Poetry Blog Digest 2022, Week 13

Poetry Blogging Network

A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. You can also browse the blog digest archive or subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader. This week, with the start of Poetry Month in the US and Canada (and everywhere else that poets join in trying to write a poem a day), I’ve decided to highlight what people are reading and how we’re thinking about that, as well as sampling from the various writing projects that bloggers are taking on this month. (Me, I’m doing a diary of sorts, inspired by some of my favorite poetry bloggers. We’ll see how confessional I actually manage to get, though. Probably not very much.)

It’s sometimes tricky to know whether or how much to excerpt from people’s NaPoWriMo exercises, since some will undoubtedly get unpublished, re-written, and submitted elsewhere. So please do let me know if you’d rather I not post excerpts from your poems this month. Regardless, enjoy the digest.


As we begin National Poetry Month’s twenty-sixth year, my thoughts turn to the tiny bit of extra attention poetry and poets receive during this time. In April, Poets Laureate revel in their brief moments in the sun, coming up with creative ways to force poetry into the attention of unsuspecting citizens. When I was Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, California, I asked local businesses to display poems on cardstock in their windows, and roped some volunteers into handing out poems printed on slips of paper to people on the street.

When I look back on those activities now, they seem less like fun and more like desperation. I’ll never forget the looks on people’s faces when I walked up to them and asked if they’d like a poem. Most were polite, a few enthusiastic, even touched, and one man backed away from me as if I’d tried to hand him a dead rat.

Erica Goss, Some thoughts as we begin National Poetry Month #26

Every April I challenge myself to read one poetry book per day—tackling all those books I’ve impulse-bought or been given by friends over the past year. Last year, I went all-out at the blog (see my post about Kathleen Flenniken for a great example), contacting many of the poets and asking questions about how their books were created. This year, I’m scaling down, but I still want to share with you what I’m reading, and at least a poem and some links for each poet. Rather than a review, you might think of these as “appreciations.”

Bethany Reid, It’s National Poetry Month!

This weekend we celebrate National Poetry Month at my church with Poetry Sunday, a sharing of favorite poems and original poems by members of the congregation. We’re a small progressive church, a safe place for all kinds of seekers, and a good bunch. We’re in between pastors right now, with guest speakers from all kinds of places, plus us, so, as one of our resident poets, I’m helping out and have chosen poems for all the readings, recitations, and prayers. Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Christina Rossetti,  James Wright, Louise Gluck. If I’m brave enough, I will also share a recent poem of my own, about the day my dad had a heart procedure.

I’m still writing a poem a day for Lent, and, now that April has begun, another for that, in an annual poem-a-day-in-April tradition. I’m glad I will have a jillion drafts to work on all year, plus the handwritten poems in a notebook that keep surprising me by even existing. Also reading a lot of poetry, as usual, most recently Self-Portrait with a Million Dollars, pictured above (cover art: Darn by Mary McDonnell) and available at Terrapin Books, here. Part way through Blood Weather by Alice Friman. These two poets will be reading at my local library, via YouTube Live, on Tuesday, May 17, 7-8 p.m. central time! Join us! And the library has acquired these two books. Perfect for our ongoing Adult Reading Challenge, as April’s challenge is to read a book of poetry. Beautiful array of them, along with April raindrops, on display on the main floor!

Kathleen Kirk, Poetry Sunday

When it first came out, I read Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, but probably wasn’t in the right place for it at the time. I’ve just re-read it and have finally found myself in the right place to appreciate it. I’m still not in a position to argue over the merits of reading this ‘poetic translation’ over reading the original. Heaney covers this in his introduction (as well as the experience of students studying it at university – I was not alone.)

What I have done this time is loved the language and the story, and seen how the best works transcend time, and in the following passage, I think you’ll see what I mean

‘A Geat woman too sang out in grief;
with hair bound up, she unburdened herself
of her worst fears, a wild litany
of nightmare and lament: her nation invaded,
enemies on the rampage, bodies in piles,
slavery and abasement. Heaven swallowed the smoke.’

Sue Ibrahim, Beowulf today

Shakespeare collaborated, in this play, with an impecunious young playwright by the name of Thomas Painte: Shakespeare was to take a couple of the silliest romances of the age and write the poetic speeches for them, and Painte was to fill in some touches of continuity and plausibility. But poor Painte died of a sudden ague before the work had fairly begun, and — King James having hinted that he wanted something new — the play was rushed to the stage without Painte’s work. “Never mind,” said William. “The audience will never miss it. I’ve got some songs that will knock their socks off.” And so we have Cymbeline.

A ghostly Spring comes: faint clouds of new green appear, in some lights, around the bare branches; fruit trees and tulip trees lay out enormous sums on gorgeous designer outfits, which will be ruined by the first good rain. None of it seems real to me. Here, too, we miss the work of young Thomas Painte. One thing was supposed to be connected to another. One Spring was supposed to promise another. Winter was supposed to yield, not to vanish. At any moment Summer is going to stumble onto the stage with his wig askew, blurt out a few lines, and exit, pursued by wildfire. 

Dale Favier, The Death of Thomas Painte

The outlandish pink trees
shake their stiff crinolines
and the whole theater stirs.
The audience feels
loved like brides
in a world of divorces.
Too frilly,
too old-fashioned,
the critics huffed.
The management closed the show,
closed the whole theater.
Only the caretaker
sees the pink trees dance.
They still dance,
so out of hand,
so outlandishly beautiful,
to the wind’s applause.

Anne Higgins, Our college reunion is coming up this weekend

I remember being introduced to Charles Wright’s poetry in Intro to Creative Writing. Those enigmatic long lines, phrased in such a way that almost everything sounds so wise, like haiku.

