On the one hand, a writer wants to be invisible, though all that has been deconstructed in the post-postmodern world; on the other hand, it becomes necessary to define to yourself, at least what you're doing, and why.
A love of sound and a deep desire to say what can't be said. My poems these days are shorter and simpler and more sound-based, with only a whiff of imagery.
From Robert Creeley I heard poetry that was a living force, and my useful education in poetry was talking to him -- rather listening to him talk -- every Friday afternoon in his office at Harvard, where he taught summer 1972.
The first time I heard him, and Denise Levertov, and Robert Duncan, at SUNY Stony Brook in the late 60's, I knew they were changing poetry in our time, making it contemporary--organic, projective or field poetry they called it. Each experience has its own form. 'Form is never more than an extension of content and content is never more than an extension of form.' And we heard Louis Zukofsky at the Guggenheim, frail as his voice was by then.
+ Teaching Vita
NEW ENGLAND CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC - Boston, MA
Poet-in-residence. Spring 1996-present. Give Poetry Workshop; teach Contemporary American Poetry.
THE ART INSTITUTE OF BOSTON - Boston, MA
Adjunct Faculty. 2001-2005. Taught Contemporary Poetry, The Shaping of Western Culture, survey course of major figures from the Renaissance to the present, Poetry and Art.
THE SCHOOL OF THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS - Boston, MA
Visiting Faculty. 2001. Taught Poetry and Art in Crosscurrents interdisciplinary program.
NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY - Boston, MA
Part-time Instructor, 1998-2000. Continuing Lecturer, 1990-1998. Taught Poetry Workshop, junior/senior seminar in 20th Century American Women Poets, research paper course, Creative Writing, Introduction to Creative Writing, Writing for International Students, Freshman English I (introduction to writing) and II (writing about literature, including honors sections), and Basic Writing I & II; School of General Studies courses Fundamentals of English I & II.
BENTLEY COLLEGE - Waltham, MA
Writer-in-residence in poetry, 1987-1991.
Adjunct Professor, 1981-1987. Taught two courses per term, including Creative Writing, Introduction to Literature, Forms of Poetry, Rhetoric and Research, and Fundamentals of Composition.
BOSTON COLLEGE - Chestnut Hill, MA
Instructor, 1985-1987. Taught Advanced Prose Writing, an elective workshop and conference course for upper-level undergraduates.
LORAIN COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE - Elyria, OH
Instructor, 1977-1978 (one-year full-time appointment). Taught composition, Introduction to Poetry, and writing workshops in poetry and fiction each quarter; acted as advisor to literary magazine.
Instructor, taught various writing, composition, business communications, and literature/poetry courses at: Kennedy School of Government; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Cambridge College and other colleges.
Poets-in-the-Schools Program, Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities. Poet/Teacher, 1972-1989: Gave poetry workshops, grades K-12.
BOSTON UNIVERSITY 1970-1972
Master of Arts / Creative Writing
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA 1968-1970
Bachelor of Arts / English Literature
STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK AS STONY BROOK 1966-1968
Majored in English Literature
+ Related Experience
SOJOURNER - Boston, MA
Co-editor, 1987-1995, of the poetry page of this feminist journal
PARTISAN REVIEW - Boston, MA
Production and Advertising Manager, 1978-1979
BOSTON UNIVERSITY JOURNAL - Boston, MA
Editorial Assistant, 1973-1977
- Founded an ongoing discussion group on contemporary poetry.
- Started a series of benefit poetry readings and continued, with others' help, to organize them through and for Oxfam America.
- Volunteered at Oxfam America from 1978-1992
- In 2000, started a discussion group, The Feral Cafe, for artists and writers, which met for several years.
- Worked at Women Writers’ and Artists’ House, Annasquam, MA: June 2013 and 2012; Duxbury, MA: June 2003, 2001, 2000 and 1998.
- Collaborated with dancers, artists and writers at Windhover Center for the Arts, Rockport, MA: June 2012.
- Directed, with several others, New England’s small press/little magazine book fairs.
- Directed, with Ifeanyi Menkiti, the poetry program for First night, Boston’s new year’s eve celebration.
- Chose poetry and prose to be engraved on granite slabs in MBTA stations along the Orange line.
I had studied music when I was young & was admitted to the U of Indiana in music composition but the poetry, at Stony Brook, took over. Teaching poetry at the New England Conservatory of Music, which I have made my second home happily for 20 years, is to come full circle.
There is a devoted community of innovative poets in the Boston area and recently some of us have met at my home a few times a year to discuss poets we love and whom some of us have known. I need this conversation.
And the continuing conversation with musicians. For several years saxophonist Noah Preminger and keyboard player Eric Lane and I had a band, low road, for which they wrote classic tunes for my poems, and we performed occasionally in NY and Boston. Then another band, though short-lived, led by Derek Beckvold, called Box Lunch; he and others wrote wild, gorgeous pieces, which are available now on the Pressed Wafer website, to accompany my new book of poems, ask anyone. Frank Carlberg, who made a CD of Creeley settings among his many other poetry settings, has written a setting to a short poem of mine; and he, Noah Preminger, & bass player Simón Willson and I will be making an album this spring. These are some of the most talented musicians around and a world class source of energy and ideas for me.
For most of my adult life I have taught -- first at Lorain County Community College in Ohio, than at various colleges around Boston, including Boston College, Bentley College (where I was poet-in-residence for four years), Northeastern University, the Kennedy School of Government, The School of the Museum of Fine Arts (a course on poetry and art), and The Art Institute of Boston. In addition, for many years I gave poetry workshops in MA public schools, visiting every grade from kindergarten to twelfth. I discovered that if I read some Gertrude Stein to fifth graders and asked them to write their own Stein poems, they could and would.
Having to grade innumerable papers over the course of my teaching life took time from writing and reading what I would have liked, no question. But living in that world, and before that in the world of journals -- I worked at Partisan Review and the Boston University Journal for nearly six years -- I felt at home.
Feminism has been essential, too, and especially Adrienne Rich, her presence on the scene and her writing. I can't say that I choose the subjects of my poems so it's not as if I decided to write feminist poems--I didn't--but her essay "Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying" and her ideas about a woman-centered university and about being a Jewish woman in our world had repercussions in my life so they entered the work somehow.
Political work has been necessary for me at times. For fourteen years I volunteered for Oxfam America; for seven of those years I went to the Boston office to mail flyers and help with other chores. For the next seven years with the help of a group I organized poetry readings for Oxfam; we managed to raise $60,000 by bringing Rita Dove, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, Cecilia Vicuna, Anne Waldman, Denis Brutus, Sonia Sanchez, Marjorie Agosin, Etheridge Knight, Kenneth Koch, Philip Levine, Galway Kinnell, Ellen Bryant Voight, Joseph Brodsky, Sharon Olds, Alicia Ostriker, Robert Bly, Bei Dao and others to Boston to read to large audiences.
Lately my deepest concerns are factory farming and climate change, and prisoners in solitary confinement, an outrage of another kind, and the plight of women around the world, and the unnecessary blindness of poor people. In recent years I've contributed to the schooling of three girls in Kenya and helped to fund a dorm for a girls' school in a small town there. Ecopoetry and zoopoetics enter my poems from time to time.
Working and playing with musicians at the New England Conservatory, where I've been for twenty years, giving a poetry workshop and teaching Contemporary American Poetry, is an extension of everything I am interested in pursuing in the arts. I do my best teaching there, given the commonality of poetry and music, and these accomplished students keep me on my toes. Composers -- Lee Hyla, Alan Fletcher, Joe Maneri, David Amram, Frank Carlberg, Bob Cogan -- have come to class to talk about their musical settings of poetry.
Each term a guest poet visits for one class meeting -- Robert Creeley, Elizabeth Willis, Lloyd Schwartz, Kate Greenstreet, Fanny Howe, Gerrit Lansing, Laurie Duggan, Tina Darragh and P. Inman, Laura Mullen, Brenda Ijiima, Andrew Schelling, and other major poets have added depth and excitement to the students' understanding of contemporary poetry.
What does it mean to get up each day knowing nothing? That is what a poet does. Actually, Creeley didn't know anything, Dostoyevsky didn't know anything -- no conclusions, just constant questions and dialogue -- that is my experience, one reason I love The Idiot.
Visual art has always pulled me in, and some of the people I've been closest to are painters. Once in a while I take an art course -- charcoal drawing, painting, pottery, watercolor -- and get absorbed --but only rarely find myself making art without that structure, though at times I draw and take photographs. I came up with a poem about Fielding Dawson's painting of Cy Twombly for my reading in conjunction with the ICA Black Mountain College show, and hope to collaborate with my painter friend Lucy Clark next summer. I've collaborated with other artists, too, including Laura Baring-Gould, a sculptor, Mary Ann Sullivan, a filmmaker, and Karen Klein, who works in various forms. As sound is to me fundamental to poetry, the colors and textures of painting are what I'm most drawn to in art.
