Saturday, November 13, 2010

Make a special effort to attend Cafe Muse
Monday November 15, 2010  7-9 pm

Friendship Heights Village Center
4433 South Park Avenue 
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Featured are Barbara Goldberg and David Salner


Yellowtail snapper with citrus beurre blanc, filet
mignon in demi-glace cabernet, roast duck
garnished with mint-jellied peaches, angels
on horseback (dates stuffed with garlic cloves
wrapped in bacon and served in a hot honey-
pepper sauce), bananas foster, key lime pie,
dense, flourless chocolate cake drizzled
with a raspberry coulis, Lord, grant me the power
to well digest all that I have well eaten.

Barbara Goldberg
The Royal Baker’s Daughter

The story of Julia and Jerome
is set in a nudist resort, all-inclusive, but
it's not about sex, or even love. It's about -
well, I should begin at the beginning,
the pool-side lounge. After the first drink,
Jerome goes back for a tray of Margaritas,
while Julia waits, thirsty to continue
the discussion about Jacksons
Browne and Pollack, Robespierre -
you know, let's-get-acquainted fare.

Their eyes have begun to develop
the habit of meeting each other in deep
stares that have some sexual content, surely,
the same as if they were wearing clothes.

Happy hour makes way for dinner,
Margaritas to red wine, after-dinner liquor,
and, "No thanks," to desert and coffee.
They pick their way through the darkness,
a little tipsy, and arrive at Julia's door
for an embarrassed moment, before
she says "come in" and uses a plastic card
attached to a lanyard, to unlock her room.
All of the guests wear plastic cards
swaying from their necks and nothing else.
She turns on the light before pulling the lanyard
up over her head and tossing it on a chair
as if it were her last undergarment. She offers Jerome
the other chair and stands before him, opening
a book of poems she has written, published
by a small but respectable firm. He sighs
as the words draw him into a world
of invention, where no one wears clothes
or dies.

David Salner

David Salner is author of John Henry's Partner Speaks.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cafe Muse Live with Luis Alberto Ambroggio & Idra Novey

Cafe Muse had an evening of poetry in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Luis Alberto Ambroggio writes his poetry in Spanish. For this reading, he had help from Raquel Dunning, Adele Steiner, and Yvette Moreno-Neisser who read English translations of Senor Ambroggio's poems.

Idra Novey who writes in English and read some of her poems, also presented some poems by Paulo Henriques Britto in Portuguese and her translations of these poems.

The next Cafe Muse program on November 15, 2010 (please take careful note of the date) will feature poets Barbara Goldberg, author of The Royal Baker’s Daughter, and David Salner, author of John Henry’s Partner Speaks .

More information at

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cafe Muse Oct 4: Idra Novey & Luis Alberto Ambroggio

Poets Idra Novey and Luis Alberto Ambroggio
read from their work and sign books

When:  Monday, October 4, 2010, 7:00 p.m.
Where: the Cafe Muse Literary Series
at the Friendship Heights Village Center
4433 South Park Avenue
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
More information at
IDRA NOVEY is the author of The Next Country, winner of the Kinereth Gensler Award (Alice James Books 2009) and translator of Paulo Henriques Britto’s The Clean Shirt of It (BOA Editions 2007) which won a PEN Translation Fund Award. Her poems have appeared in Slate, The Paris Review, A Public Space and numerous other publications. She teaches in the School of the Arts at Columbia University and serves as Deputy Director for Columbia’s Center for Literary Translation.
LUIS ALBERTO AMBROGGIO is the author of eleven collections of poetry His poetry and essays have appeared in Linden Lane Magazine, Passport, Scholastic, International Poetry Review, and Hispanic Culture Review), and anthologies (DC Poets Against the War, Cool Salsa). Cross-Cultural Communications of New York has published his bilingual anthology Difficult Beauty, Selected Poems (1987-2006) His poetry has been recorded in the Archives of Hispanic Literature of the Library of Congress and has been translated into several languages.

Santiago, Chile 2005 

Here, where a ruin longs

to be a house, and a house
to be left to ruin.

Where men blindfolded students
and pushed them down
the basement stairs.  

The house almost tips

with its history, with a wish

to be simply walls  

and pillars and patio—

so we could walk by, arms

loose but linked, and speak  

of window trim.

