Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 7

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: Fat Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, a blog’s birthday, a book’s birthday… as the world steadily becomes more terrible. Poetry remains one of the very few effective antidotes to despair.

Dear dawn, don’t come. You – of the light, of
John Donne’s bed, of the paradox of beginnings:
don’t come. Must we wake up to count their

children dead? Must we wake up to see where
earth and home and body have been rent?
Must we carry on as if nothing has shattered?

As if no one mattered? As if home and flesh
and bone and mind are well?

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Dear Dawn

I juxtaposed real data, and then blacked it out, making an erasure poem. I imagine that a lot of readers will automatically try to figure out which name or people or term has been obscured: am I making a point about the suffering of these people, or those people? The answer is yes. I’m grieving all of them. I’m grieving all of this. Including the fact that most of us can’t have a conversation with someone who sees the situation differently, because we can’t agree on which statistics even matter, much less recognize the infinite human suffering behind every number.

Rachel Barenblat, Statistics

reading for the blind man
next week’s meals on wheels menu—
his open mouth

Tom Clausen, honeyman

When you work in a public library, supporters bring you food! Today I had a yummy wedge of King Cake, and a colleague found the baby in her wedge! Later, I wore numerous strands of beads to a committee meeting, distributing them to my fellow committee members. And when I got home, there were two poetry postcards in the mail, after days of nothing. 

A Fat Tuesday, indeed!

Kathleen Kirk, King Cake

Part of my plan for this year is to dedicate Tuesday to my own work and writing. Whilst I’ve always tried to put aside some time for my own work, for the last few years this has been confined to Friday morning as a “treat” for doing client work. Switching things round mean that I can give the same attention to both elements of my writing and so far, it’s working really well.  I feel more focused on both aspects rather than feeling frustrated that I’ve let my own project slide so far down the list. Prioritising my own work feels like a luxury but in reality, both aspects of my writing stand to benefit from this small shift.

The first part of today was spent on my journal as well as reading the final few poems of Tormentil by Ian Humphrey. After has been spent on a new course by Jean Atkin which has the splendid title Magnificent Apparel and is all about the role and relevance of clothing. Our first week was built around the idea of clothing without apologies and included poems by Grace Nicholls and Angela Readman. From these readings and prompts I’ve written two poems. They are not finished by any means but at this stage that is not the point.What I’ve enjoyed is the opportunity to take my imagination in a different direction – I love to write about nature but have felt a little stuck lately. I am hopeful the new poems and prompts will continue to help me access thoughts and ideas I tend to shy away from.

Kathryn Anna Marshall, Creative Tuesday

It’s Shrove Tuesday. Let us eat pancakes and drink to excess and bare our breasts to strangers and get all that pesky sinning out of the way so we can shrive and confess tomorrow. I am so tired of Christian Amerikkka. The incompetent men who run the whole shebang and their frightening wives with their hate spewing and righteousness and bunkers full of gelatinous bone broth and their eleven children and their “modesty” and their Husbands or Hubbys or He who is the actual Christ of their family. We are not a Christian nation but imagine if an ad ran during the Super Bowl advertising a loving deity who was not Jesus. It makes me red in my soul not anger just emotional stigmata and wariness it makes me afraid. I want to run down the road yelling LOOK OUT! LOOK OUT! 

There are seagulls in my yard fighting over a small bag of Cheetos. The seagulls are blood fems. My lilacs have formed tight little buds and it’s still winter. My lilacs are dark fems. I bought a bunch of store tulips and one of them had two heads. Last week I dismantled one of my bookshelves and moved it into my bedroom leaving behind this pile on the piano bench in the library. I like it because it looks like one of those artsy black and white pictures Serious Writers use for their author photos. Except for the can of Endust sticking up like the monolith you know the one with the apes which is hilarious because I despise dusting and usually I leave dust alone unless it starts eating something. 

Rebecca Loudon, Shrove Tuesday

Happy Shrove Tuesday!  Happy Mardi Gras!  Last week, when I mentioned to my Tuesday/Thursday classes that we’d be meeting on Mardi Gras, I got blank looks.  I still don’t know whether they were blank looks because my students haven’t ever heard of Mardi Gras or because they see me as an old lady who can’t possibly understand the joys of cheap, plastic beads and buckets of alcoholic drinks.

