Friday, March 30, 2012

2012 Massachusetts Poetry Festival

Behold: the 2012 Mass Poetry Features Lineup. The schedule is now live. Go forth and register!

We are through the looking glass, people. Three weeks until the festival. Are you picking up what I'm putting down? More than 85 sessions: poetry, panels, slams, music, visual arts, drama, and more. It's Ekphrastic Fantastic! It's Improbable! It's Carpenters! It's the Boston Typewriter Orchestra. I'm telling it all but I'm telling it slant.

Can I get an iamb?
I am headed into Cambridge to cheer on nearly 1,000 high school students at our Student Day of Poetry. Can't wait. I'll be spending the day at MIT, getting lost, being found, and supporting poetry! Pics to come.
I need sleep like nobody's business. Feeling a bit punchy today.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Confession Tuesday

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

This is a picture of MIT's Infinite Corridor, or The Corridor of Infinite Possibilities (or, as I like to say, "a long-ass hallway," as in, "Gosh, this is a long-ass hallway. Why am I lost? Why am I so tired of walking?"). The corridor connects the east and west sides of campus.

Monday was my first-ever visit to MIT's campus, which is the setting of Friday's Student Day of Poetry, a daylong event sponsored by Mass Poetry. Nearly 1,000 high school students will descend upon this campus for workshops and slams. I'm looking forward to this event. But I won't lie--I'm happy not to be planning this event! That honor goes to Amanda Torres, who is doing an awesome job putting the day together.

Friday will be a lot of fun.


Later in the week, the Mass Poetry Festival programming schedule will go live. Lots of checking and double checking, making sure all the photos, bios, and event times and locations are correct. I'll be glad when it goes public. Can't wait to reveal all the planning that has gone into the 2012 festival.


About six months ago, I wrote an article for Adam Day's website Catch Up. My article, along with six others, is included as part of a special issue called States of African American Poetry

With the Trayvon Martin murder a major news story, seems appropriate and timely to add our voices to the larger conversation on race in America.


Trying to write a poem about this subject and many others. In fact, I have about five poems rolling around in my head. Just need to find time to write them all down.

Another week, another to-do list. *sigh* I hate it when poetry is not number 1.

1. Taxes
2. Freelance project (due Friday)
3. Brooksby Farm poems (Friday)
4. Get blurbs for book. Ugh.

My Mass Poetry List is six times as long. Seriously.


Listening to ... "You can go hard or you can go home."


Thinking about infinite possibilities today.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Poetry Workshop at Brooksby Farm

I did something this past weekend that I rarely do: overschedule myself. Yes, I’m busy. But I usually don’t book events back to back to back, especially on weekends that I have the kids. But these events—a fundraiser, a workshop, and a poetry reading—were a cross section of poetry gatherings, too good to pass up. And while all the events were terrific, my favorite was the free poetry workshop held at Brooksby Farm.

The farm, which is owned by the city of Peabody, MA, has a few historic houses on the property. About 10 of us spent a good part of the day at the John Fenton house. The concept of the workshop was to let our writing be inspired by authentic Colonial-era tools, documents, and lives at historic Brooksby Farm. Inside were many household items dating back to the early 1600s. Just wandering through the small rooms and imagining a time before technology was enough to inspire some terrific drafts. The bowl pictured above is the subject of one of three poems I’m working on this week.

The workshop, sponsored by the Peabody Historic Society and Montserrat College of Art, actually happens in three stages. The writing is just the beginning. This upcoming Saturday we meet again to create handmade books of poetry with a book artist from Montserrat College of Art. Not sure if we will each have our own books or one large collection. Then, we will have a reading at the farm in their barn/reception hall, which is just so rustic and wonderful. It should be a grand affair ... with apple pies! (Brooksby Farm has about 165,000 apple trees on its property.)

I left Saturday afternoon feeling refreshed and satisfied, as if I had returned from a retreat. Just one more reason why I like living north of Boston. The creativity and artistic collaborations are off the charts—some might say improbable. Thanks to Colleen Michaels for making it all happen.

Now, I have to write a few poems.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Big Time Poetry!

I’m involved in not one, not two, but THREE poetry events this weekend. Hope you can join me for one or all of them.


Rhina P. Espaillat, Fred Marchant, and Afaa Michael Weaver
March 23, 7 p.m.
The House of the Seven Gables, 115 Derby Street, Salem

These three great poets will read their own work in support of Mass Poetry. Suggested donation is $35 per person or $60 for two. Donations accepted online (go to Mass Poetry's website  and click on Donate) or at the door.

