July 2018

There’s a town in McLean county, IL—
not to be confused with the neighborhood
of Normaltown in Athens, GA, the latter

immortalized by the new wave band called
The B-52’s in their song “Deadbeat Club,”
with lyrics about teenagers having nothing

better to do than loaf around in little
cafes. How incredulous to see how normal
was supposed to be the families we watched

when finally (last house on the street)
we got black & white TV— father & mother
& five or six children living in small

towns, working on the farm or at
the lumberyard, running in at the sound
of the dinner bell; saying grace, saying

goodnight before one by one the lights
in the upstairs windows went out. Normal
was supposed to be young newlyweds

giving up their honeymoon money
to help keep a local bank solvent during
the Depression, & a second class

angel in a crumpled linen smock
dispatched to save an upstanding family
man from falling into despair. What

could we call what happened almost every
day in our home when I was growing up?
For the longest time, I thought

what we had was normal— waking up to see
breakfast dishes hurled to the floor,
the percolator raised like a lamp

in grandmother’s hand, mother cowering
by the door. Wild sobbing an orchestral
accompaniment to blows rained on a wall.

Up, and after doing a little business, down to Deptford with Sir W. Batten, and there left him, and I to Greenwich to the Park, where I hear the King and Duke are come by water this morn from Hampton Court. They asked me several questions. The King mightily pleased with his new buildings there. I followed them to Castle’s ship in building, and there, met Sir W. Batten, and thence to Sir G. Carteret’s, where all the morning with them; they not having any but the Duke of Monmouth, and Sir W. Killigrew, and one gentleman, and a page more. Great variety of talk, and was often led to speak to the King and Duke. By and by they to dinner, and all to dinner and sat down to the King saving myself, which, though I could not in modesty expect, yet, God forgive my pride! I was sorry I was there, that Sir W. Batten should say that he could sit down where I could not, though he had twenty times more reason than I, but this was my pride and folly.
I down and walked with Mr. Castle, who told me the design of Ford and Rider to oppose and do all the hurt they can to Captain Taylor in his new ship “The London,” and how it comes, and that they are a couple of false persons, which I believe, and withal that he himself is a knave too.
He and I by and by to dinner mighty nobly, and the King having dined, he come down, and I went in the barge with him, I sitting at the door. Down to Woolwich (and there I just saw and kissed my wife, and saw some of her painting, which is very curious; and away again to the King) and back again with him in the barge, hearing him and the Duke talk, and seeing and observing their manner of discourse. And God forgive me! though I admire them with all the duty possible, yet the more a man considers and observes them, the less he finds of difference between them and other men, though (blessed be God!) they are both princes of great nobleness and spirits.
The barge put me into another boat that come to our side, Mr. Holder with a bag of gold to the Duke, and so they away and I home to the office. The Duke of Monmouth is the most skittish leaping gallant that ever I saw, always in action, vaulting or leaping, or clambering.
Thence mighty full of the honour of this day, I took coach and to Kate Joyce’s, but she not within, but spoke with Anthony, who tells me he likes well of my proposal for Pall to Harman, but I fear that less than 500l. will not be taken, and that I shall not be able to give, though I did not say so to him. After a little other discourse and the sad news of the death of so many in the parish of the plague, forty last night, the bell always going, I back to the Exchange, where I went up and sat talking with my beauty, Mrs. Batelier, a great while, who is indeed one of the finest women I ever saw in my life. After buying some small matter, I home, and there to the office and saw Sir J. Minnes now come from Portsmouth, I home to set my Journall for these four days in order, they being four days of as great content and honour and pleasure to me as ever I hope to live or desire, or think any body else can live. For methinks if a man would but reflect upon this, and think that all these things are ordered by God Almighty to make me contented, and even this very marriage now on foot is one of the things intended to find me content in, in my life and matter of mirth, methinks it should make one mightily more satisfied in the world than he is. This day poor Robin Shaw at Backewell’s died, and Backewell himself now in Flanders. The King himself asked about Shaw, and being told he was dead, said he was very sorry for it.
The sicknesse is got into our parish this week, and is got, indeed, every where; so that I begin to think of setting things in order, which I pray God enable me to put both as to soul and body.

in the park
they lease new buildings

where the morning grew
they do all the hurt they can

the more a man serves
the less he finds of joy

like the death of so many things
to make me content in my life


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 26 July 1665.

