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 found me in an odd mood, a bit disoriented by the sudden onset of summer here, and so in compiling this edition I found myself drawn to the odd sentence, the strange story, the unexpected efflorescence of the unsayable.
So this is all to say that in the absence of Things to Look Forward To just landing in my lap, I’m trying to create Things to Look Forward To all on my own, and when I write Things to Look Forward To, I mostly mean Things That Will Distract Me from Thinking About the Things I Don’t Want to Think About Anymore.
And if you’re a writer and reading this, you’ll know that’s a laughable goal, because if I write anything I’ll probably be Writing About Something I Think is Completely Unrelated to Things I Don’t Want to Think About Anymore But is Actually a Loose Metaphor or Allegory for Things I Don’t Want to Think About Anymore.Sarah Kain Gutowski, Once More Into the Fray: I Revive the Blog and Once Again Accost the Internet with Nonsense I Can’t Just Keep in My Damn Fool Head
Good morning from the West where we are but blood under the earth’s talonsRebecca Loudon, Pig and farm report
Cold enough still to sharpen the lungs to hitch and hurry, to be glad of the fullsuit even with lats and shoulders complaining of restriction; above, that cloudscape reflected, below, that cloudscape reflected; her skin in the palms of my hands patting her wave-greeting, a braille of lake-language, of where ya been babe, hi!, and a pouring of bliss immersed in her copper taste, her silky texture, the smell of her unique among all the lakes, as every beloved is unique; freshening wind enough to make real push at times, coasting in still sky others, fast, slow, hit by arctic blasts of springs from below, sun baking neoprene from above; breathing into cold joy; cruising slowly, going strong, coasting again to better listen to the dialogue, the poetry, the lovesong being sung by us both; power returning to my body and brought home to home ground, so many hundreds upon hundreds of miles in this water; alive–JJS, Open!
I’m really pleased to be writing about Mike Farren’s Smithereens for all sorts of reasons that will become clear as we go along. But I have to say that the first one was its title, which is, I think, only the second use of the word in a poem since Tony Harrison’s Bookends in the 70s. The poet and his father are sitting in a morose silence, either side of the gas fire, sitting out the night of the day Harrison’s mother dropped dead. It’s one of many poems that explores the business of articulacy, of education, the way they separate families that should be close, make them inarticulate and awkward in each other’s company. Like Dylan says we never did too much talking anyway, but as he didn’t say, it’s not all right. Not at all.
A night you need my company to passJohn Foggin, Catching up: Mike Farren’s “Smithereens”
and she not here to tell us we’re alike!
Your life’s all shattered into smithereens
Back in our silences and sullen looks
for all the Scotch we drink, what’s still between’s
not the thirty or so years, but books, books, books
It’s not just the title ‘Smithereens’ that resonates but the obduracy.. the stupidity, if you like.. of the men and their silence. As Harrison says in the poem, his mother’s not there to break it.
The word flower thrives in every language, says Kate Farrell, and Julia Fiedorczuk tells her poem, “bloom, bear fruit / come to life.” Galway Kinnell reminds us that “everything flowers, / from within, of self-blessing; / though sometimes it is necessary / to reteach a thing its loveliness.”Shawna Lemay, 10 Poems about Flowers
Like the protagonist of Jorge Luis Borges’s story “The Circular Ruins,” who seeks to dream into existence a man “with minute integrity,” Goodby dreams these poems onto the page only to reveal that we are all part of the dream, reader and poet alike. As he writes in “The Ars” (the title poem), at first “he cannot imagine yet / ripped space”; finally, however, “his dream inscrutably feeds / on itself wrings pain bodies dry.” The body “dry,” the table-soccer player of The Ars’s cover photo (taken by the author himself), a simulacrum, the seam of the mold visible from the crown of the head on down. As the concluding poem, “Llu” (meaning “power” in Welsh), reminds, “To happen is finished and about to.” That is, it is “finished” by fashioning hands, or in the case of the figure in the photo, not so finished; indeed, these poems are always about to be, but never quite, and in this manner, are.Mike Begnal, John Goodby’s The Ars
listen to the illusive will o’ the wisp lispJim Young, noise
of voices beyond choices
extra-cranial in their introspection
the prolapse of a mind in depth defined
and all thought proscribed by thought
Again last night I thought about something I wanted to explore this morning on the page. Well: screen. And I thought to make a note on my phone, but then figured it was so obvious that I would remember.
