In Memoriam: Trayvon Martin

I’ve been largely silent regarding the issue of Trayvon Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal. As a white woman living in Boston, I don’t see the ongoing effects of racism in the same way that I did when I was living on the north side of Poughkeepsie, or growing up in a housing project in Stamford. But racism still affects me and those I love. I’d like to take a moment to honor the friends and loved ones whom I know deal with racism on a daily basis — and the friends and loved ones I never met or never got to know well because of the racist and segregated society in which I live.

From a New York Times editorial published July 14, 2013:

While Mr. Zimmerman’s conviction might have provided an emotional catharsis, we would still be a country plagued by racism, which persists in ever more insidious forms despite the Supreme Court’s sanguine assessment that “things have changed dramatically,” as it said in last month’s ruling striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act.

Spring and All, in the Aftermath

When I was 13 and knew everything, when I was jaundiced as only the very young can be jaundiced, I loved T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I loved its ennui. I loved the flowing, imaginative, and so very, very bored voice of the speaker, fiddling with peaches and coffee spoons, scattering couplets about for charm.

Now that I am 39 and know very little, I kind of want to punch T.S. Eliot in the face. But tonight, on a night in late April when horrific things have happened in the city where I live, when very little seems to make sense in the world — and yet, when I know I am simply experiencing for the first time what many other people live with every day — I find solace in the bare modernism of one of Eliot’s contemporaries.

William Carlos Williams was a country doctor in a small New Jersey town. He hung out with the avant-garde in New York City, back when it was still possible to drive 20 miles outside of New York City and be in a small town. I don’t know a tremendous amount about his personal life, and perhaps that is for the best. After all, I admired Eliot’s work for years without learning about his anti-semitism. All poets are flawed in some way; in the modern age, it’s usually the flaws that drive us to such an unrewarding medium of self-expression.

Tonight M and I walked the spiral path to the top of a hill in the Arboretum. Boston springtimes are very uncertain; I never stop bracing for another round of sleet until Memorial Day is over. But this week, while the city reeled from the force of two homemade bombs that exploded in a crowd of civilians, the trees began to unfurl their blossoms.

Springtime flowers in this city are tough. With some vegetable intelligence, some faith I cannot comprehend,

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind–

Williams speaks in an unflinching way of cold and modern realities — realities that another poet might try to soften with rhyme and metaphors. And without the window dressing, he manages to drill down to the beauty of the thing itself.

Spring and All

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the scourge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast–a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish,
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines–

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches–

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind–

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined–
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance–Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken

— William Carlos Williams, Spring and All, William Carlos Williams: Selected Poems, ed. Charles Tomlinson. New York: New Directions, 1985. Page 39.

The Day After the Boston Marathon Bombing

Sudden violence (is there any other kind?) throws the world into sharp relief. Horror that doesn’t speak but roars in the head like the ocean. Magnolias blooming under the crescent moon.

It gives things the proper perspective, too.

Last night, laying on the bed, talking to my mother on the phone while Army Guy relaxed next to me, the younger cat purring between us, I felt utter contentment.

This morning I woke at 6:00 am to take down the emergency update on the hospital website that I maintain. Cortisol shot me awake, makes me drained and snappy today. The sun is shining, the air is crisp and lovely. The Copley Square area is closed from Mass Ave to Berkeley. Did they wash the pavement clean? Will they find who did this? Will the cycle of violence continue, into the end of the time? Is peace just a pipe dream, like dreaming for the end of hunger, the end of darkness?

All things in sharp relief, from one moment to the next.

Boston-Area Poetry Readings for April/May 2012

If you live in Boston and haven’t had a chance to celebrate National Poetry Month yet, here are more than a few chances. Some are readings and some are open mics — skim the listings for more details.

This information comes from a mailing put out by a gentleman at one of the MIT presses. His emails come out once every few weeks — no more than once or twice a month — and provide clear evidence of the rich literary landscape of Eastern Massachusetts. If you would like to be added to his mailing list, please leave a comment with your email address and I will connect the two of you privately.

Tuesday, April 24, 1 pm
Suffolk University Poetry Center
Sawyer Library, Third Floor
73 Tremont St.

Tuesday April 24, 7 pm
Writers at the Black Box: Graduate Students and Alum of the BU Creative Writing Program
Rebekah Stout, poetry/alum, Megan Fernandez, playwriting, Abriana Jette, poetry, and Laura Goldstein, poetry
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
949 Commonwealth Ave.

