Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 8

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: active hope, the anti-ship of Theseus, knocking the brain off its pedestal, smutty Persephone poems, slow stitching, and much more. Enjoy.

I spent time today sitting with noise — the husband noises, the mice in the ceiling, the cluster flies bopping against the lampshade, and I walked alongside the river today, its noisy winter fluster that, once my path turned away from it, was masked by the fumpswish of my boots in ankle-deep wet snow. I heard, and felt as well, the rumble of a truck shifting gears on the road. I spent time in the silences — woods quiet of birds, windless, the house empty for a little while, even of mice. I took it all in like nourishment, to try to remind myself to be fed.

Marilyn McCabe, Our echoing lives

The full-length debut by Chicago-based poet Willie Lin, following the chapbooks Lesser Birds of Paradise (MIEL) and Instructions for Folding (Northwestern University Press), is conversations among stones (Rochester NY: BOA Editions, 2023), a collection of meditative lyrics composed in clear narratives with direct purpose. “A knife pares to learn what is flesh.” the two-line poem “Dear” offers, “What is flesh.” There’s a remarkable way Lin’s poems unfold, unfurl and slowly reveal, offering an intriguing patience, pause and cadence. “The things in my life / I remember with perfect clarity:,” she writes, but I’d offer that these poems themselves are wonderful examples of that “perfect clarity” she suggests, as Lin composes first-person intimacies of thought and narrative that work to comprehend the world, both internal and external, and how one finds and secures one’s place. There’s a lot of considering within these poems, and a lot to consider. “Now when the wind comes,” she writes, to open the poem “Brief History of Exile,” a six-page expansive lyric set at the heart of the collection, around all else is structured, “I lean into it. / I’m learning to be that pure, relinquish or carry without // seeming to.” This is a book of tethering and of feeling unplaced, untethered, attempting to better comprehend those connections, and the very notion of belonging, instead of automatically attempting to latch on to what might come along next. “I thought if I / could desire less / I could be happy.” she writes, to open the poem “Gauntlet for the Left Hand,” “I was moving toward / an idea.”

rob mclennan, Willie Lin, conversations among stones

I’ve been thinking about, and reading, poetry, rather than writing it, lately. I’ve been looking back at lots of my old poetry and wondering how I manage to have such an inconsistent style of writing. I didn’t come up with an answer. Nor to the question why so many different types of my poetry have been published – and so many haven’t. Right poem, right place, wrong poem, wrong place, rubbish poem, etc… 

Sue Ibrahim, Different versions of me

I tried to return to my skating class nearly two weeks ago, which marked the beginning of this challenging run. I made it through 2/3 of the Monday morning class, but by that evening I was in the beginning of a headache that didn’t clear for 6 days. I really, really miss skating. (I know it tried to kill me, but I still love it.) Walking, though, I can do, and this week we had some sunny weather, and I can see the beginnings of buds on trees and shrubs, and the very first little flowers have begun blooming.

Honestly, that’s about it, and I need to get off screens again because that seems to be the most reliable way to keep headache away. I miss writing even more than I miss skating. I miss reading and interacting with writers online.

Rita Ott Ramstad, Small comforts

This is not my favourite time of year I confess, although I love all the early signs of Spring – the first sunny days, the first buds, daffodils and birdsong. Just look how grand the beach looked the other day! We even had breakfast outside on Friday! But this month in particular I’ve been plagued by asthma. Struggling to swim, or jog, or even walk uphill is a bit depressing. I’m managing to do a little yoga, and I’m still singing, although my chest sometimes hurts afterwards. Roll on warmer and dryer weather.

But what about the writing, you might ask. I’m kind of in a no-man’s land at the moment. I’m not writing poetry with any great intent. But I feel as if I might be moving towards writing something. Hard to describe the feeling really but it’s there.