I do realize that both may be true. […]

For my three classes today, I’ll present three different love poems and have them write a bit.  I decided to go with love poems and not Ash Wednesday poems, and I decided to stay away from traditional love poetry.  Here’s what we’ll be doing, if you want to read along:

The poem that’s closest to a traditional love poem is Leah Furnas’ “The Longley-Weds Know.”  The one with the biggest Ash Wednesday vibe is Maggie Smith’s “Good Bones”–it’s a hopeful Ash Wednesday vibe, but an Ash Wednesday vibe nonetheless.  And the poem that is the one that makes me feel a spark of hope in an Ash Wednesday kind of way is Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Gate A-4.”

I wasn’t able to find much poetry with an outright Ash Wednesday theme, apart from T. S. Eliot, whom I’m not going to tackle with first year students.  And I thought about my own–I’ve got a series of Ash Wednesday poems, but I don’t feel like including them.  I’ve posted some of them here in the past.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll unveil a new one.  Maybe today, I’ll write a new one.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, The Day Before Ash Wednesday

This blog is ten years old today – happy birthday, dear I Buy a New Washer!Birthdays, I’ve found, are a time for looking backwards (what was I thinking?) and forwards (help!) and then for celebrating (woohoo!).

On 18th Feb 2014 I published this: ‘I Buy A New Washer – Day One‘. Long-serving readers know that I intended it to be the title of that first post, not the whole blog. I was motivated to write it having changed a tap washer for the first time – a moderate act of independence about which I felt proud. The title has proved misleading and led to me being introduced as a plumbing expert, with a particular interest in washing machines, at a poetry reading. My protests at this generous introduction were further misinterpreted as modesty. […]

Looking forwards, when I press the orange ‘publish’ button, this will be my 292nd post. There are several more than that, sitting in draft folders, unfinished: ‘I Poke My Eye’, ‘I Work In Wrexham’, ‘I Recover My Milk Frother’, ‘I Shrink My Trousers’. Looking forwards, I intend to leave them unpublished but I aim to be able to write, ‘I Snorkel With Penguins’ before the twenty year blog birthday celebrations. 

Liz Lefroy, I Womansplain My (10th Birthday) Blog

At seven, I couldn’t close my ohs.
Amazements sloshed out of me;
each ache spilled a constellation.
Winter nights, I etched snow angels
and lay back in their wings to drink the sky […]

Kristen McHenry, At Seven

Like singing in the shower, dancing in this room should be a kind of alternative reality. When I was a kid, I would imagine that I was Alice in Wonderland, in my grandmother’s 8 meter by 8 meter yard with its prim lawn and its single, spindly tree. It was my own ballet. What was sparse became lush in my imagination. But now I hear the sighs of the women next to me. I see my own reflection in the mirror. This is what they mean about losing our imaginative capabilities, isn’t it? Then again, I was always alone in Wonderland. Alone in front of the mirror in Grandma’s guest room, in her shortie nightie that reached my calves, and flowed like a ballerina’s dress.

But after those days my real flights were always on paper. The sound of graphite swiping over a white paper. The syncopated ripping of a page being torn from a journal and destroyed.

Ren Powell, Doing Not Being

February gives us thinking waters
trees of dessicated lace
reeds hanging on memories of yellowness

The pause, the somnolence,
the hard work of crossing the desert
between miracles

Jill Pearlman, Fat Drop Song

How can I not love her: that open gaze, the contentment of her small smile, her shiny buttons, her curly hair ribboned in the way she requested each morning – ‘two curls up’ – after my mother had teased out the overnight tangles with a large, pink, Betterware comb. 

I think I remember the day: the summer of 1963, my first term at Tirmorfa Infants School, a class at a time marshalled into the assembly hall, the photographer lifting his big camera as we each took our turn in the single wooden chair in the middle of that high-ceilinged room.  

You see that signet ring? I am wearing it now, 61 years later, after finding it last year in an old jewellery box studded with seashells, the silver band split from years of growth, after a silversmith repaired it for me. I cannot see the join.  

valentine’s day
loving all the people
I used to be

Lynne Rees, Haibun ~ How can I not love her

What I first believe is someone in serious distress is actually a tussle-haired twenty-something rollerblading down the street, wailing Hall & Oates, “Maneater.”

