Showing posts with label Poetry Hickory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Poetry Hickory. Show all posts

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Solving the World's Problems | Live Book Tour | 2013-2014

Here are the official and confirmed dates for my Solving the World's Problems "live" (or "in person") book tour. This list is subject to change and update over time. If you would like to set up an event in your neck of the woods, just send me an e-mail at

Dates for my "virtual" book tour are coming soon.

One of the most exciting and terrifying things I do as a poet is read at live events. They always end up being great experiences, but I always go into them expecting the audience to launch rotten tomatoes my way mid-reading.

By the way, click here to order your copy of Solving the World's Problems

2013 Dates


7 - Hayesville NC - Writers Circle (Workshop) 2 p.m. To register, send an e-mail to Glenda Beall at glendabeall [at] It'll be a 3-hour workshop covering poetry creation and re-creation. I promise it'll be fun.

11- Atlanta GA - Callanwolde Fine Arts Center 8 p.m. I'll be reading with Tom Lombardo, who just released his debut collection of poetry, What Bends Us Blue.

26 - Rome GA - Georgia Poetry Nights 7 p.m. This event includes pizza and poetry. I've never been, but I hear it rocks! (Unfortunately, I'm not able to get out for this one. Last minute car issues, but I'm sure it'll still be fun with poetry and pizza still on the menu.)

[If you live on the West Coast, you may be interested in the Writer's Digest West Conference. It's in Los Angeles September 27-29. I won't be there, but a lot of other great folks will be. Click here to learn more.]


5 - Cleveland OH - Words Dance Poetry Festival 6 p.m. Speaking of rocks, I can't wait to participate in this poetry festival in the land of the rock 'n' roll HOF. We'll be reading at a bowling alley, which I can't wait to experience.


16 - Frankfort, KY - Kentucky Book Fair. I still don't have all the details on this event, but Solving the World's Problems will be featured, and I'll be doing something. Stay tuned.


2014 Dates



11 - Hickory NC - Poetry Hickory (Reading/Workshop)



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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Poetry Hickory: My Experience in Hickory, North Carolina

For a few years, Tammy and I have been aware of the Poetry Hickory events happening in Hickory, North Carolina. Hosted by Scott Owens and attended by several poets we know on Facebook, Tammy and I have wanted to be involved for just as long. A little more than a year ago, we finally got the ball rolling when we met Scott in person at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference.

Hickory, North Carolina

From Duluth, Georgia, the drive up to Hickory, North Carolina, was pretty simple. We just jumped on I-85, sped through South Carolina, and took 321 up into the city, which is known for furniture and Lenoir-Rhyne University.

In front of Taste Full Beans.

Personally, I thought Hickory was a nice town with a cute downtown area. I totally recommend the Olde Hickory Tap Room, which serves up some great pub food that's tasty and modestly priced (especially for the big helpings they dish out).

One thing about Hickory though: They have a fairly confusing system for labeling streets. There's a 2nd Ave NW that is different than the 2nd Ave NE, which are both different than the 2nd St. NE and 2nd St. NW. And that doesn't even take into account roads like 2nd St. Pl. SW and 2nd St. Pl. SE.

Bottom line: Make sure you have plenty of navigational tools at your disposal and very reliable GPS.

Poetry Hickory

Tammy and I were the featured speakers. But before the actual poetry reading, I led a workshop on how to build an audience for your poetry. There were 14 or 15 attendees, and we workshopped in the kitchen area of Taste Full Beans, which makes a pretty mean (and fast) vanilla latte. Scott hosts Poetry Hickory at this coffee shop the 2nd Tuesday of every month and tries to set it up with a workshop followed by a reading.

From left to right, Jane Shlensky, Nancy Posey, Tammy, Robert.

The workshop went great. I shared a lot of writer platform advice, as well as personal and professional lessons I've learned through the years. And it was followed up with a Q&A that Scott ultimately had to cut short for the poetry reading.

As far as the poetry, Nancy Posey and Jane Shlensky got the ball rolling with some incredible poems and personal stories that were at times funny and at other times very touching. I nearly teared up when Jane started talking about her mother's poetry and the Alzheimer's that literally made her own writing (and name) foreign to her. Their set was followed by some accoustic guitar.

My Poetry Reading

After the guitar, I got up and read for around 20 minutes. Since I'm big on short poems, I felt like I was hitting the audience with one poem after the other, but I guess that's how I roll--so I'd better own it. For those very familiar with my poetry, my set list went something like this:
  • Delivery (which is turning into my favorite opening poem)
  • Solving the world's problems
  • At the arboretum
  • A small tear in the pillow
  • Waking
  • My Little Prince
  • One Day We Looked for the Snow
  • "The Undeniable Pressure of Existence," by Patricia Fargnoli from Duties of the Spirit
  • anywhere we dare go
  • the silence between us
  • alone in the city
  • you origami me

Yes, I drink Mountain Dew when I read.