Robin Houghton, And there goes February flying past… 

Mariame Kaba isn’t a poet. She is an activist who talks about hope. She has said that hope is not an emotion, nor it is the same as optimism. She describes it as a discipline. Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, writers and activists, have coined the term “Active Hope”. They liken it to Tai Chi or gardening, “something you do rather than have.”

Every morning now – in my simplified life – I focus on the energy as I flow through the 18 moves of shibashi. I hope that the discipline will ground me. Open me. That this will allow poetry to flow into me. And through me.

A flower is a poem of beauty. And a scorched earth is a poem of hope.

Ren Powell, Hope is a Round Thing

First, consider the sentences and line breaks. The sentences are perfectly formed, varied in length and syntactic complexity (from ‘We drifted in silence.’ to the first and last sentence, each of which spreads over four lines). The line breaks do not disrupt the syntax, rather they complement it, or accentuate it. In terms of lines and sentences the poem is structured as it could be if it were smooth free verse. But it’s not: the line-sentence structure additionally serves a metric pattern, iambic pentameter.  Sentence and metric line are working together.

As for the metre: I’d say, L1, L2 are perfect iambic pentameter. So are the lines beginning with ‘as if’, ‘in undulating’ and ‘The paddle’. The other lines have various substitutions (a trochee instead of an iamb here, an extra unstressed syllable there) which are never irksome, are always easy enough to read over, or through.  

Surely the final, perfect line would not be quite as beautiful and affecting without all this rigour?

Stephen Payne, Finding Jeffrey Harrison: a reading of ‘The One That Got Away’

how fragile is the house of now
a time of endings
our finals farewell

the walls will hold our sound
the floor our footfalls
the air our breath

we will never end
though all come to stillness
energy translates


I don’t really know what translation is. It carries one thing to another place that is perhaps the same place after all. Reminds you of it. Or it carries it across a river from one bank to the other; sister places, brothers beside the river. Translation is a tricky mirror. Someone’s tongue in another’s mouth. 

Here are two texts about translation. The second presents E. Pauline Johnson’s The Bird’s Lullaby and my “translation” of it. It’s a translation by reordering the words, keeping the sound, the tonality, the elements of its world. A kind of antiship of Theseus. The universe is made of the infinite juggling of finite atoms. 

The first is about translation within English. What is it that the world is possibly or impossibly Englishable? 

Gary Barwin, Translations as the Anti-ship of Theseus

I always find listening to someone who is both an expert and enthusiast captivating and today was no exception. Simply enjoying poems for their own sake is easy to forget – especially in this social media age when everything is comment fodder.

I feel not “better” but certainly less scattered. I think perhaps the answer to this current state of disquiet is either to get away from writing completely (the garden is whispering a soft song of spring) or perhaps to engage in more focused, tiny writing tasks. The big picture is unwieldy and overwhelming sometimes. Perhaps the next few days need to spent exploring and enjoying form – creating structure despite the sense of internal chaos that I’m feeling. Perhaps for now the sonnet will be the box for my dreams.

Kathryn Anna Marshall, Creative Tuesday

Lately I’ve had evenings with long stretches of alone time as my husband’s season as a track and field official has begun. […] I’ve found that these times have been relaxing and creatively useful in ways I wouldn’t expect. After all, I’m retired from teaching, and I have long stretches of time most days where I can read, write, make art, workout, go for walks. The time itself isn’t anything new. Maybe it’s the darkness outside the windows. Perhaps the strange sense that the person that is usually next to me at this time is not. But free time in the evening hits differently. Whatever the reason, I find myself being more open and able to engage: with writing projects (particularly organizational tasks like researching and sending submissions, completing materials and plans for workshops); with difficult or deep reading material (craft essays, lectures for a class I’m taking online); or simply with entertainment that brings me joy. (Who knew there was a whole series of Pixar shorts centered on Dug the Dog from Up? Now I do, and they are all delightful.)

