October 30, 2009

Poetry - What Sells?

I clicked a link today to the Poetry Bestsellers on Amazon.com 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 / info@wintergetaway.com

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 Amazon.com 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 OnlineColleges.net 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: mgillan@pccc.edu

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 info@murphywriting.com


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: salasa@centenarycollege.edu 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.