It’s Like Competing With Liza Minnelli in “Cabaret”

I am sorrowful.

I was looking through the thesaurus to find out exactly what it was I was feeling: it wasn’t sad, it wasn’t chagrined or disappointed.  It was sorrowful.


A month or so ago I found the Walt Whitman Poetry contest, which definitely sounded like it was up my alley.  I do love Whitman’s poetry, and it was great to have a goal (and a deadline) to work towards.  It is certainly forcing me to write constantly, which is…hard, but good.  My poetry has matured significantly just in the very short time I have been working on it (is this poetic hubris, I wonder?).

The judge of the Walt Whitman Poetry contest is Tracy K. Smith.  And, naturally, the best way to understand the poet is to understand the poetry.  So I bought her book:  Life on Mars

Born in Massachusetts, Tracy K. Smith earned her BA from Harvard University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University.Tracy-K-Smith-448From 1997 to 1999 she held a Stegner fellowship at Stanford University. Smith is the author of three books of poetry: The Body’s Question(2003), which won the Cave Canem prize for the best first book by an African-American poet; Duende (2007), winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Essense Literary Award; and Life on Mars (2011), which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In 2014 she was awarded the Academy of American Poets fellowship.

Smith teaches creative writing at Princeton University and lives in Brooklyn.




Every day, since I first received her book, Life on Mars, I have carried it with me.  It has been thrown into my backpack (carefully), I have studied it while the kids were in their Martial Arts’ class, I take it to my nightstand before I sleep…this book has been attached to my hip for a month.

I have studied her words, her phrases, tried to understand what she was saying and how she was saying it.  I have eat, slept and breathed Life on Mars.  I am enamored with the words.  I feel a personal connection with the poetry.  I am in love with this book.


What is love?  According to TED speaker, Brad Troeger, “Love is potentially the most intense thing that has been thought of for all of history.”  And that’s true.  Love has been dissected, resected, bisected and had autopsies performed on it in order to figure out what it is.

Good love is a vulnerable relationship between people.  I am vulnerable with Ben because I trust him with my love.  I love my children with a vulnerable, motherly love that manifests itself in our relationship.  Love is a very delicate and well balanced thing: it takes two sides to make a relationship, and a relationship can form love.

When a poet puts their words onto paper, they begin the relationship with the reader.  The reader, then, will read it and either respond to the poem with understanding, or not respond to the poet and walk away.  A truly good relationship will form lasting bonds that will stay the course of a lifetime: those are the poems you remember years after you read them because they touched something inside you.  And you fell in love with the poem.

I have fallen in love with the poetry in Life on Mars.  I have invested a part of me into studying Smith’s works in very sincere ways.  Her poetry is beyond ethereal, and she speaks in broad strokes, as well as finishing lines, and now that I cannot submit my work into the Walt Whitman  poetry contest…I am feeling grief because I am not able to send my poetry to Tracy K. Smith.


Today I found out I can’t actually submit my work to the contest, because it is for “first book” submissions:  and I already have a poetry book with an ISBN #.




This is so disappointing.  Sorrowfully disappointing.











Entertainment Weekly


Emma Stone is going to play Sally Bowles in ‘Cabaret’ on Broadway.

This is insane.


Liza Minnelli killed it with her performance in Cabaret.  I am not even a “musical” person, but her performances were some of the most amazing numbers I have ever seen.  Maybe the most amazing numbers, because I can’t think of any that outshine her.


Emma Stone has devoted her entire life to her singing and acting, and now she is playing Sally Bowles in Cabaret.  This is so outstandingly exciting for her, I am thrilled!!

It gives me hope for myself.  Some day, after I have put in more hours and more sleepless nights fretting over allusions and phrasings…some day maybe I can follow in Tracy K. Smith’s footsteps.  Maybe one day my poetry will inspire people to fall in love with poetry.

Love is definitely worth writing for.


Thank You, Tracy K. Smith.



After dark, stars glisten like ice, and the distance they span
Hides something elemental. Not God, exactly. More like
Some thin-hipped glittering Bowie-being—a Starman
Or cosmic ace hovering, swaying, aching to make us see.
And what would we do, you and I, if we could know for sure
That someone was there squinting through the dust,
Saying nothing is lost, that everything lives on waiting only
To be wanted back badly enough? Would you go then,
Even for a few nights, into that other life where you
And that first she loved, blind to the future once, and happy?
Would I put on my coat and return to the kitchen where my
Mother and father sit waiting, dinner keeping warm on the stove?
Bowie will never die. Nothing will come for him in his sleep
Or charging through his veins. And he’ll never grow old,
Just like the woman you lost, who will always be dark-haired
And flush-faced, running toward an electronic screen
That clocks the minutes, the miles left to go. Just like the life
In which I’m forever a child looking out my window at the night sky
Thinking one day I’ll touch the world with bare hands
Even if it burns.

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