Donna Vorreyer, Alone Time

We live in a green house fronted
by a pair of Japanese maples, with a bright orange love
seat in a room wall-papered with books and the hearts
of plants spilling generously out of themselves. Laundry
unsorted, coffee and noodles in the pantry, the entry
adorned with favorite coats. We remember the thrift
store find of a coffeetable, what we wore when we
stood on the boardwalk that burnished day. Cake
slicer in the drawer, file folders of the bankrupt years.
Keepsakes we can’t bear to throw away. Everywhere,
evidence of undimmed desire for life in this world.

Luisa A. Igloria, Anniversary

I’m a writer who likes to knock her brain off a pedestal. I don’t want my brain to be so exceptional that it is unlike anyone else’s, just as I don’t wish to believe that my worries are entirely unique, or for that matter, that my accomplishments are singular and isolated examples of greatness. I signed up for a human life, and that means a life in community.

I say that in case you’re wondering why a newsletter called Poetry Today focuses so much on the brain. The poet’s mind is in a relationship with this—and every other—precious organ. Each of us is a constellation, a finely tuned feedback system between the different layers of our human experience. I’m drawn to books that offer a narrative approach to the brain, telling the story of its idiosyncratic functions and revealing how we might better acquaint ourselves with its programming to live more consciously.

Maya C. Popa, The 1% Rule: A Poet’s Take on Atomic Habits

in the warmth of the sun i offer the sun my warmth

Grant Hackett [no title]

Yes, Valentine’s Day is nearly a week past, but I’m just tomorrow sending cards and greetings to friends near and far, mostly to put a dent in the Love postage stamps recently purchased through USPS. All those kitten and puppies and doves accessoried with tiny hearts and red accents need to fly, even if late in their arrival. I’m a sucker for such seasonal postage, even if my efforts are less than timely.

I’m happy this morning to come across the recent publication of The Wild Word’s issue, Love. Their fine editors have included three of my poems in this issue and I’m over the moon at this odd little gathering of three: poetry as a lover, the wonder of scallops, and a hodge podge of Valentine ephemera haiku. The issue promises of all kinds of good reading. The editors are good humans to work with in this world of words and publishing.

Kersten Christianson, The Wild Word: Love

I had no recollection of ordering George David Clark’s Newly Not Eternal, published this year by Louisiana State University Press, though obviously I must have done since it arrived here in Paris last week. Whatever late-night whim prompted me to put in the order and then immediately forget it, it was a good one. This is a very good book of poems: I was moved and amused as well as admiring — these are satisfying poems to read or to say, in which form, theme and rhetoric truly come together.

I suppose most of my readers already read quite a bit of poetry in English, but even if you don’t — if you’re here more for the Latin, or thoughts on translation, or because you’re my mother (hello!) — I’d recommend this collection. It’s accessible I think in the best way, and actually perhaps more accessible to people who don’t think of themselves as big readers of contemporary poetry than those who do. If you read the piece about verse for children a fortnight ago and thought, to be honest, Julia Donaldson and Peepo are about my level, much past that I don’t quite get it: well, for a start, you have a good ear since Donaldson, as was much discussed in the comments, is a fine poet, and secondly, George David Clark is just the sort of “adult” poet you might want to try. I mean that, like Donaldson, he is putting his very considerable set of technical skills and expertise at your service as a reader: though many of these poems deal with the most difficult of themes, there is nothing at all difficult about the verse itself. Several of the best pieces here, a little like some of the best of Wendy Cope, distract you with the nursery-rhyme pleasures of the form so much that the wit and wisdom of the ending lands like a blow.

Victoria Moul, Letter from America

Gould’s prose is much more limpid than his often quite Baroque poetry, and he relates his adventures and failures with a convincing honesty. This is reinforced by his repeated admissions of memory failure, of not knowing how or when certain events took place. This has the effect of calling into question the very genre he’s working in; how does a memoir work when most of us have only hazy recollections of our own pasts? Regardless of the story Gould has to tell, it’s this awareness of his limitations that makes the book so interesting.

