My newsletter—Be Where You Are

I just started a newsletter: Be Where You Areand I’d love for you to check it out! It’s about how to use writing and mindfulness to be where you are. I’ll be sharing mini-essays, writing and mindfulness prompts, and interviews with writers, teachers, and artists.

This newsletter takes its name from a phrase I’ve been writing as a reminder to myself over the past few years: Be where you are. Because no matter how many reminders I give myself, it is incredibly hard not to go shooting off into my thought loops, or, to dive into Instagram stories, or to obsess about deadlines and all the things I’m not doing. To actually be here. I’m hoping we can share ideas, questions, frustrations, and practices in this space.

This first mini-essay comes from the trenches of summer parenting, which on Instagram seems glorious always but, in truth, can be challenging as hell.

I’d be honored if you’d check it out and consider subscribing for free to get new posts in your inbox—and share it with a friend or two✨✨

Chapbook news!!

I’m way late in sharing the news that my debut chapbook, FEED, was selected as co-winner of the Keystone Chapbook Prize with Seven Kitchens Press!!! To add more joy to this, my friend and fellow Madwoman Jennifer Jackson Berry‘s chapbook, Bloodfish, was the other chapbook selected for publication! Thank you to Ron Mohring and Steve Bellin-Oka for believing in my poems, and for giving me a chance to share my work more widely.

The cover art is a mosaic by Daviea Serbin Davis, a Pittsburgh-based artist. The piece is titled “Meeting the Aunts” (the original hangs in Biddle’s Escape in Regent Square). Chapbook coming your way in March!!!

FEED cover

Good news, catching up edition

My essay, “Jeans, Motherhood, and the Myth of Sisyphus,” was named one of The Best Stories by Women in 2017 by Bustle Magazine!  

My poetry manuscript, The Falls, was named a semifinalist for the Wisconsin Poetry Series’ Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes, the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize offered by Persea Books, and the 2017 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. I’m very grateful for this encouragement, and I hope that The Falls will find its right home soon.

My poem,“Landscape with Ex-Husband Lingering,” was nominated for the 2017 Best of the Net Anthology by Gulf Stream Literary Magazine!

I also have poems and essays out recently in At Length, New Ohio Review, Public Pool, and Two Horatio #2 Chapbook. Thank you to the editors of these journals for believing in my work.

good news!

My manuscript, The Falls, was a finalist for the 2017 Blue Light Books Prize, Indiana Review/Indiana Univ Press. Huge congrats to the winner, Jennifer Givhan!

The Falls was also a semifinalist for the 2017 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition, Southern Illinois Univ Press. Big congrats to the winners, Monica Berlin and Sara Henning!

I look forward to reading the books of the winners. And, I’m grateful for this encouragement. I have faith that The Falls will find its right home soon.

I also have poems recently out or forthcoming in Radar Poetry, New Ohio Review, Crab Orchard Review, Muzzle Magazine, and Gulf Stream. Thank you to the editors of these magazines for believing in these poems!

recent news

New poems are out in Tupelo Quarterly, Bridge Eight Magazine, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Southword Journal (Ireland), Rogue Agent, and DIALOGIST, and two new poems are forthcoming in the September issue of Connotation Press.

My manuscript, A Thousand Arms, was a semifinalist for The 2016 Washington Prize from The Word Works Press.

My poem, “Needlework,” was nominated for the 2016 Best of the Net Anthology by Tupelo Quarterly.

My poem, “Anatomy of Distance,” was nominated for the 2016 Best of the Net anthology by DIALOGIST.

My poem, “As Much As A Letter,” was highly commended in the Gregory O’Donoghue Poetry Prize competition and published online in the April/May issue of Southword Journal (Ireland).

My poem, “Needlework,” was a semifinalist for the Tupelo Quarterly 2016 Poetry Prize (TQ9), and published online in Tupelo Quarterly (TQ9).

My poem, “Needlework,” was a finalist for Sycamore Review‘s 2016 Wabash Prize for Poetry.

My poem, “Letters to Pittsburgh I,” was nominated for the 2015 Best of the Net Anthology by HEArt Journal Online.

friday poem — Ed Ochester

One of the luckiest times of my life was the two years I spent in the Bennington Writing Seminars. It’s been over a year since I finished, and I’m still learning the ways in which it was more than just an MFA. It was an initiation into the writing and reading life that was rooted in devotion, community, and joy (also neurosis and dancing).

I will never forget the workshops of my first residency at Bennington. They were led by Ed Ochester and Amy Gerstler — two poets I consider poetry gods. Walking in and finding a seat at the long seminar table, I was keenly aware of how much I had to learn and how much I wanted my poems to be better than they were. I was achingly nervous. And then Ed started the first workshop by reading from Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, followed by a poem by James Wright. And he choked up as he read, saying something like, “This is why we do this.” It made me feel that we were all in this together — that writing poems was, first and foremost, about loving poems we’d read, and trying to honor those poets who had changed our lives. I could do that. And, it reminded me that I was allowed to have my heart in my writing.


Ed reading at Hemingway’s this week to a packed crowd

That’s what Ed’s poetry teaches and encourages me to do. To write in real, embodied voices, to “like complexity / not confusion.” To work toward beauty and heart. This heart often comes out in his poems in hilarity, or irony, or the perfect, resonant dialogue and detail (for instance, the haiku “Karaoke Night at the Serbian Club, South Side, Pittsburgh”). If you haven’t read Sugar Run Road, Ed’s newest book, or his many other books, you should. Here are two of my favorite poems from the book.


I too dislike it
the mystified truisms
the dusty puzzle-prunes
the theatrical exaggerations:
“the brutal crescendo of woodworms”—

yet I think of O’Hara’s delight
in the endless pleasures
of quotidian life and Duhamel
throwing a dozen balls in the air
and juggling them all
Frank said only a few poems
are as good as the movies
but that was a long time ago
before a lot of bad movies
before background music before
there was almost no silence and
“the private life” is an insult to others.

Poetry is the most private art:
Li-Young remembering his father
combing his mother’s hair,
Stern and Gilbert with their mouths open
walking down a street in Paris, Judith
writing the mysteries of Level Green
and her father’s radioactive chambers.
Catullus registering his private ecstasies
and fears while the machine of the state
ground on. Kinnell saying “go so deep
into yourself you speak for everyone.”

For Britt

Dec. 16, Beethoven’s birthday

Beethoven is such a great composer but
his personality is questionable which
shows once again that one is
what one does — music, poems, or even
money have claims but also such
unremarked acts as feeding sparrows
in winter which God doesn’t do too well—
though we’re told He notes the fall
of every one—so that as I park the car
your sparrows in the snow-covered forsythia
greet the weak sun with a matrix of cheeping,
dozens of them, not from gratitude but
perhaps from overflowing joy

Sugar Run Road, Autumn House Press, 2015