“Summer Home Review II Anthology is a literary labyrinth, an honoring of the written word, and a dream come true.” I wrote this for the Prologue of Summer Home Review I in 2002. It is just as true for Volume II. Summer Home Review brings together poems and prose written by writers who gather the third and fourth week of June in Boston to attend the Writers’ Workshop at the· William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequence at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, Massachusetts. It is that experience that Summer Home Review honors and celebrates.
The Beginnings of Summer Home
In the summer of 1996, after an especially draining two weeks at Joiner working in Tim O’Brien’s fiction class, I was exhausted. I knew other poets were suffering the effects of the intensity of the Joiner Center that year too. Joiner is an especially difficult though rewarding time for poets who are veterans of the war in Vietnam and some of my best friends were veterans and poets. On the last day of class, after the potluck lunch, I invited several poets to my house on the Cape for a weekend of writing: I had been working on prose for two weeks, and I needed to corral the new poems that had been writing themselves in my mind while I worked on my novel. I needed to settle down the old ones that wanted editing and were refusing to make way for the new ones. The poetry fairy does not hear ‘no’. After Joiner, there is a literary high that refuses to allow words to settle quietly into the summer home of your mind. I thought I had a solution: more work.
On the second weekend of July 1996 a small gathering of Joiner friends met for the first time in my Cape Cod yard on Friday afternoon. We struggled all weekend with written but unfinished poems, taking words, ideas and lines from notebooks and crafting them into publishable poems.
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.
Over the years our July weekends continued and our rituals grew. Friday’s hot sun would evolve to a cool evening sea breeze, and after working outside all day, with night, we’d move inside to work. We would write, rewrite, read and critique each other’s poems till no one was left awake and working (with the possible exception of Preston Hood and Lamont Steptoe!).
With the morning sun some woke to run, some were off to the beach for a quick swim or a set of tennis. A few loners settled in at a small café in my village for a solitary cup of coffee and one more rewrite. Another group would gather in my kitchen and work or chat before breakfast. Some writers who stayed at a local B&B would wander over before the sun was fully up and settle in at the dining room table or in the yard and write. Others would wish their significant others’ a great day of ‘touristing’ and head back into the kitchen or to my computer, floppy disk in hand, to print their newest edit.
In the first few years Saturday evening was a time to work on more poetry. But with the addition of a few invited non-Joiner poets or Joiner faculty, it became an informal poetry reading. We would not read our work but instead each of us would bring a poem or a book of poems we had fallen in love with over the winter. If the evening ran late, we could be encouraged to read a personal poem that had been published like Alice Barton’s poem from the Atlantic Magazine. The Living Room Reading once hosted Claribel Alegria after a trip to Martha’s Vineyard.
Over many summers our group grew, our poetry matured, but our weekend rituals remained sacred. Poets arrive from Friday morning to Sunday night. We’d read, critique, rewrite, discuss our poems, share our teacher’s instructions. (“Bruce cautioned…” or “as Fred often…” or “Larry mentioned when…” or “Martha showed us…” or “Daisy insisted…”)
We circle our chairs in my yard and move them as the sun rises over the hedge in the side yard. We work while the sun is at our backs and move our chairs to follow the light ‘til it set into the ocean at our backs. Dinner is always at sunset on the porch or picnic table at a local restaurant on Back River. This is our time to share the flow of your lives. Sunday morning it all begins again. A day-tripper or two might arrive early on Saturday or Sunday for one day of workshopping poems and others left as life necessitated. Sunday evening the chairs were empty. With the goodbyes are the promises to see each other again in June and the hope that each of us will publish at least one poem before then.
Many great, edgy poems written at conferences are abandoned to computer files, or notebooks and never get published. As any writer knows 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 many poems never leave a workshop notebook. Researching literary journals and magazines 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 a major anthology is mostly out of the poet’s control. Getting a book of poems published is almost an impossible task. “You have to be published to be published” is a common mantra.
