Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 1

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.

The first digest of 2024 is a day late, but hopefully not a dollar short. (And yes, I know that expression dates me. I am an old.) Ten inches of snow fell and then were partly washed away again as I compiled this post today, which is quite Janus-faced: half looking back and half looking forward, half summarizing and half summoning. Let’s begin.

Whether we feel like we’re gradually sliding, or hurtling, into the new year, I think most of us agree that it is not without trepidation. It’s hard to think of 2024 with some sort of glittery, jovial anticipation – not after the year just past, and not with our awareness of how rocky the next months are likely to be. I, for one, feel like I’m hurtling headlong, with very little control over external events. Which makes me feel like it’s more important than ever to slow down, look around myself, and do some thinking. Not making resolutions, which I generally find unrealistic, but considering some ways to approach life in these unstable and uncertain times.

The first thing I’m trying to do is think about what’s real, and that’s probably why the first painting of the year is the one you see here — a Quebec landscape in winter. We saw this scene from our car window when driving out to see friends in the countryside the day after Christmas, and I painted it quickly, from my photograph, on New Year’s Eve. The snow is probably gone now; the effects of climate change are undeniable this year – we’ve had very little snow at all and the temperatures have been right around freezing, which is unseasonably warm. But the landscape itself — its flatness, the small copses of trees in the plowed fields, the low foothills of the Laurentians in the distance — remains very real and very much itself.

I’m still comforted by nature, even though the warming climate is frightening. I’m comforted by the clods of earth in the fields, the winter clouds, the shapes of trees and the wind blowing through them, the tiny branches and black trunks of trees, the tall dead grasses in shades of ochre, russet, beige and brown, the way the cold bites my cheeks, the taste of the apple in my hands. All of it is beautiful to me, and real, reminding me that I too am a natural being, I too am alive, with the capacity to observe, feel, and think.

The world inside my computer, which reflects the outer world of human beings and their actions, tells me what is happening, and I pay attention to that and think about it a great deal, sometimes taking actions as a result. But I don’t have to scroll very far to see that my reality is quite different from that of many other people. Around the holidays, I was literally bombarded with posts by people who wanted to sell me something, or were striving to say “look at me!,” with no apparent awareness that 22,000 people who four months ago were also eating, breathing, putting on clothes in the morning and making something to eat, changing their babies or going to work, going to school, and loving their beloveds, are no longer able to do anything at all. They are gone, dead, many not even properly buried. And the rest of the world is divided between those who are deeply aware of this, and those for whom it mean next to nothing. How are we to think about reality in such a situation? And as extreme as it is, this is just one area of deep concern affecting our lives and our futures.

Beth Adams, What is Real?

All we need is a list, a
table: who will do what, when — names,
places, actions, dates — all adding up to
less than 1.5oC. And maybe one more
grid: who will pay how much, when —
names, places, actions, dates — all adding
up to the billions required for loss and
damage, for mitigation, for adaptation,
sorted by historical burden. Now, that
would become a poem. But what do we
do with pages of unmetered language? With
unwieldly metaphors and no rhyme? Without
totals? Without a safety net?

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Phase-out/Phase-down

The sunflower
tore off its petals,
the rainbow
the pink and purple
cut to white,
the morning sun
and when night came
the stars
had lost their reflections.

Sue Ibrahim, Sea star mass mortality event

To answer my question about how poets write about literal and existential risks to life on Earth, I started collecting “apocalypse poems,” a term I used broadly. My list is below. Many of its poems address end times head on. Others are less explicit but have (in my assessment) apocalypse vibes. They are “end-of-the-world adjacent,” using apocalyptic or dystopian settings as a backdrop or simply gesturing at demise and so I’ve allowed their metaphors to work within this list of apocalypse poems.

In these poems, poets speak to what may be coming and flirt with a kind of inevitability fueled by our complicity and impotence. They issue warnings that beg questions: Can we be saved? Do we want to be saved? Who’s driving the bus? What’s worth saving? Are we willing? What does it mean to survive?

Carolee Bennett, The One With 50+ Poems for the End of the World

The too-short truce was all the time
they had to bury the dead boy lying

in their rubbled apartment. Already
they’d waited four days, the body

of their 10-year-old wrapped in
a blanket providing no warmth,

his last rites un-mouthed, never
to be heard amid the later bombings.

