Oblivion

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up betimes, and down to the waterside (calling and drinking a dram of the bottle at Michell’s, but saw not Betty), and thence to White Hall and to Sir W. Coventry’s lodging, where he and I alone a good while, where he gives me the full of the Duke of Albemarle’s and Prince’s narratives, given yesterday by the House, wherein they fall foul of him and Sir G. Carteret in something about the dividing of the fleete, and the Prince particularly charging the Commissioners of the Navy with negligence, he says the Commissioners of the Navy whereof Sir W. Coventry is one. He tells me that he is prepared to answer any particular most thoroughly, but the quality of the persons do make it difficult for him, and so I do see is in great pain, poor man, though he deserves better than twenty such as either of them, for his abilities and true service to the King and kingdom. He says there is incoherences, he believes, to be found between their two reports, which will be pretty work to consider. The Duke of Albemarle charges W. Coventry that he should tell him, when he come down to the fleete with Sir G. Carteret, to consult about dividing the fleete, that the Dutch would not be out in six weeks, which W. Coventry says is as false as is possible, and he can prove the contrary by the Duke of Albemarle’s own letters. The Duke of Albemarle says that he did upon sight of the Dutch call a council of officers, and they did conclude they could not avoid fighting the Dutch; and yet we did go to the enemy, and found them at anchor, which is a pretty contradiction. And he tells me that Spragg did the other day say in the House, that the Prince, at his going from the Duke of Albemarle with his fleete, did tell him that if the Dutch should come on, the Duke was to follow him, the Prince, with his fleete, and not fight the Dutch. Out of all this a great deal of good might well be picked. But it is a sad consideration that all this picking of holes in one another’s coats — nay, and the thanks of the House to the Prince and the Duke of Albemarle, and all this envy and design to ruin Sir W. Coventry — did arise from Sir W. Coventry’s unfortunate mistake the other day, in producing of a letter from the Duke of Albemarle, touching the good condition of all things at Chatham just before the Dutch come up, and did us that fatal mischiefe; for upon this they are resolved to undo him, and I pray God they do not. He tells me upon my demanding it that he thinks the King do not like this their bringing these narratives, and that they give out that they would have said more but that the King hath hindered them, that I suppose is about my Lord Sandwich. He is getting a copy of the Narratives, which I shall then have, and so I parted from him and away to White Hall, where I met Mr. Creed and Yeabsly, and discoursed a little about Mr. Yeabsly’s business and accounts, and so I to chapel and there staid, it being All-Hallows day, and heard a fine anthem, made by Pelham (who is come over) in France, of which there was great expectation, and indeed is a very good piece of musique, but still I cannot call the Anthem anything but instrumentall musique with the voice, for nothing is made of the words at all.
I this morning before chapel visited Sir G. Carteret, who is vexed to see how things are likely to go, but cannot help it, and yet seems to think himself mighty safe. I also visited my Lord Hinchingbroke, at his chamber at White Hall, where I found Mr. Turner, Moore, and Creed, talking of my Lord Sandwich, whose case I doubt is but bad, and, I fear, will not escape being worse, though some of the company did say otherwise. But I am mightily pleased with my Lord Hinchingbroke’s sobriety and few words.
After chapel I with Creed to the Exchange, and after much talk he and I there about securing of some money either by land or goods to be always at our command, which we think a thing advisable in this critical time, we parted, and I to the Sun Taverne with Sir W. Warren (with whom I have not drank many a day, having for some time been strange to him), and there did put it to him to advise me how to dispose of my prize, which he will think of and do to my best advantage. We talked of several other things relating to his service, wherein I promise assistance, but coldly, thinking it policy to do so, and so, after eating a short dinner, I away home, and there took out my wife, and she and I alone to the King’s playhouse, and there saw a silly play and an old one, “The Taming of a Shrew,” and so home and I to my office a little, and then home to supper and to bed.

bottle full of yesterday
and incoherence

found between two holes
in a coat

let it undo me
like an anthem with no words

I will exchange the sun
for time alone

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 1 November 1667.

Immanence

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
How the foundation is not separate 
    from the world, but is held  
          and present inside it. How,

like you, I've wondered where
     the time we thought we were building
          or collecting has gone.

Every bird  
     a bright stripe: flocks
         of them, arrows releasing 
     what we read as purpose 
into the air.

I've learned to anticipate
      the specific murmur that means
          the hour bends to rouse our bodies
      so we can offer them to whatever
emptiness needs to be filled.

Perhaps I haven't thanked 
      the earth enough; nor you; 
          nor the water that still holds

some love for us despite its moods
      and temperament—from it, I learned  
         the gesture for cupping a face in my hands.



