Quantcast

Conversations and Connections Writer’s Conference, D.C.

Remember that great recap post from last year’s Conversations & Connections writer’s conference in Washington, D.C.?

Well, you can expect another one this year. Anna and I have registered for this year’s conference, which is going to have many of the great features it had last year.

Where is it located?

Johns Hopkins University Advanced Writing Program campus
1717 Massachusetts Avenue, NW,
Washington, D.C. (Near DuPont Circle)

When do I need to be there?

April 11, 2009; Registration starts at 8:30 AM

Why do I need to be there?

Not only will you be exposed to some great writing advice from some of the authors and poets you love, but there will be time to buy books at the book fair, show your work to literary journal editors to solicit their advice, and network with great bloggers, like Anna and myself, and others in the industry. This may be the first time I get to meet Deborah Ager of 32 Poems in person; she and I have been working on poet interviews over the last several months.

What’s the line up?

Craft lectures are available as choices for each of the three sessions from writing sex scenes to fighting writer’s block with experimental prompts.

The three sessions also have a number of panel discussions to choose from, including juggling multiple points of view in a novel, creative nonfiction, and the inner workings of an agency.

Don’t forget speed dating with literary journal editors where they will provide feedback on your written work.

And of course, there is the featured speaker, Amy Hempel.
Check out the list of speakers, here.

What’s the cost? $55, which gives you a one-year subscription to a literary magazine, the conference sessions, featured speaker, one speed dating session with an editor, and one book.

Darkness With a Pinch of Sugar Sweetness

Human Dark With Sugar by Brenda Shaughnessy arrived in the mail from the American Academy of Poets and I was pleased because I haven’t read a book of poetry in some time. I think that it is only fair that I review this book on this, the last day of National Poetry Month. This second book of poetry from Shaughnessy won the James Laughlin Award.

The first section of the book is Anodyne, also known as a pain-killer. This section of the book is not euphoric by any means. It is almost as if she is attempting to kill the pain with the sharpness of her words. For instance in “I’m Over the Moon:”
“How long do I try to get water from a stone?/It’s like having a bad boyfriend in a good band.// Better off alone. I’m going to write hard/and fast into you, moon, face-f**king.//”

The second section of the book is Ambrosia, from the Greek mean of food or drink of the gods that confers immortality on the consumer. Is the narrator of Shaughnessy’s poems interested in immortality? One of my favorite poems from this section is “Three Sorries,” particularly the “1. I’m Sorry” section of the poem:

“Soon 1. born 1970
2. Cried: all along
3. Loved: you really so very much and no others

blurred into: 1. begging off for the dog-years behavior
2. extra heart hidden in sock drawer
3. undetected slept with others”

It seems as though she really is not sorry for her actions or the events leading up to the incident. It’s amazing how many of these poems appear apologetic and wistful on the surface, but then turn to sarcasm and bleakness.

The third section is Astrolabe or astronomical instrument to surveying, locating, and predicting the positions of the sun, moon, and stars. I think the best illustration of this concept is Shaughnessy’s “A Poet’s Poem.”

“I will get the word freshened out of this poem.// I put it in the first line, then moved it to the second./ and now it won’t come out.// It’s stuck. I’m so frustrated,/ so I went out to my little porch all covered in snow// and watched the icicles drip, as I smoked/a cigarette.//” The poem ends quizzically: “I can’t stand myself.”

“No Such Thing as One Bee” is another poem that illustrates this need to pinpoint a location. Shaughnessy uses a narrator that is unsure of where they are in life and how they fit into the greater scheme. Where it is a busy worker bee or a bee that goes out to collect pollen. I guess you could almost equate it to the Bee movie with Jerry Seinfeld.

Overall, this is one of the better poetry books I have read in some time. I love the sarcastic and bleak language used by Shaughnessy in her poems. It’s the darkest side of humanity she examines, and she tries not to sugarcoat it, but sometimes, she just can’t help herself.

And the Winner Is…

Anna won this week’s Poetry Book contest for National Poetry Month. She received a volume of Yeats poems and selected plays.

