not a lump of island clay flung by a petulant god into the water not a piece of toast left too long in the oven not even the rough coat of a wild hog nor hairy tails disappearing in the canopy think of it as soft and pliant fronds in a weave plucked from dreams think of it as the smell of a sweet rice cake wrapped in banana leaf
I miss the fig's abundance, wild until the sun turned the fruits to stone. I long for a life I don't completely have but that edges close every time I sink into the periwinkle of a book. Every square of bathroom tile reminds me of how much work it takes to purge each spore of nostalgia from any memory— I'd prefer it to work like a flashlight beam in an attic crammed with boxes. Yet in the world, there's still the muted gold of oranges, the mossy green of broken-off branches; the musky five o'clock dark in early November, the days' flame-colored sentences just before they scatter in the wind—
what do the eyes know
or the ears about this precipice
of a yawn
whose designer feet
elude the water
you squeaky cleaners
fighting for your lives
even your signatures twist
into moth or rust
my electric heater
may be possessed by demons
but inside my lungs
there’s a city of light
even at the edge of the forest
limbs reach out
such is the hunger
for god’s own sun
i hold the holy book
against my chest
it sits between my nipples
like a little black dog
Inside a box I will lay my latest sorrows against all the older ones—I will sew them on like buttons that match the look of a frayed shirt, or add them to the stash of coins in the dashboard, ready tithe for a parking meter. I am heartsick again, heartsick for things I could not save, for the umbrella's broken rib that I did not mend; for the child who by not speaking to me is unchoosing me. Before my body was a country that housed lives then pushed them out into their exile, it too was its own monument to solitude. Inside a box I have enough sorrows to ransom other sorrows, enough to barter for some small trinket in the market of happiness. I am not looking for gold links to the eternal, nor for the exit out of a dream. But I have brought nearly everything I have to the center of the labyrinth, where perhaps one last sad, terrible mouth waits either to swallow me whole or spit me out
A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. You can also browse the blog digest archive or subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader. This week, an exceptionally varied gathering of posts as the semester winds down and the holiday season is upon us, ready or not—a “stripped, dry, testing time at the end of the year” as Beth Adams calls it, a time that seems to prompt writers to look and think more deeply about their lives. Enjoy.
I found this portion of a poem in Etel Adnan’s Time (trans. Sarah Riggs): “… In the splendor of the/gray morning,/in the death camp/of Beit Sahour,/with a little dew/and a handful of clay,/we created/life…”
And then this snippet from Martin Amis’s Sweet Tooth: “…ultimately reality is social, it’s among others that we have to live and their judgments matter.”
And I think about the poem I was trying to write about a kingfisher, that quickblue and chittering presence I value so much when I encounter it, and why it is an image in my mind just now, as I rail in my way against my own petty sufferings. Yes, I see you, self. What ails thee? And I find myself finding myself rich in the presence of other minds.Marilyn McCabe, I been all around this world; or, On Thematic Convergence
We have raked our leaves toward the street–but not into it, which is bad for the storm drains, etc.–and they await the second coming of the great leaf-sucking machine. We’ve had glorious warm sunny weather for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I took long walks, alone and with friends. I took a notebook with me on the long walk alone and was grateful to have poems tumble out. I stopped at various benches to write them down. At one I found a key and a dog leash in the leaves underneath, attached the one to the other, hung it over the bench, and moved on to the next. A woman came by, looking at her feet. “I’m looking for my keys,” she said. “I found it,” I said, “a single key, and a dog leash.” “That’s it!” she said. Yay!Kathleen Kirk, Leaves, But No Leavings…
I would have called you
today to tell you this,
on what would have been
your 90th birthday. Instead
I am holding this jar, a gift,
and proof of something
I am struggling to findLynne Rees, Poem ~ Pulse
the right words for
Poetry in general feels not at all important but maybe then that’s when I need it the most. That when I am not writing is maybe exactly when I should. I looked at the very pretty proof copy of the book yesterday and felt the weight of sitting down to make those final edits. To even care about releasing a book when I do not feel like reality is quite real anyway. Or that poetry life and real life are not even meeting each other. Not to mention the drag of December when I swear yesterday it was well on its way to darkness at 3pm.
