Thursday, August 30, 2012

Kibbles and Bits

I'm in back-to-school mode. Working out my syllabi for four classes.


I'm reading The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. This is the book Salem State chose for it's First-Year Reading Experience and I'm co-leading a workshop on it next week. It's a quirky book--I'm liking it. Perrotta will speak at our school on opening day so I'm interested in what he'll say about the creative process.


Yesterday, I wrote a poem draft in about 10 minutes. That never happens.


For 99 cents, I downloaded a copy of Poems After Midnight, It's a Knopf selection from their April poem-a-day poems: 13 poems over 32 pages (including front and back matter). Wanted to see how publishers were formatting their projects in ereaders. And, the price was right.

The theme of writers producing work at night, or being open to the process in the wee hours, is a good one. Edited by Deborah Garrison, I like most of her picks. Knopf has a deep list, so every name on the list is recognizable. It's a nice little collection for the eReader. 


Collin Kelley's ebook short story collection, Kiss Shot, is available exclusively at Amazon for just 99 cents. If you're an Amazon Prime member you can borrow the book for free. The ebook is also available in the Kindle stores in the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

Congrats, Collin!

S'mores, our new guinea pig, has brought a joy to the house I didn't expect. What a pleasant surprise! The kids loooove her--and she is lovable, I must say. S'mores spends most of her days alone, without a partner, and with us gone for long stretches. I feel guilty that we took her away from her cage-mate. I may break down and get her friend. Ugh. I don't know.


My heart goes out to the residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. Seven years ago, I was glued to my TV watching Katrina images while home on maternity leave. The pictures look eerily similar. God bless.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. Do you have something to confess? Then you've come to the right place!

We now have a new edition to the O'Neil household. This is S'mores, the guinea pig. She's a cutie--a belated gift to my daughter. But she belongs to all of us. Very sweet, very docile. The perfect starter pet for two kids who wanted a social animal.

Alex and I had to talk Ella out of getting a hamster, which are not as friendly and move really quickly. I had fears of two hamsters breaking out, scurrying around the insides of walls--taunting me. (Maybe I'm relieving the squirrel in the attic experience.) We just have the one guinea pig. I hope S'mores will be as happy with us as we are with her. Guess that makes me a grandmother. Sigh.


Today is the first day of school for Alex and Ella. Gosh, summer went by quickly.


Am I writing? HA HA HA HA HA (insert hysterical laughing here).

I'm in prep mode for classes, so with the addition of S'mores and the kids' back to school stuff I am all over the place. But, a part of me is looking forward to a new routine, making it all work somehow. I thrive on the chaos, I guess.


Was reading Sharon Olds' piece on (OPRAH!) about divorce and her new book Stag's Leap. This section hit home ...

3. Write What You Really Think
"I think that whenever we give our pen some free will, we may surprise ourselves. All that wanting to seem normal in regular life, all that fitting in falls away in the face of one's own strange self on the page. From the day my husband told me he was leaving, I was writing—a lot. I wanted to make something of my altered life, to break into song, to cry out on paper. Reminding myself that no one else would ever see what I wrote—with my ballpoint pen in my wide-ruled spiral notebook—helped me be less censored and less afraid. Later, I could decide to show or not, because whether anyone ever read it was not the most important thing."

I have done this but I know I can do more. Sometimes I get tired of reading my own poems on divorce and loss, so I take long breaks and do other things, like buy a guinea pig. But some of my best work has come from pushing myself to "go there." I spend so much of my time not going there that I think it may be time to get back to the thing that makes me feel most whole--writing poems. Later, I can decide what I'm going to publish. Or not publish.

Friday, August 24, 2012


My kids come back today after a week with their dad. Yay! By my calculations, they owe me 70 kisses each (10 kisses per day per child x 7 days = 140 kisses). They must pay to enter.

AWP has released their list of panels. Two panels I'm on were accepted:

It’s Just Like Herding Cats: Poetry Festivals and Building Community.
(Jennifer Jean, January O'Neil, Michael Ansara, Martin Farawell, Michele Russo)
In this panel, representatives from the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and from the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in New Jersey will share best practices about creating, marketing, and running successful state-wide poetry festivals. Panelists will discuss poetwrangling and building a base of core volunteers. They’ll also discuss their poetry-in-the-schools, poetry teacher training, and literacy programs, as well as their passion for poetry and their passion to build community.

