Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 14

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 first week of Poetry Month, doves abound and emptiness has teeth, finding dusty corners to live in, while April asks, “What, me? Cruel?” Enjoy.

I’m pretty sure this is the twentieth year in a row I have done NaPoWriMo alongside Maureen and others. I just went back to my old blogspot to check, and yep, April 2005. Amazing. I have lost count of how many poems I have written in that many Aprils, but I can say that all of my books have at least a few that made the final cut, with the exception of Midwinter Constellation, since that was cowritten in December 2018.

I’m posting over at the Bloof blog, as I have done for the last many years, in excellent company. I’m probably going to be doing some visual poetry stuff like collages and altered book pages, but perhaps some text-only too. You never know what will happen.

Shanna Compton, Two decades, how?

Scraps of paper fall
on the floor — petals,
leaves, leavings. Later,
perhaps, as snow, dust,
they drift, transform
to fatigue, a flaw,
a fatality.

PF Anderson, Postcard Poem 3 #NaPoWriMo

I’d forgotten it’s GloPoWriMo, Global Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMo, even though I’ve started Angela Carr‘s writing prompts course, A Pagan Place. I’ve managed to write something every day, even though I’m back to work. The course is brilliant, based around Irish mythology, but the prompts include music, other poems and stories often inspire something totally unconnected. I don’t expect to continue to write every day, but I like having the prompts for the days when I do get a chance. 

In today’s prompt, I especially liked this poem by Mahmoud Darwish though my writing was inspired by the Big Country song In a Big Country.  I don’t usually listen to music when I write, but have been stuck on a Big Country loop today. 

Gerry Stewart, Brightening into April – GloPoWriMo

This was a week where parents were on the mind of many poet friends. I traded abcderian drafts with Jared Beloff (poet/teacher/friend) and both of us, on the same day, miles apart, wrote poems that spoke of our fathers and faith.

Also this week, Joan Kwon Glass (poet/teacher/friend) shared her poem that was featured in Mayday. (Go read it. You won’t be sorry.) The poem “Blind Fish” details a moment with a father, one that is bittersweet.

I just finished listening to Leah Umansky (poet/teacher/friend) read from her new collection Of Tyrant on Zoom, poems about reclaiming voices, about a world where tyrants intrude on joy. The first poem she read revolved around a scene with a mother and a small girl. You can feel both the tension and care of parenthood in the poem.

Alina Stefanescu (poet/teacher/friend) read at the same reading, and her poem about losing her mother, about wearing her mother’s favorite perfume as a protective talisman, made me tear up a little. She is also one of the most generous people I know in the poetry world – the resources on her website alone could nurture a poet for weeks.

These are just a few examples of the connections that keep me writing. I always say that I’m not going to attempt writing a poem a day in April, but then here I am, following along with a form calendar created by Taylor Byas and Seamus Fey.

Donna Vorreyer, Kindred

In second grade we planted seedlings. They came up vivid, lusty shoots. I understood then there was a kind of order, that this was nature’s outcome. It was impersonal and pleasing. Could I now proclaim, I am feeling full, or I must fill up, or, I am fully felt. I flounder with seeds and window boxes. The problem is that emptiness has teeth, and wishes of its own. The emptiness is un-content. It will not do with the least it can survive on. No stones, no feathers, no shells settle in my hands. Only a crusted thing, grown around its nut, seed of all nourishment, jewel of the essential.

Sit and think of nothing. Sit and engage only in the hollowness of breath, its motion in your veins. I tell people all day long because I believe it is important: We breathe in oxygen, we breathe out carbon dioxide, the lungs lunge, the lungs do their job. There is nothing easy in the effortless.

Kristen McHenry, Doubting Thomas

The female wasp can lay eggs that will produce male wasps without the help of fertilization. It takes sperm to produce a female wasp.

It’s a fact that spins in my head. It’s something my mind refuses to consider and pushes at it with a force like magnetic repulsion.

As a metaphor, I hate it. This fact.

But maybe it’s necessary to define what it is to be a female—for the sake of metaphor. We’ll say what it is to be a woman. A woman, who’s learned how to name her challenges. Whether or not she’s learned to overcome them all—to tame, to ally, or to split them wide open.

This is how I’m re-entering the wasp poems: I have no choice but to see things as I am now. I can’t write from who I was a year ago. It seems like a lifetime ago.

Maybe it was.

One average, a queen wasp lives a year.