But then again, barring the heft of all that has happened, this feeling is always here, the uncertainty of December, especially without even a glimmer at the end of Christmas, which is less bright this year and sort of murky in the distance. I will hopefully snap out of it by New Year’s–all of it, the holiday funk, the SAD depression, the writing fallow ground. Or at least I hope so.Kristy Bowen, notes & things | 12/2/2022
Maybe then I’ll get back to writing? I hope so. I miss it, truly. But the words seem stuck inside/between endless spreadsheets and Zoom meetings and oh my god the emails. (This is not about my students. I love teaching them.)
Is it any wonder my synapses are scrambled?
But painting is not stuck. Painting un-scrambles me in continually surprising and energizing ways. I am excited to paint almost every day. (Will I ever feel this way about writing? Did I? Is it even possible to?)
My son recently discovered he likes watching World Cup soccer. This is surprising. Shocking, even, to all of us living in this totally un-sporty home. But he’s delighted and I told him I was so glad he allowed himself to be open to discovering this about himself.
That’s what this year of painting has been for me. An incredible process of discovery.
I had no idea how much I needed it.
I can’t imagine my life, now, without it.Sheila Squillante, Still at It
This graduate class was a beautiful gift. Maybe it wouldn’t have been if I was submersed in a regular semester of teaching at the community college, but I kind of doubt that. There’s something to be said for students who show up ready to learn … whether it’s from me or each other or the work that we’re reading and discussing. There’s something to be said for older students who have shaken off the cloak of high school and undergraduate nonsense and are present because they’re in possession of themselves as people in the world.
To be clear, I’m also really appreciative of my students who are decidedly NOT in the world. Students who don’t really know what they want to do or where they want to be — I love having honest conversations with them and acknowledging that sometimes not-knowing is part of the process. But it takes a particular kind of energy to engage like that — and after almost two decades of that kind of engagement, I’m happy to try something different.
The difference comes down to the students who wrote some really cool prose and poetry this semester. And some of them failed in their aims, but it was awesome to see them try to meet those aims, and to hear them speak about what they learned in the process. AND to hear them talk about their “final projects” in terms that made it clear that the projects themselves aren’t over, aren’t final, aren’t anywhere near complete.Sarah Kain Gutowski, Lessons & Gratitude
How do you know when a poem is finished?
A couple of years ago, I asked one of my poetry mentors this same question. She chuckled and told me about how she recently dug up the Microsoft Word file of a poem that was published many years ago and started editing the poem again, because she “felt like it.” That was incredibly liberating for me. My relationship with poems became much more fluid once I understood that a poem may never be finished and instead, I could aspire for the poem to be good enough.Thomas Whyte, Jaeyun Yoo : part two
So Peter and I managed to get the latest episode of Planet Poetry edited and up last Thursday, featuring Peter’s interview with Sarah Barnsley on her first full collection The Thoughts. It’s an excellent book, in fact it’s one of my recommendations in the forthcoming edition of Poetry News. The poddy is going well. Now all we need are <unsubtle-hint> a few kind donations to help us pay the costs of the recording and hosting platforms! </unsubtle-hint> We were especially chuffed to hear that Kim Moore (who we interviewed in our Season 3 opener recently) won the Forward Prize! We bask in the reflected glory! Our Christmas episode is coming up on December 15th, featuring my interview with Matthew Stewart plus party hats, carols and bloopers. Don’t miss it!!
Meanwhile I’ve just sent out the updated spreadsheet of poetry magazine windows, and although I’ve lost patience with a few of the mags that seem to be permanently closed and/or never updated, there are some interesting additions. Even one journal that’s finally open for poetry after I took it off the list some time ago because it was never open and didn’t respond to queries. Perhaps poetry mags never die, they just pass out for a while (to nick a line from Prole).Robin Houghton, Subs, pods and mags
This morning I read Anne Helen Peterson’s latest newsletter offering (linked above), on reading, and so much hit so close to home. I miss reading the way I once did. I keep trying to find my way back to it, and it eludes me. I then spent a good amount of time deleting apps from my phone. I’d already deactivated the dumpster fire that is Twitter, which I rarely used anyway, but I’ve put both Instagram and Facebook in timeout. I really love some Instagram accounts I follow (e.g., poetryisnotaluxury), but I would rather be the kind of reader I once was. I’m not sure this will do the trick, but I’m willing to try it.
Not much in store for today. I’m sitting at our dining table in the living room, on new-to-us old chairs we bought and recovered last weekend, watching snow blow out the window. The weather app tells me it’s supposed to be rain and 37 degrees, but my eyes tell me those are snowflakes and that they are sticking to the ground. I’d rather believe my eyes than my phone.Rita Ott Ramstad, ’tis the season…
There is something curious about how so much poetry out of Vancouver is centred on movement, whether [Edward] Bryne’s compositions while riding BC Transit, on bicycle or on foot, comparable to Meredith Quartermain’s walking [see her 2005 collection Vancouver Walking] or George Stanley riding a similar Vancouver bus route [see my review of his 2008 collection Vancouver: a poem here], to George Bowering thinking his way through Duino Elegies via Kerrisdale. In comparison, there aren’t many poems I’m aware of composed overtly across the lines of the Montreal Metro, or Toronto’s GO Trains, let alone their expansive subway system (although bpNichol famously spoke first-draft thoughts into a hand-held tape machine while driving the distance between Coach House and Therafields). In certain ways, there’s almost something comparable to Vancouver’s transit-poems to England’s handful of poems composed on foot, responding to the uniquely-English meditative tradition of walking vast countryside distances [see my review Mark Goodwin’s 2014 collection Steps, for example, here]. Frank O’Hara may have composed a collection of poems during his lunch break, but, more recently, Mary Austin Speaker composed her 2016 collection, The Bridge, while riding daily commuter distances across New York’s Manhattan Bridge [see my review of such here]. How much, we might begin to ask, has literature been shaped through the physical requirements of each author’s particular geography? As Byrne offers as part of “MORNING SONGS”: “I saw Kirilov / fifty years ago / on the Barton Street bus / and again this morning / on 6th Avenue // One of us hasn’t changed / in all those years [.]”rob mclennan, Edward Byrne, Tracery
Once I had writing habits, some that worked better than others. This past year has given me one disruption after another: job loss which might have opened up extra time, had I not broken my wrist, coupled with a huge move mid-summer and a smaller move at the end of the summer and a heavier class load than in the past.
Next term, I will try to set up some writing habits that will result in more writing time. What will that look like? I don’t know yet. Let me think about it before 2023 gets away from me. For now, I’m trying to keep my poetry legal pad close to me, and to go ahead and start writing, even if I only have a glimmer of an idea.
Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast about the end of Byzantium. I thought about the Yeats poem, and as I read it, a line came to me: This is no country for young women. I decided to write it down and to keep going. I decided to have something inspired from the Yeats poem in each stanza. […]
I will continue to work with the poem–one of my habits that has developed in the past few years is that I write a draft and don’t return. I’d like to actually finish a poem, type it into the computer, and send it off to see if anyone would like to publish it. But more than publication, I want to have the joy of having crafted a rough draft into a more finished draft. These days, I often end a writing session without a complete rough draft. I write a few lines or stanzas and drift away, thinking I’ll return when I’m more inspired, and I don’t return, not yet.Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Sailing from Byzantium: Process Notes
Downtown, counterfeit angels wander dark streets drop kicking smiles for kicks.
Mispronounced junky dreams fumble through alleyways, mistaking fentanyl for sentinels.
All across the city, many spend their time waiting for something great that comes a little too late, like winning the lottery while on the way to the electric chair.
