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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Writers' Workshoppe Marathon Poetry Writing Session, September 27, 2014

On a gorgeous fall day in a small fishing town with more writers than you can shake a caesura at, Kelli Russell Agodon and I excitedly breezed into a conference room on Main Street, each of us equipped with close to a dozen writing prompts in our satchels. Our goal: keep the customer satisfied, the customers being five poets who'd come there precisely to write till they dropped.

Six hours and EIGHT rough drafts later, we knew we'd done our job,  our sturdy and steadfast team o five exiting the building with new poem drafts about jobs they never had (including working in a potato chip factory and as a fisheries biologist) and poems that began with "When ...", along with poems written in one long run-on sentence, poems made of coined compound words, and poems that interrogate and rearrange cliches.

It. Was. Fun.

Below, a few pics that share a taste of the deep digging, the going there, and, most of all, all of us writing like the dickens.

Thanks so much to Anna Quinn and The Writers' Workshoppe for letting us laugh and play (and cry a little too) and to the participants and their never-flagging spirits.

If you want a taste of what went on, pick up a copy of The Daily Poet. Our workshops don't limit themselves to these prompts, but the book is a good enough substitute till you can enroll in one of our classes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Haiku Project - Shin Yu Pai

During her recent appearance at The Station for the Beacon Bards reading series, poet Shin Yu Pai shared haiku she wrote each day during this past April.

I was struck by these new poems, immediately finding much to like about their keen imagery and leaps from the close at hand to the far away and worldly. Even better, her poems have stayed with me--I keep finding myself wanting to re-read/re-experience that initial joy in hearing news that stays news.  In looking at them more closely, I notice they are unsentimental in how they deal with a baby's behaviors, actions, growth. The exhaustion of new motherhood is here, but so are student demonstrations and the unequal distribution of wealth. I admire how she moves easily between and among the personal, the local, and the larger world of injustices and tragedies.

I asked Pai if I might share a few of these haiku on my blog, and she obliged. They work best as a unit, which likely will be published in a reputable journal before too long. In the meantime, here are a few to whet your appetite:

students stand up for
freedom, occupy the legislative yuan,
dear mother-land, never give up
far eastern sweet
potatoes, the dark
outline of Taiwan

at the eye exam
wondering all the sudden where
fibbing gets me

scrubbing poop from
the swaddle cloth, end of
a long day
in the alley, the Kenyan laborer
picks up needles w/ gloved hands  -
what asylum is this?

when I twist the top
off the pineapple head my boy
screams in horror

trying to recall the word
for "gaslighting" my brain
pulls up "waterboarding"
hundreds of students
drowned when the ship went down
all just kids
weighing whether to
ask my doctor or other
moms about weaning

More of Pai's haiku may be read in Haiku Not Bombs, a collaborative collection of poems written as part of a project to write a haiku a day for a year. She is also the author of the newly released Auxs Arc

I felt lucky to be present for Shin Yu's reading. 

Gerry MacFarland also read. 

Our next scheduled Beacon Bards event is Wednesday, June 11, when Kathleen Flennekin and Peter Pereira will take the podium at 7 pm. As always, an open mic follows our featured readers.  On warm/dry nights we move the stage to the back-alley patio. 

Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Winners of the Annual Poetry Book Give-Away Announced!

I used a random number generator, and it chose the number 19 for a free copy of Reckless Lovely, and the number 33 for a free copy of Clean by David Daniels. Without further ado, the winners are:

Mystical Marianne, winner of a copy of Reckless Lovely; and

Andrew, winner of a copy of Clean. 

Winners! Please email me a copy of your mailing address. My email address is

Thanks so much to all the participants - I hope you won big on another blog!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Guest Blogging this Week at Best American Poetry!

From now until May 2, I am the guest blogger over at The Best American Poetry blog. So far I've interviewed Molly Tenenbaum about her collaborative poetry/book project with Ellen Ziegler, and David J. Daniels, winner of the 2013 Four Way Books Intro Poetry Prize. Stay tuned for more ...

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Big Poetry Giveaway!

Thanks to Kelli Russell Agodon and Susan Rich for spearheading The Big Poetry Giveaway once again this April for National Poetry Month.

I am giving away a copy of my fourth collection of poetry, Reckless Lovely, just released from Saturnalia Books, along with a copy of David Daniel's Clean, the just-released winner of the Four Way Books Intro Poetry Prize.

To enter to win, post a comment on Blue Positive letting me know you're in.

At the end of the month, I will number all comments and pick two from a hat. The first drawn will receive Reckless Lovely; the second will receive Clean. Ready, set, go!

Winner of the Four Way Books Intro Poetry Prize, Chosen by D.A. Powell

Aimee Nezhukumatathil writes "Martha Silano's poetry is gloriously street-smart and fully roaming and ripe. I want to slow-clap when she fixes her exacting gaze on warthogs, space probes, millipedes, or miracles. These stunning pages, like a "land-less landmass, [a] dollop-y desert dessert unloosed," fold moments of joy into something 'Reckless Lovely,' with inventive, chewy language, and a relentless appreciation of music and delight."

Saturday, March 15, 2014

My Ninth Grade English Teacher, Edwin Romond

I had not seen him in person since 1978, when I was 16 years old. Edwin Romond was my ninth grade English teacher at Metuchen High School, in Metuchen, New Jersey. Before I had the luck of being taught by Ed, I hadn't  been exposed to the wonders of literary analysis, or the weekly rigors of vocabulary quizzes, or deep discussions about compound vs. compound/complex sentences. I hadn't even written a book report, and I surely would not have understood before stepping into his classroom what was meant by a motif, or foreshadowing, or character analysis in the works of Theodore Dreiser or Arthur Miller.

Ed changed all that.

Between September and the winter holidays, something in me drastically changed. Instead of reading books about my baseball heroes (my first book report was on It Ain't Over Till It's Over), and being somewhat interested in books, I found myself presenting my findings on the notion of the boxed-in motif in Death of a Salesman. 

I was too young to be aware that we were in the presence of an incredibly gifted educator, that magic took place in his classroom. I just kept hoping that Romeo and Juliet would somehow not end up dying so tragically, boarding the bus to Edison Valley Playhouse to see the play we'd just read performed on stage.

That was just the normal course of things in Mr. Romond's class. We read books, we cared about the characters as if they were living people, and we discussed the inner workings and construction of great literarure - how all of it demanded to be looked at closely and carefully.

On Fridays we read from a Bantam paperback collection of contemporary poems and lyrics, including John Lennon and Bob Dylan. This was our reward for making it through the week with the harder stuff, I guess, or perhaps Ed wanted to let us know that writers were alive and among us - making poetry, writing songs, though he never mentioned that he was one of them.

I didn't find that out he was a poet until the following year, when he announced to the entire school that Robert Bly would be reading in Highland Park, and we just had to experience this man's amazing poetry.

Who could say no to such an opportunity? I had never heard of Robert Bly, but since Ed was so enthusiastic and insistent, we all piled into my friend's car and met him at the reading.

I had no idea what to expect, but I was ready to take it all in. Bly performed his poems, donning masks and railing against The Establishment. I hadn't known that this was a career option.

The next morning a poem, "The Night of Robert Bly," circulated around school. It was written by Ed, more living proof that poems could be made by not just a well-known poet like Bly, but by someone I knew.

I'd written a few poems but didn't show them to anyone but my closest friends until I enrolled in my first workshop in 1987. Ed was the teacher who pointed the way.

Years later, my mother sent me a clipping from The News Tribune, a long piece about Ed's successes, along with a sampling of poems. A smiled when I saw that a few of them were about baseball.

When I finally got around to contacting him in 2004, he was busy (very busy) with events honoring his teaching run of 32 years, now drawing to a close.

This past Wednesday night we read at the Barron Arts Center, in Woodbridge, NJ. Ed shared poems on a wide range of subjects -- Jesus's puppy, his mother's homemade cookie recipe, a massacre in a one-room school house in Amish country, and a tribute to his most beloved high school teacher. I listened to every luscious word, the voice I remembered so well from that class in the fall of 1976, opening me up to all the possibilities of a life devoted to literature.