Collected Poets Series

Next in the Collected Poets Series:

This Thursday, May 1st, at 7:30pm, poets Alicia Ostriker, a major American poet and critic, and author of eleven volumes of poetry, including The Volcano Sequence and No Heaven, and Frannie Lindsay, whose newest volume of poetry, Lamb, was selected for the Perugia Press Award, will read from their most recent work at Mocha Maya’s Coffee House, 47 Bridge Street, Shelburne Falls, MA.

Alicia Ostriker, twice nominated for a National Book Award, is the author of eleven volumes of poetry, most recently No Heaven (2005). As a critic, Ostriker is the author of two path-breaking volumes on women’s poetry, Writing Like a Woman and Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America. Her most recent critical book is Dancing at the Devil’s Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic. She has also published three books on the Bible that re-imagine the Bible from the perspective of a contemporary Jewish woman. Her poetry and essays have been translated into French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew and Arabic. Ostriker has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Society of America, the San Francisco State Poetry Center, the Judah Magnes Museum, the New Jersey Arts Council, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. She is Professor Emerita of Rutgers University and is a faculty member of the New England College Low-Residency Poetry MFA Program

Frannie Lindsay is the author of Lamb, winner of the 2006 Perugia Press Prize and runner-up for the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. Ellen Bass calls these poems “hymns of praise for the love we are able to wrest from our flawed lives.” Her first volume, Where She Always Was (Utah State University Press, 2004), was selected by J.D. McClatchy as the winner of the May Swenson Award. Lindsay holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and is also a classical pianist.

Mail, Glorious Mail!

Funny how a crisis robs you of time.  Now it’s Saturday, and I’ve not written another poem, and I am far far behind.  My personal goal is 15 poems for the month, so I have time.  I shan’t give up!

I have to leave for work shortly, but O the Glory of the Mail!  There is nothing that quite rivals the feeling of a bursting mailbox, a mailbox sans bills, a Mailbox of Poetry!  This week has been kind to my mailbox, in particular today.  It has to be a personal record, the amount of great stuff I’ve received:

  1. The Feb. 2008 issue of FOURSQUARE,
  2. bird-book, by Jessica Smith,
  3. May 2008 issue of Poetry,
  4. Free copy of The Sphere of Birds, by Ciaran Berry (from my wonderful sales rep),
  5. Rife, by Stefanie Marlis, my free book from Sarabande,
  6. and lastly, my contributor’s copy of the spring 2008 issue of Iodine Poetry Journal.

All Hail to the Household Gods of Mail!

In which Marie has a bit of a bad day and discovers the secret of life.

There was a ginormous earth-shattering fireball-spewing thunderstorm in Amherst last night. I know this not because I was there, no, we had a small sibling storm in Shelburne Falls. No, I know this from hearsay and because when I went into the bookshop at 7:30 this morning, not a single computer worked. Let me say that again. NOT A SINGLE COMPUTER WORKED.

After much fiddling with wires and unplugging and plugging of cables, I managed to get our main computer up and running. And then I fixed the computer at our primary register, halleluiah, we’re not completely crippled. But all of the other 5 are just blinking away.

I spent many many minutes on the phone with tech support — we’ve decided that the stargate (I just love that we have a piece of hardware with that appellation!) is fried, and they’re sending a new one with a chip that I have to install in the primary computer’s guts somewhere, and so my tomorrow morning is sure to be equally taxing.

But here is the point: the secret to life: Pay attention.

That’s the secret to writing, too, I think.

Because somehow I’ve become known as the computer tech person on staff here. I’m not especially handy. At all. But I read the manual for our particular inventory management program. And I’ve paid attention. And the first rule of thumb before you call tech support is fiddle with wires, unplug & replug all the cables, etc. Because if you don’t, they’re going to tell you to do it anyway, and if by some miracle it does fix your problem, you’re going to feel like a big schmuck.

I like to start every conversation with tech support with a laundry list of everything I’ve already done to try to amend the problem. It makes me feel really good, they’re so appreciative.

There are other problems, but never mind for now. I’m drinking a sweet frozen strawberry drink from a local coffeehouse, ahhh. I will return to the store, immerse myself in more returns, mindless manual labor, and try to devote some brain capacity to poem-thinking.

NaPoWriMo Draft 12.

Last night I went to hear Gabriel Fried read at Amherst College. I really like his book, Making the New Lamb Take (Sarabande Books, 2007), so I was excited to go, though exceptionally tired. I’m glad I exerted the effort. He’s very sweet, and his reading style conversational. And he has the most amazing head of red hair! Totally unexpected. I don’t know why, but there’s something very disarming about a red-haired man. Maybe because usually it’s genuine. And his is very red, that rare kind of red, not merely strawberry.

