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Poet Mom

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. ~Samuel Beckett

Updated: 2018-03-07T22:40:45.482-05:00


Tampa, baby!


I am 75% packed for the AWP Conference in Tampa next week. Why am I packed so early? It looks like it will be 80 degrees, and I need shoes!I’m a planner. More important,  I’m psyched for the trip! The suitcase becomes a visual reminder that I get to run away for a week and be with my poetry peeps!My involvement with AWP the organization has changed over the years. I vaguely remember the early days when it was based in Norfolk, VA at my alma mater Old Dominion University (late 80s). I *think* I may have even crossed paths with Executive Direction David Fenza way back when. My first conference was New Orleans-- probably not the best place for a first timer. All I remember is Pat O's.For the heck of it, I looked up the previous conferences. These are the ones I've attended.2002: New Orleans, Louisiana2003: Baltimore, Maryland*babies!*2007: Atlanta, Georgia2008: New York, New York2010: Denver Colorado2011: Washington, DC2013: Boston, Massachusetts2014: Seattle, Washington2015: Minneapolis, Minnesota2016: Los Angeles, California2017: Washington, DCTAMPA! I have a thing about attending Midwest conferences during the winter. That changed, of course, with Minneapolis.Atlanta was special. That year, I took my 9-month-old daughter, and it was the last time I spent time with Phebus Etienne. She passed away soon after. All of them have their own unique vibe. I can tell you chapter and verse about the weird joy-- the strange magic--of each conference.From MFA student, to novice writer, to emerging poet, to published author, to professor/exec director, to board member, it’s been quite a ride. My relationship with AWP has outlived my marriage, a few jobs, and my favorite pair of jeans.I approach every conference with a goal, otherwise the conference becomes overwhelming. Here's my plan:Map out my schedule the night beforeExercise early, like crack-of-dawn early (read: rooftop pool)30-minute freewrite, every damn dayPack provisions: extra cords and chargers, water bottle, pens, business cards, Kind bars, hand sanitizer, mints, tea bags.Go to at one session a day, at leastHit the book fair in the morning, when everyone is freshFind an hour of time midday to unplug/step in the sunFigure out where the bathrooms off the beaten path areGo to one or two off-sites in the eveningSay hi to EVERYONE!Don’t stay out too late (this will be hard)Saying hi to everyone is most important to me. What can I say? I crave connection, now more than ever.For the past two years, I’ve been so focused on board duties (because I want to do a good job), and Mass Poetry work (because I want to do a good job), that I didn’t do half of the things on this list last year or the previous year. Not this time.I will wrap up grading and Mass Poetry work before the conference (yahoo!), which is why my suitcase is packed one week in advance. Just one less thing to think about.If you see me in the halls or sessions or book fair, please say hello.See you in Tampa![...]

Confession Tuesday


I posted this pic a few weeks ago on Instagram and Twitter and it went viral (I own the photo), which is very cool. Nothing I do goes viral. Ever.


It's been a busy few weeks. Between planning for this year's Mass Poetry Festival, classes, and a few teaching gigs, I've been on the go. I have just enough work to do to make me feel stretched but not stresses. That's the right mix for me.


Did I mention I was a finalist for the Mass Cultural Council's Artist Fellowship? Woo hoo!


My son sprained his wrist during a basketball game this past weekend. Took a hard fowl. He's fine. Glad it's not broken. It's our first sports injury. Hope it's the last.


And my writing seems to be coming back on line. It's slow going, but I'm making an effort to write every opportunity I can. And I've been writing when my students write. Just that shift in priorities is making a difference.


We're at the one-month mark for AWP Tampa! I can't wait. In a few days, I will post my thoughts on how to survive the conference. Everyone has their own method for navigating the maze of writers and books. By the end, I'm always exhausted but grateful I made the effort to go. Being with my peeps means the world to me, and that's my priority. Check out the schedule. More to come.


In my local circle of writer friends, it seems as if they (we) are having various levels of success. I see them once a week and always someone has good news to share, no matter how small. What is it like in your neck of the woods? Do you have a writers' community, and if so, what's it like for your group? I will expand in a future post.


I've been slow to blog and even slower to respond. I need to schedule a weekly time to check out others on the blog tour. My apology for my slow response.


More poetry is needed.



This is me last Friday at the inauguration of Salem State's 14th president, John Keenan. I, along with EJ Calderon '18, were asked to write poems to commemorate the occasion.