I press an ear to a cloud to listen in on the heavens.
I hear someone say a kiss is fluent in all languages.Rich Ferguson, When Pondering the Language of Salvation
A while back I wrote a series of poems about Amy Winehouse. I’ve always been a huge fan of her music and her second album, Back to Black, will forever be one of my favorites and I listened to it on repeat when my first marriage fell apart so those songs and these poems weave together a lot of emotional topics: her untimely death, disordered eating, dysfunctional relationships.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with the poems – they didn’t fit in my forthcoming collection but there weren’t enough for a chapbook. After thinking about it for a while, I decided I would handmake a microchap of the Amy Winehouse poems. Of course, I just had to figure out how to do that…
I spent an afternoon figuring out how to format the pages correctly. Then I spent $500 on supplies – paper, an awl, book binding needles, heavy duty thread. Once I had the supplies I spent another afternoon printing all the pages. I decided I wanted to make 100 copies. Which seemed ambitious but still doable. Famous last words? Maybe…Courtney LeBlanc, Your Hands are Going to Ache
I’m just back from a very wintry dog walk with my very slow and elderly dog. There is something to be said for the slow walk and the honesty of bad weather, how a really good soaking freezes you so deeply it’s like it’s cleaned the very bones of you. And going so slowly allows for a close examination of the landscape; not just the valley and the hills around you, but of the landscape with a small L, the place where we exist every day, the areas that, in some ways, become background. I think of hedgerows like that. Hedgerows are a constant in the landscape, acting as dividers, boundary lines, shade for livestock. They sew the lands together, tracking across the countryside and lining the lanes. The hedgerows around my village feel timeless, and some are in fact likely to be boundary lines going back a thousand years or more. Hedgerows are like that – timeless, ancient, magical. Even the name – hedgerow, feels old and rounded with time, so close to the old english hegeræwe I can feel the weight of all those years in my mouth as I say it. I like the way you look at a hedge and see its history. Here’s a picture of a hedge in my village that has a history of being maintained in the traditional way, in which the living Hawthorn is cut down through the stem almost to the ground and then bent over and woven through the other stems to create a living fence. This is called ‘plashing’ and the bent part is the plasher. It’s an ancient technique that is lovely to see still in use. Sometimes you might see a lovely old hawthorn on its own and you might notice that it has a strange ‘elbow’ shape to some of its lower branches. That is the history of the tree, its brethren all gone and only the angle of its branches telling how once it was part of a hedgerow, a living fence that kept sheep in.Wendy Pratt, The Winter Hedgerow
I’m delighted to announce that The Wind and the Rain, my sixth collection of poems, will be published with Blue Diode Publishing in June 2023.
The Wind and the Rain is a book of loss. It combines personal and environmental grief through the metaphor of rain.
You can read recently published poems from the book by following the links here.Anthony Wilson, The Wind and the Rain – due in June 2023
I was gathering strangeness, like little stones. TossingRajani Radhakrishnan, Part 23
them into a jar, waiting for the water to rise to the
top. A thirsty crow, negotiating with the universe.
According to a 2006 study funded by the Poetry Foundation and the National Organization for Research at the University of Chicago, the sneak attack is the best approach when attempting to reach people who say they don’t read poetry.* Non-readers of poetry were more likely to read or listen to a poem when they were exposed to one in unexpected places. These unexpected places include billboards, public transportation, events, and the newspaper.
I wonder if this willingness to tolerate a poem is due the nature of the encounter. If a person doesn’t like poetry, and knows she’ll have to sit through one at an upcoming event, she’s probably already prepared to tune out. But if she happens to glance up while driving on the freeway and pass a poem in giant letters on a billboard or see one while riding the subway, the surprise might just startle her into a new appreciation.
When I was Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA, I decided that the most important part of my job was to increase those chance encounters with poetry. I tried my best to put poems in places where people were forced to stand or sit for undetermined lengths of time: the bank, grocery store, cleaners, coffee shop, hardware store, dentist’s office, etc.
My hairdresser hung a short poem by Hafiz on a wall in her salon, framed like a painting. She told me that people would look at it, first thinking it was a picture, and then, puzzled, ask her about it. I also organized a “Poem in Your Pocket” day, where volunteers handed out poems to unsuspecting members of our town. The reactions were varied—some people seemed delighted, some confused, and a few shrank back in horror. I also conducted holiday-themed poetry events (Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day), which were surprisingly well-received.
After three years of being the town’s self-appointed poetry sniper, I was worn out, happy to retreat back into my previous persona as a private person. But every once in a while, I’d come across a tattered poem printed on mint-green cardstock, taped to a cash register in a local business. And I would smile a secret smile of satisfaction.Erica Goss, Poetry: the Sneak Attack
One cool perk of blogging is that occasionally complete strangers contact me out of the blue and ask if I would like to have a book. My answer is always, Yes! Book, please!
This week’s mail brought me a chapbook of poems from Atmosphere Press, a debut collection by Damian White, of Columbus, Ohio. When I receive poetry books, I often set them aside until my April poetry blogging binge (a book a day), but I Made a Place for You was just released, and I told Damian I would blog about it right away.
The poems are short—“language poetry crossed with gospel,” as one reviewer puts it—but they well up from the poet’s own life and are a testament to how dire circumstances (in White’s case, homelessness) can be “channeled … into poetry to heal a fractured identity.” Predictably the poems are often ontological, a chronicle of a spiritual journey.Bethany Reid, I Made a Place for You
the urn is light but heavy
weight upon his shoulders
unscrews the lid
grey ash onto white water
tips three times
on three outgoing waves
shakes the canisterPaul Tobin, GREY MOTES ON THE AIR
grey motes on the air
retraces his footprints
Phil’s a big deal in town, with his birthday celebrated as part of February’s Dragonfest. There’s a DVD of his poems in tribute. He has at least 2 books. One of his poems was the source of the name of the TaDa arts fest.
He says there are big P poets who do it for a living, small p poets who do it seriously and no p poets like him. He says poetry is in the living, and in involvement in the community.Pearl Pirie, Village Poet
As it is poetry manuscript contest season, and I’m once again finding myself reading manuscripts, I thought I’d offer some “notes from a manuscript reader.” These are all just my opinions, and your mileage may vary.
- If you’ve never heard this before, make sure your first five poems are doing a lot of heavy lifting for the book—and then the last final poems. Because you know what? Tired and (mostly) unpaid readers are probably not going to sift through every single poem unless you’ve already hooked them.
- This is for contests that allow acknowledgements (some do not, so just ignore this if that is the case.) Do acknowledgements matter? Well, if you have none, it might. I think if you haven’t done the work of submitting individual poems for publication, you’re probably not ready for the work of publishing and publicizing a book. I don’t really pay attention to number or the names of the publications, but having none or only one or two acknowledgements kind of puts you in the danger zone. Now, if I still loved the poetry, I might still put it through. Just know that getting individual poems published shows you’re trying, you’re part of the literary world, and you’re trying to build an audience—all things I’d care about as a publisher, and as an extension, a reader.
- For books leaning heavily on one historical period or incident—this can work for or against you. I’ve read terrific books done in this way, but also a lot of boring ones. If you choose this route, make sure you vary voices, styles, and forms to keep the reader’s interest.
- There is a weird sameness of tone in the manuscripts I’ve read this year—and granted, it’s just a portion of submissions from one publisher—but there’s a monotone in the manuscripts. They’re not poorly written, but they lack emotion, power, passion. I wonder if this is possibly the effect of pandemic fatigue—it’s flattened out our voices, our writing? Anyway, don’t be afraid to be a little weird, out there, or show you care about something or someone. It’ll likely jolt the readers – which is usually a good thing.
- Good titles never hurt you. Once again, don’t be afraid to be a little weird.
I hope this was helpful! (And not too cranky! Anyway, as I said, this is just one person’s opinion.)Jeannine Hall Gailey, First Snow (with Power Outages, Haircuts and Holiday Things), Pushcart Nominations, Notes from a Manuscript Reader
Because we’re about to embark on our other family Xmas tradition of watching a film together on a Sunday evening in the lead up to Xmas (Mainly Xmas films, obvs), time is tight today, but I do want to post a poem—especially as I have permission to do so from the poet themselves.
Given the last thing we put on the tree was the star, this poem feels even more timely. It’s Each Star is a Sun by Jo Haslam from her second collection, ‘The Sign for Water‘. Sadly, the book appears to be out of print, but it’s one of the earliest poetry books I can recall buying in Waterstones, Norwich. I hadn’t read the book in years, but stumbled across it on my shelves last week. I knew I had to post something from it, and asked Jo’s permission. Out of the two I suggested this was her preference, and it’s the perfect choice.
I love the way the poem contains an element of the magical, and alludes to the way that we know the science of things, but still ascribe some sort of magic to the light that reaches us from such a distance. The way the lines of the poem seem to expand and contract like a galaxy and the universe seems entirely right.Mat Riches, It must be a sign (for water)
watching the stars.
They were always
watching the stars.
They kept listening.
That’s how we
got here today,Tom Montag, THREE OLD MONK POEMS (354)
the old monk said.
Issue 59 of antennae – the journal of nature in visual culture is now out on the theme Microbial Ecologies. It is an extraordinary collection of multidisciplinary practices, approaches, methodologies, and conceptions to help us see and value the microbial worlds that until recently have remained invisible. As editor Giovanni Aloi says, “It is only by recognizing and engaging with microbial agencies that fuller networks of interconnectedness will enable us to tell the stories we truly need for our time and for the future.”
I’m delighted to have a piece in this edition. Ferrovores: the iron eaters is an extended version of the text of my video The Ferrovores.
Iron is the most common metal on earth. Indeed, it forms much of the molten core of the planet which in turn generates the earth’s magnetic poles. The red soils of the world are due to iron. At a biochemical level, iron is essential for human life, amongst other things, making our blood red. In the societal domain, iron is essential for manufacturing, electricity generation, and much more. Certain bacteria can derive energy for life directly from dissolved iron compounds (“rust”) rather than from oxygen as we do. Perhaps, at some time in the future, we, our descendants, the Ferrovores, may need to do the same.
Yet the Ferrovores are a product of digital code: generational, mutating, synthesising. Even so, the environment collapses around them, as they mine the language of pre-industrial times for reassurance and comfort, dreaming of the days when manufacturing really was handicraft and shared skills.Ian Gibbins, Ferrovores: the iron eaters in Antennae
In her book Index Cards, Moyra Davey quotes someone saying that everyone should take a one year sabbatical — the person dares her listeners to “imagine what that would be like.” And I think the word “dares” is meaningful here, and maybe now especially. Because it did feel even quite daring to take a month (especially during a pandemic, admittedly). The idea, Davey says, is that everyone in their time on earth should get to experience an interval of just freaking joy. Just as Cixous talked about fecundity being the natural state for writers, I believe that the state of feeling joy and being delighted on a daily basis is a basic human right. Which of course is so hard to attain. But there it is.
And I don’t think we’re likely to feel delighted and joyful all day long or anything like that. But in my month in Rome, doing whatever we wanted every single day which included looking at amazing art, writing, photographing, being creative, really reset my beleaguered pandemic brain. For the last couple of years, I have not felt myself. I’ve hit some distressing levels of depression. I know I’m not alone in that.
And so, to live a month in utter happiness, contentedness, joy: I can tell you that it rewired my brain, reset my soul. Obviously, I want to keep those good vibes going. How? So that will be my ongoing quest.Shawna Lemay, A Month in Rome
Friday: Late fall in the north: this is the stripped, dry, testing time at the end of the year. Short days, distant pale sun, bare trees, and an increasingly penetrating cold. Ironically, when there’s more snow covering the ground, it often seems warmer, and easier to be outside: during these current weeks, though, the landscape feels like a bed without a blanket. We are all driven more and more into the interiors of our homes, and of ourselves.
