A Virtual Poetorium Interview With Therese Gleason…

Therese Gleason

Today’s post is the fourth in a series of interviews with poets reposted on this blog that originally appeared in the Virtual Poetorium. This interview with poet Therese Gleason was first published a little over two years ago in the May 26, 2022 edition of the Virtual Poetorium (I hope you will enjoy reading it)…

Therese Gleason is author of two chapbooks: Libation (2006), selected by Kwame Dawes as co-winner of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative chapbook competition, and Matrilineal (Finishing Line, 2021). She was a finalist in the 2022 Wolfson Press chapbook competition, and received an honorable mention for the 2020 Frank O’Hara Prize from The Worcester Review. Her work has appeared/is forthcoming in 32 Poems, Indiana Review, RattleNew Ohio ReviewPainted Bride Quarterly, America, and elsewhere. Originally from Louisville, KY, Therese currently works as literacy teacher at an elementary school in Worcester, MA, where she lives with her spouse and three children. She reads for The Worcester Review and has an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University. Find her online at theresegleason.com. Copies of Therese’s most recent chapbook Matrilineal may be purchased online through her publisher Finishing Line Press by clicking here.

RON: My first question is so who is Therese Gleason anyway?

THERESE; Mom of three, poet, educator, quasi-southerner with a midwestern twist, wife, double-twin (I’m a twin and the mother of twins), friend, unofficial family historian, astrology buff, non-native Spanish speaker, former marathon runner, erstwhile vegetarian, sweet tooth, inveterate napper, ceiling gazer, not necessarily in that order.

RON: Where have you come from, (meaning what city and state)?

THERESE: I was born in Springfield, Illinois, moved to St. Louis, Missouri when I was a toddler, and then spent most of my formative years in Kentucky, growing up in Louisville and then attending the University of Kentucky in Lexington for my undergraduate degree in Spanish and my masters in English. I also spent a summer living in Cape Coast, Ghana, and lived two years in Madrid, Spain, two years in Washington, D.C., and over a decade in Columbia, South Carolina. We moved to Worcester from South Carolina five years ago this summer for my husband to take a position directing the International Development, Community, and Environment department at Clark University, and I’m proud to call central Massachusetts home. I heart Worcester!

RON: Who influenced your abilities in writing?

THERESE: I am fortunate to come from a family of readers and lovers of literature and art. I grew up being read to from as far back as I can remember, including my father reading me and my two sisters picture books and then The Little House on the Prairie series when we were in preschool. My mother is a voracious reader and I have always marveled at her ability to completely lose herself in a book – probably a survival mechanism for a mother of five. She took us to the library practically weekly and we read rather than watch much T.V., which she limited stringently.

My grandfather, too, was a huge influence, never failing to ask me (and his other two-dozen plus grandchildren and great-grandchildren), what I was reading. He introduced me to Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose poems he could quote by heart. A medic in World War II at age nineteen, he went on to father seven children and have a long career as a cardiologist, after which, in his retirement, in between learning French and golfing daily, he wrote three memoirs and was at work on his fourth at the time of his death. Not long before he died, he passed the torch to me when I congratulated him on his third self-published book, saying “you’re next.”

RON: Who is your most loved poet (or poets) and why?

THERESE: This is so hard to answer…but it’s probably Stanley Kunitz, for his humanity, imagination, intelligence, and the beauty of his language and insights. I could go on for pages about all the others I also adore…so I’ll spare everyone and stick with just one.

RON: Do you have children and do you write anything for them? Or about them?

THERESE: I have three spirited children who amaze me and make me laugh every day: my oldest daughter is thirteen and my twins, a boy, and a girl, just turned ten. They sometimes find their way into my writing, but I don’t tend to write things specifically for them.

RON: How much time do you spend writing? Like, do you write every day?

THERESE: I write almost every day, but that has not always been true. When my children were younger, I had long dry spells of not reading or writing poetry. I find it’s an ongoing process to carve out the time and space I need to write while being flexible based on my other roles and responsibilities, namely parenting and teaching literacy/reading intervention to students with dyslexia and other learning differences.

RON: Paul, do you have any questions you’d like to ask Therese?

PAUL: Yes, thank you, Ron. I do have a few… Therese, can you tell us what it is like to pursue your Master of Fine Arts in Writing, and do you think that is something every poet should do?

THERESE: I couldn’t speak to what other poets should do, but I am infinitely grateful that I took the plunge and have been able to pursue my MFA at Pacific University. I pondered doing this for years, and finally decided on a low-residency format, to allow me to keep working and taking care of my family while learning from a roster of poets so outstanding that I literally pinch myself that I get to study with them: Kwame Dawes, Mahtem Shiferraw, Marvin Bell, Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar, Ellen Bass, and Shara McCallum, to name a few. In fact, I sought out Pacific University knowing Kwame Dawes was on the faculty, having been fortunate to work with him before. My main goals in undertaking the MFA were to cultivate a daily/near daily and regular reading and writing practice that I can sustain and maintain in the midst of ‘real life’ and my other family and work responsibilities; to improve my craft, and to find a community that supports and inspires me.

