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YOU ARE INVITED to the launch of my first-ever chapbook, THE UNIVERSE COMES KNOCKING: poems by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman
When? One month from today, on March 13th at 7:00 p.m. Where? In Mount Holly, NJ, at the Daily Grind, located at 48 High Street. Cost of admission? Free. Plus I'll be reading, and there will be an open reading afterwards. Cost of chapbook if you're so inclined? Probably $6.00 or so.
I sure hope you will come. Or send someone you know.
Especially since my sweetheart just got scheduled for dental surgery that morning and will likely be unable to attend, and I really, truly don't want to be all by myself in a coffee shop for the launch of my first-ever chapbook (a small paperback collection of poems, which may or may not be sold by peddlers, but is indeed published by a local small press called Maverick Duck Press).
To see other Poetry Friday posts, click the box below:
I ought to have told you a while back, but what with one thing and another, I kinda lost track of the fact that my poem, "A Vampire Pantoum", was published online at Blood Moon Rising Magazine back in June. (It got accepted last fall, and I kinda forgot all about it - oops!)
Today, I figured I'd share it with you here in honor of Halloween:
A Vampire Pantoum by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman
Come with me Midnight comes soon Flying free We soar beneath the moon
Midnight comes soon The shadows shrink away We soar beneath the moon And over the bay
The shadows shrink away The air is still And over the bay It’s time for us to kill
The air is still But none can slow our pace It’s time for us to kill We leave without a trace
None can slow our pace Flying free We leave without a trace Come with me
A word about the form: The pantoum is an evocative form that originates in Malaysia. It involves a lot of repetition, since each line will repeat once in the poem. A pantoum can have as many stanzas as one likes. Each stanza holds four lines. Lines two and four of stanza one become lines one and three of stanza two, lines two and four of stanza two become lines one and three of stanza three, and so on, until the final stanza, in which line three of the first stanza of the poem is line two of that final stanza, and line one of the poem is the fourth line, and therefore the final line of the poem.
It can sound a bit complicated, but it's exceedingly simple when seen in practice. I posted about the form once before, with a spectacular pantoum by poet Peter Oresick, from his book Warhol-O-Rama. Joyce Sidman is also a master at this form, with splendid pantoums in Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow and This is Just to Say. She's posted a pantoum called "Spring is the Time" at her website, with instructions on how to write one, if you're so inclined.
If you saw yesterday's post, then you know there's been a call for sweaters to be knit for penguins following an oil spill off the coast of New Zealand. The sweaters keep the birds warm and also prevent them from preening (and thereby ingesting globs of oil) while they wait their turns to be cleaned up.
Here in the U.S., last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico wreaked havoc on the environment, and still requires cleanup efforts. I was fortunate to have my poem, "Troubled Water", included in the anthology Breaking Waves: An Anthology for Gulf Coast Relief. In fact, it held pride of place as the final selection in the book - closing out an anthology that opened with a poem by Ursula Le Guin. I've been pleased to see the poem favorably mentioned in several reviews of the anthology, including this one by Helen Gallagher.
In light of the recent spill off New Zealand, I thought I'd share the poem here today. And in case you're wondering, the answer is "yes, you can still purchase a copy of the Breaking Waves e-book, which is available from Amazon in Kindle format, from Barnes & Noble for the Nook, and from the publisher, Book View Cafe for a mere $4.99 US. All proceeds go to Gulf Coast relief.
by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman
"The first of the slick to reach the shores will not be the last." Janet Ritz, The Environmentalist, 4/30/10
Long before St. Aidan's time, ancient sailors cast their oil on roiling seas to stay the waves. No miracle, but science: primitive, powerful as magic.
A modicum of oil could quell a cresting swell, a thinning drop enough to influence a distance farther than the fingers of its prismatic sheen.
Not more than a teaspoonful calmed half-acre Clapham waves for Benjamin Franklin, noted inventor, Renaissance man. Reconnaissance now cannot quantify the effect.
Two billion plus teaspoons of oil gush daily into Gulf water, quelling wildlife, not waves; stopping sea life, not storms; troubling water, industry, conscience.
