Saturday, January 17, 2015

Billy Collins in Key West

Once again I'm overdue to post, but I can't wait to share my vacation and writing experience. First of all, it was the first visit ever for my wife and me to Key West, Florida, and we had a great time. My primary reason for going was to take a four-day workshop with poet Billy Collins, as part of the annual Key West Literary Seminar. I wasn't able to attend the seminar itself, though I did attend the closing program on Sunday afternoon, which was open to the public. Then Sunday evening was the opening event for the workshops - a "luau"-style buffet for workshop faculty and attendees. Monday through Thursday we had our workshops from 10:00 to 1:00, in a municipal building that was originally a cigar factory. There were eleven of us, from a variety of backgrounds and parts of the country (and one American ex-pat from London), and coincidentally, one fellow poet whom I already knew who is from my area - neither of us knew the other was coming.  Everyone was an accomplished poet, and we were very productive, workshopping up to three poems each and also sharing the results of three writing exercises that Billy gave us.  Billy himself was charming, down-to-earth, funny, informative and helpful, despite dealing currently with a chronic health issue.  Monday evening was a cocktail party for attendees and their guests, and Wednesday evening was an open reading, in which the readers were drawn at random (their names literally picked from a hat), and I was the last reader of the evening. I read "To Flight 370" (which I had offered for workshop and read with some minor changes suggested by the group); "Autobiography" (the result of one of Billy's writing exercises), and "Archaics Roadshow" (one of the poems I had submitted with my application to the workshop).  There's something gratifying about being the last reader, especially when you get a good audience reaction.

In addition to all that, my wife and I had plenty of time to enjoy the town of Key West . It's a city of contrasts - on the one hand, there's a rich historic, cultural and artistic tradition; on the other, it's quite a party town, with a large number of clubs and pubs, and a happy hour that seems to start around 9:00 a.m. It's also the rooster capital of the world - they're as common as cats, and roam blithely around town, stopping to crow now and then.  My wife and I visited the art museum, the Hemingway House (Ernest Hemingway was by far their most famous resident), and the Audubon House (John James Audubon also stayed briefly on the island). We also took a glass-bottom boat tour out to the coral reef and observed the tropical fish and coral, and were treated to a spectacular sunset on the way back. My wife took a day trip to the Dry Tortugas, an island about 70 miles from Key West where there is a lot of nature and a former Civil War fort.  Of course, Key West is also famous for Key Lime Pie, which you can get just about anywhere in town (including frozen and chocolate-dipped on a stick), not to mention so many other Key Lime flavored treats, including cigars!  The weather was perfect - sunny just about every day with highs in the mid- to upper-70's.  The only thing we would do differently next time is perhaps not rent a car. We ended up with a Ford Mustang GT (very tricked-out but hardly our first choice) and only drove it about 30 miles the whole week. The Old Town section of Key West, where we spent most of our time, is very walkable (and parking is at a premium), plus the hotel where we stayed (the Sheraton Suites near the airport,  a lovely place with a beach right across the street) had a free shuttle service to and from town.  Also, many people get around town on bicycles, scooters, and electric carts.  To sum up, we thoroughly enjoyed our six days there and would gladly come back again.

Poem: Here's one I wrote for workshop for one of Billy Collins' exercises. The assignment was to read Frank O'Hara's poem "Autobiographia Literaria", and to use some of the same elements: Title it "Autobiography", use the first line "When I was  child..." and the first line of the last stanza, "And here I am now...", write in short lines if possible. and use at least one exclamation point at or near the end.  So here is what I came up with:


When I was a child,
I was a skinny, gawky thing
with black plastic glasses
and a target on my back

in the bullies' shooting gallery,
teased and smacked around
for being smarter but weaker,
their sideshow freak.

But I never abandoned
my books and my pen,
while they pulled up stakes
and their carnival left town.

