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

Friday, October 28, 2011

Painted Word Poetry Series

Many thanks to Major Jackson for inviting Deborah Landau and me to read at the Painted Word poetry reading series at the University of Vermont. The audience was terrific, very attentive and appreciative--couldn't ask for anything more.

Deborah (right) sitting with student Rose Powell

Earlier in the day, we sat down with UVMtv, the student-run TV station, to tape a Q & A session. I will post the clips when available.

Deborah is the creative writing program director at NYU and author of The Last Usable Hour (Copper Canyon Press). The book was inspired by her bouts of insomnia, from which she created this well-honed sequence of smaller lyric poems to create a book-length narrative. As an NYU alumna, I know Deborah from the university connection. So it was nice to hear her poems at The Fleming Museum, and to speak with her later in a less formal setting.

Special thanks to the students who joined us for dinner after the reading. You asked great poetry and pobiz questions—you are well on your way to doing great things. Good luck!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On the Road Again

My thanks to Doug Holder for inviting me to his class at Endicott College this past Tuesday. The students asked great questions and wrote terrific drafts from my prompts. They seem to really support each other, which was great to see. And, they shared their appreciation by snapping their fingers instead of applauding. A first for me!

(I have to say, I was a little freaked out by the snapping. While it was cool, I’m just trained to hear clapping. Makes me think that people can still surprise me.)


I’m about to head back to the Boston area from my University of Vermont visit. So much fun and no snow, thank goodness. More on my reading and visit tomorrow.


I was just asked to be on the advisory committee for AWP Boston. *squeal!*


Wednesday was an up and down day. The past doesn’t want to stay in the past sometimes, and when people are lost they lash out. But, no looking back. No regrets. No more downdrafts. The buffers are off. Honestly, there’s so much to look forward to I just can’t stand it.

Thanks Colleen, Kristi, and Jo Jo for keeping me on track.


“I used to be somebody, but now I am somebody else. Who I’ll be tomorrow is anybody’s guess.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Second Stop on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour

Next stop on Montserrat College of Art’s wildly successful poetry tour is coming up!

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

This time, we’re heading to the People’s United Bank, formerly Danversbank, in the old Beverly National Bank building. Come and make a deposit, or admire the architecture of this old Beverly landmark. Think about the old changing into the new, payouts, the spare change in your pocket–money is all around us, being exchanged.

The deadline for entries is Friday, November 11. Submit them either as a message (not on the wall, please!) to the Improbable Places Poetry Tour Facebook account, email to, or drop them off in person at the Writing Center, located on the second floor of the library.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Confession Tuesday

It's Tuesday. Time for you to unburden yourself. Confession is good for the soul!

"A Message from the Outside World."

This sketch is from a page in a book of pen drawings by C.D. Gibson, published in 1901 from the book, "A Widow and Her Friends." Susan Rich and I found it while I was in Seattle at a very cool vintage store near Pike Place Market (the store name escapes me). The shop sold the individual pages from the book as pieces of art.

The print is really quite lovely; my scan does not do it justice. The page is old and crumbly around the edges. I find the woman's gaze fascinating. And the caption ... love it!

A friend once suggested that I should buy art, rather than dust-collecting souvenirs, from the places I visit. I wasn't going to buy the page but it called to me; I felt compelled to buy it. Hope to write a poem about her soon--and to frame her for my bedroom wall.


This cool vintage shop also had random pieces of black memorabilia/black Americana stuff that really kinda threw me. I know of people who collect it but still, it throws me.

Yeah, I know. Another poem to be written.


This is turning out to be one of my busiest weeks of the year, with last Sunday's reading in Cambridge, today's visit to Doug Holder's class at Endicott College, tomorrow's visit to UVM, and taking the stage on Friday at the Occupy Boston stage. No wonder I'm tired.

Random fact: the cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 is about $228,000 according to the USDA. Hard to believe, but when I look at how much food my kids eat ... it's probably true.


Pet peeve: It really bugs me when people compare something of "quality" to poetry.

Example: "Oh, that TV ad I saw last night? That was poetry." Or, "That layup in last night's game was pure poetry."

No, that was a TV ad. That was a layup. Y'know what's like poetry? Poetry. Now, go read a poetry book.


I've been writing poems but not anything of substance. May be time to buy a new journal.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Join us this week!

Let your friends know that the OccuPoets will be supporting Occupy Boston this week every day starting TODAY, Oct. 24 through FRI Oct. 28, from 2-3 p.m. Poets will be limited to 3 minutes, except for invited featured readers, who include:

Richard Cambridge and Marc Goldberg on Tuesday
Susan Eisenberg on Wednesday
Alice Weiss on Thursday
Fred Marchant and January O'Neil on Friday.

