A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts.
This week: wildlife and wild lives; imperfect bodies; off-beat workshops; archives, glossaries, and anthologies; cultivating attention and being attentive to others; preparing for AWP and preparing for NaPoWriMo.
Try to read spirit and thisLesley Wheeler, A smoke of fox escapes
ensues: writing shivers, a trick,
a tease. Creatures shifting shape
can’t pause at the mirror to preen.
Someone wears nine tails;
something prepares to change
by burning all the words.
A smoke of fox escapes.
Yesterday, I wrote about my Thursday encounter with a fox while taking an early morning walk through my neighborhood. I’ve continued to think about that fox. We don’t live near a forest. How did it come to live here? I think of its family, its extended network, living in this non-native habitat. And then I wondered if maybe it was once a native habitat of foxes before we paved it over.Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Neighborhood Encounters
As I drove through my neighborhood on my way to the grocery store this morning, I saw a thin man walking barefoot through my neighborhood. I might not have noticed, except that earlier this week, I saw a different thin man walking barefoot through my neighborhood.
In the car, our son stared
at the darkness. Our daughter wept:
“He’s frightened the deer.
She’s kicking to get away.”
The doe jerked, paused. “No,”Ann E. Michael, Deer metaphor
I said, “Your father is touching it.
Soothing it, so it will not die alone.”
When Lauren Davis read from her chapbook, Each Wild Thing’s Consent (Poetry Wolf Press, 2018), at Imprint Books in Port Townsend WA, where she works as a bookseller, I understood why she chose to read the less risky poems in this very daring chapbook, but I’ll admit I was disappointed. When the first poem in a Table of Contents is titled “Vulvodynia,” you’d really have to trust your audience. But to her crafty credit, Davis intersperses poems about sexual encumbrance with gorgeous, very Pacific Northwest nature poems. And it renders everything enticing, as it should be. For what is sexuality if not nature?
On the other hand, you can’t look at the book’s cover (a photo with the understated title “Red Petaled Flower in Selective-color Photography,” credit: Donald Tong) without thinking of vulva. As with a Georgia O’Keefe painting, you can’t look without gazing, or gaze without longing. And here is where the marriage of wild life and the external female genitalia is clinched.Risa Denenberg, Each Wild Thing’s Consent
She is not perfectly constructed-Sarah Stockton, A Doll is a Poem is a Woman is a Yes
and for that, I love her.
Her dress doesn’t match her hair,
sea urchin spines hang like nunchucks
from her belt and she only has one breast.
Awake now, I remember the story
my chaplaincy supervisor told
about the patient who went on and on
about dysfunctional plumbing.
The punchline was, she was talking
about her own body and didn’t know it.Rachel Barenblat, Dream
like not being able to remember a dream you cannot wake up from
like the scarecrow you once knew when he was a rake
like living inside a bubble in a fish’s ear full of the consonants of wavesJohannes S. H. Bjerg, likes again / som’er igen
Our subject was moths and the writing was generated by listing ideas and descriptions that were suggested by looking in very close detail at some live moths which Winston had collected the night before and stowed in the fridge! Looking at these butterflies of the night close up almost made me forget they were moths at all. In fact, l had everything from forks to typewriters in my notes. That, l believe, is the power of poetry and somewhere at the heart of why we do it. But it is also the sign of a really good workshop so thank you, Winston Plowes, for making me see the world a little differently.Julie Mellor, Butterflies of the night and a 3D poem
Eight of us from the book-art group ABCD achieved more than seemed possible in two days of Tom’s teaching. Three books each! Two with hard covers and head-bands! One with a leather spine and raised bands! When people ask (they do, sometimes) what sort of books I made, I have always described myself as a coarse binder. Now I’ve had a brief taste of fine binding. I’m rather proud of my hand-dyed indigo book-cloth and end-papers, and the red glove-leather that clings to the spine like a tight-fitting evening gown.Ama Bolton, Bookbinding with Tom O’Reilly
My personal archive is now officially part of the Georgia State University Library Special Collections and Archive. The first two boxes, which were actually delivered late last year, contained copies of my books, original manuscripts, early journalism, press materials and more. There are many more boxes to come, and will eventually include correspondence, my journals, early writing and ephemera. Last week, Franklin Abbott (who also donated his archive to GSU) interviewed me for a videotaped oral history that will soon be available on YouTube. I have quietly been in the process of organizing my archive for more than a year. It’s a process that will continue until I depart this realm. Many thanks to archivist Morna Gerrard, who has made this process so stress-free and is an absolute delight to work with. I am grateful, honored and more than a little gobsmacked that my writing has, literally, found not one, but two forever homes. My titles with Sibling Rivalry Press are also part of the Library of Congress’ Rare Books and Special Collection vault thanks to publisher Bryan Borland and editor-in-chief Seth Pennington.Collin Kelley, Update: Georgia State Archive, reading with Dustin Lance Black, a new review
How much background info does the reader need? If I reference a myth connected to a creature, do I need to explain it to them or can I just use the imagery from it and hope if they’re interested they’ll look it up themselves, as long as my connections to the images and the myth work within the poem on their own.
Yeats never mentioned Zeus in ‘Leda and the Swan’ and I remember a teacher having to explain the myth to the class, though I knew it. Does the power of the poem still hold if you don’t know the story? I don’t want to spoon-feed my reader info, but in some poems there are certain bits of info that would help the reader to understand better, so I do have to include that. Do I have to explain every Finnish word or cultural reference, include a glossary in my book or can I leave some to context?Gerry Stewart, Grounding
I’ve just finished reviewing Filigree: Contemporary Black British Poetry (Peepal Tree Press, 2018) for Under the Radar magazine. There are seventy poems by approximately 45 Black and Asian British poets, a good range of backgrounds, ages, ethnicity, fame in the poetry world. Many very strong poems and a delicious variety of subject matter and poetic styles – this book would be brilliant for a writing/reading group and would also be good to take into schools and universities to teach writing from. There is a comprehensive, meticulously evidenced preface by Professor Dorothy Wang about colonialism and the English language and English poetry. And at £8.99 for 70 poems (plus a substantial preface) this book is my recommendation for World Poetry Day.Josephine Corcoran, World Poetry Day
Strong coffee, Thelonious Monk playing solo,James Lee Jobe, ‘Strong coffee, Thelonious Monk playing solo’
And some poems by W.S. Merwin.
We lost Merwin last week, 91 years old.
He’s been on my mind;
The poetry, his work with the trees,
Restoring a piece of the earth.
Isn’t it great that the very process required to make art is what [Marion] Milner discovered is the process required to feel fulfilled, once we’ve jettisoned the ideas of fulfillment handed to us by parents, others, society, tradition. This is not to say that fulfillment is not found in all kinds of work, but rather that it is found in moments of quiet, sensory-based attention to what is at hand, whatever is at hand — a meeting with a client, the combining of ingredients for a cake, the resolution of a column of figures, or the act of mustering experience, imagination, and language to write a poem.
Milner wrote: “I had felt my life to be of a dull dead-level mediocrity, with the sense of real and vital things going on round the corner, out in the streets, in other people’s lives. For I had taken the surface ripples for all there was, when actually happenings of vital importance to me had been going on, not somewhere away from me, but just underneath the calm surface of my own mind.”Marilyn McCabe, Love the One You’re With; or On Envy, Fulfillment, and the Writing Life
I ran under a blue sky this morning and could see the moss-covered tree trunks, the rings in the water. The dog ran faster than usual, and is now sleeping on the couch in the other room. I can picture him there, from here.
Oh, to be my age and still clinging to imagesRen Powell, Dating: 18.03.19
wanting to hold them as evidence of a real life
these still lifes, these dead moments
past or imaginary, equally irrelevant.
One of those days when you come awake and bestirred. How things suddenly shift, like an old log in a river bed that twists into a release and a rush. Two days ago I wrote a poem to take to a Poetry Business Writing Day; a poem I’ve been trying to write for two years or more, an old log of a poem, and everything pent up behind.
I put it down to how the company of other poets matters, how listening to them tells you ‘it can be done’. There may be writers who can make poetry out of solitude but I can’t imagine how it is to be like that. I love the urging and weight of stuff. And deadlines, pressure. When the company and the pressure come together I can feel blessed and released.John Foggin, Wise sisters . Greta Stoddart
If you are nervous about talking to other people, remember that most of them are writers, and therefore also uncomfortable talking to other people! Offering others help is always a great place to start, so I like to make a little map in my head in case people ask me where things are, (and as a disabled person, I especially take note of quiet places, places to get a drink or snack, and accessible restrooms). Expressing genuine enthusiasm for other writers’ work is always pretty safe. […]
If you, like me, are nervous about performing in front of strangers, whether doing offsite readings or official panels, just remember it’s not just about you, it’s about what you’re giving others, whether your poems, or your advice or information that could be helpful. It’s so hard for me to not feel self-conscious these days – my MS has amplified the things to be self-conscious about now – walking, talking, remembering things/people’s names – but mostly people are too preoccupied by feeling self-conscious themselves to even notice the things you’re worried about. Putting people at ease is as important as anything else.Jeannine Hall Gailey, Spring, Supermoon, AWP: Day Trip to Skagit, In-Depth on a Poem, and Surviving AWP Portland Part II: Last Minute Tips
As we come up on another April, another NAPOWRIMO, I can’t help but think that last year’s endeavor was really the beginning of me digging in on daily writing. For all those years that I tried and failed, the only thing done differently was prioritizing the writing at the beginning of the day instead of putting it off til the end. In previous attempts, I’d make it about 10 days in and buckle. I aced April last year, and (mostly) continued on for the rest of the year (I did take a couple of breaks when things got crazy and/or I needed to somehow fill the well. So many pages, and poems, and series have come about in the last year. I’m only sad it took so long to realize that was what I needed to do. I was productive before, but mostly in droughts and spurts, and never as much to my liking. Also, I think the more time you spend at it, the more you write, the better you get. You might write 10 poems and only one is a keeper, but that one is better for all those other pieces.Kristy Bowen, the cruelest month