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 week, a true miscellany, with few unifying themes. I was excited to see a couple of my favorite bloggers re-emerge from hiatus, and the regulars didn’t disappoint, either. Enjoy. And best of luck to everyone planning on writing a poem a day throughout April—just four days away!
Today the island exploded with yellow the daffodils have been here but the forsythia arrived overnight. There is too much now to say and so I dip my crushed left great toe in to test. There is too much to say that has gone unsaid and so here I am dipping my toe in the ocean here I am saying hello! Hello! Are you there?
Panic diary 1
Mushrooms hold their spongy heads as I passRebecca Loudon, Equinox
there goes weeper in her boots and mask
my heart explodes (again) milk shivers in my arms
spring lamb spills her body a blood container
shivering in the grass it is so wet and beautiful
when a woman and a man slow dance to no music
tomorrow is Bach’s birthday one breathes revolution
the slow version dancing alone in my kitchen in bare feet
I spent the winter hibernating.
Not literally, of course, and not completely; I kept getting up and going to work and talking to friends and such. But still, it was a season of purposeful, chosen dormancy. Covid’s omicron strain made it easier than it might otherwise have been because it provided an acceptable (in my circles) reason to go quiet.
Katherine May identifies several different kinds of wintering and ways of entering in to such a season of life; mine has been a wintering of transition, of having “temporarily fallen between two worlds.” I am both retired and not-retired. I am in a process of leaving behind the self I have been for most of my adult life (mother, educator, creative dabbler) and welcoming another whose labels are mostly unknown.
My life has not felt this open in more than 40 years. It would be nice to have the body I had the last time I was in such circumstances, but I’m facing a malleable future with considerably more knowledge and less fear than I had then. I feel more existential threat than I have at any other time, but for now I’ve got a sturdy shelter, economic stability, reasonably good health, and love. I have choices. I am fortunate.
So, what did I do while away?
I read poetry and historical fiction and memoir and self-help. I organized cupboards and put reading chairs in the kitchen and bought a new dining table that sits in front of our big living room window. I wrote poems and memoir exercises and lesson plans and an essay. I took naps on the couch and on the bed, in the middle of sunny days, and against a backdrop of late afternoon rain. I made chicken soup from the whole bird and pizza dough from yeast and flour and beer, and breakfast cookies sweetened with chunks of dark chocolate. I bought a houseplant, and pillar candles for the pedestal holders my grandfather carved at the beginning of his retirement more than 40 years ago. We’ve placed them on the new table. I bought and returned three sweatshirts because none of them was right. I worked a really hard puzzle. I watched TV. I went to the doctor and dentist and physical therapist. I sat outside one day in February’s false spring sun and closed my eyes.
And I began ice skating. (again)
I decided to take a break from blogging and enter into a period of purposeful dormancy because I sensed that I needed some quiet and some space so that things could emerge. What things? I didn’t know, and “things” was as precise a word I wanted when I began. I thought the time underground would bring clarity around writing, perhaps give me some direction in what I want to do or work on. I began working through Julia Cameron’s program for creative recovery and was open to where it might take me. I never expected it to take me to an ice rink.Rita Ott Ramstad, On wintering
So here I am running the lanes looking for
all the things I would have shared with you:
the planting of young laurels along the hedgerow
on St Vincent’s Lane, the way the moss
has grown sparsely on one side of the stone bridge
but thickly on the other, and how someone
has laid a plank across the stream to cross
from bank to bank. I think I understand now
that grief remains with us. And I never had to say,
Don’t go, please stay, because you never left me.
Mam, the wood anemones are like starsLynne Rees, Poem ~ Never
carpeting the woods. Soon, the bluebells.
Here I am at my desk in my bedroom, working on my Zoom class with my Modernity students.
Tomorrow all the Daughters of Charity are in retreat, praying and preparing for March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, when we make our vows again.
With the recent health problems which will not go away, but which are in tenuous check right now, I worry that though I will make it to March 25, I might not make it until the end of the month and our college reunion, or to Easter on April 17, or to see the full flowering of my garden this summer.
