Sunday, March 31, 2013

PAD Challenge

Happy Easter!

I have a few hours to myself before the kids return home, so I have been mentally preparing myself to start an April Poem-a-Day Challenge. Actually, I've been thinking about how I haven't written a poem is at least six weeks and how rusty I am. It's hard getting to that place where I feel open, even a little. Even with a little time to write, no poems yet.

I feel expectant with poetry, however. That's a good sign.

Robert Lee Brewer is hosting his annual April PAD Challenge. I like to visit the Poetic Asides blog  when I'm feeling stuck. I probably won't post my poems this time around but I'll keep count on my blog.

With the festival happening in a little over a month (Yikes!), the April challenge couldn't come at a better time. Amidst the festival craziness and end-of-semester grading, I'm trying to keep myself grounded with family, exercise, and poetry. And, my hope is that I will gain some traction with my Juno project.

While I haven't written any poems about Juno or slavery along coastal Massachusetts, every time I tell Juno's story to friends I feel as if I'm refining the story for myself. I just need to allow her voice to move through me. I expect to do most of my writing early morning, like 4:30 a.m.--before the day gets away from me. Let's see if that actually happens.

So, who's with me? Who's writing a poem a day in April?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

2013 Mass Poetry Festival Schedule is live!

Finally, the much-anticipated Mass Poetry Festival schedule is live! Nearly 100 readings, workshops, sessions, visual arts and music, etc ... too many to list.

To our surprise, the workshops are filling up. So register now. Make those travel reservations. There is no good reason for you not to come to this festival. None.


I have spent the better part of this week working with a team of mostly volunteers making site fixes. This is ongoing.


As I take a break from the Crowdvine site to write this post, I have eight or nine kids (I've lost count) swirling around as I type. Right now they are speaking in some made-up alien language. Good times.


Tonight for dinner I served the kids Papa Gino's Mac and Cheese pizza. Yes, that's right, Mac and Cheese pizza. I'm not proud of myself. Maybe that accounts for the kids speaking in tongues.


National Poetry Month is just around the corner. Do you know where your poems are?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. Time for your confessions ... it is Lent, after all.


Sunday I took my first day off from working in about 21 days. It was long overdue. Between Mass Poetry Festival prep and grading papers for classes, I have been working straight through the weekends. That’s what the job is during the time leading up to May 3. But I need to do more of that--take time for myself during this silly season.

Working so hard that I take time away from my family and stress myself out is not virtuous, just stupid.

I'm sitting in Starbucks for a few minutes before today's Mass Poetry Fest planning meeting. Then later tonight, I'll be in Cambridge for an author event. Tuesdays always seem to me my long days. And I hate sitting in Starbucks not working on my writing.


This week I hope to finish up the cover for Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press 2014). Haven't talked about it much but I'm in the process of getting the author info ready for the publisher. Just received my last back cover blurb, so I'm in good shape there.


Are you participating in the Big Poetry Giveaway?


Books in my to-read pile:

· Yona Harvey, Hemming the Water
· Paul Lisicky, Unbuilt Projects
· Afaa Michael Weaver, The Government of Nature
· Best American Poetry 2012


I love Justin Timberlake and The 20/20 Experience. There, I said it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Developing a Relationship with a Publication

At AWP, I spoke to an editor from a top journal I had published with years ago. She asked me why hadn't I sent any poems to her publication. I had to stop myself for a minute--good question.Why hadn't I sent any poems to this journal that had previously published not only a poem but an essay. It never occurred to me to send my poems back to the same journal again and again.

When I told her this, she said that's one thing she's noticed over the years: poets and writers do not work to develop relationships with editors and publications anymore. Admittedly, I seek out quantity sometimes over quality. I like publishing my work in various journals, print and online. But the editor had a point. Why not work to develop a rapport with an editor--or a few, for that matter--who will greet my submissions more favorably. I don't think writers have to only send to a few places; on the contrary, we must broaden the net while staying loyal to the publications that have gotten us this far.

