Boiler House Poets Collective Live!

While I wish I was saying that the Boiler House Poets Collective is together in person and giving a reading somewhere, this announcement is that we now have a public website.

There are three pages on the site: a standard “About Us” for a bit of history and general information; a page with projects we have done together, including videos which are embedded; and a page with links to books, blogs, websites, and videopoems that individual members of the Boiler House Poets Collective have been involved with as writers, editors, or creators.

I have frequently posted here about being in residence at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts with the Boiler House Poets Collective. If you search for MASS MoCA or Boiler House, you’ll get lots of posts about the residency and the poets who have taken part – and a fair amount of soul-searching, discovery, and wonder on my part. Because I am from the North Adams area and graduated from the high school there, there is another level of experience and memory that I bring to the residency. It heightens my sense of being there as a learner, surrounded as I am with more experienced poets and with art. My formal education in visual arts and poetry is sparse and I am forever grateful to my poet-friends for their patience and generosity in helping me grow as a poet.

Sorry for the digression. Back to the website and the Boiler House Poets Collective!

We began in 2015 as part of a collaboration between Tupelo Press and the newly formed Studios at MASS MoCA, which brought together a group of nine poets, most of whom had never met, for a week of poetry and art. The poets bonded so well that we have returned for a reunion residency every year. Because of the housing and studio set-up, we return as a group of eight. Because not all the original poets have been able to return, we have, over the years, brought in poet-friends to fill spaces, so we have become a larger collective and hope to continue as a group far into the future.

This pandemic year is complicated for us. We had reserved our usual week in early fall for our reunion, but we have no idea if MASS MoCA and The Studios will be open and if Massachusetts will be allowing out-of-state visitors without a long quarantine required. Still, I know that we poets will stay in touch and support each other remotely until we can be together physically again.

If you have any comments about the site, you may leave them here or email them to boilerhousepc@gmail.com. Either way, I will respond as best I can. Even though I am, by no means, qualified enough to deserve the title “webmaster,” I did set up the site and am responsible for maintenance. If you want to compliment any of the individual poets or find out more about their work, I will make sure that your message is forwarded to them.

On behalf of the Boiler House Poets Collective, thank you!

shelter-at-home television

I’m pretty old-fashioned about watching television programming. Not quite as old-fashioned as when we were growing up in rural New England and managed to get all three major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS), albeit not very clearly, with an outdoor antenna. We have a standard cable package but we don’t have any premium channels like HBO or Showtime. We do have a DVR, which replaced our VCR for recording shows to watch later and without commercials. In fact, my usual way to watch television is to watch things from the DVR so I can see the whole show in two-thirds the time as watching it live.

Notice that I also talk about watching television. I don’t usually watch shows on my computer. I can’t even imagine trying to watch something of any length on my phone. I like to have a big screen, although our television is nowhere near the size of what is considered a “big screen” today, so that everyone in the room can watch together. We also only have one television in the house.

There are a few series that we record, but the bulk of my television viewing these days is news programming. Those who read TJCM frequently probably had already figured that out…

When E was living here, she had a Playstation, along with Amazon Prime and Netflix, which I generally ignored. When she relocated to the UK, the Playstation stayed behind. We still have the Netflix account, which I still generally ignore. In truth, I can’t even figure out the Playstation controller.

As a gift for the millions of people sheltering in place, CBS All Access offered a one-month free trial. We signed up specifically to be able to watch the Star Trek franchise shows, the first season of Picard and the first two seasons of Discovery. B and I had watched all the other series in the franchise, but had never seen either of these two paid-access ones.

It’s been fun.

We didn’t do the binge mode, where you watch hours and hours on end. Instead, we would watch a couple of episodes each evening, with maybe a bit more on the weekend when B wasn’t working. B, T, and I have all enjoyed watching the series, revisiting some old favorite characters and meeting many new ones. We even watched some of the shorts, interviews, and behind-the-scenes videos.

Now, we are going to cancel before our free month is up.

After the next season of both shows has completed, we may pay for a month so we can watch everything like we did this time.

Maybe, by then, I will have learned to operate the Playstation.

Probably not.

Birthday and more

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, I celebrated my birthday at my Boiler House Poets reunion residency at MASS MoCA.

Actually, I started celebrating with my family before I left for North Adams with early birthday cards and gifts. ABC had chosen a card for me with a dinosaur (or maybe a dragon or alligator?) on it, so after I opened it, she, in her own cute way, took possession of it as a plaything. She and my daughters gave me a framed quilled floral piece from a local artists’ shop. My spouse B gave me a copy of Blowout by Rachel Maddow, which had just become available. It deals with the fossil fuel industry and its political ramifications, I’ve dealt with these issues frequently over these last years in the anti-fracking, climate action, and environmental justice movements and look forward to reading the book. Rachel Maddow does meticulous research, so I’m sure I will gain valuable insights.

I had planned to keep my birthday low-key this year, but was grateful for all the greetings on Facebook, text, in person, and by mail. I was especially grateful to have dinner with cousins that evening. They are the only family B and I have left living here and I always enjoy seeing them when I am back.

