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(noun): One who takes delight and is skilled at constructing, writing or saying naughty phrases or dialogue.
May 1, 2016

Traveling & Writing

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I am fortunate I get to travel for my job. I work long hours and my job is very demanding, but it sends me all over the world and that is certainly a perk. In January I was in Australia for twelve days. In the beginning of April I went to Tunisia for a week. Now, I’m in the Philippines. Before you think I’m just jet-setting around the world you should also know I tend to work seven days a week when I’m on travel, and am up at all hours of the day and night so I can make phone calls and answer emails to colleagues in time zones around the world. So it’s glamorous but also very gritty.

Whenever I travel I bring my Kindle loaded with at least ten books (I’m a very fast reader) and at least one book of poetry. The poetry is always a printed book as I prefer to read my poetry this way – to be able to highlight passages I love and make notes in the margins.

While I was in Tunisia I brought Jeanann Verlee’s first book of poetry, Racing Hummingbirds. If you haven’t read this book yet I suggest you do, it’s amazing. As I read the book it inspired me to write my own poems. Her poem 40 Love Letters inspired a similar poem I wrote titled 24 Love Letters. Here’s a picture of the rough draft. Yeah, it’s one of those poems that comes out in waves and requires a bit of editing to come together.

24 Love Letters

24 Love Letters

 

While in Tunisia I got to see and do a few new things, include seeing El Jem, the world’s third largest colosseum and riding a camel. (This is the glamorous part of work.)

Riding a camel in front of El Jem

Riding a camel in front of El Jem

the streets of Sidi BouSaid

the streets of Sidi BouSaid

 

While in Tunisia I also read Jeanann Verlee’s poem Unsolicited Advice to Adolescent Girls With Crooked Teeth and Pink HairThat poem prompted me to write my own titled Unsolicited Advice to My Younger Self. It was published last week by Brainmill Press, you can read it here. Two weeks after I returned from Tunisia I met Jeanann Verlee in person at the Split This Rock 2016 Poetry Festival and she’s wonderful and kind and I totally have a girl crush on her.

Now I’m in the Philippines for a week and I brought Jeanann Verlee’s second book, Said the Manic to the Muse, as my weekly poetry read. I started it last night, after nearly 24-hours of travel. Five minutes later, I’d written my first poem.

Newest poem with my newest muse

Newest poem with my newest muse

 

I think I’ve found my newest muse.

 

 

April 28, 2016

Poetry & Art & Insects

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Last Saturday was Siamese Sisters: A Poetry and Art Show. It was an event my sister and I have been planning for a year, writing poems (me) and creating art (her). Saturday afternoon it all came together.

She and her husband arrived Thursday night. We stayed up late talking and the next morning my sister and I were up early, hitting the trail for a walk. Later we headed to the Renwick Gallery to see the Wonder exhibit. If you haven’t gone to the exhibit yet be sure to visit it soon, it’s leaving May 8th and it is absolutely amazing and worth seeing. I really wanted to take my  brother-in-law to this exhibit because he’s an entomologist and Jennifer Angus’ art features insects. I knew he’d love it.

We wandered through the gallery, taking in each artist’s interpretation of wonder. As predicted, my brother-in-law spent the most time in what I called the bug room. I was just outside the bug room when my sister came rushing out. “Courtney, you have to see this!” I followed her in and was amazed at what I saw.

Included in Angus’ insect room was a unique dresser with small dioramas featuring insects; it looked like a doll house but instead of little people there were bugs: bugs serving their families dinner, bugs in the bedroom, and then, the diorama my sister wanted me to see – an insect studying a book…that featured a Siamese twin skeleton! But not just any Siamese twin skeleton, the same Siamese twin skeleton that graces the cover of my chapbook!

Wonder exhibit

Wonder exhibit

 

If this wasn’t a sign the show was going to be amazing then nothing was!

Friday night Kirsten and I headed to the studio to be interviewed (podcast forthcoming!) and hang the remainder of the artwork.

Ready for our show!

Ready for our show!

 

Saturday morning dawned bright and my sister and I went for an easy run before heading to Studio Pause. Everything was in place – the artwork and corresponding poems were up on the walls and the books were lined up. Kirsten and I were ready for our show!

Sitting pretty

Sitting pretty

 

The show was good, I explained the idea behind the project and then I read some poems. Kirsten explained the process of her artwork and then we answered questions.

IMG_20160423_133336 IMG_20160423_133504
IMG_20160423_133934 IMG_20160423_133817

I sold a bunch of books and Kirsten sold almost all her canvases and a bunch of prints. If you didn’t get a book you can still get one – $10 if you’re local, $12 if I have to mail you the book. We were both very pleased with the turnout at the event and with the entire process. We’re even talking about doing another show together!

