Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 49

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, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack. This week: telephones, traumas, holiday gift ideas, cris de coeur, and a lonely vending machine. Enjoy.

There were six telephones. There were a hundred telephones. There were fifty-seven telephones. They were all the same telephone, pink and ringing. The woods were filled with telephones and they were ringing. Should I answer? Should I answer one telephone or all of them? These telephones that were made of flesh and that called me. How far can a voice travel? What is the greatest distance between humans? What can be said from so far? What can be whispered from nearby? But who is calling? A tree, the earth, those who have gone, the pizza delivery place confirming the colour of olives? Friend, lover, my grief. Has time itself got on the horn to remind me, or memory, a priest, my mother? What is it to be in a forest ringing? I walk. I sing. I sleep. I remember the phone numbers of my childhood, the imagined numbers of constellations and celebrities, that after you dialed, you heard another world, a veiled world, hissing like the sea.


Drone-dropped leaflets float down
like so much manna from heaven:

warnings with QR codes for
downloadable color-coded maps

outlining the “dangerous combat
zones” in the killing fields of Gaza.

There is no electricity to charge
the phones the IDF is calling.

Texts follow anyway. Evacuate,
those first ones order; stay inside

“known” shelters and schools,
command others.

Maureen E. Doallas, Staying Ahead of the Danger (Poem)

It’s one of those poems that stops me in my tracks, every time. Heaney takes a seemingly insignificant moment, and observes it, allows us, the reader, to observe too. As ever with Heaney the words do more than simply describe – they act like containers, the images building a bridge into the reader’s mind and leading them to their own experiences. I’m thinking of that first line – ‘an edged den of light’. What do you think of when you think of the word ‘den’? I think of enclosed space, something warm, animal, compartmentalised, subterainian perhaps. All of that work done with just that one word, all of the connotations attached to it, to explain to a reader that this isn’t just light falling from a doorway, it is a container for a moment, a den for this ordinary exchange. I’m fond of thinking of the lines in a poem as a moment in the poem, and each of these lines is telling a story, layering it up with the rhythm of a gentle whispered rhythm. […]

The craft in Good-Night is astonishing. Heaney was one of my proto poets, one of my leads to the world of poetry. His poems make me want to curl up between the lines. I saw him read once, a long time ago now, in Manchester. It’s one of those memories that is infused with friendship and youth. I didn’t think I was, but I was young – excited, running in my little heels down the street to the university, dreaming of being a poet. I think my first collection, my first pamphlet, Nan Hardwick Turns into a Hare, might have just come out. I’m not sure, it’s all a bit hazy now. But I do remember this, my husband on my arm, two friends who I am no longer friends with sharing this glorious moment, all of us so completely enamoured by this God of Poetry. The room was packed, a huge hall of folk come to see him and then there he was, old, fragile, he’d suffered strokes and I think he died not that long after. But god, he lit up that stage, the honeyed light fell on him and on the oak of the hall, the high panelled walls, the vaulted ceiling, and you could have heard a pin drop when he read. A core memory. Pints in the pub afterwards, all of us pouring out our thoughts on the reading, on our love of him.

Wendy Pratt, Wintering Out: Re-visiting Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘Good-Night’ in the early hours

This year I published a book of poems. It is about grief, love and anger.

It seems to be finding the people I hoped it would find, and a few others besides. Of course, this is completely outside of my control.

One of the things I have noticed people saying to me about it is how angry the book is. Sometimes they have used different words, but this is the tone of what they have been saying. ‘I always thought of your poems as light, but this is really different.’

A neighbour I rarely see told me that he had not realised until recently that as he got older, he was still carrying much of his baggage with him. We were having this conversation because of what he had found in the book. That seems to me a good thing.

I have been giving readings to support the book. In the old days, i.e. pre-everything-changing-when-I had-cancer, I used to jump at the opportunity. Then, somewhere in the middle of promoting my last book, I realised that I didn’t have that feeling any more – not in the sense of not wanting to read my poems, I still enjoy doing it, the big ones, the small, intimate ones, even the ones where no one turns up – in the sense of it finally having dawned on me, thirty-plus years into this business, that the poems don’t really belong to me and are certainly not who I am.

