Thursday, December 11, 2008

Interview Update

After Shocks is the subject of two radio interviews. The first, which ran live on Dec. 3 on BlogTalk Radio, hosted by Dr. Arlene Barro, is archived at BlogTalk Radio Interview with After Shocks editor Tom Lombardo. The second will air this coming Sunday, Dec. 14, at 8 PM on the radio program Cover To Cover on Georgia Public Broadcasting. The producer/host Jeff Calder taped an interview with me a couple of weeks ago. He has intercut readings of poems from After Shocks contributors David Bottoms, who is Georgia's Poet Laureate, and Alexa Selph, an Atlanta-based poet, along with Garrison Keillor reading a Thomas Lux poem from After Shocks.

You don't have to live in Georgia to hear this broadcast. You can listen simultaneously on the web at on Sunday night at 8 PM. In case you miss it, the program will be archived at that same web address for later listening.

If you live in Georgia, note that Georgia Public Broadcasting does NOT have an Atlanta affiliate, unfortunately. The WABE station in Atlanta, which is NPR, is NOT GPB. In Atlanta, to hear this program at 8 PM, you could try 88.1 FM, which is a nearby GPB affiliate. Or go to the URL listed above, and linked here:

GPB Cover To Cover Presents After Shocks.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

After Shocks contributor in Kurdistan

I received an email this week from After Shocks contributor Nazand Begikhani, an Iraqi Kurdish poet who fled Iraq after her town, Halabja, was bombed with chemical agents by Saddam Hussein's regime in 1988, killing 5,000, mostly women and children. Ms. Begikhani contributed 3 poems to After Shocks that concern her exile and recovery.

"I just came back from the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, where I had to do some field research on gender-based violence. I have noticed in the recent years that feeding people's spirit through words, dreams and hope, is as important as giving them bread. This is certainly true for Iraqi Kurdistan after Saddam Hussein's genocidal campaign of Anfal. My publisher has organised a 'Poetry Promenade' through different towns and cities of Kurdistan, and I have felt very emotional by direct encounters with local people. I am still recovering from that..."

Monday, November 17, 2008

After Shocks Visits Atlanta Episcopal Council

I spent most of Friday and Saturday behind a table as the Episcopal clergy and lay ministers of Georgia walked by, many of whom glanced down to see copies of After Shocks, and some of whom I was able to stop and talk to about the poetry of recovery.

Those who stopped seemed very interested in the value of After Shocks as a potential pastoral care resource. A few of them bought copies of After Shocks. One woman wept when she told me the story of her daughter's death at the hands of an impaired driver, just a few years ago. She bought a copy of After Shocks and said that she hoped it gave her the courage to start a MADD chapter in Perry, Georgia.

What I've found interesting about clergy--they are well-educated and quite literate, and most of them like poetry! I probably should have known this already, as I have some friends who are priests or ministers, but when I started meeting them in dozens, I finally understood the weight of their jobs. Hundreds maybe thousands of people depend on them for both enormous emotional upheavals and miniscule emotional blips. Plus, clergy must write something intelligent, interesting, and insightful each and every week as a sermon or their audiences (i.e. their employers) y lose their jobs.

I continue to marvel at the strong reaction by clergy to After Shocks, and I'll continue to promote its value to this audience.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

After Shocks Reading in Charlotte a Great Success!

On Sunday, I hosted 10 other poets in readings from After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Charlotte, NC. We had about 70 people in the audience, which is on the larger side of poetry readings. We took over the entire upstairs of the bookstore!

Poets reading were: Cathy Smith Bowers (Tryon, NC), Susan Meyers (Charleston, SC), Terri Wolfe (Charlotte, NC), Anthony Abbott (Davidson, NC), Genie Cotner (Charlotte), Gail Peck (Charlotte), Barbara Presnell (Lexington, NC), Rhett Iseman Trull (Greensboro, NC), Linda Ferguson, (a native of Charlotte who lives in Charleston, SC), and Ed Madden (Columbia, SC).

Sold many books. The bookstore sold out of its order from the distributor, so I dipped into my own stash.

Gail Peck hosted a wonderful party afterwards at her home, where the literarti of central North Carolina glittered. It was great fun to meet so many of them. Thanks, Gail!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Weekend in Sewanee, TN, with After Shocks

Last weekend, I visited Sewanee, Tennessee, for three events for After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events hosted/arranged by the Otey Memorial Parish (Episcopal).

