The last time the Cool Women performed in public was March 7 at the New Brunswick Public Library. We miss our audiences and hope to connect with all of you soon, when it is safe to have public readings again. We have thought of performing a Zoom reading and will let you know when and if that might take place. In the meantime we thought we’d let you know what busy lives the Cool Women have been leading, even under lockdown, in this most unusual spring. So here is the news from us, in alphabetical order, beginning with Eloise!
Eloise Bruce. As a past winner (2018) of a Governor’s Award in Arts Education for Distinguished Service, Eloise was asked to read this spring as part of the Past & Present Winner Performance Series. Her reading on May 22, 2020 was zoomed on Facebook and can be heard here. She and her husband David Keller have a brand new book out from Ragged Sky Press, Scud Clouds, 2020. Order ($15) from: Ragged Sky Press, 270 Griggs Dr., Princeton, NJ 08540. About it Susan Allen Toth wrote:
Scud Clouds is wonderful. With clarity, honesty, and marvelously telling detail, these two gifted poets evoke the depths and complexities of their continuing life together after David is diagnosed with an incurable brain disease. While confronting darkness and loss, these side-by-side poems are also full of love, warmth and laughter.
Juditha Dowd. Juditha’s new book debuted this spring, Audubon’s Sparrow, by Rose Metal Press. From the press material:
What does it mean to sacrifice for someone else’s art? Audubon’s Sparrow answers this question by way of a verse biography of Lucy Bakewell, the intrepid and largely unsung wife of the artist and naturalist John James Audubon.
Ordering information ($15.95) at Rose Metal Press. Juditha participated in a fascinating roundtable discussion sponsored by Entropy Magazine about poetic biography this spring which can be heard here. Penelope Scambly Schott also was part of this discussion, so two Cools available here! Juditha was interviewed by poet Ruth Foley for the Brooklyn Rail May 2020 issue and like, count ‘em, four other Cools this spring she had a poem published in the online magazine New Verse News on May 8 called “Quarantine Aubade.” See https://www.judithadowd.org/.
Lois Marie Harrod has a new chapbook, Woman, published by Blue Lyra Press. As Catherine Doty says:
Rooted in the moss and mushroom of the female body, the poems in Lois Marie Harrod’s chapbook Woman refreshingly skirt the merely celebratory. Harrod’s natural music, sharp observations and sly wit bring a quirky authenticity to her tales of women often silenced, missing parts, or completely disassembled.
Betty Bonham Lies. This spring Betty continued teaching her wildly popular memoir class, Writing Your Life, for the Princeton Senior Resource Center. Her book The Cliff’s Edge by Kelsay Books ($17.00) appeared in 2017 and can be ordered from Amazon. As David Keller wrote:
In these poems objects and their connections to the past become the loves of our days, how one thing edges into other things, into remembrance and desire and the dazzle of our lives. These poems are full of love for the things of this world. What luck.
Judy Rowe Michaels continued the New Verse News Cool Women “series” by appearing there on June 1 with “First Kiss.” Judy says she has been asked to speak on a couple of Zoom panels on ovarian cancer, bringing the “Survivors Teaching Students” sessions she has been doing live at medical schools in NYC and Newark to these schools’ current distant learning formats.
Sharon Olson’s new book Will There Be Music? was published by Cherry Grove Collections in early 2019. About this book Baron Wormser said, “The loose ends of lives and generations are expertly bundled in these alert, meditative poems.” Order ($19.00) from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or any independent bookstore, information at Cherry Grove. Sharon also had a poem appear in New Verse News on May 25 , hers titled “Ode to My Shopper.” Sharon gave a 10-minute reading online for the Scriven Arts Colony in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, was interviewed by the Guilford Poets Guild of Guilford, Connecticut, and gave a reading via Zoom for the Poetry Center San José on June 9. See https://slopoet.blogspot.com.
Penelope Scambly Schott also has a new book, On Dufur Hill, published by Turning Point ($20). The publisher copy tells us:
This whole book is one long love poem to Dufur, Oregon, a small town (population 623) in north-central Oregon, and it’s also a love poem to small town American life. The landscape includes a “field of retired combines / resting like ancient beasts,” a “bathtub asleep on its four clawed feet,” the sky a “clear Pyrex bowl.”
