December 31, 2009


I'm happy for any attention that the media can bring to poetry. The new film, Invictus, gets its title from a poem that inspired Nelson Mandela.

"Invictus" is a poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley. It was a poem that gave strength and courage to Mandela while he was incarcerated.

Henley, at the age of 12, was a victim of tuberculosis of the bone. The tuberculosis attacked his foot and caused his leg to be amputated below the knee. He was told by his physician that amputating the leg was the only way to save his life. While hospitalized, he wrote "Invictus." He lived nearly 30 years after his release from the hospital.

...It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Invictus: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation by John Carlin

December 11, 2009

Try A Triolet

We did a triolet prompt back in 1999 on Poets Online using that 8-line form.

Diane Lockward posted recently about a little contest for triolets at Allison Joseph's blog, The Rondeau Roundup. That's a blog that is self-described as being for "the exploration, appreciation and publication of the rondeau, rondel, roundel, rondeau redouble, rondolet, triolet, and ballade."

Want to give it a try? Look at our earlier prompt, Diane's post and Allison's contest.

December 5, 2009

Winter Haiku

Because Poets Online fell a bit behind last month, we are offering a second prompt this month.

Quite simply, write one or more winter, year-end haiku.

Traditionally, haiku (in English) have 3 lines: first line is 5 syllables, second line is 7 syllables and the third line is 5 syllables.

In Japanese, haiku also has three parts but can be written as one line. Instead of counting syllables, the Japanese count sounds.

Haiku is required to suggest a single season. It might be directly, by using a word like snow or ice for winter, or indirectly, by tone or imagery. In our English translations, many times the season word is actually used, but it would probably not appear in the original.

The deadline for haiku submissions is January 3.

3 haiku by Basho

The sea darkens.
The voices of the wild ducks
turn white.

Winter seclusion:
once again I lean
against this post.

Grasshopper— you
be the cemetery watcher
after I die.

Winter haiku by Issa

The older we get,
the more easily tears come
on a long day.

The winter sun-
on the horse's back
my frozen shadow.

Awake at night,
the lamp low,
the oil freezing.

First winter rain-
even the monkey
seems to want a raincoat.

When the winter chrysanthemums go,
there's nothing to write about
but radishes.

First snow
on the half-finished bridge.

The winter storm
hid in the bamboo grove
and quieted away.

December 4, 2009

T.S. Eliot Reading "The Waste Land"

T.S. Eliot reading "The Waste Land." Nothing much visually, but interesting to hear the poet reading.

It has been called "one of the most important poems of the 20th century."

The title alludes to the wounding of the Fisher King and the subsequent sterility of his lands.

November 22, 2009

Sacred Places With Stephen Dunn

I chose this month's poem for our prompt from a collection of Stephen Dunn's poetry because I like what he is doing with that word sacred.

If you look up "sacred" in the dictionary, the etymology is Middle English, from sacren, meaning to consecrate, from Anglo-French sacrer, and ultimately from Latin sancire, to make sacred. Definitions will include: dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity; worthy of religious veneration; holy and entitled to reverence and respect.

But that's not what is happening in the classroom of Dunn's poem "The Sacred."

I also like that the poem is set in a classroom where I have spent so many years, and inside a lesson that I probably have taught.

The teacher asks a serious and probably too personal a question. Does he expect an honest answer?  Maybe. Maybe not. But he gets ones from the most serious student.

At first, you might think his sacred place - his car - is a joke answer, but he defends his choice well. So well, that the other students feel safe enough to talk about their own sacred places.

Do you have a sacred place or did you have one as a child?

That is the November 2009 prompt for Poets Online.

Laughing At Poetry

Take a listen to these three poems read by Billy Collins at a Dodge Poetry Festival.

Collins is much loved, and equally criticized, because his poems are accessible - even enjoyable.

These three are not so typical of that.

I particularly like the idea behind "The First Night" which was inspired by this line by Juan Ramón Jiménez:  "The worst thing about death must be the first night."

I can sense the audience wondering if Collins means to be funny with some lines.

I used a few of his poems in a class last week. Students read "The Lanyard" silently first. I heard no laughter. Then I read it - pretty seriously - aloud. I didn't notice any chuckles from the crowd. Then I played an audio file of him reading it with an audience who laughed throughout the poem. The class wasn't rolling in the aisles, but they did laugh, smile and do that little exhalation of breath that shows they "got it."

Did they need permission to laugh? Was the laughter contagious? (Watch a comedy in a full theater and alone in your house for comparison.) Don't they know that poems can be funny?

Next we listened to him read "The Revenant" - a poem in the voice of a dog who was put to sleep to its owner. The laughs came much easier.

I asked them if they thought this poem was like most other poems - "You know, if the poet says it's a dog, it's probably not a dog. What would this poem be saying if he's talking about people?" 