Bibliophile

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and all the morning at the office, and at noon Mr. Creed and Yeabsly dined with me (my wife gone to dine with Mrs. Pierce and see a play with her), and after dinner in comes Mr. Turner, of Eynsbury, lately come to town, and also after him Captain Hill of the “Coventry,” who lost her at Barbadoes, and is come out of France, where he hath been long prisoner. After a great deal of mixed discourse, and then Mr. Turner and I alone a little in my closet, talking about my Lord Sandwich (who I hear is now ordered by the King to come home again), we all parted, and I by water, calling at Michell’s, and saw and once kissed su wife, but I do think that he is jealous of her, and so she dares not stand out of his sight; so could not do more, but away by water to the Temple, and there, after spending a little time in my bookseller’s shop, I to Westminster; and there at the lobby do hear by Commissioner Pett, to my great amazement, that he is in worse condition than before, by the coming in of the Duke of Albemarle’s and Prince Rupert’s Narratives’ this day; wherein the former do most severely lay matters upon him, so as the House this day have, I think, ordered him to the Tower again, or something like it; so that the poor man is likely to be overthrown, I doubt, right or wrong, so infinite fond they are of any thing the Duke of Albemarle says or writes to them! I did then go down, and there met with Colonel Reames and cozen Roger Pepys; and there they do tell me how the Duke of Albemarle and the Prince have laid blame on a great many, and particularly on our Office in general; and particularly for want of provision, wherein I shall come to be questioned again in that business myself; which do trouble me. But my cozen Pepys and I had much discourse alone: and he do bewail the constitution of this House, and says there is a direct caball and faction, as much as is possible between those for and those against the Chancellor, and so in other factions, that there is nothing almost done honestly and with integrity; only some few, he says, there are, that do keep out of all plots and combinations, and when their time comes will speak and see right done, if possible; and that he himself is looked upon to be a man that will be of no faction, and so they do shun to make him; and I am glad of it. He tells me that he thanks God he never knew what it was to be tempted to be a knave in his life; till he did come into the House of Commons, where there is nothing done but by passion, and faction, and private interest. Reames did tell me of a fellow last night (one Kelsy, a commander of a fire-ship, who complained for want of his money paid him) did say that he did see one of the Commissioners of the Navy bring in three waggon-loads of prize-goods into Greenwich one night; but that the House did take no notice of it, nor enquire; but this is me, and I must expect to be called to account, and answer what I did as well as I can. So thence away home, and in Holborne, going round, it being dark, I espied Sir D. Gawden’s coach, and so went out of mine into his; and there had opportunity to talk of the business of victuals, which the Duke of Albemarle and Prince did complain that they were in want of the last year: but we do conclude we shall be able to show quite the contrary of that; only it troubles me that we must come to contend with these great persons, which will overrun us. So with some disquiet in my mind on this account I home, and there comes Mr. Yeabsly, and he and I to even some accounts, wherein I shall be a gainer about 200l., which is a seasonable profit, for I have got nothing a great while; and he being gone, I to bed.

lost in my books
the maze of narratives

like a vision of another
impossible life

where there is nothing done
but by passion

one fire
one green night

and I must expect to go dark
or be overrun

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 31 October 1667.

Metamorphic

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
One or the other child
was always picking up pebbles,
     chalk, bits of shell.

In a stone, 
     the dream of a hollow.

A dream of hard darkness 
giving way to something not
     rooted in loss, 
no longer grieving.

I think of them touching
     asterisks of sea-glass;

in the folds of a pocket,
     an accidental constellation.

 

Variations on the Theme of Temporary Brilliance

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
How do we come to know
anything about a body,
or how it must leave itself 
behind in order to travel 
somewhere it can't imagine 
either? With great reluctance,

after the last hard rain 
that fell a week, the water 
that pooled in the yard finally 
ribbons into the ground. We're told
there will be nights at year's end

when four planets will follow 
each other across the sky's dome. 
From here they will look so close,
like pins someone reached up 

to tack in a thoughtful line
onto a board. In the morning, all 
along our fence which is also the other 

side of the neighbor's fence, a stripe 
like a gray horizon, still damp; 

measure of how much, how high.      
 

Subjects

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

All the morning till past noon preparing over again our report this afternoon to the Committee of Parliament about tickets, and then home to eat a bit, and then with Sir W. Pen to White Hall, where we did a very little business with the Duke of York at our usual meeting, only I perceive that he do leave all of us, as the King do those about him, to stand and fall by ourselves, and I think is not without some cares himself what the Parliament may do in matters wherein his honour is concerned. Thence to the Parliament-house; where, after the Committee was sat, I was called in; and the first thing was upon the complaint of a dirty slut that was there, about a ticket which she had lost, and had applied herself to me for another. I did give them a short and satisfactory answer to that; and so they sent her away, and were ashamed of their foolery, in giving occasion to 500 seamen and seamen’s wives to come before them, as there was this afternoon. But then they fell to the business of tickets, and I did give them the best answer I could, but had not scope to do it in the methodical manner which I had prepared myself for, but they did ask a great many broken rude questions about it, and were mightily hot whether my Lord Bruncker had any order to discharge whole ships by ticket, and because my answer was with distinction, and not direct, I did perceive they were not so fully satisfied therewith as I could wish they were. So my Lord Bruncker was called in, and they could fasten nothing on him that I could see, nor indeed was there any proper matter for blame, but I do see, and it was said publicly in the House by Sir T. Clerges that Sir W. Batten had designed the business of discharging men by ticket and an order after the thing was done to justify my Lord Bruncker for having done it. But this I did not owne at all, nor was it just so, though he did indeed do something like it, yet had contributed as much to it as any man of the board by sending down of tickets to do it. But, Lord! to see that we should be brought to justify ourselves in a thing of necessity and profit to the King, and of no profit or convenience to us, but the contrary.
We being withdrawn, we heard no more of it, but there staid late and do hear no more, only my cozen Pepys do tell me that he did hear one or two whisper as if they thought that I do bogle at the business of my Lord Bruncker, which is a thing I neither did or have reason to do in his favour, but I do not think it fit to make him suffer for a thing that deserves well. But this do trouble me a little that anything should stick to my prejudice in any of them, and did trouble me so much that all the way home with Sir W. Pen I was not at good ease, nor all night, though when I come home I did find my wife, and Betty Turner, the two Mercers, and Mrs. Parker, an ugly lass, but yet dances well, and speaks the best of them, and W. Batelier, and Pembleton dancing; and here I danced with them, and had a good supper, and as merry as I could be, and so they being gone we to bed.

