March 16, 2014

Weekend Poetry Retreat with Maria Gillan and Laura Boss

Do you need a poetry retreat that will give you the space and time to focus totally on your writing? Does having that time in a serene and beautiful setting away from the pressures and distractions of daily life and in the company of like-minded others sound inspiring?

Join poets Laura Boss and Maria Mazzioti Gillan on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday May 23, 24, and 25, 2014 (Friday dinner through Sunday lunch) at the St. Marguerite's Retreat House in Mendham, NJ for a poetry intensive weekend.

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 led 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 grounds. 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 and lunch provides a final opportunity for socializing.

The leaders envision this weekend as a retreat from the noise and bustle of daily life and 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 some risks. Please also bring previously-written work for one-on-one sessions and for the readings.

St. Marguerite's Retreat House in Mendham, New Jersey is an English manor house situated on 93 acres of wooded land with pathways that lend themselves to the serene contemplation of nature and nurturing of your creative spirit. The Retreat House is located at the convent of Saint John the Baptist, 82 West Main Street in Mendham, NJ.

Fee Schedule:  $425 fee includes room, all meals, and all workshops.
Deposit by April 5, 2014 of $300
Balance due by April 19, 2014 $125
Early Bird Discount: Deduct $25 if paid in full by April 5, 2014
Full refund will be given prior to April 29, 2014.

For further information and to register, contact or call  973-684-6554.

Selected Books by the Poets

LAURA BOSS: Arms: New and Selected Poems and Flashlight

MARIA GILLAN: What We Pass On: Collected Poems: 1980-2009 and The Place I Call Home

March 8, 2014

Prompt: First Lines with Emily

Vincent Van Gogh

A word is dead
when it is said,
some say,
I say it just
begins to live
that day.

Emily Dickinson

This month's prompt began in reading an article, "Where Shall I Begin?," by Jessica Greenbaum about being inspired by first lines.

"Like poetry itself, a secret channel exists between the first line and the mind. What forces are at play may never show themselves fully, and some resounding openings attach to memory by more mysterious motives. Ever since Howard Moss handed my undergraduate class a copy of Randall Jarrell’s “The Woman at the Washington Zoo” in 1979, the poem’s first line has captained the troops of first lines, reminding me that observation, cadence, rhyme, and lyricism all prime the poem. “The saris go by me from the embassies,” begins the speaker, “Cloth from the moon. Cloth from another planet.” Where are we? What’s happening?

Bread crumbs. Eat, birds. Help me start."

Back in 1999, I wrote a rather crude program that would generate a random line for a poem and used it as a prompt. My first line generator is still online and I did a second generation line generator
because it was popular. Now it seems rather crude and limited (though fun).

But there are plenty of lists of poetry first lines in anthologies and online.

For this month's prompt, I have chosen the first lines of Emily Dickinson as our starting place. That's a lot of first lines to choose from!

I tried it myself. I was struck by her first line "How dare the robins sing."  I think it was the coming spring, lack of robins in my backyard and the audacity I heard in that line that made me choose it.

I wrote my poem WITHOUT looking at the rest of Emily's poem. I suggest you do the same so as not to be influenced by her. When you finish the first draft, take a look at her poem. It might suggest some revision to your own poem. (In my case, I was pleasantly surprised that Emily and I were walking down the same spring path.)

Go to the index of Emily Dickinson's first lines and pick a line or two to start. The only requirements of this prompt are that you use that line as your first line (or start for a first line - you can lengthen it), and that when you title your poem, include the number assigned to Emily's poem (She didn't use titles.) so that others can see your inspiration.

My poem would begin:
How dare the robins sing...

Submissions are open until March 31, 2014

March 5, 2014

Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize Open

Manuscripts being accepted for the first Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize.

The winner has his or her chapbook published as both print and eBook and receives twenty copies of the print version, a $250 prize and - rather wonderfully - an amethyst depression-glass trophy cup (circa 1930's).

Electronic submissions only of 17-24 pages of poetry.

The judge is Aimee Nezhukumatathil.

Full details at