Reunion residency – welcome!

Friday morning, my poet-friend Jessica picked me up for the drive to North Adams to begin the Boiler House Poets reunion residency at MASS MoCA. (To check out my blog posts from the original Tupelo Press/Studios at MASS MoCA residency, use my archive dropdown list entry for November 2015.)  It is a reunion for me, but not for Jessica whom I invited to fill in a slot for one of our original group who was unable to attend.

In the MASS MoCA parking lot, we ran into residency coordinator Emily with Ann and Kyle, who are my and Jessica’s apartment mates for the week. Emily gave us our keys and info and showed us our apartment, which is on the third floor of a building kittycorner from the museum complex, just across the hall from the apartment I stayed in last year. (My header photo here at Top of JC’s Mind was taken from that vantage point.)  We each have our own bedroom, with shared kitchen and bath.

Emily also showed us our studios. Last time, I was in studio seven, but this time I am in studio two, with a view of the Airstream trailer art installation which is connected by walkway to the top of the Boiler House which gives our group its name due to this video we made during our inaugural residency.

One of the special moments yesterday was when Ann gave us copies of the new book she edited of poems we created in an exercise with Jeffrey Levine of Tupelo Press during our 2015 residency.  It is called Verse Osmosis and is available here. I am honored to be a part of this book and this group!

In the couple of hours before our welcome dinner, I had the chance to catch up with our other apartment’s returning poets, Marilyn, Kay, and Gail and to meet our other new addition this time, Catherine. I was sad to learn that Donna, one of our original members who had hoped to come visit us on Saturday, was taken ill and wouldn’t be able to come see us. I am consoled, though, to have a copy of her new chapbook <Periodic Earth>, published by fellow Boiler House Poet Kyle’s Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press and available here.

Since we were in North Adams last year, a new Italian restaurant, Grazie, has opened on the first floor below our apartments and it was the site for our welcome dinner. We were happy to have another of our Boiler House Poets, James, join us, along with a friend who was celebrating her birthday. Like me, James is from the North Adams area and was back visiting. We had a long dinner with lots of lively conversation. I was happy to have James sign my copy of Verse Osmosis and we passed James’s copy around the table to sign for him. Unfortunately, Vicki, another of our inaugural group, was also unable to make the trip to North Adams for the reunion, so her signature will be missing from our books, too.

By the time dinner was over, it was after ten o’clock and I was too tired to join in the additional visiting that was going on and too tired to write this post. At least I am able to get this out early this morning. I hope to be off to my studio soon…



Happy Birthday, Harry!

Today is Harry Potter’s 36th birthday. Happy birthday to his creator, Joanne Rowling, whose birthday is also today!

Today is also the release date for the script of a new play about the grown-up Harry and his family, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The premiere performance was last night. There were midnight launch parties in bookstores and other trappings of Harry Potter book launches, not seen since the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows ten years ago.

And it is happening without me.

I do still love Harry Potter and will probably read the script at some point, but the urgency is absent now.

When our daughters E and T were younger and both still living at home, Harry Potter book releases were major events, which began marathon family read-alouds. The books and the connections they engendered were woven into the fabric of our lives. You can read more about why and how in this post.

I have been enjoying the continued unfolding of the world of Harry Potter. Through Pottermore, I know that I am in Ravenclaw at Hogwarts and in Pukwudgie at Ilvermorny, located atop Mount Greylock in Massachusetts, not far from where I grew up. I am looking forward to seeing the new film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, when it comes out in November. Someday, I hope to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida or go on a studio tour in London.

Meanwhile, today will unfold like a normal summer Sunday…


SoCS: project delay

One of my projects for this year is assembling a book of poetry, growing out of my first ever poetry residency last fall. 

And I am not getting much done these last few months…

There have been a lot of losses with a lot of aftermath.

I’ll get back to my collection at some point…

Wish me luck.
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “book.”  Come join us! Find out how here:

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Marilyn McCabe’s Glass Factory

I’m pleased to share the news that poet-friend and fellow Boiler House Poet Marilyn McCabe has a new book of poems available.  This link:  will take you to her blog post about it with videos of her reading two of the poems, link to a readers’ guide, and more! Ordering information is included in the post, so go there right now and check it out!