And here I am now, a strongman,
with biceps for words.
Come back and get in my ring -
I'll take you all down!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Limerick, a Rondeau, and the Best Songs of the Year

With a nod to the topic of my last blog post, I just wanted to congratulate two friends who recently tied the knot.  Best wishes, Rachel and Donna, on making it official, and good luck in your life together.

I attended the biannual Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival again the year.  My son, who gave me admission as a gift, joined me, and we had a fine time. We attended craft talks by Billy Collins and Rita Dove, as well as a reading by Marie Howe, my poet friend Catherine Doty, and two other poets.  I went to an open mic reading while he went to panel on "pride" in poetry.  I also went to a poets' happy hour hosted by Winter Getaway Conference founder Peter Murphy and got to schmooze with a lot of poet friends and acquaintenances I hadn't seen in a while. Then I stayed for the evenign program, whose theme was military veterans and their families. One of the highlights was Vietnam vet Yusef Komunuyakaa reading his famous poem about the Vietnam War Memorial, "Facing It". I also got to "meet and greet" with Billy Collins, got an autograph and chatted for a moment about his upcoming workshop in Key West which I will be atending. He said, "We'll have fun."  Though I still don't like the newer venue (Prudential Art Center and vicinity in Newark NJ) as much as the old location in Waterloo Village, it's still a fun and worthwhile experience.

I'm involved once again in a poem-a-day project, the annual Chapbook Challenge on Robert Brewer's Poetic Asides blog. The idea is to have enough new poems by the end of the month to compile a chapbook. So far I haven't come up with a theme, so I doubt this crop of poems will immediately produce a chapbook of new material, but at least it's forcing me to write again, for better or worse.
I've written a couple of poems that may be worthy of being sent into the larger world. I may try shopping around the baseball poem chapbook that I compiled from last years' challenge - Finishing Line Press is offering a free reading fee for any manuscripts sumbitted in November.  Publication-wise, my poem "Groundskeeper" appears in the new issue of Spitball - they have now published four of my baseball poems, and another one is under consideration.  Also my Australian friend Rosemary Nissen-Wade published a chapbook of "somonka" called The Imagined Other, which features two somonka on which we collaborated, one of which previously appeared in Writers Digest. (A somonka, in case you've forgotten, is a Japanese form which is two tanka usually written on a love theme, with one poet writing the first tanka and another writing the second in response.)

In other news, I received "ink" (honorable mention) in the weekly Style Invitational humor contest run by Pat Myers of the Washington Post. The contest was to write a short poem using a word from a list of rare or archaic words that sound dirty but aren't.  Here's the limerick I wrote:

A famed entomologist, Lance,
was performing a curious dance.
To our question of "why"
came his frantic reply:
"A cockchafer fell down my pants!"

[A cockchafer is a type of large beetle.]

Music: WXPN-FM in Philly is once again compiling their list of best songs of 2014.  I'm still lamenting the fact that they no longer do a best-album list each year, but I still submitted my list of my favorite ten songs of the year:

1. Brill Bruisers - New Pornographers
2. My Sad Captains - ELbow
3. Take Me to Church - Hozier
4. Under the Pressure - War on Drugs
5. Happy - Pharrell Williams
6. Digital Witness - St. Vincent
7. Talking Backwards - Real Estate
8. Spinners - The Hold Steady
9. Shit Shots Count - Drive by Truckers
10. Let's Get Drunk and Get in On - Old 97s

and here are some runners-up:
High Hopes - Bruce Springsteen
The Rent I Pay - Spoon
The Miracle of Joey Ramone - U2
Sky Full of Stars - Coldplay
In Your Shoes - Sarah McLachlan
Rainbow - Robert Plant
Gotta Get Away - The Black Keys
Louder than Words - Pink Floyd
Word Crimes - Weird Al Yankovic

Later, I'll compile my list of top albums of the year.

Poem:  Here's one of the ones I wrote this month. It's a "British rondeau".


I know you're there because I've seen
the wreckage where your force has been.
I've seen the books strewn on the floor,
I've heard each time you slammed a door.
You have the temper of a teen.

