is actually elegy…
Luisa A. Igloria, “The Subject”
This summer I finally threw
away the pens with dried
out inks, the art projects half
done, never to be completed.
I weigh every book, examine
every piece of china for the hairline
crack that presages doom.
We choose a different stain
for the floors in our quest
to bring light to a dark house
The roots of the gumbo limbo trees continue
their quiet domination, buckling
the concrete and brick.
We rebuild everything the hurricane
destroyed while keeping our eyes
on the weather systems which may sow
the first seeds of what could be salvation
or devastation. I water
the petunias even though the heat
has turned them into spindles
of their former glory.
Up betimes to my office, where my clerks with me, and very busy all the morning writing letters. At noon down to Sir J. Minnes and Lord Bruncker to Greenwich to sign some of the Treasurer’s books, and there dined very well; and thence to look upon our rooms again at the King’s house, which are not yet ready for us. So home and late writing letters, and so, weary with business, home to supper and to bed.
writing no in a green book
in rooms which are not yet
ready for us
writing let me be
Up, and whereas I had appointed Mr. Hater and Will to come betimes to the office to meet me about business there, I was called upon as soon as ready by Mr. Andrews to my great content, and he and I to our Tangier accounts, where I settled, to my great joy, all my accounts with him, and, which is more, cleared for my service to the contractors since the last sum I received of them, 222l. 13s. profit to myself, and received the money actually in the afternoon. After he was gone comes by a pretence of mine yesterday old Delks the waterman, with his daughter Robins, and several times to and again, he leaving her with me, about the getting of his son Robins off, who was pressed yesterday again And jo haze ella mettre su mano upon my pragma hasta hazerme hazer la costa in su mano. Pero ella no voulut permettre que je ponebam meam manum a ella, but I do not doubt but allo know de obtenir le. All the afternoon at my office mighty busy writing letters, and received a very kind and good one from my Lord Sandwich of his arrival with the fleete at Solebay, and the joy he has at my last newes he met with, of the marriage of my Lady Jemimah. And he tells me more, the good newes that all our ships, which were in such danger that nobody would insure upon them, from the Eastland, were all safe arrived, which I am sure is a great piece of good luck, being in much more danger than those of Hambrough which were lost, and their value much greater at this time to us. At night home, much contented with this day’s work, and being at home alone looking over my papers, comes a neighbour of ours hard by to speak with me about business of the office, one Mr. Fuller, a great merchant, but not my acquaintance, but he come drunk, and would have had me gone and drunk with him at home, or have let him send for wine hither, but I would do neither, nor offered him any, but after some sorry discourse parted, and I up to [my] chamber and to bed.
joy at the robins yesterday
and in all my writing
a kind of arrival
Though this week’s digest is two days late (I was traveling), it still only includes posts up through Sunday, as usual. I was pleased to be able to include several posts related to traveling, as well as meditations on moving, bodily infirmity, weeds, hurricanes, and fire season.
And then, there are weeds, which offer many details about the weather conditions…and the fact that the gardener gave up and stopped pulling weeds when the soil devolved into heavy mud and who then refused to brave the task in the numerous over-95 degree F days that weren’t rainy. Today, I began a list: nutsedge; crabgrass; English plantain; pigweed; puncturevine; bindweed; galinsoga; creeping thistle; multiflora rose; horseweed; knotweed; spotted spurge; rabbitfoot clover; virginia creeper; japanese stiltgrass; wintercreeper; mugwort; solidago; wild aster; chicory; poison ivy; not to mention various sorrels and clovers and Queen Anne’s lace…and others I have yet to identify.
If I were to parse each weed, I could detail its likes and dislikes as to soil, growing conditions, root systems, pollinators & pollination strategies, seed dispersal methods, attractiveness to birds or rodents (see seed dispersal methods), and eventually could compile a meaningful ecological and environmental semantics for the little plot that is my backyard truck patch. No doubt I’d learn a great deal about the garden, but no doubt I have done so already–if less exhaustively, less “scientifically.” Would the garden then become more meaningful to me?
It’s a thought experiment; I’ve no intention of trying it, though I do think it would yield interesting results. In the many years I have worked the soil, I have written poems that, perhaps, do parse the garden. That will have to be interpretation enough for my part.
Ann E. Michael, Parsing the garden
Right now, hundreds of fires are burning in the Western United States. The air in Washington and Oregon is the worst in the nation. Every morning, the sun shines an eerie bronze light over the land. The sky over Eugene, Oregon, where I live, reminds me of the smog-choked summers of my youth in Southern California.
