Sunday, May 2, 2021

Tips for a Successful Reading: Stockbridge Library Reading

 On April 28, 2021, Stockbridge Library featured Karren Alenier in a solo program that included interview, 30-minute reading and a Q&A.



The interview included questions about current themes—she said she was writing about breakables, everything from a plaster ceiling falling to the mental health of Marilyn Monroe; the influence of the pandemic on your themes—love and loss were already themes Karren had been writing about but it made her stop and think about her great grandfather who died during the 1918 pandemic; and poetic process—she described writing right out of sleep into her daily journal the poetic letters to her great grandfather, which are published in her new book how we hold on.


Poets rarely get 30 minutes to read. The assumption is that the audience better tolerates half that time. So longer readings need to be carefully planned and practiced. Karren’s rules for a successful reading includes picking a poem to start that is fairly short and memorable either for its sonority or levity. “the funny guy and his origins” has a fair amount of rhyme and dark humor. Introducing the poems helps orient the listener to the reader’s voice and gives breathing space around the poems. Karren read ten poems, making sure to include only one long poem and that opening and closing poems were on the short side. Pacing is also important. Rushing through poems shows nervousness and hints that the reader might not have practiced enough or that the poet chose too many poems for the allotted amount of time.


After the reading, it’s helpful to find out from attending friends if they thought the reading was rushed or whether it dragged. Additionally, it’s good to know what poems stood out in the listener’s memory. That can help with planning the next reading.


Many questions were asked after Karren finished the reading. The one that stands out is how does the poet decide to use a form. Karren read a villanelle entitled “all America girl,” which deals with a cousin who was dying and who told her son she didn’t want to be buried or cremated. Karren said she picks a form when the subject is hard to handle and can benefit from some limitations. In the villanelle, there are a set number of stanzas and a fixed pattern of repetition and rhyme. The form concentrates how many details can be told.


Part of the success of any reading is the audience. Karren managed to attract over 20 people to this afternoon reading done in the Eastern time zone. She was thrilled to have three European-based friends attend. They came from Paris, Berlin and Athens. Moreover, the hosts for this reading John Gillespie and Wendy Pearson were located in Massachusettes, while Karren was located in the Washington, DC area. Other friends and colleagues attending were hearing this program from their locations in New York, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida, Texas and Karren’s tri-state area known as the DMV. Of course this was a virtual reading done on Zoom. While it was disappointing that the recording of this event failed to render properly, the good news is that Karren has a 30-minute reading at the ready should another opportunity like this arise.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Telephone Project Debuts: Pass It Along!



Remember the game Telephone where you whispered something to the person next to you and that person whispered the “same” thing on down the line to see what came out after a long line of people passed it along?


A group of artists headed by poet Nathan Langston got together at the beginning of the Covid pandemic in 2020 to plan a massive artistic game involving 900 artists from 72 countries. The game shows all the connections which began with a short quotation about banyan trees.


The Steiny Road Poet a.k.a. Karren Alenier was sent a painting by Jackie Avery. Avery’s painting inspired Alenier to write “letting the backdoor slam.” In this poem, Alenier talks to her maternal grandmother about school, learning, failed dreams, fear of a nuclear attack as well as how public schools began as an aid to groom factory workers. The poem is published on the Telephone website  and in her new book how we hold on.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Yes! Author Has Copies of New Book



Karren Alenier is ready to sign a copy of how we hold on for you! She got her box of books.

She will give you the best discount, go to her new website and contact her.

 In the world of poetry, it is the poet who has to sell her own books. The author gets very few complimentary copies . Those copies have to go to the people who blurbed the book, provided artwork and might review the book. So buying the book from the author helps keep poetry alive.



Friday, March 26, 2021

Karren Alenier’s Website Is Up!


As of March 25, 2021, the Steiny Road Poet’s (a.k.a. Karren Alenier) website——is up and functioning with email.


The email was the last sticking point, but the website itself had only gone online the day before.


I know I’m going to be asked… If you are thinking of bringing up a personal website, know what you are going to use it for before you launch into building one. For me, it serves a dual purpose—news about my book publications and news about What Price Paradise, the opera I am working on with composer Janet Peachey and Encompass New Opera Theatre Director/Dramaturg Nancy Rhodes.


So on this website, you can also find out how to purchase my poetry and opera books, what events I am doing, and how to contact me.


The bonus is that each month, I will be featuring a guess artist. The inaugural artist is someone very special to me—Lorna Goodison, Poet Laureate of Jamaica. Ms. Goodison read my work and gave me a blurb for my book. She has a new book coming out this year.


And yes, building a website, even in WIX, is challenging. I built mine from scratch in two weeks’ time with certain elements plucked from the WIX library of resources. I hear if you use a ready-made template, you can bring up a website lickety split. One other word of advice, the principles of design need to be learned and appreciated. That’s why hiring a website design artist might be a good idea. Final word, my website isn’t perfect but at least, I can improve it as I move along.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Broadstone Books Announces how we hold on


What is extraordinary about the Broadstone Books announcement of how we hold on, Karren Alenier’s eighth collection of poetry, is the in-depth review. This publisher not only makes beautifully crafted books but promotes the work with full understanding of what is in it. Here is one example. Larry Moore writes:


In the poem “Homecoming” Alenier writes of the Greek word parea, for which there is no exact English equivalent, a term for a group of friends who delight in one another’s company, for the joy of sharing experiences:  “how / most importantly we can love / and help each other through /celebration / and sorrow.”  In a very real sense, this collection is her invitation for us to join her parea, and to share in her celebrations and her sorrows.


 how we hold on launches April 15, 2021. Query the author now about obtaining your copy.


Friday, March 5, 2021

Announcement of New Opera—What Price Paradise

Encompass New Opera Theatre and Nancy Rhodes celebrating Women's History month sent out the first publicity on the work-in-progress opera What Price Paradise with libretto by Karren LaLonde Alenier and music by Janet Peachey.


Encompass on the Home Front…
Celebrates Women Librettists
and Composers
       New Visions/New Composers

Our developmental program fostering new opera is featuring


 by librettist Karren LaLonde Alenier, composer Janet Peachey

A new chamber opera that unfolds the turbulent love story of Jane and Paul Bowles, ex-pat writers and composer living in Tangier, Morocco. Despite their pursuit of extramarital lovers and acting out of deep-seated conflicts, their creative lives made them devoted to each other. The music draws from international settings that range from the medina of Tangier to a brothel in Guatemala to a New York hotel, and an island off the coast of Ceylon.   

Karren Alenier is a poet, writer, and librettist. Through New York’s School of Visual Arts (1982), she studied with Paul Bowles in Morocco. They worked on her poems about Gertrude Stein, which became part of her opera with William Banfield, Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On. Encompass premiered the opera in 2005, directed by Nancy Rhodes. Her interview with Bowles was published in Gargoyle magazine and in conversations with Paul Bowles. Alenier is author of seven collections of poetry. Looking for Divine Transportation was the 2002 winner of the Towson University Prize for literature. The Anima of Paul Bowles was the 2016 top pick at Boston's Grolier Books. Her eighth collection How We Hold On launches Spring 2021.


Composer Janet Peachey has written music for opera, ballet, orchestral, chamber, piano, and vocal. She has received grants for composition from the National Endowment for the Arts, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and Meet the Composer.  As a Fulbright grantee in Vienna, she studied at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst, where she earned DIPLOMAS in composition and conducting.  As Artistic Director of Capital Composers Alliance, Peachey produced concerts of works by Washington-area composers: she was Vice President of Programs for American Women Composers. Her music has been published by Arsis Press. Peachey teaches at The Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

WHAT PRICE PARADISE  is the second opera Encompass has developed with librettist Karren LaLonde Alenier and we are looking forward to presenting scenes from the opera. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Published in This Is What America Looks Like

This Is What America Looks Like
, a newly launched Washington Writers’ Publishing House anthology of prose and poetry, has a provocative title. The title is what drew the Steiny Road Poet’s attention and she is pleased with the inclusion of her poem “the bell sonnet.” Among the poets appearing in this anthology are: Sandra Beasley, Teri Cross Davis, Don Illich, Rueben Jackson, Greg Luce, Jean Nordhaus, Linda Pastan, Kim Roberts, Myra Sklarew, and many other esteemed colleagues.


The form of my poem takes off from Sherman Alexie’s “Sonnet, Without Salmon.” This means there are 14 numbered parts. Here are the first three parts of “the bell sonnet”:


1. when the bell sounds the vibration heals

2. the man I called father hit a cowbell for comic relief and then blew smoke rings

3. in our twenties my friend whose name is pronounced bell but is spelled B e a l l said we must say boldly we are poets


Here’s one of the stanzas that speaks to the anthology’s title:


12. in 2045 Census projects the United States will become minority white at 49.8 percent with the Hispanic population at the next highest percent of 24.6

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Date Set for New Collection of Poetry + Reading


My eighth collection of poetry how we hold on from Broadstone Books, will be in print in April! Cover art will be a magnificent time-suspended photo by Chris Hubble that was shot on the cliffs of Negril, Jamaica.  Check out his work at



My first reading is May 19 at 7 pm in the Poets vs the Pandemic series. Use this link to register for upcoming programs for Café Muse and Poets vs the Pandemic: 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Choosing a Book Cover


How does one pick an image for a book of poetry?


Keep in mind that poetry books are judged by their covers and often the purchase of a collection of poems is an impulse buy. What will make a buyer reach for your book of poetry?


These elements can help:


—Color or dramatic black and white contrast




—Something that speaks to a basic need or yearning



Next: what is the thematic core of this collection? How does your image speak to the title and overriding theme of this collection?



Don't forget to try out your image on trusted advisors.