I've watched the china closet lean,
found holes punched in the window screen.
I've read the supernatural lore -
I know you're there.

Is your world somewhere in-between?
The chessboard - you knocked down my queen.
Perchance you're settling a score.
I wish I knew a little more
about what makes you act so mean.
I know you're there.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

More Poetry News and an Important Wedding

I forgot to mention in my last post that I was invited to read at the Mannyunk Roxborough Arts Center on Sunday September 14th, with fellow poets Lynn Levin and Ronald Fischman.  It was a fine afternoon of poetry at a fine venue, a little art gallery in the hills in the Mannyunk section of Philadelphia.  I think I've read there at least two or three times before. Thanks again to Peter Krok for his support of my work.  The other news is that I won the Poetic Asides Form Challenge again, this time for my "madrigal" poem entitled "Senior Discount".  The poem will appear in a future issue of Writer's Digest, in Robert Brewer's "Poetic Asides" column.

As I said in my previous post, I was unable to attend this year's Collingswood Book Festival (which was moved from outdoors to inside the local high school due to weather). Instead, my wife and I attended our first gay wedding yesterday (October 11th), and what a wonderful time it was. The wedding party was large, including siblings, young nieces and nephews, good friends of the two grooms, and their sisters who co-officiated the ceremony. It was outdoors at a friend's house, under a big tent, and the festivities were terrific: a pre- and post-ceremony cocktail hour, a big Italian family-style dinner, homemade desserts, and non-stop music from a super DJ. But the most important thing was the whole vibe of the affair: the warmth, the emphasis on family, and the sheer joy of it all. Congrats to the happy couple as you embark on your life together.

Several years ago, I wrote this poem on my feelings about the gay culture. They have evolved a bit since then:

Gay Pride Parade

I am returning from lunch in the city,
when the parade crosses my path.
Led by a row of butch Harleys,
they march down Market Street,
rainbow flags snapping in a stiff June breeze.

Drag majorettes lead a rousing drum corps,
setting the rhythm and the pace.
Following them, a group of alternative families –
two mothers pushing their stroller,
a six-year-old boy riding the shoulders
of one of his dads.  Then the float
with the bearded beauty queens
waving to a cheering crowd.

I think, good for them,
but the old fart in me finds it hard
to leap from “tolerate” to “celebrate”.
Still, I half-expect to see you marching by,
proud of your new identity.
And if I saw you, I would wave.

So I wave anyway, as if I have.


Yesterday, I learned to celebrate.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Poem-a-Day Update, Baseball and a Sijo

Finally, all the results are in for the Poem-a-Day Challenge contest on the Poetic Asides blog, and I am quite satisfied with the results.  As I reported before, my Day 15 poem "Romantics" was selected as one of the 30 daily winners, to be published in an upcoming anthology/writing prompt book, Poem Your Heart Out.  Five of my other poems also made the daily top 10 lists: "Since the Last Snow" (Day 4), "Papers on Top of More Papers" (Day 8), "Wine is Bottled Poetry" (Day 11), "Ursula Upp and Dahlia Downn" (Day 22), "To Whomever Left the Empty Ice Cube Tray in the Freezer" (Day 25).  You can find all of them in my daily posts from the month of April. While "Romantics" was probably one of my best April poems, I was surprised that some of the rest were picked over poems I wrote in April that I thought were much better.  Robert Brewer picked each daily top 10, and maybe he thought that some of my better ones weren't as good a fit for his daily prompt as some others. (I was trying to combine his prompts with those from another blog, so sometimes I did give his a bit of a short shrift.) Or maybe it was just that there were at least ten poems that were better than mine on those particular days. The other thing, which may annoy some of the non-winners, is that 14 of the winning poems were written by just six different poets (one four-time winner and five two-time winners).  This couldn't really be helped with the format that was established, as there was a different "guest judge" for each day who probably had no idea which poets were previous winners. And after all, if you're good enough to win twice or even four times, more power to you.  I was also very glad to see not only a few of my online Poetic Asides friends win, but also two of my "real-life" poet friends, Joseph Harker and Kendall Bell. (Joseph won twice, and Kendall had six top 10s to go along with his win.)  In any event, I think this book will have a really good representation of poetry to accompany the daily prompts.