I also want to alert you to the third contest for the month, again a volume of poetry. So it looks like this will be the last chance to win a volume of poetry for National Poetry Month. You’ll have to check out these National Poetry Month links to find out their secrets.

Those interested in the contest, please either post an original poem or your favorite poem in the comments by May 2, and I will post the winner on May 3.

Unfortunately, my aunt and Anna will not allowed to grace us with their witty poems this time around since they both already won a poetry volume. Even if you entered the last contest, please do enter again, with a different poem. Let’s Celebrate National Poetry Month.

2008 Bethesda Literary Festival Poetry Slam


Every Bethesda Literary Festival my husband and I attend the Poetry Slam, where the bravest poets get up, recite poems, and allow audience members to judge their work. The above photo shows you the top three in the poetry slam.

There are two rounds to the slam. In the first round, everyone interested in competing signs up at the door. Each poet gets three minutes to read or recite a memorized poem, for every 10 seconds over, they are penalized a half point. The first round consisted of 15 competitors. The second round consists of the top five or six poets from the previous round. Before readers begin, a calibration poet reads their poem to allow the judges to see what kind of work will be read, and the score received should guide the judges in their scoring of other poets during the competition based upon whether their work is better or worse than the calibration poem.

I want to point out a few things about the first round poets before moving onto the final round. The first poet to read was Paul, who I have equated to Abe Lincoln in the past because of his physical appearance. Usually, Paul bores us all to tears and the judges attempt to be nice and ignore his monotonous reading tone and depressing subject matter. This is the first time his poem was entertaining. The poem touched upon the struggles of a writer when dealing with critiques. The writer gets advice to remove a dune-buggy at first, then a trite romantic couple, etc., until there is nothing left to the story, except “I hate you; I hate you all.” Great ending to a poem, and his traditional monotone voice was replaced by a bit of wit and sarcasm.

Another of my favorites from the reading was Chris August, who started off his poem with “I have four words for you: You Are Not Special.” The poem touched upon the sense of entitlement in today’s society and how those who are truly special are those that need wheelchairs, additional attention throughout their lives, and other accommodations.

Curry and Dwayne B. both recited poems about love and hate and disappointment. Chris Wilson also recited a poem about love, love in spite of heartache. “I’m sorry I broke into your apartment and stole your shampoo:” one of Wilson’s lines. It had some great allusions to the Bare Naked Ladies and their “Old Apartment” song, with an obsessed lover twist. It was quite entertaining.

Tokia Carter, since I couldn’t get her first name either time it was announced, was spectacular. Her AmeriTruth Airlines poem with pilot George “crazy” Bush and co-pilot Dick “trigger happy” Chaney and flight attendant Condi Rice was fantastic. It touched upon terrorism, the terror alerts, the “supposed” freedoms of Americans, and politics.

The final poet from the first round that I have to talk about is Rocky. You’d think it was a man, but it was a woman and she took performance poetry to a whole new level. Rather than rant and rave aloud and scream at the audience, like some, she literally acted out the physical tortures–Strung up by her feet, waterboarded, inside a chicken cage, and others–in her poem.

Candy Rain was the poet to clear the palette. Her poem was powerful. It did reset the mood after the lull of coffee and cookies. Free Caribou Coffee is the greatest.

The final round poets were Chris August, Chris Wilson, Ms. Carter, Jedidiah, Dwayne B., and Ben.

Ben and Jedidiah were first and second and couldn’t have contrasted more. Jedidiah’s poem discussed how education was the way to overcome discrimination, while Ben discussed the evolution from Blues to Alternative Rock when a boy discovers a Blues guitar against a tree and how it is like dying every night on stage. Dwayne B sang a bit, a blue song as a love song to his woman. Chris Wilson’s poem this time around was about his students and how he would kill their dreams by crushing them with the inspiration of creative writing. Chris August’s poem discussed how love and luck are not achieved by forwarding an email to friends and waiting; it’s achieved through actions and changes in behavior. Finally, Ms. Carter’s poem reflected on the justice system. She expressed the defense of death upon contact (DOC) due to self-preservation. A man laying his hands on her dies on contact, which makes it self-defense, and it saves taxpayers and the justice system millions because she does not fill out restraining orders and other paperwork; she takes matters into her own hands–so to speak.