--- Idra Novey, excerpt “Pausing Outside a House” from The Next Country 

Why do I write?
To crucify myself, then to be reborn as innocent, moist soil,
to be the last and the first,
to stop the river now, hold it in my hand and drink water,
so when others sip the drops they’ll know there is a river,
because my teeth chatter from the cold, from stone and fury
and because the shadows of my days and nights will lose all hieroglyphics,

--- Luis Alberto Ambroggio, excerpt “The Witness Bears his Soul” from Difficult Beauty

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chautauqua, the Opposite of Burning Man

The Chautauqua readers Janet and Dave Northrup brought various surprises with their program last night (September 20) at Café Muse.

Dave Northrup gave a reading of his short story inspired by the William Carlos Williams poem “The Red Wheelbarrow.” His story, while minimalist like Williams’ 16-word eight-line poem arranged in couplets, was full of farming details. A former English teacher, Dave Northrup, who is also wood sculpture artist, continues to teach the perplexing.

As promised, Janet Northrup read from Founding Women: Inspiration and Impact on Chautauqua and the Nation, a history of the Chautauqua movement in the United States. Of particular interest was hearing how the Temperance and Suffrage movements  found voice along with well-known male politicians like William Jennings Bryan. Such women as Susan B. Anthony (leader of the Suffragettes and the protagonist of Gertrude Stein’s and Virgil Thomson’s opera The Mother of Us All) spoke to the public at a time when American women were prohibited from such activity.

In Chautauqua, New York, where the Chautauqua movement began and spread throughout the United States including Glen Echo Park, Maryland, (only ten minutes from the Café Muse location in Chevy Chase, Maryland), people have been gathering each summer for weeks of entertainment and intellectual lectures since 1874. You might say that when Chautauqua began, it was every bit as controversial as Burning Man, a temporary community that comes together each summer since 1986 for radical self-expression. However, the legally voiceless women of the Temperance movement, who came together at Chautauqua to address the problems of families starving because the male heads of households rarely made it home from the saloons with their paychecks, chose a radical and bold path of action for social good.

Janet Northrup said she had not ever expected to write the history of any organization but she got into the project and her readings continue to unearth new historic data from audience members. She suggested that now is the time to step up to write histories for organizations that are 50 to 100 years old before the historical details are lost. As for Ms. Northrup, her next project is a children’s book.

Northrup has donated a copy of her book which will be presented to the library of the Friendship Heights Village Center.

Be sure to mark your calendar for November 4 when poets Idra Novey and Luis Alberto Ambroggio will read at Café Muse.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chautauqua at Cafe Muse

The next Cafe Muse program Monday September 20 from 7 - 9 pm 
will feature two chautauqua readers Dave and Janet Northrup.

Cafe Muse
Friendship Heights Village Center
4433 South Park Avenue
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Chautauqua -- What is it?

Chautauqua continues to be an adult education movement that offers programs on current topics of interest and cultural activities.

Janet Northrup is active with the Chautauqua Women's Club  of Chautauqua, New York. For three years, Ms. Northrup researched the history of chautauqua activities and developed a book based on her research. This is a part of American history few of us in the DC area have had the opportunity to learn about.

Not long ago an advertising jingle reminded women, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”  In many ways that ad campaign idea exemplifies the changes at the Chautauqua Women’s Club over the past 120 years.  When the first Chautauqua lectures were delivered in 1874, women were still forty-five years away from being allowed to vote. The Civil War had ended only nine years earlier and many families still mourned loved ones killed or wounded in battles.  At that time the women’s programs and lectures at Chautauqua typically included topics such as: missionary work, hygiene, managing the home, rearing children, working with servants, and cooking.    --- Janet Myers Northrup, excerpt Founding Women

The Word Works invites you to come hear the Northrups talk about their experience with the chautauqua movement.

Mike Davis will open at 7 pm with live classical guitar music and the chautauqua reading will be followed with a short open mic for poetry. Free to the public.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Portrait of Brad Richard: 2010 Washington Prize Winner

The Word Works is pleased to announce that Brad Richard (pronounced ree-shard) of New Orleans, Louisiana has won the 2010 Washington Prize for his manuscript Motion Studies.

On Poetry Society of America's website, you can read a very human portrait of him and his family post Katrina. There is also a poem about the devastating Katrina experience. 