Scott asked before the night got started which order Tammy and I would like to go in, and I gave my honest answer that I prefer to go before Tammy. As I told the audience last night, I always feel like following Tammy is like this scene in Great Balls of Fire in which Chuck Berry has to follow Jerry Lee Lewis after he's set his piano on fire on the stage. Later in the evening a woman shared that if Tammy's poetry is flaming piano that my poetry is like a burning harpsichord. I'm totally throwing that on a book cover someday!

Tammy's Poetry Reading

I'm biased, but I love to hear Tammy read. Her poems are always so engaging, human, and perfect. She's one of those poets who doesn't write all the time, but when she does write she works on it and through it over and over until the words are exactly as they should be (and, of course, she keeps at it after the poems are published as well). Honestly, I've learned more about revision from Tammy than I did in several poetry courses in college.

Tammy outside Taste Full Beans.

For those keeping score on Tammy, I didn't write down her playlist, but I do know she read "December 8, 1980," "I Like the Way You Pin My Arms Down," "Fishing in the Chattahoochee," "The Baptism of a Bicycle," "Sea Gypsies," "There Are No Instructions for This," "Over Soup," and "The Problem With Semantics."

Next Up

There's always the next event, and the next one for me (and Tammy) will be a retreat in September in Colorado. Cicily Janus puts together these amazing Writing Away Retreats that provide writers with ample writing time and very hands on feedback from editors, agents, and other writers. In fact, I'll be there as one of the editors. For more information, visit


Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


Check out previous experiences:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bending the Rules: Or a Poet Has to Be a Poet (Life Changing Moments Series)

This week I'm pleased to share Scott Owens as the next contributor to the Life Changing Moments Series of blog posts. I first "met" Scott online, but last year, Tammy and I were able to talk with him in person at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference (in Blue Ridge, GA). Later this year, we'll be reading our poetry at one of his Poetry Hickory events (in Hickory, NC). Scott is the author of several poetry collections of poetry, including For One Who Knows How to Own Land (Future Cycle Press, March 2012) and Shadows Trail Them Home (a collaboration with Pris Campbell due October 2012 from Clemson University Press). He is also the editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review and 234. An eight-time Pushcart Nominee, Scott also serves as Vice President, Poetry Council of North Carolina; works as an instructor, Catawba Valley Community College; is founder and facilitator, Poetry Hickory; acts as regional rep, NC Writers' Network. In other words, he keeps himself busy.

Super busy poet and poetry advocate, Scott Owens.

So, Robert wrote to me with a simple request: write a 500-1,000 word personal story about a moment that helped guide my life or shape my worldview. Easy, right? No need to complicate things, just tell about the time I learned the meaning of love while holding my sick 4-month old daughter at 2:00 A.M.; or the moment my stepson burned himself and in caring for him I realized that I had overcome my own childhood abuse and was ready to fully embrace fatherhood; or the night I listened to my grandfather string stars together into his own constellations and recognized the power of creativity and self-determination; or the time when I was 8 and had to reach up inside a birthing cow and turn the calf so it could come out and realized none of us can do it alone. Easy, right?

The problem is, all of the moments I could think of I have already written about in the form of poems, and telling those stories now as prose would seem somehow sacrosanct, a reductionist undoing. The poems, I hope, embody the tensions of those moments, recreate the epiphanies as if they were the readers as well as mine, retain the life of the moment in a combination of language, imagery, and association that might well be lost in the single-minded clarity of prose. At least that's how the poetry-lover in me thinks. As a teacher of poetry, I would never ask a student to retell the story of Galway Kinnell's "Little Sleep's Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight" in prose. I would, of course, invite them to write about the poem in prose, but not to try to prosaically recreate the moment of the poem by undoing, even negating the energy contained and conveyed through the poetic compression of the moment's perceptual, physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual experience.

Nevertheless, I greatly appreciate the impetus behind Robert's request. In fact, I've been teaching workshops around the South for a couple of years now on techniques to access and organize such moments in our experience as potential subject matter for both poetry and prose. So, the last thing I would want to say to Robert on this request is "never mind." Instead, I'll do as poets tend to do anyway and complicate his request by giving him a couple of moments that match his criteria except that they're written not as prose but poetry. I hope they'll still work for his purposes and that they'll prove enjoyable and fruitful for his readers.

Promises at 2 A.M.

After four months of holding you,
my body sways constantly,
rocks a little when I walk.
My left arm keeps the shape
of a cradle. My mouth hums
lullabies night and day.

Little Sawyer, still more hope
than substance, I will be everything
a father ought to be. I will teach you
all that I know, all I can learn.
I will give you every chance
I can afford and more.

