The Ekphrastic Review has a regular series of Ekphrastic Writing Challenges, in which they post a piece of visual art and invite writers to respond to it. I have had several poems published in this way.
Here is a link to the artwork and response pieces for the most recent challenge, “The Two Sisters” by Théodore Chassériau (France) 1843. Among them is a poem by Kyle Laws, fellow Boiler House Poets Collective member and ekphrastic writer extraordinaire!
My piece was not chosen in this go-round, but I thought I’d share it here. Enjoy!
Is it the matching outfits that proclaim sisterhood – my sisters and I in pale
yellow with coordinating hats and gloves for Easter mass –
my daughters in black velvet with lacework collars in a rare formal portrait –
my granddaughters in rainbow- and-unicorn pajamas in pandemic London –
or is it the dimples that appear with smiles the entwined arms
You can see responses from seventeen writers, including me and fellow Boiler House Poets Collective member Kyle Laws, at the link below. Many thanks to The Ekphrastic Review founder and editor Lorette C. Luzajic for the always interesting Ekphrastic Writing Challenge features. Enjoy!
As those of you who know me personally or who have been reading Top of JC’s Mind for a while are aware, I consider myself to be a community poet. I have next-to-no academic training in literary analysis and creative writing. I sometimes tell people that I write by instinct, but, like this blog, it is more another manifestation of the way my mind works, influenced by what I’ve read and my fortunate affiliation with groups of wonderful poets who share their work, critiques, and knowledge with me.
One of these groups in the last few years has been the Broome County (NY) Arts Council. They have sponsored several series of poetry workshops, led by Dr. Joshua Lewis. This has led to our first ever foray into publishing, a collaborative chapbook, Transformations. (The link takes you to a page with several options for download, priced at either $1 or $1.99 depending on platform.)
There are six poets represented: Pamela Olivia Brown, who also designed our cover, Joanne Corey (me), the aforementioned Joshua Lewis, who also acted as editor, Anita Alkinburg Shipway, Tony Villecco, and Harrison Young. We each submitted three poems without regard to a specific theme, but some commonalities emerged. We met to deal with ordering the poems, which is always a fraught process. I am pleased – and still somewhat shocked – that my ordering emerged as the favorite, with a couple of tweaks from the group.
In re-reading the book, I am struck by how the different styles and voices of the poets reflect common life experiences and deepen our understanding by approaching from various perspectives. Although there are only six poets, we represent different generations, races, ethnicities, genders, and places of origin. (I am endlessly fascinated by the influence of place, especially the rural/urban/suburban dynamic.)
[A note: It’s possible that your download will have an issue with pagination and layout. For example, I lost the stanza breaks in my Apple copy. I’m not sure if it is because I am using an older device or if there is some other reason. I can assure you, though, that all the words will come through to you, which is the most important consideration.]
One of the pandemic topics that has gotten a surprising amount of media time here in the United States is what people are doing with their hair without having access to hair salons. Celebrities and politicians face scrutiny if they appear well-coiffed. Did they break the rules and call in a professional? Are they sheltering in place with someone who can manage to trim hair? Did they manage to give themselves a haircut? Are they wearing a stylish headband only to keep their bangs from falling into their eyes?
There are also a lot of stories of hairdressers delivering hair color to clients and giving them instructions on how to apply it – from at least six feet (two meters) away, of course.
Some people, though, are letting their hair grow naturally, revealing their hair color which they themselves may not have seen in decades.
Maybe a few will embrace the natural look. That has always been my choice.
Back in 2016, Silver Birch Press was doing a series called “My Mane Memories” with poets submitting work about their hair. One of the poems they chose was mine: “Crowning Glory” which I will also copy below.
by Joanne Corey
“The silver-haired head is a crown of glory…” Proverbs 16:31*
Friends recognize me
in a crowded theater
down the street
across the restaurant
among the congregation
how they wish
theirs looked the same
remember the first silver
among the brown
before I was in high school
multiplied after my daughters were born
until at fifty just a bit
of brown was left
Then I let it grow
past my shoulders
down my back
in silver waves
In April 2014, I changed the original post below when I submitted my poem to an anthology. It wasn’t selected, but I never reposted with my poem included. When I ran across this copied into my drafts folder today, I figured it was time to put it back out there. It a good reminder to me that, even though there is a lot more work to do, we have made some progress since November 30, 2012.
