But I have in me all the dreams of the world. ~ Fernando Pessoa
I want to tell the beasts I’ve led
to the river’s edge that we’ve arrived,
that the thirst we’ve held on to for so long
will finally be slaked. But what did I know
about not making promises, how could I know
there’s no more milk in the earthen jug?
I am tired, so tired. All I want to do
is lie on the silt-brown shore and let
the curtain fall, let the animals
of my need find their way or not
in the woods. Such a brilliant shade
of orange on the horizon! And the grass:
each blade numerous and distinct, making
four blue flowers such an extravagance.
A shorter than usual edition this week, but perhaps typical of what we’ll see during the summer months. Grief and loss were major themes, as well as the healing power of reading and writing. And several bloggers pondered succinctness, not necessarily succinctly.
Last night, I read an interview in El Pais with the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas, who is now almost 89. It’s well worth reading. I don’t read a lot of pure philosophy, and I don’t know Habermas’ work, but I was interested in what he was saying about journalism, writing, reading, and the media. “There’s a cacophony that fills me with despair,” he said. Yes. Me too.
Lest we get off on the wrong foot here, Habermas doesn’t dismiss contemporary media, or specifically the internet and social media. He brings up and praises many aspects of new media that have helped humankind already, from the ability to organize from the grassroots to creating connections for support and research among people with rare diseases, saying that there are “many niches where trustworthy information and sounds opinions are exchanged.” He’s not a Luddite, and he doesn’t seem to have a fear of technology or change. What he’s concerned about is the same trend that concerns me.
He states the problem succinctly: “You can’t have committed intellectuals if you don’t have the readers to address the ideas to.”
Beth Adams, The Silencing of Thoughtfulness
There is a feeling of being transported by literature that I crave and try desperately to hold on to after closing the book, although usually it is shortlived. I do catch a whiff of it when I am writing, and that is why I write. But comparing my own thoughts of suicide to others’ thoughts or actions, just like comparing my work to another’s work, it is clear that others transport me more than I am able to transport myself. That may sound so obvious that it needn’t be uttered. I suppose I am chiding myself for not opening to others sufficiently, or more like, closing myself off so deeply.
This brings me to “Diary of a Bad Year” by JM Coetzee, which is brilliant and complex and devastated me. I’ve always loved Coetzee’s work, which over and again teaches me that self-knowledge is insufficient, others’ knowledge of us is distorted, and knowledge itself breeds the most desperate of feelings: typically guilt, remorse, powerlessness, hopelessness, angst. Although in Coetzee’s case it is a very quiet angst. There is no suicide in this book, more of a quiet withdrawal from life, which brought me to tears, and yet transported me to that feeling of belonging somewhere.
Risa Denenberg, Friday Morning Muse with Suicide on My Mind
[W]hen I read the news about Kate Spade’s death by suicide it felt personal. Here was one of my heroines – successful business woman who supported charities I cared about, creator of interesting and artistic accessories still appropriate for working women (probably the first purchase I made as a working woman to prove to myself I had “made” it was a Kate Spade bag.) It’s horrible thinking about her 13-year-old daughter going through the trauma. It’s a loss.
But here’s the thing – hidden illnesses are just that – hidden. I’ve never seen a picture of Kate Spade where she wasn’t perfectly put-together and smiling. She had plenty of money, plenty of success. But that had nothing to do with it.
I twittered about my sadness over her death, including a string of her accomplishments. A Trump supporter (literally that’s all I could tell about this person from their Twitter bio) wrote to me asking me about her charity involvement. I was wary – usually Trump supporters only write to me to say racist, sexist, hate-filled things – but it turned out through our twitter conversation that this twitter person was struggling to understand the suicide of a seemingly good, happy person, much like the rest of us.
It’s a reminder that many of us have struggled without showing obvious signs. It’s a reminder that we are all trying to get through the hard parts.
I write about the good things in my life but I have also tried to share some of the bad parts, too, because I don’t want to try to pretend. No one’s life is perfect. Every writer or creative person struggles first to create, then get their creations into the world, then the responses to their creations – then the cycle starts again. Chronic illness takes a toll. I carefully construct an image – you don’t often see pictures of me in the hospital, getting blood drawn or getting yet another MRI, or the days when I feel too bad to get out of bed. But that doesn’t mean bad days don’t happen – of course they do. Just a reminder that we should have compassion for each other, for ourselves, because no matter what a life looks like on the outside, each of us has days when it can all seem like too much.
