A Poet's Double Life

For poets working outside the literary world.

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What Happened to Fall?

In five days, it will officially be winter. Winter, y’all! The Boston area had its first snowfall on November 15th. Last year, our first snowfall was on December 9th (Yes, I keep track). Durham, North Carolina, where I used to live, saw an entire season of snowfall in one day!! And did I mention we still have five more days before the winter solstice?

Working at a college, the start of the fall semester feels like you’re standing in front of a broken fire hydrant, but by the end of October things settle down. Not so during the reaccreditation process. The pace slowed down around Thanksgiving, and when it did, my body succumbed to a cold that has taken almost two weeks to shake.

However, I still managed to have a good time between my last post in June and now.

August: Trip to Hong Kong & Taiwan and a wedding in LA

September: Four Chairs & a Bench

October: Pittsburgh Steelers game and two Celtics games

November: Thanksgiving in Durham

December: Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker and another Celtics game

Check out my photo montage!


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Although I haven’t been keeping up with the blog, I have been keeping up with my writing. Travel provides the needed time and headspace to write and the local sites and other passengers become featured in my work. Also, I’ve been keeping up with my poetry dates as much as I could. I also found a new favorite place to write in my neighborhood, Rifrullo Café. It has good brunch options on Sunday (caramelized French toast), a long wooden table to share with other patrons, and a comfy, curved, pink leather couch. I tend to spend about two hours writing or editing poems, including the six poems that were recently published in The Adirondack Review and Atlas and Alice.


Four Chairs & a Bench

From the first time I saw the apartment in Brookline, I knew I wanted to buy a long table and host quiet Sunday afternoons with writers heads bowed in our notebooks and laptops, the sound of fingers clicking on keyboards and jazz in the background. Today, I finally got my wish.

Five people seated around a table smiling, laptops and notebooks open during the first writing session for Four Chairs & a Bench.

Four Chairs & a Bench – January 2018

Special thanks to Daniel, Laura, KT, Nancy, & Sofiya for being the first five writers at the table. I already have all the seats at the table reserved for February.


First Snow


Yesterday was the first snowfall of the season. I’m sure it was the first of many days of snow this winter. I’ve lived in Massachusetts for 23 months and 9 days (but’s who’s counting). I spent a few hours of the snowy day at my neighborhood café, Athan’s Bakery. It’s not as crowded or loud as the Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, and Caffè Nero in Washington Square. There are plenty of people reading, typing, or scrolling through their phones. The Earl Grey is good and they will refill your hot water.

I spent the first hour of my two-hour time limit writing letters. I hoard cards to have them on hand for various occasions. Right now, I collect more cards than I send out. I had planned to spend more time writing Ietters this fall. Then the semester started. Until April 2019, the work life will take priority as I serve as the staff co-chair of the college’s reaccreditation process. For a while, I’ve been trying to figure out a way how not to let this process take over my life. I have finally stopped resisting. The challenge is to find the pockets where poetry can still live.


Poetry doesn’t need that much air or space to live comfortably. I have to make and/or find that space, though. I finished the Oprah & Deepak 21-day meditation challenge – which surprised me because I don’t usually stick to those types of efforts – and found that the morning time I had set aside for meditation could be repurposed as time to write. I write for two pages in my journal every day. My poetry partner in crime, Kelly, reminded me that this daily writing habit is like the morning pages from the Artist’s Way. I make a point to write at the dining table and not in bed. I want to get my body and mind into the habit of getting up and going to the table to write. After all, that’s why I bought it.



Writing Space

It’s been a little over a year since I signed the lease for my apartment in Brookline. This apartment seemed to be waiting for me. I had seen 7-8 apartments in a two-hour window, but then caught a glimpse of a For Rent sign in front of the building near where I was parked. I called the number and told the agent I was sitting outside. He showed up about 10 minutes later. The tenants hadn’t moved out yet, but were willing to let him show me the place. A rectangular table in dining area is the first thing I saw when I walked in the door. Immediately, I envisioned myself sitting with other writers while we worked on laptops and munched on snacks. I’m happy to say that after a year of living here, I finally found the table.IMG_9990

Finding a poetry community in Boston has been a little tough. Although the move to Brookline makes the city more accessible on the weekends, the longer commute to my job makes it much harder for me to attend events during the week. Recently, the poetry workshop I facilitated ended because the library will be undergoing renovations over the next two years.

