poetic convergence

On Saturday, a poet-friend from Sappho’s Circle and Grapevine Group and I went to Ithaca to the Spring Writes! Literary Arts Festival. Our primary purpose was to hear Heather Dorn, the founder of Sappho’s Circle, and her friend Sarah Jefferis read some of their poems. Here is the blurb from the festival program, with links to their author pages:

Reading: What Enters the Mouth and How to Play House 
Dr. Heather Dorn and Dr. Sarah Jefferis will read from their new poetry collections. Heather Dorn is the founder of Sappho’s Circle: A Women’s Writing Workshop for local women poets in Binghamton NY. Her work can be found in Requited, Ragazine, the Kentucky Review, the Paterson Literary Review, and other similar journals. Her first book of poetry, How to Play House, is forthcoming from NeuroQueer Books, an imprint of Autonomous Press, in September. Local author Sarah Jefferis will read from What Enters the Mouth, poems about surviving trauma and poverty in the South. “Fearless poems- a reckoning of the violences of girlhood rendered with grit and clarity.” – Ansel Elkins.

The reading was amazing! Their poems are very powerful and not infrequently heart-breaking. It was especially interesting to me to hear Heather read a couple of poems that I had heard her read previously, as time and a new audience can cause modulation in the presentation. I also got to observe how they structured a longer reading session. I am more used to attending open mic, where each poet reads just two or three poems, so I appreciated how they each chose among their poems to vary the mood and pacing.

The biggest surprise was when Sarah told us that she had just returned from a residency program with Tupelo Press at MASS MoCA. As my poet-friends know, I was blessed beyond belief to attend the first residency collaboration between Tupelo and the museum in November, 2015, which led to the formation of my beloved Boiler House Poets. You can view the video reading from that residency and the collaborative videopoem from our first reunion residency. We also have a book which sprang from an exercise we did with Jeffrey Levine during our first residency. Plans are already in place for our second reunion residency this fall. (There are numerous blog posts on the residencies. You can search the MASS MoCA tag or in the archives for November 2015 and September/October 2016.)

After the reading, we joined Sarah, Heather and her husband for lunch. It was nice to talk about poetry, education, and family over delicious Asian cuisine.

Later in the afternoon, we attended a panel discussion about publishing a first book after forty. We had another nice surprise when two more Grapevine poets appeared in the audience. It was interesting to hear about people’s journeys to publishing a book at 40+; as a poet who didn’t start writing until reaching my fifties, if I ever publish a book, I will fall into that category. I admit, though, that I was feeling insecure because it seemed that everyone on the panel and a good number of people who asked questions in the audience were English teachers and/or MFAs. Given that I am neither of those things nor someone who studied English and creative writing in college, I was wondering if there is still a path for me. Fortunately, on the drive home, my friend was able to offer some perspective for me. So my hope for my book is still alive, even though it will likely take longer to complete and submit than I had hoped.

Life does give poets something to say, but its demands can slow the writing process down.

Sappho’s Circle reading

Last night, Sappho’s Circle, a women’s poetry workshop convened by Heather Dorn, hosted a poetry reading at the Bundy Museum. The Bundy is our home and we decided to do the reading during Women’s History Month, as part of their current emphasis on women’s issues, particularly suffrage.

We chose to each read a poem from a woman poet whom we admire, followed by a poem or two of our own. I chose to read “The Bleeding-heart” by Mary Oliver. I admire her talent for melding nature imagery with insights into the human condition. I paired it with my poem “Discovery” which is thematically related  – by springtime, by heirloom flowers, and by family connections.

After Sappho’s Circle members had read, we opened the floor. We were thrilled to have several poets share work with us. I was especially happy that three of the Grapevine Group, formerly the Bunn Hill Poets, read. There is significant overlap between Grapevine, which meets a couple of times a month to workshop our poems, and Sappho’s Circle, so it was nice to have support from our poet-friends and give them an opportunity to join in the fun.

And it was tremendously fun!

And the poems were amazing! Several of the participants are great performers and I admired their skill in engaging us with their movement, pacing, pitch, and tone. Many of the poets also used the opportunity to present some of their edgier work, using language that I, small-town-New-England bred, good-little-Catholic-girl, would never be able to pull off.

I am honored to have been a part of the reading. I can barely believe that I get to be among so many helpful, talented poets on a regular basis. I am especially indebted to Heather, who, when she was assistant director of the Binghamton Poetry Project, connected me to what is now the Grapevine critique group, and who started Sappho’s Circle to foster women poets who want to publish their work.

I am a lucky poet!

poetry reading tonight

One of the things that poets are expected to do is participate in readings.

As a – let’s call it – late-emerging poet, I have done relatively few readings, so I tend to get nervous when I need to do one.

Like this evening.