As poets trying to carve out careers, the odds are stacked against us--too many of us seeking the same crumbs from the table. But one area in which writers have a clear advantage is the plethora of presses, journals, and zines vehicles to submit work. There's no shortage of places to publish. I know if I get rejected, even by a publisher who has accepted my poems in the past, I will move onto the next indie publication, and the next one after that, and so on.

Tell me, dear reader. Do you send to journals that have published your poems in the past on a regular basis?  Or are you looking for the new next in lit mags? And editors, are you more favorable to certain writers who cultivate a relationship with your publication? Why?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Common Threads 2013

“Poets we can claim in Massachusetts, bringing us worlds on the page.”   ~ Jill McDonough

This year's Common Threads is now available. Ten poems by poets with Massachusetts connections is now available for download. Share these poems with your writers' group, book club, school, or community group.

Common Threads selections:
1. “Leaves” by Lloyd Schwartz
2. “Leaves” by Afaa Michael Weaver
3. “To Whom It May Concern” by Andrea Cohen
4. “White Paper 38” by Martha Collins
5. “What to Tweak” by Patricia Smith
6. “Cherishing What Isn’t” by Jack Gilbert
7. “To a Strayed Cat” by Stephen Jonas
8. “Tuggin’” by Matt W. Miller
9. “Range-Finding” by Robert Frost
10. “Autobiographia Literaria” by Frank O’Hara

Described by poet Jill McDonough as “Ten pastorals, ten poems about the outdoors. Pastoral as joshing, take-this-job-and-shove-it. As meditation on life and death, on loveliness. As drunken urban water skiing, but with snow instead of water. And a pick-up truck instead of a boat. As grateful wonder over how your life turned out. Battlefield close-up, geography of afterlife, a metaphor for the interior landscape of a whole life’s time. As historical consideration of the outside in news you didn’t remember could split you inside out.”

Find out more about Common Threads!

(Special thanks to and Danielle Jones-Pruett for all their hard work.)

Block Island Poetry Project

One of these days I'll make it down to Block Island for this weekend of poetry.

Block Island Poetry Project

Never mind the ocean. 

  • April 11-14: Coleman Barks and Li-Young Lee will be featured poets 
  • Valerie Lawson and Michael Brown of Off the Coast will offer workshops on publishing.
  • "Favorite Poems" session will include a ferryboat captain, a police chief, a hotel owner/manager, a rescue squad member, a student.
  • And, of course, original and practical writing workshops 
Sessions, details, and fees on the website.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. Time to confess. Share a little of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.

Look at all this AWP swag! I unpacked it all this past Saturday. I've been so busy with Mass Poetry work that I haven't be able to enjoy it.


Snow day!

One day before spring, it's snowing outside and most of  Massachusetts is getting hit with another winter storm. I confess the kid in me hoped for a snow day. I needed one more day off before teaching, one more day to rest and catch up on my own projects.


I'm disappointed in myself for getting sucked into work during spring break week. I went overboard throwing myself into my work. I haven't been sleeping much. My hope is that my schedule goes back to normal in a few days. I'm really off track with everything in my personal life (exercise, healthy eating, sleep, writing), but I'm going to make more of an effort to take care of myself and not let the stress get to me.


My daughter says I have "too much trunk in my junk." Hmmm ...


One thing I have done this week is research my Juno project. I'm a little closer to putting pen to paper. In fact, I may use April and my poem-a-day challenge to get it started. I'd love to finish the month with at least 10 solid poems on Juno and the slave movement north of Boston. Every time I tell someone about the project, I feel like I'm refining my vision. The story is marinating. I just need to carve out some time to get it going.


Have you read Heron Tree? It is an online poetry serial. Sandy Longhorn is a co-editor. I like the site's clean look and the poetry is terrific. Check it out!


Lloyd Schwartz has been writing classical music reviews for the Boston Phoenix for 35 years. Because the Phoenix is closing, this is Lloyd's last review. *sigh* The end of an era.