A nice discussion followed. One student said it was similar to what happens in class: "You don't really know us. We don't really know you. We behave the way we are supposed to behave in class, not the way we really want to behave."

"We are all good dogs," I said.

"You got it," he replied.

November 11, 2009

Want To Buy A Pushcart Prize Nomination?

I came across a blog post at that details how No Colony ("a collaborative perfect-bound print fiction journal from the editors of NO POSIT & LAMINATION COLONY.") says it will give automatic publication in the magazine and a Pushcart nomination to whomever pays a $650 fee to them. PayPal link included on their site.

It makes you wonder about the nomination process for a Pushcart Prize if this can actually occur.

Which part is legitimate? Internet scam? Poetry scam? All of the above?

November 10, 2009

Do women write "female" poetry?

I didn't ask the question. It was posted by Jo Shapcott today on

A related question has been knocking around in my head for the past few weeks: "Do women genuinely write different poems from men and, if so, what could be said to characterise the 'female' poem?" The occasion which prompted the question happened yesterday, when the Aldeburgh poetry festival and the Poetry Society combined to host an event called The Female Poem, which I chaired, and which boasted a distinguished panel of writers: Maureen Duffy, Annie Freud and Pascal Petit. It was so popular that it sold out in minutes and had to be moved to a larger hall, which suggests the subject is urgent – and not just to women; our audience was mixed.

What's your answer to that question?

October 30, 2009

Poetry - What Sells?

I clicked a link today to the Poetry Bestsellers on and was surprised by the results (which change every hour).

Surprise #1: A lot of Kindle versions of classics including books like the King James Bible and The Iliad.

The Julie Andrews' Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies was there, along with the Fagles translation of The Odyssey and the movie tie-in Bright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne.

Surprise #2: I had to go to #33 to find a book of real contemporary poetry - Evidence by Mary Oliver.

October 26, 2009

17th Annual Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway in Cape May

It's hard to believe that Peter Murphy has been doing this for 17 years. Not your typical writers' conference.

The 17th Annual Winter POETRY & PROSE GETAWAY in Cape May is right on the on the oceanfront in Historic Cape May, New Jersey with special guests MARK DOTY & STEPHEN DUNN on January 15-18, 2010 (MLK weekend).

Workshops include:
  • Poetry Writing for Beginners
  • Advanced Poetry Writing
  • Poetry Manuscript Workshop
  • Poetry Chapbook Workshop New this year!
  • Writing and Publishing New Fiction New this year!
  • Revising a Short Story Toward Publication
  • Finishing Your Novel
  • Writing for the Children's Market
  • The Art & Craft of Creative Nonfiction
  • To the Point: Short Creative Nonfiction New this year!
  • Turning Memory into Memoir
  • Reimagining Memoir New this year!
  • Song Writing
Special Guests Mark Doty's Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008. His seven other books of poems have been honored by the National Book Critics Circle Award, the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and other awards. He's also the author of four books of nonfiction prose, most recently Dog Years, a New York Times bestseller, which won the Israel Fishman Nonfiction Award from the American Library Association.

He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram-Merrill Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

He has taught at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, Cornell, Columbia, New York University, and the University of Houston and in 2009 he joined the faculty of Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

Mark will lead two special Advanced Poetry Writing sessions at the Getaway.

Stephen Dunn has published fifteen volumes of poetry, including Different Hours, which was awarded the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and the recently released What Goes On, Selected & New Poems: 1995-2009 (Norton, 2009).

He has received awards and fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, The Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine, an Academy Award in Literature from The American Academy of Arts & Letters, as well as Fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, three NEA Creative Writing Fellowships, a Distinguished Artist Fellowship from the NJ State Council on the Arts, the Theodore Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest, the James Wright Prize from Mid-American Review and many others.

A new and expanded edition of his book of essays, Walking Light, was published in 2001.

He is Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, but spends most of his time these days in Frostburg, Maryland with his wife, the writer Barbara Hurd.

Stephen will lead two special Advanced Poetry Writing sessions at the Getaway.

Cost: $385 Tuition (Held at last year's rate!) Room packages begin at $250 (includes most meals & 3 nights)
Contact: 888-887-2105 /

For workshop descriptions, faculty bios, registration information and to learn about our other programs in New Hampshire and Wales , check out the website at

October 21, 2009

Salting the Ocean

"How should we use poetry?" people sometimes ask poet Naomi Shihab Nye.

She responds, "Read it! Share it with one another! Find poems that make you resonate. Different poems will do this for every person. We 'use poetry' to restore us to feeling, revitalize our own speech, awaken empathy."

