"This work is unlike any other, in its range of rich, conjuring imagery and its dexterity, its smart voice. Carroll-Hackett doesn’t spare us—but doesn’t save us—she draws a blueprint of power and class with her unflinching pivot: matter-of-fact and tender." —Jan Beatty

Posts tagged ‘book tour’

Death for Beginners, New Book Released, Thanks and Love to Kelsay Books!

Happy Halloween! Death for Beginners is now released on Amazon!

What a perfect date to turn it loose  Thanks and Love to Karen Kelsay Davies of Kelsay Books for making this book a home, and special spooky gratitude today to Susan Deer Cloud, Clare L. Martin, and Jerry D. Mathes II, for their willingness to read and offer their thoughts on the book 

Buy Death for Beginners Here!

Death for Beginners Front Cover Crop

So Excited and Grateful! Readings Upcoming This Fall!

Grateful to some generous lovely people for hosting readings for my crazy lil prose poems 🙂 Upcoming readings this fall,  from A Little Blood, A Little Rain (FutureCycle Press 2016), Trailer Park Oracle (Kelsay Books 2016), and The Night I Heard Everything (FutureCycle Press 2015).

August 13 – Scott Depot, WV, Hosted by Mary Imo and John Stike

October 1 – Heritage Village, Calhoun County Park, Grantsville, WV, Hosted by Lisa Hayes Minney

October 19 – Longwood University Writers Reading Series, Farmville VA

October 26 – Waterbean Reading Series, Waterbean Coffee, NorthCross Shopping Center 9705 Sam Furr Rd., Ste A, Huntersville, NC

December 5 – Readings on Roslyn, Winston Salem, NC, Hosted by Kathryn Milam


Grateful especially to these generous hosts, and to the publishers who made these books possible ❤

Diane Kistner, Robert S. King, and all the great folks at FutureCycle Press


Karen Kelsay Davies, Editor of all All Things at Kelsay Books and Aldrich Press

Please check out their whole beautiful catalogs!

If you’re interested in hosting a reading or event, please contact me at carrollhackettma@gmail.com  

So Excited! Readings Scheduled for Fall 2016!

Sooo excited! 😀 Woot!!!

Readings scheduled so far for this fall in West Virginia (this coming weekend! Thank you Love you Mary Imo Stike!), two in October: one here at Longwood, and one in the Charlotte area (Thank you Love you Jonathan Kevin Rice!), and then in December in WInston Salem (Thank you Love you Kathryn Milam!)

And BIG GRATITUDE to the fabulous generous editors who made these crazy lil books possible–Karen Kelsay Davies with Kelsay Books and Diane Kistner and Robert S. King with FutureCycle Press

! Y’all rock!

First Interstellar Poetry House Concert Rocks! (Or Hey—You See That $20 Bill Over There On The Ground?)

Yesterday we had the first house concert reading in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was a blast! 🙂 My wonderful hosts, MeLaina and Frank (and Maddie and LeiLani and Lorenzo 🙂 ) had prepped everything, and I’m so grateful to them for opening their home and their hearts to me and this new adventure.


the beautiful poet and my host MeLaina Ramos

I was sooo nervous. Excited. But nervous. In a way that’s different than before other experiences. I’ve given readings. Not tons and tons, but a respectable number, and I’m always a little pace-y, a little twitchy. But this was different. More.


Maybe because it was so unknown. Maybe it’s because I’ve been blabbing and blogging this idea, this new-again salon, this house concert reading model, and so if it fell apart around me, it was gonna be in a big ol’ public way. 🙂 But yeah, I’ve had that happen before, time and again over my life—set off on some crazy idea I have only to have the timing or the powers that be or the universe slam a big old brick wall down in front of me to run face-first into in the same grand tradition from my childhood of that coyote chasing that roadrunner.

Wile E Coyote hits rock bottom



But I really think a large part of the nervousness was how badly I want this to work, not just for me, but for poetry and poets in general. I don’t want to feel at the mercy of someone or something else when it comes to controlling my creative life or defining my success. And in ways that matter to me more than I can express, I don’t want my students to feel that kind of helplessness. I want them to stay excited about the work and the business of being an artist. I want them feel empowered and hopeful about sharing their work with the world.

