Southern Literary Review interviews Sarah Bracey White

PL_front_coverWhen the Jim Crow South welcomed Sarah Bracey White with a hard slap, the plucky if bewildered young girl found her power in books and, later, in writing. Here’s an interview with the memoirist whose Primary Lessons (Cavan-Kerry Press, 2013), in its fourth printing, is helping heal the wounds of segregation in a small — and never to be forgotten — South Carolina town.

Read the full interview at Southern Literary Review

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News and Events: Week of October 5th


January Gill O’Neil, Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA)
Monday, October 5th at 12:30pm
January will be kicking off Old Dominion’s 38th Annual Literary festival 

Wanda S. Praisner, Unitarian Church (1 Nelson Street, Newton, NJ)
Tuesday, October 6th at 7pm
Wanda will be part of First Tuesday Writers’ Roundtable

Nin Andrews, Your Vine or Mine (154 Main St, Painesville, OH)
Thursday, October 8th from 6:30-7:30pm
Nin will be reading with Karen Schubert 

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The Lyric of Healing by Jack Ridl

ada25_2This post is part of our series in honor of ADA Awareness Month.  While on a national level the focus is disability employment awareness, CKP is focusing on artists.

A week or two ago the poet Jack Ridl, a member of the CKP ADA Advisory Board, mentioned he had “an idea” for a blog for “October is ADA Awareness Month.” He sent the first draft out last Friday and I read it at 6am on Saturday.  By the last sentence I was uncontrollably weeping, not in sadness but, rather, in awe of the ways in which poetry can restore our humanity.
-Teresa Carson, Associate Publisher

Jack Ridl

Jack Ridl

The Lyric of Healing
by Jack Ridl

Several years ago, I was invited to be on a panel at a writers conference. The participants were asked to talk about the topic “Can Poetry Be Healing?” We all gathered or were stuffed into a rather small “Meeting Room.” It seemed that most everyone attending the conference came to this particular panel. I laughed to myself as I imagined that, like being in the audience of a phony evangelist, they had come to be healed. I wasn’t sure if they would find that funny or even amusing so I kept it to tell my wife after.

The first panelist began by stating outright that in no way can poetry be healing.  He talked about the loved people he had lost to cancer, accidents, any number of other physical cruelties that he never could imagine poetry possibly healing.

The second panelist seconded the first’s conclusion. She added that she had read many a poem, none of which would heal anyone, that many poems would likely only make things worse.

My turn. Well, all along I had figured that we would all be agreeing that poetry can heal. So, whew, here I come now cast as the antagonist. That’s a part I flee from playing. And so I agreed with them. Then I said that there may be another way of looking at poetry and its possible connection to healing. There is the illness and/or the pain, but there is an inner suffering as well. And so I followed, somewhat self consciously, with my story.

By the time I was 35, I had been in and out of six psychiatric units, lost a marriage  and a young child, had worked with easily a dozen therapists, taken so many drugs that several times I had to go into cold turkey before they “tried another,” and along the way had been given a total of thirteen shock treatments. Nothing relieved my suffering. (I can go into what did, but that’s not the import of this blog.)

Among the effects of my experiencing ten traumatic events was an inability to suffer. What does that mean? For one thing it meant that there was no way that I could trudge down the blue highway to healing until I was capable of experiencing the pain that accompanies recovery. I needed to discover that I could suffer. It was this realization that enabled me to “go on” and arrive where I am today, talking to you.

However, what might help? I couldn’t read even a sentence that described the least sense of suffering without plunging back into the need for caregiving. I had tried to read the gentlest of books, Ring of Bright Water. It wasn’t long before I put it down.

At some point I decided to try reading poetry, lyric poetry. Most of it was short. I could read the first few lines and see if I was able to go on. And I wrote poems, not very effectively, but with enough artistic technique to create a sense of control over what I put down on one of those yellow legal tablets.

After a week or so I found myself no longer putting the words away. I kept reading. I suppose it was fortunate that I was reading lyric poetry, and a lot of it was lyric poetry about those who suffered and/or by those who suffered, because at some point—slow learner that I am—I realized that “That’s it!” Most of those who wrote or spoke these poems were able to, somehow, live within their suffering. And so I read and read and wrote and read myself into the realization that something in me was becoming able to experience, to feel, that which one must be able to face.