Saturday April, 28, begins 8:30 a.m.
Newburyport Literary Festival
Google it.
Newburyport, MA

Saturday, April 28, 10 am – 4:40 pm
Sunday, April 29, 1:10 – 4:30 pm
56 poets each reading for 10 minutes
inluding Sam Cornish, Rhina P. Espaillat, Richard Wollman ,Christine Casson, Dan Tobin, Jennifer Barber, Alfred Nicol, Kathleen Spivack, Doug Holder, Elizabeth Doran, Richard Hoffman, Lucy Holstedt, Charles Coe, Kim Triedman, Ryk McIntyre, January O’Neil, Regie O’Gibson, Kate Finnegan (Kaji Aso Studio), Victor Howes, Susan Donnelly, Jack Scully, Rene Schwiesow, Chad Parenteau, Linda Larson, Tomas O’Leary, Marc Goldfinger, Gloria Mindock, Tim Gager, Diana Saenz, Stuart Peterfreund, Valerie Lawson, Michael Brown, Mignon Ariel King, Tom Daley, Molly Lynn Watt, Ifeanyi Menkiti, Lainie Senechal, Harris Gardner, Joanna Nealon, Walter Howard, Zvi Sesling, Irene Koronas, Fred Marchant, Sheila Twyman, Robert K. Johnson, Suzanne E. Berger, and others
Boston Public Library
Copley Square

Saturday, April 28, 3 pm
Joseph Torra, Amanda Cook, and Sam Cha
Outpost 186
186.5 Hampshire Street (in rear)
Inman Square

Sunday, April 29, 3 pm
Over The Centuries: Poetry at Harvard (A Love Story)
A performance celebrating the work of Harvard-affiliated poets Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Ashbery, T.S. Eliot, Adrienne Rich, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, e.e. cummings and many more. Featuring an ensemble of Harvard students, the event will be a tapestry of live voices mixed with images and recordings of the poets themselves reading their work. Conceived by Professor Jorie Graham in collaboration with Matt Aucoin ’12 with curatorial assistance provided by the Woodberry Poetry Room.
Agassiz Theatre
Event is free but tickets are required. Limit of 2 tickets per person.
Tickets valid until 2:45 pm
Available on Tuesday, April 17th to Harvard Affiliates
Available on Thursday, April 19th to the general public.

Monday, April 30, 6 pm
Timothy Donnelley
Location details to come, maybe

Monday, April 30, 7pm
Jordan Davis and John Godfrey
The Deja Brew
121 Lockes Village Rd
Wendell, MA
$1-$5 sliding scale

Monday, April 30, 8 pm
Franz Wright and Geoffrey Brock
Blacksmith House
56 Brattle Street
Harvard Square

Tuesday, May 1, 2:30 pm
Grace Krilanovich
McCormack Family Theater
70 Brown St.
Free and open to the public

Tuesday, May 1, 7 pm
Tom Sleigh, Lloyd Schwartz, Gail Mazur, Fred Marchant, Fanny Howe, Saskia Hamilton, Robert Gardner and Christopher Benfey
Celebration of Robert Lowell & launch of AGNI 75
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
949 Commonwealth Ave, Boston (Green Line B, Pleasant St.)
free and open to the public

Wednesday, May 2, 7 pm
Rebecca Lindenberg and Stephen Burt
Porter Square Books
25 White Street

Thursday, May 3, 6 pm
Christian Bök
MIT, Building 6 — room 120
Free and open to the public

Friday, May 4, 8 pm
Myfanwy Collins, Carroll Donnell, Joel Peckham, and Yuyutsu Sharma
Dire Literary Reading Series
Out of the Blue Art Gallery
106 Prospect Street

Saturday, May 5, 7:30 pm
Julian T. Brolaski and Cole Swensen
Gloucester Writers Center Poetry Salon
126 East Main St.

Sunday, May 6, 12:45 pm
John Holgerson and David R. Surette
Poetry: The Art of Words/Mike Amado Memorial Series
The Plymouth Center for the Arts
11 North Street
Music feature at Noon

Sunday, May 6, 1 pm
Plein Air Poetry Celbrations at Fruitlands Museum
Special guests and CPC members X.J Kennedy, Bob Clawson , Barb Crane, Joan Kimball and and Amy Woods
Winners of CPC and Fruitlands Museum first Plein Air Poetry Competition will read their poems.
Fruitlands Museum
102 Prospect Hill Road
Harvard, MA

Monday, May 7, 7 pm
Susan McDonough, Margot Wizansky, and Connemara Wadsworth
Workshop for Publishing Poets
Porter Square Books
25 White Street

Monday, May 7, 8 pm
Stanley Plumly and Jane Shore
Blacksmith House
56 Brattle Street
Harvard Square

Wednesday, May 9, 7 pm
Jorie Graham
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave.

Thursday, May 10, 7 pm
Jorie Graham and Sophie Cabot Black
Amherst Books
8 Main Street
Amherst, MA

Friday, May 11, 7:30 pm
Gary Duehr, Karen Miller, and Margaret Young
Chapter and Verse Literary Reading Series
Loring-Greenough House
12 South Street
Jamaica Plain Centre

Saturday, May 12, 3 pm
Kevin Bowen, Fred Marchant, George Kovach, Paul Brailsford, Marc Levy, Martin Ray, Aldo Tambellini
War and Writing: Readings and Conversations
Gloucester Writers Center, William Joiner Center and Consequence Magazine
Harbor Room
126 East Main St.
Veterans and students free
Suggested Donation $10

Saturday, May 12, 3 pm
Ned Balbo and Nancy Bailey Miller
Powow River Poets Reading Series
Jabberwocky Books
50 Water St
Newburyport (in The Tannery Mall)

