Collected Poets Series: July Ed.


This Thursday, July 2nd, at 7:30pm, the Collected Poets Series features Dara Wier, Lesle Lewis, and Elizabeth Hughey.  This will be our last reading until October, so don’t miss out!

Dara Wier‘s books include Selected Poems, Remnants of Hannah, Reverse Rapture, Hat on a Pond, and Voyages in English.  Awards include American Poetry Review’s Jerome Shestack Prize, fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts and Massachusetts Cultural Council.  Limited editions are (X IN FIX) and Fly on the Wall.  Recent poems and stories can be found in American Poetry Review, New American Writing, Fou, The Canary, Bat City Quarterly, Mississippi Review, slope, Hollins Critic, Denver Quarterly, Octopus, Conduit, Crazyhorse, Court Green and Gulf Coast.  Poet-in-residence at the University of Montana, University of Texas, Emory University, and University of Utah, in 2005 she held the Louis Rubin chair at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.  She directs the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Her book, Reverse Rapture, was awarded The Poetry Center & American Poetry Archives 2006 book of the year prize.  She edits, along with Emily Pettit and Guy Pettit, Factory Hollow Press.

Lesle Lewis‘ books include Small Boat (winner of the 2002 Iowa Poetry Prize) and Landscapes I & II (Alice James Books 2006). She’s had poems appear in many journals including American Letters and Commentary, Green Mountains Review, Barrow Street, Mudfish, LIT, Sentence, The Massachusetts Review, Pool, The Cincinnati Review, The Hollins Critic, The Mississippi Review, and jubilat.  Lesle teaches at Landmark College in Putney, VT and lives in Alstead, New Hampshire.

Elizabeth Hughey is the author of Sunday Houses the Sunday House, which won the 2006 Iowa Poetry Prize.  New poems have recently been published in Lungfull, Zoland Poetry, and Free Verse.  She is a contributing editor to the literary magazine Bateau, and a 2008 Massachusetts Cultural Council fellow. Elizabeth grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where she has recently returned to live with her husband, non-fiction writer Chip Brantley, and their son, Angus.

For more information about this month’s poets and selected reading, please visit the Collected Poets Series website.

Action-Packed Post!

We’ve been plagued by squirrels dancing in our ceilings for several seasons now.  Back in April it seemed as if we had finally confounded them when Lance pruned the tree that gave them clear access.  But after a few weeks they figured out that they could climb right up the back staircase that leads straight up to the 3rd floor and onto the roof.  And then, as if to punish our efforts, they colonized the ceiling in even larger numbers.  Louder, larger numbers.

It’s not just that they’re loud.  It’s the nature of the noise.  Like a thousand fingernails scraping against a blackboard.

At last, our landlord has found someone to deal with the issue.  He’s assembled his crew and erected scaffolding all around the building.  Vincent loves all the activity, and calls the scaffolding “The Clocktower”, which I love, and talks about climbing up the tall ladders, which I don’t.

I know I have overprotective tendencies when it comes to Vincent, but I think they’re called for:  last week he got outside by tearing through the screen door.  It’s no wonder his birth is the guiding force behind Hunger All Inside.

Meanwhile, Aidan is 6 months old today, babbling a blue streak.  His eczema is under control, though not gone entirely.  His face and scalp especially require daily treatments.  But we can at last see and feel his beautiful baby face clear.


I first learned of The Dzanc Creative Writing Sessions through Karen Weyant’s blog.  I haven’t yet taken advantage of this truly affordable service, but I plan to this summer.  They have fantastic writers on their roster, and even I can find some way to pay $30 for two hours of mentoring. And what’s more, that teeny tuition goes toward another great program:

The program is being offered at an extremely low rate — many of the instructing authors volunteering their time to Dzanc do similar work as freelancers and charge much greater rates than are being offered here through the DCWS. Other workshops and writing programs charge a lump sum of several hundred dollars up front. Not only does the DCWS allow you to control and target your expenses, but 100% of the money brought in by Dzanc by our DCWS goes to supporting the writing programs we run for students grades 4-12. These additional programs — currently being run nationally by Dzanc — are offered free of charge to students who would not otherwise be able to afford and experience these sort of writing programs.

