poet bloggers revival tour 2018 A few quotes + links (please click through!) from the Poet Bloggers Revival Tour, plus occasional other poetry bloggers in my feed reader. If you missed last week’s digest, here’s the archive.

This week, I didn’t notice too many common themes. Poetry bloggers were all over the place—in a good way. But I sense a shared restlessness, prompted perhaps in part by the feeling, in many places around the northern hemisphere, that spring is seriously overdue.

It is not uncommon to have a day like this during the month of March in the Midwest. It’s almost Spring, but the threat of snow is still very real on any given day. (This morning, we woke to an ice/sleet storm. It was melted by 2 PM.) My spring break begins next Friday, and I’m not sure whether it will be sunny long walk weather or inside with a blanket weather. The plants aren’t sure, either–the day lilies are already pushing their green through the cold ground, as are the clusters of crocus. The coyotes from the nearby forest preserve are getting bold, loping into the neighborhood yards, and the birds are back, shimmering the trees with their tentative song. Everything seems to be waiting for a change, one long inhale held and held and held.

Changes abound, and not just in the weather. I have resurrected the YA novel manuscript I began two summers ago in the hopes of trying something a little different. The poems are coming slowly, so slowly, and yet I want to write. On any given day, my writing seems very much like strange weather – something begins well, then it dissolves into something beautiful but meaningless; it occasionally gets a little dangerous, and then melts into oblivion or a journal page that I won’t look at again. Even the writing of this post seemed to follow that pattern – at first, it came easily and then, when I got to this paragraph, fits and starts. A lot of deleting and rewriting. A lot of fog and dissonance. (You can decide what the weather is like as reader here…) And I may not post next week during my time off from work, giving myself a break from the self-imposed resolution to post once a week, my own internal weather just as fickle as Mother Nature’s.
Donna Vorreyer, Fluctuation


I like birth as a metaphor for the creative process, but it’s a bit of a cliché, plus it’s not accessible to everybody (make that every body). I can see how another bodily function could be an apt metaphor, too, one we all share. You may have heard of the children’s book Everyone Poops? It’s true, we do.

Think about it. The creative process is a lot like the digestive process. We take life into our bodies. We let it travel through us. We absorb what we can. We express those things that need to come out.

Bear with me here.

Sometimes poems and stories come out in a messy, smelly, gush. Sometimes we are surprised by their colors, by the kernels of life embedded inside. Sometimes we strain and strain and all that comes out is a little pebble of language, maybe nothing at all. Sometimes a piece of writing slides from our bodies and we feel cleansed and light.
Gayle Brandeis, Arse Poetica (Or, A Shitty Metaphor) (h/t: Kim Bailey Spradlin)


Perhaps the plethora of poets, poetry readings, poetry workshops and poetry programs today has made some versions of the “first person lyric grounded in everyday experience” seem too easy, too artless—just the sort of thing anyone who decided yesterday to call herself a poet can write. Perhaps the subjects of such lyrics have begun to seem too predictable. Perhaps the tide has finally finished turning against “confessional” poetry—an archetypal twentieth-century version of first person lyric grounded in everyday experience—and especially against less-than-artistic versions of it. Here’s Marjorie Perloff (an academic critic I don’t always trust, whose championing of the “new” in poetry can seem only intellectually motivated), in one of her updates of Pound’s Don’ts:

“Don’t take yourself so seriously. In the age of social networks, of endless information and misinformation, “sensitivity” and “the true voice of feeling” have become the most available of commodities.” (Poetry, April, 2013)
Judy Kronenfeld, Is the first person lyric unfashionable or outmoded? (guest post at Trish Hopkinson’s blog)


In the Midwest, people are afraid of death, they ignore it until they can’t, they tuck it away in little boxes in their attics, they buy roses for the funerals with all the thorns pre-cut. But Erica Wright’s poetry collection doesn’t take place in the Midwest where I grew up, it emerges from the Southern Gothic tradition where, let’s face it, all the bayou stories do end with the word—drowned.

