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.
The enormous annual writers’ conference, AWP, just concluded in Seattle, so we have a few posts about that, though most writers who attended are probably still recovering, so expect a bit more coverage of that next week. Aside from that, just a lot of fun, off-beat posts on everything from Rimbaud’s lice to golden shovels to crochet. Enjoy.
In this letter, I’m going to pretend you are Kafka. Nocturnal. Secretive. Intense.
Pained yet quietly open to the joy in the world.
And tonight, I saw—or didn’t see—something which reminded me of you. After midnight as I walked the dog I saw a figure on the path. The forest was blue bright because of the full moon; even the shadows were blue. The dog howled and began to run, but I called him back. I couldn’t tell if the figure was coming towards us or away. We kept walking and the figure appeared to stride off into the trees. Maybe it was a trick of the turning path, but when we rounded the bend, it was gone. The dog nosed disconsolately for a minute then gave up. It was unsettling, alone at night in the woods and this figure appearing seemingly out of nowhere. What was it?
As I’m writing this, I feel as if I’m missing out on the other writing I could be doing.Gary Barwin, LETTER TO YOU AS IF YOU WERE KAFKA
I know the more sophisticated of my readers may be disappointed to hear this, but I have been to the football and I have been chanting, but not like a nun. I understand that some imagine me as a well-behaved lady poet, sitting behind my typewriter and waiting for poems to come to the rescue, but after the events of last weekend, I feel compelled to reveal the darker side to my character. […]
“It’s only a game,” I said to myself again, and this time I believed it. I embraced the truth of it. It being a game doesn’t make it not matter. Games are important, I reasoned, because they’re an opportunity to release our inner children. Hadn’t Michael Rosen said this, in his book Play?
Freed up by this thought, I starting jeering when the Bournemouth goalie got a yellow card for time-wasting. It’s only a game, I thought, so I can let go. “Send him off!” I heard myself shout. “Lo-ser! Give him a red card! Red ca-ard!” I looked across at my sons – they were roaring at the goalie too, shaking their fists. It was wonderful.Liz Lefroy, I Chant And We Cheer
This is the week that AWP opens in Seattle. The Annual Writers Pilgrimage to whatever Mecca is selected for that year. Seattle it is.
This is also the week I have eye surgery on my right eye. That happens Tuesday the 8th. As a result, my AWP will be virtual this year. This is disappointing because I know many poets and writers in the Pacific Northwest. And, I’ve never been to Seattle. I get many excellent views of the area’s natural beauty in pictures, but that only makes me want to see it more. […]
Did I say I will miss the swag? Crazy buttons, promotional material from presses, and lit journals. Who knows what brilliant ideas people will have this year. There are always some oldies but goodies that you will see each year that have been done specifically for AWP 23. One of my favorites from the past was the do not disturb door hanger with cute writing-related quotes on it, like go away I’m writing my fucking memoir. Oh wait, that was a sticker, but still. And various temporary tattoos.Michael Allyn Wells, Conferencing from Home This Time Hopefully With Improved Eye Sight
Many people I know are in some state of travel this week. Lots of writers are headed to the big writing conference, the AWP conference. I went to a few of them; Tampa was an easy drive from my South Florida house, and we had such a good time that I decided to go the following year. Unfortunately by the time of the Portland conference in 2019, I had almost no travel money, and by the following year, I funded the whole thing myself, to San Antonio in early March 2020, where we watched conferences for later March being cancelled and wondered what precautions we should have been taking.
