Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. You know the drill.

(OK, I know it's Wednesday. But after a full day of yard work and running around with the kids, I was too pooped to post!)


Now that the kids are out of school, I'm trying to figure out what my writing life will look like during the summer. How can write new poems while enjoying the summer?

Over the years I have turned into a morning person. So rousing myself to leave my comfy bed at 5 a.m. shouldn't be a problem. But getting to bed by 11 p.m.? That's another story. What I hope to do is shut off the television (and email) an hour earlier and start reading novels again.


I've started writing my Juno Larcom poems. Never having written poems based on a historic figure, I'm having difficulty keeping the facts straight. Between the facts and the information I can glean from documents and books of the time, there are the leaps of imagination that I'm trying to polish into poetry. It's an interesting challenge, one that makes me feel as if I'm really pushing myself to do more. I just need to eke out an hour a day to create something substantial.

I have 42 other poems written. Too early to call it a manuscript.

Summer goals? Write 10 poem Juno poems before my time at the Fine Arts Work Center. Then take a break from the Juno work and write new work. Then, I head off to Millay Colony for a week of writing and revision. That's where I'll take a serious look at all of my work to see if I'm ready to put together my next book.

Monday, June 24, 2013

School's Out!

"No more pencils, no more books ..."

Today is the last day of school for Alex and Ella. I know, a half-day on Monday is odd, but that's how the school calendar worked out. In fact, our school system is releasing the kids a week late because of all the snow days this past winter.

See, kids. Be careful what you wish for. All that pretty snow has a price.


I'm at Starbucks enjoying my last morning of freedom.


Lately, I've been trying to get back into a few routines--writing, exercise, sleeping--all the things I took for granted during the school year. I'm also in the process of planning ahead for the rest of the year. How can I make the next six months as easy on myself as possible. How can I decrease the stress level on myself and the kids moving forward. Gives me great joy thinking about how I can make our lives better.


The Summer o' Fun begins in earnest today! Lots of activities planned for this week and beyond. I do feel very fortunate to not work this summer. Well, that's not completely true. Planning the next Mass Poetry Festival is a year-round activity. But not having to go into an office or teach this summer is a gift.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Improbable Places Poetry Tour at Beverly Arts Fest

It's rare these days that I get nervous before a poetry reading. But I have to admit I was freaking out in the hours on Saturday leading up to the poetry and jazz reading for the Improbable Places Poetry Tour.

Let me first say that this is one of the best events I've ever been a part of. You know those types of readings--the ones when you know instantly you're a part of something special. It was the kind of event that reminded me why I'm a poet. All credit goes to the beautiful, talented, gardenia-wearing Colleen Michaels! This was the last stop of the poetry tour for the season; she had the vision to connect it to the Beverly Arts Festival. Fortunately, the stars aligned and the weather cooperated.

Also, let me say that it never occurred to me to ever work with musical accompaniment. Never.  Not sure why that is since music is a cornerstone in my life. But this time around I worked with Aidan Scrimegour on arrangements for three poems.

Two of the three poems had musical references to Annie Lennox and The Beatles. The third and last poem was more improv, definitely blues inspired. After just one rehearsal, we managed to put something together that worked. And I didn't screw things up too much! These poems were new and still required a little tinkering, but it was fun putting them out into the world this way.

This is possibly the best moment of the day, when Colleen and her drummer-hubby Chris did their best White Stripes impressions. Her smile is infectious.

When the video becomes available, I will post. The event surpassed all expectations. Stepping out of my comfort zone was just what I needed to kick off the summer.

Confession Tuesday

Happy Confession Tuesday! You're hiding something ... I just know it. Unburden yourself. You'll be glad you did.

This is my new planner. I love it! It has little to-do lists for each day of the week. I'm constantly writing lists on envelopes and notepads, but this is just fun. I mean look: it's color coded and aesthetically pleasing!


I thrive when I have a purpose and when I can organize around a schedule. I like having plans. I like knowing what will happen next. I even like knowing when I have time to be spontaneous. Sounds boring, but it works for me. I've often thought this part of my personality may have contributed to the demise of my marriage. Maybe. Who knows. (Who cares at this point.) I've often wondered what am I teaching my children by living by a schedule.

Recently, my 7-year daughter--my beautiful, brilliant, free spirit, who reads at a nearly 7th grade level--was diagnosed with ADHD. I won't go into too much detail out of respect for her privacy. But from everything I've been told and everything I've read, structure and learning to live by schedules is just what she needs. Doing tasks in sequence, learning how to break down assignments into chunks, managing time--it will take her longer to learn these routine tasks.

These are things I know I can teach her.


Poetry is where the spontaneity happens. The page is where I feel most myself. Maybe it's the only child in me running amok in a safe space. Yes, I have time to play with the kids and hang out and not live by a schedule, but writing is meditative. I couldn't live without it.