Jeannine Hall Gailey, Speculative Poetry Interview and A Guest Blog Post on PR for Poets – Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone and Getting Through the Hard Parts
The winged things that called to me as a child,
singing on the sidewalk in front of home,
as if they were weeping, as if they were
so tired of weeping, as if grief lifted
their feathers, separating and spreading,
I am so sick of this story. Its novelty and shine wore off in my teen years. Now, in my 40s, everyone around me is on antidepressants that do less good than my swimming, and cause ugly side effects on top of original causes. I shrug. I’d rather be strong and bullied by hormones than drugged, riddled with side effects, and bullied by hormones. Still, sometimes it gets the upper hand, life; attempts to dig out of the poverty caused by the year of unemployment for surgery just making the hole deeper; endless struggle and pain on too many fronts simultaneously, including my own flesh: choked out by panic attack, the neighbor’s dog comes for a visit just in time, gives me a long hug. I can’t tell any of you what to do. Seeking comfort, I sleep with a box of ash. I don’t even like talking about it. It’s dull, pain. Mine. Yours. It’s joy I stayed alive for, the reason my nails are ripped out from just hanging on through this last year and a half. The only reason. The rest is crap. I don’t know how to get through more than the next hour. I know that, though. Get through the next hour. I don’t know what to tell you, any of you. There are times when even the reasons to do an hour seem thin and pale, and we just do it anyway, so tired.
JJS, June 6, 2018: untitled
I wrote “dead boy” poems because my brother died too young.
Because all my memories became entangled with his too-early death.
I never intended to publish these poems.
But I did share a few at readings.
Listeners asked me about where they could find these poems in print.
Still, I didn’t really plan on a book.
And then, a year later, my mother died.
My mother died in her sleep. Peacefully.
Unlike my dear father who suffered a horrible cancer death.
Unlike my aunt who suffered a terrible, ongoing battle with cancer.
Unlike my dearest friend who died too young–bled to death on the operating table during a procedure meant to extend his life.
I was relieved my mother hadn’t suffered.
But angry all over again that other people I loved had.
To be honest, I was glad to be free of my mother. At least this side of the earth.
But her hurtful words live on inside me–make me doubt myself and my self-worth.
So why the bejeezus was I crying so much?
Because fresh grief re-opens old wounds.
Shreds them, actually.
I kept going over family and over family stuff in my head, like a dog scratching at fleas.
And more poems came.
Because there was more to say about family.
And I was willing to speak my truth because it was mine.
If people would judge me harshly over that truth, it no longer mattered.
Because deep inside, I knew from reading my first book of family poems in public, that sharing my family situation could make another person feel less alone. Feel they could get through the worst of it.
Lana Ayers, Family Poems Are Hard–part 3–final part
Several weeks ago, I wrote a list of fragments and observations that went on to become an interesting poem. Let me try this again:
–This is a love letter to the two parrots in a palm tree that screech at each other.
–This is also a love letter to a pair of abandoned shoes at the beach, tan suede, clean, barely used, made for a man’s foot.
–The sun rises, as it always does. The clouds are the middle managers. They know that their job is to make the boss look good.
–This morning, the clouds have settled on apocalypse as a theme, in contrast to the man sitting on the steps, playing his harmonica.
–Does the sun see the people running to the sand to catch the sunrise? Is it aware of how many people ignore the sunrise for whatever magic their phones offer?
Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Sunrise Snippets
Q~How has workshopping helped your writing? What advice can you share?
A~Two pieces of advice that I have been reminded of lately: “Write for yourself, and you will reach the most people,” and “It really isn’t about the publications.”
I recently tried writing a poem about race. I workshopped it with two women of color and it was a very intense, powerful, yet intimate conversation. One of the women reminded me that I should stick with what I know and write for myself. She could tell I was struggling with this poem, and we talked about how sometimes it is okay to not write about the things that seem big and worldly right now. I have a desire to write about politics, race, gun violence, all these things, but deep down, I just want to write about my everyday life. I just want to write about driving in Pulaski with my uncle. She reminded me to stick with what I want to write because those things are going to resonate with the most people. Write smaller, reach wider.
This year I made a goal to get 100 rejection letters. What I learned is that submitting your work is a full time job! Just the habit of researching publications, workshopping poems, and sending them out into the world has been a wonderful experience. I have gained confidence in myself and my writing. And, with so many rejections, they don’t hurt or sting as bad! But, what I learned most is that it isn’t about the publications. It isn’t about the rejections or the acceptances. It is about the writing. I recently have been giving out a lot of poems to family members for birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc, and seeing a family member cry from receiving a poem about them, wow, that is bigger than any publication.
