Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 2

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, poets were visionary, resolute, hunkering down, easing back into the grind. Some evinced minds of winter, while others dreamed of warmer times and climes. Enjoy.

One of the beauties of winter is the dampening of sound, the narrowing in of possible activity. I have friends who get so stir-crazy that they fly to warmer climes where walks in the desert, or drinks on the patio, or swimming at the beach are still possible. But I relish the slower pace of this season and the quiet. Evenings when the predominant sound is the crackle of wood burning and the tick of the stove expanding.

And even though my January work-day feels like the gun-crack leap off the starting line for myriad tasks, my post-dinner evenings have room for poetry – both the reading and the writing. Perhaps because of the pace of the season and my ability to take breaks during the day to walk with my small dog or to stand for a moment on the porch and count magpies, the still close to five hours of darkness I have between waking and sunrise, I have the luxury and responsibility to listen closely to the world.

Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Quiet and creation

Yesterday I took my first walk without my lovely old dog, who died over the Christmas period. I’d spent the week before getting used to a new, dog-free routine and talking myself around the guilt I felt at even thinking about going on his favourite walks without him. But then social media showed me a photo album of all the walks we’d been on, and all my own solitary walks; the ones I’d taken while writing The Ghost Lake, the ones that he could no longer keep up with, the ones in which I had felt myself connected again, as an animal myself, feeling the push and pull of my own body navigating paths and hills and crags, and I realised if I didn’t get out soon then I was going to lose that connection and that love of the environment which has always felt like belonging, for me.

Yesterday was the day. This week I’ve been up and leading my Dawn Chorus writing group, running the What to Look for in Winter course and I’ve been working on copy edits for The Ghost Lake. All editing is accompanied by imposter syndrome for me – a fire which I am constantly putting out in my head. Walking is a way of extinguishing that fire. It felt good to get up, put my wet weather gear on, my fleece lined trousers, my walking boots, my hat. It felt good to be in the routine of locking the door behind me, turning and exiting the interior and entering the exterior. Even the cheek numbing sleet felt good.

The thing about having a dog is that they give you purpose – you have to walk them in all weathers, so you end up experiencing all weathers and the changes in the world around you. These small experiences are important, or rather, noticing these small changes is important, it builds connection to environment to see how a tree branch changes throughout the year, to see the leucitic blackbird in the same spot daily, the crow who hobbles, the barn owl, so that you recognise the territories of the animals you share the world with, the life that is around you.

Wendy Pratt, 100 Birds – Protest and the Small Acts of Noticing Nature

Of course, going back to work on 2nd January has a habit of applying the brakes to New Year momentum. But in the not-work part of my life, I somehow, between all the loveliness of actual New Year and the getting into the business of a day-by-day new year, mislaid resolution. Resolution is (I hardly need to mention) a word which suggests resolve. And the word resolve suggests ‘to decide firmly on a course of action’ (Google English Dictionary). None of these (decide, firmly, course, action) were thoughts I could lay hold of in those following January days; it’s been more a case of unresolve: indecision, apathy, physical and mental wobbliness. 

It was poetry that resolved me. It was poetry in community, and wise, compassionate, playful, poetry at that. At Shrewsbury Poetry, we were lucky enough to host Philip Gross and Steve Griffiths for our first get together of the new year yesterday evening. Among our online poetry community, and among open mic poems which resonated and flowed with the thoughts and feelings emerging, Philip and Steve held a conversation. As with all remarkable conversations, this one shifted something for me. 

If I were to pin the shift down to something, I’d pin it down to this. While Philip was reading his poem ‘Of Breath (Thirteen Angels)’ I visualised my lungs for the first time as wings (“don’t look for it outside”) unfurling with each breath. The poem came to me as a winged messenger through the black and white memories of my lungs, x-rayed when I was a child for damage after pneumonia. I could see myself now in full technicolor, complete with “pink and glistening cavities” breathing in oxygen, breathing in life, readying for the brief flight necessary to enter each moment, and this new year. 