The first event was a Saturday afternoon meeting of the church-sponsored recovery groups, where I met with about 10 folks, plus the groups' leader, clinical psychologist Robin Reed-Spalding. I talked about my own personal story, what it meant for me, and what I think recovery means (not as an expert, of course, just a guy who lived it), and read several poems from After Shocks. The best part was when they interrupted me and I could go "off the prepared script." This meeting went well and lasted almost 2 hours. One interesting thing: I made the comment when I read a poem about the death of a child that this was likely the worst kind of loss, and a woman in the group who had lost her 17-year-old daughter disagreed with me: "The worst loss is the loss you face right now," she said.

The second event was a book signing at the Barnes & Noble, which is also the book store of the University of the South, based in Sewanee. I met a couple of faculty members from the seminary there.

The third event was an adult Sunday school session, very well attended, maybe 2 dozen folks or more. I had only one hour with these folks. I had condensed my opening remarks from the recovery group the day before, and as I was reading poems from After Shocks, they engaged me in a very lively discussion. I had anticipated the "God question," and stirred quite a sensation with my response. The "God Question" is this: "When you faced your personal tragedy, how did God impact your thinking/recovery/grief process?" My answer, very delicately, but very emphatically: He did not. Followed by a list of good reasons, not the least of which is that I don't believe that God involves Himself in our lives at this level, but that really sparks the next question: "Yeah, but...didn't you pray, at least for some type of guidance or solace?" Well, no. I'm not that kind of religious. And in fact, when I was in that little room waiting to see my dead wife's body and the nurse asked me if I wanted to see a Chaplain, I nearly strangled her. Who I wanted to see was my family, so that I could hug them and cry! I didn't want some anonymous chaplain. Then the next question of course, "Well, the anonymous chaplain brings you to the God you already know very well..." And on it went. It was a great discussion. The end point really is this: In recovery situations, you must embrace the pain, bring it inside, make it part of you. The longer you hold that off, the harder the road ahead will be. God can't stop the pain. In my question back to the group: Does God care about my measly, insignificant, Middle Class American pain when destitute children in Africa are raped every day?

In both groups, there was a great deal of interest in editorial details: How did you get all the poets? How long did it take? Any surprises in the process? Why did you self-publish? Lots of great questions. I love this "off-the-notes" type of discussion. I'm much more comfortable doing that than having any prepared remarks.

I'm getting a lot more comfortable talking about those events surrounding the death of my first wife. I realize that I have buried that stuff pretty deeply, and digging it's an exhumation of the past. It's hard to talk so openly to perfect strangers about something that I feel so proprietary about. Dr. Reed-Spalding, the clinical psychologist who ran the recovery groups (and also attended the Sunday school session) said this to me afterwards: "I am sure telling your story is not easy…but by telling your story you help create a safe environment."

I have several more church-based sessions scheduled for After Shocks, and I'll post further thoughts here as they occur.

Friday, October 31, 2008

After Shocks Editor interviewed on Poetic Asides Blog

Robert Brewer, editor of Writer's Market and Writer's Digest, interviewed me for his Poetic Asides blog. The interview, posted a couple days ago, goes into depth on my process and the motivation for After Shocks. Check it out at:

Poetic Asides

Saturday, October 11, 2008

2 New Events Scheduled for After Shocks

March 11 at 8:15 PM
Readings by contributors to After Shocks
Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, 980 Briarcliff Road, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30306
(404) 872-5338

May 2 at 4 PM
Readings by contributors to After Shocks
Suffolk University Poetry Center, Mildred F. Sawyer Library, 73 Tremont Street, 3rd Floor, Boston, MA 02108 (617) 573-8535

Monday, October 6, 2008

November Upcoming Events

After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events.