I will hold you when you hurt,
sing to you when the noise of the world
and your body's frailty leave you unsure.
And I will never let them take you, ever.
I would flame at the stake for you,
bare my neck beneath the blade,

suck the strongest poisons straight
from your body’s wounds, wander the wilderness
in quest for all you need, bend
my knee to any heaven's oppression.
I will give all and more
to save my life by saving yours.


The first time my stepson cried
without his mother’s hands
to brush the pain away
I came to him quickly
without thinking. I touched him
with almost a space between
my flesh and his, the way
a woman, aging and overweight,
steps off a curb as if the path
beneath her might not be real.
And then, he leaned into me,
and my whole body changed
into something I had not known
existed, and what was once
no part of me began
to keep the ticking
of our two wrists as one.

Looking for Faces in the Night Sky

These are things anyone could have made
up. The stars are nothing but stars,
and playing dot-to-dot in the night
sky makes anything possible.
Years ago from the stone porch
my grandfather pointed them out:
the lion, the great bear, the hunter's sword.
This one he called Mary and showed me
how the stars made a woman’s face.

Looking for faces in the night sky
we string stars into shapes of things
we fear or long to remember.
I see spider, sparrowhawk, bobwhite.
This one I'll call woman becoming
an angel, the grotesque buds of wings
sprouting in her back.

Acts of Defiance

Just a boy,
not yet eight,
and knowing nothing
of the world,
I simply did as I was told
and reached my hands,
my forearms, long and thin,
even up to the elbows,
into the bloody back end
of a moaning cow
to grasp what I felt there
and pull,
and pull harder
when it wouldn't come
until something appeared,
and pull harder still
until something became
a wet mess of calf
spilling into my lap
and my uncles laughing
and my grandfather,
his hand on my shoulder,
looking at me hard,
eyes full of seriousness
saying, Good job.
Good job.

A lifetime later,
at forty-one,
holding you
I finally understand
the weight of it all.
I look at your mother
spent in bed
and say, Good job,
and then into your own
uncomprehending eyes
and say again,
Good job.


If you think you have a great life changing moment to share (and you probably have several), click here to learn how to get the conversation started. I'm sure if you think it's important, I may too.


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Check out previous posts from the Life Changing Moments Series:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Events on the Horizon

This weekend, I'll be attending my final event of 2011. I'll be reading poems (with 20+ other poets) at the Barnes & Noble in Webster, Texas, as part of the Houston Poetry Festival's Poetry "Out of Bounds" Readings. I believe I get to kick things off at 1 p.m.-ish (poets are smart enough to always add an -ish to everything). Click here for more details.

Mary Margaret Carlisle and I on the Featured Poets Forum at the 2011 Austin International Poetry Festival.

This reading came about as a result of meeting Mary Margaret Carlisle at the Austin International Poetry Festival. We both met at one of the events and then traded collections (my ENTER for her It's Always About The Rain) after the reading. Then, we ran into each other at the featured reading and sat next to each other at the featured panel (we were both features at the festival).

The ability to share your work and learn from others is often what makes it worth attending an event. However, it's the people you meet and connect with that can really elevate your experience to new levels. I'm still maintaining conversations with the great poets I met in Austin, and I can only hope that I've been as much help to them as they've been to me.

So yeah...2011 is wrapping up. Here's what's currently on my calendar for 2012:

AWP Conference, February 29-March 3, Chicago, Illinois
The official schedule will not be released until October, but I do know that my panel is on The Tech-Empowered Writer: Embrace New Media, Experiment & Earn. The panel was pitched by Christina Katz, who invited Jane Friedman, Seth Harwood, and myself to join her.

Poetry Hickory, June 12, Hickory, North Carolina
At 4 p.m., I'll lead a workshop on building an audience for your poetry. I believe the workshop will require a small fee of something like $10 per attendee. After that (beginning around 5:30-ish), Tammy and I will read our poetry. Tammy and I met Scott Owens, who hosts the Poetry Hickory events, earlier this year, and we're really excited to meet many of the North Carolina poets we already "know" through Facebook and other social media sites.

Poetry Hickory will be getting two poets for the price of one (or something like that).

Writing Away Retreats, Labor Day weekend, Breckenridge, Colorado
This retreat will offer writers several tentative mentors, including myself, agent Kristin Nelson, Kate Gale (I'm assuming of Red Hen Press), agent Sandra Bond, and multiple RITA award-winning author Barbara Samuel (O'Neal). These retreats are scenic, inspiring and are limited to 10-12 writers, which means you'll get plenty of time for feedback and mentorship.

I hope to see you at one of these events--either on Saturday or next year!


Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn. I've once again hit my 5,000-friend limit on Facebook (so I can't add anymore), but you can follow my fan page here.


If you happen to know of any speaking opportunities in your area and are interested in hearing me read poetry, talk about getting published or building a writer platform, etc., then either contact me (or have your organization contact me) via e-mail at