Opportunities and Announcements: Week of April 14, 2014

The book launch party was fantastic! Thanks to everyone who helped make it a success. We sold 58 books (a lot of 2014 editions, a few 2013), celebrated those who submitted work, and had a great time. If you missed the event but would like to purchase a book, we’ll have them at meetings in the BWW Writing Center going forward, and you can also order books online.

Here are the opportunities and announcements for this week. Continue reading

Martin Bock Made Me Cry

Martin Bock reading his poem, "braid"

Martin Bock reading his poem, “braid”

Martin Bock made me cry. Here’s how it happened:

The Burlington Writers Workshop took our Best of anthology on tour last week with a stop at the Joslin Memorial Library in Waitsfield. This was thanks to workshop member Al Uris, who lives and practices law across the street from the library.

Four workshop members who are featured in the book shared some of their work. All of the readings were stellar. Al started us off with his story, “Sand in the Shoes.” Shelagh Shapiro followed with an excerpt of her novel. Angela Palm finished the readings with an essay, “Projection,” which is not in the book but did receive BWW feedback last year.

But before Angela came Martin Bock, who read excerpts of “It’s Not So Easy,” an essay about his grandson, Ringo, and the difficult, existential questions grandsons sometimes ask (“How can I not die?”). But the essay didn’t make me cry. The poems Martin read for and about his wife, Melly, moved me. “braid” (no capital letter on the ‘b’) is a poem featured in the book, and you can hear Martin’s reading of it at 28:00 into the audio file. I can’t describe it to you. You’ll have to listen, and I dare you to keep your eyes dry.

Then, Martin threw in his adaptation of the James Henry Leigh Hunt poem, “Jenny Kissed Me,” substituting Melly’s name for Jenny. (37:40 in the audio file.) His voice—and the energy of the room—gave this poem so much life. Of course, such a bold and public declaration of love for one’s wife is rare and worthy of admiration and, for me at least, envy. Who doesn’t want to feel love that deeply? And who doesn’t want to express it in such an artful way?

I point out Martin’s piece only because it forced such an emotional response in me, but I must stress that I was awestruck by all the pieces I heard. Perhaps that’s because it was the first time I’d heard them. I’d read Al’s “Sand in the Shoes” many times, but I’d never heard Al’s voice read it aloud—and Al’s voice seemed perfectly suited for this kind of story. Angela Palm’s “Projection” was something we’d read at home before discussing it, but when I heard her read it, the humor inside this serious piece was more striking and apparent.

We’ve got another reading at the Essex Free Library on July 16th at 6:30, so please do join us for that one. And bring a tissue box, just in case.

The Book Launch

The sandwich board on Church Street.

The sandwich board on Church Street.

The Book Launch Party was a great success.

For me, this was a loyalty event, a hearty “thank you” to all of the people who have supported this project. If everyone walked away feeling like their contributions were appreciated, then I feel like we’ve succeeded.

Gabe McConkey spent his birthday reading poetry with us. Anne Averyt, Erika Nichols (our poetry editor), and Lit Tyler also gave stellar readings.

Check out this photo gallery of the evening’s events!

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We asked Twitter users to tweet with #bwwlaunch, and you can check out the tweets here. If you missed the launch, but would still like to purchase the book, please buy one here.

Our Amazon Kindle ebook is also a good way to check out these talented Vermont writers.

During the celebration, the audience was asked to write an “exquisite corpse” poem. So here’s what the audience came up with:

I saw a buzzfly when I was born–
Trepidacious, mortar, drained with lost panko bullfrog
And then they died…
Her face was aglow with happiness.
WTF
We can just be friends and take things slow.
But even as I said it, I knew it would never be true>
So I walked down to the lakeshore & searched for meaning amongst the delicately stacked rocks.
Instead, I found lizards.
Lizards with gigantic green eyes and claws that could slice up rocks.
Lights flash! Cars crash
The lantern flickered faintly in the distance, carried by a cloaked figure who ambled hurriedly down the dew covered hillside.
Gliding among filamental clouds with the starlings, a gaseous gust of helium escaped from under a sheath of oily feathers.
A heavy wood, old world ceiling in a stark space.
Happiness is subjective.
It’s comforting to write with a cardboard pen.
Oh my my. There are still no meatpies in Grimsby!
And I quit being a vegetarian a month ago.
At times I wonder if this was a mistake, waking in the night with the taste of chorizo on my tongue.
But I haven’t eaten chorizo in years. Now my tastebuds make do with blander meats on their pallate.
They fell down on their knees and begged that this cup might pass.
The man looked down at him and frowned.
His life seemed to be on the end of a blade.
So much had changed so quickly.
Change is what happens when you’re stoned too long.
I’m at a writers workshop. Very scary, since I am barely a reader, aside from Vogue. I’ll go to the library I promise.
She made a beeline for the black door.
The secret you told me spilled over the edge of my eyes.
And I said something I never thought I’d say.

Being from Fall River, I’m happy that chorizo made an appearance in this poem, but it’s spelled “chourico“!

So, in short, it was a great evening, and I’m now working with BCA to plan next year’s launch. Because there will be another “Best of” collection next year, thanks to you.

Writing About Art At Burlington City Arts

Photo 2 edited

DJ Hellerman (right) demonstrates how “The God Box” works. Virtual flies and spiders climb on the surface and a map on the wall behind DJ shows where they were born and where they die.

This week, Burlington City Arts is launching an exhibition called “User Required.” It features a variety of pieces that require user participation. One piece, for example, gives you the opportunity to squish virtual bugs on a giant iPad-like device. Another features lights that illuminate the basement when you step on them.

This exhibition will be on display at Burlington City Arts during our book launch party. And the Burlington Writers Workshop will attempt to write pieces of literary art that respond to and create conversations with the physical, interactive pieces of art on display. If we produce good work, we’ll share it with the public at the book launch party and beyond.

DJ Hellerman of BCA was gracious enough to give us all a guided tour of the artwork. As the artists worked around us, we toured the galleries, pushed buttons, scratched meowing pictures of kittens, and sent text messages to a whirling fan that’s designed to display our messages. (Send a text message to 802-373-1117 on Friday night, and whatever you write will appear on the fans for the art-loving public to see.)

Photo 1In my view, this is the perfect art to surround the launch of a book that exists because of community participation. Users are required for these pieces of art as much as the writers in the workshop are required to make this crazy thing work.

“User Required” is open to the public on Friday. If you didn’t attend our private viewing tonight but still want to attempt a poem or short piece of prose inspired by a piece at BCA, visit on Friday or Saturday and send what you’ve written to me (peterbiello @ yah0o dot c0m) by Saturday night. Your participation is required!