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Sunday, May 13, 2018

An honor

that I am happy to accept.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Ars Poetica

      This weekend while at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival I attended a workshop entitled Ars Poetica taught by Jennifer Jean, Jennifer Martelli, and Marjorie Tesser. 

      The Poetry Foundation says this about Ars Poetica:

Ars Poetica is

      " A poem that explains the “art of poetry,” or a meditation on poetry using the form and techniques of a poem. Horace’s Ars Poetica is an early example, and the foundation for the tradition.        While Horace writes of the importance of delighting and instructing audiences, modernist ars poetica poets argue that poems should be written for their own sake, as art for the sake of art. Archibald MacLeish’s famous “Ars Poetica” sums up the argument: “A poem should not mean / But be.” "
      Below I'm sharing a bit from Horace's manifesto written in 15 BC. I don't find anything about it poetic. Though I do like this excerpt:
"A good and sensible man will censure spiritless verses, he will condemn the rugged, on the incorrect he will draw across a black stroke with his pen; he will lop off ambitious [and redundant] ornaments; he will make him throw light on the parts that are not perspicuous; he will arraign what is expressed ambiguously; he will mark what should be altered; [in short,] he will be an Aristarchus: he will not say, “Why should I give my friend offense about mere trifles?”
      I'm also sharing the one I wrote in the workshop from a prompt the instructors gave us: "If poetry were a room, what or where would it be?" I suspect it would cause Horace to have a Aristarchustic fit. But I wonder. If only he could join me in the kitchen ...
Statue d'Horace

Ars Poetica

Poetry is the kitchen.
First there is the slipper-clad facing
of the bright light of morning.

Then a harsh grinding of beans
… one takes a few slow sips
whether scalding, warm or weak.

Next comes a gathering at the table;
plates, bowls, cups filled with a ladle that
portions ever so carefully.  Seasoned lightly.

Stirred some, the creation comes to stillness.
Tasted, lovingly with the mouth, the ear, the eye.
Eventually there is satiety. Or compost.

You rise, pat your mouth with a napkin,
pause to ponder something out the window,
and scuff off to another room.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

N'Port Lit Fest 2018

       This post is a quick recap of the highlights of my trip to the Newburyport Literary Festival today. I love the festival, and make the trip down every year. There is always far too much to chose from. It is an abundance of riches sprinkled throughout a town that is also.
      In the morning I attended a fun session of middle grade readers interviewing four middle grade authors. I hadn't read any of the books being featured but came away with a strong interest in reading Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly, and especially Like Vanessa by Tami Charles. It is considered historical fiction set way back in 1983!

     My next session was in the children's room at the Newburyport Public Library where I took some time to check out a few books that caught my fancy.
      I  discovered a picture book that I want to shout about: Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris. I'm going to have to confess that I've never been much of an Eggers Fan. His humor just isn't for me. Well, I have long believed that the best picture books are must reading for adults as well as children, and Her Right Foot is must reading for every American! It is simply brilliant, and the message could not be more important or timely. Please read this book. Here's the trailer:

and something from the Horn Book:

     After a delicious lunch break eating Al fresco for the first time this year, I attended a session on flash fiction and ended my day with a great big bang of poetry when I attended a reading called The Yoking of Love and Loss given by Rachel Hadas and Mark Doty. Mark's finale reading his poem memorializing Tamir Rice will stay with me forever. Gut wrenching. Here's a link to the poem, but hearing Mark read it is to feel it tenfold.

     Thanks to all of the volunteers in Newburyport who made this day possible.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

One Could Do Worse ...

     I taught a poetry unit to three fourth-grade classes this month and because they are studying New Hampshire all year I tied the lesson into their study of their home state. I introduced them to Robert Frost, and just one of his poems, Birches, because the birch is the official state tree. We listened to the whole poem several times, but also enjoyed the animated excerpt below.

     Each student generated a cloud of words and phrases in response to other things that are common or iconic in the Granite State,

and eventually they each wrote a poem of place.

     Working with young poets always brings surprising rewards. This time, I unexpectedly found myself coaching the kids to get out in nature and experience her gifts with all of their senses. I shared a poem of mine that resulted from a walk in the woods. I may have been a bit of a scolding nag when it became clear that many of them had never collected rocks, smelled lilacs, or touched a birch tree.