Motion Studies is an ekphrastic collection that includes poems about the work of Thomas Eakins, including his famous painting entitled "The Swimming Hole."

Brad will be participating in the following reading:

Sunday, Aug 29, 3:30pm

New Orleans, LA

Nicole Cooley, Peter Cooley, Yusef Komunyakaa, Kay Murphy, Brenda Marie Osbey, Alison Pelegrin, Brad Richard, and Martha Serpas, with Alice Quinn

An event honoring the fifth anniversary of the hurricane, featuring poets from New Orleans and the Bayou state. 

Co-sponsored by the English Department, Tulane University.
Admission is free.

Kendall Cram Room, Lavin-Bernick Center
Tulane University
6823 St. Charles Avenue

Monday, August 9, 2010

Intersections -- Poetry with Mathematics

On her blog Poetry With Mathematics, JoAnne Growney, a poet who has read in the Joaquin Miller Cabin Poetry Series some years ago, is doing a series on poems that mention or deal with mathematics. 

For example she has featured Philip Wexler's poem "The Calculus of Ants on a Worm" that was published in Cabin Fever:  Poets at Joaquin Miller's Cabin, 1984-2001, edited by Jacklyn Potter, Dwaine Rieves, and Gary Stein.

If you know of other contemporary poems that treat the subject of mathematics, contact JoAnne with that information on her website. [wow (at) joannegrowney (dot) com]

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cafe Muse: The Truths of Patricia Davis & Henry Israeli

So much for the doldrums of August. Cafe Muse and talented audience of over 25 welcomed poet-playwright Patricia Davis and Philadelphia poet Henry Israeli.

Patricia Davis hot from a Capital Fringe production of her play Alternative Methods, which is headed to the New York City Fringe, read from The Blindfold's Eyes, the book she authored with Sister Dianna Ortiz. Her play Alternative Methods is drawn from the book. The play and book examine what it means to be tortured.

Henry Israeli said that Patricia's intense presentation was a hard act to follow so he changed the mood completely with sassy poems like "Mickey Mouse Blinks Out" and "Minnie in the Passenger Seat." These poems and others came from his book Praying to the Black Cat.

Making significant contribution the audience presented some awesome work. Readers included such poets as Sandra Beasley, Don Illich, Perry Epes, Judith McCombs and a number of others.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Some Thoughts On Poetry Book Contests

The following was originally published on Blogalicious, Diane Lockward's blog on poetry, poets and books. Diane wrote this post on Poetry Book Contests in response to her experience judging the 2010 Word Works Washington Prize. You can find the original post here.

Entering poetry book contests often seems like a necessity if you want to get your manuscript published. But what an insidious process it can be. Not to mention expensive. And time-consuming. Before my first book came out in 2003, over a period of maybe six years, I entered the manuscript in dozens of contests. I spent several weeks each summer weeding out the weaker poems and substituting with what I hoped were stronger ones. I reconsidered the order of the poems. I redid the page numbering and the Table of Contests. I wrote out the checks. Then I waited months for notification.

The first time I received a semi-finalist spot was thrilling, more so the first time I received a finalist spot. But by the time I'd accumulated six of these close calls, it was getting stale. I felt stuck in place, always writing poems that could go into that book, unable to move onto the next book. Then I got lucky and found a home for my book, no contest involved. Since then my publisher has stuck with me for the following book and the forthcoming one for which I am hugely grateful. What a relief not to have to do the contest thing.

But recently I saw the process from the other side of the fence, i.e., I served as a first reader in a book contest. After reading through the pile of manuscripts, I put together some thoughts that perhaps someone out there might find useful before pulling out the next roll of stamps and the next batch of checks.

1. Do not overload the manuscript with poems. Too many is too many. I read one manuscript that had close to 100 poems! Now come on. The poet had simply failed to edit his own manuscript. Nor had he followed instructions in regards to number of pages. A collection that long has virtually no chance of being accepted anywhere.

2. I'd always heard that it was essential to have a strong first section. True! A weak first section discourages the reader from moving onto the second section. Weak first section and your goose is cooked.

3. After getting a really strong first section, make sure that the following sections are equally strong. You cannot get away with a weak section. Anywhere.