So far, one year into the program, I can say my investment is already paying off in spades. I am so glad I gave myself this gift and fortunate to have this opportunity. The way the program works is that over two years, we attend five intensive, in-person residencies with daily workshops, craft talks, and readings of 10 days each, which happen to be in beautiful Forest Grove and Seaside Oregon. During each of the four semesters, we are matched with a faculty mentor and advisor, with whom five packets of work are exchanged throughout the semester; these include about 4-6 poems each, and three reading commentaries on poetry collections. Each semester, our faculty advisors help us create a reading list of 20 books; third semester includes a critical essay and the fourth semester includes a creative thesis. The program at Pacific has an inimitable combination of rigor and warmth and is genuinely friendly and supportive while also challenging each writer to be their best.

PAUL: Do you ever do research while writing a poem, and if so, are there any particular subjects that you learned a lot more about now because of your poetry?

THERESE: I have benefited from the extensive genealogical research that my great aunt did on my maternal line: I have used the citations in her two meticulously researched books as a springboard for continued digging via ancestry.com and other online and archival sources. This has informed a cycle of poems (some of which were featured here), and that I am continuing to work on. Something I learned through this research is that one branch of my family has deep roots in New England going back to the earliest days of the colonies, with involvement in such formative events as the Salem witch trials and the American Revolution.

PAUL: Can you tell us a bit about your process of writing a poem (especially how you usually begin)?

THERESE: Well, usually I begin writing by hand in a composition notebook, one of those speckled black and white ones with a mechanical pencil, sometimes from a prompt and sometimes when the spirit moves me. Then I move to the computer and type the poem, which allows me to manipulate the lines and language more easily. I tend to make many versions and changes, sometimes printing poems out and marking them up, sometimes emailing them to myself and reading them over and over at different times of day and in different places. I also read my poems out loud to try to refine the lineation and sonic elements. I’m lucky to have a couple of wonderful writing groups in which we read and share comments on each other’s work every week/biweekly. Having community to help refine the work and be in conversation with other poets is something I sought for a long time, and I am grateful to have this in my life now.

PAUL: How did your chapbook Libation come about? For instance, is this a collection of poetry you previously wrote, or did you write poems specifically for this chapbook?

THERESE: I didn’t set out to write a chapbook; Libation (Stepping Stones Press, 2006) came about from my daily journaling and poetry writing during the summer of 2000, when I spent May to August in Cape Coast, Ghana, with my now-husband Ed Carr, who was working on archaeological and ethnographic research in two small villages called Ponkrum and Dominase, just inland from Cape Coast. I carried my notebook everywhere and crafted poems out of my observations and experiences. I returned to Kentucky and workshopped some of the poems in my classes led by James Baker Hall, with a phenomenal group of peers. Then for two years the poems sat while I taught English in Madrid. When we moved to Columbia for my husband to take a position at the University of South Carolina, I was incredibly lucky to encounter the South Carolina Poetry Initiative at the university, headed by Kwame Dawes.

This is kind of like a fairy tale, but he graciously offered to read my manuscript and provided detailed, generous feedback. I also participated in the SC Poetry Initiative’s First Book Project, a small (free, open to the public) group of poets with manuscripts they were working to arrange into collections. We took turns reading each other’s manuscripts and providing feedback on the order and coherence of the pieces as a whole as well as making other editorial suggestions. It was led by Ed Madden, an incredible poet and teacher, and several of us ended up getting published afterward. I entered my chapbook in the inaugural South Carolina Poetry Initiative Chapbook Competition, and it was a co-winner, selected by Kwame Dawes and published by the Poetry Initiative at the University of South Carolina. It was a dream come true and a combination of luck and timing that I happened to be in the right place at the right time to access such a marvelous poetry community. I didn’t quite realize at the time how unusual and charmed my experience was, but I do now, and will always be grateful.

A Virtual Poetorium Interview With Poet Robert Eugene Perry

Robert Eugene Perry

Since both the Virtual Poetorium interviews with James R. Scrimgeour and Jonathan Andersen, which I previously reblogged here on this blog, seemed to be fairly popular with readers, I am following them up today with a more recent interview I did with the poet & novelist Robert Eugene Perry that originally appeared just a few months ago in the February 22, 2022 edition of the Virtual Poetorium (I hope you will enjoy reading it)