But all I can do is try to hold the illness in abeyance by resting and avoiding any food or drink that might inflame my radiated bladder. So it goes.Anne Higgins, What is all this juice and all this joy?
on a quiet street
in Luang Prabang
the unexploded ordnance centre —
a grandmother covers
a little girl’s eyes […]
folding a world mapRajani Radhakrishnan, Margin Notes
war zone collapsing into war zone
someone will die
from something that will fall
from someone else’s sky
I’m sitting under fluorescent lights, half-awake and digesting a lemon-poppy muffin. Are poppy seeds the opiate of breakfast? I’m scanning the wires on a slow Monday for anything that rises to the level of news. There ain’t much. There may be a million stories in the naked city, but up here in the fully-clothed suburbs excitement is thin on the ground. I listen to the first bars of a jangly song from 1990. It sounds like many of the the jangly songs from 1990, with a singer more or less hitting the intended pitches and the guitarist carrying the weight. I can see through the studio’s Venetian blinds that the sun is up. We’re so far from Venice, in every meaningful way. A friend said the war in Ukraine is the international conflict version of a white woman being kidnapped. I google “Yemen” and try to catch up.Jason Crane, Hum
pale chairJim Young [no title]
in the arms of dawn
When my daughter lived in Asheville NC about 12 years ago, I noticed the rain, as well as flourishing vines, and lichen, on so many of the trees. She said that the Blue Mountains in that area are a temperate rain forest, but the humidity bothered her less than here in eastern PA because of the higher altitude: Asheville’s at about 3000 feet elevation. In the last 8 years or so, I’ve noticed the same tree-clinging lichen in my region–a new development. I have lived here over 30 years and had never seen it before. Another thing I notice is how much more vigorous the vining plants, many of them non-native, have become and how rapidly they shoot up into the overstory, choking off the tops of tulip poplars and oaks and pulling down the trunks of dead ash trees. The growing season has lengthened a bit, which is worrying from an environmental perspective even if it means I may eventually be able to grow camellias and figs.
And I can’t deny finding some of the milder weather pleasant, especially the sounds of tree frogs filling the nights earlier in the year. They soothe me at the end of day. Yet these crucial amphibians are very much at risk as the world warms. I may have little choice about whether we can return to cooler, damper summers, but I can make choices about how I live in the world and about what matters. It bears keeping in mind as I work the soil for another season in my garden.Ann E. Michael, Weather weirding
Pile of earth
draped in astroturf:
like a challah
while we bless
candles and wine,
like a Torah
covered for modesty.
This pine boxRachel Barenblat, Graveside
is a cradle
for an empty shell.
I wasn’t sure if I was ready to delve into fiction again because poetry has been the most healing writing for me with grief. Poetry allows me to examine events and my feelings about them in a structured, beautiful, in-depth way. It’s something that I really needed, especially in the first few months of this year (I typically write 2 poems a month—I wrote more like 5 a month in January/February).
But there’s also an expansive absorption in writing fiction.
I dreaded entering back into the novel because I thought I’d find such a hopeless mess there that I’d never untangle it. Instead it’s been more like street-sweeping, tidying up, trimming hedges (moving whole blocks to whole other blocks, but not as much as I’d expected). My biggest challenge has actually been getting TOO into it—there’s something about editing and writing fiction that sucks me in completely, where it is all I want to do! As much as I love poetry, I can give it 15 dedicated minutes and be done—fiction could eat up my whole day if I have a whole day available.Renee Emerson, Fiction Brain vs. Poetry Brain
Last night I dreamed that Frank Loyd Wright posted right turn only signs all over town, so everyone was going in circles.
It was one of those situations where a little bit of leftist thinking would’ve gotten the traffic flowing more smoothly.
Upon waking, I made sure grace had all the wax cleared from its ears before asking for any small mercies.
After all, it only takes a slight loss of sibilance to make ‘exist’ sound like ‘exit.’
