MoCA Sunday

Sorry for the pun-ny title. It’s late and I couldn’t resist.

The day started early. I woke up with a poem that I had been mulling forming in my head, so I grabbed my laptop and started writing. Although most of my poems are short, this one is significantly longer. I worked for a couple of hours, slept a bit more, woke again, and finished the draft, all before 7:00.

I went to the studio and finished my first attempt at ordering the poems for my collection before heading to 8:30 Mass at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church, directly across from MASS MoCA. It used to be called St. Anthony’s and was my Nana Giacapuzzi’s church, a fact which appears in one of the poems in my collection.

After church, I went back to the studio, intending to visit the newly opened Building 6 when it opened, but I had forgotten that the museum doesn’t open until 11:00 on Sunday. I looked at the pile of pages that now constituted my manuscript sitting on the corner of my studio table and began the tedious job of copying them into a single google doc. I also needed to do a bit of editing from a prior critique.

I decided that I would wait to visit Building 6 tomorrow, when I will have more time to experience the art and write about the pieces that inspire words.

I’m pleased to say that I got my document assembled before our 12:30 group lunch. I am happy to have a start, but have a ton of work to do, assembling the table of contents; writing an introduction, acknowledgements, and notes; re-arranging, editing, adding, cutting poems; and then figuring out to whom I should submit the manuscript.

We had a lively discussion at lunch, took a brief break, and then re-convened in the studio for workshopping. I got lots of great ideas for revisions of a poem in my collection. (See above paragraph – editing.)

I confess that I cut out a bit early to visit a friend of B and mine from our high school days in North Adams. Bonus: her husband is a retired chef, who made a fantastic pork tenderloin with fruit for dinner. We caught up on each other’s news, took a walk, and talked some more. I showed her lots of photos of Baby ABC, who she has not yet met. Maybe later in the fall.

I returned to our apartments in time for a discussion among the Boiler House Poets of experiences with manuscript reviews, conferences, online courses, and publication. I love to hear about all these possibilities; maybe, some year or other, I will try one or another of them out.

And now, time to publish this post and get some sleep.

And while I don’t have a poem about MoCA Sundays, I do have one about mocha sundaes.

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MoCA Monday

I did sleep some more after writing this middle-of-the-night post, although I wanted to get up early to shower. I know I said that I wasn’t going to revise The Octagon Room until after I got home, but an idea presented itself so I plunged in and did another draft before breakfast.

I met a high school friend downstairs at Brewhaha, where we enjoyed delicious waffles and conversation. It was great to see her, although we didn’t have much time, as she needed to get to work and I needed to get to the studio.

I did a little more revising and printed two poems for workshopping today, just in case we get two sessions in again. My main goal, though, was to get into the Museum, as I had not yet taken the opportunity to do so and wanted to see the new exhibits.

The museum does not open until 11:00, but the grounds are open sooner, so I went back to our beloved Boiler House. I think it may be the first time that I have been there totally alone, which allowed me to fully engage with the soundscape. I climbed the flights of open metalwork stairs all the way to the top. MASS MoCA has added many more solar panels to their buildings. Being on the top of the building gives a new appreciation for the vastness of the museum site and a spectacular view of downtown North Adams. It was poignant to look at their landmark steeples, though, as one is missing. St. Francis was torn down this year; I could see the remnant that is left, waiting to be hauled away. I am planning to write a poem about it as a postscript to one I wrote last year.

At 11:00, I did an hour-long spin through the first floor of the main museum building where the new exhibits were. Unlike most museums, MASS MoCA does not rely on having a large permanent collection. Frequent visits reveal new works, so the experience of visiting is always fresh. I drafted one poem in my notebook, honoring advice from one of the poets who came to speak to us last year. There were several other pieces of which I am in awe, but don’t feel that I can expand on poetically. Maybe later, or maybe never. Still, I am glad to have experienced them.

After lunch, we went on a formal tour of the museum. Unfortunately, the group was large and we weren’t able to visit too many pieces. I did appreciate being able to accompany my poet-friend Jessica into the Sol Lewitt exhibit. She had helped workshop a poem I had written about it, so it was nice that she was able to experience the art in person. The large exhibit hall is currently closed as the next major exhibit, Nick Cave’s Until, is being installed. We were able to see some of the installation going in and hear a bit about it from our guide. I feel that I will have to try to come back to see it after it opens on October 15. I think there may be a poem there, although it may be too overwhelming for me to write about. Fortunately, it will be here for a whole year.

After the tour and a bit of delay due to a sudden downpour, we reconvened at the Studios for workshopping. I decided to present my new version of The Octagon Room, which was well-received. There are more edits to make, including a new title, but I feel that I will be able to improve it enough to include in my manuscript.

Being back here at MASS MoCA makes it seem that completing a collection is possible. The trick will be keeping the momentum going after I return home. There will need to be more writing, more revision, assembling the collection, sending it out to readers for feedback, more revision, editing, cutting, and adding, and, eventually, sending it out to presses for consideration.

Wish me luck…

 

Hitting the ground running

Today, I discovered one of the advantages of a reunion residency: you can immediately settle in and get to work.

This morning, I drafted a new poem about Drury High School and transcribed notes from our inaugural residency on Mark Dion’s The Octagon Room. It may well become the longest poem I have ever written. I finished a first draft which I may offer for critique later in the week, even though I would get teased for using a lot of paper!

The morning was punctuated with some local fun. Jessica and I took a break to shop at the Farmers’ Market where I bought some local goodies. A fun feature was the costumed dogs getting ready for the Dog Parade that was part of the Fall Foliage Festival. We also headed up Main Street to the Fall Foliage craft fair where I picked up a few local craft pieces, including some cards featuring local scenes.