Saturday was a very busy day at MASS MoCA and with the Fall Foliage Festival in North Adams. The skies were very clear, which made the early morning very chilly, but I went to the farmer’s market as soon as it opened. I visited familiar vendors, buying maple syrup from B’s hometown and jams, relishes, and pickled beets from nearby Adams. I picked up an extra jar of cranberry-apple relish for E to take on her move to London. They plan to celebrate American Thanksgiving in November and cranberries, being a North American fruit, aren’t easy to come by in the UK – and who knows what the trade situation will be like in November?

I did a bit of writing in the very cold studio. Apparently, the building hasn’t swapped over to heating yet, but I called on my hearty New England roots to make it through! At noon, I visited the craft fair on Main Street, which had been blocked of from traffic. This year, there was also a dance party going on, but I don’t dance – except with ABC in my arms.

At our group lunch, we chose by random drawing the work we would each write about for this year’s Boiler House Poets’ project, Orange Country by ERRE. Marilyn McCabe, our recording and video guru, will put all of our poems together and I’ll post the link here at ToJCM when it becomes available. For a taste of Marilyn’s work, check out this amazing video chapbook. With eight poems to be included, each needs to be short, so I turned to tanka for my contribution. I find that only having 31 syllables to work with helps me distill my thoughts in what I hope will be a meaningful way. It also allows me to do multiple drafts in a relatively contained timeframe. I whittled away words from my original thoughts to create the tanka. The sixth draft will be the final one for the recording, I think.

As it happened, MoCA was having a day of special events to coincide with the city festival. I saw a performance piece by the artist MPA which took place in the midst of her art installation. There was an excellent talk by author Akiko Busch on the current exhibit of works by Rafa Esparza. These works are made of adobe, using water from the Hoosic River which runs through the museum complex and other local and natural materials, and much of Busch’s talk centered around our place in the world and our relationship to it, which is totally in my wheelhouse with my collection in progress. Later in the afternoon, I heard Jimena Canales, a science and technology historian, speak. Unfortunately, she only got through a fraction of her presentation, so we never really got to the intended conclusion on what makes us human and the relationship of humans to art. The bonus, though, was that a wonderful harpist played for us in that same gallery space immediately after. This hadn’t been on the schedule, so we would have missed it otherwise.

Because of all the special events, the poets had decided to do our workshopping after supper. I decided to strike out on my own to eat at Boston Seafoods. I still have trouble calling it that; it’s been around for a long time and I still think of it as what we grew up calling it, the Fish Market. I had fish and chips and then a mocha sundae! I had been upset that the place I used to get mochas had closed, so I was happy to see it on the menu. The mocha sauce is not a fluffy as what we used to get at Apothecary Hall when I was a kid – and they put whipped cream on it, which was not traditional – but it was still delicious and relieved my longing for a North Adams mocha. It occurs to me that people are likely to find this whole mocha business odd, but mocha sundaes were important here. There will probably be two mocha poems in my collection whenever I finish it…

We workshopped poems until after 11:00 PM. I’m hoping the other poets got more sleep than I did, although, with a bar that dates back to 1933 down on the first floor of our building on the Saturday of Fall Foliage Festival weekend, maybe not.

I’m sure we will power through our Sunday, though.

I wonder how many of us will attend the parade today?

the end of Just Jot It January 2019

Linda gave the final prompt for this last day of Just Jot It January: “your favorite thing/part/blog post of last year or last month.” I thought I would write two brief responses.

My favorite blog thing for the last month is that I actually managed to post every day this month. Given that my posting has been so sporadic for so long, this feels like an accomplishment. Bonus: It means that I am writing again, which had definitely fallen by the wayside over the last couple of years. I even have managed to write a few poems recently. Can I keep it up? Probably not the posting every day part, but I’m hoping to carve out some writing/revising time on a regular basis.

My favorite in-person thing of the last month was the return of daughter E and granddaughter ABC from their four week visit with our son-in-law L in London UK . Sometimes in the past when ABC travelled, she would not immediately want to come to us, but this time she broke into a big smile, called out to us, and wanted hugs and kisses. This gives me hope that, when she and E re-locate permanently to the UK later this year, we will be able to keep our relationship alive via videochat. I knew this was possible if chats happened on a daily basis; ABC definitely knows that L is her daddy when they videochat. I doubt we will be able to orchestrate daily calls once they are all together in London, but it seems that weekly ones may be enough to keep us in ABC’s memory bank.

Thanks to Linda for Just Jot It January and thanks to all the other participants! Write on!
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Join us for Just Jot It January! Today’s pingback link is here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/01/31/jusjojan-2019-daily-prompt-jan-31st/
More information and prompts here: https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/31/what-is-just-jot-it-january-2019-rules/

Poetry from MASS MoCA

When the Boiler House Poets get together for our reunion residencies, we have a group project that we work on together, often spearheaded by Marilyn McCabe, whose skill-set includes videopoems and more computer skills than most of us can ever aspire to.

Last fall when we met for our week together at MASS MoCA, Marilyn asked each of us to write a short poem about a work of art that was currently at the museum. She then recorded each of us reading her work and melded it with images of the artwork.