Free Poetry Workshop
Brooksby Farm
Saturday, March 24 at 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Peabody, MA
Sponsored by Peabody Historical Society

Let your writing be inspired by authentic Colonial-era tools, documents and lives at historic Brooksby Farm. Then, create handmade books of your poetry with book artist Sarah Smith at Montserrat College of Art on April 1. Open to all levels of writing/art experience.

Poetry Workshop Instructors
January Gill O’Neil
Author of Underlife (CavanKerry Press), Assistant Professor, Salem State University, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival

Dawn Paul
Author of The Country of Loneliness (Marick Press), Assistant Professor, Montserrat College of Art

Contact Colleen Michaels at 978-921-4242 x1254 or to register or for more info.


Poetic Convergence
March 25, 2 p.m.
Forest Hills Cemetery
95 Forest Hills Ave
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130-3714

Join Kathleen Spivack, John Hodgen, Daniel Tobin, and me at Forest Hills Cemetery and the Forest Hills Educational Trust for Poetic Convergence, a new poetry series in Forsyth Chapel


Talk about overbooking myself? Hard to turn down three great events back to back to back. Photos to come!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Poetic Convergence

Poetic Convergence
March 25, 2 p.m.
Forest Hills Cemetery
95 Forest Hills Ave
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130-3714

Join Kathleen Spivack, John Hodgen, Daniel Tobin, and me at Forest Hills Cemetery and the Forest Hills Educational Trust for Poetic Convergence, a new poetry series in Forsyth Chapel.

Tapestry of Voices is an 11-year-old poetry organization, co-founded by Harris Gardner and Lainie Senechal. Based in Boston with over 150 affiliates from the Greater Boston Area, most of whom are widely published, it also produces the National Poetry Month Festival Marathon at the Boston Public Library in April.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Common Threads, baby!

This is just cool. Nine poems by nine Massachusetts poets. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Common Threads! (and the crowd goes wild ...!)

Imagine, for National Poetry Month, the state of Massachusetts will be reading these poems in every book club, library, reading group, classroom, poetry club, workshop ... across the Commonwealth. Download the reading guide and watch videos of the poems read by the living poets.

If you'd like to get a hard-copy version, visit Harvard Book Store online. The cost? $10 ($5 goes to Mass Poetry).

This year's poems:

  1. "The Author to Her Book" by Anne Bradstreet
  2. No. 1129 - "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant" by Emily Dickinson
  3. "The Fire of Drift-Wood" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  4. "For the Union Dead" by Robert Lowell
  5. "Horseface" by Sam Cornish
  6. "if see no end in is" by Frank Bidart
  7. "Baseball" by Gail Mazur
  8. "Out at Plansville" by David Ferry
  9. "The Hardness Scale" by Joyce Peseroff

And the best part?

The beautiful and talented Lloyd Schwartz will host the Common Threads Reading at the Mass Poetry Festival on Saturday, April 21. Sam Cornish, Frank Bidart, Gail Mazur, David Ferry, and Joyce Peseroff will read the work of Bradstreet, Dickinson, Lowell, and Longfellow.

Need more convincing? Here's Gail Mazur reading her poem "Baseball."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Confession Tuesday

It's Tuesday ... you know the drill!

That being said, I forgot it was Confession Tuesday. Heck, I forgot it was Tuesday! I was up late last night grading papers. The only thing on my mind was getting caught up--which I am. Definitely worth it.


I talk a lot about festival planning but not much about my new teaching position. There's definitely been a learning curve, but, in general, I really enjoy being in front of the classroom. Any student willing to sit in on an 8 a.m. comp class means business. And, as the creative writing class moves toward fiction, I'm reading new works I would not have read otherwise. Here's hoping my enthusiasm rubs off on my students.

For years I was on the administrative side. Now that I'm on the teaching end, I have a whole new perspective on how things work at a large institution. Fortunately, I have a lot of support from other faculty members, which makes this transition as smooth as it could possibly be.

I know I've said this before, but I have these great pockets of time during the day that I just love. I'm working out again, and writing regularly--not producing much but writing nonetheless. I'm holding onto my time like a squirrel holding her last nut.


Also forgot my best friend's birthday is today. Happy Birthday, Special K! (Thank you, Facebook birthday reminder.)


Got my first acceptance into Ploughshares!! My poem, "The Blower of Leaves, will appear in the Winter 2012-13 issue. Woo hoo!

