Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Confession Tuesday

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

First day back in class and I am wiped out. This is my long day, three classes. Whew! I'm exhausted. And congested. Ugh.

Thanksgiving killed any hopes for catching up on my PAD poems. But I have been writing all along and I feel as if I'm still in a groove, which feels great! This is good momentum going into December, when I will go away for a weekend in Mendham, NJ, for my annual poetry workshop weekend with Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Laura Boss. So looking forward to the break. By then, classes will be over, grades turned in, and Christmas on the horizon. I need this weekend like plasma.


My poem, "The Blower of Leaves" is in the new issue of Ploughshares!! My first time in the journal. When I first moved to Boston, I was a reader for Ploughshares for about half a minute. It's taken me 13 years in get in print! So many terrific writers in this issue, including Afaa Michael Weaver. Very cool.

Woo hoo!!


I am backed up on my reading. Lots of new collections and journals to go through. I'm trying to read a few poems a night so I can get through my stack. I always feel wealthy when I have lots of books around.


Congrats to all the NEA recipients in poetry.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday


Hope you had a terrific Thanksgiving break. We stayed local and spent the day with friends. Thanks to Danielle, Josh, Alex, Andrew, and Simon for opening their home and hearts. This is our turkey day photo taken on Danielle's front porch.


Something happened on the way to my computer this past weekend ... I walked right passed it. Guess I took a cyber break from the computer screen.

Needless to say, it was a kid-tastic weekend, with lots of friends, family, and play dates throughout. I rested, read a few books, and watched a few movies, including one of my all-time faves, All the President's Men.


We made a trip to IKEA and bought a new dining room table, which we assembled Saturday night. That's where I am today, at my new table gearing up for a full day of grading. The semester may be winding down, but Mass Poetry Festival is kicking into gear. Lots happening behind the scene with both of my two passions.


Unfortunately, we made one emergency visit to the ER when my son's hand was slammed in a door (OUCH!). He's fine. No broken bones, thank goodness.


I am resisting every urge to buy something today on Cyber Monday but I have a feeling I'll succumb and purchase a few things on sale. We're pulling back on spending this year in favor of house projects, but I refuse to get sucked into the hype about buying stuff to make people happy. I'm really trying to focus the kids on giving and being more appreciative of what they have. It's hard, though, when everything in our culture says BUY RIGHT NOW.


Currently playing on iTunes: Thankful, by Rumer

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Things You Must Do to Make Me Happy (a found poem)

Things You Must Do to Make Me Happy (a found poem)

“Happiness is overrated—you can be happy without it.”

Wake up.
Read my mind.
Hurry up.
Proclaim your love.
Switch the laundry.
Remember what I tell you.
Remember what you tell me.
Let me win.
Think before you speak.
Fantasize about me.
Be real.
Be somebody else.
Be yourself, but better.
Be like me.
Be on time.
Call if you’re going to be late.
Calm down.
Get it yourself.
Acknowledge I’m right.
Read a poem.
Chew in silence.
Shut up.
Give me the remote.
Take off your shirt.
Leave me alone.
Like it because I do.
Make the bed.
Use turn signals.
Laugh at my jokes.
Do my bidding.
Earn more money.
Tell me I’m hot.
Knock first.
Repeat after me.
Speak your mind.
Lower your voice.
Grow up.
Take care of me.
Bring me flowers.
Turn off the lights.
Don’t call me that.
Teach my kids.
Wear your seatbelt.
Learn the words to the song.
Pretend to like my family.
Wipe that look of your face.
Tell me everything.
Use apostrophes correctly.
Remember the punch line.
Be my partner.
Plan ahead.
Call for takeout.
Expand your horizons.
Replace the toilet paper.
Toss the empties.
Plan for the worst.
Get over it.
Stand for something.
Share your fears.
Use a fork.
Kiss me.
Set the alarm.
Wax metaphysical.
Screen my calls.
Get over yourself.
Climb a tree.
Read to me.
Respect me in the morning.
Stop whining.
Stop saying “like” and “um.”
Take the high road.
Open up.
Be the better person.
Express yourself.
Stop mumbling.
Offer to help.
Pay the bills.
Rub my feet.
Make up for everything.
Give a damn.
Hold my hand.
Hold the door.
Put your arm around me.
Last longer.
Complete me.
Log off.
Accept the double standard.
Don’t use that tone.
Pick up some milk.
Drop it.
Watch me.
Look at me when I’m talking.
Get a haircut.
Bring me breakfast.
Tell me what to do.
Stop bossing me around.
Make an effort.
Impress me.
Be more specific.
Get a life.
Give me a break.
Have another drink.
Replace the batteries.
Hit the snooze button.
Act like you mean it.
Mean it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Confession Tuesday