Robert Eugene Perry is a native of Massachusetts. Both a talented novelist and poet, his first novel Where the Journey Takes You, a spiritual allegory combining poetry and prose, was published in 2007. This was followed by three collections of poetry The Sacred Dance: Poetry to Nourish the Spirit in 2008, If Only I Were a Mystic, This Would All Come So Easy in 2011, and Surrendering to the Path released by Human Error Publishing in 2020. His latest book Earthsongs, also published by Human Error Publishing in March 2022 (a month after this interview) is a collection of 50 of his poems as well as 50 companion black and white sketches by his artist friend Ferol Anne Smith (All his books can be purchased online via links found on his website: https://roberteugeneperry.myportfolio.com) Perry hosted a poetry group for disabled individuals at the former New England Dream Center in Worcester MA, and has emceed the monthly Open Mic at Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster MA since May 2017. Three poems were included in NatureCulture/ Human Error Publishing 2021 anthology Honoring Nature. Two of Perry’s poems were published in Poetica Magazine’s 2020 Mizmor anthology. He has had several poems published in Worcester Magazine, and his short story “In The Company of Trees” was published by WordPeace journal in 2021. A metaphysical poet, he draws inspiration from nature endeavoring to reveal connections between our higher selves and the natural world. He is a devoted husband and father of two grown boys.

A Virtual Poetorium Interview With Poet Robert Eugene Perry

PAUL: Good evening, Bob! My first question for you tonight is who or what first inspired you to start writing poetry?

BOB: I was 12, seventh grade English class writing assignment. We had just finished reading some famous poems by Frost, Dickinson, and William Carlos Williams. I especially remember “This Is Just To Say”, I had never heard anything like it.

The first poem I wrote was called “Night”. It went something like: “Night is calling/ the bats are hunting/ the owls are hooting/ something is moving/ is it man or beast?/ I’ll never know/ it’s going away.” My teacher loved it. Everyone else gave me a hard time because it didn’t rhyme.

PAUL: Who are some of your favorite poets and can you tell us why you like them?

BOB: So I will start with my two favorite poets, both of which I was fortunate enough to do Dead Poets segments at the live Poetorium in Southbridge: Mary Oliver and T.S. Eliot.

On the surface, their poetry may seem to be disparate. Upon closer examination, they both write about faith, connection, and our place in the universe. I discovered Eliot in High School, where I took on The Waste Land out of hubris (the most difficult choice given) and waited until the last minute to start it. My professor gave me a D, which was actually more than it deserved. Through the years I have read & reread most of his other works, and found a depth, unlike any other poetry, especially in Four Quartets.

I came late to the Mary Oliver party, only discovering her in the last decade. Her connection to Creation and ability to use language to describe it is beyond compare. These are the only two poets that I have multiple volumes and return to again and again.

I am very fond of poetry anthologies for two reasons: discovering poets who resonate with me, and also hearing many voices not only broadens my perception of the universe, but it also keeps me from trying to emulate anyone else’s style. I am grateful to have poems included in two anthologies over the past couple years: Poetica magazine’s 2020 Mizmor Anthology: Spirituality in Nature and the NatureCulture/ Human Error Publishing 2021 anthology Honoring Nature.

I also receive two daily emails and one monthly to keep up on current poetry: poets.org, Writer’s Almanac, and Gratefulness.org. Poems that move me I will share to Facebook, and so encourage others to discover modern poets.

PAUL: How has your writing style changed and progressed throughout the years?

BOB: As I mentioned earlier, the first poem I wrote did not rhyme. I spent the next ten years or so working on rhyme scheme, meter, and cadence until I reached what I felt was the apex in Cold Seasons of Self. The next decade was honing narrative, finding the cadence in blank verse, finding the correct words to express what was going on inside me. I would define these two decades as my intellectual quest for expression and connection.

My poetry mirrored my faith journey, which moved from Agnostic to Pentecostal (at age 21) to Non-Denominational to Catholic to Episcopalian to Who Gives A Damn About A Label (my current home).

My first two chapbooks were more religious in nature, as that was the way I expressed myself at the time. I have used the term metaphysical poet for the last few years as it most adequately describes the place where I am coming from: trying to see how the divine manifests in creation, and express that through whatever means possible – generally using allusions, symbols, and metaphors from nature.

PAUL: How would you personally define “Poetry” and for you what do you feel are its most important aspects (imagery, rhythm, word choice, etc.)?

BOB: To define a thing is to try and put it in a box. Some things should be left wild & free to develop in whatever way they grow. I know that you are an aficionado of poetry forms, so I hope that does not rub you the wrong way!

For me, it is always about the message first. No matter how well crafted, or true to poetic form, if I cannot understand what the poet is saying (on some level) then it will leave me cold. The message does not have to be obvious, but it has to be there.

The next in importance is cadence, it has to have some type of flow to move it along. Imagery is wonderful for getting immersed into the poem itself. A rightly placed word is like finding a gem along the path.

PAUL: How would you describe the poetry you are currently writing?

BOB: I just sent a new manuscript off to Human Error Publishing, called Earthsongs. It is a collection of 50 poems and 50 black and white sketches with my artist friend Ferol Anne Smith. This was an extraordinary venture, because it caused both of us to view our art through the eyes of one another.

