Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 9

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: the shadows of children, a different kind of faith, ellipses like off-ramps, poets as secret agents, and much more. Enjoy.

Never forget the empty swings in the park
and the shadows
of children swinging on every swing


These children –
we see them
what they’ve become
what they would give
for a taste of khubeezeh
a drink of cold water
a wash in the Red Sea

They push their steel pots
their plastic bowls
to the front lines
their eyes on those
with the stronger arms
the longer reach
the elbows out and ready

Maureen E. Doallas, The Children / We See (Poem)

Martyrdom was great for Jesus. He now has followers all over the world. And what, I ask you, has that gotten us? Less “do unto others” and more “other the others.”  But Jesus didn’t nail himself up there. I guess if you’re done living, self-immolation is one hell of an exit interview. I’m just not sure it shines as bright a light on the thing you’re protesting as it does on you.

On the flip side of that, the whole “vote” thing is bullshit. By all means, vote! But voting shouldn’t be a protest. (Besides, if you think your side has a poor record on certain wars, the other side’s is way worse.)

There are plenty of ways to protest. I particularly like withholding the patronage of certain businesses and disrupting the sleep of certain politicians.

But my personal favorite form of protest is to make something—a photograph, a painting, a song—something that brings awareness to an atrocity in a way that resonates with people who might otherwise not feel anything.

I’m not naïve enough to think a song could end a war. (“Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die,” anyone?) However, it often moves people to action with their dollars, and that’s what hurts the soulless the most.

But what do I know? I’m not good at this. I make lamps that shine a light on coffee tables. I write poems that smash the patriarchy with a frying pan. I take pictures of my dog showing off his phantom balls.

Leslie Fuquinay Miller, Fixin’ to Die

What kind of unbearable reason will
allow you to forget? What are their
names, what should we call them: the
mother, the child, the protest, the
man, the dawn, the fire, the morning,
the execution, the immolation, the
full moon, the drone…the death?

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Not just a question

I’m coming to believe that a goal of bringing about a particular kind of world through our work with language is probably the wrong reason to teach or write or read or run libraries or have conversations. That kind of motivation too easily leads to silence—because the work too easily falls short of achieving what we hope it might—and with silence we lose our memories. We lose our history. We lose each other.

I’m coming to believe it’s a different kind of faith I need to cultivate now. […]

Maybe the kind of writing that I—and so many other ordinary people like me—do in places like this are simply a way of having a conversation or of leaving tracks.

Rita Ott Ramstad, Of work and healing

If my life were written in its fullness on a huge piece of paper, could I smooth it out, step back, feel a rush of compassion and then acknowledge: “It is what it is”?

Then fold up the paper – hell – maybe even burn it, and go outside and see the trees on this morning, as they are, as they have never been before?

Ren Powell, No Shame

It’s time, it’s long past time, to see that the future is totally unknown. That we can lose and be annihilated. Time and chance happeneth to us all. It’s good that it should be so, actually, because we are a little, trivial people, pettifoggers, engaged in endless litigation, swollen full of indignation and self-righteousness, unable to endure a moment’s quietness. Our disappearance is not going to be a bad thing. Suffering there is, and suffering there will be, but that was a given from the start. We are not capable of making a new world. We never were. Get over it: go home, change a diaper, wash the dishes, mend a window. Cold weather is coming.

Dale Favier, Collapse

I’ve been feeling a bit of despair about my lack of coherent poetry writing.  I jot down a line or two, or a stanza or two, but very little comes that feels worth revising and polishing.  Perhaps it’s the state of the world we’re in.  More likely, it’s that my writing energy is being channeled in other ways right now.

Take the past three days for example.  I’ve written 3300 words for just my church job.  That doesn’t count any of the writing that I’ve done as a student.  It’s no wonder that there’s not much wonder left for my poetry brain to feed on.