Nine years ago, during a hot dry summer in Northern California, I wrote “Fire Season.” In the West, fire season now stretches from early spring to mid-winter. The smoke has reached the Eastern US, where people in New York are watching spectacular sunsets courtesy of burning forests.
Whatever we were
looking for is gone:
the door we saw in a dream,
instructions for time travel,
poles tacked with posters
of the missing.
The aroma of houses dying
two hundred miles away
rises into the troposphere,
as television screens explode,
ending a million cop shows.
Call it summer, if you must
but I know its true name,
caramel skies and edgy refrain
and strange delicacies:
marrow forced from split bones,
fog billowing through
silent trees like a last hope,
and when the sky clears
the whittled neighborhoods: row
I think it’s fair to say, at least regarding our fire “season” that we have reached a “new normal” meaning fires all year round in this region. We’ve seen quite a few respiratory problems at the clinic over the past couple of weeks. It’s certainly unpleasant particularly since we only get a couple of months of sunshine where I live, but of course, it’s been worse than just smoke for people and animals in the fires’ paths.
I have a review of Max Ritvo’s forthcoming book, “The Final Voicemails” (Milkweed Editions, 2018), up at the Rumpus. Max Ritvo was an enormously gifted poet who died at age twenty-five, two years ago, on August 23, 2016, after a prolonged bout with cancer. His posthumous collection, The Final Voicemails, will be released on September 11, 2018. As a nurse practitioner who cut her milk teeth watching young gay men die in droves in the 1990s, I was tremendously moved by Max’s courageous work in the face of his death. I hope you will read my review, and more so, that you will read his work, which includes the also posthumously published, “Four Reincarnations”.
Risa Denenberg, Sunday Morning Muse with Smoke at Reentry
Look at the god, good-looking,
how he looks at the ground,
willing it real, willing himself
to love where he hardly lives,
in his stupid human body,
an always ailing thing.
The good editors at SWWIM published my poem “Energize” this week and I’ve been thinking about late fall 2015, when I composed it. A couple of months into my sabbatical, my mother became very ill with what turned out to be non-Hodgkins lymphoma, so I was flying up and down highways, trying to see her and help with her care. I was also grieving other transitions–my son had just started high school and my daughter had left for college–and working on various manuscripts with the desperation of a half-crazed person, plus perimenopause symptoms were tormenting me. This particular poem arrived during a trip to a Modernist Studies Association meeting in November; it occurred in Boston and I missed the first day because I squeezed in a visit with my mother on the way north (she lives near Philadelphia and I’m in Virginia). After things wound down on Sunday, but before I hit the road to Pennsylvania and then Virginia again, I ducked into a church for shelter during some rain and ended up captivated by the Tiffany stained glass, which seemed bright and alive despite the dark weather. So there’s a little Jesus in this poem, a little Star Trek (I was really, really longing for transporter technology), and a bunch of mid-life angst.
Lesley Wheeler, Stupid human bodies
Q~What’s your writing process like?
A~Imagine the sky on a foggy day, then imagine the sun coming through the darkness, or the sun not coming through and an entire day of shade—that’s my writing process.
The majority of my poems are never submitted or published. I just enjoy writing and creating. When I wake up and the first thing I do is to write a poem, that is when I’m living my best life (as Oprah would say).
Q~What are your poetry likes and dislikes?
A~Likes: I love poets who write about relationships, desire, weird stuff, death, personal struggles, their own lives/issues, and who bring vulnerability to their work in whatever form or way they are dealing with it. I like inclusively, realizing we’re all at different parts of a journey and to respect and honor that. I like kind and helpful poets who help raise other poets up than to bring other poets down. I love poets who share poems, who interact with a large group of people and find ways to make the world a better place. I love to be surprised by poems and to see language used in interesting ways. I like visual poems and when poems appear in unexpected places. I like long walks on the beach with poetry and getting caught in the rain…
Dislikes: Ego. Author nametags. Poets who read over their time limit. Poets who only connect or support/like/retweet/respond to other poets because they feel they can help their career. I dislike exclusively in poetry and looking down at someone because they don’t have a degree or book, or looking up to someone because they do. I am not a fan of placing anyone on a pedestal and/or then knocking them off it. So, I guess I’m not a fan of pedestals. Though I do love trophies and honestly, most of the poets I’ve met have been sweet and kind, so my dislikes are probably limited to a small group (I hope they are limited to a small group…)
I think there is always more to love when it comes to poetry, both in our community and in learning about each other and ourselves through words and images. Honestly, I am just thankful every day that people keep falling in love with poetry and trying to write poems themselves. I always say the world would be a better place if everyone woke up and wrote a poem. Just imagine. I think it would be divine.