And so it was this story that I told for my panel presentation—my explanation of why poetry just might be able to heal, to assure us that we can suffer, perhaps comfort us, help us feel we aren’t alone, that someone understands. We may even prevail, even if it’s making the day a bit cheerier for those who care for us.

It’s now been thirty plus years since I didn’t know I could suffer. I have lived this time with profound understanding from my wife and daughter. Most certainly, like everyone, I suffer, but now with the confidence that I can.

Jack Ridl
Author of Losing Season (CavanKerry Press)

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Susan Jett reviews “The Baby Book” by Robin Silbergleid

BabyBook_approved_coverWhat I didn’t expect was the emotional punch it would carry.  Having been through a lot of what she writes about, having witnessed much of her journey-to-motherhood as it happened, the book was stunning, both in its beauty and in its devastating ability to bring me back to a time in my life I thought I’d pretty much blocked from my mind.

This is not a complaint. Just a testament to the power of her words.

Read the full review here

The Baby Book will be released in November.  More details on how to purchase coming soon

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Celebrating ADA Awareness Month at CavanKerry


Happy 25th Birthday to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law on July 26, 1990!

Today I have the pleasure of kicking off the second annual “October is ADA Awareness Month” on our social media outlets.  First a confession: while on a national level the focus of this month is disability employment awareness, CKP will be making “artists” the focus.  In the upcoming weeks we will be posting a cornucopia of stories, interviews, resources and educational materials.

But, in honor of this significant milestone in the life of the ADA, let’s start with the basics.

What is the ADA? Who does it cover? What does it cover? The ADA website is chockfull of good information including this description of the ADA:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life — to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin – and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 — the ADA is an “equal opportunity” law for people with disabilities.

To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.

And what is the definition of “a disability”? Per the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended:

Sec. 12102. Definition of disability

As used in this chapter:

(1) Disability

The term “disability” means, with respect to an individual

(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;

(B) a record of such an impairment; or

(C) being regarded as having such an impairment (as described in paragraph (3)).

(2) Major Life Activities

(A) In general

For purposes of paragraph (1), major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.

(B) Major bodily functions

For purposes of paragraph (1), a major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

(3) Regarded as having such an impairment

For purposes of paragraph (1)(C):

(A) An individual meets the requirement of “being regarded as having such an impairment” if the individual establishes that he or she has been subjected to an action prohibited under this chapter because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity.

(B) Paragraph (1)(C) shall not apply to impairments that are transitory and minor. A transitory impairment is an impairment with an actual or expected duration of 6 months or less.

(4) Rules of construction regarding the definition of disability

The definition of “disability” in paragraph (1) shall be construed in accordance with the following:

(A) The definition of disability in this chapter shall be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals under this chapter, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of this chapter.

(B) The term “substantially limits” shall be interpreted consistently with the findings and purposes of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.

(C) An impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability.

(D) An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.


(i) The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures such as

(I) medication, medical supplies, equipment, or appliances, low-vision devices (which do not include ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses), prosthetics including limbs and devices, hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices, mobility devices, or oxygen therapy equipment and supplies;

(II) use of assistive technology;

(III) reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services; or

(IV) learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications.

(ii) The ameliorative effects of the mitigating measures of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses shall be considered in determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity.

(iii) As used in this subparagraph

(I) the term “ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses” means lenses that are intended to fully correct visual acuity or eliminate refractive error; and

(II) the term “low-vision devices” means devices that magnify, enhance, or otherwise augment a visual image.

Stay tuned for more.