AWP iPhone Photos

A few photos from AWP ...

Thomas Sayers Ellis and James Brandon Lewis on Sax

Dawne Shand and TSE

Maggie Dietz at the Pshares Reading

Erika Meitner at the Pshares Reading

Susan Rich and me at lunch

A larger than life Derek Walcott

Lots of love at the Cave Canem offsite reading 

Kundiman cofounders Joseph Legaspi and Sarah Gambito 

Kundiman Panel

Suzanne Frickshorn and me 

Eduardo C. Corral and me

Fred Viebahn, Rita Dove, me and Richard Blanco

Matt Bondurant and me

Major Jackson, Kevin Young, Marie-Elizabeth Mali, Ravi Shankar, and me

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Confession Tuesday

I confess I forgot to post on Tuesday! Usually I jot down a a few ideas on Monday but not this time. Clearly, I am still feeling the after effects of AWP and Daylight Savings Time.

SSU is on spring break this week, thank goodness. So that has allowed me to put my energy this week into the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. The online schedule will go live soon, while the program goes into design. We're in good shape with the festival, particularly with the marketing since many of the materials were ready for AWP.


Still basking in the glow of AWP. Will post a few iPhone photos tomorrow.


Yesterday I went to the Salem Athenaeum to write with a group of friends. Can't remember the last time I paid attention to my own work. It felt good to just focus on myself for a few hours. The kids will be with their dad this weekend so I'm planning on doing a deep dive into my must-revise pile of poems.


I'm still mulling over what to do with my new poetry project, which will now be known as the Juno Project. And my mulling over, I mean frozen by the idea of writing anything in form. Probably the best AWP panel I attended (besides my own!) was Danielle Jones-Pruett's "Fining New Freedom in Old Forms." Her superstar panel included Jill McDonough, Maria Hummel, and Tyehimba Jess. They are doing amazing things with forms. Gives me hope that I can attempt something new.


I have two new poems coming out in the 2014 Paterson Literary Review. (Woo hoo!)


Poetry to-Do List

1. Get organized around new manuscript
2. Plot out the Juno Project (timeline?)
3. Write one poem
4. Write two op-ed pieces
5. Review covers and blurbs for second book

Gosh, I have a lot to do. Have a good rest of the week, folks.

Monday, March 11, 2013

AWP Recap

Exhausted does not even come close to how I'm feeling today, two full days after AWP. My body aches. Seriously. But, it was an amazing conference. There were too many events, too many things going on at one time—and I LOVED it!

Despite a surprise snowstorm, word is that the conference brought 13,000 people to the Hynes Convention Center. With 500 events, 1,900 presenters, and 600 exhibitors, this was the largest showing at AWP yet. Mass Poetry shared a booth space with Salem State University and for our first time being a presence at the conference, things couldn't have gone better. It was also my first time presenting and hosting AWP panels—very cool!

I did my best to attend as many events, readings, and offsites as time would allow. But I had the most fun running into old friends and making new ones. Most of the time I was too busy to stop for more than a few minutes. Running panels and trying to promote Mass Poetry left little time for proper socializing. Yet, I did my best to make up for the lack of day socializing by getting to as many evening parties and off-sites as possible. And the book fair—it’s just too massive for me to possibly get around to every table. But I tried. I love picking up new books and finding out what's going on in the writing community.

Below are a few pictures. Enjoy!

J.D. Scrimgeour

Wes Rothman, Jennifer Jean, and J.D. Scrimgeour

Building Communities Panel

Michael Ansara, Colleen Michaels, Cindy Lappetito, Jennifer Jean

Ploughshares Panel

Kundiman Panel

Cave Canem reading at Simmons College

Cave Canem Fellows

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Confession Tuesday

It's Confession Tuesday, the AWP Edition. You know the drill.

I am over-the-moon excited about AWP coming to town. For once, I don't have to travel. And because I'm staying in the city for the entire conference, it will feel like a mini-vacation.