You can find us at Dewey Plaza, opposite South Station, just outside the camp. Show your support for Occupy Boston, enjoy poetry, and share...your words, books, snacks, presence. Please forward to all interested!

There's still time to sign up officially to read. Just email Peter Desmond at

The Painted Word Poetry Series

Hope you can join us on Wednesday!

The Painted Word Poetry Series
The Fleming Museum presents The Painted Word poetry series, organized by Major Jackson, professor, University of Vermont Department of English, highlighting established and emerging New England poets.

Deborah Landau and January Gill O'Neil
6-7 p.m. Readings

Poetry and Music

Yesterday, I taught a workshop on poetry and music at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. It was a small workshop that was a part of the center’s Fall Writers’ Conference. Since I don’t teach on a regular basis, I really enjoyed the opportunity to be in front of students. Lots of lively conversation set to music! Reminded me of my time teaching poetry classes at Brookline Adult Education long ago.

I am a bit of a poetry snob. I think most songs are bad poems. Put another way, I think they are two separate are forms with the potential for crossover. (Of course, there are exceptions and exceptional songwriter/poets: Dylan, Mitchell, Jay-Z.) And while I have written poems inspired by music, I’ve never put a poem to music or worked with a musician to merge the two. But when poets crossover and push the boundaries of poetry and music, it really is a pleasure for the senses to behold.

In our class, a few questions came up that I thought were good ones to post here on the blog.

  1. How do we define that fine line between songwriting and poetry? What elevates a song to the level of poetry? And the reverse—what makes a poem good enough to be a song?
  2. Which has a better outcome, a poem set to music or a poem written specifically for a piece of music?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kibbles and Bits

I think I'm suffering from jet lag. That's what happens when I don't get much sleep, then go out of town and get lots of sleep, then come back home to my sleepless pattern. Hmmm ... maybe I should go out of town more.


This Sunday, October 23, I'm teaching a workshop at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education’s Fall Writers’ Conference. The topic will be poetry and music, with an audience of poets and nonpoets in attendance.

Here's the description:

Poetry and Music with January Gill O’Neil

There is no poetry without music. And it is the job of the poet to recreate the experience of hearing music in poetic form. January Gill O’Neil will lead a session designed to focus our attention on the music in poetry. This session is part conversation, part workshop. Bring a favorite poem to discuss. We’ll also have a freewrite session so you will leave with at least one new draft.


I heard it through the grapevine that there will be poetry readings in support of Occupy Boston. Cool. More to come.


Happy Friday, folks!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Confession Tuesday

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

I am still in West Coast glow of my Seattle trip.

Whenever I travel, I’m reminded how necessary it is to step outside of my world and get some perspective. Being away really does wonders for my soul. I love love love travel, something I didn’t do much of when I was married. But now I feel empowered to trust my instincts and seek opportunities when I can. I have no choice, really.

It also makes coming home to two beautiful children that much sweeter.


True confession: last week when I said I was sending my manuscript off to the publisher, I did not. Had to postpone mailing it off until yesterday. But it is gone and I feel lighter, ready to work of new poems. Ready to let in a new kind of light.


I’m trying to focus on three things for the rest of October:
  • wellness (eating, sleeping, and exercise)
  • poetry
  • finances

My goal is to focus my attention on the important stuff for a few weeks and let everything else fall away. I can’t sustain this pace, but I can do it for a while and then let the focus shift to something else. By the end I’ll feel as if I’ve accomplished something without getting into too much of a routine.


We, the undersigned writers and all who will join us, support Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement around the world.


November is just around the corner. Time to gear up for another poem-a-day challenge.


Fall is so overrated.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Open Books

Left to right: me, Susan’s friend Jeff, Susan, Elizabeth Austin, and Kathleen Flenniken.

To cap off my visit to Seattle, Susan arranged for a dinner Friday night with poets Kathleen Flenniken and Elizabeth Austen. Kathleen is the author of Flood and the forthcoming Plume. And Elizabeth has had a terrific year with the publication of her first book, Every Dress a Decision, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Goes Alone and Where Currents Meet. It was so nice spending a little time with them and getting a feel for what’s happening in the Seattle poetry scene (a lot!).


Our restaurant was close to Open Books, which was closed during my visit. But I did manage to take a few photos through the window.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Seattle: Day 3

I have been eating my way through Seattle! Most of the food pictures are up on FB, but here are a few others from yesterday. (Having trouble formatting the photos, darn it.)

The original Starbucks! One of three I visited.

Pike Place Market

Susan at the market

"Little green balls of death."

The Pig

"E is for Emily"

Lunch: seafood cerviche and soup

A golden man

No rain on this trip.

Seattle sunset.

A one-person, electric car.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Seattle: Day 2

Day 2 in Seattle looked a lot like day one: overcast, no rain, and a blur of activity.