We heard about the elderly aunt
of a friend who after sudden illness
fell into a coma— They took

her home and tended to
her body, turning her first one
way and then the other to keep

bedsores from developing; a nurse
came regularly to check on feeding
tubes and catheters, to note

down vitals in a log. Her hair
grew, and needed to be washed.
And so did fingernails, which

had to be clipped. Season
after season she slept, oblivious
to the ceremonies of the daily, to

holidays and weather and elections.
There was the earthquake in ’90, when
everyone ran out into the streets

in panic and forgot about her.
Miraculously, she survived that too.
And then, one day, five or six

years later, we were told she simply
sat up in bed, blinked, and asked for
a drink of water— which goes to show

how little we understand of the body’s
systems. What bird or worm thrashes
in the dense thickets of the ear

before bursting free? what comes to life,
pushing through blocked pathways, courier
trying to make a guaranteed delivery?

Our good humour in every body continuing, and there I slept till seven o’clock. Then up and to the office, well refreshed, my eye only troubling me, which by keeping a little covered with my handkercher and washing now and then with cold water grew better by night. At noon to the ‘Change, which was very thin, and thence homeward, and was called in by Mr. Rawlinson, with whom I dined and some good company very harmlessly merry. But sad the story of the plague in the City, it growing mightily. This day my Lord Brunker did give me Mr. Grant’s book upon the Bills of Mortality, new printed and enlarged.
Thence to my office awhile, full of business, and thence by coach to the Duke of Albemarle’s, not meeting one coach going nor coming from my house thither and back again, which is very strange. One of my chief errands was to speak to Sir W. Clerke about my wife’s brother, who importunes me, and I doubt he do want mightily, but I can do little for him there as to employment in the army, and out of my purse I dare not for fear of a precedent, and letting him come often to me is troublesome and dangerous too, he living in the dangerous part of the town, but I will do what I can possibly for him and as soon as I can.
Mightily troubled all this afternoon with masters coming to me about Bills of Exchange and my signing them upon my Goldsmiths, but I did send for them all and hope to ease myself this weeke of all the clamour.
These two or three days Mr. Shaw at Alderman Backewell’s hath lain sick, like to die, and is feared will not live a day to an end.
At night home and to bed, my head full of business, and among others, this day come a letter to me from Paris from my Lord Hinchingbroke, about his coming over; and I have sent this night an order from the Duke of Albemarle for a ship of 36 guns to [go] to Calais to fetch him.

our water grew better by night
thin and harmlessly sad

my book on mortality hit back
I was living in the dangerous part of town

I bled hope to ease myself
like a bed full of guns


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 25 July 1665.

“Perhaps creating something is nothing but an act of profound remembrance.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Life

Tonight, my husband is on a plane
making his way to Chicago; he and his

siblings have been called and will be
gathering at the bedside of their mother

who’s been in the hospital’s intensive
care unit for several days. Two weeks

ago, we were planning details for a reunion
in a cottage up by Lake Geneva: who’d get

which room, who’d be responsible
for grocery runs, for rides, for side

excursions to Niagara Falls and closer
towns. When she came to consciousness after

the pacemaker implant, she asked the doctor
if she’d be able to travel, and was told

yes. I wondered then: so soon after surgery,
would it be safe for her to don a blue

rain slicker and board a boat with the rest
of us, to feel the thundering spray from

a horseshoe-shaped curtain of water
crashing over the rocks? Growing up,

I’d hear my elders say The spirit is
willing, but the flesh is weak
. You might

think this well applies to her situation, except
that no one knows for sure. No one wants to talk

about what it might mean yet: if she’s come
to the end or if the body might still rally

and surpass all hopes, sprinting back from the edge,
from teetering and then slipping away in the mist.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Asymmetry.

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’ve missed earlier editions of the digest, here’s the archive.

This week, poetry Twitter was rocked by a series of explosions, but in the blogosphere (do we still call it that?) poets seem to be largely staying the course, as Sandra Beasley puts it: not complacent, but taking the crises on board, learning from them, and continuing to read, write, and rage in our own ways.

Many people in the literary world have had a strange past week, where the waves of news have included the seeming implosion of an independent press, the exposure of a fraudulent agent, the revelation of a serial manipulator in our midst, and the publication of an offensively lousy poem in a prominent forum. Then we discovered water seeping through the floor of our living room. The universe, it seems, is trying every which way to keep me from taking pleasure in poetry.

But I’m going to stay my course, in part because I’m so determined to finish my manuscript by the end of the summer. Even on the days otherwise unproductive I’ve tried for a bit of revising, tinkering, fussing with order. And I’m thinking a lot about what makes a poem a worthwhile endeavor, why we do what we do.