we fall by ourselves into the dirt

we are as broken as a fast

a rope is a necessity of no profit to us

we hear it whisper dance well

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 30 October 1667.

Book of Secrets

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

…the body, that book
of mysteries and secrets, wins again.
Luisa A. Igloria, “Apocrypha

In my girlhood, I wanted a book of spells,
the kind I might find in a cobwebbed
corner of an attic.
But my newly constructed suburban
house had no attic, no cellar, no secrets
from past generations.

I wanted psychic powers,
ways to bend forces beyond my control.
What spell would I cast?
A snow day perhaps or the ability
to fly, an extra friend or two,
the ability to be alluring.

Now, as I wait for test
results, I divine from a different source
of secrets, books that discuss
the statistics of who lives and who dies,
the treatment options,
how many years of survival, the odds.
But I will never find the secret
worth having: why do some bodies spin
cancerous cells while others destroy
every invader?

The phone call comes with news
from the underworld:
benign but unusual.
I think of the Magic 8 ball
that we used to shake
for answers: Reply hazy
try again later. I remember
the tarot cards that seemed to predict
the answer we wanted to find.
I schedule a follow up appointment,
answers given in six month increments.

Given a wing, what would you fashion

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

How to precisely describe the condition
of being cloven?

In the past participle, this word might resemble a weed
we hunt in the grass, its fourth leaf brimming

with the old  myths  of childhood, with the promise
of being the one a hand might pick

out of a hundred nearly identical copies in the field—
And is there a word  for the new  

scar inflicted by your silence? for how it’s fallen
on a threshold where we’ll walk, knowing

every other door is barred from within? In this world,
the cold, hard bread of the moon leaves

a trail for the broken 
to follow: they come to the water
looking for a thistle, a lily; silver shoots along its hairline.

Who knows how long it will take. Who knows if by then
we’ll remember the sound of each other’s voice. 
 

 

In response to Via Negativa: Personal Growth.

Poetry Blog Digest 2020, Week 47

Poetry Blogging Network

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: grief and horror, wanderlust and staying put, soft joys and tough political questions.


It’s been a rough week. It started with me staying up all night with kitten Sylvia that required the emergency vet (okay now, but gave us quite a scare), continued with me being too sick (not covid, but a stomach and sinus infection) to get much work reading or writing done, and ended with the news that my maternal grandmother, after surviving covid-19 for two weeks, passed away today, just a few days short of her 96th birthday. This was my last surviving grandparent, and one who shared with me a love of literature – Poe, Hemingway and Faulkner were a few of her favorites, and in her youth she read voraciously. She lived in Missouri, which has some of the highest covid rates, and no one was able to visit her the last weeks of her life, because of covid.

I know people are chafing under travel restrictions during Thanksgiving, but remember that people like me – and my grandmother – are the people that need protection. Wear a mask, stay six feet apart, and stay home. Having to miss a Thanksgiving with family is much better than having to mourn a family member you can’t even have a funeral for, which is what I’m doing this week. No amount of pumpkin pie is worth that.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, November Doldrums, Grieving a Loss and Moments of Light

Yesterday, someone bought a pocket watch that would have been mine at an auction. I will not know the name of the person who now owns it but our fates are now forever intertwined. On the English Crown rests the mountain of light. The fundamental principle of the world is the same as that of love: what is mine today will be yours tomorrow. Yesterday, someone bought a heart that would have been mine at an auction. I will not know the name of the person who now owns it but our fates are now forever intertwined.

I am sharpening my pen like an ancient knife. Tell me your name, you, on whose slender swan neck shines the sapphire that will be mine tomorrow. I will mount it in gold.

Saudamini Deo, Omnes una manet nox

let’s stop all this
        clearly it’s not working

no one can say
                we didn’t try

                        but it collapsed under its own wait (sic)

instead let’s make ready the soil

        plant seeds & care for them                tenderly

                until something (new) & (better)

springs wildly toward the sun

Jason Crane, POEM: wildly toward the sun

The feathered chonk plomps on my shoulder. “Bonjourno!” My funny, gray angster.

