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: water, fire, destruction, creation. Religion. Books and poems.
A woman dropped a poem in a well and waited to hear it hit bottom. No knowing how deep the hole or how black the water. If you could even see the stars from that sort of depth. Who knows where the source begins. Where it clouds with grief. What relief to hear nothing at all. What vacancy lurking behind every vowel like a shadow.Kristy Bowen, napowrimo #14 & #15
What will our cities look like when sea levels rise amid the permanent consequences of climate change?
At last, here is the final version of “floodtide” = a video that I first showed and performed at the Paroxysm Press Fringe event this year.
Nearly every scene in the video has been artificially composited and animated from multiple sources, originally filmed in multiple locations around the greater Adelaide area, the Fleurieu Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, inner city Melbourne and its Port, Far North Queensland, and more… [Click through to watch the videopoem]Ian Gibbins, floodtide
Then, the flood: flash. Side of road overwashedAnn E. Michael, Half-way through
as we are washed over. Swept. Wind is the broom
and we the debris. Unnecessary as dust or crumbs.
What name can we give to this occurrence? Call it
natural. Disaster. Or just a Thing That Happens.
Not that the name means much to us once we drown
in it, sucked under and curled into water’s embrace
whether sea or river or the lake become enraged
by thunderous sky or thunderous quaking crusts
the planet [they say] possesses. Loose scutes or
scales. Loose bark, like a tree. Pieces of slate
shorn sideways. Shear. Water. A species of bird,
Calonectris, that touches earth only to breed.
The idea that Notre-Dame might be reduced to a hole in the ground, a collection of rubble terrified me. When I lived in Paris, or before that, or after, the Cathedral lodged itself deeply in my being. A friend mentioned he just loved the smell – the stone-cellar and incense smell, the millennial smell. To those who lob the charge that a church is just a building, I’d answer that it embodies a reach towards beauty and a divine; the anonymous artists were launching a message in a bottle to us in the future. If someone got spacey and was questioning reality, they only had check that massive stone exemplar of material culture – touch feel it, know its place on earth in the now.
I’m thinking, now of the book I’m going to be reading tonight, the Passover Haggadah. As a material object, it’s generally minor, though I do love the book as object. This ritual book collects up narrative of escape, the road, liberation, impermanence made continuous through telling. Wandering Jews cherish our books which contain worlds. They’re portable and tell of things that couldn’t be saved, couldn’t be etched or carried or kept in stone. Stone is irrelevant.
Material culture is dissolving into a haze. We’ll be doing a lot more of the wandering exile narrative thing, it seems. Forests and species will be translated into words by writer, poets, narrators. We’ll be telling each other about glaciers, extinct frogs and birds in books. We’ll be carrying them with us in our bags, on our backs, taking and transmitting evidence of a world of constant change.Jill Pearlman, Passover, Notre-Dame and the Book Thing
The world constantly reminds us that nothing is permanent. Nothing escapes destruction.
wisteria in bloom ::Dylan Tweney, [untitled haibun]
what the old stones don’t tell
We’ve had a great week of justice action in our church and larger community in South Florida. Last week I scribbled on a bulletin, and yesterday morning, I started to think about a poem. These ideas spurred my creativity:Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Writing Prompts for Holy Week
We have built our house of justice in hurricane country.
We have made a home in the swamp of despair.
In this abandoned waste dump, we have claimed a homestead.
If we then create some fill in the blanks, maybe we get some different options:
We have built ________ in hurricane country.
We have built our house of justice in ________.
We have made ______ in the swamp of despair.
In this _______, we have claimed a homestead.
In this abandoned waste dump, we have claimed __________.
When the house lights went down
I started to cry. It’s just
a third grade concert — songs
about “this earth our home”
with canned accompaniment
and four third-grade classes
fidgeting on the risers — but
you’d have loved it. […]
I wiped my eyes furiously, hoping
no one noticed the ridiculous mom
in the second row who was moved
to tears by songs about recycling.
This is how I send you video now,
Mom: these poems I don’t knowRachel Barenblat, This earth our home
if you can hear from where you are,
this earth no longer your home.
The shower shoots out Morse Code, rapid-fire dashesPF Anderson, -.. — –
(dash-dot-dot gap dash-dash-dash gap dash) in gray lines
sloppily staccato in midair. My eyes trance
watching them, wondering what secret messages
they carry that I will never know how to read.
Closing my eyes, the codes tap against my dermis,
vibrating with heat like sunlight, telling me: Here
is the shape of the thing that is you. Here are limbs
and rims, edges and fringes, points and portals. Know
It’s 11pm and I should be asleep.Charlotte Hamrick, Write then Sleep
In the morning I’ll pay for it
with a dull headache,
leaden arms and legs and a desire
for everything to go away so I can
stretch out on the sofa, sip coffee,
and listen to the wind rustling
the palm trees. I’ve been there before.
