Saturday, September 20, 2014

2014 Rona Jaffe Awards Ceremony

This past Thursday, I was privy to watch my good friend Danielle Jones-Pruett receive a Rona Jaffe Writers Award. The foundation and the prizes are exclusively in support of women writers. Six prizes were awarded this year to Olivia Clare, Karen Hayes, T.L. Khleif, Mara Naselli, Solmaz Sharif, and Danielle, of course. The ceremony on Thursday marked 20 years since the award has been given.

It was a wonderful event and, most important, it's the kind of award that encourages emerging writers in their pursuits. 

Like all of the recipients, Danielle has worked tirelessly on her craft, so I'm thrilled that she's getting the recognition she deserves. Her project will focus on a chemical company's lasting effects on her hometown in Alabama.

You can find some of Danielle's poems up at Apt and Cumberland River Review.

(Woo hoo! Atta girl!)

MEET THE PRESS: January Gill O’Neil in Conversation with Alison Meyers of Cave Canem

The kind folks at Best American Poetry published my conversation with Alison Meyers, Executive Director of the Cave Canem Foundation, and me. My thanks to Alison, and to Nin Andrews for all her help.

I attended the second Cave Canem retreat in 1997, shortly after its founding in 1996. The impressive part of the interview, for me, is the list of milestones since 1996. So many honors and accolades since then. Alison has been a huge part of the organizations success. 

If anything, read the interview to find out how Cave Canen got its name. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday folks. I am writing with from the Gulu, one of the local haunts in Salem (pun intended). The picture is of three of my poet friends who asked me to join them at their table, but I'm so tired and unfocused today that I'm electing to be by myself. I need some quiet time.

Tonight is our workshop night, so I'll see them there. 


The past few days I've been working on my reappointment binder. For those not in academia, this is a collection of materials, from syllabi to assignments to everything I did last academic year. I known this was coming since May, but, of course, I waited until the last days to get it all together. It's done, turned in, probably needs revisions because I'm new to how departments work, but it's done.

I'm celebrating with a bowl of chipotle sweet potato soup.

Needless to say, I haven't written much. But I'm a little bored of writing pieces based on free writes. My third manuscript was created because I had time to free write. 

What I have been recently is jumping back into the Juno Larcom research, also known as book #4. The poems are there, I just have to write them, and they are calling. Maybe they've always called to me, but I hear them now, louder than ever before. 


A writer friend of mine created a five-year plan for her career. She's published a few fiction titles; I wouldn't be surprised if she gets a movie deal someday. Many of us have financial plans, and life plans, so why not plot out the goals and the steps it takes to get there? I may be making my own five-year plan in the near future.

Mass Poetry Festival: Call for Submissions

Call for Proposals for the 2015 Massachusetts Poetry Festival

Dear Poets, Poetry Organizations, Presses, and Editors:

The Seventh Massachusetts Poetry Festival will be held May 1–3, 2015 in beautiful downtown Salem, Massachusetts.

The submission period for the festival is now open. You may submit your proposal here. The period will run from September 15 to October 30.

Only submissions made in the online form provided will be considered. While there is no fee to submit program proposals, any expenses incurred in the process of submission will be the responsibility of the program/project organizer(s). You may submit up to two proposals (no pseudonyms, please). Because of scheduling constrains, poets and presenters may participate in no more than two accepted events.

The festival seeks programming that encompasses the diversity of Massachusetts poets. Within that diversity, we will select the highest quality content and presentation possible. We seek diversity of age, region of the state, language, gender, background, race, and ethnicity. Additionally, we want to encourage a range of presentations—in particular, from people who are submitting proposals with us for the first time.

While we welcome all types of programming, we especially encourage programming geared to the following topics:

• First-time festival presenters
• Poetry of place
• Cross-regional poetry
• Multicultural poetry
• Poetic forms (ex. Sonnets, villanelles, haiku, etc.)
• Poetry of work
• Poetry of witness/purpose
• Poetry of gender and sexual orientation
• Poetry in translation
• Poetry and the body
• Poetry and aging
• Poetry and the arts (theater, music, visual arts)
• Ecopoetry
• Sessions specifically for college students, high school students, and children and families

We are looking for group poetry readings, workshops, panel discussions, and performances that involve music, theatre, dance, and/or visual arts.

Note: The festival does not schedule individual poets for readings. We will, however, accept proposals from individuals for workshops. All other programs are for groups of poets and presenters.

Our criteria for submissions are based on the following:

1. Originality—Is this proposal truly unique from what we have seen at prior Mass Poetry Festivals?

2. Quality—Is this a proposal for high quality programming? Is there evidence—references, examples of previous performances—that demonstrate that quality?

3. Diversity—Does the program reflect the festival’s values?

4. Audience—Will this program help build a larger audience? Everyone who participates must help publicize the festival in smart, creative ways.

Submit your proposal 
If you have questions, please send them to

Visit the Mass Poetry Website.

Thank you for your interest.

January O'Neil
Executive Director, Massachusetts Poetry Festival

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Confession Tuesday

Happy Confession Tuesday folks!

Here's the cover to Misery Islands. Pub date is early November. Yahoo!


I will be reading at this year's Dodge Poetry Festival! WOO HOO! Good lord, I am over-the-moon excited to be at Dodge this year. I've been an attendee since 1996, so you can imagine my excitement to be included with this amazing list of featured poets. Feeling very humble as I type this. Wow!


