Neophyte

(Lord’s day). Long in bed, till raised by my new taylor, Mr. Penny, who comes and brings me my new velvet coat, very handsome, but plain, and a day hence will bring me my camelott cloak. He gone I close to my papers and to set all in order and to perform my vow to finish my journall and other things before I kiss any woman more or drink any wine, which I must be forced to do to-morrow if I go to Greenwich as I am invited by Mr. Boreman to hear Mrs. Knipp sing, and I would be glad to go, so as we may be merry. At noon eat the second of the two cygnets Mr. Shepley sent us for a new-year’s gift, and presently to my chamber again and so to work hard all day about my Tangier accounts, which I am going again to make up, as also upon writing a letter to my father about Pall, whom it is time now I find to think of disposing of while God Almighty hath given me something to give with her, and in my letter to my father I do offer to give her 450l. to make her own 50l. given her by my uncle up 500l.. I do also therein propose Mr. Harman the upholster for a husband for her, to whom I have a great love and did heretofore love his former wife, and a civil man he is and careful in his way, beside, I like his trade and place he lives in, being Cornhill. Thus late at work, and so to supper and to bed. This afternoon, after sermon, comes my dear fair beauty of the Exchange, Mrs. Batelier, brought by her sister, an acquaintance of Mercer’s, to see my wife. I saluted her with as much pleasure as I had done any a great while. We sat and talked together an houre, with infinite pleasure to me, and so the fair creature went away, and proves one of the modestest women, and pretty, that ever I saw in my life, and my [wife] judges her so too.

who am I
before I kiss

I am a cygnet
and I am going to sing

God give me
something to give up

like a pleasure
infinite as air


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 14 January 1666.

No exit

At the office all the morning, where my Lord Bruncker moved to have something wrote in my matter as I desired him last night, and it was ordered and will be done next sitting. Home with his Lordship to Mrs. Williams’s, in Covent-Garden, to dinner (the first time I ever was there), and there met Captain Cocke; and pretty merry, though not perfectly so, because of the fear that there is of a great encrease again of the plague this week. And again my Lord Bruncker do tell us, that he hath it from Sir John Baber; who is related to my Lord Craven, that my Lord Craven do look after Sir G. Carteret’s place, and do reckon himself sure of it. After dinner Cocke and I together by coach to the Exchange, in our way talking of our matters, and do conclude that every thing must breake in pieces, while no better counsels govern matters than there seem to do, and that it will become him and I and all men to get their reckonings even, as soon as they can, and expect all to breake. Besides, if the plague continues among us another yeare, the Lord knows what will become of us. I set him down at the ‘Change, and I home to my office, where late writing letters and doing business, and thence home to supper and to bed. My head full of cares, but pleased with my wife’s minding her worke so well, and busying herself about her house, and I trust in God if I can but clear myself of my Lord Sandwich’s bond, wherein I am bound with him for 1000l. to T. Pepys, I shall do pretty well, come what will come.

the night is a garden
in her perfect fear of us

who rave that everything must break
while government continues

what will become of doing business
with so busy a rust


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 13 January 1666.

Happy Hour at Luna Maya

On high stools at the island in the bar, 
     you and your co-workers, discussing 
the indentation on one end of the polished

     wood counter which makes it look
like the spot you might lay your face 
     at the massage parlor or chiropractor's.

On the far wall above the head of the rhetorician
     who is talking about his tyrannical and
attention-starved cat, a mural of what looks to be

     the Santo Niño, child Jesus in pink brocade  
and gilt-edged crown; and all the candles
     flickering at every table, La Virgen 

de Guadalupe presiding over endless guac and
     tortilla chips, no one remarking on the cheap  
sticker and its campy rendition of the image with frilled

     mandorla. Imagine her saying ¿No estoy yo aquí
que soy tu madre? then, just like that, in the middle of
     winter, dropping twelve roses from within

the folds of her cloak. If only a miracle would
     manifest in these dark days. Every morning
you turn on the car radio to hear someone trying  

     to keep from breaking down in tears, on the brink
of losing everything they'd saved and worked for
     over a lifetime from the forced furloughs,

the government shutdown now nearly a month long.
     Nothing for the mortgage, the car payment,
tuition for the child in school, money for medication.

