Without further ado I present the latest missive from poet Daniel Bouchard: a listing of most of the poetry happenings in Boston and environs. All towns are in Massachusetts except where noted. Give the gift that keeps on giving, and help a starving poet or two and buy their book. They make great holiday presents and the Muse will love you.
Wednesday, December 7, 6:30 pm
Adam Scheffler and Clint Smith
Cambridge Public Library
Free parking available in garage accessed from Broadway
The listings below will bring you right through to Halloween. As always, thanks to my informant Daniel Bouchard for compiling this list.
Sunday, September 11, 2 pm
Plein Air Poetry Walk
Ellie Coolidge-Behrstock, Zachary Bos, Lucinda Bowen, Polly Brown, Helen Marie Casey, David Davis , Linda Fialkoff, Lynn Horsky, Terry House, William Lenderking, Moira Linehan, Franny Osman, Dawn Paul, Mary Pinard, Joanne DeSimone Reynolds, Susan Edwards Richmond, Hilary Sallick, Georgia Sassen, bg Thurston
Old Frog Pond Farm & Studio
Harvard, MA Continue reading “Back to School: Boston Area Poetry Readings for September and October, 2016”
Creating my very first packet for the Lesley low-residency MFA program was both easier and more difficult than I thought it would be. It’s difficult to get over that voice of self-doubt in the back of my head, the one that says both “your work must be perfect” and “your work will never be perfect.” In one of her seminars, Erin Belieu observed that the voice of self-doubt is just as much ego as the voice of complacency and overconfidence. And it’s impossible to get into the flow state so necessary for writing when the ego is up.
Listening to the program’s professors reflect on their own practices as writers was a tremendous help to me. In a getting-to-know-you session with our mentors, I asked “what was the most difficult poem you wrote?” Their thoughtful answers led to some wonderfully deep discussions about the very reasons for writing. My mentor Sharon Bryan made a comment about a poem’s emotional truth that resonated with me. Even though poetry is a powerful tool that uses words in semi-rational ways to appeal to that emotional mind, it’s not something I’d ever heard talked about in previous workshops.
April is National Poetry Month, which means that readings and classes abound. Here are my top picks:
If you’re in Cambridge/Somerville (aka Camberville), I recommend checking out a reading with Cervena Barva Press and First and Last Word Poetry at Arts at the Armory. Gloria Mindock’s press is a Boston institution.
January always feels like a holiday hangover to me. So far, the temperatures are bracing cold and the skies clear — two good signs after last February’s record snowfalls. Please Skadi, send us enough snow for snowshoeing and not enough for epic shoveling. Daniel Bouchard sets us back on the path of poetry with the listings below. All locations are in Massachusetts (USA) unless otherwise noted.
A much-decorated poet and academic, Lesley Wheeler’s accolades include a Fulbright scholarship, an NEH grant, the Barrow Street Poetry Prize, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award Honor List, and publication in many prestigious journals, including Poetry and Slate. She teaches English at Washington and Lee University and is an active member of the WOM-PO Listserv, an email discussion group for women poets that’s been around since before blogging and social media overtook online community platforms like Listservs. Her third book of poetry, Radioland, came out in October 2015. In spite of her rise to fame in recent years, Lesley remains a warm and generous correspondent. She took the time to answer some questions about her latest book, the po-biz, and the difference between writing and publishing.
You’ve gotten a lot of recognition for your work in the past few years. How have these changes in your career affected your writing?
It’s funny how happiness works—successes don’t warm you for long but difficulties worry you constantly. The life change came with my first two books, Heathen in 2009 and Heterotopia in 2010. Suddenly I felt able to call myself a poet. After the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize, people seemed to take my work more seriously. The judge, David Wojahn, is highly respected by other writers, and that made a difference. “Fulbright” is a magic word—as well as representing an amazing opportunity—but I won that for scholarly, not poetic, research. My scholarly credentials remain fancier than my poetic ones and the two networks have surprisingly little overlap. In fact, having a foot in both worlds invites suspicion from both sides.
I try to cut myself a break in the summer. It’s natural to slow down a little when the weather is hot and the sun is plentiful. And while I’ve spent plenty of time sitting in the garden and bobbing in the ocean, I’ve also been keeping my hand in the game. Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far this summer:
Started a poetry workshop that ran from late June to early August. The next term starts in September. I’m in the early stages of publicizing it.
Submitted individual poems to an average of five publications or contests a week and had five pieces accepted. I expect a 20:1 ratio of rejections to acceptances, so this is better than expected. Twenty-one other journals are still reviewing my submissions on Submittable.
Sent my manuscript Mad Quick Hand of the Seashore to a few different small presses, some of which were running contests.
Started the MFA application process. Even though I don’t plan to start a program until summer of 2016, one of the programs I visited asked me to start a file with them now. In spite of my chops, I found filling out the initial application form incredibly daunting. It took me about three weeks to send it in.
Finished a review copy of Tawnysha Greene’s gorgeous and devastating new novel A House Made of Stars. I’m in the process of conducting an author interview.
Since I stopped posting drafts of poems to this blog, I find myself writing fewer drafts of poems. The instant gratification of a blog can become addictive, but without a workshop or some other audience — some other incubator of the work– my poetry becomes like a tree falling in a forest. Of course, the squirrels and sparrows and voles are there to hear the tree falling, but they don’t really give very productive feedback. Neither do the random strangers who click “like” when I post an unformed draft.
Going back to Barbara’s workshop would help, and I’ve been taking some baby steps in that direction. I rearranged my schedule so that I might go, but I still need to take the plunge, make the call, set the date that I will return. And figure out how to pay for it.
Poetry seems like such a slow crawl right now — like that point in a labyrinth when you see the goal in sight, but turn away from it on your journey toward it. It’s not that I’ve been stagnant, it’s just that generating new work has taken a back seat to polishing old work and sending finished work out to journals. Submitting work is strangely exhausting. It gets easier with time, and then again it doesn’t. But I need to trust that there’s no wrong turning, that there’s only the inexorable journey toward the center.