Some Updates

I want to thank everyone who came out to the New Visions Writers Showcase this past Saturday. The turnout was simply incredible. Big thanks to Dawn Leas, Frank Sabina, Rich Howells, Tricia Kinney, Lisbeth Herr-Gelatt, Jen Bokal, and Bridget McIntyre for strong readings. The next Writers Showcase will be in March, one of the last two weekends. We’re trying to nail down the date this week. We have the readers booked, and I promise they won’t disappoint.

If you can’t get enough of the poetry scene around NEPA, you should come out to the Third Friday reading at Art Seen Gallery this Friday in Wilkes-Barre. It is located at 21 Public Square. The reading starts at 8 p.m., and this month’s featured reader is my friend and fellow poet, Reena Ranells, who will have her new book available for sale. An open mic will follow her reading.

Finally, I want to mention that my chapbook, Front Man, is now available to purchase for Kindle. If you’re an Amazon prime member, you can also borrow the book for free.  Click here to check that out.  Also, if you’ve read the book, feel free to review it on Amazon. I would greatly appreciate that.

That’s all for now. Happy writing!


New Work and Beyond

About a year ago, Big Table Publishing accepted my manuscript of poems that became a chapbook- Front Man. Since then, I’ve done a slew of readings around the tri-state area, making new friends and meeting fellow poets along the way. With the readings winding down once the fall is over, I’m going to have time to work more on a second manuscript of poems.  I worked on it heavily this summer, and I’m always surprised where the writing process can take you, once it takes over. I thought this second book would be another chapbook of 25-30 poems, much like my first manuscript. I thought it would be centered on relationship-based poems and the way men and women communicate with each other. There are certainly a lot of poems that deal with that, but after spending the last few months working heavily on this project, this project has spread out more than I envisioned. I started writing about my hometown more, the people that inhabit it, its working-class history, the working-class struggles of the here and now in this political climate.

I think there’s a thread to all of these poems, in the sense that a lot of them deal with relationships, not only with the opposite gender, but also with home, family, and friends.

These poems also differ in the sense that they stray from the punk rock language and imagery that anchored Front Man.  There are a few poems that re-use some of those characters, but only to depict them as older, to push their narratives forward, and to speak to some of the other poems in the new manuscript.

I’m also thinking this project could grow larger than a chapbook, especially since I already have about 35 pages or so, and another 15 would make it a full-length manuscript. I didn’t plan that either, but I’m just writing and writing.

I assume other writers encounter similar cases where they plan something so specific, but once they dig in and follow the writing process, the project changes somewhat. This can be a a wonderful thing because being so anchored and hooked to a particular subject matter, form, or thread throughout a manuscript can sometimes leave little room for other poems and other voices. Write and see where it goes!

Upcoming Events/Readings

There’s some upcoming events I wanted to mention briefly on my blog. First, I’m going to be a poet-in-residence tomorrow at a fundraiser/benefit called Tree of Life, which aims to preserve farm land and animals in Wayne County, PA.  This event will be held at 33 Osborne Road in South Sterling, PA. I will be hosting a reading at 6 pm., and the other featured readers include  fiction writer Bridget McIntyre and poets Dale Wilsey Jr, Victoria Garafola, and Steve Keating. There are a slew of other events throughout the day,including an art program led by my girlfriend, Jenna Casaldi. That takes place at 3 pm. For more info and a full schedule of events, click here.

On Saturday, August 27, I’m reading at Cherry Alley Cafe in Lewisburg, PA with fellow poet Alexis Czencz Belluzi. The reading starts at 7 pm, and the cafe is located at 21 N. 3rd Street.

If you can, try to come out to one of the events!

good news all around

I want to pass along some positive news about my poetry. First, another review of my chapbook, Front Man, was just published by the journal Blood Lotus. You can read the review by clicking here and flipping to page 56 of the journal.  You can also read the review by visiting the blog of the reviewer, Kacy Muir. Click here to do so (this option is probably the easiest).

I also recieved word yesterday that three of my poems, “What They Forgot by Morning,” “Late Night Stop,” and “Remembering Names,” were accepted for publication by the NYC-based journal Yes, Poetry. They will be released in the October issue, the same time frame another new poem, “How She Hides Her Age,” will be published by the California-based journal the San Pedro River Review.

