Monday, October 09, 2017

your radioactive annogram

See Instagram time line
What’s all this about plutonium? The development of the first man-made element seventy-five years ago was no less than “the dream of medieval alchemists: transmuting lead into gold,” reflects the New York Times. Its little-known history forms the bottom narrative of Free Ferry, and a time line I created on Instagram which shares cringe-worthy moments—such as the unexpected spill of the world’s only plutonium.

Free Ferry Reading at Fordham – Rose Hill

I will read from Free Ferry Wednesday, October 11, as part of a celebration honoring a scientist who synthesized the first man-made element, plutonium. A professor of chemistry at Fordham, he will be remembered with tributes from family members, former students, and science professors. The event, which will be live-streamed, will take place 2:30-5:30pm in Flom Auditorium in the Walsh Library on the Rose Hill Campus, and a reception will follow.

Convergence of the Humanities and Sciences at CCNY

On Wednesday, October 18 at 4pm, I will be reading from Free Ferry at a Roundtable Discussion Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Plutonium at CCNY.  Hosted by Dean of Science Tony Liss, the event will feature Philosophy Professors Elise Crull and Massimo Pigliucci, History Professor Danian Hu, and CCNY Dean of Humanities and Sciences Erec Koch.  The conversation, which will take place in The Rifkind Room, NAC 6/316, at 160 Convent Avenue in Manhattan, will be followed by a reception.

Alison McBain Interview

Alison McBain
Thanks to Alison McBain who interviewed me on her blog.  Alison is a widely published writer, poet, and book reviewer for Bewildering Stories, where she will review Free Ferry next month. It was a pleasure to read with Alison at the Stamford Arts Festival this past summer. You can hear Alison read flash fiction this Friday, October 13, at 7pm at the Best Video Film and Culture Center in Hamden, CT. 

The Anglican Auden

Think you know Auden, eh? If you don’t know his passion for preserving his Anglican roots, then you are missing the whole picture. Poet J. Chester Johnson has filled in the gaps in Auden, the Psalms and Me (Church Publishing, 2017).

WH Auden  (1907-1973) at Oxford
The Episcopal Church, updating its Book of Common Prayer in the late 60s, invited Auden to help retranslate the Psalms. When Auden had to give up this role upon his return to England, he wrote Johnson, his replacement, a memorable few letters. That’s the leaping-off point of this book which also gives a refreshing explanation of biblical poetic devices.

Johnson will discuss Auden, the Psalms and Me on Thursday, October 19, 6:30pm, at the Church of Heavenly Rest; Sunday, October 29, 2pm, at Poets House, with commentary by Cornelius Eady; and Tuesday, November 28, 6:30pm, at the Culture Center, with an introduction by Phillis Levin.

Laurel Peterson
Poets in Conversation

Join me at the Norwalk Library on November 2 at 7pm for the Poets in Conversation Series hosted by Norwalk Poet Laureate Laurel Petersen.  Poet Robert Masterson and I will read, discuss the writing life, and take audience questions. Thanks to Laurel for this great opportunity!

Sunday with George at the J

Come hear me read at the Sunday with George Poetry Series at the JCC on the Hudson October 29 at 1:30pm. I am honored to join superb local poets Michael Carman, Susana Case, Ruth Handel, Ann Lauinger, Loretta Oleck, Natalie Safir, Michelle Seaman, Meredith Trede, and Estha Weiner. Our last reading together was extraordinary—so our host, poet and translator George Kraus, is putting the band back together again!

Creative opportunities

Miller Oberman
LINES + STARS call for work on the theme “Inheritance”


The Ocotillo Review seeks / pays for short fiction, poetry, flash fiction and narrative nonfiction


Jessica Hendry Nelson on Essay Associated: The Modern Lyric, October 11, 6pm, Slonim House, Sarah Lawrence

The Art of the Line with Carla Carlson, Sarah Lawrence Writing Institute, Tuesdays Oct. 14-Nov. 14, $450

Enjoying Poetry with Ruth Handel, Scarsdale Adult School, Tuesdays, Oct. 24-Dec.5, $180

Miller Oberman on Writing in the Ruins: The Poet as Translator, October 19, 2pm, Slonim House, Sarah Lawrence


HVWC, Submission Sundays, open to HVWC members; contact HVWC for info

New releases

Auden, the Psalms and Me (Church Publishing) by J. Chester Johnson

Palindrome (Dos Madres Press) by Pauletta Hansel

Studied Days (Dos Madres Press) by Richard Hague

Lynne's Spiced Pumpkin Soup

You may have seen this here before but this time of year demands a reprint! This delicious recipe is from The New Laurel's Kitchen, sort of a Joy of Cooking for vegetarians.