Third Place this time around was Chris Wilson; second place was Chris August, and first place was Ms. Carter. One of these days I will have to find out her real name or at least her full name.

The only other tidbit from the Slam that I have for you is my hubby’s wonderful artwork, which garnered a bit of attention from the crowd and Delrica Andrews. He drew a Mickey Mouse for the first round and a strange, pierced poet for the second round. I think it made the judging much more interesting for him.

***Please feel free to enter the next National Poetry Month Contest here.

The Poetry Contest Winner Is…Another Contest Too!

My Aunt Ann. She will be receiving some love poems by Pablo Neruda, which are in English and Neruda’s native language.

I also want to alert you to the second contest for the month, again a volume of poetry. I may even email the winner with a choice of volumes from which they can choose their prize. We’ll see how many entries I get this time around.

Those interested, please either post an original poem or your favorite poem in the comments by April 25, and I will post the winner on April 26.

Unfortunately, my aunt is not allowed to grace us with her witty poems this time around since she already won a poetry volume. Even if you entered the last contest, please do enter again, with a different poem. Let’s Celebrate National Poetry Month.

Also for those interested, April 17 is Poem in Your Pocket day. If you choose to participate, you are to walk around with a poem in your pocket all day and periodically take it out and read it to friends and family or even co-workers throughout the day. I’ll let you know what poem I decide upon and what poem Anna chooses to share as well.

Mid-April Poetry and Literary Events

Every year since I can remember after moving to the D.C. area, I have attended the Bethesda Literary Festival. The events range from readings to fun activities for kids. I enjoy learning about the latest creations from local artists and authors and being exposed to new authors and poets. Please feel free to click on the link above for a schedule of this year’s events.

One of my favorite events will take place on April 18 at 8PM, The Poetry Slam. While I do not participate in the slam as a performance poet, I enjoy the works of the participants. My poetry is more the run of the mill reading or academic event poetry, rather than performance art. I really enjoy performance works and admire the artists that create them, but I guess I am not wired to create them myself. Probably because of my wallflower status for much of my life. I hope some of you blog readers will be in the area and will join me at this year’s slam. I even picked up a self-published book from one of the poet’s last year. I will have to locate it and post one of the poems in homage to this year’s National Poetry Month-30 ways to celebrate.

I will probably attend the following on Sat. April 19 as well:

11am – Distinguished Novelist

Hyatt Regency Bethesda

Join New York Times bestselling novelist, Alice Hoffman, as she discusses her newest book, The Third Angel, a novel that examines the lives of three women at different crossroads in their lives, tying their London-centered stories together in devastating retrospect.

12:30pm – The Government & The Media

Hyatt Regency Bethesda

Hear from Marvin Kalb, award-winning reporter for CBS and NBC News, former host of Meet the Press, currenthost of The Kalb Report and author of The Media and The War on Terrorism, as he explores the interaction between the government and the media during times of war and national emergency.

1-5pm – 15 th Annual Writer’s Center Small Press Fair

The Writer’s Center

Browse displays of literary journals and other publications by dozens of regional presses and literary organizations. The afternoon will include a used book appraisal, and a creative writing program for young children. For additional information, please visit www.writer.org.

2pm – White House Press Corps

Hyatt Regency Bethesda

Meet Helen Thomas, 47-year member of the White House Press Corps, first woman officer of the National Press Club, first woman president of the White House Correspondents Association and author of Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed The Public, as she speaks about her latest book and her career covering Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and G.W. Bush.

7pm – CakeLove

Heineman Myers Contemporary Art

Meet Warren Brown, owner of CakeLove and Love Café, host of Sugar Rush on the Food Network, and author of his first cookbook, Cakelove, as he discusses his entrepreneurial bakery business and how he has achieved success.

