Thursday, April 25, 2013

Newburyport Literary Festival

I've been so busy with the Mass Poetry Festival that I forgot to mention I'm reading at the Newburyport Literary Festival. I've attended a few as an audience member, so I'm thrilled to be part of the lineup. They put on a nice fest.

Newburyport Literary Festival
April 26-27, downtown Newburyport

Poetry schedule:

8:30 – 10 a.m.: Coffee with the Poets: Reading by Powow River Poets members David Davis, Don Kimball, Michael Cantor & Rhina Espaillat
10 – 11 a.m.: January O'Neil & Rafael Campo
11– Noon: John Ridland & David Slavitt
1 – 2 p.m.: Afaa Michael Weaver & Freddy Frankel
2 – 3 p.m.: Mimi White & Charles Coe

Also reading at the festival are Junot Diaz and Andre Dubus III.

See the full schedule of events, including a map of the venues.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Confession Tuesday

You know the drill.

These photos are too good not to show off. Last Thursday, the kids and I went to the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) for a party called PEM/PEM: Free Form. Artist Nick Cave was there for a fun evening featuring an authentic dance "invasion" of his strangely beautiful Soundsuits—wearable fabric sculptures comprised of a colorful bricolage of materials including twigs, sisal, beads, sequins and feathers. With the help of electronic musician, Kooky Scientist, (yes, that’s his name), we danced the night away as performers in Soundsuits performed and roamed through the crowd.

Here’s Ella before we went in to the museum. It was the perfect event to bring the kids to during school vacation week.

A good time had by all.


I can’t remember the last time I went dancing. This party happened in the middle of last week, in a week where we needed a little levity.


Boston Strong.


Let’s see, I think I have about 17 poems for my Poem-a-Day challenge. It’s been helpful just getting the thoughts down and going back to them a few days later to type them up. Even though they are not full-fledged drafts, I'm thrilled that I've written a few pieces I like. It's not easy making something out of nothing. The PAD challenge also allows me to focus on myself for a few minutes, which, I think, is helping me stay on track.


The Massachusetts Poetry Festival is a little more than a week away, so between planning and wrapping up the end of the semester, I am busy beyond belief. But I’ve been able to keep myself grounded, meaning  I am eating, sleeping, and writing—things I didn't do this time last year. Maybe it’s getting easier. I don’t know. My job is to try to make it all look seamless.


The roster of poets coming May 3-5 pretty amazing, if I do say so myself: Sharon Olds, Terrance Hayes, Tracy K. Smith, Nick Flynn, Jill McDonough, Yusef Komunyakaa, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Martín Espada, Arthur Sze, Gail Mazur, Eduardo C. Corral, Kevin Goodan, Erica Funkhouser, Steve Almond, John Murillo, Aimee Nezhukumatathil—just to name a few. Check out the schedule.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Boston Strong

It's OVAH!

Thank God the manhunt is over! What a scary week this has been. Everyone I spoke to--students, faculty, friends--knew someone who knew someone. The bombing and then the chase was the subtext our days. Even a few creative pieces about these terrible acts were written and shared in my writers group the Tuesday after the marathon

And then to wake up Friday morning knowing that Watertown, Boston, and the surrounding areas were on lockdown. The governor asked folks to "shelter in place." Even 20 miles out where I was, we felt as if we were on lockdown. The area was paralyzed  There was just an eerie feeling all over the commonwealth. Businesses closed. No trains running. Just an intense day. We filled out time with playdates, gathering with friends, and a little poetry.

Last night, when the second bombing suspect was captured, the feeling of elation was palpable. A wave of relief emanated across the state. If you were watching the coverage live, then you know what I mean. Wasn't it great to see the crowds line the streets cheering the cops?The Twitterverse erupted. It's over and life can begin to get back to normal. Many of us are left with just one question: Why?