In New York, Gould sees a newspaper article on Mick Taylor’s leaving The Rolling Stones and decides that here, at last, his destiny can be achieved, so off he sets to London on a wing and a prayer, so to speak. Here he falls on his feet, finding off-the-books work with some very well connected people. He actually meets Mick Taylor, then Keith Richards and finally cuts Cat Stevens’ grass. But I suppose I’m not giving anything away if I tell you he doesn’t get the gig and the world is spared from his musical vision. In the end, he’s back in Providence and back in time to tell us the story of how he ended up in hospital in the first place.

Billy Mills, Poets in Prose: A Review of Holy Fool by Henry Gould and The Making of a Pure Poet by Augustus Young

Once we become aware of something, we start to see it everywhere. The long-ignored thing, which existed but meant little to us, asserts itself with a vengeance, a passion of the slighted and overlooked.  

Thus my relationship with chapbooks, small book-objects, often handmade, that slide in your pocket, call to you whimsically because they’re cheap and they can.  

A panel at AWP literary conference sparked my appetite, reminding me of my days when I preferred indie records to corporate labels.  Last week when I uttered the words aloud – “How can I get into this world?” – it seems the chapbooks heard me and said, let’s give the chick a ride.  I sparkled to wonderful names such as Carrion Bloom, Eulalia, Small Orange, Sibling Rivalry, Ethelzine and my favorite name, Rinky Dinky.  

Jill Pearlman, Passion of the Slighted Chapbook

Yesterday, I was doing the things that you do when you’ve been gone from your home – cleaning, laundry, getting ready to start the garden seeds. In between, I was reading the latest issue of Poets & Writers, looking at social media, sorting my books, reading poetry. 

To be honest, I’d also been doing some work for Storyknife and for the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference. Suddenly I was struck with a certain amount of anxiety that the joke that I’ve been making in the past couple of years, I’ve been an emerging poet so long that I’m now submerging, isn’t funny anymore.

I won’t be going on any residencies or trips or guest teaching at colleges this upcoming year. Instead, I’ll be providing those experiences for other people. Gladly. I love this life I’ve crafted for myself. I love being able to make manifest those gifts for others. But the gnawing desire to do these things myself is still there. 

Erin Coughlin Hollowell, The Thread

On Tuesday, I attended ‘Making A.I. work for writers’, part of a series of workshops organised by ARU’s A.I. working group, in collaboration with my own Cambridge Writing Centre. The emphasis here was on Lynda Clark’s concept of A.I. as ‘creative amplification’; that is, as a tool to use in conjunction with one’s own writing practices to produce new and surprising effects.

For the second half of the workshop, we wrestled with Max Woolf’s GPT2-Simple, a Colaboratory Notebook for training your own pet text-generating A.I. Think of it this way: freely and commercially available language-modelling software like Google Gemini and ChatGPT 3.0 is trained over months, using vast swathes of harvested data so that it can produce statements and respond to prompts in human-like fashion. We trained ours over the span of 20 minutes, using about 50,000 words (or, in my case, almost everything I’ve written in the past decade), so that each one could produce random assemblages of text which crudely resemble the work fed into it.

Jon Stone, ‘Creative Amplification’ and A.I. poetry

Yesterday’s mail brought the proof for granata, which meant spending today, free of other writing projects, marking it up and fixing any margin issues inside Any pesky remaining typos or off punctuation. This one was a little less tricky with lineated lines instead of prose blocks, but the lines do run a bit longer than I usually go, which meant some additional adjustments. There was also some small movement of images that were a little too far over, and some final typography touches that were simply cosmetic. It’s always a joy to feel the final project come together and bound so neatly, especially this one, that started as an indeterminate shorter series of poems in summer of 2022 and eventually grew into a considerably longer project that incorporated over 20 pieces of visual art as well. Amazingly the cover was absolutely perfect this time (I have a hard time centering text when you can’t readily see the trim lines in action.) It’s even more beautiful on the back cover where you see more of the images. […]

As I was working on them that summer, I kept calling them the “smutty Persephone poems” even though I already had the working title in place. Reading them now, they feel very lush and sensuous, more so than a lot of what I’ve written in the intervening year and a half. It’s of course, not just Persephone’s story, but also that of the Sirens, who were punished or gifted with their transformation depending on who you ask. I begin with a quote from Ovid, who frames it as a gift. But then Ovid may have been wrong.