Allison Titus is a writer I’ve been following and appreciating for a while now, and in a recent interview with Bennington Review she says this:

When I get excited about a poem, it’s always the same way, that I respond most to poets/poems that arrest me and startle me back to attention (to the world, to life, to living) all over again, in some strange or intense manner: I’m always mostly desperate to be staggered/astonished/undone (by the world and thus by language). I just really all the time want to be rearranged; Robert Creeley is really good at doing this to me (“I heard words / and words full / of holes / aching. Speech / is a mouth.”). When I’m working on my own poems, I like most to be surprised by something that develops/materializes in the way that feels as “true” as it feels wild, crucial, off-kilter.

This captures something really right to me, something essential. One of the things I’ve emphasized recently, in teaching and editing as well as my own work, is the importance of making space for the wild unknown. We often use the rhetoric of a poem’s “landscape,” but in this context the cartography is both science and art–we need to admit and honor elements that surprise us, that don’t fit on first glance. This feels especially important as I work on a fourth collection, and gently resist my natural inclination to plot and plan as a way of easing anxiety over how little control I have over where and how this book lands.
Sandra Beasley, “I just really all the time want to be rearranged” ~ Allison Titus

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Here, the sliders, the shiny-shelled, the leggy things
are eclipsed in nature: walls and trees bear their weight
in a symbiosis of colour, form and texture.
          Good to see them free, untrammeled,
          where they ought to be amongst the webs,
          the moth husks and the tendrils.
Dick Jones, MORAIRA 1

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About summer sun: She is shining in Sequim and all over the Pacific NW, and it’s hilarious that after barely a month, people who have lived here much longer than I have are complaining about the heat, when it’s 80 degrees and the rest of the country is sweltering and burning. I am bathing in light and warmth and a little sad because the days are already getting shorter. […]

What I’m reading: an advance review copy of “The Final Voicemails” (Max Ritvo) and “Birds of the Pacific Northwest”.

What I’m writing: I’m working on a new poetry manuscript titled “why I hate to cry”. I’m also dusting off a novel and made a commitment to attend a workshop next spring to work on it.

What I’m submitting: Poems to impossible journals- so I can reach 100 rejections before the end of the year.
Risa Denenberg, Sunday Morning Muse with Sun, Son, and Mourning: an Update

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I hesitate to explain too much about any of my poems because I want the reader to have her own experience with art. That’s a sacred space to me. I will say the poem was inspired by actual events, and it is dedicated to the girls from Galveston County that did not get to grow up, like me. I have not forgotten them.

How do you decide when or if to explain your work? I’m curious. I think I’m more on the Cormac McCarthy end of the continuum.

TLR asked contributors to record our work and the put it on Soundcloud for free. I think hearing a litmag instead of reading it is a great way to enter these pieces. Despite the weird aversion to my own voice (many of us have this strange reaction). I think I will save the audible issue for my next long drive.
Lorena Parker Matejowsky, my daughter forgets to lock the door

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Great to be in Under the Radar alongside so many poets I respect, particularly Mike Barlow. However, I want to draw your attention to a friend of mine, Joe Caldwell, who teaches English in Sheffield. Not an easy thing to do, teach and write, but Joe manages it because he’s disciplined, and loves what he does.

Poetry’s not just about finding time to write, is it? It’s the push to send work out, deal with the rejections, edit, read something new, maybe start again, research magazines, track submission windows, try to go to a reading or two in between, attend workshops, read more, keep reading, berate yourself for not doing enough of any of these things, be happy for a fleeting moment when an acceptance comes your way, then worry that you haven’t got enough new work to send elsewhere.

And somewhere along the way, someone will have asked you what you do in your spare time!
Julie Mellor, Under the Radar

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I’m almost always suffering some dire form of suspense and trying to ignore it. Long publishing cycles are a large part of that–I have many mss out there and the odds of success don’t favor me. Often I can receive a rejection with a philosophical shrug, or go for weeks without thinking about a particular submission. On a rational level, I know it’s not personal, and it’s not helpful or healthy to get revved up over such extended, uncertain processes. But I am not rational every hour of every day. Ahem.

Because I spend so much effort trying to calm the hell down, it’s funny to realize I like suspense. In all forms of writing, it helps keep readers on the line. In novels and Netflix, I crave a zippy plot–strong characters in some condition of risk, to which events and feelings keep happening, unpredictably. In poems, I love that gasp-inducing opener that keeps you suspended, sometimes with a plot question (what’s going to happen?) and sometimes with another kind of problem, an image that begs unraveling or a pattern that needs resolution.

