Monday, January 31, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

AWP Blog: Six Questions with Amy King

Online or in person, I don't know anyone busier than Amy King. See what she'll be up to at this year's AWP.

A big, heartfelt thanks to the participants of my series of mini-interviews for the AWP's Conference blog. (My interview with Honorée Fanonne Jeffers has been postponed. But she is too fierce not to speak with, so I'll catch up with her after the conference.)

If these interviews do not get you revved up for AWP, just a few days away, I don't know what will. Here's the full list of victims ... eh ... interviewees! (*smile*)

Tara Betts
Oliver de la Paz
Amanda Johnston
Amy King
Dan Nester

Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Rich Villar

Do me a favor: spread the word about these fabulous poets and writers. Bring some attention to their on- and off-site events. Share the poetry love at AWP!

Friday, January 28, 2011

All Snowed Out

I'm tired of winter, tired of snow every few days, tired of shoveling. Enough already. For everyone who says in middle of summer, "It's too hot for me. I can't wait for winter," are you happy now?


I'm getting really excited about AWP. I'm starting to make plans, including my preliminary list of which sessions to attend. Will post the highlights this weekend. I love going to DC, my favorite city in the world. Hope to visit some old haunts and discover a few new ones while I'm there.


This morning, I woke up thinking, "I have to pack light to make room for all the books I'm bringing back from the book fair."


I'm neck-deep in planning for the Mass Poetry Festival. Making lots of progress on many fronts. Close to naming headliners and setting times for sessions. More info will be released during the next few weeks.


I need to find time to visit Starbucks this weekend. Mommy needs her "me time." Would like to write a new poem or two (or three), catch up on reading blog, and get organized.

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

AWP Blog: Five Questions with Rich Villar

(Photo taken by Peter Dressel)

Rich Villar believes silence is not an option for the literary community. Read more about what Rich will be doing (and saying) at this year's AWP Conference.

Here's the list of participants in my mini-interview series (alpha order):

Tara Betts
Oliver de la Paz
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Amanda Johnston
Amy King
Dan Nester
Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Rich Villar

Check out the AWP's Blog for the latest stories and interviews leading up to the conference.

Confession Tuesday

You know the drill!

I am back from my Sunday JHPF Literary Salon on the topic "Poetry and the Body." Organized by Marina Yoffe and hosted by Richard Jeffery Newman, I led a discussion on how the body is represented in poetry, and specifically how I have used the body in my poetry. I maintain that poems about the body are never about the body.

These are a few of the poems I used in my discussion:

Sharon Olds: “Topography,” “The Pope’s Penis”
Lucille Clifton: “If i stand in my window”
Brian Turner: “Autopsy”
Robert Hass: “A Story about the Body”
William Matthews: “Pissing off the Back of the Boat into the Nivernais Canal”

Leading workshops always pulls me out of my comfort zone, but I really enjoyed the energy of the Q&A, as well as leading the writing prompts. Thanks for pulling together a very engaging and interactive program.


(Note: I’m about to make a huge generalization about male and female poets. I understand this is a generalization and there are always exceptions.) When men write about women’s bodies (or their own bodies), I find that there is a restraint or an inhibition that comes through in the work—or, in the case of a woman’s body, the body tends to be objectified. But women are more open with descriptions of the body, both male and female. Is this more about women claiming power over the body in a patriarchal society?

*I’d love to hear feedback, or please share examples of poems on this topic.*


It always surprises me when people read my work and discover things that never entered my mind when I was writing the poems. For instance, as Richard points out, food imagery runs throughout Underlife. A lot. Even when the poem seemingly has no connection to food, I’ve probably added a verb or adjective associated with eating or nourishment, or the act of preparation.


On my drive back to Massachusetts from New York, I had lots of time to think about my goals for this year. I’m just too busy to give serious thought to any new projects, so I have decided to postpone working on my new manuscript. Clearly, I am too distracted and busy with Mass Poetry Festival planning to devote any time to research. My hope is to start in August when I’m more relaxed and not shoveling out from the latest snowstorm.


In the meantime, I will write a poem a week and *try* to keep up with writing a poem a day in April for National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). I’m playing catch up from last week so I owe myself two poems.


AWP is just around the corner!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

AWP Blog: Six Questions with Amanda Johnston

Next up, representing Cave Canem and the Affrilachian poets is Amanda Johnston. Woo hoo!

