Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 10

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: panic needles, jellyfish tentacles, the poem as a begging bowl, mixed mental arts, and more. Enjoy.

Wind gets under my skin. It feels like panic needles it ricochets up my spine like some kundalini junkie robot waiting to jump me on a dark street corner and drag me back to my home planet. Wind makes the power flick off then on then off it causes the trees to wave their crazy arms and screech outta the way! outta the way! in their keening tree voices and squirrels bombard my roof with tiny pine cones in their terror. In my wee brain the moon controls the tides which controls the wind which controls the celestial bodies which control not only my thoughts but my mood swings. Huge swathes of mood swings. Crazy Girl mood swings but Crazy Girl no longer lives here just water and big trees and bigger water and waves sloshing up the earth’s crust saying howdy!

The best way to count this measure is to think of it as one statement that’s divided in its inflection.

What was Beethoven living in this moment? How many times did he divide the inflection of a measure until it was perfect? If you look at his original scores he tells exactly what he was thinking there and there and then faster there too. He wrote during storms. Like this one. He too hunkered down his ear pressed to the piano’s throat so he could hear the low pounding chords that rolled through everything he ever wrote.

Rebecca Loudon, Pig and farm report March the Eighth: storm watch edition

When Adar enters, my parents wave
from beyond the veil.
They followed each other
out the door and into
the early spring earth.
My mother blazed the trail
like a 1950s movie star
perched on a pretty little horse,
riding into the sunset.
Dad was lost
the minute she left
but he found his way. The last thing
he murmured was, “looking good” —
to my brother? to himself
in the mirror behind closed eyes?

Rachel Barenblat, Adar

This is a picture of me on Tuesday of this last week. So happy to be out in the sunshine (despite the 45 degree temperature) enjoying the early flowers, some deer crossing in front of her on her street, walking along Lake Washington. So terribly unaware of the how the rest of the week would go. The bobcat, the predator, appeared last week. This week, the prey, the deer, appear on my street. So which am I to believe, the predator or the prey?

Jeannine Hall Gailey, A Good Day Followed by a Terrible Week, MS Awareness and Women’s Awareness Month, and Writers, Disability, and Money: Some Thoughts

she listens at night
for the purr of an engine
for the whistle of a rocket
for the bark of a gun
for a bang on the door

she hides her daughter
she does not ask her sons
where they go each night

she scavenges under a curfew
she hides under a false name

she mourns the dead
she knows the mourning
will never be done

she hopes for a clean death

Ama Bolton, Civilian

The harp is an ancient instrument — as old as civilization itself. It was used to call to the gods, and to offer up praise. The harp accompanied the ancient stories, the stories we told about who we are and how we came to be.

This poem made me think about my own father, who terrified me when I was a little child, so volatile was he. I had no idea what might trigger yelling or being spanked. Cause and effect is confusing for a child; life is confusing. The whole house tiptoed around his anger. He died just as I was reaching adolescence, and we had been estranged from him for some years. I resent him still for how this all shaped me.

But when I’m feeling larger in spirit I try to imagine what he was, his inner self. I try to empathize with what may have been someone who had dreams unrealized, had skills and creativity unfostered. He was an asshole to me, yes. And he likely was also carrying his own burdens. As do we all. He may indeed have had a harp that he wanted to play for the world.

This is what Bruce Weigl’s poem makes me think about. Even my own worst self, judgey and unfiltered, impatient, disdainful, even that person has a harp she’s carrying around trying to make music for the world. Jangled though it may be in that moment.

Marilyn McCabe, Many small and beautiful welds

I have been having fun with digital images and collages and making strange little bits for my own amusement (see above.) I’ve also made progress with daily writing on a new series of poems that will probably eventually be a zine. So far, there are about a dozen salvageable pieces shaking around with some more to come as I gear up to start something entirely different for NaPoWriMo next month. Which something is still up for debate, but it may be the Mary Shelley/ Frankenstein-inspired project I’ve been waffling on starting up for months (I wanted to work on it and share some of it in October for #31DaysOfOctober, but it just never happened.) 