Not a lot of other poetry news, except I have three poems coming up in the next issue of CSHS Quarterly, and I'm looking forward to attending this year's Dodge Poetry Festival with my son.  I wish I could attend this year's Collingswood Book Festival (which I helped with last year by co-hosting a couple of poetry events), but I have a previous social engagement. The "poetry tent" lineup this year sounds terrific, featuring Patrick Rosal, Douglas Goetsch and BJ Ward, among others. It's a great outdoor fest in downtown Collingswood celebrating the written word, and you should attend this year if you can (Saturday, October 11).

Baseball: The 2014 season is coming mercifully to a close, and the less I say about the Phillies' season, the better. One of the few highlights was their combined no-hitter on September 1, tossed by Cole Hamels and three relievers. Hamels has been outstanding this year, but only has a 9-8 record to show for it, because his team has a hard time getting him run support.  If not for that won-loss record, he'd be on the short list for the Cy Young Award.  On a somewhat brighter note, my fantasy baseball team finished in third place in our ten-team league this year.  The only prize, however, is bragging rights.

Music: I still haven't heard much new music that has knocked me over, but the new one from the New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers, sounds great, probably their best since Twin Cinema.
I've been more on a "classic rock" kick lately - I set up a nice long playlist when I discovered that I have over 500 songs on my iPod that fit the category.  I've also been on a bit of a Weird Al Yankovic binge, after seeing a documentary about him on VH-1.  His new album, Mandatory Fun, is pretty good, and "Word Crimes" (a song about mangling the English language, a parody of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines") is an instant classic.

Poem: Here's one I wrote earlier this year - it's a sijo, a three-line Korean form that's a bit longer and more complex than a haiku. The lines should be lyrical, with a syllabic count like this: 3-4-4-4, 3-4-4-4, 3-5-4-3.  Line 1 presents the theme or situation, Line 2 elaborates on it, perhaps with a "turn" or argument or point of view, and Line 3 ends with a "twist" or conclusion. There should be a break of some type in each line. Sijo can be humorous, metaphysical or personal. This one was a runner-up in the Poetic Asides sijo contest.

Solution Unknown

Pencil sharp, I tackle them – crossword puzzles, devilish grids,
squares to fill with many words, intersecting. Yet you remain
an enigma. I write, then erase. No words I know can solve you.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Just for Fun, A Star Wars Song Parody

So the other day I heard the Outkast song “Hey Ya!” again (I still love it), and suddenly my addled brain began to substitute the name “Leia” for Hey Ya”.  And I thought: Wow, Weird Al Yankovic really missed his chance on this one, even though he's done Star Wars parody songs before (“Yoda” to the tune of “Lola”, “The Saga Begins” to the tune of “American Pie”).  So here is my take on the parody song. I wasn't sure what else to do with it, so I posted it here.  If you’re not familiar with this catchy tune, look it up on YouTube so you can sing along. 


(to the tune of "Hey Ya! "by Outkast) 

One, two three, uh!
My baby is a kick-ass princess
who can use a blaster
and can whip the Empire’s butt.
She wore a hot bikini
when she used that choke chain
and she strangled Jabba the Hutt.
Can’t try to fight the feeling that she
turns me on and that she
thrills me to my soul.
This is despite a hairstyle
that to me resembles
a pair of cinnamon rolls.
Le…ia, Leia,
Le…ia, Leia,
Le…ia, Leia,
Le…ia, Leia.
You know you got it,
oh yeah you know you got it,
but got it just don’t get it
if there’s nothing at all.
Let’s get together
I want to get together
but stuck in carbonite I couldn't get involved.
But then you said, “Nothing is forever”,
You saved me, you saved me, you saved me,
you saved me, saved me,  saved me (Luke and Chewy too)
So why don’t, why don’t,
why don’t, why don’t, why don’t we take off in the Falcon
When we know we’re not happy here.
We'll join the Ewoks, then we can dance! 