Here's the list of interviewees (alpha order):

Tara Betts
Oliver de la Paz
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Amanda Johnston
Amy King
Dan Nester
Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Rich Villar

Visit the AWP Blog for the latest info on the conference.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Real Simple

I love this quote. From Real Simple magazine:

"Be frank about your age, your sexual orientation, your criminal record (if you have one), your tattoos, your scars, and your prescriptions. Admit to your bad moods, your neuroses, your fantasies, and your fears and it will be so cathartic you won’t need therapy. Better still, you’ll be able to gossip without hypocrisy. I am candid about myself in my column, and that frees me to investigate the private lives of public figures. The same applies to everyday gossiping: No one can fault you for talking about others’ indiscretions if you’re the first to reveal those things about yourself."

~Michael Musto, Gossip Writer, Village Voice

Friday, January 21, 2011

AWP Blog: Five Questions with Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Poetry, book fair, and shoes! Featured presenter Aimee Nezhukumatathil talks about her upcoming AWP events for the AWP's Conference Blog.

Here's a list of poets participating in my series of mini-interviews (alpha order):

Tara Betts
Oliver de la Paz
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Amanda Johnston
Amy King
Dan Nester
Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Rich Villar

I'm really enjoying the variety of answers from everyone! Many thanks to all the participants.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bits and Pieces

The last two posts are for two of my favorite poetry organizations, Cave Canem and Kundiman. Both are closely linked, and share the goal of helping under-represented groups find their place in the greater poetry community. Please consider a donation to Cave Canem (pronounced Ca-ve Ca-nem), and submit manuscripts for the Kundiman Poetry Prize.


In the mail this week came three new poetry books:

Holding Company by Major Jackson
The Volcano by Norman Dubie
One with Others by C.D. Wright

Thanks, Jo Jo!


Also on my nightstand waiting for me is Jay-Z's Decoded.

Looking forward to my literary salon and workshop with the Jackson Heights Poetry Festival this weekend. Hope the snow storm coming on Friday is a mild one. I try not to travel very much in the winter because of the weather. But any opportunity to visit New York, no matter how brief, is a good one.


The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown has released its Summer 2011 schedule. I'm thinking about taking a class with Marie Howe or Tom Sleigh. We'll see what the budget allows.

It's nice thinking about summer in the dead of winter.

Cave Canem Fellows Campaign

For more than 14 years, Cave Canem co-founders Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady have led the way in providing life-changing opportunities for hundreds of deserving African American poets. Now, Cave Canem fellows are mobilizing to raise $50,000 to sustain the organization they love. Each has set a personal goal of acquainting friends, family and colleagues with the transformational opportunities Cave Canem provides, and of raising $200, one person at a time, to sustain our cherished “home for black poetry.”

Consider contributing to our Fellows campaign—no donation is too small—and help us raise $50,000 by the end of January 2011, the amount needed to offset dramatic funding cutbacks from foundations and governments sources.

If you are giving for the first time, consider making a $25-$50 contribution. If you are renewing your commitment, please add 10% to the amount you gave last year. Donating is simple, fast and completely secure. If you choose to pay by check, you can download a donation form. Your generosity will help Cave Canem succeed in 2011 and beyond.

Read more and GIVE!

On a personal note, I don't think I would have had the courage to pick up a pen without the support of Cave Canem. Consider making a donation to help the next generation of African American poets grow and thrive. Thanks!

Kundiman Poetry Prize


Kundiman and Alice James Books are accepting submissions of poetry manuscripts for The Kundiman Poetry Prize electronically and by regular mail through February 11, 2011. The Kundiman Poetry Prize welcomes submissions from emerging as well as established Asian American poets. Entrants must reside in the United States. The winner receives $1,000, book publication, and a New York City feature reading. For complete guidelines, log onto

Alice James Books is a cooperative poetry press. Its mission is to seek out and publish the best contemporary poetry by both established and beginning poets, with particular emphasis on involving poets in the publishing process.

Kundiman is dedicated to the creation, cultivation and promotion of Asian American poetry.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

AWP Blog: Six Questions with Oliver de la Paz

Next up in my mini-interview series for AWP 's Conference Blog is Oliver de la Paz. Visit the AWP Blog for the full interview.

Here's a list of poets participating in the series (alpha order):

Tara Betts
Oliver de la Paz
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Amanda Johnston
Amy King
Dan Nester
Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Rich Villar

AWP is two weeks away!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Confession Tuesday

Happy Confession Tuesday, folks. Time to share and share alike. Tell us a little about yourself and we promise to do the same.

Two words, my friends: cabin fever!