Each spring I question whether I should commit to 30 poems (I write daily sometimes, but definitely skip some days and take the weekends off.) The imperative does keep me moving, and some of my best shorter writing projects were either finished or started in April of some year or another, including the villains series that recently became a zine

Otherwise, life lately is fancy croissants and tea when we can afford them, a couple new sundresses that are still too scanty to wear, and lots of decor and DIY writing on everything from Victorian architecture to using vintage suitcases and trunks for storage.

Kristy Bowen, notes & things 3/9/2024

But the slap on my face will do, in place of understanding, the sting
of celestial fingers on my face;
swim in the Sound in spring and the jellyfish will lay their tentacles
across your nose and cheek, just so:

Many messengers, one message. You are asleep at your post.

Dale Favier, March

Can you draw a bicycle from memory? In one experiment only 25% could. I know the tangible experience of a bicycle. I rode one nearly daily for several years of my childhood, ruining the cuffs of how many pairs of pants that caught in the chain? But I’m not among the 25%. I see nothing, I hear nothing, but I can shape everything through a tiny alphabet and hope it’s adequate, and somewhat true.

These questions sit heavier on my heart than usual because I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a memoir. Again. But there is always the question of having to confront myself and the limits of my perspective. I can’t be a heroine in anyone’s story. Certainly not mine. And I am not fond of the cynicism I see as inherent in an anti-hero perspective. But the more often I pick up a memory, the more I turn it over, the more faults I find—in me, and in the circumstances. Timelines never line up. I don’t like myself then. Nor then. Can I ascribe a motive to myself, much less to someone else?

I can’t sort out the elements of my memories into a nice, meaningful arc. That dull, red rubber ball that I caught more than once square on my nose during a game of dodgeball that I was forced to play? (The smell, the sting, the metallic taste of blood.) Where does this go? Insignificant, maybe. But certainly the stuff of metaphor.

It’s like playing a game of solitaire and trying very hard not to cheat.

Ren Powell, Dodging Memoir

After I had dropped out of college and was working under the table, waitressing as an “illegal alien” in the North of England—yes, that really was the term— I volunteered for the Lancaster Literary Festival. It was my first experience of any type of arts gathering and I loved it. It felt like entering a parallel universe.

I remember most meeting Linton Kwasi Johnson who brought a crew with him—maybe for company or protection—most likely both. His performance was electrifying. But I also remember who didn’t accept the invitation to appear.

U.K. Le Guin (as she was known then—on the cover of all her books) wrote a beautiful letter to “Jo” who was the Director of the Lancaster Lit Festival that year, turning down the offer to headline the event. Jo was so thrilled by a personal letter from her favorite writer that it took a little sting away from the rejection. This was Spring of 1981 and Jo’s choices were ahead of the time. In fact, this may have been the first, or one of the first of the Lancaster Lit Festivals, held at the Dukes Playhouse directly across Pizza Margherita where I worked. I don’t know what my volunteer job was besides getting in free to most events, but I know I learned much more than I offered.

And although Le Guin wrote to say she was not in the habit of making public appearances, she was still very honored to be asked. This must have been the first time I learned that she was a she, an Ursula, an esteemed writer who was trying to remain out of sight. Oh, for a time when that was still possible as a writer! Clearly, her gender reveal made a lasting impression—as did having the Lancaster Lit Festival directed by a woman.

Susan Rich, My dinner date with Ursula K. Le Guin

I found a bunch of big boxes on my doorstep! 500 copies of Eden Is a Backyard: New Climate Poems from Word to Action (Edition Eupolinos) are printed and ready to put in readers’ hands. The paper feels wonderful, the type face is beautiful and the cover art is just gorgeous (thank you Lindsay Lusby). As far as content, consider this: Rachel Carson said that no one could write truthfully about nature and leave out the poetry. The artists that graciously offered their words to this book beautifully weave nature’s truth throughout the poetry.

Cathy Wittmeyer, Our Book is Here at Last!!!