Finally, I want to announce that my friend and fellow writer, Amye Archer, just released a chapbook, A Shotgun Life, with Big Table Publishing, the same folks who released my book. Buy a copy and help support another local writer! You can get a copy by clicking here, or by seeing her read at Prose in Pubs on Jack’s Draft House in Scranton on  Sunday, Sept. 25 at 7 pm.

Upward, Onward

My summer vacation technically started a few weeks ago, once I turned in my spring semester grades, but since then, it hasn’t felt like I’ve really had a day off. I’m one of those people who constantly needs to be doing something. Since the spring semester concluded, I have drafted/revised four totally new poems, some of which have found their way into my new manuscript. I’m also teaching a  poetry workshop at the Vintage Theater in downtown Scranton, and I have a wonderful group of students that offer insightful, intelligent comments on poetry we cover.  I’ve also done a few poetry readings, especially at the end of May, and I have more coming up in June. I view these readings as the last push/leg of all of the readings I’ve done over the last 6 months or so for Front Man. When fall begins, I’ll be able to ease up on the readings and do last revisions to my new manuscript.

I’m also spending this summer placing the poems in order for a new chapbook. Some of the poems have already gotten published, including in Indigo Rising Magazine, Word Fountain, Young American Poets, WritingRaw, and soon the Pennsylvania Literary Journal.  I hope to get the new chapbook accepted by a publisher (maybe Big Table Publishing again) at least two years after Front Man came out. That is enough time after the first book came out, but also not too long so people don’t forget about me. Whenever that next chap comes out, I wonder what people will think about it. Gone are the music/punk rock/indie rock references, for the most part, though there is a poem that does reference Bob Dylan. But these are more coming-of-age poems, poems about love, poems about loss, poems about father/son relationships, and all from a male point of view.  Some of the poems are also in tighter forms, unrhymed quartrains especially, while some are longer narrative poems.

 I am indeed getting there, but there is a need to also trim the fat, to cut out a lot of poems that will make the book sound too repetitive.  In an ideal world, I’ll have a solid polished manuscript by the end of the summer, with the poems ordered, but I know how fast the summer turns to fall, and how soon I have to prep my work for the poetry course I’m teaching at Keystone starting in mid-July.

back to the early stages

Not long after Front Man was published and I did a slew of readings to promote the chapbook, I started wondering what next? What should I work on now? The poems from the chapbook, overall, have a distinct voice and focus on a particular music scene and the ideals that go with it. But I knew around the time I finished the book and it was accepted by Big Table Publishing up in Boston that I said all I wanted to say about that subject and it was time to move on.

Near the end of writing Front Man, I started drafting some new poems, with far different personas and even some different forms than the poems of my first book. I started to heavily explore the issue of relationships, of first meetings between friends, crushes, lovers, and what’s left after relationships unravel. I think some of this came from what I was reading at the time- a lot of Kim Addonizzio’s poems (which often deal with love, sex, lust, and loss), and Sam Hazo’s marriage dialogue poems, which explore how each gender communicates in a relationship. I also read Major Jackson’s new collection, Holding Company, and that collection has had the biggest influence on my newest work. In his third collection, Jackson leaves  behind the hip-hip references and longer narrative poems. For Holding Company, he created a series of tight, 10-line, sonnetesque poems, many of them dealing with a broken marriage and new beginnings/new relationships. I was especially impressed with the collection because of the leap forward he made as a writer, how he broke from his  familiar and probably comfortable personas and forms.

I have a good portion of poems written (probably 15-20 solid drafts,  just a few shy of a second chapbook manuscript). So far, it’s been exciting to take on new subject matter, new forms, and new personas. Finishing Line Press wanted to publish Front Man after it was accepted by Big Table Publishing, and recently, they told me they are very interested to see a second manuscript and will give it close consideration. But right now, I’m enjoying the drafting and revision process, figuring out how these poems will fit together and speak to each other. I’m in the process of sending poems out to journals, just like I did for Front Man, before it all came together. It’s refreshing to be back at the early stages of a new manuscript. Here is a new poem from the new collection I’m working on.

Old Lovers

He answered her motel call for company,

pulled her close, wrapped her in his long arms,

the same arms she used to imagine

caressing when she watched him swing bats

at their high school ball field.

For two hours, she made up for months

she ached to be touched,

nights she pulled a pillow close,

pretended she could feel his facial stubble prick her cheeks.

The old lovers finished, sparked cigarettes,

sat on the deck. They knew that come daybreak

they’d gather their clothes,

bathe and leave because she had her New York job,

and he his hometown carpenter work.