I can pinpoint the moment exactly. I was halfway through a reading at Manchester Cathedral, having judged their poetry competition and given out the prizes. I was about to read a poem in memory of my late friend Mary Jacobs.

Suddenly, maybe it was the theme of death and grief that pervades much of that book, but I realised for the first time, I mean really realised, that the poems I write, however personal, have very little to do with me, and that I needed to get out of their way in order to let them do their work with as little interference as possible. Which was something of a shock. Until that moment I had assumed it was all about me.

Anthony Wilson, Advent meditation, 11 December 2023

Why do we write poetry? Because we want to express how we feel? And, unless we’re writing just for ourselves, surely it’s because we want to communicate with others? To connect? 

If you’re writing poetry to make big money, you’re kidding yourself. Only a handful of poets will ever really make money from their poetry publications. So, if that’s true, why is it marketed in the way it is?

There are other ways that you can get your poetry to people, that don’t cost money – for you, a publisher, or the people you’re trying to connect with. Online sites, free downloads, for example… and a lot of people are doing that one way or another.

Yes, you’ll still need to tell people about it – and back comes social media – but think how many more people you could connect with if they didn’t have to buy what you’d written. How much you would have opened this world to more people who currently don’t see it.

No, I don’t want to put out of business the wonderful people who produce poetry publications. There will still be a market for them. But I would like more people to have the opportunity to read all the kinds of poetry that are out there. 

Sue Ibrahim, How to connect

This week, I asked Twitter (ok, X) which poem they would prescribe to a person experiencing a breakup.

Well, people rushed to offer superb suggestions, and this got me thinking: what if, every day, I asked readers which poem to prescribe for various scenarios and states of feeling? Better yet, what if I asked readers to suggest the particular condition that needed a poetic salve?

And, so, PoetryRx was born. So far this week, we’ve tackled breakups, being stranded on the side of a highway, poems for a friend who has befriended a small porcelain frog and sets the table for it at dinner each night (thank you to poet Caroline Bird for this), and poems for a friend who is not a morning person.

There’s a poem for everyone and for every situation. Sure, it might not take the pain away, but often that’s not what we really need anyway. Often, we just need to feel witnessed, seen and heard by the page. We long to feel less alone.

Maya C. Popa, Poems for Your Weekend

Matthew Paul’s review of ‘Longleat‘ will always be my first review, but two weeks ago my first full book review was published over at The Friday Poem. Isabelle Thompson has written a wonderful review that captures the spirit and intention of the book. While describing the opening poem, I think “The poem’s experimentation with language and wordplay allows it to ask big questions while remaining fun and bright.” also works as a description of what I was trying to do. And I will absolutely settle for “The focus of these poems is squarely on a moment of human connection and warmth.”

I am also considering getting a tattoo of “These are poems that look at life at once deeply and humorously. With playfulness and compassion, they are unafraid of probing the darkest places, but are always prepared to turn on the light.”. That said, I’ll need to do (some) more lifting of weights to get arms big enough.

Mat Riches, It would be reviewed not to

Remember my Jeff Goldblum thirst poem? Well, Faith Allen of Geez Louise Productions loved it so much that she licensed it, created an image, and put it on some items. So now there’s a version of my poem shaped like Jeff Goldblum that you can purchase as a mug. Or a poster. Or a tote bag. Or…

Katie Manning, My Jeff Goldblum Thirst Poem!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I have my own picture book, illustrated by Leanne Hatch, coming out early next year. ON MY BIRTHDAY OF ALL DAYS! You can pre-order My Thoughts Have Wings now, for delivery in February 2024. And I hope you will, since preorders really do determine the life a book will have—the resources it receives, the shelf space that bookstores devote to it, and the number of readers it makes its way to. If you have a young person in your life, or an expectant parent (or grandparent!), I’d be honored if you preordered this book for them.

Maggie Smith, Great Books for Kids (& Caregivers)

I understand people cutting back this year, as things are more expensive than usual, but you know what? Most books are the same price they were ten years ago! I don’t know if you’re the kind of person who gifts books, but if you are, I most heartily recommend the following:

-Kelli Russell Agodon’s Dialogue with Rising Tides

-Lesley Wheeler’s Unbecoming (speculative fiction) and (nonfiction) Poetry’s Possible Worlds

-Cynthia Hogue’s instead, it is dark

-Melissa Studdard’s Dear Selection Committee

–Rosebud Ben-Oni’s If This is the Age We End Discovery

Some of my favorite fiction reads this year included White Cat, Black Dog by Kelly Link (re-imagined fairy tales) and When We Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill.

and if you have friends or relatives who’ve struggled with a tough diagnosis in the past couple of years, may I recommend my own Flare, Corona? A book I hope others will find helpful in tough times. Hope your holidays will be healthy and bright!