I’m rereading A Short History of the Shadow, and I still enjoy his poetry. I think that there’s this kind of Tennessee drawl to the long lines, a pausing and repeating that you can hear in the dialect. Feels homey to me.

Two things I wonder about his writing though—1. Why does he bring Italy into everything, like a Hemingway expatriot, instead of just letting Tennessee be, with all its Tennesseeness. 2. Why the heavy repetition of syntax / lineation patterns in multiple poems throughout his work—is just style or a rut.

Obviously, Charles Wright’s writing works; else he wouldn’t be Charles Wright. If you haven’t read him, you should! (but be careful not to read one more than one of his books in a row—he’s one of those writers that stains your hands if you’re a poet too.)

Renee Emerson, Reading Charles Wright

The latest from poet Mikko Harvey, following the full-length debut, Unstable Neighbourhood Rabbit (Toronto ON: House of Anansi, 2018) [see my review of such here] and collaborative chapbooks Idaho Falls (with Jake Bauer; SurVision Books, 2019) and SkyMall (with Ashley Yang-Thompson; above/ground press, 2020), is the full-length Let The World Have You (House of Anansi, 2022). A Canadian poet living in Western Massachusetts, Harvey predominantly composes poems in first person lyric narratives that float across the boundaries of concrete image. “Wherever you are is a country.” he writes, at the mid-point of “Wind-Related Ripple in the Wheatfield,” “Touch it softly / to make it stand still. Your hair getting caught / in my mouth all the time, like a tiny piece / of you calling – like a tree trying to speak / to a rock by dropping a pinecone on it. / It is my intention to listen, but my hands / keep giggling while reminding me / I don’t get to be a human being / for very long, as if this were the punchline to a joke / whose first half I missed. I arrived too late.” There is an odd melancholy throughout, and Harvey’s is a lyric of held breath, and structurally echo a loose thread of lyric narratives I’ve seen over the past few years from American poets including Bianca Stone, Hailey Higdon, Hillary Gravendyk, Emily Kendal Freyand Emily Pettit: sharing a consideration for long, single stanzas, and their subversion of the short phrase. “I don’t / want you / to be / nervous.” He writes, to open the poem “For M,” “Maybe / thinking of / a walrus / would help.”

rob mclennan, Mikko Harvey, Let The World Have You

Mikko Harvey’s wry observations and surreal vignettes pose recognisable situations that ask indirect questions about what the reader notices and decides to take away. There are no wrong answers, but at its heart “Let the World Have You” is concerned with connections, how readers move and relate to each other and their environments, real, imagined and psychological.

Emma Lee, “Let the World have You” Mikko Harvey (House of Anansi Press) – book review

On a spring day as far from ‘late in dour October’ it would be harder to imagine, James Schuyler’s The Bluet surprises and delights. It’s the poem that has kept me going these last few desperate weeks, and not just because it features the bright blue of the Ukrainian flag.

At first glance it is a poem of escape, a wander through the woods to get away from it all. But as Carl Phillips has argued on the Poets House blog, there is more than enough in the poem’s manoeuvres to link it with Schuyler’s familiar presentation of the world as essentially social: the tiny bluet flower is a ‘Quaker lady’; ‘the air crisp as a/ Carr’s table water/ biscuit’; leaves that ‘are deep and oriental/ rug colors’.

But the word that catches my eye is ‘stamina’, placed at the end of the poem’s first line. Stamina seems so unlikely an epithet for a tiny blue flower.

Anthony Wilson, Lifesaving Lines: The Bluet, by James Schuyler

I’ve been turning over in my mind what it is I mean by ‘my kind of poetry’. Because there was a time when I wouldn’t have thought that today’s guest was ‘my kind of poet’. Indeed, there was a time, not all that long ago when I would have been puzzled by the idea that poems could be ‘life-saving. Bear with me.

For years and years poetry was always on the periphery for me. There were exceptions. When I was 16 it was the Metaphysicals….sardonic, clever, witty, sexy. Everything I wanted to be and wasn’t. At 18 the Augustans spoke to me. Clever, cool and witty. And I like the craft of couplets. At 20, briefly, it was Hopkins. What they all had in common was visible craft. At 22 I heard Robert Speaight’s recording of The Wasteland’ and it opened my ears and mind to TS Eliot. You can listen to it via YouTube in all its melancholy thespian RP musicality. It jars in a way that it didn’t, 57 years ago. Our ears become accustomed to different vowels and stresses. It occurs to me that it also opened my ears to Shakespeare, for which I shall be eternally grateful. […]

And so it went. As a teacher I liked the textures and evident emotion of Hughes and Heaney, but as  a reader it was mainly documentary and revisionist history that spoke to me: ballads and broadsheets, social realism. The 19thC Novel, Orwell. When I was asked to read Robert Lowell I fought it. I wasn’t interested in introspective, reflective late Romanticism (as I saw it). It wasn’t for me. I thought it was self-indulgent. Which is ironic, now I come to think. Anthony [Wilson] notes something in his post that chimes : 

“I have also been reminded of Seamus Heaney’s dictum in The Government of the Tongue that ‘no lyric ever stopped a tank’.”

I used to think that was an unanswerable argument to a question I never fully worked out. But now I say of course it can’t. And your point?  No tank ever made me happy or illuminated a mystery. A wren landed on the window sill earlier today, and just for a second it stopped my heart. So it goes. The thing was, what I wanted in poetry was stuff that could fill a room, like Shakespeare, that was memorisable and memorable. Most poetry was never ‘lifesaving’, and what I wanted was unlikely to be understated and quiet. We didn’t match. I didn’t miss it. I just didn’t get it..or it didn’t get me.