She laughs and explains the situation.
“Good girl!”

Only two words, but I catch her meaning. She has indeed been well behaved today and deserves a reward.

I hold a slice of Lite-Brite pink grapefruit out on my palm.

Dancing excitedly, my ersatz child digs her black beak into the acidic flesh.

In an instant, her reward becomes my regret as it squirts to land in my eye.

Life. It would be nothing without these bad surprises from good decisions.

Allyson Whipple, November Poetry Contest Winner

We stop to look upon the corpse in the snow. Blue skin and an open mouth. Open eyes. Moonlight across the frozen face. Moonlight that plays a soft music that entertains the snow. We say a prayer for the deceased. We say a prayer for the ones who grieve. And we say a prayer for ourselves, for our lives. We stop to look upon the corpse in the snow. And around us gather the ghosts of many others who died alone, without even their names. We stop. We speak the words. And we move on. But before we move on, we cover the body with snow, using our cold and wet hands like shovels.

James Lee Jobe, We say a prayer for the ones who grieve.

As I move further away from her death she appears to me more clearly. Not as she was in her last months, but as she was when I was young, when she was just going around gobbling up life with wit and humour and grace. The tables groaning with food, the house a constant stream of guests. Her laughter. Her elegance.

I have lived long enough to look back and beg for it again. I am begging for it again, even those moments when I knew I disappointed her, when we were not really talking. When I am out walking the dog. When I look through old photographs. Th autumn rain. Her fry-ups before Saturday school. I meet all of it.

I had no idea I would miss it.

Anthony Wilson, Before

black dress gloves on a polished table
black lace veils on hats laid aside
the tide of conversation turns
around hat pins and other things
no one is the first to go as the clock chimes
silence leads the way as sadness falls
upon the thought that soon
soon maybe
perhaps
another cup of tea and a cake

Jim Young, heirloom in the room

No, I’m not crying because I’m waiting for my own spinal tap results. I don’t cling to life that much. But I know he does. Most people I know have a Velcro-like attraction to life as if we didn’t know this is all temporary. Maybe we didn’t at first, not until that first goldfish died–or grandparent. The results aren’t even here yet and I’m thinking about him letting go of us, of us letting go of him. That’s different from clinging to one’s own life—clinging to others. We like having them around while we’re still here and it won’t be the same without them. So, the goldfish died and Mom helped with the funeral and the note you wrote for the coffin in crayon and she said, “That’s life,” and only now you know she meant that life is a bunch of comings and goings. Here I am talking about my life again and I don’t want it to be about mine, but his—that’s what we’re talking about: why it matters that his could be ending if the tests say so. It matters because it’s ending within my life span and that’s not fair and that’s just selfish. I always want to go first. I’ll still be here missing him and the kids will be torn up with grief. Their eyes are puffy just imagining what’s coming and I can’t bear to see them cry like this, and here we are talking about me again. It hurts you know. You know we are talking about putting our beloved bunny down? The results aren’t here yet, so we’ll worry about those later.

Cathy Wittmeyer, That’s Life

No NEH grant again, a magazine acceptance, a solicitation of poems from a magazine I’d never cracked (!), several poem rejections, some drafting and revising, lots of Shenandoah work, a vague but persistent headache, short days and blustery cold–hello from a mixed-blessing November in Sabbatical Land. I hereby mark the sixth-month birthday of my novel Unbecoming, and remind you that you can message me if you want a signed bookplate for that OR The State She’s In. (Here, by the way, is a new and very lovely review of the latter by Luisa Igloria in RHINO.) I can’t say I’m in much of a mood for hustle, though; it feels like crawling-under-a-rock season. I’m not doing a ton of writing, nor am I experiencing that burst of energy I’d hoped for after the election, but maybe that’s because there’s no “after”? It’s more like an intensification of suspense, a “now” that just keeps spreading its tentacles.

Lesley Wheeler, Future schmuture

Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brother’s Grimm Fairy Tale is officially available from Interstellar Flight Press. 

I mean . . ., okay, technically, it’s been out in the world since September. I just haven’t got around to saying it until now.

You may as well as me, Why? Aren’t you excited?

And the answer is yes, I’m very excited. Yet, somehow I’m having a hard time sharing that excitement with people.

Maybe it’s just the general 2020 vibes and all the anxiety and weirdness that comes with it. I’m sure that’s at least a part of it — however, another part is some strange block I have about promoting and celebrating my own work.

Example One. Sitting around a campfire with my aunt, cousins, and sister, we were taking turns saying the things we felt most proud off this year. When it was my turn, I rattled off a few things (of which I don’t remember). When I finished, my sister was flabbergasted. “I thought you were going talk about your book coming out. How could you not talk about your book coming out?”

“Oh, yeaaaah,” I said. “Yes, yeah, of course, I’m super proud of that, too.”

Example Two. Shortly after my book came out, I was hanging out with my brother. He turns to me and says, “I’m really enjoying your book.”