I’d like to sign up immediately, but my computer mishap has knocked my budget for a very large loop.  (No, it’s not back yet, but I’m crossing my fingers for today.)  But I’m really excited about it, and can see myself signing up on a semi-regular basis in the future.  I don’t have a writing group, and this is a great way to get varied feedback.  If you haven’t already, you should absolutely check it out!


My husband accuses me of burying the important news at the bottom of my posts.  I don’t think so.  But I’m now working for Tupelo Press.  I’m only mentioning this because Tupelo Press is one of my favorite small presses, and I’ve often talked about them or their books on the blog in the past, and I will continue to do so, and for the same reasons: because I love them.  As my friends Ann and Michael, who work for Random House, say over at their blog, Books on the Nightstand, this blog is my own personal blog, and in no way affiliated with Tupelo Press.  Just so you know.


With any luck, I hope to have my computer issues resolved within a few days.  Also, presales of my chapbook are supposed to begin at the end of this week, so stay tuned for the big announcement!


The NPR program “On Point” featured “The Making of Sonnets” in its second hour today.  Read during the show was this poem by Robert Hayden, which seems appropriate for this day-after Father’s Day; it’s a touch too wrenching for the day itself. But maybe that’s just my perspective:  My father died in 1993, and this poem so strongly reminds me of him.

And now I celebrate this day with a family of my own, and a husband who also gets up early: to put out the trash, to shovel the driveway in winter, and any numberless other dreary chores.  And I thank him. I hope, I try to,  most every day.

Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. 

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house, 

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

Good Advice.

Mea culpa for the blog silence.  I’m enduring a computer crisis, as well as preparing for the imminent prepublication sale of my chapbook (hooray!) — not a good time for my laptop to shuffle off this mortal coil.  Anyway, whilst I deal with that, I just had to share this quote my husband clipped out of the New York Times:  it’s from a commencement address given at the College of Mount Vincent by the playwright John Patrick Shanley:

Not to bring up something upsetting, but when you leave here today, you may go through a period of unemployment. My suggestion is this: Enjoy the unemployment. Have a second cup of coffee. Go to the park. Read Walt Whitman. Walt Whitman loved being unemployed. I don’t believe he ever did a day’s work in his life. As you may know, he was a poet. If a lot of time goes by and you continue to be unemployed, you may want to consider announcing to all appropriate parties that you have become a poet.

Poetry & Money: Addendum.

weave There are a few other journals I subscribe to that I forgot to mention, I don’t know why. It all seems like an abundance of riches now, doesn’t it?

  • Parnassus: Poetry in Review. This comes out about once a year, and I can never keep track of whether or not I need to renew. I once bought a copy in a bookstore thinking it a new issue & my subscription must’ve run out — but I already had it on my shelves. Love this journal. It almost went under recently, so it could definitely use some support.
  • Rattle. This subscription was part of a contest entry. The only kinds of contests I like to enter, and I rarely enter any, are ones that include reading material with your entry fee.
  • Bateau. Great poems & the journal itself is beautifully done. Plus I got a free t-shirt with my subscription. What can I say, I’m a thrifty shopper.
  • Weave Magazine. They’re having a subscription drive right now. And they accepted one of my poems for their fall issue.

Unfortunately, I’m tapped out now. But I was thinking: as I said a few posts ago, many small presses offer a good discount if you order directly from their website. However, maybe there’s a book you’re interested in from a small press that doesn’t seem to discount their books. Instead of ordering from Amazon, why don’t you email the press and ask for a discount yourself. Seriously. Why not? Amazon takes a big cut, regular bricks & mortar bookstores typically get at least 40%. I don’t recommend you ask for that much, but a 20-30% + shipping should still net the press a better profit than they’d get through Amazon.

Just a thought. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

Collected Poets Series: The MA Poet Laureate Ed.

