Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Confession Tuesday

Happy last Tuesday of August. Time to confess. Share a little of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.

Today is the first day of school for Alex and Ella!

When the new school year starts, I get the first day of school blues. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to get them back into a routine. But every year they get a little older. I can see it in their faces. I take pictures of them on their first day every year and the difference is noticeable. No baby fat. No first day jitters (well, maybe a few). They are ready to go back to school. I'll get there eventually.


As the kids have aged, I have stayed eternally young, of course. Funny how that happens!


Also today, my dad is having knee replacement surgery. Please send good thoughts his way. Thanks!


I've been fiddling with one of the central poems in my second manuscript for more than a week. It's almost there. But overall, I'm about halfway through the revision process for the collection. I *think* I'll be able to finish up revisions by Labor Day. That's my goal. Once the edits are complete, I'll take a hard look at the order and send to friends for a look-see.

The original arch of the book made sense, and still makes sense, but I may tweak it a bit to see if I can have the emotional quality more consistent throughout. (Do I mean emotional quality or tone? Not sure.) Currently, the third section packs a wallop while the build to that section is lacking a certain depth of feeling.

Happy to be making some headway.

And because I am moving forward with m'script #2, I feel up to a new writing challenge. Would like to see if I can write a poem a day in September, just to generate new work that has nothing to do with my current manuscript. This challenge is a lead-in to another poem a day challenge in November. I'll take the month of October to revise and submit. Don't think I have any poems out to journals, which is fine by me.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday, Monday

We survived Irene. In my area, she was all sound and fury, signifying nothing. But lives were lost and lots of property damage occurred up and down the East Coast. We were spared, thank goodness.

The weather is beautiful today, as if Irene was never here.


In preparation for the storm, I cleaned out the basement and the garage. The office will have to wait another day.


Alex and Ella start school tomorrow. Good lord, summer went by in a flash.


Getting through the weekend took a lot out of me. Short post today. Confessions tomorrow.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Riders on the Storm

So we are in the thick of Hurricane Irene. We're getting lots of swirling winds, which makes me incredibly nervous because there are big trees like this one hanging over the house. Hoping no branches fall over the property. We still have power, however--so far so good.


This kids and I made a list of what we're doing today. Managed to get nap time and writing time on the list as well as painting nails, baking a cake and watching a movie or two.

Also, I'm reading the latest P&W and The Writer's Chronicle, which looks like P&W with its new trim size.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Good Night, Irene!

My reading tonight at the Soup and Song coffeehouse on Block Island, RI, has been postponed until September 9. Something about rain and heavy winds off the coast ...


We will batten down the hatches today and tomorrow in anticipation of Hurricane Irene. I'm a little worried about my parents, who seem to be in path in Norfolk, VA. They are equally as worried about the kids and me living just off the coast of Cape Ann. I have a few big trees around the house, so any big storm with high winds makes me nervous. The hurricane is supposed to stomp on Connecticut first, then make its way through Western Mass. Maybe the damage won't be as bad as anticipated.


Since I now have a the day off from work, we are headed to the beach--3/4 of a mile from our house. It will be 80 degrees and sunny today.


Because I do have the day off, and presumably a low-key weekend thanks to the weather, I'm psyched to have a few days to spend a little more time with the kids, see friends, work on manuscript revisions, and clean house.

More to come.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Poems of Place

One of coolest things we did for the Mass Poetry Festival that received little attention was create an interactive poetry map of Massachusetts. The project, called Poems of Place, allows you to post poems about Massachusetts cities and towns. You can post your own work or the work of others (fair use). You can also sign up for alerts so you'll know when someone submits a poem within a 10-mile radius of your location.

There are plans to do more with the website during the next few months, but I encourage you to check it out and post a poem about the Bay State.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

State Poets Laureate

Hard to believe our founding fathers did not mandate in the U.S. Constitution that every state must have a state poet laureate. Oh well. Here’s a breakdown of the LOC’s list of current state laureates.

