Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mark Strand: Peering into Nothingness

R.I.P. Mark Strand. This is an audio excerpt from a three-year old interview with Terry Gross's show Fresh Air.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. Share  little of yourself and we promise to do the same.

Like many of us, I am saddened by the outcome of the Grand Jury in Ferguson. Facebook and Twitter have been most active with outpourings of grief, anguish, disgust. My hope is that the conversations that happen virtually make their way into our communities in a form of action. I can appreciate the protests, but what I would like to see is more empathy, more compassion in the world.

One of the best ways to do that is to model this behavior for my children. Not easy to do when someone cuts me off while driving or jumps in front of me at the deli counter. But that's where this distrust starts. That's when we stop seeing people as people and start seeing them as other. I've tried to write about this subject and each time I get a little closer to what I truly mean.

I'm first-generation removed from the Civil Rights Movement; my kids are second generation. They've grown up in our "post-racial" (quotation marks to imply skepticism) society where a black man has been president almost all of their lives. It's hard to convey the concern I have for the well-being of my kids, as I'm sure it was difficult for my parents convening their concerns to me. I grew up in a trust-but-verify household. It's hard to embolden my kids to do that when they trust everyone. And they should, until someone gives them a reason not to trust.


Thanksgiving is upon us, so today and for as long as I can I living in the space of gratitude. I'm sending a little light and love into the world for those who are suffering. It is taking all of  my strength to do so.


In thinking about Ferguson, I leave you with this round-up on readings from The Poetry Foundation:
Black Lives Matter: A Roundup of Worthy Reads. And from her collection of readings around the Web, a short film from Claudia Rankine's Citizen.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Huffington Poet: Susan Rich

The fabulous Hannah Stephenson has a mini-profile of the equally fabulous Susan Rich at Huff Post. Susan's latest poetry collection is Cloud Pharmacy. Here's an excerpt.

"And so the story goes. Eventually my own life crossed the border from working class rentals into the middle class. At 19, I left for England to study abroad and dropped out of college to travel. Eventually, with the support of student loans, umpteen waitressing jobs, the Peace Corps, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Amnesty International and the Fulbright Foundation, I would work in 7 countries from Bosnia Herzegovina to Gaza and the West Bank. Eventually.

"Perhaps this is why my poems like to travel. The idea of staying in one country, on one continent is antithetical to my experience. Eventually everything changes. This "e" word covers so many erasures, bus rides, cheap apartments, lost cats, spaghetti dinners, and heartbreaks. Eventually."   ~ Susan Rich

Read a few of Susan's poems, and go buy this lovely collection.

(In case you missed it, here's Hannan's mini-profile on me.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Misery Islands Book Launch - Recap

Thursday night was the official book launch of Misery Islands!

This was the first party in a long time in which I had nothing to do with planning. The event was hosted by Mass Poetry cofounders Michael Ansara and Nicco Mele at the St. Botolph Club in Boston. 

(Nicco received some really good news this week!)

The St. Botolph Club is a storied private club known for its advocacy and support of the arts in the Boston area. It's hard to argue in a room with a portrait of Robert Frost looking down on you. 

The pictures do not properly convey the buzz in the room. What they do convey is that I looked hot that night! You can't see it, but there's a gold zipped running down the back of this dress. I really have to think about where to wear this dress next. Morning drop off at my kids school? The grocery store? The post office? The possibilities are endless!

Usually, I'm running around in jeans and a turtleneck. Not tonight!

What the photos do convey is the joy I felt surrounded by friends and supporters. It reminds me when I'm slogging through festival spreadsheets or teaching metaphor and similes to creative writing students, I get to have a few moments like this. Pure joy. Makes it easier to go back to the spreadsheets.

Poet moms: l-r, Cindy Veach, Jennifer Martelli, Jennifer Jean, and me.

A few days have past, and I'm still feeling quite grateful. Special thanks to Michael, Nicco, Barney, and Lauren for taking such good care of me. I don't quite know what I did to deserve a night like this, but I am thankful. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, Folks. Share and share alike! Here's my share:

Misery Islands is here! After a delay at the printers, my copies came this morning. Woo hoo!


I've been so busy that I haven't had a chance to post about the book or the good press surrounding its release.

Tonight, I have the good fortune to read  my poems with Arts at the Armory in Somerville. I am lucky to be reading a few of my poems at 7 p.m tonight with two wonderful poets, Jacquelyn Malone and Michael Ansara. Mass Poetry is in the house!

The First and Last Word Poetry Series
Reading and Open Mic
Michael Ansara, Jackie Malone, and January Gill O'Neil

The Center for the Arts at the Armory
Poetry at the Café
191 Highland Avenue
Somerville, MA, $4 Admission
Hope to see you there.


In other good news, 


And I have a few other things in the works. It's been a good month leading up to the book's release. I'm excited to see what Misery will do in the world. 

PAD Challenge: Checking in

It is day 18 of writing a poem a day and I've written 21 poems! Half of them are awesomely bad sonnets for my Juno series, but I finally have drafts down on paper.

