Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Confession Tuesday

It's the last (Confession) Tuesday of the year. Share a bit of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.


This is my last visit to Starbucks for 2014. I managed to squeeze in a few minutes between a kids' sleepover, play dates, and afternoon basketball practice. Heck, I'm just thrilled to do a Tuesday post on Tuesday.

In my Poetry Action Plan post, I talked about these guiding ideals for less stress:

  • Laugh more
  • Love more 
  • Save more 
  • Stretch more
It almost feels like a cliche to talk about finding balance and telling stress to take a hike. Everyone's too busy. Everyone's overextended. This is the new normal. Most of the time I can handle the pressure, but when it affects my home life or my writing life, it's time to slow down a bit. The idea of making a conscious effort to do these things seems silly. I mean, how hard is it not to check email or stay in the moment when it really counts?

Turns out, it's really friggin' hard for me.

Whenever I make these resolutions, the ultimate goal is to make the actions as routine as breathing. If I need to do it in an obvious or public way to accomplish it, so be it. 


I will finish off the year with 48 poems, unless I find enough time to finish three drafts and write two poems. Probably not going to happen. It's not about the quantity, it's the quality. But who knows, I'm up for the challenge. I'm looking forward to next week, however, when the kids are back in school and I can find a little time to get back into the swing of things.

Happy New Year, folks!

Poetry Action Plan 2015

Is it time to look at goals again?

I absolutely love love love the idea of a clean slate. I love mapping out a direction, veering off course occasionally, and finding my way in the end. I love ending the year a little stronger, a little more curious than before. That's why having a plan for the year is important. How can I know where I'm  going if I don't know where I've been?

Focus has been difficult for me the past few months. Stress has played a major part of my day-to-day interactions, so much so that as I approach year’s end, I’m not sure what my goals should be for 2015. In any case, here’s a quick look back on 2014. (My reflections are noted in red.)

2014 Poetry Goals:

Be Present
This goal is almost too squishy to be a real goal. I want to keep pushing myself as an artist through daily (or almost daily) observations, my gratitude journal, and this blog. Again, this doesn't feel like a real goal, and yet it’s the key to everything.
***I think I was present until late October. Once the fall semester kicked in, I found it hard to stay centered.

Focus on Misery Islands
The long wait is almost over. Misery should be out in September. Time to figure out exactly what I can do for book #2 that’s different from book #1.
***Despite a few delays, Misery Islands was born! I did what I could to promote it, but I see the first few months of 2015 as my time to give it a proper launch.

Complete Manuscript #3
After I revise, I’m hoping I can cobble out a new collection. Maybe two.
***Well … I do have enough for a manuscript. But it needs more of something I just can't name yet. Love? 

Complete the Juno Project
These poems are waiting on me to write them. This could be m’script #4
***I wrote a sonnet crown in November, but I haven’t looked at these poems since then. The plan is to pick it up in January …eh … next week.

For 2015, my Poetry Action Plan (PAP) is based on de-stressing:
  • Laugh more
  • Love more 
  • Save more 
  • Stretch more 

Notice I did not say write more. I did not say write X amount of poems, win a big grant, read at a bunch of colleges and bookstores, etc. The idea of being present is always with me and helps me stay grounded. Trust me, I’m probably more interested in book sales and scoring big publications than your average poet. But I’m happier if I listen to my creative side more often than my business side (but both are important).

So without further ado, my 2015 PAP.

Risk More
Risk more? What’s more stressful than risk? I don’t know. I’ll let you know how it turns out next December. In terms of writing, the real question I’m asking myself is, what am I risking every time I approach the page? What am I risking in my personal life? I think I need a new challenge. But maybe what I need is more laughter and more love, which means I need to be more vulnerable. Again, what’s more stressful than that?

Market Misery
I want to get Misery Islands into the hands of new readers (read: nonpoets). That takes a lot more creativity on my part. How can I find a broader audience for my work? I want to reach those people who say, “I don’t read poetry, but I like your work.” Those potential readers are open to something new.

