Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What Makes Pharrell Happy?

It's hard to find a genuine moment these days on television (or maybe I'm just cynical). But this one really meant something to me. Watch this clip of Oprah and Pharrell talking about the worldwide appeal of his song "Happy."

How many of us have put our art into the world and been truly surprised at the effect it's had on someone else?

Confession Tuesday

It's Confession Tuesday. You know the drill.

click to enlarge

This day crept up on me, maybe because last year the Boston Marathon corresponded with spring break for my kids. But here we are, at the one-year mark of the marathon bombings. That whole week in 2013 was weird, for lack of a better word. And then Friday and Saturday turned into a manhunt and self-imposed lockdown for many of us just outside of Boston. It was just a strange and uncomfortable week.

All of my problems seem inconsequential today. This is a day for remembrance and healing. That's all I got--this post and Nick Flynn's beautiful poem "Marathon."

I am grateful for every moment of every day.


Monday, April 14, 2014

2014 Pulitzer Prize: Poetry


For a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to “3 Sections,” by Vijay Seshadri (Graywolf Press), a compelling collection of poems that examine human consciousness, from birth to dementia, in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless.

Also nominated as finalists in this category were: “The Sleep of Reason,” by Morri Creech (The Waywiser Press), a book of masterly poems that capture the inner experience of a man in mid-life who is troubled by mortality and the passage of time, traditional themes that are made to feel new, and “The Big Smoke,” by Adrian Matejka (Penguin), an imaginative work by a commanding poet who engages the history and mythology of larger-than-life boxer Jack Johnson.


Congrats to Adrian Matejka for his nomination!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Staying in the Flow

Spring is always a tough time for me to stay connected to my writing when work overshadows everything. And knowing that this happens to me every spring doesn’t make it any easier. So I have learned to recognize when I am falling into a void and pull myself out of it. That’s what I’m doing now, and that’s why working through a poem-a-day challenge matters. It’s my way of staying out of the void. Or for a more positive spin, daily writing allows me to stay in the flow.

What does a routine mean to me?

A routine makes the writing easier. Many writers I know don’t have a process, but as I get older (ahem!) I rely on process to maintain momentum. Keeps me from feeling detached, and it’s easier than starting from scratch.

A routine keeps ideas fresh. Yes, there is a start-up phase after a long drought, but after that I feel connected and hyperaware to my emotions and surroundings. When I’m in the flow, the phrase “everything is everything” takes on a deeper meaning. On the flip side, it’s hard to maintain any momentum if the work is sporadic.

A routine takes the pressure off. It gives me permission to write something that sucks. If I write every day, no one poem or blog post has to be the greatest piece of literature ever written. Isn’t that how we feel after not writing for a stretch, that whatever we get down on paper or computer has to be amazing? Consistency helps to quell that feeling.

A routine sparks creativity. F*ck inspiration. Put butt in seat. Write. Just do it (Thanks, Nike!). Make something happen. Grind it out, because it’s the constant churn that keeps the mind fertile.

A routine sparks routine, meaning it takes less time to get settled. And, it makes you more productive. That’s why a 30 day challenge is not a big deal. I mean really, I’m down a few poems now but by month’s end, I’ll be at a solid 30 because I know how to do this.

A routine allows you to say no. This may be the hardest to do. Right now I am retraining myself not to answer emails at 5 a.m. I’m also trying to keep most mornings, like this one, free to write. I don’t always succeed at it but it’s satisfying when I do.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Confession Tuesday

Happy Confession Tuesday, folks! This is the down 'n' dirty version. The "I haven't got time for the pain" version. The "I wish someone would smite me so this day will end" version.

Here we go!

I've been working at a frenetic pace these past couple of weeks getting ready for the Mass Poetry Festival. Fortunately, the new scheduling website has launched! The program book is being designed. The posters, flyers, and T-shirts are ready. The poets are coming. Now, it's just a matter of bringing it all together. 

Every year I fool myself into thinking I can coast into May, and every year I am sadly mistaken.


I originally wrote this post from Starbucks--my first Starbucks visit in two weeks. *Big Sigh* All day, I had planned to give myself two hours of alone time. But just like every day this month my plans have fallen through. It is really hard to make time for yourself with so many deadlines. 

