Haiku contest winners!

July 7, 2008

At long last, here are the winners of the haiku contest we posted about last month! The winners each received tickets to a Steeplecats game. Our thanks to everyone who entered!

And the winners are…

Andrew Beaudoin, age 10:

Deep fly ball to left.
He’s going back, to the track,
At the wall…SEE YA!!!

Werner Gundersheimer:

Slathered with mustard
my hot dog falls to the ground.
Guess my team will lose.

Bill Mattia:

Scattered caps and gloves
Another bench clearing brawl
Caused by a bad pitch

Bill Miller:

More so than helmets or cleats

Paul Smachetti:

The ball on a hop
fielded cleanly at second,
the double play turned.

Daniel Spinella:

Wakefield calls the tune.
“Hoedown with Knuckleball.”
The batter beats time.

Honorable Mention:

Gene Conklin
Linda Delisle
Patrick Kelly
James Montgomery
Enid Shields


Inkberry co-founder at Best American Poetry

June 11, 2008

In early June I had the pleasure of serving as a guest-blogger at the Best American Poetry blog. (If you’re not already reading the BAP blog, allow me to recommend it; it’s as smart, wry, and multifaceted as one might imagine.)

I posted three poems over the course of my week there. Two of them are sestinas, both because I’m on a sestina kick lately and because I happen to know that the fine fellow who founded the BAP phenomenon is a fan of the form. Here are links to all three poems:


Voice (Naso)

Sestina Featuring Six Words Commonly Used On This Blog

It was a delight to lend my words to the Best American Poetry folks for a while. Thanks for the invitation, gang!

–Rachel Barenblat

Timeless tradition / Endless summers in the park / Everyone homers

June 11, 2008

Reprinted from The North Adams Transcript, with permission.

Baseball isn’t just for jocks and jugheads but for everyone, even the literary-minded. “America’s pastime” has long inspired writers — not only day-to-day journalists but novelists such as John R. Tunis, Jackson Scholz and the legendary Ring Lardner.

Aside from “Casey at the Bat,” by Ernest Thayer, one seldom hears about great baseball poems, yet there are many out there, as a visit to http://www.baseball-almanac/poems will attest. Among poets who have written about baseball are William Carlos Williams, Walt Whitman, Ogden Nash, Richard Armour and the ever-famous A. Nonymous.

Today, the local non-profit literary organization Inkberry, the Transcript and the North Adams SteepleCats are sending out a call to local poets (and anyone else who might be interested) to get inspired by this summer game so many of us love, whether we cheer for the Red Sox, the Yankees, the Mets or our local collegiate, high school, Babe Ruth or Little League teams.

The three organizations are sponsoring a Baseball Haiku contest, commencing immediately. The top three winners (and more if the poetry warrants) will receive free tickets to a SteepleCats home game at Joe Wolfe Field this summer. They will also have their poems published in the Transcript.
What is a haiku? It’s a form of poetry invented by the Japanese that anyone of any age can write. In English, haikus are traditionally composed of three lines: The first has five syllables, the second seven syllables and the third five syllables. The writers don’t even have to worry about punctuation. The poem that begins this article is an example of a baseball haiku (although not necessarily a good one).

Entering the contest is easy: Just send your haiku (or haikus) via e-mail to linda@inkberry.org or by regular mail to Inkberry, 115 State St., Building 1, North Adams MA 01247. All ages are welcome.

Winners will be announced in early July. Please include your name, address, phone number and e-mail address with your entry. The deadline is Wednesday, July 2, at 5 p.m.

Write your poem today
Get inspired by baseball lore
No one will strike out.

How to critique a poem

January 23, 2008

Sharon Brogan over at Watermark has a terrific post up entitled How to critique a poem. It’s full of nuggets of wisdom like:

  • Critique the poem, not the poet.
  • Don’t assume that the speaker of the poem is the poet; poets often write in fictional voices.
  • Say what you like about the poem; be specific.

— and many of the suggestions are links to comments or articles that shed more insight on her suggestions. The post is designed for those who are active in online poetry communities, but this advice would work equally well for in-person writing workshops…and I think these are generally applicable, with some obvious minor modifications, to commenting on prose (fiction or nonfiction), too.