State Poets Laureate
Alabama - Sue Walker
Alaska - Nancy Lord
Arkansas - Peggy Vining
California - Carol Muske-Dukes
Colorado - David Mason
Connecticut - Dick Allen
Delaware - JoAnn Balingit
District of Columbia - Dolores Kendrick
Florida - Edmund Skellings
Georgia - David Bottoms
Idaho - Anthony "Tony" Doerr
Illinois - Kevin Stein
Indiana - Unofficial: Carol Ogdon Floyd, Official: Karen Kovacik
Iowa - Mary Swander
Kansas - Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
Kentucky - Gurney Norman
Louisiana - Julie Kane
Maine - Wesley McNair
Maryland - Stanley Plumly
Minnesota - Robert Bly
Missouri - David Clewell
Montana - Henry Real Bird
New Hampshire - Walter E. Butts
New York - Jean Valentine
North Carolina - Cathy Smith Bowers
North Dakota - Larry Woiwode
Oklahoma - Jim Barnes
Oregon - Paulann Petersen
Rhode Island - Lisa Starr
South Carolina - Marjory Heath Wentworth
South Dakota - David Allan Evans
Tennessee - Margaret Britton Vaughn
Texas - David M. Parsons
Utah - Katharine Coles
Vermont - Ruth Stone
Virginia - Kelly Cherry
West Virginia - Irene McKinney
Wisconsin - Bruce Dethlefsen
Wyoming - David Romtvedt

States with vacant laureate positions

States with no laureate position
New Jersey
New Mexico

If you live in a state with a poet laureate, what does he/she do?

It’s a shame that my state, Massachusetts—a state with a large college/university population—does not have a state poet laureate. And why does Indiana have an official and an unofficial laureate?

Not a diverse list of poets, unfortunately.

If you're in a state with a vacant position, fill it! If your state doesn't have a position, that's an opportunity to help define it. This is job creation, baby!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Confession Tuesday

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

The kids are back from visiting their father, and all is right with the world.

I confess I am surprised how much I missed them. More so, I was surprised how little I got done this week. I mean, I did remodel a room so I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. But I didn’t get as much done on the manuscript as I had hoped. The kids define such a large part of my day that it threw off my week.

The lesson: I really should stop complaining about my lack of time because I get just as much done with them around as I do without them. And, I’m glad they’re home.


As for manuscript #2, I did make some progress, revising three poems. It is moving forward. What’s that phrase, “slow and steady wins the race,”? If I were going any slower, I’d be moving backwards. Fortunately, this is not a race, and the revisions are happening.

Even when I’m not at the computer revising, I am tinkering with the manuscript in my head—which is a great sign.


The planning committee for the 2012 Massachusetts Poetry Festival is beginning a cycle of meetings and discussions. Now that summer's almost over, we’re back in planning mode. We are taking a look at what worked this year, what we should improve, and how we can get it all done more efficiently.

No festival date yet. Stay tuned for details.


Congrats to Joseph O. Legaspi for his beautiful poem, "Threshold of Revelation,"  in the winter/spring issue of Spoon River Poetry Review. Sorry, poem not available online. But it's wonderful.


I am trying to be more present in my life. Less multitasking. More enjoyment. I'm reveling in the ordinary magic of my days.

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Before and After

Finally, our family room has been updated, and it looks fabu--if I do say so myself! Here are the before and after shots.



Those big, round circles are picture frames.

Wires! Ugh. Work in progress.

This room has looked the same since we moved in eight years ago. We are inheriting a Wii, so it was time to update the 15-year old television. So it makes sense that this room would get the update. Once I made the decision to do it, I actually followed through (HA!)! DIY stuff scares me. But I had a vision in my head that I was able to turn into a reality. Picking the color alone was a nightmare, which really wasn't a nightmare. Just a choice between Cloudy Day and Sonata (read: blue and blue). The red couches made choosing a color challenging.

I was prepared to update the room alone, but fortunately I have really good friends who helped out. Special thanks to Suzie for painting with me all day Saturday, to Dawn who helped me mount the flat screen TV, and to Deb who kept telling me I can do this. Still have to buy curtains and possibly get a new entertainment center (hello Ikea), but this is a room I can be proud of. I did it!

