Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Salem Poetry Seminar

Have you heard about the Salem Poetry Seminar? This is a program where students are selected from public colleges and universities for a weeklong writers' retreat at Salem State. The cost of the program is free. There's a minimal cost to students to stay on-site, but students get campus credit to purchase meals and snacks. Wish I had something like this as an undergrad.  

Jill McDonough, Charlotte Gordon, and J.D. Scrimgeour are the workshop leaders, and I'm reading later in the week. 

This is a really cool thing we do for emerging writers. Hope you make it to some of the readings to see the next generation of Massachusetts writers. 


The Salem Poetry Seminar is a weeklong event for students at public colleges and universities in Massachusetts. Thirteen students, selected from throughout the commonwealth,have the opportunity to study poetry writing intensively with noted teachers and authors Charlotte Gordon, J.D. Scrimgeour and Jill McDonough. 

In addition to day long poetry study, the seminar includes free nightly readings by established poets and seminar participants. All readings are held at 7:30 pm in the Salem Athenaeum, 337 Essex Street.

Wednesday, June 3
M.P. Carver and J.D. Scrimgeour with student poets Julie Fabbo (Framingham State) , Elizabeth Tobin (Bridgewater State), Jessica Tower (Salem State), and Woody Woodger (Westfield State).

Thursday, June 4
Charlotte Gordon and January Gill O’Neil with student poets Taylor Boticelli (Salem State), Mallory Braun (UMass Amherst), Victoria Nicolau (Salem State), Robin Parsons (Westfield State), and Cady Vishniac (UMass Boston)

Friday, June 5
Salem Poetry Seminar Alumni Reading featuring Joey Gould, Lisa Mangini and Enzo Surin.

Saturday, June 6
Jill McDonough and student poets Robert Auld (Salem State), Amy Gaeta (UMass Boston), Andrew Mansfield Westfield State), and Kayleigh Turgeon (UMass Lowell)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Summer Reading

These are books I’ve accumulated since March. Most I have not read, but some didn’t get my full attention.  In alpha order:

1.     The Light of the World, Elizabeth Alexander
2.       Why God Is a Woman, Nin Andrews
3.       Do Not Rise, Beth Bachmann
4.       The Last Two Seconds, Mary Jo Bang
5.       We Come Elemental, Tamiko Beyer
6.       The New Testament, Jericho Brown
7.       All-season Stephanie, Stephen Burt
8.       New to the Lost Coast, Joshua Butts
9.       The Breakbeat Poets, Kevin Corval, Quaraysh Lansana, and Nate Marshall
10.   Deep Lane, Mark Doty
11.   My Feelings, Nick Flynn
12.   Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay
13.   How to Be Drawn, Terrance Hayes
14.   Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist, Kirun Kapur
15.   You Are Indeed an Elk, But This Is Not the Forest You Were Born to Graze, Kyle McCord
16.   Digest, Greg Pardlo
17.   King Me, Roger Reeves
18.   The Americans, David Roderick
19.   War of the Foxes, Richard Siken
20.   What the Truth Tastes Likes, Martha Silano
21.   In the Kettle, The Shriek, Hannah Stephenson
22.   Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks.

These are my new favorite pencils--the first one says it all. I'm so tempted to send my kids to school with them. 


My desire to be productive seems to be returning. I haven't felt the need or urge to write every day, but I've been diligently working on manuscript #3. I'm revising peons without worrying too much about publishing individual poems or who will produce the next book. 

Right now, I have 59 poems--some of them long. And I keep adding to it when I know I need to whittle them down. For now, I'm happy with this batch of poems. It could be my best collection yet!


Misery Islands has been selected for a 2015 Paterson Prize for Literary Excellence! My thanks to Maria Gillan and the selection committee for this honor. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

WordsWest Recap

"On April 15, 2015, poets Kelli Russell Agodon and January Gill O'Neil joined WordsWest for "Death and Taxes: The National Poetry Month Special" with poems ranging from okra to Oprah to the ephemeral nature of life and what our children will say about us in their tell-all books."


Thanks to WordsWest for hosting Kelli and me! Such a fun evening of poetry. Go to their site for the complete recap, including audio and video.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Franz Wright: A Remembrance

Here's a photo I took of Franz Wright reading at the Longfellow House in 2011 with Wesley McNair. In fact, I'm taking the pic over Wesley's shoulder. I went back to check my blog post about this reading, and, as I recall, they both seemed to enjoy talking to one another as well as the audience. I think Franz was in remission at this time, certainly he was well enough to read.

Well, what to say. I am saddened by his loss. In the Boston area, we've lost one of our most charismatic literary figures. I didn't know him well at all. But as an admirer I have been following his career since 2004. I have blog posts on him going back to 2007.

No doubt, he was, at times, curmudgeonly. He's been downright mean to a few of my friends. As recently as this past Massachusetts Poetry Festival, I considered having him as a feature--I just couldn't bank on his health. Neither could he. We just didn't know.