Over the past 25 years Nye has "used poetry" in classroom workshops in schools all over the country. In this lush, amusing, and touching anthology, Salting the Ocean: 100 Poems by Young Poets, she gathers 100 poems and divides them into four groupings: "My Shadow Is an Ant's Night" (poems about the self and the inner world), "Think How Many Stories Are in Your Shirt" (about where we live), "My Grandma Squashes Roaches with Her Hand" (about family), and "Silence Is Like a Tractor Moving the Whole World" (about the imagination). Students in grades 1 through 12 are represented in this anthology, brilliantly illustrated by the talented Coretta Scott King Honor recipient Ashley Bryan.

These young poets have mostly grown up, now, to become dentists and actors and construction workers, but the purity of their work lives on.

from an Review by Emilie Coulter

Sample poem:
"One" by Butch McElroy

We had a
'Most commonly misspelled word'
Spelling test
Yesterday in English,
Fourth Period.
I commonly misspelled them all.
Except one.
Was the only one I got right.

October 20, 2009

New Century Poetics and Poets Online

Today is the New Century Poetics: A Poetry Colloquium at Centenary College of New Jersey.

I am presenting in a session on "Resources and Publication Options" along with Peter Murphy, poetry organizer and poet; Melissa Hotchkiss, co-editor of Barrow Street, teacher, poet; Suzanne Parker, Brookdale Community College teacher & poet; Mark Tursi, editor of Double Room, publisher of Apostrophe Books.

My own focus today is on publishing online and online poetry resources. The website listed 100 poetry links, but that's a bit much. Here are a few in different categories - not meant be be exhaustive.

POETS ONLINE also has a frequently updated links page with links on classic and contemporary poetry, publishers, poets, workshops, readings, festivals, and books for poets.

There is certainly a lot of poetry to read online. Here are a few sites that offer primarily classic poems:
and some that offer more contemporary poetry links.
There are sites on writing poetry, but I find this to be the most disappointing category. That's not surprising because it's tough enough helping people write poetry in face-to-face sessions. Also, amny writing workshops that are online have a fee. Of course, I must recommend our site which always has a current writing prompt, and one other interesting site - Poetic Asides.

You might actually find more writing help by connecting to a group or network online.

Fast tips and links can come through your Twitter feeds if you follow:

  • Coffee Table Poet: Daily links and writing tips.
  • Poetry The Internet Writing Journal.
  • PENAmerican: An association of authors working to advance literature, defend free expression, and foster international literary fellowship.
  • Poetry Magazine: Follow the Tweets of this great publication.
  • Poets & Writers: A source of information, support, and guidance for creative writers and poets.
And there are lots of poets talking about poetry, posting poems or just sharing their writing life through BLOGS.
  • Mark Doty's blog is an easy one to recommend today. I'm guessing that most poets blogging are in the "less-published" category, because it's a great way to get your work to an audience. Mark's blog is interesting to me because it's not really about poetry (though poetry comes in and out of it).
  • Chicks Dig Poetry - like many poet-bloggers, Sandra talks about her own work, the work of others and poetry events.
  • Poetry Instigator - prompts and a forum with a connection to George Mason University.,/li.
  • One Poet’s Notes by Edward Byrne
  • NJ poet, Diane Lockward, writes Blogalicious which has poetry and lots of useful links - like this post about publishers that accept online submissions.
  • Dana Gioia has a site that is more site and less blog
  • Laura Shovan's blog, Author Amok, focuses on poetry for children and includes many prompts.
  • The Best American Poetry David Lehman and crew from the book series
It is pretty much required that if you publish poetry, you have a poetry site. Some of these are print and some are online-only publications.
  • Poetry Foundation from the publishers of Poetry magazine
  • Zyzzyva West Coast writing
  • web del sol collects a number of publications
  • Spindle: Spindle is an online literary magazine with a twist, featuring creative non-fiction, poetry and short fiction by, for and about New Yorkers.
  • Fourteen Hills: The San Francisco State University literary review.
One of the great things about the Net is that the entry is so gentle that small groups and niche audiences can have a great space online. One example is Disability Writes which is an online forum for disabled writers.

October 18, 2009

Poetry Contest Deadlines

Here are some opportunities to mail that poem, chapbook or full-length collection before the end of the year.

The Hollis Summers Poetry Prize from Ohio University Press and Swallow Press (postmark deadline October 31)

The Ledge Poetry Chapbook Competition (postmark deadline October 31)

Miller Williams Poetry Prize from University of Arkansas Press (postmark deadline October 31)

The T.S. Eliot Prize from Truman State University Press (postmark deadline October 31)

Bakeless Literary Prize in Poetry from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference (postmark deadline November 1)

CBC Literary Awards for Canadian citizens and residents (postmark deadline November 1)

Donald Justice Poetry Prize from West Chester University (postmark deadline November 1)

Perugia Press Prize for a first or second book by a woman (postmark deadline November 15)

Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award (postmark deadline November 15)

Yale Series of Younger Poets Award (postmark deadline November 15

Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition Awards (postmark deadline November 16)

Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition (postmark/online entry deadline November 29)

