Tag Archives: Victoria Chang

MASS Poetry Festival 2021 (13th-16th May) Part 1

13th-16th May

MASS Poetry Festival was amazing, I am so glad that I was able to attend the hybrid event, it is a Biennial event and the programme was huge, extensive & creative. They had over 50 events featuring over 100 poets. This was the first festival since the 10th Anniversary in 2018. Headline poets included: Victoria Chang, Jos Charles, Martín Espada, Tyehimba Jess, Patricia Spears Jones, Lang Leav, Khadijah Queen, Naomi Shihab Nye, Ariana Reines, Dara Wier & more.  

It was a joy to spot some of the Worcester MA (A Tale of Two Cities Project) poets on the bill and often in the audience too. It was a busy weekend – because, (as with all festivals) there was a clash, I was attending events for what felt like the whole 48hrs – it wasn’t!

What I also liked was the website booking system which enabled you to keep track of your own festival schedule, very handy. Especially when not in real life with a paper copy in your pocket.

The time zones meant much of the programme was quite late for BST (UK) and I was working unexpectedly out in the real world too, so it was a juggling act to hang onto all the event bookings. Sadly I missed the finale but as Mr. G hadn’t seen me most of the weekend it seemed only fair. I felt jet lagged by about 6pm Sunday!

Thursday 13th May Mass P

Headline Reading with Victoria Chang and Khadijah Queen

I was excited to see Victoria Chang reading after recently reading her poetry in April (NaPoWriMo) and getting obsessed with OBIT and how she handles the hardest subjects in the most beautiful poetry.

The reading was opened by the winners of MASS PF First Poem Contest: Samn Stockwell, Samantha DeFlitch, and Emily Joan Cooper.

Khadijah Queen was the other headline act on the Opening Reading – I absolutely loved this reading and was glad to catch Khadijah later in the festival too.

Khadijah Queen is the author of five books of poetry, most recently I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On (YesYes Books, 2017), a finalist for the National Poetry Series, which was praised in O Magazine, The New YorkerLos Angeles Review, and elsewhere as “quietly devastating,” and “a portrait of defiance that turns the male gaze inside out.”

Victoria Chang’s new book of poetry, OBIT, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2020 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, longlisted for a National Book Award, as well as longlisted for a PEN-Voeckler Award. OBIT was also named a TIME Magazine, Publishers WeeklyNPRBoston Globe Best Book of the Year, and a New York Times Notable Book.

As well as a diverse range of events, there were other things happening – some in real life some online. Such as the online Ekphrastic Gallery – which of course I enjoyed.
Work by twelve amazingly gifted student artists from Montserrat College of Art, paired with bespoke poems by the winners of our Ekphrastic Gallery contest.  This gallery was created thanks to the amazing work of Montserrat Faculty Members Colleen Michaels and Dawn Paul.  

And the Improbable Places Walking Tour – another highlight.
An audio tour highlighting some of the most memorable stops on The Improbable Places Poetry Tour has been made for your listening pleasure.  The Improbable Places Poetry Tour, a reading series organized by Colleen Michaels of Montserrat College of Art, has run for over a decade around Beverly, Salem, and the North Shore bringing poetry and the community together in unexpected places. Yes, even in a swimming pool. This audio tour version will feature stops around the Massachusetts North Shore and can be enjoyed either with a day trip or virtually.  

© Massachusetts Poetry Festival 2021

Friday 14th May Mass PF

My Friday schedule started with this powerful reading.

New Elegies: How do we turn grief into song?

Four poets read from new collections that wrestle with the bounds and opportunities of the American elegy. Readings with Sumita Chakraborty, Rebecca Morgan Frank (who I have being enjoying over 2020/21), Erin Carlyle & Jessica Guzman.

Followed by an enjoyable/relaxed workshop with Kelly DuMar: How Pictures Heal.

In the midst of our shifting daily realities, I believe this one experience remains a constant: We all take and treasure photographs of the people, places and things that bring meaning and beauty into our lives. – Kelly DuMar

The Thing With Feathers: Poetry of Witness to Serious Illness and Trauma

Contemporary poets discuss their own poems dealing with serious illness and what they reveal about hope, what Emily Dickinson called “the thing with feathers”.

I have been writing trauma and illness recently, so was interested in this reading and discussion. It was really hard to decide as some of the events I wanted to go to clashed – decisions had to be made.

Oliver de la Paz (I discovered Oliver’s work in the 1st Lockdown), Jennifer Franklin (who hosts many of the Hudson Valley Writers events I have attended and who I heard read at the Emily Dickinson Museum), Fred Marchant (who was also part of the EDM reading) and Justin Wymer.

I am glad I made the decision to attend this reading, a rich discussion between poets and some heartening poems. As the programme stated: Sometimes, however, the poet finds hope, even in a factually hopeless situation. What is it in us that persists in singing, regardless of how dire the facts?

The final event I attended on Friday was the Headline Reading.

The second headline reading of the Festival, featured Lang Leav (who I recently discovered and then enjoyed a workshop she facilitated on prose poetry) and Dara Wier, with an opening reading by National Youth Poet Laureate Meera Dasgupta.  

