Poems in a Pandemic: A Pandemic Reflection

A PANDEMIC REFLECTION
by Jen Payne

It’s hard to hide from yourself
in a pandemic, day in day out
living without distractions,
your reflection suddenly more real
reveals the things you forgot,
like age
or your grandmother
stooped over the sink too,
her familiar refrain
your familiar refrain
Oh god, you wake one morning
realize this is the same day, again
day in day out day in day out
and not just because of some virus
but because you, YOU have
worn down a path from the bed
to the bath to the sink
where you stoop now
see your reflections in the mirror
as the sun rises and the birds sing
and trickster fox laughs from the yard
laughs at you, your bucket list,
your not-now-someday-maybe,
that wisp of gray descending
so long you can’t ignore.

(Image: Mirror II, George Tooker.)

Ekphrastic May: Heist

Heist
by Jen Payne

I drove the get-away car that day,
left it on idle in the parking space
closest to the electronic OUT door
of Porter’s Grocery there in Alpine.

It was a bright Texas day, hot,
the car angled in shade enough
for a clear-on view of the lobby,
bulletin board, handbills, and tacks.

We’d scoped out the joint before,
cased the aisles for jerky
and a bottle of wine for dinner
back in Marfa at the Thunderbird.

There was a nice patio
outside our room with blue lights
like the alien spaceships
you could see there sometimes?

Funny things in that part of Texas:
spaceships and meteors,
a roadside Prada shoe outlet,
Chinati’s take on art, and ours.

Ours was her, Viva Terlingua!
in her sunset-red cowboy hat,
hand-strung turquoise beads, and
that witty West Texas smile.

It’s a smile that says just about all
you want to say about West Texas,
about the wild Trans-Pecos
and its wide expanse of stars.

It’s a promise of whiskey at La Kiva,
or hot coffee while the sun rises
over Terlingua and Study Butte
over Big Bend and the Rio Grande.

It’s a smile that remembers solitude,
the promise of oddity and isolation,
of community, maybe, companionship —
two friends on the road laughing.

It’s the awesome sound a car makes solo
on a nighttime desert highway,
or peeling out from the Porter’s,
Viva Terlingua! rolled up in the back seat.


Viva Terlingua! was featured on a 2010 poster from the Original Terlingua Chili Championship. The artwork is by Texas-based artist Frank X. Tolbert 2. You can see more of his amazing work on his website, here. The Original Terlingua Chili Championship ( link ) was started in 1967 by his father Frank X. Tolbert Sr. and a group of local men. Special thanks to his daughter, Kathleen Ryan, for filling in these details on a recent serendipitous Saturday.

Poet Jen Payne

In celebration of National Poetry Month, members of the Guilford Poets Guild were invited to share their thoughts about poetry and the life of a poet. Here’s what poet Jen Payne had to say:

How did you come to being a poet?
My Dad was a salesman and traveled a lot when I was little. We used to write letters to each other — I’d tuck mine in his suitcase, he’d mail his from the road. That’s how I started writing.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
Unfortunately, yes. I have an old journal full of the sad, sappy things. We’ve all gotta start somewhere, right?

What else do you write besides poetry? Do you have other creative pursuits?
I write essays about creativity, spirituality, wellness, and nature for my blog, Random Acts of Writing. And I’ve been working on some short-form memoir pieces, one of which — Water Under the Bridge: A Sort-of Love Story, is coming out as a book sometime later this spring.

What has been the defining moment in your life as a poet/writer?
I think the first defining moment was when I was 15 — a hand-written note from an editor at Seventeen Magazine thanking me for my submission. They didn’t print the article, but the editor said I showed much talent. I wore that feather in my cap for a long time!

The most recent moment would be getting to read the poems from my book Evidence of Flossing at a Guilford Poets Guild Second Thursday reading a few years ago. Wow!

How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
I was invited to be part of the Guild by Gwen Gunn and Margaret Iacobellis in 2015. We meet twice a month to share and kindly critique our work, and it’s a pretty cool experience. I mean, you’re reading your poems in a circle of award-winning, published poets including a couple of poets laureate, and they read your work and comment liberally. You’re free to take their advice, or not, but either way — I think you’re a better poet for the experience.