So many people who sustained serious injuries are still in Boston hospitals. Now it's up to law enforcement to build a case and piece together a motive. There's still a long way go but at least the suspect has been caught. Please keep the victims in your thoughts. For some, this is just the beginning.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Confession Tuesday

I live north of Boston, and I was in the spot where the bombings occurred on Boylston Street just this past Saturday having lunch with friends and shopping. The city was bustling with activity as Marathon Monday approached. Business as usual by all accounts.

For those not familiar with Patriots’ Day, it may be the biggest holiday in Boston. It’s a New England holiday as well as marathon day. There's a Revolutionary War reenactment commemorating the battles at Lexington and Concord at the crack of dawn. The marathon route goes through several towns and ends in Boston, so typically businesses give their employees the day off. It’s also the start of school vacation week. The Red Sox play an 11 a.m. game that ends about the time the runners are moving toward Boston proper. There’s always a celebratory feeling on this day because the race is now thought of as an international event. Even the weather cooperated—55 degrees and sunny.

By the time the bomb blasts happened, the elite runners had crossed the finish line. Runners who participate for causes, running to raise money and awareness, were the ones coming across during the bomb blasts. Strangers helping strangers, passing water to the weary, cheering them on—that’s when the bombs started. First one blast, then a second moments after. It’s amazing anyone knew what to do during the chaos. And even as prepared as the event planners were for such an attack, it still threw everyone in confusion. Just unimaginable.

So today, that portion of downtown Boston is a massive crime scene. The news runs footage in a continuous loop because of the lack of information. Now, Boston adds its name to a long list of cities affected by this type of terror. It’s really an inconceivable thing, until you’re checking in with friends and getting calls from family wondering if you’re OK.

Bostonians are tough, resilient in a way I have never known before. We don’t take shit from anyone. I’m sure law enforcement will find the ones who did this and bring them to justice. I am a Virginian and a Southerner through and through, but Boston is my adopted home. My kids were born here. Our life is here. My heart goes out to the victims and the first responders today.

Today, we are all Bostonians.

Monday, April 15, 2013

2013 Pulitzer Prizes: Poetry and Fiction

Woo hoo! Yay, Sharon!

Over the moon happy for her!



            For a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to “Stag's Leap,” by Sharon Olds (Alfred A. Knopf), a book of unflinching poems on the author’s divorce that examine love, sorrow and the limits of self-knowledge.

Also nominated as finalists in this category were: “Collected Poems,” by the late Jack Gilbert (Alfred A. Knopf), a half century of poems reflecting a creative author’s commitment to living fully and honestly and to producing straightforward work that illuminates everyday experience with startling clarity, and “The Abundance of Nothing,” by Bruce Weigl (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern), a powerful collection of poems that explore the trauma of the Vietnam War and the feelings that have never left many of those who fought in the conflict.


            For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to "The Orphan Master's Son,” by Adam Johnson (Random House), an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart.

Also nominated as finalists in this category were: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,” by Nathan Englander (Alfred A. Knopf), a diverse yet consistently masterful collection of stories that explore Jewish identity and questions of modern life in ways that can both delight and unsettle the reader, and “The Snow Child,” by Eowyn Ivey (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown), an enchanting novel about an older homesteading couple who long for a child amid the harsh wilderness of Alaska and a feral girl who emerges from the woods to bring them hope.


I've been fooling around with SoundCloud. The Poetry Foundation has created a Record-a-Poem group where you can listen and record favorite poems. So I spent the better part of an hour trying to record Cornelius Eady's poem "Gratitude." It took eight takes. Amazing how many noises and sounds can break your flow.

It's fun recording your favorite poem, and doing it so many times helped me figure out where to stress, where I was reading too quickly or not breaking in the right place, etc. I also recorded one of my poems, "How to Make a Crab Cake." Why not record one of my own? May put up a new poem later.

Here are two more up there I like by Jeannine Hall Gailey and dj-Renegade:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, sort of.

