Sapling interviews Starr Troup

saplingLast month, Sapling, a weekly newsletter from Black Lawrence Press that highlights the best of the small press world for writers looking for new venues for their work, interviewed our Managing Editor, Starr Troup.

Here is the full interview and many thanks to Sapling for allowing us to republish it our blog.



Sapling: What should people know who may not be familiar with CavanKerry Press?

Starr Troup: CavanKerry Press’s tagline is “Lives brought to life.” We hope to, through the wonderful words of talented writers, continue our mission to expand the reach of poetry to a general readership. We want to put highly readable poetry into the hands of as many readers as possible. We do that by publishing poets whose works “explore the emotional and psychological landscapes of everyday life.”  We are a literary press focused on community. Our outreach endeavors, among others, include: 1) the Gift Books program, 2) our involvement with New Jersey’s Poetry Out Loud Program for high school students, and 3) the sponsorship of a teacher scholarship to the Frost Place in New Hampshire.

Through the Gift Books program we donate books to organizations around the country, including schools, medical facilities, and other community-focused organizations. Our most recent version of the Waiting Room Reader has been donated to hospital and medical facility waiting rooms nationwide. We provide desk copies of our books to teachers across the country with hopes they will find intriguing poetry to use in the classroom.

New Jersey has a very successful Poetry Out Loud program, this year having the highest student participation and teacher participation in the country. During the state finals of the competition a CavanKerry author acts as a judge. CavanKerry gives books to the library of every participating high school, each of the students who is a regional finalist, and each state finalist.

Our Associate Publisher, Teresa Carson, teaches at the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching each summer. She works with teachers who attend the workshops, from elementary school, middle school, and high school to undergraduate and graduate level, to bring poetry into their classrooms. CavanKerry provides a scholarship, each year, for the teacher of the student who has become the New Jersey Poetry Out Loud State Champion.

Sapling: How did your name come about?

ST: Our Founder and Publisher, Joan Cusack Handler, has a strong Irish background. Her parents were from County Cavan and County Kerry in Ireland.

Sapling: What do you pay close attention to when reading submissions? Any deal breakers?

ST: Our Publisher and Associate Publisher read all poetry submissions. Our Publisher and I, as Managing Editor, read all memoir submissions. The editors choose each title based on: the high quality of the writing, the cohesiveness of the collection, the distinctiveness of the writer’s voice, and the ability of the work to engage a diversity of readers intellectually and move them emotionally.

CavanKerry accepts submissions only during the open submission periods. We do not run contests. We consider manuscripts from first-time authors to late career authors. Our guidelines are clearly outlined on our website and we hope that all writers read what’s there before submitting.

Sapling: Where do you imagine CavanKerry Press to be headed over the next couple years? What’s on the horizon?

ST: CavanKerry continues to work on the improvement of business practices and procedures. We recently expanded our submission procedure to include the Submittable platform. We’ve also been expanding our community outreach programs and will continue to do so. We hope to see more of our books in classrooms. Recently, our author Loren Graham’s book, Places I Was Dreaming, was selected as the freshman seminar book for Carroll College in Montana. We’d like to have more of our books selected for school-wide reading.

Sapling: As an editor, what is the hardest part of your job? The best part?

ST: The hardest part of my job, as Managing Editor, is the very mundane, behind-the-scenes job of coordinating everything that has to do with the release of our titles. Working with the author, the copy editor, the designer, the distributor, and the printer requires great attention to detail… and attention to due dates. My office has clipboards hanging from nails in the wall – clipboards with production schedules, and event schedules, and design schedules. In spite of my reliance on technology for my daily work, I need those tangible hard copies of information hanging on my wall. It’s a constant reminder of what is coming due in one of the three seasons I am working on at any given time.

I love working with the authors. I begin contact as early as two years before the scheduled release date, and I continue working with an author sometimes up to two years after a book is released. We talk about the production schedule, copy edits to the manuscript, and marketing strategies for post-production. This past April I spent the days at AWP in Minneapolis with three of our authors – Dawn Potter, Loren Graham, and Brent Newsom – working the table, answering questions, and managing the book signings and sales. It was a wonderful experience. I felt both exhilarated and completely and totally exhausted after the long days of interaction, almost as a yin to their yang, as we spoke to the many participants at the conference.