A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize from BOA Editions, Ltd. (postmark deadline November 30)

Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Competition (postmark deadline November 30)

The Motherwell Prize from Fence Books (postmark deadline November 30)

The Plough Prize Poetry Competition (postmark/email deadline November 30)

The Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize from Waywiser Press (postmark deadline December 1)

Beatrice Hawley Award from Alice James Books (postmark deadline December 1)

October 15, 2009

Writing Your Way Home - A Poetry Intensive Weekend

a poetry weekend intensive
at an English manor house
in Mendham, New Jersey

Join poets Laura Boss and Maria Mazzioti Gillan on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, December 11, 12, and 13, 2009. The purpose of this retreat is to give writers the space and time to focus totally on their own work in a serene and beautiful setting away from the pressures and distractions of daily life.

This writing intensive is open to all writers over the age of 18.

Saint Marguerite’s Retreat House is situated on 93 acres of wooded land with pathways that lend themselves to the serene contemplation of nature and nurturing of your creative spirit. Located at the convent of Saint John the Baptist, 82 West Main Street, Mendham, NJ.

Participants arrive before 6 PM on Friday evening, have dinner, settle into their rooms, and begin to retreat from the distractions of the world.

That evening, participants will be lead into creating new work. After each workshop, each participant will have the opportunity to read their work in the group.

After Saturday breakfast, participants will move into two groups for morning workshops, followed by free time for socializing and exploring the gounds.

After lunch, writing workshops will take place, followed by time to write. Each participant will have a chance to sign up in advance with Maria or Laura for one-on-one help with revision.

After dinner on Saturday evening, participants will be invited to read their poems to the groups, and the faculty will lead another workshop session on how to get published.

After Sunday breakfast, a final writing workshop and concluding reading by participants will serve as the “closing ceremony” to this inspiring and productive weekend. Lunch will provide a final opportunity for socializing.

The leaders envision this weekend as a retreat from the noise and bustle of daily life. They see this retreat as a spiritual and creative break from our usual lives. The setting certainly allows us to take some time to look at life in a new light, to listen for our own voices, and to create in stillness, in quiet, and in community. These are times of contemplation and welcoming the muse.

The workshops will concentrate on "writing your way home" and the way writing can save us, save our stories and our lives.

Participants should bring papers, pens, and the willingness to take risks. Please also bring previously-written work for one-on-one sessions and for the readings.

Teachers may receive 15 professional development credits for attending.

Cost: $375 includes room and board (Deposit by November 1, 2009 - $225 with the balance December 1, 2009 - $150)
Early Bird Discount: Deduct $25 if paid in full by November 7, 2009
Full refund will be given prior to December 1, 2009.
Late registration will be accepted on a first come, first served basis. Enrollment is limited. There are people already signed up for this workshop, so if you are interested, please sign up as early as possible.

Questions? Call (973) 684-6555 or (973) 423-2921 or email:

October 14, 2009

6th Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival

The 6th Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival will be held January 18-23, 2010 at the Old School Square Cultural Arts Center in Delray Beach, Florida.

Their faculty includes advanced poetry workshops with Stephen Dobyns, Carolyn Forche, Marie Howe, Thomas Lux, David Wojahn and Kevin Young.

Intermediate Poetry Workshops
Mary Cornish
Ilya Kaminsky

Manuscript Conferences (additional fee)
Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Kurt Brown

Florida Poets Reading
Jay Hopler
Sidney Wade

Performance Poetry Event
Andrea Gibson
Anis Mojgani

To participate in a workshop, intermediate or advanced, or to audit a workshop, apply before November 2, 2009.

October 9, 2009

Merwin and Neruda

Merwin reads his poem "Yesterday" in this excerpt of video from the Bill Moyers programs on poetry recorded at the Dodge Poetry Festivals. (You should watch it all - but Merwin appears at the 5:30 point in the video.) The poem is the model for our October writing prompt at Poets Online

But, lest you think Merwin to be a cold poet based on this one poem, I would also recommend his translations of Pablo Neruda's poetry. It's a collection that Neruda published at the age of 19 (in 1924) and that was considered scandalous then and, in this translation, the sexuality and sensuality is there.

I have gone marking the atlas of your body with crosses of fire.
My mouth went across: a spider, trying to hide.
in you, behind you, timid, driven by thirst.

One of his love sonnets: 

I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me,
all day I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.
I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the color of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.
I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,
and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.

October 8, 2009

W.S. Merwin - I Have Lost None Of It

I had read poems by W.S. Merwin before I actually heard him read in person, but seeing and hearing him at one of the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festivals is what really got me to get his books and read the poems.