The majority of the poems are nature-themed, so certain images naturally presented themselves. She used many of my photos from my weekly walks in the woods as springboards, but some were intuitively grasped from the message of the poem.

It was absolutely a labor of love, we would confer about the sketches and we found that we were in sync in almost every instance. I am in awe of her gift, and it moved me as a poet to see how the message came across and translated into the image.

PAUL: Do you recall the first poem you ever had published? Could you tell us where it appeared, and if possible, share it with us now?

BOB: The first poem that won an award was published in an International internet forum called the Poets of Mars. The poem is called Quest, and was the January 2019 winner…

Quest

Restlessness aside, this day is all I own
to try and piece the mystery
of all that’s right in front of me
the passion and calamity
each single heart has known.

Preposterous indeed, to attempt to understand
the music of the spheres
and if god interferes
when the verdict of the years
lies beyond my mortal span.

Indescribable, this joy, that masquerades as pain
the veil of this uncertainty
longing for eternity
deep and wide as any sea
the risk could all be vain.

Ineffable, this grace, which launched a foolish quest
to seek out a connection
between each path’s direction
towards the divine reflection
and find my soul at rest.

Robert Eugene Perry (originally published on the Poets of Mars internet forum)

PAUL: Have you developed a regular writing routine, and if so, can you describe it to us?

BOB: I sit by the French River every day after work, listening to the river flow. I do that in all four seasons, each season has its own beauty and voice. In fine weather I will walk in the woods after work or on the weekends.

Some days a poem will come, some days it will not. I always have pen & paper. I never worry. If I am in the mood to write, I will write even if it does not seem particularly good. Those words are sometimes the inspiration for another poem down the line.

PAUL: What is your actual writing process like, and how do you go about starting and shaping a poem?

BOB: Almost always the title of a poem will suggest itself to me with a basic idea of what I want to write. Sometimes these come out of meditation, walking in the forest, sitting at the beach, or a situation in my daily life.

I write the title down, and if there is a start to the poem I will include that. Most times it is just the title, and writing it down makes a concrete intention to create something. When I was younger, the most important thing was to express that which was deep inside. Now when I write, connecting with others is paramount.

The poem itself takes its shape and form as it is being created. I never start out saying I am going to use this form or that style. The poem has a life & voice of its own, and when it is released into the Universe it will affect people differently according to where they are in their own journey.

For the final edit (and also along the way) nothing is more important than reading the poem out loud. I will catch errors, inconsistencies and rhythm/meter problems easier that way. It is also great practice for reading out at open mics & such.

PAUL: How important do you feel revision is in writing poetry, and how do you know when a poem is finished?

BOB: I know some poets who never revise, and others who edit to the point of distraction. I had one friend who spend so much time on a particular poem she said she thought she “edited all the goodness out of it”!

I think once the poem finds its voice, it is important to edit the structure and cadence so as to reveal the intonation of the poem in the written form. When a person reads it, they should be able to hear the way I would read it out loud in their head.

PAUL: Could you tell us about any poetry or writing projects you are currently working on?

BOB: I mentioned Earthsongs has been sent to the publisher, I anticipate the book being available sometime in March 2022. I have scheduled a book launch party at Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster MA for April 2nd. We will have two sessions 1-2 and 3-4 PM so promote a more intimate atmosphere and to provide smaller crowds. It will be multimedia, with Ferol showing her sketches on a large screen while I read.

The next book of poems I am working on are more confessional in nature, a little more edgy. I think it is important to look for different ways of expressing myself and making that connection with others.

PAUL: What advice would you give to someone who is just beginning to write poetry?

BOB: Read everything you can. Anthologies are wonderful, because you are exposed to so many different voices. If you are just starting out, write every day. Keep a journal, oftentimes your thoughts will turn into poems. Also, when keeping a journal you are less likely to throw away poems that you think are no good.

I used to throw away tons of poems before I came to my current way of doing things. Find your own way of doing things. Crossing things out is a wonderful way of helping the poem to evolve, you can see your progress that way. If you crumple it up and throw it out it is gone forever.

PAUL: My final question of the evening is there any question that you would like to answer about your life, or poetry, or anything else that I have failed to ask you during this interview? If so, please answer it for us…

BOB: Nothing is ever wasted. Every single life experience, no matter how painful or humiliating can be used to help another along the path. Poetry is art, and all art is meant to be expressed and shared with another. We absolutely need each other.

An Invitation to Participate in The Virtual Poetorium For May 31st, 2022…

Dear Readers,

I am very pleased to announce that we will be producing a May edition of the Virtual Poetorium this month (to be posted on the Poetorium website on the evening of the 31st) with Kevin King, a very talented novelist and poet from New Hampshire (author of the novel All the Stars Came Out That Night and the collection of poetry Ursprache) as our featured poet. Once again like I have done in previous months, I am going to once again open up May’s Virtual Poetorium for anyone who would like to participate and extend an invitation to all my fellow bloggers and faithful readers (or just anyone just happening to be reading this) to be a part of our unique online poetry gathering in print.