I’ve been in this writing state before.  Poetry has returned, often in a richer way than before.  I will be patient and keep the garden bed mulched.  At some point, sprouts will emerge.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Hearing “Beth” (Yes, that Song by KISS) in a New Context

It was only March
but already bees were on the blossom,
blue tits were nesting,
too many things were happening too soon.

He said he’d heard it on the radio,
The Last Spring – by Grieg,
and I, thinking it a good thing to do,
bought him the CD.

We sat and listened to it together
and he said nothing.
Not thinking, I said it was beautiful
and he said nothing.

The days grew longer
and the time shorter,
the blossom faded
and the blue tits left.

When he died in May
then I knew what it was he didn’t say.

Sue Ibrahim, Too early, too late

When you watch
a funeral
from there
what do you feel?

Did you organize
a welcome party
for the new arrival —
chains of illness
thrown off
like light bedsheets
in the morning
— and is she already
making art
with steady hands?

Rachel Barenblat, Questions

A lot of people have asked me how can poetry be magical realism. Isn’t magical realism a genre of fiction, and isn’t it defined by unexplained or magical-seeming things occurring randomly in a contemporary setting?

You can argue that poetry does that all the time, but I would say it usually makes clear that the unexplained or magical-seeming pairings are metaphorical. Things are “like” other things, or “seem like” different things. They even become other things, but always suggesting a similarity, not a random magical event.

I would say that magical realism in poetry (and fiction) removes the argument of “likeness”. It plunges the reader straight into an altered world, offering only mystery as a doorway. It isn’t always an easily entered door, but once you walk through, things have changed. Life has changed for you.

Consider Louise Gluck‘s poem, “The Wild Iris”. ‘It doesn’t use metaphor or simile. The story is simply told from the point of view of a flower that is somehow conscious. The iris comprehends death differently than a human being does, and yet its experience resonates with ours in some way. To become a wildflower, to die and be reborn from your essence, these aren’t our ordinary states, but the poem takes us on that imagined journey and by the end, our reality has shifted.

That is what magical realism does. It shifts our understanding of reality, loosens it, invites entry into other dimensions and altered possibilities. Maybe reality isn’t as solid and predictable as we thought. Maybe a flower can be conscious. Maybe we can be dead and yet alive.

Rachel Dacus, Magical Realism in Poetry – Louise Gluck

What I like about Stephen Spender is that I disagree with him as much as I agree with him, sometimes in quick succession. In both poetry and prose, he seems to alternate between making a good point and then missing the point entirely, seeing clearly and then muddying the waters. But this makes him more interesting rather than less so because it makes him more human – it makes him, to use Auden’s phrase about Yeats, “silly, like us”.

Chris Edgoose, Two Poetries: Spender, Poetry and Ideology

Could I print cheaper? For large print runs the cost per unit comes down, but CBe books are short-run books. And if I’m putting a book into the world – adding to the world’s sheer stuff – I want, obviously, this book to be a decent thing, so I’m going to add in from the extras on offer, as I think right for each book: endsheets, flaps, inside-cover printing. I’m currently paying around £3 per copy, which dunks that 2-pence profit into the red.

No Arts Council funding (after three rejections I’m not going there again) and I haven’t even mentioned design, typesetting or time, because if I costed those in this would make even less financial sense. So not a business model. More a declaration that it can’t be done without privilege (I’m 73, no mortgage, pension, know-how picked up in previous employment: kill me) and luck; but with those it can be done. For sixteen years and still running. So yes, a model of sorts. An anti-business model. And if the whole thing feels about to collapse, every day, that feels right.