Rewind to January 12, one week before the ceremony, when I was struggling to get the words on paper. If you've ever written or read an occasional poem, you know how difficult it can be to tap into the mood of the moment. Like many campuses, we've had our share of racial tension. And, I was working on this inspirational poem in the middle of Trump's "sh*thole" controversy. Ugh.

But with the help of a few close poet-friends, I wrote this poem, which is not perfect, but maybe it was (is) the right poem at the right time. (Read EJ Calderon's poem.)

Writing an inauguration poem wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Once I sat down to do it, I had a moment of clarity about my process: I am a procrastinator. I spend too much time worrying about time lost when I should except this is where I am and get on with it. And that's what I did. I wrote it in a day and took three more to revise. You can make the case that I had been writing it in my head all along, but pressure is part of my process. When the poem was done, I felt relieved in a "mission  accomplished" sort of way. Woo hoo!

The day itself was lovely; it was a nice break in the routine. Lots of pomp and circumstance. I've never seen the gym look so good! So many colleagues were there in the audience, along with the leadership from other colleges, government officials, alumni, and students. My hope is renewed as we move toward an environment of innovation and inclusiveness. I'm just grateful that my poem will a part of the school's history. 

(Read my poem "Legacy.")

Confession Tuesday


Happy Confession Tuesday!

(I confess I'm posting on Wednesday.)


Ella and I went swimming tonight (technically, last night). Those who know me know I am not a strong swimmer. I tell people that in an emergency, I could save myself but not anyone else. Fortunately, my kids are part fish--especially Ella, whose legs are sticking out of the water in the photo.

This year, I am trying get more comfortable in the water, so our plan is to go to the Y pool once a week while Alex, my son, is at basketball practice. Well, last night all of the shallow lanes were in use for the youth synchronized swim team--they literally looked like a school of fish bobbing in unison. Ella and I swam in the deep end. As soon as I jumped in to the 7' lane, I knew I still had a long way to go to be completely comfortable in water.

Nothing bad happened. I didn't struggle or drown, but I also didn't swim freestyle. And it was clear I can't dog-paddle. I'm most comfortable swimming on my back, but the thought of 1) not being able to see underwater (won't open my eyes) and 2) not being able to touch the bottom made me feel vulnerable and downright foolish. But we stayed. I swam with a kick board most of the time while my daughter swam freestyle in the 10' lane like a champ. 

Now, I've always lived by the water. Can't imagine living without water to my left. But, I carry those stereotypical fears that African-Americans have about swimming. I'm glad my kids don't have the same hangups.

Ella and I will be back at the pool next week. She loves it and doesn't mind swimming in winter. There are enough YouTube videos for me to learn a basic stroke and practice in the pool. Each time I'm in the water, I get a little more comfortable working muscles that never see the light of day. Here's hoping that by years end, I'm able to swim freestyle to the other side.

Confession Tuesday


Happy Tuesday, folks!

This is a picture from last Friday's  bomb cyclone. The bombogenesis left us with 15" of snow--a respectable amount for New England's first major snowstorm of the new year. Fortunately we did not lose power from the high winds. We did, however, gain two snow days, also known as two days I should have been more productive but wasn't.


Woke up yesterday and today at 3 a.m. with that feeling of dread. Usually occurs when I have work do to and I don't want to do it, even when I know getting it done will make my life infinitely better. Hate that feeling. Hate not sleeping even more.


My campus goes back to school after the MLK Jr. holiday. So this week is about getting organized, doing my class prep, and fitting in some fun activities just for me. My desk looks the same as last week. Ugh.


I have not written any poems (maybe a few fits and starts here and there). But, I'm looking at drafts from 2017 to see what I want to bring into 2018 as completed poems. And, as you can see, I do have some blog posts under my belt. That counts as writing. I'm not completely creatively dead inside.


The biggest thing I can do for myself is not be too hard on myself. I was super-productive in my 30s and early 40s. Now, the hunger I had is just not there. I've always overproduced, yet these days I'm much more interested in conserving my energy for the long hall. Is it just a matter of getting older, or do I have more things to think about and less brain space? Maybe it's winter? All of the above?

I'm fascinated by the nature of creativity. Hoping to schedule a little more time to read about productivity, motivation, and how creatives stay creative.

What's your top tip for keeping the creative juices flowing?

Confession Tuesday


2018 is the year I question everything I have taken for granted. I’m trying to be as honest and open as possible.


Here's something I really shouldn't confess. This is my writing desk. I should take a fire hose and rinse it all away. I haven't used it as an actual writing space in years. It still functions as a work space, just not a writing space, and certainly not one that inspires. But I will take clean it off and post a picture next week.

