Summer Home Review Anthology is a literary Labyrinth an honoring of the written word, and a dream come true.
The circle of poets and writers herein are, nurses, researchers, firemen, high school and college teachers, healers, artists, soldiers, lawyers, singers, doctors, union members, playwrights, and entrepreneurs. They have in common their participation at the same writer’s workshop.
Some of the poets are strangers; some know each other’s names and some are friends. One poet has passed. While it is true that some are Vietnam veterans, this editor does not want the reader to assume. that this book is either “war poetry” or writing that is of “workshop” quality. All the poems in Summer Home Review have an edge.
Over the past thirteen years, I have attended writing conferences, workshops, classes, and courses and participated in many writing groups. The William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequence, UMass Boston, Boston, Massachusetts is just one of those experiences, but it is the one Summer Home Review celebrates.
My path to this anthology evolved like a labyrinth, bending back upon itself, growing, including an ever-widening circle of friends and always winding toward this book. My journey began in the unlikeliest of places with the war in Vietnam.
In the fall of 1988, my oldest daughter entered her senior year in high school. Though she had an early acceptance to the college of her choice, she still had two projects she needed to complete. Her English paper was due in April of 1989 and her 4-H Visual Presentation was scheduled for February.
As the oldest daughter of a Vietnam veteran, it might be expected that her choice for the topic of her English composition would be the war in Vietnam and that for her 4-H project she would choose “Vietnam, the Country” which it was. But in our house, in 1989, Vietnam was never mentioned.
Our family was comprised of biological, adopted and foster children who knew the “fact” that their father served in Vietnam. One night at dinner a child asked my husband if he had ever killed anyone. My husband replied that during his “good tour” he worked in a hospital, had not “seen combat”, had not “carried a gun” and no, he had never “killed anyone”. Even children understand the silence that followed.
For her senior paper research, my daughter talked with experts on the war. The University of Massachusetts in Boston had a department for the Study of War and Social Consequence called the William Joiner Center. Jaime Rodriguez and David Hunt gave her interviews and supplied her with statistics and reading material. It was later that year that I heard the name of the Joiner Center again.
According to a flyer at the Vietnam Veteran’s Outreach Center in Hyannis, the Joiner Center was sponsoring their 2nd Annual Summer Writers’ Conference. I arrived at UMass for orientation hot and stressed but determined to juggle my work and family life. Lost in the maze of the under campus parking garages, I spotted a car with a bumper sticker from a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard and one from the Hyannis Outreach Center. I followed the lanky, blond man through the parking lot, into an elevator to a room in the Wheatly building with a registration desk and 35 people. During orientation, T. Michael Sullivan and Kevin Bowen discussed the format of the two-week conference and introduced the faculty. Among the names I didn’t know were O’Brien, Rottmann, Heinemann, Steptoe, Ehrhart, and Karlin. The faculty explained the individual workshops and read their class list. A tall, handsome man, with a dimple in his chin said he was Bruce Weigl. The last name read was mine. He paused and said, “All the poets come with me.” For a moment I couldn’t move. “Me, a poet?” I joined Chris Gompert, the man from Martha’s Vineyard and for the next two weeks I studied with Bruce who continues to be an inspiration for me in ways he cannot imagine.
The conference unfolded in a blur of confusion, raw edged energy and a sense of heightened energy.
Almost of the 1980s and early 1990s Joiner Center faculty and attendees had connection to the war in Vietnam. On the second day of class, I read a poem that identified me as the wife of a vet. From that point on the veterans in the class, Chris Gompert, Patrick Harrington, Roger Martin and Preston Hood, took me under their wings. They waited for me after class, invited me to sit with them at lunch, and made arrangements for me to join them at evening poetry readings. That first year, when my poems were a series of desperate thoughts about the stress of living in the aftermath of war, they supported and nourished me in the way children care for a lost puppy.
I grew up in the protection of a loving family in the closely-knit neighborhood in an Irish Catholic parish in Dorchester, Massachusetts. As I entered high school, we moved to the suburbs where I was thrown into a class of over 500. I remember the cocoon of my childhood. In my adult life I never recovered that sense of belonging until I sat with those men at the 1989 faculty poetry reading at the Phillip Brooks House at Harvard University. That night we crushed into the leather couches of the mahogany room to hear Lamont Steptoe, Tim O’Brien, Larry Rottmann, Larry Heinemann, Bill Ehrhart, Wayne Karlin and Bruce Weigl. During the readings, I cried as I shared their pain and loss. I watched them read and care for each other. I saw the tenderness in Wayne Carlin’s hands as he held and soothed the very tired baby boy, the son of one of the readers. That night, for the first time, I heard Bruce Weigl read Song of Napalm. A line from that poem changed me forever. “… and not your good love” began a path to discovery that has positively affected my life to this day.
Over the last thirteen years I have attended workshops at the Joiner Center with a who’s who of contemporary literature including Yusef Komunyakaa, Fred Marchant, and Bruce Weigl. I have studied poetry with W.D. Ehrhart, fiction with Larry Heinemann, and word discipline with Tim O’Brien (and yes, T. Michael, I survived that two weeks!). I learned courage from Carolyn Forche, play writing from Ed Bullins, worked on translations with Martha Collins and was challenged to write about peace from Lady Borton and Lee Swenson. Christian Langworthy taught me hear the voice of our children, I have been inspired by Daisy Zamora, charmed by Grace Paley, and grateful for the opportunity to learn from Vietnamese poets and writers and to hear them read their work. I was blessed to spend a day on Martha’s Vineyard with Claribel Alegria. As the years have passed since the early 1990s the faculty at the Joiner
Center has evolved to include writers from all over the world like John Deane and Eva Bourke. I look forward to the opportunity in the future to work with faculty like Doug Anderson, Marilyn Nelson, Demetria Martinez, George Evans, Keith Wilson, Martin Espada, Michael Casey and others.
In June of 1990, among my responsibilities as co-chair with Bill Silver-Ryder of the Cape Cape and Island Nam Vet’s “Moving Wall” Committee, was the opening and closing ceremonies. With the support of many Joiner Center writers including W. D. Ehrhart and Larry Lee Rottmann, the Center sponsored a community wide poetry contest. The winners read at the closing ceremonies along with the invited readers Preston Hood, Patrick Harrington, Roger Martin and Chris Gompert and featured reader, Lamont B. Steptoe.
Poetry courses, workshops and/or classes are different from writing groups were there is a facilitator or “guru” who is not the group teacher. Participants pass out poems for the group to read and critique and then workshopped poems are returned. Writer’s workshops share many similarities but at a conference course, class or workshop there is an instructor and the participants expect to learn. My first workshop in 1989 is the template I use for workshop success. The structure is simple. The teacher teaches. Poets bring poems to be workshopped. With the support and expertise of the instructor, a poem is discussed while the poet listens. For the workshop novice the experience can be a sublime examination of one’s talent or it can be difficult or even excruciatingly painful. For the seasoned workshop goer it can be an ego killer or an affirmation. Either way, if the instructor has made the class environment safe, great poems are born and friendships begin. Over the years, I have penciled my comments on poems and dutifully returned them. I confess, though, there have been times when I loved or hated a poem so intensely that I slipped it under the pile on my desk to hide its abduction from the writer and the instructor. I love work I can remember, words or lines I can’t wait to repeat. Unfortunately, I remember lines better than I remember who wrote them. Giving credit is difficult years after hearing a great line or stanza.
In my 1990 Gloria Emerson class a student read a hysterically funny, short story about living in his van. I wish I had kept my copy or could remember David’s last name. I do remember my 1991 Yusef Komtuyakaa workshop included Gary Rafferty, Maureen Ryberg and Kevin Bowen. A young women read a poem I still think about. During a mid-morning break, she told classmates how the poem came to be written. She said she was sitting in a toilet stall at Filenes’ when suddenly, instinctively, she knew the woman in the next stall was her biological mother who she had never met. Unlike Sue Robert’s poem, “To the Children I Will Never Have”, I gave my copy back.
It is not uncommon at the end of a class for students to gather, bind and distribute the collected works of their class. In August of 2001, Steffanie Schwam printed a booklet from Fred Marchant’s course at the Cape Cod Writers’ Conference. I prize my spiral bound anthology from Eva Bourke’s 1998 Joiner Center class (thanks Bob!), the beautiful, class written poem from my 1996 Daisy Zamora class, and my collection of abducted poems.
Within the past 2 or 3 years, I’ve noticed that conferences themselves have joined the growing list of readers who recognize the publishable quality of the writing done at their workshops. The Sun Coast Writer’s Conference at the University. of Florida and the Maui Screen Writer’s workshop in Hawaii offer works by their participants for sale.
Still, many conference poems are abandoned. As writers know the business of getting work published is a job separate from the inspiration and as difficult as putting words on a page. Many poets will never walk the path. to publication and some great poems never leave a workshop notebook. Researching literary journals and magazines who publish work is a time consuming, learning experience as is finding small publishing houses or university presses that will read manuscripts from unpublished poets. Getting a poem into an anthology can be an impossible task. You have to be published to be published! For some unknown poets, inclusion in a major anthology comes only from the generosity of known ones. In 1998, Gary Rafferty, David Connolly, Pauline Hebert and I were included in the Scribner Anthology, “From Both Sides Now The Poetry of the Vietnam War and its Aftemath”, edited by Phillip Mahony, through the generosity and willingness to share publishing opportunities of Lamont Steptoe and W. D. Ehrhart.
How many fine poets never see the light of poetic day because their owners write to write but not to publish? I know poets who are so shy about their creative worth or about the event that led to the poem’s inspiration that they refuse to send their ‘babies’ into the forest. It is a sad fact that hidden in the midst of those crumpled up, thrown away copies, or the plastic covered, student generated conference booklets, there may well be a great poem, the next Pulitzer Prize winning poet, or Poet Laureate, or the writer of the next best seller. Read the work of Dorinda Foley Wegener and Carmi Soifer in Summer Home Review. But writer’s conferences have drawbacks. Writers high on the creative energy generated by working with a brilliant teacher in a talented, group of poets, leave workshops to return on Monday to their unpoetic lives. What happens to the pieces of poems that remain?
In the summer of 1996, after an especially draining two weeks working with Tim O’Brien, I invited several poets to my home on the Cape for a weekend. Personally, I needed to corral the poems refusing to settle quietly into the summer home of my mind. I knew other, especially the veterans, were suffering the effects of the intensity of the Joiner Center, too. That July, we struggled all weekend with unfinished poems, leaving lines in notebooks to be crafted into poems over the winter. From the summer of 1996 to this last one, our group has grown, our poetry has matured, but our weekend ritual remains. Poets arrive from Friday morning to Sunday night. We read, critique, rewrite, discuss, and rewrite poems. We circle our chairs and move them around as the sun rises over the hedge in my side yard. We work till the sun at our backs sets into the ocean. Dinner is always at sunset on the porch of a local restaurant or at a picnic table on Back River. Friday flows into Sunday. New poems rest till the Joiner Center in June.
In 1998 and 1999, Dorinda Foley Wegener, Pauline Hebert, Preston Hood, Gary Rafferty and I first discussed an anthology of Joiner Center participants. In 2000, the first organized attempt· at a bound anthology of our poems resulted in a booklet used at readings at the Sanford Vet’s center, Sanford, Maine and at the Bourne Library, Bourne, Massachusetts and included poems by David Connolly. In 2001, at Gary Rafferty’s kitchen table in New Hampshire, in Catherine Sasanov’s living room in Cambridge and in Dianne Ouellette’s dining room plans for professionally published anthology were considered and Summer Home Review and Summer Home Press were born. Flyers announcing the anthology were available at the 2001 Joiner Center Workshop. The response was immediate. This book is the result.
For the poets and writers in this book, I would like to express my gratitude to T. Michael Sullivan and to Kevin Bowen for their work to sustain the Joiner Center Writer’s Conference occasionally against great odds. Our poems thank you.
For the reader, it is my hope that as you turn the pages of this book, you will delight in a poem that might have remained in notebook or that you will hate a poem enough to recite it or give it to a friend. I hope you will be able to trace our common literary bonds and friendships through our work. My photos will help. You may be able to follow the trail of Bruce Weigl’s influence or that of Fred Marchant, Yusef Komunyakaa, Lady Borton, Eva Bourke, or Martha Collins. I think you’ll discover the respect and awe we have for each other and for our teachers.
Each path we took as poets and writers to the poems and stories included in this anthology is similar to the experience of walking the sacred path of the labyrinth. Like pilgrims in a labyrinth, the poets and writers included in this book have reached the center and, with publication of this book, are making their way back to the beginning. This book begins for you at the center. Walk with us. In between the lines we have left for you sacred pieces of ourselves. Enjoy your Journey
—Jacqueline Murray Loring 2002