8pm – Sidesplitting Standup!
The Barking Dog

Come see DC Improv comedian Matt Kazam, who has appeared on Fox’s “Big Red Couch,” Comedy Central’s “Stand-Up Stand-Up,” VH-1’s “Fools For Love,” TLC’s “Two For Vegas” and The Discovery Channel’s “Lux List.” He has served as the opening act for such notable comedians as Chris Rock, Pauly Shore, Robin Williams and Drew Carey. Ages 21+.

Sunday, April 20, I will likely be attending these:

11am-1pm – Authors’ Reception
Barnes & Noble

You are invited to roam the aisles, chat with authors and have your books signed. Authors include: Ron Orol, Extreme Value Hedging; Melvin Goodman, Failure of Intelligence; Jennifer Allison, Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator;Jon and Beverly Meyerson, After the Glass Slipper; Kay Shaw Nelson, Art of Scottish American Cooking; Suzanne Mintz,A Family Caregiver Speaks Up: It Doesn’t Have to be this Hard; Harrine Freeman , How to Get Out of Debt; Susan Fraser King, Lady Macbeth; Con Lehane, Death at the Old Hotel; Toby Devens, My Favorite Midlife Crisis (Yet); Howard Eisner, Essentials of Project and Systems Engineering Management; John Dimes, Intracations and E. D. Baker, Wings: A Fairy Tale.

2pm – State of the Unions
Hyatt Regency Bethesda

Join Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist, Philip Dine, for a discussion of his recent book, State of the Unions, to explore what’s happening to American workers and the middle class, labor’s decline, and why a rejuvenated union movement could turn things around.

Many of the Children’s events are on Saturday and Sunday.

Please do not forget to enter the Poetry Book contest this month via the Welcome post, which has all the necessary rules and information.

Welcome to National Poetry Month…

Here it is, another April. In honor of April, I would like to invite everyone to share their favorite poem throughout the month here on my blog, and I would like to open the blog up to a contest.

Those interested in winning three volumes of poetry–sorry the authors will be a surprise–please leave a comment below. I will put the names in a hat and then draw the winner on April 15.

I will probably hold another contest for the end part of the month as well. I hope we can generate a lot more interest in National Poetry Month this year.

I will start off with this poem:

THE TIGER

by: William Blake (1757-1827)

      IGER, tiger, burning bright
      In the forests of the night,
      What immortal hand or eye
      Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
      In what distant deeps or skies
      Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
      On what wings dare he aspire?
      What the hand dare seize the fire?
      And what shoulder and what art
      Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
      And, when thy heart began to beat,
      What dread hand and what dread feet?
      What the hammer? What the chain?
      In what furnace was thy brain?
      What the anvil? What dread grasp
      Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
      When the stars threw down their spears,
      And water’d heaven with their tears,
      Did He smile His work to see?
      Did He who made the lamb make thee?
      Tiger, tiger, burning bright
      In the forests of the night,
      What immortal hand or eye
      Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Unfinished Business

No, not Poetry magazine again. This time a poem from Issue 44 of Columbia–a Journal of Literature and Art caught my attention. “A Death in the Snow” by Julianne Buchsbaum reminded me of all the to-do lists I have lying around, which may or may not get finished in my lifetime. Not only will these lists possibly live on without me, but I will also not be attached to them in any meaningful way after I have passed. “my list of things to do, leave it lying//in the snow like an old book/” I suppose I could put my name on these lists before I die, but what would that accomplish, except to raise more questions with the person finding them.

While the discoverer could simply shrug off questions as unanswerable, they could also be consumed with a compulsion to find the answers. Would I want to be responsible for that kind of obsession? Would I really incite that kind of devotion in another human being? Those too are unanswerable questions.

Instead, this poem forces me to take an introspective look at the reasons I make these lists. Do I make them simply because I cannot remember all that I want to accomplish or is it that I am too afraid to actually take the plunge and do some of the items on these lists? Right now, this poem unleashes an urge within me to burn, shred, and otherwise to destroy these lists so they can never be connected to me. I would rather everyone coming after I have passed to simply remember “Epitaphs covered with mold,/” A bit morbid I’m sure, but true. When we pass, unless someone cares for our graves throughout eternity, they will indeed be overgrown by nature, making the cycle complete.