Something changed, about 15 years ago. Something shifted and if you wonder about ‘my kind of poetry’ it’s what the great fogginzo’s cobweb has been sharing for the last eight years. What strikes me is that while I’ll never have the apparently encyclopaedic knowledge of/familiarity with contemporary and 20thC that Anthony Wilson shares with you in his wonderful book Life-saving poems I’ve gradually being made more open to voices that one time I’d have dismissed. Life changes us.

John Foggin, My kind of poetry: Anthony Wilson’s “The Afterlife”

Alaska poet Keriann Gilson launched her brand, spankin-new collection of poetry today, places I never want to see again (Gnashing Teeth Publishing, 2022). It’s this beautiful road-rambling follow of a relationship’s ebbs and flows. I appreciate Keriann’s experimentation with haibun, especially its form and how it meanders down the page. She also explained today that the enjambment is a clue into the relationship. When lines flow and haiku are more elegant, the relationship is at its zenith. In contrast, the existence of short, choppy, stilted lines suggests there are problems afoot. It is a fine read, one that should land on a lot of bookshelves for a future reading once it’s been savored. Cheers to Keriann, and not only for this fine read, but also earning her MFA. Exciting news all around!

Kersten Christianson, You Gotta Get This One!

Karen Paul Holmes: I’ve dog-eared so many pages in this beautiful book, A Cartography of Home. Please tell us how this collection came about. I note a thread of homestead/weather/growing things that almost feels pioneer-like, but in a modern sense. And you do, after all, live on a farm. But there are other-located poems too: mini-market, hotel, church, for example. What can you tell us about the sectioning of the book into four parts? How much of the choosing and ordering of poems throughout the collection was purposeful and how much intuitive? Did you write any of the poems for this book specifically or did you assemble poems already written?

Hayden Saunier: I’ve been thinking about place for a long time. I’m a southerner who moved north into cities for theatre opportunities, but I grew up attached to a rural landscape and with an awareness of the innumerable lives that have inhabited a place long before me. Moving to the farm where my husband grew up reignited that deep connection to a particular landscape, but I also wanted to expand on the ideas of home and place to the those “other-locations” you mention (superstores, mini-markets, churches, press conferences, customer helplines) that have become our current and shared cultural landmarks. And when you walk the same fields and woods every day you are confronted by how time is stacked up in layers in a place, like tree rings and soil, so writing about place and home naturally becomes writing about time. That’s been given as an argument for art: It’s a means to stop time. Or a means to enter a single moment and that feels like stopping time.   

I love sectioning a book because I think a reader needs a place to rest between poems. I know I do. The way a bench is situated on a walking path to allow a moment to consider the view or tie your shoes or just sit. In A Cartography of Home, the first section begins with concrete considerations of home and habitation, and then those ideas ripple outward in the second and third sections, returning to the concrete and actual by the end. The way a walk works when the mind loosens and makes wider associations between the fixed points of beginning and end.

Diane Lockward, Terrapin Books Interview Series: Karen Paul Holmes Interviews Hayden Saunier

Yesterday morning, I went to a local library to attend a writing workshop on the theme of ‘home.’ […]

I found it hard to say where my home is. Maybe it’s imaginary? Portable? I used to daydream about living in an Airstream trailer. Though I’d need a second one just for books… […]

Which brings to mind something one of the workshop attendees said about feeling at home in a library. Several of us nodded in agreement, and he added that the library–the public library–functions as a kind of matrix. I would add that’s true for one’s private library, as well, books providing a kind of collage of interests and influences and teachings that can be seen as a kind of matrix to the book-collector’s consciousness, loves, and interests. Speaking strictly for me, in this case.

The house I have inhabited for nearly 25 years now, the house my Beloved and I designed, helped to build, inhabited, raised our children in: this is as close to a ‘true home’ as I have ever had. And yet: is it my home, my rooted place, my last place, the dwelling-in I must have to feel stable and secure and surrounded by love and nature? I’m not so certain about that.

It’s beautiful here, especially in springtime. Yet as I consider friends and students and strangers who have had to pick up and leave on short notice, possibly never to return–it would be hard, but I could leave home. And, for now at least, I still have a choice to go or stay.

Ann E. Michael, Home is where?

Visiting the Azores has a strange fusion of ‘Here I am’ and ‘Where am I?’.   Call it a confused familiarity.  Our host on the island of Terceira presented us with a golden loaf of sweet bread  — kissing cousin to the sweet round on Ives Street at the Silver Star Bakery!  Back home in Fox Point, Azores banners hang from car mirrors, fisherman sell me their silvery catch from the back of a truck.  Living in RI, we’ve been imprinted with the nostalgia of others, our largest immigrant population from Madeira and the Azores.   

But the encounter with the archipelago has its own suspended reality — nuit blanche, arriving without a night’s sleep in the middle of the Atlantic on an unknown island.  Under the airport roofs birds were singing.  A city called Angra do Heroísmo, low church bells intoning.  Misty bay, veils of rain.  Whatever I was expecting, (small villages, old men and women collecting vine cuttings, tending their fig trees) was superimposed on an impeccable, chromatic seaside capital.  White and pastel houses alternate, holding each other from tumbling into the sea.  Air playful, soft, doing little arabesques over the dashing Atlantic. A man was etching in the sand a giant heart with the words Ukraine atop.

Jill Pearlman, Azores, Déjà Vu and Olà

I don’t know myself, but it’s not the result of an unexamined life. On the contrary, it is a life so examined that the fabric has been teased apart. I am a collection of discrete elements. And I am trying not to panic.

