Binghamton Poetry Project Fall 2020 anthology and reading

Due to the pandemic, the Binghamton Poetry Project has moved to Zoom for 2020. For each of our spring, summer, and fall seasons, we did five sessions of poem study and prompts, followed by a reading via Zoom. For the fall, our directors at Binghamton University have re-imagined our anthologies, which had been distributed in print at our in-person readings in prior years, as a digital publication. You can find the anthology at the Binghamton Poetry Project site here: https://thebinghamtonpoetryproject.wordpress.com/fall-2020-anthology/

One of the 2020 innovations from the Binghamton Poetry Project was to offer two different workshops, one for beginners and one for more experienced poets. I was part of the latter group. I enjoyed working with our instructor Shin Watanabe, who is a PhD student at Binghamton University. I also appreciated the opportunity to connect with the other community poets who attended, some of whom I have known for years in person and others of whom I have only met via Zoom. One of the advantages of Zoom meetings is that we have been able to include poets who are further afield, including some from the Ithaca area.

All three of the poems I chose for the anthology were written in response to Shin’s prompts based on our reading for that session. I thought it might be interesting to include how these poems came to be written; one of the advantages of taking a class or workshop is that you generate poems that otherwise would not have been written were it not for the prompts.

That being said, this first poem is one that was conceived before the prompt, as it will eventually be part of the collection about the North Adams, Massachusetts area that I have been working on for several years. The prompt was about employing interesting adjectives, based on our study of The Colossus by Sylvia Plath.

Navigating North Adams for MWS

Google maps had no street-view
for the addresses you had unearthed
through Ancestry.com
in the year since we each lost
our mothers May-days apart.
We were excited to discover
your great-grandmother

as a young Scottish immigrant
lived in the city where I also had roots.
As I drove the two hundred miles there,
I thought of you,
ten times further away,
of the photos I would send
so we could imagine

your ancestors and mine crossing
paths, setting in motion
our friendship generations on.
I navigated the streets too steep,
narrow, and unassuming
for the google-cars that take wrap-around
photos to satisfy the curious or nostalgic.

When Jeanie lived at 34 Jackson
did she cross Eagle
and walk with Ruth down
Bracewell toward the school?
When did the neighbors
at 27 Hudson put
up a sign, Established

in 1860? Surely
not back then, when
the hillside houses
were only middle-aged.
Did she sled down
Veazie with Mary
who lived parallel

on Williams? Did the imprint
of these ancestral
connections somehow
draw us to each
other as college roommates,
forty-year friends clinging
to each other on steep climbs?

The next poem was an experiment with line breaks, based on our discussion of Charles Bukowski’s Fingernails; Nostrils; Shoelaces.

Two and a half hours

The line stretched from
St. Paul’s Church down
the block to the library
voters spread six feet apart
waiting for
their turn to enter
go downstairs
wait
give their
name, sign the
tablet with a
disinfected stylus
watch the printer spit out
their ballot
sequester together in a
cubicle, completely fill in the
bubbles for their
choices with a
black felt pen
feed their ballot into the
machine, wait for
confirmation, walk back to
their car
go home and
hope.

This final poem is a failed attempt at the American Sublime, a la Hart Crane’s The Bridge: To Brooklyn Bridge. I think I managed a bit of the awe component, though.

For Jillian Grace

On my screen, you appear
smaller than your 2.9 kilos –
kilos because, from the start,
you are a British baby,
unlike your older sister, born
in the same upstate New York
hospital as your mother,
just miles from where
I, bleary-eyed at dawn,
stare at your first photos.

Your dark hair peeks
from under the knit cap
meant to keep you warm
as you adjust to air,
not the tiny ocean
that had been your home
for thirty-seven weeks,
your cheeks rosy
against the white blankets
and Winnie-the-Pooh sleeper.

I long to cradle you,
to breathe your newborn scent,
stroke your soft skin,
feel your fingers
wrap one of mine,
hum quiet lullabies,
claim you as my granddaughter,
but you are thirty-five hundred miles
and a pandemic
away.

I hope you will take a look at our anthology. Feel free to comment here or on the Binghamton Poetry Project site. Enjoy!

