This Week: Readings & Such

Poetry & Parenting

Monday, April 25, 7-8:30pm

Reading & Discussion as part of the Writing Life Series
Coolidge Museum, Forbes Library
Northampton, MA

In which I tell the story of Pokey Mama, live.

massachusetts-poetry-festival-2016

I’ll also be at the MaPoFest in Salem, MA, this coming weekend, participating in two programs:

The Full Catastrophe:
Poets on Motherhood
Saturday, April 30 • 12:15pm – 1:15pm

Three poets from western MA (me, Marie Gauthier & Sarah Sousa) will look at how contemporary women poets use a variety of approaches to navigate the territory of “mother-poet.” Details here.

How Did I Get Here:
MA Book Awards Winners Tell All
Sunday, May 1 • 11:30am – 12:30pm

Jeffery Harrison, Daniel Tobin and I are all recent winners of the Massachusetts Book Award for Poetry, a prize that’s sponsored by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Each of us will read from our work, and talk briefly about our experience as writers- not just about our achievements, but our struggles, the diverse paths each of us has taken that brought us to where we are today, and where we might go in the future. Details here.

The MaPoFest has lots of great reading, panels, a book fair, and of course, us witches! Hope to see you there!

 

 

NaPoMo Pokey

NPM2016posterLet’s be honest. Mostly what I’m doing this month is helping my daughter figure out where she’s going to college. (How did that happen?) But Pokey managed to squeeze in a couple of National Poetry Month events…

Reading at Western New England University

Thursday April 7th, 6:00-7:00pm

Center for the Sciences and Pharmacy, Room 306
WNEU, Springfield, MA
Free & Open to the Public (that’s you, people)

Very excited to read for WNEU’s new MFA program!

Poetry & Parenting

Monday, April 25, 7-8:30pm

Reading & Discussion as part of the Writing Life Series
Coolidge Museum, Forbes Library
Northampton, MA

In which I tell the story of Pokey Mama, live.

Take a Poem to the Beach

Here’s my latest column over at One Clover & A Bee, featuring a poem by e.e. cummings: maggie and milly and molly and may

cumming ms

It’s kind of sneaky poem, which is probably why I like it.  Check it out and see what you think!

Frank O’Hara & the (Extra)Ordinary

frank-ohara book cover

In this month’s post for One Clover & A Bee over at Hilltown Families I recommend a writing challenge based on a poem by the inimitable Frank O’Hara.

O’Hara might seem a strange choice for a column devoted to poetry for families, but in this case (and many others, IMO), he’s the perfect antidote to our aversion to the ordinary.  In the world of O’Hara— if you look closely—there is no such thing as ordinary. Instead, the more you look at the “stuff” of the world, the more you find to think about, maybe even celebrate. The same is true of this poem: read closely and you see that the celebrating has a somber side, too.  (Hint: “beachheads” & “biers”)

Here’s the poem:

Today

Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!
You really are beautiful! Pearls,
harmonicas, jujubes, aspirins! all
the stuff they’ve always talked about

still makes a poem a surprise!
These things are with us every day
even on beachheads and biers. They
do have meaning. They’re strong as rocks.

[1950]
 The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara

If you want to read the column and try the writing challenge, go here. Right now! And the next time you think you have nothing to write about, take a Frank O’Hara and call me in the morning.

Bells We Would Ring: Kenneth Patchen

winter solstice wheelOn Solstice eve I was searching around for a poem to write about for my Hilltown Families column, and feeling really stymied by the challenge of finding something seasonal and uplifting and bright in the wake of the violence at Sandy Hook.

In some ways it would be easier just to grieve, to stop everything and sink down into the darkness. But since many parents are choosing not to discuss what happened with their kids, or at least not to get too deeply into the details (Pokey being one of those), we can’t do that. Instead we are carrying on: working and going to school, baking and wrapping gifts and looking towards the light, even though we feel as if nothing will ever be the same again and in fact, should not be the same, should never, ever be the same again.

So, Pokey gave up on the idea of finding a poem for families, and decided instead on one that’s just for parents. The one I kept coming back to is a poem by Kenneth Patchen, called “At the New Year,” from his Collected Poems of 1939. It’s startling to me how perfectly attuned the poem is to our time, but Patchen was a pacifist and that feels particularly relevant to where we are right now.

What I most appreciate about Patchen’s poem is that it doesn’t shrink from the darkness it describes, we have to go through it, and then, yes, there is the faint light of possibility at the end. But clearly it’s up to us to ring that bell.

As I say in my column, you may want to sub out the idea of “Father” for whatever works for you. When Pokey read it aloud she changed it to “Mother” and that felt just fine.  I highly recommend reading it aloud, and crying, and reading it again.

You can read the complete column at Hilltown Families, but I also include the poem here:

At the New Year

By Kenneth Patchen

In the shape of this night, in the still fall
        of snow, Father
In all that is cold and tiny, these little birds
        and children
In everything that moves tonight, the trolleys
        and the lovers, Father
In the great hush of country, in the ugly noise
        of our cities
In this deep throw of stars, in those trenches
        where the dead are, Father
In all the wide land waiting, and in the liners
        out on the black water
In all that has been said bravely, in all that is
        mean anywhere in the world, Father
In all that is good and lovely, in every house
        where sham and hatred are
In the name of those who wait, in the sound
        of angry voices, Father
Before the bells ring, before this little point in time
        has rushed us on
Before this clean moment has gone, before this night
        turns to face tomorrow, Father
There is this high singing in the air
Forever this sorrowful human face in eternity’s window
And there are other bells that we would ring, Father
Other bells that we would ring.