While the energy of that music (not just the Minutemen, but punk music more broadly) had been a part of my life since my teenage years, it never really entered into my poetry. I wasn’t sure how to make that happen. But without trying to or planning it, that’s what started to happen last summer as I sketched new drafts. I found myself writing about making things & circulating them on a shoestring; about staying focused and inspired even when it feels dead all around us; about capitalism and fascists; and also, for some reason, about eternity as something tangible and here, even though it couldn’t be held onto. Eventually, I realized that the music’s energy was only accessible to me through writing in an affirming and almost ecstatic voice, something I basically never do (much of my work is doom-laden and frequently impersonal). So that was the real spark: to follow the music, the energy, and the voice as they stumbled into an affirmation of striving, creating, and living

Amplifying this further was an unlikely connection. Unknown to me, Mike Watt (the band’s co-founder, bassist, and frequent vocalist) had been deeply inspired by James Joyce’s Ulysses—maybe the most important book in my life—around the time of the band’s classic double album, Double Nickels on the Dime. Apparently, Raymond Pettibon (artist and one-time illustrator for SST records) had introduced him to it, and it changed him. The band even named a song “June 16th” after Bloomsday. As Watt stated, “Just finishing [reading Ulysses] at that time and getting ready to record [Double Nickels on the Dime] . . . I was inspired. With songwriting, you could talk about anything!” (qtd. in Rutland, Corporate Rock Sucks, Hachette, 2022). This feeling of being freed to say and discuss “anything” is connected to a sense of totality:

It seemed to me then, and still does now . . . that [Joyce] was trying to write about everything. And in a way the Minutemen were trying to do the same. Never sat down and agreed to do this or anything, but it seems like we’re trying to write about everything. The whole world, the history, the future, what can be, could be, would be, what might have been.” (qtd. in Fournier, The Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime (33 1/3), Continuum/Bloomsbury, 2007)

Ultimately, it was this convergence of the band with Joyce that truly unlocked the poem for me. This freed perspective in which anything reveals everything is crucial to how I went about writing it.

RM Haines, The Minutemen on Bloomsday

Patsy Rodenburg made us sit what felt like six inches away from each other and say lines of one of our poems without losing the gaze of the poet sitting opposite. Then at a slightly greater distance, eventually moving to arm’s length. For the next two hours all we did was stare into each other’s eyes.

I was aware of two forces in Carole’s eyes, which dwelt in equal, not opposite strength to each other: the first, of unqualified acceptance and second, a steely, not quite austere benevolence. I don’t remember her blinking once. The same lines, over and over, to the same pair of eyes, for a whole afternoon. You’d think we’d get bored. But not a bit of it. ‘Did you really feel the emotion of every word you were speaking into your partner’s eyes?’ Patsy asked. If the answer was no, we did it again. And again. When I give a reading now, I still think of her gazing back at me, accepting my words and without saying anything (those were the rules), encouraging me to do and be better.

Anthony Wilson, Carole Satyamurti’s eyes

When I interview writers, I ask them to share writing-related advice (i.e., “hacks”). I also obsessively search writing craft books for tips I can use. Most boil down to the same basic principles: get your butt in the chair, make time for writing, call yourself a writer, etc. But sometimes I come across a piece of thought-provoking advice that makes me take notice.

It’s important to clarify that a writing hack is not a writing prompt, although they share certain attributes. A prompt is an instruction designed to spark creativity—“write a Shakespearean sonnet describing the last three cities you saw in dreams.” A hack is less specific. I like to think of a hack as a shortcut to get you in the place where you can start writing. So, hack first, prompt second.

Here are a few unique and useful writers’ hacks I’ve come across recently.

The Begging Bowl: From my March 4, 2024 interview with poet Joy Manesiotis in Sticks & Stones: “I think we must be careful about adopting the industrial model of production for art, and to realize that even though words may not be coming onto the page, we’re still working. For me, it’s not how many words or pages I got, but how fully can I show up. My friend Marianne Boruch says, ‘the poem is a begging bowl.’ You hold the bowl open and hope.”

Erica Goss, Hacks for Writers: A Personal List

Words are neither concrete nor physical. Even when they get out of my head and into a place I can share them, they are still ethereal, and I can’t live in the ether all the time. The air there is too thin.

Sometimes, we need to get our hands dirty—literally—and not because we have internalized toxic messages about productivity or the relationship between godliness and cleanliness. We need to because we need to get re-grounded in the here and now, or we need a small win, or we need a way to feel some control in our lives, or we need a place of sensory calm so our nervous systems can rest.

We need a clear runway for the next flight of our minds to take off from.

