CPS & Maxine Kumin: A Report.

from left to right: Sydney, Kim Rogers, Lea Banks, & Maxine. Photo taken by the inestimable Jacqueline Guimont.

Last year, when we had Galway Kinnell for a CPS reading, we had to turn people away at the door. This year for Maxine Kumin, we thought ahead, and instead of having the reading at Mocha Maya’s, they co-sponsored the event with us and we hosted it at the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center, which has seating for 125 people. We filled every seat, but didn’t turn away a single soul.

What a reading!  Sydney did his thing, but even he knew that Maxine was the Big Event everyone was waiting for, and didn’t read long.

Anyone who thinks Maxine Kumin is a boring nature poet has not been paying attention.  She may be small and fragile-looking, but her political poems have spines of steel.  There is nothing in this world more startling than hearing Maxine Kumin say the word “fuck”.  Twice.  And I happen to love her poems about her farm, and dogs, and horses.  “Jack”, in particular, is so very affecting, who could dismiss it as a mere “nature poem”?

It was an honestly grand evening.  Some folks traveled from pretty far afield to be there;  I think we all agree it was more than worth it.

Collected Poets Series, Extra Ed.

This Sunday, May 24th, at 7:30 p.m., the former Poet Laureate of the United States and Pulitzer Prizewinner Maxine Kumin, and award winning poet Sydney Lea will read from their work at the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center, 53 Main Street, Shelburne Falls, MA. This extraordinary event is sponsored by the Collected Poets Series and Mocha Maya’s.

Maxine Kumin‘s 16th poetry collection, Still To Mow, published by W. W. Norton in 2007, has just come out in paperback. Norton has also published Jack and Other New Poems and earlier collections, including Selected Poems 1960-1990. Kumin is the author of a memoir about a nearly fatal carriage-driving accident, Inside the Halo and Beyond: Anatomy of a Recovery, and Always Beginning: Essays on a Life in Poetry. Her awards include the Pulitzer and Ruth Lilly Poetry Prizes, the Poet’s Prize, the Aiken Taylor Award, the 2005 Harvard Arts Medal, the Robert Frost Medal in 2006, the 2008 Paterson Prize and the 2009 Paterson award for distinguished achievement. In 1981-2, Maxine Kumin served as Poet Laureate of the United States. She and her husband live on a horse farm in Warner, New Hampshire.

Sydney Lea is the author of eight collections of poetry, most recently Ghost Pain (Sarabande, 2005); his prior volume, Pursuit of a Wound (U. of Illinois, 2000) was a Pulitzer finalist, and the one before that, To the Bone, shared the 1998 Poets’ Prize. Recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Fulbright Foundations, he has also published two books of naturalist nonfiction and a novel. Sydney Lea was founder and editor of New England Review. He has taught at Yale, Wesleyan, Middlebury, Dartmouth, and at several European institutions. His work across four genres has appeared in sixty anthologies, and his periodical credits include the major national quarterlies, the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, the New York Times, Sports Illustrated and many others. Lea has been involved in several large conservation projects, including a 360,000 acre project in Maine and an effort to restore freshwater fish habitat in Vermont. He is also longtime vice-president of Central Vermont Adult Basic Education, a forty-year-old literacy and essential skills endeavor. He lives in northern Vermont with his wife, lawyer and mediator Robin Barone. They have five grown children. He currently teaches at Dartmouth.

The Lure of Poetry Journals.

https://i2.wp.com/www.ecu.edu/english/tcr/25-4/TRPcover.JPGFinancial necessity has taken a ginormous bite out of my book budget, but one of the best ways to keep up, and still support the poetry community, is through subscriptions.  They’re inexpensive, and give me yet another reason to love my mail carrier.  For less than your monthly phone bill you can subscribe to at least 4 literary journals.  My subscriptions consist of all poetry journals, because, and I apologize to my fiction-writing friends — I will buy any issue you appear in, I promise! — I don’t read much short fiction, however optimistically I begin.  And I hate waste.  Hence my meager funds are devoted to my heart’s insatiable desire for poems:

To that list I will periodically add more journals, including American Poetry Journal, which just accepted 2 poems, hooray!  Any recommendations?