Jeannine Hall Gailey, An Interview in Whale Road Review, Two ER Visits in a Week: Not the Way to Spend the Holiday, Books for the Holidays

A depressing picture of urban life. Yes, it might be, were it not for the note of hope that emerges at the end of the collection in the last three poems. It starts with Small Acts of Rebellion, a poem that suggests that the individual has agency. It states it is possible to resist the pressures and drudgery of city life: one doesn’t have to collude with the demands to conform: one can ‘let a train pass without boarding/ to stand still on the emptying platform/ to allow the rush to flow around you/ to amble towards the jammed exit.’ One can slow down, take one’s time. Enjoy one’s surroundings, connect with the natural world: ‘saunter out into the street/ to tear your eyes from the light/ in your palm and raise them briefly…to find the small gap of blue above you’ and escape. Furthermore, the final poem, Blackbird , Remixed, concludes the pamphlet with a hymn to resistance sung by the blackbird that inspires the narrator to reinvent herself and discover a new positive way forward.

These are gritty, complex and layered poems that reward re-reading. Such is the quality of the writing that one of the poems, Plot, has understandably been nominated for the 2024 Pushcart Prize for Otto is a perceptive social observer, who has something of significance to say and has the poetic skills to say it. Sounds like a good Christmas present for poetry lovers!

Hilary Otto is an English poet based in Barcelona. Her work has featured in Ink, Sweat and TearsThe Alchemy SpoonBlack Bough Poetry, and The Storms, among other publications. In 2021 she was longlisted for the Live Canon International Poetry Prize and in 2022 she won the Hastings Book Festival Poetry Competition. Zoetrope is her first pamphlet.

Nigel Kent, Review of ‘Zoetrope’ by Hilary Otto

8. Things you may find hidden in my ear by Mosab Abu Toha gets a 4.5 out of 5 for raw poetry that finds the simplest way to say the deepest, most excruciatingly difficult things. The poems, written from Gaza, are a story of unbearable loss: of home, of friends and family, of safety, of being. “Why is it when I dream of Palestine, that I see it in black and white?” (Notebooks).
9. He opens with a prose-poem, Palestine A-Z, that presents a lexicon for life in Gaza, a masterful effort, stunning in its frank clarity. “My mother felt pain, and an hour later, she gave birth to me. I love the rain and the sea, the last two things I heard before I came into this horrible world.
10. He describes attacks and death, displacement and injury, life under bombardment and what is pulled from the rubble in a haunting flow of unrestrained emotion that leaves the reader breathless. “Whenever she meets new people, she sinks / her small hands into the pockets of her jeans, / moves them / as if she’s counting / some coins. (She’s just lost seven / fingers in the war.)” (Seven Fingers). Below the matter-of-fact tone, is the bottomless despair and in places between the dark lines, a glimmer of pride and hope. But mostly disappointment with the world. “We love what we have, no matter how little, / because if we don’t, everything will be gone.” (We love what we have)
11. His poems of personal loss stay with the reader long after the last page is read, particularly the metaphor of the broken clock. “Number 4 falls from the clock’s face / when I try to adjust the time. /As if a front tooth has fallen out. / Four days later, my brother Hudayfah / passes away.“ (The wall and the clock) and this: “Angels get hold of my infant niece. / We look around and find only / her milk bottle.” (Olympic hopscotch leap)
12. Dreaming of drowning in the sea, he writes: “Rest in peace,” / I hear my father say. / “You’ve found a better place.” (Deserted boat, Dreaming). Also about another dream: ”Drenched in sweat. / I can see the stars / through a bullet hole in the ceiling.” (Cold Sweat)
13. And then cold reality that questions the reader’s morality and courage: “People die. / Others are born. / For us, the fear of dying before living / haunts us while we are still / in our mothers’ wombs.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Reading list update -18

Our Advent texts can be quite a startling juxtaposition with the messages that popular culture and the American consumer economy sends us. The holiday cheer in commercial places is such a contrast with our Advent texts. The juxtaposition can be jarring, but most years, I like having options. I can have a contemplative Advent one day, followed by festive cheer the next, followed by a sorrowing December the next. […]

In another climate in a different age,
these clouds would portend snow.
Instead it’s a strange winter thunderstorm
that swoops from the south to pelt
us with weather more suitable for spring.