“Oh, yeah, which one?” I ask, thinking he’s talking about one of the books I’d loaned him recently.

He gives me a funny look. “You know, your book. Twelve?”

“Oh, yeaaaah” I start laughing, finding myself embarrassed for forgetting I published a book. It’s out in the world. People are reading it.

2020 is indeed a strange year, rife with intense extremes of emotion. Sometimes I don’t know how to process those emotions or even how to move through my day, shifting from the living room to the dinning room to the bedroom as I push through the tasks of my day job and squeeze in space for the writing and work I’m passionate about.

I want to be excited about Twelve. I’m proud of my little collection of prose poems. I’m proud of the work I did.

I want to be better about celebrating my own work, about following through with the business of promoting it, and with sharing it with others who might fall in love with it.

To that end, I can say, Twelve is officially out. People have been buying it, and you can buy it, too.

Andrea Blythe, TWELVE is Available & Other Goings On

I’ve had trouble sharing this because I get too excited about it, but here goes: Victor Labenske has made a song cycle from poems in my book Tasty Other

In May, we met via Zoom so we could talk through poems and plans.

In June, we met again so Victor could show me his first complete draft, and he sang through the whole thing for me, which was amusing and wonderful!

This past Friday, Victor recorded the song cycle with two sopranos, Elda Peralta McGinty and Judi Labenske. I can’t wait to hear the final version! Having my poems turned into a song cycle is such a dream for this choir girl for life.

Katie Manning, Tasty Other: A Dramatic Song Cycle!

unvoiced is made from the text of Articles 18 – 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, having removed all the vowels, rendering the text unvoiced. 

This is a form of redaction, whereby ruling bodies erase portions of publicly available text deemed to be against national interest or community standards or the well-being of holders of high office or whatever. Yet this reduced, redacted text can still be spoken, albeit by a computer algorithm that does its best to articulate what remains, to give some kind of voice to the unvoiced. 

Visualising the outcome of this process employs the imagery of video streaming and surveillance in a world where bandwidth and access can be reduced or cut off at a mere flick of a switch.

After being initially published in non-compliant 01: censorship (2019), unvoiced was an Offical Selection at FILE Electronic Language International Festival (Sao Paolo, August, 2020), and 2020 Newlyn Short Film Festival (UK, April, 2020). Now it is Official Selection for 2020 Film and Video Poetry Symposium (Los Angeles, which is streaming in full during November and December. You can watch the Symposium via the stream below.

Ian Gibbins, unvoiced at the 2020 Film and Video Poetry Symposium

Mother Mary Comes To Me: A Pop Culture Poetry Anthology is out now from Madville Publishing. On Nov. 16, we held a launch event via Zoom in conjunction with Poetry Atlanta and Georgia Center for the Book. You can watch it above. On Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m., we’ll have a second reading event hosted by the Wild & Precious Life Series

Karen Head and I are thrilled that this project we dreamed up seven years ago has finally come to fruition and we think you’ll agree this is a stellar lineup of poets paying homage to Mary. 

Collin Kelley, Mother Mary Comes To Me out now!

Who knew the apocalypse could be so cozy? So teaming with contagion and my own tiny paper tigers. let one by one out of cages? One disaster movie after another playing out in my dreams where the pipes bleed and water sprouts from all the sockets.” 

Back in the spring, as it dragged into summer, I had a hard time writing at all. What eventually happened in June & July was a short series somewhat related to lockdown and somewhat not. Since coronapoems are everywhere, and indeed, corona everywhere, they seem a dime a dozen right now, but I made a little zine with them because I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them but they seem ripe for sharing right now, if anything as a snapshot of a moment.

You can read it here: https://issuu.com/aestheticsofresearch/docs/bloomzineelectronic

Kristy Bowen, bloom

Being a poet during a pandemic is a test of brevity. How best can the endless void, the featureless grey wrapped sky, the road that bends into the horizon, the distance that is measured in everything other than distance — how best can the infinite be compressed into neat lines that in the seventh reading still make some sense.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, 2020: Outro

So why have I been thinking about the sea so much? I’m not sure. Some is wistfulness about not being able to travel, and wondering if I’ll ever go back to some of the places I love, but I think it’s more elemental than that. Maybe it’s just a desire to sit and watch the waves crashing on the rocks, taking away my thoughts as I follow each wave like a breath, and then another: a desire for that renewal coming from somewhere I can’t see, imagine, or understand.

Beth Adams, Hermit Diary 46. Missing the Sea

The stories for our leavings. It’s funny that I am never asked about those – but for the stories of my destinations. “Why did you come here?”

Why not? It could have been anywhere unknown. Anywhere that smelled of strangers. Anywhere that would allow memories to lie still. Still enough for reflection.

I’ve noticed how the sea smells different everywhere it touches land. In winter sometimes, along Stavanger’s quayside it smells of watermelon. Orre strand smells dark as the rot that brings new life. Along the Canaries, the shore is jagged to inhale. Up north near the North Cape, it’s razor sharp.

