Another (poetic) step

I just got back from my first ever poetry critique workshop session. And I survived!

The Binghamton Poetry Project summer session leader was kind enough to make inquiries for me about an ongoing poetry workshop with some more established local poets, so that I could get some more directed feedback than our community workshop can provide, in hope that I could accelerate my growth as a poet.

I admit that I was really nervous about showing up tonight, but the other poets were very accepting.  I really wasn’t sure whether or not I would read a poem tonight or just listen and get an idea of how the group worked, but everyone was so encouraging that I did pull out copies of the poem that has recently been accepted for publication to share.  I was grateful that the feedback was mostly positive, although I have a few revisions to consider. Many poets say that poems are never really finished and it is common for poems to be published in several different iterations over the course of years.

So, now, I will have a regular group to attend every two weeks for feedback on my poems and to learn from all the other poets as they present their works in progress and respond to comments.

I feel like a poet….

poem for K & in memory of M

I am reblogging this today because I just got news that it will be included in an anthology in Great Britain, which will be raising funds for cancer research. This will mark the first time that my poetry will be in print outside of my local area, which is a huge milestone for me. I am also pleased to be able to take part in such a worthy charitable cause.

Top of JC's Mind

For K and M

The last time I saw you -
     layers of winter clothing
     not quite obscuring
     a bloated belly
     on your thin frame -
you felt full
eating a single egg.

I tried not to panic -
     remembering the last friend
     with a similar story
     that became a stage three
     ovarian cancer patient -
soon enough to win a couple of battles
but not the war.

You had new doctors
with your new ACA insurance -
     some blood tests done
     office visits coming
     maybe some digestive problem?
     gall bladder? -
diagnosis pending.

Yesterday, the news -
     abdominal tumor
     entwined with multiple organs
     origin uncertain -
oncologist acquired.

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There is too much death and sadness today. The Malaysian airliner shot down in Ukraine. The collapse of the ceasefire in Gaza and the rockets and groundforce invasion following.  Even my writing activities have been difficult. Submitting this poem for possible inclusion in an anthology whose purpose is to raise money for cancer research. A writing prompt in poetry workshop set in a pediatric hospital unit and the sad poems that poets wrote and shared in response.

I am too numb to have any insight to share. All I can do is pray for those who have died or been injured and their families and pray for healing and for peace.