Because AWP is happening so close to home, I'm actually working harder and feel somewhat obligated to attend events than I would like to be. This may be the only downside. Again, don't get me wrong. AWP in Boston is long overdue. I will soak it up.


I started shopping and packing for AWP two weeks ago--and I'm local. Thank goodness I don't have to check a bag on a flight, because the number of outfits I'm bringing has grown accordingly. So happy to be able to fill up my car with books and freebies and not have to worry about a weight limit.

The only weight limit I have to worry about is me at the breakfast buffet.

(Oh no, she didn't! Oh, yes she did.)


I have more Facebook AWP invites for parties, readings, book signings, and off-site events than I can handle.

I'm all set.


Some people don't like the convention crowds, the schmoozing, the always being "on" quality that AWP has. I love it. I thrive in that atmosphere. Must be the only child in me rebelling against her nature. Beyond the sessions and the massive book fair, I enjoy catching up with poet-friends I only get to see at these large-scale events.


The weather looks iffy for those traveling. We may get a few inches of snow Wednesday night into Thursday. Once you're here you'll be fine, but tomorrow might be a tricky travel.

Be safe. I'll see you when you get here.

AWP and Mass Poetry!

Join Mass Poetry as we make our first appearance at the AWP Conference.

We are sharing space with Salem State University! SSU Rocks, if I do say so myself.

Salem State University/Mass Poetry Booth #2902, Exhibit Hall D

Attend our session:
Lessons from the Field: Poetry Festivals and Community Building. 
Thursday, March 7
10:30–11:45 a.m.
Room 200, Level 2

Panelists: Jennifer Jean (host), January Gill O’Neil, Michael Ansara, Martin Farawell, Michele Russo)
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 poetry festivals. Panelists will discuss poet-wrangling 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.

Hope to see you there!

Cave Canem Fellows Off-Site Reading at AWP

Cave Canem Fellows Off-Site Reading at AWP
March 8, 6 - 9 pm
Linda K. Paresky Center
Simmons College
300 The Fenway
Main Building, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA
Reception to follow. $10 admission to benefit Cave Canem.

Here's the list of readers (subject to change):

  • Lauren K. Alleyne
  • Lillian-Yvonne Bertram
  • Antoinette Brim
  • Jocelyn Burrell
  • CM Burroughs
  • Mary Easter
  • Chiyuma Elliott
  • Hafizah Geter
  • JP (Juliet P.) Howard
  • Douglas Kearney
  • Ruth Ellen Kocher
  • Jacqueline Jones Lamon
  • Robin Coste Lewis
  • Kamilah Moon
  • January Gill O’Neil
  • Khadijah Queen
  • Aisha Sharif
  • Maya Washington
  • Keith Wilson
  • L. Lamar Wilson
  • Ronaldo Wilson

  • Joined by Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish and Cave Canem elder Afaa M. Weaver, 21 Cave Canem fellows take the stage to raise funds for North America's premier home for black poetry. 

    Hope to see you there!

    Monday, March 04, 2013

    My Own Private AWP Boston

    This is a distant view of a rainy Hynes Convention Center from the Prudential (a.k.a. "The Pru"). I was walking around last Wednesday thinking about poets and writers taking over Boston.

    Can't believe it's almost here!

    Inside entrance to Hines.

    This is a photo of the walkway between the Hynes and the Sheraton. Get use to it; you'll be walking up and down this pathway constantly.

    On a rainy Wednesday, the area was pulsing with activity, full of 9-5ers and locals darting in and out of restaurant and shops. I love being the local in the AWP city--can't wait to experience AWP in my adopted home. You, good people, will have a fabulous time here. Sure, there may be long lines waiting for coffee at Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts, but isn't that true of any AWP?

    Heck, walk down Boylston or Newbury Streets and see a bit of the city. If you can, go to as many off-sites as possible. That's how you'll really see the area. Snap a few photos at Fenway Park. Take the T into Cambridge and walk through Harvard Square. Let one of the locals point you in the direction of the Grolier Poetry Book Shop, in operation since 1626. And, if you're willing, hop on the commuter rail and check out Salem, home of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. We got it goin' on up here!