Bekah Steimel, Learning to Drive In Pulaski, Wisconsin / an interview with poet Crystal Ignatowski
At the opening of the collection, Barbie Chang leaves behind Wall Street, and a world of lanyards, podiums and insincere applause in the hopes of “something better.” It is a longing many of us have felt, a longing for an authentic life; perhaps Barbie doesn’t want to be so plastic. Barbie Chang herself is born out of a longing for another identity. In a panel at 2018’s AWP Conference, Victoria Chang spoke of how these poems originally began in the I, but that once she happened upon the persona or alter-ego of Barbie Chang, the poems found their voice. It is often when a poet is released from their own poetic voice, even just by a small alteration of it, that they can discover a kind of music and style they weren’t able to find within the confines of first person.
The style that Chang discovers is as playful as it is masterful; rhyme, homonyms, and word-play are used throughout to propel the poems forward and often to surprise the reader with deft turns away from and back to the central theme of the poem. Yet, Chang’s movements away from the central theme of a poem never feel random, instead, in a rather surprising way they deepen the impact of the poem through their interruption.
Anita Olivia Koester, A Remarkable Persona: Barbie Chang by Victoria Chang
On a recent episode of the ITV quiz show, The Chase, there was a question about what the computer acronym WORM stands for. As a former IT infatuation junkie I knew the answer instantly; the chaser also got the correct answer but took a while to verbalise it. The acronym expands to Write once, Read many.
I wish my brain was a WORM. I wish that I could just flip a switch — press play, if you will — and deliver my poems verbatim, no matter how long ago the data had been written to the storage device. I wish the act of writing a poem instantly planted it into my memory circuits where its fruit was always ripe and ready to be plucked.
Giles L. Turnbull, The Poetry Worm
Earlier this evening, I was trying to get a couple of poems ready for our local Penistone Poets workshop tomorrow night. It’s an informal gathering over tea and cake to critique each others’ work, but although it’s informal, I really didn’t feel I had any poems that were good enough. Also, having been away has left me short on time. Still, something about the pressure of having to get the work ready (I’m back at the day job tomorrow) has made me ruthless and I’ve taken a few lines out, particularly one last line that hopefully allows the poem to now have a new and more subtle ending. We’ll see what the group says tomorrow, but reading Allnutt’s comment gave me heart. Sometimes it’s not about the words you put down on the page but the ones you remove. In a previous post I talked about the perils of over-editing. It’s a fine line, I think, between pruning a poem and hacking it to death. The sort of editing Allnutt’s talking about is swift and decisive. It needs to be done quickly, so setting a time limit is good. And workshops are helpful, as long as the time limit is adhered to. There’s no point spending ages pulling a poem apart, just make one or two suggestions that might strengthen it and move on. That’s what we’ll be doing tomorrow and I can’t wait to hear the poems.
Julie Mellor, ARTEMIS poetry
It’s a poem with not a wasted word, its release like the breaking of a storm after oppressive heat, and the cool of after. It’s as true and frightening and real as a folk tale. It was told, rather than read, and then he told us about the white painted bedroom he shared. He didn’t need to explain anything. I’ve thought since that what enchanted me was its tenderness. What do I mean by that? I mean the tenderness of Rembrandt’s portraits of his wife and unwavering eye of his self-portrait, the loving honesty. Not a shred of sentimentality. That tenderness was in his reading At the grave of John Clare. I had not known that a poet could talk to a dead poet like that.
‘O Clare! Your poetry clear, translucent / as your lovely name’.
I had not known it was possible to use the word ‘lovely’ so frankly and simply. The only other poem I remember from that reading was Death of a poet. I’m still not sure that, despite its total accessibility, I understand it yet, but this last stanza stays and stays.
‘Over the church a bell broke like a wave upended.
The hearse left for winter with a lingering hiss.
I looked in the wet sky for a sign, but no bird descended.
The light shines everywhere upon the sea
And it is only in certain moments, certain angles
That we see it clearly — too much light
Is overwhelming, it hides itself in excess.
So too with my words: Let me find the few
That carve a straight line through the soup of language
In which I’m drowned. Find me a way. Let me follow a line
From island to headland, from point to point, and call it a swim.