Le..ia (OH OH)
Leia (OH OH)
Le..ia (Darth Vader is your daddy, OH OH)
Leia (That doesn’t make you bad-dy, OH OH)
Le…ia (Amidala was your mama, OH OH)
Leia (You got some family drama, OH OH)
Le..ia (I’m, OH OH, I’m OH OH)
Leia (I’m  just bein’ honest OH OH, I’m just bein’ honest)

Hey alright now
alright now Jedi – Yeah!
Now who’s lamer than bein’ lame?
I can’t hear ya!
I say, who’s, who’s lamer than bein’ lame?
Alright, Alright, Alright, Alright,
Alright, Alright, Alright, Alright,
Alright, Alright, Alright, Alright,
Alright, Alright,
OK, now Rebels! – Yeah!
Now we gon’ take that Death Star down in a few seconds,
Now don’t let me take that Death Star down for nothing!
Now I wanna see all you all on your baddest behavior -
Go fly those X-wings – cover your neighbor!

Uh! Here we go now…
May the, may, may the, may the (OH OH)
May the, may the, may, may the, may the, may the (OH OH)
may the, baby may the Force be with you! May the, may the,
(Obi Wan), May the, may the, may the, may the,
(Shake it Yoda) baby may the Force be with you! 

Now all you Jedi Knights and Sith Lords
and Stormtroopers, get on the floor
(get on the floor)
You know what to do
You know what to do
You know what to do!  

Le…ia (OH OH)
Leia (OH OH)
Le…ia (OH OH)
Leia (Uh oh, Leia)
Le…ia (OH OH)
Leia (Uh, uh, OH OH)
Le…ia (OH OH)
Leia (OH OH))….

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Midsummer Night's Blog

It seems like I blinked and summer was already half over. My son is almost done his summer job as a Boy Scout camp adult counselor, and before I know it, we will be moving him in for his first semester of college. We have also planned a couple of short vacations, and we will be welcoming back our wonderful international student as she returns from Korea the end of August. Where did you go, July?

A few bits of poetry news:  First, I learned that my poem “SeƱor Morning” was accepted for the next issue of US 1 Worksheets. I’m happy to be appearing in their fine journal once again.

Second, Robert Brewer announced a few more winners for his Poem-a-Day Challenge Contest on his Poetic Asides blog. Robert has a daunting task, slogging through literally thousands of entries and picking the ten best from each day of April to send to his guest judges for a final decision. I’m happy to report that my poem “Romantics” won for Day 15!  It was selected by the judge of the day, poet Barbara Hamby, and it will appear with the other winners later this year in an anthology, Poem Your Heart Out, to be published by Words Dance Press. I also had three other poems make the top 10 among the fifteen days that have been judged so far – there are still another 15 days of winners to be announced.  A couple of other poets have had multiple wins for this month so far, so I still have a chance of getting another winning poem, but I’m quite happy with the one win.  Thanks to Robert and Ms. Hamby for their appreciation of my work.

Third, I was invited as a featured poet to the monthly reading series “Poetry Aloud and Alive” at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia, last Friday the 25th.  It went very well – they are a talented and very appreciative group of fellow poets, and they really seemed to enjoy my work. Thanks to Mike Cohen and Dave Worrell for inviting me to read.

