Jen Ashburn's Blog

November 6, 2018

How long does it take to write a poem?

Apparently, five years. Sometimes. I started "Mountain Split" in 2013 but just couldn't get it right. After a lot of tweaking, here it is in The Fourth River, along with a poem that takes place in Frick Park, Pittsburgh.
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Published on November 06, 2018 05:21 Tags: poetry, publications

August 12, 2018

Spoken Word Sundays NYC

I'm excited to read at Spoken Word Sundays NYC on Sept. 2nd with Jee Leong Koh and Jason Irwin. 4pm, The Parkside Lounge, 317 East Houston Street. Plus open mic. Come on by!
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Published on August 12, 2018 19:12 Tags: readings

July 24, 2018

Naming It

I'm honored to have a poem up at the Pittsburgh Quarterly today. I even managed to work in a $10 word ("chiaroscuro"), for which I thank fellow poet Judy Brice. Always good to have a list of interesting words in the back of your notebook.
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Published on July 24, 2018 05:38 Tags: poetry, publications

May 21, 2018

Words & Vibes Audio Recordings and Photo

photo of 4 men and 1 woman We had a wonderful event Saturday here in Pittsburgh. Pictured (L to R) are musician Aaron Davis, and poets Justin Vicari, Jason Irwin, Robert Gibb, and yours truly. Joan and Don from the Hemingway's series were kind enough to record our words for all of posterity. Huge thanks to the White Whale Bookstore for hosting.

You can find the audio recordings here: https://hemingwayspoetryseries.blogsp...
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Published on May 21, 2018 20:01 Tags: audio-recordings, readings

May 17, 2018

A ten-book-at-a-time habit

stacks of books

Does anyone else have a ten-book-at-a-time reading habit? Or is it just me?

Then there's the corollary stack-books-at-random-spots-around-the-apartment habit.

And the not so surprising never-finish-anything habit.

I've become a zone reader, grabbing whatever is near.

And now I'm plagued with need-to-organize-my-books guilt. So, how to do it?

Some suggestions from friends:
- by spine color
- by author last name
- by genre, then author last name
- by author last name EXCEPT those encyclopedic how-to books because you can never remember who wrote those

I fear once I start moving books, it'll lead to reading more books (or at least starting to read them). They'll end up stacked like rock heaps marking hiking trails, and my apartment will mimic those used bookstores that buy more than they can ever sell (I wonder how they manage to stay in business).

If you have any suggestions, please let me know. If you come over for tea, I'll try to shift some books around so you can walk through the door.
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Published on May 17, 2018 06:06 Tags: book-shelf-strategies, reading-habits

May 13, 2018

An Ambivalent Mother's Day Poem

A poem of mine, "It's True I Want the Splintering," was published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last Saturday, May 5th. The online version was delayed, but went up today. Maybe it's fate, since it is a mother poem, and here it is Mother's Day. I have a lot of mother poems, it seems. Anyway, here it is, if you'd like to have a read:
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Published on May 13, 2018 17:06 Tags: poetry, publications

May 3, 2018

Words & Vibes, May 19th, Pittsburgh

Hi friends. If you're in the Pittsburgh area, join me for a reading on May 19th, 7pm, at White Whale Bookstore, along with Jason Irwin, Justin Vicari, and Robert Gibb. Aaron Davis from Erie will provide the musical vibes, and emcee Valerie Bacharach will keep us all in line.
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Published on May 03, 2018 19:33 Tags: readings

March 27, 2018

Public Poetry Project

I'm very grateful to have had a poem of mine, "Our Mother Drove Barefoot," selected for the 2018 Pennsylvania Center of the Book Public Poetry Project. The reading is tomorrow night at 7pm EDT. If you're interested, you can watch the live stream here:

And if you're in State College, you can attend in person at Foster Auditorium. I'll be reading with fellow honorees Dawn Lundy Martin and Marci Nelligan. Unfortunately Thomas Devaney won't be able to attend, but his poems will be read by William Brockman.
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Published on March 27, 2018 20:20 Tags: readings

March 4, 2018

Reading at Old Fox Books, Annapolis, Sat. 3/10 3pm

Delighted to be reading at The Old Fox Bookstore and Coffeehouse in downtown Maryland this Saturday, 3/10 at 3pm, with Liz Glodek, Jason Irwin, and host Hiram Larew. Would love to see some fellow bookworms!
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Published on March 04, 2018 19:30 Tags: readings

May 15, 2017

I who have towed my tomb ship out of the earth again

The Singing Knives by Frank Stanford A friend recommended Frank Stanford to me ages ago. I'm finally reading his work and am rightly blown away (what had I been waiting for?). Visceral images in a complex landscape, and a very human speaker. Here's an excerpt from "Bergman the Burning Ship" from The Singing Knives. I can't say exactly who Bergman is, although I'm guessing the Swedish filmmaker. The poem is pretty incredible to me even without knowing for certain, but I'm sure there are other layers of meaning I've not tapped into yet. Anyway, here's a taste:

"I swim / through the cold and open blood of bandits / one-armed with a ghost sword / and a boy with a wounded hand / his curls in my teeth / his neck in my mouth"

And then:

"I who have towed my tomb ship / out of the earth / to set us both afire / again / with my song / so the boy can / bite down on the rope / so I can say 'Swim my son / tow me through the poison waters'"

So much tension with the father/son relationship, the danger, the digging up of the ship, the fire. This will stay with me for a long while.
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Published on May 15, 2017 06:23 Tags: poetry, what-i-m-reading