There’s also a certain alignment between Sharon’s suggestions and the workshop instructions we developed at Inkberry’s inception…though, of course, her version doesn’t begin “Don’t eat babies.” 🙂

Get ekphrastic! (Guest post from Paula Orlando)

April 2, 2007

The next WordPlay event on 4/14 at Papyri Books is concentrating on Ekphrastic Poetry, in response to the “The Moon is Broken” exhibit at WCMA. Poet Paula Orlando writes about her ekphrastic experience.

I’ve been writing poetry since I was eight years old, but didn’t get serious about it until I moved to San Francisco and became involved with the Poetics Program at New College of California, where I studied with Tom Clark and was one of the founding editors of the college’s literary journal Prosodia. I received my MFA in English/Creative Writing at Mills College in Oakland and then moved to upstate New York to join the graduate program in English at SUNY Albany. Currently, I am a grant project manager at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and live at the Eclipse Mill Artist Lofts, where I am enjoying my involvement with the local arts community. The Inkberry Thursday night writer’s group has inspired me to begin working on a series of short stories.

At Inkberry’s Thursday night writer’s group, Jill suggested that we visit the Williams College Museum of Art and compose an “ekphrastic” poem in response to one of the photos in The Moon is Broken exhibit. I felt a bit apprehensive about this exercise because much of the imagery is abstract, and a lot of my past writing has tended toward the abstract and has been received as inaccessible. But when I saw the surreal Robert D’Alessandro photo of an elephant walking among the clouds I was quite taken with it because elephants are such ponderous, earthbound creatures. I immediately thought of the elephant in the photo as a kind of sky god, oddly light and airy. And then I thought of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha, widely popular in India as a benevolent god of good fortune. So, instead of writing a poem, I wrote a one-page “fable” about Ganesha, in which I drew upon some of the traditional stories and tweaked or reversed them, so that Ganesha, rather than staying with the people on earth and helping them out with their daily woes, rather selfishly returns to his mother in paradise. It is we, not this elephant, who are bound to the earth. This piece is consistent with much of my recent writing, which has focused on deconstructing religious motifs and symbols in an effort to problematize them or get closer to the spiritual “truths” that they sometimes obscure or distort. I also like experimenting with different “voices,” and, for this piece, I adopted the tone and stylistic mannerisms of the traditional fable. The ekphrastic poetry exercise turned out to be a lot of fun, and I am pleased with the piece that it inspired. Here’s an excerpt from my poem:

“In what dream,” he asked “would you hope to walk securely with two faces, one in front and one in back, like those who wear papier-mâché masks to confuse my cousin tiger? The tiger is the mind, and he is always following you.

“I cannot return,” he said, “to a place I never really was.”

Apologies to Poe, thanks to Inkberry! (guest post from Seth Brown)

June 11, 2006

One of the coolest things that happened at Inkstravaganza last night was that Seth Brown read a poem written in honor of Inkberry. It was fabulous. With his permission, we reprint it here!

“Apologies to Poe, Thanks to Inkberry”


Hear the writers with their words—
Silver words!
Litanies of literary merit will be heard,
As they’re writing, writing, writing,
On a worn and wrinkled page
While the dogs outside are biting
And the children all are fighting
Since they never act their age.
Ink will fall, fall, fall
As they write their scribbled scrawl
From the ink and inspiration which on them has been conferred
To write words, words, words, words,
words, words, words—
Their creation and formation of the words. [read more!]

Hear the poets with their words,
Golden words!
When a metaphor-y story of one’s death is writ as birds!
As they wrestle with their muse
For the perfect word to choose
In their careful-crafted lines
That they will write
From their ever-churning minds
As they try to pack these feelings into lines
Very tight!
And while seeking inspiration for their writerly vocation
They had found that their location had a bit of isolation
There were three with motivation to create a congregation
That gave writers information which would help them fight frustration
Thus this literary station long ago had its formation.
It’s been now five years duration, hence our current celebration
As we show appreciation and our ardent admiration
For this wonderful foundation — hopefully with a donation
To Inkberry.
It’s the personification of a literary friend,
Helping us to let our words run free, to frolic and transcend,
Pretty words, words, words, words,
words, words, words—
It’s instruction with production of our words.
Thank you, Inkberry.

A day with Anne Waldman

May 14, 2006

Inkberry’s day with Anne Waldman was absolutely fantastic.