Rita Ott Ramstad, A creative hangover cure

One of the first poem endings I fell in love with was the closing couplet of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. After twelve lines of explaining what real love is and isn’t, the sonnet ends with the couplet “If this be error, and upon me prov’d, I never writ and no man ever loved.” It’s a mic drop. It’s the brashness to say that everything he has asserted in the poem is absolutely true. That’s bold. And I love it.

Ending a poem can be difficult. One impulse is to get didactic at the end, make sure the reader knows what point you are trying to make. (A workshop leader I once had said that most people can chop off the last three to four lines of a poem, as that is where most poets try to “explain” their poem.)

Another impulse is to wrap up the poem with a “kicker,” with a “gotcha” or “aha” moment. Another is to tie the end back to the beginning or the title in some way, creating a loop. Yet another is to leave the poem’s concerns unresolved, letting the reader fill in the blanks. Each of these moves can be effective in a poem, if handled deftly. As with openings, there are no wrong ways to end a poem.

Donna Vorreyer, Sticking the Dismount

It’s E. Pauline Johnson’s birthday today and  I’ve been invited to read some of her poems at her birthplace, Chiefswood. Since Margaret Avison said that the best response to a poem is another poem, I “translated” a couple by two different proceedures. The version of “The Bird’s Lullaby,” I took all the words of the poem and made a new one. The version of “The Song My Paddle Sings” I translated through about 10 different languages in Google Translate and then edited. I’ve posted the original poem and then the translation. […]

We left life early
Now we are far away
The water flows over us
The water flows over our bed
The corn is planted, the corn is harvested.
It wrote this song
this song for us to sing

Wind from the mountain
Wind from the west
The west wind blows and whistles through the grass
We are nothing but bones

Gary Barwin, Happy Birthday E. Pauline Johnson.

What are you currently working on?

I already noted that I have been writing a collection of lyric essays. But, with my new poetry book just about to come out, it’s not the time for another publication. And I am trying to put aside the validation of having the essays readily accepted by journals and learn to gauge for myself what finished really is for my prose, since I’m a beginner in the genre.

I am also composing new poems, because there will be a fifth collection someday. In order to help me get out of essay mode and back to poetry, I assigned myself to draft without any capital letters or punctuation. This is hardly revolutionary, I know. Many poets have written in this manner, including Ellen Bryant Voigt in her wonderfully refreshing Headwaters. But it’s a huge shift for me and, so far, these poems are more fun than what I usually produce. That said, they can’t contain as much information as essays and they don’t yet have the intricate craftmanship I tried to achieve in Colorfast and my other collections.  Maybe a current project should be remembering to celebrate Colorfast when it is finally in print and, rather than newness of style, the quality of endurance that is often what the poems are about.

rob mclennan, 12 or 20 (second series) questions with Rose McLarney

i spare no expense in my mask.
it’s got to have feathers & gold. it’s got
to make everyone think you are not
a burning staircase. sit outside & think of
stock photos. think of women without
doorways or living rooms. when you get
right down it there is no rope to climb.
there is no microwave to talk to. just a series
of zippers. here is the seal. here is the selkie.
here is the dream in which we are both
talking our tongue languages.

Robin Gow, how to wear a mask

Every year I ask my students what they understand by the last line of the poem (“Her heart was not in the dancing because she was doing it only for white patronage.”), and every year I ask them how the speaker “knew” it. Someone or another eventually hits on it: the speaker too is a Black immigrant artist, and he knew it from his own experience.

Then I ask, does it matter that the speaker is male and the dancer is female? For the man to claim to know the innermost part of a woman? Does not the man “devour” her in his claim of knowledge, just as the wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys and girls do? Here, the distinction between speaker and poet becomes important because how can we be sure that the poet has not taken that possibility—that the speaker is also a devourer—into account? Another way of putting this is that the poem always knows more than the poet.

Jee Leong Koh, In That Strange Place

On Sunday I went to CB1 – live, open-mic poetry in Cambridge. Maybe 30 people were there. My favourites were a poem about grief (with mirrors and boxes) and a comic piece that kept coming up with good lines (I wish I’d written some down). I read a 250 word piece of Flash – maybe the shortest piece of the night.