I spent yesterday afternoon at Highline Community College with students who I believe were both high school and college students. I gave a mid-morning talk and taught in Susan Rich's afternoon class. I think it went well--I was happy with my presentations. Since I don't teach regularly, I'm always critical of myself in a classroom setting.

My thanks to Susan and the folks at HCC for making me feel so welcome.


I'm currently hanging out at a Starbucks that overlooks the Puget Sound. Susan and I managed to get in a writing session here last night, so I'm revising my drafts. We've been talking a lot about the East Coast/West Coast poetry scenes. So very interesting this pobiz we are in. And the more I read, the less I seem to know about contemporary poetry.


Books I have picked up on my visit:

Marth Silano, The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception
Frances McCue, The Bled
Don Me Choi, The Morning News Is Exciting
Jess Walter, The Financial Lives of Poets (fiction)


The one time I'm in town, Open Books is closed! Drat! The owners are taking a vacation. Drat! Drat! Drat!


Went to Poppy for dinner and had a true culinary experience. Thalis, anyone?


My view from Starbucks.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Seattle: Day 1

There's nothing like hitting the ground running when you get to a new city. After arriving in Seattle, I headed to Highline Community College to meet the fabulous Susan Rich.

Then it was off to Elliott Bay Books for our poetry reading. What a great bookstore! The staff there was excellent; can't thank them enough for their support.

Susan and I have now read together in Cambridge MA, Miami, and Seattle. We're looking to do our next reading in the Southwest corner of the United States but have not ruled out Hawaii.

We had a great crowd, which included Martha Silano and daughter Ruby.

Ruby and Martha

Martha and me

Then off to the Richard Hugo House to attend the party for the winners and finalists for the 2011 Washington State Book Awards. Thilled to celebrate the occasion with Susan and Oliver de la Paz (both were award finalists), and to meet members of Seattle's writers' community. I have lots of books from the event take back with me to Boston.

Susan, Olie, and me

Today, we're off to Highline Community College for my reading and talk with Susan's students. (No Starbucks yet, but you know it's coming!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm Going to Seattle!

Woo hoo! West Coast, here I come!

On Wednesday, I will fly out to the Seattle area for a few readings, thanks to Susan Rich.

October 12
Elliott Bay Book Company reading with Susan Rich
1521 Tenth Avenue
Seattle, WA, 5 p.m.

October 13
Highline Community College
Mt. Olympus Room
Des Moines, WA, 11 a.m.

And I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to attend the following event:

Washington State Book Awards Party
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
6-8 p.m.
1634 11th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122

Celebrate of the winners and finalists of the 2011 Washington State Book Awards! Light refreshments and open bar.

The Bled by Frances McCue

Poetry Finalists:
Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room by Kelli Russell Agodon
The Morning News Is Exciting by Don Mee Choi
Requiem for the Orchard by Oliver de la Paz
The Alchemist’s Kitchen by Susan Rich

Looking forward to supporting Susan, Olie, and Kelli, as well as meeting the other honorees.

Confession Tuesday

It's Confession Tuesday. You know the drill.

It's been a kid-tastic weekend (read: play dates, birthday parties, apple picking). In fact, we celebrated Alex's 8th birthday at Chuck E Cheese's. Fortunately, this is my last Chuck E Cheese birthday for 2011. I'm exhausted, so exhausted that going to work will feel like a rest!

I am just grateful that no matter how stressful and crazy life gets, I am there to see all the big and small moments in Alex and Ella's lives. Can't believe I am the mother of an 8- and 6-year old. Where does the time go? Never a dull moment, I tell you.

Speaking of which, Ella lost her first tooth last night! She was so excited, and had no qualms about twisting the loose tooth until it came out. That girl has no fear.


The weather this Columbus Day weekend has been spectacular! Record-breaking temperatures. This August-like weather has been good for the soul. Needless to say, we spent a good amount of time outdoors. This week will be more seasonable but this last gasp of summer has been wonderful.


I'm going to Seattle on Wednesday! Sooo looking forward to my West Coast visit. Special thanks to Susan Rich for setting up the readings. While there are many wonderful things to see and do in Seattle, I'd like to visit the Space Needle, the Seaport District, and a Starbucks (of course!). Too bad the Mariners didn't make it to the playoffs--would have loved to seen a game.

What else should I see? I have one full day to do the touristy stuff.


The manuscript is done! I have taken it as far as I can in this round. Today, I'll mail copies off to my publisher. I'm hoping for the best but expecting the worst--I'm cautiously optimistic.

There are 50 poems in the collection, broken down into four sections. The changes I made tightened up individual poems while working with the overall tone and flow. The m'script is definitely stronger for it, thanks to many friends and poets who read my poems. My guess is I won't hear anything from the publisher until the New Year, but it would be great to close out 2011 knowing this book has a home.