Liz Lefroy, I Reframe the New Year

The highlight of my trip, and the reason I chose this travel package, came on my last day in Paris.  In pouring rain I found my way to the Cluny Museé du Moyen Age, which has a great collection of medieval art.  While it was worth taking time all the way through, the major piece is the room containing the “Lady and the Unicorn” tapestries.  After studying these for several years for Lost in the Greenwood it was amazing to see them “in person.”  The photographs cannot give the full effect, though small sections come closer. I sat there for quite some time looking from one panel to the next. […]

Lion and unicorn
carry sculpted poles,
bodies facing outward.

Their heads, ears, lean in
toward the woman musing.

Ellen Roberts Young, Trip, part 4

None of this is writing writing it’s old person rambling I catch myself doing it every once in a while but I don’t care this thing that happens when I am flooded with memory   washed over a baptism every time a soft feminine fever   with bready angel wings yeast in the font   now I am collecting bees in a jar at four my brother convincing me to crawl into the neighbor’s window to thieve whatever might interest four year old and five year children   now at 50 having a panic attack right before being slid into the terrifying hole of the mri birdcage snapped firmly over my head   now camping on Camano Island with my toddler son building a fire in the morning thinking how lovely it would be to live here some day   now at 19 on the mountain baking bread for 12 people on a frozen morning a cloud still floating in my body   now in my seventh decade now getting married but in love with someone else   I understand Alice’s changing deeper than ever   here this morning with a cat on my lap and one at my feet in front of a propane fire and I know this is good and pure and right

Rebecca Loudon, Pig and farm report

when i stay at the house i grew up in
i always sleep in the chimney’s throat.
there, dead birds & fire ghosts
tell me “we saw everything.”
mice in the walls. laughter the color
of bruised mountains. what do you do
with your child self to keep it
from kicking?

Robin Gow, chimney dwelling

Although the word “vision” derives from the Latin visionem, it first appeared in English with the definition of things seen in the mind or via the supernatural. Vision as simply the sense of sight is a later meaning (late 15th c.), and vision referring to foresight dates only to 100 years ago [see https://www.etymonline.com/word/vision#etymonline_v_7835]. The cliché “a vision of loveliness” provides an example of the early, 13th century meaning, as does the phrase “visions of sugarplums.” Poets have long been known for writing about, or being under the influence of, such vision.

When the first flush of poetic vision inspires work that later needs some adjustment, writers turn to revision. According to Etymology Online, revision’s history in English first showed up as a noun in the 1610s: “act of looking over again, re-examination and correction,” from French révision, from Late Latin revisionem (nominative revisio) “a seeing again” … the meaning “that which is revised, a product of revision” is from 1845.” This noun, and its verb form (the act/work/verb-sense of revising), keep me occupied a good bit of the time, especially lately while I’m trying to catch up with a large backlog–20 years of poetry drafts.

Ann E. Michael, Vision/revision

walking with the green sea
walking with a gift
tumbled from it

Grant Hackett [no title]

In 1400, according to the Historical Thesaurus, the word ‘nought’ meant poverty. The thesaurus is a browsing place like charity shops on London Road, a rest for the mind through strange provocations and this time it was my tax return, filed yesterday, that took me there. 

Years ago the same experience led me to a poem that became the title of my first pamphlet of poetry, Black Slingbacks. I’d noted the cost of a taxi from my boyfriend’s flat after turning up unexpectedly. Those shoes were in the hall. 

This year it struck me that being broke and all its synonyms are terms, as the late sociologist Stuart Hall pointed out, with a moral tone. I don’t describe myself as poor but my income was truly a pittance and takes me a very long way from what the Joseph Rowntree Foundation calculated I’d need in 2022 for a minimum acceptable standard of living. 