In this year when winter came early,
two trucks collide to litter
the side street with stuffed
toys. The children complain
that the toys don’t speak.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Advent Stories and Midwinter Poems

I feel like a fraud when I describe myself as a trauma survivor, as though there is some kind of trauma Olympics and I am a mere bronze medal recipient. Yet here I am, experiencing hypervigilance that is so acute I am afraid of my own (very lovely) husband coming through the back door, suffused with Oscar worthy panic if the phone rings unexpectedly, and constantly have to wrestle my mind back from imagining the deaths of those I care about.

It’s exhausting and terrifying. I’ve learned that these symptoms ebb and flow, and so am more prepared for their onslaught at times when my physical and mental capabilities are challenged. I am used to it and understand that it’s a part of the way I live. I am reaching a point where I know that those that matter understand it too.

This state of hypervigilance does make socialising very difficult. I am constantly second guessing those around me, constantly looking for clues as to who is safe and who may be a threat. This happens without me really realising, but I have learned that it means I make instant (sometimes inaccurate) assessments of a person or situation and modify my behaviour accordingly. I seek to mask the storm in my mind, in order to function and of course to make my escape intact. The flip side of this is that when I encounter those who seem safe, who give me some sense of connection then the bond can be intense – almost too much the other way.

It occurs to me that this tempering of behaviour impacts my writing. I have been wrestling with myself as a writer over these last few months. Where do I fit? How do I “get in” to all these groups and gatherings of poets that are so kind and welcoming and yet still terrify me? I am not sure I can find the pathway, never mind walk on it. I have notebooks filled with work that I’ve “toned down” or reworked to make them a bit less sad or serious. I read work that is oozing with poetic devices and concepts that I would cut from my own poems because of fear that it seems too “poetic” and therefore beyond me (who do I think I am?) I judge my words before they reach my pen, filter them through a gauze of what iffery. I stick to writing observational type poems about trees to avoid any upset, I keep my language sensible and plain. I keep my ideas and thoughts to myself, because what is the point of me expressing them when there are so many others doing it so much more effectively. I am my own jailer, my own dungeon master. And I still do not know how to get free.

So I hide. I choose to garden or bake because these things demand less and have simple, clear results. I wonder whether perhaps it would be better not to write, perhaps I just need to accept my mediocrity and get back in line. Keep to my place. Yet I could be the voice of the quiet, the voice from the chair at the edge of the room, the hare in the shadow of grass, bursting across the fields, racing from those who seek to extinguish her.

Kathryn Anna Marshall, Untaming my voice

You may stop stock-still at the sink
washing produce, seized suddenly
by awareness of everyone without water
or food to wash in it. Remember
grief is sticky, like tape attaching
to itself and refusing to pull free
so every sorrow re-opens every other.

I want to say: kindle one candle
and breathe with its light! Inside you
the tempests will settle. But this
may not be true. I can’t promise when
the grief will end. Bring light anyway:
our souls are God’s candles, even when
we’re not sure we still know how to shine.

Rachel Barenblat, Feel

I don’t know what to say or do in this current world of crisis. No vigil I’ve attended, none of the sputtering letters I’ve written to decision-makers, can stop the atrocities causing immense suffering at this moment. I feel even more disempowered recognizing that defense-related firms heavily influence US elections as well as foreign policy itself, weaponizing our tax dollars for their profit regardless of the toll. I contribute to reputable charities when I can, including Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, and World Central Kitchen (as well as Move To Amend, which works to limit corporate influence in politics). I read about and sometimes write about structural change needed to grow a more just, regenerative, collaborative society. But mostly, I feel helpless.

Laura Grace Weldon, Seeking Peace

So, I’m baking
and crying, and
trying not to.
It’s now two weeks
and a half, or
eighteen days, or
yesterday, or
forever and
a day, a day.
A day shredded
from the inside
out, and rolled flat.