But to do that, I have to be honest, with myself, and with them, about the state of being a poet these days. And we have to be honest about why we’re doing this in the first place:

I want to be read.


I’ve heard all kinds of reasons artists give for making their art, for living the writer’s life. And I’m not trying in any way to diminish what any writer says he or she wants from the creative life they’re living or making. But I would challenge any writer to deny that at the heart of what we do burns the desire to be read.

And if we want to be read, we have to make art, but we also have to sell art. We have to be business savvy.

business-needs-more-art1We have to learn to be as creative and fearless in the getting-art-out-there part as we are in getting the words on the page.

I tell my students a story I heard years ago, not even sure where I heard it now, about a study done by a psychology department on luck. I would cite the source if I could remember it, but it went something like this: A large group of test subjects were asked if they believed in luck, if they thought they were lucky or not. The group was split between those who did believe in luck, and a smaller break out between whose who didn’t believe they personally were lucky, and those who didn’t believe in luck at all. Belief parameters established, they walked the test subjects through an area in which they had planted ten, twenty, and fifty dollar bills. At a rate of more than eight to one (those are the numbers I remember from my first hearing anyway….), the people who believed they were lucky spotted the planted money.


Where this study actually took place, or when, or whether the numbers are right or not (I can’t even recall the teacher who told it to me), the point, I believe, is how much our perception feeds and manifests our passions into reality. What we call luck, I believe, is something we have way more control over than we generally believe, particularly if we’re willing to take risks and get creative, in both how we define our success and how we pursue it—and more importantly, I think, in how we perceive ourselves.

Yes, I’m an artist. But I also have to be a business person, in the business of promoting my art, both my own individually, and that of others in my field. In my case, that means writers. For me personally, it especially means promoting poetry. Or what many call the Po-Biz.

What is the Po-Biz? It is networking, submitting, editing; revising, getting rejected, submitting again, doing anything you need to do to get your poems out into the hands of the readers.

You know, in journals, online, at conferences. Out there. In the world. In the poetry world.


Which we’ve been told repeatedly is dead.

So maybe it’s time to rethink what this Po-Biz is.

“In a crisis, creativity is more important than ever,” says Jerry Wind, a marketing expert and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “Companies fail when they stagnate and become complacent.”

And if we’re gauging on book sales, poetry is arguably in crisis. Maybe it’s time to pay a little more attention to Biz part of all this.

Poetry publishers do the best they can on their end, most of them taking on the whole task as a labor of love, putting their own resources and energy into the creation of the very books we as writers covet having with our names on the front. So how are we,  as individual artists, doing our part?


I love what Michael La Ronn says about this in his blog The Business of Poetry,“In the digital age, each of us is responsible for our own destiny. A successful career means approaching the industry like an entrepreneur—or a poetrypreneur, if you will. The poetrypreneur lives at the intersection between art and commerce.”

Commerce—that’s the part we don’t want to think, or talk about. But we have to, don’t we?

We live in a culture of commodification, and as much as we sooooo don’t want to think of or talk about our beloved poetry as a commodity, we do, in the face of this crisis, have to think and talk about value.

Not just the intrinsic value we know poetry to have, both for the individual and the culture as a whole, the beauty and solace it can bring to our lives, but value in the commerce-based culture in which we’re creating it.

How are we, as the makers, defining that value? Or are we letting others define it for us, while we stand by and mourn their (whoever they are—publishers, critics…) decisions?

And how do we bring what we do back into a place where it’s valued in our culture?

No one’s writing a never-ending eulogy for indie music; so why poetry? I think it has to do, at least partly, with the message we ourselves are sending.

Musicians don’t play only for other musicians. Nor do painters or photographers or illustrators only promote their work to other visual artists.

terryetherton_galleryshow cdconcert3

Our brothers and sisters in the other areas of the arts are out in the world, not just the arts world, but the world at large. They’re out there getting their hustle on, chasing down commissions and gigs, and more, for the most part—at least way more often than we are–they’re negotiating payment. They expect to be paid. Sure, everyone starts out paying some dues and rolling some freebies for exposure, but as the hard work and the training and the artistic maturity progresses, artists in other disciplines do something that I don’t think we, as poets, always do:

They send a clear message that the work they do has value.

