Mass MoCa Poetry Residency: Thursday

Today is our last full day here, which is too bad as I’m finally feeling as though I am getting the hang of this.

I wrote a lot of new work today in the museum. I was a bit frantic about it, as I knew the residency will end before the museum opens tomorrow.

I wrote in the Liz Deschenes, Clifford Ross, Jim Shaw, Boiler House, Harmonic Bridge, Francesco Clemente, and Octagon Room exhibits. The Clemente Encampment was one of the more extensive drafts, as there were six tents to write about. I also wrote a 19 line draft about the “No Mud, No Lotus” series, with just a few words for each of the nineteen works in the series. I wrote page after page in my journal for a list poem based on Mark Dion’s The Octagon Room. I had seen it on a prior trip to Mass MoCA and was surprised to still see it there, as most of their collection is not permanent. Editing will be required or the poem will take up an entire chapbook on its own. Carol Ann would be proud of me, though, as she was urging me to write without mulling. There was definitely no time to mull today!

I was at the museum most of the time from 11-5, although I did take a break for a bit of lunch and for our final gathering with Jeffrey at the studio. As we are the inaugural group of poets for this program, we batted about ideas for future iterations of this residency/workshop, based on our experiences this time. The plan is to offer it four times a year, so stay tuned.

After the museum closed, I went back to the studio to re-organize and work on some logistics. We were gathering at the Tupelo loft for a closing dinner, which was pushed back until 8:00 so that people could attend a 7:00 reading at Gallery 51 on Main Street. A few of us, including me, felt too tired to concentrate on the reading, so we went to the loft early. I picked out some more books, which other people can give me for Christmas presents!

The dinner was fantastic! (I won’t go through the menu because it might make you hungry.) After dinner, we did a final reading for each other in a round robin, which included our hosts, Jeffrey and Cassandra. I read “Lessons from Mahler” and “(Not) the aunt I remember” . I was happy that they were well-received. Even though I am not as intimidated as I was at first, I am no less aware that I am just starting out in this endeavor, while I was sitting in a circle with poets with many journal publications, chapbooks, and collections, as well as a goodly number of prizes/nominations. Maybe someday…

We avoided saying good-bye tonight, assuming we are all going to see each other in the morning. It won’t be easy.

Settling in to Mass MoCA

I’m writing this from my spacious bedroom in our residency apartment with a view of Mass MoCA from my windows.

I arrived about four and we spent the next hour gathering and chatting. When we were all here, except one person who was set to arrive later, we started our tour by seeing our private studios. We have 24/7 access to our studios. One of our poets said that things get serious when you have your own studio – you really have to write!

Next we went to our apartments, which are kittycorner from the museum and on the second and third floors with businesses on the first floor. They are newly renovated with wood floors and substantial casings and trim. I am lucky to have a corner room with three windows, and lovely light blue walls. We also have a sitting room and a full kitchen and laundry. I don’t know if I will cook anything, though.

At seven, we gathered at Tupelo Press’s Loft at Eclipse Mill for pizza and Greek salad to get to know Jeffrey Levine, publisher and editor-in-chief of Tupelo, and Cassandra – and learn more about each other. We are a group of nine, eight women, although one had not yet arrived, and one (brave, younger) man.  Fortunately, he is a cool guy and not daunted by the company of so many women. He explained that he worked in a mostly female environment in his job, so he is used to being surrounded by women. He and I do have something in common though; we both grew up in this area, albeit in different towns and eras.

It is strange, though, because Monroe Bridge, my hometown, is so small that most people who live in North Adams or Williamstown have never been there, with a hefty proportion not even knowing of its existence. So, while I consider North Adams part of my home territory, where we visited relatives every week and where I and my sisters went to Drury High School, which was also where I met my spouse, there is this other side to my story which is unknown here in North Adams and complicated by how much the city has changed from the 1960s and 70s to the present.

One of the things we talked about was how we would like to balance alone time and together time during our residency/workshop week. It seemed that most people favored significant amounts of solo writing time. I didn’t even attempt to answer. This is all so new to me that I don’t know what I want. My gut feeling is that I will learn more from interaction than from being off by myself, although if I am writing from a prompt or working with a piece of art, I realize I need solo time to think and write and edit. Jeffrey is also open to us doing our own mix and changing tack from day to day as suits each of us.

I just hope I can figure out what is the right balance for me. As I had anticipated, I am on the less experienced side of the spectrum, so I think my goal is to soak up as much as possible from everyone here, even if I don’t understand it all right now, trusting that each thought, concept, and experience will lodge somewhere in my brain and re-present itself when I am in need of it.