PF Anderson, Dear You

We moved here in July to a house on a rangy gravel-road cul-de-sac in northwestern Vermont from the west coast: hopeful, tired-out, a little overwhelmed at the DIY-ness of our new life. The area is about half “camps,” three-season vacation homes for people who live elsewhere, the rest of the homes belonging to “year-rounders” like us. Some houses are old abandoned Canadian camps with holes in the roofs, some are gorgeous windowed lake homes; our new place is in the middle (not gorgeous, not on the lake, but renovated and comfortable). We experienced so much kindness and welcome from everyone. We quickly realized, too, that local connections are essential for any number of needs—you have to know the right people. The interdependence and mutual support of the people around us was (and is) striking and moving. Maybe that seems normal to other people used to living in the country, but we are new to it and we appreciate it.

Our neighbors, Maria and Jose, emigrated to Canada from Argentina in the late 1990s and when it became clear that Maria would not be allowed to practice medicine while living there, they emigrated again, to Vermont with their two children. She took her board exams for a second time in the U.S., completed a medical residency at UVM Medical Center speaking a second language, with two small children. She was famous for her food and their parties. The network of people who loved their family was palpable at the memorial service, lots of songs in Spanish, dancing, tears.

Today the family will be here across the road at their camp to spread Maria’s ashes in Lake Champlain and under the apple tree.

The feelings from this experience hit me hard at this chaotic moment in history, when we are so at odds with each other, when lies and injustice threaten to destroy us, when anti-immigrant propaganda and threats are in mainstream discourse, when people are devastated and displaced by war. For weeks I have wanted to write a post about the plans for my forthcoming book of poetry, but I have not had the mind- or heart-space for it. I’ll write that post soon—for now, I wish you peace and connection and love, wherever and whoever you are.

Katharine Whitcomb, Thinking With My Heart


his head drooping, beard filled with ash,
the man in the PRESS vest wonders
how much longer he can possibly continue


a car pulls over to the side of the road
two women in hijab hand a tray of
blueberry muffins out the window
to a lone protester
they wave and drive on

Jason Crane, POEM: Meanwhile

Lightness of spirit! I had been chasing my joie de vivre, wondering where it could be hiding. I had been on the front lines of culture wars, in the trenches, laboring to talk to all sides. I was looking for the seams of illumination. But the heavy load became leaden; I acquired a leaden walk. Even when tamping it down, I felt leaden. Even in Paris, I said this has long legs. The world has long legs and arms, and every armature to invade our spirit.

Lightness of spirit – how? Lightness – how to remember giddiness, a spritz, a throwing off of weight?

I dreamed of a man leaning against a wall. Every time I looked, he had an open passage on his chest, as if his upper cavity were an aquarium. He had waves within him that surged and coursed but never overflowed. Three times I looked, and his chest was still transparent and full of bright water. It was the first night of Hanukkah. Magritte dans les rêves?

Then, with no warning, no reason, no nothing, all that heaviness lifted — oof! gone! — a clear surge of water swept through. It happens. I had to wait to touch the original part of self birthed by wonder. I had been burnishing my list of things I love about Paris and who wouldn’t be grateful, but I needed the bolt of light. Wonder again! The gray weather now still sits on my eyebrows, “la grisaille s’est assise sur mes sourcils,” but my eyes are seeing – the fabulous, in spite of everything. Including. Everything.

Jill Pearlman, Lightness Lost and Found

A nervous girl has a go. Her hands tremble, she coughs to clear her throat, twists a strand of her behind an ear, takes a deep breath and reads a gentle poem about falling deeply in love on the day the world ends and we are all incinerated. Dave’s dog interrupts the end of the poem by howling in agony. Dave realises he has trapped its tail beneath the leg of his chair.

Dave asks brightly if the couple with the bagpipes would like another try. They would. During the clatter and confusion of setting up, I feign a coughing fit, wave an apology and stumble out. As I walk down the street I hear them strike up a not-altogether dissimilar version of the porridge oats tune. I hear the woman chanting: War Is Evil! War Is Evil!

In a doorway, an old man is smoking. He looks up at the pub window, flicks ash into a bush.


