Boiler House Poets’ reading

At our 2017 reunion residency at MASS MoCA, the Boiler House Poets presented their first ever public reading as a group.

We hadn’t expected our 2018 residency to include a public reading, for a number of reasons, including the closing of the Makers’ Mill space where we had read in 2017.

It was a delightful surprise when CC, who had just recently taken over as our main residency coordinator, asked us if we would like to have a reading. We agreed immediately and she set to work finding a venue for us. On very short notice. Over a holiday weekend.

CC contacted Ashley of the Ashland Street Project, a recently opened artspace that hosted arts activities, as well as community discussion groups. It is meant as a place to bring together long-time residents and the newer residents drawn by MASS MoCA and programs drawing artists of all kinds to the area.

Because time was so short, we weren’t sure if we would have an audience, but we did! Ashley had put out the word to her mailing list and posted on their Facebook page. Poet Kate Carr, who had been our host the previous year at Makers’ Mill was there. We had a couple of other people who had been at out reading last year, saw that we were reading again, and made a point to come join us. We joked that we had “groupies” but we were touched that people came to hear us a second time. There were also a number of new people, drawn by Ashley’s publicity.

The reading went well and our audience appreciated it. I read last, trying out several poems from my collection about the area, including a couple that I had revised since my manuscript review. I was even more nervous than usual, but was pleased that the local folks related to them. In our social time after the reading, I even got some suggestions for other North Adams topics I could turn into poems.

Will a public reading be part of the Boiler House Poets residency every year? We don’t know. Check back next October and see!
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Paris

Today’s Just Jot It January prompt “Paris” caught my eye.

My mind immediately went to this post, written November 14, 2015 in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack there, horrible because it was so devastating and, in retrospect, because it was not the only attack that Paris has suffered.

I remember writing it from my bed in the corner room looking toward MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, where I was staying in an apartment as part of the first ever collaboration between Tupelo Press and the Studios at MASS MoCA, bringing poets together for a week of residency at the expansive Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. I had no idea as I wrote that day that our stalwart band of poets would coalesce into the Boiler House Poets and return to MASS MoCA for residency each fall for the next three years with dates planned for 2019, as well.

In that post, I was writing about the attack’s happening so close to the international climate conference that produced the Paris Accord. Hope and unity triumphed over divisiveness and rancor. I am appalled that DT has announced that the United States will leave the accord in November of 2020 and fervently hope that the decision will be overturned by our next president.

As I said in that November 2015 post:

We are all Paris. All bloodied. All in shock. All in mourning. But also united in strength. United in resolve. United in solidarity.

We must be.

The future of humanity and the planet depend on it.

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Poetry from MASS MoCA

When the Boiler House Poets get together for our reunion residencies, we have a group project that we work on together, often spearheaded by Marilyn McCabe, whose skill-set includes videopoems and more computer skills than most of us can ever aspire to.

Last fall when we met for our week together at MASS MoCA, Marilyn asked each of us to write a short poem about a work of art that was currently at the museum. She then recorded each of us reading her work and melded it with images of the artwork.

Here is the result. Enjoy! (And because I know someone will ask, my poem is “Redacted” based on a haunting large-scale work by Jenny Holzer.)

Bright Eyes: Eight Poets at MASSMoCA from Mar McCabe on Vimeo.
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October at MASS MoCA

For the last several years, it has been my privilege to be in residence with the Boiler House Poets at MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) in North Adams, Massachusetts. I grew up in the area and I am always happy to be back in a familiar and beautiful place with engaging and talented poet-friends. I usually blog daily while I am there, but, for a number of reasons, I was unable to this year, so I thought I’d do some catch-up posts about it.

While we met as the first group of poets in residence through a collaboration with Tupelo Press and the Studios at MASS MoCA, we are now a self-directed group and, for our week together in October, we decided to do manuscript reviews. I am relatively new to giving feedback on chapbooks/poetry collections and to putting my own manuscripts together, so I appreciated the opportunity. It involved a lot of preparation before the residency as we shared manuscripts, read, and prepared comments. I was very busy with sandwich-generation caregiving and was concerned I wouldn’t be able to prepare, but I managed to get sick, the silver lining being that I needed to rest and stay away from people for their protection, so I holed up in my room and did manuscript work.

I was so impressed by the work I was reading and learned a lot from the discussions about each manuscript. Mine was the last manuscript to be workshopped and I was super nervous. It was a new version of my manuscript that deals with generations of family, our relationship to the North Adams area, and the massive changes that have taken place there over time as it moved from being home to mills, then to electronics, and eventually to the largest modern art museum in the country. The discussion was very helpful and led to the realization that I need to re-focus the collection again.