I'm all FREAKED OUT about this super storm that's supposed to hit on Thursday. I'm used to lots of snow. I live in New England, after all. But the threat of high winds and snow and power outages scare me to no end.


Just before Christmas our Guinea pig passed away. Her name was S'mores and she was sweet! She stayed at a friend's house while we were out of town, but she became ill, I guess. Details are sketchy.  The kids and I took her to the vet but by then it was too late. I miss hearing the random rattling from the cage, and her penchant for snuggling close to my neck. She was 5 years old, I think. You can never be sure with Guinea pigs.


I confess, I'm happy to be sharing my secrets again. Thanks, Blog Tour, for giving me the push. When I’m in a blogging groove, it’s like telling your best friend all your secrets as soon as they happen. That’s how it was this past Sunday morning. It was early. I blogged, and wanted to write a week’s worth of posts in a few hours. I want that feeling to stick around. Maybe it’s flow. I hope.

Poetry Action Plan 2018


Next year will be 10 years of the Poetry Action Plan! Even in the years when I didn’t think it would help, it did.

A Poetry Action Plan, or PAP, is a road map for how to think about your writing life. There are four steps to creating a plan. To sum it up:

  1. Define your goals. What is most important to you as a writer.
  2. Be realistic about what can you achieve.
  3. Track your progress.
  4. Prepare for setbacks BUT be open to opportunities wherever they appear.

And if I had to add a fifth step, I’d say don’t be too hard on yourself for not accomplishing a goal.

Last year, after dealing with the death of my ex-husband at the end of 2016, I was just trying to stay above water. We were used to our little system of pick ups and drop offs. And while I never thought I had enough time, I really missed (and still miss), the balance of another parent, for everything from child care to having another voice in the room. But I managed, somehow, to get a few things done.

Some tasks could have done better. Even though I veered off my list (see Stress List), I still had a pretty good year (see Brag List).

My 2017 List:

  • Write a poem a week: I wrote 45 poems. It happened in spurts when I wrote a poem a day. Many of them are trash, so quality does not equal quantity.
  • Send out a submission once a week. I did not submit one poem in 2017. Not. One. (Here’s where being kind to myself matters.)
  • Only take on writing projects that have meaning for me. This I did do, and I think the quality of the projects I took on made a difference. I don’t have to accept every offer that comes my way. Makes a real difference when deciding how best to spend my time.
  • Yoga! Nope. (Y’know, yoga has been on my list for two years. I think I should take it off and op for something else.)

What works best for me are some hard and squishy goals. I do better with hard numbers and some that are more subjective.

In 2018, I will:

  • Write a poem a week. Even if I write in them in batches, it’s still a good goal to have.
  • Submit to eight top-tier journals. I’m swinging for the rafters. Now I thought about submitting to a new journal a week but I'm going for quality over quantity. 
  • Help my third book find a wider audience. Rewilding will be released in November, so I’m starting marking and promotion now. The real challenge comes from not overextending myself. I need to find new opportunities, which makes the whole process worthwhile. Otherwise, it’s not worth it to be away from my family.
  • Swim! 
If you're curious, here's my PAPs for 2017 and 2016.

Good luck with your PAP!

