SoCS: Reunion!

There is an exciting event in store! Well, next year.

We got news yesterday that we Boiler House Poets have a date for a reunion residency at Mass MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art).

We met at the inaugural collaboration between the Museum’s new Studios at Mass MoCA program and Tupelo Press, both located in North Adams, MA. You can read my incessant posts about it, which start on Nov. 13.

Our group bonded so well that we wanted to get back together – and now we know we will!

There will be more writing, more art, more workshopping, more food, more conversations, and lots and lots more poems in store! And, I hope, another video. Our first video is here and explains our name.
This short and sweet post is part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays. This week’s prompt is “store.” Join us! Find out how here:

SoCS badge 2015


The Boiler House Reading, Tupelo Press/MASSMoCA Residency, November 2015 on Vimeo

Another chance to share the awesome video the Boiler House Poets made at Mass MoCA during our residency there with Tupelo Press in North Adams MA. Re-blogging this from fellow Boiler House Poet Donna Fleischer’s blog. Hop on over there and enjoy!

word pond

The Boiler House at MASS MoCA poetry reading on November 18, 2015 was given by Tupelo Press Writing Conference poets in the order of their readings: Kyle Laws, Donna Fleischer, Gail Dimaggio, James Sneed, Kay Morgan, Victoria G. Smith, Marilyn McCabe, Ann Dernier, and Joanne Corey, with James Schley, Managing Editor, Tupelo Press books.

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Yay! Top of JC’s Mind just hit 600 followers! Thanks to everyone who visits, likes, and/or follows, especially to poets and others who have been following along with my Mass MoCA poetry residency/Tupelo Press workshop posts. (Shameless plug.)

The posts are here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here, with a Binghamton Poetry Project anthology post with three new poems from this last session here.

Feel free to start at the beginning and read through or go non-linear and start anywhere. We poets love that!  😉

Mass MoCA Poetry Residency: video

This morning, we resident poets all had to pack up and say good-bye to each other, Mass MoCA and Tupelo. We shared breakfast and as much conversation as we could cram into our last hours together.

We are going to miss each other, but we did have some important consolations, with promises to stay in touch, visit each other, and to attempt a reunion at some future date to be determined.

Best of all, the video of our Boiler House poetry reading has been uploaded to vimeo: . Enjoy!

This experience has been so instructive and moving for me, I know it will bear fruit for years to come. I have a lot of work ahead and hopes that I can refine my work to merit publication. I have a lot more tools in my kit now and send out my sincere thanks to Tupelo, Jeffrey, Mass MoCA, and the Boiler House poets.

Mass MoCa Poetry Residency: Thursday

Today is our last full day here, which is too bad as I’m finally feeling as though I am getting the hang of this.

I wrote a lot of new work today in the museum. I was a bit frantic about it, as I knew the residency will end before the museum opens tomorrow.

I wrote in the Liz Deschenes, Clifford Ross, Jim Shaw, Boiler House, Harmonic Bridge, Francesco Clemente, and Octagon Room exhibits. The Clemente Encampment was one of the more extensive drafts, as there were six tents to write about. I also wrote a 19 line draft about the “No Mud, No Lotus” series, with just a few words for each of the nineteen works in the series. I wrote page after page in my journal for a list poem based on Mark Dion’s The Octagon Room. I had seen it on a prior trip to Mass MoCA and was surprised to still see it there, as most of their collection is not permanent. Editing will be required or the poem will take up an entire chapbook on its own. Carol Ann would be proud of me, though, as she was urging me to write without mulling. There was definitely no time to mull today!

I was at the museum most of the time from 11-5, although I did take a break for a bit of lunch and for our final gathering with Jeffrey at the studio. As we are the inaugural group of poets for this program, we batted about ideas for future iterations of this residency/workshop, based on our experiences this time. The plan is to offer it four times a year, so stay tuned.

After the museum closed, I went back to the studio to re-organize and work on some logistics. We were gathering at the Tupelo loft for a closing dinner, which was pushed back until 8:00 so that people could attend a 7:00 reading at Gallery 51 on Main Street. A few of us, including me, felt too tired to concentrate on the reading, so we went to the loft early. I picked out some more books, which other people can give me for Christmas presents!

The dinner was fantastic! (I won’t go through the menu because it might make you hungry.) After dinner, we did a final reading for each other in a round robin, which included our hosts, Jeffrey and Cassandra. I read “Lessons from Mahler” and “(Not) the aunt I remember” . I was happy that they were well-received. Even though I am not as intimidated as I was at first, I am no less aware that I am just starting out in this endeavor, while I was sitting in a circle with poets with many journal publications, chapbooks, and collections, as well as a goodly number of prizes/nominations. Maybe someday…

We avoided saying good-bye tonight, assuming we are all going to see each other in the morning. It won’t be easy.

Mass MoCA poetry residency: Monday

Monday is Volta* Day.

This morning was incredibly difficult. I am experiencing a flare of one of my health issues and had had great difficulty sleeping. We went to the Tupelo loft for breakfast together and I was too out of it to do much conversing. I did start drafting a poem about how I might need to start using caffeine, or maybe alcohol…

I chose, however, to pull out every support med in my arsenal to take with breakfast. I don’t usually resort to meds right away, to minimize side effects, but I didn’t have time to let things play out on their own. I’m pleased to report, it worked and I was actually feeling almost decent by the time the session with Jeffrey started this afternoon.

We started with the assignment Jeffrey had given us yesterday. He had promised the results would be amazing, and they were! It was the first time I actually felt that I could keep up with expectations. As part of the exercise, I read my “good luck” poem “Moonlight”; I was thrilled when Jeffrey said that he wanted to write one of the lines down so he could “steal” it. I thought that if I could write one line that he liked enough to appropriate, I really was going to be okay.

Next, we had another workshopping session. I actually jumped in when I wanted to be next to share my poem because I was so excited by a poem from the only other poet in the group to have grown up in this area, that I wanted to piggyback on his work and continue the local conversation. I got great feedback on how to strengthen my poem, although the actual work will probably have to wait until I am back home.

After a break, during which I enjoyed some fantastic pumpkin ice cream and some time alone with the Sol Lewitt exhibit at Mass MoCA, we re-convened at Tupelo loft to hear Jeffrey talk about publishing, which was elucidating.

There was one bit of bad news today. Our public reading has been cancelled due to scheduling conflicts. I had been looking forward to inviting a few of the people I still know locally to hear me read, but now I won’t be able to. Two of our poets suggested that instead we convene after supper and have two or three of us read for as many of the nine of us as can make it. We enjoyed the first session of that tonight and it was just the right way to end our Monday.

It’s hard to believe we are already halfway through.

* a volta is a turning point in a poem

Binghamton Poetry Project – Spring 2015

Tonight is the public reading and anthology distribution for the spring 2015 workshops of the Binghamton Poetry Project (BPP).  This is the fourth time that I have participated in this community endeavor which brings together child, teen, and adult poets for five weekly sessions learning about and writing poetry, facilitated by graduate students from Binghamton University.

The three poems below are my contribution to the anthology. (I read the first two.)

From a prompt about writing about interactions with a parent, I wrote this poem which became a gift to my dad for his 90th birthday:

Hydro Superintendent
– by Joanne Corey

Each weekday, Dad went to his office
on the top floor of the hydroelectric station,
wearing a clip-on tie –
a precaution due to machinery –
with a Reddy Kilowatt pin.

When he was on weekend call,
my sisters and I sat on the wheel wells
in the back of the company jeep –
wearing our hard hats –
jouncing along unpaved roads
to inspect dams, pipelines, reservoirs,
unmanned Deerfield hydro stations.

His work became ours,
generating power.

From a prompt about a place that we had visited, I wrote this poem about singing in Siracusa, Sicily with the Smith College Alumnae Chorus:

Divinity Listens in Siracusa
– by Joanne Corey

Clad in black,
I stand with the sopranos
behind the orchestra,
Requiem score in hand.
As Mozart echoes,
I know this sacred space –
erected as temple to Athena,
over centuries becoming
temple to Roman Minerva,
Christian church,
returning to its current identity
as a Catholic cathedral –
is the most ancient place
in which I will ever sing.

The last is my first ever attempt at prose poetry, heavily edited and expanded with advice from our instructor Cammy and my poetry critique group:

First poems
 – by Joanne Corey

I wrote my first poems in a black-and-white marble-covered composition notebook in the fifth through eighth grade room in my elementary school. I wrote about the brook which flowed through the four seasons – the autumn hillside through our upstairs classroom windows as a pirate hat spilling gold doubloons – Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito skating to the Stanley Cup for the Bruins – a song to forgotten children who lacked family and home – the death of my grandfather and playing the organ for his Month’s Mind Mass at Saint Joachim’s – my first free verse poems, after Miss Andersen taught us that poems didn’t have to rhyme like Mother Goose and “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” (which we knew by heart for Patriots’ Day recitation) – and on the very first page, in Palmer Method cursive, my hometown tribute to Monroe Bridge, with the closing lines, “There’s only one in the whole USA. That place knows me.”

I wish I still had that notebook to bridge the poemless decades that followed, to rediscover the girl who sluiced inky torrents between faint blue lines on crisp white pages, to remember when a town was a world, to again feel fully known, to recover the voice that went silent when severed from that place.
Reading for the Binghamton Poetry Project
Reading at the Binghamton Poetry Project

My poems that have appeared in the two prior anthologies can be found here and here. Our summer sessions are more low-key and don’t publish, so while this is my fourth set of session with BPP, it is only the third anthology.  Another fun BPP-related post is my first and so far only attempt at slam poetry.  I leave it to the readers to decide if my poetic skills are improving with time, experience, BPP, and the example and generous assistance of my fellow poets.

Binghamton Poetry Project – Fall 2014

The Binghamton Poetry Project, which is a community outreach workshop series by the writing center at Binghamton University, sponsored a reading this evening for all the participants in the fall session. We also published an anthology of our work. Below are my three poems from the anthology, the first two of which are planned as my reading.

Brittle versus Rigid
by Joanne Corey

Too many years of Fosamax
make osteoporotic bone more brittle.

When the first vertebra shatters,
lifelong habits must change
to protect the fragile skeleton.

But you refuse to use a walker for support,
to bend at the knees instead of the waist,
to store the potholders in the drawer next to the stove
instead of in a basket on top of the refrigerator.

Will your brittle bone
or your rigid resistance to change
deal the next – or final – blow?


by Joanne Corey

Could I write a sonnet?
Iambic pentameter.
and so on…

Or quatrains with feet
trochaic and pyrrhic,
dactylic, spondaic,
and anapestic?

Rhymed couplets? I could,
But would they be good?


My words tumble and twist
and refuse to rhyme
or neatly align.

Like Life.


Aunt Gert’s Indian Pudding
by Joanne Corey

Hand-written from the recipe box
with a molasses stain
in the right corner

Promised to my daughter
who will travel five-thousand miles
to be with us this Thanksgiving

Generations of family tradition
steaming and fragrant
with a melting scoop of vanilla ice cream

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.






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