Maureen E. Doallas, Gaza Funeral (Poem)

I haven’t been writing much—not enough mental energy—but I do think about the idea of “wintering,” or that we need to sort of make our way through winter gingerly, at least making some awareness of the need for warmth and hibernation. I’ve been sleeping at off hours—awake at 3 in the morning, asleep at 5 pm—which means I’m only watching weird stuff on television and reading in stray catches of awake time. “Winter just wasn’t my season,” as the song “Breathe (2 AM)” says. […]

I was thinking of two great writers we recently lost, Louise Gluck and Colleen McElroy, how both had disabilities they rarely talked about (Gluck had epilepsy, Colleen had RA), both were fiercely devoted to their work. Gluck was born into a lot of privilege; Colleen had to struggle more against a world less friendly to women, especially women of color, as a young person. I feel Colleen didn’t get enough recognition for her gifts as a teacher and writer and was the kind of person you instantly trusted—she radiated energy and warmth. Gluck wasn’t warm—even her obituaries seem prickly. I wonder about the value of our writing and our personhood after we pass away—how will we be remembered? Will time be kinder to one than the other? I wonder about the value of work versus the value of relationships, how often women are forced to choose in a way men are not. I am lucky I had a husband who was just as supportive when I was working ninety-hour weeks at Microsoft as when I now spend hours submitting poems to journals that don’t pay enough to cover the cost of submission. I never had to choose between a marriage and work, or a child and work (since I couldn’t have kids in the first place). As I get older, in the cold January months, I think harder about the choices I’ve made in my life. It will be later in life that I’ll be able to see if I made the right ones.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Wintering: The New Year So Far, Honoring the Season, and the Choices We Make

We’re browsing because I want a new jumper, distracted by Shetland, cable knits, elaborate nordic and traditional patterns which women once knew as a matter of course. And then distracted by Stitchcraft and taking phone pics, until I go off on one about the New Look and Jane disagrees with me saying some women found it offensive in its excess. No, Jackie, she says, it was celebrating a way out of poverty, wartime. And yes, of course that’s right. I’m a little on my high horse with the champagne and tired, and maybe too attached to the old dichotomy, the masses v the rich. 

So we carry on reading the box that is reminding us of a fraction of what women did, the stitch counting, fair isle, arran, bonnets, shawls, evening dresses and skirts, kids’ coats, darts, gathers, ruches, smocking, pleats…

I began my blue coat on Boxing Day and will finish it a few days into 2024. It’s been a good use of the limbo time at the turn of the year when my notebook remains untouched. That and the odd walk with Bambi, reminding me of what matters – those waves battering the sea wall at Saltdean, and this, Noah’s Ark, beached there, police tape fluttering in another gale, a warning of sorts. 

Jackie Wills, The Poetry of Domestic Arts and Sciences

I don’t mean isolation is necessary in a physical sense, although pottering about doing jobs on our smallholding, looking after hens, pigs, woodland and a four-acre field can mean spending hours alone in whatever the weather might throw at us.

I don’t mean isolation from the news either. I want to know about Palestine, Ukraine, Sudan, Yemen, what’s happening with the state of the planet. I want to know what the ‘leaders’ of the world are saying, even though I understand they’re just performers on a stage, mostly anxious to protect their own power. The reality of the misery of the victims of their actions or in-action is of little consequence to them, unless it causes their wealth to be de-stabilised. The world is as mad as it always was.

Politically, the older I get, the more radical I get, the more intolerant I get of the lies or half-truths (the half that suits them) politicians tell as a daily routine.

No, the isolation I’m interested in is the healthy isolation of being a writer. With a very few exceptions, I have no friends who write – anything, let alone poetry, or something close to it – and seek out none. It’s not a case of banishing people to the fringes of life as it rolls along, just an increased need to write free from the influence and society of others.

Yes, there are occasional, welcome email conversations that are a result of what is published here, or what others publish on their blogs, but these days that’s about the limit of it.


2024 has entered with wet, wild winds. Ice everywhere underfoot. The world is slippery and precarious. This kind of weather isn’t unheard of on Kachemak Bay at this time of year, but it is unwanted. It tarnishes all the brightness of snowy landscapes and makes getting around outside difficult.

And so I turn inward. Spend evenings in a pool of lamp light near the woodstove. Consumed already this year: two books of poetry, Some of the Things I’ve Seen by Sara Berkeley and Earth House by Matthew Hollis, as well as Tom Lake by Ann Patchett and Stag Cult by Martin Shaw. Last year, I read fewer books that I usually do, and I am wondering at the reason.

Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Welcome 2024 – Whatcha reading?

In my annual tradition since 2012, I share my self-audit of what I read and favourite reads. Throughout the year at instagram I have posted all the reads and some of the quotes from books I liked.

I aimed to read more fiction proportionally this year, setting aside some obsession with poetry. Intention didn’t translate. 57% of titles were poetry, so all systems stable, with 1% more poetry than last year. A fifth of reads were chapbooks (56 of them). I read 20 fewer titles than 2022. This year I reread 15 instead of 24 titles. […]

The source hierarchy for 2023 was Amazon, small press fair, free online, used book store, review copy, then library at 8%, with direct from author 6%, and direct from publisher another 6%.

I persisted through diminishing returns more often, valuing 4% at one star out of 5, instead of 1% the year before,  but for that I blame the cat sitting on me more, with nothing else in reach.

Pearl Pirie, 2023 Reading

I was delighted that the Englewood Review of Books invited me to contribute to their year-end Favorite Books of 2023 podcast! A link to listen and a complete list of recommended books is available at this link.

I gave a shoutout to These Walls are Starting to Glow by Karen Bjork Kubin and Box Office Gospel: Poems by Marissa Glover.

Katie Manning, ERB Year-End Episode

Once more, I offer my annual list of the seemingly-arbitrary “worth repeating” (given ‘best’ is such an inconclusive, imprecise designation), constructed from the list of Canadian poetry titles I’ve managed to review throughout the past year. […]

I wonder, occasionally, if I should be working similar ‘best of’ lists for chapbooks, or American full-length collections, or fiction, or a geographically-unspecified list of full-length collections, but then I remember that this list takes a full day to compile and post, so there you go. And you know this list always includes a few stragglers from the year prior, yes? I mean, I can only do so much during a calendar year. Beyond that, I always mean for these lists to be shorter, but I couldn’t think of a list without including every book on this list. Is there simply too much exciting work being produced right now?

rob mclennan, A ‘best of’ list of 2023 Canadian poetry books

In 2023, I read 100 books. That’s according to Beanstack, where I track my reading now. I read all kinds of things, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, murder mystery, young adult, and even a children’s book, the marvelous Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo, which I had heard about for many years. And I gave some books as Christmas presents, favorites from the year or from the recent months spent escaping, slothlike, on the couch, covered in fleece blankets. Speaking of sloths, I have already earned a sloth as a “completion prize” in the library’s winter reading challenge, set up as a bingo card, where I have scored a Bingo from slothliness. […]

All my poems these days are about my mother, even if they are ekphrastic or written on poscards. “Grief deranges,” says Gish Jen in The Resisters, a book I read in January, actually. “Healing is slow.” It sure is. I am participating in a solstice-to-solstice poetry postcard project and have sent 8 postcards and received 3. (Maybe that will pick up after the holiday mail…) Some have gone to Santa Cruz, CA and Portland, OR, where I have family, and one went to Japan! I love the random coincidii…

Kathleen Kirk, 100 Books

Lushly, thickly
a polar bear hibernates
under our infinite skies, 

in our midst:
bristling white 
visiting behemoth.

From my tiny pane,
I see its heavy

see its lungs, and fir
rise and fall

in branch 
and mind
and rise again.

Jill Pearlman, Winter’s Other

I’ve been trying to make a summary of last year without slipping into the negative, so I’d like to single out a wonderful thing that happened in 2023: my second book of visual poetry was accepted by Sarabande. Boy, I started that sentence on a down note but typing to the end made me happy.

For the past three years or so I’ve been working with “Classic Crimes” by William Roughead, considered one of the first books of the true crime genre. This is a hefty NYRB book of around 600 pages about murders in Scotland more than 100 years ago. They are base and grisly murders, though the writing can be staid and sticks with the facts. I hope my erasures and collages give the pages a good airing.

Sarah J. Sloat, Crime of Passion

On a personal level, 2024 was a very busy year, which largely explains the sparse posting! In addition to writing and teaching, I served as Writer-in-Residence at the University of the Fraser Valley in the winter, and then returned to campus to coordinate the Fraser Valley Writers Festival in the Fall. I also wrapped up edits on my next book, Weather, a companion piece to my 2016 collection The News, which will be published this Spring from Gaspereau Press.