Merwin did an interview on the Bill Moyers Journal and talked about that Dodge appearance which Moyers recorded and turned into several books and videos, including Fooling With Words

Merwin’s book, The Shadow of Sirius, won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in poetry, and it is one of my favorites of his books. Maybe that's because much of it is the poetry of later life - loss, memory, time - and the backward and forward of what we see, feel, and remember. This childhood memory at the intersection of past and present is part of the poem “Still Morning."

It appears now that there is only one
age and it knows
nothing of age as the flying birds know
nothing of the air they are flying through
or of the day that bears them up
through themselves
and I am a child before
there are words
arms are holding me up in a shadow

This book, which is named after the Dog Star, has a good number of poems about Merwin’s own dogs. His poem, “Dream of Koa Returning,” has Merwin walking with a dog and looking at the river and trees.

...and all at once you
were just behind me
lying watching me
as you did years ago 
and not stirring at all 
when I reached back 
slowly hoping to touch 
your long amber fur
and there we stayed without moving
In that interview, Moyers wondered: "Now, Sirius is the dog star, the most luminous star in the sky, twenty-five times more luminous than the sun. And yet, you write about its shadow. Something that no one has never seen. Something that's invisible to us. Help me to understand that." 

Merwin relplied, "That's the point. The shadow of Sirius is pure metaphor, pure imagination. But we live in it all the time. We are the shadow of Sirius. There is the other side of-- as we talk to each other, we see the light, and we see these faces, but we know that behind that, there's the other side, which we never know. And that — it's the dark, the unknown side that guides us, and that is part of our lives all the time. It's the mystery. That's always with us, too. And it gives the depth and dimension to the rest of it."
In the poem "The Nomad Flute":

do you still hear me
does your air remember you 
or breath of morning 
night song morning song 
I have with me all 
that I do not know
I have lost none of it
Moyers asked, "What — how do you carry with you what you do not know?"
Merwin replies, "We always do that. I think that poetry and the most valuable things in our lives, and in fact the next sentence, your next question to me, Bill, come out of what we don't know. They don't come out of what we do know. They come out of what we do know, but what we do know doesn't make them. The real source of them is beyond that. It's something we don't know. They arise by themselves. And that's a process that we never understand.

Excerpt for "The Pinnacle"

Both of us understood
what a privilege it was
to be out for a walk
with each other
...she was beautiful
in her camel hair coat
that seemed like the autumn leaves
our walk was her idea
we liked listening to each other
her voice was soft and sure
and we went our favorite way
the first time just in case
it was the only time
even though it might be too far
we went all the way
up the Palisades to the place
we called the pinnacle
with its park at the cliff's edge
overlooking the river
it was already a secret
the pinnacle
as we were walking back
when the time was later
than we had realized
and in fact no one
seemed to know where we had been
even when she told them
no one had heard of the pinnacle
and then where did she go

October 2, 2009

Live Free and Write: A New Hampshire Getaway for Poets & Writers

Live Free and Write: A New Hampshire Getaway for Poets & Writers is a poetry and creative non-fiction workshop in New Hampshire. The event will be held November 6-8 at Dexter's Inn, in Sunapee.

Leading the poetry workshop will be poet Peter E. Murphy. Mimi Schwartz will lead the creative non-fiction group.

Peter E. Murphy was born in Wales and grew up in New York City where he operated heavy equipment, managed a night club and drove a cab. He is the author of Stubborn Child a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize, and a chapbook of poems, Thorough & Efficient both from Jane Street Press. In addition to receiving a 2009 Poetry Fellowship from the New Jersey Council on the Arts, he has received awards and fellowships from The Atlantic Center for the Arts, Yaddo, The Folger Shakespeare Library, and the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. He directs the annual Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway in Cape May and other programs for poets, writers and teachers.

Mimi Schwartz, a veteran teacher and writer for over 35 years, has published five books including Good Neighbors, Bad Times - Echoes of My Father's German Village (University of Nebraska Press), soon to be out in paperback. Other recent books include Thoughts from a Queen-Sized Bed and Writing True and the Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction (with Sondra Perl), used in writing programs nationwide. She is Professor Emerita at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey and teaches at writer conferences, libraries and teacher institutes across this country and abroad.

This event is limited to 12 poets & 10 writers and both programs fill quickly. Register today online and save $25 by registering before October 5.

Endorsed by New Hampshire Writers' Project, this opportunity will also allow you a relaxing writing getaway which will energize and inspire you.

Teachers can earn 15 hours of professional development credit during this which occurs concurrent with the "NJEA Teachers Convention Weekend."

$275 Tuition ($300 after October 5) with Meal & Room Packages starting at $200

Contact: Amanda, 888-887-2105 or

October 1, 2009

New Century Poetics: A Poetry Colloquium with Mark Doty


The Gates-Ferry Lectures at Centenary College presents
New Century Poetics: A Poetry Colloquium at Centenary College of New Jersey on October 19 & 20, 2009.

