The ADA and Me by Jacqueline S. Guttman

My first conversation with Jackie Guttman, who recently joined the CavanKerry Press ADA Advisory Board, was about non-profit development. My main impression of her at our first meeting certainly was the impression she mentions in this essay: a tall, fairly well-built woman of a certain age – a leader type – articulate, intelligent, with a reasonably good sense of humor and proportion. That first impression has certainly been expanded and deepened by what I’ve learned over time, in more personal conversations, about the “limitations” that rheumatoid arthritis has placed on her life. In this essay, her honesty and vulnerability about her experiences—e.g. the split between “public face” and “private reality,” the changes brought about by improvements in her condition—challenge us to think about how the label of “disability” can fail to capture the complexity of human experiences.
-Teresa Carson, Associate Publisher

By Jackie Guttman

The 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act led me to muse about that key word, disability. How do we define disability? I’ve had moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis for 45 years, during which time I’ve had periods in which I was less than able-bodied, and I do have a handicapped placard, yet at this moment I don’t define myself as disabled – though I have a dear old friend who insists on describing me as such. Whatever. Below is the beginning of an essay I wrote in 1993, shortly after the ADA legislation was passed. In recognition of this significant anniversary, and in gratitude to my rheumatologist, I share it with you:

The Public Face: One morning, I stood up, walked over to a lectern and gave a speech before an audience of 1000 people. I was, if I may say, rather elegantly dressed in a blue and black jacket, long black skirt and low-heeled Ferragamo pumps, with nearly every hair in place. The speech was unusually well received and later, as I made my way out of the building, I was stopped by many people to tell me how moved they had been, even how inspired. It was very gratifying.

 The Private Reality: My husband had to dress me. He helped with my underwear, put on my knee sox (thus the long skirt), zipped the skirt, assisted me with my jacket, fixed my necklace. The shoes, earrings, watch, makeup, contact lenses and hair I managed to handle on my own.

 People who know me casually see a tall, fairly well-built woman of a certain age – a leader type – articulate, intelligent, with a reasonably good sense of humor and proportion. Only those who are close know the true me – same qualities, but with an overlay of limitations on my life and myriad accommodations to make it as nearly normal as possible. There have been days when it’s an effort to walk from my front door to my driveway. On those days, if I can’t find a parking space within twenty feet of my destination, I go home. Sometimes I cannot write in the morning. I cannot hold a telephone receiver for more than a minute or two. I am rarely able to cut my own food. I cannot get into or out of the tub or down on or up from the floor unassisted. My computer endurance is often an hour or less.

 It is a chore to get into a coat or jacket without help. My wardrobe is built around whatever shoes I can wear. Thus, instead of being the short-skirted, high-heeled vamp I’d like to be, I usually wear slacks or ankle-length skirts with clunky shoes or sneakers. I’ve cultivated a casual chic look, vaguely and hopefully Katherine Hepburn-ish, and because of my height it works pretty well.

 This is my reality with decades of rheumatoid arthritis.

 Although people like me may have handicapped placards for our cars, our disabilities are nearly or totally invisible. Unlike people in wheelchairs or those who use walkers or canes, our difficulties go unrecognized, and while none of us would prefer to be wheelchair-bound – and dread the possibility of that happening at some future time – we all have our own set of issues, at home with our spouses, children, siblings and even parents, in social situations where we may not be able to keep pace with others, and in the workplace, where we are sometimes regarded as being unwilling to pull our weight.


Miraculously, though I still and will always have limitations and have had to give up my flute- and piano-playing, I’m the only person I know who is actually in better shape now than 20 years ago, thanks to more sophisticated treatment and medications and amazing artificial joints. Ironically, my husband and one-time caregiver now needs a cane or walker to get around, so we are once again limited as we travel and go about our lives. Recently, we took Amtrak to Boston; he used his walker and I was the pack-horse, shlepping our rolling suitcase along. I was simultaneously furious that my own need for assistance went unnoticed… and thrilled that my own need for assistance went unnoticed!

So – do I have a disability or not? If you saw my deformed hands you’d say yes. But then you’d see me striding along and wonder.

