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: gratitude, humor, radiance, pain—it’s all here. Enjoy.
I expected to feel sad. After all, my characters never got to dance through the dramas I invented for them or which, more accurately, it seemed they dictated to me. I expected to feel guilty too. In my busiest years I got up early or stayed up late to write hundreds of thousands of words, yet still didn’t have sufficient attention span or vision to finish writing those novels.
Instead I am simply relieved. The silent weight of these must-get-around-to manuscripts is gone. Once, the secret worlds of these novels accompanied me so closely I felt I was living several lives simultaneously. But no more. Time to let them go.
I dumped the books in the recycling bin without a farewell wave, not even a tang of nostalgia. Turns out the freedom to give up on projects feels liberating. I like to believe I’m making space for projects closer to my heart. I’m going to let those ideas stretch out into this new space and see what happens.
Laura Grace Weldon, Freedom Of Giving Up
There’ll also be days bright as fresh flowers in old graveyards.
Days when your brain-dead boomerang gets an anti-lobotomy and returns to you zinging and singing.
When your collide and collapse comes back new and refreshed.
When it feels like you can crawl into the womb of a feather, and be reborn as something lighter than air.
Rich Ferguson, Black Friday
Funds are tight, so I interlibrary loan poetry books as often as I can, and lately I came across Maryann Corbett, a poet who was new to me but not new to poetry.
You know how you can be in the car with a student driver or you can be in the car with someone who REALLY knows how to drive? When you are in a Corbett poem, you are in capable hands. I’m reading Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter, a relatable collection of poems of the everyday (but of course with more than the everyday beneath the surface).
I admire how her poems move–the form never feeling too forced or stiff, but rather inevitable. If you want to read a few of her poems for yourself, the title poem of Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter can be found HERE.
Renee Emerson, reading Maryann Corbett
Because I don’t enjoy reading the crowd-pleasing poems that tend to win.
Matthew Stewart, Why don’t I enter poetry competitions?
Because competitions implicitly and involuntarily encourage poets to write crowd-pleasers.
Because I write poems that are apparently simple, that accumulate layers, that would never stand out in a mass of fireworks.
Because I don’t write to win competitions. I write for my potential readers. I write for the conversations that individual poems strike up among themselves and with those readers in the context of a magazine or a collection.
What about you…?
This year has been an extraordinary one. I decided to quit my part-time job and commit to writing full-time. It was a thrilling and scary decision, a long time in the making. Then, as if I needed reminding that life is short so I had better get on with it, my mother died on January 12th, while I was in hotel quarantine. Two days before my mother’s funeral I got a phone call from the UK informing me that my poem ‘A Poem To My Mother That She Will Never Read’ had won the International Mslexia Award for Poetry. That was one of the most poetic moments of my life. Poetic because the poetry that resonates best with me always makes me feel more than one thing.
Being published online meant I was able to submit it to the Woollahra Digital Literary Award for Poetry in Australia. It was announced last night that it won that award.
I am humbled, grateful, proud, teary, sad, elated. Thanks to Woollahra Council & Libraries; Ocean Vuong for the title inspo; all the poets whose work has inspired me; my Ma; and Judge Ali Whitelock, who engaged with the poem in all the ways I hoped a reader would, and articulated it so brilliantly.
Caroline Reid, Winner, Woollahra Digital Literary Award for Poetry
How did you first engage with poetry?
When I was in elementary school in South Korea, we were required to keep a diary which was reviewed regularly by the teacher. I used to procrastinate until the day before the deadline. I remember my mom looking stern but slightly amused at my scramble to fill the pages, then suggesting: Why don’t you write a poem for a diary entry? It would be shorter but still meaningful.
So I first engaged with poetry as a “shortcut.” It quickly became fun and special to me. As I became more intentional about the elements of poetry, it often took longer than writing narratives!
Thomas Whyte, Jaeyun Yoo : part one
Remarkably, after nine years of trying to face down his cancer’s spread, [Oliver] Sacks could still describe himself as “intensely alive” and even “lucky” and, perhaps more important, “grateful” for being able to “choose how to live out the months” that remained to him. “I have to live,” he wrote, “in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.” That he did, publishing in the short time left to him five books and “nearly finish[ing]” others, all while completing his memoir, On the Move: A Life, published in the spring of 2015. Declaring his “detachment” from daily news and politics and issues of the day, he turned his focus “on myself, my work and my friends.” His was, in every sense, lived life.