I have a lot of work to do on it, but I haven’t gotten to do much with it yet. The week I was in North Adams was the one in which hospice decided to decertify Nana. Things became even busier than they had been and I still haven’t been able to find time/brain to go over all the comments, digest them, and start revisions. I did get to do a bit of work before I left North Adams and I am pondering somewhere in the back of my brain here and there, so I hope that I will be able to make progress when I can get back to work.

Will 2019 be the year that I finally manage to get the manuscript ready to send out?

Fingers crossed…
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“From the Boiler House” in Leaping Clear magazine

I’m pleased to share the link to “From the Boiler House” in Leaping Clear magazine. This videopoem was a collaboration of the Boiler House Poets during our residency at MASS MoCA in October 2016, edited and produced by one of our fantastically talented members Marilyn McCabe. You can hear the voices of the eight poets, each reading her own lines of the poem, with Marilyn’s videography and additional sound from Stephen Vitiello’s installation “All Those Vanished Engines.”

All the poets are happy that our work has found a home at Leaping Clear. Enjoy!

Boiler House video/soundscape

From my birthday post at MASS MoCA in October:

I did a walking meditation in the John Cage/Merce Cunningham Bridge with its current sound installation, In Harmonicity, the Tonal Walkway, by Julianne Swartz. For the second time this week, the art has brought me back to my first semester of music theory at Smith, as the installation is a form of musique concrète. The 13:40 minute loop is composed entirely of recorded human voices. This work inspired Marilyn McCabe, the Boiler House poet who conceived and produced our collaborative videopoem last year, to envision a sound project this year. We each recorded a short segment based on a single word for her today. Stay tuned for the final product when it is available.

And now, introducing the completed video/soundscape!

Boiler House Voices: Truck Shadow Muscular Tunnel Window Hoosic Resurrection Flow from Mar McCabe on Vimeo.

Marilyn asked each of us to choose a single word that represented our reunion week. I chose the word “flow.” We each recorded our chosen word for Marilyn in several ways, including saying the word slowly, three times in quick succession, and sung. Marilyn then spent many hours with her computer, cutting up words, overlaying them, mixing sounds, and constructing the soundscape. I can’t pretend to know how she did it, but some of the techniques would have been similar to those used in the Julianne Swartz piece that inspired the endeavor.

Then, Marilyn assembled the video element. Most of the photos are from the Boiler House. I especially love the parts of the video that involve layering of the images, such as the dancing silhouette and the photo of the eight of us taken this year looking out from where some of the Boiler House windows used to be.

I love Marilyn’s creativity and inventiveness, which is always expanding my sense of what is possible. You should all do yourselves a favor and click on the links above the video to see more of Marilyn’s work with videopoems. You can also visit and follow Marilyn here on WordPress at O Write: Marilynonaroll’s blog.

Comments are welcome here or at the Vimeo link.

Shadow, shadow, shadow. Window.   Flow.

Good-bye, MoCA

I want to assure everyone that I did not get lost on my way home from North Adams. I did, however, arrive home later than expected Thursday and, unfortunately, yesterday involved a couple of family members being under the weather, so I didn’t get to post. I’m happy to report that people are feeling better today, so I will try to sneak this post in.

After the excitement of the reading and our discussion afterward, I wasn’t ready to sleep, so I stayed up late writing this blog post. When I did finally get to sleep, I didn’t stay that way, waking to write a concept/poem for my collection and the beginning of an unrelated poem. These may or may not turn out to be useful. Some middle-of-the-night ideas work; others, not so much.

We all spent a good chunk of Thursday morning packing and moving out of our apartments. We met back at our studios, where we were allowed to stay into the afternoon, and enjoyed our last lunch together in the cafe.

Then, the good-byes started, as three of our members needed to head for home.

Fortunately, five of us were able to stay until mid-afternoon, so we decided to do one last workshop session. The others graciously offered to review the beginning of my collection with me. They gave me lots of great feedback, some specific and some general, that I will use as I continue to work on the manuscript, which may also be changing its title.

One of the necessary skills that I am still developing is the ability to balance the diverse comments from other poets with my own sense of my work.  I am much, much better with it than I was when I first started, but looking at issues specific to manuscripts as opposed to each poem in isolation adds another layer to the enterprise.

At the moment, I am thinking about developing a new order for the poems after the Boiler House Poets finish weighing in before sending it out to some of my other poet friends for further comment.

Of course, there is also the issue of finding time and brain power to devote to revision back in the face of day-to-day life, which is… let’s just say, complicated. Still, I want very much to have the manuscript ready to submit to presses and/or contests before the Boiler House Poets next reunion, which we hope will be in early fall of 2018.

Can I do it?

Time will tell.