In Wright’s second collection, death arrives in a thousand and one forms: from tsunamis to volcanos, spontaneous human combustion to beheadings, from bullets to simply time or disease, death is ever-present. Interestingly, what is not ever-present is despair or even grief. And this is where the particular genius of Wright’s poems surfaces, her poems refuse to be mawkish, except perhaps in the original meaning of the word—maggotry, as in the decay of a corpse. Death instead, becomes a muse, and Wright’s poems in All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned pay homage to the macabre.
Anita Olivia Koester, American Gothic: All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned by Erica Wright


This chapbook explores the received images of the feminine in fairy tales. The women and girls in this collaborative chapbook resist the common tropes of red riding hoods, gilded mirrors, and iced palaces. Every girl becomes the wolf because every girl has the power to tear apart the cultural conceit of wicked stepmoms, heartless mothers, and voracious monsters. Witches, hags, and mothers of damaged creatures from myth, movies, and lore prowl through this poetry. Lilith settles in to enjoy the county fair rib-off, Grendel’s mother holds her son close, and the Sphynx bears the weight of mythic secrets. Mothers demand their own freedom, daughters refuse gendered expectations, and wives leave what spoils with rot behind. As they wrestle with their place in these stories, they transform into figures outside of the victims or villains they have been perceived to be.
Andrea Blythe, Preorders Open for EVERY GIRL BECOMES THE WOLF!


I have a lot of interconnected poems about Appalachia with Latin titles. The choice is inspired by my great uncle who died extremely young during WWII in an airplane crash in Brazil. He was this hillbilly kid who loved machines, and oddly knew Latin, which surprised me. He ended up in the Air Force where he traveled around the world. I have a box of his letters home, and they’re fascinating. He would write his younger brother in Latin so the censors during the war didn’t know what he was sharing. He was clever and charming, and he inspired me to learn Latin, too. At the very least I wanted to understand what he had written. Sadly, his younger brother also died in an airplane crash. Gravity does not love my family.

Another inspiration for this poem is not something I normally talk about directly except to family really, but there are many women in my family who hear voices. It’s not a frightening or a troublesome thing, but a fact. Are they real? Who knows. Is it psychic ability or mental illness? Probably both. Centuries ago they’d be saints or witches, right? The fact remains that we hear voices, and those who do hear them love them. They’re a comfort of sorts. So, when I wrote this I was thinking about my extended family and the voices (literal and not quite literal) of those family members we lose during our lifetimes. Those people live on in the stories we tell and those things we’ve learned or come to understand by growing up in a space shaped by their presence: place and voice and sorrow and joy and love and struggle going back generations.
Amanda Rachelle Warren – from a guest interview by Allyson Whipple at Bekah Steimel’s blog


But the line as a mere element of writing or drawing is incomplete without the recognition that it is essentially a representation of an aspect of human experience. We inhabit this world, as though it were a canvas or page, scratching our lives into its containment, and we live in time, on a line from birth to death. Our lives, like a geometric line, are in a sense infinite. We enter at a point in history, a place with antecedents and influences. And after we arrive at our personal point B, the line drawn by our lives continues in unknown ways to affect the future. As we inhabit our time, we string up memories and impressions from here and there, bringing disparate things together.

For a line also joins things—not only literally, as in connecting a spatial or literary point A to B, but also metaphorically. A line functions as a simile. Once two things are put together via the bridge of a line, we are asserting (or simply revealing) an underlying similarity that may not have been apparent before. Sometimes, in any artistic practice, we set our ends and then work to discover the path of connection. We may have an idea or point we are aiming for, but for authenticity’s sake, we have to be alert for and welcoming of the detour and the unexpected joineries we stumble upon. Other times we pay attention to the line itself (the process) rather than its points of origin and destination. Stafford: “The authentic is a line from one thing / along to the next; it interests us.”(5) (And note how Stafford’s lineation breaks right as the sentence joins one thing to the next! The authentic becomes more complex than we may first assume.)
Rosemary Starace, Following a Line


i mislearn elation as sated moans
i misread sanity as a modest tramline
a sermon in entrails and snarled talons
mistold in idle, silent yodels

— a ‘beau présent’ (beautiful in-law) – created using only the letters found in a person’s name. for this one, i used a name that is an anagram of the poem’s title.
james w. moore, Dreamy Tonsils


Trying to write a poem in which no words repeat when I’m falling asleep resulted in this…

a weird iconography of indifference
clamoring to fight
battles no sane person would invite into the chamber

get larger and stranger
warping howling buffeting winds snapping collars weeding out time

E-bow tone
sharp-edged jagged plain-faced speaking power surges confined
melting hoverdrum struck under glacial disappearances

Kevin J. O’Conner, Struck dumb (a sleepy poem)


My cabdriver likes to give advice, has a sort of philosophical take on gender after the end of the world, and is clearly influenced by certain strong female characters on The Walking Dead, a show I still watch compulsively even though it’s much less smart and riveting than once upon a time. It’s also the only show I forgive for casting mostly skinny women, given the post-zombie-plague food situation (though I find their endless supply of tight-fitting jeans implausible). Mostly, though, my poem, like a lot I’ve written lately, is about surviving middle age. Having walked through the door of age fifty, I DO know what the moon really thinks of you. “Says the Cab Driver of the Apocalypse” just came out, appropriately enough, in the new Moon City Review, handed off to me at the AWP last weekend. Thanks to the editors from granting me right-of-way.
Lesley Wheeler, It’s red, reflecting all our sunsets


We talked about wondering if English majors have a different approach to narratives of apocalypse than the general population. On the way home, it occurred to me to wonder if a certain segment of English majors chooses that major because of their love of dystopian literature.