Brag List


In my last post, I looked at my stress points. This list is all gravy. Much of 2017 felt like an assault on all the social constructs I’d come to believe in. But my love of poetry grew in a way I didn’t think was possible. While there were those in the public sphere who questioned the very concept of truth, I leaned into words deeper than I ever have. I taught them. I wrote them. I fought for them. I believed in them. Still do. This my core and it is rock solid.So I’m going to brag about the things I did to deepen my connection to words—in a year when I barely published a poem. If you’re feeling like 2017 was a year when you got nothing done, make your own list and leave your link in the comments. I bet you'll be surprised at how much you actually accomplished. I wrote 45 poems in 2017. That’s around the number I average per year, but this year I liked fewer poems. That’s unusual. Most likely, I'll revise fewer than half. I will carry the survivors into 2018 to see if they are worth publishing.Of the few places I published, here’s a quick roundup:Poetry Foundation/American Life in Poetry “Sunday” Mom Egg, “Poet-Inauguration”Renga for Obama. I worked with Maine Poet Laureate Wesley McNair to add our lines to the renga chain (See April 8).My poem, “Old South Meeting House,” originally written for the Academy of American Poets to celebrate 100 Years of the National Park Service, was included in a Boston anthology City of Notions.My poem “The Rookie,” originally published by Prairie Schooner, will be part of a sports anthology edited by the beautiful and talented Natalie Diaz.An acceptance to Plume, poem to be published in February. This ancient video of me in the P.O.P. series was published.Last year, I attended a poetry event at the White House (… when my president was in office. *ahem*). This year, I visited the Library of Congress, and attended the Pulitzer Prize luncheon to see Tyehimba Jess received his award for Olio. Another successful Mass Poetry Festival, and looking ahead to the festival’s 10th year. (woo hoo!)Through Mass Poetry, my connection to the Poetry Coalition has buoyed me in a way I never expected. This alliance of more than 20 nonprofit poetry organizations in 10+ cities working together to raise the profile of poets and poetry in the U.S. We met this past November in Tucson and Phoenix, and in addition to creating the 2018 theme (poetry and the body), we attended a once-in-a-lifetime reading with Rita Dove, Joy Harjo, and Sandra Cisneros, hosted by Natalie Diaz. *Magic.* Incredibly proud to work on the boards of AWP and Montserrat College of Art. I’m grateful to these institutions for letting me be a part of the conversation nationally and locally.Another year of teaching at Salem State. I hope I’m making a difference with my students, one poem at a time.And three items for the future file:  I’m currently writing a poem for Salem State University’s new president to read in a few weeks at his Inauguration.My next book, Rewilding, will be published in November 2018, CavanKerry Press.And one REALLY COOL LIFECHANGING THING that I can’t talk about publicly for a while. Yeah, I know. Sorry for the vague-plaining. But it is very super cool and unexpected and mum's the word, kinda sorta. All in all, not a bad year. Not bad at all. And in December, I started blogging again. Woo hoo!Bottom Line: My Brag List is much longer (and stronger) than my Stress List![...]

Stress List


Well, it’s the end of the year, and like 2016, I think we should burn 2017 and watch the ashes blow away in the wind.

2016 was an awful year for me personally, but 2017 was a terrible year politically and culturally. This new administration has shown itself to be particularly cruel and lacking empathy (not to mention unqualified); I can’t tell you how much this ether influenced my writing this year.

But this post in not about the people running the country (#resist, #ImStillWithHer). This post about a better approach to 2018.

I was so moved by Carolee’s post and her Poetry Action Plan (PAP), that I really wanted to make mine count. So, before I post my list, I want to review two aspects of this year as I look forward to the New Year: 1) what stresses me out, and 2) what I did well. Today I’ll focus on the first.

What Stresses Me Out
I tend to make the same mistakes with my time. Too much of it spent on social media, watching TV, cleaning my house, etc., but not enough time writing. Sadly, it’s so routine it’s turned into a habit. Self-sabotage. I used to have mantras that would keep me going, but even my little motivating phrases weren't enough to push me to do the things I didn’t want to do. So I made a Stress List (read: what stresses me out!). It’s purposely narrowed to work-related items that keep me unmotivated and unproductive.

My Stress List
  1. Grading. What teacher doesn’t wish the papers would grade themselves? This semester, I just couldn’t keep up. But that’s bad planning on my part. I must put butt in chair and finish when I say I’m going to finish. 
  2. Not completing tasks when I say I’m going to complete them. I’m not being realistic about completing projects. Sometimes I overpromise and underdeliver. And I take on more than I can handle. Must. Stop. Doing. That. 
  3. Saying yes instead of no. I’m getting better at turning down projects I don't want to do, but still not quite there yet. 
  4. Stressing out about stressing out. I spend more time thinking about what I need to do rather than doing the thing—and THAT REALLY STRESSES ME OUT. Seriously, it keeps me up at night.

With this list, I can break down each numbered point and get specific about what tasks are stressors. I won’t post those. But this will give you the framework under which I seek to fix—which will ultimately become part of my PAP.

There are personal habits I need to reestablish: Writing a to-do list at night, exercising, reading a half-hour before bed, going to bed at a reasonable hour, and getting up early to write. Those things will come. The Stress List, however, is a good accounting of the root problems holding me back, and a road map to what I need to address in 2018.

Next up: A Brag List, or what I did well in 2018.