Rob Taylor, the 2023 roll of nickels year in review

Whatever You Do, Just Don’t has been chosen by The Yorkshire Times as one of their Books of the Year 2023. Thanks to Steve Whitaker, the literary editor, for his selection. Here’s a quick quote from the article… “…Whatever You Do, Just Don’t is as warming and as compelling as the fine Spanish wine that Stewart blends…” And you can read the feature in full via this link.

Matthew Stewart, The Yorkshire Times’ Books of the Year

As I usually do at the start of the year, I look back on the data of a calendar year of writing. 16 poems in 12 paper copy journals or anthologies. Humbled that one of my poems landed in an anthology not too many pages away from poems by the writer Sheila Bender and Joseph Powell, one of my creative writing professors at Central Washington University. In 1993, he published his collection of poems, Winter Insomnia. I attended that launch and in the copy of the book I purchased after, his inscription encouraged me to “keep up the fine writing and send me a copy of your first book.” I made true on that in 2017 when I mailed him a copy of Something Yet to Be Named. I still have the letter he wrote in return.

Additionally, I published 18 poems in online journals. I am so very grateful for all editors who take a chance on writing and move it from a page in a writer’s hand to a greater reading world. 

And because I’m an absolute believer in seeing the whole picture, 2023 landed me 23 rejections and 15 still-waiting-for-confirmations, or in the words of Submittable, “Received” or “In Progress.” And that’s all bundled up in the beauty of writing as well. 

Kersten Christianson, Rolling in 2024

In reference to a recent post, I’m coming to my poetry in 2024 with a great deal of curiosity and openness. I’ve been rather myopic in the past–out of necessity, as we’ve gone through some difficult times–but now I’m wondering these things:
1. Who is my ideal reader?
2. Where does this ideal reader, read? What literary magazines, which presses?
3. Who is my ideal reader already reading? Which writers and poets?
4. These writers and poets–what contests are they winning? What conferences are they attending?
5. Which poets can I look to as career role models–both those who are far ahead (60+ years of writing), those who are a little ahead, those who are my peers?

I think this could give me some direction as to where to focus my efforts this year. What questions are you pondering in 2024?

Renee Emerson, 5 Questions I’m Asking

In December, I participated in an annual poem-a-day challenge. This is my happy place. It is also my anxiety. What if I can’t think of anything to write about? How, or with what, do I start? That concern begins on the first day–even when I come equipped with prompts and a project, an idea for a series. It’s the fear of facing the blank page.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Paul McCartney. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the documentary The Beatles: Get Back, Part 1. The footage includes a lot of bickering, but one moment stands out in my memory. While other musicians are arguing about, probably, everything, Paul is working on a little riff, maybe eight or ten notes. He plays it, then he plays a slightly different version, and again, and again, and again. He keeps playing with it, refining it. He didn’t come up with a genius phrase; he came up with a starting point and kept experimenting with it.

The word that comes to mind is noodle, to noodle around with something. The idea that you don’t have to come up with the right image or line or phrase on your first try. Get something, anything, down on the page or the screen, and then keep playing with it, keep noodling. See? Much less pressure.

If we’re going to revise through multiple drafts anyway, why should the starting point contain so much importance? Instead of the starting point, it’s just a starting point.

Joannie Stangeland, Not just the fresh start

It’s Monday, the first day of the new semester and I am on sabbatical: sitting in a sweet café down the hill from my house–a place I have intended and failed to visit for the last year– having a slow, intentional, delicious coffee, listening to jazz music from the speakers and car music from Second Avenue, and staring into the wide open space that has opened up in front of my exhausted body, brain and spirit.

This is precious.

What will I do with my one wild and precious sabbatical? Well, Mary Oliver, let me tell you: I am going to savor it like I’m savoring this cup of coffee. I don’t precisely know what that savoring will look like, though. I am not traveling much outside of some events to promote my new book in March, and while I did propose a specific project in my sabbatical application, it’s been three years since that application and the project I proposed has morphed into something very different.

Sheila Squillante, A Wide Open Space

There’s a physiotherapist on Instagram who specializes in breast cancer “survivors”. She says that technically, in Australia at any rate, a person is a cancer survivor from the moment they are diagnosed until they die. She points out that a lot of “cancer survivors” don’t like that designation. It sounds like some kind of loud rally slogan. I feel that way, too. I would really like these 8 months to fade into the wallpaper. It’s there, but I don’t want cancer to be a part of my identity, as much as it has been conspicuous in every aspect of my life for a while.