     Two restaurants in your neighborhood are closing 
in the coming week, and you can't figure out why a boy
     in your morning class can never keep his eyes

open from some recurring exhaustion. It doesn't seem
     to matter that there are times you can't remember
the meaning of heuristic, or that you wake with achy

     tingling in your knees. Yes, joy is still important.
How is your husband, his health, asks your colleague
     who has volunteered to help you set up a WebEx meeting.

You think of the number of amber-colored vials on the dining
     room shelf, multiple modalities for the alleviation
of pain; and the science that drove beams of gamma radiation

     at a precise target: the trigeminal nerve at the base
of his brain, pressing too much on a vein. You barely
     have time in the day anymore since he went

on the night shift; proverbial passing ships, 
     bobbing against each other for a while at harbor
before slipping off again into the wale of work. 
     
     Your other colleague with the beautiful cheekbones
says she also thinks a lot about time these days;
     and faulty memory. How she regrets not keeping

a diary or journal, and now the evenings speed by
     as if we watch them from inside an onrushing
train. And a moment will still, sometimes; and feel

     as if the commingling of all moments, requited and un-.
Instead of lapsing into a bad nostalgia, you ask the ponytailed
     server for a takeout order of tamales with sour cream and when

it comes, you say goodnight; you hold the styrofoam box smelling
    faintly of humid corn to your chest and walk back out into
the evening; cold, clear, already hardening with frost.

House Call

"...a fur of experience
rose over us like amber."  ~ D. Bonta

How did you know what to do, which number to fumble for in sequence on the rotary phone, your small hand cradling the receiver and your small voice asking for the doctor, you only knew him by his first name, this doctor Fernando, in those days when house calls were still made and you, feverish on the couch, with wet cloths and hot delirious dreams that came out through your chattering teeth and then you felt somewhere the burn of a needle entering the flesh of your arm and the heavy quiet under your lids after– But this time it  wasn’t you, it was your mother passed out on the kitchen’s cold granite tile after she and the cruel grandmother had another of their terrible rows and you didn’t know if she was alive, if she was still breathing, after she screamed and  heaved the stalk of green bananas leaning against the shelf across the room… You don’t know why that comes back to you, or the smell of antiseptic and lime, the sight of her body on the floor, pale limbs, bony elbows, and the kindness of the doctor when he comes through the door, how he pats your hand, how the curtains look with the sun sieving yellow through their fringes, and the sound of water dripping from a faucet–        

 

 

In response to Via Negativa: Maquiladoras.





