Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jessica de Koninck this Sunday in Hoboken!

Jessica G. de Koninck
October’s Spoken Word Artist
For Immediate Release: October 20, 2009

Performance Date: November 1, 2009, at 3 p.m., with open microphone following
Location: Symposia Bookstore, 510 Washington St., Hoboken, NJ (Accessible by PATH & Light Rail), www.symposia.us
Admission: FREE, with $3 suggested donation
Information: www.debaun.org/SpokenWordSeries.html or 201-216-8933

Hoboken, NJ: For the third installment of the 2009–2010 Spoken Word Series, DeBaun Center for Performing Arts and curator David Vincenti have chosen a well-published artist to be featured on Sunday, November 1, 2009, at 3 p.m.—Jessica G. de Koninck. The Spoken Word Series, co-hosted by Siobhan Barry-Bratcher and David Vincenti, is presented monthly at Symposia Bookstore, 510 Washington St., Hoboken, NJ.

Jessica G. de Koninck’s first collection Repairs, a series of poems about loss, was published by Finishling Line Press. Among numerous journals and anthologies, her poems appear in print in The Ledge, Bridges, the Paterson Literary Review, the Edison Literary Review and US 1 Worksheets and on-line in The Valparaiso Poetry Review and elsewhere. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A former Councilwoman and resident of Montclair, New Jersey, she is pursuing an MFA at Stonecoast. Also an attorney, Jessica is counsel to the South Orange and Maplewood Public Schools.

Jessica will read from her works and then the microphone will be open to the public to share their work. Although it is not necessary to pre-register to attend the event, those interested in sharing their work during the open mic are asked to sign up at 2:45 p.m. Open mic participants are asked to limit their work to five minutes per person.

The Spoken Word Series takes place at Symposia Bookstore, 510 Washington St., Hoboken, NJ. Symposia is the only used bookstore in Hoboken and has great prices for used books, wireless Internet access and many events every week. This is the sixth year DeBaun Center for the Performing Arts and Symposia Bookstore have teamed up to co-produce the Series. With each reading, more and more people are introduced to this wonderful bookshop and the work of many superb artists.

For more information, please visit www.debaun.org/SpokenWordSeries.html, email Center@debaun.org or call 201-216-8933.

The next Spoken Word event will be on December 6, 2009, at 3 p.m. with Linda Radice.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Dragon and the Bomb

Today's Literary Quote the Day at iGoogle is from W. H. Auden: "A poet can write about a man slaying a dragon, but not about a man pushing a button that releases a bomb."

Boy, I hate to disagree with a genius, but......

Seems to me that a more accurate (though admittedly less pithy) thought would be "It's easier for a poet to write a good poem about a man slaying a dragon than a good poem about a man pushing a button that releases a bomb." And stated this way, the justification is simple: distance.

It's easier (for most) to attain emotional distance from the romantic medieval fiction than from the difficult modern fact. And because of that, the bomber poems can fall much more easily into triteness or worse: political prose attempting to hide in a poem. For many of us who call ourselves "poets", attention to craft does down when we have "something important" to say. Billy Collins once noted that his poetry improved when he "realized he had nothing to say", his point being that many grand subjects had been written about before, often by the literary giants who preceded us, and to write something meaningful on those subjects meant to exceed their greatness.

Of course, the problem with many of us who all ourselves "poets" is a deplorable interest in our own history, a lack of awareness of those greats and an accompanying inflated sense of our own efforts. But that's another post.

What this means to me is that if you can find a way into the bombardier's seat that isn't a simplistic description of the ensuing horror or the pat discussion of conflict in his year, you can write that poem about the man dropping a bomb. If you can take what's going on in that instant and apply the filter of form or language to open it up to different interpretations, that subject should be wide open to you. It's just much harder to do it well.

It's this kind of logic that causes me to gravitate to my pet subjects, areas which for one reason or another are less crowded or lend themselves to reinterpretation or repurposing in verse.

Of course, this doesn't even begin to address the subject of the respective target audiences in Auden's original quote and the implications understanding them might have for the poem. Who do you think would be more open, less critical: dragonstory fans or devotees of the military and political?

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Few, Little, Tired Bits

Oh, my. You know the place writing has in your life when the hobbies hits the fan, so to speak. Let me set the tap to "drip, drip, drivel" and see if I have anything interesting to say.


It's been a phenomenal month on the New Jersey poetry scene. If you're already in Peter Murphy's PoetryNJ Yahoo Group, or a regular visitor to Anthony Buccino's NJ Poets and Poetry, or a subscriber to the Delaware Valley Poets list, or connected to one of the other terrific sources of information in our wonderful Garden State poetry community, you should get there.

How good is this month? Check out these events scheduled opposite each other next week:

Thursday, October 29, 7:30 PM Watchung Booksellers http://www.watchungbooksellers.com/

Thursday, October 29 @ 7:00 PM Middletown Public Library.

Also, I'm really late to add congrats, but Diane Lockward and Kelli Agodon recently announced upcoming books. And Meg Kearney's new book (announced some time ago) is now available at Amazon.