Obviously, I did not remember. I bet it was profound, though. And would have lead to a book auction for the small creature taking form from my navel-gazing and ethical brooding. There went that opportunity.
Instead, I sit here on a flat Thursday thinking my glasses really need cleaning. Glancing over at Leonard and feeling guilty again because he is more overweight than I am. Then wondering if he wants some peanut butter. Because I do.Ren Powell, RL and The News
As many evenings as possible, I get out my work bag full of scraps of text from the librarian’s packet, and I begin to search for poems.Christine Swint, Erasure Poems and the Pandemic
Even in my dreamsTom Montag, EVEN
Things that shouldn’t exist
in the same world: the scent
of lilacs in bloom and the stench
of the “skunk water” I read about
on Facebook this morning.
I sit on my mirpesset, surrounded
by green: trees in leaf, willows
trailing graceful fringes, pots
of oregano, rosemary, mint.
So tranquil I could forget
global pandemic still rages,Rachel Barenblat, Bereaved
India’s cremation sites burning
around the clock. I could forget
bombs, rockets, mortar shells,
bereaved parents and orphaned children.
in love’s one tear
filling the whole flesh
hear meGrant Hackett [no title]
I could imagine reversing this looking back. The new moon in all its newness with a long tail, the tail of all its memories and associations reaching behind it into the future. My future now. I live forwards but remember backwards. O ) ) ) ) ) )) A crenelating ripple through time, a wrinkling of the brain.Gary Barwin, On Garage Doors: Do I feel like I am 16 now that I am 57?
I’m trying to avoid getting too carried away with what/how the poet is saying things as I found myself having to “have a word with myself” a couple of weeks ago in relation to a review that’s due out soon as part of a new thing. I can’t talk about the “new thing” yet, but it is exciting to be in “on the ground floor”. However, in writing a review I was really pleased with myself for seeing that the poet in question had changed a word in a poem when moving it from their pamphlet to their full collection.
The change was subtle, one letter, but it was a shift that made me wax lyrical about the poet’s intentions for a few sentences, exploring the reasons behind the change and what it might be saying about a poet’s voice becoming stronger with experience, etc. However, that was quickly deflated when the editor for “new thing” said (and I hope they don’t mind me quoting) that it was more the “proofreaders that preferred the more modern version (carcass) so I don’t think we can read anything much into that“.Mat Riches, The Flattened Calf and a (anti-)Matador
A potent reminder that sometimes a change is just a change is just a change.
It’s late May, which means the garden is changing. My own roses aren’t blooming (dang deer ate the tops of every rose, even the ones in “deer proof” cages) but the peonies are about to go, the pink clematis, rhododendrons, and azaleas are blooming, and the birds are singing loudly every morning. I find myself sitting outside on the deck more and more each day, especially the cloudy days, and the birds are getting more comfortable with me.Jeannine Hall Gailey, A Week of Reintegration – Family Visits, Haircuts, and Roses – and Rejections
the world is always changing, not even mildly
inclined to take your sensibility into account.