Ren Powell, Memory, Metaphor, and Facts

April, if any time of year, seems the perfect time to write a letter to your past poet self. To that 19-year-old addressing SASE’s frantically  over summer break. Or that 15-year-old writing poems about flamingos as dead seagulls in her diary. (Even then, so many birds.) Or maybe to the poet who looked at the world one day, amidst grad school and other plans, and said THIS. This is what I want to be doing with my life. This is what I am good at. I’ve done it somewhat before. A letter to that girl, or maybe to poets in general. A calling out across time and inky pages. A holler across great distances of time. 

Truth be told poet, this poetry thing will bring you as much occasional angst as it will joy. You will get better, but mostly readers will probably care less as the shine wears off and the newness wanes. Getting that first book will be hard, but sometimes the subsequent ones will be even harder or may even never happen for some, so be grateful if it does. You will probably face down the specter of quitting at least a half dozen times, sometimes when the world, either yours or the world in general, will be in upheaval. When poetry seems like the most over-indulgent way to spend time or exist in the world. When you will wonder why you’ve sunk years and resources and mental energy into something that usually takes more than it gives by far.

Kristy Bowen, dear poet, revisited

Long ago, long ago: why bother with it? I’ve gotten by, sidling through the world, finding dusty corners to live in, like a wary spider in an untidy house. The weird kid had a will, and a brain. He did all right. Burned out spectacularly twice; threw away two promising careers, but he had a nice family; he ended his working days comfortably doing part time data entry and part time massage: and he had time enough to spend on meditation, prayer, history, literature, and philosophy to actually understand some things. To write some essays and poetry. More than most people ever get. Far more than that kid under the florescent lights of the gymnasium, bewildered by the rhythmic bellowing of the neurotypicals, dared to hope for.

Still the mind goes back, and gnaws on things; misspoken words return, the scent of chalk dust and gym ropes.

Dale Favier, Autistic Kid

I’m thrilled to have been asked to take part in this year’s West of England Festival of Textiles (WEFT) which is held biannually at Trowbridge Museum. I’ll be talking about and reading poems from my pamphlet One Deliberate Red Dress Time I Shone at Trowbridge Museum on Friday, 17 May, 5.30pm – 6.45pm. Tickets for Poetry, Pimm’s and Punch are available here. My pamphlet was a winner in last year’s Coast to Coast to Coast Writing Prize and was made into a beautiful, limited edition handstitched journal by writer and artist Maria Isakova Bennett. All of the poems in this mini-collection are to do with fabric, clothes and making, and include seen-while-walking poems, odes, poems after art, and self-portraits.

Josephine Corcoran, Poetry, Pimm’s and Punch at Trowbridge Museum Friday 17 May, 5.30pm – 6.45pm

I’m absolutely delighted that my video Eviction has been selected for the Carmarthen Bay Film Festival for 2024, screening in Wales in May. This is a very fine festival indeed where I’ve been fortunate to have work screened previously.

The video took over three years to make after I had the original idea. Nearly all of this footage was recorded in the Belair area of unceded Kaurna Land in South Australia. Much of it was filmed among the native plants in our own garden, with key elements recorded in Belair National Park and the Sleeps Hills Quarry reserve across the street from our place.

The music is in 11/4 time and includes samples of birds, frogs, machines, engines and alarms in and around the environments where the videos were recorded.

As human-induced global climate change threatens the viability of nearly every ecosystem on earth, small refuges, the microrefugia, may provide safe havens for the organisms that can successfully survive there. Small plants, fungi and species yet to evolve may yet be long-term survivors, if only we give them a chance…

Ian Gibbins, Eviction screens at Carmarthen Bay

We’re warned not to turn
our eyes directly toward the Sun.
It could burn earthquakes
right into our brains.

Instead, we look into its reflection
on viewing mirrors. The very trees learn
how to break it apart into hundreds
of bright thumbnails on the ground.

Luisa A. Igloria, Totality

Saif’s writing is heavily influenced by journalism. But he also picks up details that demonstrate a compassionate side, moments of levity within the horror. A mother trying to talk a young child out of asking for a pet cat. Noticing a man is wearing shoes normally worn by a woman. Another mother teaching her young son to write using a stick in the sand.

One of the final observations in the diary, is “I smell the smoke of the fire, breathe in the steam of the boiling tea. I still see everything”. There was an earlier quoted saying about “the perfume of the Bedouin is the fire”. The implication that despite all, the focus is on survival.

It’s hard to take in social media reports of thousands killed, thousands more injured plus estimates of at least a million displaced into makeshift camps. Saif’s diaries give a focus to the people behind those numbers, the humans pushed into desperate situations. Saif’s journalistic instincts steer away from propaganda and hyperbole and flesh out facts with details of how it feels to be forced to move, to search and queue for a daily meal while trying to keep in touch with distanced family members, necessarily scattered to different areas. “Don’t Look Left” invites compassion and asks that readers do not look away from the destruction of Gaza.