Life can be odd like that:

what I first believe to be gunfire is an angry party clown stuffing balloon animals into a garbage can.

What I think is the first light of the apocalypse is just a beach bonfire.

Sometimes, I’ve been known to create similes in stretch pants that expand too far beyond their intended borders.

Other times, I misplace the letter ’s’ and exit instead of exist.

Many life lessons I’m still learning.

Like how a complex sentence can repent and whittle itself down into a simple, I love you.

Rich Ferguson, Maneater

let’s not pretend we have
more time than we really do.
the bomb has feathers & friends.
it is going to turn us all into ghosts.
the rats will then rule the once-green world.
they will tell stories about boyfriends.
“did you know we used to
love each other in a way that made
weeds grow wild & untamable?”

Robin Gow, green boyfriend

It’s Valentine’s Day, and one thing’s for sure: I love books. I have always loved books. Sometimes I cheat on one book by reading another one at the same time. Don’t tell.

Now that my own debut picture book is in the world, I’ve been thinking about the books I loved as a child. My favorite book when I was a very young was a 1977 edition of Dean’s A Book of Fairy Tales, illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone. The illustrations were phenomenal. I spent so much time with those stories.

Looking at the books that made a lasting impression on me as a child—the books I read and reread, the books I gave my own children as soon as they were ready for them—I see some strands running through them: independence, imagination, world-building, problem-solving.

Maggie Smith, What Books Did You Love Growing Up?

This series of poems started as a Valentine and ended up becoming something else entirely. Previously only available in a tiny edition of 30 published in 2018 and as party of my longer collection in 2020, SEX & VIOLENCE, I am releasing a special bonus e-zine version in celebration of Valentines and twisted love poems this February.

Read it here.

Kristy Bowen, bonus e-zine for february lovers

ヴァレンタインデー傘がまだ濡れてゐる 片山由美子

barentain dei kasa ga mada nureteiru

            Valentine’s day

            my umbrella

            still wet

                                                Yumiko Katamaya  

from Haiku, a monthly haiku magazine, March 2017 Issue, Kabushiki Kaisha Kadokawa, Tokyo

Fay Aoyagi, Today’s Haiku (February 14, 2024)

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to pick up a book rather than my phone. So far, it’s going well. I’m reading a lot of fiction – novels and short stories. I re-read Carol Shields’ story collection Various Miracles and Hilary Mantel’s final collection before she died, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. With both writers, I was overwhelmed with the sense of loss that they died at relatively young ages while still at the heights of their writing powers.

The very best poetry reading I went to recently was Alice Oswald in Bristol. What made the reading so good? She read from memory, clearly, not rushed. She read each poem twice, which my brain thoroughly appreciated. I had time to imbibe the language, to make sense of it. I was moved to tears, unexpectedly, not because the subject matter was moving but because I had a physical, sensory reaction of pleasure as I listened. I’ve just seen that she’s reading in Bristol again in April for Lyra Festival and I’ve already bought my ticket.

[POSTSCRIPT – I’m adding a note to say that, in the above description, I’ve said that Alice Oswald ‘read’ from memory when, in fact, she ‘spoke’ her poems, without a book in sight. I’m curious as to why I wrote this! Perhaps I had a sense and vision of her books as she spoke, or perhaps it’s because I associate her with books and therefore imagined them as she was speaking. Anyway, she’s a wonderful writer and speaker of her work, in my opinion.]

Josephine Corcoran, On Being Elsewhere

It was going to be great. I wrote it more than seven years ago, in two bursts after work with mugs of tea at the kitchen table. It was really, seriously great. It was called The Writing Group. Voiced by an unnamed female protagonist who surprises herself by deciding to leave the group she was instrumental in setting up. It contained a man with a ‘Darwinesque beard’. It was the best thing that I had ever written.

And when we moved house recently, I lost it. In the great clear out, painful and necessary, of last summer, I must have jetisoned the notebooks onto the wrong pile. For seven-plus years it had lain in the darkness, unloved and untyped. Each year, in my journal, I would refer to it. This is the year I will send out my story, I said. It was a seriously beautiful and heartbreaking story. Up there, definitely, with, well, anybody. Obvious to me now, it was so good it frightened me. Hence not quite (ever) getting round to type it. And actually send it out into the world.