To be part of our virtual open mic this month, please send us one to three of your own original poems or stories (under 2000 words altogether please) either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of an email along with your name, any opening remarks you care to make, and where your poem has appeared if it was previously published to poetorium@mail.com by Friday, May 27th. Also if you like, you can send us a photo of yourself to be posted above your poem, but that is totally optional.

We will also need contributions to this month’s Poetorium Group poem. This month, the group poem will tentatively be titled “May Is the Month”. To participate, please send us one to eight lines with the first line starting with either the phrase “May is the month of…”, “May is the month for…”, or “May is the month to…”. All contributions (which will remain anonymous unless otherwise requested) will be compiled and included in this month’s Virtual Poetorium Group Poem. Once again, the deadline for submissions is the night of Friday, May 27th.

If you have any questions about submitting to the virtual open mic, the group Poetorium poem, or anything else about the Virtual Poetorium itself, please leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to answer them right away.

Thank you so very much for reading, folks! As always, I really appreciate everyone’s continued support of this blog, and hope to hear from you soon with your contributions to this month’s edition of the Virtual Poetorium!

The Virtual Poetorium for April 26th, 2022…

Dear Readers,

Here is the link to the April 26th, 2022 edition of the Virtual Poetorium posted last night on the Poetorium website for you to hopefully peruse and enjoy at your leisure: https://poetorium.home.blog/virtual-poetorium-april-26-2022/.

I want to thank my fellow bloggers (Gypsie) Ami Offenbacher-Ferris, poetisatinta, and tommywart for graciously accepting my invitation to participate which I previously posted on this blog. Once again I have decided not to repost the entire Virtual Poetorium here on this blog as I have often done with previous editions because I feel that it is probably too long a read and thus far too overwhelming for most of my readers (as a result, some really excellent poetry might be skipped, and that would be a real shame). So instead, I will just post this month’s Poetorium group poem (which is always one of my favorite segments of the Poetorium).  I want to thank Karen Durlach, Dwayne Szlosek, Ariel Potter, Howard J Kogan, and poetisatinta for contributing and making the following poem possible (I hope you will enjoy it):

Photo by Paul Szlosek

Six Different Ways of Looking at a Dandelion

I
Pinching out early weeds from the March mud,
Wet roots giving up easily,
Leaving naked beds to welcome new seed
Careful to leave the rosettes of jagged leaves
That promise of dandelion,
Their golden smile not a weed here
Until their white fluff flies off
To harass the neighbors.

II
Do the mayflowers tremble
When they hear the dandelion roar?

III
Dandelions delight the early bees, frustrate the lawn perfectionist
delight the poet by rhyming with Mayan and Zion
implying there there is a dandelion
in play in the deepest yellow-headed way

IV
“Do not cut off the dandelions’ heads!”
I cried to my father at five years old.
“They are tiny yellow Muppets,
And I love them…”

V
Dandelions are a nuisance to a perfect lawn.
But such a perfect pretty flower of bright yellow
It is bright like the sun,
but if you put the dandelion flower under your chin
your chin will become yellow with fun.
People want to know how it is done.
And you will tell them it is magic
(That’s how it’s done…)

VI
The dandelion’s feathers
have already flown
their offspring rise
and lean towards the sun
peeking over wild grass
sunbeams – everyone.

—The April 2022 Virtual Poetorium Group Poem

An Invitation to Participate in The Virtual Poetorium For April 26th, 2022…

Dear Readers,

I am very pleased to announce that we will be producing an April edition of the Virtual Poetorium this month (to be posted on the Poetorium website on the evening of the 26th) with long-time Poetorium regular and founder of The Poets at Large Poetry Word reading series in Connecticut and Massachusetts, Karen Warinsky, as our featured poet. Once again like I did in previous months, I’d like to once again open up April’s Virtual Poetorium for anyone who would like to participate and extend an invitation to all my fellow bloggers and faithful readers (or just anyone just happening to be reading this) to be a part of our unique online poetry gathering in print.

To be part of our virtual open mic this month, please send us one to three of your own original poems or stories (under 2000 words altogether please) either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of an email along with your name, any opening remarks you care to make, and where your poem has appeared if it was previously published to poetorium@mail.com by Friday, April 22nd. Also if you like, you can send us a photo of yourself to be posted above your poem, but that is totally optional.

We also will need contributions to this month’s Poetorium Group poem. Even if you were a long-time Poetorium regular, you still probably wouldn’t remember way back in July 2019 (when the Poetorium poetry readings were still live) that we rewrote the classic Wallace Steven poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” as our group poem. Well, this month, we will be once again using that classic poem as a template, but this time we’ll be substituting the word “dandelion” for “blackbird”. So, to participate, please send us one to eight lines containing either the word “dandelion” or “dandelions”. Your contributions (which like always will remain anonymous unless otherwise requested) will then be numbered and compiled into this month’s group poem which will be tentatively entitled “Different Ways of Looking at a Dandelion”. Once again, the deadline to contribute will be Friday, April 22nd.

