Thursday, January 31, 2013

NPM Poster: 2013

I love, love, love the National Poetry Month posters from the Academy of American Poets. I have all of the posters going back to 2000, EXCEPT for last year's (*sigh*). They hang on my office walls and grace my drab room with color and words.

The 2013 poster features the line "Write about your sorrows, you wishes, your passing thoughts, your belief in anything beautiful." from Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet.

Order free poster today (while supplies last)!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. Share a little of yourself with and we will try to do the same.

Another snowy day in New England. However, tomorrow the temps will rise to almost 60 degrees. Hello, climate change.


I had planned to get up at 4 a.m., spend some quality time writing and revising poems, and blogging every hour with real time updates. Instead, I went to bed at 2 a.m. after re-reading Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers, Nikky Finney's Head Off and Split, and Natasha Trethewey's Thrall. I don't know what got into me.

So now I am sitting at my desk completely drained from teaching classes. Couldn't even finish my lunch. What the heck was I thinking? Oh well, will try again tomorrow.


I did manage to make it to the Salem Athenaeum to write before class. I'm also plotting out my next book. The poems are waiting. They are sitting in the soil like tulips waiting for spring.

Unfortunately, I can see the new poems as a book-length project, which is not what I'm looking for. But I'm giving the Muse a little latitude these days. It's been so long since she's visited I don't want to scare her off. I do have the week planned out out with poems and drafts in my head, which is a good sign for things to come.


I'm brain dead today. I need a nap like I need plasma.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday, Monday

This morning, I went to an eye-opening talk at the Beverly Public Library on African Americans in Beverly between 1750-1850. The timing was perfect because I have been yearning to have a better understanding of where I live. Sometime this week I will visit the Beverly Historical Society to delve a little deeper into the lives of the slaves who lived here.

There were not that many slaves in this area, but we have a fair amount of information about the ones who were here: documents, logs, writings, firsthand accounts, etc.

Historian Terri McFadden read a poem discovered in a hymnal. It was written by a woman slave who lived to be 95. The poem broke my heart, but also inspired me to continue to research.


Have I mentioned how much I love my local library?


I went on a submissions tear this weekend and sent work to six different publications. This is my favorite time, just after the emails and letters are sent. Anything is possible at this point.


We're almost a month away from AWP! I'm over-the-moon excited that AWP is in Boston this time around. Yes, the panels are great. Yes, the book fair is ginormous. But I'm looking forward to all those moments that happen in between the panels and book fair: the hallway conversations, the impromptu gatherings at the hotel lounge, the dinners, the off-sites. I'm all over it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kibbles and Bits

"When one of our own gets up in front of an audience of millions, and recites such a soaring, affecting piece, we are reminded of the power of words. We are reminded that what we’re doing—slaving at our keyboards with no editors breathing down our backs, no ravenous Twitter followers waiting for our next 140 character missive—matters. You could see it in the faces of the people in the mall as the camera panned across them: Richard’s words were moving them. And this is why most of us write: to connect with others, to attempt, in however small or personal a way, to illuminate the human condition."
Eric Sasson from his WSJ article, "Why Richard Blanco’s Inaugural Poem Hit Home For Gays and Struggling Poets"


My poem "Night at the Roller Palace" was published by Sou'Wester. Yay! Just received two copies in the mail. Loving the new look, but I really love Joseph O. Legaspi's poem "Fairy Tale." Have we ever been published together in the same edition of a journal? Hmmm ...

Thanks to Stacey Lynn Brown and Valerie Vogrin for their hard work.


Happy birthday, Suzie!

In your honor, inspired by our outing to the Somerville Theatre and the Museum of Bad Art, I give you "Ferret in a Brothel."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Confession Tuesday

It's Confession Tuesday, the post-inaugural edition. Share a little of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.

Wasn't yesterday's inauguration special? From my perspective (at home in front of the TV), it was a magical day. So happy this president gets a second chance to finish what he started. The moment Barack Obama  turns around on the podium to look back on the crowd before he leaves--you get a real sense that he's savoring the moment. It was a great day for our country. 

