Dispatches from an MFA: Semester Two, Second Packet

This is part of a series called Dispatches from an MFA, which details my experiences in the low-residency MFA program at Lesley University. In the second semester, I studied with poet Kevin Prufer. We spent the semester looking at narrative versus lyric poetry. This is the cover letter to the second packet.

Dear Kevin:

For some reason, finishing this packet was very difficult. I’ve been suffering under the specter of self-doubt – both with the craft annotations and with the original work. I hope you don’t mind that the Zucker annotation runs a bit over. She uses a lot of white space, and word placement and white space are integral to the meaning of her poems. So quoting her meant that I had less space than usual for the actual annotation. I feel like I was able to delve into the text of Zucker’s work, but am less sure about the annotation on Matejka’s book. I found myself fascinated with the conversation about “lyric narrative” poetry in the essays I cite in the Matejka annotation, and I’m afraid it took over the paper a bit. But these meta-issues were important for me to consider: the legacy of Confessionalism, the narrative “I,” and the current literary trends toward language-focused work and away from narrative. One of the thing that I liked best about Dante Di Stefano’s piece was the way that he put into context the arc of poetry in the 20th century, from Imagism to High Modernism to Confessionalism, and beyond.[1] When I studied poetry as an undergrad, the latter half of those shifts were still underway. I didn’t have the perspective to consider them from Di Stefano’s point of view. Continue reading “Dispatches from an MFA: Semester Two, Second Packet”

Boston Harbor Poets Seeking New Members

If you are a poet in the Boston area looking for a workshop, here’s an opportunity for you. Boston Harbor Poets meets one evening a month at the main branch of the Boston Public Library. They have openings for new members. If you’re interested in getting – and giving – honest, thoughtful feedback on poems, please email tony.artuso@gmail.com, telling a little bit about yourself and your writing experience. Please include three to five pieces, either as attachments or by cutting and pasting them into the body of the email. The group will be in touch if it looks like there’s a good fit.

Small Press Love in Massachusetts

Erica Charis-Molling at Mass Poetry has published a wonderful series of interviews with local small presses that publish poetry. Small presses are the lifeblood of the poetry world, and poets who publish with them often receive more support and creative control than with nationally known publishing houses. Also, buying local is good for so many reasons. Follow the links below to read about these vibrant, innovative organizations.

Perugia Press
Editor and Director Rebecca Hart Olander

Human Error Publishing
Founder Paul Richmond

Co-founder Randolph Pfaff

Rose Metal Press
Co-founders Abigail Beckel (Publisher) and Kathleen Rooney (Editor)

Ibbetson Street Press
Director Doug Holder

Central Square Press
Editor Enzo Silon Surin

Grid Books
Editor Elizabeth Murphy

Broadsided Press
Editor Elizabeth Bradfield

Cervena Barva Press
Founder and Editor Gloria Mindock

October, November, and December 2019 Poetry Readings in Boston and Environs

Poetry and all that jazz

From the height of leaf season all the way to the winter holiday of your choice, we’ve got you covered with poetry readings in and around Boston. Thanks to Daniel Bouchard for compiling these listings.

Thursday, October 24, 4:30 pm
Faculty Poetry Reading
Heineman Ecumenical Center
Framingham State University
Worcester, MA

Thursday, October 24, 5:30 pm
Adrianna Kalopoulou
Brown University
McCormack Family Theater
70 Brown St.
Providence, RI
free and open to the public

Thursday, October 24, 7:30-9:30 pm
Nadia Colburn
reading and book launch
The Lilypad, Inman square
1353 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA

Continue reading “October, November, and December 2019 Poetry Readings in Boston and Environs”

UPDATED: September and October 2019 Poetry Readings in Boston and Environs

Signs of autumn: the first orange leaf on the sidewalk, the first apple off the tree, the post-Labor-Day traffic jam. And the return of Daniel Bouchard’s poetry listings. See below for a multitude of free or close-to-free events. Of special note: Charles Coe and Sandee Story at the Old Manse tomorrow night; Terrance Hayes at Smith College Sept 24; Martha Collins at Old Cambridge Baptist Church Sept 22; and Danielle Legros Georges at the Frugal Bookstore in Dudley Square Sept 21. Also on the Boston side of the Charles, the return of Rozzie Reads, featuring Mignon Ariel King and William Orem Sept 26.