Maquiladoras

By coach to the Duke of Albemarle, where Sir W. Batten and I only met. Troubled at my heart to see how things are ordered there without consideration or understanding. Thence back by coach and called at Wotton’s, my shoemaker, lately come to towne, and bespoke shoes, as also got him to find me a taylor to make me some clothes, my owne being not yet in towne, nor Pym, my Lord Sandwich’s taylor. So he helped me to a pretty man, one Mr. Penny, against St. Dunstan’s Church. Thence to the ‘Change and there met Mr. Moore, newly come to towne, and took him home to dinner with me and after dinner to talke, and he and I do conclude my Lord’s case to be very bad and may be worse, if he do not get a pardon for his doings about the prizes and his business at Bergen, and other things done by him at sea, before he goes for Spayne. I do use all the art I can to get him to get my Lord to pay my cozen Pepys, for it is a great burden to my mind my being bound for my Lord in 1000l. to him. Having done discourse with him and directed him to go with my advice to my Lord expresse to-morrow to get his pardon perfected before his going, because of what I read the other night in Sir W. Coventry’s letter, I to the office, and there had an extraordinary meeting of Sir J. Minnes, Sir W. Batten, and Sir W. Pen, and my Lord Bruncker and I to hear my paper read about pursers, which they did all of them with great good will and great approbation of my method and pains in all, only Sir W. Pen, who must except against every thing and remedy nothing, did except against my proposal for some reasons, which I could not understand, I confess, nor my Lord Bruncker neither, but he did detect indeed a failure or two of mine in my report about the ill condition of the present pursers, which I did magnify in one or two little things, to which, I think, he did with reason except, but at last with all respect did declare the best thing he ever heard of this kind, but when Sir W. Batten did say, “Let us that do know the practical part of the Victualling meet Sir J. Minnes, Sir W. Pen and I and see what we can do to mend all, he was so far from offering or furthering it, that he declined it and said, he must be out of towne. So as I ever knew him never did in his life ever attempt to mend any thing, but suffer all things to go on in the way they are, though never so bad, rather than improve his experience to the King’s advantage. So we broke up, however, they promising to meet to offer some thing in it of their opinions, and so we rose, and I and my Lord Bruncker by coach a little way for discourse sake, till our coach broke, and tumbled me over him quite down the side of the coach, falling on the ground about the Stockes, but up again, and thinking it fit to have for my honour some thing reported in writing to the Duke in favour of my pains in this, lest it should be thought to be rejected as frivolous, I did move it to my Lord, and he will see it done to-morrow. So we parted, and I to the office and thence home to my poor wife, who works all day at home like a horse, at the making of her hangings for our chamber and the bed. So to supper and to bed.

bled to make shoes
to make clothes

which they did with good will
and great pain

who could not say Let us see
what we can do to mend all

as a fur of experience
rose over us like amber


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 12 January 1666.

Caulbearer

~ after Remedios Varo, "Alegoría del invierno (Allegory of Winter)," 1948;
Yucca brevifolia


Pheasant and nuthatch, five-petaled flower, 
       emerald feather suspended in veils--- 
we don't know how long the world can hold
       such specimens of tenderness, how far
the glacial drifts can ferry such tombs,
       immaculate, before they themselves turn
into ghosts--- Everything writhes before the dream
        discards what it calculates for reduction:
and yet the yucca moth delivers its eggs 
        inside the flower, even as leaves sharpen
their bayonet-points. At dusk, we scan the horizon
        for anchors and tents; we lean into the wind
hungry for the brass tinkle of hawk bells 
        and the trance-like drone of hegelong. 
If we split these reeds down their length, 
        how many of us can ride out the coming flood
before sunlight returns or we've softened into moss? 



  

High seriousness

Up and to the office. By and by to the Custome House to the Farmers, there with a letter of Sir G. Carteret’s for 3000l., which they ordered to be paid me. So away back again to the office, and at noon to dinner all of us by invitation to Sir W. Pen’s, and much other company. Among others, Lieutenant of the Tower, and Broome, his poet, and Dr. Whistler, and his (Sir W. Pen’s) son-in-law Lowder, servant to Mrs. Margaret Pen, and Sir Edward Spragg, a merry man, that sang a pleasant song pleasantly. Rose from table before half dined, and with Mr. Mountney of the Custome House to the East India House, and there delivered to him tallys for 3000l. and received a note for the money on Sir R. Viner. So ended the matter, and back to my company, where staid a little, and thence away with my Lord Bruncker for discourse sake, and he and I to Gresham College to have seen Mr. Hooke and a new invented chariott of Dr. Wilkins, but met with nobody at home! So to Dr. Wilkins’s, where I never was before, and very kindly received and met with Dr. Merritt, and fine discourse among them to my great joy, so sober and so ingenious. He is now upon finishing his discourse of a universal character. So away and I home to my office about my letters, and so home to supper and to bed.

by custom
the poet and his rose live
in an invented chariot
with no joy

so sober and ingenious an outlet


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 11 January 1666.