2018 Revival Tour


We're getting the band back together!We're back, baby!Thanks to Kelli Russell Agodon and Donna Voyerrer for jumpstarting our blogging tour de force. First, the list of participants as of 12/27. (Kelli, thanks for the graphic.)Kelli Russell Agodon-   Donna Vorreyer –  Carolee Bennett – Biddinger – Dave Bonta –  http://vianegativa.usJim Brock Angela T Carr Crammond  Kate Debolt – Derr-Smith –   Risa Denenberg – Eickstead Jeannine Hall Gailey  – Erin Hollowell – TTrish Hopkinson Hudgens  https://jenniferelhudgens.wordpress.comCatherine Hume: Ignatowski – Jensen – Olivia Koester – – thiswinterheart.tumblr.comCourtney LeBlanc –   Lorena P Matejowsky   Ann Michael – www.annemichael.wordpress.comAmy Miller – Moore –  LouAnn Sheperd Muhm – Gill O’Neill  – .  Shawnte Orion Rich – .Sarah Russell – https://sarahrussellpoetry.netMartha Silano: Staiger – Stephenson – http://thestorialist.comStephanie Lane Sutton athenasleepsin.wordpress.comChristine Swint –   Dylan Tweney – Allyn Wells:****Next: Why am I blogging again?It's more than nostalgia; although, nostalgia is a great motivator. Back in 2006 when I had two young kids and the Internet was young(ger), blogging was my lifeline. I would not have published my first book without the community of poets and writers encouraging me along the way. And, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed writing about new topics on a regular basis.At some point, it became a grind.This tour comes at a great time. My life is so busy that I am excited to make space for blogging. Lately, I've felt as if I've lost the ability to look forward, to wonder. Does that make sense? I lost that when I stopped blogging. Writing without limitations was an important part of my creativity, and I lost that when I stopped posting on a regular basis. It shows in nearly all of the poems I wrote in 2017.This is a chance for me to reconnect with writers I love while recapturing a part of myself.So, be on the lookout for all the blogs listed above--and this one. More to come. Stay tuned, dear reader.[...]

Confession Tuesday


 This note card is a piece of art that I bought a few years ago at a local street fair. It sits on my desk, hidden. For the longest time I didn't wait my kids to notice the swear words.

They're older now so I don't mind so much if they notice, but I like this little flow chart reminder of "Who's Bad."


Michael Jackson passed in 2009. Wow.


A few days ago on Twitter, some former and current bloggers started talking about the good-old blogging days. In our heyday, we would blog daily about poetry, our writing process, book reviews--same topics we're interested in today. Life got in the way.

For me, blogging became a weight. Once I started teaching, I just didn't have the energy or brain space to come up with new topics, raise a family, and keep a writing career going. My posts became shorter and less frequent. And let's face it, Blogger is not the most dynamic platform for self expression.

Ever since that conversation, it sounds as if a few bloggers may be jumping back into the fray. We miss the camaraderie. So I'm hopeful that by January 1, we'll be back to blogging in full force, at least for a brief time. Some of my best writing was created for this blog. I'd like to return to a regular blogging practice. I miss looking for new things to write about. Anticipation and surprise are missing in my writing; will blogging help me get it back?


I'm in denial about having a little cold before Thanksgiving. Better this week than next when I'll be traveling to the Poetry Coalition's annual meeting. Hate traveling while sick.


As with every November, I started writing a poem a day. And as with every November, I quickly got off track. I did write and revise a few poems, which I'm happy about. Not sure if I'll keep any of them but at least I put pen to paper a few times. Small victories.


"And the whole world has to answer right now just to tell you once again who's bad."


Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Happy Birthday, Alex!


Today my son turns 14! 

Alex is an amazing young man; I am so very proud to be his mother! Hard to believe he was just an idea, that there was a time when he was not on this earth. But like all children, he teaches me on a daily basis how to be a better person. Deep brown eyes, joyous smile, more energy than our house can contain. Basketball is is girlfriend--thank goodness. I, for one, am glad that girls are not yet in the picture, and that his sister is his best friend. It's been a difficult year, but we're in a better place, and Alex is thriving.

How lucky am I to share this brilliant human being with the world. How lucky am I!

Confession Tuesday


This is the view of my orchid at the new window in my newly remodeled kitchen! Maybe I'll post pictures in the future. But the kitchen remodel took up nearly most of the summer. I'm glad it's done. The room looks beautiful--trust me.


I am back to blogging. I've been away too long and, believe it or not, I missed it. I missed weekly posting. I missed confessing. It's taken me a very long time to do something about all of things needing updates. Seems to be a running theme in my life.

What do you think of the new Poet Mom look? Still formatting. More updates soon.


After a difficult year, I can report that the kids and I are doing well. How is it possible that the children get older and I get younger? Hmmmm ...