Now the work begins.


My kids want me to get bangs like Michelle Obama's. I'm considering it.


I loved Richard Blanco's poem. For only having a few weeks to pull it together, nice job. Here's an interview with him on Morning Joe


I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be "made." Not in a mafia kind of way, but the idea of being chosen in the poetry community as the poet of the moment. 

It feels somewhat random how people are chosen. Yes, talent counts. Yes, it helps to know someone who knows someone. But there are many talented poets who know people--who still cannot publish a first book. There are plenty of us out there who will never win an NEA, never read at the Library of Congress or Dodge Festival, never publish a single poem in The New Yorker or Poetry. We all know it's a numbers game. Still, we fight against the tide. Maybe that's all we know how to do, and it makes us stronger. 

So when Richard Blanco gets an opportunity to read one poem to the largest viewing audience ever, that is being made, which really is a lifetime of choices coming together at the right moment. I can celebrate that. Happily. 


Yet, I'm hearing a lot of talk of James Franco. I've read his poems, I've seen his poetry movies (both of them). I just don't get the book deal. I just don't get James Franco. 


Let's see ... I've sent three poetry submissions and written two poems so far in January. Not bad. Still more work to be done.

Monday, January 21, 2013

"One Today" by Richard Blanco

One Today

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper-
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives-
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the "I have a dream" we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won't explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father's cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind-our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day's gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me-in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn't give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always-home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country-all of us-
facing the stars
hope-a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it-together

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Where You Live

This was taken from my fifth floor desk at the Boston Athenæum. Yesterday, I had a writing date with the beautiful and talented Jill McDonough. We sat across the hall from each other working in silence, which was great! So productive. If you look closely, you can see her computer screen across the way.

Thanks, Jill, for sharing this beautiful space with me.


Jill's second book Where You Live is amazing. Go buy it right now!


We went out for drinks after at No. 9 Park after. It's been a while since I've written a bar poem but I feel one coming on.

And a headache. I feel one of those coming on, too.


I made it through my first week of Spring classes. Yahoo! I'm teaching Creative Writing and Craft of Fiction this time around. Teaching fiction is new for me, but the students are ready to jump in and so am I. Both classes are reading Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers because the author will visit campus this semester. In fact, I believe he is scheduled to visit my fiction class. Very cool.


Enjoy the weekend!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Happy Confession Tuesday. And now, on with the show!

I confess, I am most pleased about making changes to my dining room.

I. Love. My. Blue. Wall.

I love that Ella picked out the color and after we painted she said, "You're welcome." (And she was snarky about it, which I loved.)

I love that both kids helped paint the room, a little.

I love that the wall color is Cordon Bleu, but we call it (New England) Patriots Blue.

And I love love love my art project now hanging on the wall.

Last year, I found these terrific plastic coasters with pictures of letters from outdoor signs at The Roost in Salem. It was love a first sight--I knew I had to have the whole alphabet! So I painted a large canvas and mounted the letters with Gorilla Glue. Voila!

Yes, it's taken me a year to put my vision together, but it was well worth the wait.

I can't help but notice the little imperfections throughout, but I don't mind. I find them comforting in a way.

Feels great to pick a direction and go.

"She's crafty. She gets around."


I start teaching Creative Writing and Craft of Fiction today. Looking forward to getting back into the classroom, but already I feel myself straining to keep myself balanced in this run-up before the festival. My friend, Michael, says I need to lower my standards. Says I have to get comfortable doing a good-enough job with a lot of things. But my instinct tells me I should complete one or two things at a time and do them well.

Doesn't matter what I do. Something or someone will get short shrift. Usually, I'm the one who is cheated out of a little time. The real trick is being comfortable with it.

For many years, my mantra was, "It is what it is." Can't tell you how many long hours and late nights those words got me through. I may be returning to them again very soon.


I wrote my first poem for the new year and it's about rocks. Next poem will be about color for the Improbable Places Poetry Tour.


Congrats to Sharon Olds for wining the T.S. Eliot award! Thrilled she is coming to Massachusetts Poetry Festival in May.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Next Stop on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour

A paint store, huh?