I had to share this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sandra-steingraber/marcellus-shale_b_1428030.html, which leads to an essay and poem by biologist/poet, Dr. Sandra Steingraber. She is one of the heroes in the fight to keep unconventional fossil fuel extraction, aka fracking, out of New York State and to rein in this and all toxic industrial activity everywhere. The poem is mind-blowing for me, partly because of its depth of composition and partly because I have spent a lot of time in the fight, too, although in the role of citizen advocate/commenter, not expert/lecturer/author.
This seems a good opportunity to share a poem I wrote, right after the announcement that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was putting out final drilling regulations for comment, despite the supplemental generic environmental impact statement not being complete. The good news is that we mobilized to submit over 100,000 public comments and the DEC let the proposed regulations lapse. The SGEIS is still incomplete, pending a health review from the state health commissioner, and we still do not have high volume fracking in New York State.
Novermber 30, 2012 – After DEC Regs
Watching the silent snow,
The voices recede.
The hills are shrouded,
The innocent land
Unaware of the impending attack.
The crows circle,
The cold creeps into our bones.
The land shivers,
Resting now from the furrowing of the plow
Under its snow blanket,
Dreaming of spring.
Will the thaw bring warmth and greening
Or drilling and destruction?
As we prepare for the second reunion of the Boiler House Poets later this month, our poet-organizer Kay sent this video from the PBS NewsHour about MASS MoCA and city of North Adams:
Well, she sent it over a month ago, but I am just getting to it and this post…
Much of the piece concentrates on the intersection of MASS MoCA and North Adams history. The interview with Mr. Sprague especially struck me, as he wove together his family/business history with the larger story of the area.
When the Boiler House Poets re-convene, I am planning to spend at least some share of my studio time trying to assemble my first manuscript, a collection of poems tentatively entitled Monroe MoCA. It weaves together my family history in North Adams and the surrounding small towns with the changes that have taken place over the decades and ends with a group of ekphrastic poems about pieces of MASS MoCA art.
For the first time, this year the Boiler House Poets will be giving a public reading, Wednesday, October 4, at 7 PM at the Makers’ Mill on Main Street. I will use my time to read a few poems from the collection.
I have been dreaming about this collection for almost two years and am excited/anxious/daunted by the prospect of actually piecing it together.
On Thursday afternoon, I arrived in Northampton, Massachusetts for my 35th reunion at Smith College.
Thursday is light on scheduled activities, as many participants can’t arrive until later in the weekend, but it gives those of us who do have the opportunity to get started on heavy-duty reminiscing, as well as catching up on our current lives and loves. We spent hours chatting at our headquarters and over dinner at the Cutter-Ziskind House dining room. We reflected in a special way on the classmates we have lost over the years; our class memorial chairs thoughtfully prepared a compendium of our deceased classmates which brought each of them to mind for us.
Friday presented us with a number of options for presentations and reflections. In the morning, I chose to attend a faculty presentation by Ellen Doré Watson, entitled “How Poems Mean.” It was held at the Poetry Center, of which she is the current director. We filled the room with women (and one spouse of the male persuasion) and read and discussed poems from a thick packet that Ellen had compiled for us, illustrating how poets convey meaning to readers/listeners. After the presentation, I perused the collection of poetry books and journals, spending the most time with the shelves devoted to alumnae poets. I was especially excited to see the books of Anne Harding Woodworth ’65, with whom I have sung with the Smith College Alumnae Chorus. Anne is one of my poetry godmothers, who has always been generous in giving encouragement and advice. I was pleased to have a bit of time to speak with Ellen personally after the gathering had dispersed. I hope to meet her again, perhaps for manuscript review through the Colrain conferences or when I return to campus.
After lunch, a classmate and I walked around campus, enjoying the exercise, our surroundings, and conversation. We were able to visit Haven House, where I lived all four years. It has had extensive renovations since then, so it was interesting to see what had changed – which is nearly everything. I was touched, though, that our wooden mailboxes remain in place, even though students now receive mail through boxes at the Student Center. Even more amazing was that our napkin boxes are still there. In our student days, Haven had its own kitchen and dining room for our residents and those of our sister-house Wesley. We each had our own cloth napkin, which was kept in a labelled cubby near the dining room entrance, taken out and returned there for each meal. The college laundered them every week. Now, dining is concentrated in fewer locations with recycled paper napkins available, but I admit to feeling nostalgic for our student days with homestyle serving most evenings – and candlelight on Thursdays.
