We extend our congratulations to Philip E. Burnham, Jr., of Cambridge, Massachusetts, winner of this year’s Loft Prize for Poetry for his poem ” New York Blizzard.”

Denise Duhamel, the final judge, comments “that a poet could arrest the frenetic swish and angles of Frederick Childe Hassam’s “A New York Blizzard” is remarkable–that Philip E. Burnham, Jr. could do so in a sonnet is astonishing!  The poetic form is employed as deftly as Frederick Childe Hassam’s use of canvas.  The lampposts “frosted up like cakes” is not only accurate, but tactile.  The ending couplet does something all great couplets do and that is give the reader a new insight.  I will never look at the painting  “A New York Blizzard” the same way: “Perhaps the painter wanted us to see/ Our darker selves contained in blizzardry.”  Is blizzardry even a word?  I don’t care–I see white snow swirls around our sometimes black hearts.”

Mr. Burnham, Jr. was awarded  the $1000 prize and his poem will be published in The Loft Anthology: New England Poetry and Art.

Second Place: Sara D. Rivera for her poem “Winnowing.”

Third Place: Calvin Olsen for his poem “Cast.”

Winners and finalists of The Loft Anthology contest read their poems in the Grand Hall of the Providence Public Library on June 6.  It was a wonderful and memorable night at the Poetry and Art Gala in Providence honoring Guest Poets from throughout New England and the finalists of the Loft Prize for Poetry!  A heartfelt thanks to all the poets who bedazzled us with their words, and all those who participated and attended the 2013 Loft Gala! We’d like to sincerely thank our generous sponsors and hard-working volunteers who helped to make the night run so well that evening.  Much gratitude goes to the Rhode Island artists who displayed their beautiful paintings, to the library staff and photographers, as well as musicians Pamela Cumming and Roselie Samter!  Photos will be posted soon.

A Celebration of New England Poetry & Art

Dear Poetry friends and supporters of the arts:

We hope to see you Thursday, June 6th for this very special event!

NE Poetry & Art Gala Flyer  A

New England Poetry & Art Gala

Providence Public Library Grand Hall, Providence, RI

Please join us for a special evening of Poetry, Paintings & Music, on Thursday, June 6, at 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM in the Library’s newly renovated Grand Hall and Ship Room.  Meet and be inspired by the poetry of Fred Marchant, Stephen Dobyns, Rick Benjamin, Wendy Mnookin, Richard Hoffman, Alan Feldman, Alice B. Fogel, Jennifer Militello, Vivian Shipley, and others!  A buffet and refreshments will be served. Doors open at 5 PM for registration, appetizers and art exhibits.

Featuring Guest Poets from throughout New England, the Gala celebrates the contributors of The Loft Anthology: New England Poetry and Art.  Winners of the 2013 Loft Prize for Poetry, judged by nationally acclaimed poet Denise Duhamel, will be announced live at the Gala.

Tickets: $15 by June 1. To reserve seats, please send a check with names and emails of attendees to:  The Poetry Loft, PO Box 8235, Cranston, RI 02920.  A confirmation will be sent to you with program details and additional information.

We welcome your questions at

Thank you for helping to spread the word!

Presented by Providence Public Library and The Poetry Loft

Finalists Announced: 2013 Loft Prize for Poetry

Dear Friends,

We are very happy to announce the twenty-five Finalists. Thank you for giving our preliminary judges the pleasure of such excellent reading.

CONGRATULATIONS to the 2013 Loft Prize for Poetry Finalists!

“Smoke of Ambergris” – Amy Nawrocki

“On Egg’s version of the death of Buckingham” – Amy Pickworth

“Cast” – Calvin Olsen

“Something to do with direction or navigation, maybe” – Dale J. Rappaneau

“The Prize Fight” – Dita Ondek

“One More Day of Fishing” – Fay Martineau

“My Lady Greensleeves” – Helen M. Casey

“Renaissance Woman” – J.B. Sisson

“That you” – James Celenza

“The Women of Amphissa ” – James Cronin

“West Wind, Appledore”  – James Najarian

“Desire for Water” – Joyce Ray

“Harvester Holding Her Sickle”  – Julie Hassett

“Portrait of a Lady in Pink” – Kara Provost

“Granite Retrospective” – Kate Melone

“White Hats and Other Sexual Metaphors” – Kim M. Baker

“Imago Lover” – Kim Horton

“Stone Eclogue” – Leslie McGrath

“Woman at the Well” – Louella Bryant

“The Goldfish Widow” – Meredith E. Brady

“New York Blizzard” –  Philip E. Burnham, Jr.

“Bird Watching” – Renee B. Lute

“Winnowing” – Sara D. Rivera

“Everything about You” – Tricia Orr

“The Faithful Colt” – Vivian Shipley

The winner will be awarded a $1000 prize and will be published in The Loft Anthology: New England Poetry and Art.  Runners-up and finalists will also be published and receive a reading and a copy of The Loft Anthology.