That’s right, folks. Color is the theme at this month's stop on Montserrat College of Art's Improbable Place Poetry Tour.

Thursday, February 7
7-9 p.m.
Waters & Brown paint store
13 Elliot Street, Beverly, MA

Is gold really the hardest hue to hold? How much depends on the wheelbarrow being red? It will be an evening of contrast, value, saturation and tone.

Submission Deadline: Monday, February 4. 

We're looking for work that stands out like an accent wall of Benjamin Moore’s “Wasabi AF-430.” Send your brightest and best to Colleen Michaels at

Even if you don’t write poetry, but are interested in this tour, come listen and cheer on the readers and get a few ideas for your next home improvement project. It’s amazing what poetry can do to a room.

The IPPT is Montserrat’s way of bringing together student writers, local poets, area businesses and enthusiastic listeners to celebrate the power of poetry and community.

Looking for more information? Check us out at Montserrat.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Kibbles and Bits

I spent most of my morning at Panera's for the third time in a week. Today's visit was a meeting with Mass Poetry co-founder Michael Ansara. We're working on the scheduling for the upcoming festival. (That's May 3-5. Mark your calendars!)

Feel like I'm cheating on Starbucks with Panera's. I'm such a tawdy wench!


Richard Blanco will be the inauguration poet.


Julie Batten wrote a terrific article about the hip 'n' cool literary scene North of Boston. Yep, I'm in the article.

Thanks, Julie!


The Tannery Series Joins the Peabody Essex Museum's (PEM) Exploration of the Brilliant, Booming Subcontinent--India.

Mark your calendar for our first PEM-Tannery Series collaboration, February 21. Get a fast, fresh serving of the hottest Indian-American writers.

2/21 Hot Fusion: Explosive Global India

Suketu Mehta, Rishi Reddi, and Rajesh Parameswaran, celebrating PEM's contemporary Indian art exhibit, "Midnight to the Boom."

@ Peabody Essex Museum in Salem MA, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
$10 admission. Free to museum members and Salem residents

Congrats Dawne and Kirun!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Confession Tuesday

If I could turn back time, I would be Cher. I would have posted this earlier. I confess I started this post on Sunday but the hours have gotten away from me. Oh well.


For the past few days, I have had large block of time to write--a rarity for me. I've been able to organize and begin the process of revision for my third manuscript. But I have yet to write a poem I like. I'm kind of bummed because I felt like I was in the zone before the holidays. Now, not so much. Ugh. Between starting school and scheduling for Mass Poetry Festival programs, I think part of me is resisting.


At MLA I picked up the book Why We Write, a collection of tricks and tips by 20 of today's most successful writers, edited by Meredith Marin. The pub date is 2013, so this book is newer than new.

It is a good, quick read. A little jolt of espresso for the writer's brain. Every answer is unique, yet, all of the writers profiled share similar struggles and experiences, which is comforting. I am taking solace in the pages

FYI, a portion of the book sales goes to 826 National.


I have watched two movies lately staring Bradley Cooper in which he plays writers, Limitless and The Words. He's writing that blockbuster novel that no one wants to publish. So he finds a way to cheat the system and get ahead, usually through illegal or unethical means, until he's discovered and learns his lesson in the end--maybe. Makes for good drama, but a totally false representation.

Still, Bradley Cooper is easy on the eyes. The tortured writer looks good on him.


I sent off my scholarship application for the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. I'm really hoping to take a summer class with Marie Howe (or Nick Flynn). Fingers crossed. I need this week at FAWC like plasma.


"Personally, I'd rather not submit to journals that seem glad to welcome you and then, later, throw you under the bus. I have a slight negative opinion on that."

Tim Gager squawks back at Squawk Back.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

MLA Boston

Interviewer Patricia Yaeger and Mark Doty

For the last few days, I've been checking out the sessions and gatherings at the Modern Language Association's (MLA) annual convention in Boston. This was my first visit to the convention, which is a gathering of teachers and scholars in the field of language and literature study. The focus is on research and scholarship, as well as lots of candidates interviewing for teaching positions. 

