A Poet's Double Life

For poets working outside the literary world.

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It’s Been A Long Time, I Shouldn’t Have Left You

So….there was this thing called the pandemic, followed by giving up my apartment in Brookline, a job change, a temporary furnished place in Boston, and finally, a condo in Waltham. There was some poetry during that time–reading a book a day in August for the Sealey Challenge (two years in a row), poets from the Harlem Renaissance course I took in Fall 2021, poetry dates, and a poetry workshop through the Cambridge Center of Adult Education earlier this year.

If you’re a poet, then April is supercharged with poetry for National Poetry Month. This newish job, however, has a lot more traveling and my poetry activity had to wait until May. Fortunately, I had a panel accepted at the Mass Poetry Festival (May 5-7, 2023). It was the first in-person festival since 2018. Of course, the panel included a fabulous lineup of double-life poets:

Four double poets seated at a table. Robert Carr (poet & infectious disease specialist); Pamela Taylor (poet & higher education researcher); Cynthia Manick (poet & SCRUM master); and K.T. Landon (poet & software engineer).

Each poet took turns answering these questions:

  1. How do you describe what you do/did for a living to dinner party guests?
  2. How did poetry find you?
  3. How have people at work reacted to you being a poet?
  4. If you were to describe the relationship between your career and your poetry as a song, TV show, or movie title, what would it be and why?
  5. How do you stay connected to poetry?

We read 1-2 poems each and then opened up the floor to questions. My favorite question came from a woman whose day job was reading other people’s academic writing for a living and could only spare five minutes a day for poetry. We recommended subscribing to Poem-a-Day and listening to poetry podcasts such as The Slowdown.


Where I Am Today

French toast, fried egg, turkey bacon, and tea

Brunch at home

So much has happened between my last post and where I find myself today—writing in the midst of a global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus COVID-19. I approach this page after a long morning walk while listening to episodes of The Slowdown that have accumulated since January 31st. It’s a Sunday morning that feels like a Sunday morning. It’s raining and I want to stay inside with hot tea & make a big breakfast—french toast, fried egg, and turkey bacon. Yesterday before the rain started, I ventured out to pick up wine I ordered online from the shop around the corner and went for a quick walk around the block. It felt like a Sunday morning instead of Saturday at 6:30 pm—streets and sidewalks near empty, cars parked by expired meters, upturned chairs stacked on tables in restaurant windows.

This time last year, I had attended the one-day Colrain One-Day Informational Retreat where I got feedback on the poems feeding my manuscript. I’m still working toward the manuscript now. Some but not all of my time will be spent on writing more poems. Some but to all of my time will be spent listening to and reading poems and posting the poems I read before lunch and dinner on Instagram & Facebook. Some time will spent on writing letters and postcards, and I’ll definitely have to put in 7.5 hours of work every weekday. Under the current set of circumstances, I will find myself attending meetings and events on Zoom, texting and calling friends and loved ones a little more, and vegging out on the couch. In a lot of ways today feels no different than where I would be otherwise. But somehow, even a stay-at-home advisory seems to restrict my thoughts.

As I stay at home, I want to use this time to take stock of what has happened between then and now. Normally, I would try to fit it into a single blog post, but my instincts tell me to chronicle each month separately, to give October, November, December, January, February, and March the space they deserve. Not sure how long this will take me, but I want to try. My thoughts are free to roam around the past, while my body and brain stay present and the world moves toward an uncertain future.

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April 2019 Poem-a-Day, Week 3

This week was short and busy. In Massachusetts, it was April vacation week. My colleague took time off while school was out, which means I was “home alone” at work. It also meant that there wasn’t as much traffic on the drive to campus every day. I spent most of the week lamenting how much farther along Spring was in Durham compared to Boston. By the end of the week, the trees in Boston started waking up. Next weekend, I’m heading to St. Louis for a professional conference. The weather is so nice there that I’ll have to break out my open-toed sandals.

The highlights of this week include a celebratory dinner in honor of getting into a summer institute program at Harvard and hearing my VONA faculty, Willie Perdomo, read from his new collection, The Crazy Bunch.

Here are the poems from Week 3

Day 16: “That’s My Heart Right There” by Willie Perdomo

Day 17: “Don’t Go Into the Library” by Alberto Ríos

Day 18: “You Thought I Was That Type” by Anna Akhmatova

Day 19: “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke

Day 20: “A poem from a father to his youngest son” by Timothy TB

Day 21: “Twenty-Year Marriage” by Ai

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P is for P-town


And poetry, and poet-friends old & new. I spent a week at the Fine Arts Work Center for their poetry festival week that featured faculty members Tim Seibles, Natalie Diaz, Brenda Shaughnessy, Robin Coste Lewis, Matthew Olzmann, & Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

I took the Articulating the Image workshop with visual arts-poet Rachel Eliza. I have a deep appreciation for photography’s ability to capture so much in a single shot. As a poet, I’ve spent countless hours and energy attempting to describe an image in my head using  only words, which are sometimes not the best tools. I had hoped the workshop would get me out of my head and able to approach poetry from a different perspective—and the workshop did not disappoint.

We had assignments to take pictures of a certain color, the natural world, and shapes or shadows that helped to focus our eyes and our mind on what is important. We also had to engage with what we saw by writing about the connection to our lives. During class we built a visual canvas of words,  images and objects. Each day we layered our canvases with more words, images, and objects from ourselves as well as from the other class participants. One of my favorite aspects of the class is being free to engage in other people’s canvases by adding questions, colors, and drawings to push their visual poems forward.


In addition to the many ideas and activities I brought back, the poetry workshop was a reunion of sorts with poets I knew from Cave Canem, VCFA, and one I had met in the Boston area. I also had the opportunity to meet and listen to great poets around the country and connected with a few local poets.

Such a great weekend. It will be hard to come down from this poetry high.


November PAD Challenge, Day 30

Sometimes You Must Return


Go back to that moment where you first fell

in love with those words you read or heard

that made the grief, doubt, and loneliness

make sense in your head as if you had tapped

into the maple tree of yourself and now

everything oozed out thick, dark and sweet.

Go back to that first note that broke skin

and to the lyrics that soaked into your blood

stream, and to the music that moved through

you like a silent tsunami. Go back to the first

time you witnessed the chorus of stars, vast

against the night sky, surrounding you

with the brilliance of your birthright, filling

all your emptiness with their shine.

~Pamela Taylor © 2013

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November PAD Challenge, Day 27

I’ll Be Glad When the Present Catches Up


In the future, I see you sitting across from me pouring the wine that I will buy for the meal you will cook, nothing special, just a salad and roasted chicken on what will be an ordinary Wednesday and we will not talk about my feeling stuck in this job or your struggle to find your true purpose or the where and how of everything between us because there will be no where and how, there will only be this moment when you cover my hand with your hand without thinking and kiss it out of habit when you get up from the table and ask if you can offer me more and I will say everything you have and you will know I mean I’ve fallen in love with you because you will have already read this poem.


~Pamela Taylor © 2013