Tomorrow, June 4th at 7:30 p.m., the Collected Poets Series features the poetry of Massachusetts’ current Poet Laureates, Lesléa Newman of Northampton and Gertrude Halstead of Worcester, at Mocha Maya’s, 47 Bridge St., Shelburne Falls, MA. Eve Rifkah will be reading Ms. Halstead’s work in absentia .

Lesléa Newman

Lesléa Newman is the author of 57 books for adults and children, including her latest poetry collection, Nobody’s Mother; her latest novel, The Reluctant Daughter; and children’s books, such as The Boy Who Cried Fabulous, and Heather Has Two Mommies. Her literary awards include poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Massachusetts Artists Foundation, the James Baldwin Award for Cultural Achievement, and three Pushcart Prize nominations. Nine of her books have been Lambda Literary Award finalists. Currently, she is the Poet Laureate of Northampton, MA

Gertrude Halstead
was born in Germany in 1916. She escaped to France where during the war she was interned in the south of France. She volunteered to work as an interpreter and subsequently was allowed to be released. Halstead eventually made it to Portugal where she was able to get passage on the last ship leaving for the United States. She is a member of John Hodgen’s writing workshop. Halstead’s work has appeared in Sahara, Diner VOX, Amoskeag , Nimrod, and Columbia Poetry Review. Her first collection is memories like burrs, ( Adastra Press, 2006). She has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.  She is the current Poet Laureate of Worcester, MA.

Eve Rifkah was founding editor of the literary journal Diner and co-founder of Poetry Oasis, Inc. Her first chapbook is At the Leprosarium. Her book Dear Suzanne is forthcoming from Word Tech and a second book, Outcasts, is forthcoming from Little Pear Press.

For more information about this month’s poets or to read selections of their work, please visit the Collected Poets Series website.

Fuzzy Math: The Recession & Poetry.

NPR did a short report on Friday’s Morning Edition called “Already Poor, Poets Don’t Much Mind the Recession.” It’s charming, ends with some terrific “recession haikus”, but it’s breathtaking how badly it misses the point.

Yes, yes, we all know there’s no money in poetry.  But the funds to support the poet in her writing and the press in its printing have to come from somewhere.

Poet first:  the audience for poetry is, by and large, other poets.  Let’s just take that as a given.  Because there is no money in poetry, poets work other jobs, either in academia, Brooks Brothers, bookstores, or elsewhere.  Poets donate money to the presses they believe in, subscribe to journals, buy poetry books, and write poems they hope to publish in journals and books.

But if the poet loses her job, ahem, she loses more than her income.  She loses whatever  “extra” funds she had to make donations, subscribe to journals, and buy new poetry books.  Used book sales generally go up during hard times.  That’s great.  I like used books and used book stores.  However, used book sales don’t benefit the publisher or the author, except by increasing readership — nice, but it’s not going to help pay the rent in the hear and now.

I believe in supporting your community, but without the Dorothy Prize I certainly could not have afforded the spate of subscriptions I recently took on.

Now, the publisher, both of books and literary journals, operating on a shoestring in his basement, or in tiny offices buckling under the weight of stuffed manila envelopes, is paying for his endeavor usually with a budget cobbled together through donations, book sales, and a day job.  What happens when he’s laid off?  When the economy tanks, books sales go down, subscriptions dry up, donations slacken.  Presses begin to see their cash flow dwindling to a trickle:  Salt Publishing has sent a call for help.  Tupelo Press as well.  And some university-affiliated literary journals, like Southern Review and New England Review, are being threatened with losing their university funding.

All of this to say that poets, and poetry, do very much mind the recession.

In that spirit:  as I’ve said, subscriptions are ridiculously cheap.  Many literary presses offer substantial discounts if you order directly from them.  So if you can, please subscribe to a journal today — there’s a bunch of links to great ones a few posts ago.  Go to a publisher’s website (like Salt or Tupelo or Four Way Books) and buy a new book.  Or, and I know this a revolutionary proposal, go to your local independent bookshop and place an order there.

While great poetry will be written whatever the state of the economy, without our support the venues to publish and share that poetry could disappear.