Worried water – a geyser spews. Gobbets of gull-coating crude expands in the sea. Disturbed water – methane chokes oxygen. Desperate dead zones nothing can survive. Troubled water – upsetting the balance.
Economy and populace washed-out as wetlands, unsteady as shifting beach sand. St. Aidan's cruet will not quiet this squall; St. Jude, he of desperate causes, waits offstage, wringing his hands.
This week, I've been enjoying reading Mark Reads Harry Potter over at Buzznet. Turns out that Mark (age 26) had never read a single HP book (I'm shocked!), and he's committed to reading the whole series, start to finish. And he's engaging in a form of torture, really, because he reads one chapter at a time, then blogs about that chapter, then moves on. Those of you who've read the series know how horribly difficult that can be, particular when things get knotty. Just this week, he started reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and as his past (and better-looking) header said, "You are not prepared." Or rather, it's pretty clear that Mark is going to have his mind blown. I hope you'll check out his project, but whatever you do, DO NOT SPOIL HIM. Because reading his complete breakdown over Cedric's death in Goblet of Fire was both funny and exceptionally moving all at the same time, and I expect him to have a complete conniption when the major death in Phoenix occurs. (When he reaches the Battle of Hogwarts in book 7, I fully expect his head to explode.)
But Kelly, you say, I thought you said this was a Poetry Friday post? Well, it is. But one more digression before I get there (and it ties in, I promise). I've commented many times before on the (roughly) weekly writing exercises that I do with Angela De Groot. A while back, we used the following assignment, ganked from a fellow poet at an open reading one night: Pick a fictional character, and have them write a letter to their dead mother. The woman who mentioned the assignment had written a poem from perspective of the Incredible Hulk, which flummoxed me a bit because the Hulk is actually an alter ego for Doctor Bruce Banner, but I digress.
I took the assignment and wrote what is a mixed-up sonnet from the perspective of a character from the Harry Potter books. Savvy readers will identify the speaker easily:
Letter to Mum by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman
You never understood me. Never tried to see a broader world outside the dark and hateful world in which you lived and died. You tried your best to snuff out every spark of friendship with James Potter, every bond with anyone whose blood you deemed impure. When I rebelled, you called me immature, yet you threw tantrums, blasting with your wand in anger at the heirloom tapestry, seeking to wipe me from the family. I would not have you love me, do not care that you preferred my brother. In the end, you died alone in your Grimmauld Place lair, while I died in the service of a friend.
Form: Mixed-up Shakespearean sonnet, if I have to assign it a name. It's written in iambic pentameter (five iambs per line: taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM), with the following rhyme scheme: ABABCDCDEEFGFG.
Discussion: I suppose this counts as fan fiction, now I think of it. I could happily write an entire collection along these lines, if I'm being honest. It was so much fun to write! (I siriusly hope that you've all figured out who the speaker was in this poem. Bet you saw what I just did there!)
You can find other Poetry Friday participants by clicking on the box, below, to get to this week's host:
1. The Wally Report: Wally's check-up with the veterinary neurologist went well yesterday. The vet agreed that he seems to be regaining function. Wally starts pet physical therapy tomorrow. The vet led hubby to believe that we might get lucky enough for him to make a pretty rapid recovery. (I'm not holding my breath, but it sure would be nice!)
2. The 2010 CYBILS Poetry Panels were announced today at the CYBILS blog. First-round panelist Elaine Magliaro is today's Poetry Friday host. We're lucky to once again have folks who really know their poetry on board!
3. In case you missed my post the other day, Breaking Waves, an e-book anthology to benefit the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund, launched the other day, complete with my poem "Troubled Water", which closes the e-book. I am extremely grateful to for blogging about it yesterday, since she has a million billion followers. (Okay, I exaggerate - but seriously, she has nearly 7,000 followers on LiveJournal alone!)
4. I am in the pre-thinking phase for a new project. I'm not certain I'll be able to pull it off, but I'm hopeful. Let's leave it at that for now.