Featuring poet Mark Doty, winner of the National Book Award, reading Monday, October 19 at 8 PM. Mark will also participate in the Poetics Colloquium on Tuesday, October 20.

The colloquium will offer workshops and panels for a wide range of participants, including educators, students, and the general public

This event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is requested. Please register by calling (908) 852-1400, ext. 4669, or by emailing: and indicate which workshops or panels you plan to attend.

Notice to NJ Certified Teachers: Full-day attendance will earn 6 professional development hours through the Centenary College Teacher’s Academy. Mention you are a teacher when you register.

Full disclosure: I will be presenting as part of a panel on publishing at the event talking about publishing and resources online.

September 28, 2009

Heather McHugh Receives MacArthur Fellowship

Poet Heather McHugh has received a MacArthur fellowship (the "genius grant" comes with a $500,000 honorarium).

Having taught for 33 years, McHugh says she that "to learn to teach has been to learn to pay attention to the work of others" and that she wil use the award to pay attention to her own work more closely.

Her new book of poems, Upgraded to Serious, will be available in early October.

The book has been described as "fast-paced, verbally dexterous, sarcastic and brilliantly humorous." The book uses medical terminology and iconography to work through loss and detachment. The book's title is a references being “upgraded to serious” from critical condition in the context of the healing powers of poetry.

Take as examples the opening stanzas of three of the book's poems:

Not to Be Dwelled On

Self-interest cropped up even there,
the day I hoisted three instead
of the ceremonially called-for two
spadefuls of loam
onto the coffin of my friend.

No Sex for Priests

The horse in harness suffers.
He's not feeling up to snuff.

The feeler's sensate but the cook
pronounces lobsters tough.


Surfaces to scrape or wipe,
a screwdriver to be applied
to slime-encrusted soles, and then

there are the spattered hallways, wadded bedding —
and, in quantities astounding (in the corners,
under furniture, behind the curtains)

Heather McHugh was born to Canadian parents in San Diego, California, in 1948. She was raised in Virginia and educated at Harvard University. From 1999 to 2006 she served as a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets, and in 2000 was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. For over 20 years, she has served as a visiting faculty member in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and since 1984 as Milliman Writer-in-Residence at the University of Washington in Seattle.

more on McHugh's award

poems by McHugh

September 24, 2009

This Weekend: Warren County Poetry Festival


This weekend (Saturday, September 26) is the free one-day 6th Biennial Warren County Poetry Festival.

The updated schedule is:

11 AM - 12 PM
Poetry Readings
Pam Bernard, Robert Carnevale, Martin Farawell, Madeline Tiger

12:00 Noon -1:00 PM
Lunch Break (box lunches will be available)
Book Signing

1:00 PM - 2:15 PM Panel Discussion with Poets
"The Lyric Utterance: Its Challenges, Its Possibilities"

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM Open Readings and Book Signing

3:45 PM - 5:00 PM Panel Discussion with Featured Poets
"Voice: Its Elements; Its Effects"

5:00 PM - 7:00 PM Dinner Break

7:15 - 8 PM Poetry Sampler
Pam Bernard, Robert Carnevale, Martin Farawell, Madeline Tiger

8:00 PM Reading by D. Nurkse

8:30 PM Reading by Laure-Anne Bosselaar

9 PM Reading by Tim Seibles

9:30 - 10 PM Book Signing

For biographical information and sample poems on the poets and directions to the festival (at Blair Academy, in Blairstown, NJ) go to

September 22, 2009

Housewarming Party for Poets House - New York City

A Housewarming Party for Poets House Part 2

Saturday, September 26, 11:00am–5:00pm
Poets House
Pavilion of Nelson A. Rockefeller Park
10 River Terrace
New York, NY

Invocation of the Muse: Poets & Musicians Toast the New Poets House

  • 11am: Kurt Lamkin performs for children and their adults.
  • 12pm: Open House! Take a stroll through our new home.
  • 3pm: Readings by Meena Alexander, Charles Bernstein, Regie Cabico, Billy Collins, Mark Doty, Cornelius Eady, Kathleen Fraser, Kimiko Hahn, Michael Heller, Marie Howe, Galway Kinnell, Philip Levine, Marie Ponsot and Quincy Troupe , among others, and music by Natalie Merchant.

This event takes place at the Pavilion of Nelson A. Rockefeller Park, Poets House's new "front lawn." Cosponsored by the Battery Park City Authority.
Contact: (212) 431-7920
Poets House is a national poetry library and literary center that invites poets and the public to step into the living tradition of poetry. Our poetry resources and literary events document the wealth and diversity of modern poetry, and stimulate public dialogue on issues of poetry in culture.

September 18, 2009

Will Keats Become A Bright Movie Star?

There is a new film, Bright Star, out this month that centers on the passionate, brief, love affair between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne before his death at age 25.