I picked her up at Porches on Saturday morning and took her to Inkberry, where eight other women joined us for a day-long workshop called “Wide Awake Writing.” Some of us teach poetry regularly; some of us had never written poetry before. Anne created a workshop that was comfortable for newcomers, and engaging for oldtimers. (Click the “read more” link to hear all about it — and about the reading, too…)

We did several generative exercises during the day. The first was a paired interview exercise, where we paired up, asked each other questions, transcribed as fast as we could, and then turned those verbal sketches and interviews into poems. We wrote little four-line sense-poems; we wrote haiku on the spur of the moment and talked about the heaven/earth/man triad in classical haiku; we did cut-up poems, scavenging in newspapers and magazines for texts to reuse and work around.

She handed out a bundle of postcards and photographs, and we wrote poems inspired by the ones we’d chosen. At the end, we wrote a series of collaborative poems, writing lines and passing the pages around, and then Anne read the little impromptu anthology aloud while one of the students played a steady rhythm on her painted sticks.

It was a great workshop — exciting for all, and I think really transformative for some of us.

Afterwards I drove Anne down to Great Barrington. We managed to snag a table at Bizen, my favorite Japanese restaurant, in one of the tatami rooms. There wasn’t time for sushi, alas (the place was packed, and the sushi chef is meticulous) but we had good fish and talked about travel and poetry and movies and Japan. And then, off to the Guthrie Center!

I’d forgotten what a great space it is. That night it was dim and churchly, the red stage lit and the rest of the room sparkling with tabletop candles. A good-sized crowd came to hear three really excellent poets.

Though first we learned that every Wednesday there’s free lunch at the Guthrie Center (“There is such a thing as a free lunch!”) and every Thursday there’s a hootenanny. Neat, eh?

Ellen Doré Watson read first. “She Forgets Aphasia” moved me deeply — about her mother, ten years into Alzheimer’s. “An unmarriage is not a sweater, unraveled,” began one poem I liked a lot. I also liked the title poem of her book “We Live in Bodies,” which ends, “Bodies are the doomed and wonderful cities where we live.”

And between the poems, the shrill song of peepers floated through the walls…

Ilya Kaminsky was the second reader. They brought the house lights up a little bit, and he explained that as we may have noticed, he speaks with a heavy Russian accent, so to help us understand him, he would be passing out copies of his book so we could follow along.

His reading was gorgeous, and not quite like any other reading I have ever heard. He reads with a lilting music, like singing or praying — I found myself wanting to sway as I do during davvening. Sometimes I closed his book just to lose myself in the music of his voice, hearing the syllables accented and inflected, clearly Russian and quite beautiful. Of course, then I always opened the book again, because I didn’t want to miss his words.

(Apparently he has been Deaf since he was four, which makes the extraordinary beauty of his spoken poetry all the more impressive…)

Anne read last, and was predictably superb. She doesn’t just read poems, she performs them — she declaims. She reads with her whole body, the whole range of her voice, which is pretty awesome to behold.

I loved her poem “Yea, though I am walking,” which takes a phrase from psalms and runs with it. It has lines like “Yea, that thy thyness be without gender,” and “Thy will keep you awake in any time zone,” and “Thy goes back to any older time you mention.” And “Thy is a book of thy thyness which is not owned.”

Inspired by Ilya’s song-like manner of reading, Anne opted to read a poem for John Cage. Well, I say “read,” but really I mean sang — like weird avant-garde opera, which seems eminently appropriate for John Cage. Between the singing, the melodic onomatopoeia, and the oscillations of pitch and sound, I think I can safely say we’ll never hear anything quite like it in the Inkberry reading series again. More’s the pity; it was all kinds of fun.

Ditto “Matriot Acts,” which began, “Invoke the hyena in petticoats.”

All in all, though, I think the excerpts from “Marriage: A Sentence,” a long prose poem in sections, were my favorite. The story about when Coyote almost took a wife, the piece about women marrying women, and the piece “Stereo” which repeated so many pivotal words — good stuff.

So thanks to everyone who took Anne’s workshop; thanks to the folks at Blue Flower Arts and the Guthrie Center for putting this co-presented event together; and special thanks to Ellen, Ilya, and Anne, who are tremendous!