The point I’m circuitously trying to make is that disability is perceived in many ways. Too often, architects equate it with “wheelchair.” Thus a handicapped hotel room is waaay far away from the elevator, because, as they see it, someone in a chair either has a pusher or a motor. Forgotten is the ambulatory person who can walk a short distance but can’t trek a city block to reach a hotel room. Forgotten is the person who can walk but whose arms and hands make turning doorknobs and opening heavy doors an impossible challenge. I’ve often thought that if I lived alone I’d have to hire someone to come in once a week and open the ketchup, mustard, medications, milk and God only knows what else, in order for me to function independently.

On this very important occasion, remember that disability takes many forms and perceptions are sometimes very narrow. I think of myself as limited rather than disabled, and I’m supremely grateful for that, but, still, the assistance I require is very real. Perhaps, as both the general population and I grow older, we need to create a new category called “limited” and deal realistically with its ramifications. Call the legislation the Americans With Limitations Act. Happy Anniversary, ADA.

Jacqueline S. Guttman
July 23, 2015

Jacqueline Guttman’s entire career – as educator, flutist, arts administrator, choir director and writer – was centered on the arts. In 2013 she founded the Arts for Life Network of New Jersey, which presents and promotes high quality participatory arts programming for active older adults. She is the author of Partners in Excellence: A Guide to Community School of the Arts/Public School Partnerships and co-author of ARThematics: Integrated Projects in Math, Art and Beyond. A musician whose fingers no longer work, she now writes and conducts.

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Book Press Release: Unidentified Sighing Objects

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Unidentified Sighing Objects

 Poems by Baron Wormser

In his tenth collection of poems, UNIDENTIFIED SIGHING OBJECTS (CavanKerry Press; September 2015; $16.00, paperback), Baron Wormser continues a poetic journey begun more than three decades ago—a journey that has traversed the quotidian and the unexpected with equal measures of insight, emotion, and lyric grace. Through the formal features of odes and villanelles, Wormser here delivers his own brand of everyday realism, shaped by the wisdom gained from a lifetime viewed through an expectant eye. Man falls, Wormser tells us. But, he also rises.

From sports to art, from childhood to death, Wormser’s poetic purview is all-embracing and ever curious about the world we inhabit. Whether writing of Diane Arbus or Andy Warhol, the Nuremberg trials or the fall of the Berlin Wall, Jazz or the Dave Clark Five, he lends humor and wisdom to the quest for meaning each of us endures.

If I could add the days and make a sum
Of moments—faces pulled, unpulled, peas
Pushed around a forlorn plate, jokes
Gotten, ungotten, the taking in of each tree,
Building, chair, strand of hair lying
In the bathroom sink—I wouldn’t be human
In the sense we use that word as a form
Of gauze over a large but approximate wound,

A gesture of dismissal and acceptance
Adding up (there is that notion again!)
To bludgeoned wisdom dispensed too free of charge
To all and semi-sundry. “I can’t do the math,”
I told the teacher and left the room, though
At once I looked about and started counting.

                                                            (“On Narrative”)

By working in established forms, Wormser is consciously hitching his wagon to those poetic stars who have come before and inspired: Shakespeare, Keats, Donne, et. al.  “Night comes full of stars and not greatly concerned about us,/A line to quote not about a human beginning or end,/But the seemingly steady middle,/The place that placidly looks backwards and forwards,” he writes in “Poem Beginning with a Line by Hölderin.” He turns to the ode to contemplate a range of subjects: Arbus and her photographs, ghost dancers, speech, a character in Easy Rider, and even basketball—

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

There is an elegiac temper to many of the later poems in the collection, which touch on aging and death — the passing of a former lover, a long distance call to make amends, a paranoid FBI agent wielding a gun, a funeral for a young schizophrenic, a school friend killed in Vietnam, a witty eulogy for a beloved editor. And yet, Wormser’s is not a dark voice, finding instead the joy, the compassion, and the acceptance that must come with living.

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.


UNIDENTIFIED SIGHING OBJECTS is the culmination of an estimable career spent studying, teaching, and writing poetry—an exquisite collection that finds Baron Wormser working at the peak of his powers.

About Baron Wormser

Baron Wormser is the author/co-author of fourteen books and a poetry chapbook. Wormser has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Bread Loaf, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. From 2000 to 2006 he served as poet laureate of the state of Maine. He teaches in the Fairfield University MFA Program and is Director of Educational Outreach for the Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire.

