Tag Archives: poet

O, Miami Chapbook Workshop 2017

31 Oct

Spread over 8 weeks in the months of Sept. and Oct., the O, Miami “Write and Publish Your Own Chapbook” workshop explored the chapbook in all it’s forms, gave participants a chance to generate poetry with thoughtful prompts and readings, and time together to workshop poems in preparation for publication.

Literally, the moment I found out about the O, Miami Chapbook Workshop, I signed up. I have been thinking about publishing a chapbook for a long time now. I have several groups of poems that I have already written, and ideas for poems that I could write, to potentially include in several different chapbooks. This workshop helped me dedicate time and commit to making one chapbook a reality. That in itself was priceless.

Our instructor, Caroline Cabrera, did an outstanding job of leading us down a path to learning and understanding what our chapbooks could be- one major facet of our workshop was that by the end of the 8 weeks we were going to have a 12-page chapbook, printed and bound, all of our very own.

The workshop gave us the opportunity to not just generate new work, but also workshop our poems with the other poets in the group. We each workshopped three poems, one every other week. Discussions were lead by Caroline, who was an excellent moderator and helped guide us as we discussed each poem. Thankfully, we really gelled as a group and learned a lot from each other. All of this unleashed a wave of creativity and inspiration that I think we all felt – every night after class I got back home and wanted to write and read poetry all night long, my brain firing in all kinds of creative directions.

Another excellent aspect of the workshop was the ability to focus on one idea or theme in our poetry, and begin to carry that through to a finished product.¬†Beginning with the first week of the workshop, Caroline brought her personal collection of chapbooks to share with us by lending them out. Seeing how different poets approach this medium is fascinating and liberating. A chapbook is a world unto itself- a journey into the mind of each poet. I wish I had more time to read more of them ūüôā But my takeaway was that I could envision my chapbook as it’s own little world, and that has translated into a laser-like focus that I am still learning from.

There truly is nothing like holding a book of your own words in your hands. Our finished products were designed by Phil, Caroline’s husband, who took great care and creativity in laying out the covers and pages. It’s one thing to run copies of your own poetry off of your printer, but it’s a totally different experience to see them laid out, looking book-professional and official. Thank you, Phil!

We each produced 10 copies of our finished product. Since our chapbooks are part of a series for our class, we decided to call it the Category Six Chapbook Series (thanks to Hurricane Irma which hit during the second week of class). They are similar in cover design, but we were encouraged to embellish them in any way we want to. From seeing Caroline’s collection of chapbooks, I knew that I wanted a little color and some more tactile elements, so I included some end papers and a ribbon bookmark in mine. In several of my poems I use the phrase green-gold, so my end papers are gold vellum, and my ribbon bookmark is thin green satin. I think they look beautiful!

All of the participants also received the PDF file of their chapbook so they can print up more copies if they wanted to. Some of the poets in the workshop are selling their chapbooks. I gave away 8 copies of my chapbook and kept 2 for my family. I am not going to print any additional copies, mainly because I already have worked some more on those poems and am submitting them to literary magazines and poetry contests.

This workshop was one of the best experiences in my entire life. It jump-started my chapbook, which eventually is going to grow into a book-length collection of poems. I now have a manuscript that I am going to work on over the summer at the Bread Loaf Environmental Writer’s Conference in Ripton, Vermont. My goal is not only to expand the collection, but also to use that manuscript to apply to MFA programs for Fall 2019.

Thank you O, Miami!!!

plein air ecstatic poetry

Creek Lover – my 12 page chapbook of plein air ecstatic poetry.

Process, Discipline, and Sharing

25 Jan

January has me writing new things, with new projects in mind, and a new approach to writing, which hopefully will bear fruit soon. I had to take a step back again and reassess my process. Let me explain a bit what I mean …

I have put together two manuscripts and submitted them to various places, with hopes that my poems will resonate enough to motivate an editor to want to publish my work. It is crazy hard getting this done. I just have to trust what I have put together and trust where I am sending it off to. Take deep breaths, and keep moving forward while I wait.

In the meantime I MUST WRITE. It’s the only thing I can do. But unfortunately, I’ve learned from other poets and some editors that I have spoken to that I can’t post poems on my blog anymore. Nope, not if I want them to be considered for publication in a magazine. Which quite frankly sucks, since a huge part of my process has been this wonderful blog, which I love and has loved me back.

So, I can’t post new poems on here. Which leaves me at a loss of what to do. How can I get feedback? How can I test my ideas and be brave, which is the most important thing for me? How can I get help with my poems from other readers?

The only answer to that right now is to write and write and write, set aside, look over, and edit and write some more. It can’t be self-gratifying, as this blog has been, since I can post a poem and within hours receive lots of “likes” and comments, and even follows from Word Press readers. It has to be more disciplined and consistent. It has to be a committment.

I promise, though, that I will continue to read and record my new poems on SoundCloud. I will post the readings here so at least they can be heard, if not read. I enjoy posting my poems on SoundCloud. It helps me in the editing process, and helps me tune my reading voice.

A new thing that I have begun to do, and hope that it will stick as a habit and part of my new process, is writing morning pages. Morning pages are exactly that: writing a set number of pages freehand every morning. It’s supposed to be like a freewrite, but the most important rule is to write every day. My college pal Kartik Singh, who directs films and writes screenplays, shared this with me, and I just knew when he told me about it (three and half years ago, gulp) that I had to do it. I’m finally doing it Kartik!