I am not on my way to Seattle this year for the AWP. It’s too expensive, and I’m no longer earning the kind of money that lets me fund the whole thing, which is easily $1,000 for the hotel by itself, not to mention airfare, which could also approach the $1,000 per ticket price, or not, if one is good at getting deals or traveling light, which I am not. The conference fare looks cheap by comparison.Kristin Berkey-Abbott, On Not Going to AWP and Other Moves
Most years, I watch from afar and feel like I am missing out, that everyone is getting to hang out with people I’d love to hang out with, the feeling that THIS is where it is all happening. That everyone is in one place, which is of course, deceptive. Most people can’t go for the same reasons I can’t. Many writers give no shits about AWP. This year, there is also a real feeling of relief to NOT be there. It’s a lot of work to be only one person lugging books and manning tables, organizing events, and orchestrating travel plans, even if you can afford them. It’s also just a whole lot for this frightened little introvert heart to handle. I don’t think I am up for it. Or maybe I am choosing to not be up for it. .Maybe this is evidence of new boundaries and trying to live a less stressful life and not be always throwing myself enthusiastically into things that are ridiculous when I look back on them. I’ve also learned that I don’t travel well at all. For one, I don’t want to or like it and it makes me anxious. Kind of like a fine potato salad.Kristy Bowen, fomo, romo, and awp
I’m home from AWP and recovering, eating breakfast, and uploading photos. So, was it worth it to try to go? I had been in a pretty tight pandemic bubble for the last three years, so it was certainly a change! 9000 people attended! I saw lots of friends, both local and cross country, but I don’t think I got to say hi to half the people I wanted to! I definitely overscheduled—which I usually don’t do, but I’ve never had all my panels accepted before, and then had a new book come out at exactly the same time as AWP in my own town, so figured I had to go for it.
There were risks involved, and the conference center was under construction which made wheelchair access to the building problematic—roads were closed off, wheelchair drop-off places were blocked by construction vans. Before the event I felt very insecure about my identity as a writer and being older and yes, I walk with a cane or wheelchair. But after the first day, I felt like I was part of a community, I felt like a writer again, and I felt much less insecure. People I didn’t know came up to me to tell me about different books and how they loved them. People were enthusiastic about the panels I was on. It felt wonderful connecting with friends.Jeannine Hall Gailey, Feeling Like a Writer Again, and Part of a Community But Also, Overwhelmed: Conferences Are Tough and What I Learned – AWP Seattle 2023 Day 1, Day 2, Day 3
It’s true that every so often I weaken and write something more ‘conventional’, as if there’s still some need to speak in a way that’s expected. Thankfully the lapse doesn’t usually last long and the aversion to being a part of the ‘poetry club’ returns. I go back to trying to find images and lines that link from somewhere deep in the brain and hook them into something that moves me. Talking of ‘from somewhere deep in the brain’ I remembered the words of John Stuart Mill, which might well apply to the ‘How To Write Poetry’ blockheads who populate the scene with such back-slapping camaraderie in search of something approaching fame. He wrote, in 1823: “I see something of fashionable people here, and… there is not a more futile class of persons on the face of the earth.” Well said, sir. Perhaps he can hear me two hundred years on, who knows?
For good or bad, or indifferent, it seems the right time to write something without stopping, without prior intention. The words will come. The title will go on last. I just like writing this way. Is it ‘avant garde’? Who knows or cares?Bob Mee, FOR THE AVANT GARDE
The Adirondack Center for Writing has “invented” poetry machines […] Each machine dispenses plastic bubbles containing a piece of paper with one of 10 poems. I’m dating myself, but as a kid, the only thing better than having a quarter for a random prize in a machine like this was having change for the coin-operated horse outside the store. Check out the ACW website (linked above) for details about the poems. And, if you live near the [Adirondacks] as I do, you can find the machines at locations in Blue Mountain Lake, Indian Lake and Northville.Carolee Bennett, the artist googles “how to be an artist”
Old siddurim and holy books go in the cupboard to be buried in the sanctified ground of our cemetery. Once they are tattered from long use, we treat them with reverence and lay them to rest along with our beloved dead. But the secular books get stacked and bagged, or boxed, and hauled to the car, and taken away. It’s hard to let go of books. We’re the People of the Book! And yet there are so many books that haven’t been touched in years. Books we’d forgotten we had. Books we just don’t need.Rachel Barenblat, Old books
I read somewhere that the the social elite invited Rimbaud to one of their soirees. He stood on a chair and shook himself to rain lice down over all on them. (I do think my memory is adding details here: the chair, not the lice.) They fell out of love with him then.