I know there are many women who have managed this.

I have changed. But not as significantly as being a mother changed me. Probably not as much as any of or all the mistakes I’ve made in my life have changed me. As travel has changed me. As having lost a friend has. As love – so many loves. As so many things I don’t want to write about here.

If I let myself carry these new changes forward as I return to my “real life”, I believe I can find a different kind of peace than I had before. My ambitions are softer. While I used to believe that my writing was about the doing, about the in-the-moment flow, I don’t think I was honest with myself. I was still whipping myself more than I was allowing myself to just enjoy what comes or doesn’t come. I was still looking for approval as much as I was wanting communication. this applies to me teaching, too. Even some of my relationships.

It’s not that I’ve lowered the bar of “good enough”, really. I’m doing away with the bar.

Ren Powell, The End of Active Treatment

I am a tumble down mess red in tooth and claw like the tumbling tumbleweed of yore my body a ghost town with dust and saloon doors flapping open and closed and my neck feels funny and I need to drink more water don’t we all just need to drink more and more and more water until they have to cut a hole in our guts to let it stream out at our end. But I am PRESENT I am inside my body. I am notating Jerusalem it is lovely inside my face a red sky sloop down weepweepweepweep stained beyond anything that might occur in the bathtub.

Jupiter sits on my chest and begs me to stay I will stay because she is the Magiker sleek black we are dizzy with mustard pricks. When my phone rings I fling it out of my hand. My throat is a yellow eyeglass. My lungs are wasps but in spite of all this I baked a goddamn gorgeous cake feral in its chocolately gnashy truffle goodness.

Rebecca Loudon, Pig and farm report king tides & A High Wind In Jamaica edition

When I first re-visited the video so that I could write this blog, I have to admit I cringed a little. It’s tempting to apologise for my double-chin & jowls, thick torso, my awkwardness and kind of arty-posiness. But I won’t apologise, because making these things visible is the point. By showing the cracks, the fat, the visceral textures & racing sky I believe Patrick has captured something far greater than me in this video poem, so much so that I recede as protagonist and become just one of the textures woven into time and space. I really think he’s made a video poem that could read as a meditation (in the same way that Pamela Boutros did in the video poem LOST)


We filmed in Patrick’s bedroom in an old house in Melbourne, Australia. But first we had to prop his bed up against one of the walls so we had enough room to film.

Caroline Reid, VIDEO POEM: To Touch & Taste a Comet, featuring Caroline Reid in a bedroom in Melbourne

This little beauty is a sneak peek at the GRANATA project now in the final stages of proofing that will be topside near the end of February. The series of text pieces were written (the bulk of them) in the summer of 2022, so there is definitely a lot of summer about them, as is fitting for a book about everyone’s favorite goddess. But it’s also a book about the Furies, which many believe were the punished friends of Persephone who failed to save her from abduction (or conversely, were gifted with wings and a craving for vengeance to help find her.) It’s a book about lost innocence on all fronts, about sensuality and sexuality, about the girl world and all its monsters and ghosts. 

The art pieces that appeared were actually created a year later and mostly over the course of a single week, sometimes several a day. While I initially had planned the book to be a text-only cover, this summer’s spurt of visual work prolificness had other things in mind. Once I started I could not stop, until there were around 20 collages that accompanied the text pieces perfectly. 

Kristy Bowen, cover reveal

This January’s first round up of PoetryRx is for treating the winter blues.

Now, as you know, I don’t believe in plastering joy over sorrow or spring poems over winter ones. To paraphrase what I said about poetry in a previous post, poems offer solace by inviting us to feel our humanity activated and witnessed. They share truths that resonate with our experiences and make us feel less alone. They articulate a present reality that, through the luminous clarity of its wording, provides relief.

I hope these poems will deepen your curiosity in the season and in your own feelings about it. My own relationship to winter is a work in progress, but it’s a relationship I’m infinitely grateful to have the chance to cultivate and nurture each year.

Maya C. Popa, Poems for Your Weekend

The poems in Maya C Popa’s book, Wound is the Origin of Wonder, ask big questions: what can we learn about ourselves from the religious systems  and mythologies we created in the past? (Whether they’re believable or not isn’t the point here – Popa is looking for patterns and archetypes). What’s the world like when we’re not looking at it? What would it be like to be inside someone elses head? It’s risky territory. Poets must ‘go in fear of abstractions’, as Ezra Pound put it. But then all artists who create successful art take risks. Does Maya C Popa pull it off and, if so, how? Yes, she does – but it’s just that here and there, I found myself wondering. Then again, one thing I learned from reading the book was that the joy is in the wondering. You can read my review of it here at Stride Magazine.