Background: Born in New York in 1949; a year later we moved to Princeton, as my father got a post-doc in math at The Institute for Advanced Study. My mother, who lived in Lithuania until she was twenty, became a mathematician, too, and a sculptor, and later wrote (a still unpublished) book on math as an art form. My father had studied music at Julliard while getting his master's at Yale in math and physics. He played bassoon and conducted. Any spirituality that developed in me came from my maternal grandfather, an Orthodox rabbi, and I lived on my uncle's kibbutz for two summers, picking pears in '67 after the Six-Day War.
When my father got a job in Washington, DC, we moved to MD.
Every day of my childhood we listened to classical music, whether I liked it or not, and my father gave me piano lessons. While in high school, I took harmony and theory courses at UMD and studied privately with a composer, took singing lessons with Don Boothman, and wrote songs and rudimentary classical music. I directed the junior chorus in high school.
Then off to SUNY Stony Brook, which had the most adventurous poetry program around. During my first two years of college, at Stony Brook, I studied with Jim Harrison and George Quasha, after which I transferred to UPenn, where I finished my degree in English literature, filling in gaps with more traditional courses. After various adventures like hitching around the U.S., and jobs, I moved to Boston in 1971 to get a master's in creative writing at Boston University, studying with Anne Sexton, John Malcolm Brinnin, Alberto de Lacerda, and George Starbuck, and acting as teaching assistant to George Starbuck in his course Modern Metaphysical Poetry. Later, at Case Western Reserve, I fell into Myth and Religion of the Ancient Near East and came to love Inanna and other early myths.
The poets who stay with me are Creeley, Levertov, and other Black Mountain poets, The Objectivists, and Rich, and Yeats. Having traveled to St. Petersburg last summer I find myself returning to the Russians, and having visited Provence the summer before I've been back to the French, and sitting in on a French conversation group, having lost most of my vocabulary.
After a few years in Cleveland and decades in Watertown, MA I bought a house in West Cambridge; it seems inevitable that I would move back here, where I lived in various apartments in the 70's.
My poems and prose have appeared in a great many journals over the years, notably Jacket2, Let the Bucket Down, Talisman, Harvard Review, EOAGH (where I'm now on the board), Big Bridge, Shampoo, Ping Pong, Ecopoetics, The Women’s Review of Books, Agni, Shuffle Boil and SpoKe. Recently I became a contributing editor to Charles River Review.
Most of the well over a hundred readings and performances I've given have been in Massachusetts; to name a few venues: The Grolier Poetry Book Shop, Outpost, The BookCellar Cafe, and Lily Pad, in Cambridge; Peabody Essex Museum in Salem (with Eric Lane on keyboard and Derek Beckvold on saxophone); Gallery 119 in Lowell; Gloucester Writers Center; Andover Bookstore; Brookline Booksmith, the ICA, Suffolk University, Boston College, Studio Solo, Trident Booksellers, Waterstone's and Avenue Victor Hugo bookstore, in Boston; Regis College in Weston; Wheaton College in Norton; on Phone-a-Poem Boston; and at Wellfleet Public Library and other libraries around the state; and in New York/Brooklyn, for instance, The Bowery Poetry Club, La Mama, Unnameable Books, Goodbye Blue Monday (with Tim Davis on bass), Cornelia St. Cafe, and Douglass St. Studios.
But I've also read in St. Petersburg, Russia, at Ziferblat Saint-Petersburg Nevsky; Barcelona, at Sala Ramona; Portland, ME, at Raffles Bookstore; Washington, DC, at The Corner Store on Capital Hill and at Art-o-Matic, with the Malcolm X Dancers; Philadelphia, at a HIldegaard von Bingen conference, at the Marion Locks Gallery and elsewhere; New Haven, at the Ordinary Evening Reading Series, and on NPR's "All Things Considered."
I've had a few opportunities to improvise poetry with world class musicians, most recently at The Beehive, Boston Center for the Arts, with Nat Mugavero (drums), Jason Palmer (trumpet), and John Lockwood (bass); and musicians have often improvised to my poetry, for example, Hankus Netsky (piano), Linda Chase (flute), and Tupac Mantilla (percussion) at Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory.
Mario Caroli (flute) and Jean-Francois Charles (electronics) performed Charles' setting of a long poem of mine at Harvard.
In 2012 I had the chance to collaborate with dancers, writers and visual artists at a week-long retreat in Rockport, MA, and for half a dozen summers I wrote at a women writers' retreat at various houses in Duxbury and Gloucester, MA.
Two panels I've been involved in recently at Harvard have been particularly important to me: one on The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley, the other an interview, with Jim Dunn, of Gloucester poet Gerrit Lansing.
I've enjoyed being interviewed and hosting others on radio on WBUR and other stations.
And so it goes.