Its brilliance put me in mind of that great poem of absence, Mark Halliday’s The Missing Poem. I read it again this week. Boy, is it good.

In the missing poem all this pools into a sense of how much
we must cherish life; the world will not do it for us.

I mean, come on! Those lines on their own are good enough to make me want to throw all of this in and go and live in a hut somewhere. He’s right. The world will not do it for us. And if we don’t type our genius poems and stories, we are not going to do it for us either. This is (another phrase to die for) ‘the cool flash of what serious is’ (which seems to surround me, perhaps all of us at the moment, no?). The days are long and the years fast, etc. But it’s true, it’s true. Type that rubbish/genius poem/story and send it out. The ‘news of the accident-/
or the illness- in the life of someone/ more laced into your life than you might have thought’ is literally a moment away.

Anthony Wilson, On the missing short story

How to live with remorse, how to make of it a catalyst for creation, is what the philosopher-artist Maira Kalman explores in her small and splendid book Still Life with Remorse — a collection of miniature essays, poems, and painted vignettes reckoning with remorse through Maira’s own family story, punctuated by glimpses of the lives of some of her muses: Leo Tolstoy, Clara Schumann, Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka, Henri Matisse.

Defining remorse as “deep regret implying shame, implying guilt, implying sorrow,” Maira observes that “in still lifes and interiors there must be a certain amount of remorse lurking among the bowls of fruit, vases or flowers and objects scattered about the room.”

Rising from the pages is the intimation that memory is the still life of living, that while remorse may haunt the mental images of our recollections, we can find in it an occasion for beauty, for creative vitality, for defiant joy.

Maria Popova, Maira Kalman on How to Live with Remorse and Wrest from It Defiant Joy in Living

Tacita Dean’s superb 2007 film on Michael Hamburger features no dialogue until the last ten minutes or so, when Hamburger, at a wooden table, discusses the different varieties of apples which he has grown in the garden of his Middleton home. He mentions some apple seeds which Ted Hughes sent him and then reads the elegy, available here, that he wrote hard upon Hughes’s death. It’s the only poem in the film, and is consequently all the more intrinsic to the film’s power. I found the poem, especially its last stanza, very moving indeed; as I still find it when I read it on page 56 of his somewhat patchy, collection, Intersections (Anvil, 2000):

Uneaten this day of his death
In either light the dark Devonshire apples lie
That from seed I raised on a harsher coast
In remembrance of him and his garden.
Difference filled out the trees,
Hardened, mellowed the fruit to outlast our days.

The last two lines seal the poignancy. Hamburger died shortly after Dean filmed him.

For all its flaws, Intersections also includes one of Hamburger’s finest poems ‘The Lean-to Greenhouse’, a masterpiece of English wabi-sabi, which opens thus:

Lightly it seems to wear its eighty years
By being there still, leaning
On a bracket of bricks that alone are sound
And at its apex depending
On a cottage wall four centuries old.

I love old greenhouses, and poems about them.

Matthew Paul, On Hamburger, Hughes and Heaney

Louis Jenkins
writes a sentence
and then another. No heartaches
about line-breaks.

One way I think about poems is as generalised jokes.  Reductionist, for sure — but if a joke is a short text that amuses, then a poem is a short text that evokes or provokes some (any) emotional response, or a complex of emotional responses (which might include amusement). 

This description of a poem says nothing about form or ‘music’, nothing about the relations between sentences and lines, or between meanings and sounds.  I absolutely love all that stuff, but perhaps poems don’t actually need any of it to be successful poems.  Perhaps this is a claim that ‘prose poems’ test?

Louis Jenkins’s prose poems are, for me, confirmations of this line of thought.  None of his poems use any device beyond the flexibility of prose for expressing tone and content.  They’re funny and moving at the same time; they seem to me to be wise as well as charming.

