Hear Poetry of Presence editors Phyllis Cole-Dai and Ruby R. Wilson discuss the anthology with contributing poet Pat Schneider on “Poetry á la Carte,” hosted by the delightful Daisy Mathias. The half-hour interview was recorded in March, 2018, and broadcast in April on WMUA 91.1.FM, the voice of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
We’re thrilled to tell you that Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems has been awarded an Honorable Mention in the poetry category for the Eric Hoffer Book Awards.
In announcing the award, the judges wrote: “Poems are careful things. If done well, every sound and word has something to say. This truly unforgettable anthology is filled with astute and lyrical observations of the world. In so doing, the multitude of poets from all walks of life pack an emotional wallop. Most all it motivates us to reach out for something more substantial, more magical than anything found in the here and now. Addressing mindfulness, these poems encourage us to look, not only inward but outward, to become more aware of how we are, or can be, more thoughtful in all aspects of the only life we have to live. The editors offer a book to savor, read slowly, smile at, sigh over, and cherish always.”
A big shout-out to our publisher, Ginny Connors of Grayson Books, and to every poet in the anthology. This award honors your beautiful and life-sustaining work. May the book have a long life!
About the Award: The Eric Hoffer Award honors the memory of the great American philosopher Eric Hoffer by highlighting salient writing, as well as the independent spirit of small publishers. Since its inception, the Hoffer has become one of the largest international book awards for small, academic, and independent presses.
Congratulations to our fellow poetry recipients:
Winner: Pecking Order by Nicole Homer
1st Runner-Up: The Mauled Keeper by Lynn Marie Houston
Honorable Mentions: Between Two Gardens by Laura Quinn Guidry; Dots & Dashes by Jehanne Dubrow; Every Room in the Body by Kerri French; and The Cowherd’s Son by Rajiv Mohabir.
Full coverage of the Hoffer Awards will be in the U.S. Review of Books.
On Monday, May 7, at 5pm (Eastern), WMUA will air the “Poetry a la Carte” radio interview we editors did in March alongside contributing poet Pat Schneider about the anthology. The host is Daisy Mathias. She’s wonderful. We all had a great time.
To listen to the half-hour interview, go to http://www.wmua.org and click on “Listen Live” in the upper right. (If the website asks for your email address, just say “no” or click the X to escape that window.)
We hope you’ll tune in!
During National Poetry Month (April), we invite you to send us a creative response to one or more poems in Poetry of Presence. Your work may be in any genre—poetry, prose, photography, music, painting, sculpture…. When April ends, we’ll compile all the works we’ve received in a digital collection, then make it available free of charge to everyone on our mailing list.
Please follow the submission guidelines below.
Invite your friends to participate!
- This National Poetry Month celebration is open to everyone, including children, newcomers to the arts, and persons living outside the United States. However, to receive a free copy of the compilation, you must be on our mailing list. You may join here.
- Your work must be original and created in direct response to one or more poems in Poetry of Presence.
- You must include in your submission the title of the poem(s) that inspired your work.
- Your work may be in any artistic genre.
- You may submit only one work (e.g., one poem, recording or image).
- If submitting written work, please limit yourself to one single-spaced page. Email it to us as a .doc or .docx attachment. If you don’t use Word, contact us and propose an option.
- If submitting visual art (e.g., photograph, painting or sculpture), please send us a medium-sized .jpg or .jpeg file via email.
- If submitting a piece of music or another recording, please upload it to a file-sharing site (e.g., Dropbox or SoundCloud), then send us a public link. This link will be published in the collection, so make sure it works.
- Send your submission by midnight on April 30, 2018, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- By submitting your work, you give us permission to share it with our mailing list and social media followers. We will properly credit your work. You will retain all rights.
- We reserve the right to exclude any work that either (1) doesn’t indicate which poem(s) from the anthology inspired it or (2) seems to violate the spirit of Poetry of Presence.
- Remember: To receive a free copy of the compilation, you must be on our mailing list. Join here.
On our recent swing through Connecticut and Massachusetts, we editors visited contributing poet Pat Schneider in Amherst. While there, the three of us ventured to the campus of University of Massachusetts-Amherst for a radio interview with Daisy Mathias, producer of “Poetry A La Carte.” WMUA-Amherst 91.1 FM airs the weekly program and also streams it at this link. During the program Mathias reads aloud from past and contemporary poets and occasionally features live interview and poetry-reading with a local poet.
Our half-hour recorded interview will be aired in the near future. We’ll share a link when it becomes available.
As editors of Poetry of Presence we take tremendous joy in hearing how readers are using the anthology. This story, gleaned by serendipity from Facebook, really brightened our day:
Cheryl Hale works in the activity department at One MacDonough Place, an assisted living facility in Middletown, CT. “I read poems from this anthology to the residents where I work. It’s such an inspiring, positive collection.”
One of the activities they offer the residents “is a program for expressing oneself through poetry. Sometimes we have them write with prompts and sometimes we share poetry with them. I love your book … as the collection of poems has examples from such a wide range of poets, with the focus being on mindfulness and being present in each moment. They enjoy it, as do I. Thank you!”
Cheryl says that one of her role models at the facility is named Phyllis, like one of us editors. “[She] writes, paints, participates in literally everything, [and] will be 104 in a couple of weeks! Here she is, after I read her `Sifter’ [by Naomi Shihab Nye]. She is awesome, and always up for anything new!”