It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Do you know where your turkeys are?

My turkeys are in school and I am missing their Thanksgiving play.* Sigh.* One of the tough parts about being a single mom is not making it to all the kid events.

*big sigh*


Feeling a wave of gratitude move through me today.

The last two weeks I feel I’m tapped into a wellspring of poems. Even though my number count doesn’t reflect the volume, I feel connected to that place where I feel most myself. Does that make sense?
Helps that I’ve been around a lot of creative people working on--surprisingly--creative, non-poetry projects. Attending lots of poetry events helps, too.

And, I've received a boatload of new (or new to me) poetry collections this week, from Ai to Vivian Shipley to Jill McDonough. Very Cool.


Whenever I’m in possession of new poetry books, I feel rich.

This past Saturday, the kids and I went to the library and picked up a ton of children’s books from their annual book sale. We bought about 12 books and six VCR tapes (yes, we still have a VCR) for $10. After the sale, they went into the children’s library section and checked out 10 more books between them.

I’m hoping they are feeling rich, too.


One of the projects I’m working on involves typeset letters that were once slated to be melted down and made into ammunition—I kid you not. So excited about this project, which I see as a collaboration of visual and literary arts.


I hope you can find a reason to be grateful today. Feel free to share it here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Poetry Marathon Fundraiser

Lloyd Schwartz and I did double duty last night as we were one a few headliners at a fundraiser north of Boston. Event #2 was in support of Boston's National Poetry Month Marathon Poetry Reading.

Organized at a private residence by Chris Warner, the audience was warm and welcoming. It was nice to see so many friends from the Boston area supporting poetry. But for many, it was there first poetry reading. Every time I think poetry is becoming extinct, I find people who are hungry ... no, starving ... for words. For truth. For connection.

We asked them to give and they gave. And then they gave more. And we are thankful.

Tom Daley

Lloyd Schwartz

Unfortunately, I had to leave early (I had been out of the house and away from the kids for eight hours). But one of my favorite moments came when Lloyd spoke about Jill's book launch party. Lloyd and Jill are friends and colleagues. So he honored Jill by reading her poem "On Being Asked, "What is Poetry?'". It was a lovely way to honor a friend and a terrific poet--with a poem fitting for the moment.

Congrats to Chris and marathon organizer Harris Gardner for putting together a wonderful event.

Where You Live

Yesterday was a tale of two poetry events for me. Event #1 was the book launch party for Jill McDonough's second book, Where You Live. It was divine.

Jill and me
The shindig was held at a bar called Drink. And we did. Let's just say there was a lot of love in the room.

Things overheard at Drink:

“This drink tastes like a man in a shower!”

“Once you go Tiki, you never go back.”

“Y’know, we were just talking about sheep …”

There's Jill, raising the roof again ...


Jill and Lloyd Schwartz

I'm serious about the love in the room. Wonderful to see so many friends of Jill and Josey's come out to support them. Lots and lots of laughter filling the room. It was a terrific party.

(Cheers to  creating an amazing poetry collection and giving us another reason to celebrate YOU! XO)
The North Shore crew
This coaster was originally created by for the Mass Poetry Festival as part of the Improbable Places Poetry Tour. Nice to see them given out at Jill's party. Click to enlarge.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Coming Close

(I am so proud to  be a part of this anthology. Special thanks to Mari and Tomas for including me.)

Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine

Editor(s): Mari L'Esperance, Tomás Q. Morín
Prairie Lights Books
University of Iowa Press
Available: May 2013
214 pages, 6 x 9 inches

This collection of essays pays tribute to Philip Levine as teacher and mentor. Throughout his fifty-year teaching career, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Levine taught scores of younger poets, many of whom went on to become famous in their own right. These forty essays honor and celebrate one of our most vivid and gifted poets. Whether in Fresno, New York, Boston, Detroit, or any of the other cities where Levine taught, his students benefited from his sharp, humorous honesty in the classroom. In these personal essays, poets spanning a number of generations reveal how their lives and work were forever altered by studying with Levine. The heartfelt tributes illuminate how one dedicated teacher’s intangible gifts can make a vast difference in the life of a developing poet, as well as providing insight into the changing tenor of the poetry workshop in the American university setting.

Aaron Belz, Ciaran Berry, Paula Bohince, Shane Book, B. H. Boston, Xochiquetzal Candelaria, Colin Cheney, Michael Clifton, Michael Collier, Nicole Cooley, Kate Daniels, Blas Manuel de Luna, Kathy Fagan, Andrew Feld, Nick Flynn, Edward Hirsch, Sandra Hoben, Ishion Hutchinson, Lawson Fusao Inada, Dorianne Laux, Joseph O. Legaspi, Mark Levine, Larry Levis, Ada Limón, Elline Lipkin, Jane Mead, Dante Micheaux, Malena Mörling, John Murillo, Daniel Nester, Sharon Olds, January Gill O’Neil, Greg Pape, Kathleen Peirce, Sam Pereira, Jeffrey Skinner, Tom Sleigh, David St. John, Brian Turner, Robert Wrigley 

Friday, November 16, 2012

You've Been Served

Thursday's Improbable Places Poetry Tour delivered poetry with a side of pie!

Once again, Colleen Michaels served up a hearty serving of verse at the CitySide Diner, a landmark eatery in downtown Beverly. It was packed, and the poems flowed!

I read a brand-new poem--and by brand new, I mean I wrote my poem two hours before the event. Always good to try out new work in front if a local crowd. Unfortunately, I left before the feature, but I heard she was terrific and even had saxophone accompaniment for three of her poems. Very cool.

The poets who read last night ahead of her were terrific. Such a diverse range of talent and styles in our little town. If you haven't been to one of these tour stops, you should make a pilgrimage north of Boston. What a great night of food, diner poems, and fun!

All hail Colleen Michael, the Czarina of Poetry Fun!

CitySide Diner

Colleen Michaels

Tony Toledo

(Side note, I just looked back at my Improbable pictures and noticed I wore the same outfit to the last tour stop. Yikes!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks!

This is the late afternoon, tired-as-all-get-out version of Confession Tuesday.
This is the "I need a nap but have to go home to hungry children" version.
This is "the poetry will wait" version.

By 9 a.m. Monday morning, I had helped my son create a Captain America costume, complete with red, white, and blue outfit and homemade shield. And my daughter had a diamond blue sword made out of foam core. They battled to the death--or until their TV time started.

By noon, I had 9 kids at my house for a five-hour play date. By 2:30 p.m., there was a talent show with the boys dancing Gangnam Style in the front yard (it was REALLY cute!). By 4 p.m., I had baked a dozen cookies, and at 9 p.m. I was in bed grading papers.

All this to say I'm a little tired today.


On Sunday, I went to a reading at Harvard University sponsored by the New England Poetry Club with Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Vivian Shipley. Now, Maria I have known for a few years through a bi-annual workshop she leads in New Jersey. She also runs the Paterson Literary Review--just a pleasure to be in her presence. But it was a real treat hearing Vivian Shipley's poetry.

Shipley is the author of nine collections and editor of the Connecticut ReviewBoth poets are well-published, active in the poetry community, and have too many accolades between them to count. It was lovely hearing them read together. What a treat!