Alex and Ella have been off from school for six days; we’re starting to drive each other crazy! It’s probably a good thing that we’re all getting back to our routines today. Not much to do outside when there’s 30 inches of snow and ice on the ground from the last three winter storms. But, some notable things have happened during the past week:

  1. My son lost his second tooth
  2. We, as a family, discovered our love of Monopoly Jr.
  3. My daughter is a gamer—we discovered her competitive nature
  4. I have brought order to the chaos of my linen closet
  5. You can never schedule enough play dates
  6. Even with a week off, the house will never be clean

Again, a quiet week. Despite spending so much time together, we’ve had a lot of low-key fun.


I supposed there are always other options and opportunities in life. But the kids come first. Seems selfish to think otherwise. It’s not easy raising a family as a single parent, but I take great pride in knowing I am the last person they see at night and the first person every morning. Me. It's a privilege I don't take for granted.


True dat!


I’ve sent out submissions to four publications this month, and written a poem a week. Working on poem #3 but I haven’t found a rhythm to my writing. Now that I think about it, I haven’t been doing any free writes. I’ve got to find 10 minutes in my day for journal writing. Easy enough, right?


In truth, I like the months January and February, as we're all recovering from the excesses of the holidays. Everyone is in “pull-back” mode. This is typically when I spend a lot of time figuring out how to live a simpler life.

The thing I keep coming back to? Everything is connected. Exercise is the one thing keeping me on track mentally and physically. Keeps my creative juices flowing and helps to relieve stress during the winter months. It gives me the motivation to eat well, get organized, write consistently, find patience, and seek balance.

The trick is maintaining the momentum the rest of the year.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Next Stop on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour

Thursday, February 10
7 p.m.
The Salem Laundry Co.
304 Cabot Street
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 a Laundromat!

Did you say Laundromat? That’s right, folks. Bring your whites and your quarters!
This month we are looking for poems about articles of clothing, the act of coming clean, the rituals of fluff and fold, or poems set in laundromats. This is the venue for airing dirty laundry.

Hey, I've got a poem that belongs in a Laundromat? 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 Monday, January 31st. We'd love to read your work!

I don't have a poem about laundry. Can I still attend the event? Absolutely! Come and listen and cheer on the readers. Bring a load of towels or delicates. Most importantly, come check out what the writers of your community are up to!

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.


Want to read some of Colleen's poetry? Check out her guest blog post for The Mom Egg:

"The Rules Regarding Glitter"

Woo hoo!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Poetry and the Body: A Literary Salon with January Gill O'Neil

Hope you can join me for this salon!

JHPF Literary Salon
Poetry and the Body: A Literary Salon with January Gil O'Neil
Sunday, January 23; 3-6 p.m. -- workshop, refreshments, panel discussion
Host: Richard Jeffrey Newman
Guest Panelist: January Gil O'Neil
Location: Garden School, 33-16 79th St., Jackson Heights, NY

The Jackson Heights Poetry Festival offers poetry salons and panel discussions. These events are open to all ages, interests, and skill levels, including beginners and nonpoetry writing observers. Participation in workshops is not required to attend the panel discussions.

Poetry and the Body
Poems about the body are never about the body. They are about history, intimacy, transformation, difference, vulnerability, suffering, strength, sensuality, and more. What does the body represent in a poetic context? What story does the body tell? This workshop and reading will "sing the body electric" as we celebrate the glorious human form and all its manifestations.

This event is free. Sign up today!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Snow Report

Snow! Snow! Snow! A fresh 18 inches on top of the last 18 inches or so that fell in December. I don’t think it will melt until April. As a result, the kids have had an unexpected break. They’ve been out of school since Wednesday, and won’t go back until Tuesday.


Boy, do I hate using the snowblower, but I am thankful I invested in one.


Check out the Poetry Foundation’s Essential American Poets: Robert Hayden. One of the most engaging podcasts I've heard in a long time.


The schedule for the Virginia Festival of the Book is up. Woo hoo! I’m thrilled to be a part of this event.

Congrats to Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Evie Shockley on their recent publications: Lucky Fish and the new black

Thursday, January 13, 2011

AWP Blog: Five Questions with Tara Betts

AWP DC is three weeks away!

This year, will be blogging for the AWP’s conference blog. I have lined up an outstanding group of poets for mini-interviews that will post over the next few weeks.

First up is the beautiful and talented Tara Betts!