      My great reward came at the end of Friday afternoon when a generally quiet and subdued nine-year-old girl came up to me, and confided in her soft voice, " I found a birch tree in my yard, and I swang from it."

     Poetry to my ears.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

On Becoming A Sankofa Scholar

     So many happy and sad moments this week, enough to fill a year really. I'll just touch on a couple here, perhaps the most important.
     My mentor died. That isn't as sad as it sounds. Hers was a long and well-lived life just a few days shy of 94 years, and I am sure she was ready to go. But the void she leaves behind is huge. As I've been looking back on our friendship, I realized that the last time I heard her read a poem it was one of mine. She had chosen one of the poems from my forthcoming book to share at the Portsmouth Poetry Hoot. Suddenly that seems so much more meaningful.
      She was always a champion of my work, and her encouragement helped me find my voice. For some of us that is a hard-fought task. I may not have been able to do it without her. I remember many years ago when she invited me to join the Seacoast Writer's Circle, and how privileged I felt about getting that invitation.       
      She always read my column when I wrote for the local paper having worked in newspapers for many years herself. I knew if she praised something I had written I had done well. She was not one for false praise and any word of criticism was always kind and constructive. Both gifts of great consequence and I am so grateful for all of the gifts that she gave me.
      There is still a voicemail on my phone from her. I just listened to it again. She recommends a book to me, tells me that my poems "stayed with her" and suggests that I throw a "publication party".

Pat and I are bookends in this photo (taken by Pavel Pyndrys) at a reading at Gibson's Bookstore in Concord, NH, 2014, for The Widows' Handbook: Poetic Reflections on Grief and Survival.

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      I found the note she wrote to me a few years ago when she read an early draft of my almost-finally-finished novel. Here is one paragraph:

     "You may originally have intended to tell the story of the life of Ona Judge Staines, but the book meta-morphed into something much more significant and powerful. What you have done was take two major social issues from the late colonial period and the early years of the new nation - slavery and racism - and explore them as they impacted the lives of two very different but interconnected individuals - George Washington, the most esteemed American of his day, and Ona Judge Staines, the escaped Mount Vernon slave who lived her life in the shadows."

      I do wish I had a chance to tell her about a recent high - That I have been named a Sankofa Scholar. I bet she would agree that is the best title ever! I was asked to write and start giving The Ona Judge Staines tour for the NH Black Heritage Trail in Portsmouth (May through October). I know she would have loved that news, and she likely didn't know that she was instrumental in me getting to this place.
       I know too, she wouldn't want me to be sad at her passing. She would want me to get back to work. My very best work.
       So off I go. Less one champion.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

More About Georgia

      I have spent a couple of weeks sleeping under the starry skies at Georgia O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, and toured her home in nearby Abiquiu. I rode by horseback out to some of the places where she sat and painted, and I have looked longingly at her beloved Pedernal. Here at home I have studied her art, have cooked a few of her recipes, and of course, I have read and written about her. So I thought I had a fairly good idea of who she was.

     So I was pleasantly surprised at how much more I learned about her personality at the current Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) exhibit about her. My companion thought it odd to have so many of her outfits included in the show, but they really do communicate much about her. The show really conveys how very strong, unique and defiant O'Keeffe was, and how artistry was part of every aspect of her life, not just something shown in the well known paintings she produced. Here is how the PEM describes the show followed by my pics:

Georgia O'Keeffe: Art, Image, Style is the first exhibition to explore the art, image and personal style of one of America’s most iconic artists. O’Keeffe’s understated and carefully designed garments, many never before exhibited, are presented alongside photographs and her paintings, illuminating O’Keeffe’s unified modernist aesthetic and distinctive self-styling. For more than 70 years, O’Keeffe shaped her public persona, defied labels and carved out a truly progressive, independent life in order to create her art. Her aesthetic legacy — compact masses, organic silhouettes, minimal ornamentation, and restrained color palettes — continues to capture the popular imagination and inspire leading designers and tastemakers of our day.

