Monday, July 27, 2015

In Retreat


Hello from Millay Colony!

I am midway through a writers' retreat with four very good friends. This is my second time here, so returning feels like a homecoming.

Two of us are staying in the main house (this picture doesn't do it justice), while I'm retreating in the barn with two others. Each room comes with a studio that gets great light all day. The barn has a rustic feel. No cell service. No television. No better way to shake things up for a city slicker like me.



Steepletop Barn

The property, also known as Steepletop, was owned by poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. There is the retreat center, and her house and grounds, which have been lovingly maintained and preserved throughout the years. About 600 acres remain of this one-time blueberry farm.

Millay's House



I hadn't read much of Millay's work until I came to Steepletop. She lived from 1892 to 1950, and was a true rock-star poet. She came from humble beginnings, was the poet in the 1920s and 30s, and died young at age 58. Brassy, intelligent, promiscuous--I like to think of her as "a broad" who almost always got what she wanted. Known as one of the best sonnet writers in the 20th century, she's been all but forgotten in the canon of poets. Millay wasn't the nicest of poets, so I wonder about the price an artist makes to pursue her passion.

I can't help but be inspired by the landscape and by my fellow poets as we create in this amazing space. Millay is everywhere. I can't help but be inspired here.




Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Confession Tuesday

Actor from The Ride bus tour, Times Square. Photo by Alex O'Neil


Happy Tuesday folks! Time for confessions. Here we go.

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The kids are I are fresh off of our trip to New York City. What an honor it was to read with the Academy of American Poets with Ross Gay and Meena Alexander. It's hard to get on anyone's radar screen these days so it's nice to be included with an organization that has been a part of my writing career from the start.

But what meant the most to me was having Alex and Ella in the audience. What I'm hoping is that they make a connection between me doing what I love and the places your passions can take you. I want my children to realize someday that it was my poems that brought us to NYC. And if they work hard enough, they can create a rich and full life by doing what makes them happy.

Isn't that what we all want?

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I am woefully behind on my poem a day challenge. I think I'm down by 10 poems. But I should be able to catch up because this week I'll be traveling with some poet friends to Millay Colony for a weeklong writers retreat. I did this two years ago and found the experience extremely productive. I'll work on m'script #3, revise the Juno poems--which may or may not turn into book #4, and catch up on my reading. And, of course, write more poems!

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I have a few poems coming out, but I haven't submitted poems to journals in six months. And, I'm OK with that. When you write a poem a day, those poems need to sit before being released into the wild.

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Overall, I've been relatively lazy. I mean, I haven't had the desire to create a to-do list. Even if there are things to do, I don't want to do them. What's wrong with me?

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God, I *heart* summer.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Three Poets and a Band: Photos

Misery loves company! And I loved reading with Colleen Michaels and Kevin Carey at Chianti's Jazz Lounge as we celebrated the release of Misery Islands in front of a hometown crowd. And with Greg Allen's Fringe Religion playing an unplugged set, it was a good night had by all.





Colleen Michaels




Kevin Carey




Greg Allen's Fringe Religion

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Reading Series - Photos

Can't tell you how much fun I had reading for the Academy of American Poets at the New York Public Library for the Summer Reading Series. Such a pleasure reading with Ross Gay and Meena Alexander. And to have my children in the audience was a blessing. Here are some pictures from the event. My thanks to Jen Benka, Patricia Guzman, and the kinds folks at the Academy for including me in the event.

Ross Gay and Aimee Nezhukumatathil read from their chapbook Letters from Two Gardens. 




Ross Gay



Jen Benka


Meena Alexander





Joseph and David 









Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer Poetry Readings with Meena Alexander, Ross Gay and January Gil O'Neil. | The New York Public Library

Join The New York Public Library, in collaboration with the Academy of American Poets, for an evening of poetry with Meena Alexander, Ross Gay and January Gill O'Neil.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 6 - 7:30 p.m.
PROGRAM LOCATION:
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room
The event is free and open to the public.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

SolLit Dialogue on RACE, CULTURE & CLASS: Are we Ready to Have the Conversation?

I have not posted very much this summer, but I would be remiss if I did not tell you about the piece I wrote for SolLit on race relations. This is a tough subject, one I'm more comfortable addressing in poetry not prose. But here I am, stepping into the fray. Seems like a good time for it, don't you think? Here's an excerpt.

Are we ready to have a real conversation about race? In order for that to happen, we have to be honest about what’s happening. Having an African American president, famous celebrities of color, and godlike basketball players does not mean we’ve come to terms with our history of slavery. The confederate flag flying over the South Carolina State house is testament to that. Maybe the conversation starts with our own cultural biases and admitting we have them. These come out of our own upbringings, our communities and cultures. This is different than the institutional racism which creates large socioeconomic disparities in education, employment, politics, and the judiciary system. Both are problematic, but these days I’m not sure which is easier to address.


Read more at SolLit.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday! Happy Summer!


Ella holding a lobster

The Summer o' Fun has begun!

Even though the kids' last day of school was Monday, we've been in high gear for the last two weeks. It's hard to believe that for 10 years I commuted 80 miles roundtrip for work, which I did year round. Now I'm fortunate enough to teach and not have to work during the summer. So every day, even the tough ones, is a gift. 

Summer is moving a little too quickly for me. 

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I've been thinking a lot about what it means to line up your values with your vision. There's no recipe or trick to doing it. I'm not sure if I even had a model for it. My parents were hard workers but never used language like that, other than say do what makes you happy. And I did. Poetry and family has always been at the center, and knowing what grounds me makes it easier to decide how I spend my time. So having summers off, being with the kids, and still finding time to write? No contest! 

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This month I am writing a poem a day. Wish me luck. Much easier to do PADs in July, November, and January than in April. Why do I even bother with April? 

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Also this month, in theory, I will wrap up the major edits on my next manuscript. And, it's time to take out the Juno poems and decide what to do with them. Not sure what I want for that project but I have some ideas about connecting the past to the present. I think I'm ready. This is a good time to work on new poems because there's so much change happening in places, quite frankly, I didn't think I'd ever see in a lifetime. 




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