Charles Boyle, 2 pence

It’s 9:47 a.m. and I am watching a movie called Hope Gap, a title worthy of the Hallmark Channel. But it has Annette Benning and Bill Nighy which is why I chose it and why I’m still watching, even though I realize I’ve watched before. In one scene, Bill is sitting at his desk, a huge, beautiful, simple wood desk in front of a huge window. The English landscape displayed through the window like a piece of art. Suddenly, I have desk envy. This is not like me at all because I simply don’t allow envy into my life but also because desks don’t normally attract me. My experience with desks have always been school or work. School is fine – I actually liked school. But work? Not so much. Desks remind me of years spent inside shuffling papers or entering data on a computer that, at the time, was important in it’s own way but now feels like stolen time spent on minutia. Most often when I write, like now, I’m sitting on my couch with a cup of coffee or tea on the side table next to me, my laptop on my lap, and Albert my cat, next to me snoozing. It’s comfortable and encourages mulling and writing. Plus, I can’t collect clutter like you can on a desk. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less about things and more about simplicity. Little tchotchkes sitting on tables, or desks in this case, are dust collectors and I don’t like dust or dusting dust.

Charlotte Hamrick, Saturday Morning Musings

Ideally, the place where we do our concentrated work needs to be functional and supportive; it needs to suit who we are, and help us to feel good when we’re in it. There are plenty of writers who’ve done their greatest work in rooms or chilly cabins piled with books and papers  — think Seamus Heaney — and artists, like Lucien Freud, who’ve worked in chaos. It’s a question of knowing yourself, too.

It’s hard for me to concentrate and work well when I don’t have, as Virginia Woolf wrote, “a room of my own,” even if that room is mine only part of the time. For most of my life, I’ve worked in somewhat makeshift studio spaces: repurposed or multi-purpose rooms in the same place where I was living. That’s been OK when I was able to close the door and have some solitude and privacy, less so when I was working in a larger but shared space, or a space that other people walked through. For much of our time in Vermont, I did my design work and writing in a room that had, literally, six doors — it was a former kitchen, with front and back outside entrances, a bathroom door, and doors leading to other parts of the house as well as the basement! I couldn’t do artwork there at all, but, with my back to most of the doors, I was able to write.

Beth Adams, Spaces of our Hands and Hearts

Now we are all in Plymouth, enjoying the endless wind and rain even though it is March and should be spring. One of the advantages of moving is that all of your books get clumped together and sent to the same room on arrival in the new house. I had forgotten about the overflows in Exeter. The anthologies. The ones that couldn’t fit anywhere else. The new-since-lockdown collections, which I got rid of a lot of novels to make space for (and now kind of regret). We are all here, in the same room, for the first time, since, oh, moving to Exeter, maybe. Tony Blair was not yet prime minister, Princess Diana was still alive, and there was no internet to speak of.

At a rough guess, the collection has at least trebeled since then. I am happy to be with them. Reunited, you could say. I did not realise I had so much Mark Halliday or Hubert Moore or Jackie Wills. I spend time with them now, enjoying who sits next to who alphbetically, as in the old days, before Instagram, the names a kind of incantation: Bo Carpelan, Peter Carpenter, Raymond Carver, Julia Casterton, Blaise Cendras, Danielle Chapman, Linda Chase. It’s a good team. I think they are happier now, too. It is still raining. But here we all are, together.

Anthony Wilson, On having my books in one room

Time doesn’t fit quite like it used to, getting short in the sleeves and tight around the neck.

Add to that, reality’s cataleptic slot machines spitting out slug-nickel dreams while epiphanies suffering from allergies have lost their voice.

Here is the memory that holds a lost friend’s ashes, the guitar that sings a city’s dying streets, the incense that burns away time with the sweetest smells.

Rich Ferguson, The Rush and Raw Wonder

I don’t want to write it all into some kind of false eloquence because it feels so very heavy. My fingers feel heavy on the keyboard, my eyelids heavy in my skull. It makes me want to sleep. I recognize this feeling from very early journals I kept as an adolescent. They were filled with details about what pop stars I loved (Prince, Howard Jones, George Michael ), what boys I was obsessing over (A, A, M), how much weight I needed to lose (a lot), and other teenage ephemera. They also included cryptic, unfinished entries that housed and shrouded the darker stuff of my life: “Something is happening with my parents. I can tell. I can’t write more. Too much. Too tired. Maybe later…” So many ellipses like off-ramps from honesty. Like pillows I’d bury my head under to block the sounds of anger and unhappiness echoing throughout our home.