M is for Marilyn (and MASS MoCA)

Free Kindle Version of My Chicago novel to celebrate the Windy City’s 179th birthday

Melanie Villines, editor of Silver Birch Press, is making the Kindle version of her novel Windy City Sinners available FREE this weekend. Check it out!

SoCS: Animalia

When our older daughter E was in elementary school, there was a wonderful program called PASTtimes. PAST stood for Parents and Students Together. About once a month, there would be an early evening program for families centered around books. It was great because we could bring along our younger daughter T and have a fun evening together.

One of the books to which we were introduced through PASTtimes was Graeme Base’s Animalia. It is an alphabet book featuring fun and complex captions for fantastical paintings. For example, the letter I:  “Ingenious Iguanas Improvising an Intricate Impromptu on Impossibly Impractical Instruments”.  For V, a sign reading: “Victor V. Vulture The Vaudeville Ventriloquist Versatile Virtuoso of Vociferous Verbosity Vexatiously Vocalizing at the Valhalla Variety Venue”.

How could you not fall in love with such a book?

We went on to purchase Animalia and several other Graeme Base books for our home library. I think my favorite may be The Eleventh Hour, but it is hard to choose.

Even though our daughters are long grown, his books have remained on our shelves in the living room. I did look up the quotes above; my memory is not that good!

Wishing everyone some happy book memories today.  Have one to share? I’d love to hear about it in comments.
Linda’s prompt for this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “an-“. Join us! Find more information here:

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This post is also part of Linda’s Just Jot It January. Join us! Visit here:

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To find the rules for Just Jot It January, click here.

What Is Your Country’s Best Literature?

Readers from around the world, Jay Dee needs your help! He is looking for book recommendations from as many countries as possible. Please help him out!

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

The Iliad, Greece The Iliad, Greece

One of my challenges is to read a book from every country. But I have no idea where to start. What books are good to read? I’ve mostly read books from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and a handful from other countries like Japan and Greece. I want to know what is out there. It’s difficult to choose. So, I need your help. I need a lot of people’s help.

Here’s what I propose. It’s very simple. All you need to do is leave a comment stating which country you’re from and which book you’d recommend from your country. It could be a book that defines literature in your country, or it could be a book that’s your favourite. Anything is fine, as long as you’d recommend it.

Second, and this is important, I’m asking you to share this post with your friends and family…

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Tara Betts

I’m sure all my poet friends will want to read this interview with Tara Betts – and read her new chapbook 7×7 kwansabas.

Speaking of Marvels

tara betts7 x 7: kwansabas (Backbone Press, 2015)

What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced your writing?

Right now, I am excited about Amber Atiya’s chapbook, and I am looking forward to reading Fatima Asghar’s chapbook. I just got a stack of chapbooks from dancing girl press, but I have enjoyed some from Belladonna, Button Poetry, and Carolina Wren.

What might these favorite or influential chapbooks suggest about you and your writing?

I think it’s a good way to explore a suite of poems or an idea, but I also think there’s not the same sort of pressure that foments when you are trying to develop a full-length manuscript. It allows you to zero in on a theme without feeling like it has to be 50-100 pages. I think that’s what I’ve loved in particular about Barbara Jane Reyes’ chapbooks Cherry and For…

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Mass MoCA Poetry Residency: Saturday

The day got off to an early start. I was awake at about 3:00 AM and realized I was not going to go back to sleep, so I grabbed my chromebook and read a limited amount of the updated news from Paris. I wrote a blog post about it, then tended to my email as expeditiously as possible.

I decided to go over to my studio at 6:30. I sat at my table, pulled out the new journal I had brought for the workshop, and started journaling. After a page, I decided that I wanted to turn the last couple of paragraphs into a poem. The topic was the connection of my and my spouse’s families with the buildings that make up Mass MoCA. After I drafted and revised a bit, I called B and he reminded me of another relative that I had forgotten to include, so I added that and edited a bit more. Then, I called my mom to check in and read her the poem. So, yay! If nothing else I got one new poem drafted.