Stephen Payne, Finding Louis Jenkins: links to 4 poems

From Colombian poet Eliana Hernández-Pachón, translated from the Spanish by Buenos Aires-based poet and translator Robin Myers, with an afterword by Héctor Abad, is The Brush (Brooklyn NY: Archipelago Books, 2024), an intense, book-length narrative poem composed in three scene-sections, opening with Pablo, followed by Ester, and then what happens next. “Seventy more of those bullets are fired that day.” the poem “The Investigators explain:” opens, “A mere / ten strike the trees.” The Brush is composed, as the press release offers, as “a response to a traumatic event in recent Colombian history: the massacre in the village of El Salado between February 16 and 21, 2000. Paramilitary forces tortured and killed sixty people.” There is something that literature can do and do very well, and that is act as witness, offering a way to document and acknowledge, to process, and The Brush shines a spotlight on Colombian history perhaps little known across North America, writing on what can’t be imagined, but an event that leaves its scar across not only history, but on the lives of those that remain. “When the bodies collapse in the town square,” the poem “The Brush continues:” opens, “picked out at random, / the houses are left behind with their yards, / their kitchens, their sheets pressed smooth, / receiving, still, / the sun’s warm touch.” This is a powerful and evocative collection, devastating for its subtlety, and composed with enormous care and unflinching gaze.

rob mclennan, Eliana Hernández-Pachón, The Brush, trans. Robin Myers

What a pleasure to read this book of poems by the inimitable Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize winning poet, former U. S. Poet Laureate, editor (in 2011) of the Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry, etc., etc. I knew, before reading a single poem, that, 1) I would be confronted by challenging content; and 2) I was in capable hands.

I was not disappointed.

The poems are divided into six sections, each section addressing a facet of history, whether national, international, or personal. “After Egypt” takes up the long history of emigration, displacement, and ghettoization. The section, “A Standing Witness,” emerged when she was tasked to collaborate on “a song cycle, bearing witness to the last fifty-odd years.” It begins with an epigraph:

People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.

—James Baldwin

All the better—Dove might be arguing here—that we face this history and do not flinch away from it. So, a poem about the girls murdered in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama (“Youth Sunday”); a poem titled for Trayvon Martin, “Trayvon, Redux”; a poem about Mohammed Ali (“our homegrown warrior, America’s / toffee-tone Titan; how dare he swagger / in the name of peace?”). A whole section of poems titled “The Angry Odes.”


“The Whiskey Tree” takes its inspiration from a Lawrence Ferlinghetti quote, “Poets, come out of your closets, open your windows, open your doors, You have been holed up too long in your closed worlds” and is an anthology of poets pushed out of the closets and into the natural world. […]

“The Whiskey Tree” lives up to its subtitle. There’s nothing twee or conventionally romantic within. These are poems of respect for nature’s power and capacity to reinvent and return. The poets acknowledge mankind’s destruction of the natural world but the warning to change behaviour is not didactic or explicit. The respect for the natural world extends to readers.

Emma Lee, “The Whiskey Tree: Untamed Nature Poetry” edited by Alan Parry (The Broken Spine) – book review

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?

Teaching empathy. What more important lesson is there?

Those who have not seen Arthur Jafa’s devastating—and somehow simultaneously jubilant—short film “Love is the Message, the Message is Death,” please stop reading this and go watch. It’s available on YouTube. Never have 7 minutes altered my consciousness so deeply.

Elsewhere, Jafa talks about empathy as a muscle that needs to be exercised, one that is disproportionately exercised in those who have little, if any, access to accurate representations of self in the dominant culture. Given the current state of the world, though, I think we could all use more practice slipping on others’ shoes and walking around in them.

12 or 20 (second series) questions for Barbara Tran (rob mclennan)

D. H. Lawrence seems rather out of fashion these days, but let me put my cards on the table at the outset: I have loved Lawrence since I was about 12, and I still think he was a genius who wrote wonderfully about both women and children — and how women feel about children — despite being (shocker!) neither a woman nor a parent.Cancel me now!

I came back to Lawrence recently for a couple of reasons. Since we moved to France I’ve been recalibrating my Anglocentric sense of modernism as I read more widely in French literature; and this term I’m doing a little local teaching, including some of Lawrence’s prose and poetry. I’ve owned the huge Penguin Complete Poems for decades. It’s a daunting brick running to nearly 1100 paperback pages, collected and edited by Vivian de Sola Pinto and F. Warren Roberts; my edition is dated 1993 and it cost £13, which was a lot for a paperback in the early 90s. Knowing that I would be teaching Lawrence this term, I picked up my copy from my mother’s house when we were back in the UK at Christmas. Since then I’ve been reacquainting myself with it. For years I’d thought often of a handful of favourite poems, but hadn’t ranged much beyond that, and I’ve been moved and surprised at what I’ve found.