1 small pumpkin (about 10 cups diced)
3 carrots
3/4 tsp. black mustard seed
1/4 to 1/2 c. veggie broth
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. each turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, ginger
3/4 c. powdered or regular skim milk
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. salt

Peel and chop pumpkin and carrots, and simmer in water to cover until tender. Toward end of cooking, heat nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add mustard seeds. Cover pan and keep over medium-high heat until popping of seeds begins to die down, then immediately add 1/4 c. broth or more as needed, and onion; reduce heat. Cook and stir until onion is translucent. Measure spices while onion cooks; stir into the mixture and cook on low heat for a minute until fragrant. Turn into pumpkin pot, using a cup of cooking water to rinse spice pan into soup pot. Use hand-blender to puree seasoned pumpkin and carrots in their cooking liquid, adding milk, honey and salt to taste. Makes 10 cups. 

Poetry readings / literary or artistic events

Pete’s, October 13, 7pm, Ben Gantcher, Karen Hildebrand, Susan Miller

Henri deToulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
Byram Shubert Library, October 14, 3pm, "Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Context," Beth Gersh-Nesic, register here

The Room, October 14, 7pm, Rachel Coonce, Dustin Renwick, Evyan Roberts, Michael Salcman

The Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum, October 16, 3pm, Jana Prikryl

Scarsdale Library, October 19, 7pm, Estha Weiner and other Westchester Review poets

HVWC, Open Mic, October 20, 7:30pm, Michael Collins

Joseph-Beth Booksellers, October 24, 7pm, Robert Collins, Richard Hague

National Arts Club, October 24, Billy Collins, Aracelis Girmay, Major Jackson, Ada Limón, Jim Moore, Marilyn Nelson, Katha Pollitt, Poetry in Motion benefit, $260  

Graduate Center at CUNY, the Skylight Room, October 31, 6:30pm, Victor Hernández Cruz

Katonah Village Library, November 5, 4pm, Carla Funk, $10

'Round the Net

Memoirist Sarah Bracey White on the big welcome she received on her hometown book tour

Art Historian Beth Gersh-Nesic for curating the Bosom Bodies Exhibit, benefiting SISTAAH

Bosom Bodies artist Clarity Haynes with curator Beth Gersh-Nesic

Poet Gary Glauber for work in The Bees Are Dead and Sheila-Na-Gig

Artist Kathe Gregory on her first open studio, October 14 and 15, noon-6pm, at Midway Studios

Main Street Rag Press for offering an advanced sale price for Of Burgers and Barrooms

The New York Public Library for its staff picks for October

The Pedestal Magazine for its war issue

Poet and artist Linda Simone for sharing San Antonio’s “Human Library” concept

University Professors Press for my poem, “Trackside Commissary,” in the anthology Silent Screams

So excited to read Free Ferry at Fordham and City College in a few days! I am grateful to see the story work on and draw in new readers.  Many of you have emailed me specific praise, and if you could share your feedback on Amazon, that would be a welcome gift in this my birthday month.

Happy autumn, everyone—leaves are just turning here in New York and we hope crisper temperatures follow.

Until next time,


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

your september annogram

Solar eclipse in the northeast

Photo by Michael Cefola
How amazing the eclipse, even at 60 percent partiality! Thanks to my astronomer husband Michael, we had great views through a solar telescope for the full four hours as the moon moved along the sun’s bottom edge. 

Less high-tech, a colander spread dozens of crescent-sun disks over our deck. Wildlife seemed noisier as light slightly dimmed, and the air cooled. Get your solar sunglasses now for the next one—in seven years!

Free Ferry at Fordham University

As you may know, one of Free Ferry’s dual narratives follows one of the scientists who isolated plutonium. That scientist was a professor at Fordham, and I am delighted that I will be reading at the Rose Hill Campus as part of a STEM event recognizing the 75th anniversary of his achievement. Come to Flom Auditorium at the Walsh Library on October 11, from 2:30-5:30pm, to hear multiple speakers and enjoy a reception. The event is free and public welcome.