I recognize something in the line above; I am a loose collection from a poem I wrote in 2016. From the book I wrote wherein the translator described the poetry as my “late style”. I read that as a curse.

How have I survived rattling around these past years? Wide-open, and pinched simultaneously. A sack of bones.

At 4 am yesterday I was focused: writing. At 4 pm I crashed and splattered like a water droplet. Every time this happens I wonder if I will walk away for a day or two. Or for a year or two. Or more.

Identity is a complex issue. Language. Nationality. What they call the “formative years”. The America that shaped my formative years is not the America of today. I have lived here for more than half my life. For more than thirty years. And yet when people meet me they still ask me where I am from. As though answering that tells them anything about me.

I am from roach clips, milk lines, and Stranger Danger
I am from paisleys and bean bags, tv dinners and moon pies
I am from fire & brimstone, and inappropriate touches
I am from kerosene lamps and cinderblock walls
I am from scholastic books order forms and second-hand clothes
I am from guns and gophers and bloody chickens
I am from photographs cut carefully around the shapes of bodies
I am from sudden disappearances, fresh starts, and new names

But I say something like, the West Coast mostly, I moved around a lot. Then they tell me about all the times they have visited America, or the relatives they have there, or how much they love or have much they hate the culture. “Americans are…” and they begin to shape me.

And I go home and dig a little more deeply into the ditch that separates me from the world. I am still too easily twisted by casual contact.

Ren Powell, A Loose Collection of Mixed Metaphors

It’s been one year since my cancer diagnosis and I had a checkup with my surgeon this week. He said everything is looking good but it might be another nine months to year before I see any results from the nerve graft in my face. There’s another procedure that could be done, which requires taking a length of muscle from my thigh and threading it through my face to help restore symmetry, but that sounds horrific. I might explore botox. The droop face really is depressing. 

My six month cancer scans in December were clear, but I’ll be having more in June. Fingers crossed for the continued “all clear.” I think I’ll feel and even bigger weight of my shoulders when those results come back.

I’m slowly but surely getting the new & selected together collection. Publication is planned for September 2023. 

Collin Kelley, A new poem and a health update

Tuesday morning, the moon startled me on my morning walk.  It was just before dawn, and the moon as it was rising looked huge in the very dark sky.  It’s at the end of a waning phase, so it looked hollowed out.  As I walked, I came up with some lines for a poem, and I repeated them throughout my walk, so that I could remember.

Wednesday morning, I wanted to see if I could see the moon again, but because it’s a day later, moonrise was later, 6:28 a.m.  So I headed to South Lake, where I thought I would have a better view of the moon as it rose.  South Lake looks out towards the part of the beach with fewer highrises.

I got there at 6:34, which I thought gave me a good chance of seeing it, but at first I didn’t see anything.  I walked slowly around the lake, and just when I was about to give up, I saw it, a narrow sliver of a moon in a red-orange sky, just before sunrise.  It looked much more apocalyptic than it did when it was in a darker sky.  

I stood and stared for a moment.  If I hadn’t been paying attention, I likely wouldn’t have noticed the moon–it was just too close to sunrise and too cloudy.  I walked to North Lake where I could still see the moon, but it was barely visible as the sky had gotten much lighter.

I have all but ceased sending out poems just now, so let me post the poem that I wrote after my moonwalk mornings.  Is it done?  My younger poet self would have put in a lot of references to social justice issues.  My younger poet self would have made every connection glaringly obvious.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Moonwalking

It looks like that,
the old monk said,

because that’s always
how you see it.

Tom Montag, TEN OLD MONK POEMS (61)

Speak to any writer and they will tell you that it is difficult to force creativity, especially poetry which is a medium of translation – events, pain, love, happiness – into art. I feel I have burned myself out through striving to get to a place that is perhaps non-existent and more about my need to be recognised as valuable, than about my need to create. All the striving has, though, allowed me to climb high enough that I am now on a platform that I can, to a certain extent, control. I can sit on this platform and grow into myself and my writing. Right now I am working on myself. I feel like I am undoing myself, peeling away long papery layers of habit and compulsion and sitting with each version of myself, asking her what she needs and what I need to do to validate her. I’m addressing all sorts of things, both personally and in my writing. I mentioned recently that my next collection has been put back a year, which feels like a terribly long time but, actually I feel this might be fate playing a hand for me. Without the pressure of the imminent end of year deadline, I have been able to allow the poems to come when they come. I’ve used the last of my Society of Author’s work-in-progress grant to take the time to write when I need to; a change from what I initially planned, which was to set a big chunk of time aside to write write write, which just didn’t work for me. I always felt I worked best under the pressure of a finite time scale, but it turns out that my procrastination is a lack of confidence, the ‘working well to a last minute deadline’ is a way of avoiding having confidence in myself and my work, a way to ‘trust the gods’ and have an excuse if I didn’t do as well as I wanted. The truth is, we don’t always do as well as we want, that’s just part of it. Some things work, some things don’t.

Wendy Pratt, Creativity and the Slow Life

I’m trying to write a poem a day, since I haven’t been writing as much lately, and seeking inspiration inside the world that’s still in a pandemic and a war. So I wanted to connect with some friends via phone and explore neighboring Kirkland, which has a beautiful waterfront with Lake Washington, and seems buzzing and friendly, at least when the sun shines.

