Saturday, March 17, 2012

your irish ann o'gram

Happy St. Patrick’s Day
On St. Patrick’s Day, I give thanks for great literary gifts from Ireland—from Yeats and Joyce to contemporaries like Seamus Heaney and Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill (left) and for my dear Irish-American friends whose lifelong generosity, warmth and kindness have especially blessed me—you know who you are!

“Demoiselles 7” in Feminist Studies
How rewarding to finally see my long poem, “Demoiselles 7,” in Feminist Studies! It took more than a decade to write and find its perfect print home. I read portions at the United Nations a few years back. Here’s an overview in the journal’s preface:

Ann Cefola’s poem “Demoiselles 7” meditates upon the questions and problems of painting by following the multiple ancestries and interpretations of Picasso’s 1907 work, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which launched the Cubist movement. The fractured and angular “demoiselles” in the painting — actually, “five whores from the worst bordello in Barcelona” — talk back to the onlooker: “People adore us: We give them permission to fall apart. To love the wreckage.” They tell of their complex lineage and roots in Ethiopia, the Middle East, and beyond, as well as “of what splintered women could do.” They ask: “What if we celebrated a woman’s contours? The body not exile but home.” Cefola ends her contribution with a tongue-in-cheek reference to herself as author, as perhaps the subject of another (fictitious) Picasso painting: “If only I — we — could go in peace to love and serve the whores. But I am just A Girl Writing.”

St. Agnes, Pink-Slipped Still in Demand
I am so grateful for the positive response to my second chapbook, St. Agnes, Pink-Slipped (Kattywompus Press, 2011). In addition to great online reviews from top poetry reviewers such as Emilia Fuentes Grant, Cindy Hochman, and Janelle Elyse Kihlstrom, Katherine McCollom —
my second cousin whom I adore — weighs in from Oklahoma:

Dear Ann: I ordered six copies of your St. Agnes, Pink-Slipped from Kattywompus Press. I have had a good time giving one to friends who are ill, who have done me a special favor, or who would be impressed that I am related to a published poetess. I thought you might like to know what pleasure I have had from your chapbook. Fondly, Katherine

Thank you, Katherine!

Stevens-Inspired Workshop at Unicorn Writers Conference
For the third year, I will be giving a one-hour poetry workshop at the Unicorn Writers Conference on Saturday, April 28, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., at St. Clement’s Castle in Portland, CT. Recommended by Writers Digest, this conference features workshops on craft, contract negotiation and social media marketing. It’s held on a beautiful estate on the Connecticut River. Friends who attended have found new energy, ideas and contacts. Here’s my workshop, Discovering the Dove in the Belly, inspired by Hartford’s own poet:

All poets have a dove within that builds its nest and coos, according to Wallace Stevens. In this workshop, we’ll look at his poem, “The Dove in the Belly,” to explore ways to expand our own work. First, we will walk through the Stevens poem to see what he’s up to, and then take a deeper look at the tools he uses to create a memorable work. Finally, we’ll steal a few of his approach to write a poem or two of our own. If you would like to learn from Stevens—considered one of the greatest American poets of his time, then come to this workshop.

Hope to see you there!

Blockbuster Stein Collection at the Met
Poet-translator Mark Weiss has two words for the exhibit: “My god.” New York Arts Exchange Founder and Director Beth Gersh-Nesic calls it “a once-in-a-lifetime experience which rivals the Barnes and Cone Collections – and may be far superior in its taste.” If you get a chance to take the Stein tour with Beth, go for it! Her class on Cubism informed “Demoiselles 7,” and she illuminates this art period like no one else. She will also lecture on Picasso and Francoise Gilot at the Greenwich Women's Club on Tuesday, March 27, at 1:30 p.m., through Alliance Francaise de Greenwich.

More poetry
You know National Poetry Month is almost upon us as a lot of poetry events are heating up. Mark Doty will give a talk on Walt Whitman at Poets House on March 24, and the 2012 Chapbook Festival takes place March 28-30. Kevin Pilkington will read at the Saint Vincent College Visiting Writers Series on Monday, March 26 at 7 p.m. in Latrobe, PA. And John Amen, editor of Pedestal Magazine, will read his work on April 11 at 8 p.m. at the Barron Arts Center, 582 Rahway Avenue, Woodbridge, NJ; April 16, at 6 p.m. at Cornelia Street Café; and on April 20, with Bhikshuni Weisbrot, at the Panorama Café and Shop, 84-73 Parsons Blvd. in Jamaica, NY (see for more info). Kevin Pilkington will read at the Saint Vincent College Visiting Writers Series on Monday, March 26 at 7 p.m.

Matters of the HeART
The opening reception for Matters of the HeART: Supporting Creative Aging Through the Arts, the 8th annual art exhibit by Westchester County seniors ages 55 and older, takes place tomorrow, Sunday, March 18, from 2-4 p.m. at Greenburgh Town Hall, 177 Hillside Avenue, White Plains, NY. This spring art exhibit, which features paintings, drawings, mixed-media creations, collages, photographs, and free-standing sculptures, is sponsored by the Greenburgh Arts & Culture Committee and the Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation.

Pamela Sklar CD Release Concert
Flutist Pamela Sklar at the Parish House PAC Theater next Saturday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m. will celebrate her new CD, A Native American Jazz Tribute. Her back-up band features a dozen musicians, including cellist Jay Shulman. PAC House is part of Trinity-St. Paul Episcopal Church, 311 Huguenot Street, New Rochelle. Tickets are $20 and include both concert and refreshments.

‘Round the Net
Thanks to the following people or online resources that provided these great links:

· ALTA list serve for this article on fiction in translation and tribute to Szymborska
· Filmmaker Jeanette Briggs for this beautiful life of flowers video
· SFAI alum Catherine Chung on her critically acclaimed debut novel Forgotten Country
· Barbara Dickinson, CFT, for this Billy Joel-inspired musical history lesson
· ForwardReviews for “books you’d never thought you’d read but end up loving
· Translator and Art Historian Beth Gersh-Nesic for this Focus on French Film alert
· Jazz Historian Ted Gioia for these writing tips from John Steinbeck
· Poet and Toadlily Press Editor Myrna Goodman for this on Transtromer translation
· My sister-in-law, Elaine Gregory, for this poetry sign
· Literary Agent Jan Kardys for promoting this lovely herb-spice chart
· Screenwriter David Ring for this wonderful elegy to a poetry teacher
· Francophile Susan Seligman for this extraordinary 500 years of women’s faces
· Poet and performance artist Jackie Sheeler for “The New Back Alley
· Poet Linda Simone for this exhibit review on the extraordinary glimpsed in the ordinary
and mysterious paper sculptures in the Scottish Poetry Library

For weeks, I have written against the NYS “Quick Kill” shelter bill A05449 (Paulin). Thanks to the public outcry, ten cosponsors have withdrawn their support and a state senator abandoned the companion bill. Despite these big signals, Ms. Paulin is still pursuing a revision (AO5449B) which allows shelters “the option,” not the requirement, to adopt out animals; to refuse to work with rescue organizations outside immediate or adjoining counties; and to enact a convoluted approval process for rescue groups.

An opposing bill, A07312 (Kellner), which legally requires appropriate and timely care for homeless animals, has a groundswell of support in New York and among respected animal rights groups nationwide. If you’re a New York State resident, please e-mail the remaining bill sponsors, Speaker Sheldon Silver (, Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol (, and Assembly Member Amy Paulin (, to request that they drop A05449B and support A07312. Thank you!

Until next time,

"Magically, memorably calibrated" - John Ashbery on "Express"