Archive for the ‘Sylvia Plath’ Tag

The Joys of Marriage for Writers   Leave a comment

 

Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Gavin Broom and Helen R. Peterson.

Writers are a fickle bunch. By necessity, we grow a tough skin, but we can still be sensitive to criticism, especially from other writers. I’ve co-edited projects with other writers with whom I’d been best friends before the project began, and no longer on speaking terms with after. It happens. So just imagine living and working with another writer. Co-editing a transatlantic literary journal. Lots could go wrong in that scenario.

It doesn’t always work, sometimes when one of you gets a story accepted in that journal that NO ONE gets accepted into, the other one can’t help but ask, “why not me?” But it’s nice to have an extra pair of eyes in the house to tell you when you’re getting it right, and wrong. It’s good to live with someone who understands, when you’ve got the notebooks and pens out, when the laptop is turned on, they shut the door, take the kids out for ice cream, and give you your space for a few hours.

Gavin and I have, so far, made it work. We were friends when we started working on Waterhouse together, and we’re still friends. More than friends in fact. We look forward to seeing how our life together is reflected in one another’s writing from now on, and seeing how working so closely together will improve the Waterhouse further.

We invite you to share this journey with us, by keeping an eye on this blog, the Melons and Memory Facebook page, and the Waterhouse Review ( www.waterhousereview.co.uk  ). Let’s enjoy this ride together!

Legendary Women of Poetry March 31st 2012   1 comment

Portrait of Edna St. Vincent Millay (1933-01-14)

Portrait of Edna St. Vincent Millay (1933-01-14) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On March 31st the Free Poets’ Collective organized their second Legendary Women Poets event, this time at the Forbes Library inNorthamptonMassachusetts. I was honored to be again included in the list of readers, this time focusing on Edna St. Vincent Millay.

 

Northamptonis the home ofSmithCollege, aMeccaof sorts for female poets, as it’s the Alma Mater of Sylvia Plath. The Forbes Library is surrounded by coffee shops, bars, art galleries and theaters. There are trendy shops including the impressively named Sid Vintage, a store featuring (what else?) vintage clothes. In addition to my reading of Millay, Ms. Plath’s works were also included in the event, as well as Lucille Clifton and others, including poets fromRussiaandSpain.

 

I love working with the Free Poets Collective, Colin, Yvon, and Andrea bring a great energy to every reading they organize. You can tell they’re truly passionate about the written word, and I always come away both entertained and enlightened.

 

For this reading, I decided to do something a little different. In addition to poetry, Millay wrote short stories and plays as well. One of her plays, Conversation at Midnight, was first written during the time Millay’s house burnt down. She lost the whole manuscript, and resolved to rewrite the entire thing from memory. It’s a great story, and an inspiration for me whenever a computer crashes or a flash drive goes missing. I happen to have a third edition copy of Conversation at Midnight, vellum wrapped and encased in a baby blue gift box. It’s one of my prized possessions, and I’ll take every opportunity to take it out and show it off. So, instead of reading her poetry, I read excerpts from her play instead.

 

After reading from the play, I shared with the audience two of my poems inspired by Millay. “We Were Very Tired” is inspired by Millay’s poem, “Recuerdo”:

 

RECUERDO

 

We were very tired, we were very merry–
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable–
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on the hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry–
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawlcovered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and the pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

 

 

My poem is one of the poems in the second part of my book, Melons and Memory:

 

We Were Very Tired

We were very tired,
We were very hungry
We went through the drive thru
Without a lot of money

In the car we smelt the smell of the consignment shops
We’d bought pants for the boys and for Sissy frilly tops

We were very tired,
We were very hungry
We went through the drive thru
Without a lot of money

The windows were all rolled up, to keep out rain and wind
The sound of Ella Elephant singing scat blasting from within

We were very tired
We were very hungry
We went through the drive thru
Without a lot of money

The window girl cried Lord Bless You! For the nickels and the dimes
As we asked for no ketchup, extra napkins half a dozen times.

 

 

 

The second poem was inspired not by Millay’s work, but by her life. Her mother, Cora, reportedly would put Edna or her sisters in a scalding hot bath or forced them to ride bareback whenever she feared they might be pregnant as young women. Very competitive with her daughters for men and fame, Cora feared ever becoming a grandmother, and worked hard to prevent it by any means necessary. This poem was published in 2010 by Snow Monkey.

 

http://snowmonkeyjournal.blogspot.com/2010/05/helen-peterson.html

 

After the readings there was a brief open mic period, in which my good friend Michelle read the poem I-95 from the same section of Melons and Memory.

It was a great day and well worth the hour and forty minute drive. I look forward to working with the Collective again in the future!

 

You can watch videos of this and other events I’ve read at on my Youtube channel, MsPetersonReads:

 

http://www.youtube.com/user/MsPetersonReads?feature=mhee

 

Barnwood International   1 comment

http://web.mac.com/tomkoontz/Site_30/Peterson.html

Barnwood published two poems of mine this year, “Searching for Suzanne on Youtube” and “Dying is an Art”, both poems inspired by the art of someone else. The first one is actually a tribute to two people, Leonard Cohen wrote the song Suzanne, but it’s Nina Simone’s cover of the song that inspired me to write. A lot of people, when I began to workshop this poem, questioned my use of Youtube, whether social media of any kind belonged in poetry. It’s an interesting debate, one I would welcome continuing in this venue, but ultimately I decided using Youtube set the timing of the poem at a date later than the initial recording in a way that added emotion to the discovery, without spelling out that it was the year 2010.

“Dying is an Art…” uses a quote from Sylvia Plath’s poem “Lady Lazarus” as its title. Reading her poem, and writing down the quote, opened up for me a topic that I had not heretofore written about with success, though I had tried many times. It was an incident in my life that was too emotional to write about head on, even years afterward. Plath has always been a favorite of mine, and I’ve read Lady Lazarus many times before the inspiration hit me to build on it with my own personal experiences with suicide.

As a writing prompt today, write out your favorite poem written by someone else, and see if you can find parallels in your own life. Write them out, and feel free to share.