Now seems like the right time to form my own writing community. All I need are the other writers to bring some snacks!


Double the Life, Double the Accomplishments


UNC_PhotoAfter writing poems for 30 days, I had to shift gears to focus on the work side of this double life. In fact the work project I was leading was a constant in the backdrop of September’s poetrySpark, the November poem-a-day challenge, and poetry submission deadlines. As hard as I worked on my poems on Sunday afternoons in the office at the library, I worked equally hard–if not harder–in writing a report for work. And finally, it has culminated in a presentation before a state legislative committee on operational efficiency within the University of North Carolina system (check out the video clip from News 14 and the write-up on WRAL).

griefissueIn true double-life fashion, this work accomplishment is accompanied by a few poetic accomplishments: submitting a chapbook to two contests and getting two poems published in the Grief Issue of When Women Waken, including the Day 5 poem of the November 2013 PAD challenge.

Times like this is why I love the double life!


My Favorite Writing Spaces in the Triangle

The DRX – The Triangle Transit bus also known as the Durham Express. I commute daily from Durham Station to downtown Raleigh almost every day. When I was in my MFA program, writing on the bus was the only time I had to write. Since graduating, I continue the tradition—always carrying a journal and pen in my purse or just typing a note on my iPhone.

Straw Valley Café (5420 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham)– Located in the oddest place for a café. This space was designed by architects, which makes it a great place to be creative. There are two houses with lovely chairs and glass tables if you want to stay indoors and ample space to sit outside (the courtyard is fabulous!). 

Walter Royal Davis Library (UNC Chapel Hill) – aka the Poet’s Gym. The library is the home to my writing room and the best collection of poetry books and literary journals in the South. The best place to write is in the periodicals section on the 1st floor. After a recent redesign, the space has ample couches, chairs, and outlets so you can stare out the large picture windows without running out of power. One drawback, you’ll have to go the 8th floor for the poetry books.  

Public Libraries – That’s what libraries are for y’all. So if you haven’t been to one of the libraries in Durham County, Wake County, or Chapel Hill, you haven’t been maximizing your tax dollars. My favorites in Durham are Southwest Regional (3605 Shannon Road) and South (4505 S. Alston Avenue). If I’m hanging out in Raleigh after work, I’ll inevitably find myself at Cameron Village.

Other Places To Try

All the places I’ve listed have free Wi-Fi (even the bus)! Let me hear about your favorites to write by leaving a comment.


A Room of One’s Own

Everyone should have a German friend who is willing to share his faculty study room in the university library. Not just once, but twice. The first room was a graduate study carrel used by his ex and the offer to use it came just as I entered the last semester of my MFA program. It was marvelous to have a small space to keep my writer’s thesaurus and manuscript drafts as I browsed the 8th floor stacks for more books about Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams to use in my graduating lecture. The grad carrel has access to a common area with a large desk by a window where I spread out the final copies of each poem to order and re-order them before sending them to my adviser. I gave up the space after graduation, passing the key to the husband of our mutual friend starting a doctoral program in Information Studies.

I thought I would write at home. Not that I really ever had before. I used the morning bus ride to journal and the return trip to read books or edit. When I tried to stay home to write, I fell victim to the couch’s chaise extension, my Hulu queue, or housecleaning. I looked for an alternative space for months—finding a great new café on 15-501—but ultimately longed for a room with a door I could close and lock with a key.  And then one Saturday night milonga in the midst of that post-tanda chit-chat I mention the need for a space so I can start a self-imposed publication boot camp, he mentions the faculty study room. We agreed to meet the next day to move me in.

After we tossed out two armloads of old German binders (did you know European paper is not the same shape as ours?) and figured out the proper hiding spot for the key, we christened the “new” writing space with a mini-milonga and candy from his secret student admirer (who also left a CD called “Sweet Mix”, but I don’t think DJ Khaled belongs in that category). It’s not on the 8th floor where my poetry and his political science books reside, has no common area, nor much of a view—unless you‘re into rocks and HVAC equipment. And is not my own, but it’s a room where I can leave my stuff, close the door, and lock it with a key.