I have a rule that I don't sit in a Starbucks unless I can devote a solid hour to writing one poem. Not today. I'm here for 20 minutes and I am blogging. It is what it is. After this little respite, I'm to take my daughter to her tae kwondo class. 


While I am still planning on writing 30 poems this month, I've only written one. In fact, I am judging the day 7 poems on Robert Lee Brewer's PAD Challenge yet forgot to post about it on Monday. How sad is that?


Finished my taxes today. Yahoo! One thing off the list. 


Quote of the day: "Take the time to write. You can do life's hard work in half an hour a day"

--Robert Hass  

Thanks, Danielle, for the reminder about what's important. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Confession Tuesday

Happy Confession Tuesday! Happy National Poetry Month! Happy April! Let's get right to it, shall we?

This is one of three poems that will be seen in April on Boston's green line transit system, also known as "the T." (Click to enlarge.) The poem is by Joseph O. Legaspi, but not actual T size, so to speak. We mounted the three T poems on poster board for last night's Evening of Inspired Leadership, a fundraiser to support Mass Poetry, in partnership with the Favorite Poem Project and Courage & Renewal Northeast.

Held at the Huntington Theatre, we sold at least 350 tickets and well exceeded our fundraising goal. But the night was really about moments, or as our host Michael Ansara said, "let the readers take us where they want to go." It was a nice balance of poetry, thoughtful reflection, laughter, and inspiration--as if you could ever have too much of any. A very fine way to leap into National Poetry Month. (There's video. Will post when ready. And, there are pictures on my FB page.)


My only regret: not taking a picture with Governor Deval Patrick. I did meet the governor (woo hoo!), but his staff rushed him out before I could get his attention. Oh well, maybe next year.


Mass Poetry things happening this week (read: things that keep me up at night):

  • New festival website launch
  • Festival planning
  • Common Threads
  • Poetry on the T


March went out like a lion. It really was a blur. No, it was a month in which I slept very little, stopped exercising, and lost sight of that balance I've fought so hard to maintain. So in April, I'm embracing that part of myself that occasionally says no to things.

Something I am saying yes to? I'm starting a PAD/NaPoWriMo/30-30-whatever-you-want-to-call-it challenge today.

Do you know why I like doing those challenges so much? When I sit down to write, this is my "me time." It is like having a personal no-fly zone around me to do something for me, by me. Before, these challenges were about writing poems in bulk. Now it's about meditation and reflection. And if I get a good poem out of my writing session, so be it.


My daughter couldn't sleep, so she came into my bed around 5:15 a.m. and we read poetry. Her current favorite poem, which she read to me: "The Adventures of Isabel" by Ogden Nash. I read her "Kindergarten Boyfriend" by Denise Duhamel. Now that's the way to kick off National Poetry Month. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks! Share a little of yourself and we'll try to do the same.

A few weeks ago on my visit to the College of St. Rose, Dan Nester asked me if I had a set list. Rather, he wanted to know if I picked out my poems ahead of time. My answer? Yes and no.

This is my reading copy of Underlife; it's the first copy I took out of box when the books arrived. As you can see, these are my set lists. This is a small sample. I have saved nearly every list I've ever made, but I don't reuse a list. Not sure why, it's just my thing.

Some poets are better at selecting what they're going to read when they step up to the mike, but I don't like that flustered feeling--thumbing through pages while looking for the next poem. Also, it drives me crazy when the poet can't find the poem he or she is looking for. So I choose just before I take the stage. And I usually read fewer pieces than the time allotted so I can answer questions. My set lists changes based on the audience or if I get a request, but I try not to make too many changes once I get up there. I don't "wing it." That's not my style.

Not sure what I'll do when Misery Islands is published. Invest in more Post-it Notes.


Today I'm headed out to Binghamton University to read for Maria Mazziotti Gillan's Spring Series. She's a force of nature (pun intended). Rumor has it that the beautiful and talented Tara Betts will be there as well.

March 25
Spring Readers' Series
Binghamton University
7:30 p.m., Binghamton, NY

No idea what my set list will be Tuesday night.


Snow again? The weather gods need to quit playing around and bring on spring. Seriously. Don't they know I have a five-hour drive ahead of me. Maybe they do ...


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