Kristy Bowen, doomish and beautiful: writing about myth

My first full length book entitled A Godless Ascends published by Lithic Press is now available for pre-order. Tremendous thanks to editors Danny Rosen and Kyle Harvey for the impeccable design and quality printing. The book is divided into four sections with beautiful artwork by Nancy Smith, including the cover art. A Godless Ascends will be officially released to celebrate the vernal equinox, March 19, 2024.

You can pre-order from the Lithic Press website or if you’d like a signed copy with a bookmark, contact me here. Those who order signed copies before March 19 will be entered in a drawing to win an 11×14 print of one of the paintings used as artwork in the book.

Trish Hopkinson, My new book “A Godless Ascends” released for pre-order!

Now that the news has officially been announced, I can tell you: my next collection of poetry, Her Dark Everything, will be published April 2025 with Riot in Your Throat. Her Dark Everything grapples with the loss of a friend to suicide and the continued survival of my best friend, despite her battles with major depression. It’s about hope and joy and sorrow and loss and survival. The Riot in Your Throat 2024-2025 lineup is fantastic, every single one of these books is amazing and I promise, you’re going to want to read them!

In other news, I survived AWP and showed some real restraint by only bringing home ten books. Seriously, this is impressive since I essentially have an unlimited budget for books — life is too short to not buy poetry!!

Courtney LeBlanc, Exciting News

Although I missed AWP this year, I did try to make up for missing the bookfair by picking up a few books at our Seattle all-poetry bookstore, Open Books, today, during a windstorm. (A tree fell in a car in our neighborhood while we were away, the 520 was closed for construction, and I was nearly blown over walking down the street. Still, we would not be stopped!)

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Early Cherry and Camellia Blossoms, New Poetry Books and a Rattle Podcast Where We Talk about Poetry Submitting

It can be dispiriting when you see a writer post that they had a book rejected because the publisher “didn’t feel their social platform was big enough”. However, that might not have been the actual reason for rejection or the writer might be better served viewing it as a dodged bullet: a mismatch between writer and publisher. A publisher should be a partnership otherwise you might as well employ a printer and do all the marketing and promotion yourself. Yes, it’s a good idea to be on social media, but not to the extent you’re doing so much promotion there’s no second book.

So how can writers achieve that miraculous balance between writing, promoting on social media and other commitments which may include caring and/or a day job without burning out?

Emma Lee, Writers and Social Media Platforms

Sometimes I struggle to find a connection to the world, to people, to whatever it is I read or watch, either in real life or on television. And writing reflects that. Each line, each thought seems isolated, struggles to connect to the next.

Now it’s no great revelation to say that these days I live apart from the general run of things. This does happen to some of us from time to time as we get older – reference points become increasingly obscure. Just now I feel about as relevant as a Tommy James And The Shondells tribute band who have forgotten the tune and words for Mony, Mony.

And on the plus side disconnected thoughts, lines, images are sometimes the key to finding something unexpected, as with this small piece. It’s short because it connected to nothing else but maybe that’s its strength.


It was the night my ears, with a twist and click, unclipped themselves from my head.

They enjoyed how light they were when freed of the weight of my head, my body.

They floated on the breeze, up above houses, above trees. My ears rose above clouds.

I don’t know where they ended up. They just never came back. I miss them.