My writing has been hit or miss. Haven't written much of anything recently. But there are projects and opportunities before me that I can only read as signs. Feels like the larger world is asking me to participate again. Participate and be present Can't stay in my little cave forever. The poems will come, and, for me, blogging is a big part of idea generation. I'll talk about my writing process in a future post.


Trump as president hasn't helped my writing any. Not. One. Bit. It's been hard to focus these last few months because I'm constantly vacillating between fear and dread. I miss the Obama days.



Anyway, it's good to be back. Blogging is so 2007. Yet, there's a certain freedom to putting your words in the world without worrying so much about where they will land. This space is for me.

January Gill O'Neil, P.O.P


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Confession Tuesday


Time to "Poet Up," as Bruno Mars says. Time for confessions.****This artwork is from an exhibit at the ICA Boston. Recognize the phrase?****I don't know how I'm going to get through inauguration week. This morning I went on Facebook and finally read this article on what books President Obama reads. Ugh. Then the tears came. Maybe it's dawning on me that our eight years with the Obama family are ending, and that the sense of optimism about where the country was going culturally and economically is gone. I don't hear anyone cheering, especially on the conservative side. I'm saddened that we're losing a president who really cares about books. And if you care about books, then I have to believe you have an expanded and open world view. You believe we can't get by on the backs of others. You can think critically. You believe in reason and science. Trump doesn't get it. As an educator starting classes this week, I worry that we will slide backwards as a nation. All of the progress we've made with Women's Rights, LGBTQ issues, people with disabilities, immigration--you name it, it's all going away. For me, that's translated to a certain degree of stability in the classroom. When I stand in front of my students to say everything will be OK, I'm lying. ****The week after Trump was elected, kids in my son's middle school told him and his friend (who is Filipino) that they will be deported. So don't tell me that things aren't changing,****I'm ready to #resist, but I do so while grieving the loss of the current administration. Don't even get me started on Michelle Obama. I'll save that for tomorrow. *sigh*****Courage before comfort. #resist[...]

Poetry Action Plan 2017


Creating a Poetry Action Plan (PAP) is simple:

  • Define your goals
  • Be realistic about what can be achieved
  • Track your progress
  • Prepare for setbacks BUT be open to opportunities

Unfortunately, my 2016 plan went up in flames.

Even though nothing went according to plan, I swear by this way of thinking. I’m a goal-oriented person. The older I get, the more intentional I am about how I spend my time. More important, none of us knows what will happen with the new administration. I have to stay connected to what's important to me.

I don’t have any idea how artists will be called upon. I worry about federal funding sources for creatives drying up. I worry about poets, writers, artists, and adjuncts—those of us who don’t make a ton of money—losing out on vital services and resources. I’m holding onto the idea, however, that taking care of myself and my writing life will help bolster me in all parts of my life. If I can balance my energy and resources, I should have enough for the people in my life and my community to do whatever I am called on to do.

That being said, here’s how I did in 2016:

This exercise forced me to take a good hard look at what I accomplisheded in 2016, and what I hope to do for the New Year.

In 2016, I ...

  1. Found a home for my next book. CavanKerry Press will publish Rewilding in 2018!
  2. Publish in journals and magazines regularly. Mixed success.
  3. Continue to support Misery Islands. I guess I did this. Even through my most difficult time, I continues to do readings and take on projects.
  4. Take up yoga. Yoga? What's that?

I’m being too hard on myself because I did go to The White House.


In 2017, I will:

  1. Write a poem a week. I’ve written four. So far, so good.
  2. Send out a submission once a week. Haven’t sent out anything yet.
  3. Only take on writing projects that have meaning for me. I am trying to be more selective about how I spend my time.
  4. Yoga!

Here are my past plans for 2015 and 2016.

Good luck creating your Poetry Action Plan for 2017!

Confession Tuesday


If it's Tuesday in 2017, then it's time to confess.

Thought I would start with a picture of the kids.

Alex is now 13 and Ella is 11. This photos was taken outside of the World of Coke in Atlanta. Yes, there's a World of Coca-Cola. It's delicious. We especially like the tasting room where you can try Coke products from around the world. And yes, Beverly from Italy still takes like fizzy nail polish remover. Never ceases to amaze ...


The kids are back at school, which mean my vacation starts today! WOO HOO!


Public journaling--specifically, blogging--forces me to think about what I will say or do next. What am I teeing up for tomorrow? Where will I put my energy? What is worth sharing? That's what I missed in most of 2016. Maybe it has to do with energy and the lack thereof, but I just wasn't looking ahead beyond the next set of tasks. By December, everything felt like an obligation. Everything was due; therefore, nothing was important.