Sapling: If you were stranded on a desert island for a week with only three books, what books would you want to have with you?

ST: If I had to choose today it would probably be: God Laughs and Plays, by David James Duncan – one of my favorite nonfiction authors; The Complete Robert Frost, to satisfy some of my poetry cravings; and the JRR Tolkien Lord of the Rings fantasy trilogy to have a place to lose myself. I want to live in Lothlorien one day, and have since I first discovered the place when I was very young. Of course three books wouldn’t be enough, and the titles will probably be different if you ask me a month from now.

Sapling: Just for fun (because we like fun and the number three), if CavanKerry Press was a person, what three things would it be thinking about obsessively?

ST: As the Managing Editor of CavanKerry, I think if CavanKerry were a person she would be thinking about more ways to put our quality literature and beautiful books in the hands of readers. The other two things would have to be related to that, because after all, that is what publishing is all about.


Starr Troup is the Managing Editor of CavanKerry Press, headquartered in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and has worked for the press from her home in Central Pennsylvania for two years. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Wilkes University with a focus in nonfiction. In past lives she has taught fifth graders to love literature, owned and managed a business with her husband, and worked as Director of Education for Ixtlan Artists and Lakota Performing Arts. Starr is a writer of nonfiction, a part-time photographer, and a passionate lover of the natural world. She lives in York, Pennsylvania with her husband, Chris, and her two cats, Pippin and Macintosh.
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Nin Andrews Interviews Brent Newsom

Photo credit: M. Trey Reynolds

Photo credit: M. Trey Reynolds

NIN ANDREWS
I admire this book (Love’s Labors) so much, I don’t know where to start. I can’t quite believe it’s your first collection of poetry. Really? So I am guessing it took you a long time to write?

BRENT NEWSOM
Wow, thanks! That’s quite a compliment. I did spend several years working on the collection: the earliest poems included in the book, some of the Smyrna poems, were drafted in the spring of 2007, and I was still writing new poems in 2010. After that I revised for three years before sending the manuscript to CavanKerry. I was in graduate school most of that time, and an earlier version of the book served as the creative portion of my dissertation, which I completed in 2012.

NA
I wonder if you could say a few words about the evolution of Love’s Labors, and how you developed this rhythm—rotating poems about the birth of your children with other themes: your father, your faith, and the locals. The whole book reads like one long poem.

BN
Initially I envisioned an entire collection of Smyrna poems, some of which dealt with themes of faith and doubt from the beginning. But when my wife became pregnant with our first child, all my creative impulses were magnetically drawn to issues of fatherhood and family, and I wrote poems on these topics throughout the pregnancy. For a while I was dismayed by this, convinced I was writing two different manuscripts that might never be finished or would only work as chapbooks. And then I also had poems that fit in neither sequence. But a mentor of mine, William Wenthe, wisely suggested the poems were more closely related than I had believed. He was right, and once I saw the connections, I was able to conceive of the manuscript as a cohesive whole. At that point the challenge became finding an appropriate structure for the book.

I considered sequestering the Smyrna poems, the pregnancy poems, and the “miscellaneous” in separate sections, but that obscured all the resonances between them. Instead I tried grouping poems that shared some thematic resonance. At one point I had something like eight or nine different sections, which was a bit too disjointed. Thinking in terms of narrative helped me find the book’s final structure, which has five sections; this final arrangement highlights common themes between poems and also opens narrative threads that are gradually tied together as the book moves along. Two of the final three poems, “Claudia Blackwood Has Her Doubts” and “Cut,” were the last poems I drafted; by that point I was consciously looking for effective ways to close out the book.

NA
You also weave between the miraculous and the humdrum, between hope and disillusionment. It’s so convincing, especially in a book where faith and childbirth and a father-son relationship are major topics. And what a perfect finale—that last stanza. I am hoping you will post that stanza here?