5. My picture book, At the Boardwalk, has an illustrator - and it's Spanish artist Mónica Armiño! You can see some of her work at her blog. ¡Que bonito! M would love to see this Viking guy in At the Boardwalk. Meanwhile, I am seriously in love with her Narcissus. *swoon*
The Kidlit 4 Japan auctions continue apace. Today's new offerings include a collection of signed books and a Skype visit Kate Messner and a signed book and critique from Becky Levine, as well as a number of other items.
The first auction, my friend Anne Marie Pace's offering of a signed book plus a critique, closes at 9 a.m. ET tomorrow. The auction for signed first editions of Jo Knowles's books closes at 11 a.m. ET tomorrow. Debbi Michiko Florence is auctioning off two copies of her Japan book - though it might be hard to outbid her husband for one of the copies - he's in with $100. What a mensch Bob is! Her auction, like mine, closes on Friday. (I'm offering up poetry critiques, which may include picture book critiques - I am pleased to see three bids for the two critiques. Of course, it would be nice to see more - hint hint.)
This morning is tentatively sunny, with evidence of spring appearing in the neighborhood. Buds on trees, birds singing and calling, daffodils and jonquils starting to bloom. For this particular Poetry Friday, I decided to share a poem I learned as a song (a lied) - "Das Erste Veilchen" - in its original German, which I've translated.
Before I get to the poem and the discussion, just a quick reminder that 3 p.m. ET is the deadline for the Kidlit 4 Japan auction for my items: Two winners will receive poetry critiques of up to 75 lines of poetry, plus a second-pass critique of their revision(s). All proceeds go to UNICEF to assist with relief in Japan. Full details and entry information here.
The First Violet by Karl Egon Ebert, translated by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman
When I saw the first violet, I was delighted with its color and scent! I lustfully embraced Spring's messenger To my swelling, hopeful breast.
The Spring time is over, the violet is dead; Rings full of blue and red flowers surround me - Standing within them, I barely see them. The violet shines in my dream of Spring.
The original German text:
Das erste Veilchen by Karl Egon Ebert
Als ich das erste Veilchen erblickt, Wie war ich von Farben und Duft entzückt! Die Botin des Lenzes drückt' ich voll Lust An meine schwellende, hoffende Brust.
Der Lenz ist vorüber, das Veilchen ist tot; Rings steh'n viel Blumen blau und rot, Ich stehe inmitten, und sehe sie kaum, Das Veilchen erscheint mir im Frühlingstraum.
A word on the form of the original, what's lost in translation, and a bit about the poet
The original German poem is written in two stanzas using rhymed couplets (AABB CCDD), with each line containing four stressed syllables. My translation was based on a desire to give you a decent translation of the meaning of the poem. Alas, the meter and rhyme did not carry over.
The poet, Karl Egon Ebert, was of Czech-German descent, and was born in Bohemia in 1801 (back when it was still an actual place, and not a sort of state of mind). He spent most of his life in service to the royal house of Fürstenberg, and evidently had a romance with one of the princesses (alas, their love was not allowed to flourish). He died in Prague at the age of 81, having written a number of poems and librettos for operas, as well as political tracts arguing for Czech-German cooperation.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, I'm aware of this poem because it was set to music; it was one of the lieder that I sang when I was a voice major in college. Here's a video of a talented young man named Stephen Richardson singing Ebert's words to music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (note: some lines or parts of lines are repeated in the song setting):
I hope you find some violets today, even if only in your mind's eye. Mary Lee is hosting Poetry Friday today over at A Year of Reading - you can see all the entries by clicking the Poetry Friday box below.
Poking my head up from my RA-induced haze to share a bit of good news with you.
My poem, "A Place to Share", is going to be published in Dare To Dream . . . Change the World (working title), a forthcoming anthology from publisher Kane Miller edited by Jill Corcoran. The anthology is going to contain a mix of biographical and inspirational poems. My poem is biographical, and related to the founders of YouTube. My friend Laura Purdie Salas wrote an inspirational poem on the same topic, and the pair of poems will be included in the anthology along with the work of 28 other poets - and just wait until you see the final line-up of people in this anthology. (List not yet public, I'm afraid, but trust me when I say that it's AWESOME, as is the potential illustrator!)
