it makes us tell the same stories over and over again, as if the string it plucked long ago—so stretched, so taut— had not stopped reverberating.
in a sentence: after a line of hurricanes, a cyclone with one dark eye threading through orchards, rice fields, gated neighborhoods, shanty towns. nails ripped from boards, pedicabs lifted onto roofs floating away into the mudstained horizon. car doors and bicycle chains, everything melted or now a waterbed. everyone in mourning and no aid in sight. only birds with torn wings expected to deliver the news.
Up by candlelight, the first time I have done so this winter, but I had lost my labour so often to visit Sir W. Coventry, and not visited him so long, that I was resolved to get time enough, and so up, and with W. Hewer, it being the first frosty day we have had this winter, did walk it very well to W. Coventry’s, and there alone with him an hour talking of the Navy, which he pities, but says he hath no more mind to be found meddling with the Navy, lest it should do it hurt, as well as him, to be found to meddle with it. So to talk of general things: and telling him that, with all these doings, he, I thanked God, stood yet; he told me, Yes, but that he thought his continuing in, did arise from his enemies my Lord of Buckingham and Arlington’s seeing that he cared so little if he was out; and he do protest to me that he is as weary of the Treasury, as ever he was of the Navy. He tells me that he do believe that their heat is over almost, as to the Navy, there being now none left of the old stock but my Lord Brouncker, J. Minnes, who is ready to leave the world, and myself. But he tells me that he do foresee very great wants and great disorders by reason thereof; insomuch, as he is represented to the King by his enemies as a melancholy man, and one that is still prophesying ill events, so as the King called him Visionaire, which being told him, he said he answered the party, that, whatever he foresaw, he was not afeard as to himself of any thing, nor particularly of my Lord Arlington, so much as the Duke of Buckingham hath been, nor of the Duke of Buckingham, so much as my Lord Arlington at this time is. But he tells me that he hath been always looked upon as a melancholy man; whereas, others that would please the King do make him believe that all is safe: and so he hath heard my Lord Chancellor openly say to the King, that he was now a glorious prince, and in a glorious condition, because of some one accident that hath happened, or some one rub that hath been removed; “when,” says W. Coventry, “they reckoned their one good meal, without considering that there was nothing left in the cup board for to-morrow.” After this and other discourse of this kind, I away, and walked to my Lord Sandwich’s, and walked with him to White Hall, and took a quarter of an hour’s walk in the garden with him, which I had not done for so much time with him since his coming into England; and talking of his own condition, and particularly of the world’s talk of his going to Tangier. I find, if his conditions can be made profitable and safe as to money, he would go, but not else; but, however, will seem not averse to it, because of facilitating his other accounts now depending, which he finds hard to get through, but yet hath some hopes, the King, he says, speaking very kindly to him. Thence to a Committee of Tangier, and so with W. Hewer to Westminster to Sir R. Longs office, and so to the Temple, but did nothing, the Auditor not being within, and so home to dinner, and after dinner out again with my wife to the Temple, and up and down to do a little business, and back again, and so to my office, and did a little business, and so home, and W. Hewer with me, to read and talk, and so to supper, and then to bed in mighty good humour. This afternoon, passing through Queen’s Street, I saw pass by our coach on foot Deb., which, God forgive me, did put me into some new thoughts of her, and for her, but durst not shew them, and I think my wife did not see her, but I did get my thoughts free of her soon as I could.
candlelight on frost
this winter seeing
the old melancholy vision
that foresaw no time left
in the cupboard
and one hard hope
passing by on foot
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 7 December 1668.
about horses and how it might feel in the chest and along the flanks of the thighs to ride them about the keyhole and the intimate glimpse it offered of other lives about swimming and how the windmill motion of arms propels the landbound body through blueglass shards of water about going wild or eating sticky fruit in orchards while dancing to radio music about rolling spliffs in someone's garage while a girl from another high school says it's like inhaling burnt paper about knowing enough was put away to keep you going indefinitely on cup noodles about the door that led out of those rooms of shouting and breaking about the failure of water to stitch one shore to another about the hard points of light on surfaces that go on and on
On these new pages, the oldest lessons score themselves again. Spanish flu, bubonic plague; the Black Death as a jumble of bodies depicted in engravings— Leeches and lancets; purgation with smoke, fire, or water. Upside-down cadavers with dark tongues. You'd think by now we'd have learned something from mass graves and thinned populations. In the Cotswolds, remains of five mammoths from Neanderthal times have been unearthed from a gravel quarry along with evidence of snails and dung beetles. If not disease, then rot and ordinary time wage their battle. We dust the bones, turn their questions over in our hands.
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. You can also browse the blog digest archive or subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader. This edition was compiled in a bit of a rush, so I apologize if it seems a bit more disorderly than usual. Some posts about childhood led me to posts about the holiday season, favorite books (and blogs!) of the year, writing advice, po-biz pondering, and more. Enjoy.