Sappho’s Circle, the women’s poetry group convened by Heather Dorn, is going on the road to read at an art gallery in Callicoon, NY, about seventy miles from our home base in Binghamton. The reading will last about an hour and include five members of the Circle.

Because we are reading in an art gallery, I am planning to read some of my ekphrastic poems that came out of my residencies at MASS MoCA, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams. These are poems that I am planning to make part of my manuscript under development.  I have chosen some of the shorter poems from the MASS MoCA section of the collection, as I feel they will be more accessible when there is no visual component involved.

A bonus is that looking through my poems to choose which to read reminded me that I actually have quite a few poems that have been through revision and that I might be close to making a first draft of the manuscript.

Which is exciting!

And daunting.

Maybe next month, after T is settled in Missouri with her new job and E goes to London to visit L for ten days, I will attempt to print the poems and order them and write a forward and end notes. Then, I can look for holes that need to be filled.

Maybe.

First, I have to get through the reading tonight.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! It’s easy and fun! Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/19/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-19th17/

jjj-2017

 

 

By the Seats of Our Pants

I am pleased to share this link: http://ragazine.cc/2016/11/by-the-seats-of-our-pantscreative-nonfiction/ to a piece of creative non-fiction by my friend Wendy Stewart.

Wendy and I share in two local poet groups. This piece began as a prompt in Sappho’s Circle, a women’s poetry workshop convened by Heather Dorn. It has been my privilege to see Wendy’s piece evolve from those beginnings to its publication in Ragazine.

Enjoy!

Sappho’s Circle poetry reading

One thing that poets are expected to do is participate in readings of their work.

Poets who have books out will give solo readings in bookstores. Famous poets read on college campuses or at public events. There are open mics and group reading opportunities in most US cities on a regular basis.

I have read at Binghamton Poetry Project events and at the open mic at RiverRead Books in Binghamton in the past few years.

But, for various reasons, not in the last year or so…

Tonight, Sappho’s Circle, a women’s poetry group convened by former head of the Binghamton Poetry Project and newly minted PhD Heather Dorn will be offering a reading as part of Binghamton’s First Friday events. We are reading poems that came out of our work with the group, either written from prompts or workshopped in Sappho’s Circle.

We will be reading at 6:30 in our home base, the Annex of the Bundy Museum, followed by an opportunity to discuss our group and answer questions from the audience (she says, hoping that we will have an audience). We want to thank the Bundy for sponsoring our group and hope to attract some new members, as well.

I will be reading two or three poems, which I have printed out in large, easy-to-read type. I have been practicing so that I don’t stumble over my own words – or at least not too often.

It is not at all a high pressure situation, but I am feeling a bit uneasy because it has been so long since I have read in public.

Is poetry reading like riding a bicycle?

 

Fridays are Magical: First Grade Poetry Workshops

This evening, in the adult version of Binghamton Poetry Project, I wrote my first tanka. Here, I am sharing the precious post about some of the first grade poets who are loving, learning, and creating with the BPP.

by: Heather Dorn

Fridays have been magical since I stopped working weekends. Something about those last few hours drowning in research before stepping off the cliff to endless weekend possibilities, or a good afternoon coffee, makes me giddy. But when I’m teaching 1st graders, Fridays become even more magical.

First graders are poets who haven’t unlearned how to be poets.

For the past month, instructors from the Binghamton Poetry Project have been running first grade poetry workshops at Charles F. Johnson Elementary and Johnson City Primary. Instructors Heather Humphrey, Tim Lavis, Assistant Director Clara Barnhart, and myself, Director Heather Dorn, visited the schools on Fridays to offer lessons about the sounds, shapes, and ideas that poems can have. Though we don’t stress terminology, we aimed to teach rhyme, alliteration, simile and concrete poems, while fostering a positive attitude toward poetry. The third year we have had…

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How to Be a Woman in a Man’s Idea

A powerful poem from Heather Dorn, current director of the Binghamton Poetry Project and the creator of Sappho’s Circle, a women’s poetry group. She has been invaluable to me as an emerging poet. Congratulations, Heather!

Slink Chunk Press

by Heather Dorn

I fall down the stairs like a rag doll

again and again when I’m four.

The hat rack breaks my body’s tumble

and I thump to a stop. Nobody ever

moves that hat rack, maybe worried

I’d crack headfirst into the wall instead.

Better to be impaled. There is something

slippery about being four and next to the steps

in my house. There is something

that still pushes me over the edge

of that first step now. I have seen how

this is inherited. I watched my brother

bang his three year old head into

concrete over and over again. He is too

sturdy to fall down the stairs and has to

break himself another way instead. I see

my mother’s face, like blue ink spilled

on her eyes. She did not fall, whatever

she says. I watch my father’s fist raise

above her, gripped, as if…

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