Emma Lee, “Don’t Look Left” Atef Abu Saif (Comma Press) – book review

Yes, it IS National Poetry Month. Instead of my usual every-day-in-April poetry-binge, I am committed to reading a book of poems each week this year, and posting a review here. So far I think I’m 13/14, but this week I’m determined to catch up.

For the last couple of days I have been reading Risa Denenberg’s Rain/Dweller. The poems are, as Rena Priest says in her cover blurb, “honest and unflinching.” They are also, Priest continues, “temper[ed]  with tenderness, vulnerability, beauty, and delight.” Indeed. David Guterson says of reading these poems: “Part of the loveliness for me was the expectation of arriving at yet another arresting line—of being brought to a halt by something piercingly true.” These 71 poems remind us that if difficult truths are … well, difficult … there is something beautiful about looking closely, unflinchingly, at them.

Bethany Reid, Risa Denenberg: RAIN/DWELLER

It’s always good to examine your strong emotions. Recently, I’ve read two poems that feature Alaska written by poets that have only visited for less than a week. Two poems that are in anthologies and being publicly lauded. They are good poems by great poets, but both of them reinforce a vision of Alaska that has little nuance. Because nuance comes from existing in a place for more than a week. The poems made me angry. Like hornets in my head angry.

The anger comes from the fact that there are so many fine writers who live in Alaska who never get the opportunity to be chosen by a “famous” poet to be in an anthology. And lest I sound too altruistic, I’m also disappointed for myself, for the poet me who has lived in Alaska for 24 years and can write about things that someone who only visited cannot.

Which is where the self-examination comes in, because remember I’ve been working on a project that takes place in Ireland. I was there for two weeks last November doing research, getting a boots-on-the-ground level of immersion that was meant to help me give authenticity to the work.

I haven’t written a single poem in that series since I returned. I learned while I was there that it isn’t enough to know what plants grow along the side of the road, to write honestly about it, you must have a storied relationship with those plants. More than two weeks can give you. More than a four-day trip. 

But here’s where it gets slippy. I mean, how much connection is connection? How long do you have to live someplace to form a true relationship that goes beyond extractive? 

Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Who gets to write about it?

Below is my new translation of a poem [by] the contemporary Italian poet Andrea Inglese. I have translated this poem before, about ten years ago and it was published (together with another Inglese poem) in Litter magazine. I think it is a wonderful poem, and revisited it this morning on Poetry International , where you can find more of Inglese’s work, and a translation of this poem by Gabriele Poole.
I was never quiet satisfied with my previous translation, so have had another go. […]

The role of the breath, of hands,
of saliva, are clear, the cascade
of blood through our organs
is clear, the shadows that pass
in our gaze, manifest, the surfaces
and depths of our vessels, their tunnels
and pleats, tint of our fabric,
folds and linings of our flesh.

Roy Marshall, Translation of Andrea Inglese poem

I began to drift into old habits. Trying to understand the algorithm. Wondering about SEO. Trying to emulate other successful (i.e. heart gathering) articles. I began to get a flutter of anxiety every time I thought about opening the app – would there be any interaction? Would I have finally cracked it?

I’m not competitive about anything other than writing. And maybe quizzes. But most other things leave me unworried about winning. Writing though – well that’s my thing. If I’m no good at that, what do I have to offer? Writing matters to me and metrics are a measure of that. And one of the most alluring metrics is money. I’m not a “big writer” and I’m unlikely to ever reach that status. Unfortunately, so many people measure success in terms of how much money is earned – and by that metric I’ve failed before I’ve begun. It takes a will of steel to keep going and keep believing that there is someone out there who needs to read what I write.

Kathryn Anna Marshall, Writing to live, living to write

Right now, the Elephant in the Poetry Publishing Room isn’t funding, which is eternally being debated. No, there’s another issue that very few poetry publishers are prepared to discuss in public, and that’s the collapse in sales of single-poet collections. […]

It feels like a fundamental shift has taken place, as if the rules of the poetry publishing games have all changed, though most of the players haven’t noticed yet (or aren’t making any public acknowledgement of having done so). In this context, it’s especially important to assert the poetry collection’s value as an object, as a sensory experience, as a physical connection with the words that are printed on its pages, as an act of communication that reaches far beyond a screen. As a consequence, production values become even more important. The quality of the paper, of the cover design, of the typesetting, fonts, all become something to savour, something that lifts print-based poetry above a phone or tablet. That said, however, a balance needs to be struck between these materials and the affordability of collections, as sales are inevitably connected to retail prices.