If you have any questions about submitting to the virtual open mic, the group Poetorium poem, or anything else about the Virtual Poetorium itself, please leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to answer them right away.

Thank you so very much for reading, folks! As always, I really appreciate everyone’s continued support of this blog, and hope to hear from you soon with your contributions to this month’s edition of the Virtual Poetorium!

The Virtual Poetorium for March 29th, 2022

Dear Readers,

Here is the link to the March 29, 2022 edition of the Virtual Poetorium published five nights ago on the Poetorium website for you to hopefully peruse and enjoy at your leisure: https://poetorium.home.blog/virtual-poetorium-march-29-2022/

I want to thank my fellow bloggers Melissa LaFontaine, and (Gypsie) Ami Offenbacher-Ferris for graciously accepting the invitation to participate which I issued on this blog last month. Since this was probably the most successful Virtual Poetorium ever with fifteen poets participating, it may be too long a read (thus far too overwhelming for most of my readers), so I have decided not to repost the Virtual Poetorium in its entirety here on this blog as I have often done with previous editions. Instead I will do like I did last month, and just post this March’s Poetorium group poem (always one of my favorite segments of the Poetorium). Happily, as opposed to February’s poem for which we got only two submissions, we received contributions from seven poets (besides myself) so this poem is a bit longer this month. I want to thank Joe Fusco Jr., Tony Fusco (no relation), Dwayne Szlosek, Robert Eugene Perry, Melissa LaFontaine, Howard J Kogan, Cheryl Bonin, and Elizabeth (who didn’t leave the last name) for contributing and making the following poem possible (I hope you will enjoy it):

Just What Is This Thing Called Spring?

Spring is butterflies and buzzing bees.

Spring is
the raucous ravings
of avian angst.

Spring is Cherry Blossoms and blue skies.
Spring is the scent of bursting green blades.

Spring is the first dandelions
slow honey bees from the hive,
the fond hopes of the new year
tempered by memories of the past year.

Spring is falling in love all over again.

Spring is meeting someone new, as pretty as a spring rose.
Come dance with me, under the full moon tonight.
Come, the music is soft like the beauty I hold in my arms.
I can not look away, as I look into your eyes,
I see two people falling in love.
That’s why spring is, only for you and me to see our future
And love becomes one of the same, my true love to be.

Spring is dancing in the light sprinkle of rain.
Spring is cloud shapes transforming into ships and dragons.
Spring is a baseball hotdog and salted peanuts.

Spring is baseball…
Oiled gloves, tarred bats, chawed tobacco,
Coiffed grasses, smoothed dirt, powdered lines,
Old-timers, baby-faced rookies, renewed rivalries
Herald the coming of Spring.

Spring is the very nature of time changing speed.

Spring is effusive and too far away to be considered real
I can’t see the buds on the trees or the watering of potential
no warm breeze to feel
I do hear the birds singing but it seems like they do it in spite
I do sense the longer days and memories of my own fanciful flight
but it comes so silently I might as well not wait
or listen for the calls of geese as they break winter’s long state.

Spring is a non sequitur in Woosta!

Spring is only a rumor in New England.
Winter fades to Summer so quick
You’ll see us in shorts and winter jackets
Sandals and scarves, our cars’ back seats
Looking like a rummage sale.

Spring is now just a mere stopover on the long trek from Winter
To Summer, but back when I was a kid, it was our prime destination,
and I recall swinging on the backyard swing, and first noticing
new buds on the branches of the once bare elms and oaks,
the daffodils and paper whites in bloom, and experiencing
the inexplicable thrill of knowing that we had finally arrived!

—The March 2022 Virtual Poetorium Group Poem

An Invitation to Participate in the Two-Year Anniversary Edition of the Virtual Poetorium…

Dear Readers,

I am very pleased to announce that we will be producing our second-year anniversary edition of the Virtual Poetorium this month (believe it or not, we first started doing the virtual version of the Poetorium in March 2020) featuring the popular Central Massachusetts-area poet and musician tommywart (aka Tom Ewart). Once again like I did last month, I’d like to once again open up this March’s Virtual Poetorium for anyone who would like to participate and invite all my fellow bloggers and faithful readers (or just anyone just happening to be reading this) to be a part of our unique online poetry gathering in print.

To be part of our virtual open mic this month, please send us one to three of your own original poems or stories (under 2000 words altogether please) either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of an email along with your name, any opening remarks you care to make, and where your poem has appeared if it was previously published to poetorium@mail.com by Friday, March 25th. Also if you like, you can send us a photo of yourself to be posted above your poem, but that is totally optional.

