Thursday, January 21, 2010

FEB 2 2010: Harvest of Dreams: Voices to Remember

I just received word of this performance taking place at the Frazier Museum in Louisville. It seems a good opportunity, for students of all ages, to learn about these African-American writers.

LIVING HISTORY Performance Series

In honor of Black History Month, the Frazier Museum presents a stirring performance of classic and contemporary African-American poetry, prose, stories and songs by Ilene Evans, including works by Langston Hughes, Waring Cuney, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Ancella Bickle. Galleries opens at 6 p.m on February 2nd. Light refreshments are served. Tickets are $9 for museum members, $12 for non-members, $5 for students and seniors. Exhibit gallery access is included.

For More Information: Guest Services Phone: (502) 753-5663

Ilene Evans is an internationally known actress, singer and storyteller. From the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland to Phoenix, Arizona in the United States, Ilene has been telling her stories through dance, music and the spoken word for 30 years.

NO IMAGES by Waring Cuney

She does not know
Her beauty,
She thinks her brown body
Has no glory.
If she could dance
Under palm trees
And see her image in the river,
She would know.

But there are no palm trees
On the street,
And dish water gives back no images.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mary Ann Taylor-Hall's At the Breakers!

I want to give a shout out for Mary Ann Taylor-Hall's new novel At the Breakers. I ran into Mary Ann at the 2009 Kentucky State Book Fair right before Thanksgiving and snatched her book as a holiday present for myself. I decided settling down to read it would be a well-deserved reward for finishing my Christmas shopping. Of course, that meant I wasn't able to open it until after December 25 (I even managed to put off my last minute shopping until the day of - tearing through a liquor store I found open!)
But, it was worth the wait. The novel, that is. The day after Christmas, I collapsed in a chair and read the book from cover to cover.
I admire the way Mary Ann captures the complexities and mysteries of mothering and found her portrayal of the teen-aged daughter Wendy to be one of the truest characters I've ever read. The writing is lush and lovely, descriptive without becoming tiresome. And then there is the wonderful Victor Mangold, Jo's love interest, and a poet at that! I feel as if I've visited his New York apartment. If any of this is your subject material (or your life), you'll enjoy this read.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Amazing Clint Morehead Included in Becoming a Doctor!

I'm so happy to see Becoming a Doctor
is about to be released by Norton (March 2010) and includes a fantastic essay "The Cleverest Doctor" by Clint Morehead. Clint is the son of my Spalding MFA colleague Maureen Morehead. She's a wonderful poet and one of the best teachers I know--and I should know because she was my first Creative Writing Teacher at U of L--but that's another story! Clint is a Manual, Bellarmine and U of L MD grad.

He's here in Louisville where he's a first year internal medicine resident at U of L. Recently, I had the pleasure of working with him on the Kentucky Books for Patients project, which gathers the books of Kentucky writers and puts them on the shelves of cancer centers in Louisville hospitals. It's a great ongoing project. You can visit that blogsite to see how to donate books for it.

If you'd like a preview, you can read from Clint's essay from Becoming a Doctor. It's online at the Norton site.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Great Workshop Opportunity for Creative Writers

Spalding University’s brief-residency MFA in Writing Program is offering a Community Workshop to creative writers May 22-29, during the MFA Program’s Spring Residency. Community Workshop students participate in an instructor-led, 8-day non-credit writing workshop and are invited to attend all MFA Residency events, including lectures and panel discussions normally reserved exclusively for MFA students.

Writers interested in attending the Community Workshop submit a 5- to 7-page writing sample in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, writing for children and young adults, playwriting, or screenwriting. Email the writing sample as a DOC, RTF, or PDF file to

The MFA Office will reply by email regarding your acceptance in the Workshop. Capacity is limited.

After acceptance, workshop students receive information about sending original material, due by April 27, to be critiqued in the workshop. The material consists of 15 to 20 pages of prose or scriptwriting or 5 poems. By May 7, students receive a workshop booklet, which includes writing by all members of the class. Workshop students read and prepare for an hourlong discussion of each student’s work.

On most days, the Community Workshop begins at 9 a.m. Attendance at the 9-11:30 a.m. workshop is required, but students are invited to stay for as much of the day as they like. Lunches and several dinners are included in the price of the workshop. Afternoon sessions include lectures, panel discussions, and readings by MFA faculty and guests. Evening sessions include readings by MFA faculty and alumni.

Applicants receive a $100 discount off the full price of $700 if they apply by April 8. All applications are due by April 22.

Workshop instructor Erin Keane is the author of The Gravity Soundtrack, a full-length collection of poems, and The One-Hit Wonders, a chapbook. Her novel-in-poems, Death Defying Acts, will be published by WordFarm in 2010. Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in many magazines. A recipient of the Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, Erin lives in Louisville, where she writes for Velocity and LEO, teaches at Bellarmine University, leads writing workshops for the Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts, and directs the InKY Reading Series.