Sheila Squillante, Dot Dot Dot

don’t answer the door
it was vile
down in the cellar

blue and ripply
uncontrollable marbling
strange bits of silvery fungus

it’s dangerous
it’s going to change
it might fall apart

how is it done?
with open folios
like the tower of babel

the bottoms could be dipped
into a dream book

Ama Bolton, ABCD February 2024

Last week, I was talking to my lead editors at HD about some recent work and they startled me a little by mentioning that I was a poet (it’s not currently in my bio there, which is focused more on decor/DIY writing, but it was when I started) It’s obviously not, of course, a secret. since anyone who looks at my website or socials can see it or buy my books. But I also spend a lot of time writing things for other people, far more time than I spend on creative work. And it is a mix of subjects and publications, most of which have their own unique style and voice. But, then again, I’d never considered how the “poetic voice” of my writing impacted those. My editors thankfully encouraged me to bring more of that poetic voice into my pieces, the idea of which I loved, since I had tried, these last two years, to stamp it out completely. […]

I don’t go about in the world exclaiming I am a poet. My mother, right before she left the care facility a month or so before her death, was one day boasting to the aide who was helping her, that I was a poet and it seemed sort of ridiculous in light of the sort of important work this woman was doing. Somewhat frivolous, as all art is, and not at all necessary. Mostly because I always feel that no one cares. Or that that sort of work isn’t valuable in the world. The real flesh and bone world, not the poetry world. Which I know isn’t true, but if I wanted to be valuable I would have persisted in my desire to be a scientist or teacher, both things I gave up and decided to forge a life with words. There’s a line in the American Psycho musical that always hits a certain way when I listen to the soundtrack:

“You’re not moving mountains. Or changing lives.

You’re just killing while you’re killing time.” 

Still, sometimes it does feel like I am a secret agent. That I’m like Batman, except I write my little lines and tell my little stories instead of solving crime. Like there’s a secret code word all of us poets know and reveal ourselves accordingly. 

Kristy Bowen, secret agents

Simon West is the author of five collections of poetry, including Prickly Moses, published in the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets, and The Ladder, which was shortlisted for the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. He is also the author of Dear Muses? Essays in Poetry and The Selected Poetry of Guido Cavalcanti. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.

1 – How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

The themes that recur in the poems I write today are similar to those in my first book, First Names, published back in 2006. Maybe I’m less shy about them today, more willing to accept them and give them the space they need to ring out. If there was a moment when poetry suddenly changed my life, then it came when I read Sylvia Plath’s ‘Morning Song’. I was a teenage boy growing up in country Victoria. The experience of early motherhood that Plath evokes in that poem was not something I had much interest in. But I was amazed by how those words and images bristled and came alive, as if a spirit leapt off the page and entered me. Perhaps everything I have written is a homage to that spirit as I have discovered it in many poems and poets since. My new book, Prickly Moses, is no different. […]

6 – Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
If I could write a poem to resolve climate change or the mess in Gaza I’d do it today. But poetry works not so much by answering questions as by following intuitions.

7 – 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?
Blow the minds of readers, connect them to a richer human culture. Although I’d try to formulate it in a less grandiose manner, I like what Wordsworth says:

‘[the poet] is the rock of defence for human nature; an upholder and preserver, carrying everywhere with him relationship and love. In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs: in spite of things silently gone out of mind, and things violently destroyed; the Poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time.’

rob mclennan, 12 or 20 (second series) questions with Simon West

Here’s a poem I wrote when my daughter was three years old. She’s an adult now, but the moment described in the poem might as well have happened yesterday, so vivid is its memory. Time is strange and it changes us, true, it bends us to its will, but some things time cannot bend. Imagination, for example. Memory. Love.