Bekah Steimel, Hunger / an interview with #poetblogrevival cofounder Kelli Russell Agodon
My writing time is short–but I am back to my writing space in the front bedroom. Not much else is in the room but my desk. There’s an echoing quality in my typing. I’m listening to NPR on headphones because the bed is just outside the open door–we’re sleeping in the dining room for one more night.
I like the empty quality to this room–the way the floor is visible. Part of me wants to give away everything that was once in this room so that we could keep it this empty–the guest room bed, the books, the shelves that held the books. But that would be silly. Wouldn’t it?
Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Thinking About Hurricanes
So for the next few months, I’ll be house-hunting, which is only fun for those who do not need a new place to live, and packing, which is only fun for minimalists like me who like to see exactly how much they can do without.
I’ll leave you with an old poem I wrote about one of my myriad moves:
We learn an empty house,
the look of a room as a cavity
to be filled. We learn to portion
and take everything to keep,
in labeled boxes that make
angles and a jigsaw fit. […]
Renee Emerson, I’ve been everywhere, man
When I posted some pictures of this trip on Instagram, my friend Lorianne of Hoarded Ordinaries pointed me to Walt Whitman’s poem, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” which was included in the 1856 edition of Leaves of Grass. As I read, I was moved, and felt the distance between the poet and myself collapse, just as he had written a century and a half ago.
I thought about my great-grandfather, who had come from England around the time Whitman wrote his poem, and had become a jeweler in Brooklyn — the maker of a gold ring that was passed down to me, that I always wear now on the little finger of my right hand.
What is it then between us?
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?
Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and place avails not,
I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,
I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the waters around it,
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me…
But my thoughts were also personal. I occurred to me that New York has functioned as a kind of touchstone, with my experiences here forming a series that mirrors different stages of my life, and growth; how the intensity and excitement I’ve always felt in this, my favorite of all cities, used to be accompanied by the insecurities of the small-town country girl that I once was, unsure of how to dress, positive that my inexperience and trepidation were obvious to anyone who saw me.
So many memories! Peering into the magical animated windows of Fifth Avenue shops when I was five, matched by the enchantment of seeing My Fair Lady and Camelot. Walking through scary dark streets near Times Square with a long-haired college boyfriend, now dead, during the gritty days of the 1970s, on our way to see “Fritz the Cat.” The seductive energy of walking down Fifth Avenue many years later, on the day I received an offer from a New York publisher — and how I had turned that offer down and driven out of the city, knowing I’d down the right thing, that the strings attached weren’t worth it, or right for me. Marching through the streets in anti-war demonstrations, and looking down at them from the Empire State Building, as a little girl, or the World Trade Center in my forties; going back on a somber day to pay my respects after 9/11.
I thought of some of my closest friends, who’ve always lived here, and all the things we’ve done together: the art that fills the museums; the music that fills the theaters and clubs; the food from every corner of the world; the stores where you can buy, or at least look at, just about anything. There have been parties and weddings and funerals, countless meals in ethnic restaurants and New York delis, countless slices of pizza bought on the street. And even though I’ve become a city person myself, and live in a quite-different large city in a quite-different country, New York (where I’ve never lived) is still home, in the sense of a place to which I’ll always return, a place I hope will remain, not just throughout my own lifetime but, like Whitman, hundreds of years from now, for those who will come after me, because the anonymity and shelter of the great city are also major parts of its identity, just as they shape ours.
Beth Adams, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”
Well, the overwhelming message is that dreams are dreams & the real world of school, work, tears & laughter, ill health & death is where we should spend our days. But the weirdest of codas to my own dreamtime USA was provided when I visited the States for the first time in the early ‘90s. As I stood by the Pacific on the North Oregon coast, or watched the trucks barrelling down through Seattle, I realised that in some strange, prescient way I had anticipated what I now perceived & that dreamtime & realtime America were very close &, without having noticed, I had stepped across the dividing line because it wasn’t really there.
Sitting in a pickup truck, waiting for my companions to emerge heavily-laden from a Kroger store, I started to write this poem. I intended a gentle, affectionate parody of the Beat chroniclers whose narratives had illuminated my teenage years. And yet as it proceeded down the page, it began to speak more and more to my sense of a charged and passionate childhood vision of ‘old weird America’ whose substance was in no way mitigated by my presence here and now in that very land.