JohnMac Radio Show

What a great time talking with poet and program host John F. McMullen, aka “JohnMac”!  We covered writer workshops, ways writers can increase literary credits, joys of the online course ModPo, and a dose of politics. You can hear the hour-long interview in this podcast, and be sure to listen to those with Edward Ahern and Susana H. Case.

Ann Starr on Outsider Art

Ann Starr
What does it take to create a small press? A lot of gumption, and in Ann Starr’s case, a leap of faith.  Discover how she relies on intuition, and how literature deepened her understanding of visual arts and music. Most needed? Not advanced degrees, extensive training, or cultural approval—only the realization that “the human heart is at the center of all.” Read on.

Deborah Coulter at the Alexander Gallery

Deborah Coulter
Deborah Coulter, an artist excelling in charcoal, drawing, and collage, will participate in a Faculty Show at the Marjorie and Norman Alexander Gallery at the JCC of Mid-Westchester. Deborah, an instructor at the Summer Arts Center, calls teaching there “a joy.” The exhibit, September 17 – October 12, is open Monday-Thursday, 8:30am-8pm; Friday, 8:30-5pm; and Sunday, 8am-4pm.

Baring Breasts in Peekskill and Bethlehem

"Bosom Bodies,” an exhibit honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month, will be October 7 - 29, at the SIA Gallery; opening October 7, 3-6pm, and closing performances and panel on October 29, 3-5pm. A complementary exhibit, Clarity Haynes: Bearing Witness, The Breast Portrait Project, 1998 – Present at Payne Gallery, also curated by Beth Gersh-Nesic, runs September 7-October 15 in Bethlehem, PA.

Creative opportunities

Keetje Kuipers
Beta readers needed for art historian/novelist – email

Keetje Kuipers on Beyond the Precious Self: Publishing Your Failed PoemSeptember 26, 2pm

New York Encounter Poetry Contest judged by Dana Gioia – by November 7

New releases

Auden, the Psalms and Me by J. Chester Johnson (Church Publishing)

Carpeing the Diem by David Lee Garrison (Dos Madres Press)

15 Flower World Variations – revised (The Operating System) by Jerome Rothenberg

Indra's Net: An international anthology of poetry in aid of The Book Bus (Bennison Press)

The Oligarch by James Sherry (Palgrave MacMillan)

The Standing Eight by Adam Berlin (Finishing Line Press)

Technicians of the Sacred - 50th anniversary ed. (Univ. of California Press) by Jerome Rothenberg

Curried Squash Soup

This recipe from The Perfect Wife Restaurant is probably the most delicious soup I’ve had in a long time. 

1 large onion
2 ribs celery
1 T. chopped garlic
3 T. curry powder
4 c. zucchini, rough chop
4 c. summer squash, rough chop
½ c. white wine
2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1” chunks
½ gallon chicken or vegetable stock
¾ c. heavy cream

Chop onion and celery roughly.  Sweat in butter with garlic.  Add curry powder and toast a few minutes.  Add squash and wine.  Deglaze.  Add stock and potatoes.  Simmer till potatoes are soft.  Puree using a hand blender, adding cream slowly.  Season with salt and white pepper. 

Poetry readings / literary events

Marianne Moore (1887-1972)
Brooklyn Book Festival, September 11-17, Kaveh AkbarWill BrewerCarolyn ForchéRobin Coste LewisLayli Long SoldierAja Monet, Meghan O'RourkeMorgan ParkerTommy PicoErika L. Sánchez, sam saxNicole SealeyDanez SmithMai Der Vang, Javier Zamora

Center for Fiction, September 13, 7pm – Daniel Handler, Emma Straub

Pacific Standard, September 13, 8pm – Jerry T Johnson

Charlie Rauh
Brooklyn Public Library, September 15, 8:30pm – Marianne Moore Tribute: Heather Cass White, Patrick Breen, Eleanor Chai, Timothy Donnelly, Margo Jefferson, Maureen N. McLane, Maria Tucci

HVWC, September 15, Open Mic, 7:30pm, $5

Park Plaza Restaurant, September 16, 2:30pmAlice B. Fogel, Howard Pflanzer, Christina M. Rau, $5

HVWC, September 17, 4:30pm – Jill Bialosky, Susana H. Case, Caroline Smith, $10

Woody Tanger Auditorium, September 18, 11am, Sandra Cisneros

Shetler Studios and Theatres, September 20-October 7, “Blood  Boundary,” by Cherokee playwright Vicki Lynn Mooney