Massachusetts Book Award In Poetry, Past Winners Reading.
(January Gill O'Neil, Henri Cole, Daniel Tobin, James R. Whitley)
Sponsored by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, this reading will feature three winners of the prestigious Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry—Henri Cole, Daniel Tobin, and James R. Whitley. Each poet will read from recent work. The panel will be moderated by January Gill O’Neil, poet and
Executive Director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.

Also, check out the list of presenters.


So happy for Sharon Olds! Have you seen Vogue? I must check out the print version also. I have Stag's Leap on preorder at Amazon. Very cool. She looks amazing.


And really happy Olie has been posting poems this month.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Monday afternoon, I spend a few hours at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Seemed really busy for the beginning of the week, at the end of the day. Lots of tourists and families milling around, snapping pictures of themselves next to famous works of art. Craziness.

A must-see for me was Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language. This exhibit looks at works of art using language as more than just a means of communication but a foundation for creativity. The graphic representation of works beyond the page is a love of mine, so the space felt very kinetic and dynamic

The picture about is from Dial-a-Poem. Until the 1980s, Dial-a-Poem ran in NYC and evolved into an archive of some of the most contemporary poets and artists of the day. The recordings, which also are at UBUWeb, will be featured at MoMA until August 29. It was fun seeing the (rotary) phone banks, and hearing a poem selected at random. The static and so-so sound quality made the recordings sound true to the time period. Some poems where long--too long for a phone call--but I did linger long enough to hear poems by Ron Padgett and Joe Brainard.

According to MoMA Website's, you can still call a local New York number, 347-POET001, to hear a Dial-a-Poem poem. (Dial-a-Poem is free, but your mobile phone fees will apply.)


Just called Dial-a-Poem and heard Michael McClure's “Lion Poem.” Very cool.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Confession Tuesday

Confession Tuesday, baby. You know the drill!

Speaking of drills ...

I was in NYC on Monday in the Wall Street district. The GPS in my car sent me all over the place. Apparently, my GPS (which I have named "Dora the Explorer") does not know about the construction happening near the former World Trade Center site.


I had a delightful lunch meeting. with Jen Benka, the new executive director of the Academy of American Poets. I met her at the Poetry Marathoon this past weekend, but we've had this meeting on the books for a few weeks. My hope is that the Academy and the Massachusetts Poetry Festival can find opportunities to work together in the near future.

It was a thrill to walk through their offices and meet the staff. They are a small but dedicated staff who are the keepers of content going back to the 1930s. Wow.

Lunch was lovely. Hats off to Jen! She is well poised to take the Academy into new territory--and I can't wait to see what she has planned.


I really like my job.

BTW, I have no fear about driving in NYC. None.


Spent Sunday evening visiting with Joseph Legaspi and Boo. And after my Monday meeting with Jen, I spent the afternoon at MoMA. Heaven.

I typed most of this yesterday on my new iPad. Heck, my Lenovo is shipping today from China. I can't be without a laptop for a long stretch. So, I gave in. Not in love with it yet, however. Typing on a computer screen and not using a jump drive to transfer files is a problem--both problems with easy fixes. But it means changing the way I do things. Not ideal. Truth be told, I'm looking forward to my Ideapad.

It is like having a giant iTouch.

Started a poem on my iPad, so there's hope for me yet.


Feeling very lucky and happy for this life.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dog Day Poetry Marathoon

(Someone will have to explain to me why it's called a Marathoon and not a Marathon.)

Last night I read at Outpost 186 at the Dog Day Poetry Marathoon. About 80 poets will read throughout the weekend for roughly eight minutes. In between the readings, there are talks and lectures, also eight minutes in length. I was happy to read in between Brenda Iijima and Jordan Davis. There's a good vibe with this series. Something very honest about it.

I'm going back tonight because I'm excited about this set:

7:00 Susan Landers
7:08 Jen Benka
7:16 Carol Mirakove
7:24 Leopoldine Core
7:32 John Coletti
7:40 Dorothea Lasky
7:48 Eileen Myles

What I like is that there's a good mix of Boston and NYC poets throughout the weekend. Hope to see you tonight!

Here are the details:
August 17 - 19 at Outpost 186
186 ½ Hampshire St.
Inman Sq., Cambridge
Friday: 7-10 p.m.
Saturday: 1-5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m.
Sunday: 1-4 p.m

My thanks to Jim Berle for including me.