Winners will be announced at the New England Poetry and Art Gala on June 6 at the Providence Public Library, Grand Hall, 225 Washington Street, Providence.  Please join us (5:30-9 PM) for a special Evening of Poetry, Art and Music as we celebrate the contributors of The Loft Anthology, including the finalists of the 2013 Loft Prize for Poetry. A light dinner buffet and refreshments will be served.  Please check back soon for additional details.

To Reserve Your Seat:  Please mail a check for a $15 donation by June 1 to: The Poetry Loft, PO Box 8235, Cranston, RI 02920.  Include the names and emails of all your guests with the check.  Seating is limited.

Thank you again for your support and participation in this literary event!

A Shout-Out To Our New England Neighbors!

The snows were convulsive!  We send warm thoughts for a quick restoration of power and heat to those hearty NE souls who are still braving the elements, and those who have sufferred major injuires as a result of the Blizzard of 2013.  

The landscape is white corridors and ragged peaks. The first two lines of Edward Hirsh’s ekphrastic poem, “The Horizontal Line” reminds me of the horizontal line of the blizzard’s wind-swept snow: “It was like a white sail in the early morning/ It was like a tremulous wind…after a night on the thunderous sea”.

(Feel free to share any blizzard poems and photos with us…)


Deadline is now over for the 2013 Loft Prize for Poetry contest.  Thank you to all the entrants–we received many amazing contest poems!  The Finalists will be announced in late April during National Poetry Month.  Our special thanks to Poet Denise Duhamel for Judging.


Many Congratulations to poet Rick Benjamin on his recent appointment as Rhode Island State Poet Laureate!

the times

no words but these…

the times – Lucille Clifton

it is hard to remain human on a day
when birds perch weeping
in the trees and the squirrel eyes
do not look away but the dog ones do
in pity.
another child has killed a child
and i catch myself relieved that they are
white and i might understand except
that i am tired of understanding.
if this
alphabet could speak its own tongue
it would be all symbol surely;
the cat would hunch across the long table
and that would mean time is catching up,
and the spindle fish would run to ground
and that would mean the end is coming
and the grains of dust would gather themselves
along the streets and spell out:

these too are your children this too is your child

From BLESSING THE BOATS: NEW & SELECTED POEMS 1988-2000 (BOA Editions, 2000) reblogged from The Poetry Center at Smith College

A Birthday Tribute to New England Poet, Emily Dickinson!

Tomorrow is Emily’s 182nd birthday! She was born in Amherst, MA on Dec. 10, 1830. 

Click here  to listen to poet Jorie Graham read Emily Dickinson’s “I know that he exists” at her Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute Reading on December 13, 1994. 

Click here  to listen to Jorie Graham talk about what to listen for in Emily Dickinson’s poetry.

Jorie Graham’s haunting, questioning poems of the inner life share a severity and quickness of perception with Emily Dickinson’s work.  (Folger Shakespeare Library).



                                                          “The World Is Not Acquainted With Us”

New photo of Emily Dickinson?  Researchers are excited!  The new picture recently discovered and believed to be Emily Dickinson (left) and her friend Kate Scott Turner offers us a mature and serene adult image of Emily.  To read more about this exciting discovery, visit here.

                                                  Emily D picture.docx

Check out this amazing video of facial comparisons between the known photo of a teenage Emily (1847) and the newly discovered Emily Dickinson daguerreotype (1859)!  Feel free to tell us what you think…



A Letter From Emily Dickinson – Emily posted the letter below in 1862 to Mr. Higginson, editor of The Atlantic Magazine, whom she considered her literary counselor and confident.  Her poetic genius is evident in the many fascinating letters posted in this article by Mr. Higginson in 1891 after Emily’s death.  To read more of her letters, please visit here


Your kindness claimed earlier gratitude, but I was ill, and write to-day from my pillow.

Thank you for the surgery; it was not so painful as I supposed. I bring you others, as you ask, though they might not differ. While my thought is undressed, I can make the distinction; but when I put them in the gown, they look alike and numb.

You asked how old I was? I made no verse, but one or two, until this winter, sir.

I had a terror since September, I could tell to none; and so I sing, as the boy does by the burying ground, because I am afraid.

You inquire my books. For poets, I have Keats, and Mr. and Mrs. Browning. For prose, Mr. Ruskin, Sir Thomas Browne, and the Revelations. I went to school, but in your manner of the phrase had no education. When a little girl, I had a friend who taught me Immortality; but venturing too near, himself, he never returned. Soon after my tutor died, and for several years my lexicon was my only companion. Then I found one more, but he was not contented I be his scholar, so he left the land.