He liked to remember her moans,

his name loud in her mouth,

and she the strength of his hands

tracing her curves in the dark.

They always left before sunlight revealed

growing streaks of gray in their hair,

fine lines near their eyes,

bodies sore and tired, in need of rest

before meeting again.

Reading Recap

Over the last few months, I’ve done several readings to promote Front Man, and I’ve crisscrossed various venues in the tri-state area to get the work out there. I’ve enjoyed all of the readings so far, but I think my favorite reading  occurred Friday evening, at Anthology New and Used Books. As I had mentioned in a previous post, there have been readings at that venue since it opened a few years ago. Dozens of people squeezed into the venue Friday, and I appreciate the fact that so many of my students, fellow writers, and friends showed up. I like that venue so much for its intimacy and the fact it’s the only used bookstore we have around here.

Furthermore, the crowd there is always respectful. When a featured reader is up there, people aren’t texting or talking to their boyfriends or girlfriends. They’re paying attention and often stay around for a little while after the reading to socialize and make connections. I’ve been to readings where people don’t pay attention or leave in droves after the main reader, but that usually never happens at the Anthology events.

Friday’s reading also meant a lot because my friend and former co-owner/co-manager of the venue, Andrea Talarcio, has stepped down.  I wish her luck in whatever she does now. We were lucky to have her in the community to host these readings. I’m glad Anthology is staying open and the various writing workshops, book clubs, and readings will continue, as long as people shop at the store and help keep it open. We’re lucky to have it in our community.

Bringing it all back home

Over the last few months, I’ve done a lot of readings for my poetry chapbook Front Man. The mini reading tour started up in the Boston area with a reading at Borders that featured other poets from the Big Table Publishing community. I’ve also read all over Pennsylvania and parts of NY. This Friday, I’m doing a reading in my hometown of Scranton, PA at Anthology New and Used Books.  Out of all the readings I’ve done, I’m most excited about this one. Since it opened a few years ago, this bookstore has been a real bright spot for the local art community. The venue has housed poetry readings, writing workshops, and book clubs. It’s been a place for local activist and philosophical clubs to meet on a weekly basis.

I’m also happy to come back home and do this reading because a lot of the poems in Front Man were first read at Anthology, at the poetry open mic nights the fourth Friday of every month. These readings gave me the chance to test some of the poems in public and learn what lines worked and didn’t work. Anthology played a crucial role in putting the book together. Furthermore, most of the poetry collections I read while writing the book I ordered through Anthology. Because of the store, I was able to obtain a lot of collections by new voices in contemporary poetry. You don’t find many of these collections at the local Borders or Barnes & Noble stores.

So, if you’re looking for something to do this weekend, come out to the reading on Friday. It begins at 7 p.m. I’ll sign some books and read some poems. A limited open mic will follow. Anthology is located at 515 Center Street, above Outrageous Jewelry.

Reasons Why Book Marketing Campaigns Fail

The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog ran a wonderful article over the weekend talking about book marketing and why some campaigns to get new readers fail. The first issue the article raised is social media. Certainly social media has changed the landscape in regards to marketing. If used well, social media makes it far easier for writers to market their book or manuscript in progress. But the article makes some valid points in regards to social media. First, it mentions that some writers simply don’t use this tool. I’m always surprised by this. Nowadays, especially in the world of poetry, presses and publishers simply don’t have the funds to launch advertising campaigns for writers. So why not make use of the free services blogs, Facebook, and Twitter offer in regards to promoting a new chapbook or full-length collection? Social media provides the opportunity to gain new readers and have open discussions with other writers.

However, the article also points out that a writer needs to be careful how he or she uses social media services. Don’t just use the tools to push your work or sell your book.  As the article points out, the goal of social media should be to provide potential readers with a level of engagement. Convince them you are interesting. Pique their interest, and that should help get your work read by others. But remember no one wants to get bombarded with messages regarding where to buy your book or where to read your work.

The article also mentions that it’s crucial to invest time in one’s self. I think I underestimated this point prior to the release of my chapbook, Front Man.  I didn’t realize how much time I would spend marketing the book, setting up readings, sending the book out to reviewers. As I had mentioned earlier, presses and publishers simply don’t have the funds to launch marketing campaigns for most writers anymore. So, it’s mostly up to the writer to do the hard work. The book won’t sell if no readings are booked. It’s as simple as that. Make time for these marketing strategies. It’s also a great way to build further connections.