Before you know it, it’s high summer again
and the trees are filled with the high humming
of cicadas. They’ve awakened from a long
pause, an interlude. Should their bodies become
spore-infested so parts fall away, they won’t even
notice.Luisa A. Igloria, Extravagance
I don’t know if this was inspired by Planet Zoo or not, but I had a terrifying nightmare a few days ago in which I was being eaten alive by a giant cobra. He had his jaws solidly around my leg and was making rapid progress on swallowing his meal whole. One of my hospital volunteers was attempting to rescue me and he kept telling me to be very, very still. I listened closely to his instructions, all of the time convinced I was going to die and devastated because I didn’t want to shed my mortal coil in the jaws of a giant cobra. In the end I was saved, but I woke up in a cold sweat and awash in adrenaline. I made the mistake of Googling “eaten by snake dream symbolic meaning of” and none of it’s good. I find it very unfair that a cobra was aggressively trying to eat me. I have always been very snake-positive and have stood up for snakes in the midst of wide-spread cultural fear and loathing of them. And this how they thank me. Sheesh.Kristen McHenry, Grid-Blindness, Slow Creativity, When Cobras Attack
you chased the hareDick Jones, Dog Sutras §47
a golden zigzag
covering the roots
as if born amongst
bracken and moss
locked in time
i whistled and called
and you came
spinning in from
the wrong direction
The odd thing is, mostly we did not talk about cancer. I told her my particular story, of course: the unusual way I presented; my misdiagnosis of relapse; my prolonged treatment ‘just to make sure.’ But that wasn’t what we talked about. We talked about my family, about language, about what she called ‘spiralling’, that sudden swirl of thoughts, like a gust of wind round the corner of a building, that can knock you off your feet from nowhere. Mostly we talked about that. And about relapse prevention. Not cancer relapse (there is no safety net there), but spiral-relapse.
Which, years later, is what I am still learning now. Or re-learning, with some new words and ideas thrown in. It’s good. I like learning languages, the names for things. I’m not good at them, but I have always liked the process. This is a chair. I sit in the chair. This is the door. I come through the door. I am happy to sit in the chair. I sit in the chair and we talk. We talk.Anthony Wilson, On Being Chipper
It’s been strange to be on campus in the mornings and not be taking temperatures of everyone who arrives. I had gotten used to it as a way to greet people. I know that I can still greet them, of course. I also laugh at myself, because I remember a weeping moment in the late summer of 2020 when I said, “I’m just so tired of taking temperatures.”
And now, it’s strange to retire that equipment.
On Thursday our internet went out, and I called the new IT people who asked me to go to the server room to tell them if I saw any lights blinking that shouldn’t be blinking. When I told them that no one on this campus was ever allowed to have the code, I could tell they were just dumbfounded. Within a few hours, the campus had internet restored, and I had the code to the server room (those 2 events are not causally related). I made this Facebook post: “Because we have a new IT director, I have been given the code to the server room, a code which previously, no one but the few IT folks were allowed to have (much to the fire inspector’s puzzlement). I have used the code to go into the server room. I expected to find a great treasure. I found old equipment, including an ancient fax machine.”Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Retired Equipment
For some time, I mistook intuition for a door-to-door salesperson peddling snake-oil pleasures rather than recognizing those moments of elusive clarity as an otherworldly awareness far keener than rationality.
Still, there are times when logic learns to muzzle itself, and perception is allowed to freely surf the electromagnetic spectrum of consciousness,
follow psychological and physiological footprints until discovering that mysterious inner creature roaming around like Bigfoot
singing the well-tuned song of self.Rich Ferguson, Gut Feelings and Bigfoot
This lurching is exhausting. But at the same time, we are also recording sensitive changes to our emotional body. Major concepts that are supposed to have held us are weak. Our relations in every encounter, human and nonhuman, create worlds. What is true in the morning might be overwritten by what is true in the evening. Come to it gently.Jill Pearlman, Shock of the (Post-Covid) New
You know how I’m a bit of a sucker for interesting poetry formats? Well, I’ve often wondered what The A3 Review was all about – a paean to the London to Portsmouth road, perhaps? Or a massive mag that won’t go through your letterbox? I bought a copy of issue #13 to find it’s neither of those. As the website says, it’s ‘a magazine that behaves like a map’ – it comes folded into A6 size, but opens out to reveal its contents.
In it I found poems by a number of international writers who I wasn’t familiar with, plus a pocket-sized Q & A with Roger Robinson (top tip: ‘read & write more, publish less’) and some quirky graphics. It was really interesting to see the poems spread out, so you get a visual sense of how they sit together as well as how they ‘talk’ to each other.Robin Houghton, On poetry magazines: The A3 Review
As a reader, I’m especially keen on poets who show a knack for trapping and then heightening the natural ebbs and flows of language. Of course, many don’t even want to. However, their forced and artificial turns of phrase tend to leave me cold despite their popularity with certain editors and judges. I seek an apparent simplicity in a poem, accompanied by an almost imperceptible tightening of its cadences and layering of its potential ramifications. This is difficult to achieve and notoriously undervalued, but it moves me far more than linguistic fireworks that don’t earn their corn.