So blogging is an attempt to gain some perspective and figure out what excites me. Where do I want to put my energy next?

Today, the answer to that question is writing poem #2 for the year.


I'm hopeful that I'll continue to blog regularly, but I can be fickle.


Right now, I'm sitting in Starbucks on a rainy morning, and listening to "Cloudbusting" by Kate Bush.

Goodbye, 2016.


Now what?

2016 was a totally f*ck*ed-up year. Sorry. No other way to say it. So many deaths, personally and publicly. Not to mention the death of our democracy.

For much of the year I have been silent on the blog. It wasn't bringing me joy. It felt like work. And after 10 years, who was reading?

Then, in August, my former husband, the father of my kids, passed away unexpectedly. We've had illnesses and deaths in my extended family as well. The fall was tough. Didn't feel like writing, much less writing poetry. I tried to keep all the trains on the track: family, teaching, po biz. Didn't sleep much. I won't spend too much time breaking down my feelings. I don't need to. Not today.

And the election. OMFG! Can't believe we didn't elect the most qualified person, who *happens* to be a woman, to the highest office in the land. I'm still in shock. #ImStillWithHer Now this I will probably blog about around the election.

Today, I am here because we are ending 2016 and I landed nowhere near my goals. I wrote 12 poems in 2016. Most years I average closer to 50 poems.

I am here because I'm trying to keep myself from completely falling into a sinkhole of despair by making some changes. I'm remember all of the good things that happened in 2016. And there were a lot. I'm remembering what it meant to feel fully myself, when I was in touch and in tune with everything. I'm stepping back in the flow and I believe blogging might help me get there.

What changed my mind? Time off helps. But what I found during this period is that I stopped noticing the world. Blogging helps me think about what I should talk about next. Writing a poem a day will do the same thing. So my goal is to do both, start up with the blog with a few posts a week while writing a poem a day in January.

In 2017, I want to undo my narrative and create a new one. I'll have to evaluate at every turn. While I am grateful for anyone who who reads my blog, I write for myself. I mean, if you are reading, it really is a happy accident, because there are those who do it better and with more consistency. The Poet Mom blog itself needs an overhaul. I need an overhaul.

I am here because I am suiting up like the characters in every Marvel superhero movie. 2017 will be hard for creatives and for the most vulnerable in our population. I feel a layer of armor hardening over my skin. We will be called upon in ways I can't imagine yet. And I want to be ready for anything.

2017, I am ready. Bring. It.

Confession Tuesday


I confess. I miss posting on Tuesdays.

Until June, I had not written a poem since November 2015. Now, for a while I did not want to write. Then, I was too tired to write while planning the festival. And when I finally wanted to write, I had a hard time getting started. Lots of doubts and old insecurities reading their ugly mugs.

Here’s what’s gotten me out of my funk:

  1. Clearing some of the clutter—physical and mental—from my life. From finding a home for my book collection to pushing back on some commitments, making some adjustments to my priorities has made all the difference.
  2. Create breathing space. With the school year ended, I was able to clear my schedule. That helped a great deal.
  3. Getting back into some old habits. I’m eating and sleeping better, and exercising more. Baby steps. 
  4. Trying new things. At the beginning of May, I sought the advice of a dear friend to help me set a new course. So far, with some adjustments, her advice has pushed me into uncharted waters. Now it’s up to me to continue the work.

Maybe the biggest lesson I’ve learned has to do with balancing my time. In late spring, I worked really hard to get my schedule under control. But that schedule doesn’t work for me now. Seems I tended to put my creativity into one- or two-hour time slots, fitting it in whenever I could. But I’m happiest when I can give myself long blocks of uninterrupted time. I mean, if my creative life is the most important thing to me, then my schedule needs to reflect that. So I am devoting my mornings to writing. Chores and email can wait. Also, this is when the kids have camps and activities outside of the home—perfect time for me to write and revise.

As for my blog, it’s due for an update, but for now I will post at least twice a week. This is me attempting to revive an old habit for a new purpose.

CSI Poetry


This is both morbid and fascinating. The causes of death of 239 poets across six centuries were examined and put into an infographic. Discuss.

CSI: Poetry. The life and death -ok just death- of poets

Raining Poetry


No one is more surprised than me about the popularity of Mass Poetry's Raining Poetry project. This video, produced by New York Magazine, has 20 million views and counting!