The field was a living space. We walked through the field to get to the woods. Its edges were important to the shape of our days. Other children had parks, community centers. We had our field and a good half-hour of driving in any direction to reach a gas station.
As a living image, as personal history with land, the field to me is pure potential. It is unmarked by play structures. There would be fields in my future that my father fenced for our goats and chickens (I remember how impressed my parents were, when I was in college, and I told them my friend fenced—they thought only of farm skills, not athletics), but this field was different. This field was unfenced.
If you got down low in the field, there were field mice in grass burrows. There were wild tomatillos growing, tiny green fruit in their paper lantern wrappings. If you crouched or lay down, you could disappear from sight, the sedge grasses waving in the wind above you. There is a specific sound of wind through the grass before a storm—the sedge billowed like a copper sea.
I can trace my poetics back to this unfenced field. I spent five or six years practicing meter and formal poetry, until I could write iambic pentameter without thinking about it. Paradise Lost was like home to me. That is the fenced field. I return, as I must return, to the field of pure potential, unmarked by wire and posts. The only electricity that hums there is that of the person in the field.Han VanderHart, The Field and Poetry
childhood runningJim Young [no title]
we caught all the butterflies
and killed them
To Mr. Typist’s great bemusement, I went down a John Denver rabbit hole this week thanks to a casual comment on one of my Facebook posts. I hadn’t listened to John Denver’s music or thought about him for many years, but the comment inspired to me go and watch his concert footage from the 70’s, and I was awash with memories. I tried to explain to Mr. Typist that when I lived in Alaska as a young child, during the summers hippies would emerge in the early evenings on porches with guitars and play John Denver songs, and all of us children would gather around and sing along. We had no idea what the lyrics meant, but we knew they felt good to sing. I don’t know why there were hippies on an Air Force base in Alaska, but there were, in greater numbers than you might imagine. And they have an unerring instinct for twilight and children and catchy, emotionally compelling songs about mountains and nature, so there you have it—spontaneous 70’s John Denver porch concerts on an Air Force base in the middle of Alaska.Kristen McHenry, John Denver Rabbit Hole, Bike Embroilment, Frozen Shoulder
Charlie, bald head, sullen sage, you say our lives are cartoons to be puzzled over again and again. What are we equal to and what do we translate? Like Schrödinger’s Dog, the dog is always there but what about us? Sisyphus and Lucy kissing in a tree. The kite’s a twisted bird in the branches. Ancestors, Charlie. All these years. What’s the best thing about rhetorical questions?Gary Barwin, Charlie Brown’s Body
….lifted on the stroke of midnight
on some special Eve, Midsummer, say, or Christmas.
Then, it’s said that stones, or trees, or owls can speak.
Or toys piled pell-mell in boxes kept in lofts, in attic cupboards;
and also things that hang in Christmas trees,
like fairies, snowmen, angels, and wind-up clockwork toys.
What is it, do you think, they say, just once a year, just for one day,
This is the truth of it. The dark that lasts all year, the silent dust
that settles bit by bit, grows coarse and gritty, will clog their tongues.
Listen. They’re as mad as stones and deaf as owls. They’re let to speak,
have forgotten how, and what, to say. Stay silentJohn Foggin, Christmas stocking fillers
till the twelfth night. And then they’re put away.
It’s all really depressing. I won’t be eligible for a booster until early January. More restrictions are likely to be imposed, and in my opinion, far too late. The federal government of Canada is requesting that all international trips be cancelled, and it sounds like border restrictions will be re-imposed soon. “Rethink your holiday parties,” is both lame and ineffective, but people are desperate to be with their families, too. Sadly, we had already cancelled our plans to be with my father in upstate New York today for his 97th birthday, and obviously we won’t be seeing our American family members for Christmas. I have to just try not to think about what that means. Meanwhile, in the U.S. and many other places, people seem to be doing whatever they feel like, and counting on their vaccinations to protect them from serious illness. I hope it works, and wish them well.
So, all I can say, from this interior space where I will be for most of the next few months: color helps. And reading. I’ve been working on a new print, which you’ll see eventually: the carving was complicated and absorbing, and the repetitive process of printing is calming. I’ve been grateful for it.
I want to think not about breakthrough infections, but about breakthrough color: the way primary red and yellow, and gamboge and intense cobalt blue and viridian push aside everything else we’re obsessing about, and make us stop and look, make us feel something emotional and positive.Beth Adams, Christmas Fruit, and Breakthrough Color
As night falls, no oneLuisa A. Igloria, Reasons to Disrupt the Narrative
says crepuscular or eventide.
As the orphaned child sobs under
the mother tree, no one blames
patriarchy. The crone isn’t wise, only
bitter. The young are either desperate
or lost. The last page delivers a verdict
reputed to be the will of the gods.