And then there’s the permanent qualities of books against the transient nature of the internet. As readers, if we don’t buy, read and treasure poetry collections, we’ll be left with a random succession of poems to be scrolled through for free on a screen, consumed and forgotten in minutes.

Matthew Stewart, The Elephant in the Poetry Publishing Room

This month’s new CBe title – following Lara Pawson’s Spent Light in January and Katy Evans-Bush’s Joe Hill Makes his Way into the Castle in February – is Paris 1935 by Jean Follain (1903–71), a prose book by a French poet I deeply admire. The translation by Kathleen Shields is the first full version in English. I think I first knew of the book from August Kleinzahler’s poem ‘Follain’s Paris’ in Red Sauce, Whiskey and Snow, 1995, which mines phrases and scenes from Follain’s book. Since the start of CBe I’ve always wanted to publish Follain – back in 2008 I wrote to Christopher Middleton, asking if I could publish the translations of Follain’s poems that he was working on, but he had promised them to Peter Jay at Anvil – and now I have and it has been worth the wait.

Charles Boyle, Paris, spring

The children played games, played outside, played on their tablets, did quiet things. I focused my attentions on the growing mounds of books over the past couple of months I hadn’t even had a chance to open yet, for the sake of potential review. I think I managed to start more than two dozen reviews (and a couple of books I realized I didn’t think I would have anything, or enough, constructive to say, so those were set aside). There is simply too much remarkable material being produced these days to be able to account for it all (I know I’m seriously behind on Graywolf Press titles, for example, as well as Copper Canyon and Flood Editions; at least Sylvia Legris’ new title from New Directions landed, as I was writing this). I sat in the sunroom and I poured through books (and also made significant headway, I must say, through two short stories I’ve already been months working on, plus a few other odds and sods of note-taking). Christine, on her part, finished reading the book she’d been going through, and went through two different books on L.M. Montgomery (including the short Penguin biography by Jane Urquhart) for the sake of working a small write-up for an exhibition on and around her works.

rob mclennan, the laurentitudes: eastering in sainte-adèle

While it seems the culture of poetry has largely abandoned any pretense to being “anti-establishment” and “counterculture,” I am beginning to think these terms are in need of a revival. And in our present moment, I would argue that funding is the prime indicator of one’s position relative to any establishment. I think that, if a print-based counterculture for poetry is desirable, then those who want to be a part of it should begin to sort things out around this factor and to develop strategies for surviving outside of the financial nexus of “state verse culture.” In many cases, this will simply mean dropping out and doing things cheaply and on a smaller scale. That is, it will mean abandoning the idea that one’s efforts as a poet must contribute to a national cultural project.

RM Haines, “State Verse Culture” & the Poet as Public Servant

I promised myself, when I began pulling together the first poems that would later become the start of Subruria, that I wouldn’t try to illustrate both the suburban and the rural in the same poem. For the most part, I’ve kept that promise – the project being made up of roughly two thirds suburban poems to one third rural.

Every so often, however, a poem like Childhood these days happens. A poem that encompasses both the suburban and the rural within its span. I don’t recall specifically what sparked its writing. Maybe I was trying to make a nostalgic comparison between the way I grew up in the 70s and 80s and how my kids have grown up over the past 15 years.

What I do remember is that my own boyhood, though not filled with wild adventures, had more of the outdoors about it. Occasionally, that outdoors could be dicey: the time I was hit in the head by a boy with a brick; when an older boy suggested something unsavoury that I now recognise was an attempt at sexual abuse. Don’t let Subruria’s thin veil of bucolicism fool you: there are daisies all right, but also dangers.

I wanted part of Childhood these days to touch on the dangers both I and my children faced as part of our formative years. What I didn’t want was for this tinge of darkness to overshadow my central point: that there was something to be said for the freedoms my generation enjoyed away (sometimes, very far away) from home. Kids nowadays lead such relatively small, overprotected lives.

Drop-in by Mark Antony Owen (Nigel Kent)

Still, there are aspects of Catholicism I miss: the ritual, the poetry of mass, the belonging. I like that I can still recite the apostle’s creed, even all these years later, words said and heard so many times they became part of me. That I find so much meaning and comfort and poetry can be traced, in part, to my early experiences in church.

If I go to mass now, even though I no longer believe, I still feel something sacred. What can be more sacred than people coming together in hope and faith, looking for comfort, guidance, and ways of being a better version of themselves? I have often felt the same thing in schools. Once I almost cried at a middle school talent show, overcome by the earnest courage and joy of an awkward girl dancing in front of her peers as if no one was watching, and the kindness with which they held her. I feel it often in libraries, those monuments to so many kinds of faith.