I swam, early this morning. Sleepy and not in the best of moods when I pushed myself into the elevator, into the locker room, on with the suit and cap and goggles and into the water, the rhythm quickly took over and after five laps I was already feeling better; after twenty-five I felt renewed, at home in my body in spite of its creaky and achy parts, ready to face the day. A couple of afternoons ago, I rode down and walked back up the many flights of stairs to my apartment — this is something I should, and could, do regularly. And while swimming does stretch and use most muscle groups, some yoga focused on balance and strength would be good this winter too.
For someone who tends to be pretty consumed with thoughts and words, I know that I can’t live entirely in my head, or let myself become distracted and immobile for hours on end. I need to use my body to make music, make art, knit and sew, chop and cook, move from place to place. It helps to feel my lungs breathing and my heart pumping blood. I think that one of the problems of living in harsh winter climates, especially as we get older, is the feeling of enclosure and constriction which can lead to a lack of embodiment.Beth Adams, Squalls
“Hope is a Silhouette” is a contemporary, empathetic look at life, particularly love and desires. Lana McDonagh explores how hope can become two-edged if ill-defined: it can keep a gambler hooked on his downfall, it can make a building look like a home, it can consume lovers and trick them into isolating themselves from a wider world. It can be as in/fallible as memory. Slender but thought-provoking, like a song you somehow keep noticing in the bar, on a passing car radio, an advert’s anthem that becomes a soundtrack to life.Emma Lee, “Hope is a Silhouette” Lana McDonagh (Wordville) – book review
Often enough, I don’t fully understand the origins of what I write until long after. I had a funny correspondence with a high schooler a couple of months ago, not long after “Prescriptions” was published in Poetry. She asked, “What does it mean?” I knew that I’d drafted “Prescriptions” shortly after my mother’s death; that it was originally longer but I had to pare it down; and that while I was grieving as I wrote it, I was also relieved for my mother that she got to shed some of the harder aspects of her life. It consoled me to imagine her moving back to a state of openness and possibility. As I tried to distill all these thoughts into a short email, I realized there had been a more specific trigger: the hospice nurse advising us to tell our mother that it was okay to let go, if she wanted to; that we were grateful for her years of caring for us but we would be all right without her. She was unresponsive by then, but my siblings and I did, one by one, speaking to her privately. She died that night.Lesley Wheeler, Haunted Matisse & packing light
the songs my mother
knew by heart
Almost as soon as I’d pressed ‘publish’ on my previous post (in which I mentioned I had a poem forthcoming in Tinywords, ) the poem was published. So, here it is (above) a little more abstract than I’m used to writing, but hopefully it works!
Far more important than my small poem though, is this bit of news: let’s celebrate Kim Moore winning the Forward Prize for best collection. What a fantastic achievement. I was fortunate enough to read alongside Kim when we both had pamphlets published by Smith/Doorstop in 2012. She is hugely talented, and also incredibly hard-working. Since I got into haiku, I’ve been a bit out of the mainstream poetry loop, but luckily I had 6 Music on the radio on the way home from my guitar lesson today, and there was Kim, being interviewed by Cerys Matthews. So, congratulations Kim. I’m so happy for you and I know there will be more prizes to come! You are an amazing poet who works incredibly hard and your achievement is testimony to that. Hats off to you!Julie Mellor, Surface ripples
May the leaves continueLuisa A. Igloria, Prayer in Aid of Continuance
to open their pores and soak up carbon
emissions. May we reward the industry
of their green and saffron, their ruby
and bark. May we bring the parched
envelopes of ourselves and be filled with
the languages of all we love, at tables
overflowing into the end of the world.