Fiona Larkin and Jonathan Totman shared a Zoom book launch this evening. Poems were shown as well as read out. Both read well, not saying too much between poems.

Maybe “Borderland” was my favourite Fiona Larkin piece. Seeing the texts rather distracted me – some were short-lined, others weren’t and I couldn’t work out why – the reading gave no clue.

Jonathan Totman’s “Sessions” had therapy as a theme (the book has 50 poems, sessions last 50 minutes). They were all described as sonnets, though I think this is needlessly provocative. I like the idea of the sonnets representing the room/time constraint, and I liked the poems. Going by this sample, there’s much variety of approach to the topic (not least being on either side of the desk). Maybe “On a scale of 1 to 643” was my favourite.

Tim Love, Pindrop Press book launches – Fiona Larkin and Jonathan Totman

In 30 years Vane Women Press has published 24 pamphlets and this anthology includes a selection of poems by 29 of its members past and present. Having reviewed and/or read for pleasure some of those publications, meeting the poems in this anthology poems was like meeting old friends and making some new ones.

Lindsay Balderson’s “Making Sloe Gin” invites readers to

“At Christmas time in hearth’s glow,
after long, languid maturing,
pour out your precious jewel,
sip together, feel the heat.”

Those gentle long vowels echo the sense, making it a tempting invite.

Emma Lee, “Glorious Vane 30 Years of Vane Women Press” (Vane Women Press) – book review

5 – Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

I love doing readings.  My road not taken? an actress.  I adore voices.

6 – Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

Again picking up from “voices” from the last question, the biggest theoretical concern I don’t have, and never have had, is the prescription to “find your voice.”  For me, that’s not the task of poetry.  Utterance that comes out has to do with the intersections of imagination and memory and language and form.  Voice as identity? having just one? well, that’s not a process I believe in.  I believe in engagement at intersections, with other minds and with weather. 

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I get nothing, personally, by placing the tips of my third-and-fourth fingers on the wrist of culture.  I know there’s a pulse there but it is so huge and so complex, I can’t deal with it.  Only language and the art of using it is the realm I have access to.  Infinite writers, manifold roles, make up reality for me.  It may or may not have a public aspect, but for me, not so much.  It’s abstract.  It’s a belonging to consciousness.  Culture and consciousness overlap, I suppose, but on different levels of our times and spaces.

rob mclennan, 12 or 20 (second series) questions with Mary Leader

I like a good reminder of what the body is made of, a fascination of sinew, an architecture of bones. I live too much in made-world, a clean kitchen. I eat meat. I feel I must be okay with this: the blood on the snow, a hoof, portions of a dismembered body, once fleet and big-eyed, ear-twitching, now dis-embodied, rent. I need to understand the blood on my hands.

And, of course, Death is among us always — a loved one here, a war crime there, terrible accident, unthinkable slaughter, and just the dull fact of the mortality of all things that live. Which then die. I think about it, well, not infrequently.

And change too, and the vulnerability of us sometimes in the face of change, even change we’ve wrought upon ourselves. I am in the process of trying to dismantle an old aspect of my self. When I look myself in the eye, do I see all my selves in the mirror? Or just the self I am today? If I look closely, I may see a spot of some blood, a seep of guts.

It was Sean Singer’s wonderfully curated daily selection that set this poem in front of me.  Death is front and center in Carol Frost’s “To Kill a Deer.” The speaker is woman, is Diana goddess of the hunt, is every human who has lost and bent a head over the loss, over the mysterious passage of a live thing to what is left after life has ended.

It is a difficult poem to experience. I am warning you.

Marilyn McCabe, Season

The recent removal of funding from Planet and New Welsh Review should shake English poetry publishers and magazines to the core. Bearing in mind that this axe has been wielded by a Labour-run administration in Wales, it’s a stark reminder of a bleak future for business plans that are reduced to making applications to ACE, no matter who might win the forthcoming general election, no matter what prior relationships might have been built. How long will such funding bodies continue to sustain ventures where the sales figures often total less than a third of the staff costs, and that’s before we discuss non-existent profit margins?