Publication Date: September 2015
Price: $16.00; ISBN: 978-1-933880-47-1
Distributed by: University Press of New England (UPNE), 800-421-1561 or 603-448-1533, Ext. 255
This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how NEA grants impact individuals and communities, visit
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Italian Americana reviews “The Laundress Catches Her Breath”

LaundressCoverThis charming, poignant collection, winner of the 2012 Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing from the Working Class Association, paints a haunting portrait of working-class Pittsburgh as experienced by Corso’s protagonist known only as the laundress.

Read the full review here

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News and Events: Week of August 10th


Carole Stone, East Hampton Town Marine Museum (Amagansett, NY)
Sunday, August 16th at 5pm
Carole will be reading in the museum’s Poetry Marathon series


Pamela Spiro Wagner piece “The Dress” tied for first place in the 2015 Louise Wahl Creative Writing contest and was published in the Summer 2015 edition of “Counterpoint”, published by VPS in Vermont.

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ASL Poetry: A Moving Experience by Karyn Lie-Nielsen

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1990. CavanKerry Press is committed to finding ways to educate others about this law–especially about its impact on the lives of those in the CKP community. Therefore, in keeping with the CavanKerry Press tagline of “Lives Brought to Life,” we will be publishing a monthly blog in which a member of our diverse community writes about an ADA-related topic.
This series kicks off with “ASL Poetry:  A Moving Experience,” by Karyn Lie-Nielsen, a member of the CKP ADA Advisory Board. My first conversation with Karyn taught me how very, very little I knew about the fascinating world of American Sign Language poetry.  I’m so glad Karyn is willing to share her extensive knowledge of it.
Teresa Carson, Associate Publisher

portrait-1 (1)ASL Poetry:  A Moving Experience
by Karyn Lie-Nielsen

It doesn’t take long to discover how American Sign Language, the unique language of the Deaf, can increase our enjoyment of poetry.  Most of us realize how listening to poetry, recorded or delivered live at poetry readings, seems to enliven the words, mood, and meaning. Likewise, those of us who have seen a poem performed in ASL find that poetry can transcend to yet another level. The experience makes us feel like we have entered another dimension.

That’s because ASL is a visual language. “Speaking” in Sign involves not only fingers and hands, but also eyes, mouth, head, shoulders, arms, legs, and space—Signers call it the “sign space.” In ASL, printed words are freed from the flat page and lifted into space. Viewers have the chance to realize a poem that is truly embodied.

The language of ASL has no written equivalent.  It is based on English, but it’s movement, not writing, not sound.  Users of ASL do not speak English while they sign, because the sign-order of ASL is often very different from the word-order of English.  Moreover, there’s not necessarily a gesture for each word in the English vocabulary.  Sign consists of handshapes, facial expression and body positioning that make up a vocabulary of what we might call “words,” yet the lexicon of ASL is more accurately described as signs, or symbols, that represent ideas or concepts.  If there isn’t a word-sign equivalent for a word written in English, the signer might fingerspell that word. (ASL has a manual alphabet.) Or, since fingerspelling is slower and more difficult to “read,” a sign-translator can pantomime the idea.  When you want to communicate visually, you’ll sign, spell, gesture, turn your body, move your feet, anything it takes to get the concept across.

Translating a poem from English into ASL is different from merely word-to-word interpreting.  Sign language interpreters are called in to help the hearing impaired with doctor’s visits, news announcements, lectures, meetings, and general conversation.  But when it comes to translating poetry, the methodology isn’t the same. After all, poetry is not casual conversation, it is a literary art. Poets, as we are well aware,  intentionally measure each word, carefully calculating line and space.  An English-language poem translated into ASL requires the same skill and attention it takes to translate poetry from French or Spanish or Swahili.  Translators pore over the original language and distinctly make choices that allow the original intent to live on and reach the reader, or (in the case of ASL) the viewer. It’s not an on-the-spot task.  Yet, I am convinced there is no idea that can be written in English that can’t be represented with Sign.

You can see my own translations of two English language poems on my website.  One, “Among Vegetables,” is a contemporary poem written by CavanKerry poet Jeanne Marie Beaumont.  Another is Yeats’s “Never Give All The Heart.”

Strictly speaking, ASL poetry is at its most fascinating when the poem is originally created in Sign.  One of the most beloved poets in the Deaf signing community is Clayton Valli (1953-2003).  His original ASL poem “Dandelion” has been one of the most-watched Sign videos of all times.

Valli was a pioneer in the art form, defining how the repetition of handshapes are the signer’s equivalent to rhyme and meter.  There are English translations of “Dandelion,” available, but the best source is translated by the poet Raymond Luzak, and can be found in the anthology Deaf American Poetry, edited by John Lee Clark, a gifted poet himself, who is not only deaf, but is also legally blind.

While you’re looking around the web for ASL poetry, don’t miss “Flying Words” featuring Peter Cook and his speaking/signing partner Kenny Lerner.  This is a collaborative effort of two wonderful artists who bring unforgettable energy to their performances of ASL poetry and story-telling to both Deaf and hearing audiences. Cook is deaf, Lerner, hearing, so that the Sign is simultaneously spoken in English. Watch some of their work as well as some of the great pioneers of ASL poetry at

When you look closely at ASL poetry, you’ll surely start to notice how imagery, metaphor, and emotion are enhanced through visual expression.  As Jim Cohn, teacher and early trailblazer of ASL poetry said, “What deaf people do with language is what hearing poets try to make their language do.”

Karyn Lie-Nielsen lives in mid-coast Maine where she writes poetry, short stories, and personal essays, and honors the perennial challenges of gardening in the New England climate.  Her poems have appeared in Poetry East, The Comstock Review, Maine Magazine, Words and Images Journal, and online at Cabildo Quarterly. She is a two-time winner in the annual Maine Literary Awards for both poetry and creative nonfiction.  Raised by deaf parents, she is fluent in American Sign Language and enjoys performing and translating ASL poetry.  She has taught sign language, worked as an interpreter for the Deaf, and performed with the National Theater of the Deaf.  Her poetry chapbook, Handbuzz and Other Voices, is forthcoming from Damfino Press.  These “Handbuzz” poems center on her experiences growing up within the Deaf community.  She holds an MFA from the University of Maine’s Stonecoast Writing Program and is pleased to be involved with the CavanKerry Press ADA board.

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Nin Andrews interviews Pam Bernard

Final photo Pam

What an amazing journey this book (Esther: A Novel in Verse) takes you on!  So tell me, how did this book come to you?

It’s so odd to think back and try to cobble together how this one came to me. There’s no straight line anywhere. My good poet friends in Boston, where we lived before moving to New Hampshire, suggested that I write a memoir, since I was bringing to our workshop snippets of experiences as a kid in a toxic family. I’d published two collections of poems and seemed ready to try something new. I tried for about a year to think as a memoirist—okay, this happened, but how did that change your life?—but something just didn’t feel right. So I began to go back to when the trouble might have started in my family, well before I was born. And because most of what happened to my parents as young people before they met is lost, along with the facts of their marriage and nine children born, I was in uncharted territory. It was this condition that inspired me, perhaps—to imagine the people I thought I knew in a story about their early lives—but to have no qualms about that story relying on invention, since it was in fact mostly fiction. I think I liked that power.

What inspired you to write a novel in verse?

It’s been a process from which I continue to learn. I had never considered myself a storyteller, so to be writing a story was itself strange. But as the book emerged as an idea and began to evolve, the compressed line seemed right for the telling of it—that nuance and constraint. And the interludes where the narrator steps back to a more omniscient role, where imagery and detail are more intense, seemed ripe for such shaping. Originally I had just those passages in poetic line, but found overall it seemed too precious, too proscribed. I tried all prose, and went back every time to poetry.

I’ve come to understand that embedded in the poetic line is an emotional resonance that interweaves with the story’s surface texture. The measure of the line accrues meaning just as any element of a piece of writing builds in complexity. The linguistic constraint helps reveal and define characters and their motives, particularly when little dialogue is used.

Exploring more deeply, I found that a hybrid point of view was useful, where the narrator acts at times more like the speaker of a poem, and in that way comes closer to the reader. Generally the way I map the line in a poem is to honor human speech, human breath. Because there is so little speech given to the characters in Esther, our knowledge and experience of the characters comes largely from the narrator’s perspective, including that tone and distance. It is the narrator we hear In Esther, the narrator who becomes a character of sorts and speaks as the embodiment of the land upon which the characters travel and suffer, and some survive—providing witness to their struggle. I believe this use of the narrator is what finally identified Esther as a novel in verse as I began early on to understand what was emerging.