I started writing about poetry and suspense four years ago, for a book ms I spent a few years finishing and revising and am still in suspense about. I just reworked that material for a craft talk I’m giving Tuesday for the brand-new Randolph MFA in Creative Writing, at which I’ll be a visiting professor (seriously, click on that link and check out their regular faculty–Gary Dop is doing an amazing job). I hope to revise it again after this week’s adventures and send it out as an essay. In the process, I dug up a related blog from 2014, and it’s fascinating to see what I was in suspense about then: a ms, of course (it became Radioland), and a bad situation at work (which got worse before it got better, but is vastly improved now).

The latter involved a sickening rather than interesting variety of suspense, but a little suspense in life, as in art, can be good. I’m in many ways in a lucky situation, but I don’t want my life to be exactly the same or completely predictable for the next twenty years. That’s partly why I drafted a novel a couple of years ago, to try something new and see where it took me. I revised it heavily this spring–not for the first time!–and it’s now with a second reader at a small press I greatly admire. I’m in suspense about it, but the reader is expecting twins soon, so she’s in rather more suspense than I am. I need to cool my jets. It’s not easy.
Lesley Wheeler, Poetry and suspense: more twists

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Some of my little wins this week have been poem-related. Something happened Monday morning and I woke up with ideas for poems and they’ve been coming pretty steadily — five fully-developed — but naturally in need of time and reflection and editing — poems so far this week, which is actually more than double the amount of poems I’ve written in the past six months.

Something that might be “problematic” is that they aren’t poems that are part of the Repeat Pattern project I’m working on with M.S. and neither are they part of the verse play, but such problems are welcome problems. It’s nice to write something and afterwards recognize that it’s not just a “clearing of the throat” or merely evidence of “showing up” to the page . . . which so much of my morning writing has been these past few months.

In other-wins, I received an email from the Bread Loaf Sicily program this week asking for the manuscript that we’ll be using during the week-long workshop in September. While I’m not overly anxious to be in a workshop again, it’s a nice reminder that within two months I’ll be in Italy, far far away from Long Island and Stuffolk and all its nonsense, and part of a small literary community for a few brief days (something I am looking forward to doing again).
Sarah Kain Gutowski, Setting Small Fires (My Week of Mood Swings, Poem Writing, and Demolition)

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Since returning home from Sicily, I have been steeped in creative work and tending our vegetable gardens, which are growing by leaps and bounds. […]

I have been writing a lot of essays and poems, trying to recapture the best of the experience. […] Thus far, 3 poems and two essays have been selected for publication. What a thrill that is, especially when it’s challenging to make scenes as poignant as being there.

Maybe that is always the challenge. Besides writing about Sicily, I have been working on my 100 word story collection. Hoping to put together one hundred 100 word stories. I am writing 1-2 stories a day. Everything and anything can trigger a story. The characters, for the most part, are quirky and behaving badly, or are strangely righteous, or just trying to get by, day by day, and make sense of their lives. These stories are so different from my poetry, and I am having a lot of fun writing these terse ironic scenes. It’s deliciously wicked, letting readers “see” the underside of situations.
M.J. Iuppa, Oh Sicily, I miss you…

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Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share?

A~Short-form poetry is addictive, and I don’t mean that in a positive way. There are an endless number of publications to submit to. There are an endless number of contests to enter. And it is very, very easy to get caught up in the fray of accumulating accolades and credits and comparing. I know I did. If you begin to compare your creative trajectory to someone else’s, you will run the risk of extinguishing your own unique fire.

Q~You are also a visual artist. How do you balance your creative interests? How do they interplay if at all?

A~At this point, I have come to the conclusion that there is no way I can be successful at all of my ventures all the time, which has been a freeing and humbling revelation. There are times when I want to write poetry and only poetry, and then there are times when I feel compelled to exclusively create in a visual manner. I try to follow my inspiration and not force anything. Because I am both a poet and visual artist, people frequently ask if I’ve tried haiga (a combination of art and haiku). Believe me, I’ve tried it. I’m terrible at it, and the irony of that isn’t lost on me. But, I am OK with that. I enjoy poetry for what it is in my life, and the same goes for my visual art. In many ways, I like that they exist in separate spheres.
Bekah Steimel, Far From Home / An interview with poet Tiffany Shaw-Diaz

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I’m an inveterate recycler. I have a compost pile and six chickens so I can turn food scraps into soil and eggs. I love repurposed items: quilts sewn from old clothes, wind chimes made of bent spoons, collages of torn magazine pages. Therefore, I was delighted to discover that poet Eileen R. Tabios has created a database made up of 1,167 lines of her own poetry, selected from 27 of her previously published books.