This Thanksgiving, having crossed that threshold that places me among the old, though not the old old, I find inspiration in re-reading Sacks’s op-ed, to consider and affirm, as he did, what an “enormous privilege” it is to be of this world, especially to “have loved and been loved,” to “have been given much” and “have given something in return.”
Note: Sacks’s essay and three others comprise his slim volume of reflections, Gratitude, published the year he died.
Maureen Doallas, On This Thanksgiving
If you’re familiar with Polly [Atkin]’s work you’ll know how her poems fold you into them, how they open worlds. If you ever get a chance to see her read, do it, don’t hesitate, do it. I’ve been lucky enough to have her read as part of a course I ran and double lucky in that she has run a zoom course for Spelt, which has been a big hit. I read this one in January. I read a little bit each day and each day it was like being given a gift. She’s an extraordinarily gifted poet. Much With Body is Polly Atkin’s second collection. These are poems that explore the connection to nature, in particular the authors connection to her own place in nature, in the Lake District. There’s a thread of found poems running through the collection that use Dorothy Wordsworth’s diary entries to explore the body through the lens of chronic illness. Every poem in this collection pulls at something in the brain, every description captures something unusual and special. I can’t recommend it enough. Pour yourself a cup of tea and settle in, you’ll not be able to put it down.
Wendy Pratt, Shelfie Stories: Five Books to Curl Up With on a Wintery Sunday Afternoon
The neighborhood where I used to live, Plateau Mont-Royal, was predominantly French, rather entitled, and somewhat closed-in on itself. Our new neighborhood, Cote-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grace, is the most ethnically- and linguistically-mixed in the city, with some 48 languages spoken regularly in homes. In the elevators of our 12-story modern condo building, we hear neighbors speaking French, English, Chinese, Spanish, Yiddish, Russian, Italian, Arabic, Filipino, various Indo-Iranian languages, and many others. English, rather than French, is the most common language people use to say good morning and wish each other a good day. There is a huge Asian grocery market across the street, a Romanian charcuterie and bakery, and an eastern European/Russian/Ukrainian market around the corner; nearby on Victoria Avenue is a big kosher bakery, and that street is lined with Indian, Vietnamese, and Jewish restaurants and shops — to name just a few – while in other directions the concentration shifts to African and Caribbean, Iranian and Turkish, Portuguese, Greek and Middle Eastern, Mexican and Latin American. Not only is this mixture invigorating for all the senses, it encourages me to learn some words in more languages and try to connect with the Chinese butcher, the Ukrainian woman behind the prepared-food-counter, the Romanian couple who run the charcuterie, the Israeli pharmacist, the Lebanese dry-cleaner, the Muslim car mechanic, the Filipino cleaning woman whose schedule is the same as mine for the pool locker room, the Greek fishmonger. But even more than that, living this way is a daily reminder that the people of the world actually can co-exist, and help each other to thrive.
Beth Adams, Present Moments: Our Own, and Others’
In the afternoons, fascists gathered in the park. One November, I put on my coat and mitts and hat—it was cold and windy—and I showed the fascists pictures of the minimalist paintings of Agnes Martin. Instead of trying to attain a forcibly monolithic, regimented nation under the control of an autocratic ruler, try these, I said. I figured each minute thinking about Agnes was a minute not being fascist. And it worked. One guy in an armband told me that her paintings show a commitment to exalted subject matter. Yes, another guy holding a torch said, she transforms the seen environment into the language of painting which gives the works their aura of silent dignity. And frankly, a jackbooted woman said, I like the grids.
Gary Barwin, HOW I TAUGHT THE FASCISTS
I read a lovely new book of poetry from a poet I’d never heard of, Adrienne Raphel’s Our Dark Academia. Raphel has a great resume – MFA from Iowa, a lectureship at Princeton, published in Paris Review, Poetry, all the big names – but this was a fairly small press, Rescue Press. One reason could be some of the poems were a bit untraditional – one was in the form of a Wikipedia entry, another in the form of a crossword puzzle, another was paper dolls – but I found myself enjoying the poetry and the quirky forms. The reason to shop at in-person bookstores is to find little treasures like these on the shelves. This one was thanks to my visit to Open Books last week.