Pain~I do not think it means what you think it means.

https://i0.wp.com/school.discoveryeducation.com/clipart/images/scalpel.gifI was idly flipping through the latest issue of Parents when I came upon this:

For decades, doctors believed that babies didn’t feel pain, based on flawed studies showing that sleeping infants didn’t respond to light pinpricks. In fact, until the 1980s, many newborns who had heart surgery received no pain medication — they were only given paralytic drugs that forced them to lie completely still, though fully aware, as their chests were opened.

To which I say, WHAT??! Why is it that we need studies to tell us what should be perfectly, staggeringly obvious? As late as the 1980s!! We’re not talking the dark ages here. An appalling reminder that you can’t take anything for granted — it would never have even occurred to me that my baby wouldn’t receive anesthesia for surgery. He would now, but just 20 years ago…!

I was expecting innocuous articles on sharing and finger foods, and instead I’ll be forever haunted by the image of a baby strapped to an operating table, paralyzed, eyes open in horror, as his chest is cracked open.

But I can’t end a post with that, it’s just too awful, so here’s a poem from Lisa Russ Spaar’s collection, Satin Cash, that captures something of how I’m feeling right now:

You, with Gold Leaf

I grow impatient with spirit as alibi
despite each night, ecclesiastical,

more and more sky, the costal trees
in fierce defrayal,

fretting with kohl branches
the edges of the parking lot.

I stand by my car,
night a translucent, colostrum blue

of goodbye, & cocklebur Venus
reveals to me the truth

of your body as light source,
burning by mercy inside me still.

Further adventures with eczema.

I took Aidan, now nearly 4 1/2 months old, to the dermatologist today, and he was duly impressed by the baby’s poor scaly state. It’s really awful. He’s not sleeping more than 2 hours together, he’s so uncomfortable. And he looks dreadful. Except for those brightly serious blue eyes of his — when you look in those eyes you cease to notice all the scabby patches in which they’re set.

We now have a game plan, a course of action, and the tools with which to proceed. Which includes a shower cap. I’ll try to post a picture soon, because you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a baby lounging in a shower cap.

He already looks better tonight. But I hold out not an iota of hope for a good night’s sleep.

Last night’s reading was fantastic. Standing room only. Kerry, a former blues singer, read with a formidable confidence, and even treated us to a snatch of song. Joseph interspersed serious and affecting poems with hilarious entertainers like “Throne”, about sharing a bathroom with a woman.

Then Genie took the microphone and shifted the tone again — my favorite poem of hers dealt with her fall from a window as a youngster — she was saved by the belt of her robe! And finally, Dorianne. When she read the title poem from her collection, Facts about the Moon, the room was riveted.

And we sold every copy of that book, too. In fact, we sold a lot of books last night for the poets (poets bring the books, we handle the sales) — which makes me very happy. We don’t have the funds to pay our readers yet, so it’s nice to be able to make them money in that capacity at least.

The following poem is from Kerry’s chapbook, From a Burning Building, published by March Street Press — dealing with motherhood, a disastrous marriage, it’s one little firebomb of a book!

To One Six Month Old,
Then Another

You are now expected to know what I mean,
and do not need to answer in plain English.
Understand, it’s time for you to speak. Our bodies
barely disentangled, we will throw our hearts
into call and answer. Not thinking of a future
where your love of me becomes a skin
you will shed and grow again one thousand times.
I will follow you, hunting wildly for traces.
I will lead, leaving my own markings for when
you cry out, as you will, and singing softly,
I come back to carry you along.

Collected Poets Series, May Ed.

The Collected Poets Series is throwing a Post-Poetry Month Bash!  On Thursday, May 7th at 7:00 p.m., award-winning poets Dorianne Laux from Raleigh, NC, Genie Zeiger from Shelburne Falls, MA, and Kerry O’Keefe from Northampton, MA, plus special guest, Joseph Millar from Oregon, will read from their work at Mocha Maya’s Coffee House in Shelburne Falls, MA.