This past week I’ve been flashing on Penelope Fitzgerald’s scintillating descriptions of preparing a house. Her novel “Blue Flower,” set in the 18th century, is full of the bright crush of domestic detail, the half-laborious, half-ecstatic ritual of organizing a home. As I was dashing around, making way for my grown kids and friends to migrate, I heard Fitzgerald’s echo — “great dingy snowfalls of sheets, pillow-cases, bolster-cases, vests, bodices, drawers, from the upper windows into the courtyard … into giant baskets.” I’m not firing up the old Maytag with anything but a switch; still, I note my excitement to make a nest, a safe haven through methodical hands-on work. I bent my head as I came down from the attic, carrying unrolling stored mattresses, shaking goose down through the corners of comforters, slapping pillows to life so they seem just born, cutting flowers for vases.Jill Pearlman, The Home Groove
how can night air on a branch of december :: have turned its face to meGrant Hackett [no title]
My first idea was for a haunted house and I would put all the regrets that haunt me on the boards of the house. But I made the house too big, with no room for all the ghosts and monsters that I envisioned circling the house. And then these other aspects appeared: the woman on the side of the house, the stuff going on in the attic (not exactly sure what’s going on there), the plants and pumpkins and cats and the table inside that’s ready for tea.Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Six Weeks of Sketch Responses to “Crisis Contemplation”
Out from the corners of night, shadows gather like hungry soldiers at mess. To the west, these shadows slowly eat the Vaca Hills and roll down easy to the ocean to drown.
Veterans sleep in front of TV sets, numbed by beer and weak programming.
From the south, a chill breeze races up the delta lands and marshes, the estuaries. Herons shiver in the cold water, wading and hunting. Dragon flies race; they are fighter pilots in a Hollywood movie.
This breeze makes a lonely sound, like a saxophone on the radio. Like a child crying for something it cannot have.
The corners of night square off into a box. The lid is shut now. It will not open until morning.James Lee Jobe, numbed by beer and weak programming
red barn long shadowsAnn E. Michael, Few words
rust-colored hawk descends
Last week, my daughter, who is planning a Christmas celebration across a continent and ocean with a young man she loves, asked me about our Christmas day traditions. “I remember the advent calendar and decorating stockings before Christmas, but I can’t remember much about the day itself other than opening presents,” she said.
“Oh, honey,” I said. “I was always so wasted by Christmas day I didn’t do much more than make a breakfast and clean up the wrapping paper and take a nap. And some years we spent the day in the car.”
I told her about staying up long after everyone had gone to bed, wrapping gifts. I told her, laughing at myself, about the year her dad and older sister had built a train table for the Brio set, and I was painting the little town scene on the base of it until after 2:00 AM on Christmas morning. I told her about the year I made her a dress-up trunk. “I had to find a trunk, and the clothes to put in the trunk–which I got from multiple visits to Goodwill–and the flower and letter decals I put on the lid of the trunk.” I told her about how my favorite moment of Christmas was often the one that happened in those middle-of-the-night hours, when everything was finally done and I would sit by myself in front of the lit tree in our dark living room and sip a glass of wine and relish the calm. I even told her the story of the laptop year and the afternoon at the dentist.
“Well, you know why I wanted a laptop,” she said. I told her I didn’t.
“I wanted to be like you,” she said. “Every morning when I got up, you’d be downstairs on your computer.”
“Really?” I said. “I never knew that.” I remembered those years when I used to get up at 4:30 in the morning so I would have time to write, and how that time often ended when she, like me, always an early riser, came down our stairs to find me sitting on the couch, tapping away. I both loved and dreaded the sound of her footsteps.
She paused. “For someone who’s so aware of so many things, how could you have missed that?”