She calls it the “The MDR Poetry Generator” (I referred to this in the July 16, 2018 issue of Sticks & Stones, which includes a review of Tabios’ book Love in a Time of Belligerence). Her new book Murder Death Resurrection (2018 Dos Madres Press) describes the five-year project of creating this database. In the introduction she writes, “The MDR Poetry Generator’s conceit is that any combination of its 1,167 lines succeeds in creating a poem. Thus, one can create – generate – new poems unthinkingly from its database.”

Each line in the MDR database starts with the words “I forgot.” Tabios writes, “Through my perceptions of abstraction and cubism, I’ve written poems whose lines are not fixed in order and, indeed, can be reordered.” I find this non-linear aspect wonderfully liberating. I can see its application in teaching poetry to children, or to people learning English, or as an exercise in creativity. (The book includes a teaching guide and workshop suggestion.)

Tabios’ database inspired me to create my own repository of poetic lines, but instead of using published poems, I decided to search through my old notebooks and journals…
Erica Goss, How to Create a Poetry Database

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Last year my friend Hayden Saunier, a poet and actor, came up with an idea to change up what a traditional poetry reading is like. She invited a handful of people to a meeting at her house, and there No River Twice was born.

No River Twice is a poetry improvisational group. Our group poetry readings don’t have planned reading lists, reader orders or themes–they’re completely spontaneous and responsive to audience input. At a NRT reading, the poets take cues and suggestions from the audience and each other, so each performance is unique, the poems interconnect, weave and flow in a unique way that connects the readers to the listeners. We’re not inventing new poems on the spot, but we’re inventing new synergies, which makes each performance collaborative and new.

We held our first public performance in January at Fergie’s in Philadelphia, and have had a few since. Our next one will kick off the new Caesura poetry conference in Phoenixville, PA, August 17.

It’s hard to explain exactly what NRT is, so you should just come to one of our events–it’ll change the way you think about poetry readings.
Grant Clauser, Check out No River Twice, Poetry Improv that’s Never the Same Reading Twice

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I’ve been laying a little low while dealing with MS symptom misery, but not low enough to avoid reading about scandal after scandal this week! A woman scams the literary world (and I mean, why would you target the literary community? It’s a community without a lot of money. Go pick on a richer group! And she was particularly targeting feminist writers. Did I mention I think I was Facebook friends with her at some point in the past?) And another literary agent was just accused of fraud, even writing fake letters with offers from presses to writers she worked with. Yikes! Writers beware, indeed. And a terrible poem that offended about just about every group that exists was published and that also caused a scandal. (Note: Persona poetry is not a crime, but maybe try to avoid taking the identity of someone who might be underrepresented…Also, it was not a good persona poem because it relied too much on obvious cliches…The editors of the magazine involved are really nice, hyper-socially-aware writers, which begs the question of…well, hey, even good editors have off days…) I tried to avoid getting too involved in the scandal and gossip maelstrom on Twitter etc. It is funny how many people would rather get together and hate on a poem than ever ever talk about something positive about a different poem. Ah well. Such is social media. Which brings me to the importance of in-person writer time!

Much more uplifting – real life time spent with real life writers! Spent a whole lovely day with Kelli Russell Agodon talking about our latest poetry manuscripts, the poetry world, and, bonus, I got a 20-minute Instagram tutorial on hashtags (which I needed because I am still so clueless on Instagram.) Glenn put out strawberry cupcakes and sparkling rose from the winery next door and it was just so nice to relax and spend time with another writer one-on-one. Plus, I was able to tackle my manuscript revisions the next day, so now I feel like I have a better, more complete version of my manuscript to send out.

Glenn and I drove Kels down to the Edmonds ferry and hung out on the beach to watch her leave. The sunset was beautiful and the breeze off the Puget Sound was perfect.
Jeannine Hall Gailey, Heat Waves and Poetry Scandals, Poetry Writer Dates, and Sending Out Work in the Summer

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Over a decade ago through the magic of the internet and the wonder of email, I “met” a poet who lived far away in the southwest named Lisha Adela Garcia. We never met in person, though.

Lisha was putting together her very first full-length poetry collection and thought I might be of assistance. I’ve worked as a poetry manuscript organizer and editor for many years, and I was delighted to take a look at her poems.

The poems were amazing of course! And they turned into her wonderful, acclaimed collection, Blood Rivers, published in 2009.

