Catherine Chandler's Poetry Blog

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Poetry by the Sea 2015

The beach at the Mercy Center, site of Poetry by the Sea. Photo: Catherine Chandler

May 30, 2015

My conference experience began with my check-in at the Mercy by the Sea Center in Madison, CT on the morning of Tuesday, May 26, 2015.

I was one of the first to arrive. I received my conference package (which included a lovely journal with the Poetry by the Sea logo, a pen, a schedule and other information). I signed up for the Friday participant reading and received my badge and room key. My roommate was Susan Spear, poetry editor of Think magazine. She’s a lovely person and we got along splendidly.

I had lunch and then attended Tom Cable’s prosody panel, A Poet’s Field Guide, co-hosted by Natalie Gerber. The topic focused on intonation and its influence on scansion.

In the afternoon I attended the first of three participant readings, and later in the day I attended the new books reading, featuring Meredith Bergmann, Rebecca Foust, Rick Mullin and Sally Nacker.

That evening I mingled with other participants at the reception, held in a beautiful room named Seaside, with a fantastic view of the water (Long Island Sound). After dinner I attended the first of two faculty readings, featuring Dick Davis, Erica Dawson, Joshua Mehigan, Spencer Reece, Terri Witek and Cyriaco Lopes.

Photo: Catherine Chandler

On Wednesday, May 27, I rose early, around 5 a.m. as I usually do, and walked around the Mercy Center grounds and along the beach, taking a few pictures and simply admiring the beauty of the place, and its silence, accompanied only by a light swish of the waves and a variety of birdsong.

After breakfast, I attended the Diverse Religious Poetry Traditions panel, chaired by Angela O’Donnell (who I had met at West Chester previously), with panel members Dick Davis and Jehanne Dubrow, the latter two speaking from the perspective of the Islamic and Jewish traditions. Angela spoke last, and her presentation just about moved me to tears. She was kind enough to email me the text of her presentation, based on the Catholic tradition.

Later that morning I attended a very upbeat and lively panel entitled Children’s Poetry, chaired by the wonderful Melissa Balmain, with panelists Joelle Dujardin, Tony Speed and Robert Schechter, whom I met for the first time. There were some Our Lady of Mercy 6th grade students in attendance. I am now tempted to try to write some poems for children!

After lunch, it was the first of my three workshop sessions with Dick Davis, entitled The Sonnet. We were seven poets, including Susan McLean, David Landrum, Scott Miller, Larissa Schmailo, J.D. Smith and Linda Stern. We read, discussed and dissected sonnets ranging from Petrarch to Auden.

After the workshop I attended another new books reading, this time books by Deborah Arnold, Bill Conelly, Nzadi Keita and Jean Kreiling.
After the reception and dinner (the inaugural banquet, which was wonderful!) I attended the keynote address, given by Marilyn Hacker.

On the morning of Thursday, May 28, I attended the Tribute to Edgar Bowers panel, chaired by Kevin Durkin (whom I met last year in Los Angeles) with panelists Dick Davis (who had been a personal friend of Bowers for 24 years), Joshua Mehigan (who knew him for around two years) and Leslie Monsour. It was a very informative session, with many interesting anecdotes from the panelists, and we were given a CD with tracks of Bowers reading his poems.

Later that morning, I met one-on-one with Dick Davis. We spoke about poetry in general, “dry periods” in writing (e.g., Bowers’s 15-year hiatus), women’s poetry, and the reason(s) for my admiration of the works of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

After lunch I attended the second of the three Dick Davis sonnet workshops, where we read and discussed various stylistic and historical aspects of the poems he had chosen.

After the workshop I attended the Mezzo Cammin 10th Anniversary panel, chaired by Kim Bridgford, highlighting the work of three young women, Jenna Lê, Anne-Marie Thompson and Chelsea Woodard.

Following the workshop, I attended the second of three participant readings.

That evening I attended the second faculty reading, featuring Rafael Campo, Jehanne Dubrow, Annie Finch, Micheal O’Siadhail, Patricia Smith and Alicia Stallings. I was in Alicia’s workshop at WCU in 2011 and we chatted at the banquet the previous evening on everything from poetry, to language, to our children.

Photo: Catherine Chandler

On Friday, May 29, the final day, I attended the morning panel entitled Poetry and Transportation, which turned out to be one of my favorite panels (that and the religious poetry panel), chaired by Pat Valdata, a poet and pilot, with panelists Dolores Hayden, Sharon Olson, and Leah Silvieus.

After the panel, I read at the third and final participant reading. I read two lovely poems by my friend, mentor and sponsor, Tim Murphy, Buoyed Home and Cold Front, and also two of my own, Intervals and Edward Hopper’s Automat.

At 1 p.m. our group met for the final workshop session with Dick Davis.

After that, it was the long drive home to Canada. I had a wonderful time, made many new friends, met up with old ones, discussed and learned about many aspects of poetry, all in the beautiful setting by the sea.

I urge my friends at Eratosphere to consider attending next year’s conference. Kim, Anna and their team deserve our applause and gratitude for continuing to foster our community of poets.


Friday, May 15, 2015

"Chiaroscuro" Wins the Leslie Mellichamp Prize

James M. Coughlin High School, Wilkes-Barre, PA

My sonnet, "Chiaroscuro", was chosen by poet David Stephenson (winner of the 2007 Richard Wilbur Award) as the recipient of The Lyric's Leslie Mellichamp Prize.

I wrote the poem in honor of the deceased classmates of the James M. Coughlin High School Class of 1968, and my audio recording of it was played at the 45th class reunion in 2013. The imagery in the closing couplet was inspired by our school's Alma Mater song.

In his comments, Mr. Stephenson wrote that he admired the poem's "graceful diction, reflective mood, and clean endings."

I am particularly indebted to Jean Mellichamp Milliken, editor of The Lyric, for it was she who accepted my first two published poems in 2004.

Here is the poem:


On summer evenings we observe the way
the light and shadows merge across our hills
sunset lingers on, yet Scorpio spills
her stars into the embers of the day.
We gather in this tender, mellow light
so far removed in time, and here we see
a friend, a love. We note an absentee.
We meet between the dusk and coming night
to share the stories of the lives we've led,
to hear our songs again, and raise a glass
to health and happiness, and to the class
of '68. Of those who've gone ahead—
where noontide joys eclipse both moon and sun
we quietly remember every one.