Random confession: while the kids were in school, I spent almost 6 hours watching Burn Notice. See what happens when I don't have a schedule.


Another random confession: Did I mention I am teaching a writing course at SSU this fall called, "Creating a Happy Life"? Seriously.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Get Lucky

The kids have been out of town for a few days. Whenever they are away, I always feel out of sorts. They define my day--who needs lunch, who needs to go where after school, who has a playdate with whom. As much free time as I not just need but require, I am rudderless without them.


It's times like this when a to-do list is useless for me. There's no sense of urgency. When I have all the time in the world, I procrastinate--which is not a bad thing. Sometimes I hide behind tasks to avoid writing, which I consider my real work. That's what I'm doing now: hiding from real work. The warm weather is not helping. 

The kids come back Sunday afternoon, so my sense of urgency will return tomorrow morning, I'm sure. Hoping to jumpstart my writing tonight.

What's the first item on my to-do list? What's the thing I've put off all week? Going to the gym and getting back into a workout routine. Bleck.


This past Thursday, Mass Poetry held its fundraiser at the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Robert Pinsky, Gail Mazur, and Maggie Dietz read their favorite poems on a rainy evening to a crowd of about 100 people. It was just lovely! There was just a good feeling in the room. What a great night for our little grassroots effort! We are most grateful for the support.

Whenever I think we can't possibly raise money for poetry, I am always proven wrong. Always.


Today, I am doing something I have never done before: read my poetry with musical accompaniment.  

At this year's Beverly Arts Fest, The Improbable Places Poetry Tour, hosted by Colleen Michaels, happens at Chianti Jazz Lounge: Saturday, June 15, 2 p.m., 285 Cabot Street, Beverly, MA.

I will be sharing the stage with Aidan Scrimgeour, musical prodigy and this year's valedictorian at Salem High School. We're performing three poems set to music. Check out the other performances by Kevin Carey, J.D. Scrimgeour (Aidan's dad), and others reading during the open mic.

I'm told that the drink menu at Chianti's now feature a Tom (Billy) Collins and an Elizabeth Bishop Sidecar.


So I love, love, love Daft Punk and "Get Lucky." And I love this ultimate dance video version found at Huff Post. (Thanks Jill McD for posting on FB.)

I'm also enamored and slightly creeped out by this version featuring male fashion models.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Tie up time is now, kids!
Happy Tuesday, folks. Time to confess. Share a little of yourselves and we promise to do the same.

(Boy, do I have lots to confess!)


Last week I was all happy happy, joy joy. This week, not so much. Well, that's not completely true, but pretty close. Life has a way of giving me a gut-check when I least expect it.

First, I missed my reading last week at the Collected Poets Series. I had been looking forward to it for months, but I had a oil leak right before I hit the road. I believe it is the only time I've canceled on a reading. My apologies to series cofounder Marie Gauthier and Martha Rhodes, who was also reading that night.

Also, I've been dealing with a lot of minor kid issues, one of which has been a particular pain. Nothing serious, but it does require my full attention to keep the house clean, wash or replace sheets and towels, and daily hair combing. (If you know what I'm talking about, let's not talk about it.)



We did manage to make it to my reading at the Plymouth Center for the Arts for the Art of Words: The Mike Amado Memorial Poetry Series. I read with J.D. Scrimgeour--it's always a pleasure to share the stage with him. During the open mic portion--to my surprise--my daughter got up and recited "We Real Cool". It was a very dramatic recitation (read: she paused so long in the beginning I thought she forgot the words.) But she did it and it was awesome!

Every once in a while the kids come with me to a reading. At ages, 9 and 7, they are just too squirmy to bring to every reading. But this one was nice because after the event, we were able to look around historic Plymouth. Didn't see the Mayflower but did manage to tour a colonial home, and see Plymouth Rock.

Plymouth Rock. Used to be a lot bigger.


As for writing, I am trying to get back on track. No new poems to speak of, but I am revising, trying to organize my projects for the summer.

This past week reminded me how hard it is to be a single parent: no one to share the responsibilities or decision-making. Oh well. I handled it. We got through it.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Iron Ella

Happy first Tuesday in June! Time to break out the sunblock and bare all. Share a little of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.


I mentioned this on Facebook but it doesn't seem official until I do it here. Salem State University has hired me as a full-time assistant professor tenure track! Yahoo! I was full-time temp before, so this is huge. Can't thank Salem State enough for the vote of confidence after going through a national search. Woo hoo!

Also, and something I did not know until last week, I have this summer off. Last year, I worked with the fine folks at SSU's Center for Creative and Performing Arts. I really enjoyed my time there and thought for sure I would be back. But I do not have to work this summer, which is terrific. I have been working steadily year-round since I was 16 years old.