Here’s the list of interviewees (alpha order):

Tara Betts
Oliver de la Paz
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Amanda Johnston
Amy King
Dan Nester
Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Rich Villar

Thanks to all for participating.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day!

View from my front door (hastily taken with my iPhone).

Yikes! Twelve inches and counting. That's on top of the 12 inches still of the ground from the last two storms. OK winter--we're all set.

This is a definite pj day ... well, until I have to crank up the snow blower. We may have nachos for breakfast. Yep, it's that kind of day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Confession Tuesday

Howdy! This is the January edition of Confession Tuesday. Wait … I guess every edition is the January edition. HA!

We could call this the snowy edition. Or the middle-of-winter-when-is-spring-coming-please-let-it-be-soon edition. Share a little of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.

I was just reading Erin Dionne’s post about her Saturday writing retreat (I did not attend but took four hours out of my Sunday to write). She reminds me that writing is an indulgent, somewhat audacious act. It requires that we take large chunks of time for ourselves. In the process, we leave behind our families and our responsibilities to feed that creative urge. It’s so important for a writer to shape his/her life in a way that allows for this time--for the hard work that goes into writing and revision.

Me? I’m up early and late working on poetry or po-biz stuff. I don’t sleep much. When I get an hour to go to Starbucks and write mid-week, I am truly grateful.


Working on my second poem of the year. I haven’t been posting drafts lately, mainly because I haven’t written much that I’ve liked. Will start posting again when the quality of my work improves.


I’m flat-out busy. FLAT OUT! Between my projects, planning for Mass Poetry Festival, and gathering interviews for AWP's blog, I’m way busier than I expected.


I have not written the definitive poem about my name. I’ve tried and they all turn out bad--really, really bad. I have better luck working January into poems as a time of year. When I’ve written the poem about my name, I can retire from poetry.

Does anyone really retire from poetry?


We are never finished writing the poem.

Kevin McFadden reads "The Faucet" from Hardscrabble

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 Book List

Is it time for another book list? I am notorious for not finishing books. Ugh. But each New Year brings the opportunity to do something new, different, or better. I plan to use Goodreads to track my titles. Poetry I keep up with just fine. It’s the novels that slow me down.

One very important aspect for me is not overcommitting to too many books. I’ll begin researching my next poetry collection soon, so I have a feeling some of my reading will be historical nonfiction.

I really want to read books written by friends, which is 50 percent of this list.

This list will expand after AWP, I’m sure.


Lucky Fish, Aimee Nezhukumatathil

  1. Crave Radiance, Elizabeth Alexander
  2. Sonata Mulattica, Rita Dove
  3. Lucky Fish, Aimee Nezhukumatathil
  4. Skin Inc, Thomas Sayers Ellis
  5. Holding Company, Major Jackson
  6. Hardscrabble, Kevin McFadden

Fiction/Non Fiction

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, Erin Dionne (YA fiction)

  1. The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, Erin Dionne (YA fiction)
  2. Decoded, Jay-Z (nonfiction)
  3. The Anthologist, Nicholas Baker (fiction)
  4. Conquering Venus, Collin Kelley (fiction)
  5. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver (nonfiction)
  6. The Gift, Lewis Hyde (nonfiction)
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (classic fiction)
  8. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (classic fiction)
  9. Leaving Atlanta, Tayari Jones (fiction)
  10. R. Dwayne Betts, A Question of Freedom (nonfiction)

    Saturday, January 08, 2011

    Weekend Update

    I have a kid-free weekend. Yay! Time to get my hair done, see friends, take down the holiday decorations—and, most important, write.


    At AWP DC, I will be tweeting and blogging for the AWP’s blog. I’m setting up a few interviews that will run before the conference, February 2-5. Watch for my Q&A’s in the next two weeks.


    I know it’s early, but I just found out the details to my session at Virginia Festival of the Book!

    Poetry Reading: What Women Want
    Sat. March 19th, 2011 - 2 p.m.

    Delve into women's lives with Jehanne Dubrow (Stateside), Erika Meitner (Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls), Anna Journey (If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting), and January Gill O'Neil (Underlife).

    New Dominion Bookshop
    404 E Main St
    This is the first time I’ve read in my home state, so I’m really looking forward to the festival.


    Now, if I could just set something up with my alma mater, Old Dominion University, that would be icing on the cake. Haven’t had much luck with the English Department.


    Check out Aimee Nez at The Rumpus.


    Good things happen to good people.