Directed by Jane Campion (her Oscar-winner is The Piano), the film is set in London 1818. The secret love affair begins between the 23 year-old English poet (played by Ben Whishaw) and the girl next door, Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), who ia a student of high fashion. This unlikely pair begin at odds, he thinking her a stylish minx, while she was unimpressed not only by his poetry but also by literature in general.

When Fanny's mother and Keats' best friend discover the affair and feel it is dangerous to their futures. Helplessly absorbed in each other, Keats wrote to her in a letter "I have the feeling as if we're dissolving."

Keats wrote the poem "Bright Star" in 1819 and revised it in 1820, perhaps on his final voyage to Italy. Friends and his doctor had urged him to try a common treatment for tuberculosis, a trip to Italy; however, Keats was aware that he was dying.

Many critics feel that the English (AKA Shakespearean) sonnet was addressed to Fanny Brawne with evidence including one of Keats's love letters to Brawne which says "I will imagine you Venus tonight and pray, pray, pray to your star like a Heathen. Your's ever, fair Star."

Other poems by Keats were more obviously written to Fanny, such as "The day is gone..." and "I cry your mercy..." which are similar in form to "Bright Star."


Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art---
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors---
No---yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever---or else swoon in death.

By John Keats

The poem opens with the poet's desire to be as steadfast as a star. Of course, that an impossibility and he realizes by the end of the poem. Criticism on the poem talks about the "for ever" or "ever" emphasis, time and eternity.

What remains is the possibility of steadfastness in terms of human life and love and movement.

The desire for permanence, timelessness and the eternity of a star in a world bound by time and constantly in flux appears in other Keats poems.

The poet accepts the possibility of dying from pleasure. "Swoon" has sexual overtones. (An orgasm is often compared to a dying - the French term for orgasm is le petit morte, or the small death.)

Some of the Keats poems that are excerpted in the film include Endymion, "When I Have Fears that I May Cease to Be," "The Eve of St. Agnes, section XXIII, [Out went the taper as she hurried in]," "Ode to a Nightingale," "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," and the title poem, "Bright Star."

Campion credits Andrew Motion's Keats: A Biography as an inspiration for the film's approach to their love.

See a review of the film at the Academy of American Poets site.

September 7, 2009

Prompt: Lucifer at the Starlite

Kim Addonizio's fifth collection of poetry is Lucifer at the Starlite. It is a collection full of dualities - suffering and joy, good and evil, light and dark, personal and global. There are poems about the war in Iraq and the 2004 Asian tsunami, and ones that turn into the heart of the self.

The title poem, “Lucifer at the Starlite,” references this George Meredith poem 

Lucifer In Starlight

On a starred night Prince Lucifer uprose.
Tired of his dark dominion swung the fiend
Above the rolling ball in cloud part screened,
Where sinners hugged their spectre of repose.
Poor prey to his hot fit of pride were those.
And now upon his western wing he leaned,
Now his huge bulk o'er Afric's sands careened,
Now the black planet shadowed Arctic snows.
Soaring through wider zones that pricked his scars
With memory of the old revolt from Awe,
He reached a middle height, and at the stars,
Which are the brain of heaven, he looked, and sank.
Around the ancient track marched, rank on rank,
The army of unalterable law.

Meredith's title suggests that Lucifer is playing a gig at the Starlite. Here is Addonizio's modern take on it.

Lucifer at the Starlite
—after George Meredith

Here's my bright idea for life on earth:
better management. The CEO
has lost touch with the details. I'm worth
as much, but I care; I come down here, I show
my face, I'm a real regular. A toast:
To our boys and girls in the war, grinding
through sand, to everybody here, our host
who's mostly mist, like methane rising
from retreating ice shelves. Put me in command.
For every town, we'll have a marching band.
For each thoroughbred, a comfortable stable;
for each worker, a place beneath the table.
For every forward step a stumbling.
A shadow over every starlit thing.

When I first launched Poets Online back in 1998, one of my inspirations for the prompts was the Addonizio and Laux book, The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry. Kim has since published a new book of inspiration called Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within. It is a book of exercises and starting points. It's not prompts or a how-to, but it would be good for a writing course or for someone looking for some inspiration as they write.

This month's prompt is straightforward. I took the table of contents from Ordinary Genius and made a few minor edits to it. Its four sections and 36 chapter titles are your starting place. Select any one of the 40 as your own poem's title and go to it. 

What inspires Kim Addonizio? This interview with her gives you some ideas.
What else inspires you?

Anything and everything. If "inspire" is the right word, a lot of poems lately have been inspired by the sorry state of the world and by ongoing romantic illusions and difficulties. Great writing always inspires me. Having a challenge inspires me -- could I do X in a poem? Could I write a novel entirely from one character's point of view, or write a historical novel? Could I write something for voice and blues harmonica that would work as a word/music piece? Trying to work out an idea, to take it from some place in my head and make it real in the world of forms.