I’m not healthy enough to travel or get in big crowds yet but I am, as you may see, making an attempt to get back into the world while covid levels here are low enough. As the UK and Asia struggle with another surge, I’m sure one is coming this way too, but for now, I’m getting out when it’s sunny (even when it’s not warm) and enjoying the flowers. I’ve enjoyed talking to friends this week about AWP as well as their travels and travel plans. Being immune compromised, I can’t be quite as adventurous, but I’m glad to get the news of the outside world, adventure by proxy. Meanwhile, I’m exploring different neighborhoods, capturing signs of spring.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Happy April – National Poetry Month (and My Birthday Month,) and Seeking Inspiration

Everything feels unfinished. Every thought that comes to mind is a sentence half-spoken. I jot down one clause — “the death of a parent casts a long shadow” — and then I don’t know where to go from there. 

Pesach is coming sooner than I think. I start a seder menu, then my efforts trail off. I’ll have one vegetarian, one picky eater, and one diabetic. I can’t think of a good main course to suit all of us.

I open a book I’ve read before, Black Sea, by Caroline Eden. It’s a travelogue with recipes. She writes about how surprisingly Jewish the food of Odessa is. Tsimmes and forshmak are Ukrainian foods.

She describes sunny afternoons, the still air of quiet museums, pastel-colored architecture slowly decaying, literary stories of ice cream. Today the streets are filled with sandbags and barricades

At the end of the Odessa chapter she offers a recipe for black radishes and carrots with caraway and cider vinegar and honey. I have those things! But what to eat them with? I run out of steam again.

Rachel Barenblat, Unmoored

In 2017 I launched a collaborative performance practice called the Improv Poetry Orchestra (IPO). It’s a simple enough set-up – a poet writes improvisatory poetry on a laptop at a desk onstage, which is projected onto a screen behind her. Musicians onstage read the writing as it’s being generated, and they improvise in response to—and in tandem with—her. […]

Improvisatory writing—and any form of creative improvisation—can be a profoundly connective process. It draws disparate people and/or ideas together (connective), and it’s centered around the act of creation (process) rather than around artistic intentions or a final product. 

And unlike other skills which you must master from the ground up, you already have a lifetime of experience with improvising. Each day when you have a conversation with another person, you generate sensible, interesting statements spontaneously. Creative improvisation is similar—it just requires a little courage to be both nonsensical and unimpressive (yet occasionally amazing!), a few tools, and some practice. 

Improvisatory Poetry: Making it up as you go along – guest post by Elisabeth Blair (Trish Hopkinson’s blog)

Like most people I put up with Zoom readings and events when it was the only thing allowed, and I hadn’t realised how much I loathed it until I started to contemplate the horror of online poetry events becoming a permanent thing. The ‘Zoom factor’ is having a detrimental effect on my decision about whether to return to the University of York to finish my MA later this year: as long as there is any chance whatsoever that seminars will be moved online, I can’t honestly contemplate returning.

Ironic really: twenty-five years ago, as an internet newbie I was basking in the excitement of what the Web had to offer, online for hours every night (this was in the US, where it was free!) and making friends across the globe (yes, actual people – some of whom I got to know in real life). I then spent the best part of twenty years working in online marketing and speaking, teaching, advocating and writing books about the power (and brilliance) of the internet for business, for communities and for communication generally.

And now? After nearly three months ‘resting’ from Twitter, I’m wondering just how much I missed it, if at all

Robin Houghton, At last, some (a)live poetry events

I have always maintained that the raw material for poetry is all around us but that most of the time we don’t realise it. A poet is a person who sees the possibilities and who tries to respond to them. Last Saturday I had the idea that the air is teeming with poems, they circle like airplanes waiting to land. This is what I did with that idea:

Poems Are Everywhere

a complex holding pattern
keeps the free range poems airborne
invisible they circle the world
we are oblivious […]

Paul Tobin, FREE RANGE POEMS

On a day when engaging with the world feels too much like loving a damaged man, I stand underneath our willow’s blossoming canopy and look up. It is like being in another world, one with a sky made of flowers, and I remember that this is how it is:

There is only one world, and we stay because of moments such as this.

We stay because leaving means leaving all of it, not just its barrage of bad news, and we cannot give up spring afternoons when the sun is the right kind of warm and tulips are leaning toward us as if we are the light and passing strangers smile and tell us how lovely our corner of it is. We stay because we see how it might be, how it could be, how, for brief moments, it is, and we let ourselves believe that–if only we love it carefully enough–it can be (it will be) like this all the time.

That we are wrong doesn’t make the moments any less beautiful or true.

*****

This week my students and I read Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Making a Fist” together, from which I borrowed a line to use as the title of this post. I turned away from much of the news this week, but I made myself stay with “Inside Mariupol,” which also contributed to this micro-essay.

Rita Ott Ramstad, Clenching and opening one small hand

I have almost forgotten childhood now. Sometimes I’ll remember something that happened when I was a boy, but I am not sure if I really remember it, or if I have told the story of it enough times that it is really only the story I remember, and not the thing itself. What happens next? Will I also forget how it was to be a man? And then when I die, will I have had a life at all? Memories of memories. Perhaps I was never a boy. Perhaps I was never a man. I could just be a random thought in time and space. Friend, what a wretched thing it is to be getting old and not even know what is real and what is not. 

James Lee Jobe, the forgotten childhood

or how at certain times in my life parts
of my body went numb in spring the black
tailed deer chewed honeycrisp apples in the snow
in front of my house her body
the color of elephant tusks

on Shrove Tuesday I ate the cake purple
and gold straight through to the plastic baby
clack clack on my tooth and kayakers
dotted the Stillaguamish River 
like swift primary flags like standards
bright narrow countries
yet to be discovered

Rebecca Loudon, April 2.

Euridice’s footfalls so quiet on the rocky path. We should have sung together. I could have listened. What singer needs sight to know?