I love seeing how the designers rise to a challenge, within minutes conjuring all kinds of ideas, choices of colors, shapes, the imagination, the technical skills required. I love the way they become truly wrecked throughout the course of the competition, sleep deprived, on edge, and how they always say the competition pushed themselves to do things they would not otherwise have done.
I don’t know anything about fashion or clothing design, so I don’t really understand exactly what they mean, but I would like to feel that feeling — of trying something I’m not entirely sure I can pull off. The problem with not being in a reality show about writing poetry is that I have to come up with my own challenges and push.
I have had that experience — in recent times, for example, trying to write a long poem with long lines and leaps, pushing and elbowing and elbowing the boundaries of the poem. My first videopoem pushed me in this way, and my animations. (Can I really draw an octopus that looks recognizably like the same octopus across ten frames? Fortunately, all octopuses look sort of the same….)
So what’s it all for? Well, as regular readers know from a previous post in which I revealed the meaning of life to be, well, a meaningless question, I don’t think “it” is all “for” anything. It just is. I wake up every day (so far). So what am I going to do?Marilyn McCabe, Bring it on home; or Thoughts on Structure
I have been working on taking deep breaths that go all the way down through my toes and back up through the crown of my head.Bethany Reid, Where have you been, Bethany?
I have been reading poems because it is National Poetry Month and each morning copying someone’s poem into my journal then writing my own “bad” version of it.
I have making homemade enchiladas and eating them with my daughters and their various friends and boyfriends.
I’ve been moving my furniture around in my house and seeing if I can get something like a “flow” going. (I think it has helped.)
I have been walking every day and snapping pictures on my I-phone and not remembering to share them on Instagram.
I’ve (gasp) shared several chapters of my mystery novel and now my first two readers are saying, “C’mon, where’s the rest? No fair!”
I have been reading my poems here and there and listening to other poets read their poems.
A few months ago, I had sent three poems to a juried committee for a local community event called Ars Poetica, a collaboration of poets’ words and artists’ interpretations. All three poems were chosen, two by one artist, one by another, who then set about making art from what they felt the poems were saying to them, in preparation for a gallery exhibition and poetry reading. When the day came to attend the public event, I was prepared.
Prepared to be very nervous. Prepared to be disappointed in my own delivery of the poems. Prepared to feel let down, or overwhelmed. I wasn’t prepared for the emotional response I would have to seeing my poems on a gallery wall, never mind the stunning impact of the art which emerged from the images I had conjured in the privacy of my mind.Sarah Stockton, Unprepared for Joy
Or how momentous it would feel to meet in person, the artists who had engaged so deeply with my work, Melissa McCanna and Steve Parmalee. It was a magical experience: unexpected in its impact, momentous in the way it renewed my understanding of why I write. To connect, to inspire, but more importantly, to experience the creative force that is life-giving, joyful, heart-sustaining, and community-building. May we all find ways to connect with Source, with one another, and may we all remain open to the blessedly unexpected gift of joy.
We’ve had a number of terrific readers in Seattle recently, but I hadn’t been well enough (or free of doctor’s appointments enough) to make it to any until yesterday. Last night Ilya Kaminsky read from his terrific new book, Deaf Republic, and Mark Doty read poems, and it was wonderful to see them plus say hi to a punch of local poets I don’t see often enough. Thanks are due to Susan Rich for arranging the reading!
Glenn shot this pic on the way to the reading. We pulled over in a school parking lot because the cherry trees were so astounding! I have been hibernating a bit lately due to cold weather and being slightly under the weather, but it was so cheering to hear such great poetry and see so many friends in a warm setting. And there’s something rejuvenating about getting out, dressing up a little, being around humans who aren’t trying to take blood or give you a prescription!Jeannine Hall Gailey, Poetry Month is Half Over! Poems Up at Menacing Hedge, Plus Ilya Kaminsky and Mark Doty visit a Seatte coffee shop, and More Blooms
But reader, I have other things I must confess. As hard as it may be to accept, I have never watched Game of Thrones.Michael Allyn Wells, Confession Tuesday – Tears for a Fire
I confess to reading Tasty Other by Katie Manning. Poems of pregnancy, and birth, along with swollen ankles, lactation, weird dreams, and urges. You might think it would be a book that maybe guys might not quite get the full benefit of. Maybe being a father of four (albeit grown) kids, who has been in the delivery room for each, or that is it well-written poetry, or more likely both, but I liked it, a lot.
I confess that I am reading several other books, yes at the same time.
It’s National Poetry Month and I confess I did not write one poem this past week. (Insert bad poet award here) I did revise and work on several drafts. (insert special dispensation from the higher poet here).