A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Dorianne Laux’s fourth book of poems, Facts about the Moon (W.W. Norton), is the recipient of the Oregon Book Award.  It was also short-listed for the 2006 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for the most outstanding book of poems published in the United States in the previous year, and chosen by the Kansas City Star as one of the ten best books of poetry published in 2005.  Laux is also author of three collections of poetry from BOA Editions, Awake (1990) introduced by Philip Levine, reprinted this year by Eastern Washington University Press, What We Carry (1994) and Smoke (2000). Red Dragonfly Press released Superman: The Chapbook, in December. Co-author of The Poet’s Companion, she’s the recipient of two Best American Poetry Prizes, a Pushcart Prize, two fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Genie Zeiger, a frequent commentator for NPR, including All Things Considered, is the recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council award for poetry. She has published three collections of poems, Sudden Dancing, (A.W.A. Press), Leaving
and Radio Waves, (White Pine Press). She is a creative writing workshop leader in Shelburne, and the poetry editor for Sanctuary, the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s magazine. A regular contributor to The Sun, her poems, stories and personal essays have also appeared in dozens of magazines including The New York Times Book Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Georgia Review, and Tikkun.

Kerry O’Keefe grew up in Connecticut on the Long Island Sound.  She received a B.A. from Trinity College and was a professional singer for a decade before turning her attention solely to poetry.  Her poems have appeared in The Massachusetts Review, The South Dakota Review, canwehaveourballback, The Atlanta Review, Paragraph, and others.  Her chapbook, From A Burning Building, was published in 2006 by March Street Press. A full length manuscript, Sleeping Dogs, is underway.   She is currently a staff writer for the Berkshire artzine, The Artful Mind, and lives in Northampton with her daughter, Grace.

Joseph Millar is the author of Fortune, from Eastern Washington University Press. His first collection, Overtime (2001), was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Millar grew up in Pennsylvania, attended Johns Hopkins University and spent 25 years in the San Francisco Bay area, working at a variety of jobs, from telephone repairman to commercial fisherman. His poems have appeared in numerous magazines including TriQuarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, DoubleTake, Ploughshares, New Letters, Manoa, and River Styx. He has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in Poetry, the Moncalvo Center for the Arts, and Oregon Literary Arts and is the recipient of a 2008 Pushcart Prize.

For more on this month’s poets as well as selected poems, please visit the Collected Poets Series website.

NaPoWriMo Recap.

Even though I spent many April nights (after a good first week of finishing drafts by 3pm) falling asleep with a pencil in my hand, these last few days of not writing have felt strange.  The brass tacks:

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  1. poems written: 30.  THIRTY!  I’m totally thrilled.
  2. how many written that are keepers: 26.  I may actually be able to save the other 4 as well, but right now I don’t love them enough.  And of those 26, I’m feeling that only a few require substantial revision.  But this is due entirely to the fact that I worked more and more on them before posting, thus the late nights dozing with a pencil in my hand.
  3. how many days I will wait before starting to submit: 0. I began the process this weekend, after spending Friday immersed in 30 poems in hard copy.  I LOVE to submit, love choosing the journals (and I subscribe to a boatload), the frisson it brings to the act of checking my mail, both virtual & actual.  Even if I only have 3 worthy poems, I always have submissions out there circulating those 3 poems.

Now,  having been able to complete this NaPoWriMo challenge, after not writing much at all during the last year, begs the question:  why can’t I write this much all the time?  And I think the answer has to do with NaPoWriMo being such a widespread community affair.  Making this pledge, and being among a group of others doing the same, gives you an impetus you don’t have normally, and makes you accountable in a unique way.

And one of the reasons to take part in NaPoWriMo is to give you that kick in the pants.  By forcing myself to find the time every single day to write a brand new poem, I’ve hopefully taught myself new ways to write.  And I’ve learned that I can actually write with a baby in my lap.  And on little sleep.

But I couldn’t write this much all the time, the wells run dry.  I need time to read, too, and writing this much means not much time left over to recharge, or revise.  Not to mention my poor poetry widower/husband.  But that’s the grand thing: I’ve toned up my writing muscles, and as long as I work on my writing every week, that’s good enough.  And now I know that however busy I am, I do indeed have the time!

NaPoWriMo Draft 30.

This is it, the final draft, the 30th poem in 30 days, the end of NaPoWriMo 2009. I’m going to take a couple days now to go over all the drafts, all my thoughts, and rest my weary writing head/heart. Thank you for reading this past month, it was a great & productive experiment for me, and I hope just as much fun for you. Upcoming attractions include a NaPoWriMo recap, and a post regarding my inevitable seduction by Facebook. Please feel free to share any thoughts you have or had about this past month of poetry below in the comments, I’d love to hear anything you have to say. And now, without further ado: