Watch City Readers April 2022
National Poetry Month
Watch City Readers is a literacy program geared to tweens, teens, and families. Produced by Jessica Lucci through a grant from the Waltham Cultural Council and the Mass Cultural Council, its goal is to introduce the vibrancy of various literary genres in an exciting and inclusive way.
The Watch City Readers production is held on the second Sunday of the month at 6PM on Jessica Lucci's FB page. After the live event, it is archived for future viewers or those who choose to watch again.
Happy National Poetry Month! This episode also marks one year of Watch City Readers programming!
This year to celebrate National Poetry Month, we are investigating different styles and tones in poetry. I have carefully curated selections from local authors, and during our FB live, we might be lucky enough to have one of them join us!
The selected poets I have chosen to read from include Peter Payack, Franz Wright, Dan Szcxesny, Melody Lee, and Sarah Cannavo.
Please feel welcome to tune in, and revisit this page for updated information!
Local multi-award winning poet, Peter Payack, was on hand to answer questions and provide insight into what it is like to be a poet.
Following is his biography in his own words, then an interview I had the delight in conducting with him.
Peter Payack is a father, a coach, a writer, a science fiction poet, a marathon runner, a professor, an inventor, a sky artist, a Cambridge community activist, a CBS weather watcher and a recipient of the 2019 Marquis Who's Who Lifetime Achievement Award.
Blah, Blah, Blah!!!
Peter Payack was the first Poet Populist of Cambridge Massachusetts (2007-2009). His innovation, Phone-a-Poem, the Cambridge/Boston Poetry Hotline (1976-2001) along with his work and realia, were recently archived at Harvard's Lamont Library in the Woodberry Poetry Room.
He was a contributing editor of the groundbreaking magazine,
Creative Computing from 1975-1985 which published a page of his poetry every issue.
Payack is an acclaimed poet and writer including multiple appearances in The Paris Review, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Cornell Review, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazines, Creative Computing and the Boston Globe. He has published over 1,500 poems, stories, prose poems, photos and articles.
His Poem, The Migration of Darkness, won the 1980 Rhysling Award, signifying The Best Poem in Science Fiction Poetry, and was recently named the number one poem that unites science and art (Quirk Books.)
His work has been anthologized extensively including pieces in Knowing & Writing, New Perspectives on Classical Questions (Harper Collins), Astronomy, from the Earth to the Universe (Saunders College Publishing), and The Poets' Encyclopedia (Unmuzzled Ox), The Paris Review Anthology (Norton), The Alchemy of Stars (SPFA) and Burning With a Vision (Owlswick Press.)
He has 20 books to his credit, including "No Free Will in Tomatoes" and Blanket Knowledge" both from Zoland Books.
Payack is currently working on three collections, including "The Migration Of Darkness, and other classic science fiction poems."
Payack is the inventor of the world-renowned Stonehenge Watch™, which Catherine Salmons (in the Boston Phoenix) declared, "It's a poem you can hold in the palm of your hand, a three-dimensional Zen conundrum, the ultimate neo-dada gadget." The Stonehenge Watch™ is an infinitesimal replica of the megaliths at Stonehenge inside of an old-fashioned pocket watch, which can be used as a shadow clock to tell time, mark the seasons and predict eclipses. The Stonehenge Watch™ has been featured at The International Sky Art Conference at MIT, on BBC-TV, in Astronomy and has been for sale at the Stonehenge site itself.
As a Sky Artist Payack has been commissioned to do environmental poetry projects for The New York Avant Garde Festival, The International Sky Art Conference (MIT), The Harvard 350 Celebration and Boston's First Night.
Payack's Poem, "No Free Will in Tomatoes" has been sandblasted into the brick floor of the Davis Square Subway Station (Boston's Red Line) since 1984.
Peter was featured on the PBS Children's show ARTHUR, episode1308,"Fernlets for Fern," and is pictured in US Magazine with his "Poetry Mobile".
Peter was an Assistant Professor Communications at The Berklee College of Music, and taught Technical & Scientific Communications at The University of Massachusetts Lowell for over 30 years where he was awarded the 2010 Haskell Award for Distinguished teaching. Payack has also been a visiting artist at The Center For Advanced Visual Studies at M.I.T.
Peter is a weather watcher for WBZ-TV (CBS) Boston.
When not writing poetry, teaching or inventing new things, he can be found coaching The Cambridge Rindge & Latin School Varsity wrestling team or coaching The Bob Cats in The Cambridge Girls Softball League. Payack was a co-founder of the CGSL in 1992.
He has run over 100,000 miles, hundreds of road races and 24 marathons, including 12 Boston Marathons.
Peter has 2 sons, Mike and Peter Paul. Mike is a writer and Peter Paul is an editorial cartoonist.
You can read more about Peter on his websites www.peterpayack.com
I recently had the delight of interviewing the dynamic Peter Payack for Watch City Readers. He was gracious and thoughtful with his answers, and his sense of humor definitely shone through.
Peter Payack Interview by Jessica Lucci
JL: What do people call you?
Peter Payack:Peter or coach Payack, never Professor Payack Haha
JL: Where are you from?
Peter Payack: New Jersey, but moved to Cambridge 50 years ago
JL: Can you tell us a little about your experiences in Waltham?
Peter Payack: I have coached football, wrestling and softball at Cambridge Rindge and Latin so I have been at Waltham for many years. Also I would bring my kids to the old roller lanes there (Wal-Lex)
JL: Can you tell us about your writing?
Peter Paycack: I write poems, prose poems, stories, articles for the newspapers and take photos.
A lot of people consider my work Science Fiction, since a lot of my themes have to do with science, astronomy, history and philosophy I always use humor in my poems. I try to make them funny but also thoughtful.
JL: What is your newest writing project?
Peter Payack: Latest news is my new book: The Migration of Darkness, New and Selected Science Fiction Poems 1975-2020.
JL: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Peter Payack: I began writing when I was in High School, became a serious writer when I was 23.
I wrote long dry philosophical stories in college. But found my voice when I started writing poems when I was 23. I switched to writing poems that were funny and thoughtful. Its my nature to be funny.
JL: Can you tell us more about how your writing career began?
Peter Payack: My first major book was named No Free Will In Tomatoes, published by Zoland Books.
I found the title somewhat enigmatic plus a poem of mine with that title is engraved in the bricks of the Davis Square subway station in Somerville.
Some of my poems are personal, like those about my young kids or about my mom when she died, but most are from ideas in my head. I wrote a lot of poems and published over 1,500 of them!
JL: Any projects in the works?
Peter Payack: I am working on 5 new books. A book of poems about my kids, a book of short poems, a book of collages, and two novellas.
JL: Who does your book covers?
Peter Payack: My son, Peter Paul Payack, who is a graphic designer and editorial cartoonist, designs my covers and my books
JL: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything you find particularly challenging?
Peter Payack: My writing style is Free verse. I find this less constricting when you do have to rely on a word that rhymes. There are hundreds of thousands of words in the English language to pick from. But I do pay attention to line breaks in my poems. I try to reflect how I would recite the poem into the structure of the poem.
When I write prose poems there is no structure, so it's more like paragraphs.
JL: Is there a message in your writing that you want readers to grasp?
Peter Payack: There is usually a message, or what I call an "idea" in each poem. And then I always incorporate humor. Humor makes poems and other writing very accessible.
JL: Who is your fave writer?
Peter Payack: My favorite writers are Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brautigan, Michael Benedikt and Phyllis Janowitz among writers.
But I read a lot of science, philosophy and history that I incorporate into my poems.
Marcus Aurelius, Aristotle, Plato, Victor Frankle, the Zen Philosophers and various mystics.
JL: Outside of family, has there been another entity that supported your commitment to be a published author?
Peter Payack: Various editors who encouraged and published my work: Roland Pease (Zoland Books), Mike Benedikt (the Paris Review), David Ahl (Creative Computing), Glen Collins (The New York Times), various editors over 5 decades at Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. And Joseph Sendry, a teacher I had in college who encouraged my humor and creativity.
JL: Thank you for sharing your time and talent with us, and for allowing me to read from your book, "Migration of Darkness," which is, by the way, my fave new book of poetry.
Peter Payack: You're welcome. Did I pass the test with my answers?
JL: Absolutely. You are bringing new light to the subject of poetry for young readers.