Summer Home Review Volume I
In 2000 during our July weekend, and during early 2001, at Gary Rafferty’s kitchen table, in Catherine Sasanov’s living room, and in Dianne Ouellette’s dining room, plans for a professionally published anthology were considered and Summer Home Review and Summer Home Press were born. Flyers announcing the submission deadline for the first anthology were available at the 2001 Joiner Center Workshop. The response was immediate. The book was a joy to hold in our hands. We gathered at the Harbor Gallery at UMass Boston for a premier reading. What a thrill!
Summer Home Review Volume II
There was always a plan to compile Volume IL As I gathered poems for the first anthology the dream of having our work in print took on a life of its own. With Volume II, I knew I needed to more fully represent the accomplishments of the writers and their teachers. Volume II would have to go beyond the accomplishments of work written at Joiner Center. Volume II would have to include ‘next step’ writing. Therefore, work such as plays, prose poems and monologues needed to be included. Still there was a huge gap in what I presented in Volume I. Anyone who has been to Joiner will easily recognize what was missing.
In Summer Home Review I all the photographs were taken by me or with my camera. I knew Summer Home Review II needed the addition of photographs I had not taken. In Summer Home Review II you will see photographs taken by Gary Rafferty and Lisa Fay. I am especially thankful to Lisa because she had her camera with her the last day of Joiner 2004 when my film jammed. It is through her kindness that the photo of Macdara Woods’ class is included.
Personally, I need to thank Lisa for her willingness to share her pictures. Without them, I would not have several wonderful photos of my friend Maureen Ryberg with Macdara Woods and his wife, Eiléan Ni Chuilleanáin (2004). Summer Home Review would not have a photo of Macdara Woods and his class and Maureen Ryberg would not have enjoyed these precious mementos before her passing.
Some Joiner faculty are not represented in photographs in either Volume I or II. Among these writers are Martin Espada, Demetria Martinez, Carolyn Forche, Marilyn Nelson and many others for a simple reason: I have just never been assigned to their courses at Joiner, therefore, I have no photos of their classes. Another reason why the photo of a faculty might not appear in either book is because I was not able to contact them in time for the book to go to the publisher. I apologize to writers like Claribel Alegria, Tim O’Brien, Barry Brodsky and Sabra Loomis and Yusef Komunayakaa whose photos are not included in this collection.
Also, there were many works written by Joiner Center participants that were not accepted for this volume due to the large number of submissions I received. Catherine Sasanov offered to allow me to print a poem, In a Story About a Woman Where the Women Don’t Count (Pigeon Light: That Dirty Illumination) from her new collection called Reassembling the Bodily Relics of St. Gemma Galgani but I just could not find a way to work the line breaks needed to do this poem justice. I am quite sorry for that. Also, Berred Ouellette, the husband of our friend, Dianne, gave me permission to use her work and her image and a photo of him with poets Preston Hood and Fred Marchant. Berred and his family are a gift Diane gave us with her passing in 2001. I must also mention and thank Ed Ryberg, Maureen’s husband. He allowed me to use several, pieces of Maureen’s work and photographs of her. This must have been-painful for him and we appreciate the submissions. Maureen was a good friend, an inspiration and a damn good poet. We look forward to working with Ed to publish Maureen’s novel and her book of poems.
What was left out of Summer Home Review I? Translations. The Joiner Center Writers’ Workshop offers an enormous variety of experiences for the attendee and for the faculty too, I imagine. Courses run Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and the afternoons offer one or two day courses or speakers. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings it is possible to attend a panel, a movie, a play reading, or a one day workshop by Grace Paley, Yusef or Carolyn. There might be a writing workshop by a visiting Vietnamese writer or an Irish poet or the unique opportunity to spend an afternoon being charmed by Claribel Alegria and Grace Paley. Buried in the frantic pace of Joiner is a pearl called Translation Class facilitated by Martha Collins but first you have to find it.
Translation is never scheduled into the convenient morning class time slots nor is it just after. lunch. Translation is always scheduled late in the afternoon when I have been forced to grapple with the choice of getting into traffic headed for Cape Cod at 2:00pm or staying for Translation and fighting my way to the Bourne Bridge at 5:00pm. For my friends who have to travel back to New Hampshire and Maine the choice is just as hard.