In September 2014, he had posted on his Facebook page that he was cancer-free after extensive treatments for lung and brain cancer, which he described as a "great black river" running through his family. All this time, he wrote at a furious pace, publishing an impressive amount of poems and books in the last few years. No matter what he had been through, I always has the sense that no matter what, everything would be okay. Back in September, he was looking to schedule readings and appearances.

A few years ago, before I was working with Mass Poetry, Franz reached out to me and asked if I wanted to have coffee with him. I agreed but we never did. He thought I was kind and that meant something to him, apparently. We would see each other occasionally at events and he was always pleasant. I don't have a lot of regrets in my life, but I'm kicking myself for not following through on that coffee.

Ahead of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in 2009, Franz recorded this interview at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop on Radio Open Source. This is how I choose to remember him: full of vigor, passionate about poetry.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Confession Tuesday

No more pencils no more books!

I confess I’m glad the semester is over. It was tougher than it needed to be and I have no one to blame but myself. I held onto work longer than I should have, which created an avalanche of poems and short stories to grade. But I did a few things right, including mentoring four students on their poetry theses. I also received a round of applause. One of my students gave me a gift—that’s never happened. I keep saying I need to use the summer to get the fall semester in shape. Now I have to follow through.


Jan’s To-Do’s This Week
- Operation Misery kicks into gear (read: get a plan for book #2)
- Revise m’script #3
- Submit poems to four publications
- Organize my desk

Notice that writing is not on my list. Whenever I get through a PAD challenge, I need a month or two away from writing. But the poems are brewing. I’ll spend my time reading, figuring out what I want to do next.

I need to be progressing. If I’m not, I’m miserable to be around.


Also this spring, I will be spending some much needed downtime on my home life. My kids will be in school for another few weeks and I think with all the assessment testing, they've had it (so have I). It’s hard to sit there all day and think about the end of school. So if I can make their day to day a little more fun, that’s what I’m going to do.

Let the summer o’ fun begin!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Morning Garden

This past weekend I went to the Morning Garden Writers Retreat, hosted by Jennifer Jean. Located in Gloucester, MA (about 10 miles from my house), I spent two days in the company of 15 writers and visual artists envisioning, creating, and commiserating, as we artists tend to do.

The retreat came at a particularly good time for me, with this year’s Mass Poetry Festival and my semester grading over. I needed take a moment and make some decisions about how I wanted to approach my writing during the summer. Since the kids are in school until June 30—Thanks, Old Man Winter—I have a long stretch of time with hours to myself. It would be so easy to waste the time. But at the retreat I was able to kickstart things by whipping my third manuscript into shape.

The last time I grouped poems together for m'script #3 was last August. And when it did, it still didn’t make much sense to me, but it was progress. Since then, I’ve written about 70 poems (yes, 70!). Many of them about snow or turkeys. Many of them bad. So it was time to rip the m’script apart and redo it. I won’t lie—it was hard. Took me about four hours on Saturday morning. But I’m happy with the order, which may change. For now, it makes sense.

At first, I wasn’t sure if now was the right time for this. I had a handful of must-do items on my list that need attention. Not to mention that it was Mother’s Day weekend. But I wrapped up my time early on Sunday morning, and in the afternoon took the kids to see Avengers: Age of Ultron.--my Mother’s Day wish!

So for now, the well is full and there’s a plan in place. Bring on summer!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Confession Tuesday

 Hi folks. This is the post-festival Confession Tuesday

I am still on a high from this weekend's Mass Poetry Festival, which, by all accounts, was the best one yet. It was chilly on day one buy no rain, and by Sunday the weather was spring-like.

As far as I can tell the festival was flawless. Every year tell our planning team, "It takes a lot of work to make it look everything look seamless. That's what we strive for every year.


Some of my favorite moments included this one pictured above, hanging out with Rita Dove and Fred Viebahn--two of the nicest people you'll ever meet. And Rita's reading with Riichard Blanco on Saturday night was phenomenal.

Another great moment was seeing the crew from Four Way Books: Andrea Cohen, Cynthia Cruz, Rachel Eliza Griffiths and the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner Gregory Pardlo! It was one of those readings that just felt special. So happy to host Greg's first reading since winning the Pulitzer in poetry. Here's video of his reading:


Another special moment hearing Denise Duhamel, Nick Flynn, and Adrian Matejka read at the Peabody Essex Museum. What a magical night that was. You can see photos of these and many of the weekend events at Creative Salem. My favorite photos are of the Poetry Circus!

It was an amazing weekend of poetry. And now we have the pictures to prove it!


The two things I'm struggling with now are exhaustion and forgetfulness--byproducts of National Poetry Month. I'm backed up on poetry books, submissions, and grading. Oh well, good problems to have.


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