Hair – and a poem – and a prompt

One of the pandemic topics that has gotten a surprising amount of media time here in the United States is what people are doing with their hair without having access to hair salons. Celebrities and politicians face scrutiny if they appear well-coiffed. Did they break the rules and call in a professional? Are they sheltering in place with someone who can manage to trim hair? Did they manage to give themselves a haircut? Are they wearing a stylish headband only to keep their bangs from falling into their eyes?

There are also a lot of stories of hairdressers delivering hair color to clients and giving them instructions on how to apply it – from at least six feet (two meters) away, of course.

Some people, though, are letting their hair grow naturally, revealing their hair color which they themselves may not have seen in decades.

Maybe a few will embrace the natural look. That has always been my choice.

Back in 2016, Silver Birch Press was doing a series called “My Mane Memories” with poets submitting work about their hair. One of the poems they chose was mine: “Crowning Glory” which I will also copy below.

Crowning Glory
by Joanne Corey

“The silver-haired head is a crown of glory…” Proverbs 16:31*

Friends recognize me
in a crowded theater
down the street
across the restaurant
among the congregation

Strangers comment
how beautiful
how they wish
theirs looked the same

I smile
remember the first silver
that appeared
among the brown
before I was in high school
multiplied after my daughters were born
until at fifty just a bit
of brown was left

Then I let it grow
past my shoulders
down my back
in silver waves
finally

*Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

By the way, Silver Birch Press is offering a free kindle version of their May poetry anthology from May first through fifth. Details here:  https://silverbirchpress.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/free-kindle-version-of-may-poetry-anthology-5-1-5-5-2020/

In this time of pandemic, they have also revived their themed series on their blog. Right now, they are soliciting poems/short prose on wearing a mask:  https://silverbirchpress.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/call-for-submissions-wearing-a-mask-poetry-prose-series/

Welcome back, Silver Birch Press!

 

 

#JusJoJan

As I hope you have noticed by now, I have been participating in Linda G. Hill’s Just Jot It January, which encourages us to post daily with a pingback to Linda’s blog so we can read each other’s work and discover or revisit other blogs in the community.

I have been using it as an incentive to post every day – at a time when my blogging practice remains less than optimal with most of my time and energy going toward posting and almost none toward reading and commenting. I have managed to post every day, but have only occasionally read and commented on other posts. I have been happy to find a few new blogs to follow, but I know there are others that I could have discovered if I had more time.

Linda offers a prompt every day, most suggested by other bloggers who are given a shout-out for the day. They aren’t obligatory, but most people choose to follow them. Other than Linda’s continuing series,  One-Liner Wednesdays and Stream of Consciousness Saturdays, I have chosen not to follow the prompts. My blog’s tagline is “eclectic, like me” so I have been writing what was on the top of my mind as I usually do.

I want to thank Linda for offering Just Jot It January to the blogging community. It’s been a boost to me in the midst of a difficult month.

See you next January – or I hope even sooner…
*****
There is still time to jump on board with Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here:
https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/30/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-30th-2018/

 

2017 Fall poems for Binghamton Poetry Project

This afternoon is the Fall 2017 reading of the Binghamton Poetry Project. The Binghamton Poetry Project (BPP) is a community poetry initiative which brings graduate students at Binghamton University into the community to facilitate the writing of poetry by adults, teens, and children. I have participated in their workshops for several years. I will always owe them a huge debt of gratitude because it was my participation with them that led to my acceptance by my local critique group, which I now call The Grapevine Group, and to my beginning to publish poetry outside of the BPP anthologies.
BPP holds three workshops a year of five sessions each. We read and discuss some poems and generally write from prompts drawn from those examples. It is interesting as one often writes poems that would otherwise not have been written. Because we only have about fifteen minutes to write, there is not much time to ponder, so I often find myself writing about people or events that I have already had time to process. The first poem below centers on a topic that has appeared in other poems about my childhood hometown. The second is not a topic I have ever written a poem about because it was traumatic, but it was long enough ago that, when it fit the prompt, I ran with it. The third poem is about my friend Angie, whom I have written about often in both prose and poetry.
This year, we are reading at the Broome County Library where we usually meet. We used to hold our readings on Friday evenings rather than Saturday afternoons. This is the first time I have been able to make a Saturday afternoon reading. I’m curious to see if we have better attendance at this venue and time. (I am writing this post early and scheduling it to coincide with the reading.)
For the first time, I am planning to read a poem that is not in the anthology, the current version of a poem that I started working on at the Boiler House Poets’ reunion at MASS MoCA and have subsequently workshopped with both Grapevine Group and Sappho’s Circle. I can’t share it here as I need to keep it unpublished at this point. I am also not sure if it is in its final form, but I need to decide soon as it is part of a chapbook I am assembling for a contest. I am desperate to make this poem the absolute best it can be, but I am afraid I have lost perspective with it. There may be a separate post about it soon – again.
I know this post will look a bit different in spacing than my other posts. It is tricky to get poetry into the wordpress editor without having the spacing compromised and this is as close as I can get to proper spacing in the time I have today. All three poems are by Joanne Corey. Please comment if you are so moved.
Homecoming
The Eiler Brothers sent my parents a video
of our three-bedroom ranch
stained grey with white shutters
loaded on a flatbed
rolled three miles
up River Road
across the state line
to a new foundation.