In spite of the extremely low amount of interest last month, we will also have another go at putting together another Poetorium group poem this month. The group poem for March 2022 will fittingly be Spring-themed. To participate, please send us one to eight lines starting with the phrase “Spring is…”. All contributions (which will remain anonymous unless otherwise requested) will be compiled and included in this month’s Virtual Poetorium Group Poem. Once again, the deadline for submissions is the night of Friday, March 25th.

If you have any questions about submitting to the virtual open mic, the group Poetorium poem, or anything else about the Virtual Poetorium itself, please leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to answer them right away.

Thank you so very much for reading, my friends! I really appreciate everyone’s continued support of this blog, and hope to hear from you soon with your contributions to this month’s edition of the Virtual Poetorium!

The Virtual Poetorium for February 22nd, 2022

Dear Readers,

Here is the link to the February 22, 2022 edition of the Virtual Poetorium posted last night on the Poetorium website for you to hopefully peruse and enjoy at your leisure. I want to thank my fellow bloggers Melissa LaFontaine, Diane Puterbaugh, Ken Ronkowitz, and tommywart for graciously accepting the invitation to participate which I previously posted on this blog. I have decided not to repost the entire Virtual Poetorium here on this blog as I have often done with previous editions because I feel that this one turned out to probably be too long a read and thus far too overwhelming for most of my readers (as a result, some really excellent poetry might be skipped, and that would be a real shame). So instead, I will just post this month’s Poetorium group poem (which is always one of my favorite segments of the Poetorium). I must confess it was really looking like that for the very first time since the Virtual Poetorium began, the group poem wasn’t going to happen this month due to lack of interest. However, happily, a pair of last-minute contributions from first-time participants Melissa and tommywart rescued it from the sad fate of never being created. So here it is, a bit briefer than usual (I sincerely hope you like it as much as I do)…

The Top Secrets of Gastronomical Pleasure

The secret to a good cup of coffee is heat.
Coffee, bitter, bold, and steaming hot is naturally a bit too much, you see.
You can tone that down with a cool splash of cream,
So you can drink it fully, without sucking it through teeth.

The secret to enjoying an ice-cold can of Moxie,
Like a true veteran Northern Vermont Yankee, is to learn
To embrace the bitterness of the gentian root with its vague
Hints of dandelions gathered from sunlit fields, savoring
The acrid aftertaste of your first swallow, and the strange sensation
In your tongue as if it was sensuously sliding over the nipple-
End of a D cell battery, while your entire body shudders involuntarily.

The secret to a fine dessert is how much you will crave it.
Warm and flaky, creamy, cold, it must satisfy your palate.
Otherwise, so I’m told, there’s no reason to even try it.

—The February 2022 Virtual Poetorium Group Poem

An Invitation to Participate in Our Second Annual Virtual Ho-Ho-etorium…

I am very pleased to announce that this month, we will be once again producing a special Christmas-themed edition of the Virtual Poetorium which this year we are dubbing our Second Annual Virtual Ho-Ho-etorium. And like last year, we would like to once again open it up for anyone who would to like participate and invite all my fellow bloggers and faithful readers (or just anyone just happening to read this) to be a part of this special yuletide online poetry gathering in print. Unlike a regular edition of the Virtual Poetorium, there will be no featured poet, but instead, we will have two open mics — one regular and another for Christmas and New Year-themed work. Because of this, we are lifting our usual one piece per person limit and requesting that you send us up to three of your own original poems or stories (ones that have a Holiday or Winter theme are preferred though not required) either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of an email along with your name, any opening remarks you care to make, and where your poem has appeared if it was previously published to poetorium@mail.com by Friday, December 24th. Also if you like, you can send us a photo of yourself (extra brownie points rewarded if you are dressed in a festive holiday costume) to be posted above your poems, but that is totally optional.

Our Second Annual Virtual Ho-Ho-etorium will be posted on the Poetorium website (and on this blog as well) on the last Tuesday of this month which will be December 28th, 2021. However, as always, like a normal Poetorium (but in this case even more because you, our dear friends and readers, are the whole show) for it to be successful, we really need folks to participate. So please, please send us your poems and stories!

We also need contributions to the Ho-Ho-etorium Christmas-themed group poem. If you would like to participate, please send us one to eight lines starting with the phrase “This Christmas… “. All contributions (please let us know if you wish to have your name listed as a contributor or if you wish to remain anonymous) will be compiled into the group poem and included in the Virtual Ho-Ho-etorium. Once again, the deadline for submissions is Christmas Eve, Friday, December 24th.