What inspires your writing today?
Everything and anything, really, if I let it in. Most days, though, a walk in the woods or on the beach is good for some bit of a poem.

Describe your poem-writing process.

Random muse chatter.
A couple of words buzz around. A first line.
Oh. Hmmm. Better write that down!
Scribble. Jot. Scribble. Jot.
Write. Write. Nope. Write.
Write. Write. Nope. Write.
Write. Write. Nope. Write.
Read to self.
Scribble. Jot. Write. Nope.
Scribble. Jot. Write. Nope.
Read to self.
Read to self.
Yes. Yes. YES!
Title?
Title.
Done.

Something like that. Unless you ignore those first few words. Usually then you get nothing and go on about your day without a poem.

Where do you like to write? With what?
I work from home, and I kinda live on the computer in my office. That’s where I write mostly. Except when I travel. Then I just bring a spiral notebook and some pens. Favorites are old-school blue Bic pens and Gold Fiber spiral-bound Project Planners.

Who are you favorite poets and authors?
Poets: Mary Oliver, Emily Dickinson. The first poet I ever read was Rod McKuen who still holds a special place in my heart. Shel Silverstein. Authors: Ransom Riggs, Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan, May Sarton, Natasha Pulley, Sarah Perry, Roland Merullo. I’ll stop now…

What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)
The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan, Devotions by Mary Oliver, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Poem in Your Pocket Day is celebrated during National Poetry Month in April. What’s your favorite poem to carry about or share with others?
I memorized Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” in 10th grade and never forgot it. It’s my 38-year-old party trick. I don’t even need a pocket. What fun!

JABBERWOCKY
By Lewis Carroll

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe

Any last words?
Just write. Sit down, open the door and let it in. Then just write.


Jen Payne is inspired by those life moments that move us most — love and loss, joy and disappointment, milestones and turning points. Under the imprint Three Chairs Publishing, Jen has published four books: LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, FLOSSING, the poetry chapbook Waiting Out the Storm, and Water Under the Bridge: A Sort-of Love Story. Her writing has been published in numerous publications including the international anthology Coffee Poems: Reflections on Life with Coffee, the Guilford Poets Guild 20th Anniversary Anthology, and in The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery & Community Health. Jen is the owner is Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company founded in 1993, based in Branford, Connecticut. She is a member of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, the Connecticut Poetry Society, Guilford Arts Center, and the Guilford Poets Guild. You can find more of her work at www.randomactsofwriting.net or purchase copies of her books online (click here).

Poem-a-Day

April is NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month. It’s an annual project in which participating poets attempt to write a poem every day in the month of April.

NaPoWriMo was conceive by poet Maureen Thorson and inspired by NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Maureen started writing a poem a day for the month of April back in 2003, posting the poems on her blog. When other people started writing poems for April, and posting them on their own blogs, Maureen linked to them. After a few years, so many people were doing NaPoWriMo that Maureen decided to launch an independent website for the project: www.napowrimo.net.

Guilford Poets Guild members Jen Payne and Juliana Harris are writing a poem a day for NaPoWriMo.

“I have never had the discipline to write every day,” says Juliana, who posts her poems on her Facebook page. “I‘m finding the concentration to write a poem a day is a lifesaver in this time of self-isolation.”

“I agree with Julie,” says Jen, who posts poems on her blog. “Writing can be very grounding. It’s nice to sink my toes into the daily practice.”

If writing a poem a day feel daunting, how about reading a Poem-a-Day?

The American Academy of Poets hosts Poem-a-Day, a daily digital poetry series featuring over 250 new, previously unpublished poems by today’s talented poets each year. U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo serves as guest editor for April 2020. Click here to visit Poem-a-Day now.

New Poetry Chapbook Explores Death, Grief, and Gratitude

 

Three Chairs Publishing is pleased to announce the publication of its newest book, Waiting out the Storm, a collection of poems about death, grief, and gratitude by Branford writer and Guilford Poets Guild member Jen Payne.