Even buskers throw open the guitar case for monetary donations, sending that same message: If you like what I do, here’s how you express your appreciation for its value.

http://www.ashevillestreetmusic.com/  Carolina Catskins with Washboard Sadie busking Asheville Street Music  Asheville, NC Check out their video here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0mxherHpxo

Carolina Catskins with Washboard Sadie busking Asheville Street Music
Asheville, NC
Check out their video here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0mxherHpxo

One of the best discussions I’ve seen about artists taking responsibility and control of defining the value of what we do is Molly Priesmeyer’s article for the StarTribune from October 2014, its straight-forward title exactly embodying one of the central challenges I think we face: “Artists: Quit Givng Your Work Away For Free.”

She writes, and I agree, that “artists have a real role in how they define the value of their own work. Years ago, there was a magazine here in town that claimed the main “payment” for its writers was prestige and exposure. Meanwhile, the magazine sold the other side of those written “prestige” pages for big ad dollars. Someone was making money, and it certainly wasn’t the writers. The new writers may have longed for the exposure, but by donating work to a for-profit magazine, they only served to devalue the work of all writers everywhere.”

She goes on  to conclude that “by continuing to give it away for virtually free, we only serve to give more value to the things that don’t matter. And we help reinforce the wrongheaded idea that art and creativity are hobbies, not something that has real value to our communities.”

Yes, not everything can be commodified. And yes, we don’t go into poetry for the money. But we do, as writers, complain a lot about the fact that it isn’t valued in the larger market, without, I believe, thinking through and getting really honest about what that word value really means in all its permutations.

The word 'Worth' highlighted in green, under the heading 'Value'

Yesterday’s first poetry house concert embodied all my own personal beliefs of the value of poetry as a whole.

Shared emotional communication of the kind only poetry can do.

Community. Celebration. Conversation. And real-by-gawd-book-buying Readers.

In a perfect Mother’s Day weekend atmosphere of celebration, complete with my host’s beautiful babies scampering through the flowers and snitching peanut butter cookies from the refreshment table, around twenty people came together among the brilliant blaze of azalea and rhododendron to get this crazy tour started.

Some of the guests I knew, former students. Several brought their own moms, an added delight to an already beautiful day. Others were friends of my host, and neighbors, and coworkers, new friends to me now, and new or back-again readers of contemporary poetry.

Each attendee made a donation as they entered MeLaina’s gorgeous Birdhouse back yard, willing and happy they told me over the day, to support a local artist, to have the experience of sharing that time and space together.


We shared food, time, such good talk, and poetry, not just the work I read, but in the one on one conversations after, as I inscribed twenty copies of The Night I Heard Everything, I heard stories of the poetry and poets they remembered from childhood, the memories of middle school teachers who read poetry to their classes.  One beautiful elder told me in the softest voice about the reading of Sonnets From the Portuguese 43 at her wedding sixty years ago.


Leah, a bubbly middle school teacher, told me how she had gone to readings while she was in college, and how much she missed gatherings like the laughter-filled crowd we stood in at that moment. She made me promise that if I had another book come out, I’d come back and do it all again.

Ain’t gonna lie 🙂 If you know what a moosh I am, I couldn’t anyway. I got a little weepy signing some of those books, so grateful for their generosity, so grateful for the moment, so grateful for poetry being in my life.

Fifteen copies of the book accompanied the day’s donations. Another five or so people who came had already bought copies of the book online and brought those copies with them for me to sign.

Twenty new readers 🙂

And I made a couple hundred dollars. Um, on poetry 🙂

And given the questions I was asked about what other poets I love and would suggest, perhaps one of the benefits of this was also a new group of people who before might not have checked out the poetry shelves at a bookstore, but who now just might.

poetry shelves

The readers are out there. But we have to change how we find them and put poetry directly into their hands.

One of the moments that reassured me that this crazy idea just might fly, happened when one of the people there at the reading, a beautiful young woman, one of my alums with a growing body of publications herself, talked to me about maybe beginning to put her own first book together. I told her I’d help her any way I can. She glanced around where we sat at the people laughing and talking, each of them holding a copy of my new book in their hands, and she said, “If I get a book, maybe I could do this kind of reading too?”

I grinned, feeling my heart fill up, and patted her hand, saying, “Yep, sure could, couldn’t you?”

So…how’d the first poetry house concert work out?