Many moons ago when I first moved to Boston, I was a reader for Pshares. I was probably there about 3-4 months. Ii didn't last long; I wasn't that organized back then. But they were. They had packets of poems together in the most organized fashion, ready for students and inters to start reviewing submissions. That was almost 15 years ago. Wonder if the process is similar today. They are still an organized bunch. And very nice.

In any case, I am eternally grateful.


My eyes are burning. Need some sleep.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Poetry Workshop at Brooksby Farm

Hope you can join Dawn Paul and me for this great workshop.


Poetry Workshop

Sponsored by Peabody Historical Society
Brooksby Farm in Peabody
Saturday, March 24 at 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Let your writing be inspired by authentic Colonial-era tools, documents and lives at historic Brooksby Farm. Then, create handmade books of your poetry with book artist Sarah Smith at Montserrat College of Art on April 1.

Poetry Workshop Instructors
January Gill O’Neil
Author of Underlife (CavanKerry Press), Assistant Professor, Salem State University, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival

Dawn Paul
Author of The Country of Loneliness (Marick Press), Assistant Professor, Montserrat College of Art

Handmade Books Workshop Instructor
Sarah Smith
Book Artist, Assistant Professor, Montserrat College of Art, Graphic Design, Printmaking, Book Arts

Open to all levels of writing/art experience.
Contact Colleen Michaels at 978-921-4242 x1254 or to register or for more info.

Massachusetts Poetry Festival Trailer (2011)

Watch scenes from the 2011 festival. Now, how can you not come to Salem after seeing this trailer?

My thanks to Ron Rodriguez at Salem State University for putting it together.

Visit the Mass Poetry site for more info.

2012 NPM Poster

Here is this year's National Poetry Month poster from the Academy of American Poets. (Click on image to enlarge.) This one arrived in the mail early, and currently hangs in my office at Salem State. I have every poster going back to 2000, except for last year's, which after three requests I never received. Guess I will buy the 2011 poster.


Had a near panic attack when I realized that the Massachusetts Poetry Festival is six weeks away! Wow!! So much to do in a short amount of time.

I am reconciling the fact that I will not sleep much during the next few weeks. Between the festival, teaching, and home life, I'm looking for ways to make my life easier. Maybe I need a robot servant.

And that is why I'm blogging at 7 a.m. Good times.

But the festival will be fabulous. The lineup of features and sessions is spectacular. If I had to describe the festival, it's a cross between Dodge and AWP.


National Poetry month is just around the corner. You know what that means ... it's time for a poem a day challenge! Like I don't have enough to do.


Friday, March 16, 2012

UpStairs on the Square

I feel like Cinderella after the ball: tired but wired after last night's fundraiser for Mass Poetry. Of course, Mass Poetry is the real Cinderella story. We put the roots in grassroots. But last night was a testament to the power of poetry bringing together a community.

Our fundraiser brought 80+ poets and poetry lovers to UpStairs on the Square, a delighful (and colorful) restuarant in Cambridge. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky was pitch perfect as he read from his new Selected Poems, and from memory--he has quite a catalogue of poems committed to memory. He also read some of his favorite poems that he's collected and loved through the years.

I couldn't have been more pleased with last night's affair. It was grand. Fundraising totals are still coming in, but one donor was so moved by the work of Mass Poetry he wrote a rather large check.

When I say large, I mean large.

Jennifer Jean and Carrie Wihbey

Michael Ansara and Lloyd Schwartz

Julie Batten, Amanda Torres, and Beth Moore

The dress.

Robert Pinsky and Lloyd Schwartz

Upstairs at UpStairs on the Square
Robert reads from his Selected Poems
POEMJAZZ, Robert's new CD

Listen to track's from Robert's new CD, POEMJAZZ.)

While the fundraiser was drop in the bucket, we need more drops to fill the bucket. Not only does Mass Poetry produce the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, we also bring high school students together for a student day of poetry, and put poets in low-performing schools to help raise literary rates. We do all of this on a shoestring budget.

If you didn't make it to last night's event, or won't be able to make it to our Salem fundraiser, you can donate on our Web page (click the donate button).

Thanks to all who made last night's event possible.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mass Poetry: Two Very Special Events

Your Chance to Support Mass Poetry!

You can support Mass Poetry by attending one of our two upcoming fundraising events. All of the proceeds go to support the following:

  • Massachusetts Poetry Festival
  • Student Day of Poetry
  • Massachusetts Louder than a Bomb
  • Common Threads
  • Teacher Workshops
  • Placing of Poets in Low-performing Schools

We can only do this work with you support.