Now I’m gonna inquire about borrowing a shovel to dig down deep into the earth,
discover that wishbone singing brighter than any tuning fork—
just the thing to melody any lingering miseries down off the ledge of another Monday morning.Rich Ferguson, A Little Bit of Leftist Thinking in a Right Turn Only Town
I’d been undertaking self-care this past week, though I don’t love that term. I was following the black dog into the shadows because if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em. I was reading the Dhammapada, Pema Chodron, the usuals. I’d been reading Rilke. I had driven a friend home one evening and we were talking in the car in the dark about a similar loss that we’d each suffered. Hers more recent and mine quite far in the past. I wanted to offer something comforting and I wanted to say that time healed. And time does something, but it struck me that this past week was the 30th anniversary of my loss, and it was hitting me hard! and that time is trickier and wilier than all that. Because of the way that losses and griefs and disappointments will accumulate and compound and because of the way that our understanding of any of those large moments in life is an intricate and changing architecture. The loss, the finding out, for me, was suddenly raw again when for years it hadn’t been at all, and it felt like yesterday, however cliché that sounds, that I answered the early morning phone call, and then dressed and went to my university class in 18th century literature with the kind professor looking at me sidelong from time to time as he lectured, knowing, I felt, that something wasn’t quite right. In short, this experience made me realize and not for the first time that I know absolutely nothing. Who am I to offer consolation for grief when I scarcely know what to do with my own? And isn’t it interesting how all of those contradictions and minor and major griefs of the pandemic have acted upon the usual grief cycles. (And when I say interesting I mean damn it’s a bitch). My current theory has something to do with the darkness healing more than time does, but I suppose they’re working in tandem.
As an aside, because of the kindness of this particular professor, I took a LOT of classes in 18th century literature. Like, a weird number of them. I just trusted that prof.Shawna Lemay, A Certain Devastation
We are as fish caught in a cloudy
aquarium waiting for algae scrapers,
water siphons, lime and bleach cleaners—
Our Lady of the virtual lament, electronic
embrace, mediated job interview, meeting,
or funeral— In some part of the world
pink blossoms have opened to spring
and in another, a pink wave of protesters
fills actual streets. Our Lady of ICUs
and statistics. Our Lady of terrible risks.Luisa A. Igloria, Novena for the Pandemic
Our Lady of wars and climate injustice
in the throb of an ongoing epidemic.
We want so badly for our experiences to be explained as simple cause-and-effect events. Because anything else would be irrational. Untrue. Unnecessary pain. Anything else would be the work of a shadow-weaving woman making a weighted blanket from the loose atmospheres of dreams and memories.
But I keep her close, like a lover I know will hurt me. It’s my fault. Holding onto the destructive stories like talismans. The devil you know.
I have a metal ruler in one of the drawers in the studio. It is jagged on both long edges. I am not sure why, and I am not sure how I came to have this ruler in a drawer. in the studio. I catch my fingers on it every time I open the drawer. And yet I haven’t moved it. I haven’t gotten rid of it. (What would I do with it? Where would I send it?) I mean, I bought it after all. I put it there. It must be there for a reason.
Maybe I am misinterpreting the phrase “trust yourself”? Maybe I am misplacing my trust. Maybe everyone (I’m sure of it) feels this way when the season changes and death is everywhere, making room – clearing room – for the sprawl of strange offspring. Another round of the unknown. Mystery eggs.
I’ve learned that more than moths and butterflies emerge from cocoons. It seems nothing that I learn makes for good small talk. And I am beginning to understand that that doesn’t matter at all.Ren Powell, Contextualizing Anxiety
One meaning of the term storification is the imposing of a story structure onto raw historical facts – being selective and even changing the order of events. One story would be that the older self meets the young self. Perhaps the young self wouldn’t recognise the older one who’d tell him not to worry, it’ll all be wonderful in the end, like a dream. Or perhaps the older one merely recalls the freedom of his earlier life, the not knowing what will happen next. Maybe he’ll re-introduce some of those features into his life now that retirement’s looming. Perhaps when he returns to the group he’s known for a week or so he’ll surprise them, break out of the role he’s too easily slipped into.Tim Love, Rabat revisited
the muse calls me from my bed
to sit in the dark and write out my dream
in wide spaced words on blank white paper
it’s 4:30 am no car goes past outside
then wobbling in the tail end of the storm
a man weaves along the road
no lights on his bike I note
and from the way he steers
no exact idea of where to go
he executes a sudden turn rightPaul Tobin, THE EMPTINESS OF THE NIGHT
and when I look up again
I take in the emptiness of the night
When we were five years old, my friend Kim and I created a secret realm. It was ruled by a fearsome Queen named Calavina. To escape her evil magic we’d ride a rocking horse wildly, then fling ourselves into hiding places where we whispered desperate warnings to each other. Even when we weren’t playing, we honored that noble toy horse with a royal cape (a small blanket) draped over its back. We kept Calavina’s queendom alive for several years. Then one day we tried to enter her world of adventure and peril but found we were only acting. The enchantment had lifted.