BN
Certainly. Here’s the final stanza of “Cut,” which is an eight-page poem:

I have only just made peace
with having a father,
and here you are to make me one.
Blood and vernix and milia
cover you—flat-nosed, puffy-eyed,
cone-headed, flushed and wailing
and wet in the nurse’s hands.
Your mother waits for you.
In my left hand a clamp,
scissors in my right. The blades
bite down.

NA
The title is perfect. At what point did you know the title of the book? How did the title come to you?

BN
The title Love’s Labors came to me very late in the process—shortly before sending the manuscript to CavanKerry. As my dissertation the collection was called But You Are Rich, a phrase taken from the book’s epigraph: “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: . . . I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)” (Rev. 2:8-9). I was never fully satisfied with that title but couldn’t think of anything I liked better for the longest time. Finally I just started making a really long list, like 25-30 possibilities. At some point I began toying with variations on Shakespeare’s play Love’s Labours Lost. Having the word “love” in the title risks sounding sentimental, but hey, so does writing so many poems about having a baby, or about issues of faith. (A poet friend, a former professor of mine, has told me I somehow get away with writing about subjects that usually lead to treacle. I guess that’s a compliment?) But so many of the poems grapple with some variety of love—familial, sexual, divine—and I liked the way “labors” evokes work, working class people, and childbirth. Hitting on Love’s Labors was like a puzzle piece finally snapping into place.

NA
I love the local characters. I especially love the opening stanza of your poem, “Esther Green Plans a Funeral.” I can just hear her talking.  I imagine you hear these people in your head when you are writing?

BN
Yeah, writing those persona poems is a mixture of listening and conjuring. Esther was the first of the Smyrna characters I worked with, and once I got into her voice it felt very comfortable. Growing up in Louisiana, of course, I was surrounded by southern women with very strong and distinct voices. So I had that history to draw on.

NA
Sydney Lea wrote a beautiful introduction to the book. Is he one of your mentors?

BN
He’s not, actually, though he’s a poet for whom I have great respect. I did meet Syd when he visited Texas Tech in 2011, where I did my Ph.D., and he was wonderful to talk to, and he gave an excellent reading. What I love about Syd and his poetry is that he’s so adept and comfortable writing in form and meter, but he’s not tendentious about it or strictly bound to it the way some formalists can be.

NA
These poems are so engaging, so intimate and entertaining, I am wondering what the secret is. As if you could tell me. What is your creative process like?

LL_approved_coverBN
Ha! If there’s a secret, I wish I knew it. Sometimes it seems the process is different for every poem, and that’s not far from the truth, I think. But generally speaking, I carry an idea in my head for a while before I every write anything down. When I finally do start writing, I try to get down a complete draft. Then, over a period of weeks or months, the poem goes through revision after revision. One round of revision may be focused on the narrative, if there is one, then on images, the next on syntax, then line breaks, then sonic effects; eventually these things run together, but learning to focus my attempts at revision in this way has been tremendously helpful to me.

NA
What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

BN
The most challenging poems to write were “Claudia Blackwood Has Her Doubts” and “Cut.” I was pushing myself to expand the scope of my writing when I wrote these, so they’re both longer poems. The former poem is also a sonnet crown, and there’s something very Sisyphean about that form. Next time I try one it probably won’t be a dramatic monologue in a female voice. Aside from those poems, the biggest challenge was finding the right structure and sequence.

NA
Who are your primary literary influences?

BN
Frost is big for me, though that’s probably not a very fashionable answer these days. Even more unfashionable, but probably responsible for my penchant for persona poems, are Edgar Lee Masters and E.A. Robinson. More recent influences would include B.H. Fairchild, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Hayden, Robert Lowell, Natasha Trethewey. Richard Wilbur. Rita Dove’s early book Thomas and Beulah.

NA
I’d like to close with a poem of your choice.

Pfc. Mason Buxton Wets a Hook

All warfare is based on deception.
—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Whether you’re wiping out a phantom weapons cache
or planting homemade bombs in cardboard boxes,
trash cans, saddlebags—Sun Tzu was right:
the lie lies dead at the heart of war. By it
we live and die. The art’s in choosing lures.
(A shiner? Melon lizard? Chartreuse worm?)
That’s part. But a naked lie won’t nail a bass.
You hide the hook inside. Then drop the bait
between two cypress stumps, jig your rod
at five Mississip, crack open a cold one. Sip.
He bites, you set and reel—then watch the lake explode.