-Teresa Carson, Associate Publisher

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News and Events: Week of September 28th


Sarah Bracey White, Mainwright House (260 Stuyvesant Ave, Rye, NY)
Tuesday, September 29 at 3pm
Sarah will be talking about Primary Lessons in Mainwright House’s author series

Shira Dentz, Amherst Poetry Festival (James Tate Memorial Stage, Emily Dickinson Museum Grounds, Amherst, MA)
Saturday, October 3rd, 2:55pm
Shira is reading with Dara Wier, Ravi Shankar


Donald Platt’s poem “The Main Event” listed one of the Boston Reviews’ “Ten Poems and One Contributor’s Note You Should Strongly Consider Reading from The Best American Poetry 2015″

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News and Events: Week of September 21st


Dawn Potter, Local Buzz (327 Ocean House Road, Cape Elizabeth, ME)
Sunday, September 26, 4 p.m.
Dawn is reading with Ron Currie, Jr. and Genevieve Morgan


Carole Stone’s was published in the June issue of Virtual Verse and another in Cavewall Magazine. My poem “Knowledge” shared second prize in The Allen Ginsberg Contest.

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“Patchwork” by Baron Wormser

The remnants of love come down to
An old calico cat sitting in the early morning
Before our bedroom door croaking
Feed me
You fed me yesterday
And whatever came before yesterday
And the Boy Scout knife I carry
Though it is not a knife, file, letter opener,
Scissors, or can opener but
An ugly faded green plastic and metal
Relic of something I never cared for anyway
But thought I should.

And your sleeping face
One of countless, present-yet-absent masks,
A breathy flower,
Eyes closed, sedate, sightlessly staring
Into the heights of nothingness
Until some memory spooks your soul—
The fourth-grade cloakroom,
Two bigger girls who have it in for you.
And the patchwork quilt on our bed—
Our saving genius.
Frayed and lumpy
Assembled by patient hands
From the unnoticeable, from cloth
That started out sunny as sight,
Confident matter ending with a wince—

Cat whining, knife dull,
Your face mortally still, slandered by oblivion—
Yet become a whole:
Something larger, if not grander.

Baron bio pic JPEGFrom Unidentified Flying Objects
By Baron Wormser

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News and Events: Week of September 14th


Wanda Praisner, The 2015 Connect Arts Education Conference (Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ)
Thursday, September 17 from 9am-4:30pm
Wanda will be participating as a NJSCA AIE

Nin Andrews, Root Cafe (852 W Bath Rd, Cuyahoga Falls, OH)
Thursday, September 17 at 7pm
Nin will be reading with Karen Schubert

Nin Andrews, Hiram College’s Western Reserve Book Fair (6832 Hinsdale St, Hiram, OH)
Saturday, September 19 from 1-4pm
Nin will be signing books as part of the 40 writers featured at the fair

Hiram, OH, 44234

United States

I will be selling my books at the fair from 1:00 – 4:00

Tuesday, October 6

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Nin Andrews interviews Baron Wormser

Baron bio pic JPEG

This collection (Unidentified Sighing Objectsis clearly the work of a master. I read it straight through, gliding from poem to poem.  How long did it take you to compose?

Five or so years. Some of the poems have been on my desk for longer than that, though.

Reading your poems, I am reminded of Buddhist lectures I have attended, especially the teachers who have a humorous take on our very human natures. I wondered what you would think of that?

Makes sense. Life, for me, is tragicomic. I try to honor both sides of that equation. I was born, too, with a fair ration of Jewish irony in me.

I love the poem, “The Present Tense of Jazz: On a Photo by Roy DeCarava.” I especially love the line about weeping for the loneliness of being in a body—so beautifully put.

The Present Tense of Jazz: On a Photo by Roy DeCarava

Prim in a dress, a jumper,
A young white woman listens.
A few tables away, a young Negro man
Wearing a carefully knotted tie listens.

It must be past midnight.
Reason has headed home.
Only a few seekers still are up,
Tapping their internal feet

To the sound the planet would make
If it could riff a bit on its axis,
Invite a few stars down
To agglomerate the gravity.

Though bound by time and space
You can feel these two people
Aren’t likely to speak.
They’re listening.

That feels sad, the miserable starch of history
Floating on top of the unmelted pot
But feels right and respectful too
Since with each note their souls

Throb and faint,
Since as people
They didn’t know they were so big and small,
So free despite themselves.

These two people in New
York City in the 1950s,
Not looking further than the moment
Not touching one another

Which could make you weep for the loneliness
Of being in a body and praise it too:
Their dignity,
The music you can’t hear but must be there.

I also love your poem, “Inquest,” which is entirely in two other voices. Was that literally taken down from what you heard two people saying?

