poetic convergence

On Saturday, a poet-friend from Sappho’s Circle and Grapevine Group and I went to Ithaca to the Spring Writes! Literary Arts Festival. Our primary purpose was to hear Heather Dorn, the founder of Sappho’s Circle, and her friend Sarah Jefferis read some of their poems. Here is the blurb from the festival program, with links to their author pages:

Reading: What Enters the Mouth and How to Play House 
Dr. Heather Dorn and Dr. Sarah Jefferis will read from their new poetry collections. Heather Dorn is the founder of Sappho’s Circle: A Women’s Writing Workshop for local women poets in Binghamton NY. Her work can be found in Requited, Ragazine, the Kentucky Review, the Paterson Literary Review, and other similar journals. Her first book of poetry, How to Play House, is forthcoming from NeuroQueer Books, an imprint of Autonomous Press, in September. Local author Sarah Jefferis will read from What Enters the Mouth, poems about surviving trauma and poverty in the South. “Fearless poems- a reckoning of the violences of girlhood rendered with grit and clarity.” – Ansel Elkins.

The reading was amazing! Their poems are very powerful and not infrequently heart-breaking. It was especially interesting to me to hear Heather read a couple of poems that I had heard her read previously, as time and a new audience can cause modulation in the presentation. I also got to observe how they structured a longer reading session. I am more used to attending open mic, where each poet reads just two or three poems, so I appreciated how they each chose among their poems to vary the mood and pacing.

The biggest surprise was when Sarah told us that she had just returned from a residency program with Tupelo Press at MASS MoCA. As my poet-friends know, I was blessed beyond belief to attend the first residency collaboration between Tupelo and the museum in November, 2015, which led to the formation of my beloved Boiler House Poets. You can view the video reading from that residency and the collaborative videopoem from our first reunion residency. We also have a book which sprang from an exercise we did with Jeffrey Levine during our first residency. Plans are already in place for our second reunion residency this fall. (There are numerous blog posts on the residencies. You can search the MASS MoCA tag or in the archives for November 2015 and September/October 2016.)

After the reading, we joined Sarah, Heather and her husband for lunch. It was nice to talk about poetry, education, and family over delicious Asian cuisine.

Later in the afternoon, we attended a panel discussion about publishing a first book after forty. We had another nice surprise when two more Grapevine poets appeared in the audience. It was interesting to hear about people’s journeys to publishing a book at 40+; as a poet who didn’t start writing until reaching my fifties, if I ever publish a book, I will fall into that category. I admit, though, that I was feeling insecure because it seemed that everyone on the panel and a good number of people who asked questions in the audience were English teachers and/or MFAs. Given that I am neither of those things nor someone who studied English and creative writing in college, I was wondering if there is still a path for me. Fortunately, on the drive home, my friend was able to offer some perspective for me. So my hope for my book is still alive, even though it will likely take longer to complete and submit than I had hoped.

Life does give poets something to say, but its demands can slow the writing process down.

Making Art in the Age of Trump

This resonates with me. Thank you, Nancy, for your writing and your witness as we make our way in these troubled and troubling times.

Source: Making Art in the Age of Trump

early morning jot

I got an early start on jotting today.

I had tried to follow the advice from medical professionals and magazines to get to sleep relatively quickly, but no.

I did, however, have a poem coalescing in my head, so I got up to write the draft down before I lost it.

Midnight found me just finishing the draft.

Of course, I can’t share the draft. It needs work and it is one that is meant to make its way into my manuscript, so I want to be careful about how and where it is published. Most publishers count blog posts, even in a wee, little blog like Top of JC’s Mind,  as prior publication and they won’t publish anything that has already been made public.

It isn’t too late to join Just Jot It January! Any jot will do and there is a prompt for each day if that is what helps you to get a post out. You don’t have to post every day, either. Just link to the post on Linda’s blog for that day to increase your blogging community and find new blogs to read. Enjoy!

jjj-2017This jot brought to you by Linda’s Just Jot It January. Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/08/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-8th17/

2016 in Poetry

2015 marked the first year that I published poetry available outside the Binghamton area. I had planned to submit to journals on a regular basis in 2016, but lots of unexpected things happened and I submitted very little.

I did have two poems in Eunioa Review, a new poem “The Last Night” and a reprint “Fifty-four”.

