writing in 2017

Many writers post about their accomplishments of the year in late December or early January. I usually do something along those lines for my blog and poetry. However, 2017 was not a typical year so this post will be a bit different.

With so much going on in our family, I cut back on posting here at Top of JC’s Mind, although I have tried to keep everyone updated on family and personal happenings and have posted some opinion pieces on news and issues here in the US.

I have also posted about writing poetry, which, between the Binghamton Poetry Project, Sappho’s Circle, the Grapevine Group, some workshops at the Broome County Arts Council, and the Boiler House Poets, I have done quite a bit. I’ve published very little, though, other than in the Binghamton Poetry Project spring and fall anthologies. With limited time, I have chosen to spend it writing and editing rather than researching appropriate journals and submitting.

I did, though, take the major step of assembling a first draft of a poetry collection centering on the North Adams area where I grew up.  I need major amounts of time to re-work it before it is ready to be sent to contests or publishers.

I also put together some of my recent poems for a chapbook contest for women poets fifty or older. I may submit it to another contest with a January 15th deadline.

Contests are a super-long shot…

Given that there are still a lot of other things that need my attention, I am not making any promises regarding 2018, but, if anything does get published, you can be sure there will be a post about it here.
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This is part of Linda’s Just Jot It January. Join us! Find out more here:
 https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/01/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-1st-2018/

 

poetic pondering

When I was at the most recent Boiler House reunion residency, I wrote a poem that had been percolating in my head for a while and workshopped it with the group. Unlike most of my poems, this one was more than a page long – two and a half pages – and I was very grateful for the input of the Boiler House Poets which helped me to re-craft it to a more manageable page and a half.

Earlier this month, I brought the edited version to workshop with Grapevine Group, my stalwart local group from whom I have learned so much. As it happened, that session marked the return of the elder-statesman poet of the group, who had been unable to be with us for many, many months due to health issues. I will refer to him here as M. I had been in workshop with M only a few times when I first joined the group and have always been awed by him. He is the one among us who has been published most frequently by the big name journals and who tends to ask if we are all submitting our work, a question which always stings a bit because that is the part of the process that I most often neglect.

So, along with being nervous about presenting this poem to Grapevine because it is particularly close to my heart, I was nervous because this accomplished poet who is a founder of our group was there.

…And everyone liked the poem. I was relieved and grateful – and happy to accept comments that give me a few more things to think about for the next round of edits.

I was especially humbled because M was very complimentary to my poem, saying that he could not have written it. Which, I and the other poets in the group know is true only in the context of M could not have written it as it was my personal experience, as he has certainly written poems that were more finely wrought and effective. Still, I was deeply touched by M’s compliment and specific comments on lines and techniques that he liked. Of course, it helped that I used repetition as a poetic technique in the poem, as that is one of his favorite devices. M asked if he could keep a copy of the poem and I was happy to comply.

We met again last night and I was surprised that M brought up my poem from last time. It’s very flattering – and enough to give me butterflies for fear of being disappointing, although my critique did go well again.

As most of my poet friends – and probably a few of my regular readers here – know, I struggle to have confidence in my poetry. On the one hand, this helps me to accept criticism and make edits that make my work stronger. On the other, it keeps me from putting my work out there as much as I should.

I admit that I will probably always feel that I am behind other poets in my knowledge and experience, given that my academic background is scant and I didn’t being to write seriously until I was in my early fifties. Still, I should more often reflect on how far I have come and how much I have grown and developed as a poet over the last several years, even though, for more prosaic reasons, I have not been doing much submitting/publishing in the last couple of years.

So much of that growth is due to my various poetry circles, so I offer my profound gratitude and love to the Binghamton Poetry Project, Grapevine Group, Sappho’s Circle, and the Boiler House Poets. I literally would not be the poet I am today without you – and perhaps not a poet at all.

SoCS: short and sweet

This post is going to be very short, because I just spent a bunch of time writing a post about the Sappho’s Circle poetry reading last night.

I guess the other thing I should mention is that I had to adjust the mike last night because I am so short…
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This short and sweet post was written in response to Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week, which was “short.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/03/10/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-mar-1117/

 

Sappho’s Circle reading

Last night, Sappho’s Circle, a women’s poetry workshop convened by Heather Dorn, hosted a poetry reading at the Bundy Museum. The Bundy is our home and we decided to do the reading during Women’s History Month, as part of their current emphasis on women’s issues, particularly suffrage.

We chose to each read a poem from a woman poet whom we admire, followed by a poem or two of our own. I chose to read “The Bleeding-heart” by Mary Oliver. I admire her talent for melding nature imagery with insights into the human condition. I paired it with my poem “Discovery” which is thematically related  – by springtime, by heirloom flowers, and by family connections.