It’s all made up.

Usually when I read a book of poetry, I can sense whom they might have been influenced by. But in your case, I’m not sure. Who has influenced you? What poets do you admire?

I’ve read fairly widely over the years and like to think a certain amount of it has stuck. That means I’ve been reading poetry on a daily basis since I was fifteen or so, which means over fifty years. As to names, there’s Shakespeare and then the rest of us. I try to keep a finger in one of his plays at all times. And if you’re willing to allow that a lyricist is a poet then Bob Dylan has been a Shakespeare to me. It’s a rare day when some Dylan lines aren’t in my head. As far as contemporary poets, the Polish poets in translation—Milosz, Herbert, Szymborska, Zagajewski—have meant a great deal. So has Stanislaw Baranczak.

There are just so many moments in this book that take my breath away, such as in “Ode to Basketball” that ends so beautifully this:

                               like stutter steps toward some

Distant emotional hoop / like a fashion designer standing before a cadre

Of cameras and smiling a real fake smile and thinking of some guy

She knew once how she loved him and how he never got off his ass

Even though he could leap through the air and seem to fly but there

Was no place to fly to no homeland no wheelchair no nothing only a ball

Reading that poem (and so many of the poems in the book), I felt a mixture of exhilaration and despair. I wanted to know if you could say a few works about the poem.

What I love about poetry is its ability to capture the thrill of being—of being here, of being alive through the physicality of language, of rhythm and of sound. That sense often pushes in both directions you’ve noted—the exhilaration of physical being and the despair engendered by our confusion and ignorance. In that poem, as in the other odes, I was trying to get a number of conflicting forces into the poem but letting each have its natural say, not forcing anything.

Titles are often such a challenge.   I wondered if you could talk a little bit about your choice of title—when it came to you as the title, and how or if it shaped the book.

USO_approved_cover (2)BW
Some books have had their titles based on a poem within the collection but others haven’t. It’s hard to summarize a collection in a title. For this book, the phrase appealed to me for its punning aspect but also for its sense of human beings, their inherent emotional waywardness. Given that title, I knew, by the way, that my wife’s painting was perfect for the cover.

Could you describe your writing and editing process?

I do a first draft long-hand. Who knows where the inspiration comes from? Then I work intensely on the poem for awhile. Then I put it in a folder and keep pulling it out, more or less randomly, over a period of time, often years. As long as I have the interest, I keep revising. I’ve revised poems that were in books and, in some cases, in anthologies. I typically have some ideal in my head about the poem and typically I haven’t reached that ideal. I work a lot through rhythm and sound and that can be very elusive.

You really have a good sense of how poems should be ordered. What is your secret?

There are a lot of dynamics in putting poems together for a collection: points of view, length, subject matter, tone, form, endings / beginnings, and sheer energy. It’s a matter of trying to calibrate those dimensions. Then there’s the issue of sections or a straight shot without sections. It definitely takes time. I’ve helped a certain number of other poets with this, so I have some additional practice.

You’ve written so many great books, and now this one. How has writing changed for you over the years?  Would you say it ever gets easier?

When I started out, I was learning about myself and about poetry. I know a bit more about myself and about poetry now. It certainly has not gotten easier. “Easy” is not a word that goes with writing poetry, for me at least.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about Unidentified Sighing Objects?

This book speaks to a lot of what I’ve been trying to do over the years, balancing, as it were, history—our living in circumstantial time—and the spectacle-drama of individual emotions. Also, there’s the balancing of the formal impulse and what a poet-friend of mine calls the “loose limbed” impulse that surfaces in the odes in this book.

The two poems that brought me to tears were “Poem Beginning with a Line by Holderlin” and “Leaving.” I wondered if we could close the interview with “Leaving.”


Not to be here anymore, not to hear
The cat’s fat purring, not to smell
Wood smoke, wet dog, cheap cologne, good cologne,
Not to see the sun and stars, oaks

And asters, snow and rain, every form
I take mostly for granted, makes me sad
But pleased to be writing down these words,
Pleased to have been one more who got the chance

To participate, who raised his hand although
He didn’t know the answer or understand
The question. No matter. The leaving makes me sad;
So much was offered, so freely and completely.

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