I am extremely excited and more than a little humbled to be included with so many rock stars from the world of children's poetry.
See, I started taking tai chi class, and folks who take tai chi at my gym are automatically part of the tai chi club - it's kinda like Facebook, where someone just puts you in a group, only without all the annoying Facebook stuff that sometimes follows. Anyhoo, my friend Tess is the team leader for the club's team, "C Steps for a Cure". (A C-step is pretty much what it sounds like - your right foot makes a forward C, and your left a backwards one, as you swing your leg in and out while taking a step. Look, I don't know, okay?)
Only then Tess had to be in Florida for a month this summer as we were trying to get folks to join the team, and she's going to be back there for the month of October as well, so I became de facto team leader, which is why I make all the announcements and am in charge of the shirt orders and stuff.
Our team is, at present, on the small side - there are only 6 of us so far - and our donations are rather commensurate with that. I'm hoping that will change, of course - and I do have a few checks to enter online, so I've raised a bit more than my own $75 contribution. I'm hoping you guys will cheer me on - especially since this damned RA flare hasn't abated yet and I'm fixing to walk over 3 miles in about 3-1/2 weeks' time.
I am very much looking forward to getting the mail tomorrow. My amazingly wonderful editor, Jamie Michalak at tiger tales books, has put her two advance copies of my picture book, At the Boardwalk, in the mail to me. Yes - two copies, one in hardcover and one in paperback, since my publisher is going to release the book in both formats when it releases next March.
This is months ahead of my author copies, which won't reach U.S. soil until at least January. I am very, very lucky to have such a sweetheart of an editor, who is willing to share what are essentially proofs/production copies with me so that I can see (and hug) my realio trulio book sooner, rather than later. *hugs Jamie*
Yesterday, I was having an email conversation with a friend who teaches English at a community college down south. She welcomed a bunch of kids to Intro to Literature, and decided to open her class by saying "So what is fiction?" and someone in the class answered "B.S.!" In her first email, though, all she said to me was that she had been "off befuddling students about 'Why we need fiction'"; the details about the B.S. came later. Wise woman that she is, she is hoping to convey that "'fact and fiction are different truths.' (As seen in Patricia MacLachlan's MG The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt.)"
Smart-ass that I am, I decided to write her an essay. Which I at first intended to be flip, but in reality, I believe what I said pretty much 100%. And so I'm sharing it with you all today. Feel free to imagine me reading this aloud to a class full of kids who are taking Intro to Lit., who probably don't really care about being there.
"Why we need fiction", by Kelly Fineman
We need fiction because in fiction, things have to make sense, which is a nice change of pace from life, where things don't have to make sense all the time. Or sometimes ever.
We need fiction because it allows us to create an artificial barrier, behind which we can examine Big Important Issues in a hypothetical setting, instead of beating people's brains out, possibly literally, by addressing those issues in the real world.
We need fiction because there are places the mind can go that the body can't actually follow, like the past, or the future, or to a different world where different natural laws apply, and fiction is a way of taking us there, if only for a little while, and allowing us to imagine how things were, or could be.
We need fiction because sometimes, facts suck.
We need fiction because it is a form of exercise. It may not help us lose weight or get in shape (unless it is a Very Heavy Book, in which case it may build a bit of muscle tone), but it helps us exercise our minds. And not just our imaginations, which are not just allowed, but encouraged, to picture what the author has described for us: fiction allows us to exercise our understanding of other people and cultures; it can educate us in a meaningful way about places and people we may never see or meet in real life.
An example: if you read or watch the news, you may have some idea what illegal immigrants from Mexico go through to get here. You may have some idea about torture and wartime atrocities in other countries. What you've read may have influenced your opinions on issue like immigration policy and use of torture and involvement in "civil" disputes in other countries. However, if you're like me, you don't really know what those experiences feel like, and while you may bemoan the awfulness of a particular circumstance, you've given little thought to the long-term effects of them.