We talked about the apocalypses we never thought we would see in our lifetimes, but now we seem to be in a race to see which apocalypse will win. The specter of nuclear war has raised its head again, and we agreed that we’re seeing alarming similarities between our time and Europe in the 1930’s. And we live in South Florida which will be a ground zero in this century of rising seas.

Our literary experiences have trained us to spot the apocalypse on the horizon, but I’m not sure they’ve told us what we should do. Of course, part of the problem is not knowing which apocalypse will come for us first.
Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Choose Your Own Apocalypse


Here’s the peewit whistle across the garden fences –
Francis or Steven after summer teatime ready to play.
And then we three sharing the dank smell of the flowerbed loam
and the sharp prairie forever scent of grass
(because we move our tiny armies crouching,
lying sideways on the earth, down where the ants teem
and the snuffling dog knows his world. Planes may burr
across some limitless sky somewhere and the train
stammers along its steel horizon, but we’re grounded
and utterly but fearlessly lost)…
Dick Jones, There is a Courtyard

In the theatre’s half-dark

That interregnum between
idle chatter and the opening bars

Whatever comes as purposeful

beginning Lyric investigation
of parts traditionally difficult

to observe in plain sunlight

Before the floodlights dim
I catch your eye

Which is the moment I am returned

to myself How do we learn to possess
what flutters under the rim

of the breastbone Learn

the name of a feeling that folds
into itself on its side A lunar

wind that passes through fingers

Do you also feel a pang A gleam
A metal clapper before the actual event

It holds out a coal of kindness

that serves to formalize
mourning And sometimes I want

to lay my head on a pillow

of snow— Think of the cold
Its crystalline dendrites

little forests springing up

over the head, descending into a thin
treeline feathering each eye Everything

in ceremony is gestural— the smallest

movement from the wrist signifying either
a wave or the passage of time One day

or a decade A century What are we asked

to hold for as long as we can in one
position on a low tufted cushion Do you see

how the wound opens and opens each time

you tell me of your sadness
Which is that there are things

I will never be able to lift What hovers

like clouds over pale shoulders I want to cry
out into some wilderness just out of reach

Near enough to perceive its habit of desolation

~ after Remedios Varo, “Star Catcher

Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning, my wife coming home from the water this morning, having lain with them on board “The Prince” all night. At noon home to dinner, where my wife told me the unpleasant journey she had yesterday among the children, whose fear upon the water and folly made it very unpleasing to her. A good dinner, and then to the office again. This afternoon Mr. Harris, the sayle-maker, sent me a noble present of two large silver candlesticks and snuffers, and a slice to keep them upon, which indeed is very handsome. At night come Mr. Andrews with 36l., the further fruits of my Tangier contract, and so to bed late and weary with business, but in good content of mind, blessing God for these his benefits.

home from the water
the children make me a present
of a stick

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 16 March 1665.

~ after Remedios Varo, “La Llamada” (The Call), 1961

A blue curtain descends
from the rafters When a door

opens you think of the end
of life The yard of your childhood

home Quilted rows of vegetation
that fed only other hungers

Tiny white flowers guarding
the places where stone met stone

Nothing you could throw in a pot
if there was nothing else

But here is all this loneliness
It presents itself to your care

From one to another you stumble
with vials of balm, your bottled

songs, your practiced step
You want to smooth the canyon’s

raised edges Flute ridges until
they’re fragrant as old wood

Are you afraid when the cardinal
flashes her breast in the bush

That bright red gash a warning
As though some celestial object

pinned you under its glare It traces
your steps Knows before you do

which form you’ll touch first
Which last Which not at all

Up and by coach with Sir W. Batten to St. James’s, where among other things before the Duke, Captain Taylor was called in, and, Sir J. Robinson his accuser not appearing, was acquitted quite from his charge, and declared that he should go to Harwich, which I was very well pleased at. Thence I to Mr. Coventry’s chamber, and there privately an houre with him in discourse of the office, and did deliver to him many notes of things about which he is to get the Duke’s command, before he goes, for the putting of business among us in better order. He did largely owne his dependance as to the office upon my care, and received very great expressions of love from him, and so parted with great satisfaction to myself. So home to the ‘Change, and thence home to dinner, where my wife being gone down upon a sudden warning from my Lord Sandwich’s daughters to the Hope with them to see “The Prince,” I dined alone. After dinner to the office, and anon to Gresham College, where, among other good discourse, there was tried the great poyson of Maccassa upon a dogg, but it had no effect all the time we sat there.
We anon broke up and I home, where late at my office, my wife not coming home. I to bed, troubled, about 12 or past.

among the things I am
live many expressions of love

an art with great satisfaction
to me and my dog

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 15 March 1665.