The kids come home tonight. Can't wait to see their reaction.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Living Color

The house is quiet without the kids, who are spending time with their dad. I’ve noticed that I feel “off” without them around. And while I think their absence is a good thing, I miss them terribly.

But I have been putting all of my energy into reworking the manuscript and revamping the family room. Working on the manuscript is much easier than picking colors. It’s amazing how many variations paint companies can come up with for beige.


Looking for a unique color to work into your writing? Grab some color swatches from your local paint store. I’ve written whole poems based on colors such as oceanic, standish blue, chai, lumen, and crantini. Admittedly, those poems will never see the light of day but it makes for a great exercise.


I’m also taking time this weekend to look at what I want to do with my writing for the last four (gulp!) months of the year. Besides the big manuscript push, what grants and fellowships should I apply for? What journals and publications do I want to target? Should I look at setting up readings and workshops for spring 2010, or spend the time pitching article ideas to publishers. And when can I start manuscript #3?

I’m feeling unfocused; hope to gain a little clarity by Sunday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hump Day

Happy birthday, mom!


Last night I had a few poet/friends over for an informal workshop. Usually the kids are around so I don't often have workshops at home, and if I do it's after my little ones go to bed. But it was nice having the smaller group over. Heck, it was just nice entertaining adults for a change. I need to do this more often in the future.

I'm starting to workshop poems from the second manuscript and so far the feedback is good. Just what I needed to keep moving forward. I find the revision process difficult. The self editor inside me doesn't always know when to shut up and likes to question everything. What I would like to do is to write new work but I'm not very good at keeping multiple projects going at once. It's a difficult spot to be in but a good problem to have.


Testing out "Little Misery" as the title for m'script #2. Thanks for the suggestion, Dawn.


Current reads:

Major Jackson, Holding Company
Nick Flynn, Blind Huber

Write Big and Write Bold or Go the Fuck Home

Looking for a good ol' fashioned ass-whoopin' to jumpstart to your writing? I found this article on Twitter (thanks Lisa). Read this from "The Secret Menu Of Writing Advice: Go Ahead And Order The 'Penmonkey Surprise.'"

Write Big and Write Bold or Go the Fuck Home

Write what you want to write. Write what you need to write. Write what engages you, what interests you, what gets your blood pumping and your jaw tight. Because what else are you going to do? Play it safe? Write what everybody else is writing just because everybody else is writing it? What’s the point? Why bring nothing new to the table? Why fail to bring yourself and your passions to the page?

And this ...

Bleed from a Place of Honesty

Cut your heart out of your chest, clutch it in your fist, and slam it down onto the paper. That is the real meaning of write what you know, which is probably better written as, write with total fucking honesty.

Take all that shit that lurks inside you, all your fears and wants and experiences, all your neuroses and psychoses and loves and loathings, all your hopes and dreams and memories, and inject 'em into your work

Nuff said. Want more? Read the full post.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jericho Brown at The World Stage

I loves me some Jericho.

Confession Tuesday

You know what time it is … time to confess! A good time to confess the summertime blues away. Share a piece of yourself and we promise to do the same.

Today Alex and Ella will leave to spend a week with their dad. They’ve spent many long weekends away from home, but not this long of a stretch. I’m feeling bittersweet about the whole thing. The kids need time away from me as much as I need it from them. I hope they have fun. I just have to trust that everything will be OK.

Of course, I have trust issues.


While the kids are away, I have a slew of household projects to work on. The biggest is an update to our family room. New paint, new flat screen to be hooked up and mounted by yours truly, new rug, donated Wii—this is going to be fun. I’ve never done an update like this by myself but I’m excited to finally get it done.


Also, I’ll do a deep dive into the manuscript. The hope is to finish most of the revisions this week. I’ll spend at least two hours a night working on various sections. Yay! Finally, I’ll have the time to make some real progress.


I woke up this morning thinking about Janis Joplin's Summertime, which made me look up Jericho Brown's poem "Track 5: Summertime".

So I'll leave you with a little Joplin. Happy Tuesday, folks!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Postcard from Storyland

The kids and I are sucking the marrow out of summer. We are determined to get every drop of fun out of August before school starts.