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What Do I Know? by Brent Newsom

In Track a Book, we follow one manuscript’s journey from creation to publication.  This monthly series looks at Brent Newsom’s CavanKerry release Love’s Labors.
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“Mine the Mind” by Corey Lee Fuller. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

For my final blog post, I’ve been asked to answer the question, “What do you know now, that you wished you’d known when you started this journey?” Rather than expounding on a single possible answer to this question, a list seems in order:

I know that I have an amazingly supportive wife and family.
I know that I have exceedingly generous colleagues, students, and friends.
I know that CavanKerry Press is run by wonderful, poetry-loving people.
I know that I have the endurance to write a book.
I know that readers have connected with my poems (click and scroll down to read the first review of Love’s Labors, on p. 70 of this issue of The Oklahoma Review).
I know that readers have been puzzled by my poems (one—a family friend—contacted me on Facebook to ask for a reader’s guide).
I know that small-press publishing is a labor of love.
I know that publishing a book requires lots of collaboration.
I know that poetry can matter—and does—to more people than we think.

I suppose I knew some of this already, to some extent, before the journey to Love’s Labors began. But there are degrees of knowing. And the experience of writing, submitting, editing, and publishing my book has deepened my understanding of and my gratitude for all that I knew, and know better, and will come to learn more fully still.

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News and Events: Week of June 22nd

Events

Nin Andrews, Rochester Contemporary Art Center
Tuesday, June 23rd at 7pm
Nin will be reading at the Rochester Jazz Festival

Jack Ridl, Ox-Bow School of the Arts (Saugatuck, MI)
Friday June 26th, 10am-5pm
Jack will be leading a workshop “for those who want to begin to those who have been writing for years. There is no pressure to achieve, to complete, to write ‘well.’ All we’re gonna do is ‘see what happens.'”

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News and Events: Week of June 8th

Events

Joan Seliger Sidney, The Studio @ Billings Forge (563 Broad Street, Hartford, CT)
Monday June 8th at 7pm
Joan is reading in the WordForge Series with Elizabeth Thomas

Wanda Praisner, Reading, Sussex County Community College, Betty June Silconas Poetry Center
Saturday, June 13th, 2-4pm
Wanda will be part of the Poetry Festival Launch Reading for Stillwater Review, Volume 5

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“I Wonder” by Sarah Bracey White

Sarah Bracey White’s ekphrastic poem, “I Wonder,” was selected for inclusion in WARC’s “Poetry and Outsider Art Celebration!”  The event explored visual and spoken works of art between individuals with disabilities, community artists and local poets.  The event took place in April  at “Gallery 265″in Hawthorn, NY.
Sarah’s poem, a reflection on “Wonder Woman” by G.G. Kopliak, was displayed and published side-by-side with the artwork in the gallery book and at the festival.
Wonder Woman

“Wonder Woman” by G.G. Kopliak

I Wonder  
by Sarah Bracey White

I am a girl-child.
Possibilities were tucked
into the pink folds of my baby blanket
and woven into my lullabies.
Under loving eyes, I grew.
Now, I watch everything:
Grandma in high heeled sandals
Mother in yoga pants
Auntie in business suits.
But, it’s the super-heroes who mesmerize me.
Their costumes seem to transform them
from ordinary mortals into wonderous beings
able to do incredible things.
I wear WonderWoman’s color-coded outfit
hoping its lively symbols will speak for me
as I play at being who I’m not,
in a suit that I’m quickly outgrowing.
Somehow, I know that what I now wear
does not define me.
I wonder who I really am? Where I’m going?
And what shall I wear?

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A selection from “Esther: A Novel in Verse”

Esther_approved_cover

Her horse was the closest thing to a friend
Esther had in those mountains.

They rode one morning along the hogback,
then moved west where the escarpment
leveled off, higher into the foothills.

Esther halted to rest,
let the paint drink from spring runoff meandering
through a meadow of greasewood and sage.

She tied him to a sapling, stroked
his long neck and withers, the base of his ear,

and down his silky cheek, all the while
crooning, Good horse. There’s a good horse.

