poems and prints

Our first full day of the Boiler House Poets second reunion residency began with each of us doing our own thing. I made an early trip to my studio and completed the first draft of a poem for my collection that I had begun to draft a year ago (yikes!) and then went off to enjoy the farmers’ market and Fall Foliage Festival craft fair. I also delivered a couple posters for the Boiler House Poets’ reading, which will be held on October 4 at 7 PM at Makers’ Mill on Main Street, North Adams. Any blog-readers nearby are cordially invited to attend!

After lunch, the lions’ share of our group participated in a printmaking workshop at Makers’ Mill. Kate and Jim demonstrated the process of preparing the materials and operating the press and then assisted us with our inaugural attempts. We were all novices and I admit that my work was very rudimentary, but I loved the work of the other poets. We needed to let our paper and ink dry, but we can pick them up later in the week or at our reading.

One of my favorite parts of the printmaking was operating the press. We turned a big wheel which was very much like the wheel of a ship. It also reminded me of a demonstration that I attended with my parents at their retirement village. Their friend Jim Mullen is an art professor emeritus who has his presses in a studio in his apartment. He is still very much an active artist; he lends his talents to the village community by designing and producing cards and by donating works to be raffled to raise money for the charitable foundation. He also offers art education experiences and did a very interesting demonstration of printmaking techniques. It was part of the reason that I decided to join in with today’s opportunity to try printmaking, even though I am not much of a visual artist.

Next, we started a poetry workshopping session. I always love to see what the other poets are working on and hear their insightful comments. I learn so much. I must admit, though, that I don’t feel very helpful to the group. So much of what they do is beyond what I could ever hope to achieve. Sometimes, I can make peace with that, rationalizing that I am a community poet and that it is okay for me to remain so. Other times, like today, not so much…

During dinner break, I decided to go back to the apartment to decompress a bit. I was able to talk to B and E at home and was glad to hear that everyone there is doing all right. I touched base with a local friend and made plans to meet tomorrow. I had a relatively long text conversation with daughter T who will soon be returning home from MO. And I went back to my studio and began to put the poems in my collection in order.

Today was chilly and drizzly. Maybe tomorrow will be a bit brighter…

Poems – Fall 2016 BPP anthology

The fall anthology of the Binghamton Poetry Project is now available, so I can share the poems that were published in it here at Top of JC’s Mind. I shared “Thanks to the Department of Public Art” in a separate post. Below are three poems that I wrote from prompts in the summer and fall 2016 workshop sessions. Enjoy! (For some reason, when I copied these over, they arrived in a different font and spacing, so I decided to just roll with it!)

Sounds of Silence

          by Joanne Corey

Even if there were no
birds chirping in the trees,
leaves rustling in the breeze,
neighbor’s dog barking,
car alarm down the street erupting,
papers rustling,
child dribbling a basketball,
ice cream truck playing its jingle,
chipmunk retreating into the downspout,
bee buzzing among the clover,
footsteps on the sidewalk,
there would not be silence.

The voice in my mind is never
still.
*****
To Do

     by Joanne Corey

Go grocery shopping
Cook dinner
Clean up
Watch the news
Read
Sleep

Don’t forget to sing

Get up
Eat breakfast
Shower
Dress
Call Mom
Listen more than you talk

Don’t forget to sing

Travel
Visit a volcano
Step into the Pacific
Climb a mountain
Hear Big Ben chime
Walk on a glacier

Don’t forget to sing

Become a grandmother
Mourn your parents
Visit old friends
Pray
Write
Listen more than you talk

Don’t forget to sing
*****
Four River Haiku

 ~~ by Joanne Corey

Ice glazes river.
Groan, crack, break, flow downstream, jam.
Water floods the town.

Snow melt in spring sun.
River hurries over rocks.
Meander, oxbow.

Summer drought for months.
Fish find oxygen in pools.
We cast, seeking them.

Leaves, gold, orange, red,
Windswept, traverse the hillside.
River flows away.

 

MA Birthday

Today was another full-to-overflowing day of our reunion residency at MASS MoCA with a special feature for me. October fourth is my birthday.

I was up before six, thankfully after a decent night’s sleep, and opened three cards from my family that had found their way into my suitcase. I went over to my studio early and worked on some revisions, taking a break to attend 8:00 Mass.

October 4 is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, whom I admire for his advocacy for peace and his respect for and joy in all of creation. It was so meaningful the night that Cardinal Bergoglio appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s, asked for the blessing of the people gathered, and took the name Francis. The homily today talked about how Francis blended contemplative and active service, which is a practice that I strive to emulate, albeit not as well as I wish. I so appreciate present day Franciscans, such as Richard Rohr and Ilia Delio, who continue to teach the connectedness and unity of all creation in Love.