Nov. 1
1:30 PM Recovery Groups Reading and discussion of After Shocks
Otey Episcopal Church, 216 University Avenue, Sewanee, Tennessee, 931-598-5926

Immediately followed (4 PM) by Book Signing at Barnes & Noble, Sewanee, Tennessee.
735 University Ave, Sewanee, Tennessee, (931) 598-1153

Nov. 2
Adult Sunday School reading of After Shocks and discussion
10 AM to 10:50 AM
Otey Episcopal Church
216 University Avenue
Sewanee, Tennessee

Reading at Joseph Beth Booksellers
2 PM
4345 Barclay Downs Dr.
Charlotte, NC 28209
After Shocks contributors who will be reading:

Anthony Abbott (Davidson, NC)
Cathy Smith Bowers (Tryon, NC)
Clinton B. Campbeell (Beaufort, SC)
Genie Cotner (Charlotte, NC)
Gail Peck (Charlotte, NC)
Barbara Presnell (Lexington, NC)
Rhett Iseman Trull (Greensboro, NC)
Terri Wolfe (Charlotte, NC)
Susan Meyers (Summerville, SC, native of Albemarle, NC)
Linda Ferguson (Charleston, SC, native of Charleston, NC)
Ed Madden (Charleston, SC)
Val Nieman (Greensboro, NC)

Nov. 14-15
I'll be hosting a table at the Episcopal Diocesan Council of Atlanta Annual Meeting
9 AM to 2 PM both days.
Holiday Inn Decatur Conference Center
130 Clairemont Ave., Decatur, GA 30030

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Clergy reacts to After Shocks

The reaction to After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events among clergy has been both surprising and strong. Surprising because I never expected it. Strong because I'm getting invited to conduct readings at churches and synagogues.

Months ago, during my reading and selection process, I spoke with the mother of a friend of my daughter about After Shocks. She happens to be Rev. Lindsay Armstrong, a Presbyterian minister, and her husband, Mark Douglas, happens to be a theologian at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. My initial question to them, very informally, was this: I had been reading the Psalms, all 150 of them, searching for a Psalm of recovery (one which had not yet appeared on a T-shirt) that I might include in the anthology. I commented that the Psalms of recovery always seemed to include vengeance as part of their recovery, which I didn't deem within my vision for After Shocks, and I rejected using a Psalm. Mark whipped out his Blackberry, into which he had loaded an entire Concordance, and began searching, and he looked up puzzled. "You may be right," he said.

However, the more we talked about my vision for After Shocks, the more excited they became about the possibilities for After Shocks as a resource in a pastoral care context. It took be a couple of days to process their reaction. When I began to look at this more deeply, I discovered that for most people, their first point of contact after a life-shattering event is their clergy. They may end up with a psychiatrist, psychologist, other therapist, but clergy plays a huge role in recovery for most people. I had one of those "duh!" moments, where you hit your forehead with the palm of your hand.

It was one of the more interesting events to confront my vision over the 18 months from conception to publishing.

The minister's husband suggested that I contact Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament Scholar at the Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur (near my Atlanta home), which I eventually did, and Dr. Brueggemann read over the manuscript and wrote a foreword to After Shocks.

Now that After Shocks has been published, the reaction from clergy is very strong. I've had clergy members tell me that they like to use poetry in their sermons, that they look for stories like those in After Shocks in their pastoral care for the sick, the dying, the grieving, the lost.

I have received invitations to conduct readings at Sunday School sessions at three churches, one in Sewanee, Tennessee, and two in Atlanta. I'll post the schedule later this week. There's also a synagogue in D.C. that's considering inviting me to a session with the congregation.

Though After Shocks is not overtly religious, nor even covertly religious, I believe that clergy are reacting to the underlying theme of the anthology that builds as you read it: The resilience of the human spirit. We have the resources within ourselves to battle our way back from life-shattering events.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Kurdish Women's Rights Watch

One of the contributors to After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events is Nazand Begikhani, who survived the chemical gas-bombing attack in Halabja by the regime of Saddam Hussein on Iraqi Kurds on March 16, 1988, which killed 5,000 civilians, 75 percent of them women and children. Begikhani escaped, though her two brothers died, and she now lives in London.

She is an incredible poet and scholar, a polyglot who translates her own poetry into French and English, and her poems have been translated into Arabic and Persian. She has also translated Baudelaire and T.S. Eliot into Kurdish. Begikhani is a founding member and coordinator of Kurdish Women Action Against Honor Killing. Her research into Kurdish gender issues is widely published in Kurdish, French, and English.

In an email yesterday, Begikhani asked me for comp copies of After Shocks to sell at upcoming conferences in Paris and London of the Kurdish Women's Rights Watch. Proceeds would benefit KWRW. The Paris conference starts next Thursday, so I am mailing her a dozen copies expedited. At that weight and speed, this is going to cost at or near $100, maybe more (gulp!). Can I afford this? Not really, but I guess I can afford it more than Kurds can. My incredibly insignificant contribution--can it help the cause of justice in this murderous world?