If, like me, you went out after the CYBILS finalists were announced to track down some of the titles I hadn't heard of before, you might have read the heartwrending/heartmending Red Glass by Laura Resau. If so, then you have "seen", first-hand, what people's lives in those circumstances are like, their hopes and dreams and fears and how they've overcome tremendous odds. You understand their motivations, and see the beauty of the human spirit. You have thought about the "real" issues, but in a far more experiential way than simply reading "the facts" in a news article or seeing footage on TV and then quickly moving on to the next topic. And with the power of its prose, this book, like many other great works of fiction, will stick with you for a while and knock around in your head, where the news is frequently here and then on to the next thing.
My conclusion? For learning about the emotional truths and truly grasping the factual truths and learning compassion and finding out what other cultures are truly like, you can't beat fiction.
Back in November, I read a post over at Laurie Purdie Salas's blog in which she called for two poems for her (now) newly released title from Compass Point Books, Write Your Own Poetry by Laura Purdie Salas.
I submitted two poems, one for each of the categories that Laura needed, and was thrilled when my bathtub-related poem was chosen for inclusion. When I was at ALA last weekend, I got to see and hold a copy of the actual book over at the Compass Point booth. My poem is there on the right-hand page, near the very small rubber ducky.
Wanna know what the poem says? Since I'm sure at least one or two folks out there might, here it is:
In the Bathtub of Possibilities by Kelly Fineman
a landscaper clearing a lake amid bubble mountains
an admiral directing battles between rubber ducks and drakes
a mermaid my hair a floating halo or fishnet
Now, Alice in a towel too big for the rabbit-hole drain
1. Today I've got a brief review of a book called Quicksand: HIV/AIDS in Our Lives up over at Guys Lit Wire. The book is written by a woman who prefers to remain anonymous, given that she shares some information about her brother-in-law, who was diagnosed with HIV, developed AIDS and, eventually, died from related illnesses. Having lost a dear friend to this illness several years ago, I was eager to read the book, which provides concise, clearly presented factual information about the HIV virus, how it is (and is not) spread, what the treatment is like, and what it feels like to receive word that someone you know has HIV or AIDS. I hope you'll check out my review and, more importantly, that those of you in the library field will be sure to get this one for your libraries. The book says it's suitable for ages 10 and up, and that felt about right to me, given the content.
2. This month, I've got an article up at Kid Magazine Writers about the clerihew: what it is and how to go about writing one. It includes two original poems I wrote to illustrate my point: one about Edmund Clerihew Bentley and another about, well, Derek Zoolander.
Derek Zoolander, Model grand-stander, Excellent eugoogolizer And terrorist neutralizer.
3. Those of you who've written poetry and are interested in free verse, and who happen to be interested in attending the New England SCBWI Conference come May might be interested in the workshop I'll be leading on Sunday, May 16th: "Tactics and Techniques to Fix Up Your Free Verse". Here's the official write-up on it:
Whether you write individual poems or entire novels in free verse, this workshop is for you. It will focus on improving free verse poetry using devices such as alliteration and assonance, refined imagery, improved use of line breaks, fine-tuned similes and metaphors, and more. The workshop is suitable for experienced poets working in free verse who are interested in taking their work to the next level, and will include a folder with handouts and exercises for reference and use at home.
*Note to self: get those folders and handouts together!
And here are three things I hope people will take home from the workshop:
1. Enhanced understanding of the importance of structural components such as line breaks and stress patterns. 2. Knowledge of specific strategies, devices and poetic techniques to improve the quality of free verse poems. 3. Revision pointers and tactics to polish your work, with take-home exercises.
Yestereve, I mentioned the writing exercises I undertake with . This week, I set out to write a poem based on this prompt from The Write-Brain Workbook by Bonnie Neubauer: "Dear Dolores, I know it has been 37 years since I have been in touch". Since the line following the greeting falls naturally into iambs (two-syllable poetic feet composed of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one), I resolved to write a sonnet using iambic pentameter, and following one of the usual sonnet rhyme schemes (if you're interested in them, I've discussed them before).
