Last week, while going through some old files, I came across earlier versions of the manuscript that became my new book of poems, FALLOW FIELD.

There were copies of the manuscript with thoughtful edits and suggestions in the margins and on the pages by poetry mentors like  Alison Hawthorne Deming and Colette Inez, as well as peers and colleagues like Thomas V Hartman (we were editors together at Painted Bride Quarterly before launching Ducky Magazine in 2000).

I was reminded that we poets don’t work in a vacuum, we work in a community. And I was further reminded that such community isn’t always easy to find. I was lucky to find a community of poets in my own way.

I don’t teach in a university or writing program, so I’ve always been something of an outsider in the poetry world. I had to actively seek out other poets and poetry enthusiasts. Readings, workshops, and open mics helped in the early years or when I moved to new cities.

My work as an editor at Viking Press/Penguin Books put me in contact with a number of poets, as did my volunteering to coordinate the Series at Ceres Gallery in New York in the early 1990s, which paired established and emerging poets who I invited to read together.

Then there were the events and good people at Poets House, first in the Spring Street location and later in Battery Park City, which also gave me exposure to poets, some of whom became good friends over the years.

The Bridge

“The Bridge” from Brooklyn Poets will be a community for poets to share, collaborate, and learn from each other.

Even my work with The Nature Conservancy brought me into contact with writers, artists, and poets, some of whom were also conservation practitioners and activists,

But what of those poets who aren’t so fortunate to come into contact with other poets through their work? Where do they turn for mentorship, camaraderie, constructive criticism, and other support? It can be a daunting prospect.

And what about those poets who want to give back in some way, to help encourage the next generation of poets, to “pay it forward,” as they say.

That’s why I think “The Bridge,” a project of Brooklyn Poets is such a good idea.

It’s more than just a social network, The Bridge will, as the name implies, be a bridge between poets far and wide, young and old, scholar and autodidact, established and emerging, new and, well, you get the picture.

As Brooklyn Poets puts it: “Too many student & mentor poets today are missing each other. We have this thing called the internet to connect them, but no network getting it done.

Until now. For the past year Brooklyn Poets has been designing and laying the groundwork for such a network. In homage to Hart Crane, we call this The Bridge. And you can help build it.”

TWO KEY THINGS THE BRIDGE WILL DO

Help student poets find mentor poets to get critiques of their work without having to go through a workshop structure or writing program.

Help mentor poets find student poets by offering critiquing services — at their own prices.

Students find mentors for less money than a workshop or writing program would cost, and mentors get paid without having to land one of those hard-to-find teaching jobs. It’s that simple.

Students choose mentors based on price, services offered, location and other factors such as skills and stylistic influences. If they like, they can sign up for workshops proposed by mentors–workshops not governed by the mandates of any institution, for however long mentors want, with however many students, at whatever price, online or on site.

AND THAT’S NOT ALL

You’ll have Readers, not Followers.

You’ll create new work. Each week on The Bridge we’ll feature a poetry assignment proposed by a mentor in our community.

Sharing your work will be a creative process. You can choose images to represent your poems and captions to go with them—like book covers for your individual poems. Add tags so readers can find your poems based on similar interests.

Sounds great, right? So join me in supporting and joining “The Bridge,” take a look at their Indiegogo campaign and help build The Bridge!

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Brooklyn Poets logoBrooklyn Poets is a great new organization that hosts a reading series, poetry writing classes and workshops, as well as a monthly “YAWP,” which allows poets to try out new work or share old work.

They also produce some of the coolest t-shirts available.

Each week, they feature a Brooklyn-based poet on their website, Brooklyn Poets, including one of their poems and an interview conducted via email.

I was honored to be Brooklyn Poet of the Week for October 14-20, 2013. They featured my poem “Running,” along with a brief explanation about the writing of the poem, and the interview below.

 

What are you working on right now?

Promoting my new book of poems, FALLOW FIELD. I have a bunch of poems I wrote last April during National Poetry Month that need my attention soon, and another big poem and prose project I put aside some years ago and need to get back to work on. I also have another book of non-fiction that is in proposal development with my agent.

What’s a good day for you?

A good day is spent with the love of my life, Samantha, doing whatever we want, with or without our kids (we have 6 between us), and always involves some poetry, cooking a good meal, drinking some wine, eating chocolate, plenty of coffee, and a whole lotta love. And, these days, exploring Brooklyn, our home.