After 30+ years in musical theater (give or take a month), I performed my first solo in front of an audience tonight. Don't get me wrong, I've been singing in public forever, but no one has ever mistaken my very blendworthy bass for a less-powerful version Howard Keel. I kinda liked it.

Better, though, was getting a chance for my whole family to be part of the finale in our musical revue. All of us were in front of or around the footlights. I liked that a lot.

Incidentally, you have one more chance to see us.


I had forgotten, by the way, how all-consuming the final weeks of staging a production could be. It's not even that our individual bits require all that energy (though anyone who tells you maintaining your character, even for just a song or two, 4 or 5 nights in a row isn't work has never trod the boards) - it's just as much the active listening when you're not in character, the being present during other scenes to know how yours contributes to the whole...

And I'd forgotten how much fun it could be, too.


I'd like to thank the New Jersey Jets (you heard me) for not dragging things out until week 15 this year. That makes Sundays a bit easier. Frees me up to watch the bowling with a clear conscience.


I've just about got the hang of that Facebook thingy. My Artist's Page is slowly becoming both informational and entertaining. If you're looking for status updates, I'm not your man, but if you're looking for reminders of selected Jersey events, links to interesting arts articles or (perish the thought!) the chance to see me perform live, I think it's serving its purpose there. Easier to update than this (though that's a personal bias - if I'm in this space, I take a bit more care in the writing. Not always in the spelling, but in the writing).


Only 60 shopping days until Christmas. Feels like I'm behind already. Thinking about my annual Christmas poem. I'm leaning in a Peanutsy direction, if I can pull it off. Hard to tap the energy of the masterpiece. 'course I haven't made much time for the pencil.

Which means maybe I should end this post and grab my notebook. You think?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Monday Musings on Poetry Friday

I'm so far behind in the poetry orbit that I'm in danger of being lapped by Pluto, but I did happen to catch Khalil Murrell's Poetry Friday entry over at the Dodge Blog. I've enjoyed what the Dodge folks have done with that space, and Murrell's essay is interesting and well written, but there are couple of inconsistencies I'm struggling with.

When he says early on that "completing your MFA is like finishing med school or an MBA (except with less money-making potential, but similar debt).", I'm OK with it, though the difference between medical school and an MBA is huge -in both effort and application. In the sense that each area of expertise has a logical education terminus, I agree.

Next, in considering what to do with the thesis inside that terminal degree, Murrell asserts that "Naturally, capitalism offers an easy answer to these questions: morph it into manuscript, shop it around and publish! publish! publish!". Starting to lose me here. Having already asserted that there's no money in poetry and kept the work "professional" in quotes, it's misleading to call the drive to publish a capitalistic exercise, no matter what that implies.

"But in many ways life as a writer becomes more complicated once you drop the pen and certainly as you mature as an artist.". Hmm. Certainly no one can argue that maturation implies an acceptance of complexity, bit I don't understand how seeking publication equates to "drop(ping) the pen". This seems dramatic, and inappropriately so for someone familiar with the process. Going on to add "And believe it or not, I even miss the time when I foolishly wrote bad love poems (but good to me at the time) before the word “workshop” ever invaded my vocabulary." again speaks to nostalgia for a less complex, more youthful time, but doesn't speak to an older self who isn't writing.

Again speaking of publishing exclusive of or in preference to writing, Murrell notes that his writing buddies "are very disciplined about getting their work out there. In fact, one friend created an Excel document to track her submissions. Another keeps some type of document on his iPhone." This moves from nostalgia into naivete. Is it really such a surprise to track submissions? to navigate a spreadsheet program? To have such information handy?

Closing up his approach to completing his degree, Murrell notes "I’m satisfied with making sure I leave my program with an authentic—rather than workshop—voice, with trying to create something beautiful out of bewilderment or sadness." I've written about and empathize very much with pursuit of genuine voice. But the naivete is even louder here. Unless the point here is advocacy of college for college's sake - a strange sentiment for graduate school in this century - this implies that there is no connection between the conscious decision to pursue advanced education the desire to advance in one's field. Now, I don't think that Murrell's really saying this; I think he's just frustrated with the priority that publication has in some people's minds. However, when he adds that "I realize this may sound overly romantic if not inauthentic .... (b)ut a little romanticism has done very little to hurt the masses.", think frustration really clouds his position. I suspect many poets with a certain level of talent and accomplishment find the "romantic" opinion of the amateur - the "Hey, I've written a poem! Everyone needs to read it!" - more frustrating than the publish or perish attitude of the jaded professional.

Perhaps I'm picking nits here. And (Disclaimer Alert!) I'm not an MFA candidate and not likely to become one anytime soon. But I think most professionals like me, who went to graduate school specifically to learn and apply particular skills for the purpose of being and being recognized as someone more accomplished in a given field, I think Murrell's argument is (admittedly) romantic, but also deliberately incomplete.

Which may actually specifically make it poetic, now that I think a little. Maybe I'm way off after all.