Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye, 2016.

Now what?

2016 was a totally f*ck*ed-up year. Sorry. No other way to say it. So many deaths, personally and publicly. Not to mention the death of our democracy.

For much of the year I have been silent on the blog. It wasn't bringing me joy. It felt like work. And after 10 years, who was reading?

Then, in August, my former husband, the father of my kids, passed away unexpectedly. We've had illnesses and deaths in my extended family as well. The fall was tough. Didn't feel like writing, much less writing poetry. I tried to keep all the trains on the track: family, teaching, po biz. Didn't sleep much. I won't spend too much time breaking down my feelings. I don't need to. Not today.

And the election. OMFG! Can't believe we didn't elect the most qualified person, who *happens* to be a woman, to the highest office in the land. I'm still in shock. #ImStillWithHer Now this I will probably blog about around the election.

Today, I am here because we are ending 2016 and I landed nowhere near my goals. I wrote 12 poems in 2016. Most years I average closer to 50 poems.

I am here because I'm trying to keep myself from completely falling into a sinkhole of despair by making some changes. I'm remember all of the good things that happened in 2016. And there were a lot. I'm remembering what it meant to feel fully myself, when I was in touch and in tune with everything. I'm stepping back in the flow and I believe blogging might help me get there.

What changed my mind? Time off helps. But what I found during this period is that I stopped noticing the world. Blogging helps me think about what I should talk about next. Writing a poem a day will do the same thing. So my goal is to do both, start up with the blog with a few posts a week while writing a poem a day in January.

In 2017, I want to undo my narrative and create a new one. I'll have to evaluate at every turn. While I am grateful for anyone who who reads my blog, I write for myself. I mean, if you are reading, it really is a happy accident, because there are those who do it better and with more consistency. The Poet Mom blog itself needs an overhaul. I need an overhaul.

I am here because I am suiting up like the characters in every Marvel superhero movie. 2017 will be hard for creatives and for the most vulnerable in our population. I feel a layer of armor hardening over my skin. We will be called upon in ways I can't imagine yet. And I want to be ready for anything.

2017, I am ready. Bring. It.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Confession Tuesday

I confess. I miss posting on Tuesdays.

Until June, I had not written a poem since November 2015. Now, for a while I did not want to write. Then, I was too tired to write while planning the festival. And when I finally wanted to write, I had a hard time getting started. Lots of doubts and old insecurities reading their ugly mugs.

Here’s what’s gotten me out of my funk:

  1. Clearing some of the clutter—physical and mental—from my life. From finding a home for my book collection to pushing back on some commitments, making some adjustments to my priorities has made all the difference.
  2. Create breathing space. With the school year ended, I was able to clear my schedule. That helped a great deal.
  3. Getting back into some old habits. I’m eating and sleeping better, and exercising more. Baby steps. 
  4. Trying new things. At the beginning of May, I sought the advice of a dear friend to help me set a new course. So far, with some adjustments, her advice has pushed me into uncharted waters. Now it’s up to me to continue the work.

Maybe the biggest lesson I’ve learned has to do with balancing my time. In late spring, I worked really hard to get my schedule under control. But that schedule doesn’t work for me now. Seems I tended to put my creativity into one- or two-hour time slots, fitting it in whenever I could. But I’m happiest when I can give myself long blocks of uninterrupted time. I mean, if my creative life is the most important thing to me, then my schedule needs to reflect that. So I am devoting my mornings to writing. Chores and email can wait. Also, this is when the kids have camps and activities outside of the home—perfect time for me to write and revise.

As for my blog, it’s due for an update, but for now I will post at least twice a week. This is me attempting to revive an old habit for a new purpose.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Monday, May 30, 2016

Raining Poetry

No one is more surprised than me about the popularity of Mass Poetry's Raining Poetry project. This video, produced by New York Magazine, has 20 million views and counting!

While I did not organize this project, I couldn't be happier about its success. Who knew that putting invisible poems around the city would elicit such a reaction? Poetry in the public sphere. Maybe folks like the surprise of it, or they like encountering art rather than going to it. It rained this morning, so I hope more people were able to see the art on Memorial Day all over Boston.

Where are the poems right now?

Langston Hughes - Dudley Square (by Dudley Square Cafe)
Gary Duehr - Upham's Corner (by The Strand)
Barbara Helfgott Hyett - Roslindale (by Adams Park)
Elizabeth McKim - Hyde Park (by the Library)

More poems are coming! Find out more about Raining Poetry.

And DONATE, so we can add more poems to our rainy-day collection.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hello, it's me.

I'm here at my favorite perch in Starbucks.

Hello. It's been a while--long enough for me to miss my blog! There have been many times I had thought about writing: my reading with Ross Gay, AWP, Mass Poetry Fest. But it wasn't until the passing of Prince did I need another way to express myself. So there is a Prince post brewing. It's only been a few weeks yet it feels raw, like it happened yesterday.


The last few months have been both joyous and exhausting. Work, in general, has been overwhelming. Some of it was my doing. With any luck I will finish my spring semester grading today or tomorrow, and then I will have the summer to chillax. (That's right, I said chillax!)