My Euridice. Dew on early morning lawn. Sandwich meat in the ancient world’s most beloved deli. Lips like an asp bite. Joke maker. It was she who charmed them, though I was a good opener, with my lyre, sweet rhymes, my boy pretty face.

Her ironic bright-light grace. Even when alive she seemed a beam, glinting, as if she’d passed between Lucretius’s atoms as through a beaded curtain or the rain. Euridice, bioluminescent in the dark deep sea.

Gary Barwin, over-the-shoulder beholder: SOMETHING ORPHEUS SAID

Have you seen the dancers who talk while they
dance, no, who talk with their hands, oh, so loud,
in unison, dancing deaf Greek chorus?
How goes the war? Did they clear the streets

of the dead? How many did they silence?
What are the words that stab, cut, slice, fillet?
What are the words soft as the edge of feathers
of steel […]

PF Anderson, Questions

I gather together all the foolish words I’ve uttered.

Give them baths, scrub away the grime, wash their hair, clean away the dirt behind their ears.

I brush their teeth, check their eyes, bandage wounds, provide blood transfusions when needed.

Then I dress them in cleaner clothes, offer each a pat on the head and send them back out into the world—

hoping my words will serve me better next time.

Rich Ferguson, Second Skin

You could open
many things
with a fragment

How easily
it slips into
your hand

Beautiful
detritus
Vascular

scoria
of tiny hidden
cavities

In each one
a constellate
a branching

Luisa A. Igloria, Bricolage

You sense the famine in the empty veins of leaves. Bone-birds summon you from frozen wires. Your restless need for banquets may not be logical, but you understand the hollow tuck in their frail and downy wings. You carry smoke and bells with grace. When faced with complex factors, you draw down mica and paint spirals on all locked gates in sight. Your friends call you ghost orchid, amethyst, cleric of water wheels and bright fat plums. Some are puzzled by your sprawl of bread and lilacs, but still consume your bounty. It’s your nature to know the genus of every hunger, to shimmer in the distance without effort. For you starvation is abstract. If necessary, you will grind the hulls yourself.

Kristen McHenry, Poem of the Month: Themes

a sunbeam
sliding down a cobweb
coffee time

Jim Young [no title]

The author was born in a rainstorm, the sky raven dark. The clouds thick and winged over the midwest. The author couldn’t sleep, at first, for all the thunder. but under the author, the forest writhed in moss and peat. Tethered itself to the author like ship. At night, she’d sail it through and the trees. The author, at first had no mother, no father, only the thin lip of daylight at the horizon. Only a slip of wind to guide her. She’d stack the broken limbs and build a fire and the ghosts would gather.  The author would rest, but only in the heart of of an immense, hollowed out oak, where she’d play house with the dark and marry it again and again.  Would carry its children up and down the ladder each morning. Would hush them to sleep, each night.

Kristy Bowen, napowrimo #1

A woman is killed as she tries to feed starving dogs.
I try to shake myself free but the image
and my imagination growl and tighten their jaws.
This is not about me, I say, it’s about the dead woman.
The woman is dead, says the image.
You can do nothing for her now.
Her death has invaded your life.
You must live with it.

We pass the cottage where the old couple lived.
In winter they came out one at a time
for they shared the same pair of shoes.

Now it’s home to a woman with winter-coloured skin
who paints a poem called Still Life With Anger.

In the distance we see the towers of the city.
The Government buildings, grey as rain-clouds
where people stand in line in the hope of leaving.

Bob Mee, THE REUNION AND OTHER POEMS

if i return to rest in a seed :: won’t my fields come searching for me

Grant Hackett [no title]

Communication breakdown

Up, and walked abroad in the garden, and find that Mrs. Tooker has not any of her daughters here as I expected and so walked to the yard, leaving Middleton at the pay, and there I only walked up and down the yard, and then to the Hill-House, and there did give order for the coach to be made ready; and got Mr. Gibson, whom I carried with me, to go with me and Mr. Coney, the surgeon, towards Maydston which I had a mighty mind to see, and took occasion, in my way, at St. Margett’s, to pretend to call to see Captain Allen to see whether Mrs. Jowles, his daughter, was there; and there his wife come to the door, he being at London, and through a window, I spied Jowles, but took no notice of her but made excuse till night, and then promised to come and see Mrs. Allen again, and so away, it being a mighty cold and windy, but clear day; and had the pleasure of seeing the Medway running, winding up and down mightily, and a very fine country; and I went a little out of the way to have visited Sir John Bankes, but he at London; but here I had a sight of his seat and house, the outside, which is an old abbey just like Hinchingbroke, and as good at least, and mighty finely placed by the river; and he keeps the grounds about it, and walls and the house, very handsome: I was mightily pleased with the sight of it. Thence to Maydstone, which I had a mighty mind to see, having never been there; and walked all up and down the town, and up to the top of the steeple, and had a noble view, and then down again: and in the town did see an old man beating of flax, and did step into the barn and give him money, and saw that piece of husbandry which I never saw, and it is very pretty: in the street also I did buy and send to our inne, the Bell, a dish of fresh fish. And so, having walked all round the town, and found it very pretty, as most towns I ever saw, though not very big, and people of good fashion in it, we to our inne to dinner, and had a good dinner; and after dinner a barber come to me, and there trimmed me, that I might be clean against night, to go to Mrs. Allen. And so, staying till about four o’clock, we set out, I alone in the coach going and coming; and in our way back, I ’light out of the way to see a Saxon monument, as they say, of a King, which is three stones standing upright, and a great round one lying on them, of great bigness, although not so big as those on Salisbury Plain; but certainly it is a thing of great antiquity, and I mightily glad to see it; it is near to Aylesford, where Sir John Bankes lives. So homeward, and stopped again at Captain Allen’s, and there ’light, and sent the coach and Gibson home, and I and Coney staid; and there comes to us Mrs. Jowles, who is a very fine, proper lady, as most I know, and well dressed. Here was also a gentleman, one Major Manly, and his wife, neighbours; and here we staid, and drank, and talked, and set Coney and him to play while Mrs. Jowles and I to talk, and there had all our old stories up, and there I had the liberty to salute her often, and pull off her glove, where her hand mighty moist, and she mighty free in kindness to me, and je do not at all doubt that I might have had that that I would have desired de elle had I had time to have carried her to Cobham, as she, upon my proposing it, was very willing to go, for elle is a whore, that is certain, but a very brave and comely one. Here was a pretty cozen of hers come in to supper also, of a great fortune, daughter-in-law to this Manly, mighty pretty, but had now such a cold, she could not speak. Here mightily pleased with Mrs. Jowles, and did get her to the street door, and there to her su breasts, and baiser her without any force, and credo that I might have had all else, but it was not time nor place. Here staid till almost twelve at night, and then with a lanthorn from thence walked over the fields, as dark as pitch, and mighty cold, and snow, to Chatham, and Mr. Coney with great kindness to me: and there all in bed before I come home, and so I presently to bed.