“I don’t know,” I said. I suppose it’s because missing things is what we do, especially when we are in the thick of it.Rita Ott Ramstad, Not exactly a Hallmark holiday movie
Although they are two very different debut collections, Inhale/Exile by Abeer Ameer and Mother, Nature by Aoife Lyall share a number of similarities when considered together, the most obvious being that they are both concerned with notions of Home. In Inhale/Exile, Home is Iraq, or perhaps the more ancient Mesopotamian homeland, ‘the land of two rivers’, from which her own family and many of the characters in her poems fled during the days of Saddam Hussain’s totalitarian Baathist regime. But Home is also the UK for a poet who was born in Sunderland and raised in Wales; and so, much of the work is suffused with both a refugee’s paradoxical longing to return to what is now an ‘alien land / called home’ (The Fugitive’s Wife (vi) return) – Ameer uses the evocative Welsh word hiraeth in her acknowledgement of gratitude to the Iraqi diaspora community – and an understanding of non-belonging in a land which remains foreign: language errors, for example causing a recent exile, who I take to be the poet’s father, ‘an awkwardness he’ll know well’ (The Waiting Groom). The awkwardness is not Ameer’s as a second generation Iraqi immigrant to the UK, but that of her parents’ and her grandparents’ generations, for whom Inhale/Exhale stands as an impressive tribute. For Lyall, simultaneously celebrating the birth of one child and mourning the loss by miscarriage of another, the speaker/poet herself is Home to her surviving baby: ‘I am your home / Hold me close and you can hear the ocean’ (‘Hermit Crab’). The ‘I’ and the ‘you’ of these poems exist in a state of symbiosis, their mutual dependencies are the fabric that binds them and protects them from the outside world. They are the universe drawn inwards, and for a time (painfully short for the mother) they are hermetically sealed and yet all-containing. But this is no smugly beatific Earth Mother; the Mother-as-Home in Mother, Nature bears all the pain and responsibilty of nature’s personification: ‘…I tried not to cry. I felt your stomach fill / with the violant sting of golden milk. / My body bled for you.’ (‘3oz’); ‘There is no room for error / (…) / …If I open / my eyes to the chance of falling / I will fall. And down will come baby, / cradle and all.’ (‘Trapeze’). And the grief of a mother’s loss, Lyall shows us, is an emptiness which is far from metaphorical; it is of course the all-too-physical reality of an unoccupied womb, ‘this house your home in me a hollow place’ (‘Ithaca’). This is a truth we may have already known, but Lyall’s language begins to make us feel it.Chris Edgoose, Two debuts: Abeer Ameer and Aoife Lyall
Over the last dozen years or so, Angela France has developed into a seriously good poet. I was thinking about the collections I’ve read this year, wondering which I preferred – and then her book, Terminarchy (Nine Arches Press, £9.99) dropped on the mat with the bills and early Christmas cards.
Within a few pages – I have a strange habit of beginning books I don’t know at the back as well as the front – I thought this seemed so confident and assured I wanted to read it all, there and then. As is so often the case, it wasn’t possible. For a start, hens had to be cleaned out and fed, the home-made pig-sty, known to family as Pig Ugly, needed to be upgraded to deal with winter, given the arrival of four new inhabitants at the weekend. I was also writing a (bad) long poem, which eventually failed to survive ‘Delete’, and which took up a stupid amount of time before its demise.
So, when I finally settled to read Terminarchy, from front to back this time, it was with a fresh eye. And after two readings, I’ve found it the most pleasing new collection of my 2021. By that I mean that so much is published each year it’s impossible to read everything. I also have a tendency to re-read old, familiar books that have been on the shelves for decades. Nevertheless, acknowledging the limits of the statement, Terminarchy is top of my relatively lengthy list.Bob Mee, POETRY COLLECTION I’VE ENJOYED MOST THIS YEAR – TERMINARCHY BY ANGELA FRANCE
The highlight of my recent reading continues to be Gillian Allnutt. I love the polished simplicity of her poetry, which makes much contemporary poetry look and sounds overwritten in comparison. Take these lines from ‘Tabitha and Lintel: An Imaginary Tale’ from her 2001 collection Lintel: ‘Snails have crossed the doorstone in the dark night / secretly as nuns, at compline, in procession’. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it.Matthew Paul, It was twenty years ago today
I’ve been reading in that want-to-underline-every-sentence way (not that I’ve ever been an underliner, except in college when it seemed like that’s what everyone did and so I thought that’s what “studying” meant, a skill I had never learned) an essay by Daniel Tobin in the anthology Poets on the Psalms (edited by Lynn Domina, Trinity U Press, 2008). Tobin, whose poetry I only recently encountered, speaks movingly — and so eruditely that I have to really slow down my usual impetuous reading pace — of how the psalms are the crying out of the human need to be heard and seen, in this case by a God who has seemed to have removed itself.
But he’s also indicating that communicating itself, speech, writing, is an incantation to create an other, or an Other, as a way of becoming oneself, of confirming being. Or maybe I’m going too far here, but it interests me, this idea. I think of hearing coyotes howl in the woods at night. I thought they howl after a kill but that’s apparently a misunderstanding of this act. It’s a “sounding,” that is, the individuals of the pack locating themselves and each other in the dark. So the psalm — and the poem, and the song, the story — are how we say “I am” and ask “Are you?” (And if the coyote howls and there’s no response?)Marilyn McCabe, Captivity required from us a song; or, On Daniel Tobin and the Psalms
I simply don’t believe that poetry blogs are anachronistic in 2021. What’s more, when compiling my annual (subjective and incomplete) list of the Best U.K. Poetry Blogs, I was reassured and reminded by all these amazing bloggers’ efforts that the medium is very much alive and kicking, offering a more substantial and less ephemeral format than social media.Matthew Stewart, The Best U.K. Poetry Blogs of 2021
This year’s list even includes several top-notch newcomers, some of whom have been blogging for years but have only appeared on my limited radar this time around. Let’s start with them…
As far as retreats go, it was a small group, just eighteen people plus myself and, surprise surprise, all women. I’m not sure what it is about me that puts the men folk off working with me. (because I refer to them as ‘men folk’ perhaps?) I do get the impression that I’m not really taken seriously as a writer or workshop facilitator by some men, perhaps because I write about, or have written about baby death and pregnancy and infertility. Traditionally ‘women’s issues’. Maybe it’s because I am ‘friendly and approachable’ which seems to translate as fluffy and inconsequential in some circles. There are, of course, women writers who don’t take me seriously either. Although it irritates me slightly; this feeling of not being taken seriously as a writer/facilitator, I have an inkling that it might well be more about my own insecurities. You can’t please all the people. And I know I carry my working class background on my shoulder, not like a chip, more like a parrot; always telling me that I don’t fit in and am not good enough. The same parrot tells me all sorts of awful stuff about how ugly and fat I am and how I won’t fit in because of that too and how I am totally unlovable. I’m not going to lie, the parrot is a nasty little bitch. But I’m sort of used to it now, the parrot, and mostly it is fairly inconsequential to me, mostly it doesn’t rule me, mostly I find that a bit of kindness to the parrot goes a long way. Maybe it just wants a cracker and a dark cover and some sleep in a safe place, I don’t know. I have stretched the analogy of the parrot too far now. It is dead. It is no more. etc. Anyway, back to the retreat. To be honest, to be able to share the week of the retreat with an all woman group was something very special indeed. What I’ve learnt as a facilitator is that to be able to provide a safe, warm, welcoming place where people, and in particular women, can just be, is important. And that’s what the retreat was like. We had people from all backgrounds, people with all sorts of personal life difficulties, all looking for something special to them. I wanted to create a place that felt like a retreat in the true sense of the word, where just for a few hours in the day, people could come and prioritise themselves and their writing. There were opportunities to hone writing skills, to be prompted to write new work, but there was also plenty of opportunities for quiet, no pressure, group activities, just writing together, talking, sharing our thoughts. And, of course down time/writing time. The evening reading events were a real highlight, in particular our last guest of the week, Jonathan Davidson, who’s honesty about the writing world, about the working class poets who never got their chance, about his own journey and the people who he had met on that journey was filled with love and humour.
Going back to the deceased parrot- I’d happened to mention that I was feeling a bit bruised by my book not having made it onto any lists – not award lists, not book of the year lists (It is continuing in great strides to not make it onto any lists at all by the way) – and how, even though I knew I had done what I needed to do with the book, that I felt it covered what I wanted it to cover in a way that made sense to me, it still stung a bit, but that as writers you are not meant to really say that out loud. As writers we are supposed to be slapped in the face by rejection after rejection and just get on with it, because it’s part of the job. And we do, but do you know what, it hurts still. Why wouldn’t it? Every poem has a sliver of yourself in it, especially the personal ones. What I got back from sharing this was such good, solid, kind, appreciative feedback, because the people on the course had read my book. They had heard poems from it in workshops, stuff I didn’t know anything about, and I can’t tell you how much it lifted my spirits to hear that the book, the book that launched in a pandemic, was finding its way around the writing community and being used in workshops and doing good stuff for people. I do not need the lists, I need this, these moment of recognition from readers. I had been a bit blocked and that seemed to free me to be able to work on new poems for the new collection. It shut that god damned parrot up.Wendy Pratt, Retreating from the World
38. Recognize the Value in Silence
This one at first will not sound heartening. C.D. Wright has written a piece called “If one were to try to describe the heed that poetry requires.” (And I honestly thing you could replace the word poetry with and art making process). It begins, “Barbara Guest called it orchid attention. She felt the poem should tremble a little.” She talks about the “uncountable hours” a poet will spend in their lives on their tender observations, on their craft. She compares it to scientists spending a lifetime cataloguing and observing one small niche subject. Wright says, “As with most scientific papers, silence may be all that is at the other end. Maybe silence itself has value beyond being humbling. Maybe the record being made is its primary worth, and the rest of our temporal span is meant just for living and for the attention it commands.”
The truth is that even if you receive some attention for your books, the great majority of writers live mainly in obscurity. We live with a lot of silence on the other end. We do our work knowing that it may very well be met with silence. So it’s good to figure out what the value of silence is for you. Yes, it’s humbling. But it’s more than that. And the deeper you go into it, the greater the value.Shawna Lemay, 20 (More) Pieces of Advice for Writers
I just finished writing a poem, and I’m worn out.
For days I walked around in that weird stage I call “pre-poem anxiety,” which feels almost like a period of mourning: what the hell have I been doing with my time, not writing a poem? I’m plagued with morbid thoughts: what if I died tomorrow and I hadn’t written the next poem? What if the last thing I did before (awful thing happens) was NOT write a poem?
This catastrophizing mood comes over me when the interval between finishing a poem and writing a new one has dragged on too long. I search through my journals, make word lists, read poetry, looking for anything to spark an idea and get me writing again.