Jeannine Hall Gailey, Happy Thanksgiving Weekend, Family Visits, A New Poem in Prairie Schooner “The Girl Detective,” and Doctor’s Orders to Relax
First, I’d like to celebrate Luke Hankins’ new chapbook Testament (Texas Review Press) which is now available for pre-order. I had a chance to spend time with this collection early and wrote the following statement:
“Testament shows Luke Hankins deftly at work in a ‘small glory’ of a chapbook! Whether addressing the troubled country that is America or bringing the reader into the prayer-like intimacy of resonant daily moments, Hankins’s poems here create spaces of presence and awareness that are refreshing and which reward rereading. Testament evokes its title by speaking the facts of the self in such ways that we can join Hankins in loving ‘the broken world better / that has broken me.” (blurb for Testament by Luke Hankins)
My second note of celebration is for the recent loss to the poetry community of Bernadette Mayer. Check out her poem “The Way to Keep Going in Antarctica” and join me in being “strong” in the way such poets and poems show us to be.
José Angel Araguz, dispatch 112422
On a recent morning, I heard them say something about Patti Smith’s photography and a new book project. “Book of photography” caught my ear as much as anything. It seems so extravagant and, as much as I abhor the word, quaint.
Another word came, too: necessary. It arrived from a place I haven’t visited in far too long, the part of me that needs slowness instead of scrolling. And honestly, that’s all I’ve been offering it, even as it pleads, “Woman! Please… please… send love and light. I’m dying in here.”
And even if it were “just” extravagant, don’t we deserve some extravagances? A fat book to place on our laps or hold in our hands. Quality paper. Dozens and dozens of images curated by a fellow human being and meant to be, as it says on Patti Smith’s website, “a coherent story of a life devoted to art.”
While we are blessed to connect with one another in any way at all (yes, even in our phone’s miniature windows), there’s something this book reclaims. There’s something it opens. It says, in part, “Wait just a minute: You know this stuff is real, right? Its impact — it’s real. This sky, this dog, this trinket — they’re real. They take up space in our lives and our bodies.”
Carolee Bennett, “i see us” (a patti smith appreciation post)
As you travel further into the rubble, you leave the outside world behind. Turn left at the ruined shop that used to sell gravestones.
The shape of the earth alters day by day.
In the photograph a little boy shows another one a dandelion he has found. They sit cross-legged by the barbed wire. The caption on the photograph says they were both gassed a day or two later.
A woman writes on social media I find men’s socks too big for my feet.
Bob Mee, RANDOM LINES ON A SLEEPLESS NIGHT IN NOVEMBER
In October I enrolled in another Hugo House poetry class, again with the amazing poet, translator, and teacher Deborah Woodard. The class focused on the work of Fernando Pessoa, born in Lisbon in 1888. Our main text, Fernando Pessoa & Co., edited and translated by Richard Zenith, gathers together work by Pessoa and three of his heteronyms, Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis, and Álvaro de Campos. Pessoa created entire biographies for these alter-egos and considered them mentors and colleagues. […]
Pessoa prided himself on being impersonal, even invisible, a crossroads where observations took place. He deplores philosophy and metaphysics. I had difficulty caring about him for almost the entire stretch of the course. But…as usual…as I read and considered (and attempted to write my own poems), I began to feel curious about this poet, writing in another language, in another time, and living in a place I have never been. I have a feeling Pessoa would have approved of my journey, both the reticence and the curiosity.