Will post pics from Seattle this week!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

By now, you've probably read or heard this Steve Jobs quote in a sound bite.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

(The quote came from a commencement speech he gave at Stanford. I encourage you all to read the whole speech.)

Reading those words came at the right time for me yesterday after a long day of living someone else's 9-5 life.

The economy is tanking. Many of us are scraping by on low paying (read: no paying) jobs. We have families to feed, mortgages and bills to pay. Everything in our lives is saying follow the herd, stay on the path--what I call "cow logic." Yet, I have the audacity (that's right, I said audacity) to be a poet? What am I thinking? Book sales are declining. Fewer and fewer people read poetry. Heck, if asked, most people  cannot name a poet beyond Shakespeare, and even fewer can name a living poet. 

*big sigh*

I don't claim to have any answers. I'm not sitting on a big pile of money. Big-name publishers are not banging on my door to publish my next book. But when Steve Jobs talked about living someone else's dogma, I knew exactly what he meant. There are more good reasons not to be a poet than to be one. Yet, I am. I am a poet slogging through a new manuscript that makes me deliriously happy. The act of creation and revision has pushed me beyond my limits, which means I must be living closer to my dogma/personal truth/authentic self than ever before. At least I am trying.

So my wish for you today is to turn up the volume on your inner voice. Do something today that reminds you how connected you are to the world. One small change in your life can make a difference. How can we make the impossible possible? Dream a little. Write a poem. To borrow from Mary Oliver, what are we going to do with our wild and precious lives?

Steve Jobs understood that time is short. He was passionate about his vision to create value and find solutions that would change people's lives. I hope to exhibit a little of that strength of conviction today because that's what I am called to do. That's what my inner voice is telling me.

In the words of Steve Jobs, my wish for you today: Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Think Different

R.I.P Steve Jobs

Bits and Pieces

Congrats to Collin Kelley on his new book Remain in Light! It's downloadable on Kindle and other e-readers. (I will be downloading it later today.)


I am finishing up the last of my revisions for my second manuscript. I'll dissect the feedback from friends, make the necessary edits, and send it off to the publisher next week. Woo hoo!


October is a busy poetry month for me, with travel to Seattle and Burlington, VT, and some local poetry events in between. This weekend I'll spend time finishing up some long overdue writing projects. I'll also make time for my 15-minute freewrites.


Need to get some rest, too. I feel a cold coming on.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Confession Tuesday

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

I am the mother of an 8-year old boy. Amazing how keep keeps getting older (and more handsome) and I keep getting younger!


Since we are nearly at year’s end—a few more weeks, really—I thought it was time for me to take a look at my goals to see where I am with things. At the beginning of the year, I created a Poetry Action Plan (PAP). The whole idea of a PAP is to move forward in my poetry career with purpose. I’m a goal-oriented person so having structure around my work gives me focus. (Here’s information on creating a PAP.)

Here’s where I am with my 2011 goals:

Write a Poem a Week
Oh, good lord, I am just off the rails here. But I’d like to finish the year strong so I may attempt to end up with 52 poems. With that much volume, I’m bound to get some good work done.

Support the Massachusetts Poetry Festival
Mass Poetry is a huge priority in my life. 2011 was a terrific festival year, and 2012 promises to be even better.

Support Manuscript #2
I put off a lot of other projects to complete this goal, and I’m nearly there. Again, it hinges on CavanKerry Press officially accepting my manuscript. Fingers crossed. If so, I have a plan in place for how to support this title.

Start Manuscript #3
The fellowships I applied for to support this manuscript did not come through. But, as soon as m’script #2 is complete, I can begin to scope out this project.

Attend a Weeklong Workshop
Not in the cards this year. Provincetown also did not work out. Here’s hoping it happens in 2012.

Continue to Support Underlife
Honestly, the other goals took priority, so I backed off on supporting Underlife. I don’t think it has hit the point of a reprint, but I will check. It’s hard to sustain momentum in a book’s second year after publication.

So, that’s the state of the state. I don’t give myself enough credit for the things I have done. But I plan to finish the year strong and move toward 2012 with (poetry) purpose.

Happy Birthday Alex!

Poem for My Infant Son

That first night,
I made your father
sleep with the lights on
so I could make sure
you were still breathing.
Your brown body so malleable
one false move could
break you forever.
You are all feet and inches,
cooing a song I’ve never heard
in a language I don’t understand.
Yet you have taught us in your own way,
loved us even when we
try, fail, fail again.
That’s what children do.

Baby boy,
my lamb,
my suckling,
my colt,
you look at me like
I am your whole world
but the truth is
you are mine.

(Copyright 2009, CavanKerry Press)


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