I’ve been landlocked before, and lakes don’t breathe on their own. I’ve read that everything depends on the birds that come and go with the seasons, and on storms temperamental enough to drag bits of the world around with them. Transgressions like those of traveling merchants. Or militias.

I’m still pulled to wander, but I’m also learning now how porous the borders are. How even still waters will swell imperceptibly and spill into your path. How storms will drop fish and lizards from another county into your lap. No bridges necessary.

In Norway the name for hopscotch is å hoppe paradis. I have no idea why paradise. But hopping from square to square – chasing small stones, turn and return – does good to me right now. Simple. A little naive.

And meditative.

Ren Powell, Accidental Immigrant

And everyone comes from imagined
origins: land of dark sugar hills, land

of multiplying gravestones. You can clean
windowpanes with balled-up newsprint

and their shine will be like cathedral
glass dipped in milk. This is your

history, and you bind it in ink and crosses.
You were born in its shed but left for an

unholy land. Whatever you erect in its image
becomes an orchard where you will spend

the rest of your days like a bride who can’t
return until every fruit is charred or picked

clean. Who has decided to live in the present.
That is, between the crescent’s horns.

Luisa A. Igloria, Last Telegram

I’ve been slowly moving through Kingston poet Sadiqa de Meijer’s utterly fascinating alfabet/ alphabet: a memoir of a first language (Windsor ON: Palimpsest Press, 2020), composed as an exploration of how language thinks and swims, through her ongoing experience with moving physically from one language, culture and country into another. In a suite of short essays arranged alphabetically by title, she narrates and explores the shifts between the Dutch language, from her origins in the Netherlands, to English-speaking Canada, working her way through multiple implied and inherent differences, many of which she has only begun to fathom. She writes of the alphabet, the bare bones of the language itself, one against another. As she writes of the openings of that lengthy transition: “In Canada, my clothes were odd, and I had no idea what malls or Cabbage Patch Kids or gimp bracelets were, and when I tried to be funny with my peers the silences were awkward and prolonged. I felt an urgent wish to restore my own significance. I read everything I could—flyers, packaging, signs—and listening to the mumblings of my classmates and teachers. Willing myself to make the same sounds, I strove to regain a sense of fluency, of language as my element. That was all I had in my sights; it didn’t occur to me that this was also the start of a slow and nebulous loss.”

The author of two full-length poetry collections—Leaving Howe Island (Fernie BC: Oolichan Books, 2013) [see my review of such here] and The Outer Wards(Montreal QC: Signal Editions/Vehicule Press, 2020) [see my review of such here]—de Meijer’s biography at the back of the collection offers that she “was born in Amsterdam to a Dutch-Kenyan-Pakistani-Afghani family, and moved to Canada as a child.” There is a lot of geography to unpack in that simple array of words, and a complicated sequence, well before the dislocation of arriving into Canada. The effect of her shift from one cultural space into another reveals itself to be deeply felt, and lifelong. This is in part, no doubt, due to the fact that it was not a journey precipitated as an adult, but one made when she was twelve years old; during such a formative period, felt down to the foundation of how she speaks, thinks and breathes, and interacts with herself and with the world beyond. Particularly curious is how her migration into English allowed her new pathways back into certain of the dialects of her native language  “English was both a dominant and an eccentric language,” she writes, as part of the “verzen / verses” section, “no wonder that it had been adapted and interpreted by various groups to make its own local sense. Even in the culture of three that comprised my brothers and I, we improvised on its strangeness, usually while we played with LEGO in our basement.”

rob mclennan, Sadiqa de Meijer, alfabet/ alphabet: a memoir of a first language

This poem offers us a tremendous example of Hilary Menos’ gift for using physical, often everyday detail, layering it and accumulating its effect, so as to reach out towards a vision that reflects back on to its readers. It doesn’t just evoke the process of giving a kidney, but speaks to anyone who’s been alone, afraid, in hospital and missing their loved ones.  In other words, while we might not have gone through this specific experience, we are so moved by its poetic transformation that we are invited to ruminate on our own versions and visions of love.

Such a ravaging context, however, never leads Menos down the path of melodrama. Instead, it enables her to delve deeply into another of her concerns, one that runs through all her collections: the strained yet vital relationship between the human and natural worlds, If this theme was already present in the pamphlet’s first piece, it culminates in the closing lines to its final poem, Sloe Gin, as follows…

…Time matures the thing. At least, adds distance.
I sit at the kitchen table, trying to make sense

and pouring a shot of sweet liquor into a glass.
The filtered magenta, sharp and unctuous,

reminds me of sour plum, of undergrowth,
the scrub, the blackthorn and the hard path.

In this poem, perfectly cadenced metre is set against unsettling doubts, while the transformative quality of human hand is present via the liquor that has been created from fruit and undeniably changed. Nevertheless, it’s then undercut by the realisation that the darker side of nature can never be ignored and forms an inevitable part of our journey through life.

Matthew Stewart, For us all, Hilary Menos’ Human Tissue

Manuscript #4 is my manuscript of lament. It’s my bleeding heart on a page. It may be altogether too sad for anyone to want to read–very sad, and very honest. I feel a little protective of it, a little afraid to put it in anyone’s hands. At the same time, I want it published–I’d like to mail a copy to a few of Kit’s doctors and nurses. Not a thank you exactly–I’ve written them that–but just so they can Know..so they can Know what it was like for me.