I'm not lying when I say my sonnets are bad. No meter, terrible end rhymes. But there's something about the story that's compelling. They were easier to write than I thought; I can sit down and have two or three done in a few hours. I'll finish the series, write my drafts, and then decide if they're worth keeping.


Why do I do this to myself twice a year? Sometimes I think writing is about quantity, not quality--at first. I talk a good game about staying open, but doing it is another. And somehow, after a week, finding the time becomes much easier. Sixteen days into it, writing a poem a day has become a habit. There's a rhythm to this type of devotion, which requires a certain amount of sacrifice. It also takes the pressure of writing the perfect poem every time I open my journal.  

I tell my students if writing is the most important thing in our lives, then making time for it shouldn't be a problem. Writing a poem a day puts me to the test. 


It also helps to have a cheering squad. This month, there are five of us writing poems daily. We share them via email without judgement or comment. We do read them and comment if we feel so moved. Honestly, I'm glad no one is commenting. I like not having to explain or edit anything. It's like walking around naked without anyone telling you about your big butt. Our writing is flawed, no need to point out the obvious.


I struggled with a better example than the one listed above. Couldn't come up with one.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. Share a bit of yourselves today and we promise to do the same.

I'm writing a poem a day and so far I'm keeping up. Not easy to do, because I'm working on a sonnet crown. What is a sonnet crown, you ask? It is 15 sonnets. Poems 1-14 use the last line of the previous poem as the first line of the next poem. Poem 15 uses all the lines in the poem. My sonnets are Petrarchan, and--so far--have terrible rhymes and very little meter. My goal was to write them and fix them later.

In these poems, I'm telling the story of Juno Larcom a slave who lived in Beverly, MA. She had 12 children (11 survived). When some where sold into slavery, she sued for her freedom--you could do that in Massachusetts. She eventually won, but lived and worked for her slaveowners for the rest of her life. Just a fascinating story.

I've been reading Marilyn Nelson's Emmett Till poems for inspiration.


I just reread my sonnet crown--which feels like a paper hat, not a crown--Ugh


The beautiful and talented Nin Andrews interviewed me for CKP's Website.


Writing a poem a day is the one thing that throws me off of my sleep cycle. I'm in a terrible pattern where I go to bed at 1 a.m. and wake up exhausted. Tonight is one of those nights, so I'm keeping this post short and sweet. Good night.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

"Sunday Morning Creep in Like a Nun."

Selfie with some of my favorite poets: Shari Caplan (leopard print bow tie), Jennifer Jean, and Enzo Surin. This is from last night's Mr. Hip Presents reading. There were six scheduled readers, as well as a Skyped-in reading from Dorianne Laux.

Didn't think I'd enjoy the Skype reading, but it was pretty cool.


Wow, what a week. I've had two readings this week but it feels like three. I went out to Shelburne Falls, which is on the other side of the state from me, to read with the Collected Poets Series. My thanks to Marie Gautier and Rose Carlson for being the hostesses with the mostestes! Here's Marie at work.


And this past Saturday, I read with J.D. Scrimgeour as part of the Salem Literary Festival. Gosh, what a well-attended event. Hats off to Brunonia Barry for breathing new life into the festival.


It's been so long since I've read at back-to-back events that I had forgotten how grueling it can be. And, I can't remember the last time I sold more than one book at a reading. Underlife is no spring chicken, but Misery (which is still not available according to, seems to be selling well--from the first few books I ave sold. That's really special to me. I have high hopes for this little book.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

"After Making Love We Hear Footsteps" by Galway Kinnell

Rest in Peace, Galway.

Kibbles and Bits

This past week was busier than I anticipated. Post Dodge, my return to normalcy has been about student advising and registration for next semester's classes. I'm pooped. But now that All Hallow's Eve has passed, I can focus on Misery Islands as well as planning the next Mass Poetry Festival.


Speaking of Misery, looks like Misery Islands will be delayed at the printer another week. *sigh* Tom Petty was right: the waiting is the hardest part.


In case you missed it, Nin Andrews wrote a great piece for Best American Poetry on the frustrations of marketing a poetry collection. 


I'm going to write a poem a day in November. What's that all about?


The photo above was taken earlier this week at Starbucks. Today I'm at home with the kids dreaming at Starbucks. There's a chance of snow in the forecast, so I'm hoping the kids and I can settle in and relax after begging for candy (a.k.a. trick or treating) throughout the neighborhood. 

Here's hoping I can get an hour on the couch with one of these titles.

Happy Saturday, folks.

Photos from Dodge

One week since the Dodge Poetry Festival, and I am still basking in the glow. I've been attending Dodge since 1996, so being a part of the lineup was an amazing experience. One of these days, I'll have to put together a montage of past festival experiences. For now, take a look at a few iPhone snapshots from this year's Dodge.

Festival Director Martin Farawell

Joseph Legaspi and Kundiman

Donna Baier Stein, Bejaminn Alire Saenz, Cathy Park Hong, and me after our reading

l-r, Jennifer Jean, Joseph Legaspi, me, Barney Arnold, Michael Ansara, and Jennifer Martelli

l-r, Marie Howe, Marilyn Nelson, and Tracy K. Smith


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