I think I've posted Wednesday confessions a handful of times. What can I day, I am exhausted and overworked. I'm lucky I can remember my name these days. Onto the confessions ... the ones I started yesterday.

We have officially entered the silly season for poets: April. As much as I love National  Poetry Month, it comes at a time when many of us who teach are trying to wrap up final lessons and grading. Along with the Mass Poetry Festival, I am FLAT OUT. Don't expect me to have a coherent conversation until the second week of May. Seriously.


This past weekend I participated in the Boston National Poetry Marathon at the Boston Public Library. This is one event where I never get to see as many poetry performances as I would like. This year I brought my kids with me to my reading. Occasionally I bring them to readings and events but I don't do it often--I know their limits. But it was nice having them in the audience because I read a few poems about them from my second book, Misery Islands.

My favorite part of the event was when they told me how proud they were of me. Caught me completely by surprise. Ella said that because I am a poet I never have to retire. Very, very sweet. What she doesn't know is that because I'm a poet, there's no way I can afford to retire (hee hee hee!).


I am keeping up with the PAD challenge but I am a few days behind. Taking the advice of a friend, I'm writing poems daily but waiting until the weekend to type them up. It takes some of the pressure off of me to have something completed, but allows me to work at a steady pace. Can't wait to spend a few hours at Starbucks this weekend with a venti hot chocolate and a stack of poem drafts. Heaven!

Happy Wednesday, folks!

Friday, April 05, 2013

The Boston National Poetry Month Festival

Hope you will join us. I am the closer, Sunday around 4:15-ish.


Now In Its Successful THIRTEENTH!!! Year 
     CO-SPONSORS:  Tapestry of Voices & Kaji Aso Studio in partnership with the Boston Public Library,
Friday, April 5, Noon-4 p.m.. 
Saturday, April 6, 10 a.m.- 4:40 p.m. OPEN MIKE: 1:30- 3 p.m..
Sunday, April 7, 1:10 to 4:30 p.m. Open Mike 1:30-3:00P.M.- Workshop 3:15-4:30 p.m.  

The Festival will be held at the library’s main branch in Copley Square.           
Friday, April 5 - Commonwealth Avenue Salon Room at the BPL:
Noon- 1 p.m. Dan Tobin, Afaa M. Weaver, Christine Casson
1-2 p.m. David Ferry and George Kalogeris
2-3 p.m. Rhina P. Espaillat , X.J. Kennedy
3-4 p.m. Kathleen Spivack, Richard Hoffman, Judith Steinbergh
56 established and emerging poets will each do a 10-minute reading

ALSO Featuring five extraordinarily talented prize-winning high school students: from Boston Latin High School, Boston Arts Academy, and Harvard University. These student stars will open  the  Popular Poetry Marathon portion of the festival, April 6 at 10 a.m.  

SAM CORNISH, Boston’s current and first Poet Laureate will open the formal part  of the Festival at 11:00 A.M. 55 additional  major  and emerging poets will follow with a POETRY MARATHON.
Some of the many  luminaries include SAM CORNISH,  Rhina P. Espaillat,   Afaa M. Weaver, Christine Casson, Dan Tobin, X.J. Kennedy, Alfred Nicol, Kathleen Spivack, Ifeanyi Menkiti , Richard Wollman, Doug Holder, Elizabeth Doran, Richard Hoffman, Lucy Holstedt, Kirk Etherton, Charles Coe, Lawrence Kessenich, January O’Neil ,  Regie O’Gibson, Kate Finnegan (Kaji Aso Studio), Victor Howes,   Lainie Senechal,  Harris Gardner Susan Donnelly, Jack Scully, Rene Schwiesow, Tomas O’Leary, Marc Goldfinger, Gloria Mindock, Tim Gager, Barbara Helfgott Hyett, Stuart Peterfreund,Elizabeth McKim, Beatriz Alba Del Rio, Valerie Lawson, Michael Brown, Mignon Ariel King, Tom Daley, Molly Lynn Watt, Chad Parenteau, Joanna Nealon, Walter Howard, Kim Triedman,   Zvi Sesling,  Irene Koronas, Fred Marchant, Sheila Twyman,  Ryk McIntyre, Robert K. Johnson, Chris Warner, C.D. Collins and a Plethora of other prize winning poets.
This Festival has it all: Professional published  poets, celebrities, numerous prize winners, student  participation, OPEN MIKES, WORKSHOP, BOOK TABLES. 
Even more, it is about community, neighborhoods, diversity, Boston, and Massachusetts. FREE ADMISSION !!!
FOR INFORMATION: Tapestry of Voices: 617-306-9484- Library: 617-536-5400 