Saturday, May 12, 7 pm
Naomi Shihab Nye
Old Ship Church
90 Main Street
Hingham, MA

Wednesday, May 16, 7 pm
Susan Jo Russell, Jim Henle, Mary Ellen Geer, Oliver Payne, and Laurie Rosenblatt
Porter Square Books
25 White Street
Porter Square Shopping Center

Thursday, May 17, 7 pm
William and Beverly Corbett: Forty-four Years at 9 Columbus Square
A Woodberry Poetry Room Oral History Initiative
Moderated by Fanny Howe
Barker Center, Thompson Room
Harvard University
12 Quincy Street
free and open to public

Friday, May 18, 7 pm
Nate Klug and William Corbett
Back Pages Books
289 Moody Street

Friday, May 18, 7pm
Breakwater Reading Series
Join us for a night of new fiction, poetry, and essays
from the MFA candidates of Emerson, UMASS Boston, and BU.
Brookline Booksmith
Coolidge Corner

Saturday, May 19, 3:30 pm
Zvi A. Sesling and Alvah Howe
Poetry Series at the Brockton Library
304 Main Street
Brockton, MA

Sunday, May 20, 3 pm
Teresa Cader and Charles Pratt
Concord Poetry Center
Emerson Umbrella
40 Stow Street
Concord, MA
Open Mike. Free.

Sunday, May 20, 2-4 pm
Brookline Poetry Series
Susan Becker and Kevin Goodman
Brookline Public Library
Main Branch
Brookline Village

What I Learned During National Poetry Month 2011

  1. Haiku improves with practice.
  2. Poetry is real work.
  3. Sometimes work is gentle, easy, and takes hardly any time.
  4. Sometimes work is hard and grueling and difficult.
  5. Sometimes I forget to do things I said I was going to do
  6. Instead of hating on myself or giving up, I can just start doing them again.
  7. I am an imperfect poet.
  8. There is a difference between work and discipline.
  9. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.”
  10. Writing can be a form of spiritual practice.
  11. Once upon a time I bloomed words from the tips of my fingers like a… word-blooming goddess with flowering fingertips. Now, I am embryonic. I need to be patient with myself.
  12. I am unreasonably jealous anytime another writer gets attention and accolades.
  13. Someone inside of me thinks all the attention and accolades should be long to ME ONLY ME IT’S ALL ABOUT ME DAMMIT.
  14. Ahem.
  15. I am reminded of my gentle, loving, sweet-natured kitty. She gives teeny mews most of the time and has an endless supply of soft kitty hugs and purring cuddle sessions for me. Until another cat invades our household.
  16. Then, sweet Tara turns into a yowling, hissing fiend of a cat. She flips like a coin: one moment hissing and attacking the INVADER, and the next minute turning to me with a look of pure innocence, asking “Mew?”
  17. Sometimes Tara can learn to share space with other felines, but only after a long and persistent campaign of desentization.
  18. In matters of poetry and accolades, I am more like my cat than I would like to admit.
  19. I am an imperfect human being.
  20. There is nothing wrong with giving my embryonic, easily threatened Inner Poet all the time and safety and attention she needs.
  21. WordPress’s post-dating feature is the best thing ever for procrastinators.
  22. I would like to do NaPoWrMo next year.
  23. Other poets have blogs.
  24. Actually, I already knew this.
  25. There is a very large and very important difference between writing and marketing your writing.
  26. I tend to forget that every task in the universe — even those done online — takes time.
  27. I find the notion of making numbered lists of disparate elements strangely entertaining.
  28. I can scrawl a haiku in a notebook while stopped at a traffic light.
  29. Doing so is not illegal, but checking my email is.
  30. Does that seem right to you?
  31. Nobody said that life was fair.
  32. Encouragement and accolades come from unexpected places.
  33. I should take none of them for granted.
  34. Daily posting is good for me.
  35. I feel curious and optimistic about the future.
  36. If one is not careful, one may post a single haiku that still contains typos.
  37. I have been alive for 37 years and some months.

Feed the Hungry Heart on Feb. 22

Come to an intimate gathering of fresh, local food and fresh, local writing at Prose Restaurant in Arlington, MA.

Reasons you should come to Feeding the Hungry Heart at Prose on Feb. 22 at 7pm:

1) It’s all about the food. $15 gets you a vegetarian buffet of fresh, local food that will rock your socks off. Prose is one of the best restaurants in Boston, and $15 is an amazing deal. Dinner at Prose usually runs more like $40 a person

2) It’s all about the writing. Our featured readers will rock the socks off of anyone who still has them on after sampling the buffet.

3) It’s all about the community. Reaching Productions creates spaces that celebrate and support artists no matter what their level of experience. If you sign up for the open mic, you can expect people to applaud you. And that applause will rock your socks off.

4) It’s all about me! I’m organizing this event solo. As the date gets closer, I get the “what if I throw a party and nobody comes?” jitters. Be a pal and show up just for me. And for the food, writing, and community.

RSVP on Facebook by clicking this link

Or, comment below.