Friday, August 12, 2011

NPS 2011

I'm sorry I'm missing NPS. Good luck to all  the participants.


National Poetry Slam (NPS)
August 9-13
Central Square, Cambridge and Boston venues

From the press release:

BOSTON, Mass. — This summer the National Poetry Slam, the biggest poetry competition in North America, is coming to Boston and Cambridge, the Boston Poetry Slam and Poetry Slam Inc. have announced. Hundreds of the country’s best performance poets will descend on the city for a week-long team tournament to crown the national champion. There will also be a variety of quirky individual competitions, writing workshops, and other special events.

Held every year, the National Poetry Slam (NPS 2011) is the Olympics of performance poetry. Teams from around the country perform their own original work in the hopes of impressing judges randomly selected from the audience. The festivities will kick off on August 9, 2011 and run daily through August 13 at a variety of venues around Cambridge. Then the top-performing teams of the week will meet for a final at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston. This will be the first time Boston has hosted the event since 1992—the third National Poetry slam ever.


Looking through the program, I was struck by these titles:

Head to Head Haiku
Slam: Harry Potter Vs. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Workshop: Slam as a Safe Space
Workshop: Booking Your Tour
American Sign Language Showcase
The Encyclopedia Show
Erotica Showcase

And many more bouts and freestyle opportunities. Very cool.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

MULE & PEAR: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Mule & Pear, New Poems by Rachel Eliza Griffiths from Rachel Eliza Griffiths on Vimeo.

A terrific trailer for what promises to be an excellent book of poems by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

MULE & PEAR (New Issues Poetry & Prose)
A new collection by 2011 Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Now available for pre-order on Amazon (Pub date: September 5, 2011).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New Poet Laureate: Phil Levine!

OMG, my former thesis adviser is now U.S. Poet Laureate! Outstanding!! The right poet for these times.

From The Washington Post:

“What I found was a voice within myself that I didn’t know was there,” said Levine, now 83. “A joy in my being, in creation, in the physical world that surrounded me.

“It began with a love of just the language. There was nothing that I had ever read that moved me as powerfully as some of the poetry I read. . . . Poems were something I could memorize and carry with me, and recite them in my head, and live with them.”

Congratulations, Phil!!!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Longfellow House: Wesley McNair and Franz Wright

The Sunday afternoon reading with Wesley McNair and Franz Wright was extraordinary. Events at the Longfellow House in Cambridge usually are held outside on the lawn, but after a day of downpours the reading was held in the air-conditioned carriage house (woo hoo!). As you can see, I sat very close.

Wesley McNair

I’ve been a longtime admirer of Wesley McNair’s work. He is the current poet laureate of Maine and teaches at Colby College. There’s a certain ease and grace that I’m drawn to in his poetry. As he said yesterday, “I came to poetry to talk about a broken family in a broken world. Poets are basically menders of broken things.” His most recent work is, Lovers of the Lost: New and Selected Poems.It was lovely chatting with him for a few minutes. And this is a first for me, McNair signed my copy of his book Fire, and dedicated one of the poems to me. Lovely.

Franz Wright

In recent months, Franz Wright has been ill, but he has been writing at a furious pace. It was nice to see him and hear him read new prose and verse poems. Wright read from a new chapbook, Kore, as well as poems from one of four upcoming collections. Always poignant. Always captivating. I was particularly moved by a poem about a peach tree growing in New England.

The contrast in styles really resonated with the audience, and both poets seem to have a nice back and forth during each other's time at the podium. It was a wonderful afternoon filled with verse. Thanks to the New England Poetry Club and the Longfellow House for bringing these two poets together.

Confession Tuesday

Happy Confession Tuesday! You know the drill.

Is it me, or does all of this debt crisis/end of the world/financial Armageddon make you want to put your head in the sand? The bickering in Washington D.C. isn't going to solve anything. Living with uncertainty is no way to live, but it has prompted me to look at my own financial house to get things in order. Doesn't seem as if the country will pull itself out of recession soon, so now is a good time to watch my spending and save for the future.