Sign up now!

Robert Pinsky at UpStairs on the Square
March 15, 5:30 p.m., 91 Winthrop Street, Cambridge

There are a few seats left for this intimate evening with the former U.S. Poet Laureate, and creator of the Favorite Poem Project, who has followed his Selected Poems with a new CD of poetry and jazz. (Each guest will receive a copy of his new CD POEMJAZZ). Light food, and cash bar will be available at UpStairs on the Square, one of Cambridge’s finest restaurants. Reserve your seat now. This will be an evening to remember—don’t miss it!

Rhina P. Espaillat, Fred Marchant, and Afaa Michael Weaver
March 23, 7 p.m.
The House of the Seven Gables, 115 Derby Street, Salem

These three great poets will read their own work in support of Mass Poetry. Suggested donation is $35 per person or $60 for two. Donations accepted online or at the door.

If you cannot make either event but would like to support the work of Mass Poetry, you can make a fully tax deductible donation online. Everyone who donates $10 or more automatically will be signed up for a Mass Poetry Festival button that you can pick up when you arrive at the festival in April. That button allows you to attend all of the readings, workshops, and performances.

Thank you for supporting Mass Poetry.

Confession Tuesday

Welcome to Confession Tuesday, late edition. Time to unburden yourself. Share a little of your life and we promise to do the same.


This week is spring break for my college, which means I have a little more time to devote to Mass Poetry. Much of the last two weeks has been spent getting the massive programming schedule together. Trying to organize 85 different programs and sessions is like being air traffic controller--have to make sure all the planes land safely. It's a BEAST! I'm telling you, that schedule keeps me up at night. But it is done. Time to exhale.


My writing schedule has been off for the last few days, but I'm using the time that I do have to write poems and get organized. Yesterday I made a massive five-day to-do list, more of a brain dump than anything else. It's really bad when your to-do list becomes a bulleted outline with tasks and subtasks. Here's the poetry portion:

Poetry to-do's

  • Write one poem
  • Work with designer on Misery Islands book cover
  • Ask kind poets for back-cover blurbs (ugh)
  • Organize new poetry
  • Send out submissions to two publications
  • Write essay for upcoming project

Mass Poetry is hosting a fundraiser this Thursday, featuring Robert Pinsky. So today was a good day to buy a new dress, shoes, and jewelery. Haven't bought a new dress of any kind since my first book launch. Needless to say, this day of shopping was long overdue.

Monday, March 12, 2012

BASH Reading Series

Jericho Brown, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Thomas Sayers Ellis and Afaa Michael Weaver.

Just when I thought readings couldn't get any better, I went to the BASH Reading Series to hear three amazing poets. Introduced by Afaa, it was my great pleasure to hear Jericho, Lyrae, and TSE read from their most recent works.

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon’s latest collection, Open Interval, was a 2009 National Book Award finalist. And her first collection, Black Swan, won the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize.

Thomas Sayers Ellis is cofounder of The Dark Room Collective, and the Whiting award-winning author of The Maverick Room and Skin, Inc.

Jericho Brown is a recipient of the Whiting Writers Award, NEA, Radcliffe, and Bread Loaf fellowships, and the winner of the American Book Award for his first book, Please.

This trifecta had never read together before, so it was great to experience the energy and interplay among these talented poets. While I have heard Jericho and Thomas read, it was my first time hearing Lyrae's poetry. It is strong and dynamic, with layer after layer ready to be revealed. It was clear that all three poets enjoyed the opportunity to share the stage. And as an audience member, I feel as if I was part of something special. Thanks to the folks at BASH for putting together an outstanding lineup.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Being Flynn

Last week, I saw Nick Flynn’s memoir-turned-movie Being Flynn at a fundraiser in Cambridge. Here’s a picture of Nick, actor Paul Dano, and director Paul Weitz.

Paul Dano plays Nick circa 1987, and Robert DiNiro plays his father as they unpack the baggage of their complicated father-son relationship. The relationship comes to a head while Nick is working at the Pine Street Inn shelter in Boston (renamed the Harbor Street Inn for the movie).

Based on Nick’s memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (too bad they couldn’t keep the book title for the movie), I can’t imagine what it must be like to put your life out there and have it committed to celluloid. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea of what one generation passes to another. Are we destined to be our parents? How much of our parents’ baggage do we take with us?