    There's so much I want to tell you about the Boston area, but maybe the main thing is that this place will surprise you.

    If you are around, find me. Here are a few places I know I will be:

    Wednesday, March 6
    8 p.m.
    Race In Your Face
    (Thomas Sayers Ellis, James Brandon Lewis, Kirun Kapur, David Mura, Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Rishi Reddi, Dawne Shand, Jerald Walker, Stephanie Powell Watts)
    Boston Playwrights' Theater, 949 Commonwealth Ave
    Boston, Massachusetts

    Thursday, March 7
    10:30-11:45 a.m.
    Lessons from the Field: Poetry Festivals and Community Building
    Massachusetts Poetry Festival and the Geraldine R. Dodge Festival
    Room 200, Level 2

    Friday, March 8
    10:30-11:45 a.m.
    Massachusetts Book Awards in Poetry
    Room 203, Level 2

    6 p.m.
    Cave Canem Fellows Off-Site Reading
    Linda K. Paresky Center, Simmons College
    300 The Fenway, Main Building, 3rd Floor, Boston
    I'm reading!

    Saturday, March 9
    8:30-11:30 a.m.
    Salem State/Mass Poetry Booth #2902, Exhibit Hall D

    3-4:15 p.m.
    Kundiman Reading
    Hynes Convention Center, Alice Hoffman Bookfair Stage, Exhibit Hall D
    (Joseph O. Legaspi, Cathy Linh Che, Matthew Olzmann, Brynn Saito and Sharon Suzuki-Martinez)

    Welcome to Beantown!

    Race in Your Face

    This is one of the many pre-AWP off-site events. Hope you can make it.


    The Tannery Series presents a provocative panel of 21st century American voices. 
    Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
    949 Commonwealth Ave. Boston, 8 p.m.
    Featuring: David Mura, Stephanie Powell Watts, Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Rishi Reddi, Jerald Walker, Kirun Kapur, Dawne Shand, and Thomas Sayers Ellis.

    What’s happening to the melting pot? Do we live in a post-racial world, as some now claim? And what does the phrase even mean? The Tannery Series takes on all this and more with RACE IN YOUR FACE, an evening event featuring eight award-winning authors who will explore the state of the nation, less than 50 years after integration. The authors will read from their works in rapid-fire succession and participate in a discussion with the audience. Come join the conversation!

    North Shore Youth Writers Conferene

    On Friday and Saturday, I taught poetry to high school students at the North Shore Young Writers Conference. More than 30 students from area schools spent two days at the Waring School studying poetry and fiction with authors Carolyn Cooke, Thomas Fox Averill, Baron Wormser, Charlotte Gordon, and me. Thanks to Rod Kessler and Tim Averill for letting me be a part of this conference, which has been running for more than 25 years.

    Baron, Charlotte, and Carolyn behind my big head.

    The students were terrific. I loved seeing evolution of their first drafts into the nearly finished pieces they read at the student reading on day two. There's also a faculty class for the teachers bringing their classes out for the conference.

    Carolyn reads to students.

    Charlotte with faculty class.

    As a mentor, I was grateful to write when the students wrote. Managed to eke out two drafts in one day (woo hoo!).

    Carolyn, Charlotte, and me.

    Spending time with such promising students was a treat in itself, but it was great fun spending the breaks with the other mentors. Charlotte I know but not as well as I should--something I will rectify in the near future. Baron was the editor on both of my books (small world)! And it was a pleasure hearing fiction by Carolyn and Tom. The Waring School is located in Beverly, so teaching a mile from home home was icing on the cake.

    Tom with students.

    For emerging writers north of Boston, the focused attention and connections students develop with one another makes this conference a hidden gem. Wish there was something like this when I was in high school.

    Photos by Rod Kessler.


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