Anyway, I share this here because I am just totally overwhelmed by the unexpected turns in my journey of the past 18 months to compile and launch After Shocks. The surprises get more incredible each day. Whether I sell enough books to earn back my costs seems immaterial at this point. The fun I'm having is worth every dollar. Never in my wildest dreams would I have anticipated coming across Nazand Begikhani's poems and her causes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Blog Interview about the Making of After Shocks

Today, blogger Jessica Handler posted her interview with me at Swimming in the Trees. The interview, conducted via email, focused on the conception of After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events and the background of the making of the anthology. Here's the link:

Interview with Tom Lombardo

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Report on After Shocks Reading in Charleston: Sept 18, 2008

The readings in Charleston Thursday night from After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events went very, very well. About 60 people showed up, helped by a Sunday news feature in the Charleston newspaper and two TV spots my publicist was able to line up for me that day.

The reading featured 8 Carolina contributors to After Shocks: Paul Allen, Linda Annas Ferguson, Barbara G.S. Hagerty, Richard Garcia, Kurt Lamkin, Susan Meyers, Gail Peck, and South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth. Things went very smoothly, considering the individual readings were quite short, 2 poems apiece. I was able to insert little bits of information about the anthology as a whole in between the readers ("15-second ads"). The entire reading took one hour, then the book signing lasted about 30 or so minutes. I had invited each contributor to sell his/her recent books, too, and a few of those were also sold and signed. The Friends of the Charleston Library managed the selling of the books.

Kurt Lamkin graciously played his Kora before and after the reading. The Kora is a 21-stringed West African instrument. The large, round gourd-like body sits in the players lap, and the neck stands up about three more feet. The nylon strings face the player, who plucks them while facing the neck. The sound is wonderful. It's been described as a harp-lute, but that doesn't quite capture it exactly. Google Kora, and you will find links with samples. Kurt has performed internationally. Not only sounds great, but he looks great playing it, too.

I was on TV twice on Thursday in Charleston to promote the book and the evening reading, at the ABC affiliate and the CBS affiliate. And this was great experience for future publicity efforts. I had done some production work in the past from behind the camera, but this was my first time in front of the live camera, and it does jangle the nerves a bit. During my time on "Low Country Live" at the ABC affiliate, Channel 4, the two interviewers were prepared, interested, and asked good questions. Lasted about 5 minutes. Afterwards, the woman interviewer, Ryan, told me her college roommate had been murdered by a stalker and that her fiancé had died in an auto wreck. I felt that connection that shared grief enables, and I inscribed her copy with a deeply heartfelt message. The afternoon segment at Channel 5 news was very brief..."After Shocks...reading tonight at the library...Yes, my wife died...Oh, yes, I recovered, sort of...Next up, how pregnant women can prevent radiation damage to their fetuses..." I was on camera for 75 seconds.

All in all, a good day. Because Charleston was the first public reading, I can now say proudly: After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events is now officially launched.

You can see more about After Shocks at:
After Shocks

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Readings from After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events

Charleston, South Carolina

September 18 7 PM
Charleston County Public Library
68 Calhoun Street

Carolina-based contributors to After Shocks will read from the anthology: Paul Allen, Linda Annas Ferguson, Richard Garcia, Barbara G.S. Hagerty, Kurtis Lamkin, Susan Meyers, Gail Peck, Marjory Wentworty, and editor Tom Lombardo. Music by contributors Kuris Lamkin and Paul Allen. Book signing follows the reading.

The Charleston Post & Courier published an article promoting this reading last Sunday. Click the link to read it.

Charleston Post & Courier article

Monday, July 28, 2008


After Shocks
The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events

An anthology of 152 poems by 115 poets from 15 nations
all speaking the language of recovery

With chapters on recovery from Grief, War, Exile, Divorce, Abuse, Bigotry, Illness, Injury, Addiction, Loss of innocence.

Including three U.S. Poets Laureate, a Pulitzer Prize Winner, a Whitbread Book of the Year winner, a Whitbread Poetry Award winner, two Lannan Award winners, two Forward Prize winners, the poets laureate of three states or commonwealths.

Available on-line and in bookstores NOW.