Dominic Rivron, Wound is the Origin of Wonder

“Indeterminate Inflorescence” is a series of aphorisms from Lee Seong-bok’s creative writing lectures and collected by his students. Lee Seong-bok has published eight collections of poetry, academic and mainstream literary criticism, books on creative writing drawn from his career at Keimyung University, interrupted by a period of living in Paris studying the post-structuralists and tenets of Seon Buddhism.

Books on creative writing seem to largely fall in two camps, they’re either laden with academic and theoretical jargon so as to be borderline unreadable or engaging, questioning pieces that illuminate and make writers (whether professional or hobbyists) think about their practice. George Sander’s “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain” is an example of the latter. This is is also the camp Lee’s work falls in. […]

From “Writing”,

“A poet’s notebook is often better than their poems. Some do say to write poetry as if writing in one’s notes. Once there’s an awareness that ‘writing’ is being done, a kind of stiffness goes to the shoulders and the language becomes unnatural. The back of a pianist often reveals what they playing will sound like. Just like in golf or tennis, it’s only through relaxing the shoulders the ball can really be hit hard.”

Emma Lee, “Indeterminate Inflorescence” Lee Seong-Bok translated by Anton Hur (Sublunary Editions) – book review

I take comfort from this poem, which may seem strange. I love the time sweep of it, and yet its timelessness, how it wings out dizzyingly and then settles beside us in life’s tedious waiting room. How it gathers dust and whatnots — shells, poems, quotes, bits of intellectual and scientific history, an ever hopeful dog (itself having a strained [straining at the leash?] and estranged relationship with “time”). I love how the poem takes its time meandering through thought, picking things up, putting them down, souls and corpses.

Marilyn McCabe, That’s My Bag

‘Happiness writes white,’ said Larkin, abbreviating Henry de Montherlant’s maxim, ‘Le bonheur écrit à l’encre blanche sur des pages blanches’ [‘Happiness writes in white ink on white pages’], but there are exceptions to all generalisations. The end of 2023 saw the publication, by Vole Books, of My Family and Other Birds, Rod Whitworth’s long-overdue first collection, full of poems which largely, though not exclusively, celebrate life and its myriad joys. Hats off to Janice and Dónall Dempsey at Vole for recognising that it needed to be out in the world. It’s available from them, here, or from Rod, here.

Rod asked me to write one of the two endorsements for the collection, which I very gladly did, but here’s a sentence from the other one, by Peter Sansom, which truly nails the book’s qualities: ‘The work of a skilful but unshowy writer, it is imaginative, open, honest and shrewd, and many other things besides, like funny and angry and loving – a chronicle in fully realised individual poems of lives and times.’

Matthew Paul, On Rod Whitworth’s ‘Mr Knowles’

I know, I know – not that Julian of Norwich quote again, I hear you say. But it’s the start of the year, I’m looking out at blue sky, and this is the first day since November 8th that I’ve felt properly well, and that the three colds I’ve had back-to-back since then are finally wearing off. Life is good and all shall be well.

Julian of Norwich was really just a name to me until poet friend Antony lent me his copy of I, Julian by Clare Gilbert, (Hachette) which is a fictionalised autobiography of the medieval anchoress who wrote ‘Revelations of Divine Love’. I was interested in finding out more about Julian’s life, and actually I found it un-put-downable.

At the other end of the spectrum I’ve been converted to the Ruth Galloway novels by Elly Griffiths which I’ve been hoovering up on my kindle. They’re great fun, perfect for long waiting times in airports and hospitals, and a good example of (ahem) how to write not a single novel but a series.

On the poetry front, Janet Sutherland’s The Messenger House (Shearsman) has risen to the top of the TBR pile and I’ve made tentative progress through it. The book is a hybrid of prose, poetry, memoir, travelogue. So far I’ve found it intriguing and exciting. Janet likes to push the boundaries and her work is never predictable.

Robin Houghton, All shall be well

I was up early this morning, listening to the precipitation, trying to determine if it was rain or ice or sleet.  I thought of Epiphany, read T. S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi,” remembered a poem I had written in response (go here to read it), did some internet wandering, came across an idea in a blog post of mine, and wrote a few lines in response.