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? What neighborhood do you live in? What do you like most about it?

I returned to Brooklyn nearly two years ago and live in Park Slope, although I spend part of every week in Philadelphia, where my kids live. I lived in Carroll Gardens and Bay Ridge years ago. I love Park Slope because it feels like a small town and we’re close to the Park. I love city life, but I need to be close to its nature, too.

Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad or in between.

Samantha and I got engaged this spring and when we were looking for a venue for our wedding, we stumbled upon the Green Building in Carroll Gardens. It used to be a brass foundry. When she sent me their website to check out, I noticed the building is located on the corner of Union and Bond. What better place for a wedding? It felt like the Brooklyn gods were shining on us.

Favorite Brooklyn poet(s), dead and/or alive?

Auden, Whitman, Marianne Moore, David Ignatow and Ada Limón. Auden for his variety; Whitman, his YAWP; Moore for her eccentricity; Ignatow for his mundane humor; and Ada for the beauty of her language and vision.

Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?

Greenlight, definitely, for the selection and the layout. Community Bookstore in my hood. Unnameable Books in Prospect Heights, which has a great selection of used poetry books. I’m looking forward to that new poetry-only bookstore, Berl’s. Why? Because we need more bookstores full of poetry. (And the Grolier Bookshop is too far away from Brooklyn.)

Favorite places to read and write in Brooklyn?

Prospect Park. I do a lot of my composing in my head, especially while walking. The park is perfect for wandering. Some of the poems I wrote in April when I was writing a poem each day were composed on my iPhone on the 2 or 3 train. As for reading, I love reading in bed to my fiancée; she falls asleep whenever I start reading to her, but I just keep going.

Favorite places to go in Brooklyn not involving reading or writing?

Prospect Park, Brooklyn Bridge ParkSharlene’s on Flatbush (a new favorite), the Farmer’s Market in Grand Army Plaza, Little Neck, the 4th Avenue Pub (an old favorite), and of course 61 Local, which I learned about from the Brooklyn Poets YAWP. Our kitchen is one of my favorite places in Brooklyn. I love cooking in our kitchen. My son Jasper says my meals there are “on point AND on point.”

Last awesome book(s)/poem(s) you read?

Ada Limón’s Sharks in the Rivers, Robert Wrigley’s Anatomy of Melancholy, Alfred Corn’s Tables, Frederick Seidel’s Poems 1959-2009, and Kathleen Jamie’s The Overhaul.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate food,
And what I love to cook you should love to eat,
For every meal I prepare cheers me as good and good for you.

If you have time, write a nine-line poem using these end-words (in whatever order) from Jay-Z’s “Brooklyn Go Hard”: father, Dodger, jack, rob, sin, pen, love, Brooklyn, Biggie.

My kids got their faith from their fa-ther:
Red Sox fans, not fans of the Dodgers.
Whether living in Alaska, Philly or Brooklyn
And tho’ we show respect when Mo’ comes out the pen,
It’s the “B” and scarlet socks that we’re love-in
And those gold black and white ones once worn by Robby–
Bobby Orr, y’all, to me as a kid he was bigger than Biggie.
When we traded him to Chi’town that was a sin.
Blackhawks didn’t know Bobby and they don’t know Jack.

Why Brooklyn?

My love, Samantha, is here and wherever my love is, that’s my home.

##

Thanks to Jason Koo and Brooklyn Poets for featuring me as Brooklyn Poet of the Week.

 

Fallow Field face

Detail from Alastair Cook’s filmpoem of “Fallow Field.”

My friend the Scottish filmmaker and photographer, Alastair Cook, has created many beautiful filmpoems — 34 to be exact — his latest features the title poem of my collection, “Fallow Field.”

My reading of the poem comes from Kelly Writer’s House at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, recorded on September 22, 2008.

As with his filmpoem of another of my poems from this collection, “Naming,” Alastair’s vision of my poem is impressionistic rather than literal.

There’s a great synergy between my words and the flow and textures of his film, especially the way the woman’s hair mimics the rye grass waving in the wind and how the occasional flash of her lips seem to kiss goodbye what the subject of my poem never could.

You can watch Alastair’s filmpoem here:

Filmpoem 34/ Fallow Field from Alastair Cook on Vimeo.

And you can read the poem here or in my new book of poems, which you can purchase here.