In this context, instead of simply waiting for eventual, inevitable rejection, then panicking and scrambling to beg individuals for help in a last-gasp survival bid, wouldn’t it be more sensible for publishers and magazines to act in advance and reconsider their attitudes towards the relative importance of sales when balancing their books (sic)? Several excellent, self-sustaining models are already out there, after all, but such outfits have had to commit fully to driving sales, and have taken time to build a strong identity. It’s impossible to generate a core base of loyal customers overnight.

Rather than viewing funding as a necessary, permanent prop, why not see it as a temporary boost that enables magazines and publishers to target long-term editorial and commercial independence…?

Matthew Stewart, On the future of funding for poetry in England…

Rob Taylor: I wanted to open this interview with your poem “MacKay Creek” because to me it stands in stark contrast with the titular creek in your new poetry collection, False Creek. Unlike North Vancouver’s MacKay Creek, downtown Vancouver’s False Creek doesn’t flow like a creek at all, and its history—especially its pre-colonial history—was withheld from you. Could you talk a little about False Creek? How did you come to see it as a focal point for the various concerns you explore in the book?

Jane Munro: False Creek came first. I walked around this strange but fascinating element of the city I’d come back to, my home city. Like so much in my relationship with this place, False Creek epitomized contradictions. 

As a child I’d followed MacKay Creek as far up and down its flow as I could go. That creek was a real creek—one with fresh water (though maybe not potable) and traversed by bears. I played there, felt safe there, prayed there: left gifts, arranged offerings. I didn’t have the same reverence for False Creek. I studied what I could learn about its life and history trying to understand what had happened to this inlet to the heart and values of Vancouver. The city exploits land and water ways, corrupts, and reduces the natural environment.

For me, False Creek was a naked image, something odd and plain—a kind of haiku of Vancouver. My home.

RT: In your 2021 memoir Open Every Window, which describes your struggle with your husband’s Alzheimer’s, you write “We live in a time of dementia: its tsunami hitting persons we know, society’s forgetfulness, even the earth losing mind with the extinction of species.” In many ways, False Creek feels like an attempt to directly address “society’s forgetfulness”—a repudiation of dementia and unlearning in all their forms. Would you say that’s true? 

JM: I am part of society; I am forgetful and ignorant. Going through Bob’s battle with dementia was anguishing. I project my “keel of grief” onto Vancouver by saying False Creek is Vancouver’s keel of grief. But a keel keeps a vessel upright. A keel allows one to steer – stay on course. 

Rob Taylor, Choosing Not To Cry: An Interview with Jane Munro

Where the freeway bumps up against a street, which trades secrets with an alleyway, you’ll find a wounded piano. It sings of what is gone and what remains. Old currency is stitched into its wayward notes, meaningless to some, still its tone is diamond. The music: ragtorn and rare, a glissando of heartbreak and radiance. Melodies pearl in the sunset hour. You can hear them over the highway’s rush-hour sigh: cycles of singing, cycles of static.

Rich Ferguson, The Wounded Piano

the commercial says
“you can save the world with what
you buy.” there is only one thing to buy.
this makes salvation the easiest it’s ever been
in all of history. i do not need
an escort. i do not need a grandmother.
i need a fork & knife. i need a pig
full of hard candy. tell me, when was
the last time you felt full. i went out
into the static yard. found my secret
patch of dirt & swallowed as much soil
as i could manage. a potato grew inside me.
i told no one. could not bring myself
to remove it. my own private child.
my little root. any day i could remove it
& we could roast it over a burning television.

Robin Gow, plastic dinner

My friend says, perhaps you
haven’t cried enough; watch sad movies and

let yourself go. I taste metallic earth in my throat
at night, and dream of walking through rooms

whose windows all open to the sea. The neighbor’s
yard is studded with the gold of persimmons. Each

branch bows from their weight at various stages:
ripe, unripe, swollen with impossible desire.

Luisa A. Igloria, Poem with Dream and Unpicked Persimmons

自販機の明かりぽつんと山眠る 柴田多鶴子

jihanki no akari potsun to yama nemuru

            a lonely light

            of a vending machine

            the mountain sleeps

                                                            Tazuko Shibata

from Haiku Shiki (Haiku Four Seasons), February 2022 Issue, Tokyo Shiki Shuppan, Tokyo

Fay’s Note:  “yama nemuru” (a mountain sleeps) is a winter kigo.

Fay Aoyagi, Today’s Haiku (December 11, 2023)

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