Two years ago, I wrote, “I am thinking of the angel warning Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt, and he does. Did other parents in Bethlehem that night dream of angels with strange messages about their infant boys? Did they remember their dreams? Were they haunted by the memory?”

This morning I wrote about being frozen in place, unable to escape what’s coming.  Part of me wants to turn it into a poem that references Gaza; part of me thinks it will be stronger if it’s more universal. 

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Epiphany Ponderings

Last year, my January challenge was to do a post a day on the blog. It was hard, but it went reasonably well and I did manage to complete it. I thought I might try to do the same this year, although I wondered if this might be setting myself up to fail. So, I’ll just aim to post more frequently! In the meantime, I’ll leave you with those ghostly mute swans, those ethereal snow clouds, the movement of feathers and snow flakes, and all the entrancing sounds Polona Oblak’s haiku contains.

Julie Mellor, The Haiku Calendar

My current slow-read is K. Setiya’s book Life Is Hard: How Philosophy Can Help Us Find Our Way. While there are many aspects of this philosophical book that interest me and pertain to current or recent experiences in my life, something that gained my attention regarding writing is the author’s suggestion that the concept of failure as a loss is bound up with cultural narratives. If we imagine our lives as arcs with the aim of goals, journeys’ ends, attainment of heart’s desires, finding true love, and the like, Setiya argues, it is too easy to feel that we are failures, and to despair or grieve. Maybe we should not be so caught up in narratives, he suggests.

Hmm. As a poet who writes a good deal of what may be termed “lyrical narrative” work and as a human who loves a good story, I’m more drawn to theories of story-as-essential-to-humans; I’m thinking here of Daniel Dennett and Brian Boyd, about whom I’ve blogged in the past (I will place those links at the end of this post). Nonetheless, poetry is often writing about what is NOT a story; some of my favorite poems have no story per se to tell, yet they move me to reflection and/or to emotional resonance. Hence they feel deeply significant.

And if you have happened to click on the links to the right of this page that lead to my poetry online, or purchased and read my books (thank you, dear readers!), you are sure to find several pieces that are not even remotely narrative. As someone who has struggled with self esteem and ambition, and often felt myself a failure, Setiya’s philosophical undoing of the concept that a well-lived or meaningful life entails having “successes” comes as a relief. Whether one decides to accept his idea–I guess that’s up to you. It’s a book worth reading given how anxious contemporary American citizens seem to be and how powerless and despairing we often feel.

Ann E. Michael, Life story

making a living takes so much time
three acres of colour
galloping after us

the Coventry Carol
packed away
and left in the dark

Ama Bolton, ABCD January 2024

I started this last year with the intention of posting once a week. That didn’t last long, as evidenced by the fact that I don’t think I’ve posted anything since September. I could feel badly about this, but honestly I don’t. No one is paying to read this, and there’s no law that says I have to be consistent. But it’s good for me to take the time to write something that doesn’t hold the tension or pressure of writing a poem. So here I am, starting up again with the same intention as last year – one post a week – and I will do my best to follow through.

When I was a teen playing on the high school basketball team (until the rest of the team grew and I stayed five foot three and mostly useful as someone who would go in and foul people), my coach always encouraged us to “follow through” on our jump shots, to maintain the arc and momentum, to give ourselves a better chance at scoring. My father and mother were always insistent about following through on commitments as well, which is probably why I still find it so difficult to cancel plans, even if I’m ill.

So what does follow-through look like in a creative life? For my writing, I am still working at not self-rejecting, not holding back on submissions or opportunities. Once I write the work and feel it is ready to be public, I need to follow through by putting it out into the world if I want others to read it. (I have started the year well in that regard – five days into the new year, I have submitted to four journals, one book prize, and one residency. Gulp.) As a newbie visual artist, I have even more impostor syndrome, but 14 pieces of my work are currently adorning the walls of my beloved local library for the month of January, a step that I wouldn’t have taken a year ago.

Donna Vorreyer, In Which I Humbly Resolve…

It is a week today since we lost him. Last night I dreamt that he is on the bed and I was telling him how beautiful he is. I keep catching him out of the corner of my eye, entering the living room, or in his bed in the kitchen. I have yet to venture down the lanes that we walked for fifteen years, it doesn’t feel right. I hadn’t realised how much I constantly chatted to him – about our day, about our plans, about him – and I miss his attentive face, always ready to engage. I miss loving him, and I miss being loved by him because he had huge capacity to love, his whole being was about love, and joy and innocence. He was the most loving dog I have ever know. You all think you have the best dog, but you’re wrong, I had him. He was mine. I was his.