 

The house cost them a dollar
and the filling of the old cellar.

 

I travelled back to visit the yard
white and yellow birches
spruce, balsam, hemlock
sugar and striped maples
lilies of the valley in May.
 
*****
 
Thanksgiving – 1981

 

After words from the phone call drifted to me –
black ice, accident –
I thought you were dead
and our already planned June
wedding would never happen

 

but the hatch had sprung
after the car landed
on its roof in the river
so that you could crawl
out, scramble up the bank,

 

get to the nearest building,
the hydrostation where my father
worked, where they put you
in a warm shower 
as hypothermia set in.

 

The next day, we went to see
the car where it had been towed,
chunks of river ice still inside,
a deep dent in the roof,
just behind where your head had been.
 
*****
 
To a friend

 

My dear Little Angel,

 

You would laugh at that greeting
because, as you would say,
you are – or were –

 

five foot twelve, which you thought
sounded shorter than six feet,
but your name, Angeline,

 

means little angel
and you aren’t here
to contradict me.

 

Your October twenty-fifth birthday
has passed twelve times without you.
Do you know I think of you each year?

 

Wonder if your hair
would be silver now
like mine…

 

If your toddler grandchildren
would like to meet
my infant one…

 

If you know,
wherever you are,
that they exist…

Poems – Fall 2016 BPP anthology

The fall anthology of the Binghamton Poetry Project is now available, so I can share the poems that were published in it here at Top of JC’s Mind. I shared “Thanks to the Department of Public Art” in a separate post. Below are three poems that I wrote from prompts in the summer and fall 2016 workshop sessions. Enjoy! (For some reason, when I copied these over, they arrived in a different font and spacing, so I decided to just roll with it!)

Sounds of Silence

          by Joanne Corey

Even if there were no
birds chirping in the trees,
leaves rustling in the breeze,
neighbor’s dog barking,
car alarm down the street erupting,
papers rustling,
child dribbling a basketball,
ice cream truck playing its jingle,
chipmunk retreating into the downspout,
bee buzzing among the clover,
footsteps on the sidewalk,
there would not be silence.

The voice in my mind is never
still.
*****
To Do

     by Joanne Corey

Go grocery shopping
Cook dinner
Clean up
Watch the news
Read
Sleep

Don’t forget to sing

Get up
Eat breakfast
Shower
Dress
Call Mom
Listen more than you talk

Don’t forget to sing

Travel
Visit a volcano
Step into the Pacific
Climb a mountain
Hear Big Ben chime
Walk on a glacier

Don’t forget to sing

Become a grandmother
Mourn your parents
Visit old friends
Pray
Write
Listen more than you talk

Don’t forget to sing
*****
Four River Haiku

 ~~ by Joanne Corey

Ice glazes river.
Groan, crack, break, flow downstream, jam.
Water floods the town.

Snow melt in spring sun.
River hurries over rocks.
Meander, oxbow.

Summer drought for months.
Fish find oxygen in pools.
We cast, seeking them.

Leaves, gold, orange, red,
Windswept, traverse the hillside.
River flows away.

 

Record views

People who have been visiting Top of JC’s Mind for a while know that I am not a diligent stats watcher.

I tend to look in every once in a while, but not every day.

Or even every week….

