This Sunday: Something Old, Something (New) Jersey II

Something OldJPEG (1)

About two years ago Hoboken poet Danny Shot, now poet in residence at the Hoboken Historical Museum, and I hatched a plan to run a reading to celebrate the 350th birthday of New Jersey in 2014. I remember the two of us sitting in a bar and trying to come up with a name for the event. Since we had already decided to mix the work of iconic (old) and contemporary (new) poets, we were playing with “Something Old, Something New.” Suddenly Danny said, “’Something Old, Something New Jersey’and we’ll put Jersey in parentheses.” Once we found the name of the reading, we found its format: ten contemporary NJ poets reading the poems of iconic NJ poets and their own poems. We also decided that two of the readers would be “living legends” who would read only their own work. With support from the Hoboken Historical Museum, CavanKerry Press, and a grant from the NJ Historical Commission, we set out to put on a show.

Danny and I will be the first to admit that we had no idea how successful the reading would be. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in April, an overflow crowd turned up to hear ten poets read poetry. Let me repeat that: on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in April an overflow crowd turned up to hear a poetry reading. We were exhausted, elated and gratified by this response. Right after the reading finished, Bob Foster, the executive director of the Hoboken Historical Museum, said to us, “Let’s celebrate NJ’s birthday every year with a reading.”

So here we are, getting ready to celebrate New Jersey’s 351st birthday with Something Old, Something New (Jersey) II. Not only have we invited a new group of contemporary NJ poets to read but we’ve also chosen a new group of iconic poets to honor. We hope you’ll join us on Sunday, April 19 at 3pm. It’s sure to be one hell of a reading!

-Teresa Carson, Associate Editor

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What poems to give the aliens: a question for National Poetry Month

It’s poetry month and we asked our community to answer 3 important questions, one of them being…

What is the poem you’d give to an alien? 


Here are some of their answers.

Irene L. Wells
Executive Ass
New Jersey State Council on the Arts

Do you want to dance/ when you’re alone/ in front of all your fears/ with the passion/ of a tribal ritual/ to make it all better?

Gary Winkel, “Do You Want To Dance?”

Mary Rizzo
Assistant Professor of Professional Practice and Associate Director of Digital and Public Humanities Initiatives in American Studies and History
Rutgers, Newark 

I’d probably keep them pretty confused and give them “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll. Or, who knows, maybe the aliens would know exactly what slithy toves are…

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/ Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:/ All mimsy were the borogoves,/ And the mome raths outgrabe

-Lewis Carrol, “Jabberwocky”

Richard Jeffrey Newman

Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,/ Out of the mocking-bird’s throat, the musical shuttle,/ Out of the Ninth-month midnight,/ Over the sterile sands and the fields beyond, where the child leaving his bed wander’d alone, bareheaded, barefoot

-Walt Whitman, “Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking”

Stay tuned for more!

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News and Events: Week of April 13th


Baron Wormser, Newbury Library (Newbury, VT)
Monday, April 13 at 7 p.m.
Poetry Reading 

Brent Newsom,  Poetry at Round Top (Round Top, TX)
Friday, April 17th at 9:30 p.m.
Brent will be part of the Round Top fellows reading

Wanda S. Praisner, Roxbury Arts Alliance (72 Eyland Ave, Succasunna, NJ)
Sunday, April 19, 2 :oopm
Wanda will be reading with Susanna Rich, Edwin Romond, and Sander Zulauf

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An Interview with Jennifer Kuszmerski, Teacher of NJPOL State Champion

CavanKerry Press believes that committed teachers are the key to New Jersey’s successful Poetry Out Loud program. Yes, the students are the ones up on the stage but the teachers are the ones who get POL started, and keep it going, in their schools. Therefore, every year we give a scholarship to the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching to the teacher of the NJPOL state champion. I’m pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2015 scholarship is Jennifer Kuszmerski, who teaches at Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield. How lucky her students are to have a teacher whose enthusiasm for poetry comes through so strongly when she lists her favorite poets and poems.

How did you get involved with Poetry Out Loud?

I am a Teacher of English at Jonathan Dayton High School and the advisor of the school’s literary magazine, Jargon. I guess for this reason I was receiving emails announcing Poetry Out Loud and encouraging our school to participate. In truth, I ignored these emails for the first year or two that I received them, not knowing what Poetry Out Loud was. But, during the 2013-14 school year, something made me pay closer attention. That was the first year we registered and participated.