Later in the afternoon, I helped to host the Alumnae Chorus reception, along with other Alumnae Chorus members from the class of ’82. We are always on the lookout for other singing alums to join us for events, on campus, in the US, and abroad. We were excited to have Alice Parker ’47 join us, along with a number of her classmates! While we were students, we sang her works, including a commission for the 25th anniversary of Helen Hills Hills chapel. The Alumnae Chorus was honored to sing in a tribute concert for and with her in 2014. Alumnae Chorus will be doing a US event in 2018 and another international tour in 2019, so we have a lot to look forward to!
Next was a class dinner, which President Kathleen McCartney visited. This is our first reunion since she became president. I was so impressed with her warmth and Smith-spirit! Smith is lucky to have her at the helm.
After dinner, we returned to our class headquarters for “A Night of Passion” in which classmates shared what they are passionate about. Language, music, nature, quilting and fabric art, writing, and more – each presentation uniquely fascinating. I participated by reading an excerpt from this blog post about meeting up with Smith friends and two Smith related poems, including “Lessons from Mahler”. I so appreciated the warm reception from my classmates, most of whom remember me, if they do at all, as the organist I was in our campus days. It was so affirming to my current poet-identity to have them react so positively to my poems.
When I fell into my dorm-bed in my room overlooking the lawn where the diploma circle was held after commencement last Sunday, I felt content – and really, really tired. I’m not used to being on the fourth floor…
Some of you may recall my secret poetry mission to write and present a poem in honor of Emily Jablon and Peg Johnston for the 2016 Heart of the Arts award ceremony. I was invited to participate by the Binghamton Poetry Project, because they receive funding from the United Cultural Fund, which is the grant-bestowing branch of the Broome County Arts Council.
I am excited to share the video of me reading the poem at the dinner. The video was taken from a distance and I am mostly obscured by the podium, but the sound is good. The title got a bit cut off; it is “Thanks to the Department of Public Art.” The diction is pretty good. There are only a few words that are hard to understand – but I, of course, know what I am saying, so feel free to chime in if you have any presentation points for me. I’m not used to reading with a mike or in a large room. It’s rare for community poets like me to get this kind of opportunity and I am very grateful to the Binghamton Poetry Project and the Broome County Arts Council for making it possible.
I also want to thank my spouse B and my daughter T for keeping me (somewhat) calm at the event. I will share that B’s favorite word from the poem is “tessellate.” I don’t know that I will ever write another poem where that is an appropriate word choice, but at least I have done it once!
I am hoping to publish the poem in the fall anthology of the Binghamton Poetry Project; after that, I will share the text here at Top of JC’s Mind.
I am pleased to share the this link: https://eunoiareview.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/fifty-four/ to my poem “Fifty-four” in Eunoia Review. It is a reprint of the poem which first appeared in Wilderness House Literary Review. Before that, it was a finalist in a Binghamton Poetry Project contest. It was written about me and my friend Angie.
I usually write squealing posts when a poem is accepted, but this was different. It was a very sober time in our lives, as we were dealing with the continuing process of grieving Grandma’s death. By sad coincidence, in January, Eunoia had published “The Last Night“, a poem I wrote about the death of my father-in-law. It felt surreal that they accepted another poem of mine that involves a death at a time when we were again mourning. This feeling has only multiplied as the losses have continued to mount this spring.
I do hope that you will take a moment to visit Eunoia Review and read my work. I would love to hear from you, either through comments here or at Eunoia.
At baccalaureate, we
Smith women were instructed
to hire good help.
It was the only way,
we were told,
to “have it all.”
I didn’t do it,
didn’t want to “have it all” –
at least, not all at once.
I gave up paid work
for the unpaid work
of a younger generation
and an older generation
of a school
of a church
of a community.
for not making money
being an example
of a modern
for my daughters
about wasting my education
wearing my Phi Beta Kappa key
for courage in challenging times
Taking years to come
to see my choice
was right for me…
How different would it have been
had our college president said,
“Here is your life,
now what will you do with it?”
Tanka: Hundred-Year Flood
by Joanne Corey
The red house crouches
behind a wall of sandbags
as the water sneaks
forward like a thief to steal
all that the family owns.
by Joanne Corey
Names tend to stick.
It’s Five Corners,
even though now
it is only four.
It’s the Old Junior High
even though it hasn’t
been used as a school
It’s Main Street
even though it isn’t
filled with shops.
Vesta is goddess
of home and hearth.
Our one-and-a-half story
cedar-shake Cape, tucked
near Choconut Creek,
is what matters,
what makes a home-