Ahhh, the poem-a-day challenge. I have three poems waiting in the wings, which will bring my poem count up to seven. I hope I can stay awake long enough to type them up. I'm not quite where I want to be but I'm not giving up yet.

Waking up at 4:30 a.m. to write (or grade papers some mornings) has given me a chance to think about my next book project. It's been hard for me to find a way into the past, but I think I will start writing poems of place. I don't have enough of those, and when I'm feeling lost in my work, writing about home is as good as any a place to start.


Just got great news about an upcoming reading that came out of the blue! More info to come.


The AWP Boston Schedule is out! My two sessions are as follows:

Event #1: Lessons from the Field: Poetry Festivals and Community Building
Date: Thursday, March 7
Time: 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
Location: Room 200, Hynes Convention Center

Event #2: Massachusetts Book Award In Poetry, Past Winners Reading
Date: Friday, March 8
Time: 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
Location: Room 203, Hynes Convention Center

Cool. My first time presenting.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Benefit: Boston National Poetry Month Festival

Join us for an evening of poetry and spoken word performance to benefit the 13th annual Boston National Poetry Month Festival 

Sunday, November 18, 2012
6:30 to 9:30 pm, Private Home, Boxford, MA
Including light supper buffet, cocktails, and "poetic" desserts. 

Suggested minimum donation per person, $35

Featured Poets: 
Lloyd Schwartz
January Gill O’Neil
Tom Daley
The Incredible Christopher Johnson
Nora Meiners
Chris Warner

For more details, and to RSVP (by 11/12), contact Chris Warner, Director of Development for the BNPMF at 617-759-2288 or dodbostonnationalpoetryfest@gmail.com

All proceeds go directly to the Boston National Poetry Month Festival. And, please, feel free to pass along details of this event to anyone who might be interested!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Improbable Places Poetry Tour: Blue Plate Special

In photo, Ellie Topizer '13; Photograph by Jade Brewer '13; Montserrat College of Art

Improbable Places Poetry Tour
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Join us for dinner at 6 p.m.
Poetry will be served from 7–9 p.m.

275 Cabot Street
Beverly, MA
Submission Deadline: Friday, November 9, 2012 (Yikes, that's today!)

What's this tour all about?
Well, It's Montserrat College of Art's way of bringing together student writers, local poets, area businesses, and enthusiastic listeners to celebrate the power of poetry and community. At each tour stop, a new venue and theme will be selected. This month we’re having a Blue Plate Special at the Cityside Diner.

A diner, huh?
That’s right, folks. We will be serving up poems about the service industry: back of the house, front of the house, line cooks, the hostess station, and your friendly wait staff. And food, glorious, food: Adam and Eve on a raft, mom’s meatloaf, or that bottomless cup of coffee.

Hey, I've got a poem about the best slice of pie I’ve ever had? Can I read it? 
We are accepting submissions of diner poems via email at colleen.michaels@montserrat.edu and in the Writing Studio, located at 238 Cabot Street, Montserrat College of Art. The deadline is Friday, November 9, 2012. We'd love to read your work!

I don’t write poetry, but I sure am hungry for poetry. Can I still attend the event?
Absolutely! Come listen, cheer on the readers, and order the daily special! Join us for dinner at 6 p.m. followed by poetry at 7 p.m.

Wait! I've still got questions! 
Just talk to Colleen Michaels, Montserrat's Writing Studio Director. She's at colleen.michaels@montserrat.edu or 978-969-2301.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Confession Wednesday

Happy Confession Wednesday! A first for me.

I'm still basking in the glow of victory. The people have spoken and delivered a decisive re-election victory to Barack Obama! Woo hoo!!


Did not go to my writers' group last night--couldn't handle it. Instead, I hung out a local restaurant with a friend. The restaurant had multiple TVs, including a flat screen at our table. But the management did not turn on the sound until 8 p.m. and when they did, they changed the channels to Fox News. Ugh. We high-tailed it out of there as soon as possible.