Exclusion and disconnection, then, can be a positive state, but it’s still disorientating to feel the world is travelling along on a parallel line, always just out of reach with rules that might be understandable but which still seem unreal, the work of mad folk.


not one word wasted
daffodils in the sunshine
in a blue pot

after the rain had gone
after i had had coffee

Jim Young [no title]

I am in a warm house on a quiet day aware of the suffering in Yemen, Syria, Darfur, the Congo, and what clutches me most of late, Gaza. How is it possible the children I adore are safe when children just as beautiful and just as precious are exiled, starved, shot, bombed, buried under rubble? Many survivors are left with the world’s newest horrific acronym WCNSF: wounded child no surviving family. I know a moment’s trauma can take a lifetime to heal. I cannot imagine the relentless ongoing trauma for people in Gaza.

I am fortunate to host family Sundays here. Each week I plan out the day’s breakfast and lunch, making as many dishes as possible in advance so I can play with children and follow conversations on the day itself. This week I’m using beans I canned in September and the remaining potatoes harvested in October. I’m using pear sugar I made last summer and hot sauce I made last fall. I use eggs from our chickens, jam from our elderberries, tomatoes canned from our garden. There’s deep satisfaction in nourishing others with the food we’ve grown. Food, in nearly every spiritual tradition, is sacred and meant to be shared. Yet legacy olive groves are relentlessly bulldozed in Gaza. (Since 1967, more than eight hundred thousand Palestinian olive trees have been illegally uprooted by Israeli authorities and settlers.) Gaza’s orchards, greenhouses, crops, and fishing fleets are intentionally destroyed. And the nourishment lost, too, when libraries, universities, and museums are bombed into dust.  

One child suffering is too much. The news that over 12,660 Palestinian children have been killed and more than one million displaced from their homes is impossible to imagine. The suffering too, of the 36 Israeli children killed by Hamas and the child hostages Hamas still imprisons. Each number represents a whole person, as unique and amazing as a child you love, as the child you yourself once were. 

Laura Grace Weldon, Warm House On A Quiet Day, Disquieted

What is the colour of your poem? What
is the colour of too much loss? What is
the colour of a rain that cannot fall? All our
hands together, every single one, pushing a
skewed world back where it belongs – what
would be the colour of immeasurable love?

Rajani Radhakrishnan, What if you looked through another’s eyes?

Tamsyn Farr read a fabulous poem of her creation in the lovely community space of the library.

Behind, you can see the gift bags of cookies I made up, some gluten free, some gluten-rich each with a poem from Adding Up to This attached. I made 60 or cookies (gingerbread, freezer cookies and thumbprint cookies), some of which made it so far as the event. 30 bags and I took no pictures.

Some book sales were made and donations, which is sweet and encouraging.

I test read a couple poems from a new manuscript which went over well. And one of Gertrude Stein because never pass up on a Stein.

Pearl Pirie, Love was the theme at Poetea

Ah, the manuscript process! It interests me even when I’m not in the midst of putting a collection together, because it seems there is no consistently efficient way to go about it–no matter what people claim. It’s fascinating to read, in interviews, articles, and blogs, how poets decide on the poems to gather into a book; I have put together three full-length collections, and yet I can’t say that I have developed a method I can rely on. Each volume seems to have had different inceptions and different means of getting to an end.

My first approach is to choose several dozen poems, about a third of which have been published in literary journals. After that, no system: I ponder possibilities. My last two books had titles early on, which helped a little, and my chapbooks have had themes that guided me about what to include or exclude. Not so this time. The process this time reminds me of how I put together Water-Rites, which evolved from my MFA thesis in 2003. In other words, I don’t really know what I’m doing! Which feels edgy and uncomfortable, and is probably therefore a good thing. I don’t want to get too confident or at ease with writing. Creativity sometimes thrives on obstacles, or on the prompting to do more, to try new things, to solve problems.

Ann E. Michael, Process: shosin

Today’s post is a destined to be an old timey ramble, where I share just a bunch of stuff I have been inspired by or enjoyed of late. Enjoy what you enjoy, is a line from Woolf, that I endorse. Take your inspiration where you are able!

The first thing that I’ve found to be inspiring is the following quotation.

