a.m.  On Wednesday, April 13, she will read in the Lynn campus gym at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. All readings are free and open to the public.

January Gill O'Neil writes about her parents, her family, and her favorite foods. She is a fellow of Cave Canem, an organization that promotes and develops African American poets, and she is on the planning committee for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, which will be held in Salem on May 13 and 14. Her website is terrific.

Please contact Carl Carlsen for further information:

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Writer's Life Series

Last night, I was on a panel at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. The topic? The Writer's Life Series: From Idea to Bookshelf: Authors Share Their Publishing Stories. Hosted by Charles Coe, the panelists included nonfiction authors Saloma Miller Furlong and Jerald Walker.

We had a good chemistry, and we received a nice mix of questions on how we got started as writers, how to navigate the publishing world, and our process for writing. Though we come from different backgrounds, I think we have similar approaches to our work ethic. There's just no substitution for hard work and persistence.

Doug Holder will be on a panel next week!


NaPoWriMo baby! Three drafts written, more to come. Be kind with comments. The poems posted this month are drafts.


I did not receive a Guggenheim Fellowship. Oh well. It was my first time applying and certainly not my last. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


Did you see the Bad Poetry Contest sponsored by the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. Check it out!

NaPoWriMo 3


I whisper it under my breath like a prayer
as we pass through the front door,
you going in, me coming out,
crowding the threshold
in a game of chicken.
We both have right of way
but neither is willing to yield.
A heart-skipped beat. A bottled misery.
The word ripples from the underground
spring of the diaphragm where a fissure
has opened once again, the trauma
of old love that never heals.
I brace myself for unavoidable contact,
avert the eyes, move through the stiff air
like a cloud wedged between clouds.
Say it, that mantra of the highest order.
I hold my breath as your windbreaker
brushes against my three-quarter length,
my 100 percent wool against your polyester blend.
What more is there to do but go through?
L for loser, double L for lost love.
The Motels had it right,
“Take the L out of lover and it’s over,”
because the body gives up what it no longer needs.
This is how I walk through without looking back.

NaPoWriMo 2

Gin Rickey

—for JOL

He takes a bright green lime
and squeezes it into a clear pitcher
until juice streams into a trickle.

Tiny pouches of flavor pulse outward
like sea anemones throbbing
in an undulating wave, like a vagina

frayed and tingly. He takes the flat edge
of a spoon, goes in, gets what’s left
to make the glass sing. Saturday night

splashed with gin and swirl of seltzer
breaks the ice over winter’s long pause.
Spring arrives late as green gropes the ground

dragging it body and soul into this world,
with just enough zest to rim the lip.
Raise your glass, it’s time to celebrate.

NaPoWriMo 1

Poem for My Five-year-old Daughter

Be a cloud. Be mac and cheese. Be tight curls. Scream when your mom combs your hair. Be black. Be Backugan. Be Hello Kitty. Be Medusa. Be stinging nettles. Be mayonnaise. Be any color but pink and purple. Be a tree house. Be a roller palace. Be pink milk. Rest your weary head on a thesaurus. Let the words bolster your neck. Practice writing the number 2 on lined paper. Remember, 3 is a magic number. And, but, and or will get you pretty far. Break the pencil lead because you bear down too hard. Drink more pink milk. Be a chrysalis. What will you be? Don’t drink the bathwater. Please don’t make fart sounds with your hands. Turn your head from the camera lens. Let me see those beautiful curls. Be a tree, a beautiful birch. Be a daffodil tightly bound. Unfurl, ready to bloom. Stay golden. Eat sour cream and strawberries. Take the last pickle out of the jar and drink the brine.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Calling All Bad Poets!

By which we mean: calling all poets! Because, let's face it even the best poets have some cringe-worthy verse hidden away in the archives.

Maybe it was a birthday poem written to your mom when you were seven. Maybe it was your most earnest expression of adolescent angst. Or maybe it was an awkward early effort in a more flourishing poetic life. Whatever the origin, the time has come to put forward those bad poems with pride. In the spirit of Steve Almond's new DIY book—Bad Poetry—we'll be choosing half a dozen of the most egregious poems for honorary citation. The idea here isn't simply self-mockery, but a chance to understand how the very worst of our poetry can teach us something about the truth.

We invite you to enter the first ever Bad Poetry contest! Winners will be selected by Steve Almond and will have their work read and celebrated by Steve in his Bad Poetry session on Saturday, May 14, at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. The winners will each be awarded a signed copy of Steve's new book, Bad Poetry.

To enter the first Massachusetts Bad Poetry Contest , send one copy of your worst poem by email to You may include the poem in the body of your email or in an attached document. All submitted poems must be your own, original work. All winners will be notified electronically, so please include your name and preferred email along with your submission.

Note: in this contest there are no fees. The decision of the judge, Steve Almond, will be final. Winners will be notified in advance of the session so that you can attend and prepare yourself.

And, by the way, Steve will also be appearing on the main performance stage on Saturday where he will be reading some of his good poetry!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Confession Tuesday

It’s Tuesday, time to go down into the cave and bring something back for Confession Tuesday. Share a bit of yourself with us and we will do the same.