    Wednesday, January 05, 2011

    Giving Thanks

    After reading Erin Dionne’s post on retreating, and realizing I have a kid-free weekend, I am going on a self-imposed retreat this Saturday. It’s time to change my environment for a few hours to write and revise. If I stay at home, I’ll end up watching television and complaining about all the things I didn’t do. Maybe I can rope in a few friends to retreat with me.

    As always, Erin is well-prepared for a productive afternoon. She uses a project notebook to write new chapters--great idea, and not just for fiction. I’ve wanted to start my third manuscript for a while, which involves a good amount of research. A more detailed approach with a specific project notebook is the way to go.

    Thanks E!


    Big shout-out to Kelli for posting about Poetry Action Plans. She’s absolutely right. As Kelli says, "For me it's living simply and deliberately. It's remembering to pay attention to the details around me."

    If you want to know where you’re going, bring a road map. A Poetry Action Plan will help keep you on course. And if you get off-track, you can pick up where you left off.

    Thanks K!


    A little birdie suggested I look into Bread Loaf for my summer writing retreat. Hmmm …

    Thanks J!


    If you think my to-do list is long, my list of Mass Poetry Festival planning to-do's is three times that. Takes a heckuva lot of coordination to make the whole effort look seamless. I’m happy to report the enthusiasm around the festival has been tremendous. Nice to know that all of this planning with pay off big in May.


    Had a little mini-victory yesterday that I can’t share here, but it served as validation that I’m on the right path.

    Thank you, fates!


    I hope last night's big lottery winner is a poet!

    Tuesday, January 04, 2011

    Confession Tuesday

    Happy Confession Tuesday 2011! Thanks for stopping by. I know the year is just getting started but it’s time to fess up. We promise to do the same.

    Coming off of a great end of year, I’m feeling extremely optimistic about the future. Had a chance over the weekend to see friends and talk through some of my resolutions. Seems we’re all in the same boat—more balance, time, money, joy, fitness, etc. It all boils down to being happier.


    My house needs a makeover, so I’m going to do one do-it-yourself project a month. My house looks about the same as it did when we first moved in. It’s time for a change. Change is good.


    I received my first royalty check from the sales of Underlife. Trust me, the amount of money I earned is not very much. In fact, I’ve squirreled it away for AWP travel next month. But the amount is not the point.

    This is money I earned from my book. My book—this artistic pursuit supported by readers. That’s amazing. For me, it’s equivalent to the first dollar an entrepreneur earns from his fledgling business venture. Or the first paycheck earned from the first “real job.” I feel incredibly proud and lucky to be an author.


    Wrote a new poem last night. It sucks but I’m bringing it to my writers’ workshop. Feels good to write but after not writing for a month, I feel rusty. Still, I've been away from that poetic space much too long.


    My last poetry to-do list for 2010 is now my 2011 list, more or less:

    1. Write one poem
    2. Revise poems written at December poetry workshop
    3. Get organized/clean desk
    4. Send out eight submissions
    5. Line up articles for AWP blog

    Monday, January 03, 2011

    Back to Life

    Now that the holidays are over, it’s back to school and work for the kids and me. We enjoyed every minute of our vay-cay, right up until bedtime with one of our patented action-packed weekends. The backpacks are packed. New outfits from Santa are waiting to be worn. OK 2011, we’re ready. Bring it!


    Booked my flight for AWP last night. Woo hoo! No panel discussions or off-site readings scheduled but I will be at the CavanKerry Press booth signing copies of Underlife. I’ll also be blogging/tweeting/Youtube-ing about AWP for my blog and for the AWP blog. Very cool. Hoping to post a few mini-interviews with a few AWP panelists prior to February.


    I’m doing a poem exchange with the beautiful and talented Joseph Legaspi. We’re writing a poem a week for the month of January. I mention this only to put pressure on myself to get going on my New Year’s goals. Will post anything I think worthy of posting.


    In case I forgot to mention this, CavanKerry Press's open submission period opens in February.

    Happy Monday, y'all!

    Saturday, January 01, 2011

    First Night Beverly

    We know how to pat-tay in Beverly! This is us getting ready for First Night Beverly.

    New Year's Eve is an afternoon of family activities leading up to the annual parade and beach ball drop, 200 beach balls released from the top of the local bank. If you were around yesterday, you would have seen me participate in the annual briefcase toss (toss all your work troubles away) and storytelling with the amazing Tony Toledo.

    Leave it to my little ones to find themselves at the front of the parade holding the banner. Happy New Year, everyone!


    Related Posts with Thumbnails