Early Morning Poem

Awake before dawn this morning, this fleeting occurrence immediately began to form a poem in my mind. I captured it before it could fade as a gift to you.

~~~by Joanne Corey

this morning
rubbing sleep from
my eyes
points of light
arranged in
constellations of
tropical flowers

pure gift of


Binghamton Poetry Project

In this post , I wrote about participating in The Binghamton Poetry Project and my first ever slam(ish) poem. This evening, we will have our poetry reading for all the different workshops, children, teens, and two adult groups, and the distribution of our anthology. Yay, publishing credit!

I have three poems in the anthology, but we will only read two poems apiece. I will first read “Moonlight,” because it is the poem that bought me to the Project in the first place.  Last April for National Poetry Month, our local public radio station WSKG had an edition of Bill Jaker’s book-themed show “Off the Page” devoted to local poets, one of whom was Nicole Santalucia, founder of The Binghamton Poetry Project. Nicole is a native of this area and had returned here to pursue a PhD at Binghamton University. She read some of her own poems and talked about starting The Binghamton Poetry Project to give a space for people in the community to learn about and create poetry. Bill Jaker had previously invited listeners to send in their own poems and I had submitted “Moonlight,” which he chose to read on air. I was so excited to hear my poem on the radio, although it was a bit surreal to hear another voice, and a male one at that, read a poem I had written. I decided to look up more info on The Binghamton Poetry Project and join in when I could, which turned out to be this semester’s session in March/April.

I will also read “Constancy,” which I wrote during the workshop, when we were writing from prompts about family relationships, including “Married” by Jack Gilbert. I usually work poems out in my head over the course of hours/days/weeks before writing them down, so writing a poem in twenty minutes from given prompts was a challenge for me. You have to decide on an idea very quickly. I wrote the first draft of “constancy” in the workshop but was too choked up to even consider reading it that evening. I did a bit of work on it over the next week and decided that I should share it with the workshop at the time reserved for that at the beginning of the next meeting. I practiced reading it aloud to myself and then to my other daughter who is at home to make sure I could get through it without breaking down. It was the first poem I read to the group and is the “prior week’s poem” that I refer to in the linked post.

“fingernail” was written in April 2012 and previously appeared in the fall 2012 newsletter of the Samaritan Counseling Center. Given that all three are now considered previously published because of the anthology, I can post them on my blog without having to worry about breaking any publishing precedence rules. So, here are my three poems from the Spring 2014 edition of the journal of The Binghamton Poetry Project.


by Joanne Corey

In the narrow valley of youth,
the moon was distant,
as though at perpetual apogee.
Cocooned in darkness,
I slept soundly.

In the broad valley of adulthood,
the moon is close,
casting sharp shadows.
Bathed in eerie light,
I lie awake.


by Joanne Corey

the nail splits
not breaking entirely
but calling attention to itself
every time a sock needs to be pulled up
or a shirt pulled on
or hands need to be dried
after some chore or other

emery boards
only smooth the rough edge

bandages only protect
from tearing further into the quick

the split is still there

a dead nail can’t heal

only growth
makes it possible
to get beyond the split
and restore wholeness


by Joanne Corey

You were eleven,
the child that’s born
on the Sabbath Day,
“Bonny and blithe
And bright and gay.”

Blond and blue-eyed,
Smart and vivacious,
Quick-witted and talented,
With a beautiful soprano voice.

Who knew then that you were always in pain?

No one, not even you,
Who thought this was what
Growing up felt like.

There were the unexplained illnesses,
Mysterious fevers,
The eight month migraine,
But you were twenty-one
Before we finally knew its name.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Always in pain.
Always exhausted.

Even when you were singing
Or smiling
Or reading
Or talking around the dinner table.

But I am your mother.
How could I not have known?
It’s the only pain I have
That is a constant.






60th Anniversary

Today is my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. The whole family feels blessed that they have achieved such a rare milestone. Most couples are not blessed with such longevity combined with mutual love and regard for one another. It’s not that there haven’t been challenges over the years, including health issues, especially with my father, who has survived three separate types of cancer and a double bypass, while dodging a strong family history of Alzheimer’s. But they always persevere and get back to their routine with each other, taking walks, going to exercise class, running errands, lots of conversation and a healthy dose of laughter.

They are not, however, big party people, so their anniversary celebration has been a family affair. Because they retired near us twenty-five years ago, we see them often, but my sisters live further afield, so the celebration has had several parts. It started last month with a visit and special dinner with my older sister and her husband, who travelled up from Maryland. The main part of the celebration began yesterday with the arrival of my younger sister and her family from NYC and featured a lot of gaiety as they presented my parents with a part pre-recorded, part live presentation of sixty things for their sixtieth anniversary, culminating in the cutting of celebratory wedding cupcakes with Italian soda toast in (plastic) champagne flutes. For the big day today, we had a lunch out at one our favorite local places and tonight my parents will have a table for two at their favorite local Italian restaurant.

Their marriage and their love for one another is an inspiration. I wrote this poem for the occasion and they gave me their permission to share it on my blog.

For Mom and Dad – On Their 60th Wedding Anniversary

April 19, 1954
Easter Monday
Patriots’ Day and
Your wedding
Elinor married Leo
“One of those Americans”
(Translation: Irish-American,
not Italian-American)
But that didn’t matter
There was plenty of love to share

By December of ’62
Three daughters and
Friends and neighbors and
As years went by
Daughters’ friends
(including a dance company
or two)
Still plenty of love to share

The family grew
Adding heritage from
more parts of Europe
Constructing our version
of the United Nations
With plenty of love to share

In retirement
in JC
at Castle Gardens
at GSV
Still encompassing
Others in your circle of love
Sixty years
With plenty of love to share



A Poem for the Marcellus

I had to share this link:, 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.

Slam(ish) Poem

My new and exciting experience this month is attending my first ever workshop with the Binghamton Poetry Project., which is a weekly, five-week community poetry working/learning hour with (mostly grad) students from Binghamton University facilitating. Our facilitators present a topic, which includes a couple of example poems, and then we write and some volunteer to read what they have just written from prompts based on the poems.

This was week three, and I finally got brave enough to read my prior week’s poem at the beginning of class. In fact, I got so brave that I also performed the poem I wrote during class. I say performed rather than read because we had an introduction to slam poetry and our prompts were to try out the style, which isn’t meant to be read from the page but experienced in performance. I was (perhaps inordinately but quietly) proud of myself for attempting this, given that I am not current/hip/adventurous enough to have ever been exposed to the style, and more so because I was the only class member that actually was brave/foolhardy enough to attempt it, rather than writing something else that was in their head that had nothing to do with the prompts.

So, here I am breaking the rules, presenting my first – and perhaps only – attempt at slam poetry in written form, rather than as a performance video, because a) I am not technically able to produce and post a video, b) I am not skilled enough as a performer for it to really make a difference, and c) it’s easier to potentially embarrass myself once in a room of about twenty people than to post it to the internet where I could be embarrassed permanently.

Yes, I am a feminist.
No, I do not hate men.
Yes, I went to Smith, but
No, that does not automatically make me a lesbian,
– although what difference would it make if I was?
Yes, I am Catholic, but
No, I don’t just do what the bishop says.
Yes to primacy of conscience.
No to denying my own God-given talents.
Yes, my worth is not tied to money ‘cuz
No, I’m not paid for the work I do.
Yes, I’m a poet.
No, I’ve never sold a poem.
Yes, I make a difference.
No, you can’t make me feel worthless.
Yes, I have silver hair.
No, I do not qualify for your senior discount.
Yes, I am blessed – or lucky –
if you don’t believe in blessings.
No, I won’t stand for being abused
or letting others be.
Yes, I’ve got my troubles, too.
No, I can’t let them define me.
Yes to knowing who I am.
No to being stuffed into your stereotype.

poem for K and in memory of M

For K and M

The last time I saw you -
     layers of winter clothing
     not quite obscuring
     a bloated belly
     on your thin frame -
you felt full
eating a single egg.

I tried not to panic -
     remembering the last friend
     with a similar story
     that became a stage three
     ovarian cancer patient -
soon enough to win a couple of battles
but not the war.

You had new doctors
with your new ACA insurance -
     some blood tests done
     office visits coming
     maybe some digestive problem?
     gall bladder? -
diagnosis pending.

Yesterday, the news -
     abdominal tumor
     entwined with multiple organs
     origin uncertain -
oncologist acquired.