After all these years of elbowing my students about that proverbial $20 on the ground they might be missing, of telling them not to be afraid to create their own opportunities, to promote their passions, to dare to trust their art and their hearts, I’d say it all turned out just as wonderful as I had hoped 🙂

Can’t wait for the next one! May 23rd, Raleigh, NC 🙂 Have poetry! Will travel!

BookTour-2-web (1)

Love and good words, y’all ❤



Links to Cool People and Reads Mentioned Here ❤

MeLaina Ramos rockin over at PostPartum Poet: https://postpartumpoet.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/staying-afloat/?fb_action_ids=10100624553890867&fb_action_types=news.publishes&fb_ref=pub-standard





Looking For My Parents (or What To Do About the Washington Post’s Claim That Poetry Is Dead?)

One of my earliest memories is of my mama mopping, in that little single-wide trailer that was my childhood home in North Carolina. The trailer had no carpet, just that late 60’s speckled vinyl flooring, and she mopped every inch of it, keeping it spotless down to each corner, as they say, “clean enough to eat off of.”:-) What’s striking about these recollections, though, is not the mopping itself, although that little tiny woman cleaned those floors with a ferocity that still cracks me up. What I love the most about these mopping-memories is the poetry she recited as she mopped.


Thin curtains lifted by a stray breeze through the rolled out windows, lemon-colored sunshine floating with dust striping a ladder of light across the battered couch and damp linoleum floors, my mama’s pretty little doll-sized bare feet, and that mop. In the sharpest memory, she’s reciting Rudyard Kipling at the top of her lungs 🙂 the British turn of word melding perfectly with her lilting Appalachian accent, the cadence of her recitation keeping perfect time with the swish-swish-swoop of that raggedy string mop:

And it was Din! Din! Din!

You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!

Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,

By the livin’ Gawd that made you,

You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

gunga din

Poe’s Annabelle Lee, Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, Whitcomb Riley’s The Raggedy Man, Longfellow’s Paul Revere, Cullen Bryant’s Thanatopsis, Edgar Guest”s Home:

 Home ain’t a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute; 

Afore it’s home there’s got t’ be a heap o’ living in it.

Edgar Guest showed up, too, when I doubted myself, was afraid to do something, try something new:

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,

There are thousands to prophesy failure,

There are thousands to point out to you one by one,

The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,

Just take off your coat and go to it;

Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing

That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.


My daddy, too, reciting Shakespeare and Yeats, the hazel wood and stolen child, and always—always—he and Mama both returning to Whitman, Mama reciting whole long sections from Song of Myself–Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul—Daddy delivering O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells! in his persistent Brooklyn accent. I still have the beaten thin first copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass they gave me as a gift when I was barely ten.

whitman leaves of grass my book

Why does this matter to the book tour I’m building? Because more memories than I can tell you about my parents have them surrounded by books, and neither of my parents were academics. In fact, until I was sixteen, neither of my parents were college educated. Dad had started in seminary in New York, but left without finishing to marry my mama. Mama went to community college to finally get her nursing degree when I was fourteen, proudly finishing her associate’s as a registered nurse when I was sixteen. These two people, far from those insulated academic halls, could, at any given second, recite from memory more poetry, more passages from all the great books, than nearly all of the literati—academics or writers—I’ve met in the more than twenty years I’ve spent in the university community.

I had the privilege for more than a few years to chair the Dos Passos Prize for Literature at the university where I work, an award I’m fond of as its purpose is to recognize under-appreciated writers, particularly those at mid-career. The last time I stood on the stage to open the prize ceremony, I was ecstatic to be introducing the novelist Robert Bausch, one of my favorite writers and people. Bobby is heartbreakingly talented, relentlessly forthright, both in his art and in person, and brilliant—in the same ways my parents were brilliant. I remember wishing time and again that my mama especially could have met Bobby. She would have loved his work, if not his politics 😉 but man, would they have had a blast matching minds and wits!

That night, I looked out over the crowd in the auditorium on Longwood’s campus, seats filled with students, some of them willingly, others there for the promise of extra-credit from their teachers, faculty, present and retired, and a handful of local people who support our small campus events. I studied that crowd, glanced over at where Bobby sat waiting for his introduction, and suddenly, I thought:

Where were my parents?