Can I tell you I'm a little freaked out about having the summer off. Teachers, what do you do with your time?


See my daughter up there in the photo? We have declared this summer the Summer o' Fun. Lots of goofing off and kid time ahead of us.

Actually, since the weather has warmed up we've had a really fun time lately. My son's baseball team is well-placed to go to the playoffs, and there's a possibility Alex could be picked for the All-Star team. Alex also was part of a citywide music performance last week playing the viola. Not to be outdone, Ella's kicking butt in Tae Kwondo. I'm going to get her involved in music and dance this summer because that's her passion.

As for me, I've been writing like a mad fool--so much so that I have to get organized and plot out the next one or two projects. I'm also looking into getting another MFA or trying my hand at a PhD.


Guess I can share this now. I've been invited to attend not one but two writing retreats this summer!

I received a scholarship to attend a weeklong workshop with Marie Howe at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown! Looking forward to the session: Breaking Through: A Generative Writing Workshop. Once I nail down child care and a place to stay, I'm in. Thanks, FAWC.

And then the following week, I will be at Millay Colony with a few friends for a week of writing and intense focus. The timing couldn't be better--a week of generative writing, with a week of writing and revision in the middle of summer.


Feels like the universe is opening up in new and fantastic ways. I'm feeling extremely blessed.


As good as things have been lately, the past has a way of bringing me back to earth. It's hard taking the high road all the time. Sometimes people need a good ol' fashion smackdown. But the kids and I are on a path, happy and healthy, and surrounded by friends and family who only want the best for us.

Maybe the high road isn't so bad.


Saturday, I left my driver's licence at the beach while registering for my annual parking pass. And on Sunday, early morning, a good Samaritan dropped it in my mailbox. Yes, the universe is looking out for me.

Monday, June 03, 2013

The Collected Poets Series - Thursday, June 6

The Collected Poets Series Welcomes
January Gill O'Neil and Martha Rhodes

Please join us Thursday, June 6, 2013, at 7 p.m., when poets January Gill O'Neil and Martha Rhodes will continue the sixth season of the Collected Poets Series. Mocha Maya’s Coffee House, 47 Bridge St, Shelburne Falls, MA. ($2-5 suggested donation)

The Collected Poets Series highlights the work of established and emerging poets. Each event showcases the remarkable local poets of Western Massachusetts and the finest regional, national, and international talent.

The series is held the first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at Mocha Maya's, 47 Bridge Street, Shelburne Falls, MA, Phone: 413-625-6292.

Please note that filming for the motion picture The Judge will be going on, so there will be no parking on Bridge Street. However, free parking is available in the parking lot behind the Shelburne Falls Market (a.k.a. Keystone Market) across the street from Mocha Maya's.


Martha Rhodes is the author of four poetry collections, most recently The Beds (2012 from Autumn House), Mother Quiet(2004 from Univ. of Nebraska / Zoo Press), Perfect Disappearance (Green Rose Prize from New Issues), and At the Gate (Provincetown Arts 1995.) She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and at the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. She also directs the Conference on Poetry at the Frost Place. Rhodes is the founding editor and director of Four Way Books and lives in New York City.

January Gill O’Neil is the author of Underlife (CavanKerry Press, December 2009), and a forthcoming collection,Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press, fall 2014). She earned her BA from Old Dominion University and her MFA at New York University. She is the executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and an assistant professor of English at Salem State University. She lives with her two children in Beverly, Massachusetts.

Next Stop on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour

Step behind the white tents and the velvet rope and you will find a speakeasy. 

Saturday, June 15, 2 – 4 p.m., 
Chianti Jazz Lounge 
285 Cabot Street

Poets will speak, and the drinks, all named for poets and musicians, will go down easy. This month’s tour stop celebrates the intersection between language and music. It’s jazz with its infinite fits and starts, the longing in music, the birth of the blues, stadium rock, and slow dancing.

Hey, I play the Theremin, and I’ve got a poem about Flavor Flav. How do I participate? Well, we’ve got that performance covered, but we are still looking for poems about music. Send submissions to by Monday, June 10.

I don’t write poetry, but I sure am interested in this tour. Can I still attend the event? Sure! Spend your morning enjoying the fabulous Artsfest on Cabot Street, and then step into the cool, dark of Chianti’s at 2:00. Slip on a beret, tuck a gardenia behind your ear, order the Elizabeth Bishop sidecar, and snap or clap as you see fit. The event is free, but the band may steal your soul.

The Improbable Places Poetry Tour is Montserrat’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 is selected.

Wait! I’ve still got questions! Just talk to Colleen Michaels, Montserrat’s Writing Studio Director. She’s at


Hope you can make it. I will be performing three poems set to music! No doubt  Colleen has a poem about a Theremin and Flavor Flav.


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