At the edge of the stream, Esther cupped water
and drank greedily, her reflection

rippling outward in perfect circles. Then something
moved on the opposite bank.

She stood up in surprise, shielding her eyes
from the sun to see what was there.

A man took shape in the haze.
Behind him a wide fringe of ponderosa pine
spread like enormous wings.

Raymond had been there first, had watched
Esther ride up to the stream and dismount, her paint
bow his head and nicker as Esther gentled him.

He’d wanted to shout hello when she first appeared
riding slowly through the sage, but thought
better of it. What if she didn’t remember him?

But Esther did remember him—the delicious
startle and confusion that day in the kitchen,
a young man approaching her without|
warning, wanting nothing from her.

When he’d stumbled out, she had quickly
refastened her smock and sat for a bit in the stillness.
She could feel his presence in the room,
closed her eyes and breathed him in.

Now, from across the stream she felt it—
and before she realized, she’d raised her hand
in greeting, and Raymond did the same.

He paused, then waded across the shallow water,
leading his own horse behind him. His shadow
reached her before him, and the fragrant
complexity of leather and horse, a man’s clean
sweat, meadow of wild onion and prickly pear.

I’m sorry if I frightened you, ma’am, Raymond said,
stepping carefully toward her.

Perhaps it was improper for her to speak.
But how pleased she was to encounter him
here—how beautiful she felt
in the dazzle of morning.


Final photo PamPam Bernard, a poet, painter, editor, and adjunct professor, received her MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College and BA from Harvard University. Her awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry and a MacDowell Fellowship. Ms. Bernard lives in Walpole, New Hampshire, and teaches at the New Hampshire Institute of Art and Franklin Pierce University.
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News and Events: Week of June 1st

Events

Wanda Praisner, Salt Brook Elementary School (40 Maple Street, New Providence, NJ)
June 1st-June 4th
Wanda has a Poetry Residency teaching four third grades classes

Teresa Carson, Terraza 7 Cafe (40-19 Gleane St. Elmhurst, NY)
Tuesday, June 2nd at 7pm
Teresa will be reading at Richard Jeffery Newman’s First Tuesdays, a monthly neighborhood reading series

Andrea Carter Brown, Rock Creek Nature Center (5200 Glover Road, NW, Washington, DC)
Sunday, June 7th at 3 pm
Andrea will read reads with Miles David Moore in the Joachim Miller Poetry Series 

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News and Events: Week of March 26th

Events

Paola Corso, Cornelia Street Cafe (29 Cornelia Street, Manhattan, NY)
Sunday, May 31st at 6:00 pm
Paola is reading with Maria Terrone in “New Poetry for a New Season”

News

Carol Stone’s poem “Knowledge” has tied for second place in the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Contest.

Celia Bland’s prose poem, “Instructions for Children” has been included in the upcoming Storyscape anthology.

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An interview with NJ Poetry Out Loud Champion Beatrice Dimaculangan

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From New Jersey Poetry Out Loud

TERESA CARSON (Associate Publisher)
How and why did you get involved with Poetry Out Loud?

BEATRICE DIMACULANGAN
I’m a member of the Jargon Club at my school, which produces Dayton’s literary magazine. Throughout the year, we normally only share our writing among a few club members, so when Mrs. Kuszmerski announced that we would be hosting a Poetry Out Loud competition at our school, it was a new way to look at poetry.

Truthfully, I joined out of boredom. I already had a love for poetry prior, but I’d never admired it in the form of memorization and recitation. The way it was advertised, it just seemed like a casual after-school activity, so I signed up on a whim and ended up winning!

TC
What were the highlights of your 2015 POL experience at your school, at the regional competition, and at the state finals?

BD
The highlight of the school competition was definitely being exposed this art form for the first time. Since I’d never joined before, I never realized how much people really get into their poems and make them their own. Each student had a distinct style and presentation and it was so enjoyable to watch and absorb for the first time.

At the regional competition, I received so much support and encouragement from my classmates that attended. When I was announced as one of the Regional Champions, they were so excited for me because it was the first time that Dayton would be attending States. The best part though was when a few other students from the audience approached me afterward and asked for my autograph!