Through the magic of web ether, Lisha and I have stayed in touch.

But despite never meeting in person, I always felt we had a deep connection.

The connection of our mutual love of poetry, certainly.

But it felt like so much more, too.

A soul connection, if you will. Maybe you’ve felt that too?

As if our life experiences sent us along similar paths.

I’ve always wanted to meet Lisha, hear her voice in person, look into her eyes.

And last week, I finally got the chance as she passed through my town on the way to a reading for her newly published book, A Rope of Luna.
Lana Ayers, Friendship Across the Ether

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So many. So many. We are
not alone. We are together.
We are a forest in autumn,
full of ripe fruit, bright fruit, bright words
to carve the light, the light that carves

us. We are sharp, crisp with edges,
with wounds. We are soft, moist and warm
as if coming out of ovens,
out of caverns, weak with hunger,
fading, yes, but first, branches blaze.
PF Anderson, Leaflet

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After some readings on metaphor and language, I tackled A Grammar of Metaphor (1958) by Christine Brooke-Rose. Admittedly, I was hampered in my reading by my lack of facility in the jargon and structure of what used to be, but is no longer, “basic” English grammar. It did help that I have read The Trivium and could refer to it now and again; and of course it helps to have a background in poetry and literature, though not one nearly as thorough as Brooke-Rose’s. I definitely can add this one to the “difficult books” I have enjoyed, and benefited from, reading.

The grammar part of metaphor was not something I took into much account when I studied poetry. Certainly, when I read for pleasure, I do not analyze for grammar. Poets often experiment with grammar–altering syntax purposefully, creating sentence fragments, run-on sentences, new compound words, jarring phrases, all in an effort to make something happen in the poem. That “something” may be sound, dream, argument, exhortation, emotion, surprise, pattern, recognition, or a matter of perspective on outlooks, worldviews, culture, tasks, the personal. I do not read for such insights until I want to return to the poem and find out how the poet managed to make the amazing process of language work upon me.
Ann E. Michael, Difficult books, iterum

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In the ever-astonishing Brain Pickings, Maria Popova’s treasure trove of ideas delivered right to my email inbox, I read some excerpts from Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. Dweck’s idea is that there are two types of mindsets that people have about themselves, mindsets that shape how we think about ourselves and the challenges we meet in life: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. She says this: “When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world — the world of fixed traits — success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other — the world of changing qualities — it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself. In one world, failure is about having a setback….It means you’re not smart or talented. In the other world, failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you’re not fulfilling your potential.”

And as usual these days when I consider something presented as a duality, I think, yes, and yes; therefore, no, the idea of a duality is just not appropriate. Spectrum, maybe. Spiral, perhaps. Of two minds, probably.

At any given moment, confronted with any particular challenge, I enter both those mindsets. What I do next depends on which one wins, which one wins depends on any number of factors, including how motivated I am with regard to the particular challenge, how distracted I am by something else outside of the particular challenge (hunger, having to pee, whatever), who I’m imagining is my judge and jury if I am imagining one, and what the next required step might be.

I used to play a fair amount of tennis and never got much better at it. At first I had a growth mindset, then, after I while, I had a fuckit mindset. I mean, a fixed mindset. Fixed on never playing that stupid fucking game again.

Often when I get a writing rejection, my thinking goes something like this: oh-crap-why-do-I-suck-I’m-so-not-good-enough-not-smart-enough-I- quit-okay-well-wait-maybe-I’ve-learned-X-about-this-and-so-I’m-going-to-try-this-new-approach. Or sometimes I think: okay-I’ve-tried-X-and-Y-and-Z-and-learned-these-things-but-I’m-not-achieving-what-I-want-and-seem-not-to-be-particularly-good-at-this-and-am-tired-of-trying-so-I’m-going-to-stop.
Marilyn McCabe, I’m Rubber, I’m Glue; or How Mindset Affects Action

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Roy Marshall’s poems in the Traces section of his latest collection, The Great Animator (Shoestring Press), are inspired by his nursing experience in coronary care and research. Self-effacing to the last, Roy is one of the most talented writers I know. Having read the collection soon after its publication last year, I was pleased to hear Roy read some of these poems at Lowdham book festival, last month.

My pre-ordered copy of Josephine Corcoran’s What Are You After? (Nine Arches Press) arrived just in time for me to read it from cover to cover before her launch reading at the Nine Arches Press tenth birthday bash. I was particularly pleased, then, that she included ‘Love in the Time of Hospital Visits’ among the poems she chose to read on the day. To say that I identify strongly with this poem is an understatement. You can read it here on the Bookanista site.