After Sappho’s Circle members had read, we opened the floor. We were thrilled to have several poets share work with us. I was especially happy that three of the Grapevine Group, formerly the Bunn Hill Poets, read. There is significant overlap between Grapevine, which meets a couple of times a month to workshop our poems, and Sappho’s Circle, so it was nice to have support from our poet-friends and give them an opportunity to join in the fun.

And it was tremendously fun!

And the poems were amazing! Several of the participants are great performers and I admired their skill in engaging us with their movement, pacing, pitch, and tone. Many of the poets also used the opportunity to present some of their edgier work, using language that I, small-town-New-England bred, good-little-Catholic-girl, would never be able to pull off.

I am honored to have been a part of the reading. I can barely believe that I get to be among so many helpful, talented poets on a regular basis. I am especially indebted to Heather, who, when she was assistant director of the Binghamton Poetry Project, connected me to what is now the Grapevine critique group, and who started Sappho’s Circle to foster women poets who want to publish their work.

I am a lucky poet!

poetry reading tonight

One of the things that poets are expected to do is participate in readings.

As a – let’s call it – late-emerging poet, I have done relatively few readings, so I tend to get nervous when I need to do one.

Like this evening.

Sappho’s Circle, the women’s poetry group convened by Heather Dorn, is going on the road to read at an art gallery in Callicoon, NY, about seventy miles from our home base in Binghamton. The reading will last about an hour and include five members of the Circle.

Because we are reading in an art gallery, I am planning to read some of my ekphrastic poems that came out of my residencies at MASS MoCA, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams. These are poems that I am planning to make part of my manuscript under development.  I have chosen some of the shorter poems from the MASS MoCA section of the collection, as I feel they will be more accessible when there is no visual component involved.

A bonus is that looking through my poems to choose which to read reminded me that I actually have quite a few poems that have been through revision and that I might be close to making a first draft of the manuscript.

Which is exciting!

And daunting.

Maybe next month, after T is settled in Missouri with her new job and E goes to London to visit L for ten days, I will attempt to print the poems and order them and write a forward and end notes. Then, I can look for holes that need to be filled.

Maybe.

First, I have to get through the reading tonight.
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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! It’s easy and fun! Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/19/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-19th17/

jjj-2017

 

 

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

By the Seats of Our Pants

I am pleased to share this link: http://ragazine.cc/2016/11/by-the-seats-of-our-pantscreative-nonfiction/ to a piece of creative non-fiction by my friend Wendy Stewart.

Wendy and I share in two local poet groups. This piece began as a prompt in Sappho’s Circle, a women’s poetry workshop convened by Heather Dorn. It has been my privilege to see Wendy’s piece evolve from those beginnings to its publication in Ragazine.

Enjoy!

Sappho’s Circle poetry reading

One thing that poets are expected to do is participate in readings of their work.

Poets who have books out will give solo readings in bookstores. Famous poets read on college campuses or at public events. There are open mics and group reading opportunities in most US cities on a regular basis.

I have read at Binghamton Poetry Project events and at the open mic at RiverRead Books in Binghamton in the past few years.

But, for various reasons, not in the last year or so…

Tonight, Sappho’s Circle, a women’s poetry group convened by former head of the Binghamton Poetry Project and newly minted PhD Heather Dorn will be offering a reading as part of Binghamton’s First Friday events. We are reading poems that came out of our work with the group, either written from prompts or workshopped in Sappho’s Circle.

We will be reading at 6:30 in our home base, the Annex of the Bundy Museum, followed by an opportunity to discuss our group and answer questions from the audience (she says, hoping that we will have an audience). We want to thank the Bundy for sponsoring our group and hope to attract some new members, as well.

I will be reading two or three poems, which I have printed out in large, easy-to-read type. I have been practicing so that I don’t stumble over my own words – or at least not too often.

It is not at all a high pressure situation, but I am feeling a bit uneasy because it has been so long since I have read in public.

Is poetry reading like riding a bicycle?

 

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.

 

 

How to Be a Woman in a Man’s Idea

A powerful poem from Heather Dorn, current director of the Binghamton Poetry Project and the creator of Sappho’s Circle, a women’s poetry group. She has been invaluable to me as an emerging poet. Congratulations, Heather!

Slink Chunk Press

by Heather Dorn

I fall down the stairs like a rag doll

again and again when I’m four.

The hat rack breaks my body’s tumble

and I thump to a stop. Nobody ever

moves that hat rack, maybe worried

I’d crack headfirst into the wall instead.

Better to be impaled. There is something

slippery about being four and next to the steps

in my house. There is something

that still pushes me over the edge

of that first step now. I have seen how

this is inherited. I watched my brother

bang his three year old head into

concrete over and over again. He is too

sturdy to fall down the stairs and has to

break himself another way instead. I see

my mother’s face, like blue ink spilled

on her eyes. She did not fall, whatever

she says. I watch my father’s fist raise

above her, gripped, as if…

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