Monday, April 29, 2013

Poetry Reading at Farley's Bookshop

I'll be reading this Thursday, May 2, in the First Thursday Series at Farley's Bookshop in New Hope, Pennsylvania. I've never been to New Hope, but have been told that it's a charming little town filled with artists and nifty shops. If you are in the area, please join me! Here are the details:

Thursday, May 2, 2013
First Thursday Series
Farley's Bookshop
44 South Main St.
New Hope, PA 18938
8:00 PM
reading followed by Q&A

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Poetry Utopia at the Barred Owl Retreat

Recently I treated myself to a poetry workshop. That's something I haven't done for quite a few years, but I'd been feeling sort of frustrated by my lack of productivity. I suspected that the stimulation of getting away and being part of a group might be just what I needed. I was right. It's now more than a week later and I still feel charged up.

I took the "Two-Day Revision Intensive" with Baron Wormser, a poet I first met at the Frost Place. He has been a mentor to me and an inspiration and a pal. I consider him not only a terrific poet but also an amazing teacher and workshop leader. The workshop was held at the Barred Owl Retreat in Worcester, Massachusetts. The place is owned by Jessica Bane Robert and her husband who purchased it with the idea of turning it into a haven for writers. What a great job they've done in accomplishing that goal. There are several rooms available for participants who choose to stay at the inn. I stayed at a nearby Marriott Courtyard, but was given a tour of the inn's rooms and found them very comfortable and spotless. More rooms are being added. The kitchen downstairs is gorgeous and newly renovated as are the dining room and living room. Most spectacular is the greenhouse room where we gathered both days. What a perfect spot that is! The grounds, too, are beautiful with lots of shrubs, trees, and even a large pond in the back of the house.

Our group of six women poets convened at 8:30 on Saturday morning. A delightful breakfast was available in the dining room along with an endless supply of coffee and tea. We introduced ourselves by each reading one finished poem. Then Baron talked for a while. As he did so, I took down names of poets whose work I need to re-visit—Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, Rilke (Letters to a Young Poet), Walter Sutton (American Free Verse—already ordered and in my hands), Denise Levertov on free verse.

Then we went around the circle taking turns with our poems for revision. The critiques were truly intensive. One thing I really admire about the way Baron does a workshop is that I didn't just sit there waiting for my turn. Instead, I learned something from the comments that were made about other people's poems. We got through one round of poems in the morning, broke for a fabulous lunch, then moved on to the second round. I brought two poems which a few months ago I'd thought were finished, but which had come back each time I'd submitted them. So it had occurred to me that perhaps they weren't finished. When I learned for sure that they weren't, I wasn't discouraged but invigorated and excited about new possibilities.

We worked until 5:30 but were sustained by the delicious goodies Jessica baked for us. We then all went out to dinner together. I returned to my room around 8:30. I would not have thought I could put in such a long day, but I didn't even feel knocked out. In fact, I got right to work on some revisions. I can't remember when I last went twelve hours without checking my email!

The next morning we met at the inn at 8:30. We each found a quiet corner, set up our laptops, and worked on revisions. Again, I surprised myself as I wouldn't have thought I could revise with the clock ticking down, but I did. Baron had suggested that I make my first poem twice as long, so I really pushed it. Not everything I came up with will be retained, but I arrived at some lines and images that gave me pleasure. We gathered again at 10:30 and went over the revisions. Only one of us was able to get revisions for both poems—and that wasn't me. Again, we gave and received good feedback. Nobody yet had a finished poem but everyone went home fired up for the next revision.

Baron had asked us each to bring one extra poem in case we had time, which we did. We spent Sunday afternoon on those poems. We then hugged and parted around 4:00. I stayed over that night rather than make the 4-hour drive home after a long two days. So I had some more time to revise. And that's what I've been doing all week. If you're looking for a place to attend or give a workshop, I heartily recommend the Barred Owl Retreat.