Bethany Reid, Give Thanks
If you have some quiet hours this week, I hope you’ll read the amazing poems in the new issue of Shenandoah. Hot-flashing in your Thanksgiving kitchen? Ann Hudson has you covered. Missing green horizons? Look at Oliver de la Paz’s Diaspora Sonnets. Craving something funny-dark? See Kelli Russell Agodon and Julie Marie Wade. Want a poem that’s a doorway, a dream, a marathon, a shopping expedition? Step into Jesse Lee Kercheval’s “Coronillas,” Akhim Yuseff Cabey’s “Complex,” Lucien Darjeun Meadows’ “Mile 11–,” or Jane Satterfield’s “Errand Hanging with Emily Brontë.” Ned Balbo’s poem talks to a firefly. Emily Pérez recreates a writer’s desperateness to produce-produce-produce and illuminates what a mess that mindset can make. Grief poems by Leona Sevick and Destiny O. Birdsong just devastated me. There’s more in the buffet, too, as many poems as we could cram into one issue (and pay authors for).
As far as my own literary news, this little plot of earth is dormant. I have one lyric essay I’m nudging along, but mostly I’m feeling uncomplicated happiness over others’ success. Just in my English department last week, a student won a Rhodes, a colleague published a short story, another colleague won sabbatical funding, and yet another was offered her first book contract. Term is winding up and it looks like a few of my students have learned a few things.
Lesley Wheeler, Word-feast
Today was not a normal day of work for me. Instead of teaching my amazing students, I chose to participate in the UCU industrial action over attacks on pay, working conditions and pensions.
I have blogged about this issue before, in 2018, which included a series of poems about work and working.
Today, in support of the strike, I collect them all in one place for the first time. [Click through for the links.]
Anthony Wilson, UCU Strike: a list of poems about work
Yesterday after church, we went to a concert, the kind of concert put together by a group of skilled musicians who live in the community and have found each other. My spouse knows two of the musicians because they all sing in the church choir.
Yes, there are days here in western North Carolina when I feel like I’ve fallen through a hole in time: “People still do this? How cool!” Of course, I went to many small symphonies and chamber orchestras in south Florida too. I love these examples of creative types who aren’t trying to break into big time in the big city, that aren’t posting TikToks of themselves in the hopes of getting the notice of huge masses of people.
I like a symphony orchestra that isn’t afraid to put animal ear headbands on when they play Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” I like a symphony orchestra that’s raising money for an animal rescue, and so they’ve chosen an animal theme that threads through the 4 pieces of music.
Kristin Berkey-Abbott, The Joys of a Local Chamber Orchestra
it was love at first note
the wind and the bass solo eloped
straight out of my car
[I was crossing the bridge at the time
but this is their story not mine]
seven miles out bopping on the sea
Paul Tobin, DELIGHTING THE DOLPHINS
the notes rearrange as they please
delighting the dolphins with their atonality
My recent video palingenetics has its world-premiere screening at the 2022 edition of Festival Fotogenia – Poetryfilm, Videoart, Experimental Cinema, Avant-garde films run out of Mexico City. This is one of my favourite festivals: it has broad, inclusive remit, and it is incredibly well organised with a strongly supported sense of community. Through participation in previous festivals, I have built a network of friends and colleagues not only in Mexico, but across the world. Along the way, I have been learning to make Spanish text versions of the videos, such as this one (with help from the DeepL AI translator and a good dictionary).
Ian Gibbins, palingenetics at Fotogenia…
It’s been what can only been described as an absolute kick-bollock-scramble at work of late (no, there are no other phrases that work. I’ve tried them all), and that has left me struggling to keep up with reading journals, emails, books, road signs…anything really. And that starts to build up a pressure, a feeling that I’m not reading enough, not being engaged enough. That is likely entirely wrong, and very much a pressure of my own making, but it’s there and if I stop I worry I may never start again.