Here is the result. Enjoy! (And because I know someone will ask, my poem is “Redacted” based on a haunting large-scale work by Jenny Holzer.)

Bright Eyes: Eight Poets at MASSMoCA from Mar McCabe on Vimeo.
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Join us for Just Jot It January! Today’s pingback link is here: https://lindaghill.com/2019/01/11/jusjojan-2019-daily-prompt-jan-11th/
More information and prompts here: https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/31/what-is-just-jot-it-january-2019-rules/

SoCS: Ma and ABC

“Ma” is one of the first syllables that babies say, often when they are sad or upset, which is a bit of a bummer for moms to whom this sound is usually attached.

ABC is about to turn eighteen months, so we have been treated to the evolution of “ma”. Right now, it is the sound she makes when she is giving kisses, whether or not these involve physical contact.

It is so sweet at bedtime or other times of the day when she walks or runs over to give a kiss – Mmmmmmmaaaaa!

She and daughter E will leave mid-month to spend four weeks with dad/spouse L in London, where they will have holiday celebrations with her other grandparents, aunt, and extended family.

We will miss them and ABC kisses over the holidays.

Maybe she will kiss the computer screen when we visit digitally as we have seen her do many times when she sees her daddy on the screen…
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “ma”. Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/11/30/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-1-18/ 

Boiler House video/soundscape

From my birthday post at MASS MoCA in October:

I did a walking meditation in the John Cage/Merce Cunningham Bridge with its current sound installation, In Harmonicity, the Tonal Walkway, by Julianne Swartz. For the second time this week, the art has brought me back to my first semester of music theory at Smith, as the installation is a form of musique concrète. The 13:40 minute loop is composed entirely of recorded human voices. This work inspired Marilyn McCabe, the Boiler House poet who conceived and produced our collaborative videopoem last year, to envision a sound project this year. We each recorded a short segment based on a single word for her today. Stay tuned for the final product when it is available.

And now, introducing the completed video/soundscape!

Boiler House Voices: Truck Shadow Muscular Tunnel Window Hoosic Resurrection Flow from Mar McCabe on Vimeo.

Marilyn asked each of us to choose a single word that represented our reunion week. I chose the word “flow.” We each recorded our chosen word for Marilyn in several ways, including saying the word slowly, three times in quick succession, and sung. Marilyn then spent many hours with her computer, cutting up words, overlaying them, mixing sounds, and constructing the soundscape. I can’t pretend to know how she did it, but some of the techniques would have been similar to those used in the Julianne Swartz piece that inspired the endeavor.

Then, Marilyn assembled the video element. Most of the photos are from the Boiler House. I especially love the parts of the video that involve layering of the images, such as the dancing silhouette and the photo of the eight of us taken this year looking out from where some of the Boiler House windows used to be.

I love Marilyn’s creativity and inventiveness, which is always expanding my sense of what is possible. You should all do yourselves a favor and click on the links above the video to see more of Marilyn’s work with videopoems. You can also visit and follow Marilyn here on WordPress at O Write: Marilynonaroll’s blog.

Comments are welcome here or at the Vimeo link.

Shadow, shadow, shadow. Window.   Flow.

Beyond the Moon and Stars

I hadn’t planned to post again today, having written a long post which is an open letter to the electors of the United States electoral college, but we sang this at church this morning and I wanted to share.

Well, T who was with me, was singing. I tried to, but wound up mouthing a lot of the words because I was crying too much to sing.

Heart of the Arts reading video!

Some of you may recall my secret poetry mission to write and present a poem in honor of Emily Jablon and Peg Johnston for the 2016 Heart of the Arts award ceremony. I was invited to participate by the Binghamton Poetry Project, because they receive funding from the United Cultural Fund, which is the grant-bestowing branch of the Broome County Arts Council.

I am excited to share the video of me reading the poem at the dinner. The video was taken from a distance and I am mostly obscured by the podium, but the sound is good. The title got a bit cut off; it is “Thanks to the Department of Public Art.” The diction is pretty good. There are only a few words that are hard to understand – but I, of course, know what I am saying, so feel free to chime in if you have any presentation points for me. I’m not used to reading with a mike or in a large room. It’s rare for community poets like me to get this kind of opportunity and I am very grateful to the Binghamton Poetry Project and the Broome County Arts Council for making it possible.

I also want to thank my spouse B and my daughter T for keeping me (somewhat) calm at the event. I will share that B’s favorite word from the poem is “tessellate.” I don’t know that I will ever write another poem where that is an appropriate word choice, but at least I have done it once!

I am hoping to publish the poem in the fall anthology of the Binghamton Poetry Project; after that, I will share the text here at Top of JC’s Mind.

I hope you enjoy the video! Comments are welcome here or on the Top of JC’s Mind Facebook Page.

 

Videopoem from the Boiler House!

I am thrilled to share with you a new videopoem from the Boiler House Poets!

During our recent reunion residency at the Studios at MASS MoCA, we collaborated on a poem about our beloved Boiler House and each recorded her own lines.

Marilyn McCabe, one of our stalwart Boiler House Poets who has experience with videopoems, graciously handled all the photography and editing to produce the amazing final product.

Enjoy!