How many Jonathan Dayton High School students participated in POL? Tell me a bit about the students who participated.

The first year we participated we had 12 students compete at the school level. They ranged from freshmen to seniors. Most of them were active members of the literary magazine club and very passionate about writing and poetry. Most of them were poets themselves. This year, we actually only had four students compete at the school level, even though we promoted the competition in an even bigger way. My hope is that Beatrice’s success will inspire and encourage more of our students to participate next year.

What value is added to your students’ experience of poetry by participating in POL?

Poetry Out Loud has brought excitement to our students’ experience of poetry for sure.

What value is added to your experience of teaching poetry?

I have been requiring my literature students to select, memorize, recite, and present on a “favorite” poem for years, so, if anything, the Poetry Out Loud competition just validates what I already felt was a valuable endeavor.

How did you help Beatrice prepare for the competition at the school/regional/state level?

One thing Beatrice and I did early on was watch the video of her performance at the school-level competition and discuss what improvements she could make before competing at regionals. We talked about adding more emotion to her delivery and different ways that she could use her body to enhance her performance (without overdoing it). However, to her credit, Bea has been incredibly self-motivated from the very beginning and did a lot on her own to prepare. For example, she recorded herself reciting the poems and would listen back to the audio in her free time, not just to help herself memorize the poems but as a way to improve her delivery.

What were the highlights of your POL experience at the regional competition and at the state finals?

I’m sorry to be trite, but the entire experience has been a highlight! I knew from the very beginning that we had a strong competitor in Beatrice, but she has surpassed our expectations. I was happy enough when she made it into the second round at regionals. Imagine how we felt when she won the state finals!

What advice or thoughts would you offer teachers who want to get their students involved in POL?

I imagine that one of the more challenging aspects of organizing a school-level competition might be getting colleagues to help spread the word and to help judge the contestants. I have been incredibly lucky in this respect. Both last year and this year I had a group of colleagues who were happy to give of their time and judge the competitions. Our school principal, Elizabeth Cresci, has also been incredibly supportive.

Teachers who want to get their students involved should absolutely do so. Start small if you have to. All you need is two interested students to get involved! The overall experience of Poetry Out Loud, as well as the incredibly generous cash prizes, is too valuable to pass up. We owe it to our students to offer them the opportunity to participate.

Based on Beatrice’s success at the state finals, you were awarded the scholarship to the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching. How do you feel about winning this scholarship?

I feel very excited! I am very grateful to CavanKerry Press and your family for providing me this opportunity. I’m also grateful to Bea – without her hard work and dedication to this process, this opportunity wouldn’t be possible for me.

How long have you been a teacher? What subjects do you teach? Do you have a favorite poet? A favorite poem?

This is my seventh year as an English teacher. Before this, I was the Publicity Director for a small publishing company called Barricade Books, located in Fort Lee, NJ. Currently, I teach AP Literature and Composition at Jonathan Dayton, as well as a freshman course called Writing and Research. I enjoy Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson, of course, and I also love the poems of Anna Akhmatova, Marge Piercy, Billy Collins, and Sharon Olds. As you can see, I’m a little bit all over the place! One of my favorite poems is “The Sentence” by Anna Akhmatova. It’s a haunting poem that I teach alongside 1984 by George Orwell. There’s also a very contemporary poem by Craig Morgan Teicher I love called “Another Poem on My Daughter’s Birthday.” The last line is “I must learn to have been so lucky,” which sums up how I am feeling lately in both my personal and professional lives. On a lighter note, I enjoy Billy Collins’s humor – I share his poem “To My Favorite Seventeen-Year-Old High School Girl” with my students when they need a laugh.

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Adele Kenny answers our NPM questions

What is the poem that you recite to yourself when you’re waiting for test results in a doctor’s waiting room?

Last Lines
by Emily Brontë (1818-1848)

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven’s glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.

O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life–that in me has rest,
As I–undying Life–have power in Thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as wither’d weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine Infinity;
So surely anchor’d on
The steadfast rock of immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.

Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou were left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou–Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.


What is the poem you’d give to someone living in your town 100 years from now? 

East Rahway
By Adele Kenny

The past is a foreign country,
they do things differently there.