Does this mean I will be buying fewer poetry books? Probably not. But from a po-biz standpoint, I have to do more with less. For instance, can I plan readings for a time when I don't need a sitter? Can I plan more readings that are closer to home so I can save on gas? Can I plan local getaways and weekend retreats instead of jetting off to conferences to feed my poetry soul?  It's all about the planning.


I've finally made a little headway on my second manuscript. Currently, the manuscript is broken up into four sections, and for some reason I've decided to revise it from back to front. It felt good to dive back into the material--not as intimidating as I thought. My goal is to finish the major revisions by beginning of September, have a friend or two read the material, and then send back to the publisher by October.

My dream scenario is to have it published by March 2013, when AWP comes to Boston. Of course, it's not up to me, but that's what I'm working toward.


Speaking of AWP, the panel proposed by Collin Kelley that would have included Deborah Ager, Robert Lee Brewer, Karen Head and me was not accepted. The panel was on Twitter, specifically the Sunday night Poet Party (hashtag #poetparty).

Thanks, Collin, for submitting the proposal. Needless to say, I will not be attending AWP 2012. I just don't have any desire to go to Chicago in the middle of winter. Oh well, maybe AWP Boston 2013.


Happy Tuesday, folks!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Shout Out to the Ladies

I wanted to spotlight three of my favorite poet moms who are doing incredible work. We are also members of the same writers group.

Jennifer Jean’s second chapbook, Fishwife, is a multimedia project published by Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks, which is run by Nic Sebastian. It can be accessed here as web-based text, audio, PDF, e-book, CD, and print edition. There's also a music component available at the site and on the CD.

Margaret Young's second book of poetry, Almond Town, is now available. Check out her Poem Flow from the Academy of American Poets.

Cindy Veach has been posting a poem a week since Jan 2010. Go visit 52 Poems Project and cheer her on!

Friday, August 05, 2011


Another year, another Chuck-e-Cheese's birthday. This is the third birthday party in a row for Ella at CEC's. My daughter LOVES that mouse. Her party went off without a hitch, and Chuck-e-Cheese's makes it so easy. Can't think of a better time to go than in the middle of summer--we had the whole place to ourselves. Good time had by all (even Alex, who looks rather skeptical in the pic).

Happy birthday, baby girl.


Good lord, I'm exhausted. But I did manage to write a new poem. Woo hoo!


Olie has a poem up at Poetry Daily.


Here's a great interview with Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish, written by Doug Holder.


Jessie Carty's new chapbook, Fat Girl, is available for pre-order.

Lastly, Collin Kelley has a new trailer for his second novel called Remain in Light. Now this is how you make a book trailer!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Franz Wright and Wesley McNair

I'm very excited for this reading on Sunday, August 7.


WESLEY MCNAIR, author of Lovers of the Lost
FRANZ WRIGHT, author of Walking to Martha's Vineyard
read from forthcoming works.

Sunday, August 7
4 p.m.
Longfellow House, East Lawn
105 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA

Rain or shine


I've been a longtime admirer of Wesley McNair's poetry. I think he's underrated. And Franz, well, I've attended a few of his readings over the years, including Dodge, and it's always a pleasure to hear him read. He's been prolific recently so I'm looking forward to hearing his latest work.

Second Life

Our regular writers group was canceled Tuesday night, but a few of us opted for a smaller group at a local coffee shop. The different venue and smaller group was a nice change of pace. The trend among us seems to be giving older pieces a second life through revision. Very motivating, ladies.

The full writers group has a good male-female mix, but last night it was all ladies, which allowed for a different energy altogether. Lovely.


This morning, I read two articles that struck a chord with me. The first is by Robert Lee Brewer and his post titled, "Two Rules for Successful Writers." In it, he talks about allowing ourselves to write bad first drafts, which is essential in the creation process.

While I feel I’ve written a lot of bad drafts this summer, I haven’t completed many. I think I’m in a cycle where I know I’m writing a bad draft so I stop before it’s completed. This is new for me, something I have to get over.