Allusive haiku

I’ve been reading a lot of haiku in English, and one thing I don’t see very often is literary allusion. And that’s a shame, because it’s one of the things that gives Japanese short-form poetry such depth, saving precious syllables that otherwise would be needed to set the scene. It is of course risky, since it presumes a common knowledge that may well be lacking for many younger readers. It might make more sense to use pop culture references to extend the range of possible meanings in a haiku: way more people are going to get a line quoting Yoda than Tennyson. Still, it can be fun to write haiku that take their cues from lines of famous poems. Here are a few I just churned out.


 whose woods these are
a barred owl asks
nothing of me


        bone zero
        freezing in mid-stride
        at a snake-shaped stick


wild geese
this soft animal would love
another damn drink


        barbaric yawp
        you say the coyotes sound
        as if they're fighting


sunset and evening star
that smell of pine comes
from a bottle

I think the first and last of these best illustrate the point I’m trying to make. Readers who recognize “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” will picture a wintry night, and anyone who’s heard “Crossing the Bar” read at a funeral will fill in the implied setting of the last haiku. The other three simply riff on the source material.

Poetry Blog Digest 2019: Week 2

Poetry Blogging Network

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. And if you’re a blogger who regularly shares poems or writes about poetry, please consider joining the network.

This week saw some poets continuing to blog about their 2019 resolutions, goals, or plans. I also found a number of interesting reports on morning routines and local weather conditions, and thought-provoking, brief essays on such topics as poetry and place (Erica Goss), music vs. poetry (Marilyn McCabe), and creativity in poetry publishing (Ann E. Michael). And of course it’s fun to hear what people have been reading. As usual, I’m sure there’s much I’ve missed, and I encourage all who can spare the time to put together their own blog digests. It’s a fun way to kind of stroll around the blog neighborhood—that’s how it feels. All you really need is a free Feedly account.


Two of the books I received for review consideration in 2018 came from poets who live and write in the Mojave Desert of southeastern California: Starshine Road by L.I. Henley, and Waking Life by Cynthia Anderson. Henley writes of growing up in the Mojave, of walking down dirt roads as a child past a house filled with sketchy humans to catch the school bus, while Anderson focuses on the desert as an ever-changing presence, balanced between reality and mythology.

These books caught me by surprise, not just because of their subject matter, but because of my own history with the Mojave Desert. My grandparents built a cabin on top of a hill in Landers, fifteen miles north of Yucca Valley. Before they retired, the cabin served as a weekend and holiday getaway for their children and grandchildren. I spent many happy days in the desert while I was growing up, exploring the area around the cabin, and going on adventures with my grandmother in her ancient El Camino.

In June 1992, the Landers quake destroyed the cabin. I went to see the destruction in August of that year, and I haven’t been back since.

These two books evoked nostalgia for the Mojave Desert that took me completely by surprise. I remembered the brightness of the stars at night against the blackest sky I’ve ever seen, kicking up anthills and running from the huge, furious ants as fast as I could, and peering into the faces of desert tortoises. I remembered sitting at night with my grandmother and watching fake bombs from the Marine base explode over the eastern mountains. I remembered the looks on my parents’ faces when I stomped on a scorpion in my bare feet. And I remembered the heat, silence, and the smell of the creosote bushes.

Erica Goss, The Poetry of Place

night bleeds in from the east
count the tourniquet stars

so slow we dream
like poisoned trees

in the morning I take
the same little walk I always do

James Brush, routine

I woke up before I meant to–I had a coughing fit and found myself fully awake.  I got up thinking I might go back to sleep, but as is often the case, I didn’t.  I spent some time looking through my poetry notebooks from October 2017 to now; one of my goals for this year is to type more of my finished drafts into the computer.