Although the imaginary realms of my childhood weren’t very complex, some children create elaborate domains featuring backstories, unique customs, and made-up words where they propel characters through all sorts of dramatic events.
That’s true of 9 year old Cameron. Under his bed is another dimension.
The world he created rests on a sheet of cardboard cut from a refrigerator box. Some days Cameron spends hours playing with it. The ocean is aluminum foil raised in permanently cresting waves, inhabited by an exotic array of marine creatures made from clay. Forests filled with bright trees and plants are constructed from painted cotton balls, balsa, toothpicks, and wrapping paper.
Dotted between the Seuss-like trees are tiny shelters, each a different shape. This world is populated by creatures made out of beads, pipe cleaners, and fabric. They’re named Implas and their dramas keep Cameron busy. His mother says she has to remind herself that Cameron is the one changing it all the time, that his creation isn’t really growing.Laura Grace Weldon, Worldplay Creates The Future
I finished that book while the plane was still on the tarmac in Atlanta. What would I do during the 90 minute flight to Ft. Lauderdale?Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Flying by Night
Stare at the moon, that’s what. Was it significantly different staring at the moon from a height of 30,000 feet? Not really. It didn’t make the difference that a telescope would make, for example. But I saw the sky turn reddish purple and then golden and then the huge mostly full disc of the moon emerged, not quite full, but not a half moon either. I could see the land below, the glittering lights, the dark splotches. I could see some long lines of clouds that looked more like surf, but I was sure they were not.
An added bonus: for much of the flight, the cabin lights were dimmed, so the view was even more compelling. Not having a book to read didn’t bother me at all.
I realize that most of my fellow fliers weren’t as lucky as I was–in addition to having a window seat with a view, I was in that 1 exit row seat that didn’t have a seat in front of it, so I could stretch my legs. At one point, I looked over to see if my rowmate wanted to look out the window. At the beginning of the flight, he had been pecking on his phone so intently that the flight attendant said, “Sir? Did you hear a word I said about your duties and this exit row seat?” After the lights went out, he fell asleep. I hogged the window, guilt-free!
I wanted to tell everyone to look out the window, to tell them what an amazing celestial show they were missing by sleeping or staring into their phones/tablets. I’m willing to be arrested for many activities, but reminding my fellow travelers to look out the window is not one of them, so I stayed quiet.
Last night, I was the quiet mystic, staring out the window at the moon, not the prophet, shouting at people to renounce their false gods and realize how we can find God in nature. Last night, I was the woman wishing I had a camera that could capture that beauty and realizing that sometimes (often), it’s best to just let beauty wash over us as we fly by night.
Not at Philly’s AWP this week, still avoiding crowds due to the covid-19 thing and the immune-suppressed thing. But I did try to spend the week paying attention to things that fed the spirit and inspired. When spring finally appears in our area, we get these rare sunny days when everything is in bloom and people smile and say hello to each other.
So I went for a walk through a bunch of plum trees in bloom, which smell amazing, and the petals fell down in the breeze. There are also cherry blossoms, and the daffodils have started to open, and so I spent time in the garden, trimming back maples overgrowth, giving the new apple and cherry trees more space and more mulch, and weeding and planting a new pink container “cutting” garden with things I haven’t grown before – snapdragons, carnations, cupcake cosmos, celosia, godetia. Tulip and star magnolia trees are starting to open as well. The air smells like spring, even in the rain.
The news remains grim. My social media feed is full of book signings and panels, friends who are traveling to beautiful places, or people raising money for Ukraine refugees showing pictures of destruction and bombings – it’s enough to give someone emotional whiplash. It’s hard to stay oriented, much less focus on writing or submitting poetry. The spring flowers and deer visitors (we also had a bobcat walk through again) are good reminders that there is still beauty and wildness around us. I miss seeing friends at AWP – my social life has been mostly phone calls for two years – but at least Seattle gave us some warmer, sunnier days so that we could stop and appreciate the beauty of where we are now.Jeannine Hall Gailey, Not at AWP Post: A Seattle Writer Walks through Plum Blossoms, Japanese Gardens, and an Art Gallery
On this World Poetry Day, 2022 I wanted to mention that the wonderful Modern Poetry in Translation magazine has made its 2017 issue featuring contemporary poetry and essays from Russian and Ukrainian poets available free to read online – here’s the link to the issue on MPT’s website.