Four more years!


On the poetry front I have been writing drafts for the poem-a-day challenge but I can't quite call them poems yet. That's why my number is stuck at 2. But this weekend, I will spend time catching up with revisions.


Two fellowship rejections last week (Sustainable Arts Foundation and NEA). One publication this week (Sou'Wester).

Last week sucked.


"You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose." ~Mario Cuomo


We are bracing for another storm on the East Coast. It's now raining in Massachusetts so I can only imagine what it's like in New York and New Jersey. Hope we all make it through this one with few incidents and no injuries.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

I Voted!

Now, it's your turn.

Confession Tuesday

Happy Confession Election Tuesday!

I confess I'm starting this on Sunday because my kids don't quite understand the concept of Daylight Savings Time (read: one extra hour of sleep).

Well, Election Day is finally here. Can you believe that after what seems like a campaign full of rhetoric, fact checks, and gaffes, it all comes to an end today--at least I hope it does.

Please vote!


As you might have guessed, I'm voting again for Barack Obama. In 2008, I was a die-hard Hillary Clinton supporter, and if she runs in 2016 I will be there for her. But I was thrilled to be one of the millions of Americans to vote Obama into office then, and I will be doing so again today.

We’ve had four years to evaluate Obama and if I were to grade him, I’d givehim a B+.

Given the economic crisis, collapsing housing market, and failing banks, he inherited a mess from the Bush administration. But four years later, the country is moving in the right direction—the leading economic indicators point to recovery. The president has kept most of his promises, including killing Osama Bin Laden and saving the auto industry. And he’s taken strong stances on issues focusing on women, minorities, and LGBTs. With the specter of re-election behind him, Obama will be able to work with Congress to avoid the fiscal cliff and to get the economy growing even faster.

If I am to be perfectly honest--speaking from the heart--I don't want the Obama administration to be looked upon as some grand experiment in sociology (read: "we gave the black guy a shot."). Obama is the most qualified candidate to move this country forward. He has been a symbol and an inspiration to many of us of all races and nationalities. But he has given us four years to decide if we want him back. I do.

I just don't think Mitt Romney should be rewarded for consistently telling lies that have been fact-checked by the media--without any retractions or apologies. (Jeep is not sending jobs to China.) How can this man keep his promises when he's flip-flopped on nearly every issue? I live in his "home state" of Massachusetts and nearly 70 percent of the Commonwealth will be voting for Obama. That speaks volumes.

Given the tragedy of Sandy and the looming fiscal cliff, I believe Barack Obama will get us through.


On the flip side, if Obama loses ... I can't even go there.


Some of the members of Dee-Lite re-recorded this tune for 2012, but I like the original.

Monday, November 05, 2012

You Bring Out the Mitt Romney in Me

Between the PAD challenge and the election, this was bound to happen. In fact, when I gave my students the assignment to write an imitation poem, this one just sprang into being. 

So, this is my imitation of "You Bring Out the Mexican in Me" by Sandra Cisneros AND "You Bring Out the Boring White Guy in Me" by Jim Daniels. Still very new, but timely.

You Bring Out the Mitt Romney in Me

You bring out the Mitt Romney in me.
The republican in me.
The moderate in me.
The severely conservative in me.
No, the moderate in me—
of that you can be sure.

You bring out the lapel flag-pin wearing,
gun-toting, live free or die,
Wal-Mart mom in me.
The Romneycare in me.
The private elevator in the state house in me.
The car elevator in the California home in me.

You bring out the one percent in me.

You bring out the Ann Romney in me.
The father of five in me.
The Mormon in me.
Why do I need caffeine when I have you,
with your Ken Doll square jaw,
gleaming eyes and immobile hair
graying at the temples?

You bring out the missionary in me.
The Harvard-educated lawyer in me.
The Bain in me.
The venture capitalist in me.
The one-term governor in me.
The Olympics in me.
The job creator in me.