I also hope to get some sleep.  Good night, WordPress!

SoCS: both expected and unexpected

This past week’s calendar was filled with lots of expected tasks and commitments, with fall activities back in full swing after summer hiatus. Of course, the unexpected has a way of springing in. Here are some of the unexpected things that cropped up this past week.

  • One evening I got back from an activity and put on my Chromebook to see an instant message from my daughter warning me that her hair was now purple. She wanted me to know before I saw it on Facebook. This led to a Skype call so I could see it better than in the photo – and also so we could visit as she is thousands of miles away. Her hair looks nice purple, but it is not a long-time commitment as it will fade out in six weeks or so. This is helpful as her hair is quite long, so a permanent color would take a very long time to grow out.
  • I had expected to have an appointment for a flu vaccine study that I had agreed to participate in, but it got cancelled so I got to attend an excellent lecture on climate change and its impacts in our state instead. This also gave me material for a poem that I wrote from a prompt at Binghamton Poetry Project this week. Serendipity strikes again!
  • My spouse B had an unexpected day off on Friday. Upper management gave them the day off to reward them for the release of a recent product, so we scooted off to Oneonta to attend the opening of an art exhibit that featured works of a college friend of mine. I had not told her that we would be there – and we almost missed her as we arrived early and she had had quite a drive after work to reach the reception – but it was fun to see the look of surprise on her face when we connected.
  • Unfortunately, this week also afforded the both expected and unexpected news of yet another mass shooting here in the US. The details and timing are unexpected, shocking, and tragic. That it will happen again is sadly expected. And disturbing. And tragic. I can’t understand how the interpretation of the Second Amendment to our Constitution has become so warped that some people think it means that anyone can have a gun anytime, anywhere. These people totally ignore the first clause of the amendment, which talks about a “well-regulated militia” and sets the context for the part that follows about the right to bear arms. At the time, the United States did not have a standing army, so the defense of the country was left to state militias. The men who made up the militias were not professional soldiers, but farmers or tradesmen or whatever, so they had to have guns available in case they were called on to defend their town, state, or country. The amendment didn’t intend that any person could have any weapon anywhere anytime. The mass shootings get attention, which masks the smaller scale tragedies of gun violence that happen every day across the country, and nothing happens to reign in the problems. Definitely, people who hunt or target shoot or have guns for legitimate needs should be able to have them, but we need to get them out of the hands of the mentally disturbed and those intent on killing people, whether strangers or family or neighbors.  [I can’t bring myself to write any more than this about mass shootings, but I will provide this link to a piece that I wrote about a mass shooting in my area and how it relates to other similar-but-different tragedies.]

This post is part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays. This week’s prompt was “expect/unexpected.” Please come join us!  Find out how here:

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Richard Rohr on myth, art, and poetry

I love this meditation so much, I had to share it. A must-read for anyone who is interested in art, poetry, words, myth, and being!
– JC


One-Liner Wednesday: painting and poetry

In honor of US National Poetry Month:
Painting is poetry which is seen and not heard and poetry is a painting which is heard but not seen.
– Leonardo da Vinci

Join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesday! Details here:

Follow-up: Feminist Afghan Artist Forced into Hiding

Thanks for sharing this. Such courage should be applauded, not derided.


This entire story has really caught the imagination of women around the world.  The bravery of this talented, courageous, creative woman lit up hope in the hearts of many women and feminist men.  Now, she has had to go to ground to protect herself.  Even though there will be those who say “well, she shouldn’t have done it in the first place”, progress is made by those who extend themselves beyond the normal bounds of society to the betterment of all.

I will be keeping up with this story, as best I can, so we all know what happens to this wonderful young woman.


After Protesting Sexual Violence, Afghan Artist Forced into Hiding

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From Susan Cushman – Mental Health Monday: Modern Art, Mandalas, and Origami

While I am busy helping out family and catching up on things, I am blessed to have great blogger-friends with wisdom to share. I hope you will enjoy Susan’s wonderful post on the place that visual arts can take in a writer’s life.

This post reminds me of my friend Yvonne, who is a visual artist and spritiual companion and has done so much to give others opportunities to express themselves through the arts. And of my friend Chrstine who is about a decade older than Susan but who also loves to color and share spiritually with friends and family. And of my daughter Trinity who loves origami, especially making cranes and birds, and has gifted many people with origami she has made.

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