I know what some people might say—I tell this to myself often enough—that memory is flawed, that we tend to forget things, or misremember them; that love is perishable like everything else, but isn’t the very fact of our existence on this earth, the simple truth that we have lived here, made a mark, however small, that we have loved and have been loved in return, already miraculous?

I love this quote from Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey. It’s the very last paragraph in the novel and it’s the one I keep coming back to whenever life is a bit harder, whenever the world is a little more cruel.

“We ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

Romana Iorga, Wolf-Child

most days
only the spiders know who i am.
they tell each other, “that is a traitor.”
don’t get me wrong, i want to be liked.
dear god, i would do anything
to be liked. eaten with a tuning fork.
threaded through the eye
of a chicken skull. get rid of the glass.
get rid of a mirror. live off nothing
but mirages of animals.

Robin Gow, mirage boy

I’ve been working my way through my AWP reading pile, and I’ve been enjoying and learning from all the books I’ve read so far. I have been particularly aware of some excellent opening lines that have me thinking about entry into a poem.

I’ve also been finishing up a class on using the language/forms of music in poetry with the brilliant Alina Ştefănescu. In our last class conversation, she shared an idea (hers? someone else’s? I can’t remember and didn’t write down a source…) that a title is a sign on the door, an epigraph what one can see from a threshold; that an opening line seduces the reader to the lip of a lake, and the second line coaxes the reader into the water. I like that idea very much, but I also have been enamored with the idea that a first line can be a cannonball directly into the lake.

Donna Vorreyer, Entries

March has come in, not like a lamb or a lion, but like a jerk, bringing hail, sideways snow, heavy rain, sunshine and all in two days’ time. The flowers continue to bloom through it all, and a bobcat comes to visit. Meanwhile, I’m reading a ton, trying to do some submissions this month, and getting ready for a ton of readings and talks later on in March and April. […]

I’ve been trying to come out of my plague-years hibernation—doing AWP, my book launch, and visits with family last year, my first travel in seven years last month, and so, I’m trying to get out there in the world a bit more. I’m currently also working on my next book, sending out poems, doing serious edits (as opposed to those lighthearted edits of the last several years). But like the Northwest’s weather in March so far, it’s been a bit of a stop and start, with my energy and health being good for a while, and then having to rest and recover. Here’s looking forward to the warmth of true spring, better weather, and the opportunity to get out and enjoy it!

Jeannine Hall Gailey, New Podcast on BeautyHunters, Bobcat Visits, and March Comes in Like a Jerk

I’m writing this from my happy place. If you’ve read You Could Make This Place Beautiful, you know where I am: a little cottage in the woods in southern Ohio. I gave myself a weekend writing retreat to try to make some real progress on my next book. I’m wrung out in the very best way.

My biggest joy since I’ve been here, other than being incredibly productive? The Merlin app. I was hearing some unusual bird calls—loud, shrill, almost seagull-like in pitch. I wondered if it might be a hawk or an eagle. Thanks to this very cool app, I know what it was: a red-shouldered hawk. […]

I read a bit on the deck yesterday because it was so warm and sunny. I’m always reading multiple books at once. Picture a bee in a meadow, sundrunk and dusty with pollen, visiting flower after flower after flower. It’s me! Reading! Right now I’m dipping into Christian Wiman’s Zero at the Bone: Fifty Entries Against Despair, which I really like so far; my old, tattered copy of William Stafford’s The Answers Are inside the Mountains: Meditations on the Writing Life; and Mark Doty’s The Art of Description from that terrific series of craft books Graywolf publishes. (That whole series is fantastic. All hits, no misses, as far as I can tell.)

I’m also awaiting the arrival of Diane Seuss’s new book of poems, Modern Poetry. I preordered that book so fast! Bianca Stone conducted a fascinating interview with her that’s in the current issue of Poets & Writers, if you can get your hands on a copy.