I am struck by all the hurricane imagery in these poems, which is no real surprise–Hurricane Irma came through in September of 2017.  I’m still seeing hurricane damage mainly in terms of trees that are permanently bent and roof repairs in various states of progress.  Of course, I also see the trees that aren’t there, like the beautiful frangipani tree that I saw on my way driving to and from work.  I had looked forward to growing old with some of those trees, but now, they’re gone.  And of course, because of the hurricane, along with reports of faster sea level rise than expected, we’re rethinking those retirement plans too.

It’s been a delightful morning.  I often wonder if I wake up early because I so treasure these early mornings of creativity.  I suspect that’s true.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Hurricane Hauntings

In the dark I hear the rustle of wings in the treetops: on Wednesday, E. commented on the quiet, the crows having already flown north to start their day. Then the rustle again, and a call of a bird of prey. A hawk maybe? The dog doesn’t even look up, but keeps the steady pace of “Gå pent” on the morning run. We’ve discussed renaming him Pacer.

Stuck in traffic last week and late for work, I had time to look around and over the fields. Now brown and flooded in places – edged with ice, and mostly empty. A hawk was perched on a fence post right next to motorway. Still and beautiful in the sunrise, he was like an exclamation point highlighting the exceptional.

Ren Powell, January 12, 2019

My black and white tuxedo cat with milk-dipped paws is fast asleep in the other room. He is more interested in actions than in words with food coming in a close second. Poetry is pretty far down his list. Getting a job doesn’t even enter his mind.

Tomorrow I return to work after an extended break which had me writing full-time, traveling to Morocco, and generally feeling more myself. I exercised more, read more, ate healthier, and was a kinder friend and lover. My goal is to keep things going in this direction even as I enter back into the work world.

Tonight this poem reminds me that even when time is short, I can take 5 minutes and watch the sky, study the Olympics outside my window and check out the morning bird population which changes daily. If you are a teacher or a professor, a student or colleague—may it all go well tomorrow.

Susan Rich, Extended Outlook for 2019 – Tuxedo Cats, Sabbatical Look Back, and Happiness

So what are your survival tips for surviving the dark, cold winter months? January and February are my least favorite months to live around Seattle, it’s pitch black by 5 PM and the sun doesn’t really come all the way up…ever, plus the cold wind and rain mean you never really enjoy being outside. It’s cold and flu season so I’m not surprised I finally caught something, and this bug is a loooong one. I’ve reorganized my office, written a few poems and revised both my poetry manuscripts, but honestly, I’m restless, ready for a little springtime. (I know, we’re still a long way, but Seattle does start to have some camellia and cherry blooms sometimes as early as late February.) I’ve already started thinking about how to successfully approach AWP – I’ll be doing one offsite reading, and I’m planning to spend max time at the Bookfair saying hi to friends and checking out books and lit mags, my favorite part of the conference. My big goals were: getting more sleep, trying to do something fun once a week, and reaching out and socializing with more people, have all been rendered moot by this evil virus (waking up with early asthma attacks and tossing and turning with fever not conducive to more sleep, sadly, and you definitely don’t want to give this bug to anyone you like), but I hope to be getting better soon and back to my 2019 goals! I also made a playlist called “Survivor 2019” which includes this Sam Smith song from the Netflix series Watership Down, called “Fire on Fire.” Happy January!

Jeannine Hall Gailey, New Review of Who is Mary Sue in The Rumpus, New Poem in Scryptic, Poems set to Jazz, and the January Doldrums

The painting above is “Breath” by Lee Krasner, which I found in the New Orleans Museum of Art last week, on a breather from work (the new term starts tomorrow). I don’t know much about Krasner, but the exhibit caption says this painting’s “rhythmic marks…call forth the rise and fall of breathing, as well as the more meditative act of taking a deep breath. Krasner’s paintings were often more subtle and introspective than her husband Jackson Pollock’s frenzied ‘action painting’…one reviewer condescendingly claimed, ‘There is a tendency among some of these wives to ‘tidy up’ their husband’s styles.” I was drawn to the canvas for its beauty, but that caption transformed me into an ally.