On Monday I Zoomed into a Milton Keynes Lit Fest event – a discussion about Flash with Electra Rhodes and Jupiter Jones. About 70 people attended. Rhodes gave some useful checklists of ways to improve a text. One idea is to use vocabulary from one domain (e.g. knitting) for a piece that has nothing to do with that domain. What most struck me was the number of Flash pieces she’s published given that she only started writing Flash during Covid. I manage about 5 published Flashes a year.

Tim Love, 3 events this week

It has been some time since the last post, and what has happened? Not much, I guess. I have finished 3 poems in the last month, which is, I think, roughly 65% of my entire output for last year, so that’s a positive sign.

I did the second date of the Collecting The Data world tour in Arundel at the start of Feb. I was asked to do two sets as the other poet that was meant to read was ill and the back up got the Covids. Obviously, I was sad for them, but their loss= my gain. […]

I spent £30 on petrol for the petrol to cover the 120-mile roundtrip
I spent £18 on a pint and burger in the Norfolk Tavern (where else would I go) as I’d left work early to get there and missed dinner.
I sold 3 books = £21
I was paid £20 for the reading (nice..I think that makes it my first paid gig).

Total outlay = £48
Total earnings = £41
A net loss of £7

A 30-minute set meant 4 miles driven for each minute of reading. I think that roughly works out at 34p per mile driven or £1.37 for each minute of reading..

Interesting. One more book and I’d have broken even. Did I need the pint, perhaps not. Could I have eaten cheaper, perhaps…Am I complaining here? No, I’m not, this is just an observation. More data required to make a proper analysis (e.g. more paid gigs please).

Mat Riches, Fag packet maths

I can only recall ever attending one house concert. It was during my college days–1977 or ’78–and took place at a large Victorian house in Ann Arbor, MI. We sat about on chairs, sofas, stairs, and the floor to listen to blues/folk singer and guitarist extraordinaire, David Bromberg. It was a pleasant environment in which to hear the musician–an intimate and attentive audience, a sense of camaraderie and shared appreciation, and quite comfortable. But I never managed to attend another house concert…usually, such events are fairly private and by invitation (as I think that one was), so you don’t hear about them until after they’re over.

I was therefore delighted when friends suggested that they hold a “house concert” or, in this case, a house reading, so that they could share my poems with some acquaintances. A new audience! A comfortable, non-intimidating space, terrific food, and the kindness of people willing to listen to a bit of poetry…what’s not to like about that? There were over a dozen folks in our friends’ pleasant home, and at the close of an evening of wine and food and conversation, I was asked to read and talk about my poems. And promote my new book (which is now available to order on Amazon).

My gratitude overflows, Don and Jeannie. You’re the best!

An unexpected aspect of the house concert event was that it was delightful to meet the “audience” first, before the reading–a reversal of the usual order, and very helpful in getting me to feel more comfortable not just in presenting my work but in deciding which poems to read. In addition, the cozy atmosphere meant listeners felt free to ask questions and continue the conversation to include thoughts on song lyrics, “private” poetry (that people write for themselves alone), favorite poets, and the context of the work of poetry in the world.

Ann E. Michael, House concert

hospital form
for religion
I put Haiku

Tom Clausen, hospital form

Sasha Dugdale is the kind of poet who is as interested in the work of others as she is in her own. As editor of Modern Poetry In Translation between 2012 and 2017 she championed poets from all over the world; as a translator of Russian poetry and prose she has made the work of writers such as Elena Shvarts, Natalya Vorozhbit, and most recently Maria Stepanova, accessible to the non-Russian-speaking world; and as poet-in-residence at St John’s College Cambridge she organised poetry readings and discussions for both students and those outside the university. And I know from experience that she responds gratefully, enthusiastically and kindly to unpublished poets, readers of poetry and reviewers – encouraging reviews not of her own work but of other poets she admires and who she feels are under-appreciated. There may be other established poets in the UK with this level of generosity, but I can only say that I have not come across them. I’m tempted to say that she puts the Art before the Artist, but that is not quite right. From her earliest collection, 2003’s Notebook (Carcanet), she has been interested in the interaction between Art and Artist, how they simultaneously make and define each other. And how they both arise from their particular social, political and historical contexts – but in doing so become something that transcends those contexts.  

