SoCS: October

October is one of my favorite months.

Part of the reason is that I was born in October. My birthday is the fourth, which also happens to be the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, who has become increasingly important to me spiritually over the years.

Growing up In New England, I always appreciated the beauty of October. It is the month when the leaves turn colors. Because our forests are mixed, there are red, orange, yellow, and russet leaves, punctuated with the deep greens of evergreens. I am lucky to still live in the Northeastern United States so our autumn foliage is still similar.

The last two Octobers I have  been back in my home area for early October with the Boiler House Poets in residency at MASS MoCA. Being back at that time of year is even more special as it has coincided with the annual Fall Foliage Festival. I have even written a poem about it.

Of course, October ends with Halloween. I admit that it is not one of my favorite holidays, but October 31st is special for another reason. It is my elder sister’s birthday and so another reason to celebrate the crisp, beautiful month of October.
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The prompt this week was a word beginning with “oc.” Join us for Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday and/or Just Jot It January! Find out more here:
https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/19/the-friday-reminder-for-socs-jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-20th-2018/

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One-Liner Wednesday: change

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
— Rumi
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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January and/or One-Liner Wednesday! Find out how here:
https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/17/one-liner-wednesday-jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-17-2018/

 

 

“Cause of [Erica’s] Death” by Mariam Williams

Today, I would like to share a link to a poem from a writer whom I follow, Mariam Williams. It is about Erica Gardner, daughter of Eric Gardner who was killed by police, launching her into activism. Blog post and poem here:
https://www.mariamwilliams.com/2017/12/31/cause-of-ericas-death/
Mariam’s writing is always thoughtful and meaningful. I hope some of you will be inspired to explore her webiste and read more of her work.
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This post is part of Linda’s Just Jot It January. Join us! Find out more here:
https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/02/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-2nd-2018/

 

writing in 2017

Many writers post about their accomplishments of the year in late December or early January. I usually do something along those lines for my blog and poetry. However, 2017 was not a typical year so this post will be a bit different.

With so much going on in our family, I cut back on posting here at Top of JC’s Mind, although I have tried to keep everyone updated on family and personal happenings and have posted some opinion pieces on news and issues here in the US.

I have also posted about writing poetry, which, between the Binghamton Poetry Project, Sappho’s Circle, the Grapevine Group, some workshops at the Broome County Arts Council, and the Boiler House Poets, I have done quite a bit. I’ve published very little, though, other than in the Binghamton Poetry Project spring and fall anthologies. With limited time, I have chosen to spend it writing and editing rather than researching appropriate journals and submitting.

I did, though, take the major step of assembling a first draft of a poetry collection centering on the North Adams area where I grew up.  I need major amounts of time to re-work it before it is ready to be sent to contests or publishers.

I also put together some of my recent poems for a chapbook contest for women poets fifty or older. I may submit it to another contest with a January 15th deadline.

Contests are a super-long shot…

Given that there are still a lot of other things that need my attention, I am not making any promises regarding 2018, but, if anything does get published, you can be sure there will be a post about it here.
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This is part of Linda’s Just Jot It January. Join us! Find out more here:
 https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/01/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-1st-2018/

 

December writing

This year, I offloaded a lot of my traditional December duties to concentrate on writing tasks. The first order of business was to finish a chapbook draft for a contest at QuillsEdge Press. I have now submitted it and am pondering submitting it to a second contest, which closes on January 15. I’d just need to write an acknowledgement page to get it ready.

The next task was to send out a Christmas letter on behalf of my parents. For years, my mom faithfully sent out cards to friends and relatives, but this will be the second Christmas that she hasn’t been up to doing it and I wanted to make sure that the people on her list know their situation.  We enclosed a photo of Nana and Paco with granddaughters E and T and six-month-old great-granddaughter ABC.  E helped out by addressing the envelopes.

With all of my parents’ letters safely mailed, I turned to my own card list. I composed an enclosure letter and battled with my printer to get enough copies ready. We decided to put in two photos, the one that we used for my parents’ list and a second favorite photo of ABC taken when she was four months old and visiting her father and family in London. With my stacks of photos, letters, cards, Christmas seals and stamps on hand, I spent hours signing and addressing over the weekend and today and just brought the last batch to the mailbox for 5 PM pickup.

I am happy to have our greetings sent on their way, knowing that we will be connecting with relatives that we aren’t able to see often and friends from various phases of our lives, many with whom we only correspond at the holidays. 2017 has been such a roller coaster that I especially wanted to make sure to share the story.