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While I did not organize this project, I couldn't be happier about its success. Who knew that putting invisible poems around the city would elicit such a reaction? Poetry in the public sphere. Maybe folks like the surprise of it, or they like encountering art rather than going to it. It rained this morning, so I hope more people were able to see the art on Memorial Day all over Boston.

Where are the poems right now?

Langston Hughes - Dudley Square (by Dudley Square Cafe)
Gary Duehr - Upham's Corner (by The Strand)
Barbara Helfgott Hyett - Roslindale (by Adams Park)
Elizabeth McKim - Hyde Park (by the Library)

More poems are coming! Find out more about Raining Poetry.

And DONATE, so we can add more poems to our rainy-day collection.

Hello, it's me.


I'm here at my favorite perch in Starbucks.

Hello. It's been a while--long enough for me to miss my blog! There have been many times I had thought about writing: my reading with Ross Gay, AWP, Mass Poetry Fest. But it wasn't until the passing of Prince did I need another way to express myself. So there is a Prince post brewing. It's only been a few weeks yet it feels raw, like it happened yesterday.


The last few months have been both joyous and exhausting. Work, in general, has been overwhelming. Some of it was my doing. With any luck I will finish my spring semester grading today or tomorrow, and then I will have the summer to chillax. (That's right, I said chillax!)

I felt as if I've been off track and off course. I let the day-to-day stuff overwhelm me. I wasn't as proactive as I usually am. At one point, I stopped making a to-do list because if everything's a priority, nothing is a priority. I feel it in my neck muscles and the restless nights of sleep. The weeks are catching up with me. Thank goodness for spring and its renewal.


Since the festival, however, I have made steps to find a bit of balance. I'm going back to the gym and starting to write again. Haven't written a poem in six months. It started out as a choice not to write poems, but then it became something I eliminated from my schedule to save time. I know better.

Even writing this blog post feels pure, something for myself. I miss writing for myself.


The kids are great. Life is good. The temp is above 70 degrees. There's a shift back to the positive. I'm at Starbucks having a venti hot chocolate. What could be better?

This weekend, I'm attending the Morning Gardens retreat. The last time I attended, I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron. This past weekend for Mothers Day, the kids and I saw Captain America: Civil War. Something about Marvel and Morning Gardens equal my unofficial start of summer.


As for the blog, it needs an overhaul. That will happen over the summer. For now, this is enough.

January O'Neil and Ross Gay at SSU


Hope you can join us!

January O'Neil and Ross Gay
March 24, 7:30 p.m. in the Metro Room, Ellison Campus Center, Salem State University.

The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor


My poem, "What Love Cannot Do," was chosen for The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor. It was posted on February 2, Groundhog Day!

What an honor. Here's the link one more time:

Poetry Action Plan 2016


Honestly, I wasn't going to do a plan this year. I mean, 2015 was a pretty good year. Still, I haven't felt very goal-oriented lately (so unlike me!). But then this one posted hers, so I said, well, I need to do this.

So thanks, Carolee, for pulling me (part-way) out of my funk.

This exercise forced me to take a good hard look at what I accomplished in 2015, and what I hope to do for the New Year.

In 2015, I ...:

  1. Supported Misery Islands, which continues to  receive good reviews and reach new audiences. My book also received the Massachusetts Book Award and a Paterson Award in Literary Excellence.
  2. Wrote 76 poems (I think it was 76) 
  3. Joined the board of AWP
  4. Became actively involved in poetry advocacy with a consortium of poetry organizations focused on broadening the audience for poetry. (More to come)
What didn't I do in 2015? I did not work on my Juno poems. Admittedly, I didn't have the heart for it. As I involve myself deeper into academic life, I am less motivated to work on projects--too many committee meetings. For an artist, this busy work is exactly the opposite of what I should be doing. I need to put my head down and get to work.

To paraphrase author David Brooks, I don't have my loves in order.

So in 2016, I will:

  1. Find a home for my next book
  2. Publish in journals and magazines regularly. I'm hoping to up my game and publish in more top-tier places. You know which ones. 
  3. Continue to support Misery Islands. It's only been out for 14 months but it feels like it's been out forever. Maybe because I've been supporting it forever. I have to think about how to expand its the audience while making the process fun for me. 
  4. Take up yoga. Yoga? Yes, yoga! I've wanted to do this for a while and I think it will open up new modes of thinking. 

  FYI, here are my goals for 2014 and 2015.

So February is here. Not begins the process of getting my loves in order.