Meera Dasgupta is the youngest United States Youth Poet Laureate appointed in the history of the country. She is also the first U.S. Youth Poet Laureate to have been appointed from New York (as well as the Northeastern region) and the first Asian-American Youth Poet Laureate of the United States.

Novelist and poet Lang Leav was born in a refugee camp when her family were fleeing the Khmer Rouge Regime. She spent her formative years in Sydney, Australia, in the predominantly migrant town of Cabramatta. Among her many achievements, Lang is the winner of a Qantas Spirit of Youth Award, Churchill Fellowship and Goodreads Reader’s Choice Award.

Dara Wier’s books include In the Still of the Night (Wave Books, 2017), You Good Thing (Wave Books, 2013), Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2009), Remnants of Hannah (Wave Books, 2006), Reverse Rapture (Verse Press, 2005; 2006 Poetry Center Book Award), Hat On a Pond (Verse Press, 2002), and Voyages in English (Carnegie Mellon, 2001).

© Massachusetts Poetry Festival 2021


NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 29


Day Twenty-Nine Click here for the full post

Today’s featured participants are Eunoia, where you’ll find a poem about dreams in response to Day 28’s question-based prompt, and My Author-itis, where you’ll find a short and witty response to the prompt.

Our featured daily reading is a pre-recorded one, which you can peruse whenever you like. It’s a video of Victoria Chang reading for Berry College in November of last year.

Prompt: this one is called “in the window.” Imagine a window looking into a place or onto a particular scene. What do you see? What’s going on?

Happy writing!


Historically towards the end of Napo I get really sad this daily prompt/practise is coming to an end – but it’s unsustainable for any longer and as Maureen says in today’s post April will come again and so will NaPoWriMo – who knows maybe I will even start calling it GloMoWriMo by 2022…

As it is I have revelled in Napo this year as no paid work has come since the Easter break so I had a chance to lasso much needed dedicated writing time to make headway on projects and actually meet some deadlines. It was an impossible juggle earlier this Spring. So it has been a pleasure to immerse.

If you are feeling sad/withdrawal – may I suggest you plan/map out some writing time for May and continue. The resources Napo have provided this year are rich and you could easily spend 3-4 days sitting with one.

Photo by Cristian Rojas on Pexels.com

Last night I still hadn’t managed to get Prompt Day 28 completed but I had an approach in mind. So I started Day 29 finishing 28 – I have updated the post here with method and an extract.

I also (happily) managed to catch most of The Poetry Project in New York City with Arda Collins and Monica Youn, which was wonderful. There are several festivals online currently and Book Launches, yesterday I had a mammoth diary sheet – a couple of workshops and a handful of readings. I really thought I would be asleep, but was still working online when the event started so I joined and I am so glad I did. It was wonderful to discover these poets, I shall certainly be on the look out for Arda’s new book when it’s released (hopefully in time for my birthday list)!

I am however, relieved that today’s reading is a pre-recorded one especially as I have just half an hour of Napo time, this will be another chunked day approach.

I started with the featured poems. DO YOU HAVE DREAMS? was a great meditation on questions and I loved the invitation to answer one of the questions in the comment boxes below. Wow. Great idea. I had a great look about at Smitha V’s website. I love the bio:

A banker by profession, a blogger by choice, a poet by accident and an artist at heart.

I read and re-read the poem a few times. It’s hard to pick any part out – the questions need each other.

Do you have dreams?
What do you make of them?
Do you see them with your eyes open or closed?

The second featured poem was funny – it reminded me of this poem by Colin McNaughton.

I watched the Victoria Chang reading.

Berry College Creative Writing Reading Series

Nationally recognized poet Victoria Chang will read and discuss her poetry, offering context to each work. Sandra Meek will introduce the poet, establishing Chang’s importance in contemporary American poetry. A Q&A will follow the reading.

Victoria Chang’s poetry books include OBIT, Barbie Chang, The Boss, Salvinia Molesta, and Circle. Her children’s picture book, Is Mommy?, was named a New York Times Notable Book. Her middle grade novel, Love, Love was published by Sterling Publishing. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Sustainable Arts Foundation Fellowship, the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award, a Pushcart Prize, a Lannan Residency Fellowship, and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship. She lives in Los Angeles and is the Program Chair of Antioch’s Low-Residency MFA Program. She also serves on the National Book Critics Circle Board.

I knew some of Victoria Chang’s work, I have read her poetry before but not for a while. I love her quote in this article in The Stanford Daily ‘I’m just playing with clay’: Victoria Chang on poetry and language. OBIT is something else!

I loved Friendships

Depression is a glove
over the heart.  Depression is an image
of a glove over the image of a heart.

and My Mother’s Teeth

I used to think that a dead person’s words die with them. Now I know that they scatter, looking for meaning to attach to like a scent. My mother used to collect orange blossoms in a small shallow bowl.

And Grief.

I was absorbed by the whole reading, make sure you give your ears and heart the experience today.