Although we have jettisoned most of the segments associated with the Poetorium, like last year we will once again be including two special ones we created just for the Ho-Ho-etorium. Since some of my favorite memories of actual past holiday poetry gatherings involved food, those exquisite tasty treats which we would all bring in to share with each other (who could forget Anne Marie’s blonde brownies at the Jingle Mingle or my mom’s chocolate chip cookies at the Poet’s Parlor?), we will once again have a Virtual Poet’s Banquet table. Since this is an imaginary poetry reading in the form of a transcript, I think it would be fitting for all of us to contribute some imaginary food for a virtual poet’s potluck. Just mention what delicious imaginary dish you are bringing. It could be something you might have actually brought, or something totally fanciful (like caviar from the flying carp of the planet Neptune). For extra (blonde) brownie points, include a photo of your delicious dish and/or a recipe so everyone can sample it in their own kitchen.

Also what Christmas gathering would be complete without the tradition of gift-giving? I remember us staging Yankee Gift Swaps at the Poet’s Parlor as well as making everyone salt dough Santa ornaments (I was so much more ambitious and energetic back then). So to add the traditional present-giving element to our imaginary holiday gathering, we are utilizing a variation on the old surrealist game Time Travelers’ Potlatch. In case you are not familiar with it (by the way, a potlatch is a gift-giving competition practiced in certain cultures), the game is played by having each person describe the gift that they would present to various historical, mythical, or fictional figures of their choice on the occasion of meeting them. Our variation will be called the Surreal Secret Santa List in which we all list up to six historical, mythical, or fictional figures and the Xmas presents we would give them if we were their surreal Secret Santas. To help inspire you, here is the list I created for last year’s Ho-Ho-etorium:

Paul Szlosek’s Secret Surrealist Santa List

For Alexander Hamilton, a kevlar vest and frockcoat.
For Lois Lane, lead-lined lingerie.
For Sherlock Holmes, an Occam’s safety razor and shaving brush set.
For Danny Pudi, good coffee and warm socks.
For Robert Johnson, a textbook on contract law.
For Mankind, a digital doomsday clock with snooze alarm.

Remember you can choose any historical, mythical, or fictional figure you wish, and the gifts can be as practical or wacky as you want. Of course, you don’t have to submit a list if you don’t want to, but it would be so much fun if everyone did.

If you do have any questions about submitting to the two virtual open mics, the group poem, or anything else about the Virtual Ho-Ho-etorium itself, please leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to answer them right away.

Thank you so very much for reading! I really appreciate everyone’s continued support of this blog, and hope to hear from you soon with your yuletide contributions!

An Invitation to Participate in the Virtual Scaretorium…

I believe it’s been several months since I last mentioned the Virtual Poetorium on this blog, but be assured we haven’t discontinued it. In fact, I am very pleased to announce that this month we will be producing a special Halloween-themed edition which we are dubbing The Virtual Scaretorium, and would like to open it for anyone who would like to participate, inviting all my fellow bloggers and faithful readers (or just anyone just happening to read this) to be a part of it. Unlike a regular edition, there will be no featured poet, but instead will have an extra-long open mic to be divided into two sections. Because of this, we are lifting our usual one piece per person limit and requesting that you send us up to three of your own original poems or stories (ones that are scary or have a Halloween theme are preferred though not required) either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of an email along with your name, any opening remarks you care to make, and where your poem has appeared if it was previously published to poetorium@mail.com by Saturday, October 23rd. Also if you like, you can send us a photo of yourself (extra brownie points rewarded if you are in costume) to be posted above your poem, but that is totally optional. 
 
We also need contributions to this month’s Poetorium Group poem. To participate, please send us one to eight lines starting with the phrase “This Halloween… “. All contributions (which will remain anonymous unless otherwise requested) will be compiled and included in what we are calling this month the Virtual Scaretorium Group Poem. Once again, the deadline for submissions is the night of Saturday, October 23rd.
 
We will also be continuing (at least for this month) our monthly writing challenge in which we invite you to write in a different flash fiction or poetic form (it is very likely that this will be the very last one due to apparent dwindling interest). This month’s writing challenge is to write a six sentence story (your story can include a title or not, the choice is up you), and once again, a Halloween theme is suggested.  The only rule is that your story (or poem if you wish) must be written in exactly six sentences. The sentences can be extremely short or long. Also remember, in case of a poem, we are talking about sentences, not lines (sentences and lines are not the same since a sentence can run on for more than one line). I am afraid I don’t have any examples at this time for you to use as models, but I’m confident you probably don’t need any in order to write one. Please send us your best efforts to poetorium@mail.com by Saturday, October 23rd to be included in the Virtual Scaretorium.
 
Also if you wish, please feel free to send us any of your own original scary or Halloween-themed artwork or photos to be displayed and shared during our virtual intermission!
 
If you have any questions about submitting to the virtual open mic, the group Scaretorium poem or anything else about the Virtual Scaretorium itself, please leave them in the comments, and I will try to answer them right away.
 
Thank you so very much, my dear friends! We would really appreciate your help to make the Scaretorium a success, and look forward to your participation. Please take care, stay safe, and try to have a very scary but fun rest of October!