"...more than 2,000 experts will wrap up a week of negotiations on plastic pollution at one of the largest global gatherings ever to address what even industry leaders in plastics say is a crisis." - 02 December 2022, Associated Press What have we taken into our mouths, what have we fed each other? And from our shining hair, what molecules of gleaming swirl away into the ocean at the end of the drain, never to dissolve? What we wash the windows with is hardly water, is hardly rain. If I buy you a fine halter would you give me a noose? If I leave the potted lemon tree outside, will it beg owl feathers from the moon? Each streak, a little tragedy first born in the bowels of the earth. From the torching of wood and the crystalline repellents of moths, an atmosphere of polymer and phosphorus. The sweater I wear comes from an indeterminate length of yarn extruded from five recycled bottles. What is a measure of softness when some toothbrushes will not degrade for at least five hundred years? In a dim basement chamber of a museum, fish from the last century still float in vats of alcohol. Our appetite for catalogs is undiminished, our hearts doubled over from the weight of debts we haven't finished paying.
what do you do when
your mind is no longer a fist
when clumsy typing turns
your crowd into crows
and they steal your last
when the salt of the earth
rises up in a poisonous wind
and you start shedding your skin
at odd moments
it’s time to stop living
in the future
find a wilderness
where many things can kill you
Here we are, years after trying to give shape to our desires— Here we are in the middle of the room, and that woman on the internet is singing in praise of the uncluttered, hugging needle- point pillows to her bosom before throwing them away. Unloved or unlovely, she says you can hire one of her certified consultants to help tidy your home for a fee. But it's the journalist on the late night show I can't stop thinking about— how she held up both arms as if locked arm-in-arm with another, how she talked of what it means to hold the line, not give in to darkness after darkness dropping around us like bombs every day. How we should be careful not to surrender our birthright to that dream republic where we won't be sad there will be more books than we could ever finish reading and where, looking up, we might grab a poem/ fluttering from the sky,/ blinded by weeping.
climbing this cold mountain
half your face in shadow
moon which daytime cloud
have you made your nest in
immense turbine blades
are rising and falling
above the trees
above the roar of traffic
where a cold hiker
can feel drawn
to a dark twist of roots
suspended above a ravine
or a cliff shaggy
with hipster icicles
along a trail designed
by the national park service
to showcase ‘a gateway
to western settlement’
i keep mistaking the sound of the turbines
for my own pulse
a runner in ultralight shoes
shadowed by clouds of breath
keeps his eyes on the ground
a steady incline
built to haul canal boats
over the allegheny front
while below the trail
in a 200-year-old culvert
for a creek that’s wandered
off into another bed
i gape at stalactites of ice
dripping into a pool
bright with late afternoon sun
the whole glowing summit
under an arch of mortared stone
the red west of sunset
here and now
no need to ride
off into it
For more, see the NPS website.
The average age of a car is now reported to be 12.5 years— Cars are smarter, meaning their mechanics are improved by things like electricity and computers. Once, I read that an engine is like a house built to contain explosions. After ignition, gas fires up the pistons and the resulting chain of combustion creates enough energy for turning the wheels. In 2022, even in the midst of a global pandemic, the average life expectancy of humans is 72.98 years, not counting cryonics experiments like the one in Arizona, where a hundred and ninety-nine bodies and heads float in shiny tanks of liquid nitrogen, waiting for a future science which, surely, will know what to do with them. How is it possible for a woman to live past her 105th birthday, longer than any of her doctors, despite smoking daily for over half her life? Someone pronounced brain dead after a car crash can still make a gift of their tissues, corneas, or kidneys to a waiting organ recipient. My mother, now mostly propped up in bed in a nursing home, feels too weak to do anything but sleep—any day now, I'll think. Yet there are times when she rallies or quarrels with her caregivers, days when she confides she wants a slice of cake and wants to live to be at least a hundred. We know there is an end—when the mind's engine sputters and stalls in endless rewinds, when the body torques more vividly into a question without answer; when the mottled flesh and fruit of this life peels steadfast into itself, shedding honey for bone.