I confess, I used the phrase “go down into the cave” because I was thinking about the workshop I took last December with Maria Mazziotti Gillan. She used that expression as a writing prompt. Seems appropriate during NaPoWriMo/PAD to metaphorically go down into myself, slay something, and drag it to the page. Feels very primal. Feels like work.


So far, I have written three poems for April (woo hoo), they’re just not in any shape to post yet. I am also trying very hard not to slip more than a day with my poems. Nothing worse than playing catch-up at the beginning of the month. Fortunately, I have enough journal entries, notes, and bits of phrases to get me started.

This time around, I want to say more of the unsayable. I’d like to push the language and the leaps of thought as a jumpstart for my summer project. Again, the trouble is time. It’s about making a conscious effort to finish a draft in one sitting no matter how much (or how little) time I have.


I confess that I have a hard time setting boundaries for myself. I have too much on my plate and still I take on more. I’m hoping things level off a bit this week. I want a solid hour of writing time every day, I just need to make sure my hour of time is not at midnight.


Question for the Blogger users: Is it me or has Blogger changed their programming? My formatting is completely wonky. I can’t create simple line breaks with html tags. Everything runs together in my sidebars. I’m afraid to make changes because it takes forever to reformat--my "All Things Poetry" section is a perfect example. I’m also having trouble posting on other Blogger sites. WTF? So annoying!


If you’re around Wednesday, April 6, hope you’ll come to the Cambridge Center for Adult Education for this event:

The Writer's Life Series: From Idea to Bookshelf: Authors Share Their Publishing Stories
Presented in Collaboration with the National Writers' Union, Boston Chapter
Wednesday, 8-9:30 p.m. Apr. 6, 56 Brattle St.
Admission: $6

Charles Coe, Series Moderator
Barbara Beckwith and Yleana Martinez, Series Advisors

On April 6, three authors will discuss their recently published books and their journey from conception to publishing. Join them as they talk about what went right, what went wrong, and what was unexpected.

Saloma Miller Furlong was born and raised in an Amish community in Ohio, which she left in her quest for freedom and a formal education. She graduated from Smith College in 2007 and currently works in the German Department and European Studies Program at Amherst College. Her memoir, Why I Left the Amish (Michigan State University Press), was published in January 2011.

January Gill O'Neil is the author of Underlife (CavanKerry Press). Underlife was a finalist for ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award, and the 2010 Paterson Poetry Prize. She was featured in Poets & Writers magazine's January/February 2010 "Inspiration" issue as one of its 12 debut poets. She is on the planning committee for the 2011 Massachusetts Poetry Festival. A Cave Canem fellow, January is a senior writer/editor at Babson College and runs a popular blog called "Poet Mom" (

Jerald Walker is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption (Bantam, 2010). His essays have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies, including Creative Nonfiction, The Harvard Review, Mother Jones, The Missouri Review, The Iowa Review, The Barcelona Review, The Best American Essays, and The Best African American Essays. He is an associate professor of creative writing at Emerson College.

Sec. 01: 1 Wednesday, 8-9:30 pm. Apr. 6, 56 Brattle St.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Being a Finalist RULES!

It's true, especially for someone who has never won anything!

I was thrilled to be in the company Saturday of so many talented poets. We had a lovely time at the 2011 Paterson Poetry Prize Reading. Hosted by Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Passaic County Community College, it was a wonderful celebration of craft and hard work.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Sherman Alexie, who won the top prize, was not there, and we were all disappointed he couldn't make it. But I really think he missed out on something special.

Congratulations to all the finalists!

Left to right: Meg Kearney, Nin Andrews, me, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Gail Fishman Gerwin, Lowell Jaeger, and photographer H.A. Jennings

Friday, April 01, 2011

Get Your Poems on!

And happy April Fool’s Day! Even though I continually proclaim that April is not as cruel as March, it’s snowing outside. Go figure.

Is it me, or does it seem as if there are more poem-a-day activities, prompt generators, podcasts, and Twitter poetry now than in years past? Personally, I think there are more readings in April. So maybe after 15 year, National Poetry Month has finally become ingrained in our culture--it's a given rather than an excuse to celebrate poetry. I know I am jam-packed with readings throughout April.

So why am I doing the NaPoWriMo and PAD challenges? Well, let me say up front that If I don’t complete the challenge, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. Between working full time, maintaining a family, and helping plan the Mass Poetry Festival, I am a glutton for punishment. I enjoy my torture served up on a blank sheet of paper daily. But, in a strange way, writing a every day acts as a boundary for me. It allows me to say no to housework, email, TV, etc. because I have something more important to do.

Sadly, I’ve written three poems in 2011—that’s it. So I think I need to impose enough discipline to do this one thing for myself, to reflect on and perfect my craft. The poems generated here will act as a warm-up to projects I’m hoping to work on in the summer. I’ll post as many poems as I can, but reserve the right to hold out on a few if I decide to publish them.

Unlike previous recent challenges that I have not completed, I’m hoping the discipline of writing daily will leave me refreshed and recharged rather than stressed out and, well, sad. I’m looking to all of you for inspiration, encouragement, and camaraderie.

So that’s my plan and I’m sticking to it. Time to get your poems on!

Happy April, folks!


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