Order at

Praise for After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events

“Editor Tom Lombardo has assembled nothing less than an atlas of recovery for our time, a book brimming with various maps of the journey through suffering, despair, survival, restoration, and hope. Each poem here glimmers with an experiential and artistic wisdom that shows us how suffering can be endured, how loss can be accepted, and how the meanings of death can be transformed and turned toward an affirmation of life.”
— Fred Marchant, author of Full Moon Boat, Director, Creative Writing, Suffolk University

“This international collection of poetry can serve as an aid in promoting compassion and courage. We draw courage from those on a similar path. Our stories, whether personal or professional, are about transitions, and the story continues to unfold.”
— Nicholas Mazza, Ph.D., Editor of Journal of Poetry Therapy, Patricia V. Vance Professor of Social Work, Florida State University

“After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events is a book that seeks to stand up and walk among us as a living thing, a force to activate the good and prepare us to weather the bad. Let it stand and not be taken down. Let it live in our lives as readers.”
— Afaa Michael Weaver, author of The Plum Flower Dance, Alumnae Professor of English, Simmons College

“The sum of these poems is to tell the truth and by the telling to find relief and sometimes healing. The ones who read and hear these poems can share the loss that is so common among us, and perhaps also share the healing that comes through bold voice.”
— Walter Brueggemann, Ph.D., author of Finally Comes the Poet, Biblical Scholar, Columbia Theological Seminary

“This anthology is of national and international significance. It is a collection that crosses and embraces all boundaries—culture, class, gender, and race. It takes us into the hardest places human beings have to go—the failures of personal relationships, loss of loved ones, genocide, racial oppression, addiction, loss of innocence, marginalization, and more. And, yet, each section moves, finally, toward a place of hope and dignity and resilience.”
— Cathy Smith Bowers, author of The Candle I Hold Up To See You, Faculty, Queens University of Charlotte MFA Program.
Available on-line and in bookstores NOW.

Order at

The poets in After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events

Rita Dove Simon Armitage Carol Dine Douglas Dunn Cathy Smith Bowers Patricia Wellingham-Jones Donald Hall Carol Ann Duffy Molly Gloss Thomas Lux Pam Bernard Elizabeth Bernardin Sandor Kányádi Stellasue Lee Doug Anderson Jim McGarrah Sonja Besford Martha Collins Rachel Tzvia Back Brian Turner Nazand Begikhani Liu Hongbin Paul Sohar Satyendra Srivastava Marjorie Wentworth Diana Woodcock Majid Naficy Shelley Davidow J. P. Dancing Bear Margaret Chula Major Jackson Lisha Adela Garcia Ron Rash Annie Finch Barbara Mitchell Roseann Lloyd Joy Helsing Nehassaiu deGannes Peter Cooley Paul Allen R. G. Evans Barbara G.S. Hagerty Clinton B. Campbell Iain Haley Pollock Laurel Blossom Willie James King Satyendra Srivastava Georgia Ann Banks-Martin Kevin Young Tolu Ogunlesi Meir Wieseltier Randall Horton Richard Garcia György Faludy Bette Lynch Husted William Stafford Terri Wolfe J. Stephen Rhodes Gail Rudd Entrekin Anthony S. Abbott Faye J. Hoops Annie Finch Farideh Hassanzadeh Rebecca McClanahan Sister Lou Ella Hickman Anna Rabinowitz David Bottoms Janet Winans Stellasue Lee Alexa Selph Dennis Ward Stiles Renée Michele Breeden Ellen Doré Watson Joseph Mills Liesl Jobson Deborah P. Kolodji Aimee Nezhukumatathil Kurtis Lamkin C.C. Thomas Barbara Presnell Naomi Ruth Lowinsky Jericho Brown Therése Halscheid Becky Thompson John McAllister J. E. Pitts William Greenway Susan Varon Shaindel Beers Genie Cotner Marcia Slatkin David Bottoms Barbara Mitchell Joan Houlihan Jenni Meredith Rhett Iseman Trull Pramila Venkateswaran Diane Holland Valerie Nieman Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda Susan Meyers Meir Wieseltier Satyendra Srivastava Joseph Enzweiler Jane Gentry Rachel Eliza Griffiths Gail Peck Jennifer Barber Ilya Kaminsky Allison Hedge Coke Steven Cramer Linda Annas Ferguson Kevin Simmonds Gail Rudd Entrekin Nancy Tupper Ling Carole Baldock Deema Shehabi Kate Gale Jeffrey Levine Bernardo Atxaga

Available on-line and in bookstores NOW.

Order at