Also, and maybe more important, Being Flynn does a great job of showing how easily someone can lose their stability and become homeless. Likewise, it shows that homelessness does not have to be the end of a person’s story. Proceeds from the benefit screening went to the Elders Living at Home Program, the program that transitioned Nick’s father into an apartment after years of shelters and living on the street.

After the Q &A, while waiting in line for a book, I met the real “Captain,” the gentleman who has worked at the Pine Street Inn for 31 years. His character was one of the pivotal figures in the movie. He was beaming—his joy was contagious. I’m not surprised that Nick's story has touched so many lives. He’s a terrific poet and writer, and one of the nicest people around. I'm thrilled for his growing success. 


Shout out Steve Almond for the vegan cupcake. It was yummy!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Know Your Professor: Afaa Michael Weaver


Tannery Series: What's Love Got to Do with It?

I am all backed up on my posts. If I was on top of things, I would have told you much sooner about the fabulous reading I had last weekend with the Tannery Series in Newburyport. I read with two of the most talented ladies writing today: Tayari Jones and Kate Bolick.

It was an evening of firsts for me. Hard to believe I had never been to Jabberwocky Books, which is an impressive indie bookstore. I had never read with a fiction and nonfiction authors on the same bill. And I had never read with the Tannery Series. Run by Kirun Kapur and Dawne Shand, they really do a nice job making their artists feel supported.

Miss Tayari and Me!

Tayari is the author of Silver Sparrow. She's also a Bunting Fellow at Radcliffe this academic year, so I am soaking her in for the next few months while she's local.

Kate Bolick

And Kate Bolick wrote an eye-opening article for The Atlantic called "All the Single Ladies." This article helped to garner her first book deal. Keep an eye on her!

We read under the theme of "What's Love Got to Do With It?" Bigamy, spinsterhood, and family deception! According to the description, we were supposed to skewer today's romantic landscape. Not sure if we did that, but I did get a chance to read a few Misery Island poems. Trust me, I could have skewered. I did not! In fact, the readings had a nice flow and our work collectively made for a well-rounded evening with multiple perspectives and experiences.   

Those folks up in Newburyport like books! I sold quite a few that evening. Such a warm and welcoming crowd. What can I say? It was truly a fun evening from start to finish. And after the Poetry Out Loud competition in the morning, the day was a reminder of how lucky I am to do what I do.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Poetry Out Loud 2012

This past Saturday, I had the great pleasure of being a judge at one of this year's Massachusetts Poetry Out Loud semifinal rounds. I was in Framingham, one of the many cities hosting statewide competitions. 

For those not in the know, Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation competition. But it’s much more than that. This competition celebrates the power of the spoken word and helps to develop public speaking skills. These kids become the poems. I heard one student recite Phil Levine’s “What Work Is,” and I thought to myself, “Phil would be proud.” It is so much fun watching these students recite poems!

Statewide, a record 20,000 students have competed in classroom and schoolwide competitions. (Massachusetts Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the Huntington Theater in partnership with the Massachusetts Cultural Council.)

Come out this Sunday, March 11, to the Old South Meeting House in Boston and watch the finalists compete for top honors. The winner receives an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national finals.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Confession Tuesday

Super Tuesday = Confession Tuesday!

Share a bit of yourself and we promise to do the same.

I left the house with two different shoes this morning. After this post I have to rush home to change shoes in time for my meeting with the mayor of Salem. *sigh*


I am overwhelmingly busy. Still learning how to split my time between teaching and planning the Mass Poetry Festival. I think I'm in a good spot with my teaching--as long as I can keep up with the grading, I'm in good shape. Mass Poetry, however, needs a lot of attention now. It is sapping all my energy and I'm having a hard time relaxing, much like last year.

There's a part of me that has to give into to the process. I have to let go. I have to accept that "it is what it is." This is the job for the next six weeks. No balance. Little sleep. But things are getting done. Everything will be fine in the end. If an email is not sent out today, I can always send it tomorrow. And when the festival happens, it will be spectacular! My job is to make it all look seamless.

Deep breaths and playing with the kids helps.


All of this makes me very reactionary. For instance, I managed to send my NEA and Bread Loaf applications the day they were due. I hate being so last minute about important stuff. Thankfully, the apps are out in this golden time between acceptance and rejection. It's like a gloaming for writers.


Not sure if I used gloaming correctly but I'm sticking with it. This from the person wearing mismatched shoes.


I have so much to tell you. Will get to recaps about weekend events with Poetry Out Loud and the Tannery Series reading soon.