How long did it take you to complete?

Give or take ten years. I wrote Blood Garden: An Elegy for Raymond simultaneously for some years, published it in 2010, then focused entirely on Esther. I was blessed not to have to wait to find a publisher, because CavenKerry was the very first place I sent the manuscript. I still find that astonishing.

Did you know the story of Esther before you wrote it, or did you discover it as you went along?

Esther began to come forward as a character as I progressed, and as that happened, I felt more and more comfortable imagining moments and outcomes, less and less inclined to care if something might be strictly factual. Emotional truth was key, however, and that emotional truth was always bound to my own truth, my own stake in this spectacularly failed family. That I was working out my own story was not clear to me until the very end.

However, some of the story is in fact true, or as true as one can imagine so many years hence. For example, early sexual abuse is likely to be among the things the real Esther suffered at the hands of her father, and he did in fact die by train, probably suicide. She was born in Montgomery County Kansas, and met my father as I’ve described in a logging camp in the Colorado Rockies, under those conditions. And he was just home from WWI and suffering what all of those young boys suffered as they tried to re-enter their lives, while so utterly and irrevocably altered by experience.

Were there aspects of Esther’s life story that surprised you, or that you didn’t expect to describe?

My sisters sent me their memories and stories of the family, but I soon realized how little I had to go on. I’m not sure what I thought I ought to be doing at that point, but the project morphed into story at some juncture, and that’s where it stayed. As I deepened Esther’s character, I was surprised by her courage. I had not expected that she would take form as she did, and certainly did not expect to be surprised by any of it. That she grows into a woman who is transformed by what was meant to kill her was both hard-won, and deeply satisfying to me.

This is both an American epic and a story of sexual abuse.  I love how you move so gracefully between the inner and outer experience.  Was it difficult to manage these two themes?  To balance them?

Difficult, always. And thank you for appreciating that difficulty, and finding the movement between those worlds successful. But that balance is a natural condition for me. One way I work it in the story is though point of view—coming close to each character as he or she appears, through diction, for example, and then also stepping farther back in the interstices. So, that movement, that shifting narrative distance creates a balance as well. And provides texture. I’m always careful to provide texture.

The book is very visual, painterly.  And you are an artist as well?

I’ve been a painter as long as I’ve been a writer, in fact a bit longer.  But both seemed to have emerged from the same need: to explore the human predicament.

The Esther you describe is someone who never really talks much or tells her story, it seems. And she probably never would. And yet you tell it.  It’s as if you want to give her the voice she never had.  Is that how you see women of her time?

Not so much women of her time, but girls and women everywhere. What Esther must endure is heartbreaking, but tragically, not uncommon. Yet these stories go untold, unrecognized. Because this is the truth, I wasn’t sure until I worked all the way toward the end that she would survive it. Or that I could write it.

Did you grow up in any of the landscapes you describe so vividly in the book?

Some but not most. I did a tremendous amount of research, and would have made trips to various locations to study them, but I just did not have the time with my teaching schedule.  The mountains especially were not familiar to me, nor was the desert. I’ve been to Arizona but never to the sort of deserts that Esther and Raymond traverse. I brought my mother to her ancestral home in Kansas many years ago to attend a family reunion and found it rich in material for poems. Some of that language found its way into this book.

What were the biggest challenges in writing Esther?

Making sure the characters were real to the touch, that Esther’s father, for example, was not drawn as pure villain, but rather the complex person he surely was. I needed to fully imagine these characters in order to have them flesh out convincingly on the page. For example, I had to think through her father’s terrifying abusive behavior, Raymond’s PTSD, her mother’s disavowal of what was happening right in front of her. And finally, I had to explore the reason why an older girl would not try to escape such abuse when the opportunity arose.

Also, being true to the time period was a continued challenge. After all, Esther is historical fiction as well, so I had to be accurate with regard to details. If Esther and Raymond were to travel a certain route, I had to make sure a road actually existed along that route in that particular year. So much was changing in the country back then, with regard to new infrastructure, due primarily to the automobile. In fact everything was changing. For example, in early 1920’s, electric lights were common, but most people in the country still lived on farms, without that convenience.

What writers have influenced and/or guided you?