Cheryl and Phyllis, we’ll be up in CT in a couple of weeks to do (among other fun things) a reading organized by Ginny Connors, publisher of Grayson Books. Maybe we’ll just swing by One MacDonough Place to greet you and celebrate a 104th birthday! In the meantime, continue enjoying the anthology and writing your own poems.
This is part of a series highlighting some of the poets anthologized in Poetry of Presence. We thank the poets for providing the material. Today we shine the spotlight on Twyla Hansen.
Short bio: I’m Nebraska’s State Poet (2013-2018). I co-direct the Poetry from the Plains: A Nebraska Perspective website. My latest poetry book is Rock • Tree • Bird (The Backwaters Press, 2017). Two of my books have won Nebraska Book Awards, including Potato Soup, a Nebraska 150 Notable Book for the 2017 Sesquicentennial. My writing has appeared widely in periodicals, newspapers, anthologies, and many other publications.
Thoughts on mindfulness and poetry: I have been practicing yoga for five years with a small group of women, and it has made a positive difference in my life. In today’s troubling times, deep breathing and yoga pose stretches are part of my daily routine, calming mind, body, and spirit. Spending time outdoors and writing poems have a similar effect on me. Stepping on to a native tallgrass prairie connects me deeply with Earth, from which all bounty flows. Creative writing also takes me to a place that is timeless. I love to lose myself in the process of writing a poem, and am astonished when I again resurface in the real world. This doesn’t happen every time I sit down to write, of course, but when it does, it gives me hope and the world seems a little brighter.
Fun fact: I’ve been collecting rocks in the shape of Nebraska for years, and by now have well over 100 of all sizes (see photo).
Website and social media:
This is part of a series highlighting some of the poets anthologized in Poetry of Presence. We thank the poets for providing the material. Today we shine the spotlight on Laura Grace Weldon.
Short bio: I live on a small farm where I cook weird things, sing to livestock, and stay up late reading library books. I’m the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and a handbook of alternative education, Free Range Learning, with a book of essays due out soon. I also write about mindfulness in prose and poetry. These pieces include welcoming mistakes and celebrating humanity as well as finding meaning in coyote songs and spider webs.
Summer is a perfect time to gaze at clouds.
The traditional spot to indulge in this pleasurable activity is sitting in the grass. Better yet, lying on the grass. Stay there as clouds drift into view over treetops and roofs, slowly changing form. Linger long enough, you might insist you can feel the planet moving.
Looking at clouds is a perfect way to disengage from all the buzzing, ringing distractions that claw our attention to shreds. Those puffs of air vapor seem to invite contemplation. And that’s good. Daydreaming is so rejuvenating that it can boost creativity. It also helps us to relax, review emotion-laden situations calmly, generate new ideas, and get to know ourselves better.
When we let our minds wander, we’re in what neuroscience calls the “default mode network.” An L.A. Times article titled, “An Idle Brain May Be The Self’s Workshop” notes,
Just as sleep appears to play an important role in learning, memory consolidation and maintaining the body’s metabolic function, some scientists wonder whether unstructured mental time—time to zone out and daydream—might also play a key role in our mental well-being. If so, that’s a cautionary tale for a society that prizes productivity and takes a dim view of mind-wandering.
Even when you don’t have time to lie in the grass, take the time to notice the sky. Really look at a starry sky, overcast sky, rainy sky. You may be getting more than a glimpse of the firmament.
I learned this when I helped conduct a psychology study in college. We went to urban office buildings and asked people two questions. First, we asked each person to describe his or her mood. Second, we asked them to describe the current appearance of the sky. These people were in offices or hallways when we talked to them and the windows in most buildings were shuttered with horizontal blinds ubiquitous during that decade, so the only way they could have described the sky is if they had paid attention on their way to work or during a break. Here’s the interesting part. People who identified themselves as pessimistic, angry, depressed, or in other negative terms tended to be the ones unable to describe the sky’s appearance. You guessed it. The happiest and most optimistic people either correctly described the sky or came very close.
That study was never published, but research these days now indicates that pausing to experience nature in our daily lives is powerfully positive. Just a few minutes of regular exposure has been shown to improve our emotional and physical health. It leads us to be more generous, to enhance relationships and value community. The effect of nature, even looking out a window at nearby trees, seems to lead us, as one researcher noted, to be “our best selves.”
Go ahead, look at some clouds right now. You may see a cloud pig sailing a cloud boat. The sailboat may morph into French fries before the whole thing breaks apart into a shape resembling a bongo-playing octopus. Good thing the images we see in clouds aren’t a meteorological Rorschach test.
Website and social media:
This is part of a series highlighting some of the poets anthologized in Poetry of Presence. We thank the poets for providing the material. Today we shine the spotlight on Teddy Macker.
Short bio: My first book of poetry—This World (foreword by Brother David Steindl-Rast)—appeared in March of 2015 through White Cloud Press. A lecturer at University of California-Santa Barbara and orchardist, I live with my wife and daughters on a small farm in the foothills of Carpinteria, California.
Thoughts on mindfulness: Mindfulness helps me with the practice of faith, of living beyond answers, solutions, knowledge, the clamoring demands of mind; encourages me to let the mystery be the mystery.
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