I would have him back. But I can’t, he was on loan to us, and has now gone back to wherever it is he came from. I hope it is this: a field with filthy ditches, and dead pheasants to roll in and rabbits to chase and an endless blue sky to run under. Or a wide, flat beach of yellow sand, rock pools to dip in and out of, some cliffs to run up and down, other dogs to roll and run with. This is how I will imagine him.

Wendy Pratt, For Toby – the best worst dog that ever lived

Last night we ate a dish of green.
Basil and spinach, a pesto. Citrus
zest binding the grains of orzo.
The kitchen window overlooks
the yard, where the persimmon
and fig are still wintering. Sometimes
we crave a cleansing. But keep the fire
alive in the grate, the quiet smolder
inside, honey softening in the comb.

Luisa A. Igloria, Correspondence

What do you want your future to taste like?

I rather like the idea of my future tasting of jam doughnuts and candy floss. Mixing in a tinged of chip shop chips, hot chocolate and garlic butter would be good too. And then my future would taste of satisfaction with the welcome twang and tang of vivacity.

I definitely don’t want it to taste like elastic bands, but I do have an interesting passion for them which will continue into my future!

Here is one of my favourite #ElasticBandPhotos. It has now become the cover art for a ‘coffee table’ book I have worked on which puts together a year’s worth of full moon poems alongside a selection of my elastic band photographs. I loved being able to work with Jason Conway to bring this book, Vortex Over Wave, into the world.

Meet The Poet: Sue Finch (Annick Yerem)

When MoonPath’s Lana Hechtman Ayres told me Patricia Fargnoli had been her teacher and mentor, I went looking for her. Winter, the sixth volume in the Hobblebush Granite State Poetry Series, was the first to arrive, and is now on sale for $9 at Hobblebush Books (use this link: https://www.hobblebush.com/product-page/winter).

I have fallen hard for this book, and this poet. In “The Horse,” she begins:

I let the horse into my apartment,
pushed back chairs,
shoved the rattan chest
up against the tall bookcases…

Horses abound in this book. What’s not to love?

In addition to any other praise I might dish out, it’s a perfect book to read on a cold and rainy January day. Yes, New Hampshire, snow, but it works its spell here in the Pacific Northwest, too: “[I] found a sad music in the fork of an ash tree, / a music made of wind and the tuning forks of stars” (“Glosa”). As Meg Kearney tells us on the back cover, Fargnoli has “listened deeply to the silence of winter.”

Many of the poems in Winter are about dreams.

Bethany Reid, Patricia Fargnoli (1937-2021)

i am so hungry for goodness
that sometimes i read the “good news” website.
a little girl becomes a pilot. a man
eats his weight in teeth. there is a scientist
who turns tears into fossil fuels.
hope is a thing with no feathers
but tells you “i will be a swan.” i do not
want hope. i want a jar of nutella.
i want a burning police car.

Robin Gow, 1/8

Joni Mitchell sang into
an open piano

when she recorded
her first album

because David Crosby
thought it would

enhance her voice —
and it did,

but it also magnified
the other sounds in the room

so they were forced to
strip away the high frequencies,

leaving a flatter beauty,
and this is why

I am careful when I
look at you

because the universe
has limits.

Jason Crane, POEM: The Many Worlds Hypothesis & Song To A Seagull

When I’m asleep, my books venture out into the world.

They sneak into other people’s homes, trade amongst one another—a Jim Carroll for an Anne Waldman, a Joy Harjo for a Juan Felipe Herrera.

Some books run off on their own: Bob Kaufman stays out all night, composes love poetry to the cosmos. Bukowski visits his old Hollywood place on DeLongpre, cracks open a beer, sits by the window, watches all the women walk by.

Patti Smith and Rimbaud wander downtown streets, creating the dreamiest of mandalas from memories, while Claudia Rankine and Wanda Coleman don’t take any crap from the cops.

Come morning, most of my books are back on their shelves, along with a few new ones.

Rich Ferguson, Independent Books

open up
peel back your ribs
expose what’s inside
see the child

start with pity
or compassion, then
become responsible
if you can bear it

if he is like you
if (you think)
he is not like you
this is how
the journey begins

Rachel Barenblat, Open

2 Replies to “Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 1”

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