MoCA Monday

I started the day with steel cut oats and a hot caramel at Brewhaha, a fun cafe on the same block as our apartments. I got in the studio early, revised the poem I workshopped yesterday, updated the manuscript with the changes, and started doing timings for prospective poems for our reading on Wednesday. Somewhere in there, I was momentarily on Facebook when I saw the news of the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas.

It reminded me of our initial residency here at MASS MoCA, which coincided with one of the big Paris attacks. I lift my thoughts and prayers on behalf of all the dead and injured, their family and friends, those caring for the wounded, and our woundedness. The world is swallowed in destruction and sorrow and it is so much harder to take when human beings perpetrate violence.

I allow myself a bit of time to mourn; then, try to turn back to art.

I was anxious to visit Building 6, which opened a few months ago. I wanted to go right at opening time for the day, but had forgotten that MoCA had already switched to off-season hours, which meant not opening until 11:00. I went back to the studio and followed instructions that daughter E had thoughtfully sent me on how to create a table of contents in google docs. And it worked! I had to do a bit of editing, but I now have a table of contents which can be refreshed to correct itself when I make changes.

I tried to experience as much of Building 6 as I could in the time available. I was amazed by James Turrell’s light installations. The work of Jenny Holzer is devastating. I loved the Gunnar Schonbeck instrument collection, especially the ones we were allowed to play. It was interesting how many of the instruments used organ pipes, albeit in unconventional ways. There was also a piano string assembly, which reminded me of my 20th century theory class at Smith and the concept of prepared piano. I had a lot of fun plucking and creating glissandos on the open strings.

The most striking thing for me, though, was the building itself. I have seen the exterior of this building throughout my life, built into the point where the two branches of the Hoosic meet. At the prow, there are now large windows, allowing an expansive view of the melding of the river. I found myself drawn to the windows along the sides of the building, as well. These are the old mill windows. Many of the panes show that glass is still a liquid, as you can see the waviness of the glass caused by the passage of time. I also love the old wood, brick , and stone. MASS MoCA understands that appeal and features exhibits of both old and new artistic renderings of the building itself.

The later part of the afternoon was taken up with workshopping, which is always so informative and enlightening for me. I love the work that everyone is doing and learn so much for everyone’s poems and comments.

After dinner, we had a special treat. Marilyn read the chapbook she is developing to us. So amazing! We are planning to workshop if with her tomorrow, but people couldn’t help but get a head start tonight.

More tomorrow.

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wrapping up at MASS MoCA

Yesterday was the last full day of our Boiler House Poets reunion residency at MASS MoCA, such a full day that there was no time to blog before collapsing into bed. I came into the studio early, picking up a steamed milk and an almond biscotti from Tunnel City Coffee on the way.

Thus fortified, I embarked on a morning of writing and visiting places that I could photograph or take notes on for future poems. I re-visited the North Adams Public Library and spoke with a couple of the librarians who helpfully supplied some of the historical information about the building. I walked into the newly spiffed up Colgrove Park with Drury Academy/High/Conte Middle/now Colgrove Elementary School perched on the hillside above. Workers were on site at the former Saint Francis Church, getting ready to removing the rubble that was left behind after the demolition. It is so strange to look at the North Adams skyline without that steeple among the rest.

After the museum opened, I went back to some exhibits that had particularly struck me and made some notes. One was a bit tricky because the room was almost totally dark. I discovered that there is an installation showing a short film set in the upper reaches of our beloved Boiler House. I visited the Boiler House and took (yet more) photographs, especially of the upper levels that are more difficult to reach for people without sturdy shoes and a certain comfort level with industrial settings and heights.

After lunch in the cafe, we reconvened back at the Studios for some workshopping of poems and for a special project. During our first residency, which was the inaugural collaboration between the Studios at MASS MoCA and Tupelo Press, we produced this video of us reading poems in the Boiler House.  The indefatigable Ann Dernier collected poems from an exercise that we did with Jeffrey Levine of Tupelo and made them into an anthology called Verse Osmosis.

For this reunion residency, we decided to create a collaborative videopoem about the Boiler House. Each poet brought some lines, in some cases written specifically for the videopoem and in others excerpted from a larger Boiler House poem, to the group. We made a few small edits and considered several options for ordering our lines before deciding on one.