Siamese Sisters: the painting and the poem

Siamese Sisters: the painting and the poem

April 21, 2016

New Publications

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I’ve got a few publications and I’m excited to share them with everyone! First, my chapbook Siamese Sisters was featured on The Salonniere’s Apartments. There’s still plenty of time to order your copy of my chapbook – $10 if you’re local and I can hand it off to you, $12 if I have to mail it to you. You can also buy a copy at the show on April 23rd.

My contrapuntal poem, Magic, is published in the Spring Issue 2016 by Helen: A Literary Magazine. For those not familiar with this form of poetry, the poem is read in a very specific manner – read down the left column first, then down the right column, then read across. Come to the show on the 23rd and you’ll get to hear me recite this poem!

As part of The Operating System’s 5th Annual NAPOMO 30/30/30 I wrote about one of my favorite poets, Megan Falley, read my essay here.

I contributed to my library’s list of favorite poetry (that the library has and you can borrow).

I’ve got a couple other poems being published later this month but they’re not online yet so you’ll have to wait for them!

 

 

 

With Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2016 complete I find myself simultaneously elated and exhausted. It was three full days of poetry goodness – panels and workshops and writing and reading and talking and bonding and magic. Day one was great and it just kept getting better.

Friday, day two, started with a panel titled Physical Bodies and Poetic Bones. From there I went to a panel about Madwomen in the Attic, an amazing women’s poetry group in Pittsburgh – I asked that they expand their offerings to include a 2 or 3-day workshop so I can be a part of this wonderful group. The talented Jan Beatty runs the group and I would be honored to learn from her. That afternoon I attended a slightly lackluster panel about Social Justice Poetry Projects.

That night was another reading featuring Jennifer Bartlett, Jan Beatty, and Regie Cabico. Jan read one of my favorite poems, Shooter. If you haven’t read this poem you need to. Of course I then had to buy her new book and have her sign it for me.

Jan Beatty and I

Jan Beatty and I

Advice from Jan Beatty: Write what terrifies you!

Advice from Jan Beatty: Write what terrifies you!

 

Saturday, day three started with a panel titled Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace. Following that was a workshop lead by two poets I admire: Franny Choi and Sarah Kay.

Franny Choi and I

Franny Choi and I

Sarah Kay and I

Sarah Kay and I

 

Finally, the workshop I’d been looking forward to the most: The Golden Shovel. The Golden Shovel is a poetic form created by Terrance Hayes. And while the form is interesting and I am definitely going to give it a try, my main reason for being so excited about this workshop was Jeanann Verlee was one of the panelists. Jeanann Verlee is one of my favorite poets.

After the workshop I chatted with Jeanann, telling her how much I loved her work and how inspiring I found her. I may have gushed a little (read: a lot) but she was sweet and humble and so very kind and I think I’ve convinced her to be my new best friend. She obliged me with a picture and signed my book for me.

Jeanann Verlee and I

Jeanann Verlee and I

 

There were two readings that night, featuring six different amazing poets: Dominique Christina, Martha Collins, Dawn Lundy Martin, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Nikky Finney, and Ocean Vuong.

By the end of Saturday night I was exhausted and yet humming with excitement. The festival prompted many poems and I’m so happy I attended. My goal for the next Split This Rock Poetry Festival, which will be in 2018, is to be one of the panelists. Time to get writing!

Yesterday was the first day of the Split This Rock Poetry Festival in Washington, DC. I first attended the festival in 2014 and I knew I had to come back again as it was fantastic and creative.

It proved to be a gorgeous spring day and I was all smiles from the start.

Smiles & Sunshine on Day One

Smiles & Sunshine on Day One

 

The first workshop I attended discussed the poetry of Pat Parker who was an influential poet and activist in feminist publishing. The second workshop was a reading by Willow Books writers. The last workshop I attended that day was about using poetry as witness. After a quick meal, it was onto that night’s featured reading. There I listened to Aracelis Girmay, Craig Santos Perez, and Ross Gay.

Craig Santos Perez read, among others, a hysterical poem about SPAM. Yes, SPAM – you can read it here. He’s originally from Guam and now lives in Hawaii and so it is a part of his diet. When I met him after the reading I said, “There’s a SPAM  museum in Minnesota.” He smiled and said, “I’ve been to it.”

Craig Santos Perez and I

Craig Santos Perez and I

 

Next up was Aracelis Girmay who read, among others, a powerful poem about Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Yes, she wrote a poem about the astrophysicist. It was fantastic.

Aracelis Girmay and I

Aracelis Girmay and I

 

Last but certainly not least was Ross Gay. His newest book, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and he read the very long title poem. It was a very good piece that had me laughing, sighing, cringing, and loving it.

Ross Gay and I

Ross Gay and I

 

Now I’m ready for day two – it’s certain to be amazing.