Not literally. Both my parents had walked on by the night this event took place, but I wondered where the people like my parents were, why they weren’t there with us. My parents couldn’t be the only ones, people who weren’t academics who loved good literature, who loved poetry, right? In fact, I know they weren’t—and aren’t. I have friends, people both older and younger than me, who are not academics, without college degrees, all who read voraciously, who read everything from the canon to comic books, who can hold forth the same way my parents did, reciting and commenting on everything they’ve read with perspective and insight equal to any PhD, and from whom I learn from in every conversation. 

**The young man who works as a highway surveyor, with his dreadlocks and rugged work boots, who grows his own food determined to move toward self-sufficiency, plays guitar to his beloved dog, and can sit with you by a fire he’s built for conversations on everything from conservation theory to recited verses from the I Ching to statistics and details recalled from stacks and stacks of books on Appalachian history.

**The communications engineer whose work specializes in systems associated with nuclear power plants, an absolutely brilliant autodidact, self-taught in more areas than I could even list here, who draws up effortlessly snippets from Thoreau or Dawkins or Ovid or a whole Shakespearean sonnet delivered in his deep Carolina drawl.

**The soldier who has seen and survived four deployments, two to Iraq, two to Afghanistan, who has read literally hundreds of titles across genres since he began his career in the Army almost two decades ago at eighteen.

**The postmaster in the tiny tiny post office where I live, who has not only read as much as my parents, but who—I swear—seems to have read everything ever listed in the NYT and who also reads all of the critical reviews of the novels he loves as well. I make notes while we talk through the window, taking his reading suggestions tucked into my pocket when I leave.

**The woman who works at the gas station where I stop, who always asks what I’m reading as she rings up my purchases, and pulls out a piece of blank receipt paper so she can jot down titles I suggest, especially poetry, so she can take it when she goes once a week to our small local library. She smiles, sighs wistfully, and says. “I love poetry.”

An article in The Washington Post the other day announced yet again that poetry was dead, this time complete with the bar graphs and charts that I guess are supposed to make it inarguable. Yes, I’m another voice that, if I looked around at my own immediate world, would want to disagree. My day to day life is filled with poets, and writers, and readers, and I see events and initiatives and young slam poets and performance artists and other people doing amazing things like the Miami Poetry Festival to fill the world with beautiful words all the time. But….

but I can’t discount the article as much as I might want to, no matter how it hurts my poet’s heart. I can’t disagree because I’m still looking out at those audiences, in bookstores and university auditoriums, and not finding my parents, or my non-academic friends.

My dear-beautiful-sister-in-the-word, the crazy-talented poet Amy Tudor, in a conversation we had about the academic hostage-taking of poetry, astutely called it “the Echo Chamber Effect,” saying, “Being only able to publish in (and write for) academia is doing a lot of damage. People already think poetry’s elitist and “gated,” and that’s not helping.”

So, I guess I’m asking—Did the audience leave poetry? Or did we leave them?

Did we leave our audience—locking ourselves and the art away inside that academic Echo Chamber, away from the very people who taught their children to value it, to love it, like my parents?

And what can we do about it? As a teacher of young writers, in that very same insulated academic arena, this bothers me on more levels than anything having to do with my own work. When that twenty-year old poet flops in the chair in my office, excited to talk about revision of his latest work, more excited to begin planning for grad school applications, what do I tell him about the future of this art we both love so much? I know one teacher who openly discourages students from pursuing graduate work for a number of reasons; by his own admission, though, his main reason is the horrible employment market for academics. I understand that he’s trying to, as he puts it, be realistic with them, but isn’t he just furthering the insulation by assuming the only future is academic?

How do I respond to the parade of students I engage with daily who soooo love the literature, and who soooo want to write? I’ve always been what some would call brutally honest with my students—about revision, about the difficult odds of getting published, about the changing nature of publishing, dashing those romanticized notions they have of the glamorous writer’s life they imagine. They call it my Random-House-Is-Not-Looking-For-You speech. But do I tell them, as my colleague does, to give it up?

The word I’ve found myself using more and more often over the last ten years has been: Adapt.

plan b

More and more of the readership is to be found online, no matter how much we love the smell of a newly printed page. More and more it’s on us to go chase that readership down. More and more we have to imagine and create our own opportunities. More and more it’s on us, as artists, to quit, as another astute friend said to me in a conversation about all of this, “quit taking comfort in our martyrdom,” and take responsibility for our own creative lives, not just the making, not just the writing, but the getting-out-there-and-selling part too. Adapt or die—isn’t that the old adage?