And now, I am finally writing this blog post! I’m hoping to get a few more in before the end of the year, although the next week will be very busy. Son-in-law L arrives on Wednesday and the tree still isn’t decorated, other than lights and treetop angel. There will be more shopping and baking to do, although the bulk of it may be done by the other adults in the house.

The most important thing this year is spending time with family and friends. The holiday correspondence was part of that effort. The in-person part already began with a lasagna dinner at Nana and Paco’s apartment with my sisters and their families and early-Christmas gift exchange. More to come about ABC’s first Christmas, which she won’t remember but the rest of us will…

last concert for a long time

Earlier this month, the Binghamton University Chorus, with whom I am singing for my 36th year, sang a concert of music related to St. Mark’s in Venice. That means that most of the choral works were written for multiple choruses, so we needed lots of singers to present the music. We were joined by the Women’s Chorus and the Harpur Chorale and Chamber Singers and the University Symphony Orchestra.

I appreciated the opportunity to sing pieces by Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Schütz, and Rossi. I love singing late Renaissance/early Baroque music, but hadn’t had much opportunity since I was in college myself. My voice is well-suited to this repertoire and I learned a lot of new vocal techniques from our new director, Dr. Culverhouse.

Our performing forces only had the opportunity to rehearse together in the last week, which was stressful, but the concert itself went very well. Daughters E and T attended, while spouse B and six-month-old ABC listened from the lobby so as not to take the chance of disturbing other patrons. It was also nice to see our director emeritus and former University Chorus members in attendance. Dr. Culverhouse graciously acknowledged our former director and thanked all of us from the stage, which was very sweet.

But now the difficult part…

As I wrote in a prior post, in the reorganization of the choral program, University Chorus has been revamped. We used to be an independent entity composed of community members along with some students and faculty/staff. We are now a supplemental group of mostly community members who will only meet in semesters when the student ensembles need additional voices to sing major works or pieces that require more singers.

So, in January, instead of beginning several months of Monday night rehearsals leading to a spring concert, I’ll be without a chorus to sing with for the first time in decades. In March, I will be singing Brahms’ Requiem at Smith, when some members of the Alumnae Chorus join with the Glee Club and the Penn State Men’s Glee Club. Ironically, we alumnae will be fulfilling a role similar to what University Chorus has become, although without the opportunity to rehearse until the day before the performance. Fortunately, I know the piece very well, so my individual preparation at home will be easy, but the performance weekend will be intense.

It also turns out that one Monday evening per month, I will be able to attend an educational  poetry event at the Broome County Arts Council. Additional skill building and writing time is always good.

What is even more special is that several other long-time community members of University Chorus plan to get together for some Monday evening dinners. After decades of singing together, we don’t want to wait until next fall to see each other again.

We will try to restrain ourselves from breaking into song at the restaurant…

 

chapbook draft

I have mentioned before that I am putting together a chapbook for the QuillsEdge Press contest for women poets over fifty.

At least I have the woman over fifty part nailed…

When the contest information was sent to me by one of the thoughtful male members of Grapevine Group, I already had a small group of poems written that related to this year’s theme, “In Transition.” Over the last couple of months, I have been writing and revising more poems to fill in gaps and to have enough poems to meet the page count requirement.

I have mentioned several times that I have been working assiduously on one poem in particular. After workshopping it with three different groups of poets, trying it out at a couple of readings, and revising again at the recommendation of a trusted poet-friend, I have now decided to use it as the final poem of the chapbook. Poets are advised to end with a strong poem and I am hoping that this at-least-for-now final version will fill the bill.

I had been playing with the order of the poems as I continued to add new ones and today, with all the poems finally available, I did another round of changes. When I finished the re-shuffle on the computer, I printed out a copy so that I can hold it in my hands and read it through as if it were a real publication.

I am trying to restrain myself from begging for readers to give me more advice. Though the deadline isn’t until January first, I really would like to submit next week. December is such a busy month that I would like to have it sent off and out of my head so I can move on to the rest of my to-do list. I also realize that all my poet-friends are similarly busy this time of year and don’t want to bug them more than I already have.

I am also trying to see this as a self-trust exercise. Given my lack of formal training, it’s easy for me to doubt my technical ability as a poet. People write books about how to order poems – and I haven’t read any of them, even though I do own one of them.

I will read it eventually…

For now, my plan is to read the chapbook aloud several times over several days, tweak anything that bothers me, and send it off through Submittable sometime next week.

And then wait a few months for news…