Maggie Smith, The Good Stuff

I first read Pindar in a rather unsatisfactory university reading class with an elderly academic. We sat around a table in a side room of the library, rather drearily reading out our prepared translations one after another. The main thing I recall was the frustration engendered by the teacher’s significant deafness, to which he didn’t want to admit. I prepared very carefully for these classes, but he obviously found the higher pitch of my voice (and that of the one other girl) difficult to hear and would regularly ask one of the boys in the small group to “have another go” at the passage I had just translated, regardless of what I had said. This was particularly irritating because one of my fellow students, with a nice resounding bass voice, was just reading out the Loeb translation which he had under the desk: our teacher, who could at least hear what was said in his manly tones, would then praise it extravagantly. Annoying!

Annoying but also immaterial, because there is nothing quite like Pindar in Greek. When I read Pindar I feel the true shiver of critical impossibility: of just how hopeless it feels, in the face of the greatest and strangest art, to say anything other than a more-or-less sophisticated version of “you should read this, because once you’ve read it, you might find that nothing is quite the same”. And as Horace (via Cowley) puts it: ‘Pindar is imitable by none; / The Phoenix Pindar is a vast Species alone’. So there’s not much of a way round him.

Victoria Moul, On Pindar

‘Cinematographic’ or ‘filmic’ aren’t habitual adjectives when describing the vast majority of contemporary U.K. poetry, but they provide an ideal point of departure for discussion of Nicholas Hogg’s first full collection, Missing Person (Broken Sleep Books, 2023).

In the above context, the last two stanzas from ‘Starring Role’ seem especially relevant:

Then a tea with the lads,
            the ruffle-haired cub. I wander off
from the gang — cue plaintive strings (not too loud)
            as I stand and stare from a new-build shell.
A reviewer may write
            that this is rather mawkish,

the boy at a window
in an empty home. What the critic
has failed to gather, is how the man will carry
            this void
            into every room he walks
            for the rest of his life.

These lines read as a statement of poetic intent. They’re comparing an individual person to a character, a fictional scene to a supposedly factual event, highlighting the blurred lines between the two, while they’re also anticipating a potential film critic/literary reviewer’s reticence at the poem’s struck poses. And all this, of course, plays out alongside a reference to an archetypal musical soundtrack for the event or film. Via these references, Hogg is implicitly asking us questions. Are we reading a poem or watching a film? Is it fact, faction or fiction?

Matthew Stewart, Scenes from a film, Nicholas Hogg’s Missing Person

TRIPLE NO. 17: “Crossings,” Susan Landgraf. Ravenna Press, 2022, pp. 49-82, $12.95, paper, www.ravennapress.com.

Ah, the Triples! This is an amazing series from our local Ravenna Press, and well worth your time. Triple No. 17 offers not only a chapbook by Susan Landgraf, but also Philip Quinn’s “Home Movies (from The Afterlife),” and Suzanne Bottelli’s “American Grubble.”

“Crossings” (with a subtitle: “Past to Present to Future and Between”) includes 22 poems, divided into 3 short sections. There are multiple threads, but a dominant one is wings. From the first poem, “Crowkeeper,” to the last, wings and winged creatures are both literal and symbolic. Birds cut the air with slick wings, painters molt like birds, a newborn gets his wings “stuck // like the moth / in a jar” (“Crossing Over”), an old woman’s head bobs like a pigeon’s, feathers poke out of pockets and men yearn to turn into birds: “he raised his arms again and again / and the sky turned a rainbow / of green, black-tipped, blue and white” (“Birdman”). Even Pegasus makes an appearance.

Bethany Reid, Susan Landgraf, Crossings

I spent the afternoon working on a new poetry film. I’ve been a bit behind schedule with this one, mainly because I wasn’t sure how to tackle it. I aim to use my own images for the bulk of my films’ content (fortunately I take a lot of random photos) but images for this poem stumped me.

Inspiration came from an unlikely source. A friend recommended a heart monitoring app, which happens to record my pulse. Voila. after much tech-wrangling, I managed to capture the image and set to work creating the film.