Next, we went to Marilyn McCabe’s studio to use her microphone and computer to record the audio. Marilyn has produced gorgeous videopoems, so she offered to do the necessary recording and editing. We lined up in our agreed-upon order and recorded the reading, so that Marilyn could overlay it with audio she previously recorded in the Boiler House, which is a sound installation in addition to being a visual marvel. Later, she will use photographs of the Boiler House to complete the videopoem.

On a lark, we decided to take our poem over to the Boiler House to read it there; Marilyn brought her mike and laptop to record, although we assumed there would be too much noise for our words to be heard easily. To our amazement, when we listened to the playback, the balance was very good, so Marilyn may use that recording in the final product. You can be sure that as soon as it is ready, I will post it here at Top of JC’s Mind!

After a short break, which I confess I used to shop in the museum gift store, we reconvened for a bit more workshopping before returning to our apartments to get ready for dinner. We had made a reservation for Grazie, which is on the first floor of the building where we are staying and is where we had our opening night dinner, and had a fabulous time with great food and even greater conversation.

We re-convened in the apartment living room for more time together. First, we did book signing. Copies of Verse Osmosis were passed around for multiple signatures. We were also blessed to have several books by members of the group currently out in print: several books by Kyle Laws, Marilyn McCabe’s Glass Factory, and Ann Dernier’s In the Fury. Then, we snuck in a bit more workshopping and insisted on hearing people read just a few more poems before we were all too tired to continue.

This morning, we all faced the realization that we only had a few hours left before we would have to leave. Six days seems so short! Although we all accomplished a great deal, there is so much more we have to say. The challenge is to keep the creative energy we feel here alive, without the obvious advantages of having a writing studio, an art museum, other poets available for feedback and support, and at least partial respite from household, family, and work obligations.

Yes, it is going to be a challenge.

My hope is to continue to work on my manuscript so that I can send it out to readers in the coming months and have it ready to submit to publishers or contests by the middle of 2017.

You all know how my plans often go, though…

Wish me luck and stay tuned!

Accolades for Anne Harding Woodworth

I am thrilled to spread the news that Anne Harding Woodworth has been chosen as the 2015-16 COG Award winner for Poetry by judge A. Van Johnson. The poems are from her soon-to-be-published chapbook The Last Gun.  You can read more about Anne and four of her poems here:  http://www.cogzine.com/#!anne-harding-woodworth/p81np

I met Anne when the Smith College Alumnae Chorus toured in Sicily in 2011. She is such a warm and welcoming person! When I later turned to poetry, she very graciously encouraged me and gave me advice. She is one of my poetry fairy-godmothers!

Congratulations, Anne!

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: Aftermath

The Mass MoCA/Tupelo press workshop ended yesterday morning, but I’m not home yet.

One of our cousins picked me up and B met us later at their home in Stamford, Vermont, which is his hometown. For the weekend, we are staying at the home of a high school friend, who was my classmate and B’s lab partner for physics.

The local connections and tour continue.  Today, B and I went on a car trip back to my hometown, Monroe Bridge, MA. We stopped and took some photos of where my house used to be, where Rowe Yankee used to be, where Sherman hydro station, the dam, and Tower Brook still are, where the town office and library still are, although the rest of the building which was my elementary school up through eighth grade is now offices for whichever power company it is that now owns what was New England Power when my father was superintendent for the upper Deerfield.

I keep having ideas and little fragments of poems pop into my head, so I scrawl them in my journal. I have also had some chance to tell B some of my experiences, which is helping me to process. I am looking forward to talking to some of my poet friends at home. I also want to share some of my drafts of Monroe Bridge-North Adams  poems with my mom and dad. There are some details that they can provide to help me be historically correct.

I realized that the chapbook I had hoped to write from this experience probably needs to be a collection instead. I find myself thinking of prospective titles and ways to organize the collection into sections, even the placement of some of the poems I have already written which will fit into the collection.  It’s exciting! It will be a big project and I’m not sure how long it will take to write, revise, and assemble it.

I told Jeffrey he could be the first one to reject it when it is done. 😉