Dick Jones, Driving to America
I have a new chapbook out, The Towns, from Unicorn Press, and I just did the first release reading for it at the fabulous Ryburn Place, on historic Route 66, thanks to Terri Ryburn. Terri will also introduce me at the next release reading, November 15, 2018, at the Normal Public Library, which I hope will also be a release reading for Spiritual Midwifery, due out from Red Bird Chapbooks before the end of the year! (here is my Author Page at Red Bird from my previous book with them, ABCs of Women’s Work, the one with the perfect cover, where I am invisible! See alphabet sampler below.) And here is the cover of The Towns, in a picture taken by Terri Ryburn.
I loved reading to a room full of attentive, warm, loving people in Terri’s Route 66 shop, full of interesting arts and crafts and Route 66 doodads. I was wearing my Route 66 earrings, made by Marcia Hirst, who was in the audience, with more of her handmade earrings dangling close behind her. The Tingleys were there, a couple who lived in Towanda, Illinois when I first knew them, and the first poem I read was “Towanda.” Family came, women I write with, lovely people from our community. I got to refer to the towns in the poems on a map right behind me, showing that some are are Route 66 and some require you to exit. The audience also enjoyed and/or got chilled by my accounts of outlaws along the Natchez Trace, also represented in The Towns.
And I was pleased that my listeners enjoyed learning about my process, and about how the poems connected to two other books: The Triggering Town, by Richard Hugo, and The Outlaw Years, by Robert M. Coates. And those of you know how much I love random coincidii will be delighted to know The Outlaw Years was published in 1930, the same year the structure I was in, originally a service station on Route 66, had been built. I did not read the title poem, since it always makes me cry, but I might read it at the library, anyway.
Sorry I’ve been so silent here. I swam all summer, often with a duck, and went to Santa Cruz, California. Life has been busy. And wonderful.
Kathleen Kirk, The Towns
I’m pleased to say that I’ve been awarded a Local Artists Bursary by Ginkgo Projects, funded by Bloor Homes for the Kings Gate Public Art Programme, which I am using to write some new poems in response to the landscape and heritage of the area in and around Amesbury, Wiltshire.
I live in the west of the county, about 30 minutes away from Amesbury. At this stage of the project, I’ve made a few visits to the area, taken some photos on my phone and written some notes in my notebook. A new project has, of course, meant a new notebook!
I’m really lucky to be in touch with Holly Corfield-Carr, who told me about the Local Artist Bursary Scheme, and my initial research has also included exploring the beautiful materials she assembled from her Loop in the Landscape project.
Loop in the Landscape is a publication in three parts to mark the beginning of a long-term artists’ engagement with the ancient Stonehenge landscape and its relationship with the nearest town of Amesbury, a site which some claim to be the UK’s longest continuously-occupied settlement.
After a long summer with mostly bad news, the last week or so has been an amazing string of happy poetry news – lots of acceptances all at once! With poetry, it’s often a wall of rejections, followed by a bunch of acceptances, which makes it hard to celebrate when you should, because the wall of rejections feels so much more overwhelming than the brief flowering of acceptances. A couple of these acceptances were at dream journals – journals I used to think I’d never get into.
The bad news about the acceptances was writing those “withdrawal” e-mails, and realizing now almost all the poems in my newest poetry manuscript are published! I need a publisher who loves this book as much as I do. I’m ready to get it out into the world! Put out some good vibes for me. […]
How do we face life with limitations? It doesn’t mean you can’t do anything, but it means maybe you can’t do as much as you used to, or as much as you want to do. It means even when you have modest goals for your days, sometimes you give up and sleep all day instead. It means you go to doctors to get everything (diet, physical therapy, medications) as optimized as you can, but since you’re working against multiple complex problems, sometimes they tell you: you’re doing everything you can do, and we’re doing everything we can do, too. So that feel like being up against wall. But there is always the possibility of change on the horizon. I hope for that, for the possibility of doing more, of seeing more hope, of the lifting of the “Eye of Sauron” sun and thick layer of pollution so we can see our mountains, rivers, trees, and ocean again. It’s the same with my writing – even after a long period of rejection, there will be that time when everyone seems to like your work again. We have to hang on to hope, even when our vision is dimmed.
