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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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Madam Mayo Interviews Karren Alenier


The Steiny Road Poet (a.k.a. Karren Alenier) met Madam Mayo (Catherine Mayo)  a few years after she (Karren) returned from the School of Visual Arts workshop in Tangier, Morocco. We had that in common. Madam Mayo went the year after. 

Madam Mayo has many talents, poet, writer, translator, and long time blogger. Madam Mayo recently interviewed Karren about how we hold on, Paul Bowles, The Word Works and lots more.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

A Letter of Praise for a New Book



 I received this letter as an email about how we hold on, my latest collection of poetry. An author could ask for no greater praise.

Dear Karren:

I'm up in Vermont for a few weeks and have been reading your book, which arrived just before I left. I cannot tell you how impressed I am by your inventiveness, the range of your subject matter, your formal "flexibility," and the poems themselves. I read the entire thing in two sittings, which says a lot!

Another project while I'm up here is putting together a new workshop on prose poetry for The Writer's Center. Would you let me include your "Girl Talk" poem on the handout? I won't be teaching this until next spring, and the content is still in flux, but at the moment this poem would seem to fit in perfectly.

I found the love poems--particularly "Composition"--very moving. I know it has been a while since you lost your husband, but these poems really brought back a lot of what we long-married types seem to take for granted. So thank you for that.

with admiration,
Sue Ellen 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Heron Clan VIII Publication


 The Steiny Road Poet is pleased to announce that she was published in the Heron Clan VIII anthology along with Doug Stuber, Adebimpe Oluwafunmilayo Adeyemi and many others. 

"cooking lesson" is Karren Alenier's (a.k.a. Steiny) poem response to Gertrude Stein's "Cooking," a Tender Buttons Objects subpoem. Alenier's poem begin "alas a lass Alice at last."

Alice Toklas was Gertrude Stein's life-long partner and she was a good cook.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

What Does an Author Want in a Book Reivew?


What does one hope for in a book review?


The Steiny Road Poet has been mulling this over after receiving  what she experienced as a better than average review published in Mom Egg Review July 22, 2021. In this review, Sara Epstein, who is a clinical psychologist as well as a poet and songwriter, looks at ten poems from the 60 published in the collection how we hold on. She agilely addresses that none of the poems use punctuation:


“Alenier pulls us along with minimal or no punctuation. We pause in the white spaces, line breaks, and other places where it makes sense to pause. Otherwise, we race with the pace of the speaker’s life.”


What Steiny means about the reviewer’s agility is that the reviewer understands that a line break doesn’t necessarily mean a full stop. Certainly Steiny’s intention in dropping punctuation was to provide fluidity and to keep the action moving.


Another aspect of how we hold on which was satisfyingly appreciated by the reviewer was the collection’s use of poetic form. Epstein commented that the format of the title poem seemed to hold on to the message: “The structure itself is a kind of holding in the way it contains her message in this rhythmic, evenly spaced form (23).” Steiny particularly enjoyed the reviewer’s discussion of her Golden Shovel poem: “‘What Was Hidden’ is yet another masterful example, using form to show what hides in plain sight. A line from Claude McKay’s poem …is broken down so that his words end each line of Alenier’s. Alenier evokes Anne Frank as she looks back on race and white privilege in a scene from childhood.”


Sometimes it’s surprising to see what poems may garner mention. What does that say about that poem? Is it standing out to the reviewer because it doesn’t quite fit into the overall collection? The bottom line is that what any poet whose book is being reviewed hopes for is accuracy. The beauty of online reviews is that an author can request minor corrections if needed.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Stockbridge Redux


In the age of Zoom, some things seem more possible. For example, Steiny (a.k.a. Karren Alenier) was invited to give a second reading for the Stockbridge Library. The recording had failed to render for the first reading, but the producers of this series that gives laser focus to the poet with a generous introduction, a 30-minute reading, and a Q&A, thought enough of her reading to want to capture what had been missed.


John Gillespie said it would just be Wendy Pearson, himself and Karren Alenier. However, Karren asked if it would be ok to invite a few people and so she did. The advantage of having some outside people in the audience was that Karren had audience reaction as she read and the Q&A became more intense. Barbara Goldberg asked about poems that depict family members and likened them to a cannibalistic action—“You eat them up.” (them being family members.) Karren said poems help her process things on her mind and said, “it’s not like they are revenge poems, but yes, it does lend to chewing on the actions of the family.”


The reading includes 10 poems and can be seen at:


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.