New poem at Third Wednesday!

I’m excited to share that my poem “April 19, 2022 – Vestal, New York” has just been published by Third Wednesday Magazine on their website and will be included in their quarterly print edition this spring!

This poem began as a Binghamton Poetry Project prompt on that date from workshop leader Suzanne Richardson. We were studying the use of a central image or metaphor. We were meeting via Zoom as I sat at my desk in the midst of a late snowstorm, so snow/storms became the central image.

One thing about writing from prompts in a workshop is that there isn’t a lot of time for planning, so I tend to go with the first thing that presents itself. Fortunately, I had experience with snowstorms, so my mind had somewhere to turn.

I workshopped the poem with the Grapevine Poets and did revisions before sending it out. I’m grateful that it has found a home with Third Wednesday!
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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2023/01/09/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-9th-2023/

Small Constellation

So, I had a post all prepared for Just Jot It January for today until I went to Linda’s blog to get the link to add to my draft and saw that Willow had chosen “constellation” as today’s prompt.

Given that I had planned to do a shameless promo later this week that involves that word, I will postpone my planned post and do that now.

It was my honor to be featured with an interview in the new issue of Portrait of New England. My currently unpublished poetry collection Small Constellation is mentioned a number of times in the interview. This is my first ever featured interview and I’m still super excited about it! Many thanks to editor Matthew Johnson for making it possible!

Earlier in the issue, there is my poem “State Line” which is part of the collection. The title Small Constellation comes from another poem in the collection “Monroe Bridge Mail” which you can read here in Wilderness House Literary Review.

It probably seems strange to be talking so much about a book that isn’t published but, maybe if I do, the stars will align, I’ll get it into the hands of the right publisher, and it will be!
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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2023/01/02/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-2nd-2023/

new poem and feature at Portrait of New England!

I’m thrilled to share the new issue of Portrait of New England, which includes my poem “State Line” and my very first published interview!

Those of you who are regular readers here at Top of JC’s Mind know that I usually post here about the story behind the writing of my published poems but the featured Q&A handles that, with shout-outs to the Boiler House Poets Collective and MASS MoCA.

Many thanks to editor Matthew Johnson for the honor of being chosen as featured writer for this amazing issue! In addition to sixteen poems, there are pieces of fiction and creative non-fiction to enjoy, all by writers who have a connection to New England. I also love the wintry cover art by Akseli Gallen-Kallela.

Comments are always welcome here. Please also feel free to share the issue with your friends and family. (The link in the first paragraph is permanent, so if you are visiting this post in 2023 or later, you should still have access.)

Cleaning Miller Pond by Merrill Oliver Douglas (ONE GOOD MEMORY Series)

A poem from my poet-friend Merrill Oliver Douglas is up on Silver Birch Press as part of their ONE GOOD MEMORY series. Enjoy!

Silver Birch Press

gorlovCleaning Miller Pond
by Merrill Oliver Douglas

Puzzle: how to nudge this boat
among trailing vines and branches,
squeeze through the one bare space,
poke the reeds with the paddle
and pluck out the Coke can?

Then figure the best wrist action
for flipping a taco wrapper
from beneath the snarl of algae
that streams off the paddle
like hair from a corpse.

The bag between my knees
grows lumpy with Styrofoam
bait buckets, beer cans, a slack-faced
soccer ball, glass and plastic
bottles sloshing grainy water.

Puzzle: why is the world so filled
with slobs? And why,
on a mild spring morning
in downtown Elmira,
does all this garbage
beckon like carnival prizes?

Originally published in Eunoia Review (January 27, 2016).

Photo by Gorlov.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem after helping to pick trash out of three ponds in Elmira, New York, during a volunteer cleanup…

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New chapbook from Jessica Dubey!


I’m pleased to share the news that Jessica Dubey’s newest chapbook, All Those Years Underwater, is now available, either from Kelsay Books or from Amazon. If you happen to order from Amazon and don’t yet have Jessica’s chapbook For Dear Life, be sure to add it to your cart, too.

Jessica is one of my local poet-friends, part of the Grapevine Poets here in Broome County, New York, as well as the Boiler House Poets Collective. It has been my privilege to see the poems in both manuscripts develop over time and come together into power-packed chapbooks.

Jessica has a special talent for writing about difficult issues in a way that is beautiful, but searing. As Marilyn McCabe notes on the back cover of All Those Years Underwater, “Danger is so delicate in these poems; it slides like a stiletto between the ribs. The poems stare you down with their lovely eyes, even as they insert the blade.”

For more information, links to previously published poems, and contact information, visit Jessica’s website. I’m sure she would love to hear from her readers!

Two poems in RAR!

I’m pleased to announce that I have two new poems published in the Fall-Winter issue of Rat’s Ass Review! (In case you are wondering about the somewhat unusual name, read the longer version of their submission guidelines, which is one of the most informative, honest, and entertaining I’ve ever encountered.) Many thanks to current editor Roderick Bates for choosing my work for inclusion in this issue.

