A Poet's Double Life

For poets working outside the literary world.


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.