“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible. ”

— Doris Lessing

Perhaps it was this quotation by Lessing, and the persistence of Rilke’s line throughout my adult life “you must change your life,” and the following by Enrique Martinez Celaya that finally spurred me to change my work circumstances last week:

“Launch yourself recklessly towards your dreams. Wake up and be desperate. Desperation demands action. As an artist you must always be desperate. Try anything. Be careful with your calculations. Calculations become a habit. A calculated life is seldom radiant.”

I’ve left my position for something more precarious and lower paying, but for something that allows me to be more reckless and desperate perhaps. Different calculations. Impossible ones. But memento mori and all that. Time to get radiant.

Shawna Lemay, Whatever You’re Meant To Do

i watch my neighbor fill
the little free library with bibles.
he pulls each previous book resident
from its shelter. puts them
into a coffin he is carrying on his back.
in a country of squirrels
i do not mean to be a prophet. i always
seem to witness these fissure moments.
i think about what it would look like
to stop him. the box
a little word stomach.

Robin Gow, little free library

As I read, I kept writing out passages in my notebook. “My revision process is, overall, one of inquiry,” Rose McLarney writes in “Identifying Gems” (p. 57). In “Finding the Language, Finding  Story” (a gorgeous essay that is also about raising a child), Joe Wilkins shares a strategy I honestly had never thought of:  “I usually write in couplets (you can’t hide anything in couplets, all that white space forces you to interrogate every word)” (p. 18).

In “Emptying the Zendo,” Shin Yu Pai admits that she doesn’t revise very much, then elaborates:

Revision, for me, is like polishing a gem to bring out its beauty. However, this working and reworking of the stone also changes its rawest qualities and alters its energy. The place where I decide to put down the pen and stop fussing with the poem is not the place another poet, teacher, or scholar might choose to end. Ultimately, we find our own relationship to our voice and our objects through reading, practice, and deep listening. In this way, we are our own teachers.

—Shin Yu Pai

This might be good advice for life, as well as for writing. We find our own relationship through using our own voice, but also reading, practice, and deep listening.


It’s 3 o’clock in the morning. I am up tending to my old dog who howls from downstairs in the middle of the night when he is feeling anxious and wanting me. I keep a few books on the coffee table and I pick one up, M Train by Patti Smith, and read a few pages. A passage reminds me of the time years ago when my husband and I bought a pot of bamboo. 

A sudden gust of wind shakes the branches of trees scattering a swirl of leaves that shimmer eerily in the bright filtered light. Leaves as vowels, whispers of words like a breath of net. Leaves are vowels. I sweep them up hoping to find the combinations I am looking for. The language of the lesser gods. 

We once were at a garden show where we became beguiled by an exhibition of bamboo. The grower had pots of all kinds of bamboo but the one that demanded our attention was the Giant Bamboo, the possible eventual size of which we didn’t grasp at the time. This is where my  husband’s and my memories divide. He says he knew that fact but I don’t remember it at all. It was so beautiful that we purchased a pot of it on impulse, not considering whether it would fit in our yard or if we had a place for it. 

Charlotte Hamrick, The Dog & The Bamboo

winter thaw
a sigh returns
to the pines

Tom Clausen, four views in situ

I started my workshop with the Economics, Leadership & Governance masters class at Universidad de Navarra with a premise: every morning starts as a negotiation between your present self and your future self (the past is just a reference point). 

I was in the strange place of walking the line between my poet-self and my professional-self: asked to speak about my experiences that led to the current place in my career as a corporate lawyer specializing in sustainability, I chose to use poetry to frame the discussion. 

It was a negotiations class so we negotiated where the discussion would go. It was up to each party to make the most of our time together. I gave them a packet of poems and asked them to prepare one to read. My plan was that the poems would prompt a discussion about my life experiences, taken out of order, but with a thread woven through the stories. We started with a meditative poem, Lost by David Wagoner. I told a story about getting lost on purpose only to find my way back to purpose.