Published in 2017, here’s the opening paragraph from Sasha Dugdale’s editorial:
“This, my last, issue of MPT features poems of conflict and protest from Russia and Ukraine. The conflict in the Donbas region of Ukraine is politically intricate, and at the same time it is diabolically simple. In 2014 Russia covertly invaded an area of Ukraine with an ethnically and linguistically Russian population after illegally annexing Crimea. A fierce war broke out, with daily casualties and atrocities, and even now it smoulders on in the area. Propaganda and false truths draw a veil over the war and its many casualties and victims, and serve at the same time to heap grievance upon grievance; to ensure that peace will remain provisional and uneasy.”
And here’s one extract from ‘Home Is Still Possible There…’ by Kateryna Kalytko, translated by Olena Jennings and Oksana Lutsyshyna:
“Home is still possible there, where they hang laundry out to dry,
and the bed sheets smell of wind and plum blossoms.
It is the season of the first intimacy
to be consummated, never to be repeated.
Every leaf emerges as a green blade
and the cries of life take over the night and find a rhythm.”
Do dip in to the issue, I was so glad to be able to return to it and read it in light of what is happening now, to help me better understand something of the history and politics of Russia and Ukraine.Josephine Corcoran, Ukrainian and Russian Poetry at MPT magazine
Moving on to the poems themselves, one of Helena Nelson’s greatest attributes is her knack for observation. Not just watching people and then portraying them, but the capacity to pick up on the nuances and undercurrents that play crucial roles in social and human relations. One such example is the closing couplet to ‘Back’:Matthew Stewart, Nuances and undercurrents, Helena Nelson’s Pearls
…She is back. He is glad. And the bed is glad
and a pot of coffee is almost ready.
The ‘he’ and ‘she’ of this extract are the Philpotts, of course, the protagonists of this book. Their relationship, a second marriage in middle age, is evoked via snapshots such as these lines in which emotion is conveyed indirectly through the active role of objects such as the bed and the pot.
In technical terms, meanwhile, this couplet is fascinating. For instance, the penultimate line features three anapests before a iamb kicks in, drawing the elements together and offering a musical reassurance that’s mirrored by semantic warmth.
And what about the punctuation? At first glance, it might seem artificial or unusual. Two three-word sentences without conjunctions are then followed by a longer, unexpected sentence that goes against convention, not just by starting with a conjunction but also by refusing to place a comma midway through (at the end of that penultimate line). However, this punctuation is actually riffing on our expectations, surprising us and then turning inevitable, guiding us through the couplet’s delicate cadences.
As the clichéd rhetorical question goes, which came first, the chicken and the egg? In this case, however, we’re referring to the poet and the editor. Is Helena Nelson such a scrupulous editor because of her highly tuned understanding of the importance of the tension between sentence and line or has her poetic skill-set been further developed by her work as an editor?
Deep down, of course, the important thing remains that her awareness of syntactic and semantic cause and effect, already keenly felt in her first full collection, Starlight on Water (The Rialto, 2003), has only increased over the years. In fact, one of the aesthetic pleasures in reading this book is derived through observing an expert at work, admiring her control of sentence and line, learning from it.
Hayden Saunier: I’m fascinated by how poetry manuscripts develop. In Self-Portrait with a Million Dollars was there a central idea or proposition or moment that these poems gathered themselves around? A series of explorations that you return to again and again?