Eventually something starts to gel. This leads to the next phase, where it almost feels like you have an itch in your brain. It’s a physical sensation, this itch. It comes over you while you’re going about your daily tasks. I walk around in a semi-daze, forget where I am, ignore my to-do list filled with deadlines and commitments. Before I’ve written a word, I enter a state of hyper-focus.
Then I write the first line. I think it’s the most beautiful line ever written; I’m in tears, struck by its brilliance. I can’t believe it came from my brain. There it sits, on the page in front of me, vibrating, fresh, and unlike any line I’ve ever written before. I read it over and over. I’m as proud of it as a new parent whose child has just uttered her first word.
One line leads to the next. I’m in a state of semi-mania, writing hundreds of words, most of which will be deleted and rewritten.Erica Goss, The Emotional Stages of Writing a Poem
The main way that I have been able to continue writing while homeschooling and being home with five kids is the “Open It Everyday” method.
EVERYDAY open your writing notebook. Even if you just glance over what you read last, or put it down and read something else, pick up the book and open it and look at it, Every Single Day. I used to say “five minutes a day” but honestly even less than that can still work.
Inevitably I write something in the notebook (maybe just a line or a few words). Inevitably a poem forms.
Over the past 7 years, amidst having babies, losing babies, three moves, and many, many classes taught, I was still able to write enough poems to produce two poetry books I’ve published (or are forthcoming– Church Ladies!) and one manuscript unpublished (as of yet). And also a middle grade novel, and the countless poems I tossed out because they weren’t good enough for a book (hundreds).
I’m not really a fast writer, I’m just persistent and consistent. Being persistent will get you further than you think.Renee Emerson, Tips for Writing Productivity: #1 Open It Everyday
I’m also watching poetry Twitter, as usual, and recent posts about some beloved poet, unnamed, who paid $25,000 for a publicist to promote their first collection and, as you’d suspect, did pretty freaking well. (It’s probably terrible to ask you to message me if you know who the $25K person is–I’m just crassly curious.) I don’t have that kind of money burning a hole in my pocket, but I have thought about smaller-scale consulting with a publicist, and I know other friends who have, as well–it’s suddenly an open secret that many writers find audiences by investing cash upfront in the process. It’s one way of managing another huge time commitment, I guess, as well as a way that the publishing playing field will never be level. Certainly applying for reading series, festivals, etc. is work I strain to get done. It’s the usual quandary of whether to play the system as it exists or step aside into an alternate artistic economy. I get the arguments for both strategies. I like to think that if I spent some money and gained prominence from it (which can’t be a given, right?), I’d use any power I gained to help other writers. In some ways I already do, but that is certainly a rationalization–if your real goal is to help others, you don’t start by hiring a publicist. Anyway, as I slow down and look around, it’s one of the things that seems to be on my mind.Lesley Wheeler, Shenandoah, #DisConIII, biobreaks
I think the bulk of the negative reactions were 1) a purity test for poets that we don’t hold fiction and non-fiction writers to (they often hire publicists with no static) and 2) a class envy response – who has $25,000 to spend on promoting a poetry book? Most of us do not. My first thought was “$25,000 is a car!” I didn’t grow up wealthy, and don’t consider myself someone who could easily justify coming up with that kind of money to promote my books. Heck, I have trouble spending $150 on an online ad for my book!
But, having interviewed a few publicists for my book PR for Poets, and having researched book publicity, there’s really no reason a poet can’t hire a $25,000 publicist – although most publicists don’t work with poets, don’t know poetry’s markets or reviewers, or just don’t see enough money in it to do it.
Am I pretty excited to have a publisher for my seventh book who has an in-house marketing and PR person at last? Absolutely. I’m used to doing everything myself, with varying results for varying amounts of time, energy, money, and hustle. I think that’s the experience of most poets – getting together their own mailing lists, asking bookstores for readings, maybe even sending out their own review copies. The prospect of marketing a book during a pandemic – which is something a lot of my friends have already had to do – is daunting indeed. There are already whispers of cancellations of people and publishers who had been planning to go to AWP 2022. I already took a class on Instagram to get that account going before my two new books come out. I do take this stuff seriously.
I am hoping AWP 2023 – which is, yay, supposed to take place in Seattle – will be safe. I really enjoy seeing my old friends – and I’d love to meet my two most recent publishers in person – the editors at Alternating Current and BOA Editions. And do a reading or two, take friends out to see parks, bookstores, and coffee shops.