My poem “Crowning Glory” appeared as part of Silver Birch Press’s “My Mane Memories” series.

I did keep up my participation with the Binghamton Poetry Project and published in both the Spring and Fall anthologies.

Binghamton Poetry Project also brought me an unexpected and wonderful opportunity to write and present a poem at the annual Heart of the Arts award ceremony. This blog post contains the poem, as well as links to a video of my reading and the story of how the poem came about.

I was thrilled to return to North Adams and MASS MoCA for a reunion residency of the Boiler House Poets. It was fantastic to be back and to have a chance to work on my collection under development. There is a series of blog posts on the residency beginning on September 30th.

There are two exciting developments that bring the Boiler House Poets out to a wider audience. The first is the publication of Verse Osmosis, an anthology that grew out of an exercise from our first residency in November 2015 in conjunction with Tupelo Press. The second is a new collaborative videopoem that Marilyn McCabe produced which we recorded in and about our beloved Boiler House. It is currently entered in a contest, but when the link becomes publicly available, I will return to this post to do an update.

Given my track record with making plans, I know better than to make any firm commitments for 2017. The three things that I will dare to state here are that I will continue to work on my collection under development, I will attend the Boiler House reunion residency this fall, and I will continue to stay active with my local poetry groups, Binghamton Poetry Project, Bunn Hill Poets, and Sappho’s Circle, to which I owe a debt of gratitude. I have learned so much from you all and admire your work and generosity in helping me become the poet I am today and the poet I am becoming in the future.

Update 2/22/17:  The Boiler House Poets’ videopoem is once again available to the public. You can find it here:  https://vimeo.com/187387583

MA Birthday

Today was another full-to-overflowing day of our reunion residency at MASS MoCA with a special feature for me. October fourth is my birthday.

I was up before six, thankfully after a decent night’s sleep, and opened three cards from my family that had found their way into my suitcase. I went over to my studio early and worked on some revisions, taking a break to attend 8:00 Mass.

October 4 is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, whom I admire for his advocacy for peace and his respect for and joy in all of creation. It was so meaningful the night that Cardinal Bergoglio appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s, asked for the blessing of the people gathered, and took the name Francis. The homily today talked about how Francis blended contemplative and active service, which is a practice that I strive to emulate, albeit not as well as I wish. I so appreciate present day Franciscans, such as Richard Rohr and Ilia Delio, who continue to teach the connectedness and unity of all creation in Love.

Catholicism has come up surprisingly often during our residency, but I feel I have not done a very good job at explaining myself as a progressive Catholic who sees herself increasingly through an interspiritual lens. Though brought up within the tradition and the rules of the church, I take seriously the primacy of individual conscience and my own responsibilities as a mature Christian, one of the foremost being that it is not my place to judge the beliefs of another person. One of the things I appreciate about Pope Francis is that he makes clear that he excludes no person of good will, whatever spiritual/philosophical path they follow, whether they believe in a god or gods or not. I think of God as Love, as a connection each being has with other beings and all of creation. I continue within the Catholic tradition myself, despite its many flaws, because it is where I learned about the sacramentality of life and relationship, but I honor whatever religious or philosophical path enlightens each person I meet.

(It’s late at night. Can you tell? Back to the story of my birthday…)

After Mass, I walked the grounds at MASS MoCA while talking to Nana on the phone, then went back to my studio to work. I finished the first draft of the Fall Foliage Parade poem, reworked the Boiler House poem, typed in and lightly revised a poem I had sketched from one of the new exhibits, and began a new poem before lunch, which was brought in from Brewhaha because the cafe is closed on Tuesdays, along with the rest of MASS MoCA, which is sad because I would have loved to spend some more time with the new exhibits today. Having lunch from Brewhaha is never sad, though; I had an excellent salmon burger.

Six of the eight of us took an afternoon field trip to Williamstown to visit the Clark Art Institute. There is an special exhibition from the Prado, but I most appreciated re-visiting some of the works that I remember seeing on prior visits. I was especially drawn to the Renoir paintings today, although I made a point of visiting the Degas “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” sculpture that reminds me of daughter T.