This house-concert book tour is, for right now anyway, my attempt to practice what I preach.

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done

But he with a chuckle replied

That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one

Wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.~Edgar Guest

Or maybe I’m just hitting the road with this box of books, because I really miss my literature-loving parents. Yeah, maybe that’s it too.


Links to cool people mentioned here ❤

The inimitable Robert Bausch! Check out his latest book: Far As the Eye Can See!   http://www.robertbausch.org/

Some of Any Tudor’s amazing work: http://www.connotationpress.com/a-poetry-congeries-with-john-hoppenthaler/2011/april-2011/812-amy-tudor-poetry

Miami Poetry Festival: “To have great poets, there must be great audiences too.”~Walt Whitman http://www.omiami.org/festival


Next up: Do we dare….talk about value? 

Literary House Concert: What Is It and How to Start (or Getting Intimate Like Gertrude Stein)

Happy Weekend, y’all!

I’ve been working this week on getting promotional materials together for this THE HEARD EVERYTHING INTERSTELLAR BOOK TOUR! Thanks to my computer-whiz son, a talented artist and photographer and all-around-awesome-grown-kid, J Hackett, this happened!


thanks and love for the poster design and execution to my talented talented son J Hackett ❤

So it’s feeling real now, y’all–this poetry house concert tour. And I’m getting into the logistics of all this fun. So what’s a house concert anyway? And where did all this start?

A traditional house concert is a musical concert or performance art presented in someone’s home or apartment or a nearby small private space such as a rec room, barn, lawn, or back yard. The feel-good adjective most often heard to describe a house concert experience is intimate.

I like that word 🙂 Makes me shiver a little 🙂

While this is all exciting and new to me as a poet, house performances actually have been around a long time, across all of the arts. People have pulled a chair or some grass or shook out a blanket for centuries, to be entertained by the traveling bard in ancient Ireland, or to listen to the 16th century music performed in a chamber in a nobleman’s home (thus chamber music), on into the 19th and 20th century when the Vanderbilts and the Carnegies had their fancy friends in to hear noted artists on those thunderously grand old pipe organs.


These get-togethers weren’t confined to the wealthy. While the examples associated with the upper classes are the ones recorded in the history books, I’m sure enough to argue that the earliest performances of this kind took place much much earlier, folks gathered around fires, on porches, on break from working in the fields, where music and poetry and storytelling all gave not only comfort and entertainment, but became the beautiful and artful records of the rich lives of people who seldom make it into those same history texts. Folk music, country music, and blues music in the United States all have long histories of this kind of performance, prior to the rise of availability of recorded music.

History is filled with examples of people gathering in private homes and backyards to enjoy music and recitations, to support artists of all kinds.

House concerts have made a major resurgence in the 20th and 21st centuries, with all genres getting in on the fun. According to Wikipedia, DJ Kool Herc is credited with helping to start hip hop and rap music at a house concert at an apartment building in the South Bronx. North American punk music came to life in basements, and I’m old enough to remember and too old to tell you how many garage bands I personally sat on concrete to listen to in my own rock’n’roll coming of age in the 70s and 80s. I’ve heard some of the best music ever sitting in a lawn chair, eating potluck mac’n’cheese, and drinking from a plastic cup, having made my donation, happily grateful for the music and the company.


House Concert with the fabulous Daniel Bailey Summer 2012 🙂 See the link to Daniel’s website below!


But historically, this wasn’t limited to music.

Time travel again back to 16th century Italy where the tradition of the salone or salon began and flourished well into the 17th and 18th centuries throughout Europe. Again, according to Wikipedia, a salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation about literature, philosophy, politics, and the arts.

These gatherings often deliberately followed Horace’s definition of the aims of—guess what? You got it!–Poetry! 🙂

Horace said the aim of Poetry was “either to please or to educate” (“aut delectare aut prodesse est”). From Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia who transformed her court into the most influential cultural center of Germany in the 1700s, getting the conversation on for the likes of Goethe and Christoph Martin Wieland, poet and translator of William Shakespeare to the famed French patronesses of all the arts, literary salons go way back. 