Wheelchair accessible. Assistive listening devices available. To request a sign language interpreter, or for other special needs, call 617-536-7855(TTY) at least two weeks before the program date.    

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Confession Tuesday

Happy Confession Tuesday National Poetry Month Baseball Is Here I Need a Cookie!

You know the drill.


I am brain dead from writing one of my two op-eds, both of which are overdue. I don't like missing deadlines. But I hate passing up opportunities. It's a constant balancing act. I don't want to miss out on anything,  which means something has to shift. I have to learn to say no sometimes.

No. (feels good)


I've written one PAD poem and one is on the way. Probably a late-nighter after my workshop. Maybe my fellow writers will inspire tonight's topic. I have plenty of books to choose from after AWP.

Writing a poem a day forces quantity over quality. In May, I can be a little more objective about the quality. That's what revision's for.


I got nothin'. Seriously, I'm all worded out today. Saving my words for poems.

Happy Tuesday, folks. Go Red Sox.!!

Monday, April 01, 2013

Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

Happy NPM!

April, my favorite time of the year (next to summer, of course). Pollen and verse fill the air! So, what are you doing to celebrate National Poetry Month?

I am writing a poem a day--with poem #1 almost done. 

If you are looking for some way to show your enthusiasm for poetry, let me suggest the following ideas:

1. Host a Common Threads reading: 10 poems selected from poets with Bay State connections by Jill McDonough. The Common Threads kit features a .pdf with a discussion guide and videos of the poets discussing the poems. Perfect for reading groups, schools, libraries, etc. More than 350 groups have signed up and downloaded the kit.

2. The Academy of American Poets originated NPM back in 1996. They have a host of things you can do to celebrate, including participating in Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 18.

3. The Poetry Foundation has distributed copies of Poetry magazine to reading groups and writing workshops across the country. I have 10 copies of the April issue and will be sharing them with my writers' group along with a pdf discussion guide. (Common Threads, anyone?)  

4. Robert Lee Brewer starts his poem a day challenge at Poetic Asides. As of now, there are 198 comments to his first prompt post.

5. Susan Rich's Big Poetry Giveaway: Bloggers give away two poetry books--the first can be your own and the second book must be of another favorite poet of yours. The goal is to share favorite poets with others as well as to visit different blogs and see who others are reading.

6. Jacqueline Jones LaMon is reading a poetry collection a day, and commenting when she can. Great idea. If writing is not your thing, then pull out those collections gathering dust and read a few poems.

7. Joseph O. Legaspi and the folks at Kundiman are teaming up to do a poetry postcard challenge. Members who have signed up with exchange postcards throughout April. It is better to give than receive, after all.

Also ...

  • The most obvious thing to do in NPM is to go to a poetry reading. But consider taking a non-poet with you. When was the last time your mother/father/brother/sister/friend/significant other accompanied you anywhere, much less a poetry reading?  

  • Hang a poem a day outside of your cubicle at work.

  • And, my personal favorite: Take a poet to lunch! Maybe he/she will share a salad and some light verse with you. I was taken to lunch today by the beautiful and talented Erin Dionne. (Hmmm. how can I get people to take me to lunch for 29 more days?)


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