Of course having a house is all. Even with damp, peeling windows, leaky roof. And I manage by limiting my scope. But can we talk about money, who has it, how people are paid, what they are paid, the failure of benefits to improve lives, the cost of everything from public transport to a block of butter, and the role of wealth in maintaining inequality? And privatisation and profit? Like the outfit that supplies home safety aids like alarms in mum’s area, contracted by the council, is owned by a private equity company.  

Jackie Wills, Come to buckle and bare thong

end of the dock
in the bitter wind a service
for someone

Tom Clausen, the return

As poetry editor of the Evergreen Review, I’m organizing the NYC-based journal’s new year poetry celebration “Resolutions and Irresolutions,” featuring Amber Atiya, Brad Vogel, and Katherine Swett, on Tuesday, Jan 16, 7 pm, at a Tribeca home (RSVP me at jkoh@singaporeunbound.org).

Why that event name? I was thinking of the obligatory new year resolutions, certainly, but I was also thinking of the equally obligatory irresolutions of poets and poetry. The fiercer the pressure on poetry to be didactic and activist,  the harder I find myself resisting it in favor of indecision, ambiguity, questions, and irony.

There is a gap, I have discovered, between being a citizen and a poet. They are related, but they are not the same. The citizen wants justice above all, the poet wants beauty. And an ideal society worthy of its name must find the space to accommodate the poet, its unreliable ally, its steadfast critic. If not, it is but a totalitarian regime.

Jee Leong Koh, Resolutions and Irresolutions

I’ve been wondering why I’ve been longing to teach literature in my home scholarly field again, as I am now, because I also enjoy the writing workshops and speculative fiction that were on my docket in 2023. My latest thought is that I needed some relief from the very contemporary work in which my recent reading as well as my teaching has concentrated. I’ve been excessively driven by professional ambitions during my adult life, sweating the so-called failures more than I would like to. I tend to be all too aware of how the contemporary writers I read and teach jostle for social media attention, space in big periodicals, prizes, and the rest. It helps my sanity to shrug off that hyper-focus and go back to Ginsberg, O’Hara, Plath, Brooks, and others. I feel reasonably expert, well-read, able to swim in these old currents. Their work is personal, but it’s not personal to me, except in that I’ve been companioned by their work for so many years. Phew. […]

I was thrilled to see my 2020 novel Unbecoming cited on Substacker-nonfiction writer-poet-tarot reader-astrologer Cameron Steele’s list of “magical” books she read in 2023. See her full post at the wonderful newsletter interruptions here, but she calls it “one of my favorite novels I read this year, and not only because its plot includes both magic and menopause, two parameters of my own daily life. Wheeler is the kind of poet whose poems always make you wish there were more of her to read. Ghostly. Luminous. Fungal.”

Lesley Wheeler, Teaching the poetic 50s, with sincere relief

Lately, my favorite words are those that make
me feel the textures of things: cotton and copper,

eggshell, seagrass; waxed flax thread, bone folder,
crease. When I am folding paper and cutting book

board, the edge of the blade moving over the surface
makes a sound like a miniature zipper, only softer.

Steam from the rice cooker scents the air.
Night drops its paper screen over the windows.

Luisa A. Igloria, Being Here

For secondhand books, Westleton is the best NE Suffolk option, since it now boasts both the professional and well-organised newcomer, Barnabee’s Books, and the long-standing Chapel Books. The latter opens randomly at various times: the eccentric owner, sometimes clad in pyjamas and a woolly hat, will offer you a cup of tea and, if you ask nicely, usher you into the back office to inspect the antiquarian books. It’s a blissful instantiation of the ideal second-hand bookshop, though admittedly chilly in winter. We didn’t make it this time but it often has a lot of old editions of the classics, and always a substantial poetry section. Unless someone has bought them in the last year or two it also has a huge run of the Pali Text Society, which might be a top tip for someone, you never know. I can never buy them because we are always either without a car or the car is already completely full of bickering children, buggies and discarded rice cakes, more’s the pity. (Westleton also has a very good pub, a lovely church and a playground with a zip wire.)