Friday, September 6
Charles Coe, Danielle Fontaine, and Sandee Storey
Old Manse in Concord
Concord, MA

Friday, September 6, 7 pm
Cervena Barva Press Poetry Translation Roundtable Series
Arts at the Armory
191 Highland Avenue
Somerville, MA

Sunday, September 8, 1 – 3 pm
Alix Anne Shaw and Lawrence Kassenich
Poetry: The Art Of Words
Plymouth Public Library/Otto Fehlow Room
132 South St
Plymouth, MA

Thursday, September 12, 7 pm
Bert Stern & Frannie Lindsay
Cervena Barva Press Reading Series
Arts at the Armory
191 Highland Avenue
Somerville, MA

Saturday, September 14, 3 pm
Angela Alaimo O’Donnell & Rhina P. Espaillat
Powow River Poets Reading Series
Newburyport Public Library
92 State Street
Newburyport, MA
Continue reading “UPDATED: September and October 2019 Poetry Readings in Boston and Environs”

Sharing in the Age of Social Media

Tara Mandarano recently posted something that popped up on my Facebook feed. She related that a friend of hers had called her an “Internet oversharer.” Tara had an eloquent response to the label, and many of her arguments echoed what I might have said when I first started posting to the Internet in the late 1990s. This was long before blogs were a thing. We called them online diaries, and you needed to know how to code in HTML to have one. You also needed an Internet Service Provider, a web hosting account, and FTP software. Not for the faint of heart.

My attitude toward what I share online has changed since I was in my 20s. It was a less crowded space back then, and easier to keep a wall between my IRL life and my online life. In spite of that, at one point I came close to being dooced because of something I posted on my website. I didn’t think all that many people even read my tiny website, and certainly didn’t think that something I said online would have real-world consequences. This is a mistake people have been making ever since, and it’s often young people who make it. A good rule of thumb is to never post anything about your job.

It’s very interesting seeing how standards for public versus private sharing have changed as a whole new generation of digital natives comes of age. I’m reminded of the video of Alexandra Ocasio Cortez dancing in college that came out a while back. Opponents intended to embarrass and discredit her, but she owned that video and even doubled down by making another one.

I believe it’s important to share life’s challenges as well as its successes. But I’ve also become more discerning about what information I share, and where I share it. There’s a reason why people mostly post photos of their babies and vacations on their social media feeds. Most of us want to project the best possible face to the world at large, and I’m not alone in that. But I also think it’s important to speak honestly about my struggles and how I overcome them. As someone living with a chronic illness, I appreciate the way “spoonies” can find a supportive community online. Illness often isolates those who live with it, and some illnesses carry stigma that make it that much harder to talk about. Meeting other spoonies online has made me feel less alone, and less weird. I’m sure the same is true even for those who aren’t living with chronic illness.

There’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction with people, but social media has its place, especially for those of us who sometimes have trouble leaving the house. I’ll continue to share my struggles and triumphs online, but I’ve learned to think twice before posting.

UPDATED June 2019 Boston Area Poetry Readings

Poetry and all that jazz

July and August are quiet months for just about everything in Boston, including poetry. So stock up now and avoid the rush later.

Of special note: Joan Houlihan and Kevin Prufer will be reading at Lesley University Monday, June 24 at 7pm. On Friday of that week, I will be one of the graduating students reading at 7pm. You can find the entire reading schedule for the Lesley MFA summer residency (and directions to the venue) here.

Sunday, June 2, 1 – 3:30 pm
Robert Knox and Joanna Zarkadas
Poetry: The Art Of Words
Plymouth Public Library/Otto Fehlow Room
132 South St
Plymouth, MA

Wednesday, June 5, 7 pm
Mar Ka
Brookline Booksmith
Harvard Street
Coolidge Corner
Brookline, MA

Thursday, June 6, 7 pm
David Ferry, Jennifer Clarvoe, Sabrina Sadique
Cary Library Reading Series
Cary Memorial Library, 1874 Massachusetts Ave
Lexington, MA

Friday, June 7, 7 pm
Wendy Drexler, Mark Pawlak, and Kyle Potvin
The Old Manse
269 Monument Street
Concord, MA

Friday, June 7, 7 pm
Steve Ablon and Xiaoly Li
and Open Mic
West Suburban YMCA
276 Church Street
Newton, MA

Friday, June 7, 7:30 pm
Natalie Shapero
Unearthed Song & Poetry
Homestead Bakery and Cafe
1448 Dorchester Ave.
Fields Corner
Dorchester, MA

Saturday, June 8, 2 pm
Jennifer Barber and Gloria Monaghan
Arts at the Armory
191 Highland Ave.
Somerville, MA