Many poems in his collection deal with Biblical themes, and it was surreal to watch him read one of my favorite poems, “Abel, after,” which imagines Abel reborn as a lamb in Cain’s flock, while Gabriel’s head glowed in the spotlight, haloed in fire.


Busy manual labor kind of day at the bookstore, working on returns, always sad business. This draft is slight as a result, but I hope not too flimsy for you. Amazing the kind of difficulty I have writing something even as small as this. Anyway, for your temporary pleasure:


NaPoWriMo Draft 11.

Revisions were indeed the focus this weekend. My output hasn’t been as great as many of the folks participating in NaPoWriMo, but I’m happy to say that I’m pretty pleased with everything I’ve written. Hubris maybe, or just infatuation with my new loves, but right now, yeah.

Until today. I guess this is more of a mood piece, and I’m not terribly comfortable writing so abstractly, but it’s what I’ve got, and I worked on it too damn long to throw it away. Of course, it could be the mood itself that puts me off. Maybe I’ll cannibalize parts for another poem later. As it stands now, for a short time, etc. etc. etc. :


Grilled Cheese with Bacon & Tomato kind of Night.

No poem today. Not even a revision. Back to work where my inbox was filled with nearly 600 emails and my tangible box was just full. But what a glorious day! 80 degrees! On April 18!

This evening Vincent & Lance went for a walk downtown while I started making the season’s first batch of sweet tea (!), and then Vincent & I went out again because he couldn’t get enough of outside. We ate a lovely dinner of grilled cheeses (Mama’s with bacon & tomato) at the Foxtowne Diner, and then we went to the pharmacy where I thought he’d like to sit on a stool at the fountain and eat a chocolate sundae, but he was more interested in the toys.

I bought a pack of sidewalk chalk in preparation for the poem we’re going to write on the sidewalk. Now we have to choose the poem, and then choose the free book we want from Sarabande. And of course not forget to take a picture.

It was a lovely small town New England night. Tomorrow I work for a bit in the afternoon, so I’m thinking it’s a day for revisions. But I hope to continue with NaPoWriMo on Sunday…

NaPoWriMo Draft 10.

Yes, it’s April 17, which means I’m far far behind, but I can’t believe I’m about to post my tenth poem this month! Especially after the week I’ve had. Vincent is quite recovered, back to daycare tomorrow (Huzzah!), and I rejoin the bookshop in the midst of its regularly scheduled programs. Vincent is utterly stir-crazy, driving us batty, so without further ado, for a little bit (the formatting isn’t coming out quite right, but I’m done fiddling):


NaPoWriMo Draft 9.

Vincent could be & has been worse, but darling boy is still unwell. In between the interludes of obvious illness, he is variously rambunctious and lethargic. Irony of ironies: Nature has chosen this Week of the Influenza Outbreak to spring into Full Spring with gusto.


The moving-on-now-revise-later aspect of NaPoWriMo does not come naturally to me, but instead of working on “Gravity,” yesterday’s poem, tonight I finished another draft. More on that later. But in this vein of drafts: for the last few months I’ve been slowly exploring a fascinating book, Black Lightning: Poetry-in-Progress, edited by Eileen Tabios (Temple University Press, 1998), unfortunately out of print now. I bought mine at this great used bookstore in Hatfield, Troubadour Books, nearly two years ago.

It’s a daunting book, oversized. The editor, with a selection of poets (such as Timothy Liu and Kimiko Hahn, to mention the two that especially struck me), explores the revision process of several poems, from actual drafts, first second third etc, sometimes composites of several, to the final poem, discussing the choices within each poem with the poet! It’s an utterly unique fly-on-the-wall view of a variety of poetic processes — something I find infinitely interesting — and it’s no overnight read, either! Like most writer-types, I suspect I’m strange & perhaps even doing everything wrong, and it reminds me that every process is a singular one. And following these amazing creative minds as they revise is both amazingly reassuring and revelatory.

On to my draft. Per usual, for a short time only:


In which the plague inevitably spreads & Marie somehow writes NaPoWriMo Draft 8.

Thank you, yes, I am improving at last, but horribly, Vincent has caught it. From me. Which means I didn’t get it from him, and I’m a bad mama to have intimated that I might have done so in my last post.

I am happy to report, however, that so far, though he’s plenty sick, he does seem to be perhaps recovering quicker. Shhh. I didn’t say that. Bad mama squared, to have just jinxed poor Vincent. Criminy!


Unfortunately, all this sickness hasn’t helped my writing schedule one bit. But today I was thinking about Rilke’s Duino Elegies, the tenth one in particular, whose ending talks about the wonder of when a happy thing falls — that’s always been one of my favorite lines. I started thinking about wonder, and falling, and finally got through this draft. It’s definitely a draft, I’m not entirely happy with it, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever written by far either. If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them with me.

For a short time: