New and Exciting!

Beginning on Friday, November 5th, I will host the Maryland Writers’ Alliance First Friday Open Mic. You’ll hear the wonderful and varied work of Maryland writers and hopefully a few others from around the country. And I’m really looking forward to hearing from all of you as well. There’s always time to ask questions of our featured presenters and share some of your work too.

AND Ann Bracken has a new book coming out that I can’t wait to read! We’re going to interview each other about our new books and share the interviews on our blogs. So keep an eye out for those! 

Next…

I’m very happy to have another event to share, a virtual poetry fest with The New England Poetry Club. There will be 3 hours of poets sharing work! I’m looking forward to hearing and meeting some new people. You can sign up here: https://nepoetryclub.org/nepc-fall-poetry-fest-2021/

Since losing my job in January, I’ve been doing some on-line teaching. Specifically English as a foreign language. And I really enjoy it! So much so that I decided to get a TEFL/TESOL Certificate! Hopefully I will be teaching very soon.

Which also means I haven’t been writing very much. Self-discipline, I know. How do you do it? Promise yourself a reward? a treat? or maybe the reward is having new work. Hmmm. There’s something to that.

So let me know how you do it. Or your favorite prompt. Or your favorite writing spot. I’d love to hear from you!

Virginia

Hello!Hello!

It’s been a busy week and a half. Much of it was spent driving half way across the country to a dear aunt’s funeral and back. I still don’t want to believe we won’t see her again in this life. And I spent much of the last few days helping our son prepare for a trip to Germany. I took him to the airport this morning. That brought several competing emotions as well. To say the least.

And tomorrow I have the delight of giving my first in-person reading for questions for water! If you’re near Annapolis, MD, I hope you can pop in. There’s plenty of open mic time if you want to share something too! Here are a few more details. Hope to see you there!

https://www.facebook.com/events/221884396207232

New Again

Good morning, and happy June!

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done for almost a year and a half. I saw a film in a theater with my family. It was such an odd feeling – one part anxiety, one part excitement, and one part oh-yeah-I-remember-this. Discussing the film on the way home was almost like watching a flower thought to be extinct blossom again. Maybe that’s excessive, but it’s very odd to do things we haven’t done in a long time that we used to do so casually.

Speaking of… I’ve been invited to be the featured reader at an in-person reading series. I think it will be their first in-person event in a long time. It will be my first opportunity to give an in-person reading from questions for water. Just like going to the movie, I feel a little anxiety, some excitement, and I’m really looking forward to that sensation of oh-yes-I-remember-this!

I will share the date when I have it, but I expect it will be a Sunday afternoon in June. If you’re in the Annapolis, MD area, I hope you will stop in and enjoy that new-again feeling of being with poets and sharing work.

Hoping you, too, are enjoying familiar things that are new again.

Books…

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to finally have them in the world, to see other people with them, to read the poems to others!

The events I’ve had so far have been wonderful in a way that’s hard to describe. Even though they’ve been virtual and not at all what I had imagined more than a year ago. My poems come from my true self, so to have people listen and discuss them with understanding is deeply satisfying. Maybe it’s silly to say that. But the feeling of sharing something personal, intimate, and sensing the audience’s reaction is one of my favorite experiences. Deep sharing, that’s what I call it.

Isn’t that what all art is about? for?

So packing and sending them out to friends and family in the last week has been great and also surreal. My Aunt once told me that having a child is like having a piece of your heart walking around outside your body. Yes, it is. To a certain degree, so is having your book in the world.

I hope you have a chance to read questions for water or hear me read from it in one of my upcoming events. And let me know what you think!

every water

My favorite poem by Lucille Clifton:

the mississippi river runs into the gulf

and the gulf enters the sea and so forth,
none of them emptying anything,
all of them carrying yesterday
forever on their white tipped backs,
all of them dragging forward tomorrow.
it is the great circulation
of the earth’s body, like the blood
of the gods, this river in which the past
is always flowing. every water
is the same water coming round.
everyday someone is standing on the edge
of this river, staring into time,
whispering mistakenly:
only here. only now.

Every water is the same water coming round. I love how Lucille captured the cyclical and interconnected nature of everything in this poem. She points to our mistake of thinking any thing or place or person can be separated from another. The water in the Atlantic is also the water in the Pacific and the Adriatic and so on.

I learned the concept of interdependence through Buddhism. Nothing can create itself without the help or presence of another thing or condition. Seeds will not grow without water and light; children will not be conceived without two specific cells and a conducive environment; water requires both hydrogen and oxygen. Try as we may to individuate ourselves, divide ourselves into this group and that — us and them, it’s not possible. It’s not possible to prevent a drop of the Atlantic from becoming a drop of the Pacific. It’s not possible for humans to completely separate themselves from each other, the past, and the future. For me, all of this is present metaphorically in Lucille’s poem.

The title poem of my new book was written in response to a painting in which water features prominently. In my poem, water functions as both connector and divider of different lands, a thief of my grandfather’s native Italian language, a source of fossils and livelihoods. It is essential for life and can also take life away.