Our group of nine resident poets met for breakfast and then began workshopping poems together. It was really interesting to have a first look at each poet’s work. We got through seven of us before we broke for lunch; I was one of the two who hadn’t yet presented a poem, which was fine as I am so far along the introvert scale that nine people is a large enough group to require a lot of energy and adjustment for me.  I had, however, chosen a poem from my stash to workshop when my turn came, whenever that might be.

We headed to Tupelo Loft for a talk with special guest, Lawrence Raab, award-winning poet and Williams College professor. His talk focused on how to get poems started, a problem with which many poets struggle. He illustrated an inventive way to generate ideas that he uses with his college students and employs himself. He read several poems from his latest poetry volume, Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts,  which Tupelo published this year and which is longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry, to illustrate his own use of this prompt technique. I loved his talk and especially loved listening to him read. At first, I was looking at the page as he read, but I was drawn to watching him recite instead. He graciously spent time writing dedications in our copies of his book.

After Larry left, Jeffrey had some time before he had to leave, so we decided to continue workshopping, which meant that we would start with the two poets who hadn’t presented work in the morning session, which we had done on our own without Jeffrey. We started with the other poet’s poem, which was elliptical and surprising and mysterious and well-crafted and all kinds of excellent things, but I admit that I was desperately trying to wrap my head around how Jeffrey functions in workshopping, which was unlike anything I had ever seen. I could feel my heart beat faster than it should have been, sitting on a couch doing nothing more strenuous than reading and note-taking.

So, when it was my turn, I read my poem “1950’s Suburbia” and then tried to follow Jeffrey’s comments and take notes. I kept making the mistake of thinking I was supposed to answer aloud questions that were supposed to be mulled; in my local groups, there is a lot of back-and-forth between the presenting poet and the rest of the group and I couldn’t switch gears quickly enough. I think everyone in the room realized I was not really keeping up mentally. Jeffrey asked if I was okay. I said yes, but that I was not a very quick mental processor and that I needed to sleep on it. This may have been a partial untruth; I may need to sleep on it for a while and go through notes a few dozen times to have a good grasp.

I am very grateful to our group of poets, especially my apartment mates, for helping me begin to process the workshopping session. Over time, I think I will be able to make the poem, which is from my pre-Binghamton Poetry Project years, stronger. Maybe not this week though, with so much to do.

Seven of us went to Public for dinner. It was another connection point for me. The space that Public occupies used to be Dora’s, the restaurant of a high school friend of B and me and her chef-husband.  It’s been well over a decade since they owned it, but I was having another of the same-but-different moments that wash over me every time I am back in North Adams. We had a surprise fiftieth anniversary party for B’s parents there. His dad died less than two years later.

After the noisiness of a Saturday night restaurant, it was nice to be back in the apartment for a couple of hours of quiet talk about poetry, family, and whatever else crossed our minds. We are all hoping to sleep well tonight…

SoCS: “Between the Dark and the Daylight”

One of my volunteer gigs is facilitating for a spirituality study group at my church. We meet on Wednesday mornings to read and discuss a book on a spiritual topic. After a summer break, we met for the first time this part week to begin reading Between the Dark and the Daylight by Joan Chittister.

The subtitle of the the book is Embracing the Contradictions of Life.  We all feel that we need help with this!

Sister Joan begins by explaining that life is full of paradoxes and then illustrates the point through a series of relatively short chapters, with titles like “The Poverty of Plenty” and “The Sanity of Irrationality” and “The Certitude of Doubt”. Not that I have read the whole book yet. I like to keep a bit ahead of the group so that I am prepared to lead discussion, but I don’t like to be so far ahead that I am throwing in concepts from later chapters before we get to them.

It is a bit odd that I am facilitating the group because I am its junior member. OK – in most contexts I am not considered a “junior” but, at 54, I am the youngest. Many of the women – and we are all women, even though, theoretically, a man could choose to attend – have children in my age cohort.

I wound up doing it because the IHM sister who began the group decades ago needed to move on to some other duties and asked me to take it on. Do you know how difficult it is to say no to a sister when she asks you to do something for the parish? So I said yes, even though I didn’t feel qualified. Part of what makes it work is that I facilitate discussion rather than try to teach. The wisdom of the authors of the books we read plus the wisdom of the group carries us through.

It’s enlightening.
This post is part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays. The prompt this week was “light.” Join us! Find out how here:

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