Dylan Tweney, Invocation for an Epic Poem
About five o’clock my wife come home, it having lightened all night hard, and one great shower of rain. She come and lay upon the bed; I up and to the office, where all the morning. Alone at home to dinner, my wife, mother, and Mercer dining at W. Joyce’s; I giving her a caution to go round by the Half Moone to his house, because of the plague. I to my Lord Treasurer’s by appointment of Sir Thomas Ingram’s, to meet the Goldsmiths; where I met with the great news at last newly come, brought by Bab May from the Duke of Yorke, that we have totally routed the Dutch; that the Duke himself, the Prince, my Lord Sandwich, and Mr. Coventry are all well: which did put me into such joy, that I forgot almost all other thoughts. The particulars I shall set down by and by. By and by comes Alderman Maynell and Mr. Viner, and there my Lord Treasurer did intreat them to furnish me with money upon my tallys, Sir Philip Warwicke before my Lord declaring the King’s changing of the hand from Mr. Povy to me, whom he called a very sober person, and one whom the Lord Treasurer would owne in all things that I should concern myself with them in the business of money. They did at present declare they could not part with money at present. My Lord did press them very hard, and I hope upon their considering we shall get some of them. Thence with great joy to the Cocke-pitt; where the Duke of Albemarle, like a man out of himself with content, new-told me all; and by and by comes a letter from Mr. Coventry’s own hand to him, which he never opened (which was a strange thing), but did give it me to open and read, and consider what was fit for our office to do in it, and leave the letter with Sir W. Clerke; which upon such a time and occasion was a strange piece of indifference, hardly pardonable. I copied out the letter, and did also take minutes out of Sir W. Clerke’s other letters; and the sum of the newes is: Victory over the Dutch, June 3rd, 1665. This day they engaged; the Dutch neglecting greatly the opportunity of the wind they had of us, by which they lost the benefit of their fire-ships. The Earl of Falmouth, Muskerry, and Mr. Richard Boyle killed on board the Duke’s ship, the Royall Charles, with one shot: their blood and brains flying in the Duke’s face; and the head of Mr. Boyle striking down the Duke, as some say. Earle of Marlborough, Portland, Rear-Admirall Sansum (to Prince Rupert) killed, and Capt. Kirby and Ableson. Sir John Lawson wounded on the knee; hath had some bones taken out, and is likely to be well again. Upon receiving the hurt, he sent to the Duke for another to command the Royall Oake. The Duke sent Jordan1 out of the St. George, who did brave things in her. Capt. Jer. Smith of the Mary was second to the Duke, and stepped between him and Captain Seaton of the Urania (76 guns and 400 men), who had sworn to board the Duke; killed him, 200 men, and took the ship; himself losing 99 men, and never an officer saved but himself and lieutenant. His master indeed is saved, with his leg cut off. Admirall Opdam blown up, Trump killed, and said by Holmes; all the rest of their admiralls, as they say, but Everson (whom they dare not trust for his affection to the Prince of Orange), are killed: we having taken and sunk, as is believed, about 24 of their best ships; killed and taken near 8 or 10,000 men, and lost, we think, not above 700. A great[er] victory never known in the world. They are all fled, some 43 got into the Texell, and others elsewhere, and we in pursuit of the rest. Thence, with my heart full of joy; home, and to my office a little; then to my Lady Pen’s, where they are all joyed and not a little puffed up at the good successe of their father; and good service indeed is said to have been done by him. Had a great bonefire at the gate; and I with my Lady Pen’s people and others to Mrs. Turner’s great room, and then down into the streete. I did give the boys 4s. among them, and mighty merry. So home to bed, with my heart at great rest and quiett, saving that the consideration of the victory is too great for me presently to comprehend.
the moon is a plague-smith
changing from treasure to pit
like a hand which never opened
but in indifference
This morning my wife and mother rose about two o’clock; and with Mercer, Mary, the boy, and W. Hewer, as they had designed, took boat and down to refresh themselves on the water to Gravesend. Lay till 7 o’clock, then up and to the office upon Sir G. Carteret’s accounts again, where very busy; thence abroad and to the ‘Change, no news of certainty being yet come from the fleete. Thence to the Dolphin Taverne, where Sir J. Minnes, Lord Brunkard, Sir Thomas Harvy, and myself dined, upon Sir G. Carteret’s charge, and very merry we were, Sir Thomas Harvy being a very drolle. Thence to the office, and meeting Creed away with him to my Lord Treasurer’s, there thinking to have met the goldsmiths, at White Hall, but did not, and so appointed another time for my Lord to speak to them to advance us some money. Thence, it being the hottest day that ever I felt in my life, and it is confessed so by all other people the hottest they ever knew in England in the beginning of June, we to the New Exchange, and there drunk whey, with much entreaty getting it for our money, and would not be entreated to let us have one glasse more. So took water and to Fox-Hall, to the Spring garden, and there walked an houre or two with great pleasure, saving our minds ill at ease concerning the fleete and my Lord Sandwich, that we have no newes of them, and ill reports run up and down of his being killed, but without ground. Here staid pleasantly walking and spending but 6d. till nine at night, and then by water to White Hall, and there I stopped to hear news of the fleete, but none come, which is strange, and so by water home, where, weary with walking and with the mighty heat of the weather, and for my wife’s not coming home, I staying walking in the garden till twelve at night, when it begun to lighten exceedingly, through the greatness of the heat. Then despairing of her coming home, I to bed. This day, much against my will, I did in Drury Lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and “Lord have mercy upon us” writ there; which was a sad sight to me, being the first of the kind that, to my remembrance, I ever saw. It put me into an ill conception of myself and my smell, so that I was forced to buy some roll–tobacco to smell to and chaw, which took away the apprehension.