In Notebook she considered JMW Turner, imagining him into existence in a series of short dramatic monologues which tended show the man and his work alongside his intimate relationships and social milieu. In The Estate (Carcanet 2007) she turned to Alexander Pushkin, taking the spaces and objects in his Mikhaylovskoye estate as inspiration for ruminations on the poet and how proximity to the material of his life impacted her own writing. In the long titular poem from Joy (Carcanet 2017), she focused on William Blake’s wife Catherine just after Blake’s death in a Forward Prize-winning dramatic monologue which builds in quiet intensity from bleak despair to an almost visionary expression of her intense love for her husband and her own creative identity. Then, in one of two major sequences in Deformations (Carcanet 2020), entitled ‘The Welfare Handbook’ (which I have previously reviewed here), Dugdale used letter cutter and artist Eric Gill’s own letters and diaries to devastating effect, casting difficult artistic light on his sexual experimentation and abuse of his daughters. 

Chris Edgoose, Eggs, Dreams, Reflections: on Sasha Dugdale and The Strongbox 

Alexander Pope’s Imitations of Horace are one of those texts which are still much cited — obviously, you can’t really talk about the reception of Horace without mentioning them — but, I suspect, not much read, even by the dwindling band of enthusiasts for eighteenth-century literature. This is a shame because — although not close translations — they are by far the most successful Englishing of the hexameter Horace that we have, and a fine introduction to this part of Horace. That makes them, though, sound a bit dry which is the opposite of the truth. Pope’s extraordinary verse still sings with ferocity and precision; and alongside the satiric force for which Pope is famous, I find the the subtlety of his interpretation of Horace very moving. […]

The Imitations have been particularly poorly served by recent scholarship. The standard discussion remains Frank Stack’s Pope and Horace, published back in 1985. It’s an excellent, sensitive interpretation, with a detailed chapter on each major poem, but as far as I’m aware, there’s no easily available edition of Pope’s text itself that really helps you read these poems as they were intended: that is, alongside the Latin. […]

This is a real loss for lots of potential readers: not only anyone who would like to appreciate fully one of the greatest English classical imitations, but also anyone who would like to know Horace better, or to get a feel for what Horace has meant for English readers. Pope’s version is not a literal translation, but it is steeped in his love and knowledge of Horace as a whole, and his versions also draw frequently on a very rich early modern commentary tradition from which we can still learn. If you don’t have any Latin, but would like to read Horace’s hexameter verse, for my money Pope is still the best place to start.

Victoria Moul, Pope’s Horace

THE FAMILIAR: POEMS, Sarah Kain Gutowski. Texas Review Press, Huntsville, TX 77341, 2024, 94 pages, $21.95, paper, texasreviewpress.org.

I reviewed this book at Escape Into Life (EIL), but now that the hard copy has arrived I’m dipping into its pages again, still feeling astounded by its chutzpah.

From the cover:

Gutowski’s poems are breathtakingly smart—controlled, precise and exquisite as diamonds—and yet they vibrate dangerously from within, as if anticipating, as she writes in one poem, “so much broken glass.” –Amber Sparks, author of And I Do Not Forgive You

You can visit EIL to read more about what I find fascinating about the story-in-poems of one woman’s prism of selves (Ordinary Self and Extraordinary Self are the main characters).

Bethany Reid, Sarah Kain Gutowski: THE FAMILIAR

I’m still also reading Exhausted by Anna Katharina Schaffner, and it seems to hold so much of what I need. I wrote in a previous post about it, and how she says our burnout is tied to “the stories we tell about our exhaustion” and that these matter because “they shape our experience of it and the actions we take to counter it.” She believes in drawing on “mixed mental arts” to combat our fatigue — coming at it through the “healing power of philosophical reflections and historical and sociological insights.” Our exhaustion, in the end, is a thing that might protect us — it may cause us to change our lives for the better, or to at the very least compel us to regroup, reflect. And so, this book is really helping me navigate my life right now, my new day job situation, my brain situation, creative life, burnout life, and all of this amid the horrific news of the day. We can of course keep going back to Virginia Woolf’s, “Now what food do we feed women as artists upon?” Which I quoted in my first book, ten thousand years ago. And now thinking, as Barbara above quotes Diane di Prima, how do we do all this and shove at things from all sides?

As part of my launch reading, I’ve had people bring things to a communal table, and bring that to the making of a still life, and I know I want to work more with that idea, at a larger scale. So, more to come on that…..