Victoria Moul, Revisiting the poetry of D. H. Lawrence

Both in approach and in execution, Variety Turns introduces us to a fully formed voice. A quick glance at the endorsements might suggest it’s a hard read, but Christopher Arksey’s light touch enables him to dodge any accusation of sentimentality or self-indulgence. This is a pamphlet that shows how pain can be turned into poetry without abandoning the reader, and that’s a considerable achievement in the current poetic climate.

Matthew Stewart, A clear-eyed approach to grief, Christopher Arksey’s Variety Turns

“That book sat on my various shelves for decades until I got around to it, and then it seemed to be written especially for me.” This is from the title piece from Mary Ruefle’s The Book. And somewhere else this week I read something about the tenderness of books touching each other on the shelf…and now I can’t find where….Zagajewski? Probably? or perhaps Elisa Gabbert? I want to be a credit-giver rather than a stealer…but somedays it’s all just jumbling around in there, the old brain.

Well, Mary Ruefle. If you’ve read her, you already know you want this book. It’s classic Mary Ruefle and we can never have enough of that. Another piece begins, “I was at my desk pretending to be writing.” And another, “As it happens, I travel a lot, therefore I am in a good position to know what happens when you die.” If you have read Ruefle, start with Madness, Rack, and Honey, and then you’ll also want to read everything she writes, and you’ll be happy there is more.

Shawna Lemay, 3 Recent Reads: Hirshfield, Ruefle, Knight

My first publication of the year is a short essay called ‘Next time you dive’ (or How to play a poem), published online in The Friday Poem. It’s a follow-up to my winter pamphlet, Poems Are Toys (And Toys Are Good For You), a considerably longer essay which began as a talk I gave for a conference at York University some years ago. Poems Are Toys argues, in short, that readers and critics ought to treat poems as tools of imaginary play, rather than exhibits to be admired, or coded messages. It’s an anti-elitist screed which took me most of the summer to write.

Here’s how it begins:

Essays making grand statements on English-language poetry are usually pointed in one of two directions: either they’re intended for a general readership, seeking to persuade indifferent readers that poetry is sorely overlooked, or else they’re aimed at poetry’s scattered, somewhat fractious community of readers, practitioners and critics, looking to put some fresh cat among the pigeons. This essay is pointed in both directions at once, with the attendant risk that I fail to meet either audience on terms which they find comfortable. But since my concern is eroding the boundary between general reader and reader of poetry—since I believe, in fact, that this ingrained separation of interests is a symptom of a deeper dysfunction in how we relate to one another—I feel obliged to make the attempt.

‘Next time you dive’, meanwhile, is an attempt at a practical demonstration of what I argue for in theory in Poems Are Toys. I take a poem — ‘Swimmers’ by William Thompson — and discuss it in terms of how I imaginatively engaged with it, batting it around my brain, rather than adopting a pose of critical distance.

Jon Stone, “Sometimes blurtingly”

Most open submission periods or contests have at least a three-five month span between closing and reporting, which is not unreasonable. Manuscripts must be read/screened, sometimes pre-screened to be sent to a judge. This takes time. But, when you are circulating a manuscript (or two, as this crazy person right here is doing), the waiting is not only difficult, but brings up so many other issues and questions.

For instance, one manuscript has received one flat no and two finalist nods so far. I have to admit, with those finalist nods I “took it to the heart” in two ways. One, positively. Yay, it was worthy/good enough to reach the top crops of submitted books for that period! But on the other hand, the heart was pierced with disappointment—if I was so close, why couldn’t it be me?

So I am still waiting. It is currently out at three different presses, one that should be reporting soon and the others set to report in May. Do I wait until May and see what happens? Or do I send to one or two more publishers whose contest periods run from now through April 1? Do I assume failure and send again, or do I wait?

Donna Vorreyer, You Take It On Faith, You Take It to the Heart

I’ll butter their feral paws,
tame them in my pestle, they’ll guard me
from elf-shot, the stitch, the sudden
pain that sneaks between the light
woven shield of my ribs.
Feverfew, plantain, red dead nettle!
Come, smother it all, you little witches,
you ghosts of old gardeners,
you tough, bristly, bitter
invincible champions.