Only for a while because, like everyone does, he died. Once someone is dead you can pin down a story and no one can let you down or force you to deal with it in the present tense.
Head lice, a bloody gun wound, a severed ear, a water-logged corpse, all quite romantic if you don’t have to smell them. Mouches (French for flies) were fashionable as long as they were a bit of play-acting: a bit of self-irony for the syphilitic over-class.Ren Powell, An Argument for Amorphous Stories
I’m thinking today of the courageous women I met in Mexico City on this day four years ago, demonstrating against the violent “disappearance” of so many Mexican women. I’m thinking of my friend Shirin and what she has told me about women today in Iran. I’m thinking about refugees I have met from Africa — women who escaped terrible situations and survived journeys toward a hoped-for freedom; some of whom were able to gain asylum and some who were deported to an uncertain fate. I’m thinking of women in detention centers, or whose bones now lie in the desert near the US/Mexican border, or at the bottom of the sea.
And I am thinking about women in general: our strength, our resilience and resourcefulness, our endless ability to do what we have to do to care for those around us in spite of everything that life throws at us, our ability to form enduring and powerful friendships, and, most of all, our ability to love. What would the world be without us?
So for me it’s a day of renewed commitment to help the women who are younger than I am in whatever ways I can. To try to help them find their way and their own strength in a world that has more opportunities than we had, but is harsh, hostile and frightening in ways we never had to experience when we were their age. How I hope that, in fifty more years, equality of all people will be much closer to a reality! But it will never come if we sit on our heels waiting, or ask meekly, or expect change without fighting for it, because this is a fight that will never be over, so long as the powers-that-be are in charge of the world.Beth Adams, In Praise of Women, and in Fear for Them
On the stove, a hot water kettle boils
because it must. The urgency for release
comes in many other forms. Let
the last of those tears fall, and after thatLuisa A. Igloria, On Remedies
tend to the earth where we are.
There may be poets who can sit in front of their computer or notebook and spontaneously compose a poem, but I am not one of them. Generally, my poems have a long gestation. I tend to mull them over while doing other things: gardening, walking, cleaning the bathrooms. Crocheting.
My best friend Joanne taught me how to crochet when I was thirteen. I’ve never been particularly good with my hands and at school I struggled with activities such as knitting or sewing or art; but crochet, with its single hook and simple knotting technique, was relatively easy and I took to it straight away. My first project was a poncho (dear reader, we were the hippie generation! – ponchos ruled!), constructed of granny squares in shades of blue.
Over the years I’ve progressed from granny squares to scarves, baby blankets, cardigans, filet crochet placemats, soft toys and amigurumi for my grandchildren.
Crochet is relaxing and meditative. Stitches are looped in rows, integrating texture, shape and colour to create a beautiful object. It’s a process analogous to writing a poem, where lines of words, imagery, metre and form are crafted together to become something much more than the sum of the component parts.Marian Christie, The Poetry and Mathematics of Crochet
Now my uni course is finished, I’m trying to get back into some writing routine. I can carve time in the weekends to write, but I’m unfocused. One of the paid projects I applied for didn’t happen, so I’m waiting on the other and have several unpaid opportunities coming up, but instead of writing something towards them, I spent most of yesterday morning chiselling away at one poem.
I’d written a poem with a slight scientific theme and I had been looking at the Fibonacci sequence and trying to incorporate it somehow. I discovered yesterday that there is a poetic form based around it, the Fib poem. It’s a simple, non-rhyming form which appeals to me. I’m trying it with word count instead of syllables as I’m lazy and am having enough trouble making it fit without having to break it down into further complications. It’s coming together, but I haven’t written anything new.