at the grave
marked with a red cross
I roll tobacco
Waked in the morning before 4 o’clock with great pain to piss, and great pain in pissing by having, I think, drank too great a draught of cold drink before going to bed. But by and by to sleep again, and then rose and to the office, where very busy all the morning, and at noon to dinner with Sir G. Carteret to his house with all our Board, where a good pasty and brave discourse. But our great fear was some fresh news of the fleete, but not from the fleete, all being said to be well and beaten the Dutch, but I do not give much belief to it, and indeed the news come from Sir W. Batten at Harwich, and writ so simply that we all made good mirth of it. Thence to the office, where upon Sir G. Carteret’s accounts, to my great vexation there being nothing done by the Controller to right the King therein. I thence to my office and wrote letters all the afternoon, and in the evening by coach to Sir Ph. Warwicke’s about my Tangier business to get money, and so to my Lady Sandwich’s, who, poor lady, expects every hour to hear of my Lord; but in the best temper, neither confident nor troubled with fear, that I ever did see in my life. She tells me my Lord Rochester is now declaredly out of hopes of Mrs. Mallett, and now she is to receive notice in a day or two how the King stands inclined to the giving leave for my Lord Hinchingbroke to look after her, and that being done to bring it to an end shortly. Thence by coach home, and to my office a little, and so before 12 o’clock home and to bed.
I do not give much belief to the news
writ so simply
made of nothing
who expects every hour
to be troubled with fear
now is not in a day or two
I look after it
my little lock
Up very betimes to look some other papers, and then to White Hall to a Committee of Tangier, where I offered my accounts with great acceptation, and so had some good words and honour by it, and one or two things done to my content in my business of Treasurer, but I do clearly see that we shall lose our business of victualling, Sir Thomas Ingram undertaking that it shall be done by persons there as cheap as we do it, and give the seamen their full allowance and themselves give good security here for performance of contract, upon which terms there is no opposing it. This would trouble me, but that I hope when that fails to spend my time to some good advantage other ways, and so shall permit it all to God Almighty’s pleasure. Thence home to dinner, after ‘Change, where great talke of the Dutch being fled and we in pursuit of them, and that our ship Charity is lost upon our Captain’s, Wilkinson, and Lieutenant’s yielding, but of this there is no certainty, save the report of some of the sicke men of the Charity, turned adrift in a boat out of the Charity and taken up and brought on shore yesterday to Sole Bay, and the newes hereof brought by Sir Henry Felton. Home to dinner, and Creed with me. Then he and I down to Deptford, did some business, and back again at night. He home, and I to my office, and so to supper and to bed. This morning I had great discourse with my Lord Barkeley about Mr. Hater, towards whom from a great passion reproaching him with being a fanatique and dangerous for me to keepe, I did bring him to be mighty calme and to ask me pardons for what he had thought of him and to desire me to ask his pardon of Hater himself for the ill words he did give him the other day alone at White Hall (which was, that he had always thought him a man that was no good friend to the King, but did never think it would breake out in a thing of this nature), and did advise him to declare his innocence to the Council and pray for his examination and vindication. Of which I shall consider and say no more, but remember one compliment that in great kindness to me he did give me, extolling my care and diligence, that he did love me heartily for my owne sake, and more that he did will me whatsoever I thought for Mr. Coventry’s sake, for though the world did think them enemies, and to have an ill aspect, one to another, yet he did love him with all his heart, which was a strange manner of noble compliment, confessing his owning me as a confidant and favourite of Mr. Coventry’s.
where I am done
as the sea by a great calm
what words would break me
will I think them enemies