My first step is always to record the poem and place markers on parts I want to emphasise, either through image or text. My goal is to create an entity that is enhanced by the film, rather than simply illustrating the poem. When I’ve mapped out my poem, I continue to add the key images and effects. It’s easy to get carried away with these, and I’m careful to challenge myself about the purpose of applying glitch effect 10 or teal overlay. Once I’ve built my framework I begin to experiment, tweaking, untweaking, reviewing and revising until I feel I’ve achieved what I need to. Creating these films is way of delving into the meaning of the poem, and I love the alchemy of bringing image and language together.

Kathryn Anna Marshall, When I think of my heart

Here, in the part of the village where I live, in the old ex council houses; ex farm labourer houses from the 1950s, it has been the jackdaws who dominate, nesting in the chimneys and watching the village from the roof tops. Until recently.

The crows are beginning to take over. It is not an all out war of claw and beak, but rather insidious, a gentle creeping into territory, a taking over of branch and chimney pot. It seems calculated, but am I simply overlaying my own human-strategy onto these clever birds? I first noticed the tension between crows and jackdaws a year or so ago, when, looking up from my computer on its battered old sewing table, surrounded by research books, I saw a jackdaw have its tail pulled by a crow on the roof opposite. The jackdaw, understandably upset, ran after the crow who simply sloped away as if it hadn’t done it. Slowly, over many months, this sort of behaviour increased. The crows refused to move from the roofs even while the jackdaws dive bombed them. There were more jackdaws nesting down the lane now. I watched a pair of jackdaws shout down a hole in a tree for three days until the squirrel that was living there with her babies, left in a panic. The jackdaw moved in. But they have always lived and nested in the beech trees here, I thought.

Last summer I heard a jackdaw mimicking a crow. It hadn’t got it quite right, there was something just off in the tone of the call – perhaps not quite as defiant as a crow’s call. I have only heard this a couple of times and I don’t know the meaning behind the behaviour. I want so desperately for it to be a kind of piss-take, a mocking of the crow hierarchy, but I imagine this is some sort of deterrent, or camouflage for the jackdaws. It was an interesting development in strategy. If it is strategy.

I wonder where instinct leaves off, and intelligence takes over. I wonder this about humans too. We seem to be driven by instinct but dress it up as intelligence, and I wonder if this is why the world is the way it is, so many people reacting to the fear they feel as tribal, primal animals, and using those big clever brains we carry around with us to build weapons, kill children, annihilate countries because of that fear. It is never as simple as that, of course. Or maybe it is.

Wendy Pratt, Notes from the War Between Jackdaws and Crows

We’ve entered the dirty socks part of March, the dingy linen stained grunge metal time when winter’s rough hide pokes up in earth’s skin.  It’s the shoulder season – not white shoulder, not tanned shoulder – the prickly wan unexercised but already slapped into a strapless dress season.  

You can see it in the raw mud and thawing wood planks, the expanding pot holes. The cheeks and legs of twiggy yards are in bad need of a shave.  They have been caught off-guard – they are still thinking winter, and no one told them it is time to emerge!  

In a way, it’s fabulous…there is physics of sorts in the works.  A physicist on the radio explained that not every part of an organism gets news of change at the same time.  There’s an information delay.  The head of a slinky knows it is falling and begins to collapse after a hand has released it.  But the lower rings defy gravity, hovering and remaining in suspension for a fraction of a second.

Jill Pearlman, The Dirty Socks Part of March

There is a language that restores,
and a language of betrayal. Casualty comes
from casuelte, meaning chance,

incidental; unfortunate loss viewed
against the big screen called history.
How do you make sense of that

which happens, and what befalls
another? How do you make sense
of the blankness on one side of the page,

versus the dark stain where a body
burned on the sidewalk? There’s nothing
that falls, that happens, purely

by chance. Wind whips through
the night, making the shingles clap.
Another strip of paint peels off the gutter.

Luisa A. Igloria, On Casualty

coming up from the basement to a house still standing

Grant Hackett [no title]

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