You ask of my companions. Hills, sir, and the sundown, and a dog large as myself, that my father bought me. They are better than beings because they know, but do not tell; and the noise in the pool at noon excels my piano.    Continue reading here.



In Celebration of Emily’s Birthday – Here’s a posting of her famous ultra-rich black cake recipe.  It’s actually a brandy-soaked fruit-filled cake! During her later years, Emily would lower her cakes and bread specialties in a basket from her bedroom window to give to friends and the local children. Why not carry on her tradition by baking some of these moist cakes and placing them in old fashioned tins to pass around for the holidays, with little tags of favorite Emily Dickinson poems?  And of course be sure to wear your white apron while baking!  Perhaps there’s a secret ingredient, some special alchemy somewhere in the mixture of aromatics and brandy, something to explain the explosion of senses as one ingests, in slow bites, Emily’s favorite flavors!  Hope you, too, enjoy a slice of poetry to celebrate this great American poet.

How to Nurture your Creative Genius


, ,

Dear Writers,

As my to-do list get longer this time of year, writing often seems to take a back seat.  I admit my creativity gets squeezed and shoved to the bottom of the sack, sometimes covered over with ribbons and bows, stuck on tape and tags and bits of glitter.  Can I blame my muse for wanting to take a long holiday nap?

Wallace Stevens noted, “…the arts are a compensation for what has been lost.”  And isn’t poetry all about finding things?  Discovering and “uncovering” the unseen around us?  For the ekphrastic poet, finding the truth and beauty and voice in the painting he beholds?  Derek Walcott puts it beautifully: “The body feels it is melting into what it has seen, the I not being important.”       

To help us awaken and uncover our creative genie — our given gift, our vocation (as Derek Walcott believes) — enjoy this fascinating short clip by Elizabeth Glibert (Eat Pray Love).  And not to be missed, listen as she recalls an encounter with the extraordinary poet Ruth Stone explaining how Ruth gets her inspiration! (10:20 on the video). 


What Inspires Writers? (click on names to read more at Poets and Writers magazine)

Leigh Stein  “For years, I’ve found inspiration by going to museums by myself. Going solo is key.   —Leigh Stein, author of Dispatch From the Future (Melville Books, 2012)

Jon Raymond   “I draw a lot of inspiration from visual art….some through their conceptual frameworks and others through very specific little details I’ve stolen—a coiled garden hose or a cursive tire tread that becomes part of a scene. There’s something about a visual image that both focuses the mind and frees it to wander, and the artists who help me most—people like Robert Adams, Ed Ruscha, and Chris Johanson, to name a few—guide me into landscapes of thought and feeling I might not find on my own.”  —Jon Raymond, author of Rain Dragon (Bloomsbury, 2012)

Peter Heller   “All my good writing comes out of vulnerability…. I am terribly vulnerable to nature and I love to fish. …If I can’t fish I read the poets of the late Tang—Li Po, Wang Wei, Li Shang Yin. They can put me there in a moment, knee-deep in a stream, up in the tearing clouds of the mountains. They are aficionados of loss, and they make me feel vulnerable and stricken and full of joy. That is a good place to write from.”  —Peter Heller, author of The Dog Stars (Knopf, 2012)

Kate Hill Cantrill   “…visual creations often inform my descriptions, characters, and topics. Years ago I was thrilled to learn that one of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Bishop, had also painted, and I received a book of these paintings titled Exchanging Hats. They are spirited, loving homages to scenes and spaces of her life, including a whimsical ‘E. Bishop’s Patented Slot Machine’ that makes me giggle every time I look at it and reminds me to try to add a bit of play into everything I create.”  —Kate Hill Cantrill, author of Walk Back From Monkey School, (Press 53, 2012)

Rosie Dastgir   “The thing that inspires me in my writing is chatting with my friends about family relationships. …I find myself compelled by the bizarre and terrible stories at the heart of families…”  —Rosie Dastgir, author of A Small Fortune (Riverhead Books)

Natalie Serber  “….one of my favorite painters is Mark Rothko. His colorscapes offer me a place of ease. I don’t question and wonder and strive to make a story when I stand in front of a Rothko, I just absorb and rest.”  —Natalie Serber, author of Shout Her Lovely Name (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)


Love to Hear:  How do you get your inspiration?  Does it arrive like a train or a mule or a divine dance?  Feel free to share!

On This Day Of Thanks


Twenty Questions
by Jim Moore  (from the Academy of American Poets)        
Did I forget to look at the sky this morning
when I first woke up? Did I miss the willow tree?
The white gravel road that goes up from the cemetery,
but to where? And the abandoned house on the hill,                         
              did it get
even a moment? Did I notice the small clouds so slowly
moving away? And did I think of the right hand
of God? What if it is a slow cloud descending
on earth as rain? As snow? As shade? Don’t you think
I should move on to the mop? How it just sits there,    
              too often
unused? And the stolen rose on its stem?
Why would I write a poem without one?   (To read more, visit here.) 