Pali is a language closely related to Sanskrit, though generally written in Roman script, and it’s the language of most of the early Buddhist canon. There’s something peculiarly fascinating about two plainly closely related languages which nevertheless developed an entirely different literary style and atmosphere. The poetry of the Pali canon is quite unlike most Sanskrit poetry, even though early versions of many of the metres which became standard in classical Sanskrit can be found in it.

Much of the Pali canon is very old, dating from the first few centuries after the Buddha himself: roughly contemporary, that is, with the core texts of classical Greek literature, and older than Roman literature or the texts of the New Testament. Recently I reviewed Kaveh Akbar’s new Penguin Book of Spiritual Poetry, which includes poems or extracts from the earliest antiquity to today. Several of his best choices are Buddhist poems — Buddhist thought and writing has long been a popular recourse for Westerners seeking the spiritual-but-not-religious — and he includes a translation by Susan Murcott of one of the poems from the Pali canon. In my review (which you can read here), I expressed some reservations about Akbar’s inclusion of some fairly random bits of Sappho, as being vogueish rather than appropriate — there’s nothing really ‘spiritual’ about either of them, and the same point can be made about quite a few of the selections. But Sappho is really everywhere in anthologies these days. Even John Carey’s recent 100 Poets: A Little Anthology — a totally different sort of anthology from Akbar’s — has a bit of Sappho. Indeed both Carey and Akbar, for all their differences, made the same decision to represent the whole of ancient Greek literature with just two authors: Sappho and Homer.

Victoria Moul, Book shopping in Suffolk (and why we make too much of Sappho)

Since Christmas the view down from my desk chair has been this – Reggie, a dachshund I am dog-sitting – and I have been a member of the club of dog-keeping small presses. Kevin Duffy of Bluemoose Books posts regular photos of Lottie. William Boyd recalls visiting the ‘small cramped offices’ of Alan Ross, editor of the London Magazine and of the London Magazine editions (the model for CB editions): ‘Books everywhere, of course, but there were two dogs sprawled under his desk …’ Ross published Auden’s ‘Talking to Dogs’ in a 1971 issue of the London Magazine: ‘From us, of course, you want gristly bones/ and to be led through exciting odourscapes –/ their colours don’t matter – with the chance/ of a rabbit to chase or of meeting/ a fellow arse-hole to nuzzle at …’

Charles Boyle, Dog days

A while ago Charles Boyle (CBeditions) noticed that a book he published which the TLS described as “an astonishing achievement” and the Literary Review described as “a masterpiece” sold fewer than 100 copies in its first year.

In ‘Next time you dive’ (or How to play a poem) from “The Friday Poem” Jon Stone “illustrate[s] what he thinks we need to do to broaden the readership of poetry

Helena Nelson has a piece in the same issue. In “Are poetry reviews pointless?” she writes “First, I want to test out Stone’s theory that I can profitably respond to a set of poems as “toys”. Second, I want to review a book in a non-typical way, avoiding “florid” terms and a standard evaluative stance.

When I read a book, I write it up online. I used to try the odd review-style write-up – I keep a list of longer poetry reviews online. Nowadays my write-ups are mostly jottings. I posted a write-up each Wednesday and Saturday, which used to match my reading speed. Now that I’m reading (and listening to) more books, I’m filling up future Wed/Sat slots so fast that I’m up to April 2025. So to slow myself down I think I’ll try to write some reviews again.

Rather than toys, I think I react to poems as if they were disposable alien technology – if I don’t understand what a part does, I remove it to see what happens, or re-assemble the pieces. Biologists try to understand DNA that way sometimes. However, I have a feeling that I might end up writing similar reviews to before, “fun to play with” becoming a substitute for “good” when describing a poem.