The Bones of Winter Birds by Ann Fisher-Wirth went into the purse a couple of days later, at a very low moment, when the strep seemed to be bouncing back, or was it something else–could it be mono, the nurse practitioner asked? A couple of needle stabs later, the verdict is probably not, but this snow-covered beauty of a book was great company in uncertainty. The first poem in Fisher-Wirth’s book is a gigan, a form invented by Ruth Ellen Kocher that I’d never tried before, so I had to experiment immediately, and you should go for it, too. (As soon as you start getting stuck you have to repeat a line, which is handy. My prompt to you: write a gigan about something BIG.) After I scratched that itch and jumped back in, I was moved again and again. There is a sequence mourning a sister Fisher-Wirth didn’t know well, and there are also a number of small gems, talismans of grief transformed into beauty, like “Vicksburg National Military Park”. Here’s a slightly longer one, funny-heartbreaking: “Love Minus Zero.”
Like Fisher-Wirth’s book, Martha Silano’s Gravity Assist is deeply ecopoetic: she’s trying to rocket out to the big picture, taking in species loss, disastrous pollution, and other terrors of the anthropocene. Silano is one of our best science poets, in my opinion, but she’s also a specialist in awe, exuberant about beauty and love and the good things that persist in this damaged world (for the moment!). Her gorgeous “Peach Glosa” reminds me I’ve never successfully attempted that form…hmm. Also, it’s not online, but if you’re a tired and overextended woman irritated by exhortations to tranquility, you need to get this book and read “Dear Mr. Wordsworth.”Lesley Wheeler, Nibbling on gigans and glosas
Rena Priest’s first book, “Patriarchy Blues” (MoonPath Press, 2017) won an American Book award. Her new chapbook, “Sublime Subliminal” (Floating Bridge Press, 2018) was a finalist for the Floating Bridge Chapbook Award. In an interview posted at the Mineral School’s blog conducted during her fellowship residency there in October 2018, Priest had this to say about her writing:
[T]he poems don’t always make sense, but I want to give my reader the feeling that there is some underlying formula involved, and I want to anchor them with images.
When reading Priest, it would be wise to take her guidance to heart. To look for the clues that emerge from the images she offers. To consider how her poems’ underlying structures, like subduction plates, may be moving even as they anchor. Be alert to the subliminal messages that are strewn throughout “Sublime Subliminal.” Some of these messages are found standing on their heads in tiny italics at the bottoms of pages on the outside or inside edges. That you don’t notice them right away is your first subliminal cue of what you are in store for as a reader. And then dig in. There is much craft to envy in these poems.Risa Denenberg, Sublime Subliminal
The religious images, honestly, go right by me. And I know, that’s sad; they’re probably the heart of this poem, so who knows what I’m missing. But let’s just say the Bible is my worst category on Jeopardy!, along with British monarchs and Roman numerals. So I have to set aside the Jesus imagery for someone to explain who is more schooled in it. I’m all about the work itself, and the slightly hallucinatory exhaustion afterward, because I’ve done that, I remember that; I worked so hard (ranch hand, long ago) and got so dirty that the bathwater hurt at the end of the day and literally ran like mud down the drain.Amy Miller, 30 Great Poems for April, Day 20: “Emergency Haying” by Hayden Carruth
And then Carruth takes us back into the history of field work, of forced labor and slavery, and his images are still raw and immediate—everything that happens to those hands! And by the end, there’s his defiance, a sort of punch-drunk triumph, a strength (even momentary) in being the person who does the work, one of those who actually did the haying and the lifting, the digging and the building. There’s a little discomfort here—he’s already admitted he’s a “desk-servant, word-worker”—but any poet who can help out for a day of haying and go home and write a poem like this is also doing great work.
I learned that guilds are basically conservative. Innovation was frowned upon because it may give one artisan an advantage over the others. Designs and methods did not change quickly.
I also learned about the dyes:
Red made from roots of madder,
yellow from everything but the roots
of weld, the challenge is blue:
woad leaves dried, fermented, spread
on stone for nine stinky weeks.
From India Vasco da Gama
brings indigo, a better blue.
Before science can prove
the chemical’s the same, central heat
warms walls; tapestries are not needed.
Other colors were made from these three, as we learned from the color wheel in grade school. The lion is some shade of yellow. The unicorn stands out because he is white.Ellen Roberts Young, More About Tapestry Unicorns
A slow and perfect spring rainJames Lee Jobe, ‘A slow and perfect spring rain’ //
Stretches out into a second morning,
And my backyard drinks it up
With no one watching but me.
The others in my home sleep late,
And won’t go out back anyway.
Nor me, but I watch from a window,
My meditation is done
And the first light of day grows.
I am quiet, sipping black coffee
And watching the rain.