Is there anything that helps you get to work and stay focused when you're feeling uninspired?

I either slog through, or I quit and come back later. Sometimes if you slog, you end up finding something interesting. Plus it makes you feel like you've gotten points somehow -- you stayed there when the work sucked or didn't go anywhere. And on the other hand, it's good to leave it alone sometimes and come back later. I know I'll come back. I know by now that the problem will shift. Right now I'm avoiding a novel that has some problems I don't feel I can solve, but I intend to go back and work on them; I have a lot more faith now than I used to, when I failed consistently. Fear of failure is the biggest thing that blocks creativity. It makes you give up too soon on a project, or on a writing life.

In your writing workshops, are there key lessons that you find yourself consistently emphasizing?

Oh, yeah. I'm always hammering on the same things. Sufficient clarity and context for a reader. Understanding your intent, on a holistic level, so you can reshape the poem accordingly -- that is, figuring out the core of the poem, making conscious to yourself the ideas and themes as far as possible. Keeping the writing fluid and trying out several strategies for revision, not just one.


September 1, 2009

Emergent Trends in Poetics - A Colloquium at Centenary College

Emergent Trends in Poetics - A Colloquium at Centenary College (NJ)
October 19-20, 2009

Mark Doty, winner of the National Book Award will read his poetry on Monday, October 19 at 8 pm and will be on campus on Tuesday, October 20 to participate in the Colloquium.

The event is free and open to the public.

We invite poets and scholars from the tri-state area to propose a panel or round table.

If you would like to participate as a presenter, please send a one-page proposal on a topic related to contemporary poetry by September 15. We welcome a variety of topics, including the following:
  • Poetry of place; regionalism and/or multi-cultural trends
  • Should poetry be Political?
  • Sources for contemporary poetry
  • Poetic forms: the prose poem; performance poetry
Provisional Schedule
Monday 8 pm -10 pm Reading by Mark Doty followed by reception and book signing
Tuesday: Colloquium with critical appraisals of contemporary poetry and workshops on writing and poetics
9:30 am - 11:30 am Panel(s) and Workshop(s)
11:30 am - 1:00 pm Round table on contemporary poetry with conference presenters and Mark Doty as respondent (everyone invited)
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm Lunch break
2:30 pm - 4:00 pm Panel(s) and Workshop(s)
4:30 pm - 5:30 pm Open discussion with Mark Doty
5:30 pm closing activity

For more information, contact Mary Newell at

August 30, 2009

6th Biennial Warren County Poetry Festival


The 6th Biennial Warren County Poetry Festival is a free event to be held on September 26, 2009.

This one-day poetry festival begins with readings at 11 a.m. and continues with panel discussions, open readings, and the featured readings in the evening. A book signing and reception will end the program at 9:30 p.m.

This year's featured poets are Laure-Anne Bosselaar, D. Nurkse, Tim Seibles, Pam Bernard, Robert Carnevale, Martin Farawell, and Madeline Tiger.

The festival is held in the Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts at Blair Academy, in Blairstown, NJ.

The festival is sponsored by NJ State Council on the Arts & Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission.

Additional information, directions and information on previous festivals is available at

August 24, 2009

Glum High School Poetry Teacher

I just read a review of a new movie, World's Greatest Dad, with Robin Williams, and what hit me right away was the line at the top: "Robin Williams stars as a glum high school poetry teacher in this surrealist fable."

I taught secondary school for 25 years and I never met a teacher who could claim to be a high school poetry teacher. I may have to watch the film just to see what kind of high school has an English teacher who only teaches poetry. (All of you high school poetry teachers out there, feel free to post a comment below.)

The "glum" adjective didn't make me flinch. Teachers are a pretty glum lot, English teachers more so and poets are always moody. At least, that's what I have been told. I actually enjoyed teaching and especially enjoyed teaching poetry, but there's no movie script in that story.

I guess Mr. Clayton is partially glum because he's a writer who has never published anything.

That's it for this blog reaction - the rest of my preview is here.

Watch the film's trailer

August 19, 2009

The Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards

The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College has announced the winners , of the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards for 2009 and posted the rules for the 2010 contest.

The contest honors Allen Ginsberg’s contribution to American literature.

Winners will be asked to participate in a reading to take place in the Paterson Historic District.

The Center publishes The Paterson Literary Review, a literary magazine which contains poetry, fiction, reviews, and artwork by individuals with international, national, and regional reputation as well as work by promising new voices. In the past they have published poets such as William Stafford, Ruth Stone, Sonia Sanchez, Laura Boss, Marge Piercy, David Ray, Diane di Prima and Allen Ginsberg.

The Center also compiles the New Jersey Poetry Calendar, a monthly calendar that lists readings taking place in New Jersey.

Readings at the Poetry Center at PCCC

Stanley Kunitz with Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Executive Director of the Poetry Center.