A normal-rare event

On July tenth, there was a rare island of normalcy.

Or an almost normal version of a rare event.

I participated in a live poetry reading in conjunction with the Empty the Inkpots exhibit at the Vestal Museum. The reading was part of the Summer Art Festival, a collaboration of the Museum and the Vestal Public Library. Several of the poets from the Binghamton Poetry Project who have work included in Empty the Inkpots read from the stage/deck at the Museum with the audience arrayed in scattered chairs and benches and on the lawn. It was the first time in many months that I have participated in a live-and-in-person poetry reading. It had been even longer since I had had to read with a microphone. The amplification was useful because the museum is near a busy roadway.

I chose not to read the poem I had on display, which is about the early months of the pandemic; it is available at the link above. Instead, I read three poems from my manuscript about the North Adams, Massachusetts where I grew up. “Conveyance” appeared in the spring 2021 anthology of the Binghamton Poetry Project. The other two poems, “North Adams Public Library” and “Monroe Bridge Mail”, are currently unpublished so I won’t share them here.

I was very happy with the reading on a number of counts. First, there were people in the audience who came at my invitation, including one who saw my Facebook announcement of the event. Second, though I was nervous before, I was reasonably comfortable during the reading, even managing the microphone adjustment without much trouble. Third, the reading was well-appreciated by our audience. We had six poets, with diverse styles and viewpoints, represented. We read in alphabetical order. Uncharacteristically, I was not first, which was helpful for me. I like to read early in the order, but I’m better at reading second than first. I was also grateful that the most experienced poet and performer was last as it gave a strong finish to event. No one should have to follow J. Barrett Wolf at a reading!

Lastly, I was pleased to receive personal compliments after the reading from family and friends, some of whom are also poets. What was most heart-warming was that a woman that I did not know came up to me afterward and told me how much she enjoyed my poems and asked where she could find my work. Of course, I don’t have any books of my own out, but I was able to give her my paper copies of my poems, which included my bio for the exhibit and the address for Top of JC’s Mind.

The reading was an island of normalcy not only because of the pandemic but also because most of my time these days has been wrapped up in dealing with the care of my 96-year-old dad who is currently in a rehab/skilled nursing facility after a fall and ensuing complications. It’s why it has taken me so long to post about the reading.

It’s also why, for the first time in years, I am not registered for the current sessions of the Binghamton Poetry Project. I am usually visiting my father in the early evenings. Even if another family member is available to visit, I can’t predict if I will have any creativity/brainpower left late in the day.

It’s made the reading that much more important as a reminder that my poetry life is still there, waiting for me to go back to it when things are more settled.

Someday.

typewriters and poetry

I’m pleased to announce that I have a poem on display in my hometown. The Vestal Museum has just opened a new exhibit entitled Empty the Inkpots: The History of American Typewriters. They are displaying vintage typewriters and have compiled a binder with their research on the various manufacturers. In collaboration with the Binghamton Poetry Project, the Museum is also displaying poems by area poets who have attended BPP workshops. We poets were invited to submit and I was fortunate to have one of my poems selected.

My poem with two vintage typewriters and the research binder
An Oliver company typewriter

One of the fun things about the poems on display is that they are written in a monospaced typewriter-style font. Because most of us are used to reading text in variable-width fonts these days, the look of the poems on the page is quite distinctive.

My poem, bio, and inspiration statement on display

Because it is very hard to read from the photo, here is the text, although not in the special font:

SARS-CoV-2: A Novel Coronavirus

We are only beginning this novel,
the first scenes in China,
then South Korea, Iran, Italy.

In the United States, chapters are written
for the hardest hit states—
Washington, California, New York.

No cases in West Virginia—
turn the page—
it’s there, too.

Chilling numbers give way to vignettes—
the family in Jersey that lost four members
with two more in critical condition,

the NBC audio tech silenced forever,
the loss of the doctor who tried to warn the Chinese government,
the bus driver in Brooklyn dead in March.

The plot twists.
The newest regions in lockdown.
Italian coffins in rows, waiting

for cremation and burial without funerals.
Speculation on treatments and vaccines,
though none are proven.

Fines levied for being outdoors.
Postponed elections.
Shuttered courts.

How many tested.
How many infected.
How many dead.

We spend hours reading voraciously,
awaiting the next
installment in the serial.

The novel is long—
and we may still be near the beginning.
How many of us will see the final pages?

The suspense is killing us.

*

Joanne Corey, though she grew up in New England, has called Vestal home since 1988. A stalwart of The Binghamton Poetry Project since 2014, she last attended the fall 2020 workshop and also has participated locally with the Grapevine Group, the Broome County Arts Council, and Sappho’s Circle. She invites you to visit her eclectic blog at topofjcsmind.wordpress.com.

Inspiration: Like many poets, I write to try to process current events. I drafted this in March 2020 as the pandemic was beginning and workshopped it with my poet-friends of the Grapevine Group. It also became an exercise in the use of extended metaphor.
*****

I wish I could share more of the poems here, but I only have permission for my own work. I hope that local folks will be able to see the exhibit in person. It is currently scheduled to be on display through May 31st. The link in the first paragraph will give times that the Museum is open and information on any special events.

While you are there, make sure to take part in the community poetry exercise. We are creating an exquisite corpse poem. Each person is invited to compose a sentence with adjective+noun+verb+adjective+noun without looking at the prior line. Bonus: You get to type it on a manual typewriter! Although I learned to type on a manual, it had been a long time since I had used one. Daughter T was with me and I had to do a bit of coaching. Physical carriage return was not something that she had ever experienced.

Binghamton Poetry Project – Spring 2016

On April 15, as I was preparing for dress rehearsal for the Binghamton Philharmonic concert (https://topofjcsmind.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/brahms-beethoven-and-binghamton/), the Binghamton Poetry Project was holding the Spring 2016 reading and anthology release. I was not available to read due to rehearsal, but here are my poems from the anthology. Enjoy!

*****
After May, 1982
by Joanne Corey

At baccalaureate, we
Smith women were instructed
to hire good help.
It was the only way,
we were told,
to “have it all.”

I didn’t do it,
didn’t want to “have it all” –
at least, not all at once.

I gave up paid work
for the unpaid work
of caretaking
          of a younger generation
          and an older generation
          of a school
          of a church
          of a community.

Feeling judged
for not making money
gaining promotions
being an example
of a modern
educated woman
for my daughters

Deflecting comments
about wasting my education
          my brain
wearing my Phi Beta Kappa key
for courage in challenging times

Taking years to come
to see my choice
was right for me…

How different would it have been
had our college president said,
“Here is your life,
now what will you do with it?”

*****
Tanka: Hundred-Year Flood
by Joanne Corey

The red house crouches
behind a wall of sandbags
as the water sneaks
forward like a thief to steal
all that the family owns.

*****
Vestal
by Joanne Corey

Names tend to stick.
It’s Five Corners,
even though now
it is only four.
It’s the Old Junior High
even though it hasn’t
been used as a school
for decades.
It’s Main Street
even though it isn’t
filled with shops.

Vesta is goddess
of home and hearth.
Our one-and-a-half story
cedar-shake Cape, tucked
near Choconut Creek,
is what matters,
what makes a home-
town.