4. Be mindful of variety. This applies to subject, form, length. Too much sameness leads to boredom.

5. Work really hard on arranging the order of the poems. For many poets this is the most difficult part of putting together a manuscript. That's what friends are for. Ask a few poets whose judgment you trust to read the manuscript for order. Avoid the inclination to group similar poems together. Again, too much sameness leads to boredom. You want some kind of thread or threads running throughout, pleasing leaps from one poem to the next, surprises, and connections. Poor order was one of the main weaknesses in the manuscripts I read. You want a collection of poems, not a bunch of poems.

6. Here's another thing that separated the good from the not so hot: Diction, diction, diction. Why use boring words when there are so many good ones available? The language in the strong manuscripts immediately distinguished those collections.

7. Avoid excess baggage, e.g., accessorizing sections with numbers, plus titles, plus introductory poems, plus epigraphs. Keep it simple.

8. Don't go too highbrow with a bunch of unnecessary End Notes. Don't be pretentious. Nobody likes a stuffed shirt. If the information in the End Notes is essential, maybe it should be in the poem? or on the same page as the poem? I'm not saving never; I'm saying consider carefully the necessity. Likewise, avoid a bunch of ridiculous dedications of individual poems. I dedicate this one to Emily Dickinson, this one to my plumber, etc.

9. Remember that competence is not enough. The collection must stand out. The strong ones had something that was unique, that was special, that made them different from the others.

10. Good looks matter. Make sure your manuscript has a professional appearance. I was surprised to see manuscripts with the title uncentered, with dreadful fonts, with blurry pages. Don't crowd the pages, please! And please, in your Table of Contents, do not insert a hideous line of periods between title and page number.

Now here's the good news: If you have a good manuscript, you have a really good chance of winning. Don't send it out before it's ready, but when it's really ready, believe in it and send it out.

A Successful Miller Cabin Series Wraps Up

Tuesday was the final night of the 2010 Joaquin Miller Cabin Summer Poetry Series, and a great time was had by all! There were several new faces amongst the regular crowd, and we hope to see these young faces return in the coming years.

Our featured readers were Dan Albergotti and Jona Colson. Dan kicked the night off with poems rich in literary references, including a poem directed toward his nonexistent daughter, inspired by a Yeats poem. Curiously, amongst Jona's litany of poems was a p
oem called "Daughter", written about an (also nonexistent) daughter of his. The readers complemented each other wonderfully, and really made for a compelling night for the listeners!

The evening also saw the return of the Scooter girl from two weeks ago! We are glad to see that she made it out of the storm to safety, and even returned for another reading! Also in attendance was Charles Jensen who read earlier in the summer!

It is so great to have our past readers grace the audience with their presence!A big Thank You to everyone who made this series possible, from the organizers, the readers, those who donated funds, and of course, the all-important listeners. This 35th season has been a great one, and we hope to see you back in Rock Creek Park for the 36th!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Last night at Miller Cabin

Miller Cabin
Tuesday evenings at 7:30 at the Joaquin Miller Cabin in Rock Creek Park, Picnic Area #6, Beach Drive at Military Road Overpass. Sign up for opening reading at 7:15 pm. For more information and rain location, call Kathi Morrison-Taylor at 703-820-8113.

It threatened to storm last night, but the threat was not realized, and the reading was allowed to go as planned, outside under the stars at the Joaquin Miller Cabin!

A lively crowd gathered to hear poets Don Illich and Marie-Elizabeth Mali read.

Next week is our final installment of the Miller Cabin series for the summer! Don't miss poets Dan Albergotti and Jona Colson!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Café Muse: What a Turnout!

Once a month on Monday nights, two featured poets read at the Friendship Heights Village Center, with an open mic to follow

Last night, 68 people packed into every available corner of the Village Center room to hear the poetic stylings of E. Ethelbert Miller and Myra Sklarew.

Ethelbert began the reading with some baseball poems from The Fifth Inning, and continued with poems from an anthology, including both a short poem of his own, and a Langston Hughes poem about nature.
Myra began her reading by pointing out her heroes in the room, following this up with a series of incredibly moving and deep poems, some from her recent book, Harmless.

A lively open mic session with quite the variety of poems concluded the poetry portion of the night, but plenty of people gathered in clusters around the room talking for quite some time afterwards. Check out the Word Works Facebook Page for more pictures from the event!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Last Night at Miller Cabin: Thunderstorm Edition

Miller Cabin
Tuesday evenings at 7:30 at the Joaquin Miller Cabin in Rock Creek Park, Picnic Area #6, Beach Drive at Military Road Overpass. Sign up for opening reading at 7:15 pm. For more information and rain location, call Kathi Morrison-Taylor at 703-820-8113.

Just before the rain started to fall, nearly twenty people congregated beneath the roofed area at Picnic grove #6 to hear the poetic ministrations of Cliff Bernier and Judith Valente. The rain began to fall lightly at first, and the sky was dark, but the environment felt apt for Cliff's nature-inspired poems.
By the time Judith's reading was beginning, a flashlight was required just to read the poems, and by the time for her second poem, the storm had completely drowned her out. The executive decision to relocate was made, and a mad dash was made for the safety of cars - except for one young lady who, unperturbed by the storm, set off on her scooter (we hope she got home alright!) - and headed off to the American City Diner to finish up the reading. We lost very few people, and had a full room of brave, soggy listeners for the rest of Judith's readings, and for the open mic. An altogether exciting evening! Thanks to everyone who braved the elements!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Last night at Miller Cabin

24 people braved the 100 degree heat and vicious bugs to listen to the lovely poetry of Christina Beasley and Erin Murphy.

Christina gave such a fun variety of poetry, ending her reading with a quirky poem about a hedgehog. Each and every one of her poems is infused with incredible and creative uses of language.
Erin traveled from western central Pennsylvania, bringing her whole family along. She had a great sense of humor, providing fun commentary about her life and family between incredibly strong and truthful poems.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Café Muse: July Preview

A new month has opened, and with it comes a new Café Muse event! We will be meeting on Monday, July 19th (later in the month than usual, so be sure to mark your calendars!). The much-anticipated featured readers are:

Myra Sklarew, author of three chapbooks and six collections of poetry, including her most recent, Lithuania: New & Selected Poems. Sklarew is a Professor Emerita at American University.

Ethelbert Miller, who has authored 11 books, and edited four more. In addition to writing prolifically, Miller is a literary activist, a board member of several writing centers and libraries, and the advisory editor of the African American Review.

Tomorrow at Miller Cabin

Miller Cabin
Tuesday evenings at 7:30 at the Joaquin Miller Cabin in Rock Creek Park, Picnic Area #6, Beach Drive at Military Road Overpass. Sign up for opening reading at 7:15 pm. For more information and rain location, call Kathi Morrison-Taylor at 703-820-8113.

Our first July meeting at the Miller Cabin will be tomorrow, July 6. On the docket for the evening are poets Christina Beasley and Erin Murphy. The weather is promising to be hot hot hot, but we hope to see a big crowd anyway!

Christina Beasley

Erin Murphy

Miller Cabin

Last week at Miller Cabin, I inconveniently forgot my camera battery, but fortunately, Janelle Fernandez was able to send along this great picture of our readers and hosts!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

This Week at Miller Cabin

Miller Cabin
Tuesday evenings at 7:30 at the Joaquin Miller Cabin in Rock Creek Park, Picnic Area #6, Beach Drive at Military Road Overpass. Sign up for opening reading at 7:15 pm. For more information and rain location, call Kathi Morrison-Taylor at 703-820-8113.

Join us this Tuesday for another night out at the Miller Cabin! Featured readers for Tuesday, June 29th are:

Traci Brimhall, author of the forthcoming book Rookery, has published poems in New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Missouri Review, Kenyon Review Online, FIELD, Gettysburg Review, Indiana Review and Southern Review, among others. She teaches creative writing at Western Michigan University beginning this fall.

Charles Jensen is the author of three chapbooks and one full-length book of poetry, The First Risk. In addition to writing poetry, he is the founding editor of a poetry magazine, and is pursuing a second master's degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Last night at Miller Cabin

Thunderstorms were on the forecast, so last night's Miller Cabin reading was relocated from Rock Creek Park to the American City Diner on Connecticut Avenue. Despite less-than-ideal conditions, the readings went on! Alex Chertok kicked off the night, and Perry Epes followed with readings from his recent publication, Nothing Happened. Hopefully we'll be back at the Cabin with more comfortable weather next week! In case of inclement weather, the location change will be announced via the Word Works ENews Group, and the Word Works Facebook page. Please join these groups to make sure you're informed!