on a walk up a hill
the urge to call in an owl

and promise it
a cold wind

clear like the river
a dish of fresh fish

and people trimmed
into stones standing upright

the antiquity of a doubt
that could not speak

with owls or breasts
the fields dark as pitch

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 24 March 1669.

Bricolage

~ "Angelus Novus," Paul Klee


Now and again
you remember
the fragment

Wreckage
from around 
the angel's feet

You could open 
many things 
with a fragment

How easily 
it slips into 
your hand

Beautiful 
detritus
Vascular 

scoria 
of tiny hidden 
cavities

In each one
a constellate
a branching

April Diary 3: stag beetle, wolf spider and fly

This entry is part 3 of 31 in the series April Diary

 

Dear April when I open my laptop this morning Poetry Daily which i have set as my home page has a poem by George Szirtes called Stag Beetle

beginning with a rhyming quatrain and switching into prose like an inside-out haibun but it works because whatever Szirtes writes tends to work because the man’s a genius and I say this based on years of reading his blog and social media posts — probably the most prominent poet I know to regularly share rough drafts online as Luisa and I do

I love love love poems that evoke the lives of other beings a la Francis Ponge who’s kind of the gold standard for that but there are many more and “Stag Beetle” is a great new addition to that corpus—

When propped up at 45 degrees it suggested a renaissance nightmare, the perfect rejection of humanism, but now, in my palm it simply sat like a philosophical problem.

I’ve met George socially a couple of times but it’s not surprising in a country as small as the UK that we have friends in common and let’s be honest sometimes the poetry scene in the US and Canada feels pretty small and familial as well

albeit a mafiosa family riven with rivalries some of them pretty bitter but the family will take care of you if you take care of it (and I don’t)

so I open my inbox and am happy to see that my friend Patricia aka PF Anderson is once again doing NaPoWriMo, kicking it off with a narrative poem about domestic violence and refugees called Imagine

I subscribe to Patricia’s blog Rosefire Rising for just that reason seeing her poems appear in my inbox every day in April I don’t do this for many poets but hers is a valuable voice of witness and the sort of poet all too often overlooked in our culture that tries to pigeonhole people: someone highly educated in the craft but employed in an unrelated field, who has to be extremely disciplined about setting aside time to write and rarely has any time left over to send work out

but at least there’s blogging

the next poem in my inbox is from another old blogger Risa Denenberg — Cul-de-sac at Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY also a narrative poem and beautifully done

one of the unique things about this periodical is the editor’s note at the end of each poem, just a sentence or two by Christine Klocek-Lim saying what she loves about it

Editor’s note: This poem lures the reader inside the narrative with calm imagery and the speaker’s quiet lawn rebellion until halfway through, when everything crystallizes into a sharp, piercing moment of clarity.

this is a feature I haven’t seen anywhere else but it gives the magazine such a down-home feel

and I admire how she embraces the informality of social media in her editorial style and how she recognizes the utility of blog software for releasing content DAILY

and her capitalization of DAILY suggests maybe a bit of frustration with other poetry editors who persist in releasing periodic content dumps because they can’t break themselves of a print-based scarcity mentality despite the fact that blog software has been with us for 20 years and every other sort of magazine understands how to release content in the digital age </rant>

two emails up it’s the latest daily offering from Rattle and this time I don’t know the poet one Jackie Bartley an evocation of a mother, with the sort of deep empathy one looks to poetry for

Rattle‘s thing is to include a short statement from the author instead of a bio at the end and I am all for this — it reflects an editorial focus on what would be of most interest to the reader rather than what serves the writer

so today Jackie Bartley writes

The hum of my mother’s Singer as the bobbin filled was as soothing as a Tantric chant, a single note resonating with and giving rise to layers of sound. I still relish that sensation: sound and sense in synchrony; word and idea unwound and rewound to form a poem, a compact and tightly layered version of story or state of mind.

my final poem of the morning before i head out for a hike is Luisa’s latest at Via Negativa which went up overnight: Binuro which I love because pickled foods fermenting in underground darkness is extremely my thing

the poem works as a lyrical definition of the title I think based on three minutes of web searching binuro


yesterday found me reading under an umbrella to protect the book from graupel

then i noticed what the poem was saying

i’m being cagey about the author because i ended up finding the poems not to my taste

the term high-brow nonsense poetry came to mind

i will give it another try though at some point


today i’m sitting in the woods on another mountain, on a haiku-collecting mission but this is my lunch break

it’s warmed up to where the flies can buzz and that’s important for two reasons:

  1. there’s a lean and hungry-looking wolf spider prowling the leaves around my feet
  2. i’m re-reading Charles Simic

and flies are to Simic as angels are to Blake

Simic at least in his early books is so full of genuine wisdom, one feels, even if the precise lessons may be hard to articulate

they’re quite like Sufi teaching stories in that regard

so they bear re-reading every few years which is why I’ve been filling in the missing titles in my collection, including this one, Charon’s Cosmology, his third with Braziller after Dismantling the Silence and Return to a Place Lit By a Glass of Milk (yes i’m reading them in order)

such ugly covers! such beautiful paper, binding and printing! truly a pleasure to open, in part so i no longer have to look at that ugly-ass cover

even though i’ve never owned this book i remember parts of nearly every poem

but which parts? maybe only the most obvious ones i think obsessively re-reading “The Elders”

which does begin “I go to great troubles” so perhaps I should

and then wouldn’t you know it I’m joined by another reader

an open book with a housefly on it snd the beginning of Charles Simic’s poem “The Elders”

Ghosted

Up, and to my office to do a little business there, and so, my things being all ready, I took coach with Commissioner Middleton, Captain Tinker, and Mr. Huchinson, a hackney coach, and over the bridge, and so out towards Chatham, and; dined at Dartford, where we staid an hour or two, it being a cold day; and so on, and got to Chatham just at night, with very good discourse by the way, but mostly of matters of religion, wherein Huchinson his vein lies. After supper, we fell to talk of spirits and apparitions, whereupon many pretty, particular stories were told, so as to make me almost afeard to lie alone, but for shame I could not help it; and so to bed and, being sleepy, fell soon to rest, and so rested well.

the bridge out
we stayed a cold night

our way a vein
of spirits and apparitions

stories old as fear
am I not asleep

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 23 March 1669.

Binuro

Lost art of coaxing                 

                                                                  a thing 
             of flesh past              

                                                        its span      Flay
mudfish or                       

                                                       mackerel and pack in

            rock salt        Bury                       
                                                                  a week or

            more in a mound of yeasted grain


            to sop up                  the juices of  

forced extension—              
                                                            What we 

                        were taught to do: 

Dress 

                                  our little bit of treasure 

           Store it in the dark 

Pray 

                                       for its increase
       
          
            

Managing expectations

Up, and by water, with W. Hewer, to White Hall, there to attend the Lords of the Treasury; but, before they sat, I did make a step to see Sir W. Coventry at his house, where, I bless God! he is come again; but in my way I met him, and so he took me into his coach and carried me to White Hall, and there set me down where he ought not — at least, he hath not yet leave to come, nor hath thought fit to ask it, hearing that Henry Saville is not only denied to kiss the King’s hand, but the King, being asked it by the Duke of York, did deny it, and directed that the Duke shall not receive him, to wait upon him in his chamber, till further orders. Sir W. Coventry told me that he was going to visit Sir John Trevor, who hath been kind to him; and he shewed me a long list of all his friends that he must this week make visits to, that come to visit him in the Tower; and seems mighty well satisfied with his being out of business, but I hope he will not long be so; at least, I do believe that all must go to wrack if the King do not come to see the want of such a servant. Thence to the Treasury-Chamber, and there all the morning to my great grief, put to do Sir G. Downing’s work of dividing the Customes for this year, between the Navy, the Ordnance and Tangier: but it did so trouble my eyes, that I had rather have given 20l. than have had it to do; but I did thereby oblige Sir Thomas Clifford and Sir J. Duncombe, and so am glad of the opportunity to recommend myself to the former for the latter I need not, he loving me well already. At it till noon, here being several of my brethren with me but doing nothing, but I all. But this day I did also represent to our Treasurers, which was read here, a state of the charge of the Navy, and what the expence of it this year would likely be; which is done so as it will appear well done and to my honour, for so the Lords did take it: and I oblige the Treasurers by doing it, at their request.
Thence with W. Hewer at noon to Unthanke’s, where my wife stays for me and so to the Cocke, where there was no room, and thence to King Street, to several cook’s shops, where nothing to be had; and at last to the corner shop, going down Ivy Lane, by my Lord of Salisbury’s, and there got a good dinner, my wife, and W. Hewer, and I: and after dinner she, with her coach, home; and he and I to look over my papers for the East India Company, against the afternoon: which done, I with them to White Hall, and there to the Treasury-Chamber, where the East India Company and three Councillors pleaded against me alone, for three or four hours, till seven at night, before the Lords; and the Lords did give me the conquest on behalf of the King, but could not come to any conclusion, the Company being stiff: and so I think we shall go to law with them. This done, and my eyes mighty bad with this day’s work, I to Mr. Wren’s, and then up to the Duke of York, and there with Mr. Wren did propound to him my going to Chatham to-morrow with Commissioner Middleton, and so this week to make the pay there, and examine the business of “The Defyance” being lost, and other businesses, which I did the rather, that I might be out of the way at the wedding, and be at a little liberty myself for a day, or two, to find a little pleasure, and give my eyes a little ease. The Duke of York mightily satisfied with it; and so away home, where my wife troubled at my being so late abroad, poor woman! though never more busy, but I satisfied her; and so begun to put things in order for my journey to-morrow, and so, after supper, to bed.

ask a kiss to wait
till further orders

he who must come in hope
will go to wrack

see all the grief
put to work loving

like a cook’s conquest
of the eyes

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 22 March 1669.