I wrote the first four lines using the ABAB rhyme scheme. The last word of line four was "clutch", so as I entered into the fifth line, I was surprised to find what my gentleman narrator was clutching at. If I was surprised in line five, I was positively startled in line six to learn he had an official diagnosis.
I should mention that these are supposed to be 5-10 minute exercises, and by this point, I'd already put more than three hours into this poem, and I was starting to ponder how to get out of it so I could get back to work on the Jane project, what with Jane standing over my left shoulder, arms crossed, foot tapping, throat clearing and all. And I realized that just as I'd interrupted myself, perhaps someone might interrupt my gentleman writer.
Having given you Angela's response to the short poem, I figured I ought to let you see it. It's no masterpiece, but I don't think it sucks, either. It would undoubtedly benefit from time and revision and a better title; nevertheless, here it is as it now stands:
Dear Dolores by Kelly R. Fineman
I know it has been 37 years since I have been in touch. You meant so much to me back then. I find, as old age nears, I think of you quite often, and I clutch at memories as if they'd hold me afloat, a life preserver in Alzheimer's sea –
"Excuse me, Mr. Loomis, here's your coat."
"This note – it's to Dolores. Who is she?"
Analysis of form: It ends up being two cross-rhymed quatrains written in iambic pentameter. This means there are five iambic feet per line (taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM), and the ending words use the following rhyme scheme: ABABCDCD. The second quatrain is split to make the alternating lines of dialogue easier to follow, but otherwise it's a fairly simple, traditional form.
The other day, I posted an explanation of this form, which I tackled as a challenge along with several of my sister poets. For today's Poetry Friday, I'm posting my original poem.
The challenge was to write a rondeau redoublé (my bright idea) that dealt with fresh starts (Liz Garton Scanlon's idea). I started several times to write an upbeat poem about new beginnings, and it never took off. Then one night, I came up with this one, which is, as you will see, not particularly upbeat. But it was a whole poem, and so I kept it.
Rondeau Redoublé by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman
There's no such thing as a new start. At least, that's what I think of saying. I wish things different with all my heart, That you would go, or I'd be glad you're staying.
Time was, we couldn't bear to be apart; I couldn't see you go without dismaying. Now I look forward to your go-awaying. There's no such thing as a new start.
What was behind my change of heart? It wasn't sudden, more like a slow fraying, Our life unraveled, part by part. At least that's what I think of saying.
I'm not quite certain why I am delaying, I make up lists, draw up a chart: Which things are whose, what goes, what's staying. I wish things different with all my heart.
I cannot stop my memory from replaying How things between us got their start. How I would feel the breaking of my heart When you would go, and I'd be glad you're staying.
I've seen it written losing is an art. Not one I've mastered, I guess. I keep praying That losing will grow easier, in part To suffocate the small voice that keeps saying There's no such thing.
Cheery, no? What can I say? Dour moods can create poetry, too. The phrase "losing is an art" is borrowed from the wonderful villanelle by Elizabeth Bishop entitled "One Art".
Analysis of form: If you're wondering (and even if you're not), the poem is written in a mix of iambic tetrameter and iambic pentameter, meaning that the lines have either four or five iambic feet each. An iamb is a two-syllable poetic "foot" composed of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one (taDUM). In keeping with one of the more obscure "requirements" of the rondeau redoublé form, I've alternated a "masculine" and "feminine" ending. A masculine ending is a straight-up iamb; a feminine one has an additional unstressed syllable at the end (taDUMta) - a three-syllable foot also known as an amphibrach. To read the rondeau redoublé written by my fellow poetry princesses, you may follow these links:
After a month of sick pets and a week of sick me, I was ready for some good news. And boy, did the Universe send some my way.
Turns out that my poem, "Inside the New Mall", has taken third place in the Writer's Digest Poetry Competition. This means that I have won fabulous prizes! Like money! and my name and the name of the poem in the August (!) issue of Writer's Digest! and the respect of my parents and Mitch the barrista!
She put up a lovely post about me and my writing, including a poem I wrote about my grandfather, Paul Stewart. And my very own recipe for Chocolate-Chip Banana Bread. But of course, being from Jama Rattigan, it's one of the prettiest posts on the internet, and it makes me seem all professional and talented and whatnot. Thank you, lovely Jama!
