Friday, July 25, 2014

I'd like to thank the Academy ...

The Academy of American Poets, that is, for posting my poem "How to Love" as today's Poem-a-Day!

How to Love
January Gill O’Neil

After stepping into the world again,
there is that question of how to love,
how to bundle yourself against the frosted morning—
the crunch of icy grass underfoot, the scrape
of cold wipers along the windshield—
and convert time into distance.

What song to sing down an empty road
as you begin your morning commute?
And is there enough in you to see, really see,
the three wild turkeys crossing the street
with their featherless heads and stilt-like legs
in search of a morning meal? Nothing to do
but hunker down, wait for them to safely cross.

As they amble away, you wonder if they want
to be startled back into this world. Maybe you do, too,
waiting for all this to give way to love itself,
to look into the eyes of another and feel something—
the pleasure of a new lover in the unbroken night,
your wings folded around him, on the other side
of this ragged January, as if a long sleep has ended.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Word Crimes

Just back from vacation. Will do a full post later but had to pass this on. Another reason to love Weird Al.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Taking a Break

Lying in a hammock in my backyard reading James Wright's "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota".

This was yesterday's FB photo. I'm surprised I had time to sit back for a few hours because I'm in kid mode most afternoons. In truth, we have a vacation coming up which has gobbled up all of my brain space. Couldn't even muster a confession for Confession Tuesday. So I've decided to take a short break from the blog. Too much to do in a short amount of time. 

I'll be back online later in the month. 


Saturday, July 05, 2014

The 5th of July

Hope you had a nice Independence Day! If you live on the East Coast, no doubt you were drenched in torrential rain from Hurricane Arthur.

This picture (which looks a bit blurry--sorry) was taken at a local Fourth of July Parade. The morning was cloudy but rain free, so the town, Manchester-by-the-Sea, was able to get in a few events before the all-day downpour. 

I don't think I've ever been a part of a more quintessential New England event before. We sat curbside in lawn chairs and watched the parade go by. The crowd was decked out in red, white, and blue--like everyone shopped at Old Navy the night before. That being said, it was a fun parade, full of muskets, antique cars, classic bicycles, and homemade floats, as well as local marching bands and city representatives shaking hands and kissing babies. Nice to see some diversity in the parade with calypso bands and groups of color wearing traditional costumes. 


I ate all day--I won't lie. Brunch turned into lunch turned into dinner with the same group of poet friends. After the rains came, it just seemed like the thing to do. And honestly, I'm halfway through Saturday--did a full workout at the gym, mind you--and still have not eaten. That's how much I ate yesterday. I'm still not hungry. Thanks to Kevin and Cindy for keeping me well-fed all day.

And that is how I celebrated my independence.


The Poetry of Work - The Work of Power

Scan of my ID tag

Never have I been to a poetry reading where I had to go through a security checkpoint. But then again, never I have read poetry inside a power plant. Such was the venue of the latest Improbable Places Poetry Tour stop this past Wednesday.

The reading was was part of the exhibit "Across the Bridge," documenting the visual and narrative legacy of the Salem Harbor Power Plant--created by the students of Montserrat College of Art.


The reading was held in Turbine Hall and I can't emphasize that it was a completely different world for me. Physically, visually, acoustically--being in that huge hall was a unique experience. Up until then, I couldn't imagine what the inside of this coal fire power plant would be like. Or any type of factory. Not only was I moved, I was changed. 

Footprint Power gave Montserrat College unprecedented access to record and document the past, present, and future of the workers. And for one night, more than 100 poets, artists, and community members were privy for a nice of poetry and remembrance. The coal plant has been decommissioned and, as I understand it, will be restructured for use to process gas in the near future.  

Exhibit: "Across the Bridge" 

The biggest concern for organizers were protesters. Fortunately, everything ran smoothly (as far as I could tell). Also, there were no constraints on what could be read at the event. Our fabulous host, Colleen Michaels, did a terrific job weaving poems about the plant and its people with the overarching theme of work. But when is she not terrific, fabulous, amazing ... I could go on. No really, I could.

The Improbable Colleen Micheals

The last "poem" of the evening was not a poem, rather than a moment of silence. The folks of Montserrat provided audio of the turbines. Loud and powerful. Honestly, that's what was missing from the event, so I'm glad the organizers found a way to incorporate it into the evening. 

My humble blog post does not do this event justice. The poets, who ranged from someone sharing their first poem, to those of us who had a few books, gave this industrial space life. The poems were compassionate and reverent, but funny and sometimes pointed in tone. Colleen moved the evening along with her usual grace and flair, always respectful of the space. So many catwalks and crawl spaces. So much metal and grit. The event truly was a nod to our industrial past, and the power of art in our community.

Well done.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Confession Tuesday

You know the drill.

I confess I'm writing this on Wednesday because I didn't have much to say yesterday afternoon. 

Today, I'm at the Salem Athenaeum, which is my usual spot too write on Wednesdays. Here's the view outside. I would be sitting there but it's 80 degrees and humid at 10 a.m. Too early to be sweaty and gross. 


I didn't have much to say yesterday, but last night I was guest lecturing in a beginning poetry workshop at Harvard University. 

Let that sink in for a moment.


I spoke for an hour to a great group of diverse students. It's an interesting experience to speak to students about my work and my process. Maybe you've had this experience, when someone asks why you write about certain topics or why you chose a particular form/word/style. Never am I that purposeful in my work. Many times I come to the page without the foggiest notion of what I'm going to write about. So to explain what I was thinking when I wrote a poem years ago is a delightful challenge. Something I think I learn more about myself compared to whatever the students get out of my talks.

Special thanks to James Geary for letting me sit in, and for giving me my first (of many, I hope) teaching experiences at Harvard.


Tonight, the Improbable Places Poetry Tour takes place at the Salem Power Plant. I have it on good authority that there are more than 100 people signed up for this event. Here's a great article about art inside of this decommissioned power plant.

Here's the info about tonight's event.


When I look at my Poems Written count, I know I did not write anything for June, though I started at least three drafts. I'm fine with that. I managing to do something every day for the po-biz, including marketing for Misery Islands. Also, I've made a little progress with m'script #3 so it's in a good place.

Maybe I'll turn my attention to submissions soon.


This time last year, I was counting the weeks until my two weeks at the Fine Arts Work Center and Millay Colony. This year, I'm taking a family vacation in mid-July. Doubt I'll get anything done on the poetry side, but I'm ready to sit poolside watching the kids splash around for a while. PiƱa coladas, anyone?


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