As far as individual poem writing is going–well it isn’t. I’ve written four of five false-start drafts, not much coming of them. I’m kind of stalled out. You know what I need? To read a really good poetry book (feel free to recommend). It will wake me up, and I’ll write some good poems then. Also, we’re moving house–and a new, settled spot is always inspiring.

Renee Emerson, poem & manuscript updates

Mid-morning at work, I saw the email showing a picture of (individually-wrapped) goodies and little Starbuck’s iced coffee bottles! So I had some! Then home to a Honeycrisp apple, and the Governor, live, telling us we are back in Tier 3, to please stay home, starting Friday, to keep us all alive. I am glad that my little chalkboard poems are “soft joys” for those who see them here, or on Facebook or Instagram. I’m grateful they are hitting the spot.

Likewise, I was delighted with the response to my story, “A Retiring Woman,” and grateful to Calyx for publishing it online. My daughter and her boyfriend were gripped by it, and she quoted a passage on integrity of voice. My son said he laughed out loud! Yay! It’s a long story, and so many people read it and responded. I am wowed. 

Those are big things in my life, but the little, goofy things help, too. One day, I found myself gardening in pearls. Ah, it was Election Day, a lovely warm day, and I was wearing (fake) pearls to honor RBG, and there was yard work to be done. Another day, I was dusting in earrings, post Zoom, which is the only time I put on drop earrings. It felt good to dust, and to re-stack my stacks of books awaiting the second lockdown, as I sometimes think of it, but nobody likes the word “lockdown,” and the Governor is just announcing a return to Tier 3, for all of Illinois, to help avoid a firmer stay-at-home order. This is a stay-at-home-as-much-as-you-can situation. Till then…(on a Fat Tuesday in the blog) I’ve got candy.

Kathleen Kirk, Soft Joys

When I think about yesterday, a Saturday in late November in 2020, I will remember that phone conversation.  It wasn’t particularly traumatic.  I think we all knew we were headed to that decision.  But it does feel significant.

It was a bit surreal to have that conversation and then to watch several hours of Thanksgiving cooking shows on the PBS Create channel.  I took a long nap and woke up and wondered if we’d really had that conversation.  Had we really canceled our Christmas get together?

It’s a shame that we didn’t have this epiphany a week ago, before my mom snagged the extra villa.  It’s interesting to track these epiphanies.  On Tuesday, my mom had called to tell me the good news of the extra villa.  By Saturday, we were canceling.

It seems like a metaphor for the entire year.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Metaphors in Cancellations

I have declared myself Boss of Grocery Stores Elect and now pronounce that unless absolutely necessary, couples may no longer shop together. Restrictions have been put in place and yet there remain scofflaws aplenty who swan into the store as a couple, sharing one tiny basket between them and lingering over the oranges. Grocery shopping is not a recreational activity, folks. It’s business. You get in and you get out. You don’t bring your girlfriend and five of your closest cousins to pick up a loaf of bread and some Twizzlers. You don’t wander the aisles in a slow daze touching everything like a ballerina with Alzheimer’s. You make a list, you follow an orderly trajectory through the store at a brisk clip and for God’s sake, you get your bagging game together before you check out. I don’t want my radishes getting all mixed up with your diet ice cream at the check stand because you can’t quickly and competently put your items into a bag. Yes, I fully realize that these demands are coming from a projection of my anxiety around The Surge, but there have been a lot of dire meetings at the hospital of late and I’m getting very nervous. Also, they closed my gym again so I can no longer work off my excess adrenaline in the squat rack. So please everyone, just follow my simple grocery store prescriptions so I don’t end up on the wrong end of a viral YouTube video as the latest ranting Karen.

Kristen McHenry, Future Karen, Cohesive Horror, Marriage Update

I’m hoping to start a new feature here on the blog. So many people have started baking again since the pandemic, including me, and I thought it would be fun to share recipes. Since this is primarily a writing blog I thought I’d put out a call to writers who bake that would be into sharing a recipe. Holidays are fast approaching with so many who won’t be traveling or spending them with family so I’m hoping this might be a good (small) project for the writing community and give all of us new recipes to try.

Along with your recipe, I’d want to post your bio and a link to your latest book or publication. My last post involving writers has 80 shares on Facebook,so far, so chances are you’d get some good exposure for your work – and your recipe! (Only 8 shares on Twitter – what’s up with that, #writingcommunity?!)

I’ll be posting first in the next couple of days. Whoever is interested can email me at charlotteham504 at gmail with “Writers Who Bake” in the subject line. I can’t wait to see who shows up. Inundate me!

Charlotte Hamrick, Calling Writers Who Bake!