For more information and registration details, email

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Beyond the Words: Why I Mother You Like I Do

Many thanks to Mark Brown for this wonderful analysis of my poem (which appears in Seed Across Snow)--this is from Mark's Green River Writers Newsletter Column

Why I Mother You the Way I Do
by Kathleen Driskell

That afternoon, I have to admit, there were no thoughts
of you. I was in high school - making my way past
the buses to a waiting car - a boy who would not be
your father - when the line of traffic stopped. The girls,
classmates, sisters, had darted between buses
and into the highway, trying to cross the field to their home.
They both lay twisted in the road. My science teacher,
Mr. Desaro, took off his suit coat and laid it over Susan's
face. He was crying because he only had one coat.

By the time they let us pass, Eve had been covered with a white
sheet. The ambulances had come. Red lights flashed, but
their mother was still pushing her silver cart
through the grocery. The sheriff was walking up behind
her. As she reached for a gallon of milk, he moved
to touch her arm.

This poem from Kathleen Driskell’s new collection, Seeds Across Snow, is a revealing example of how compression in artful hands builds tension and power. The events of “That afternoon,” are retold in a journalistic fashion. Beyond the first two sentences, the speaker inserts no editorial observations about the horror of witnessing the aftermath of two classmates who readers must assume where struck and killed by a car. She lets her just-the-facts observations provide the canvas that we paint this heartbreaking scene onto as we travel through the poem.

Driskell’s choice to use a sonnet-like structure aids in compressing the event to build potential that carries us along as she stacks setting and objects into a narrative that we hope isn’t happening. She summons us into the poem with an almost sticky sweet title that prepares us for a different Madonna and Child exploration. The title and structure manipulates and disarms us. And to further dupe the reader about how fast and deep the story goes, she delays the opening action for a half-beat by directly addressing the child the speaker is mothering.

As we read the details of the speaker making her way to the waiting car with the boy, we get an inkling of dread when the traffic has stopped. When the girls who have darted into the highway are added, that dread heightens. When we are presented the image of the girls “twisted in the road,” we’re shaken with disbelief. In the ninth line, we fully realize the size of the tragedy. That Mr. Desaro “was crying because he only had one coat” is a detail fraught with subtext and honored by its placement at the turn within the sonnet-like structure. We ache to think that two, teen-aged sisters have died such a shocking death in full view of the students making their way home.

We learn that eventually both sisters’ bodies are covered and then retrieved by ambulances. But what of the girls’ mother? The power of this compressed scene is at last unleashed when Driskell presents us with the image of the oblivious mother at the grocery. And the greatest power comes from Driskell’s choice to end the poem with the sheriff fulfilling a most horrific task. The wise omission of the mother’s reaction gives us the opportunity to imagine and empathize more so than any attempt at description could.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Emily's the Man

Pain - has an Element of Blank -
It cannot recollect
When it begun - or if there were
A time when it was not -

It has no Future - but itself -
Its Infinite contain
Its Past - enlightened to perceive
New Periods - of Pain.

I adore the way Dickinson uses metaphor and in this poem, especially, we can see a master poet working the language so that we are not only able to read this poem horizontally - from the beginning to end - but also vertically. When I first read, so many years ago, "Element of Blank," I thought immediately of the white flash of nothingness that shoots through the head when one, say, hits a thumb soundly with a hammer. The world does go blank in that moment, the brain, too. But there is more than the physical pain to reference here. Think of the emotional blankness one feels after a great grief. How many times have we heard that after a funeral, a loved one can't recall who came to visitation nor turned up at the church? And there is also that blankness that comes from depression, the separation of self from all else, the loss of memory caused by desolation, and I can't help but think of the forgetting of the pain of childbirth. That word blank is like an open well on the page.

But what I love even more is the way Dickinson's sense and form are married here. Look at the first word of the poem, now look at the last . . . pain leads to pain in what is here, for Dickinson, a never-ending circle of grief. It's an illustration of just how challenging it can be to let go . . .

Poets Rock the Convent

I just returned home from a splendid three-day poetry retreat at St. Marguerite's Convent in Mendham, New Jersey, where I had the best students I could hope for. A Spalding MFA colleague and author of a Newbery Honor Book, Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Hitler's Youth), invited me to lead the poetry workshop sessions for sixteen of her closest and most talented fellow authors of Children's literature. I was thrilled to find myself "teaching" these amazing women including Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted), Joyce McDonald (Devil on My Heels) Pam Muñoz Ryan (Esperanza Rising), Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me). We worked hard, wrote lots of poems, read aloud to each other and were treated to the improvised Improv group "The Unaccomapanied Minors." Then we retreated to our tiny rooms. I slept sweetly in a little bed which looked out upon the snow and tall pines. I'm happy to have met them all and look forward to reading their fine poems in print soon!