Looking at art, I’d been wondering about my lack of interest, this year, in making new year’s resolutions. Do I really need another list? I’d also just read this article about resolutions and was considering a couple of points the reporter made. For instance: “Imagine it’s the next New Year’s Eve. What change are you going to be most grateful you made?” Hmm–living a more peaceful life, I guess. Concentrating effort more thoughtfully and taking care of myself so that I can be more open to unpredictable emotions, and to other people. I love January O’Neil’s “Poetry Action Plan”, but I tend to tick so doggedly down checklists, virtue becomes bad habit, in that I get so busy fulfilling promises to myself and others that I don’t take enough meditative, restorative time. Also, one of the experts the journalist interviewed (oh, so many experts out there on self-improvement!–shouldn’t we all be perfect by now?) recommended “reflecting on what changes would make you happiest, then picking a ‘theme’ for your year. That way, even if a particular habit doesn’t stick, your overarching intention will.” As someone who has tried and failed to create a meditation practice about five million times, that resonated.

So, standing in front of “Breath,” I chose my theme for 2019. Breathe.

Lesley Wheeler, Breathe (a brief post on posting)

If I were the type to make resolutions for self-improvement, I would resolve to start doing yoga again, schedule a mammogram, get outdoors more, and lose some weight.  But I’m more the type to break, rather than keep, promises to myself. So I’ll just say I have some goals for the next 12 months or so, which are some of my commitments to poetry.
Publish at least 12 reviews of books of poetry.
Start a new website devoted to reviews of poetry chapbooks. (BTW, if anyone wants to join me in this endeavor, just email me at risaden@gmail.com)
Accrue at least 50 rejections of poetry submissions to journals, and 10 rejections of my current manuscript. (I’m not quite ready for the 100 club!)
Read, read, read. Write, write, write.

Also planning to attend the Palm Beach Poetry Festival this month; share a booth for Headmistress Press with Lana Ayers of MoonPath Press at AWP in Portland in March; do a workshop with Carl Phillips at the Port Townsend Writers Conference in July and meet monthly with the Upper Room Poets for workshopping poems.

Most notably, I plan to retire in 2020 (which probably won’t mean leaving healthcare entirely, but a big workload reduction) to clear up time for more poetry-related activity. And, after I retire, I hope to plan a road trip across the US to visit with poets that I’ve only so far met in cyberspace.

Risa Denenberg, Sunday Morning Muse in 2019

As 2018 ended I spent a lot of time reflecting on the past year, both on the good things and the not-so-good things. In early 2019 I would complete my MFA in poetry and turn 40 so the year would start off with some pretty big milestones. I thought about what I wanted for 2019 and as I entered a new decade of my life. After a bit of thinking and reflecting, here are my goals for 2019 – I’m not calling them resolutions because those seem fleeting. So I’ve settled on calling them goals.

1. Write reviews and leave ratings for the books of poetry I read. I read a lot, 221 last year to be exact, and at least 50 of those were poetry (I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me). One way to easily support poets is to leave ratings and reviews for their books. This is something I ask of people for my books of poetry so I need to always do this for others. I always leave ratings but reserve my reviews for books I love. I need to spend the time to write a review for each book of poetry – it doesn’t have to be a long essay, but a few sentences go a long way.

Courtney LeBlanc, 2019 Goals

Despite so  many low energy days I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research. I don’t think I’ve shared that I’m a Contributing Editor for Barren Magazine and Mockingheart Review now. I recently published an interview on MR with poet Sam Rasnake and I’ll have an interview with poet and writer Tina Barry on site later this  month. I love doing interviews with writers and I thank Clare Martin, creator and Editor, for giving me this beautiful gift of a venue to publish them. The new issue of MR will publish some time after January 25 and the new submission window will open March 1.