Tim Love, How to review poetry

When we consider English poets of the last century or so, few – if any – have surely written about trees as extensively, and as well, about trees as Michael Hamburger. […] In ‘Oak’, a tree ‘alone looks compact, in a stillness hides / Black stumps of limbs that blight or blast bared; / And for death reserves its more durable substance.’ The poem’s ending is reminiscent of the writings of Roger Deakin, another Suffolk-dweller, who wrote extensively about trees, especially in Wildwood, and lived in an Elizabethan house with great, creaking beams:

How by oak-beams, worm-eaten,
This cottage stands, when brick and plaster have crumbled,
In casements of oak the leaded panes rest
Where new frames, new doors, mere deal, again and again have rotted.

Unsurprisingly, Hamburger also wrote, in the section’s last three poems, about the Great Storm, of 17 October 1987, and its aftermath. ‘A Massacre’ begins in an uncharacteristically Blakean vein,

It came like judgement, came like the blast
Of power that, turned against itself, brings home
Presumption to the unpresuming also,
To those who suffered power and those unborn.

Throughout Hamburger’s tree poems there is a deeply-felt admiration, both explicit and implicit, for the endurance of trees.

Matthew Paul, On Michael Hamburger on trees

I have been down several rabbit holes since I last posted. Many of them are to do with the updated translation of the Charm of Nine Herbs I’ve been working on in a random fashion for a while. I have been pondering words like ‘poison’, ‘venom’, ‘plague’, ‘in-flying infection’. I’ve been thinking about ‘elf-shot’ and the notion that tooth-ache is caused by worms gnawing at decayed teeth. I’ve been wondering what it was like to try to heal people when you didn’t know much beyond the basics of anatomy, and didn’t have access to microscopes.

I discovered historical records of a ‘yellow plague’ that ravaged this area in the 5th and 6th century, killing at least one local king, which led me to wonder about the other colourful diseases mentioned in the text. Epidemics, food poisoning and diseases caused by polluted water must have been common – are the words ‘plague’, ‘poison’ and ‘venom’ just the best guess for the causes of illness too small to see without the naked eye?

I’m also querying my identification of atterlothe – I went for ‘burdock’ for what seemed to be good reasons – it is an alterative, native and well-known, exists in more than one species (because the only other use of the word refers to the ‘smaller’ atterlothe being used with betony for coughs) and generally fits the bill. But on the other hand, there is another Old English name for burdock – ‘clate‘, and down the rabbit hole I went. I looked at speedwell, which was indeed used with betony for coughs, self-heal (no mention in Old English texts), bistort, cockspur grass, Viper’s bugloss, which Culpeper says was used as a substitute for speedwell, and now I’m eyeing up cinquefoil and vervain (I would love it to be vervain!). The trouble is that Old English scholars tend to be poor at botany, and botanists tend to blank Old English. And both are a bit rubbish about monasteries. But that is another rabbit hole, and yes, I did go down it!

Elizabeth Rimmer, Down the Rabbithole

With its invocational quality, the poem begins almost like a version of Genesis I, calling the earth into being through language. In section 10 (J in the abecedarian), however, the reader learns that “atom bombs exist// Hiroshima, Nagasaki…” after which nothing on earth, and therefore the poem, can be the same. So, in the following section, the world has become imminently and unavoidably mortal, and creation begins to operate in reverse: “people, livestock, dogs exist, are vanishing;/ tomatoes, olives vanishing, the brownish/ women who harvest them, withering, vanishing,/ while the ground is dusty with sickness…” (26). As you can imagine, the Fibonacci pattern means that the sections get quite long by the time we get to the letter N, where the book leaves off mid-alphabet for nuclear destruction. What began as the enumeration of life’s splendor ends as an elegy mourning the profound, irretrievable losses humanity has perpetrated on the planet.  By this point in the poem, the earth has transformed into a post-nuclear wasteland wherein the cities are poison and children are living in caves.