Maxine Susman continues to teach for OLLI-RU, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Rutgers. During July she’ll offer an online poetry workshop,”Writing Through the Times We’re Living Through.” Her poem “Home Phone” won an Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards Honorable Mention and will be in Paterson Literary Review #49. Her latest book My Mother’s Medicine was published by Grayson Books in summer 2019 ($15.95) and is available on Amazon. Maria Gillan writes:
Maxine Susman writes the compelling story not just of her own mother, but of women who came from immigrant backgrounds to overcome obstacles and push against the boundaries of traditional women’s roles. In moving poems filled with personal feeling and colored by authentic historical detail, Susman gives us a young Jewish girl from Brooklyn during the Great Depression, who decides to become a doctor.
Gretna Wilkinson, winner of numerous teaching awards, was recently named Poet Laureate of T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center in Red Bank, NJ., which is dedicated to preserving and promoting Fortune’s legacy of education, civil rights advocacy, and community involvement. Founder of the online magazine, theravensperch.com, Gretna has been publishing a steady stream of strong and compelling works by myriad poets, prose writers, and visual artists. A poem of hers about the murder of George Floyd appeared on June 12. Titled “1973 TO 2020: GEORGE FLOYD(S)” , it imagines the mother of George Floyd lamenting the fate of her son, and quotes what she calls the Dead Black Children Anonymous motto:
if mothers don’t name our babies, we stand a better chance of not losing our minds, becoming arsonists, or mass murderers, or dying before our time
Highland Park Public Library, 31 North 5th Ave. Highland Park, NJ 08904 (732) 572-2750
Cool Women Poets
Friends of the Library Poetry Night Series
Thursday, November 14, 2019, 7:00 pm
Known for their themed, improv-style poetry readings, Cool Women riff on each other’s poems like jazz musicians, providing an unpredictable and compelling performance. The eight members who will be participating—Eloise Bruce, Juditha Dowd, Betty Lies, Judy Michaels, Sharon Olson, Penelope Schott, Maxine Susman, and Gretna Wilkinson—have deep New Jersey roots.
COOL WOMEN will perform their poetry and wrap up the 2018-2019 season. Please join us! An open mic follows.
On Friday June 21, Cool Women Celebrate Summer at the Newtown Library Company with “Long Days, Short Nights.” Each member will bring 8-10 poems and in three rounds of one poem each, they link their poems to what has gone before. The result is a poetic jazz performance which all should enjoy.
Cool Women is a central New Jersey-based, nine-member poetry critique and performance group, who have been meeting for 25 years and who do 40-45 minute poetry readings. The members are widely published individually and as a group (6 anthologies and 2 CDs of their work). Their performances are theme-based improvisations in which they begin with a theme.
It was Alicia Ostriker’s idea! To perform Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem “Recuerdo” at the Staten Island ferry terminal where the poem’s events took place. Then we added performances of Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus” at the Statue of Liberty tour dock. The only thing that went amiss was the weather, it rained all day. But our spirits were lifted by many encounters during the day. Most of the passengers glided by us with puzzled looks, but some engaged us, like the two students from a local college who wanted to ask us if we knew about “God, the Mother”…boy, did we! And the Staten Island ferry official who prevented us from handing out our poems (too intrusive for their ‘customers’) ended up helping us out by taking a photo of the part of the Millay poem we couldn’t get to because it was past the entry point. And we should point out that we hadn’t even known it was painted up there around the ceiling of the ferry terminal until after we were done reciting it! Only a few of us Cool Women joined the excitement: Lois, Sharon, Juditha and Gretna. Here are a few photos of the special day:
Join the Cool Women for a themed reading (Fools Rush In) on Thursday, April 4th, 7 p.m., at the Hillsborough Library Branch of the Somerset County Library System, 379 South Branch Rd., Program Room AB, Hillsborough, New Jersey, email@example.com, 908-458-8420.