I’ve often taken writing courses as a way of boosting inspiration and getting back to writing daily. I might look into my regular ones and see what’s happening there. Until then I just need to pick up my pen and get scribbling.Gerry Stewart, The Struggle to Return
Whenever I review new poetry – which I used to do quite a bit, and now don’t do as much as I’d like – I always look to see what other people have been saying about the book in question. And I always wonder. Am I… cheating? Whatever I’m doing it’s a world away from the close reading practised in univerisities after the war, where English students were asked to respond to poems without knowing anything about them. But it is also just how I think. Or at least, how I write. I find my own responses hard to articulate without someone else’s to bounce off.
This is a long winded-way of thanking Graeme Richardson, whose brief remarks in the Sunday Times gave me a leg up. If they are going to have a poetry critic, perhaps they could let him write more full length reviews. But it is also to make a self-interested complaint – though one which I think may have wider ramifications. Because, beyond this review by Cheryl Mcgregor, Richardons’s were among the only un-blurby remarks I could find. And this is a book from Picador, a commercial imprint, and one that’s now been shortlisted for several prizes.Jeremy Wikeley, Recent reviewing: bandit country
Dead Mall Press is happy to announce that two new chapbooks are now available for pre-order! This marks the beginning of a new phase for the press, and I am thrilled to share these writers’ books with you. […]
All sales will be split 50/50 between writer and press. Of the press’s half, 50% — or a quarter of all sales from both books — will be donated to Confluence HRKC, “a harm reduction collective serving people who use drugs and those who love them in the Kansas City, MO area.” This organization was agreed upon by myself (RM) and both writers (Amalia and Franziska), and we are proud to support their work providing autonomy and life-saving care for a criminalized and vulnerable population. Receipts for this donation will be provided at the end of the pre-order period.R.M. Haines, DEAD MALL PRESS: NEW BOOKS AVAILABLE TODAY!
I’m celebrating having survived Covid and reached Launch Day with some ginger tea… sitting here under the rosy shadow of a whole forest of amaryllis blooms…
Seren of the Wildwood is the weekly feature of Autumn Sky Poetry Daily. To see, go HERE. And thanks to editor Christine Klocek-Lim!Marly Youmans, Launch Day, March 6
Given the ways through which beloved Winnipeg poet, editor, critic, teacher, anthologist, theorist, mentor and publisher Dennis Cooley has worked as a poet over the years, the notion of a trajectory of his writing as seen through a sequence of published book-length poetry collections is less than straightforward; certainly far less straightforward than anyone else I’m aware of. His published work exists as less than a straight line than a complex tapestry, often producing chapbooks and books excised from lengthy manuscripts composed across years (and even decades), offering selected book-sized collections awash with myriad threads, some of which connect to some works over others, all of which spread out endlessly from whatever central point where his work once began.rob mclennan, Dennis Cooley, body works
What poets changed the way you thought about writing?
One of the first poets I studied with was Larry Levis. He taught me that it’s not enough for a poem to set a scene—it needs to take the reader on a journey of emotion, realization, recognition. From Dorianne Laux I learned that the process of writing can be playful and saw the depth conveyed when a poet writes about ordinary things. Gregory Orr, through his craft book A Primer for Poets & Readers of Poetry, taught me about order and disorder in poetry, our natural desire for balance between these opposites, and how each person has a different threshold for the shift from one to the other. (That teaching greatly affected the poems in Talk Smack to a Hurricane, my book about my mother’s mental illness—the more chaotic the content, the more I considered what and how much structure was needed.) As a result of Kim Addonizio’s poetry and her craft book Ordinary Genius, I realized there’s freedom in candor, regardless of the topic. I’ve learned new ways to start a poem. I now search for energy and emotional truth as it unfolds. Richard Hugo, in Triggering Town, his book of lectures and essays, taught me that the inspiration (trigger) for a poem is only sometimes what the poem is really about. Ed Skoog taught a whole class on taking the “side door” into poems—I learned to open myself to unexpected topcs and odd juxtapositions. He offered a new revision strategy: Alphabetize a poem’s lines according to the first word of each, then look for new connections or directions (I find this works best with poems of 20–30 lines or so). Rosebud ben Oni, in workshop and through her poetry, taught me that my purpose in writing is to tell my story and no one else’s—if someone’s missing from the conversation, I need to work to make space for their words, not speak for them. There’s too much I’ll never understand even though I want to. Through her book Odes to Lithium, Shira Ehrlichman showed me the power of a full poetry collection on psychiatric issues; it gave me the courage to build a manuscript of poems I’d written about my mother’s mental illness, our relationship, and psychiatry.Lynne Jensen Lampe : part two (Thomas Whyte)