Catholicism has come up surprisingly often during our residency, but I feel I have not done a very good job at explaining myself as a progressive Catholic who sees herself increasingly through an interspiritual lens. Though brought up within the tradition and the rules of the church, I take seriously the primacy of individual conscience and my own responsibilities as a mature Christian, one of the foremost being that it is not my place to judge the beliefs of another person. One of the things I appreciate about Pope Francis is that he makes clear that he excludes no person of good will, whatever spiritual/philosophical path they follow, whether they believe in a god or gods or not. I think of God as Love, as a connection each being has with other beings and all of creation. I continue within the Catholic tradition myself, despite its many flaws, because it is where I learned about the sacramentality of life and relationship, but I honor whatever religious or philosophical path enlightens each person I meet.

(It’s late at night. Can you tell? Back to the story of my birthday…)

After Mass, I walked the grounds at MASS MoCA while talking to Nana on the phone, then went back to my studio to work. I finished the first draft of the Fall Foliage Parade poem, reworked the Boiler House poem, typed in and lightly revised a poem I had sketched from one of the new exhibits, and began a new poem before lunch, which was brought in from Brewhaha because the cafe is closed on Tuesdays, along with the rest of MASS MoCA, which is sad because I would have loved to spend some more time with the new exhibits today. Having lunch from Brewhaha is never sad, though; I had an excellent salmon burger.

Six of the eight of us took an afternoon field trip to Williamstown to visit the Clark Art Institute. There is an special exhibition from the Prado, but I most appreciated re-visiting some of the works that I remember seeing on prior visits. I was especially drawn to the Renoir paintings today, although I made a point of visiting the Degas “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” sculpture that reminds me of daughter T.

We met in the apartment across the hall for dinner together and my friends surprised me with cake and ice cream, a rendition of “Happy Birthday”, a beautiful many-pointed star ornament, and a card with little notes from each of them. Of course, we turned our attention back to poetry and did some more workshopping and reading, but the group indulged me by listening to me read some of the poems from my manuscript in development. I really wanted to be able to read some of them in North Adams because they originate here, but confess to being a bit anxious about it. I don’t think I even looked up at all when I was reading. I was concerned that my poems would be too simple because my fellow Boiler House Poets craft such exquisite poetry; fortunately, the response was very positive. There was even some interest in reading the whole manuscript when I get it assembled, which will be a huge help. I know any feedback I get will help make the collection as strong as possible before I send it off to potential publishers.

So, it has been a good birthday. Maybe by next year at this time, I will be submitting my manuscript – and waiting…

MoCA Monday

I did sleep some more after writing this middle-of-the-night post, although I wanted to get up early to shower. I know I said that I wasn’t going to revise The Octagon Room until after I got home, but an idea presented itself so I plunged in and did another draft before breakfast.

I met a high school friend downstairs at Brewhaha, where we enjoyed delicious waffles and conversation. It was great to see her, although we didn’t have much time, as she needed to get to work and I needed to get to the studio.

I did a little more revising and printed two poems for workshopping today, just in case we get two sessions in again. My main goal, though, was to get into the Museum, as I had not yet taken the opportunity to do so and wanted to see the new exhibits.

The museum does not open until 11:00, but the grounds are open sooner, so I went back to our beloved Boiler House. I think it may be the first time that I have been there totally alone, which allowed me to fully engage with the soundscape. I climbed the flights of open metalwork stairs all the way to the top. MASS MoCA has added many more solar panels to their buildings. Being on the top of the building gives a new appreciation for the vastness of the museum site and a spectacular view of downtown North Adams. It was poignant to look at their landmark steeples, though, as one is missing. St. Francis was torn down this year; I could see the remnant that is left, waiting to be hauled away. I am planning to write a poem about it as a postscript to one I wrote last year.

At 11:00, I did an hour-long spin through the first floor of the main museum building where the new exhibits were. Unlike most museums, MASS MoCA does not rely on having a large permanent collection. Frequent visits reveal new works, so the experience of visiting is always fresh. I drafted one poem in my notebook, honoring advice from one of the poets who came to speak to us last year. There were several other pieces of which I am in awe, but don’t feel that I can expand on poetically. Maybe later, or maybe never. Still, I am glad to have experienced them.

After lunch, we went on a formal tour of the museum. Unfortunately, the group was large and we weren’t able to visit too many pieces. I did appreciate being able to accompany my poet-friend Jessica into the Sol Lewitt exhibit. She had helped workshop a poem I had written about it, so it was nice that she was able to experience the art in person. The large exhibit hall is currently closed as the next major exhibit, Nick Cave’s Until, is being installed. We were able to see some of the installation going in and hear a bit about it from our guide. I feel that I will have to try to come back to see it after it opens on October 15. I think there may be a poem there, although it may be too overwhelming for me to write about. Fortunately, it will be here for a whole year.

After the tour and a bit of delay due to a sudden downpour, we reconvened at the Studios for workshopping. I decided to present my new version of The Octagon Room, which was well-received. There are more edits to make, including a new title, but I feel that I will be able to improve it enough to include in my manuscript.

Being back here at MASS MoCA makes it seem that completing a collection is possible. The trick will be keeping the momentum going after I return home. There will need to be more writing, more revision, assembling the collection, sending it out to readers for feedback, more revision, editing, cutting, and adding, and, eventually, sending it out to presses for consideration.