Barred Owl Retreat from the outside
Dining Room where breakfast was served 
Our meeting space
 Deck off the meeting room
 Lunch in the kitchen with Heidi, Carli, Baron, Jessica
 Pond in the backyard

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lilies and Urine: Perfect Together

I wish I'd written this essay, but I didn't. Pablo Neruda did. It's worth a careful read.

Toward An Impure Poetry
by Pablo Neruda

It is good, at certain hours of the day and night, to look closely at the world of objects at rest. Wheels that have crossed long, dusty distances with their mineral and vegetable burdens, sacks from the coal bins, barrels, and baskets, handles and hafts for the carpenter's tool chest. From them flow the contacts of man with the earth, like a text for all troubled lyricists. The used surfaces of things, the wear that the hands give to things, the air, tragic at times, pathetic at others, of such things—all lend a curious attactiveness to the reality of the world that should not be underprized. In them one sees the confused impurity of the human condition, the massing of things, the use and disuse of substance, footprints and fingerprints, the abiding presence of the human engulfing all artifacts, inside and out.
Let that be the poetry we search for: worn with the hand's obligations, as by acids, steeped in sweat and in smoke, smelling of the lilies and urine, spattered diversely by the trades that we live by, inside the law or beyond it.

A poetry impure as the clothing we wear, or our bodies, soup-stained, soiled with our shameful behavior, our wrinkles and vigils and dreams, observations and prophecies, declarations of loathing and love, idylls and beasts, the shocks of encounter, political loyalties, denials and doubts, affirmations and taxes.

The holy canons of madrigal, the mandates of touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing, the passion for justice, sexual desire, the sea sounding— willfully rejecting and accepting nothing: the deep penetration of things in the transports of love, a consummate poetry soiled by the pigeon's claw, ice-marked and tooth-marked, bitten delicately with our sweatdrops and usage, perhaps. Till the instrument so restlessly played yields us the comfort of its surfaces, and the woods show the knottiest suavities shaped by the pride of the tool. Blossom and water and wheat kernel share one precious consistency: the sumptuous appeal of the tactile.

Let no one forget them. Melancholy, old mawkishness impure and unflawed, fruits of a fabulous species lost to the memory, cast away in a frenzy's abandonment—moonlight, the swan in the gathering darkness, all hackneyed endearments: surely that is the poet's concern, essential and absolute.

Those who shun the "bad taste" of things will fall flat on the ice.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Looking for Inspiration?

It's National Poetry Month. Whether we're 30-day-challenge poets or once-a-week poets, we all want to get at least some new work underway this month. If you find yourself cursed with a lazy muse, try some of these sites for inspiration:

Poetry Challenge, by Robert Lee Brewer

30 / 30 Poetry Challenge 2013

Joanie Strangeland's blog

30 Poems in 30 Days
, from NaPoWriMo

The Music in It: Adele Kenny's Poetry Blog
an inspiration word or phrase and a related poem for each of April’s thirty days

You might want to bookmark these links so that you can return to them after April is no more.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Supporting Poets and Poetry

Every poet in America knows that April is National Poetry Month. There are numerous poem-a-day challenges available online for those who want to and are able to take on the challenge of writing a poem each and every day in April. I've confessed here before that I'm just not an everyday kind of poet. I put myself at the kitchen table several mornings a week and I do something poetry-related every day. That something else might be revising, reading, listening, submitting, working on my Poetry Newsletter or blog, catching up on P&W and The Writer's Chronicle, or perusing poetry journals.

So I'm not going to take on the big challenge because I know I can't / won't do it. However, that doesn't mean that I'm not going to acknowledge Poetry Month. My plan is to attend some local readings, participate in a weekend revision workshop led by Baron Wormser at the Barred Owl Retreat in Massachusetts, and go the extra mile to support poets and poetry by purchasing as many poetry and poetry-related books as I can without ending up in debtors' prison.

I'm off to a good start. Here's what's already on my table:
On order and eagerly awaited:
Any suggestions for additional titles?

Here's a list of 30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month, provided by the Academy of American Poets.

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