Saturday, June 8, 4 pm
Kristen Case, Karen Weiser, and Jennifer Firestone
MIT Press Bookstore
301 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA

Saturday, June 8, 6 – 7:30 pm
Victor Infante and Lizzie Wann
Bedlam Book Cafe
138 Green St.
Worcester, MA

Tuesday, June 11, 7 pm
Kate Colby, Cynthia Cruz, Joan Houlihan, and Daniel Tobin
Grolier Poetry Book Shop
6 Plympton St.
Cambridge, MA

Saturday, June 22, 3 pm
John Foy and Joan Kimball
Powow River Poets Reading Series
Newburyport Public Library
92 State Street
Newburyport, MA

Monday, June 24, 7 pm
Joan Houlihan and Kevin Prufer
Marran Theater
Lesley University
34 Mellen Street
Cambridge, MA

Tuesday, June 25, 5:30 pm
Catherine Stearns, Richard Wollman, and Susan Edmonds Richmond
Writers Read
Lee Library, 100 Main St.
Lee, MA

Saturday, June 29, 2 pm
Deborah Ogden and Melissa Silva
Cervena Barva Press
Art at the Armory
191 Highland Avenue
Somerville, MA

An Embarrassment of Riches

Silhouette of a woman with arms outspread and head thrown back. Photo credit: Jill Wellington via Pixabay.

The only thing you need to do to be a poet is to write poetry. But occasionally, if you do the footwork and let go of the results, you get rewarded with some accolades. I’ve had a string of successes recently and wanted to share:

  • In March, the Lambda Literary Awards selected my chapbook Mad Quick Hand of the Seashore as a finalist in the bisexual poetry category.
  • On April 24, Athena Dixon interviewed me for the New Books in Poetry podcast. We had a great conversation about the writer’s journey, how things have improved (or not) for marginalized voices, and how writing practice can change over time.
  • On April 29, new Boston Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola selected my work, along with that of 17 other poets, to be displayed at Boston City Hall as part of the Mayor’s Poetry Program.
  • On April 27, I performed alongside a slew of talented poets, musicians, and actors in the Solidarity Salon, an event started and organized by fellow Lesley poet Lisa DeSiro. The crowd that showed up to Third Life Studios in Union Square, Somerville was wonderfully warm and appreciative, and True Story Theater brought three poems to life–including one of mine!
  • On May 10, three of my poems appeared in the Heavy Feather Review #NoMorePresidents online feature.
  • On May 13, The Rumpus published my interview with Kwoya Fagin Maples about her moving book of historical persona poetry Mend (University Press of Kentucky, 2018).
  • On May 15, the Harriet blog on the Poetry Foundation website picked up the article, thus causing something rather unlikely: my name on the Poetry Foundation website. It’s a far cry from having my poems up there, but it’s still pretty cool.
  • On May 18, I walked in the Lesley University commencement ceremony with a brown hood to signify Master of Fine Arts. Lesley won’t award me the degree itself until I complete my graduating seminar at the June residency, but taking part in the ceremony was quite moving. My mother, brother, and sort-of-mother-in-law all traveled from out of town to celebrate with me and Mark, my partner and biggest fan.

Yes, Dispatches from an MFA are not up-to-the-minute coverage. More to come.

The interesting thing about po-biz success is how short-lived the good feelings can be. Lesley faculty member Tracey Baptiste has talked about the moving goalposts, and others seem to agree with her. I’m sure I’ll be eyeballs deep in existential angst soon, but for the moment, anyway, I feel like the Poetry Gods are smiling upon me.

Thanks to you, dear reader, for supporting me in these endeavors.

May 2019 and June 2019 Boston Area Poetry Readings

Poetry and all that jazz

All that energy from National Poetry Month seems to have spilled into May and June this year. Of special note:

  • U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith reading at Harvard TODAY, May 2
  • Rafael Campo in Cambridge Monday, May 6
  • Gabrielle Calvocoressi in Belmont Thursday, May 23
  • New Boston Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola in Roslindale Thursday, May 23
  • Cervena Barva’s monthly readings at the Somerville Arts at the Amory

Thanks as always to Daniel Bouchard for compiling these listings.

Thursday, May 2, 4 – 5:30 pm
Tracy K. Smith
Harvard Arts Medal Ceremony
Agassiz Theatre
5 James St.
Cambridge, MA
free ticket required

Thursday, May 2, 5:30 pm
Dawn Lundy Martin
Brown University
McCormack Family Theater
70 Brown St.
Providence, RI

Continue reading “May 2019 and June 2019 Boston Area Poetry Readings”