– L. P. Hartley

All it takes is something familiar: the shape of a
hand or a stranger’s eyes in the sudden light of
a theater when the movie ends. Then, something
deep in memory’s birthwood calls me back.
The past is my first language, a speakable grace.

On summer nights in East Rahway, our fathers
sat on front porches in worn t-shirts, their
calloused hands wrapped around beer cans as
the last stars took their places like nail-heads
on a dark and holy board. Inside, our mothers

sang as they washed the dinner dishes, and we
went to sleep with the easy grace of children.
All of our grandmothers spoke with accents,
rolled their stockings down to their ankles like
nylon UFOs, and people shouted at them when

they spoke, enunciating carefully, as if our
grandmothers weren’t only foreign but deaf.
Different from the beginning, we were the city’s
middle children, never as tough as the kids from
the projects, and only half as cool as the kids who

lived behind the high school on the other side
of town. Cut off from the rest of Rahway, we
lived between Route 1 and Linden Airport, in
a place where sleep was rubbed out of night to
the sound of trucks stumbling over potholes

and propjets taking off on runway number three.
Safe in our own society, we lived a little religion
of unlikely saints whose blood offerings were
elbows and knees that scraped like autumn
leaves on the sidewalks. In East Rahway, hardly

anyone died or went away. Those were the days
before we knew what dead meant. But when
Mr. Malone, who lived in the corner house,
did it, the bagpipes wailed and skirled for
three days in his living room, a hundred octaves

higher than all the blades of grass we ever
held between our thumbs and blew against –
a different kind of party. There were no soccer
games, no little league, no one drove us anywhere.
We walked to the corner store and hiked down

Lower Road to Merck’s Creek, the mosquitoed
water stained even then by chemicals we couldn’t
name; but, oh, the bright and oily rings that spread
above the stones we skipped like shivering circles
of mercury. There were forests then, across the

street, and deep. We were wood nymphs and
Druids, foreign legionnaires led by my cousin
Eddie. Soldiers of whatever fortune was, we
followed into the hymned and scrawling weeds –
the underbrush belled by our footsteps, trees

tuned to prodigal birds. We were Arthur and
Guinevere, Merlin, Morgan, all the knights, and
one Rapunzel who lost her hair in a bubble gum
accident. We did things differently then, believed
in summer’s synonymous sun, December’s

piebald light, white-maned and glistening, the
moon above us, cloud-ribbed in semi-silhouette.
The past falls like water from winter boots.
Merck’s Creek, darker, dirtier with new pollution,
moves more slowly. The streets, once so wide

and willing, are smaller. And the forest is gone,
the initials we carved lost with fallen trees,
the green spirits laid to rest beneath a block of
factories. But, still, if you cross Route 1 on
a night overworked with summer stars, and

stand on the corner of Scott and Barnett, you
will find our fathers there. Kents and Winstons
burn, beer cans shine in the baritone heat. Our
mothers and grandmothers sing, ghostly soloists,
eggshell voices – reedy, thin. And we are there,

lips pressed smugly on chocolate cigarettes; our
pockets ring with Pez candies. Listen! A child’s
voice calls Excalibur into the night, those old bones
still in the road – skull and neck, a few vertebrae
that we tossed like dice to tell our future.

(From What Matters, Welcome Rain Publishers, 2011)


What is the poem you’d give to an alien?

Theories of Time and Space
by Natasha Trethewey

 Read the full poem at

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How are we celebrating National Poetry Month?


By asking our poets, staff, and CavanKerry community three simple questions:

  1. What is the poem that you recite to yourself when you’re waiting for test results in a doctor’s waiting room?
  2. What is the poem you’d give to someone living in your town 100 years from now?
  3. What is the poem you’d give to an alien?

We will be sharing our results through the entire month of April.

Stay tuned!

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News and Events: Week of April 6th


Brent Newsom, AWP Annual Convention (Minneapolis, MN)
April 9-11

  • Thursday, April 9th, 7pm-10pm
  • Friday, April 10th, 11-11:30am
    • Book signing at CavanKerry Press table at AWP Bookfair
  • Friday, April 10th, 7-8pm
  • Saturday, April 11th, 11:30-12pm
    • Book signing at Red Earth MFA table at AWP Bookfair

Dawn PotterAWP Annual Convention (Minneapolis, MN)
April 8-11

  • Book signing at CavanKerry Press table at AWP Bookfair

Kevin Carey, Brewster Ladies Library (Brewster, MA)
Saturday, April 11th at 1pm
Kevin will participating in the Voices Of Poetry: Off the Shelf reading

Wanda S. Praisner, Princeton Library (65 Witherspoon St., Princeton, NJ)
Saturday, April 12th at 2pm
Wanda will be reading at the U.S. 1 Publication Reading

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“Losing Season” in the classroom

Poet Chris Dombrowski is teaching Jack Ridl’s “Losing Season” at the Montano Poets House.


