Last MASS MoCA moments

I posted my final MASS MoCA reunion poetry residency piece right before the Boiler House Poets’ last lunch together, but wanted to add a postscript.

The marvelous Marilyn McCabe had already completed a first draft of our Boiler House videopoem and gave us a viewing before we departed.

It looks fantastic and I am anxious to share it with you all, which I will do as soon as Marilyn puts the finishing touches on it and releases it to the public.

Stay tuned!

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wrapping up at MASS MoCA

Yesterday was the last full day of our Boiler House Poets reunion residency at MASS MoCA, such a full day that there was no time to blog before collapsing into bed. I came into the studio early, picking up a steamed milk and an almond biscotti from Tunnel City Coffee on the way.

Thus fortified, I embarked on a morning of writing and visiting places that I could photograph or take notes on for future poems. I re-visited the North Adams Public Library and spoke with a couple of the librarians who helpfully supplied some of the historical information about the building. I walked into the newly spiffed up Colgrove Park with Drury Academy/High/Conte Middle/now Colgrove Elementary School perched on the hillside above. Workers were on site at the former Saint Francis Church, getting ready to removing the rubble that was left behind after the demolition. It is so strange to look at the North Adams skyline without that steeple among the rest.

After the museum opened, I went back to some exhibits that had particularly struck me and made some notes. One was a bit tricky because the room was almost totally dark. I discovered that there is an installation showing a short film set in the upper reaches of our beloved Boiler House. I visited the Boiler House and took (yet more) photographs, especially of the upper levels that are more difficult to reach for people without sturdy shoes and a certain comfort level with industrial settings and heights.

After lunch in the cafe, we reconvened back at the Studios for some workshopping of poems and for a special project. During our first residency, which was the inaugural collaboration between the Studios at MASS MoCA and Tupelo Press, we produced this video of us reading poems in the Boiler House.  The indefatigable Ann Dernier collected poems from an exercise that we did with Jeffrey Levine of Tupelo and made them into an anthology called Verse Osmosis.

For this reunion residency, we decided to create a collaborative videopoem about the Boiler House. Each poet brought some lines, in some cases written specifically for the videopoem and in others excerpted from a larger Boiler House poem, to the group. We made a few small edits and considered several options for ordering our lines before deciding on one.

Next, we went to Marilyn McCabe’s studio to use her microphone and computer to record the audio. Marilyn has produced gorgeous videopoems, so she offered to do the necessary recording and editing. We lined up in our agreed-upon order and recorded the reading, so that Marilyn could overlay it with audio she previously recorded in the Boiler House, which is a sound installation in addition to being a visual marvel. Later, she will use photographs of the Boiler House to complete the videopoem.

On a lark, we decided to take our poem over to the Boiler House to read it there; Marilyn brought her mike and laptop to record, although we assumed there would be too much noise for our words to be heard easily. To our amazement, when we listened to the playback, the balance was very good, so Marilyn may use that recording in the final product. You can be sure that as soon as it is ready, I will post it here at Top of JC’s Mind!

After a short break, which I confess I used to shop in the museum gift store, we reconvened for a bit more workshopping before returning to our apartments to get ready for dinner. We had made a reservation for Grazie, which is on the first floor of the building where we are staying and is where we had our opening night dinner, and had a fabulous time with great food and even greater conversation.

We re-convened in the apartment living room for more time together. First, we did book signing. Copies of Verse Osmosis were passed around for multiple signatures. We were also blessed to have several books by members of the group currently out in print: several books by Kyle Laws, Marilyn McCabe’s Glass Factory, and Ann Dernier’s In the Fury. Then, we snuck in a bit more workshopping and insisted on hearing people read just a few more poems before we were all too tired to continue.

This morning, we all faced the realization that we only had a few hours left before we would have to leave. Six days seems so short! Although we all accomplished a great deal, there is so much more we have to say. The challenge is to keep the creative energy we feel here alive, without the obvious advantages of having a writing studio, an art museum, other poets available for feedback and support, and at least partial respite from household, family, and work obligations.