We met in the apartment across the hall for dinner together and my friends surprised me with cake and ice cream, a rendition of “Happy Birthday”, a beautiful many-pointed star ornament, and a card with little notes from each of them. Of course, we turned our attention back to poetry and did some more workshopping and reading, but the group indulged me by listening to me read some of the poems from my manuscript in development. I really wanted to be able to read some of them in North Adams because they originate here, but confess to being a bit anxious about it. I don’t think I even looked up at all when I was reading. I was concerned that my poems would be too simple because my fellow Boiler House Poets craft such exquisite poetry; fortunately, the response was very positive. There was even some interest in reading the whole manuscript when I get it assembled, which will be a huge help. I know any feedback I get will help make the collection as strong as possible before I send it off to potential publishers.

So, it has been a good birthday. Maybe by next year at this time, I will be submitting my manuscript – and waiting…

Reunion residency – welcome!

Friday morning, my poet-friend Jessica picked me up for the drive to North Adams to begin the Boiler House Poets reunion residency at MASS MoCA. (To check out my blog posts from the original Tupelo Press/Studios at MASS MoCA residency, use my archive dropdown list entry for November 2015.)  It is a reunion for me, but not for Jessica whom I invited to fill in a slot for one of our original group who was unable to attend.

In the MASS MoCA parking lot, we ran into residency coordinator Emily with Ann and Kyle, who are my and Jessica’s apartment mates for the week. Emily gave us our keys and info and showed us our apartment, which is on the third floor of a building kittycorner from the museum complex, just across the hall from the apartment I stayed in last year. (My header photo here at Top of JC’s Mind was taken from that vantage point.)  We each have our own bedroom, with shared kitchen and bath.

Emily also showed us our studios. Last time, I was in studio seven, but this time I am in studio two, with a view of the Airstream trailer art installation which is connected by walkway to the top of the Boiler House which gives our group its name due to this video we made during our inaugural residency.

One of the special moments yesterday was when Ann gave us copies of the new book she edited of poems we created in an exercise with Jeffrey Levine of Tupelo Press during our 2015 residency.  It is called Verse Osmosis and is available here. I am honored to be a part of this book and this group!

In the couple of hours before our welcome dinner, I had the chance to catch up with our other apartment’s returning poets, Marilyn, Kay, and Gail and to meet our other new addition this time, Catherine. I was sad to learn that Donna, one of our original members who had hoped to come visit us on Saturday, was taken ill and wouldn’t be able to come see us. I am consoled, though, to have a copy of her new chapbook <Periodic Earth>, published by fellow Boiler House Poet Kyle’s Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press and available here.

Since we were in North Adams last year, a new Italian restaurant, Grazie, has opened on the first floor below our apartments and it was the site for our welcome dinner. We were happy to have another of our Boiler House Poets, James, join us, along with a friend who was celebrating her birthday. Like me, James is from the North Adams area and was back visiting. We had a long dinner with lots of lively conversation. I was happy to have James sign my copy of Verse Osmosis and we passed James’s copy around the table to sign for him. Unfortunately, Vicki, another of our inaugural group, was also unable to make the trip to North Adams for the reunion, so her signature will be missing from our books, too.

By the time dinner was over, it was after ten o’clock and I was too tired to join in the additional visiting that was going on and too tired to write this post. At least I am able to get this out early this morning. I hope to be off to my studio soon…

 

 

continuing reaction to Orlando

I wrote on Sunday about my early reactions to the shooting at Pulse in Orlando.

Of course, even now, on Tuesday afternoon, reactions are still early, but I wanted to add a bit more.

One interesting thing locally is that some of our local news broadcasters have incorporated reflections on the ACA shooting here in 2009 into their continuing coverage of the Orlando shooting. This linkage does not often happen, but I expect that it may be this time because there is a sense of connection about a specific group of people being targeted. With the American Civic Association shooting in Binghamton, it was immigrants; with Orlando, it was the LGBTQ community, or, perhaps, the Latino community.

My own emotions continue to swirl.

Yesterday afternoon, Sappho’s Circle, a group of women poets convened by Heather Dorn, met. In response to a prompt, I wrote a poem about the deaths this spring, including those in Orlando. Heather suggested that I submit it to Rattle Poets Respond, which publishes a poem weekly that is newly written in response to current events. I was honored that she felt the poem was worthy enough to be considered and I sent it through Submittable this morning.

Rattle is a very competitive publisher, so chances of acceptance are slim, but, after these recent weeks of not writing or submitting at all, it is gratifying to have been able to process events and feelings into a poem, to have shared it with my friends at Sappho’s Circle, and to have sent it off into the ether.