You bring out the red state in me.
The Ronald Regan in me.
The George Bush in me, 41 and 43.
The Paul Ryan in me. 
The Sarah Palin in me.
The Ann Coulter in me.
The Newt Gingrich in me.
The Eric Cantor in me.
The John Boehner in me.
The John Sununu/Grover Norquist /Todd Aiken in me.

You bring out the Birther in me.
The Tea Party
The blue collar in me.
The middle income in me.
The non-Hispanic white voter in me.
The pundit in me.
The policy wonk in me.
The political hack in me.
The electoral college in me.

You bring out the Colorado-Florida-Iowa-Michigan-Nevada-New Hampshire-North Carolina-Ohio-Pennsylvania-Virginia-Wisconsin-swing states in me.

You bring out the voter fraud in me,
and I like it.

You bring out the recession in me.
The unemployment in me.
The fiscal cliff in me.
The self-deportation in me.
The welfare state in me.
The voucher program in me.
The school choice in me.
The Detroit in me.
GM employee in me.

You bring out the pro-choice in me. 
The pro-life in me.
The multiple choice in me. 
There’s only one choice for me, 
Mitt. Tell me what I want to hear.
No, really. Tell me what I want to hear.

You bring out the Let Detroit Go Bankrupt in me
The You didn’t build that in me.
The I like being able to fire people in me.
The Corporations are people in me.
The I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there in me.
The I’ll bet you $10,000 in me.

You bring out the 47 percent in me.

Facts don’t matter, Mitt. The polls
are wrong. We have momentum, baby.
your red states against my blue states
your elephant against my donkey
your right against my left.
Mitt, let’s double down.
Let’s make a final push.
Take me out of your binder, Mitt.
Strap me to your roof rack and call me Seamus—
I’m waiting for you.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Nikky Finney at Dodge: A Recap

I am somewhat disappointed in myself for not typing up my notes from Dodge sooner. But maybe this is the right time. The kids don’t understand Daylight Savings Time (*sigh*), so I’m up, using my time before the day gets going.

These notes are from three weeks ago from the Geraldine R. Dodge Festival, a Sunday morning craft talk with Nikky Finney. Here are a few gems (mostly paraphrased) in bullet points.

  • Why do you avoid certain subjects in your writing? If you are, then there is something to look at in that equation.
  • My models were people who understood work. We seem to be moving away from the sacredness of work.
  • Epigraphs can be a way into a poem. Sometimes I like to come in through the window, not a door.
  • It is really important that we not look away. Not avoid. As a poet, it’s my job to see the hard thing, try to get it right.
  • On language: I’ll use a phrase I use often in another form, through enjambment or hyphens. “I love hyphens.”
  • Learn then rules and then break them.
  • You want to innovate and steal, but you want to be inventive.
  • Writers keep growing if they keep failing. Writing is about the whole body, the whole self, changing and acquiring.
  • Circle your verbs in your drafts. Are your verbs lifting your lines?
  • You have to write often. I do not believe there is this thing called writer’s block. Take the words out of your vocabulary! You have to fight your way through it. You have to hand yourself over to the process.
  • How do I find time to write? You’ll never find time, you’ll have to make time. You have to find where you can build that house. I love 4-7 a.m. This is the last hour of safety. I set up what I am going to work on the night before. I get up still in the dream state. Don’t get that get that first cup of coffee, don’t wake up fully.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

All Hallow's Eve

What a motley crew! I miss the days when the kids dressed as superheros and cute animals. Nonetheless, we had a great time trick-or-treating with the kids' closest friends. Ella was an agent from Men In Black (no mistaking that mane of hair), and Alex is the ghoul holding the staff.


Reasons to Survive November

November is not the same for me without Tony Hoagland's poem "Reasons to Survive November."

(Listen to the audio.)

Reasons to Survive November

November like a train wreck –
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.

The sky is a thick, cold gauze –
but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.

– Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.

I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
in a room by myself

with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
like a disconnected phone.

But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,

and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over

and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into the land of my enemies.

(Tony Hoagland, from What Narcissism Means to Me. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf, 2003.)


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