Of course our stories and poems won’t change the world, but I’m interested in them nevertheless. I’m interested in how you are, how you’re holding up. What edges are frayed? Where are you feeling strong? What and who have you lost? What have you gained? What’s good, what’s terrible, what makes your heart hurt, and what joys are you also experiencing? When we first start talking about how we are, I’ve found that it starts off in ways that aren’t surprising. But the longer we stay with the subject the more is revealed. I know there are a lot of stories we’re not going to be able to talk about right now and that’s okay too.

Whatever stories we tell, it’s also true that only so much will fit in the frame. In distilling our story into a narrative or into the lines of a poem, a lot will be left out. One thing that I think it’s safe to assume, is that everyone has a lot of stuff just outside the frame.

What would happen if we told our everyday stories, the happy ones along with the sad ones, and everything in between? This doesn’t feel wrong to me. How important will all these stories be when we emerge from this time? How will they help us reconsider? I’m drawn to re-read Susan Griffin’s book, The Eros of Everyday. She says, “To change how we see involves some loss, certainly the death of habitual metaphors for order. And the changes needed are great as well as small. It is not only philosophy as it is written in books, but philosophies written into our lives, in institutions, social systems, economies, and governments which need to be reconsidered. For it is by and through these living structures that communities think and perceive. If we could change a habit of mind that has become destructive we must revise the social architecture of our thought.”

The other things that keeps popping into my head are lines by Emily Dickinson, “I dwell in possibility” and “Hope is the thing with feathers.” I keep wondering what is it that we can do with what we have, rather than bemoaning what once was. I say to myself, though perhaps it’s too macabre for some, that if I’m going down, I’m going down with as much joy as I can muster and with as much beauty as I can glean every day.

Shawna Lemay, Behind the Scenes

Of the many things I admire in this quote, the core one is how Lucier posits the work to be done as both outer and inner, social and personal. This multiplicity of stakes, awareness, and investment is something that as a marginalized person I have always lived with. It is something marginalized folks are born into having to reckon with. Political conversations–however formal or informal, in person or online–are never theory, but rather grounded in experiences. That the election was as close as it was means few marginalized folks are breathing easier.

I encourage y’all to read these materials and also to check out The Offing. Also, take time to reflect. Are you taking time to consider the welfare of others? To learn about them? To connect, we need to see each other as well as see ourselves, know their stories as we know our own.

I’ll leave you with two poems to check out. In working with a student on an essay about the Black Lives Matter movement, I shared these poems and spoke of poetry as a space of presence. Words, inside of us as outside of us, are where we can be present with others. Thank you for taking the time to be present here.

José Angel Araguz, community feature: The Offing

When Isaac’s servants, digging in the wadi
found a spring, the herdsmen quarreled: “This is ours.”

Frustrated, they named that place Contention.
He dug another, they fought again: Dispute.

How different are things now? Today, who drills
— and who drinks only the infrequent rains?

What new name might we choose if we could build
a world where everyone gets enough water?

Rachel Barenblat, Looking for Water

Modalities of mortality play out in different ways—

the song of Lady Day blows sweetly on a blues breeze as the tropics of hate continue to rage beyond boiling.

Good-hearted people still find reasons to sing in the rain as this ongoing reign of annihilation pummels us with injustices forged from stone-blind stone.

Every day, “Amazing Grace” plays on a humble record player refusing to skip over the scratches in our collective psyche.

And while the rhythms sound extremely warped and one-sided at times,

there’s still beauty to be found in the song of who we are.

Rich Ferguson, Down at the Junction of Rhythm and Ruin

So, yes, the
universe
hums

an E-flat
thousands of
octaves

below what
we can
hear,

a jazz
trumpet or
sax

wailing
the only
note

that matters.

Tom Montag, SO, YES, THE

Grand jury

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and at the office, my Lord Bruncker and I close together till almost 3 after noon, never stirring, making up a report for the Committee this afternoon about the business of discharging men by ticket, which it seems the House is mighty earnest in, but is a foolery in itself, yet gives me a great deal of trouble to draw up a defence for the Board, as if it was a crime; but I think I have done it to very good purpose.
Then to my Lady Williams’s, with her and my Lord, and there did eat a snapp of good victuals, and so to Westminster Hall, where we find the House not up, but sitting all this day about the method of bringing in the charge against my Lord Chancellor; and at last resolved for a Committee to draw up the heads, and so rose, and no Committee to sit tonight.
Here Sir W. Coventry and Lord Bruncker and I did in the Hall (between the two Courts at the top of the Hall) discourse about a letter of W. Coventry’s to Bruncker, whereon Bruncker did justify his discharging men by ticket, and insists on one word which Sir W. Coventry would not seem very earnest to have left out, but I did see him concerned, and did after labour to suppress the whole letter, the thing being in itself really impertinent, but yet so it is that W. Coventry do not desire to have his name used in this business, and I have prevailed with Bruncker for it.
Thence Bruncker and I to the King’s House, thinking to have gone into a box above, for fear of being seen, the King being there, but the play being 3 acts done we would not give 4s., and so away and parted, and I home, and there after a little supper to bed, my eyes ill, and head full of thoughts of the trouble this Parliament gives us.

at the committee on crime
all the raw heads

discharging one word
into a box

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 29 October 1667.