Patricia Clark: These poems that became a manuscript that came to be named Self-Portrait with a Million Dollars are not poems of a project, or an agenda. I can’t work that way—with an aim at a project defined ahead of time. I want to write out of my obsessions and, over time, see what results. What are the threads that unite these poems? Feasts, pleasures, and the falling away, the inevitable loss of such pleasures. The longing for connection with others, with ourselves, and with the world. The elegiac thread of loss, lost moments and chances, and also lost loves and selves, missed connections. The awfulness of flux. We want stability—but stasis is a horror—and we get only fragments, of course. Robert Frost’s description of a poem, each one as “a momentary stay against confusion.” Brief, yes, but such great moments and fragments! […]
Hayden: “Feasting, Then” opens the first section with a call to attention to the small marvels and gifts surrounding us in the natural world. “And the Trees Did Nothing” is a poem that confronts our romantic notions about that natural world as the human one literally collides with it—there’s an icy jolt of “knowledge.” These are two examples, but all through the book, your attention and your language focus our eyes and ears on vivid, resonant details of both worlds. How did you develop this keenness of observation?Diane Lockward, Terrapin Books Interview Series: Hayden Saunier Interviews Patricia Clark
Patricia: Thanks for the compliment on “keenness of observation.” I’ll say right off, it has taken me years. And I’m still not really satisfied. How does one describe what one sees: whether a sky or a tree? Impossible. The real sight still escapes one, I think. What I am up to, I believe, is trying to tell the truth about something I see in the physical world. When I get stuck in the poem, I return to that, over and over. What was there? What else was there? Was that everything? And don’t make it too beautiful? what was on the ground? Some trash? some dog poop? Let the “divine details” (Nabokov’s words) speak. And they will and the poet can step out of the way. And back to another poet, William Carlos Williams—”No ideas but in things.” I have no “idea” what a poem is up to—I want to let the details speak and tell the story, tell the moment. If I can do that well, I’ve done my job, I believe. And it’s not easy, even then. If I get the “small” picture right, the big picture of the poem (its meaning, its thoughts and movement) should take care of itself.
What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
Every job I’ve ever worked has necessitated a writer. Most writing does not look like writing. Keeping logs, taking minutes, composing emails, organizing meetings, talking to people, creating to do lists, saving meeting notes. I’ve been a writer working at Wendy’s, in a homeless shelter, as an executive assistant, shelving books in a library, or even scrapbooking with my mom. Writing is the work of gathering, of finding an order for things. Sometimes it makes it on paper. I think a lot of people are writers and they don’t really know it – especially working people. Writing is more often than not something a person volunteers to do. But it happens everywhere. Someone has to be willing. I guess the job of a writer is to keep doing that work, to keep recording for the benefit of the group, to keep giving people new visions of reality to think about, to keep reminding people of what happened. […]
What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Several years ago, when I was thinking about starting to write after a long hiatus, I asked a possibly unfair question to a friend, What do people need from me, as a writer, right now? She really surprised me by saying, People need the same things you need. They need to know how you healed. And I think that’s an interesting place to start from.rob mclennan, 12 or 20 (second series) questions with Abby Hagler
The starting point for me when I think about my own relationship to craft is the first exercise June Jordan gave in the first poetry workshop I ever took. We were, she said, to reproduce in a poem of our own the precise scansion and rhyme scheme of a nursery rhyme. We didn’t have to use the same rhymes, just the same rhyme scheme, and we were only allowed to use off-rhymes if the nursery rhyme did as well. We were also not to allow ourselves even a single extra syllable in a line. I don’t remember which nursery rhyme I chose, but I can still see the green cover of the notebook in which I struggled for a good two or three hours to craft the lines that would meet those requirements and the deep satisfaction I felt when I succeeded.
Later, when I read Professor Jordan’s poem “Getting Down to Get Over”—she was never just “June” to me—I began to understand what it mean for a poem to be composed, in the musical sense of that term. What I noticed first was the way she used nursery rhyme-like rhythms in different parts of the second section:
she works when she works
in the laundry in jail
in the school house in jail
in the office in jail
Then at the end of that strophe:
drinkin’ wine when it’s time
when the long week is done
but she works when she works
in the laundry in jail
she works when she works
The rhythmic structure of that entire poem is worth studying, and I studied it carefully. I scanned some sections, tried to imitate others, and that process transformed the way I looked at the work of two other poets who are in some ways so radically different from each other and from Jordan that connecting them as I am going to do here would seem counterintuitive at best: e. e. cummings and John Donne. (And yet there are also ways that cummings wouldn’t have written as he did if Donne had not written, but that’s for another post perhaps.)Richard Jeffrey Newman, The John Wisniewski Interview Continued: What Writers Have Influenced Your Work?