You can read a review of OBIT by Anne Graue here. Find out more, read and hear sample poems and extracts from many reviews and order your own copy from Copper Canyon Press.

Copper Canyon Press 2020

Another one for my birthday list.

Then I set about the prompt, which is another well used one (although it tends to be look out of the window – to which every poet internally groans and looks about the room in case it was audible), but the twist here is the imagined window and it’s looking in – which set my newly refreshed mind off in several directions (less painful than it sounds).

I scribbled my initial reactions down, to filter something more or maybe to go back and write next month…

I let the prompt sit with me for a while.

I scared myself slightly with the resulting poem, a dark thriller and had a great time on image searches. I have a packet to be going on with now, but for today just one poem. Here’s an extract, a tiny bit of interior action for you:

I caught her smile

as she unpeeled the corner edge of foil.

I can’t wait to see what other’s have made of this prompt. I shall have a good nose around tomorrow, now I am in the spirit of peering into windows.

Photo by Plato Terentev on Pexels.com

NaPoWriMo 2019 Day 18


napofeature4 (1)

How does NaPoWriMo feel to you?

I was up very late last night editing my manuscript until the laptop battery died, which meant this morning I shared my first cup of coffee with the NaPo prompt on a different device whilst I waited for the laptop to come back to life.

I like reading the NaPo post and then going about the business of living/to do list tasks before coming back to work through it. Poets enjoy creating things in the backs of their minds and reading the page early does just that.

I liked the parallel between today’s prompt and the book I am currently working on. It set my mind racing.

logo-napowrimo As always for the full prompt, click the day.

Day Eighteen

Our featured participant today is Gloria D. Gonsalves, whose charming poem for Day Seventeen presents a rather common weather phenomenon from a quirky and graceful point of view.

Today’s video resource for the day is a short documentary, filmed as part of the The Favorite Poem Project. This project was started by Robert Pinsky, the 39th Poet Laureate of the United States, and resulted in fifty short films in which American citizens read their favorite poems and explain why they find those poems meaningful. In this particular iteration, a Miami Beach marketer named Jessica Cotzin reads James Tate’s “The Lost Pilot,” and explains her connection with and attachment to it, including how it helped her to feel and express her own grief for the loss of a loved one.

Our prompt for the day takes its cue from how poetry can help us to make concrete the wild abstraction of a feeling like grief. “The Lost Pilot” does this, as does this poem by Victoria Chang, called “Obit.” In both poems, loss is made tangible. They take elusive, overwhelming feelings, and place them into the physical world, in part through their focus on things we can see and hear and touch. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write an elegy of your own, one in which the abstraction of sadness is communicated not through abstract words, but physical detail. This may not be a “fun” prompt, but loss is one of the most universal and human experiences, and some of the world’s most moving art is an effort to understand and deal with it.

I wish you, if not happy, then meaningful, writing!


NaPo Process Notes 

photo of person writing on notebook

Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

I started with reading ALLEGORY OF DANCING by Gloria D. Gonsalves. It’s a beautiful piece which made me question why I battled with all that research yesterday when I could have taken the raindrop part of the prompt. It is packed with description and is quite cinematic, I can vividly see the scene described. 

It is another participant’s site poem to make it into my NaPo resource file as I know I will want to read it over. I loved the idea of raindrops break dancing on people’s faces.

I had a quick look around Gloria’s website. I will be back to read more of her NaPo poetry.


I knew about the Favorite Poem project, but it was good to be reminded of where I can find the videos. I also enjoy watching readers read poetry, as opposed to poets performing it. I like the insight to the people’s lives included in these docu films. I watched the video, my heart felt for the loss Jessica Cotzin has experienced and tugged for the wanderlust. I became absorbed by more than James Tate’s poem.

You can find more of the videos from this project here http://www.favoritepoem.org/

Favorite Poem Project: Started by Robert Pinsky during his tenure as Poet Laureate, the Favorite Poem Project is dedicated to celebrating, documenting and encouraging poetry’s role in Americans’ lives.

Then I listened to the Obit by Victoria Chang. Immensely touching. Gentle lines that cut deeply with grief. I copied it to my resource file for Day 18.

I thought about the correlation between today’s prompt and my book, which deals with loss.


On Writing 

blank business composition computer

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have 60 poems or more than would answer this prompt, of course, I will write a new NaPo poem today. I am carrying the thoughts in my head this morning whilst I get on with my day, grateful that I get another one on this planet. I will write later and come back to finish notes on writing and leave a line or two.

When I came to write my poem I knew who I was writing about. During the funeral period of this relative I wrote streams in a notebook with the intention of them being poems one day, I was younger then, still a poet (before the 15 year break from creativity), I am not sure what became of that notebook, I have moved 11 times since then.

I wrote in the 3rd person to detach myself, make it seem less autobiographical but actually it would be a more powerful poem in the first person. Realising this I rejigged the narrative. It was a 7 (back to the automated/lucky number length) stanza poem and I called it Laying to Rest – the poem explores all those things the mourner lays to rest and of course it is a funeral poem.

Here’s a snippet.

wish you’d been softer 

like the petals of the roses 

which now cover up your name.