There are 61 contributing poets plus cover art, so there’s lots to enjoy! Contributors are arranged alphabetically, so you will find my poems listed under Joanne Corey. Clicking on any poet’s surname takes you to their bio in the last section.

The inspiration for my first poem “The Banned Bookmobile” is a project under development at WordPlace, the Southern Tier Literary Center at the Bundy Museum, Binghamton, NY. J. Barrett Wolf, director of Wordplace, is planning to assemble a collection of banned/challenged books in a bus that can travel about to present programs on the First Amendment, censorship, and other topics. (Editor Rick Bates helpfully made the title of the poem a link to the web page for the project.)

For those of you who may not be familiar, in rural/underserved communities, it was common to have a bookmobile visit several times a year, giving schoolchildren and adults the chance to borrow a wider range of books than were available in town. I remember the excitement in my rural New England town of 200 when the bookmobile visited. Although I loved our town library, it was very small and the bookmobile offered many more options.

My poem references several books/series that have been banned from various schools or libraries in the United States, including And Tango Makes Three, the Harry Potter series, The Bluest Eye, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

“Video Chat with our 95-year-old Father” was written in early 2021, shortly after Paco had moved into the assisted living unit of his senior community. Due to pandemic restrictions, my sisters and I weren’t allowed to visit his place, even though I lived nearby. The staff would set up a video session with their iPad and then leave to attend to other duties. Unfortunately, Paco had difficulty grasping the situation and the technology involved.

As always, comments are welcome!

My First Chapbook!

I am thrilled to announce that Hearts, my first chapbook, will be published by Kelsay Books in 2023! I don’t yet have an exact release date but expect it to be around September.

Kelsay Books was founded by poet Karen Kelsay in 2012 and currently has over a thousand titles listed in its bookstore. This makes it a much larger press than most of my previous submissions, some of which went to presses that only publish one or two titles a year. I took a chance submitting to Kelsay because two of my local Grapevine Poets, Jessica Dubey and Burt Myers, have books forthcoming from them. I’ll be sure to post their books here at Top of JC’s Mind when they become available.

Kelsay publishes poetry exclusively under four different imprints: Aldrich Press for free verse poetry up to 90 pages; White Violet Press for formal poetry up to 100 pages (Burt’s category); Alabaster Leaves for chapbooks under 50 pages (Jessica and my books will be under this imprint); and Daffydowndilly for rhyming poetry by adults for children.

Another welcome feature of Kelsay is that they respond very quickly, generally within fourteen days of submission. I received word of acceptance on day ten. This is blazingly fast. The typical response time for prior submissions I had done was six months, with a few taking more than a year to send out rejections.

Hearts centers around my mother, known here at TJCM as Nana, particularly in the last years of her life as she struggled with heart failure. The first incarnation of the chapbook was assembled in fall of 2017 as an entry into the QuillsEdge Press contest with the theme “Transitions.” It was named a finalist and the poem “Sixteen Hours” was included in an anthology that was published in conjunction with the winning manuscript, Skin Gin. That version also placed in the top 1% of submissions in another contest.

That early positive feedback proved to be important in the following years. As Nana’s health continued to decline, I wrote poems to help me process but couldn’t think about reworking the manuscript. After her death in May, 2019, I took some time to extend, workshop, and edit the chapbook and started sending it out in spring of 2020. That version was a semifinalist in a contest but was also getting a lot of rejections from contests and open submission periods.

I continued to do edits and added a new poem in spring, 2021. At that point, my father, known here as Paco, was entering the last few months of his life, so doing submissions faded into the background. He passed away last September and I returned to doing a few submissions before the end of the year. I was doing submissions for my full-length manuscript, as well.

Kelsay was the 34th submission for Hearts in its various forms.

There is a difference of opinion on whether that is a lot or just run-of-the-mill. Most of the people that I’ve told have noted my perseverance and commitment in the face of rejection but a few, who have decades-long experience as poets, think thirty-four isn’t that bad or unusual.

For now, I’m still feeling joy mixed with relief. In these past years, I’ve watched many of my poet-friends publish their first books and had begun to wonder if I just wasn’t good enough. Now, I’m coming to think of it more as finding the right match. Kelsay Books makes clear they are seeking manuscripts that are accessible to a general audience. I consider myself a community poet, as my experience has come through workshopping with fellow poets and community poetry sessions with the Binghamton Poetry Project and others, instead of from academic studies. I tend to write in a narrative style. While I occasionally write in Chinese/Japanese-derived forms like tanka, I have never written anything decent in traditional European forms, like sonnet or villanelle. Every once in a while, a rejection email comes with a bit of feedback, which tends to run along the lines of my work not being crafted well enough or sophisticated enough. While I do continue to work on craft and revision skills, I will never write like someone with an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree.

And that’s okay.

It’s just easier to believe now that I can say I have a book forthcoming.

I’m sure I will post more about this as I work through the process of publication and gain more skills along the way. Style guidelines. Fonts. Cover art.

One of the blessings of being in a community of poets, though, is that help is available if I need it. I also now have a publisher with a team of professionals to get my book out into the world.