Jeannine Hall Gailey, Celebrating Poetry Acceptances, Summer Up in Smoke, Fighting Your Limits
Up, and after much pleasant talke and being importuned by my wife and her two mayds, which are both good wenches, for me to buy a necklace of pearle for her, and I promising to give her one of 60l. in two years at furthest, and in less if she pleases me in her painting, I went away and walked to Greenwich, in my way seeing a coffin with a dead body therein, dead of the plague, lying in an open close belonging to Coome farme, which was carried out last night, and the parish have not appointed any body to bury it; but only set a watch there day and night, that nobody should go thither or come thence, which is a most cruel thing: this disease making us more cruel to one another than if we are doggs. So to the King’s House, and there met my Lord Bruncker and Sir J. Minnes, and to our lodgings again that are appointed for us, which do please me better to day than last night, and are set a doing. Thence I to Deptford, where by appointment I find Mr. Andrews come, and to the Globe, where we dined together and did much business as to our Plymouth gentlemen; and after a good dinner and good discourse, he being a very good man, I think verily, we parted and I to the King’s yard, walked up and down, and by and by out at the back gate, and there saw the Bagwell’s wife’s mother and daughter, and went to them, and went in to the daughter’s house with the mother, and ‘faciebam le cose que ego tenebam a mind to con elle’, and drinking and talking, by and by away, and so walked to Redriffe, troubled to go through the little lane, where the plague is, but did and took water and home, where all well; but Mr. Andrews not coming to even accounts, as I expected, with relation to something of my own profit, I was vexed that I could not settle to business, but home to my viall, though in the evening he did come to my satisfaction. So after supper (he being gone first) I to settle my journall and to bed.
give me to a body farm
a body to watch day and night
a no-body more other than a dog
better than my own vexed home
“Even now, I don’t know much/ about happiness.” ~ Ada Limón
Numbness in the toe persisted; so, having terrified
myself by looking online at all the worst case
scenarios, I gave in and visited the doctor. She
activated a button on a stainless steel wand and set it
atop my foot, and asked if I could feel the vibration.
Next she asked me to close my eyes as she grasped
my big toe and bent it this way and that: up or down?
down or up? down or sideways? I think I did well,
or she didn’t really say— but sent the tech with vials
and syringes for drawing blood. Make a fist, he said;
and after: relax. I thought, isn’t it always like that,
swinging from one constriction to another? Suspension
in that time of balling up before release. Everything
burrowing into itself until the sense of danger passes.
Called up, by message from Lord Bruncker and the rest of my fellows, that they will meet me at the Duke of Albemarle’s this morning; so I up, and weary, however, got thither before them, and spoke with my Lord, and with him and other gentlemen to walk in the Parke, where, I perceive, he spends much of his time, having no whither else to go; and here I hear him speake of some Presbyter people that he caused to be apprehended yesterday, at a private meeting in Covent Garden, which he would have released upon paying 5l. per man to the poor, but it was answered, they would not pay anything; so he ordered them to another prison from the guard. By and by comes my fellow-officers, and the Duke walked in, and to counsel with us; and that being done we departed, and Sir W. Batten and I to the office, where, after I had done a little business, I to his house to dinner, whither comes Captain Cocke, for whose epicurisme a dish of partriges was sent for, and still gives me reason to think is the greatest epicure in the world. Thence, after dinner, I by water to Sir W. Warren’s and with him two hours, talking of things to his and my profit, and particularly good advice from him what use to make of Sir G. Carteret’s kindnesse to me and my interest in him, with exceeding good cautions for me not using it too much nor obliging him to fear by prying into his secrets, which it were easy for me to do. Thence to my Lord Bruncker, at Greenwich, and Sir J. Minnes by appointment, to looke after the lodgings appointed for us there for our office, which do by no means please me, they being in the heart of all the labourers and workmen there, which makes it as unsafe as to be, I think, at London. Mr. Hugh May, who is a most ingenuous man, did show us the lodgings, and his acquaintance I am desirous of. Thence walked, it being now dark, to Sir J. Minnes’s, and there staid at the door talking with him an hour while messengers went to get a boat for me, to carry me to Woolwich, but all to no purpose; so I was forced to walk it in the darke, at ten o’clock at night, with Sir J. Minnes’s George with me, being mightily troubled for fear of the doggs at Coome farme, and more for fear of rogues by the way, and yet more because of the plague which is there, which is very strange, it being a single house, all alone from the towne, but it seems they use to admit beggars, for their owne safety, to lie in their barns, and they brought it to them; but I bless God I got about eleven of the clock well to my wife, and giving 4s. in recompence to George, I to my wife, and having first viewed her last piece of drawing since I saw her, which is seven or eight days, which pleases me beyond any thing in the world, to bed with great content but weary.