So, when I wrote my book, PR for Poets, I said for most poets, spending more than $5,000 – the going rate for a publicist for one month – on promoting their poetry book probably doesn’t make sense. Most royalty rates and poetry sales will rarely net more than $1,000. (It’s happened for me on a couple books, but certainly not all.) But if someone has the money lying around, and they really want to advance their poetry careers – big fellowships, tenure track jobs, visibility that makes them more likely to get well-paid speaking and teaching gigs – I mean, who am I to say they shouldn’t?Jeannine Hall Gailey, Finding Holiday Cheer, a Few Thoughts on Poetry and Publicity, and a Few End of the Year Book Suggestions
David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
As a dog owner, I do a lot of walking. I don’t listen to music while I walk or look at my phone. I pay attention to the dog and the natural world and lines come to me. That happens whether we’re on city streets or in the woods. In Fredericton, the dog and I walked often along the Wolastoq river. Fredericton has a wonderful system of trails that are usually almost entirely people-free. I learned that the river is different every day, even in the winter when it’s frozen. The river didn’t necessarily make its way into my poetry, but those walks helped me to think and allowed lines to come to me. Now that I live in Victoria, the dog is very old and can’t walk as far or as fast. We do make it fairly regularly to the off-leash dog park on Dallas Road though. There, I let the dog take his time sniffing weeds and grass and other dog’s butts, and I enjoy the view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympics across the strait and the sun on my face. And lines often come to me.rob mclennan, 12 or 20 (second series) questions with Sharon McCartney
hill farmJulie Mellor, Presence
the curlew’s long call
over the lambing shed
I haven’t been to Texas since the unveiling of mom’s headstone. The backpack I use when traveling has been in the closet a long time. In its pockets I find paper remnants from the Cuba trip in 2019.
I also unearth my pocket Koren siddur which I had given up for lost, and a wooden coin that reads (after Simcha Bunim) on one side “for my sake was the world created” and on the other “I am dust and ashes.”
Flying for the first time in almost two years was always going to be strange. Flying for the first time during a global pandemic, even more so. Thankfully no one is belligerent about wearing a mask.
To make the day even more surreal, it turns out my local airport has been redone. New parking garage, new traffic flow, new everything. Delta still flies out of the B gates; at least that hasn’t changed.
On the first plane I watch Roadrunner, the Tony Bourdain film. I loved his writing, and the way he brought the world into our living rooms. I loved how much he seemed to love the wide world.
There’s a sense of dislocation in the film. The dislocation of travel, especially the kind of travel he did 250 days a year. The dislocation of a world where his light shines now only in memory.Rachel Barenblat, Dislocation
maybe it was only aboutRajani Radhakrishnan, No way back
that moment of knowing, enduring,
of that certainty of surrender —
knowing the sun would melt our wings
knowing that falling was another
remembering that within the clouds
we too smell of unborn lake —
but that wasn’t the plan, was it?
In other news, I’ve been greatly enjoying the bit of freelance work I’ve been dipping my toes in. Last week, I got to write about installation art, this week, a short story I had not read previously by Kate Chopin. Next up, fashion in the Great Gatsby. I don’t know what next year will bring, but a little extra money around the holidays is a great help. I’ve been doing these other types of writing instead of poems in the morning, along with some more work on some short fiction, but I am getting itchy to get back to poems after the new year (or possibly during the brief holiday break. Tonight, I attended the release reading for Carla Sameth’s WHAT IS LEFT, and her work and the guest readers left me incredibly inspired to get back to it. This week brings much assembling the last round of releases and new layouts on the very last chaps of 2021. I will also be finalizing details on next year’s selections, sending out agreements, and getting started on some other little bits I have planned. I am also in-deep on my advent project, which develops a little more each day.
It gets dark so early, especially on weekends when I tend to sleep in and then have only a few hours before the night descends. I light my small tree and the faux candles and try to do cozy things like make cookies and soup. Last night, a feast of stuffed pasta shells and garlic bread and holiday romance movies. I try to be festive while also still being anxious.Kristy Bowen, notes & things | 12/12/21
I hear the voices of loving defiance refusing to perish.
bell hooks once said, “I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.”
Before that, Paul Robeson:
“… I belong to the American resistance movement which fights against American imperialism, just as the resistance movement fought against Hitler.”
All the voices of benevolent intransigence will forever transmit across history’s airwaves.
Far beyond my life, they will grace the ears of others.
Courage is timeless. Intransigence, ageless.Rich Ferguson, What Echoes Through the Ages
When I’ve filled
I’ll be done,
the old monk said.Tom Montag, TEN OLD MONK POEMS (46)
the ferry departsJason Crane, haiku: 18 December 2021
to the whistle’s shriek
morning snow melted
(Lord’s day). Up, and with my wife to church; which pleases me mightily, I being full of fear that she would never go to church again, after she had declared to me that she was a Roman Catholique. But though I do verily think she fears God, and is truly and sincerely righteous, yet I do see she is not so strictly so a Catholique as not to go to church with me, which pleases me mightily. Here Mills made a lazy sermon, upon Moses’s meeknesse, and so home, and my wife and I alone to dinner, and then she to read a little book concerning speech in general, a translation late out of French; a most excellent piece as ever I read, proving a soul in man, and all the ways and secrets by which nature teaches speech in man, which do please me most infinitely to read. By and by my wife to church, and I to my Office to complete my Journall for the last three days, and so home to my chamber to settle some papers, and so to spend the evening with my wife and W. Hewer talking over the business of the Office, and particularly my own Office, how I will make it, and it will become, in a little time, an Office of ease, and not slavery, as it hath for so many years been. So to supper, and to bed.
church full of fear
that God is strict as Moses’s book
a translation out of nature
I settle in with the sin
of my own little time
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 6 December 1668.