I read Flash Fiction and Short Fiction for Barren and I just love it. It’s so exciting to read such a diversity of writing and to find golden nuggets to share with our readers. We get submissions from all over the world which is so gratifying. Our new issue will drop tomorrow, January 14 and I can not wait for y’all to read it! Submissions are always open so polish up your poetry, fiction, CNF, and photography and sent it to us!

Also, I’m working on a project for Barren that has me so excited I can hardly keep from blurting it out to everyone. Watch this space, watch my Twitter account (@charlotteAsh) and Barren’s Twitter (@BarrenMagazine). I don’t know exactly when it will be revealed but it’s dynamite!

I’ve been reading some great poetry. Right now I’m reading Duende by Tracy K. Smith, A Woman of Property by Robyn Schiff, Tropic of Squalor by Mary Karr, and The New Testament by Jericho Brown. Only As the Day is Long by Dorianne Laux is on it’s way to me via snail mail and I’m really looking forward to reading it. Love me some Dorianne!

Charlotte Hamrick, What I’ve Been Up To: #Writing #Reading #Poetry #Books

I love words, poetry, but it’s music that wrenches me most deeply, often vocal music, often that magic of tune and word and beat that creates a live thing that enters me, skin and bone, gut and vein. Many things move me, but only music guts me. Well, with an exception: Hearing Ilya Kaminsky orate “Do not go gentle.” That was transformational.

I dabble in music but am no musician. Still I can hope and strive to create in my own written work this kind of reaching and opening, this level of capturing light. If I could write a poem that could even slightly glitter like those performances, I will have done what I set out on this path to do.

So for this new year, I wish for all of us that we find some light to let loose from our jagged edges, that we find our shine.

Marilyn McCabe, This Little Light; or, A Wish for the New Year

Having lost about 50% of my hearing, even with hearing aids, there’s a lot of music I can’t listen to because I’ve lost all the top end (which makes the sublime Everley Brothers sound as though they’re singing flat), and being in a pub for a reading can produce a sound effect in which all the individual sounds claim equal value and lose their relative depths and distances…the sound equivalent, I suppose, of an out of focus image, which can be quite pretty until the image you’re looking at is print. […]

I’ve been to several readings since the start of December, and what I especially liked about them was that I could hear the poems. It was nothing to do with the mic being set right. It was all about the the readers and their delivery, which was so clean and clear I could do without hearing aids. One reader was Julia Deakin, who is always accurate, distinct. One was Tom Weir (twice) who read quietly, but always with that concern for the heft and texture of the words, who, like Julia, tastes the consonants that matter, and also, like her, reads with a rhythm that falls on the key words, so sound never displaces meaning, never over-rides the syntax and the sense, and lets the words have their surrounding silent space, which is the aural equivalent of white space on the page. And one poet was today’s guest, Emma Storr, who I’d never heard reading before and who was a revelation. We all know poets, some of them famous, who simply can’t read like that. I wish they’d make the effort. It’s not about theatricality, or volume or elocution. It’s about diction and a concentration on the meaning of the words they say. Thank you Tom and Julia for letting me hear the poems, and thanks to both of them for respectively guesting at the last session of The Puzzle Poets Live (at The Shepherds Rest) and at the first of a new venue which we hope will now be our permanent home..The Navigation in Sowerby Bridge.

John Foggin, On hearing and listening. And an (un)discovered gem: Emma Storr

In the later 80s, I started doing some editing and publishing of other people’s work. My dear friend, David Dunn, and I had a small press that put out two broadsides and four chapbooks. Taught me a great deal. I helped to edit a Xerox-zine in Philadelphia in the 80s. Meanwhile, I kept getting work into small press journals nationwide, mostly these photocopied deals with tiny readerships; but the minor successes kept me going. After awhile I had enough hubris to try the better-recognized journals, with some success. This is how it works: persistence, but not bull-headed, blind persistence. One persists through the learning process; revises, practices, finds trustworthy people for feedback.