I read all manner of writers, from non-fiction to science to poetry. I think it’s the writer’s voice that I crave, that utterly unique experience of hearing another person open and reveal honestly. My favorites are Italo Calvino, Gaston Bachelard, Deborah Digges, Russell Banks, Louise Bogan, Oliver Sacks, Sylvia Plath, Gretel Ehrlich, Hart Crane, Nabokov, Marguerite Yourcenar, Lewis Thomas, and many others.

I’d love to close with an excerpt of your choice.

Sure. This passage takes place on a train, as Esther and her father Aaron are headed west to the Colorado mountains, where at fourteen, her father demanded she will cook for all the loggers. He has taken her to be “good company,” but in reality has made his final claim for her body and soul, with no intention of returning to the farm. The first part is one of the interstices, where the narration is pulled way back.

The land brooded with sad farms, barley
just taking hold that would not survive
the drought or the merciless wind,

and beyond the barley grew sorghum,
as far as the eye could see, and what land
did not support a crop suffered buffalo grass,

and prairie dogs the farmers called fury
weeds, busy with their miserable lives.

Esther could not have known while
she dozed—just one of many on this train
traveling in regimental discomfort, folks

who would die working the land
and be buried there—that beneath them,

the great continent of Pangaea was once
split by a vast inland sea, where
winged lizards and giant sharks

and turtles twice the size of an ox
held sway, and long-necked plesiosaurs

with great oar-like paddles prowled
alongside graceful, serpentine
predators forty-five feet, twenty tons—

where she now stirred and nearly
wakened from her dream of mountains,

trillions of miniscule organisms sunk
to sea bottom, their delicate carcasses
forming the chalk hills and limestone

quarries and shale beds that shaped
this prairie—what this girl understood
as flat, unchanging, was in fact the slow

rumination of what had always been,
shifting without notice, the forcemeat
of time on all things.


Aaron had unfolded the map
and struggled to set it flat enough to read,
but the best he could do left two hills
where his knees bent under it.

Esther sat very still as she always did
if it fell to her to be nearest him
when he was vexed.

Here! We must be here! Aaron blurted
to no one in particular. Startled
out of her stillness, Esther followed

her father’s gaze to one of the hills
where his finger jabbed at a black dot
beside a thin blue line.

She had seen maps in the encyclopedia,
maps of Africa, of mountains in South America,
the whole British Empire. Never
had she seen a map of Kansas.

Where did we start, Father?  Esther asked.
But Aaron was at it again, trying
to smooth the paper and paid no attention.

So she leaned in and saw that he had circled
Montgomery County, where the farm sat
heavy on the land, where Bessie’s brooding

countenance brightened as she worked
in the kitchen garden, its precise rows
of potatoes, sugar beets to feed the hens.

Esther conjured the snap peas and kale
near the tidy bed of verbena, her mother
bending to harvest thyme and marjoram,

their lingering fragrance.

Then the girl looked up toward her attic room
and saw herself there at the window,
gazing out beyond the barn.

She was thinner than she’d imagined
herself to be, in that life, just days ago, but
she’d thought her mouth to be a grim slash
across her face.
And it was.

The smell of fried chicken brought her back
to the train, to the family across the aisle

noisily opening their box lunches,
and to Aaron, still fingering the map.

Disquiet settled in her stomach.
Everywhere she had ever been in her life
was within the distance of the width
of her father’s hand.

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Windhover Journal reviews Brent Newsom’s “Love’s Labors”

6_w171_h264_s1_PL15_PCffffffGiven this strong debut, readers can hope that Brent Newsom’s future poems will continue to develop more of these individuals (and himself), focusing on the confusing and confounding wonder of the human condition(s).

Read the full review here

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News and Events: Week of July 20th


Celia Bland’s feature, “Ordinary Details: Humor in the Work of Jane Cooper,” is in Rain Taxi’s Summer 2015 edition

Pamela Spiro Wagner received First place for Prose for her essay, “The Dress” from the Louise Wahl Memorial Creative Writing Contest

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News and Events: Week of July 7th


Brent Newsom, RealArt DeRidder Art Gallery (108 W. First St., DeRidder, LA)
Tuesday, July 7th at 7:00pm
Public reading & book signing

Brent Newsom, Woody Guthrie Folk Festival (St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 202 N. Third St., Okemah, OK)
Saturday, July 11th at 10:00am
Featured reader in the Woodie Guthrie Poetry Readings

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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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