My plan was to get the kids (years 8 and 9) writing their own poems and get them being creative. I think there had been lots of sessions where people went in to talk about business and TV, and I knew if I started talking about market research I’d lose them (Heck, I’m losing myself just typing it here), so poems it was. I asked the teachers what they’d been studying—the kids, not the teachers, and then took some of that it to get the kids writing their own golden shovels. I read the kids the Gwendolyn Brooks poem, We Real Cool and the first stanza of Terrance Hayes’ own poem. […]
Once we’d gone through those two poems, I gave the kids the choice of using a line from the Hayes poem, or from some others I’d supplied ( Nettles by Vernon Scannell, My City by George The Poet, I Wanna Be Yours by John Cooper Clarke and Walking Away by Cecil Day Lewis.) and then set them off writing. I think it all went fairly well. Note to self, put up a visual reference to what I want them to do…that would have made things a bit clearer up front, but we got them working with it quickly. Some kids we suggested using the words from their chosen line as the first words instead of the last on their lines to get them going.
There was one lad who was struggling to get going, but when I asked him what he liked doing outside of school he very quickly got a draft out about playing Zombie computer games using a line from the Scannell poem. Amazing stuff.
I’ve never been asked anything like this before and I know I won’t be giving up the day job to run these sessions, but I came out of there buzzing (and that was no mean feat as I’d been riddled with a cold in the run up to it). I was even asked for my autograph by a few of the kids, but I don’t think anyone that makes a career out of teaching creative writing (and I am perhaps overplaying the work I did) needs to worry. I didn’t get paid (as I was doing it on ITV Time). I wonder if I’ve done folks that do teach a disservice by doing it, but there was another poet there called Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan and I know she was getting paid.Mat Riches, Whistles, shovels, calamine lotion and geese
Last night I participated in a lovely event at the Chenoa Public Library, a presentation about Fugue, an artist book with photographs by Ken Kashian and tiny poems by me. You can see a little video about it, with a fugue as background music, at Ken’s website and at the Fugue link above. Part of the joy was the absolute attention of the audience, and part was conversing with them afterwards in a relaxed and cozy way on a rainy night, us warm inside in comfortable chairs donated by other libraries! In fact, Sheryl the director and I realized we had attended the same regional library conference the day before. I guess that makes it a Random Coinciday as well as a Poetry Someday in the blog! Other coincidences: the library director had participated in a theatre in town that I work with, and I went to high school with her husband and his brothers. He farmed up the road from where I lived, and my son and his hometown have the same name!
The town and its library are very near the Weston Cemetery Prairie Nature Preserve, where the poems and photos are set. Not everyone in the audience had been there yet, but they’ll be visiting soon! I was so honored that people felt reverence for the place, and reverent in our space last night, thanks to the photos and poems, and, I think, the sense of community.Kathleen Kirk, Tiny Poems
By day two, I knew that only steaming
thukpa and ginger tea were keeping me alive in that
stark desert. Everything felt freshly vacuumed, the
naked mountains, the Indus cutting a blue path through
the valley, the Zanskar snaking up to the confluence, the
stupas, the silver air. The cleanliness like a challenge to
my soul. But there was nothing else. No enlightenment,
no explanation, no intervention. On the third day, in
Chang La, at 17000 feet, there was more tea. Beyond
was Pangong Lake, so exquisite, like an illusion caused
by oxygen deprivation. Or despair. I was still expectant
but back at the lodge there was only the silence and theRajani Radhakrishnan, Part 37
mountains, exactly where I had left them.
a heronJim Young [no title]
lost in a blizzard