It still feels strange to be able to say that.

But I think I could get used to it.

BPP Spring 2022 Anthology

I’m pleased to share the Binghamton Poetry Project Spring 2022 Anthology. The Binghamton Poetry Project is a grant-supported outreach program in which graduate students in poetry and creative writing from Binghamton University offer free community workshops, offering children, youth, and adults the chance to learn more about and write poetry. BPP moved online during the pandemic, although we are hopeful that an in-person workshop will be possible again this summer.

This spring, I attended two workshops. My poem “Aubade with Birds” was written in response to a prompt in Suzanne Richardson’s workshop, Fresh Images and Form. This was my first attempt at writing an aubade, which the Poetry Foundation defines as “a love poem or song welcoming or lamenting the arrival of the dawn.” I seldom write love poems and this one is definitely more on the lament side.

The other two poems were written during Shannon Hearn’s FIELDING TENDER: Nature Writing for the Apocalypse. “Kaʻūpūlehu” is based on a visit to the dryland forest preserve by that name on the Big Island of Hawai’i where daughter T interned during a semester spent in the Islands while she was a student at Cornell University. B and I were not able to visit during that semester but made a trip there several years later with her. Kaʻūpūlehu is an amazing place; you can see some videos and photos and learn more about it here.

The haiku in the anthology is one of five I wrote during a fun session with Shannon in which we wrote haiku in response to an image and a randomly generated word. (There is a note with the information on the word and image included on the page with the poem.) There was quite a bit of laughter that evening as some of the images and words led to pretty fantastical literary leaps, but I thought this particular haiku managed to make sense apart from its origin in the exercise.

Thank you for visiting the Binghamton Poetry Project anthology. Please check out the other poets while you are there. Some of the past anthologies are also available through the drop-down menu.

She Quits the Garden: A multivoice video chapbook

I’m excited to share this post from Marilyn McCabe, announcing her newly published video chapbook, She Quits the Garden.

Marilyn had shared these poems with the Boiler House Poets Collective at one of our residencies at MASS MoCA before their remarkable transformation into a multivoice video chapbook. Enjoy!

O Write: Marilynonaroll's Blog

Thrilled that this project found a home on PoetryFilmLive. As it’s a video chapbook, it’s a bit longer than my usual work, so I hope you’ll hang in there for the 10 minute run time.

https://poetryfilmlive.com/she-quits-the-garden/

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JC’s Confessions #23

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, then a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

National Poetry Month Edition:

I’ve been struggling to regain my sense of myself as a poet.

This is ironic because, when I first turned to poetry as a means of self-expression ten or so years ago, I didn’t have any problem calling myself a poet. I was writing poems, so I was a poet. I remember early on reading a short essay from a person who had an MFA in poetry, had published at least one book, and was editing a poetry journal, but couldn’t bring himself to say that he was a poet because he wasn’t suffering for his art. I was perplexed.

I managed to still think of myself as a poet through the labyrinth of dealing with years of family health and caretaking issues. I was still writing and workshopping and doing residencies with the Boiler House Poets Collective and doing sessions with the Binghamton Poetry Project and Broome County Arts Council. I wasn’t submitting to journals as much as I should have, but I did put together two manuscripts, one chapbook and one full-length collection, which I started submitting to contests and publishers. In recent months, I have also been submitting individual poems to journals more often.

Perhaps I had forgotten the level of rejection that is inherent in the submission process. Some of the recent rejections I have received with manuscripts have chosen one for publication from a field of 800-900. I mean, do the math. Somehow, though, even knowing that the odds are not remotely in my favor has not shielded me from questioning whether I am a publishable poet, or even a poet at all.

Meanwhile, several of my poet-friends have published or are in the process of publishing their first books. I’m very happy for them and buy and help promote their work but it makes me wonder what is wrong with me that I’m only garnering a long list of rejections. What does it say about me that, when I see publication credits for other poets, I can often mentally tick off which of their presses have rejected me?

Things are better these past few weeks. The publications of my work for an Ekphrastic Review challenge and in Wilderness House Literary Review buoyed me through the latest round of journal and manuscript rejections that the spring has brought. I’ve participated in National Poetry Month projects with the Broome County and Tioga Arts Councils. Binghamton Poetry Project has been having their spring workshops, so I’ve been working on craft and writing from their prompts, once or twice a week. I’ve even gotten several unsolicited comments from my blog posts, saying that I am a good writer, which is somehow still encouraging of my sense as a poet. Writing is writing, whatever the form.

The question is whether I can keep my re-discovered sense of my identity as a poet from being buried by the avalanche of rejections that are sure to come. When I first set a goal of publishing a book by the time I was sixty, a goal that I failed to meet, I told myself that it didn’t matter if I ever published a book. After all, it’s not that I write for a living.

It would be best if I can get back to concentrating on reaching people with my work within my community sphere. I do consider myself to be an accessible, community poet. If I can do that, then I could look at publishing in a broader context as a bonus if it happens, not as a measure of my worth as a poet.

Please remind me when I am in doubt again.

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