Christensen’s exquisite use of language does not claim to heal or “solve” the sickness and death wrought by modernity and its death-drive, nor does it undermine the gravity of the destruction. Rather, the hybridity and, thus, the magical thinking of the poem comes from its collaboration with both human-made (alphabetical) and organic (mathematical) orders as a method of structuring some understanding of ecological disaster, of the end of the world we know and love. In other words, to comprehend the terror of mass extinction, Christensen concocts a spell from an essential pattern within creation, the design we find in the structure of leaves, trees, seashells, ferns, spider webs, and even the shape of an ocean wave. Death inseparable from life, as always. 

Sarah Rose Nordgren, Apricot Trees Exist

I don’t have much writing time here this morning, because I’m trying to get a rough draft of my sermon done before we go across the mountains for a quick trip to see my inlaws’ new house in east Tennessee.  I want a rough draft so that I can let it percolate and return to it to see if I’ve got any additional ideas.  I’m at the point of sermon writing where it seems stupid and just repeating what we already read and what is the point of it all?

It’s never as bad as I think that it is.  Going through this phase where I think it’s pure drivel week after week is both tiring and a comfort.  At least I know it’s not unusual to doubt my writing this way.

It’s interesting to think about sermon writing and the other types of writing that I do.  Blogging feels less formal to me, and very few people are likely to read a blog post.  I’m not paid to do it.  I don’t usually go through the phase where I think it’s all too stupid.  

I think of yesterday’s poetry writing process.  I had a vision of Winnie the Pooh in the old folks’ home, and I wondered what had happened to the rest of the characters.  Writing the poem was a delight.  Is it profound?  It doesn’t seem as profound as some of the things I’ve written, but it also doesn’t seem as trivial as some poems I’ve written.  These days, I’m just happy whenever I write something that could be a poem.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, The Pure Drivel Phase of Writing

I’d like to say this girl is unusual, but when the high school swimmers are in the locker room, I hear a litany of complaints about their sylph-like bodies. The girls are forever sharing advice and cosmetics and clothes and romantic tips.  “I think one of my boobs is getting bigger than the other. Can you tell?” “Do you have any coverup—I have new zit in my cleavage.” “Do you shave your toes?” And then, there’s always the question,  “Do I look fat in this?” as they giggle and twirl in front of one another.

I wonder if the boy swimmers are primping in the Men’s locker room. If there’s a skinny kid among them who stands on the scale every day and worries about his weight. Who pinches his skin and wishes he were leaner, smaller, or somehow other? Do men get cellulite or fear it? 

I am reminded of the premise in Buddhist psychology that we don’t see who and what we really are. We lack clarity. It’s as if we are looking through dirty glasses that we can’t clean.

I think of this now as I try to edit on my latest book, Son of a Bird, a memoir, due out in 2025. I keep changing the sentence-order, questioning my word choices, my logic, my everything. I feel an overwhelming sense of self-doubt. If only I had a little more clarity. I am beginning to wonder if I am just too much of a perfectionist. Am I, like the anorexic teenager, unable to see what is in front of me?

I have been emailing my editorial questions back and forth with two accomplished women-poets. They, too, are agonizing over their final manuscripts. They, too, lack confidence in their own vision. I also correspond regularly with several male poets, but I never hear them questioning their validity in the same way. I’ve never had a male poet send me an accepted manuscript and ask, “Is this as bad as I fear it is?”  

Nin Andrews, Tis the Season for Resolutions

This post will be short – I am still not up to a great deal of writing, but I am so twisted by my own silence I have grasped the “don’t get it right get it written” attitude. At the end of last year you may remember I realised the degree self censorship suffocates my work – I filter before I even get it onto the page. I’ve had a strange disconnect from my thoughts and feelings over the last few weeks. This may be a kind of self-protection or it may be a more M.E. related thing – perhaps a mix of the two. Whatever the reason it is unsettling. I reached the point of sitting outside for a while yesterday just so I could feel something.

And it seems to have worked. I’m working with prompts from Wendy Pratt’s “What to look for in winter” course and finally, finally I have written something. It’s not going to set the world on fire but my pen and hand, head and heart have reconnected. I am healing, yet again. I am reading, I am writing, I am feeling I am breathing. Deeply.