Why would a writer who speaks only English join a translation class and stay late in Boston knowing rush hour traffic waits just off Morrissey:Blvd.? Maybe because at Joiner after you pay the registration fee for the six morning classes, all the rest of the week’s offerings including the evening poetry readings are without charge. Still translating poetry assumes at least two languages are needed. At the orientation each year Martha Collins removes all the barriers that might prevent even the shyest of writers from entering ·her class. Her invitation at orientation is friendly and inclusive. “What we really do is—we read the hell out of these poems,” she said. I was and am, hooked.
Once it was obvious to me that a translation section was essential for SHR II the question was how to present it. Without the original poem a translation might look like the original poem of the Joiner writer. With this concern I asked Martha Collins for help.
First there needed to be an overview of why writers attend and stay in translation class. It is different from any other writing experience. There needed to be translations but Martha and I agreed that publishing the translation of her students would be wonderful but if she could get permission from the Vietnamese poets to use their original poems the difficulty and beauty of the process and the product would be evident and the Translation Section would be extraordinary.
I want to thank Pham Tien Duat, Ly Lan, and Nguyen Quang Thieu for allowing me to use the translations of their poems and for agreeing to let me use a copy of their original poem. I have had to scan in a paper copy of their work in order to give a sense of what the translators were actually working with.
In 1989 while I was in college in Cambridge and attending Joiner we were working on translating Oceano by Pablo Neruda. I brought the poem with me to class and asked four Spanish speaking women at Cambridge College to translate it. All of the translations were beautiful but different. Translating Spanish was a real challenge for me. Working with Nguyen Ba Chung or one of the other Vietnamese writers was part frustration, part inspiration. (Among the issues you must solve are that the pronoun ‘I’ and the article ‘the’ have no equivalent in Vietnamese.)
One of my most memorable times I have ever spent at Joiner, was listening to Nguyen Quang Thieu describe the moonless moment of “seeing the fireflies” that he writes about in his poem. Magic, pure magic.
I am genuinely thankful to Elena Dodd Harap for putting into words her overwhelming feeling entering her first translation class with Martha Collins. Her essay saved me the burden of trying to explain exactly what a Translation Class is, what it is like to be included, what can be accomplished and why the experience becomes such a powerful, personal and addictive experience. “Being possessed by a translation assignment is a mixture of conviction that you’re the only person in the class who really understands this poet, terror that you have hopelessly betrayed the writer, frustration as the word that might break some logjam and allow your translation to flow refuses to rise to consciousness, and euphoria when meanings and languages embrace.” “We struggle toward greater sophistication, not only as writers but as people longing to live fully in a world rich in languages and literatures we can’t begin to comprehend. What matters is the endless attempt to listen.” The Translation Section awaits you.
A literary labyrinth
It is my hope that as a reader of Summer Home Review II you will delight in a poem that might have remained in workshop notebook or that you will hate a poem enough to recite it to a friend, or remember a metaphor when you write your next poem. I want you to remember the love in Metaphorically Eating and the last line of Candace Perry’s play and the power of Muse when she comes visiting. I hope you will be able to trace our common literary bonds and friendships through our works. I think you’ll discover the respect and awe we have for each other and for our teachers.
My personal path to compiling the Summer Home Review I anthology evolved like a labyrinth of experiences, bending back upon itself, growing, including an ever-widening circle of friends who include after 17 years both attendees and faculty. My poetry path always wound toward this second book.
Though throughout the prologue to Summer Home Review and Summer Home Review II I have primarily used the pronoun “I”, neither book would have been written, edited or published without the work of Gary Rafferty, Preston Hood, Dorinda Foley Wegener, Pauline Hebert and others.
The path each poet and writer took in writing 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. If you choose, you may walk with us. In between the lines we have left for you sacred pieces of ourselves. Enjoy your journey.
Jacqueline Murray Loring
Cape Cod, MA