State Finals was the most exciting of the three levels. In the final round I recited “The Universe as Primal Scream” by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith. She was actually in the audience and she approached me afterwards to congratulate me and thank me for doing her poem. Imagine my excitement! I was also given the chance to open the Princeton International Poetry Festival, which was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Being able to speak among poet laureates from around the world definitely elevated my appreciation for the written and spoken word to new heights. (It also happened to be my birthday, so that day was the best birthday present by far!)

TC
How and why did you choose “The Bones of My Father,” “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown,” and “The Universe as Primal Scream ” as your poems?

BD
As I was browsing through the anthology, I thought it was especially important to choose poems that were meaningful to me. After all, how am I supposed to convey emotion to an audience if I cannot connect with it myself? Each individual poem stood out to me because it spoke to my beliefs or thoughts in some way; each piece is somehow a reflection of who I am.

When I came across “The Bones of My Father,” I fell in love. At the time that I was picking my poems, it was around the peak of the Ferguson incident. I’d been marching in many of the protests and rallies and felt very strongly about the contentious issues. I was able to translate that same struggle in the context of black history and project it through another writer’s poetry. It became a very personal statement of my beliefs.

“A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown” is one of my favorites by Whitman. I remember last summer a friend showed me a video on YouTube before I even knew what Poetry Out Loud was.  It was the 2013 POL National Champion, Langston Ward, reciting that poem. I was moved by the vivid imagery and raw intimacy of the words. When I found that this poem was still included in the anthology, I knew I had to choose it and deliver my own rendition.

I chose “The Universe as Primal Scream” because Smith’s examination of the relativity of the universe gave rise to my own existential questions. Do the negligible details in our lives become lost in the grand plan of a greater power, or does that make them that much more deserving of our attention? I enjoyed playing around with this one because of its dynamic range of emotion. The beginning is sarcastic and playful which was a switch-up from the other two serious poems.

TC
What went through your head when you were named state champion?

BD
I was in shock. You can even see in the video that my jaw actually dropped!

I performed among a solid group of very talented students and I thought the competition was tight. When they announced my name, I was initially taken aback and immediately humbled. I knew I would have to honor these students by doing my best to represent New Jersey at Nationals.

TC
What did you do to prepare for the national finals in Washington DC?

Beatrice with Congressman Leonard Lance and National Endowment for the Arts' Chair Jane Chu.  Photo from New Jersey Poetry Out Loud.

Beatrice with Congressman Leonard Lance and National Endowment for the Arts’ Chair Jane Chu. Photo from New Jersey Poetry Out Loud.

BD
I practiced with my mentor, Natasha Yannacañedo. She was an incredibly helpful tool in helping me tweak things here to make my performances as precise as possible without losing their honesty.

I blocked every gesture according to what I felt would enhance the poem without distracting from its meaning, and I specified every image in my head to allow a deeper emotional connection with the words being said. Almost daily, I stood before a mirror and ran through the poems over and over until their entirety has seeped into my bones – until they are a part of me. Sometimes I even practiced in formal attire in order to become comfortable in the outfit I would be performing in.

TC
How do you imagine poetry will be a part of your life going forward?

BD
Poetry has already been a passion of mine for some time now. I’ve won a state poetry writing contest and have had my work published in poetry collections and literary magazines. Poetry Out Loud has absolutely deepened my love for poetry and encouraged me not only to memorize and share it, but also discover and develop my own.

Since being named State Champion, I’ve been invited to perform at the Princeton International Poetry Festival and Something Old, Something New (Jersey) II. I will also be performing a new original in the Hip Hop Poetry Slam at Rutgers University later this month. I plan to keep pursuing opportunities like these that allow me to present poetry in the form of spoken word.

POL has definitely given me the confidence to get up and verbalize intimate writing in front of an audience. There’s no feeling quite like getting behind the mic and unleashing an energy and passion of which I didn’t even know I was capable. I’ve only just begun to explore this art form so I hope to continue growing as a poet and as a spoken word artist.

TC
What advice would you offer to students who might want to get involved in POL?