Kathryn Anna Marshall, New Year begins on the 10th of January

Yesterday, I was happy for isolation and canceled plans as the snow was falling in huge and hefty chunks outside the windows, all very nice when you don’t have to brave errands and bus stops.

Today, however, still sniffling and coughing, it was back to the usual grind. The days seem really short no matter what time I get up, and dark, as if the sky is low and gray, hovering just over the highrises over by the water. It’s hard to get productive or be useful beyond the required things (those involving money and deadlines), but I did manage to draft a new poem and send some others to a newly discovered horror-ish journal. […]

In other creative news, a new switch-up at the platform I use for posting e-zines forced me into paying for what used to be free, which means, in an effort to get as much out of it as I can each month, I may be posting a lot more zines a lot more regularly (I’ve been hoarding them the last few months waiting to get a chance to work on them. This ideally will mean monthly zines, which may be writing, may just be art or other random nonsense, but will still be fun to see what unfolds. The first offering?  This short series of poems and collages I made late last year, URBAN CRYPTOZOOLOGY

Kristy Bowen, notes & things | 1/10/2024

My face burning with the Siberian wind, my toes locked solid with numbness in my cheap boots, deeply regretting I didn’t bring the green knit hat that I bought at the hospital gift shop when we gathered to Decide, crying in the waiting area with the austere, honest doctor who was there to Present Facts and ask us What We Wanted as a Family. Deeply regretting I didn’t have that green knit hat now, to protect me from the glacial and bitter bite of grief, to envelop my head with the loving intent of the person who made it, perhaps pre-cognating the anguish of its recipient.

What lessons, Cold? What learning, now in my bereavement. When will the warming be? In what timelessness will I wait, to forgive and be forgiven, for the final release of this sorrow that strangles my sinews in its bleak and Polar branches? When clemency. When the sun’s climb into my orbit? God said to wear a coat. I wrap myself in it and remember the Three Friends of Winter: pine, bamboo and plum, thriving in the frost, and I reach, each for each, dreaming of Spring.

Kristen McHenry, The Anatomy of Cold

For those hexed by the polar vortex, swarmed by severe thunderstorms, januaried to death by wintergeddon, I wish I could strike a match of California sunshine to warm you. Inject the blonde rush of Venice beach bliss into your chilled blood. I say damn the frostbitten machine of bitter cold weather. Crank the audacious anthems of acetylene sunrises. Rhyme your shine to summertime.

Rich Ferguson, Rhyme Your Shine

Frost from people’s mouths, and vapors
like chilled aerosol rolling across a blurred surface,
and wind, a muffled character from offstage 
unwinding its repression; now sandals won’t do.

An artist made me hear silence with his
violin; at first, the irritation of a bow bothering
a string – people coughing, dropping pens.
But then ice shards talking?  Longer shards

with more between; the breath of dreamers
in the spheres, spectral celebration
and those who ease noise into quiet presence.

Jill Pearlman, Wind Chill Symphonic

I don’t make new year’s resolutions. I used to, but not any more. It’s not that I don’t want to ‘change’ or ‘do new things’ or ‘have new adventures’: I just don’t see why any of those kinds of decisions needs to happen at a point in the year when I tend to be at a low ebb and energy seems harder to come by. If anything, I long, this year, to be completely ordinary. I’m stealing here from the evergreen and still-amazing blog of Simon Parke, who as always says it first and better and with fewer words.

What do I mean by ‘ordinary’? The church uses it to denote ‘the season of the Church year when Christians are encouraged to grow and mature in daily expression of their faith outside the great seasons of celebration of Christmas and Easter and the great periods of penance of Advent and Lent.’ I like that phrase ‘outside the great seasons of celebration’. I also like ‘daily expression’. They aren’t very sexy, instagrammable. They suggest hiddenness, a kind of dogged fidelity to practice that isn’t for show, but just is. That’s what I will be aiming for this year, not via a grad resolution but via small changes to habits that no one will know about but me.