Happy Super Tuesday, folks.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Friday, March 02, 2012

Two Saturday Events

Saturday is action-packed for me. Not one but two poetry events for the day. Hope you can make it to one or both of them.

Saturday morning, I’ll be a judge at the Poetry Out Loud semifinals in Framingham.

POETRY OUT LOUD encourages students in grades 9-12 to memorize and perform real poems and to explore the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken work, and theatre in their English and Drama classes.

Students winning the Massachusetts finals will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC, where they will compete in the national finals. Here are the locations from competitions across the state, which are free and open to the public.
  • Framingham (Framingham Temple Association) Saturday, March 3 at 9:30 a.m.
  • Boston (Calderwood Pavilion) Saturday, March 3 at 9:30 a.m.
  • Springfield (Springfield Community Music School) Sunday, March 4 at 10 a.m.
  • Yarmouth (Cultural Center of Cape Cod) Sunday, March 4 at 1:00 a.m.
State Final Competition will be held at the Old South Meeting House on Sunday, March 11 at 9:30.

Come out and support these students!


And in the evening, I’ll be reading with Tayari Jones and Kate Bolick at Jabberwocky Bookshop.

March 3, 7p.m.
The Tannery Series
The Jabberwocky Bookshop
Tannery Marketplace, Newburyport, MA.

What's Love Got to Do with It?
Join us as three startling authors skewer today's romantic landscape. Modern love will never look the same.

Readings by:
  • Kate Bolick ("All the Single Ladies") reads from her forthcoming book--a wry, personal and frank discussion about being single in a world where marriage seems less necessary and less probable.
  • Tayari Jones (Silver Sparrow, Leaving Atlanta) reads from her stunning third novel, Silver Sparrow. Set in Atlanta during the 80s, her richly imagined characters struggle to do right and to love even as these ambitions require extraordinary deceit and complicity.
  • January Gill O’Neil (Underlife) reads her lyric poems which bring to light the unspeakable complications of marriage and family life.
This event is free and open to the public, but come early to grab a front-row seat.

Is it time to break out the Misery Island poems? You won’t want to miss this.

Night at the Roller Palace

AWP had nothing on the latest Improbable Places Poetry Tour, held Wednesday night at the Roller Palace. Now, I thought the tattoo parlor and swimming pool were inspired choices for past tour stops, but I have been dreaming about reading poetry at this venue for months! Imagine, skating and poetry? Go figure. Had to be the best Improbable EVER!

Host Colleen Michaels

Poet Margaret Young.

Of the 15 poets who read, about half wore skates to the microphone, which was set up near the DJ stand. Believe me, nothing is more treacherous than having to cross over a power chord taped to the floor. Wish I had taken photos of the readers on skates and people skating, but taking photos on wheels is a challenge in itself.

I'm guessing at least 100 people came out for this reading. Maybe it was the poetry, or maybe it was the desire to rekindle that love of skating. Whatever the reason, most of us were out on the floor after the reading during all-skate time. Admittedly, it was fun watching the college students try to stay upright while my son and I glided by without a care in the world. Add songs like "Another One Bites the Dust" (Queen), "Private Eyes"(Hall and Oates), and "Xanadu" (Olivia Newton-John), and you've got my childhood wrapped up in a nutshell.

Here's my very new poem written for the occasion. Still a work in progress.

Night at the Roller Palace

After the birthday crowds thin out,
after the Hokey Pokey and Chicken Dance,
after the parents have towed their shaky kids
like cabooses on trains ready to decouple
and the pint-sized skate kids have circled the rink
like a gang of meerkats spun out into a 10-car pileup
I turn sideways and angle by as “Another One Bites the Dust”
thumps hard over our heads. I give a finger point to the DJ stand
because, in my mind, we are soldiers in the march against time,
grooving to the retro beat while the disco ball shines
cut crystal against rainbow walls.
I glide like Mercury or Apollo Ono
without ice or skin suit, in low rider jeans
that hug my body like I hug corners,
pass them all on the smoothed-out parquet floor,
worn down by time and rhythm. The trick is
to make it look effortless, remind them that
your quickness is a kind of love. You are the spark
between wood and wheel. And when your cranky kids
hang out by the wall waiting for you to come out of the oval,
holding those eight wheels by their brown leather tongues
ready to go, you give them a wave and keep circling,
Just one more song, mommy says. Remind them
this is your “me” time. It’s all skate.
You’ve got your whole self in.
That’s what it’s all about.


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