The other thing I am doing is submitting more. Oh, gosh it is so hard to do- submitting poems and hoping against hope that some will get published. When the first one finally gets published I will be so freaking happy! Yes, I will certainly blog about it.

Lastly, I have been applying to writer’s workshops and fellowships. This is in lieu (for the time being) of actually getting an MFA. I am not opposed to getting an MFA, but I have to consider the time that it will take away from my family and work, not to mention the expense. But, I think I know deep down that I need something like that. I need to learn more and to hone my craft, something I feel is still is in it’s baby-stages.

I still don’t have enough poetry in my life. I don’t think I will ever feel like I do. This is a contant thirst and it gets satiated at times, but never fully. In order to keep my blog alive with poetry though, I am going to¬†start sharing other poems, poems not written by me but that help fill my poetry void. Hopefully this will help create a discussion about poetry that will inspire and motivate my readers.


What is in a Name?

24 Nov

Exactly one month ago I attended¬†the Dodge Poetry Festival, held biannually in Newark, NJ. I really didn’t know what to expect when I bought my festival tickets, but my hope was that I would learn more about the mystery of becoming a published poet. I also hoped to be inspired, not just by hearing excellent poets read their work, but also by traveling alone, being in New Jersey, and most of all, seeing the beauty of autumn in the Northeast.

During the festival,¬†several of the sessions were with panels of poets who both read their own poems and discussed poetry with each other in front of the audience. Afterwards they opened the floor to questions from the audience. I attended one such panel, which consisted of four poets: Billy Collins, US poet laureate, Steven Kuusisto, A. Van Jones, and Natalie Diaz. It was a great conversation, as they are poets from all different walks of life, and I enjoyed some of the poems they read, namely “Ode to the Beloved’s Hips” by Natalie Diaz,¬†“from” by A. Van Jordan, and one of my new favorites, “Suggestion Box” by Billy Collins.

When they opened the discussion up for questions from the audience, I bounded (literally) down the theater steps to the mic. I had missed asking my question the day before, so I was ready. This is what I asked:

I write poetry, and have been doing so for many years. It is a very necessary part of my life. However, I hesitate to call myself a poet. So, my question is, at what point in your careers as poets did you feel justified to call yourself a poet, and more generally, when do you think it is appropriate to do so?

Billy Collins was the first to respond. He said that he felt that he could really call himself a poet when he received the phone call from the librarian of Congress, informing him that he had been selected as poet laureate. He got a chuckle from the audience. Later on, when I had a minute to chat with him by myself, he added that he never calls himself a poet to random strangers. He said that one time he sat next to someone on an airplane, who asked him what he did, and he said he was a poet. “Oh, my 13 year old daughter writes poetry,” the person responded. After that, he said, he never tells people he’s a poet, and just tells them that he’s a teacher instead.

The second response was from A. Van Jordan, who said that he didn’t feel justified in calling himself a poet until he received monetary compensation for his work. That, in his eyes, made him legitimate in front of family and friends.

The third, and final, response was from Natalie Diaz. She said that if poetry is important to me, and such an important part of my life, then I should own the title “poet.” That way, she said, I will make time for it in my life, and give it the importance it deserves. In order to be a poet, we have to make time to actively write, and take time to do so. So, she said, I think you should call yourself a poet now.

Steven Kuusisto said he liked Natalie’s answer, and so do I. I felt very encouraged by what she said, and I know she is right in saying so. I make time for things that are important to me in my life, such as staying in shape and being outdoors. I religiously make time for important naps on Saturdays.

As a wife and work-at-home mother of five children, my life can be very hectic. Solitary moments are what I crave the most, followed closely by meaningful adult interaction, especially conversation. But, silence and solace are the most valuable to me, because that is when¬†I can actually think deep thoughts. It’s from my deepest thoughts that some of my best poems have sprung, so I try to do what I can to get to that place. It’s a struggle, as those opportunities are elusive, so this is possibly¬†why many poems germinate in my mind while I am driving or trying to fall asleep (apparently composing words in my mind is how my brain defragments itself). I try to carve out time for writing, or even just thinking, but it has always been difficult to justify, given my circumstances.

So, guess what?

I am a Poet.

Dancing, @Cheers, Orange Park.

Dancing, @Cheers, Orange Park.

Beware the Poets

12 Nov

Beware the poets
they put all of their loves,
encapsulated in words,
in pithy boxes,
Little wolf-spiders
in sheeps’ clothing,
they hang out in corners,
unassuming spectators,
ready to trap you
in a moment
tangled, spun
into their invisible web.


Kind of dashing the image of the romantic poet here, and poking a bit of fun at myself. I do feel a little guilty sometimes, because all is fair in poetry and writing. Found this ickily beautiful banana spider hanging on its web above a street parking pay station at Spanish River Beach in Boca Raton, FL.

The Poet In Me

9 Apr

there is a poet behind these eyes
winding up the key to my heart
so it tick tick ticks
I catch glimpses of her in old photographs
and in the mirror sometimes on Wednesdays
when the light is just right
when I close my eyes at night
I don’t see her
but she talks to me in verse
and if she speaks loudly enough
and I get out my notebook and pen
and sketch it all out as fast as I can

by the time I am done, I am no longer tired
but at least I can finally sleep


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