Admittedly, this convention, which I think had numbers upwards of 10K attendees, makes my hungry for AWP. But, it did open my eyes to what it means to maintain an academic career beyond the classroom. My love is not traditional research, but there is a place, certainly, for scholarly interests and professional development. And in some ways, MLA as an organization acts similarly to a union, acting as a collective body lobbying for fairness--at least that's my take. 


I was surprised at how many presentations were read verbatim from the scholarly paper. The sessions I attended that most appealed to me were the ones in which the panelists veered from the paper and interacted with the audience.

My favorite session was a presentation on Black Poetics and questions of form and formalism and "the black aesthetic." That panel featured the beautiful and talented John Keene. Even though the organizers gave this panel what seemed like the smallest conference room in the hotel, it was very well attended. 

I loved seeing so many beautiful faces in the room.


Best line from the Black Poetics panel: "We have had more black poets laureate than black presidents."


And then there was the Saturday afternoon event, A Conversation with Mark Doty. I could write a whole blog post on his presentation. This is a Mark Doty I had not seen before, breaking down his own work in conversation, commenting on his poetry and memoir. Not having read his nonfiction works, I felt I had learned something new about him and his motivations for writing. It was a surprisingly open conversation. 

Maybe I am most interested in looking at Mark's work from his early poems to now to see how it has cycled between formal to plain-spoken, from long to short poems and back again. Hats of to Patricia Yaeger for conducting a brilliant interview. 

Friday, January 04, 2013

Book Q & A: Second Manuscript

I was tagged by Kelli and Collin for this meme. Here’s a bit of info on m’script #2.

(I don’t believe in tagging, but if I did I would tag Erin Dionne. If you want to answer the questions, consider yourself tagged.)

What is the working title of your book? 
Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press, September 2014)

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Gosh, I was looking around for a title for my second collection and nothing really took. Conversion Theory was the original title. But I think it was a summer day when I was at a local park by the water with my good friend Colleen, and she was telling me about these two islands that sit off the coast of Beverly, Great Misery and Little Misery. Somehow, I connected it to my divorce—this convo must have been sometime in 2009. From there I wrote the long poem that is the centerpiece of the book.

What genre does your book fall under?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Halle Berry. If Michelle Obama could act …

And if Hugh Jackman played my ex, I would play myself in the movie.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
The poems from my second collection Misery Islands blend the geographical and metaphorical landscapes of family, divorce, and the choices we make to find out who we are truly meant to be.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 
A year or two.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? 
Divorce takes things to a new level—endless grist for the mill.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 
I have a poem called "C*nt" that I am debating whether or not to publish. It may be too late, but I don’t feel as strongly about it as I once did.

FYI third manuscript is tentatively titled The Hurting Time. I should really think about cheerier titles for my books.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Happy New Year!!

Hope you had a nice first day of 2013. We spent the last day of 2012 taking part in Beverly's First Night celebration, and then headed over to a house party in Salem. Alex and Ella stayed awake until midnight. It's taken us most of the day to recover.

Ended the day at the Salem Writers' Workshop--perfect. A good omen.


I won't start teaching again until mid-January, and the kids go back to school tomorrow. So my vacation starts now. (YES!)


MLA happens in Boston this week. It will be my first time attending. I'm told MLA has a weird energy about it. In any case, it's rare that I get to be an observer rather than an organizer but I'm happy for the opportunity.

Then there’s AWP in March, National Poetry Month in April, and the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in May, not to mention the poets in the schools program Mass Poetry supports. I have a feeling I will be immersed in lots of poetry and po-biz activity for the first six months of the year. Cool.


I need to create a master list of all of the poetry tasks I need to do in January, including getting materials ready for m'script #2.


Gosh, we are all revisions and never the final draft.


Best thing overheard today, "I'm going to kick 2013's ass!"


Being from the South, I'm supposed to offer anyone who comes to my door black-eyed peas and collards for good luck and good fortune. Can't offer the greens, but I leave you with the Peas.


Related Posts with Thumbnails