Finish the Third Manuscript
I bet I could finish it up this week if I really set my mind to it. But it needs a little love, and I need to iron out the rough spots. At one point, I wanted to have this book finished before Misery was published. Now I don’t care as much. I just want my poems to shine.

Complete Juno Cycle/4th Manuscript
I don’t know what the Juno poems will be, so I’m giving myself a wide berth here. I’m pushing up against uncomfortable subjects—can’t back down now.

While on the surface, these goals are similar to last year's. But the first goal supersedes all others. Here's to trying and failing and failing again. I'm in it for the long haul.

Want to create your own Poetry Action Plan? Check out last year's post.

Good luck!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

How You Like Me Now?

Recently, I read a Facebook post by poet Sean Thomas Dougherty as he looks back at his professional career and on being a literary citizen. He says, “... through hard work, sincerity, kindness, and a dedication to my art, and the support of so many friends, I continue to grow and accomplish a good deal. So much of success in literature is simply that: kindness and hard work.” I believe that wholeheartedly. (If I could add to Sean's sentiment, persistence is the engine of hard work. It gets you into those places that talent alone can’t reach.)

I can bitch and moan about the system as much as the next poet, but it’s important to convey my complete and utter gratitude for the year that was 2014. Sean also reminds me that we don’t do this work alone. Being a literary citizen mean supporting the work of others just because it’s the right thing to do. Without community, poetry becomes irrelevant. So, here’s my top-10 way-cool accomplishments/events/shindigs list, none of which would be possible without you, dear reader, dear literary citizen.

  1. In November, Misery Islands was released! Book #2 is alive and well in the world taking its first breaths. There were times this year when I didn’t think it would see the light of day, but CavanKerry Press came through with a beautiful book. I am ready to guide it into the New Year with lots of love and light.

  2. While I didn’t publish many individual poems, about 10 of them were picked up by online journals or lit mags, most notably the Academy of American Poets, New England Review, Paterson Literary Review, and American Poetry Review. APR should be out any day—the Jan/Feb issue. Fitting. I also published a few notable articles, including this one on the passing of Maya Angelou.

  3. Dodge, Dodge, Dodge, Dodge, Dodge! Need I say more? 

  4. It was another successful year for the Mass Poetry Festival and Mass Poetry. I’m often recognized for my work with the organization, but the unsung heroes of our group includes Michael Ansara, Laurin Macios, Jackie Malone, Brandy Moore, Nicco Mele, and a host of amazing, dedicated volunteers and visionaries.

  5. This was the year I felt most connected with my poetry circle of friends. Can’t explain it because we’re always moving in and out of each others’ lives. But this year felt different—good different. Maybe because there was a lot to celebrate for all of us. My tribe: Kevin Carey, Erin Dionne, Rona Jaffe Award-Winner Danielle Jones-Pruett, Jennifer Jean, Lis Horowitz, Jenn Martelli, Colleen Michaels, J.D. Scrimegour, and Cindy Veach. Special shout out to Afaa Michael Weaver, Joseph O. Legaspi, and Susan Rich. Love, love, and more love! 

So for the next few days, I celebrate myself. And you! You’ve given me the fuel to continue one more year. 2015 goals to come.

How you like me now?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Verse inspired by the Misery Islands

Thanks to Will Broaddus at the Salem News for this article in the Salem News! (My kids were surprised and thrilled to see their picture in the paper.)

Here's an excerpt:

"The poem 'Misery Islands' narrates her journey and describes the two islands, but is also a reflection on the poet’s recent divorce.
'We were never of one body,' she writes. 'You said wind. I said water. / And whatever has connected us has disappeared.'

The image draws on the fact, which O’Neil describes, that one Misery island can be reached from another by wading at low tide.
Most of O’Neil’s poems work in this way, illustrating life lessons in figures of speech that are directly drawn from experience."

Read the entire article, and buy the book!

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Join me for a very special event. Help provide Boston youth with books for the holidays.