Should I end my post now? What more can I say? New book, Dodge Poetry Festival--life is good.


Listening to U2's new album. Download it for free from iTunes! LOVE. IT. Five years is much too long between albums.


With so much going on, I've felt a bit out of sorts. That's what happens to me at the beginning of every semester. So I've been experimenting with ways I can get more time out of my day. Specifically, I'm trying to get more poetry out of my day and not let everything else fall by the wayside. Here's what i'm doing.

1. Time Map. Have I talked about this? I map out my day, from 5:30 a.m. to about 10 p.m. At one time, I was the queen of the time map, but I haven't used one in a while. My friend, Jennifer, is using now so she inspired me to start it up again. My life is one big grid now, but it works for me.
2. Allot enough time. A colleague of mine, who works with students on time management, says in order to do an activity well, you need 1.5 hours to get into a proper rhythm. So as I make out my time map, I'm looking at gaps in the week where I can devote large blocks of time to poetry, specifically the Juno project. Now, that doesn't mean I can't write poetry whenever I get a few minutes. But it helps to know that while I may not get everything done, I'm less likely to let things fall through the cracks.  
3. Sleep. I've been waiting up at weird times at night, but I'm trying to make sure I'm in bed on the early side. I try to catch up with sleep when I can; and nowaadays, I make a point of slowing down whenever I can.

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Poetry Storehouse: January Gill O'Neil

The kind folks at Poetry Storehouse have posted some previously published poems of mine. There are audio tracks from me, and one or two read by others--which is pretty cool. You never know how your poems will be interpreted, so I really like their take. And then there's this:

Thanks to Othniel Smith for taking my poem, "A Mother's Tale," and adding visuals. Who knew my words would be highlighted by the great film actress Myrna Loy? Special thanks to Nic Sebastian for her creative spirit and love of the written word.

My page at Poetry Storehouse.

Also, check out all of the other poets. Check out poems by my friend Jennifer Martelli.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Almost Famous

This is a pic of my new Scrabble ring, next to my favorite bracelet. It's reads "Almost Famous." The bracelet I found at my favorite gifty-gift store. And even though it has a crack it in (which I tried to fix with wood glue--don't ask), I will never part with it. The ring the perfect. 

Thanks, Suzie!


The first week back to school was a bit rough. I went in to prep for the upcoming week last Saturday and found that my office door lock was changed. We've had a series of office moves this summer and door locks were changed to my surprise. I wasn't scheduled to move. Anyhoo, between that and just the craziness of starting new classes--and having my kids start school again--I barely slept this week. 

Today there are play dates (or "hang outs"--the preferred term among fifth graders) and and a sleepover. So I have declared Sunday as the day of rest in the O'Neil household. 


We had a good Mass Poetry Festival meeting this week. Lots of behind-the-scenes work to do. And many, many surprised to reveal later this month. 


All this to say that I'm trying to give myself a wide berth as I adjust to the schedule. I've been obsessed with the idea of balance, so much so I'm sure I need to write a separate post on it. 

For now, I have to get out of my bathrobe and into shorts so I can mow the lawn. It's supposed to be 90 degrees but rainy later. Ugh.   

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. Hope your first Tuesday in September was a good one. For those of us going back to the classroom, or with kids going back to school, remember: deep breaths. 

Ella. Nuff said.

I am in serious denial that summer is, for all intense and purposes, over. I mean, last Tuesday I was with my kids on a lake. No point even trying to pretend I was near a computer or thinking about a syllabus. 

It’s hard to focus on classes when was nearly 90 degrees today. 


The first two weeks back on campus are always hectic, but I'm looking forward to meeting my students. I’m just trying to be more mindful and about where I put my time, making sure I don’t let anything slip through the cracks. 


Because classes start tomorrow, I plan on taking advantage of writing when my students write. I did this during the last academic year, and though I didn't think much of it at the time, writing when my students wrote contributed to my focus. Most of my writing prompts last about 10 minutes. Since I'm teaching four classes, I have the potential to write at least two days a week, four times a day. Who knows how many drafts I'll get, but it's good practice for me, and good for my students to see me grind it out with them.


This afternoon, I was in a department meeting and I found myself writing a poem in my head. I didn't write it down but it took me six hours to remember the lines. Honestly, I'm surprised I could recall anything these days. 


Current reads:

Copia, by Erika Meitner
Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

Saturday, August 23, 2014

'Because you know I'm all about that bass, bout that bass ..."

"No treble."


The kids have just come back from a weeklong vacation with their dad, and what's the first thing they wanted to do when  they arrived home? See their friends, of course. So I'm Starbucking this afternoon while they are having kid time. Can't say I'm sad about that, but it does feel weird. They'll be plenty of time this week to hang out before school starts--that's what I keep telling myself.

That pretty little chapbook is Afaa Michael Weaver's A Hard Summation,  just published by Central Square Press. This 13-poem collection details what it means to be Black and American, spanning the Middle Passage until now. It's a strong offering. Afaa's work calls me to go a little deeper with  my own.

Here's a review.


Poetry books I'm looking forward to reading, in no particular order:

City of Eternal Spring, by Afaa Michael Weaver
Copia, by Erika Meitner
Post Subject, by Oliver de la Paz
Citizen, by Claudia Rankine


Enjoy the weekend!


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