Elizabeth Rimmer, The Gallus Herbs

In January and in February it begins with a dream. These grey days I look out at my garden and imagine all the activity going on under the leaf litter and cluttered sticks and twigs. Struggling right now with my desire to “leave the leaves” and follow the guidelines for “overwintering habitat” from the Xerces Society, and clean up some of the messiness. My faithful friend Micah, the grounds guy in charge of the courtyard, is pushing for a cleanup. My other faithful friend, Sister Mary Jo, is urging me ( and him) to leave everything until the temperatures reach the fifties.

Anne Higgins, Gardening in January…and February

I am
overgrown garden and

uncombed field, thin
patch on a well-worn

sleeve. I am the heart
quiet in its envelope

of skin until wakened by
a clear and dazzling


Luisa A. Igloria, Overturn

Some of these pictures are from a strange side trip to the Living Desert Zoo, almost walking distance to the Desert Rat Residency, which has amazing botanical gardens to walk through, is set up the mountains, and has a kid-friendly gigantic train set exhibit, but the animals are mostly older and kind of sad, because it lacks a breeding certification, so the animals are for the most part (barring rescued animals, like the juvenile fennec foxes, and meerkats, because they breed whether you want them to or not) retirees from other zoos, and the animal exhibits vary in goodness, from pretty good for the animals (spacious! airy! full of natural environmental things and enrichment) to not as modern (and a little claustrophobic.) It also includes a carousel for endangered species (good!) and I got to talk for a while with a retired Santa Barbara zookeeper who used to take care of a tiny fox called the California Island Fox, which is smaller than a house cat and climbs trees – he’s ten and still pretty spry! My favorite animal was “off exhibit” – the fennec fox – but the talking to the retired zookeeper about California Island foxes almost made up for it. Tiny treeclimbing foxes that live only on certain California islands? I thought the San Juan Islands and Japan’s island of foxes were where the coolest island foxes lived, but now I’ve learned of a whole new breed of tiny adorable fox things!

But here’s the poetry magic part. January was a tough slog for me poetry-wise. I didn’t write much, I sent out a bunch but received a bunch of rejections, and had some discouraging information on the life front and was kind of at-odds about how to make a living (or at least cover my own bills) as a disabled, chronically ill poet (along with recovering from a three-month long respiratory mystery illness.)

But when I got back home, strange positive things began to happen. I was invited to give a tutorial (for pay!) I was solicited to send work! I got two acceptances, and got asked to do a podcast. Is this because of the residency? Did some energy thing shift in the universe? I do not know. Mysterious, but I hope it continues for a while!

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Palm Desert Residency Part II: Poetry Energy Magic, What Makes a Great Residency? and Valentine’s Day

I haven’t performed since November, it feels strange, it has been a long and dark winter hibernation. I am looking forward to seeing your faces again and sharing my two new books and hearing your new poetry and work too. This spring I am honoured to be asked to be a judge for the Nibbies – British Book Awards 2024 – and so I will have lots of reading of new books to do over the next few weeks. As usual I’ll keep adding gigs to this page as new dates are confirmed. I kick off this year with an incredibly powerful WOW event for International Women’s Day on March 8th, this will be my first gig of the year, supporting and launching the audiobook of ‘A History of Women in 101 Objects’ and raising money for Refuge and WOW charities, please scroll down for all tickets and info and links… I am slowly getting ready to leave my cave and come find you all. See you back out there, see you in the festivals and fields, see you in the bookshops and libraries, see you here and there, keep dreaming the big dream, keep fighting the good fight, forever love, peace and justice, forever onwards…

Salena Godden, Springtime gigs and events….

in the impersonal silence of the expanse of danygraig cemetery a small white coffin is carried ~ my mum took my tiny hand and she walked towards ~ until i pulled away ~ wilting ~ i found the rusting gates to the padlocked mausoleums fascinating ~ they were staid ~ whereas the white coffin was afraid ~ that day from seventy years ago has stayed ~ a floater in my eye narrows time ~ the smarting sun on that day sparkles like the ladybirds in the nettles ~ i have not moved on ~ yet

Jim Young, the tiny white memory

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