Beatrice reading at Something Old, Something New (Jersey) II

Beatrice reading at Something Old, Something New (Jersey) II

BD
Poetry Out Loud is not just a wonderful experience, but also an incredible opportunity – seize it. I absolutely encourage anyone and everyone to join. Throughout my journey, I’ve met people who would have never anticipated the experience they’d have. Though a number of the students are poets or performing artists, the spectrum ranges from all the way from athletes to mathletes. There is something to be gained by every participant, whether it is confidence, public speaking skills, or new appreciation for poetry.

Even though POL is undoubtedly a ton of fun, you have to be willing to put in the work! It’s not simply “just” memorizing a poem and saying the words. It can get mentally and physically exhausting if you truly dedicate yourself to hours of understanding and personalizing your poems – so be ready and enthusiastic!

I cannot stress enough how valuable my POL experience has been. I’ve met some brilliant students and have definitely experienced tremendous personal growth. Enjoy every minute of it and just immerse yourself as much as possible. Don’t get caught up in the fact that it’s a competition – there is no competitive tension at all, and in fact, there is a sense of community. Take the time to get to know the people around you because you are all there for a common love of the art and mission to express it.

Overall, take advantage of every aspect of POL. I’ve never joined anything like it and no other experience could parallel its value. I absolutely loved it and prospective participants will too!


And Counting
a poem by Beatrice Dimaculangan

When I try to count the number of things I can count on,
I hardly ever make it to the second hand

But when something finally does beguile my doubts,
kisses on my skin and seduces my hopes
It snatches the string of a helium balloon and is carried off
into an azure infinity

I want to leap up and grab it, cradle it back to the earth,
press it to my chest so it cannot escape again
But it’s hard to reach that high when you’re only 5’2”
So it glides away, doesn’t look back as it burns up in the atmosphere
and I fear I can’t catch all the ashes when they fall

I line them up next to the gods: the Christs and the Shivas,
the shooting stars, the pills,
four leaf clovers,
and dandelions
I stuff them in the lip of a body bag
so they know they are dead to me
Disgraced is their amity when

I can count on my dad – he is always my rock
Even in a hard knock life,
he is the buoy I cling to when I can’t keep my head above water
My father is the only man I’ll be able to count on
to still be there in the morning
His gentle voice like a symphony that sings in me
when I have nothing left to give

My mother’s guidance I can count on
when the choice becomes blurred between right and wrong,
and the worst days seem to drag a little too long
She holds me in the home of her hands
and I can count on them to be firm where I stand
so if my knees buckle, I’ll find a soft landing

And my brother,
I know I can count on those soft eyes, like blooming flowers,
that remind me even the worst days only have 24 hours
I pray that you never lose your kindness,
that you keep your golden spirit, let nothing near it that can
mar its purity – you are my cleanser
I can count on your spine and you can count on mine

We can count on the sky, though it gets gray sometimes,
gets tough to pray to sometimes
In a place where my demons run a 4 minute mile
and my asthma is catching up to me

I can count on my vices but I can’t count on time
I can’t count the times I’ve lied,
but also can’t count the times I’ve tried again
I can count on my pen,
I can’t count on my sanity but I can count on my humanity

I can count on the mountains, the oceans, the clouds, the wind
I can count on the earth to turn,
seasons to change,
clouds to rain,
and the sun to burn

But the truth is, I can’t count on much else
This is the tragedy of being

Daddy won’t breathe forever
Mama’s hands will wrinkle and waver
My brother can’t always be my savior

The mountains will crumble
The sky will fall
Atlas will shrug his shoulders and the earth will tumble
down his back and we will all return to stardust
You can trust that the wind will carry your man
to another girl’s sheets
I can’t even count on my own shadow to
stay with me through my dark times

But that’s okay
I’ll be okay because I’m learning
how to persist

I can’t count on tomorrow but I don’t need to because I know this:
Today I can count 86,400 seconds I will spend above ground
Even if tonight God decides to only let me count up to 86,398
Today, in a world of
no solid lines,
no happily ever after,
and a hell of a lot of uncertainty

I’m gonna make it a damn good 86,398 seconds
And you can count on that.

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