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Yesterday ... well, a few days ago.

This Marsh Hall on Salem State University's campus, where I spent Wednesday and Thursday at a New Faculty Orientation.

When I started teaching this past January, I was crazed. I was working three jobs at once until February 1. So there wasn't much time for orientation back then. Now that the semester starts in less than two weeks, this orientation comes at the right time as I put together my syllabi and course requirements.

I will be teaching two Comp 1's, Intro to Creative Writing, and Intro to Poetry. Yep, four classes.


Yesterday, I read at the Boston Poetry Marathoon. Great group of readers on Friday night, if I do say so myself. More on that in a separate post. Going back for more great reading tonight.


Happy birthday, Mom!



I am home alone. The kids are with their dad for another full week, but I feel more prepared to handle it. So I'm in my bathrobe (or as I like to say, my house coat) playing catch-up with all the things I've put off since I've been on vacation, including blog posts.

Not having a good computer to work on is cramping my style. But change is gonna come ... soon.



Not to be outdone, I have a really busy week coming up with my Mass Poetry Festival responsibilities. Sunday I'm headed to NYC to see the beautiful and talented Joseph Legaspi. I also have a Monday meeting in Manhattan. Lots of meetings this week, in fact. Should be a fabulous week. Really.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

TED Talk - Billy Collins: Everyday moments, caught in time

How can you not love Billy Collins? I didn't know he worked with Delta Airlines to create a poetry channel while he was U.S. Poet Laureate.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Confession Tuesday

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


I am in mourning for my missing--now presumed dead--laptop.

Y'know, I was in one of those good periods when you think to yourself, "I'm way too happy about life. What could possibly go wrong?" Well ...

I know, it's a laptop. No one died. No one was sent to jail or lost a job. But it's my laptop, with a custom-made case. I don't feel like writing, or blogging, or anything. This whole incident has really thrown me off my game. And I don't know what bothers me more, that my carelessness was to blame, or that no one has returned it. It has shaken my faith in people. When given the chance, do people really do the right thing?

(I know. I'm being melodramatic. Indulge me. This is me grieving.)


Susan Rich reminded me that Kelli's laptop was lost to a cup of coffee not too long ago. So when I reread the post and comments, Jeannine's words made me feel a little better:

"And maybe that old laptop was holding you back. The new one will be the one to hold your third book!"

If there is a silver lining, then maybe my new laptop will hold my third book. And maybe the person who found my laptop needed it more than me. So there.


I've got the new model picked out and should be back in business by end of week. My mood should be better, too.

Friday, August 10, 2012

When the Going Gets Tough

... the tough go to Busch Gardens!


Wish I could say I had a great time, but my mind was on my missing laptop. Spent part of the day one the phone with the rental agency in a last-ditch effort to find it. Ugh. (expletive)

All in all, we had a fun day at the park. Alex and I rode the Loch Ness Monster roller coaster, which is a big-time coaster with steep drops and loops. He loved it, but after said he didn't want to ride a coaster like that until he turned 10.


The kids love being in Virginia, with my son saying, "I want to move here!" Yay! He's also trying to grow an afro so he's going through a growth spurt on many levels.

Tomorrow, we hit the beach.


I have already picked out my replacement laptop. Hate spending the money but I can't function without one. Still can't believe my laptop is gone. But maybe I was meant to lose it, meant to buy a new one. I've felt the hand of fate in my life more than once during the past month. Maybe someone is trying to tell me something, at least that's what I keep telling myself.

I'm hoping a good Samaritan contacts me about my laptop very, very soon.

On the Road Again

We are in Norfolk, Virginia, visiting my parents for a few days. Unfortunately I left my laptop in a rental car and now it is missing--feared  lost.

Yesterday, I was lugging around a large suitcase, two car seats, a purse, and my laptop bag while watching two kids and their carryons. A warning light came on in the first car we had, so I hastily swapped everything from the first to the second car and misplaced it on the transfer.

Ugh. I am beside myself. I am so careful with my laptop usually. When I think of all the photos loaded on my laptop ... I haven't backed it up in more than a year. Most of my more recent documents are on a thumb drive. But I loved my Lenovo Ideapad. My laptop bag also had my Nook in it, so I am just sick to death about it.

I went to the rental agency as soon as it opened this morning. No sign of the bag so far. The agent, who was very helpful, said he'd call after the Lost and Found department opens. Keep your fingers crossed that it shows up today.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. You tell me your secrets, and I'll tell you mine.