Up, after a little talk with my wife, which troubled me, she being ever since our late difference mighty watchful of sleep and dreams, and will not be persuaded but I do dream of Deb., and do tell me that I speak in my dreams and that this night I did cry, Huzzy, and it must be she, and now and then I start otherwise than I used to do, she says, which I know not, for I do not know that I dream of her more than usual, though I cannot deny that my thoughts waking do run now and then against my will and judgment upon her, for that only is wanting to undo me, being now in every other thing as to my mind most happy, and may still be so but for my own fault, if I be catched loving any body but my wife again. So up and to the office, and at noon to dinner, and thence to office, where late, mighty busy, and despatching much business, settling papers in my own office, and so home to supper, and to bed. No news stirring, but that my Lord of Ormond is likely to go to Ireland again, which do shew that the Duke of Buckingham do not rule all so absolutely; and that, however, we shall speedily have more changes in the Navy: and it is certain that the Nonconformists do now preach openly in houses, in many places, and among others the house that was heretofore Sir G. Carteret’s, in Leadenhall Streete, and have ready access to the King. And now the great dispute is, whether this Parliament or another; and my great design, if I continue in the Navy, is to get myself to be a Parliament-man.
after a little troubled sleep
I dream in my dreams
and now and then I dream
of waking up
like an open house
on a leaden street
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 5 December 1668.
A fire is quick to burn if we're not careful. A fire is quick to snuff out in wind. A fire is what we're told to keep under guard, dragon asleep in the center of the gut. And what is the self if not a pail of glowing embers we're meant to carry through violent births in spring and the somnolences of winter? Its wire handle glows hot as a brand on naked skin, or rigid as unmalleable cold. One freezing night in January, we turned the oven on, pretending it would keep our bones from hardening. The moon burned its own passage through the dark: familiar as a brand, remote as a lighthouse beam, but strangely comforting. Whatever we doubt of own capacities, we understand the cost of living is many different kinds of burning.
Up, and with W. Hewer by water to White Hall, and there did wait as usual upon the Duke of York, where, upon discoursing something touching the Ticket-Office, which by letter the Board did give the Duke of York their advice, to be put upon Lord Brouncker, Sir J. Minnes did foolishly rise up and complain of the Office, and his being made nothing of; and this before Sir Thomas Littleton, who would be glad of this difference among us, which did trouble me mightily; and therefore I did forbear to say what I otherwise would have thought fit for me to say on this occasion, upon so impertinent a speech as this doting fool made — but, I say, I let it alone, and contented myself that it went as I advised, as to the Duke of York’s judgment, in the thing disputed. And so thence away, my coach meeting me there and carrying me to several places to do little jobs, which is a mighty convenience, and so home, where by invitation I find my aunt Wight, who looked over all our house, and is mighty pleased with it, and indeed it is now mighty handsome, and rich in furniture. By and by comes my uncle, and then to dinner, where a venison pasty and very merry, and after dinner I carried my wife and her to Smithfield, where they sit in the coach, while Mr. Pickering, who meets me there, and I, and W. Hewer, and a friend of his, a jockey, did go about to see several pairs of horses, for my coach; but it was late, and we agreed on none, but left it to another time: but here I do see instances of a piece of craft and cunning that I never dreamed of, concerning the buying and choosing of horses. So Mr. Pickering, to whom I am much beholden for his kindness herein, and I parted; and I with my people home, where I left them, and I to the office, to meet about some business of Sir W. Warren’s accounts, where I vexed to see how ill all the Comptroller’s business is likely to go on, so long as ever Sir J. Minnes lives; and so troubled I was, that I thought it a good occasion for me to give my thoughts of it in writing, and therefore wrote a letter at the Board, by the help of a tube, to Lord Brouncker, and did give it him, which I kept a copy of, and it may be of use to me hereafter to shew, in this matter. This being done, I home to my aunt, who supped with us, and my uncle also: and a good-humoured woman she is, so that I think we shall keep her acquaintance; but mighty proud she is of her wedding-ring, being lately set with diamonds; cost her about 12l.: and I did commend it mightily to her, but do not think it very suitable for one of our quality. After supper they home, and we to bed.
I touch nothing but myself
my hands rich in fur
by and by my past meets me
in a dream of horses
to whom I am
some troll-like acquaintance
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 4 December 1668.