Mat Riches, Magic Darts
That won’t happen, but it can sometimes feel over-whelming trying to keep up with the journals that arrive, the books to review, the books I’ve bought and want to read, the music to listen to, the films and programmes to watch, the articles to consume…
Every new thing to read/listen to, watch, probably smell, maybe even touch that arrives can feel like email at work does, sometimes. Each one responded to begets another one and so on and so forth. Each journal sends me off to explore new poets, work by poets I know already, but may to have read, new albums, new shows, etc…
How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My first book Material Girl didn’t change my day-to-day life much because I was a broke grad student when it was released and couldn’t do much to get the word out about it, but over time, the book found its audience and connected me to other writers and thinkers who I eventually felt I was writing with and for. Material Girl now feels like a digest of my influences at the time, a very New York School inflected-book about living in New York, montage-y, talk-y poems. I think my new book Making Water tries to make a new form, one that is maybe less inherited and more my own. My poetics up to now have been grounded in geographical place, and I wrote Making Water while living in North Carolina, which is a little bit urban, a little bit rural, and a little bit suburban all at once so I wanted to write something that really reflected the experience of moving through this new swampy viney parking lot-filled landscape. I think there’s an idea from people who live in major cities that moving to the south is giving up on being part of culture, or something, but what I found in living here was that having more time and space for study gave me the capacity for an expansiveness to my writing that I has lacked living in cities. I reflect on this in the new book: “Give it up for space // transmuted into time // By year three // Memory will become // Imagination tall as // loblolly pines
rob mclennan, 12 or 20 (second series) questions with Laura Jaramillo
“Crow Funeral” looks at the darker underbelly to maternity and motherhood. The pressures on mothers to be perfect, to be self-less and centre the lives of their children even when they lack support and dare not seek help due to stigma and fear. The use of nursery rhyme is appropriate and interwoven within other poems, a reminder that fairy tales and rhymes for children also have a darker side: behavioural advice for a dangerous world. Kate Hanson Foster writes without judgment or sentimentality. These are loved and desired children of a mother doing her best not to lose herself but to find a way of combining being a self-less mother while also retaining individual personhood.
Emma Lee, “Crow Funeral” Kate Hanson Foster (East Over Press) – book review
Sister Margaret John Kelly died last night at age 88. I was blessed to be with her when she died.
She had been my major professor for English during my college years; a wonderful teacher. She also was an alumna of my college, fourteen years older. She suffered greatly through the last three years, battling against the dementia which left her without speech, and without independent movement.
She loved poetry.
Anne Higgins, The bare sun, skinned, slides through the grass
The iambic spin off is a comfort. As is the rhythm itself. And for a decade or more I carried the original poem in my pocket as an antidote to the despair of depression. To it I’m grateful for its help as a bridge.
As I encountered it first in the 80s, it was only the first two stanzas and marked as written by anonymous.
In fact [Robert] Harkness (2 March 1880—8 May 1961) wrote it. He was an Australian composer, musical genius, and pianist on the Revival circuit. […]
Much like Emily Dickinson poems can be sung to the Yellow Rose of Texas, this can map a regularity like the heart. And how can you unlove anything you once loved?
Pearl Pirie, Loved Then, Loved Now: In Jesus
“The colorists get it entirely wrong: nature is colored in winter and cold in summer, there’s nothing colder than full summer sun.” Tell me more, Camille Pissarro! Tell me, French landscape painter, about winter’s color, now that leaves now lying dry in piles, like potato skins or paper bags, light, giddy in the wind, when the pale tones of sky seem colored by remainders. What am I, color addict, missing — what can I see better?
Oh, the brave red leaves still bright on the chokeberry!
Oh, the clouds, neatly and darkly swirling as I leave the wine boutique, seemingly curated for a consumer outing.
No, those eruptions of drama are too easy, low-hanging fruit.
Pissarro was sure of his paradoxes, having meditated on painting, perception and landscape with a young Cézanne. (I’m reading T.J. Clark’s “If These Apples Should Fall.”). As I unravel this, I see that Pissarro was a consummate stylist suppressing the tick of giving humans what we want and need from nature, of pressing human eros onto landscape. Instead, he gives us nature without desire. Instead of our narratives of drama and excitement, he gives us a swath of everything without hierarchy or privilege, the totality in concert. It’s less a harmony than monotony, a stretching of a country moment, as Clark writes, “unique, noticeable, difficult unrepeatable persistence.”
Not beautiful because of a hidden light, but because it is stubborn. Winter’s long contemplation.
Jill Pearlman, Colorists on the Brink of Winter
Step through the narrow
Luisa A. Igloria, Learning to Flow
fissure that opens— a glass waistline
where sparkling particles of sand suspend
in the space between the country prior to
this one and the country it will become
after anything passes through it. Believe
there’s a time and place where not everything
has happened yet, where somehow there might
still be lessons to learn from the not dead trees.