God knows, I need them. I absolutely loved publishing my book of poems The Wind and the Rain last year. (Just as I absolutely loved Christmas.) But it kind of diverts attention, for me, from the real thing of just, well, getting on with it which largely involves reading, walking, taking the odd photo and staring into space. And waiting. Absolutely waiting for something to arrive.

Anthony Wilson, On publishing and Christmas

Silence in the comic strip as if only puffs of speech and thought like clouds of breath or actual clouds were hanging in the emptied rooms, the vacant roads, the grass outside the house. There once were people. Or soon will be. There once were the things they said or thought or would say. If there’s wind, it’s invisible, moving through the panels like a vague presentiment of the end of what—possibility, communication, ink? We say what we cannot say, think the impossible, something edgeless, blurry, the heart, useless, has lost its chambers and so pulls and pushes, sucks and squirts in unrecognizable rhythm, pumps because what else is it to do? A kettle boils for no-one. The sprinkler is on. The difference between everything and nothing is not clear.

Gary Barwin, Nancy without Nancy

That he is vanishing all men know:
a lift slant eyelid tells them so,
not that I think it’s noticed much —
not a vanishment as such —
so much as shrinking from the touch,
a disinclination to know at all,
all that he knew in time before.

Dale Favier, Vanishment

Have you ever come across a lit mag that has asked for a photo of you when you submit your work?

This question came up in our Lit Mag Chat yesterday. I thought it was interesting. I’ve submitted to a few lit mags that have requested a photo. In each case the photo was optional. In each case I declined.

Why did I decline?

Personally, I find it a bit invasive. What if I don’t have a great photograph of myself? What if I don’t like my own physical appearance? On top of everything else I worry about with my writing at the time of submission, do I now also have to worry about my hair and my teeth?

Becky Tuch, How do you feel about lit mags that ask for a photo of you when you submit your work?

In Rome this past time, I knew I’d be returning home to my book Apples on a Windowsill arriving soon after in the world. One of the first things I did when we got there was to put some apples on the windowsill. These ones. When we got to our place we didn’t know what the light was going to be like at what time of day. We’d looked at all the reviews and photos of the apartment, but the reality is always a bit different. What would the view from the windows be/feel like? What would the windowsills really be like? How could we adapt ourselves to the conditions? […]

I always think it’s an interesting time in the writer’s life after a book has just barely made it into the world. You’re done with it, but then talking about it and reading from it will often spark more ideas on the same subject…and then, where to put those? Are the ideas for something new…or just to hold on to for oneself?

It felt so bittersweet to photograph these apples on a windowsill in 2023 after the book had been “put to bed.” But also, hopeful — the process of making, creating, trying, delighting, that all can still continue. The certainty of changing conditions will always be opening up new vistas….

Shawna Lemay, The Writing Life, Ongoing

this is the problem,
poetry plus coffee plus
the immensity of
unfairness on a tropical
winter morning and
suddenly time is
pixelating and everything
is smudged neon green
and pink and voices
no longer match the
lips that move, all
desire to be is frozen,
life buffers, asking for
permission to end,
coffee burns your burnt
tongue and the poem
refuses to end with
word or punctuation,
and all this, still, at 5:52
AM, unless the clock too
has stopped. Dissolving.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Life Buffers

Can one dream while lying awake? This proximity of cloud. Consensus, the end of parenthetical. Draws curtains, threat. This pragmatism: my mother gave birth to it. Melancholy, melancholy. Ask anything you want. What measure, propositions. Withdraw. Jolting, epiphanic effect. This sentence, shadows; these missives on death. Slammed door, sliver lining. Declarative: I would have liked to move the earth. Imagine, the desire for mute prose. Liquid. This body or death. This end of text.

rob mclennan, from Fair bodies of unseen prose

my grandfather walked out of Eden
the world is large as he discovered
there is enough room for everyone


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