Mr. Hip Presents: Reading Series’and benefit raffle
December 20
ROOM83 Spring,
83 Spring Street
Watertown, MA

Presented in coordination with ReadBoston, Mayor Walsh’s early literacy program, 826 Boston, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting youth ages 6-18, and Grub Street’s Young Adult Writer’s Program, Mr. Hip Presents is hosting a fundraiser at our reading on December 20th in order to provide the youth involved with these educational literacy programs books for the upcoming holidays.

To celebrate the evening, we will host a reading with poets January Gill O’Neil, Simeon Berry, Adam Fitzgerald (virtual), Cecily Iddings, and more with special musical guest and classical pianist, Kyle Aaron. 

Raffle tickets are on sale for $5 and will be available until 6 p.m. on December 20. Our winners will be released on our website and Twitter account throughout the reading on the 20th. Raffle tickets can be purchased on the webpage.

The best part of this fundraiser for the youth is that all can participate. Anybody can purchase a raffle ticket. You do not need to live in the Boston area to win a prize. For all of our information regarding the fundraiser regarding prizes and raffle ticket links, please visit: http://mrhippresents.com/benefit-raffle

Thanks and looking forward to your help with this valuable cause. And remember: #HipKidsRead!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. After a bit of a break, it's good to be back. Share a little of yourself here and I promise to do the same.

I'm feeling a little like this today: partly cloudy. I'm in a but of a rut. A big part of it is grading and the work that comes with finishing up the semester. That will end this week. Unfortunately, I know that the only way out is through, so I'm going back to all of those strategies that help me manage my mood. Blogging is a big part of that.


Blogging gives me a chance to process what's going on with me in a creative way. Even finding the right photo cheers me up.


Since writing 30 poems in November, I haven't written anything this month. I'm sure that has something to do with my mood as well. This past weekend is normally the weekend I go Mendham, New Jersey for a writers' retreat with Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Laura Boss--but I didn't go this week. Part of me regrets not going.

Once I finish up my grading (and maybe even before that), I'll write five more poems to finish up the year with 52.


Congrats to Danielle Legros Georges on becoming Boston's second poet laureate! There seems to be a lot of buzz right now about a Massachusetts poet laureate. Hope it happens sooner rather than later.

Misery Islands is now available. Pick up a copy as a gift this holiday season!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

CLAUDIA EMERSON - Poets in Person - Episode 5

I met Claudia once at AWP Boston, and I had the opportunity to tell her how much Late Wife helped me through the writing of Misery Islands. I acted like a starstruck fan, a bit off-putting if you're a poet trying to get to your next event.

On Facebook, she chronicled her illness with honesty and hope. This video from the Cortland Review is a lovely piece about her life in 2012.

Rest in Peace.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Confession Tuesday

Happy first Tuesday of December! Share a bit of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.

Photo courtesy of Scott Booth

Look at that, my two babies. Well, my other two babies. Misery Islands and Underlife make great stocking stuffers this holiday season. Go out and purchase your copies today!

My poem, "A Mother's Tale," is up on CavanKerry Press' Web site.


The November PAD challenge has come to an end, and I managed to write 30 poems! Fifteen of those poems were sonnets (terrible sonnets) for my Juno series. Woo hoo! I'll revise those in January before the spring semester. Of the remaining 15, I may hold onto 12 of them. There's nothing more satisfying that completing the challenge knowing that even on the days I felt I was mailing it in, I wrote a few decent drafts.


I needed this November to balance out my hectic schedule. I used to think that writing a poem a day was about quantity--but it's about quantity. I don't feel the need to write a good poem each time I sit down with my journal. Some days, good enough is OK. And during these challenges, I don't write a poem every day. I try to, but if I don't then I let the poems back up and write two or three in a day. By month's end I have  30 poems to show for my efforts.

I. did. it.


We have lost many great poets this year. A whole generation of them, including Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Galway Kinnell, and now Mark Strand--and many more I know I'm forgetting. Just an incredible year of loss. And I hate rediscovering a poet when they leave us. I feel as if I should have been reading them all along.


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