The library was closing in five minutes. I went to the new poetry acquisitions and quickly perused, grabbed a book whose cover had caught my eye when I first saw it advertised and then a book by a name I keep hearing here and there but whose work I had not read, and checked out under the stern eye of the library desk workers eager to chase the last of us out so they could go home on this day of unseasonably nice weather.
And I struck some gold nuggets with that grab-and-go. Both books have something to teach me about letting go of my careful and guarded poetry voice, about being reckless on the page, about being vivid and strange, about something true that’s told in blood, in guts, in the gasp of incompleteness.
Jake Skeet’s Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers is full of horseweed and barbed wire, bleak with bottle caps and smoke and the dead, the ruined, words sometimes scattered across the white field of page like shards of glass. […]
Tracy Fuad’s book of poetry about:blank is some deadly serious play. It’s funny and funny/not funny and funny-peculiar. I have no idea what’s going on. But I’m engaged.Marilyn McCabe, You only got a broken wing; or, On Reading Skeet and Fuad
As I work on another time travel story, I find myself thinking deeply about what it would mean for the present to change the past. This is the kind of thing I ponder in my best thinking places — where running water or wind is involved. That’s why I dictate more and more poetry and prose on my phone. I think well in the shower, washing dishes, or walking my dog.
Today I found myself thinking about what the world and literature and women’s lives would be like if history had erased Jane Austen and her books. Suppose someone from the future could time travel to dissuade her from writing – or even to kill her? I write in the genre of women’s fiction, and I often wonder about our predecessors, the female authors who carved out a path for many of us to follow in writing our stories and poems. What if one of the towering figures in the history of women authors suddenly had never existed?Rachel Dacus, Which authors would you erase from history?
Rejections hurt. But they are inevitable if you want to get your writing published and read beyond your immediate circle of friends and family. No matter how carefully you research your market, select the poems that you think are a best fit for a publisher/magazine, you will still get rejections. Mostly they are not a reflection of your work but simply that the editor couldn’t fit your work in their next publishing window: they’d already had 14 cat poems and yours was the 15th or they had 3 slots for collections, two of which went to poets they’d already published and yours was only just edged out by a brilliant debut or the editor’s best friend (if you’re into conspiracy theories).
It’s also demotivating and demoralising to learn that getting one poem/book/collection published does not make you immune to rejections. It’s a foot in the door and reassurance that your work is publishable, but one success doesn’t guarantee the next.
The best way of coping with them is to see writing and publishing as two separate activities. Writing is what makes you a writer, not publication. It’s hard to hear, but writers are not entitled to be published. You’ve written something, edited it, polished it, put it aside and read it again, but you are not entitled to get it published. Publication is not the end stop of writing. Not all writing journeys can end in publication. Sometimes the journey is about the lessons learnt, skills gained, characters created and developed and craft practised and all these need to be and should be celebrated. They are still achievements, even if the poem or collection was not published.Emma Lee, Rejections and Successes
a whizzy line
sucks up ink
Madonna of Glastonbury
with all that chaos
peace and war and art
I boiled a bookAma Bolton, ABCD March 2022
a brown book
mapping the overload
Past blue herons wading among reeds.
Across the broken bits of stalk in the harvested wheat fields.
Through cities of stone and steel.
Past people with their hearts on their sleeves.
Step by step, mile by mile, you make your way to the fire.
What will you do when you get there?
Friend, you won’t truly know until you start to burn.James Lee Jobe, You are going on a long journey, to the fire.
Sometimes, I like to remind myself that the world which seems like it might just fracture at any minute goes on. I look back through my old poetry notebooks for poems written “on this day” but that never saw the light. Like this one from this day in 2019, before I could have ever imagined what this day in this year would have looked like. And even though it probably isn’t a hopeful poem (and certainly isn’t a finished poem), it does give me hope.
I suppose you want
to hear about flight
and blood. Let me
tell you about stone.
By mid-winter, the world
is graywacke. Every-
thing splinters against
its solidity. The wind
comes with its blunt
nose, but can only find
purchase in the alder
branches. I have no
songs about the tedium
of hunger. I pull each
foot out of darkness.
My voice is not shaped
for your kind of beauty,
but in a month or two
when thaw releases
form, turn over
these stones. Find
what has been
grinding all these years.
Not toward you at all.Erin Coughlin Hollowell, The Wobble
Toward the sea. The sea.