1. Getting ready to leave on my annual writing retreat in New Hampshire. and I will hit the road early on Saturday morning and spend almost a week at Waterville Valley, where my Aunt Martha and Uncle Jim have a condo. Being true patrons of the arts (in the old-school sense), they nearly insist that we make use of it each year. I love that about them.
2. Getting ready to speak at the New England SCBWI conference, where I'll be doing a one-hour presentation on free verse. I know I'll be seeing several of you there (at the conference, if not in my workshop). It will be lovely to see so many friends!
3. Getting ready to read as featured poet at Poetry in the Round at the Barnes & Noble in Marlton, New Jersey on May 17th.
The reading took place at the Barnes & Noble in Marlton, New Jersey. I'd been invited by the host of the monthly "Poetry in the Round" series to read for a half an hour, following which there was an open reading, which means (for those unfamiliar with poetry readings, which is most people I know) that people can sign up to read their own poems in front of the assembled group. The number and length of poems is usually specified by the host, and is based on an idea of how many readers there are and how much time they have available. Anyhow, when I visited the store yesterday morning, in addition to the Big Sign at the front of the store, there was a small sign in the area where they set up for the readings. Can you see it on that far wall, past the auspiciously placed Jane Austen table? No?
How about now?
The empty space you see in the above photo actually was filled in with 21 folding chairs set up by the store - four rows of 5, plus one chair pulled to the side up front by the loudspeaker where Barney, our fearless leader, presides. When I got arrived with the kids at 7:10, who were guilted into attending were thrilled to attend, nobody else was there. By the time the reading started, however, there were 13 people in the rows of chairs - and I knew every single one of them. In addition to the kids, my husband and mother-in-law were there, along with several good friends: Heather, who was in a critique group with me a few years back and is writing a sci-fi novel; three friends I've made through the Jane Austen Society of North America - one of whom drove an hour from southern PA to be there; friends Lisa and Barb; local poet friends B.J. (whom I hadn't seen out in a few months) and Bruce Niedt, whom I've posted about before; and, to my delighted surprise, Dan Maguire, who drove all the way from Baltimore for my reading (a two-hour drive if you're speeding). Dan is an exceptional poet, about whom I've posted twice before, including a post with his spectacular poem, "The Lateness of the Day". The poets in the group were impressed with the turnout of pure audience members (as opposed to folks who were there to read their own work).
Barney kindly introduced me, and I started the reading. S was kind enough to take some pictures for me. Of course, she preferred to take them when I wasn't looking, which means that I'm looking at my page in this one, but hey, them's the breaks sometimes. I opened with the five-line poem that won third place in the Writer's Digest Poetry Contest, "Inside the New Mall", then read a few more of my regular adult poems before reading five of the poems from my biography of Jane Austen in verse using period forms, since I knew for a fact that the women from JASNA were hoping to hear some of them. I started with the first poem in the collection - a poem in blank verse based on a letter that amounts to Jane's birth announcement, which I've shared before. The Jane poems went down well across the board (I could tell by the happy-making yet indescribable murmur/hum that greeted the endings on two of them that they had made an impact, which was sososo fulfilling). I was happy that the Jane project went over well, only I have a wee confession to make. In error during last night's introduction, I said I had 172 of the Jane poems done, which meant that when I wrote a new poem today and added it to my Tables of Contents (one to print in Word, one that has lots more info in Excel), I
I'm home, and mostly unpacked, and have cleaned the messes that my hubby created all on his ownsome this weekend (the kids are away with their father at a family reunion). I've gone through all the real mail and all my email, and I really, really, really want to tell you all about my time at ALA, but I find myself in dire need of a nap.
I'll be back later with the details, but the short version is "It was AWESOME!", with a slightly longer postscript of "My Lord, but my friend Tanita gave one helluva speech at the Coretta Scott King awards this morning!" Meanwhile, I completely forgot to mention that my poem, "After", is featured (with my permission) in this post over at Images for Renewal.