The other post I enjoyed is from Zen Habits called, "Four Simple Fitness Fundamentals." The third rule is Walk Everyday. Find Rhythm. Here’s an excerpt:

Walking gives rhythm to our lives – it helps us think, re-aligns the body and limbers up the knees and hips. If you live in a city walking should be your main form of transport, I always say that if the distance is walkable do it by foot.

I miss living in DC and NYC—two of the most walkable cities—because you're forced to walk everywhere. Here in suburbia, the kids and I drive nearly everywhere. Walking is so basic; I can find a few minutes to stretch my legs every day. Finding a rhythm to the day can only help me get my writing groove back.

Actually, the fourth rule from the Zen Habits article is pretty good, too: Live an Invigorating Life.


Just signed on to read with the Painted Word Poetry Series at the University of Vermont, hosted by Major Jackson. I’m psyched to be asked. Thanks, Major. Much appreciated.

Everything is everything.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Confession Tuesday

Happy Dog Days of Summer! Share a little of your sweaty little self with us and we promise to do the same.

A friend on Facebook posted this article on creativity. The article provides links to other articles on creativity (nothing is original today; we're a society built on links). But the article most relevant for me was from The Happiness Project, which lists 12 creativity exercises--written in 1936--by writer Dorothea Brande (a true original). Her exercises help to stretch that creative thinking through novelty and challenge. Here are a few I like:
9. Cut “I mean” or “As a matter of fact” or any other verbal mannerism out of your conversation.

11. Set yourself twelve tasks at random: e.g., go twenty miles from home using ordinary conveyance; go 12 hours without food; go eat a meal in the unlikelist place you can find; say nothing all day except in answer to questions; stay up all night and work.

12. From time to time, give yourself a day when you answer “yes” to any reasonable request.
I tried #9 yesterday, trying not to fall into my usual tricks of speech. It was certainly an interesting exercise. I have to do more of this in my writing life.

Check out the full list from PsychCenter. Hope it sparks your creativity.


Yesterday when I listed my overall August priorities (eat well/exercise, save money, focus on poetry), I left out updating the family room. Our family room is a small space that's had white walls since we moved in eight years ago. It's in desperate need of an update. So this weekend, the room will get a makeover: new paint, new carpet, and a few other extras to bring the space to life.

I have a wonderful red couch and chair in the family room. Unfortunately, I'm having trouble picking a paint color to complement the furniture. Trying to avoid yellow and the "Mcdonald's" look. Yik.


I feel more centered than I have in a long time. Summer makes me feel directionless, but I'm much better off with plans in place and a clear path ahead. I'm better able to manage bumps in the road if everything else is moving along at a smooth pace. Maybe I'm a little less fearful these days. I'm trying to make myself open and available for new possibilities. Isn't that was creativity is all about?


Diving back into the manuscript again. Revisions are slow going but moving forward. I'm considering shifting the current order and adding new poems. I'll see where I am by Sept 1 and make some decisions then. Will keep you updated on my process.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Monday, Monday

I was reading Mary's blog as she writes about going to sleep in July, waking up in August, and having life miraculously fall back into place overnight. I absolutely get it, Mary. It's like the space-time continuum repairing itself while I sleep! What is it about summer that throws so many writers off?

Admittedly, I set myself to accomplish more than I did in June and July. But with the return of school for the kids by month's end and getting back to a reliable routine, all will be right with world very soon. This month, I'm making a conscious effort to focus my attention back to poetry. It's no fun writing about not writing. Kinda silly, really.


Last night, I participated in the #poetparty on Twitter and felt myself happy and relieved to be thinking about poetry in such detail. (Search for the #poetparty hashtag on Twitter to read the convo. Last night's topic: submitting and publishing poetry.)


I go back to work today after a week's vacation, so it does feel like August is the start of something.


I'm much more productive if I have a narrow focus, so my overall August priorities are really simple: eat well/exercise, save money, focus on poetry.


August Poetry To-Do List (in no particular order)

  1. Write four poems
  2. Submit to four journals/web zines
  3. Write three articles for upcoming projects
  4. Continue to revise manuscript #2
Will post manuscript progress throughout the month.


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