The city of Philadelphia has a vibrant literary community, and I am honored to be among the talented local writers featured in the Winter 2016 issue of Philadelphia Stories.
You can find one of my newest poems, "Keeping Things Alive," in the online issue or find free copies throughout the greater Philadelphia area!
Read the issue HERE.
I'm so excited to host the first ever reading series for Glassworks Magazine, a publication of Rowan University's Master of Arts in Writing program.
Our first event is being held on Wednesday, October 21st at 8pm in Philadelphia. Thanks to Tattooed Mom for setting up a private room for us! Our featured readers will be Jeff Markovitz and Liz Langemak, both published in Issue 10 of Glassworks. Food and drinks will be available for purchase, as well as copies of recent issues for $10 each. I'll also have copies of my own chapbook on hand for $10, and the featured readers will be bringing their own books.
Can't make it to Tattooed Mom? Join us Thursday, October 29th at 6:30 on Rowan's campus. We'll be taking over the upstairs of the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Glassboro, NJ and free coffee and cookies will be available to all who attend. Our student editors will be reading from the new Issue 11 of Glassworks.
Full details are available on our Facebook page:
Hope to see you there!
I am honored to have two poems included in the upcoming anthology Crossing Lines now available for pre-order through Main Street Rag. The anthology is being offered at a discounted price now, so if you are interested, don't wait to make your purchase!
Physical, cultural, emotional: the stories, poems, and essays in this collection cross almost every line imaginable. In the varied terrains of a Malaysian beach, a Parisian apartment, a Czech bar, and the cities, trailer parks, and backyards of America, people find themselves against the divides of family, race, friendship, and desire. These are not hapless victims. Circumstances challenge their beliefs and require them to act: A homicide detective stumbles into an ethical quagmire. A tsunami survivor chooses reinvention over redemption. A returning soldier confronts PTSD. Youngsters teeter on the border of sexual innocence and sexual experience. Lovers face equal parts of possibility and uncertainty. With grace and skill, award-winning poets and writers make a persuasive case that when the world around you shifts, the best thing to do is to start moving.
What makes my heart happy?
When students say things like:
"I don't enjoy writing poetry, and I certainly don't enjoy reading said poetry to a class full of people I barely know... but the poem I concocted ended up being one of my favorite pieces in my writing career thus far."
"Poetry was like rowing a boat upstream with no paddle to me before our workshop. The angst I felt towards reading, analyzing, and especially writing poetry was beyond what you could even imagine. That being said, I thought that the workshop changed my mind significantly and, for lack of better words, was very fun."
"I loved this entire assignment. From the beginning when we had to write about something uncomfortable to actually sharing it with the class and not knowing whose was whose... I honestly didn't think I could write something like this considering I am not too familiar with poetry and this is an uncomfortable subject and something so personal."
"I really enjoyed the way we did this assignment. It made me appreciate a genre of writing that I would have never thoughts I could enjoy. It was really nice and refreshing to see the vulnerability and creativity from everyone in class."
Changing minds about poetry, one student at a time. :)
For anyone who is curious, here is the assignment my students are referring to. This was for an upperclassmen writing course that stresses awareness of rhetorical decisions. Students submitted their poems anonymously, and we spent two and a half weeks in class reading each poem out loud and discussing them, including: what we liked about the poem, what we found confusing about the poem, and suggestions for the poet. At the end of each discussion, the poet would own up to the piece and had a chance to clarify for us if they wished. We then gave the copies back with written commentary, and students revised the poem to turn in for a grade with a short reflection on the experience and on the revision. This is the second time I've used the assignment, and to great success.
If you are an instructor and wish to use this assignment, feel free, but please credit me.
I am pleased to announce the upcoming publication of my debut chapbook from Finishing Line Press. Titled Prague in Synthetics, this collection of poems stems from my experiences studying abroad on Western Michigan University's Prague Summer Program. I believe the definitions of the word "synthetic" best indicate the focus of these poems:
Copies will be available for pre-order beginning October 27, and the anticipated publication date is February 6, 2015. More details on how to order your copy coming soon!
Today's post is a reblog from a former classmate of mine, Kristin, with whom I studied creative writing and literature at Roosevelt University during graduate school. She is a fellow English teacher, and her words spoke volumes to me earlier this week. I find it particularly interesting that even though I teach in New Jersey and Philadelphia, and Kristin teaches in Nairobi, Kenya, our experiences are much the same. I think the rest of the post speaks for itself. You can find Kristin's full blog here: http://wordslikenets.blogspot.com
Sometimes there's something that you want to say. And then you remember that you have a blog. And then you feel passionately ashamed for how you ignore your blog. But then you think about all those months when you didn't have something to say, and it seems impossible for you to have written any more blog posts than you have. And then you come to terms with your writing self and realize that people will still love you (although they may not forgive you for continuing in this personal-reflection-only-thinly-disguised-by-the-second-person). You decide that you have an "occasional" blog, which not only means that you are allowed to post only "occasionally" but that you are allowed to wait until you have an occasion, a reason, something to say. Like now.
I teach an online college English class. As a part of this course, students read Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem.” The students are then asked to answer this question: Sometimes this poem is entitled "Dream Deferred." Which title do you think is more appropriate and why?
A majority of students invariably choose the title “Dream Deferred” over the title “Harlem.” This is partly because this is an introduction to literature course and many of my students are more interested in completing the assignment to get the gen-ed credit than they are in actually thinking deeply about poetry. Within about five seconds, they see the connection between the deferred dream of the title and the similes of the poem (indeed, the first line of the poem even asks “What happens to a dream deferred?”). This strange geographical reference would take more work to parse. What was an obvious cultural reference to Hughes' contemporaries mystifies, and many students seem willing to give up on whatever isn’t immediately understandable (sigh). However, there are also a set of students who do think carefully about their answers, even googling “Harlem” to figure out the connection, and yet still end up writing something like this:
“Dream Deferred” is better because it’s more universal and can apply to everyone.
I have to admit that this answer drives me crazy (and not just for the logical conundrum of something being "more universal"). And yet, I understand why the student--even the thinking student--might write it. A poem that more people can relate to must of course be a more powerful poem. And a poem with a more general title will be a poem that more people can relate to, right?
Not exactly. I'm reminded of Emily Dickinson, who writes about poetry as “spreading wide my narrow hands.” Can’t you just see her in her white dress, alone in her room, with her arms flung wide? Her experience was narrow (like everyone’s, limited as she was to being just one person), and yet, based on her enduring popularity alone, her poetry also spreads wide. Not because she focused on the universal but because she embraced her narrow life so fully.
I want to bark this truth into my students' faces like an over-eager golden retriever, and I often have to give my own collar a good yank in order not to scare anyone. With good writing it is specificity, not generality, that creates emotion and connection. It is the very fact that something specific is happening to someone that is not you that allows you to feel most fully what you ought.
The fact is Hughes’ poem is so much more powerful because it isn’t about all deferred dreams everywhere. The power comes from experiencing Hughes' ideas and emotions, not from eclipsing them with our own. The goal in poetry and fiction isn’t to relate an experience as universal (mostly that bit is built in and doesn’t need a lot of attention) but as real. It’s not two sides of a scale--increase specificity and decrease universality. It’s more like a tree--the more effort you put in to stretching out each branch, to growing in each leaf, the more people can find shade underneath.
I am pleased to be included in the Summer 2014 issue of From the Depths just published today by Haunted Waters Press. The issue is available to view online or download digitally for free, or print copies are available. Either way, you should check out this lovely selection of literature!
View the new issue on MagCloud:
Poet. Professor. Percussionist. Philadelphian.