Gertrude Stein, Fanny Butcher (publisher of the Chicago Tribune ), Alice Roullier (art dealer), Alice Toklas and writer Thorton Wilder. In front, Bobsy (photographer's wife) and Richard Drummond Bokum, sales executive. Photo: Charles B. Goodspeed

Gertrude Stein, Fanny Butcher (publisher of the Chicago Tribune ), Alice Roullier (art dealer), Alice Toklas and writer Thorton Wilder. In front, Bobsy (photographer’s wife) and Richard Drummond Bokum, sales executive. Photo: Charles B. Goodspeed

Jump forward through time and the literary salon rocked on, with Mark Twain and the Bohemians of San Francisco, to Gertrude Stein’s famous Saturday gatherings in Paris, to the legendary parties of Gerald and Sara Murphy—Wait, who?

Gerald and Sara Murphy toast each other at Swan Cover, their home in East Hampton, ca. 1963 (Photographer unknown)

Gerald and Sara Murphy toast each other at Swan Cover, their home in East Hampton, ca. 1963 (Photographer unknown)

Gerald and Sara Murphy aren’t as well-remembered as their famous group of friends, but without the Murphys’ support, financial and emotional, in 1920s Paris, the greats like Ernest Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter, and other shining stars of the Lost Generation may not have even made the art we’re lucky enough to still have today.

Because—and yes, I know I said this last time 🙂 — the real stars of the house concert model are the hosts, people willing to open that garden gate, invite friends, and show generous public support for the arts.

Who are these wonderfully crazy art-loving people? I call them friends 🙂 Like the generous and fabulous Murphys, Frank and MeLaina Ramos are the hosts for the inaugural Interstellar event. Aren’t they beautiful? The critic in the back is Lorenzo, and his born-to-be-famous sisters Madison and LeiLani were no doubt out ruling the world 🙂 


I asked my friends if they’d be willing to host a poetry house concert to promote my new book, and they said Yes, ’cause they’re beautiful and generous like that. They were as as excited about the idea as I was! And the cool thing that’s happened since I first asked is that the events are taking on the personalities of the beautiful people hosting them, as diverse and interesting as they are themselves. That’s been some of the most fun for me! We coordinated calendars, chose dates. I suggested the potluck, hoping to create the least work, cost, or inconvenience for these kind people as I could. Then I drafted the basic invitation, sending it to my hosts to change as needed to fit their event.

We kept it simple 🙂 It looks like this:


Sample Invitation

The Heard Everything Interstellar Book Release Tour!

Dear friends, family and arts-loving neighbors –

You’re invited to a brand new kind of house concert—A Poetry Party!

Yep, poetry.

Join us for good food, good drink, good company, and a poetry reading!

in our home

with Poet Mary Carroll-Hackett

to celebrate the release of her brand new collection of prose poems

The Night I Heard Everything, from FutureCycle Press


with an optional potluck dinner starting at 6 pm.

If you are coming to the dinner, please bring a dish, dessert or drink to share.


What else: The suggested donation (we’re all pitching in to pay the artist!) is $15. Each guest receives a personally inscribed copy of the poet’s book.

We hope you can join us.


How many people you invite will be determined by the space, so build an invitation list with your hosts. And don’t limit your invitations to literary types. I’m not a musician, but I love and support musicians. And I love the idea of sharing poetry with people who might not seek it out, and learning from those same people. I mean…that’s where poems come from, right–all kinds of people living all kinds of lives out in the world? Uncle Walt and Auntie Gertrude threw those doors open for all types, and our recent tendency to forget that may very well be one of the biggest obstacles leading to all those Poetry is dead conversations, which, by the way, in my opinion, is hogwash. It ain’t dead a bit. But it could be argued that its disappearance into the academy has been something like a much-too-long-drug-induced coma. 

Time to wake it up? Whatcha think?

Mmmhmmm, poets 🙂 I can hear those gears turning even from here 🙂 Would my friends–? Who could I ask–? I wonder if they might–?

Do it! Ask! That box of beautiful books that you worked on so hard and for so long sitting there on your floor isn’t going to magically jump up and take themselves into the world 🙂 But your loving friends just might help you make it happen.

‘Cause yeahhh, one thing I have happily learned over the years–artists hang out with the coolest people 🙂 Like you.