Poet and indefatigable blogger John Foggins has around 70 years of ‘form’ with the NHS. Last year, he invited his blog readers to send him poems about hospitals and their experience of them. They make for interesting and varied reading. You’ll find them all in his How Are You Feeling? series of posts starting here.
Jayne Stanton, One year on: Thank You, NHS!

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J35 carries her dead baby on her rostrum. Days pass. She doesn’t eat. Her human guardians say we won’t give up as long as she doesn’t.

I cry suddenly, helplessly, seeing her photograph, the beloved corpse pushed on her exhalation.
JJS, July 27, 2018: bad trouble

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Something blue,
this poem, the color of robin eggs,
the color of robin song,

of this day, holding us together
against gravity
for the rest of our lives.
Claudia Serea, Against gravity

And then up and home, and there dressed myself, and by appointment to Deptford, to Sir G. Carteret’s, between six and seven o’clock, where I found him and my Lady almost ready, and by and by went over to the ferry, and took coach and six horses nobly for Dagenhams, himself and lady and their little daughter, Louisonne, and myself in the coach; where, when we come, we were bravely entertained and spent the day most pleasantly with the young ladies, and I so merry as never more. Only for want of sleep, and drinking of strong beer had a rheum in one of my eyes, which troubled me much. Here with great content all the day, as I think I ever passed a day in my life, because of the contentfulnesse of our errand, and the noblenesse of the company and our manner of going. But I find Mr. Carteret yet as backward almost in his caresses, as he was the first day. At night, about seven o’clock, took coach again; but, Lord! to see in what a pleasant humour Sir G. Carteret hath been both coming and going; so light, so fond, so merry, so boyish (so much content he takes in this business), it is one of the greatest wonders I ever saw in my mind. But once in serious discourse he did say that, if he knew his son to be a debauchee, as many and, most are now-a-days about the Court, he would tell it, and my Lady Jem. should not have him; and so enlarged both he and she about the baseness and looseness of the Court, and told several stories of the Duke of Monmouth, and Richmond, and some great person, my Lord of Ormond’s second son, married to a lady of extraordinary quality (fit and that might have been made a wife for the King himself), about six months since, that this great person hath given the pox to ———; and discoursed how much this would oblige the Kingdom if the King would banish some of these great persons publiquely from the Court, and wished it with all their hearts.
We set out so late that it grew dark, so as we doubted the losing of our way; and a long time it was, or seemed, before we could get to the water-side, and that about eleven at night, where, when we come, all merry (only my eye troubled me, as I said), we found no ferryboat was there, nor no oares to carry us to Deptford. However, afterwards oares was called from the other side at Greenwich; but, when it come, a frolique, being mighty merry, took us, and there we would sleep all night in the coach in the Isle of Doggs. So we did, there being now with us my Lady Scott, and with great pleasure drew up the glasses, and slept till daylight, and then some victuals and wine being brought us, we ate a bit, and so up and took boat, merry as might be; and when come to Sir G. Carteret’s, there all to bed.

in one of my eyes the greatest wonders
and in the other sleep

so with sure glasses
light might be art


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 24 July 1665.

(Lord’s day). Up very betimes, called by Mr. Cutler, by appointment, and with him in his coach and four horses over London Bridge to Kingston, a very pleasant journey, and at Hampton Court by nine o’clock, and in our way very good and various discourse, as he is a man, that though I think he be a knave, as the world thinks him, yet a man of great experience and worthy to be heard discourse. When we come there, we to Sir W. Coventry’s chamber, and there discoursed long with him, he and I alone, the others being gone away, and so walked together through the garden to the house, where we parted, I observing with a little trouble that he is too great now to expect too much familiarity with, and I find he do not mind me as he used to do, but when I reflect upon him and his business I cannot think much of it, for I do not observe anything but the same great kindness from him. I followed the King to chappell, and there hear a good sermon; and after sermon with my Lord Arlington, Sir Thomas Ingram and others, spoke to the Duke about Tangier, but not to much purpose. I was not invited any whither to dinner, though a stranger, which did also trouble me; but yet I must remember it is a Court, and indeed where most are strangers; but, however, Cutler carried me to Mr. Marriott’s the house-keeper, and there we had a very good dinner and good company, among others Lilly, the painter.
Thence to the councill-chamber, where in a back room I sat all the afternoon, but the councill begun late to sit, and spent most of the time upon Morisco’s Tarr businesse. They sat long, and I forced to follow Sir Thomas Ingram, the Duke, and others, so that when I got free and come to look for Cutler, he was gone with his coach, without leaving any word with any body to tell me so; so that I was forced with great trouble to walk up and down looking of him, and at last forced to get a boat to carry me to Kingston, and there, after eating a bit at a neat inne, which pleased me well, I took boat, and slept all the way, without intermission, from thence to Queenhive, where, it being about two o’clock, too late and too soon to go home to bed, I lay and slept till about four…

being a stranger
where most are strangers
body in a boat


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 23 July 1665.

