Category Archives: Poetry

Poem-maker, home-maker: Airbnb

Poets don’t expect to make a living practicing the craft. And as most scribblers know, writing from home can lead to all kinds of mess. At least on and around the desk. For those of us who like playing house (decorating, redecorating, rearranging, praise from guests) what a boon, then to have to keep it tidy and earn along the way. Ergo Airbnb. Since the DNC landed in Philly last July, when hotel rooms were scarce, I’ve enjoyed the perks of income, a better-kept home, and great guests from all over the map.

The payoff: more time to write than the adjunct posts or other jobs I’ve tried for with fair-to-middling success.

I’d like to share some of my hosting adventures in coming blogs, maintaining, of course, the privacy of truly fascinating guests.

Interview with the heroine I’ve yet to meet: Lucia Perillo


Every story has a backstory. This interview, the only one I can ever recall that took place entirely by email and over more months that I care to relate, would never have happened without the intervention of Marianne Boruch, another poet role model for the ages. Boruch, my first semester mentor at Warren Wilson, provided the introduction, via email for me with Perillo, who said something to the effect of “why?”  Perillo had been nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths,  and perhaps had done too many interviews. However, after a few emails back and forth, she agreed to be interviewed  by email if the questions were sent ahead. She was marvelously prompt in her responses. She answered every question save perhaps three. Alas, our editor had a backlog of other work to accomplish and there were many postponements to the publication of this interview. It seems only fitting that I am only now getting around to posting this interview on my own website. But for anyone who didn’t see it,  Perillo is not a poet to be missed.

Writing the Pleasures at Muse House begins April 3

Still time to join us for:
Delight! Writing Down the Pleasures, Wednesdays 2-3:30 pm. April 3- 10- 17-24; May 1-8-15-22, 2013. Call 267-331-9552 or
 Let’s celebrate the small joys in life!
 This workshop aims to sharpen writing practice by framing  life experiences into 250-400 word essays in your unique voice and style.  The class is inspired by English playwright, critic and author J.P. Priestley, who savored the pleasures of “gin and potato crisps,” of playing with grandchildren, of being recognized!
Each session led by arts critic, essayist and poet Lesley Valdes will include a Priestley reading for inspiration, a prompt to get us going, the sharing of assignments. By workshop’s end, you will have learned the uses of anecdote and imagery. The pleasure of discovery that writing practice unveils.  You’ll have vivid essays of your own.
Muse House Center for Literary Arts, 7924 Germantown Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19118 267-331-9552 or Lesley Valdes at

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Dear Friends,

Sadly, since mid-September I’ve been off the air on WRTI, 90. 1 FM, a part-time gig I was privileged to enjoy for precisely one decade. I thank you for your listening & reading support. This blog & its earlier version (NotesfromPhilly@wordpress) were begun to document the WRTI scripts when they were removed from the radio website in favor of podcasts only.

I’ve plans to expand the blog into a website so please stay tuned.  The hope is to use it to explore my passion for working with writers (and readers!) of all levels.

For the past two years,  I’ve been working with a few individuals as a writing coach in my home studio:  short-story, creative non-fiction, journalism, beginning poetry.  The process is reciprocally invigorating; it takes me back to my days as a piano and music appreciation teacher only now the lessons are literary.

My workshop in the very short essay: Delight! Writing the Pleasures, (based on the miniature reflections of J.B. Priestley) will be offered in January at the Muse House Center in Chestnut Hill; it is also expected at the South Philadelphia (Fuomo) Branch of the Free Library. I would love to see you here,  there or in my Alder Street Studio.

Finally,  I have embarked on Warren Wilson College’s low-residency MFA Program for Writers in Poetry. For me, a conservatory graduate, Warren Wilson is the Juilliard or Peabody of writing schools, a daunting challenge for the third act of this critic’s life.

Here’s to writing practice!

With cordial thanks, dear readers,


Red-Eye to Havre Grace: E.A.Poe at Live Arts Fest

Red-Eye to Havre de Grace, Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental + The Wilhelm Bros & Co. Direction and Stage Design: Thaddeus Phillips; Original Score: Wilhelm Bros. Live Arts Festival, Philadelphia, Suzanne Roberts Theatre, Sept 7-16, 2012.

He thought he was going home to New York but Edgar Allen Poe was on the wrong train heading south: a conductor put him off in Baltimore where his death there days later still remains a mystery. Rather fitting for our genius of the ghost and detective genres and so much else. Red-Eye to Havre Grace by Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental with the Wilhelm Bros. & Co. is the delight you hope for at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. Hard to categorize this imaginative movement/theater/opera which puts a new spin on Poe’s last lecture tour, his daily obsessions. He was calmer at home than on the road, collaborators Thaddeus Phillips, Geoff Sobel and the Minneapolis- based Wilhelms, Jeremy and David, show in this literally non-stop journey through the writer/poet/critic/genius’s attempt to deal with his last work, “Eureka,” his urgent letters home to his mother- in- law/slash aunt “Muddy,” and the hauntings by his child-bride wife, Virginia whose acrobatic affections are delicious.  Red-Eye is poignant and funny and the music- and- movement theater aspects are thrilling. The cast climbs over- under- and- even through a series of doors that function as train compartments, tables, beds and more. Ranger Steve of Philly’s Spring Garden Poe House narrates this imaginary Poe tale. He’s played by the multi-gifted, Jeremy Wilhelm whose operatic voice bursts into Poe lyrics when he’s not playing a mean clarinet accompaniment  to Ean Sheeny as the human and convincing E. A. Poe. There are several surprise moments none so good as Sophie Bortolussi’s first appearance as the ghost wife, which I dare not spoil. Red-Eye to Havre Grace credits Teller for its illusions, and Poe’s death scene is a triumph. Wilhelms’s original score includes the group playing bowed piano:  so spooky George Crumb would approve. Red-Eye to Havre Grace ended Sunday but it should play again and again.