I can’t remember a time when I was not fascinated by water, its power — its ability to change, create and destroy. I hope you will set sail with me on the journey that is this book, questions for water.

Too Long and Almost

Between the virus and the cost of travel, we haven’t seen each other recently. But spring is here, medical science is finding new ways to keep people healthy, it’s almost April-National Poetry Month, and my book, questions for water, will appear in just a few weeks!


I’m thrilled to finally have a full-length book coming out. It’s taken several more decades than I expected. 

The title poem was written in response to a piece of art for a collaborative show at the Hamilton Gallery. It’s primarily a delicious blue-green color with torn paper affixed and layered in places. Also affixed near the bottom of the work is a length of real barbed wire. The torn paper – to me – represented a single person in a small boat crossing an ocean. Other pieces of paper suggested a lighthouse; still others in the foreground suggested land with rolling mountains. The wire represented difficulty, challenge, and loss. Together it said “Immigration” to me. 


One of my grandfathers came to America from Italy, and I’d always been interested to write about that but never had. Other older ancestors came from Scotland, but I don’t have much information on them. I was working on this poem while the world watched absolutely horrific things happening at the US/Mexico border.  My own family history and those of immigrants I’ve known and those I saw in the news all came together. It’s the longest poem I’ve written (eleven pages!), and it includes bits of Italian, Spanish, and Russian languages in relation to experiences described in the poem. Colors and images of water recur throughout and function as transition points for the reader – repetition acts as an anchor if you will. 


I’d love to have the opportunity to read it to you. The book will be available on Amazon, Bookshop.com, and ApprenticeHousePress.com on 5 April. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you get a chance to read it! 


Here are several opportunities to hear me read from questions for water:
Release party on Zoom on April 9th, 7pm.
If you prefer a cozier conversation, my friend Barbara Morrison will be hosting a salon on Zoom on April 13th, 7pm. Let me know if you’d like a link to the event.


On April 20th I’ll be on a panel of 3 poets published by Apprentice House Press hosted by the Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore. You can attend through this link: https://www.theivybookshop.com/upcomingevent/22531

In June, I’ll be reading with several other poets with new books for the Pratt Library. More info here: https://calendar.prattlibrary.org/event/seven_at_seven_local_poets_showcase#.YFEXJ9JKiUk

Wishing you a spring full of blossoms and good health! Hope to see you soon.

Virginia

Today! April 5, 2021

Here we are, Publication Day. questions for water is officially available in the world. That is such a wild and fabulous thing! It’s taken me so long to get here, and my copies haven’t arrived yet, so it still feels un-real. I hope you will join me in celebrating this Friday evening at 7 pm on Zoom https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83251190877?pwd=VUkyM0FoK0U0ZEF3U3VDMTIrUTI5UT09

Can’t make it? Thankfully you have several additional opportunities:

Tues, April 13th, 6:30 pm Salon hosted by Barbara Morrison. This will be a cozy and relaxed chance to hear some poems and discuss and ask questions about them. Send me an email if you’d like that link.

Tues, April 20th, 7 pm with the Ivy Bookshop

Weds, June 16th at 7 pm with the Pratt Library

And this is a partial list! Be sure to check back or on the questions for water Facebook page for more details.

I’m looking forward to sharing questions for water with you!

Magic Anyway


Magic-ing is tough. It requires so much of us. Faith in ourselves – that we have something worth magic-ing into existence, as well as hope that there will be magic enough for someone somewhere at some time to find and connect through it.


And at the same time, it’s impossible not to “magic.” That would deny our true nature as creators, as artists of our own lives.


Last week marked the anniversary of Lucille Clifton’s passing from this world. I was so lucky to hear her daughter Sidney speak about things she’d learned from her mom. I needed to hear that message — “Magic anyway.” There are so many pressures in everyday life telling us the opposite. Not to mention internal doubts. 

Sidney shared the story of her purchase of her childhood home in Baltimore. It did sound like magic — a perfect alignment of coincidences — the universe magically weaving her and her home back together. Personally, I would have understood if the family wished to keep for themselves the place where their mother worked her magic at her typewriter. 

But no; they decided to share even more of Lucille’s magic by opening their family home — Clifton House — to artists for workshops and residencies. What a gift! I cannot wait until I have the chance to visit and be in that space where Lucille lived and created, where she wrote about, but transcended, everyday experiences, where she poem-ed and magic-ed into millions of readers’ minds and hearts. Even though it was not easy. Even though she faced people and pressures who were against her. She continued to magic anyway. And we are all the richer for it.  

Here is one part of Sidney’s remembrance: 

What I learned was this:

We are responsible for freeing our voices
Our voices resound when we do the work
The work is done in silence
Silence births our visions and voices
Voices and visions are magic
Magic is an adjective and a verb
Magic is hard work
Not everyone will understand
Not everyone will be happy
Magic anyway

Sidney Clifton
12-31-19


To read her complete piece and learn more about Clifton House: https://mentorandmuse.net/sidney-clifton/

Thanks for reading. And Magic Anyway.

Virginia