A new feature of the residency for us this year is that a daily meal is provided. We are able to send our lunch orders for the MASS MoCA cafe in advance, so at 12:30 we can all grab the box with our name on it, sit in the cafe, relax, and eat. It was fun to have a chance to chat and listen to the folk tunes that a group of musicians was playing.

After lunch, we returned to the studio to workshop poems. I am in awe of the talent in the room. Our two new poets slipped seamlessly into the group. The discussion was insightful and reached beyond the particular poem at hand into more general craft talk and technique, which I, as a community rather than academically trained poet, find immensely helpful.

We ended just before four o’clock, so I decided to cross the street to attend vigil Mass at St. Elizabeth of Hungary. The building is familiar to me because it was my grandmother’s church, although at that time it was St. Anthony of Padua. The homily began with a story about the first weekend of October in 1987. Father Cyr reminded us that there was a huge freak snowstorm that weekend, which immediately brought to my mind my in-laws, who lived near North Adams in Stamford, Vermont. They had come out to visit us that weekend and wound up staying an extra day because a state of emergency had been declared so that they could not travel home. They were both public school educators, but schools were cancelled due to the heavy, wet snow, which broke many trees because they still had their leaves and could not to take the additional weight. The moral of the story was not to personalize unfortunate experiences. A snowstorm is not about you! Instead, as was seen in the Scripture readings of the day, we are called to have patience, to have faith, to gather spiritual strength, and to act for good. Given the animosity that has been on public display in these last months, I took heart that we can still change and act in a positive way. I needed that reassurance.

We spent the evening in various constellations talking and eating and talking and walking and talking some more. I love how our conversations flow so easily through family, travel, our work, change, poets and poetry. And Ezra Pound, whose name I have heard more today than any other day of my life…

 

 

Thank you to the authors who participated in our poetry and prose series during 2015

I am so glad that to have found Silver Birch Press in 2015! I am so pleased to have been part of five of these series:
All About My Name
My Perfect Vacation
My Sweet Word
When I Hear That Song
Me, During the Holidays

What will 2016 bring? It will be exciting to experience it!

Silver Birch Press

thank you
During 2015, the Silver Birch Press blog featured 10 poetry and prose series. Many thanks to all who participated. All told, our 2015 writing prompts generated 965 poems and stories — the vast majority written specifically for our series. Amazing!

IAM WAITING Poetry Series (Dec. 1, 2014 – Jan. 31, 2015): 137 participants

WHERE I LIVE Poetry & Photography Series(Feb. 1 – March 31, 2015): 132 participants

ME, AS A CHILD Poetry Series (April 1 – May 31, 2015): 175 participants

ALL ABOUT MY NAME Poetry Series (June 1 – July 18, 2015): 160 participants

MY PERFECT VACATION Poetry & Prose Series (July 19 – Aug. 21, 2015): 71 participants

MY METAMORPHOSIS Poetry & Prose Series (Aug. 22 – Sept. 15, 2015): 52 participants

MY SWEET WORD Poetry & Prose Series(Sept. 16 – Oct. 31, 2015): 98 participants

WHEN I HEAR THAT SONG Poetry & Prose Series

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600!

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: Wednesday

I started the day early with a shower and bonus blog post before heading out into the frosty morning with my wet hair, camera, and paraphernalia. I took some shots of steeples and St. Francis church on my way to breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts. As I ate and warmed my hands with a cup of mint cocoa, I called B to check in and fill him in on the happenings here in North Adams. After thawing my hands, I went out to take more photos, heading over to Sperry Ave. where my grandparents had lived and taking some photos of the Hoosic. Next, I crossed back over to St. Francis and what was Drury High School before becoming Silvio O. Conte Middle School and is now becoming Colgrove Elementary School. Then, I went to my studio at Mass MoCA and drafted two new poems, one on the Hoosic River and one on mocha sundaes. Before any one else arrived I also had time to call my mom who helped me recall some details about Apothecary Hall on Main St.

We assembled at the studios later in the morning to welcome Tupelo Press managing editor Jim Schley. First, we did a round of workshopping with a view to what we noticed about each poem. I had particular fun with the poem I offered today, which I added to recently after letting the poem rest for a year. A new version will be forthcoming after I return home – or tomorrow if I am up at an obscure hour.

We adjourned to Lickety Split, which is the cafe at Mass MoCA, for lunch and great conversation, and then prepared for a special project conceived by Ann, one of our intrepid nine resident poets. We each chose a poem to read in the Boiler House, which is a soundscape art installation of the old boiler house for the mill. We then recorded them as we stood or sat in various locations in the Boiler House, with the sounds of the installation and other ambient noise providing a new layer to the experience. At the risk of sounding like a native New Englander, it was wicked cool! We were happy to have Jim with us to join in the fun by reading one of his poems. Jim also took our photo together. The video will be available online once our video-savvy members get it ready. Watch for the photo and link as they become available!

It was a bit chilly in the Studios, so we decided to convene in a cozy living room at The Porches where one of our poets is staying. Jim gave an interesting talk on various routes to book publication and outlined the roles of the various people and entities involved. He also showed us some of the nuts and bolts of the editing process.

By this time, it was dark and we had to think about dinner. The eight women poets set out to Gramercy Bistro, also on the Mass MoCA campus. We had a great opportunity to talk and eat and talk and talk. We had some extra excitement when Kyle checked her phone and found out she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize! We continued visiting back at our residence in various constellations before finally heading to bed. I need to do that now, too. It’s so hard to believe that we will be wrapping up nearly all our activities tomorrow!

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” https://topofjcsmind.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/binghamton-poetry-project/; 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