Tuesday, May 3, 2022

NYC Reading at the KGB






The last time my work was public in New York City occurred June 2005 Symphony Space Thalia Theater for the world premiere of Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On, my opera with Bill Banfield and Nancy Rhodes. So, reading at the KGB Bar on April 25, 2022, in lower Manhattan with Susana Case and Margo Stever (the organizers of this event featuring Broadstone Books authors) as well as Myra Malkin and Mervyn Taylor was a long overdue treat. The 2nd floor bar where the KGB Monday Night Poetry events occur was full up, including a couple of forthcoming Broadstone authors. The KGB organizers also had fired up their Zoom platform allowing remote audience to attend the event and that’s where my friends had assembled.


I dedicated “Wunkirle, Most Hospitable Woman,” my opening poem to all the people who are opening their homes to the refugees of Ukraine escaping former KGB agent Putin’s war. Wunkirle refers to the sacred ladles sculpted by the Dan people of Africa and is a poem from my first book of poetry. Often these ladles as works of art have legs. Here’s the poem:



(Most Hospitable Woman)


After you receive your guests,

come to me, Spoon Mama

on those supple legs—

muscles flowing like milk

and scoop the agony from my gut.

I have got a lot

but your bowl is large

as your reputation

and though the invited

came for rice

give them each

a portion of pain

and let them then

as I will do

thank you

for your generosity.



Wednesday, March 30, 2022

2022 AWP Writer's Conference & Book Fair


What is the purpose of going to a writers’ conference? It depends on who you are. The Steiny Road Poet recently attended a couple of days of the AWP Conference & Bookfair. She had a few reasons for going and the introduction found on the AWP website is a good place to begin answering the question about why a person might go.


“The AWP Conference & Bookfair is the annual destination for writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers of contemporary creative writing. It includes thousands of attendees, hundreds of events and bookfair exhibitors, and four days of essential literary conversation and celebration. The AWP Conference & Bookfair has always been a place of connection, reunion, and joy, and we are excited to see the writing community come together again in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2022.”


Steiny is a writer—a poet as you, Dear Reader, know, a publisher—co-editor-in-chief of The Word Works, and perpetual student—always ready to learn something new. As a poet, Steiny has a book published in 2021—how we hold on—that had not one in-person reading or opportunity for a public book signing.


As a publisher, Steiny could support some of our authors. The Word Works had a table registration carried over from 2020 when the Covid pandemic shut everything down and there were 2022 Word Works authors Chloe Martinez and Cheryl Clark Vermeulen to meet and one author Henry Crawford and one translator Andrea Jurjevic whose books were published in 2020 but had not been feted publicly. Steiny put on her Poet hat to help them sell books. One discovery was, by using Venmo, publishers could beat the problem of swiping buyer credit cards which are slow to process in a big convention center without buying into communications services.


Steiny also attended several panels, one led by Word Works author Chloe Martinez on ars poetica, another on fair use and copyright with participation from a hometown confrere Richard Peabody who talked about how he was sued by Mattel for his anthology on Barbie dolls, and an Alice James Books tribute to the late Jean Valentine moderated by Anne Marie Macarie. So always something to learn at AWP.


However, more important than selling books or seeking out stimulating panels is meeting with writers known or first met. That is the joy of attending a writers’ conference. 2022 was a small conference with registration counted at 8,000 and it felt like there was lots of time to feel that joy despite wearing masks!



Photo: Emily Holland of Poet Lore talks with Word Works author Henry Crawford.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Marilyn Monroe Poem


Some poems take on a life of their own. Such is the case with my poem “Against the Wall,” which was first published in Beltway Journal by Kim Roberts. It’s also in my latest collection of poetry how we hold on from Broadstone Books.





It was recently published again in I Wanna Be Loved by You: Poems on Marilyn Monroe edited by Susana H. Case and Margo Taft Stever. To promote this book, Susana and Margo have been sponsoring readings where a selection of the poems are read by the poets who wrote them. It’s interesting to hear all the different ways Monroe has been seen. While I read in one of these Marilyn marathons,  I’d say my best reading of my Marilyn poem was done in a studio setting with tango music backing me up.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

RBG Crown Sonnet Gets First Visibility

 Sometimes publication of a single poem augers a greater success. In December, Mom Egg Review published Karren Alenier’s “Granddaughter Clara Spera explores Bubbie Ruth’s Big Closet.”


This poem is the first sonnet to be published from “I prefer to remember her in life,” which is a heroic crown of sonnets in tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


Recently Marilyn Nelson wrote a tribute crown of sonnets to Emmett Till. Here is her definition.


There are seven sonnets in a crown sonnet and the first line of the first sonnet becomes the last line of the last sonnet, and the last line of each sonnet is the first line of the following sonnet.


Crown sonnets comprise 15 sonnets where the last line of the first 14 sonnets contribute to the 14 lines of the last sonnet.


A second of these RBG sonnets “her play” has been accepted for print publication in Heron Clan IX.



Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Announcing Tender Buttons Resource Project


October 30, 2021
Announcing the Tender Buttons Resource Project
The Word Works announces the forthcoming publication in 2022 of Appreciating Tender Buttons: An Invitation to Play Volume I of III with poems by Karren Alenier and 36 other poets.

The purpose of this set of books in response to Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons is to establish a creative resource to make Stein’s Tender Buttons more accessible. Volume I addresses “Objects,” Section I of Tender Buttons.
Tender Buttons, published in 1914, was a one-of-a-kind work by Gertrude Stein. It is a book-length poem divided in three sections—OBJECTS, FOOD, ROOMS—and may be a love poem and the marriage contract between Gertrude Stein and her life-long partner Alice Babette Toklas. If so, the agreement was that, as a clandestine married couple, their offspring would be books conceived by Stein. This is one way of looking at Tender Buttons.
The format of Appreciating Tender Buttons Volume I is that each of the 58 subpoems of “Objects” has a response poem written by Karren Alenier or one of 36 poets who were invited to participate. Leading the invitation to play, Karren Alenier has contributed over 1/3 of the poems in this volume. Two appendices written by Alenier offer ways to enter Stein’s most mysterious poem and to invoke the Steinian muse. This collection is a study in the creative impulse.
Who is in this collection? Poets, teachers, or students of Professor Al Filreis’ popular Modern and Contemporary American Poetry course known as ModPo included in this collection are: Indran Amirthanayagam, Rae Armantrout, Mary Armour, Carrie Bennett, Margo Berdeshevsky, Julien Berman, Andrea Carter Brown, Susana Case, Grace Cavalieri, Nikia Chaney, Roberto Christiano, Henry Crawford, Michael Davis, Denise Duhamel, Amy Feinstein, Barbara Goldberg, Harold M. Greenwald, Don Illich, Jacqueline Johnson, Hiram Larew, JoAnne McFarland, Kevin McLellan, Nils Michals, Brad Richard, Margery M. Ross, Martha Sanchez Lowery, Roger Sedarat, Lisa Sewell, Margo Stever, Miles Waggener, Lillo Way, Nancy White, Carolyne Wright, Bill Yarrow, Burgi Zenhaeusern, and Jason Zuzga.
In early 2022, Alenier will issue a call for poets interested in responding to the subpoems of Tender Buttons, Section II Food. As with Volume I, participants will get a random assignment as the inspiration for their poems and also be asked to write a paragraph about their processes for these poems.
Founded in 1974, The Word Works is a literary nonprofit organization publishing contemporary poetry and producing public programs to support the life and love of poetry. The three volumes of Appreciating Tender Buttons will be part of a new Word Works educational imprint.
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