My sister, husband, and I all have worked in the publishing business-as-business, in how-to and B2B magazines; I was a typographer, proofreader, copyeditor, writer, indexer. All of that background was valuable in its way and never kept me from pursuing creative work. So I did eventually go for my MFA, in my 40s, and I got chapbooks and a collection published at long last in spite of—oh, you know—life.

Because I feel that poetry needs audience, I was early to jump on the online publishing wagon, despite colleagues who warned that it wasn’t really as acceptable a venue as academically-affiliated print journals. Nonetheless I’ve found myself enthralled by online journals, by audio-poems, moving-poems (video), podcasts, blogs. I’ve watched well-respected magazines migrate to the internet. And there are problems with online publishing. I know about them, wrestle with them, yeah—keeps life interesting.

My route has not been the academic route, although I work at a college today; I am more of an outlier. Poets and writers can be nurses, doctors, mechanics, or landscapers, grandparents, people with disabilities, insurance industry managers, post office workers, tutors. Each of us discovers her own process for writing and for getting the poems into the world. Mine is pokey and slow and frequently interrupted, and my next long collection won’t appear until 2021, nine years after Water-Rites, my first. But I feel satisfied with my publishing record, such as it is. People do read my work, which is kind of the entire point of writing, no?

When everything is easy and there’s no chance of failure, life is boring. Writing creatively means taking risks, creating tension. Publishing creatively requires the same things. Risks, imagination, persistence, curiosity, analysis and a willingness to be open-minded. Fun pursuits, but not always easy ones.

Ann E. Michael, Creative publishing

A stormy week here in the Sacramento Valley,
Rain on and off, on and off.
Above, in the high passes of the Sierra Nevada,
Deep drifts of snow. The bears are sleeping.
Down here, rain on the rooftop,
No finches, no crows, no owls.
And like them all, I am also laying low;
It has been days since I even went outside.
James says it doesn’t matter where you are,
It is what you do that counts.
So.. back to work on these poems.

James Lee Jobe, ‘A stormy week here in the Sacramento Valley’

All day long the air has been full of the promise of snow. It’s just twilight and it’s not here yet, but any time now.

I have hunkered down, slept, gone out for the groceries early in the morning, prayed, listened to an audiobook  (Over Sea, Under Stone  by Susan Cooper) and finally, finished a poem I’ve been struggling with.  I sent it, and five others, to the New Yorker just now.  Always hoping!

Anne Higgins, Waiting for Snow

It’s quite cold in Alaska right now. The kind of blue cracking cold that is beautiful but stinging. The kind of cold that makes iron of snow and ice beneath all. And yet, it’s important to get outside, to fill our eyes with sunlight, to remember that this time has beauty unavailable at other, perhaps more temperate, times of year.

Erin Coughlin Hallowell, Some winter solace

Every January there is a day when I first return to my desk after the hectic rush of December. My son is back in school. I’ve discharged my responsibilities to the community I serve, and today is a home-day. I resist the temptation to fritter it away on laundry and unloading the dishwasher — the little endless maintenance tasks of daily life.

The first thing is to clear the desk of extraneous things that have landed there during the annual hiatus from writing. I need a clear physical space to call forth the clear internal space within which poems can arise. Maybe classical music is called-for. Kronos Quartet’s Early Music has a spareness that matches my heart, matches the season.

Next I reread all of last year’s poems. It’s an annual ritual. Some of them are familiar to me: I remember writing them, revising them, I recognize them in all of their incarnations. Inevitably I find one I had forgotten altogether. I read the scraps and partial poems, too. I don’t know the shape of my next book of poems, but I get glimpses.

Then I open a blank file and let the words come. The first poem of this new year surprises me. When I started out I thought I knew where it might go, but it takes a turn midway through. When I reach the end I realize the poem was always intending to go there. I just had to open myself to surprise, letting it take me where I didn’t know I needed to go.

Rachel Barenblat, Where I needed to go