Cathy Wittmeyer, Negotiating What We All Get Out Of This

My first poetry reading was at the main branch of that same Brookline Public Library, a formidable building I have loved forever. In 1994, I was lucky enough to be a featured reader for the poetry and prose series hosted by Edith Pearlman. It was in the fall of 1994 and my father was still alive, but not well enough to come out to his daughter’s first ever event. Instead, an angel appeared in the guise of my friend, Michael Sheridan and he came equipped with tripod, video camera, and lights! This was in the day before smart phones or any common mobile phones. Michael, now a documentary filmmaker, was more a brother than a friend. The video meant that my father would be able to see me read my poems after all, just a day or so later. Not only was this my first reading, but it was being memorialized on tape!

As Pearlman introduces me to the audience she adds to my name, “a prize winning poet,” (reader, I had no prizes, no books to my name). And then she did a remarkable thing, she winked at me. I remember her face so distinctly. White hair, red lipstick, sparking eyes. She must have been in her mid-50’s at the time. I had never seen a more beautiful “older” woman.

Susan Rich, Edith Pearlman

The best thing this week: my poem “Sex Talk” was featured by Poetry Daily. Lots of friends and a few strangers sent or posted lovely notes about it. This poem came not long after my mother’s death, if I’m remembering right, as I worked through the grief and freedom that follow the death of a beloved, suffering, usually kind, sometimes hurtful parent. Even on the day of initial drafting, it felt like a big poem for me, but it was rejected many times before Mark Drew, after some judicious edits, accepted it for what turned out to be the last issue of The Gettysburg Review. Big thanks to him and everybody else who has cheered me on. […]

Meanwhile I’m rereading Jan Beatty’s powerful 2020 collection The Body Wars, and it’s so resonant with my internal struggles. That old battle–to what extent I’ll let work devour my hours–still rages, with health stress increasing the strain. My theory is that my body is working through hurt I cognitively processed long ago. That’s probably good in the long run, but for the moment, it’s not easy. I often feel maxed out the way I did in the pandemic or during episodes of more personal grief: a certain amount of bandwidth is always devoted to background noise so there’s just less energy for, say, writing that midterm exam or teaching another roomful of distractible undergrads.

My understanding is that panic attacks can happen without any immediate cause, but anxiety attacks are clearly connected to real stimuli. If so, I’m experiencing the latter way too often. Recently I attended a university forum on the war in Gaza: good speakers, devastating subject, and an audience full of inconsolably angry people. I could hide my symptoms even from my husband sitting next to me, but I became short of breath, my heart palpitating uncomfortably, and had to do surreptitious breathing exercises to remain in the room.

Lesley Wheeler, Three of swords time

I have just come back from a very enjoyable ‘slow stitching’ workshop locally. Before I went I thought this was simply stitching slowly without pressure, but I have a better understanding now. It’s about stitching as meditation, stitching for well being and relaxation. It’s also a great way to use up small scraps, and odds and sods of thread, ribbon, net, buttons and so on. […]

Apart from the company, it struck me that slow stitching was similar to how I work as a poet. I am constantly trying to tap into my subconscious mind, get away from the world of ‘ideas’ to the world of instinct and going where the mind wants to wander, not worrying over word choices while at the writing stage. Before the writing comes the pondering and mind-freewheeling. Then comes the tentative scribbling down of phrases, half lines, sometimes if one is very lucky, a couple of lines. Those lines might end up anywhere in a poem, or not at all, but they are all gifts from the subconscious brain.

Angela Topping, Slow Stitching

Nobody wants to talk about the breakdown of bodies.
The way finger joints become tulip bulbs beneath frozen ground.

How a thyroid can burn itself out like a star or a spine
can collapse like a sinkhole.

I drink coffee at the kitchen table,
thumb through seed catalogs, pray my winding road

of a back bends to zinnias one more season.

Carey Taylor, Ode to the Cooper’s Hawk

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