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News and Events: Week of March 30th


Joan Cusack Handler, Winchester Gardens (Maplewood, NJ)
Tuesday, March 31st at 7:45pm
Joan will be reading from Confessions of Joan the Tall

Brent Newsom, Scissortail Creative Writing Festival (East Central University, Ada, OK)
April 2-4
Brent will be reading from Love’s Labors on Friday, April 3rd at 3:30pm

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Book Press Release: Love’s Labors



Poems by Brent Newsom


Like interconnecting stories that form a novel, the poems in Brent Newsom’s debut collection, LOVE’S LABORS, coalesce into a narrative of an indelible place and its people. A southern community marked by family, work, violence, passion, patriotism, faith, and skepticism – that is to say, all that makes us human – is brought to singular life in these penetrating poems, some of which have appeared in such journals as Southern Review, Tar River Poetry, Louisiana Literature, and The Oklahoma Review.  These poems are about our relationships, corporal and spiritual, and about the everyday miracles we encounter in our lives.

“Miracles will always be questionable, of course,” writes Sydney Lea in his foreword to the book, “yet we can’t help but believe in the author’s wisdom, finding in his work a scope and resourcefulness that do feel miraculous, even as they feel non-miraculous, in the sense that Newsom pays the keenest and ultimately the most loving attention to the quotidian lives of his collection’s creatures….The vigor and resourcefulness of Brent Newsom’s language and his varied formats—from the most strictly conventional to the most wide-open free verse—would be enough to command our applause; marry these to the wisdom I mentioned at the outset, and to a fellow-feeling that far transcends mere toleration, and you have, as you will soon see, a work not only artful but also, if we attend to its example, morally improving. One can’t ask much more of poetry.”

These characters come alive through their interactions:  a G.I. carrying the weight of the Iraqi war; a widow, freed from the ties of husband and children, discovering new aspects of life; a redneck auto mechanic with a dangerous sexual energy—each harbors surprising sensitivities in a complex heart. And then there is another, perhaps the poet himself, who chronicles his wife’s pregnancy (love’s most miraculous labor) and the apprehensions of the coming of fatherhood with keen-eyed wonder:

We’ll take you home to four small rooms,
one just for you: your name brilliant
in bubbled letters, glass balloons
like buoys in the corner. Your mother
pressing you to her breast, we’ll step
into our asthmatic old apartment,
an April wind rushing in behind,
fresh oxygen borne in our blood.

                                    (from “Ode to the Heart”)

A central concern in Newsom’s poetry, faith lives comfortably alongside the secular affairs that fill these small town lives. Another character, a minister’s wife, has her doubts as she sits respectably in the pew and listens to her husband’s sermon. Prayer sustains the anxious father-to-be. The damaged army private finds grace in the silences of home that offer the possibility of something larger, and more mysterious. Even the town’s name, Smyrna, gently nods to the Book of Revelation that guides both Catholics and Protestants in the Bible Belt community.

This poet’s voice, honest and unvarnished, forever seeks simple, universal truths: “I learned that faithful care/for what’s not yours, and pride in your labor (like a father’s/in his son), and light enough to finish what you start/are each a kind of grace” (“Inheritance”). Marked by formal control and emotional range, the poems in LOVE’S LABORS are deceptively straightforward and profoundly moving.


About Brent Newsom

A native of southwest Louisiana, Brent Newsom has also lived in Oklahoma, Texas, and, for briefer stretches, China. His poems have appeared in journals such as The Southern Review, The Hopkins Review, PANK, Cave Wall, and Birmingham Poetry Review, as well as several anthologies. Currently he lives in Oklahoma with his wife and two children.


LOVE’S LABORS by Brent Newsom
Publication Date: March 2015
Price: $16.00; ISBN: 978-1-933880-52-5
Distributed by: University Press of New England (UPNE), 800-421-1561 or 603-448-1533, Ext. 255

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