Since Grandma died and I have not been posting much, I hadn’t even looked at my stats at all – until today.

On May 2nd, I set a new record for views – 153!

I would tell you what the old record was if I could figure it out…

I published a post that day about attending a very emotional service, which was then shared by one of the participants. I’m sure this accounts for the new record views.

As always, I am grateful to all those who visit here at Top of JC’s Mind.  It’s fun to have a new record as a prompt to say so.

Hearing my name

One of the things that struck my somewhat sleep-deprived and overwhelmed mind during the Mass MoCA/Tupelo Press residency/workshop was that I had not heard people call me by name in such concentrated fashion for a very long time.

I am most often in settings where the group is so small and familiar that it is obvious that someone is speaking to me without their having to use my name. I also spent a lot of years answering to Mom, a title that I love, but it does cut down on the use of my given name, as people often referred to me as “Mom” rather than Joanne when my children were present.

During the conference, when people addressed me as Joanne, it reminded me of who I am as an individual, aside from my societal/family role. When I looked down at my nametag, which I kept joking I had to wear to remind myself who I was, or when I showed it to our visiting poets when they were signing book dedications for me so that they could have the correct spelling of my name, I was thinking even more about my name.

I thought I’d share again a poem that I wrote for the Silver Birch Press “All About My Name” series prompt.  It appeared there on June 29, 2015.

Becoming Joanne
 – by Joanne Corey

If my grandfather Giovanni
had not fled the Old Country
before the Great War,
I might have been Giovanna
or piccola Giovanina.
Born in 1960s New England,
I was Joanne —
one word —
small a —
with an e —
to avoid confusion with four classmates
who answered to that common name.

When I was eighteen,
my Latin teacher derived and gave
meaning to my name:
Joanne —
feminine of John —
from Hebrew –
variously translated as
God is gracious- —
Gift of God —
God’s gracious gift.
A daunting aspiration
as I began adulthood.

After decades of striving
to fulfill the promise,
to be worthy of my name,
in my sixth decade,
wisdom dawns.
God freely gifts grace.
I AM,
have always been,
will always be
Joanne —
God’s gracious gift —
living out a universal call.

SoCS: Top of JC’s Mind

…because, seriously, when the prompt is “mind”, how could I not?

I started Top of JC’s Mind almost two years ago because several people told me that I should start a blog. I had originally planned to call it Top of My Mind, but that was already taken, so I put my initials in the title instead.

I know that I couldn’t contain myself to a single topic, so I set out to write about whatever is on the top of my mind, but that isn’t quite true.

You see, the top of my mind is a pretty crowded space. If I wrote about everything that was on the top of my mind in any given day, I wouldn’t have time to do anything else.

So, I write only a bit of what is at the top of my mind – and those bits have been distributed differently than I originally envisioned.

I had thought that I would write a lot about fracking – or anti-fracking, really – because I spent many moons writing commentary on it as part of the anti-fracking grassroots in New York State. And there is some writing in that vein, along with climate change and other environmental themes, but, with the (mostly) ban in place, that has slowed down, perhaps much to the relief of readers, as well as fracktivists.

I also thought that I would post more poetry than I do. The reason is that I am trying to publish in literary journals, nearly all of whom will only consider work that is not previously published. And, for the most part, that means that if they can google it, they won’t accept it, even if it is only out on my little blog with a dozen views. Consequently, I don’t put too many of my poems here unless they have appeared elsewhere first. Generally, the rights revert back to me after publication.

I have written more about family and personal experiences than I intended, largely due to circumstances. A year ago, our elders, Nana, Paco, and Grandma, all ran into health challenges and the top, middle, and bottom of my mind were all pretty much filled up with care-taking and concern. Then, there are the more fun family things to post, like spending five weeks in Hawai’i with my daughter E.

I do want to get back to posting more about topics, such as feminism, politics, and religion/ethics. The life of the mind is important to me. I just wish there was a more direct and faster way to get my thoughts onto the (computer) page.

Although that would be overwhelming.

No one needs that much Top of JC’s Mind.

Except for me, of course, for whom there is no escape…
*****
This post is part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday.  This week’s prompt is “mind.” Join us!  Find out how here:  http://lindaghill.com/2015/08/21/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-2215/

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