Poetry Feature/Collaborative Project: Gmeiner Art and Cultural Center, re:covery spoken word album by brotherwell

Life has been pretty busy and I’m not complaining. I moved my boyfriend in the house and my child moved out into their first independent venture. Add work at the hospital and fixing up the house and it created a recipe for falling behind on blogs. I have good intentions of keeping up, but living in the present sometimes gets the best of me. Over the next few weeks, I will be catching up on the adventures in writing, reading, and hiking. Stay tuned for lots of great news and fun.

In May, I was invited to be a feature reader at the Gmeiner Art and Cultural Center in Wellsboro, PA. I had never been to this town and drove the 45 minutes to get there to be wowed by the beauty and charm of this small town. It is home to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and a community that enjoys the arts. The Gmeiner is a small building with nearly every wall surface filled with local art. When I went there, they had two retrospectives of women who had been painting for decades in various styles and mediums. Carrie Heath, the director, was kind enough to show me around and tell me the stories about the women who did the paintings. There was also a scratch art collection on display that was so incredible you would have thought they were photographs. Many of these women featured were self-taught artists which gives me hope for myself.

This feature was an hour long and beforehand I struggled to know how I was going to fill all of that time, but Carrie was such a great host that it lent itself to telling stories about writing and poetry as well as reading poems. The attendance was intimate, but it felt really good to be reading in public again. There were a few familiar places and people asked very deep and earnest questions about my writing. Some of the poems were a bit heavy and tears were shed, even by me. I suppose I am just not ready to read poems about my dad yet. I keep trying, but I don’t always make it through them. I sold five books and this felt like a win to me. During the reading, I had shared a few ekphrastic poems. I have been writing them for years for my own enjoyment and this landed me another project next year in which I will be collaborating with an artist.

If you are in Wellsboro, you should definitely stop down to the Gmeiner and see Carrie. She is doing great things by giving local artists a space to show their hard work, but to also be seen. This is important for everyone, but especially those of us in rural areas who might not have the type of access an artist would in a city. Support your local museums, buy art, share your thoughts and keep inspiring people to create. Gmeiner Art and Cultural Center, 134 Main St., Wellsboro, PA.

May was an exciting month. Earlier in the year I was asked to collaborate on a spoken word project spearheaded by brotherwell and front man Ryan Bozeman. Thirteen poets recorded their work and sent these to Bozeman who created wonderfully layered musical numbers while also adding his own lyrics to the song. Each of the poems was about recovering in some way–from injustice, heartbreak, substances, trauma etc. It is an album that sheds light on the daily struggles we all have in life and how being there for each other can really make the difference. This album is available for download on a series of platforms (iTunes, Bandcamp, Amazon Music, Spotify) and all proceeds are going to Tiny Changes which is a charity that works with troubled young minds to help and to heal. It was created after the death of a man’s brother. This album is an expression of heart and mind. It is an adventure of collaboration and insight. Please consider purchasing it and donating to Tiny Changes. My poem/song “The Moment Before the World Wakes Up” is featured in the collection. Thanks for supporting artists and writers and keeping folks afloat. We live in some pretty tough times and we have to make reaching out for help part of normal daily life rather than an exception.

If you are in crisis, reach out the the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255

Published: Piker Press and Poetry Reading at Card Carrying Bookstore

Photo by Aleathia Drehmer

I’m thrilled to announce that my poem “Silent Movies” can be viewed at Piker Press. Be sure to stop by and read all the great things they have up this week.

My new full length collection of poetry, “Looking for Wild Things” came out this month on Impspired and my local bookstore, Card Carrying, invited me to read some poems and do a book signing event. This is a first for me and I couldn’t be happier about supporting local business and independent book stores. If you are local to the Corning, NY area, please stop by. I will be reading at 5 pm and 5:45 pm. Come enjoy the holiday spirit of Market Street. I’d love to see you there.

Thank you for supporting small press writers and presses. Read. Write. Be Kind to Each Other.