I've been thinking about my next creative move. During the past three years, I've changed jobs, started teaching, helped run a major festival, published a book with a second on the way--and I don't know what I should be doing next?

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy and grateful for all of it. I've finally found work that is truly in line with my values. I'll take this life any day of the week and twice on Sunday. But in terms of a poetry career and my "never settle" attitude, I'm wondering what's next for me. How do I keep that creativity flowing? I'm staying open to any and all possibilities.

I don't feel stuck or stalled. But I do feel as if I'm idling in neutral, which is like nowhereland for me. I should be doing something but what? What? What?

UPDATE: I read this post and laughed. But #7 made me feel better. And #24. (Warning: lots of swearing in the post so don't take it out on me.)


I started a longer post about being a career poet but pulled it. A topic for another time.


One big rejection from a major journal was softened with an acceptance to another last week. Go figure.


The contraction of the publishing industry concerns me. Specifically, I wonder about poetry's ability to adapt to new markets. We should be working on taking advantage of industry changes as a collective. Poets should be working with publishers more closely to create more sustainable models and markets.


The kind folks at Penguin sent me Rita Dove's The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Now I get to see what all the fuss it about.


This week we're taking off for Virginia for a visit home. So looking forward to traveling with Alex and Ella. They're older now, so much easier to get around with them. Honestly, the water is just too cold in New England for me to enjoy swimming. We're looking forward to spending a day or two at the beach, without rocks or sharks.


Today, Alex said, "School starts in two weeks, mom." Ugh. Summer is almost over. *sigh*

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Random Thoughts at the Airport

Suzie and me

I’m at Regan National typing post on the fly, literally. Forgive the typos.


This was a trip I didn’t know I needed. Much thanks to Suzie for a great weekend. Also thinking about my family, who encourage me every day to do better than the day before.


Our hotel, the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel—the hotel that AWP was help last year—was the same hotel Langston Hughes worked in as a bus boy. How did I miss that fact at AWP? Pure coincidence that we booked in this hotel.


My friend, Suzie, is here for an education conference. The keynote speaker last was nonfiction writer and activist Jonathan Kozol, who was fired from a Boston Public School for reading Langston Hughes’ poetry to his class back in the 60s.


Went to Busboys and Poets for a tasty dinner Friday night. Too tired to stay for the open mic however. Good vibes all through the place.


Saturday was a day I could have reported on my activities all day. But I had to unplug when I realized I was too concerned with reporting on the good time I was having rather than having a good time. Some of the pics, however, did make it to Facebook at Twitter.


I could have spent the entire day at the National Gallery. The outdoor sculpture garden is incredible.


Was completely overcome by the Joan Miró exhibit. He may be my favorite artist.

Miró was an avid reader who thought of himself as a painter poet. As a Surrealist, he was probably the most Surreal of all of his contemporaries—even Dali. One of his paintings had a profound effect on me, so I am keeping the title close to me in hopes I can turn this feeling into a poem. Need to do a bit more research first.


I think I gained five pounds in two days.

OK, boarding soon. Goodbye, DC!

Saturday, August 04, 2012

DC, baby!

Where do I begin?

I am in Washington, DC, for the weekend with my good friend Suzie. Taking this trip is by far the most spontaneous thing I've done in a long time. We booked our tickets on Thursday. I'm from Norfolk, Virginia, and lived in DC for three years, so any chance I get to come back, I do. And I love it here. LOVE IT! One of these days I'll move back. But for now I'm just content to visit.

So many good thoughts jumbled in my head. Need time to sort them out and then tell them to you. For now, here are a few pictures from my iPhone. You can tell these photos were taken from a writer's point of view.

Happy Birthday Ella!

Happy 7th birthday, baby girl!

The kids are spending the weekend with their dad, but on Thursday, Alex and I threw Ella a big 'ol birthday party at the house. We had master storyteller Tony Toledo lead the activities. It was a terrific party, if I do say so myself! Fortunately, it was a beautiful afternoon so the kids could run off all the sugar and candy outside.

My kids don't like to pose for pictures anymore, so I was lucky to get this one. Can't believe Ella is now 7 and Alex will be 9 in two months. Where has the time gone?


Ella shares a birthday with our president. Still waiting on the birthday card from The White House.


Good thing mommy hasn't aged a day since age 29.



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