Shawna Lemay, A Little Bit of Everything

“I didn’t know you had a book out!” a writer I admire recently said. I laughed. And, then, I went quiet. Because: fair enough. I’m dedicated to teaching and writing on the writers that I love. I spend a great deal more time doing that than working on my own writing.

But for all you beautiful readers who subscribed in the last year, let it be known that I wrote a book of poems. Two books of poems. American Faith and Wound is the Origin of Wonder. Today, I’d like to tell you a bit about writing the latter and what I think—and hope—you can take away from it as you work on your own book, even if that dream seems far away.

Lucille Clifton said “Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing,” and I agree. Wonder’s signature mix of awe and inquiry drives us to the blank page.

But with the feeling of wonder comes an intuitive recognition of our own mortality. Were the eventual end of all feeling not guaranteed, I’m not sure we’d experience wonder in the same way. I wanted to write poems that captured both sides of the spiritual coin: the awe and renewal that wonder invites and its corresponding bewilderment, its sense of being breached by the cause of our wonder. “Wonder,” after all, is thought to be a cognate for the old German wunde, or “wound.”

Maya C. Popa, Wound is the Origin of Wonder

Like so many my story is a tapestry of survival, and maybe needs a level of exposure I’m not quite ready for. And then it struck me – I can post this poem. It’s honestly one of my favourites for so many reasons. I loved researching and writing it. I loved when it was paced in the first poetry competition I entered (which in turn introduced me to

Wendy Pratt who is an astonishing poet and kind, encouraging friend) and I love that it explores survival, trauma, misunderstanding and victory in a way that a few lines of my story never could.

My death will grieve foxes is also a poetry film. It has been selected to be one of 21 films displayed as part of Stanza International poetry festival. You can view the films and vote for your favourite on the festival YouTube channel. Wish me luck!

Kathryn Anna Marshall, My death will grieve foxes

In December two poets, Artyom Kamardin and Yegor Shtovba, were jailed for seven years and five and a half years respectively for reading poems critical of the war in a public square in the centre of Moscow. They pleaded not guilty while a third poet, Nikolai Daynek, pleaded guilty and was given four years.

Kamardin’s wife, Alexandra Popova, said he was arrested at their flat 24 hours after the reading. She says she was dragged across a room by her hair and had stickers super-glued to her face. She was also shown photos of Kamardin naked and ‘covered in blood’ in the next room. His lawyer said he was subjected to an horrific sexual assault and forced to record an apology.

In November an artist, Sasha Skochilenko, was sentenced to seven years in a penal colony for replacing labels in a supermarket with anti-war messages. Her sister fears she will not survive, given she has coeliac disease and a heart condition. “She is everything the authorities hate. She is artistic, fragile, lesbian and has a Ukrainian surname,” said the sister. […]

Compared to the horrors that these people went through, and which other poets around the world go through every day – please see old blogs here for other examples – my being called names on social media for speaking out against genocide in Gaza and the callous destruction of life in the Democratic Republic of Congo is ‘sticks and stones’ playground stuff.


meanwhile a child looks
skyward, most times in
fear, sometimes in hope —
there is a calculus somewhere
that thinks one cancels out
the other. It is the absurdity
of the English language
where gravity has two
meanings. One
that suggest that the
falling in itself may be of
grave concern. Grave.

The other that insists
that what is falling must
fall. That, once set in
motion, there is
no other way.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Untitled -18

            to avoid my hands
an injured finch
            flutters from death on the road

Grant Hackett [no title]

Loving and lethal, gobsmacked and ghost.

Listen to the loose change of hope in my pocket, its bright jingle singing counterpoint to these chaotic and crumbling city streets.

Rich Ferguson, If within me is the totality of humankind

You wrap your body in any season, regardless of weather.

The minutes tick quietly above the counter, practicing for the final season.

And yet, so much refusal of what’s final; look, leaves rain down but blossoms open.

It’s like the world refuses to give up just yet.

Luisa A. Igloria, Water Clock

the words in my poems and tweets
come from places i have never been
speak in a language that translates me
they explode at the speed of an eruption
congeal like lava losing heat
i fear to walk on the crust of them
come closer
throw me a rope

Jim Young, oh i say

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