Jim Moore is the author of six collections of poetry including Invisible Strings (Graywolf Press, 2011). 

The Play’s the Thing!

We’re always thrilled to hear and share Good News from our extended LOFT family of poets, writers and friends!

CONGRATULATIONS to 2012 Loft Anthology Finalists JAMES CELENZA and KIM BAKER! Their plays were recently accepted in the Culture Park Short Plays Marathon, New Bedford, MA:  Insomnia by James Celenza;  Gin & Ashes by Kim Baker

Featuring 29 new plays,  the Culture Park Annual Short Plays Marathon is presented by an ensemble of southern New England based actors and directors.

The Poetics of Ekphrasis


, ,

To kick off the 2013 Loft Anthology, we’re happy to offer some poetic resources which we hope will inspire as you delve deeper into this year’s theme of ekphrastic writing – the recreation in language of a work of art.  Submit your own timeless masterpiece to this year’s unique collection, sure to be a “grand literary storehouse”, to quote Mark Twain, meant to be left at the bedside and dipped into when you snatch a moment of reflection at end of the day.  We are excited to read and listen to what New England poets are thinking and feeling in response to wondrous visual art — a great launching pad for poetry.

“In the past forty years the production of ekphrastic poetry has become nothing less than a boom.  At least one poem about a work of visual art has come from almost every major poet of our time….The experience of the museum has informed the writing of ekphrastic poetry. Only in a museum can you have a full encounter with a painting.” James Heffernan, Museum of Words (University of Chicago Press, 1993)

Enjoy reading some famous examples of ekphrasis:

One of the most remarkable and celebrated of all contemporary ekphrastic poems is John Ashberry’s 552 line meditation “Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror on a painting of the same title by Francisco Parmigianino.  “How many people came and stayed a certain time, / Uttered light or dark speech that became part of you / Like light behind windblown fog and sand, / Filtered and influenced by it, until no part / Remains that is surely you. Those voices in the dusk/” 

Van Gogh’s Starry Night (1889) prompted poems by Anne Sexton (“Starry Night”), WD Snodgrass, and a volume of poetry by Robert Fagles ( I, Vincent: Poems from the Pictures of Van Gogh). 

Click here to hear Anne Sexton read “Starry Night”.  

WD Snodgrass ‘s poem “The Red Studio” based on Matisse’s painting can be found here.

William Carlos Williams’s poemThe Hunters in the Snow” is one of the best known poems on Brueghel’s painting HuntersWilliams also wrote an ekphrastic volume of poetry, Pictures from Brueghel and other Poems (1962). 

Wallace Stevens penned The Man with the Blue Guitar” inspired by Pablo Piccasso’s The Old Guitarist.  

Sylvia Plath wrote “Two Views of a Cadaver Room” based on Brueghel’s The Triumph of Death.  In the corner of the painting, lovers are unaware of the horrors around them. Enclosed by love, they are spared death’s triumphSylvia Plath writes,

In Brueghel’s panorama of smoke and slaughter
Two people only are blind to the carrion army . . . .
Both of them deaf to the fiddle in the hands
Of the death’s-head shadowing their song.
These Flemish lovers flourish; not for long.

Auden’s “In the Musee des Beaux Arts” and Williams’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus’ are just two of many poems written about Brueghel’s well known painting of Icarus.

In the Musée des Beaux Arts” by WH Auden describes Brueghel’s painting Landscape With the Fall of Icarus … how everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster… the splash, the forsaken cry, …the white legs disappearing into the green / Water” as the ploughman goes about his daily task and the expensive ship sails calmly past.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by William Carlos Williams:  Willliams’s understated and unpunctuated language brings home the insignificance of the drowning to a world concerned only with itself: “it was spring // a farmer was ploughing / his field / the whole pageantry // of the year was / awake tingling / near // the edge of the sea / concerned / with itself //   For more on this poem, read here.

Ode on a Grecian Urnby John Keats “What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? / What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? / What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?” 

My Last Duchessby Robert Browning based on a painting by Bronzino. The Duke displays a portrait of his late wife to visitors in this “dramatic monologue”.  As he draws back the curtains that cover her painting, he notes her flirtatious nature . . .she has a heart– how shall I say– too soon made glad // I gave her commands; then all smiles stopped together//

“On the Medusa of Leonardo Da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery” by Percy Bysshe Shelley.   Shelley penned these lines when visiting Florence and the Uffizi: “it is less the horror than the grace / Which turns the gazer’s spirit into stone”.  Shelley’s description beautifully catches the poem’s unsettling tone and appeal. The painting was actually done by an anonymous Flemish painter, and erroneously attributed to Da Vinci until the 20th century.

 Click here to read Shelley’s poem and other ekphrastic poems on  


Your responses & comments are welcome!