 Georgia's self designed and handmade wardrobe!

and here is Andy Warhol's take on G O'K.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

A Black History Post

      For almost a decade now I have been working, in my writing and in my museum work, to make the story of American history more honest and accurate. Beyond making a few people uncomfortable, I haven't made much impact. Yet.
       I will persist.

       I am no longer working regularly in museums, but I still visit them frequently. Last weekend I visited the Peabody Essex Museum, in Salem, Massachusetts. I am fond of this museum, and tour it at least once a year. It is a beautiful space with art from all over the world that is expertly curated and always impressive. My daughter and I had gone down specifically for the Georgia O"Keeffe exhibit (I'll post about that later), but this time I noticed there wasn't much going on at the museum in celebration of Black History Month. Nothing at all that I could see. (In fairness, the PEM does have an extensive collection of African Art but it is not currently on view.)
      And it got me to thinking, how easy it would be to remedy that, especially in the American Art wing where I found this:

     While it was noted (in the small marker pictured above) what was most noteworthy about the people featured in the large portraits, I wondered how relatively easy it would be for the museum to make other connections to black history in the American Art wing with similar markers, or maybe something more eye-catching. I am sure there are countless, fascinating connections that could and should be made to African Americans both well known and unknown as well as to events related to black history in the art pieces on exhibit in that wing, and all of them could be noted near the art as was done here with the Phillis Wheatley connection. 

      We went on a tour of three historical houses that the PEM maintains, and the tours were also completely bereft of black history. I asked the tour guide what she knew of one of the house's history of slaves and servants, and she quickly replied there was none, telling me the date that slavery was abolished in Massachusetts which was a good half century after the house was built. I'm not insisting that the house owners were slave owners but I certainly question it. Either way it is simply not possible that the three houses we toured have no black history to share. Salem played a major role in the slave trade, from shipping fish to the West Indies to feed the enslaved there, to sending and financing slave ships back and forth across the seas. 

       It is important, critically important, to tell these stories. As I have told people I've worked with at history museums in New Hampshire and Maine, if we are not telling the whole story than we are not telling the truth. Historians can't cherry-pick the history they tell. The public is entitled to the truth. The public wants the truth. The public needs the truth.

      As a teacher I think of bringing children of color into these public spaces and it makes me angry. We can do better. Much better. Not just in February, but February is certainly a time to be examining what visitors see and hear.

      And just so I'm not singling out the PEM for criticism, I am disappointed to add that we had an early dinner at a restaurant nearby called Turner's Seafood that I chose because it was housed in a  historic building. I was hoping to learn some of its history when we visited, but found none inside nor on the restaurant's website. Later research shows that it too, has a significant history to share and is listed as site #3 of African American Heritage Sites in Salem as chosen by the National Park Service who notes: 

3. Salem Lyceum 43 Church Street
    The Salem Lyceum opened in 1831, and its rows of banked seats quickly filled with residents of Salem eager to watch demonstrations, lectures, and concerts. Nationally known artists, politicians, philosophers, and scientists, including Daniel Webster, Alexander Graham Bell, and Ralph Waldo Emerson came to speak in the building. Many activists in the abolitionist movement came to the Lyceum as well, such as William Lloyd Garrison. In December 1865, Frederick Douglass lectured in the hall on the assassination of President Lincoln. 
      The Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society The hall was also used for meetings and lectures by the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, whose members included the noted African American abolitionists Charlotte Forten and Sarah Parker Remond. Charles Lenox Remond gave the Society’s anniversary address in 1844 and was frequently asked to speak as part of the Society’s ongoing lecture series.

       How I wish I had known that while we were in the building. Apparently we missed this plaque rushing to get in out of the cold.

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     It feels a tad ironic to me that the hall's original mission was to supplement those with incomplete educations and that the first lecture given there was entitled "The Advantages of Knowledge." 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

       Last weekend I was most fortunate to attend a meeting of Maine Women Authors #MeWA which is a group that gets together on a regular basis at varying locations. This meeting was memorable because of where it took place.
     Thanks to the efforts of a member, Professor Elizabeth  De Wolfe, we met at the Maine Women's Authors Collection wing of the library at the University of New England in Portland. We were given a tour of the collection, and it is beautiful and inspiring, as a place to visit briefly and a place to work for hours.
     Now added to my ever-expanding bucket list is to someday have my work included in the collection! For now it was heart-warming to see friends like Jane Cowen-Fletcher and Betsy Sholl on the shelves.
     Here is a mini-tour for you:

 The space, inside and outside, that houses the collection is beautiful.