Reflecting on the sudden loss of a close friend, Payne returns, as she does in her past books LOOK UP! and Evidence of Flossing, to the solace of nature. On the opening pages, she allows the poet Rilke to remind the reader “Through the empty branches the sky remains. It is what you have. Be earth now, and evensong. Be the ground lying under that sky.” Written from the shoreline of Connecticut and the wide and windswept beaches of Cape Cod, this book is an intimate look at life transitions and how we cope with the unexpected.

Payne is the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design and marketing company in Branford. She has published four books: LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness (2014), Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind (2017), FLOSSSING (2019), and Waiting out the Storm (2019). Installations of her poetry were featured in exhibitions at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven and the Kehler Liddell Gallery (New Haven). Her work has been published by The Aurorean, Six Sentences, the Story Circle Network, and WOW! Women on Writing; in the international anthology Coffee Poems: Reflections on Life with Coffee; and in The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery & Community Health. She is a member of the Guilford Poets Guild, the Connecticut Poetry Society, Guilford Art Center, and the New Haven Arts Council.

Copies of Waiting Out the Storm (5.5 x 8.5, paperback, 44 pages, $15.00) may be purchased at the Martha Link Walsh Gallery in Branford, and online from Three Chairs Publishing, www.3chairspublishing.com.

Author photo by Christine Chiocchio.

Poetry Reading at Clinton Art Gallery’s Poetry Place

On Sunday, August 18, The Clinton Art Gallery’s Poetry Place will present a reading by Antoinette Brim, Reginald Flood, and GPG member Jen Payne. This will be the fifth reading in the 2019 Sunday Series, which each month draws an extremely enthusiastic audience, who delight in listening to the work of some of the State’s finest poets, including a variety of talented and entertaining open mic readers. As always, the August 18 reading will take place in the Laurel Ann Olcott Art Center, 20 East Main Street in the heart of Clinton, beginning at 2.00 PM. In addition to enjoying excellent poetry, the audience has the opportunity to browse through a rich display of arts and crafts for sale at the gallery, and learn about the many writing and art workshops offered at the gallery, which was recently awarded a Best on the Shoreline 2019 Reader’s Choice Award. The reading is free and open to the public, and audience members are encouraged to come early, as seating is limited. Wine, cool drinks, snacks, and sweets will be served, and books will be available for sale and signing following the reading.

Antoinette Brim, author of These Women You Gave Me, Icarus in Love and Psalm of the Sunflower, is a Cave Canem Foundation fellow, a recipient of the Walker Foundation Scholarship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her poetry, memoir, and critical work has appeared in various journals and magazines, as well as in anthologies. A printmaker and collage artist, Brim recently exhibited both poetry and monoprints in Jazz: An exhibition of Poetry, Prints, and Photography at the Sumner McKnight Crosby Jr. Gallery in New Haven, and Sheroes, in partnership with the Alliance of Women Veterans at the Grove in New Haven. A sought-after speaker, editor, educator, and consultant, Brim is an Associate Professor of English at Capital Community College.

Antoinette Brim is a native of south-central Los Angeles, who now lives in a small town in southeastern Connecticut with his family. He is the author of Coffle (Willow Books 2012) and Refugeed (Willow Books 2018) and has been awarded a National Endowment of the Arts Literature Fellowship in Poetry and a National Endowment of the Humanities Summer Fellowship. He is an associate professor of English and Coordinator of African American Studies at Eastern Connecticut State University, where he teaches African American literature, creative writing, and composition. He is a Cave Canem Fellow.

Jen Payne has published three books: LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness (2014), Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind (2017), and the chapbook Waiting out the Storm (2019). Her poetry has been featured in exhibitions at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven and the Kehler Liddell Gallery (New Haven), and in Chapter & Verse: Return, a curated poetry event. Her work has been published by The Aurorean, Six Sentences, the Story Circle Network, and WOW! Women on Writing; in the international anthology Coffee Poems: Reflections on Life with Coffee; and in The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery & Community Health. She is a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and the Connecticut Poetry Society, and is the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design and marketing company in Branford.

For more information contact Pat Barone at pattonybarone@aol.com or 203-627-4148.

Book Signing with Author/Naturalist Jen Payne

Rock Garden in Branford, December 16, 12-3pm

Dental flossers? Seriously? Come find out the real meaning behind the book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind at a Book Signing with local writer and naturalist Jen Payne, hosted by Rock Garden in Branford on Saturday, December 16 from 12 – 3pm.

Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies Professor Peter Raymond says “This collection of writing and photographs powerfully remind us that our everyday actions effect the environment. Jen Payne’s writing underscores our role as stewards and the positive impact we can make on the world around us.”

Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind follows on the heels of Payne’s 2014 well-received book LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, and continues a dialogue about our innate connection with nature.

Both books will be available at the event, which is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. Rock Garden is located at 17 South Main Street, Branford, CT.

For more information and to purchase copies of the book, please visit www.3chairspublishing.com.

IMAGE No. 014-0415 – Supply Ponds Nature Preserve, Branford, Connecticut; by Jen Payne, April 2015

Find Evidence of Flossing at Rock Garden in Branford

Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, the new book by Guilford Poets Guild member Jen Payne, will make an appearance at Rock Garden in Branford on Saturday, November 18 from 11am – 2pm. See the Evidence, meet the author, and support local business during this November book signing event.

Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind follows on the heels of Payne’s 2014 well-received book LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, and continues a dialogue about our innate connection with nature. It features 73 poems and more than 80 original and vintage photographs, including a series of discarded dental flossers that inspired the title of the book.

The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. Rock Garden is located at 17 South Main Street, Branford, CT. For more information and to purchase copies of the book, please visit www.3chairspublishing.com.

Second Thursday Poetry Series: Nancy F. Meneely and Jen Payne

Enjoy an evening of poetry with Guilford Poets Guild members Nancy F. Meneely and Jen Payne as part of the Second Thursday Poetry Series presented by the Guild and the Guilford Free Library on Thursday, September 14, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the library. The event begins with an Open Mic from 6:30 – 7:00 p.m., and follows with readings from both poets.

Nan Meneely has been a member of the GPG since 2007. She holds a B.A. from Smith College, an M.A.T. in English from Yale and an M.Ed. from UMass/Amherst. She has taught at high school, college and graduate school levels and worked as a trainer in State and Federal government departments. After retiring from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2006, she retired to Connecticut to focus on poetry, helping to administer the work of the Guilford Poets Guild and the Connecticut River Poets to support the writing and appreciation of poetry in Shoreline communities. She has published poetry, book reviews and articles in a variety of literary publications and newspapers. Her book, Letter from Italy, 1944, which provides the libretto for the oratorio of the same name, was published by Antrim House in 2013 and was the only book of poetry awarded in the Legacy Non-fiction category of the 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Awards. It was noted by the Hartford Courant as one of thirteen important books published by Connecticut writers in 2013. Nan currently lives in Essex, CT.

One of the GPG’s newest members, Jen Payne is inspired by those life moments that move us most — love and loss, joy and disappointment, milestones and turning points. When she is not exploring our connections with one another, she enjoys writing about our relationships with nature, creativity, and mindfulness, and how these provide balance in our frenetic, spinning world. In 2014, she published LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, a collection of essays, poems and original photography. Her new poetry book, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, will be available in October. (See 3chairspublishing.com for details). Jen is the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company in Branford. She is a member of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, the Connecticut Poetry Society, Guilford Arts Center, and the Guilford Poets Guild. Her poetry was featured in Inauguration Nation at Kehler Liddel Gallery in New Haven, and Shuffle & Shake at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. Her writing has been published by The Aurorean, Six Sentences, the Story Circle Network, WOW! Women on Writing, and The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery & Community Health.

There will be books for sale at the event, and refreshments will be served. Remember to bring your own poem to share during the Open Mic!

Upcoming Second Thursday Poetry Series events presented by the Guilford Poets Guild and the Guilford Free Library include readings by the several Connecticut Poets Laureate on October 12; Alan Garry, the Connecticut Veteran Poet Laureate on November 8; and a Holiday Roundtable on December 14 featuring Found Poems. Watch the website for more details.

The Guilford Free Library is located at 67 Park Street in Guilford. This program is free and open to all. Please register by phone, in person, or online (203) 453-8282, guilfordfreelibrary.org.


Jen Payne photo by Christine Chiocchio, Branford. Nan Meneely photo courtesy of Guilford Poets Guild