I felt as if I've been off track and off course. I let the day-to-day stuff overwhelm me. I wasn't as proactive as I usually am. At one point, I stopped making a to-do list because if everything's a priority, nothing is a priority. I feel it in my neck muscles and the restless nights of sleep. The weeks are catching up with me. Thank goodness for spring and its renewal.


Since the festival, however, I have made steps to find a bit of balance. I'm going back to the gym and starting to write again. Haven't written a poem in six months. It started out as a choice not to write poems, but then it became something I eliminated from my schedule to save time. I know better.

Even writing this blog post feels pure, something for myself. I miss writing for myself.


The kids are great. Life is good. The temp is above 70 degrees. There's a shift back to the positive. I'm at Starbucks having a venti hot chocolate. What could be better?

This weekend, I'm attending the Morning Gardens retreat. The last time I attended, I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron. This past weekend for Mothers Day, the kids and I saw Captain America: Civil War. Something about Marvel and Morning Gardens equal my unofficial start of summer.


As for the blog, it needs an overhaul. That will happen over the summer. For now, this is enough.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

January O'Neil and Ross Gay at SSU

Hope you can join us!

January O'Neil and Ross Gay
March 24, 7:30 p.m. in the Metro Room, Ellison Campus Center, Salem State University.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor

My poem, "What Love Cannot Do," was chosen for The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor. It was posted on February 2, Groundhog Day!

What an honor. Here's the link one more time:

Monday, February 01, 2016

Poetry Action Plan 2016

Honestly, I wasn't going to do a plan this year. I mean, 2015 was a pretty good year. Still, I haven't felt very goal-oriented lately (so unlike me!). But then this one posted hers, so I said, well, I need to do this.

So thanks, Carolee, for pulling me (part-way) out of my funk.

This exercise forced me to take a good hard look at what I accomplished in 2015, and what I hope to do for the New Year.

In 2015, I ...:

  1. Supported Misery Islands, which continues to  receive good reviews and reach new audiences. My book also received the Massachusetts Book Award and a Paterson Award in Literary Excellence.
  2. Wrote 76 poems (I think it was 76) 
  3. Joined the board of AWP
  4. Became actively involved in poetry advocacy with a consortium of poetry organizations focused on broadening the audience for poetry. (More to come)
What didn't I do in 2015? I did not work on my Juno poems. Admittedly, I didn't have the heart for it. As I involve myself deeper into academic life, I am less motivated to work on projects--too many committee meetings. For an artist, this busy work is exactly the opposite of what I should be doing. I need to put my head down and get to work.

To paraphrase author David Brooks, I don't have my loves in order.

So in 2016, I will:

  1. Find a home for my next book
  2. Publish in journals and magazines regularly. I'm hoping to up my game and publish in more top-tier places. You know which ones. 
  3. Continue to support Misery Islands. It's only been out for 14 months but it feels like it's been out forever. Maybe because I've been supporting it forever. I have to think about how to expand its the audience while making the process fun for me. 
  4. Take up yoga. Yoga? Yes, yoga! I've wanted to do this for a while and I think it will open up new modes of thinking. 

  FYI, here are my goals for 2014 and 2015.

So February is here. Not begins the process of getting my loves in order.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the State House


This past Tuesday, the kids, their grandmother and I went to the State House for the Massachusetts Book Awards ceremony and luncheon. A program funded by the U.S. Library of Congress, MassBooks are the largest state book awards in the country. Each year, the program receives hundreds of books in the categories of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, children's, and young adult literature. The "must-read" winners and nominees are promoted in libraries throughout the state. 

Misery Islands was the 2015 winner in the poetry category. 

Here's a pic of the award nominees and winners who could attend.

As writers, we work alone most of the time, with no expectation of success. So when it happens, it's nice to celebrate with people who do what you do: write! This event is really about libraries and the value of reading. And it was wonderful to hear the individual stories of how much libraries have influenced our lives. 

As with most other things, my Massachusetts library experience begins with these two goofballs. Can't imagine our lives without the Beverly Public Library.

Thanks to Sharon Shaloo for hosting a fabulous event! And, congrats to all the winners and nominees.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Get into the Groove

Hello and Happy New Year!

I am sitting in a Starbucks enjoying my vacation. That push to the end I don't count as vacation. It's holiday time and kid time, but not me time. I have the next few weeks to myself while the kids are in school, which means I can get things done pressure-free. Woo hoo!


I'm sitting in Starbucks watching a snow squall. Didn't think we'd see flurries today. Surprise!


The publications next to my venti hot chocolate are my most recent publications. I'm psyched to be included with so many friends and favorite writers. Feeling pretty lucky today. I received Poem-A-Day and Prairie Schooner on back-to-back days before the holidays, but APR came in the mail on Saturday. APR features new poems from Sharon Olds, so I'm thrilled to be in this issue (here's a link). What a way to start off the year!


I probably mentioned this, but Misery Islands won the 2015 Massachusetts Book Award in poetry! The ceremony is at the State House on January 12, and with any luck there should be a group of State Reps there. I'm thrilled because I get to take the kids, so this will be a special day for our little family.


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