that summer, on elegies and the poetry
of death. Perhaps it shouldn’t have come
as a surprise, yet I found I was surprised
—long-dead neighbors arrived and smilingly
took their places among others at the table.
They shuffled papers from folders, set out
their pens neatly on one side; some
began clearing their throats in a way
that sounded like they might not have
done that in a while. On the right,
Mr. Eduardo, who once was city engineer,
smoothed the lapels of his olive coat
and the silk square tucked neatly into
a breast pocket. And there were Nana
Doring and Tata Berting, who lived
in a brown house in the street directly
below ours. Her grey hair was like it always
was— slightly unruly but with a nice curl,
giving her an elfin look; his black-rimmed
glasses were as usual perched high on his nose,
which made him look a little like a solemn
owl. I could sense they were eager to read
poems to each other. It wasn’t cold or gloomy
at all in there: windows framed the brightness
of the season, and winding vines of orange
hummingbird trumpet flowers crept along
the ledge. I was both suddenly shy and quite
excited; then stricken with the anxiety
they would think I was such a fraud—
what did I know about death, after all?
I wanted to ask them what they thought
about all these metaphors; I wanted
to suggest a free write. At the end
of the session they came up to give hugs,
saying they enjoyed their brief time here.

As soon as up I among my goldsmiths, Sir Robert Viner and Colvill, and there got 10,000l. of my new tallys accepted, and so I made it my work to find out Mr. Mervin and sent for others to come with their bills of Exchange, as Captain Hewett, &c., and sent for Mr. Jackson, but he was not in town. So all the morning at the office, and after dinner, which was very late, I to Sir R. Viner’s, by his invitation in the morning, and got near 5000l. more accepted, and so from this day the whole, or near, 15,000l., lies upon interest. Thence I by water to Westminster, and the Duke of Albemarle being gone to dinner to my Lord of Canterbury’s, I thither, and there walked and viewed the new hall, a new old-fashion hall as much as possible. Begun, and means left for the ending of it, by Bishop Juxon. Not coming proper to speak with him, I to Fox-hall, where to the Spring garden; but I do not see one guest there, the town being so empty of any body to come thither. Only, while I was there, a poor woman come to scold with the master of the house that a kinswoman, I think, of hers, that was newly dead of the plague, might be buried in the church-yard; for, for her part, she should not be buried in the commons, as they said she should.
Back to White Hall, and by and by comes the Duke of Albemarle, and there, after a little discourse, I by coach home, not meeting with but two coaches, and but two carts from White Hall to my own house, that I could observe; and the streets mighty thin of people.
I met this noon with Dr. Burnett, who told me, and I find in the newsbook this week that he posted upon the ‘Change, that whoever did spread the report that, instead of the plague, his servant was by him killed, it was forgery, and shewed me the acknowledgment of the master of the pest-house, that his servant died of a bubo on his right groine, and two spots on his right thigh, which is the plague.
To my office, where late writing letters, and getting myself prepared with business for Hampton Court to-morrow, and so having caused a good pullet to be got for my supper, all alone, I very late to bed.
All the news is great: that we must of necessity fall out with France, for He will side with the Dutch against us. That Alderman Backewell is gone over (which indeed he is) with money, and that Ostend is in our present possession. But it is strange to see how poor Alderman Backewell is like to be put to it in his absence, Mr. Shaw his right hand being ill. And the Alderman’s absence gives doubts to people, and I perceive they are in great straits for money, besides what Sir G. Carteret told me about fourteen days ago.
Our fleet under my Lord Sandwich being about the latitude 55 (which is a great secret) to the Northward of the Texell.
So to bed very late. In my way I called upon Sir W. Turner, and at Mr. Shelcrosse’s (but he was not at home, having left his bill with Sir W. Turner), that so I may prove I did what I could as soon as I had money to answer all bills.

bury me in the spring garden
empty me of use and art
and people me with plague

for all the news is that we must go to war
so I may prove I did
what I could


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 22 July 1665.