Later and love from here, you rocking creative types,




Links for the cool people mentioned here 🙂

J Hackett’s Fabulous Photography: https://www.flickr.com/photos/completedrivel/

Daniel Bailey’s Awesome Music http://www.danielbaileymusic.com/

MeLaina Ramos, brilliant young poet, bloggin at PostPartum Poet: https://postpartumpoet.wordpress.com/

Frank Ramos Landscaping/Lawncare Business, one Fabulous Daddy keepin it all together:



Next up: About that Donation—You want me to pay for what????!!!


A Poet’s Gotta Do What a Poet’s Gotta Do (Or What Would Walt Whitman Do?)

The answer to my Oh-what-to-blog-what-to-blog anxiety arrived today.

Our usual UPS man backed into our gravel drive as he always does, coming to the little stone house in the trees in Virginia, setting my dogs off into an excited  leap-and-bark-fest, which he ignored, as he always does, and smiled as he handed over a large box to me on our stoop, hurrying away to finish his route. I didn’t even wait to get the shipping box inside. I had grabbed a pair of scissors when I heard the rumble of the big truck outside, and as he left, I knelt right on my stoop and cut the box open, too excited to wait! My new book of prose poems, The Night I Heard Everything, from the tremendously talented editor Diane Kistner and amazing other good folks at FutureCycle Press, had arrived.  The sun hit the photo of the galaxy being born on the cover, and I literally cried with joy at seeing it.


The road back to poetry ran long for me, the forever scribbling middle school girl in Catholic school plaid learning iambic pentameter during sixth grade recess from one magically dedicated teacher disappeared into the should-be’s and not-that’s of life in my non-writing twenties, dropping out of college to get married and divorced, and married again, and having babies, and working on factory floors and in offices, because–poetry couldn’t really be your job. 

I couldn’t actually be a poet…right? But here, fresh from the big brown truck, a collection of poetry, mine.

Now—what to do with them? The world’s not banging down the doors for poets these days, and on so many levels (ohhh the academic gods are gonna strike me down!) the way poetry has become so insulated (held hostage?) by academe over the years really bothers me.

I learned to love poetry from my parents, neither of whom held a four year degree. My mama recited everyone from Wordsworth to Kipling to Poe while she mopped our trailer floors, and my daddy recited Yeats, that fearless Aengus and the hazel wood as easily as he called us to supper. The poet who first brought me to my knees, Walt Whitman, self-published Leaves of Grass and spent his time in the world, teaching in a one-room school house, working as a journalist, as a paymaster, volunteering in war hospitals, and working for the Indian Bureau. Reading Whitman even as a sixth grader I understood how in the world, how in love with the world out there he was.  I always imagined him in those hospitals, or at the docks, or strolling through a street fair, memorizing all those beautiful faces he creates such a miraculous litany of in “Song of Myself.”

So, as this new book made its way into being, I thought What would Walt Whitman do? 


We don’t have a ton of street fairs these days, and I live in the trees in small-town Virginia, far from the old heralded bastions of literary society. In fact, my town doesn’t even have a bookstore other than the one connected to the university. Not a lot of traditional literati in these parts.

But you know what we do have?


House concerts.

I adore them. I go any chance I get, even driving the couple of hours back home to North Carolina, for the chance to ante up my $15 to sit in someone’s temporarily transformed living room or backyard, in support of a concert by some  fabulous indie musician I might never have had the chance to hear otherwise. I love it! I get to feed my live music addiction AND support another artist in the process.

What’s not to love?

And…um, why aren’t writers doing the same thing?

So…Modeling on the genius and proactivity of all those indie musicians I love so much, and THANKS (no words for the gratitude) to some amazingly generous hosts, I’ve built a book tour for this new book on the model of the house concert,  with readings scheduled so far in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia.


Interstellar because my hosts, the generous loving folks, (many of them artists themselves–writers, musicians, visual artists–but not all), who are opening their hearts and homes not only to me, but to a new path for poetry, are the REAL STARS.

Gonna put that box of poetry and my little red car on the road this summer, out there, and blog the adventure.

And I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Love from here 🙂 ❤


Let's get Interstellar, y'all! <3

Let’s get Interstellar, y’all! ❤


Next up: So how does this whole house concert thing work anyway?

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: