the pleasures and dangers of poetry readings

One of the opportunities that has arisen during the pandemic is the easy availability of poetry readings, as many institutions have re-imagined their live readings as online events.

I admit that I wasn’t in the habit of going to a lot of readings in-person before the pandemic. They are usually in the evenings and I try to keep as much evening time reserved for family as possible, so it was difficult for me to commit to the transport time plus the reading time. That is less of a factor now that I can attend and still be at home, in case something comes up that needs my immediate attention.

I’ve had the opportunity to attend a virtual book launch for fellow Boiler House Poets Collective member Erica Bodwell’s Crown of Wild. I heard one of my Smith College poetry godmothers Anne Harding Woodworth read from her new book Trouble, as well as her previous books. I’ve tuned into readings sponsored by the Smith College Boutelle-Day Poetry Center and the Binghamton University Center for Writers. I have even participated in an online reading with the Binghamton Poetry Project.

It’s been wonderful to hear poets reading their work and I’ve also appreciated the opportunity to hear poets speak about their lives and work in interviews or question and answer sessions.

I admit, though, that these discussions, particularly when they take place in academic settings, can shake my sense of myself as a poet.

I consider myself to be a community poet, meaning that my work is informed by my experiences much more so than by my academic background. While I have been blessed with learning about craft through the Binghamton Poetry Project, the Broome County Arts Council, Sappho’s Circle, and my poet-friends of the Grapevine Group and Boiler House Poets Collective, the last time that poetry was a significant part of my academic work was in grammar school, many decades ago. I’ve also learned a lot by reading different poets.

In comments in their readings, poets that I admire talk about the wonders of writing in forms like sonnets or villanelles and how this focuses their writing.

I’ve tried variously to write in form. I’ve never managed to write a traditional sonnet or villanelle that was worth making it out of my notebook.

The thought of trying to write a decent sestina is enough to make me break out in hives.

I do a bit better with forms that have made their way into English from Japan. I have written some successful haiku, tanka, and haibun. I am especially fond of tanka and have included several in my chapbook manuscript, which is still in circulation with publishers and amassing an impressive list of rejections. (Note to self: send more submissions.)

When I am feeling shaken about not having formal training, an English major, or an MFA with all their attendant skills and expertise, I try to remember the times that my poet-friends have reassured me that, although my poetry is different, it is still worthwhile – and that I am indeed a poet.

Now if I can just find those presses and publishers that agree…

Progress

Yesterday, Nana had her evaluation at Columbia’s Structural Heart & Valve Center.

We had arrived in NYC the day before, expecting a three to four hour evaluation beginning at 9:00 AM. What happened was a marathon of testing and consultation that stretched from our arrival at 7:15 AM to 6:00 PM when we finally finished.

All the effort to go to New York City was definitely worth it. The advanced testing they were able to do determined that only the aortic valve needs to be replaced at this time, which can be done using a heart catheter technique, called Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR). They were able to schedule the procedure for mid-October.

We were so impressed with all the medical professional and support staff. They were caring and compassionate, as well as being knowledgeable and experienced. Because we came from a distance, they did not only the diagnostic testing they needed to do but also the pre-admission testing so that there will only have to be two trips down to New York.

Tomorrow, I leave for a long-planned reunion residency of the Boiler House Poets at MASS MoCA. I feel much better going knowing that we have a positive plan in place for my mom. As I did for the original residency last November, I hope to blog every day from North Adams, so stay tuned.

 


	

sorry numbers

I have mentioned before that I have a Fitbit to track my steps. My daily goal is only 5,000 steps. I usually make it, and often exceed it, but I have a cold and the last few days have been a lost cause. On Saturday, I didn’t even make 1,000 steps.

The more unfortunate thing is that my brain is not operating at full capacity, either. Today, we have a publication party at Sappho’s Circle. This afternoon, we are going to eat munchies and work on online submissions of our poems. I need attention to detail and a certain level of discernment to do this properly, but I’m not sure I have it. It will be a help to have Heather and the rest of the circle there to help me match poems to journals.

Wish me luck…

SoCS: Poet

I am a poet. I claim the title, even though it isn’t the way I make a living or something for which I have academic credentials.  (Realistically, very few poets make a living at poetry.)

I read an essay a couple of years ago by a young, credentialed poet, who was published and had been an editor, but who still felt he shouldn’t be called a poet because he wasn’t suffering for his art in a garret somewhere.

I, however, don’t make it that complicated for myself.

I considered myself a poet before I was even published because it was what I felt I am, in the same way that I am a daughter, a spouse, a mother, a woman, a musician.

It’s what I am, not what I do.

Maybe it is easier for me because I don’t do paid work, so I don’t have a ready-made answer when someone asks what I do, by which they nearly always mean “what is your job?”

I can claim to be a poet, because it is a mode of expression that is important to me and that I have been working on developing.

I am also a late-developing poet, given that I have only started writing seriously in my fifties. In the last two years, I have been working on improving my poems through participating with the Binghamton Poetry Project (a community workshop run by grad students at Binghamton University), a group of local poets who meet regularly to critique each other’s work, and a new women’s group called Sappho’s Circle.

I am about to take another big step as a poet – attending a residency/workshop. I have been angsting/mulling this over the last couple of days, which you can read about here and here.

So, I think this weekend I am going to register.

It’s one of those things that we poets do.

Because of who we are.
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This post of part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays. The prompt this week is “four-letter word.”  Join us! Find out how here:  http://lindaghill.com/2015/08/28/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-2915/

SoCS badge 2015

No(vember)

It’s November and my reader and notifications is filling up with posts about participating in 30-day blog posting or novel-writing challenges. (Yes, I know that there are acronyms with lots of syllables and mixed cases invovled, but I’m not in the mood to type them in properly.)

I’m wishing luck to all those participating. Have fun! Write! I’ll try to follow along with as many of you as I can manage.

But I’m not joining in.

Blog posting every day would not be that difficult as an exercise for me. I just don’t want to commit to it in a month where I know I will be continuing to deal with the changing day-to-day demands of dealing with my mother-in-law’s health issues stemming from osteoporosis. (Could I put a few more prepositional phrases in that sentence?) On a happier note, we will also get to have our younger daughter home for Thanksgiving week from her grad school, mostly coinciding with a week’s visit from our older daughter and her spouse from Hawai’i. It will be their first time back since Christmas almost three years ago, when L. proposed. I may be overflowing with news and decide to post when they are here or I may be too busy with visiting and multiple big family dinners. Also this month will be a poetry anthology submission deadline for Binghamton Poetry Project plus a public reading and a Bach and Haydn University Chorus concert with attendant extra rehearsals.

I actually do have an idea for a novel which has been in my head for over five years. I even started it once. But I have made a more recent commitment to pursue poetry. To a poet, fifty thousand words is not one book, but a wall full of books.

Come to think of it, it’s actually somewhat odd that I, who have trouble saying anything briefly in prose, have felt drawn to poetry that concentrates thought into as few words as possible. While there are great epic poets and, more recently, prose poets who use lots and lots of words in their work, I’m not drawn to either of those forms. (You can thank me later.)

So, all you bloggers and novelists – and poets, enjoy your November, whether or not you have chosen to write/post daily. You have a lot of company, either way.

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.

 

Moonlight
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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

fingernail
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

scissors
files
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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Constancy
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.

Fibromyalgia/
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.

 

 

 

 

 

Flying

The TSA screener at BGM was very efficient and very personable, which was nice at 5AM. I don’t fly often and enjoy sitting in window seats so I can look out. I was supposed to be in the back corner, but an older gentleman was in my seat and asked if he could stay. I guessed he wanted to sleep, so I let him stay there. I was still able to see out a bit as we moved from the (nearly) full moon and starlight to the horizon starting to show orange and pink as we continued. It was a chilly morning with lots of valley fog. I forget that fog has ridges and bumps when you see it from above.

I have my journal with me, so thought I’d share a poem with an aviation theme. I wrote this on November 2, 2012, as we began our journey to Hawai’i to attend our daughter’s wedding.

Landing Gear

Nestled beneath the Dash 8’s wing
Watching the spokes disappear
in the blur of acceleration
The arm extends
Allowing one last moment of contact
Then gracefully folds and retreats

I am airborne.