 All genres of writing are represented in the collection.
 This gun belonged to author Josephine Peary, wife of Admiral Peary.

This table belonged to May Sarton.

 Sarah Orne Jewett.

 Old and new works, some rare, are preserved and protected.

 Just loved everything about the collection!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A new volunteer gig ...

       I started a new volunteer job this weekend. Not that I really have any spare time, but that has never been the criteria that I use when accepting volunteer positions. Volunteer work should be a labor of love, and this one is like a perfect storm of my interests, and if I may so so, a good use of my skills.

        For a couple of hours each week, I am working as a transcriptionist of the Anti-slavery Collection of Distinction at the Boston Public Library. I am one of a large team of volunteers that reads original documents, and types in a transcription which will eventually be made public for easy reading by anyone, anywhere..

      More details can be found here:

     I think I need better eyeglasses!!

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Friday, January 5, 2018


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Rice Pudding Poetry

Award-Winning Poet David Rivard Featured in Rice Pudding Poetry Series

Poet David Rivard will be the featured poet in the upcoming Rice Pudding Poetry Series on Thursday evening, January 18. Together with a group of “community readers,” including Agnes Charlesworth, Tammi Truax, Alison Harville, Joan Beskenis, Alan Bing, and Lorna Perry, Rivard will read from his most recent collection of poems, Standoff, which has won the 2017 PEN/New England Award for Poetry. Guitarist Woody Allen will also perform.

Rivard is the author of five previous collections, including Wise Poison, winner of the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets in 1996, and Torque, winner of the 1987 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. His poems and essays appear in the American Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, Poetry London, and other magazines. In 2006, Rivard was awarded the Hardison Poetry Prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library, in recognition of both his writing and teaching. Among his other awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Civitella Ranieri, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. A former Poetry Editor at the Harvard Review, Rivard lives in Cambridge, with his wife and daughter, and teaches in the University of New Hampshire MFA Program in Writing.

The evening begins with live music, refreshments, and conversation at 6pm. The reading starts at 6:30pm. This event is free and open to the public, and seating in the upstairs library is limited. A book signing will follow the reading. Rice Public Library is located at 8 Wentworth Street in Kittery. Parking is available in the lots on either side of the Rice Building, or across the street in the Taylor Building lot. Call (207) 439-1553 for more information.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Poetry Salon

     Last weekend I served as facilitator at a poetry salon. I know all of the poets who were expected to attend, and they are an accomplished lot, so I put a lot of thought into what to do with them. Since December was underway I thought about the significance of the time of year for all people everywhere now and throughout history. The importance of the season is something that we all share, a mark of our humanity. It occurred to me that ekphrastic poetry is the same, and so that became the theme of the salon. 
         As an introduction I initiated a discussion of a collaboration that I find simply fascinating; Allen Ginsburg and Paul Cezanne, and I read his poem below, and shared how Ginsberg said that studying Cezanne's paintings had great influence on his HOWL. The poem and a good analysis are here:     

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What's it Like to be You
Migrant_Mother,_Nipomo,_California_(3588771589).jpg (1616×2000)

Mommy? .... Mommy, tell her to go away.
      Mother of sorrows, I think of you now and may have at the hour of your awakening.
Hunger, how is it you followed me this far from home
      I would like to hear you voice.
We've had so little, and our bodies no longer groan.
      And where did your buttons go?
How did I get here
      Mommy, make them go.
and how do I get out?
       Somewhere, oh somewhere, there lies an answer to my prayer.

      As promised here are a couple of links about ekphrastic writing opportunities:

Friday, November 24, 2017

Call for Submissions

      I've always been enamored with Rumi, and love his poem This Being Human. I know that I am not alone in loving that poem and that many people have been helped by reading it. Yet when I hear it I often find myself inspired by just the title, and my monkey mind goes swinging off in another direction. This morning I succumbed to that inspiration and wrote the poem that actually came to me on my yoga mat yesterday. It later occurred to me that I would love to read more of these, poems written from the prompt of those three words, This Being Human.