Wish me luck…

 

Middle of the night to middle of the night

I started my writing day on  Sunday at 3 AM, drafting the “Meanwhile in Tibet” poem that has been sloshing about in my brain intermittently since last November in my journal, so as not to expose myself to the blue light of my Chromebook. (Point of information, or, perhaps, warning : I am writing this now at quarter of two Monday morning on my Chromebook, hoping that the blue light won’t keep me from catching a few hours of sleep later on. Many “night’s sleep” for me lately resemble a couple of naps, instead of a single expanse of sleep. So, back to the story of yesterday…)

After a few more hours of sleep, I breakfasted on an excellent apple crumb cake that I had bought on Saturday from the Clarksburg Bread Company at the farmers’ market and went to my studio to write. I began a Fall Foliage Parade poem, recollecting my memories of the parade as a child, and I typed in and revised the Tibet poem. By then, lunch was approaching, so I decided to go down early to make some notes for a planned poem on local supporters of the museum.

We lunched and visited and, while the other poets started a workshopping session, I excused myself to attend the parade. I walked over Hadley Overpass and settled myself on the rail only feet away from where we used to watch the parade in front of my grandparents’ home on State Street. The building is no longer there, replaced by greenspace and a path into Heritage Park. The crowds were thin and the parade resembled more Fourth of July or Old Home Days in the small towns than the Fall Foliage Parades of forty-five years ago. It was also strikingly quiet for a parade, to the the extent that a couple of marchers actually asked what I was doing scrawling in my notebook as they passed. Telling a stranger you are making notes for a poem can result in some rather quizzical looks. I definitely have material to contrast the two eras, although the actual writing may have to wait until I am back home. I am acutely aware of how much I still want to do and see here and how little time there is. I have not even visited any of the new MoCA exhibits yet.

With the parade being barely an hour, I arrived back in time to catch the second half of the workshop period. I workshopped my Boiler House poem and received lots of good feedback for revisions. I continue to contend with the issue of how to address writing about art installations in a way that is engaging as poetry and not dependent on having experienced the art on which the poem is based.

We decided to have supper at the Freightyard Pub and to walk there rather than drive. As the local, albeit several decades removed, I was the designated tour guide, so I went for a walk to decide on the best route. It isn’t far but there are both railroad track and river crossings with which to contend and I wanted to check out conditions of walkways and such. I am happy to report that I successfully guided the group to dinner and back with no turned ankles.

Kyle proposed an additional workshopping session, so we headed back to the Studios. I decided to present The Octagon Room draft by just reading it from my google docs, thus saving paper. The basic question is whether it is worth working on as it is basically at the moment a very, very long list poem. The basic answer is “yes, but…” Everyone was helpful with ideas to approach revision. The $64 question is whether or not I have the skill to pull it off. It needs to percolate a bit, so I will set it aside and pick it up later after I am back home.

By the end of the session, I was too tired to work on this post. (I was probably too tired during the session to be as effective as I ought to have been; fortunately, everyone else was more with it than I.) I collapsed into bed and really, Mom, I did sleep for a while before writing this. It’s almost three o’clock now, so back to bed…

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…

 

 

Mass MoCA poetry residency: Monday

Monday is Volta* Day.

This morning was incredibly difficult. I am experiencing a flare of one of my health issues and had had great difficulty sleeping. We went to the Tupelo loft for breakfast together and I was too out of it to do much conversing. I did start drafting a poem about how I might need to start using caffeine, or maybe alcohol…

I chose, however, to pull out every support med in my arsenal to take with breakfast. I don’t usually resort to meds right away, to minimize side effects, but I didn’t have time to let things play out on their own. I’m pleased to report, it worked and I was actually feeling almost decent by the time the session with Jeffrey started this afternoon.

We started with the assignment Jeffrey had given us yesterday. He had promised the results would be amazing, and they were! It was the first time I actually felt that I could keep up with expectations. As part of the exercise, I read my “good luck” poem “Moonlight” https://topofjcsmind.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/binghamton-poetry-project/; I was thrilled when Jeffrey said that he wanted to write one of the lines down so he could “steal” it. I thought that if I could write one line that he liked enough to appropriate, I really was going to be okay.

Next, we had another workshopping session. I actually jumped in when I wanted to be next to share my poem because I was so excited by a poem from the only other poet in the group to have grown up in this area, that I wanted to piggyback on his work and continue the local conversation. I got great feedback on how to strengthen my poem, although the actual work will probably have to wait until I am back home.

After a break, during which I enjoyed some fantastic pumpkin ice cream and some time alone with the Sol Lewitt exhibit at Mass MoCA, we re-convened at Tupelo loft to hear Jeffrey talk about publishing, which was elucidating.

There was one bit of bad news today. Our public reading has been cancelled due to scheduling conflicts. I had been looking forward to inviting a few of the people I still know locally to hear me read, but now I won’t be able to. Two of our poets suggested that instead we convene after supper and have two or three of us read for as many of the nine of us as can make it. We enjoyed the first session of that tonight and it was just the right way to end our Monday.

It’s hard to believe we are already halfway through.

* a volta is a turning point in a poem