Terrance Hayes
Photo credit: MacArthur Foundation
Rockwood Music Hall,
September 21, 9pm,
Charlie Rauh new album,
Viriditas, release

Katonah Village Library, September 24, 4pm, Terrance Hayes, $10

Cave Canem, September 22, 6:30pm, Patrick Rosal

Hauser + Wirth, September 28, 7pm – Charles Bernstein, Sergio Bessa on Mira Schendel

Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, September 28, 7pm – Meghan O'Rourke 

Cecilia Vicuña
Kelly Writers House, September 28, 6pm – Jerome Rothenberg, Charles Bernstein, Ron Silliman, Rochelle Owens, George Economou, Laynie Brown, Michelle TaranskyAhmad Almallah, Julia Bloch, Ariel Resnikoff

Howl Happenings Gallery, October 1, 7pm – Jerome Rothenberg, Cecilia Vicuña

Papa Susso
Poets House, October 3, 7pm – Jerome Rothenberg, Anne Waldman, Cecilia Vicuña, Bob Holman, Papa Susso, George Quasha, Ariel Resnikoff, Stuart Cooke.

Trinity Church Wall Street
October 8, 1pm – J. Chester Johnson on Auden

The Backroom – Local 138, October 10, 6pm – Drugstore Blue by Susanna H. Case release: Mervyn Taylor, Jennifer Franklin, Elizabeth Haukaas, Myra Malkin, Lynn McGee, Margo Taft Stever, Meredith Trede, Estha Weiner

ʼRound the Net

Jessica Helen Lopez
Professor Al Filreis for 64 indispensable Ashbery poems and this transcribed interview

Art Historian/Curator Beth Gersh-Nesic for honoring Michael Richards in the Francis M. Naumann catalog of the late sculptor’s current exhibit

Editor-in-chief Cindy Hochman for an amazing new issue of First Literary Review-East

Christina Rau
Professor Paul Mariani for this insightful look at the work of John Ashbery

Poet Mary McCray for this inspiring video “starring” Albuquerque Laureate Jessica Helen Lopez

Art Historian Laura Morelli for her Ted-Ed video on the difference between art and craft

Poet Christina Rau for poems published in Grasslimb and Whale Road Review

Poet/artist Linda Simone for sharing this hilarious poem that skewers “some” poetry profs
Photo by Mike Virsinger

Astrophotographer Mike Virsinger for this amazing total eclipse photo

Filmmaker Frederick Wiseman for his documentary on the New York Public Library

The New Yorker for the National Book Award longlist for poetry

Ode to Ashbery

John Ashbery (1927-2017)
What an eventful few weeks—eclipse, hurricanes, and loss of John Ashbery, which is its own devastation. As a teen feeling my way toward poetry, I cut this poem out of the New York Times and first pinned it on my bulletin board, then taped it into a journal. Its lyric mediated the world in an intuitive way that felt oddly comforting; I did not understand it nor did I need to. Three decades later, when I despaired over my work ever gaining traction, its author awarded me the Robert Penn Warren Award. Life changed. Something invisible had been conferred, and I received it. Maybe it emanated from the now-brown clipping preserved in my girlhood journal; maybe it was mystery, more likely desire-starched awe.

These Lacustrine Cities

These lacustrine cities grew out of loathing
Into something forgetful, although angry with history.
They are the product of an idea: that man is horrible, for instance,   
Though this is only one example.

They emerged until a tower
Controlled the sky, and with artifice dipped back
Into the past for swans and tapering branches,
Burning, until all that hate was transformed into useless love.

Then you are left with an idea of yourself
And the feeling of ascending emptiness of the afternoon   
Which must be charged to the embarrassment of others   
Who fly by you like beacons.

The night is a sentinel.
Much of your time has been occupied by creative games
Until now, but we have all-inclusive plans for you.
We had thought, for instance, of sending you to the middle of the desert,

To a violent sea, or of having the closeness of the others be air   
To you, pressing you back into a startled dream
As sea-breezes greet a child’s face.
But the past is already here, and you are nursing some private project.

The worst is not over, yet I know
You will be happy here. Because of the logic
Of your situation, which is something no climate can outsmart.   
Tender and insouciant by turns, you see

You have built a mountain of something,
Thoughtfully pouring all your energy into this single monument,   
Whose wind is desire starching a petal,
Whose disappointment broke into a rainbow of tears.

— John Ashbery

Until next time,