Yes, it is going to be a challenge.

My hope is to continue to work on my manuscript so that I can send it out to readers in the coming months and have it ready to submit to publishers or contests by the middle of 2017.

You all know how my plans often go, though…

Wish me luck and stay tuned!

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…

 

 

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…

 

 

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.

 


	

re-jiggering part 3 – or 547?

One of the running themes of this blog – and my life – has been my constant need to adjust my plans. The last post that I titled re-jiggering was actually my second by that name, so this is part 3 in terms of blog titles, but some much larger number in terms of reality.

As my more frequent visitors know, we have been dealing with health issues with my mom, known here as Nana. On August 31st, she finally had the long-awaited diagnostic heart catheterization, which confirmed that she has two heart valves that are severely compromised. They need to be replaced using a technique called TAVR, which involves working through the blood vessels to get to the heart rather than cutting through the chest as in open heart surgery. Our local hospital is not equipped to replace multiple valves in this way, so we are in the process of referral to Columbia in New York City.

One of my sisters lives in NYC and the other has already offered to go the City to help Nana and Paco, so the current plan is that I will stay here to hold down the fort at their apartment in a nearby senior living community.

Timeline to be determined, but we are hoping it will be a matter of weeks. I hope that readers will send out a prayer, healing thoughts, and/or positive energy for Nana.

In the post I linked above, the other re-jiggering that was going on had to do with my writing. True to form, I wound up re-jiggering that, too.

I had expected to spend time working on my poetry collection, but, instead, diverted to a secret poetry mission. Excitement! Mystery! Or, at the very least, poetic license. All will be revealed sometime in the last third of September. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, I have revised my plans for the Boiler House Poets reunion residency at MASS MoCA, which begins September 30. I had hoped to have a working manuscript of my collection assembled by then, but it isn’t going to happen. My new plan is to use the residency to get feedback and do revisions on some of the poems that have not yet been workshopped, write some poems that I have been planning, and be on the lookout for new inspirations, including the new works that will be on display at MoCA. In those periods when I am too exhausted/tired/frazzled to be creative, I can do further work on ordering the collection and drafting a forward and notes. My local poets feel that some of the ekphrastic poems, which is the fancy term for poems that are about a work of art, could benefit from a note about the the art piece on which they are based.

Meanwhile, in Tibet…

Sorry, a bit of Boiler House inside baseball there…

Meanwhile, I will transcribe some poems that are still only scrawled in various journals, notepads, and pamphlets into my google docs and buy a new Chromebook, as my current one is getting a bit unreliable and I need it working well for the residency. I also hope to get a few half completed blog posts out to the world. (I am not even bothering to project a timeframe to get back to my reading/commenting routine. Circumstances have pushed that even further into the realm of nebulous “someday”.)

And, of course, fulfilling my secret poetry mission…

 

 

 

Poem for the Boiler House Poets!

I am so excited to share this blog post from my poet-friend Gail Dimaggio!

Gail is one of the Boiler House Poets, the inaugural group of poets who gathered at MASS MoCA for a poetry residency in collaboration with Tupelo Press. It was my privilege to be part of this intrepid group of nine poets who shared an amazing, complex, rich, and creative week together.

This month, Gail is participating in the 30/30 fundraiser for Tupelo Press. She is among a group of poets writing and posting a new poem every day. Poems and sponsorship information is available here:  https://tupelopress.wordpress.com/3030-project/.

Today is day 11 and Gail has posted a poem that I sponsored, asking her to write about our experience together. She wrote an amazing poem using the technique of found poetry, in which the poet uses words from another source to create a new work. Here, Gail uses fragments of poems from the Boiler House Poets’ video in her poem “Poets Gather in the Boiler House to Read Their Work”.

Most of the Boiler House Poets will be gathering this fall for a reunion at MASS MoCA. Gail and I will both be there.

I can hardly wait!