April 13, 2008

"It's National Poetry Month-- What Are the Poets Doing?"

For a poet trying to get a little work done, April can be “the cruelest month” in ways T.S. Eliot never envisioned. Ever since it was declared National Poetry Month in 1996, this has been the time when poets are besieged with interviews, readings, and guest appearances that keep them from writing poetry. But shouldn’t this be a special month for the writers as well as the readers? I’ve gone back to some past City Type poets to see how they are observing the month.

Sam Cornish, Boston’s first-ever poet laureate, reports:
I am re-viewing the films of John Ford, America's foremost cinematic poet; immersing myself in the language and speeches of Martin Luther King (and their wonderful Southern cadences and idiom); and observing very closely my fellow Bostonians, as they are a source of inspiration and material for my poetry.

Susan Donnelly, the author of Eve Names the Animals and Transit, has taught poetry in Cambridge for 15 years. One of her poems was featured in The New York Times last year as a winner in Nicholas Kristof's Iraq War Poetry contest. I will breakfast with Elizabeth Bishop, (through) the Library of America edition of her collected works and I plan to rearrange a week's work schedule to give myself five mornings of writing.

Charles Coe, author of Picnic on the Moon, says:
Shucks…I hadn’t planned anything...but now that you mention it, I was thinking of taking a few “mental health” vacation days later this month—like a weekend with a couple of extra days tacked on. I’ll do that, go away somewhere and hole up with my laptop. Thanks for the inspiration.

Frannie Lindsay, author of Where She Always Was and Lamb, tells me:
Writing's not so easy for me these days, move to Belmont, some other big changes. But I have finished manuscript #3, joined an amazing manuscript group, and have been getting good news, little by little, from good journals (Yale, Southern Review, Southern Humanities Review).  I'm kind of happy to be less booked up with readings this year. I remember how overwhelming the last few Aprils were, enough to make me cross out each day of that month until it was finally over and I could get some time to make soup and do laundry!

Joyce Peseroff is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Eastern Mountain Time. She is director of creative writing and MFA program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
Since for me every month is poetry month, I’m not altering my usual routine of reading, writing, and getting to as many readings as possible. I’m not even sure if events in our literary town increase in April, since every month seems to be poetry month in Boston

Doug Holder, the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press, was nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in 2007. His most recent collections are No One Dies at the Au Bon Pain and Of All the Meals I Had Before.
I am putting together a new manuscript for The Cervena Barva Press of my poems, The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel. I am reading Mark Doty's new poetry collection Fire to Fire.

Gloria Mindock is the editor of Cervena Barva Press and author of Blood Soaked Dresses
On April 3rd, I was guest speaker at a poetry marathon by the Bay State Underground Reading Series at Boston University. I am taking part in discussing the special translation issue of Poetry magazine by holding a discussion group to talk about the poems in the issue. On April 16, Cervena Barva Press celebrates its third anniversary with a reading at the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge at 7 with Flavia Cosma, Dzvinia Orlowsky, and Catherine Sasanov.

I’ve been reading Still to Mow, the luminous new collection from Maxine Kumin, and The Best American Erotic Poems From 1800 to the Present, edited by David Lehman, which includes Whitman and Dickinson, of course, but also Francis Scott Key (who knew?) and Isabella Stewart Gardner, great grand-niece of that Mrs. G.

Happy Poetry Month, one and all!


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