     So let's do it! I will organize, edit, and seek a publisher if we compile enough poems for a volume. Your submission can be emailed to me at

     Here is the original, though there is no need to stick to Rumi's interpretation of This Being Human. I want to read yours.

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Updated bio

     I am updating my bio and setting up an Amazon author page (which is proving to be fairly challenging) but thought I should share it here as well.

      By day Tammi works with fourth grade readers and writers and as a Connections program facilitator for the NH Humanities Council teaching new adult readers, and at home, writes stories. All of her work is about sharing her love of stories with others, especially in sharing stories that tell truths previously buried. She has lived and worked in New Hampshire, Maine and Germany, and has taught in a variety of nontraditional settings from preschool to prison. In 2008, with NH poet Kyle Potvin, Tammi founded the non-profit The Prickly Pear Poetry Project: Processing the Cancer Experience Through Poetry.
      Children’s literature is a lifelong passion and she has several picture books ready for a publisher. She is currently working on two works of heavily-researched historical fiction; a middle-grade novel-in-verse (ready for publication) and an adult novel, still being revised. A volume of her poetry (also about history) is due out in Feb. 2018 by Hobblebush Books. Her work can be found in several journals, newspapers, magazines, and online, including at The Huffington Post. In 2014 she was the first winner of The Provenance Prize for creative short fiction, and has been awarded stays at several prominent writing retreats. In 2015 and 2016 Tammi was awarded the Buffler Poetry Residency at Portsmouth (NH) High School. She was recently selected to be the Maine Beat Poet Laureate for 2018-2020. Tammi is a member of many writing and historical associations. She writes from a cottage in southern Maine, and is seeking representation for her work.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Found Poem

Thursday, October 19, 2017



I am pleased to be a member of the MWPA. Learn more at ( .    

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Banned Book Week

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Looking forward to this!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Working with Marilyn Nelson

      This week, as the grand finale of my much too brief summer vacation, I took a little road trip up to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire to attend a couple of workshops taught by Marilyn Nelson. She is one of my favorite author / poets and I had never met her so was really looking forward to the day.

       She first read to us, poems by four poets and had us attend to particular words that stuck with us while she did. I especially enjoyed learning about YA artist Curtis Crisler's Tough Boy Sonatas.
        During our writing time she asked us to "think about the US at this moment" and then challenged us to write golden shovels using some of the words we'd attended to during the readings. I had tried writing golden shovels before with little success, and I'm not sure I did any better this time but I include my attempts below.

     If you are not familiar with the golden shovel form, a type of found poetry created by Terrance Hayes, here is a link to a full introduction:

       I took this photo in the church, of the altar behind Marilyn, which I found so well suited to the mood of the poems we were working. (Created by a VT fiber artist, name unknown to me.)

Golden Shovels for Our America

    We survive so many yesterdays
gleeful or garbage
addiction ripening
holy blood in
your syringe, my syringe, pass the
spoon down the shit-hole hall.

I smile though grayed
dazzle in
flying and
wonder white bread gray
my dream
survives, makes
me pause just for a
minute, I become giddy
my poem the sound
I am not
supposed to make, turns strong.

                                I wonder will I?
                        I wonder if we shall?
                            Can we just create
                              a better ending if
                        we try harder, try not
                                          to make a
      joke of our freedom, a foot note
in a democracy that devolved into a
                                         shit - hole.

With this last one I excused myself from using words from the prompt poems to see what would result.

So many yesterdays
      accumulate like garbage;
            old apples ripening,
                    having fallen in
                          the shade, decomposing in the
dirt, uncherished, while a wooden bowl sits empty in the hall.

             Thanks to Marilyn, Arts on the Edge
and  Rev. Gina at The First Congregational Church for a wonderful experience. The following photos are from other stops made that day; a quick swim and feeding dinner to a duck out of my hand at the lake, a pullover at the Governor Wentworth summer house site (he's featured in my book ).

 I saw poetry prompts all over town!