Up before six, to the office, where busy all the morning. At noon dined with Sir W. Batten and Sir J. Minnes, at the Tower, with Sir J. Robinson, at a farewell dinner which he gives Major Holmes at his going out of the Tower, where he hath for some time, since his coming from Guinny, been a prisoner, and, it seems, had presented the Lieutenant with fifty pieces yesterday. Here a great deale of good victuals and company.
Thence home to my office, where very late, and home to supper and to bed weary of business.

robins going
out of the prison
I eat a late supper

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 14 March 1665.

~ after Remedios Varo, “Tránsito en Espiral” (Spiral Transit); 1962

What does it mean when the sea spirals
through the town in your dreams? Its name

once used to mean swamp grass, or tree line,
or mountain ridge. The houses are wood-paneled

and old. In their attics are suitcases
filled with agate beads and parts of back-

strap looms, photographs of carnival queens.
Along cobbled roads, small goats and chickens

ruminate on history. What passes through them
is also holy— hard and packed as though

to outlast weather, burrowed in the soil
as though desirous of changing into gold.

And everyone who passes through here learns
to face all directions. Everyone leaves a small

part tethered to the center, the way an orphan’s
mouth turns in sleep toward the wind’s milky breath.

Up betimes, this being the first morning of my promise upon a forfeite not to lie in bed a quarter of an hour after my first waking. Abroad to St. James’s, and there much business, the King also being with us a great while. Thence to the ‘Change, and thence with Captain Tayler and Sir W. Warren dined at a house hard by for discourse sake, and so I home, and there meeting a letter from Mrs. Martin desiring to speak with me, I (though against my promise of visiting her) did go, and there found her in her childbed dress desiring my favour to get her husband a place. I staid not long, but taking Sir W. Warren up at White Hall home, and among other discourse fell to a business which he says shall if accomplished bring me 100l.. He gone, I to supper and to bed. This day my wife begun to wear light-coloured locks, quite white almost, which, though it makes her look very pretty, yet not being natural, vexes me, that I will not have her wear them. This day I saw my Lord Castlemayne at St. James’s, lately come from France.

the first morning
of my promise not to lie
my promise of the child in me

I say bring me
a gun to wear
red locks almost look natural

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 13 March 1665.

(Lord’s day). Up, and borrowing Sir J. Minnes’s coach, to my Lord Sandwich’s, but he was gone abroad. I sent the coach back for my wife, my Lord a second time dining at home on purpose to meet me, he having not dined once at home but those times since his coming from sea. I sat down and read over the Bishop of Chichester’s sermon upon the anniversary of the King’s death, much cried up, but, methinks, but a mean sermon. By and by comes in my Lord, and he and I to talke of many things in the Navy, one from another, in general, to see how the greatest things are committed to very ordinary men, as to parts and experience, to do; among others, my Lord Barkeley. We talked also of getting W. Howe to be put into the Muster-Mastershipp in the roome of Creed, if Creed will give way, but my Lord do it without any great gusto, calling Howe a proud coxcomb in passion. Down to dinner, where my wife in her new lace whiske, which, indeed, is very noble, and I much pleased with it, and so my Lady also. Here very pleasant my Lord was at dinner, and after dinner did look over his plate, which Burston hath brought him to-day, and is the last of the three that he will have made. After satisfied with that, he abroad, and I after much discourse with my Lady about Sir G. Carteret’s son, of whom she hath some thoughts for a husband for my Lady Jemimah, we away home by coach again, and there sang a good while very pleasantly with Mr. Andrews and Hill. They gone; we to supper, and betimes to bed.

a wing coming from sea
at the death of a master

a great gust calling
our thoughts away

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 12 March 1665.

some alchemy of phosphoric
connections— a conflagration

seeded in stars before we
were even born, the sympathetic

rise of hair along forehead
and nape. Your gaze translates

into tectonic movements across
the tablecloth, the undulation

of curtains and ceiling lights.
Though the years have aged us both,

rivers of longing grow more and more
into the shape of that archipelago

left behind. When I look into
the depths of your eyes, it is always

my absence I catch, though your mouth
never shapes any chiding word.

~ after “Simpatia” (Sympathy), oil on masonite, 1955; Remedios Varo


In response to Via Negativa: Fire Dream.