2013 Round-up

I am grateful to the editors of 32 PoemsPoetry SouthSwitchback, and Matter Monthly for each nominating me for a Pushcart Prize this year. And extra thanks to the editors at Switchback, who selected me for the runner-up of their Editor’s Choice Prize!

The Next Big Thing

Remember those chain letters from the sixth grade? Where you risked death if you didn’t keep it going? Now we have The Next Big Thing, a chain of self-interviews by writers, and I have been tagged by poet Peter Shippy, whose interview was up on Facebook, but whose books you should check out. (Andrea Cohen  and Jason Gray also tried to tag me, so you might want to check out their interviews.) I’ve tagged poets Aaron Baker, Matthew Thorburn, Jessica Garratt, and Rachel Richardson, and they’ll be posting their interviews on Facebook or their websites next week. On March 3, 2013, I sat down with myself and had the following conversation:

What is your working title of your book?


 My first collection of poems came out this past year, and it is called Little Murders Everywhere.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The title poem’s conceit comes from my work with a red-tailed hawk when I was teaching environmental education in Sonora, CA, while its heart comes from the challenges of taking care of a terminally-ill partner. Other poem ideas come from such eclectic things as my neuroscientist roommate’s research, the Cincinnati Zoo’s loud monkeys, Shakespeare’s Sonnet # 62, an astronomer I went on one date with, an article about people getting collection/eviction notices for relatives’ graves, and this photograph I took on the roads near the New York State Writers’ Institute at Skidmore.

IMG_0020

What genre does your book fall under?

The best one. (Except for the other best ones.)

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?


Seriously? Who came up with these questions?

Although the material for my next book would actually make a great screenplay.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?


Love. Death. Dead Animals. I’m a poet, we don’t have to write in sentences.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

My book was published by the wonderful press Salmon Poetry, which is based in Ireland, but which has a growing American list, including some poets who I really admire, such as Andrea Cohen and Allan Peterson.


How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?


Well, there is a poem in the book that went, in first draft form, to my first graduate workshop with Gail Mazur at Emerson College in 2001, and there’s a poem, “How to Skin a Swan,” that I wrote for The Guardian’s Poetry Workshop in 2011, after my book was accepted by Salmon in 2010. My editor let me slip that last one in. So I guess you could say this book was a decade in the making, though most of the poems were written between 2003 and 2008.

What other books would you compare this book to within your genre?


I once did a reading at a school where the professor in charge told me I reminded her of Chaucer. But I probably should lump that comparison in with the one by the Cincinnati postal employee who said I looked like Bruce Willis.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?


Well, this may seem like a cheap answer, but the inspiration comes from all the books I have read that I have fallen in love with. Or maybe I could give credit to the English teacher at the now-defunct Schenley High School in Pittsburgh. He took me and two other Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre students to a series of poetry readings at Carnegie Mellon. I quit ballet and followed books to college. Or to Akilah Oliver, who offered a free one-night workshop at a feminist bookstore in Boulder. I had just driven through Wyoming the night Matthew Shephard was killed, and I wrote a poem about it. That was the first time I ever shared a poem with anyone, and her encouragement changed my life.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There’s a series of loose sonnets on everyday sins such as gossip, lying, two-timing, and bossiness.  And a love story involving a dump truck.

But, more importantly, I love the cover art, which I was able to use thanks to the generosity of the brilliant artist Rosamond Purcell.

Readings in the News

Since my book launch, I have had the opportunity to read at some wonderful and welcoming nearby venues outside of Cambridge: Assumption College, University of Connecticut, the West Tisbury Library, and Newtonville Books. Some generous college journalists have taken the time to report on each of those events, so I thought it might be nice to share links to their work.

I was very impressed with the dedicated young editors I met from the Long River Review at the University of Connecticut, where I gave a reading and talk for their “Writers Who Edit, Editors Who Write” series.  They are doing great work under the guidance of poet Penelope Pelizzon. The Daily Campus reports on the visit here.

I also enjoyed meeting the vibrant poetry communities in Worcester and West Tisbury. The visit to the Vineyard (my first time there!) was reported on by a young poet who asked me thoughtful questions about composing. I read with West Tisbury’s current poet laureate, who turned how to be a fellow Emerson alum, Justen Ahren. You can read about the event in the Martha’s Vineyard Times.

And of course I love the local independent bookstores here in the Boston area, and Newtonville Books is particularly wonderful about supporting local writers. They have a beautiful new space in Newton Centre, and you should go there, or if you live far away click on this link, to see the very cool counter made of books.

VCCA

Get to work!

This month I am fortunate to have been granted a residency at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. This is my second time here, and the first visit led to a wonderful new chapter in my life as poet and editor: collaborating with composers. The Memorious Art Song Contest was born here, and with the hard work of the Chicago organization Singers On New Ground (SONG), so far we have joined two composers with poets resulting in two new works, two concerts, and two recordings for the magazine that you can listen to here and here.

I’ve also had the opportunity to have works set by two composers through SONG, which you can find on the art song page of this site, and also by composer Aaron Stepp, who I also met at VCCA. Hearing my poems sung in these beautiful settings by three different composers has been incredible, and it fuels my commitment to helping join poets and composers through the magazine, so that other poets might experience this. The new art song guidelines will go up soon, so stay tuned to the Memorious blog!

These are only a few of the creative friendships that have come from these residencies. In this economy, we are particularly  lucky to have places like this which are committed to helping artists do their work. For me, coming to my childhood home state, Virginia, is particularly special. There’s nothing like seeing the Blue Ridge mountains outside your window–my childhood view, my VCCA view.

Here’s who I see outside my studio window every day. I’ve posted this  James Wright poem by my window as well.

Poetry Society of America Awards

A few years ago, I had the good fortune to be selected as the recipient of the Poetry Society of America’s 2010 Alice Fay di Castagnola Award by judge Marilyn Hacker. Last year, I was a finalist for the PSA’s 2011 George Bogin Memorial Award, judged by Aimee Nezhukumatathil and awarded to Suji Kwock Kim. I was in great company with fellow finalists Hadara Bar-Nadav and Leslie Williams.

I just received the news that I was one of two  finalists for the 2012 George Bogin Award, judged by Evie Shockley and awarded to (drum roll!) Suji Kwock Kim. In stranger coincidence, I am also the finalist for the PSA’s Lucille Medwick Memorial Award, judged by Ilya Kaminsky and awarded to, once again (you know what’s coming) Suji Kwock Kim!

I was thrilled to see some familiar names in the winners:  Memorious contributor Greg Wrenn was selected for The Lyric Poetry Award, judged by Matthew Dickman. Jehanne Dubrow, a fellow Sewanee alum, was chosen for this year’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award judged by Claudia Rankine. Congratulations to them both!

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