Music:  Recently my wife and I attended two music events that we thoroughly enjoyed.  The first was the movie Jersey Boys, about the 60’s singing group The Four Seasons, directed by Clint Eastwood.  The other was “Classical Mystery Tour”, a great live concert featuring a Beatles tribute band backed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. The band was really good, and you can’t do much better than the Philadelphia Orchestra for your back-up musicians. They played a variety of Beatles songs, featuring especially the ones that were originally recorded with orchestral arrangements, like “The Long and Winding Road”, “All You Need is Love,” “Yesterday”, and so on. You haven’t lived till you have heard “A Day in the Life” performed live with a full orchestra.  They also did two solo numbers, John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die”.  There was even an arrangement of the head-trippy “Tomorrow Never Knows” – it’s not easy to replicate electronic effects with an orchestra, but they pulled it off admirably. The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia is a wonderful venue too, by the way.

Poem:  Once in a while I feature poems by other poets, and today I thought I’d introduce you to one from a new collection, Sisters and Courtesans, by my talented friend Anna M. Evans. This is her first full-length book, an impressive collection of sonnets in the voices of women through the ages, from a vestal virgin and a geisha, to Victorian streetwalker and a gangster’s moll.  The book is available on

My Life as a Russian Orthodox Nun
by Anna M. Evans

My grand duchess took orders long before
the trouble started. I was glad to go
with Europe heading for a bloody war.

And then the revolution struck. The snow
was knee deep on the night they came for us -
she was an aristocrat, I guess, although

she'd sold her jewels to help the poor, owned less
than anyone. They held us in a school,
then gave us to the cheka. I confess

I was afraid. But my lady kept her cool
even as they threw us down, tossed in
the hand grenades. She said, The golden rule

is: don't let the bastards have a single thing.
She squeezed my hand and then began to sing.

[©2014, White Violet Press; used with permission of the author]

Monday, June 30, 2014

Billy Collins and the Virtual Blog Tour

First things first:  I recently learned that I've been accepted into the Billy Collins workshop at the Key West Literary Seminar next January!   I'm really psyched because he's one of my favorite poets.  The wife and I will be making a vacation of it too - never been to Key West.  Jane Hirshfield will be there too so I'll have a chance to say hi to her.

Now to the business at hand: I was invited to join a "virtual blog tour" by fellow poet Janet Rice Carnahan. Here's how it works: a fellow poet or artist invites you to participate, then you acknowledge them on your blog, answer four questions about your creative process, and refer your readers to three other poets or creative artists and their blogs. Those artists, in turn, do the same and each one refers their readers to three others, etc. It's a great way to get traffic to your blog and also introduce others to creative folks you think are worthy of attention. Janet and I know each other from Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides blog, which I've mentioned several times right here.

Janet Rice Carnahan was born into a fifth generation family on the California coast.  Inspired by the ocean and the ever changing tides of a big family; including a husband, two adult children, a son-in-law and one precious grandson, her love of water is her constant muse! Janet’s journeys have taken her to Lake Tahoe in Northern California, Lake Mead in Southern Nevada, Laguna Beach, California, Hawaii on the island of Kauai, and currently to La Jolla in Southern California. After a twenty year career in early childhood education, earning a Master’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies, Janet continued developing interests in spirituality and metaphysics.  Photography and writing, in particular poetry, are her favorite mediums for expressing and exploring her various interests.  Her poetry has been published on several online poetry sites and in three anthologies with a cover photo and caption credit. Janet has self-published four poetry books that are highlighted on her web site, Hear Earth Heart, which includes her blog, “Captured Moments.”

So here are my questions, done in a self-interview style:

1. What am I currently working on?
Currently I'm in a bit of a creative lull (I don't like to use the term "writer's block"), but recently I enjoyed participating in an "ekphrastic poetry" project, in which area poets wrote poems inspired by a juried art show at a local gallery. (Read more about it in my previous blog entry.) I'm also thinking of shopping around a chapbook manuscript of baseball poems, many of which I wrote last November as part of a challenge on the Poetic Asides blog.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don't know if there is anything really unique about my poetry, but I try to impress readers with a certain degree of craft - I write mostly free verse but also a fair amount of formal poetry. I enjoy writing "persona" poems - maybe it's my psychology background, but I like trying to get into the head of a character, whether real or fictional.  My latest published poem was from the point of view of a Japanese-American man who was interned as a boy with his family in World War II.  I try to move the reader emotionally with understatement rather than melodrama and overbearing sentiment, though I probably do border on the sentimental at times.  Occasionally I like to give them a good laugh, too. I usually try to give my poems a "twist" or "punchline" at the end, even the serious ones. And I love metaphors.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?
I've been writing off and on since grade school.  It's a conduit for amusement, catharsis, and self-challenge, but I don't think I ever seriously considered it as a career. It's my way to share and be heard in the big world. All of us who create like to have an audience, unless we still hide our poems in the sock drawer.  I get a thrill out of reading something I've created to others, whether it's a single person or a hundred or more. It's also gratifying to have a poem published, whether it's in a little journal or a national magazine. God knows I don't write poetry for the money.

4. How does my writing/creating process work?
When it wants to. Lately I've thought that I've become too dependent on prompts - ideas that others throw at me, though it's a good way to jump-start the creative process. Of course, prompts can also come from everyday life - a conversation I heard, something I saw on the news, a person or thing that intrigues me. The trick is in paying attention to them. I don't have a favorite "writing place" or time of day - usually whenever and wherever I can squeeze it in - often on my lunch and coffee breaks at work.  My self-discipline comes in spurts - I wrote a poem a day in April this year but little else since then. A famous poet friend assured me that's okay - she often goes through the same process. Another poet compared inspiration to a well - an obvious metaphor, perhaps, but a good one. Sometimes you just need to stop dipping into a dry one and let it fill up over time. On the other hand, you can't always wait for the muse to comes to you. I am always trying to improve my poetic skills and craft, and one my favorite ways of doing that is by attending writing conferences and workshops. I've met some pretty famous poets this way, and they have all been helpful and supportive.

And last but not least, here are three poets I know and respect, and who deserve your attention. I've known Anna Evans and Kendall Bell for several years - Kendall is a prolific poet, editor and publisher who has published two of my chapbooks including the latest one, Twenty-four by Fourteen. He is also a fellow member of a small critique and reading group called the "Quick and Dirty Poets". Anna is a former member of that group, and she's a rising star in the poetry world.  I've learned a lot from her about formal poetry, especially sonnets, and she has an excellent new book out. Vince Gotera is one of my newest poetry friends, with whom I started conversing during the Poem-a-Day Challenge in April.  He too is a gifted poet who likes to dabble in forms. 

Anna M. Evans’ poems have appeared in the Harvard Review, Atlanta Review, Rattle, American Arts Quarterly, and 32 Poems. She gained her MFA from Bennington College, and is the Editor of the Raintown Review. Recipient of Fellowships from the MacDowell Artists' Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and winner of the 2012 Rattle Poetry Prize Readers' Choice Award, she currently teaches at West Windsor Art Center and Richard Stockton College of NJ. Her new sonnet collection, Sisters & Courtesans, is available from White Violet Press. Visit her online at

Kendall A. Bell's poetry has been widely published in print and online, most recently in First Literary Review-East and Drown In My Own Fears. He was nominated for Sundress Publications' Best of the Net collection in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013. He is the author of fifteen chapbooks. His most recent chapbook is "Be Mine". He is the founder and co-editor of the online journal Chantarelle's Notebook and the publisher/editor of Maverick Duck Press. His website is and his chapbooks are available through He lives in Riverside, New Jersey.

Vince Gotera is the Editor of the North American Review and a creative writing professor at the University of Northern Iowa. His collections of poetry include the forthcoming Pacific Crossing as well as Dragonfly, Ghost Wars, and Fighting Kite. His work has also appeared widely in magazines, anthologies, textbooks, and online venues. Vince is also a guitarist and bass player; he is the lead guitarist of the band The Random Five. His favorite color is blue in all its various flavors: aqua, cobalt, electric, indigo, periwinkle, robin's egg, royal, sky.  Visit his blog, "The Man with the Blue Guitar" at