In the above context, I was especially drawn to Ruth Beddow’s two poems on Wild Court last week (you can read them yourself via this link). Their connection to experience is clear, while their capacity to reach way beyond mere anecdote is also startling. In other words, I thoroughly recommend them and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more work from this excellent poet whose name is new to me. Yet another example of the role of a fine editorial eye at a poetry journal: spotting talent and bringing it to readers…Matthew Stewart, The natural flow of language, Ruth Beddow’s poems on Wild Court
The poems of Late Human explore, in unusual twists of perspective and thinking, the questions between the unanswerable, and around certain questions that have long been answered. “Having sopped up the mess,” [Jean] Day writes, to end the eighth section of the ten-part sequence “WHERE THE BOYS ARE,” “Or stopped a door with a thud from closing / So the Children of Corn may sow their seed / absolutely certain / That the longer a person remains unsexed / The older he or she will live // To apostrophize [.]” These poems are quite remarkable for not only what they achive, but what they achieve so quietly, and with such ease. Day’s poems play off sound, meaning and rhythm, offering sequences of thoughts pulled apart and strewn together in a delightful and almost deadpan linearity that makes sense even as one knows it possibly shouldn’t.rob mclennan, Jean Day, Late Human
Raymond Carver’s story continues. The poet gets a ladder, climbs up to the first floor. Then, finds himself face to face with his own room, with his desk:
This is not like downstairs, I thought.
This is something else.
Why? I think it’s because this is where he normally writes: that inner life – room – he’s built for himself. (He repeats ‘desk’ a number of times: showing this is the pivotal spot.)
There is an intensity to this strange, and touching perspective, as well as something overwhelming: ‘I don’t even think I can talk about it.’
I’m reminded of the Winnicottian idea of finding room inside yourself, somewhere robust you can work and play.Charlotte Gann, ROOM IN MY HOUSE
I’ve been reading Diane Seuss’s Frank: Sonnets, which has got me thinking about cracker sandwiches. She mentions them a couple of times in the poems. I have never had a cracker sandwich, but the idea really sent me into a deep recollection of peanut butter crackers. Saltines, of course. The way the peanut butter eases up through the holes like little brown worms.
I’m pretty sure it was my sister who showed me you could put jelly on there too. Jelly! The purple not easing but full-on squooching up through the holes. Plooping out the sides if you weren’t careful.
It was best to stuff the whole thing in the mouth at once. The dry cracker on the tongue, its salt, how it melted quickly on the tongue to merge with the peanut butter but for the edges that caught on the teeth, still brittle and crunchy to the bite down. The jelly, grape, sweet, soft, cool on the roof of the mouth.Marilyn McCabe, Blue dress blue dress; or, Writing the Lived Experience
On the project front, this week I hope to finish the website edits I started last week and get a finalized draft for dark country. I also need to create my Patreon postcards for May, and I’m obsessed with watercolors and trees, so that’s what I’m thinking. I’m getting the last batch of dgp 2020 titles production ready, so look for a whole batch of them to drop soon as I get their pages up. A couple 2021 titles have also been hitting the site. It’s also the end of May, which means next week, we’ll be opening for submissions for next year, and this seems wholly impossible. I think I blinked and entire year went by, but also it dragged heavy, especially through November and beyond. I am still getting used to not being afraid as much moving about in the world, and it opens up so many doors in my mind that have been shut for so long.Kristy Bowen, notes & things | 5/23/2021
Tree branches flailing in the wind.James Lee Jobe, Crows, leather shoes, inner strength.
Crows claiming territory.
The river when it’s in a hurry.
The sky thundering about a coming storm.
The earth when she shakes.
Leather shoes dancing over a hardwood floor.
The automobile horn under an angry hand.
The chattering squirrel.
The orca lowing in the deep.
Things and beings speak.