Do. It. Again.

I’m an essential worker. I’m a nurse in this time of pandemic. I’m an introvert who relishes in brief periods of extroverted pleasure. I am still suffering the loss of socialization in meaningful ways. This is important to note. I miss the exchanges that cost me or pay me nothing. I miss the human condition.

The other night I was scrolling through a page where poetry is posted. I’m trying to keep up with the world through the eyes of poets because the media makes me question humanity. There was a post for a drop in workshop at the SF Creative Writing Institute which was facilitated by the man who gave me my first ever poetry reading gig, Paul Corman-Roberts.

Photo by William Taylor Jr.

In 2007, I flew out to SF for a weekend to read in a lineup of amazing women. Kathy Acker’s Dangerous Daughters.  Mission District. Fucking San Francisco! On the plane all I could think of was: why did he ask me?

I am not dangerous. 
I didn’t know who the hell Kathy Acker was.
I wasn’t pretty.
I wasn’t known.
I was scared out of my mind.
I was a small town girl full of city dreams.
I had traveled but been nowhere.
I didn’t think I was good enough.

I performed at the reading. I remember the first poem only because it was the longest one I’d ever written. Because it was trauma. Because it was painful. I remember trembling, heart racing, and quite sure I’d pass out. It was a large room of strangers who had a steady diet of great poets at their fingertips. This was so much to live up to. After the first few stanzas, I noticed something amazing. The crowd, all of them, leaned forward in their seats. This moment made me understand the power of words. They were listening to my trauma. Not only listening, but hearing it.

That weekend I hung out with some SF legends, drank pitchers of margaritas, went to City Lights, had drinks at Vesuvio, slept on a poet’s couch, and saw the most amazing art exhibits at the MoMA. This trip changed my writing life.

So, when I saw Paul Corman-Roberts was promoting a workshop on poetry, I decided to sign up. It didn’t matter that I had to wake up at five thirty in the morning for a nursing shift or that I was already completely exhausted from the day. It was placed in front of me for a reason. The poet teaching the class was Tongo Eisen-Martin. I had no idea who he was. A poet that my friend knew. Good enough for me.

Tongo was ill with stomach problems that night but he stayed with us for three hours teaching the anatomy of a good line, how to push off writer’s block, and how to read a poem. At the end, he asked us all to find a line of our own work. He asked for a volunteer. The zoom room was silent, so I went first. I didn’t want to, but hell, he was sick and trying to show us something. I was raised with manners.

I read my line without any flourish. I had to read it bare and then he wanted me to give each word its own space. A long space. A painful when-is-this-fucking-going-to-end sort of space. The breathing trick irritated me. Nope. Do it again. Nope. Longer. Do it again. No. Read the next word only when I point at you. No. Stop thinking about the next word. Again.

The entire time, my Fitbit is capturing a heart rate of 130 because it feels like I’m being punished. It feels like he is telling me that I’m not good enough, that I’m wrong, that I’m not teachable. That is my reel. Not his. And this is sort of what he was getting at. We read fast because we are afraid. Because we worry what people will think we look like, sound like, and act like. But why are we there? For the poem. For the words.


I paused and looked away from the screen. I thought about why I chose each word in this poem even though they are only getting the first line. They know nothing about the poem’s full meaning. They have no idea it is a love letter to my child who has struggled with gender identity, anxiety, and depression. They do not know it is a poem about my failure as a parent or how sometimes there are moments when I feel like I didn’t ruin them. They get one line out of context.

I read the line, slow and with each word serving its purpose, and got it right.

I haven’t been able to think about much else since that class. I looked up Tongo after it was over because I couldn’t sleep. My blood pumping and my mind flying circles around the room. Whoa. He’s pretty accomplished and acclaimed. I’m sort of glad I didn’t know anything about him, because then I wouldn’t have gone first, or at all. I would’ve lost a beautiful moment I now get to keep forever. I received a lesson in trust. A lesson in voice. A piece of truth.