Rita Ott Ramstad, Finding my religion

Someone will dress their madness in drag and claim it’s the lover for whom you’ve always been waiting.

Someone will drag you down into dark waters while someone else will sprinkle you with holy water.

Rich Ferguson, Someone

i know very little about cleansing
though once i spit up a dove
after eating the largest meal
of my life. i am always trying
to rid myself of something. does anyone
live whole? when i see a stained glass window
i always want to live there. fragments
glued in place & legible.

Robin Gow, juniper

How do we celebrate Pesach in a year like this one? Everything about the seder lands differently after the last six months. This offering emerges out of grief and hope. No two pieces are coming from exactly the same place. There are so many emotions — even within a single heart, much less around any given seder table.

On behalf of my co-creators at Bayit, I hope these prayers, poems, and works of art will help you make this Pesach what you need it to be.

Click through for This Broken Matzah, available as a downloadable chapbook / PDF of liturgical poetry and art, or as google slides suitable for screenshare. 

Featuring work created in collaboration by the Liturgical Arts Working Group at Bayit, this collection includes work by Trisha Arlin, Joanne Fink, R. Dara Lithwick, R. David Evan Markus, R. Sonja Keren Pilz, Steve Silbert, and R. David Zaslow — and of course also me. 

Rachel Barenblat, New poetry, liturgy, and art for Pesach

[Simone] Weil’s remark about Troy and Carthage becomes a bit clearer in context; in the preceding paragraphs the text focuses on the idea of the ‘void’ and the ‘consolations’ which may falsely fill the void:

Always, beyond the particular object whatever it may be, we have to fix our will on the void — to will the void. For the good which we can neither picture nor define is a void for us. But this void is fuller than all fullnesses.

[. . .]

We must leave on on one side the beliefs which fill up voids and sweeten what is bitter. The belief in immortality. The belief in the utility of sin: etiam peccata. The belief in the providential ordering of events — in short the ‘consolations’ which are ordinarily sought in religion.

The austere difficulty of this message seems to me to have something in common with both those Tamil poems and with the Yeats. With the Tamil poems because they depict the reality of the cycle of war and destruction without any attempt at consolation, without the consolatory emphasis that we might expect — and find, for instance, though uncertainly, in the Iliad — upon the possibility of glory or the immortality of fame. And in Yeats because all the strivings of civilisation — of war and politics and (in the final stanza) of art — are set against the recurring image of the fly somehow poised upon the water, the mind that ‘moves upon silence’. Perhaps this is what it means to go à travers the destruction of Troy and of Carthage.

Victoria Moul, Doing without consolation

April stares back at us and asks: 
What me, cruel?

Because mournful windows
rattle in my winds

and pots tip over, green 
with rust or lichen?

Because hairs on your bare legs
shiver like crocus?

She finds us in her glassy eye
and springs: 

You are morose, but life revives 
on my terms (her smile impervious)

Jill Pearlman, “What Me, Cruel?”

On X/Twitter this week, lots of people have been reporting the number of rejections they’ve received for submissions to poetry magazines.

I am pleased to report that I have had 0 rejections this week. That is because I do not currently have any submissions in.

And it would appear that even if you get a poetry collection published, the chances are you won’t sell many copies (30-60, but definitely under 100).

I am therefore also feeling pretty pleased because my self-published genre-defying poetry/words/photograph book sold 87 copies, back in 2019/20. (I gave away the rest of the 100 print run to friends and family.)

So, while not submitting or getting published, I have, as I said I would, spent my time recently exploring the many online poetry resources. There are so many, I could spend my entire life doing just that, if inconvenient chores like shopping, cooking, cleaning, repairing my collapsing home, etc didn’t get in the way.

This exploration has left me both inspired and overwhelmed. My mind keeps darting off in different directions and won’t settle on any one. I have, however, drafted quite a few new poems, and even tweeted one or two. They have received a positive response. And I’m pretty chuffed about that too. 

The road to happiness is clear.

Sue Ibrahim, The road to happiness

I encountered Rubbish Day online a few months ago and it has been rolling around in my head ever since. I’m grateful to Jo Bratten and Fly on the Wall Press for permission to share it here. As ever, what follows isn’t intended to be a comprehensive reading of the poem (not that such a thing exists!) but just some reflections, informed by my work as a clinical psychologist. 

I love that this is a poem about rubbish. This metaphorical recycling of possibly the least ‘poetic’ topic you could think of is proof, if ever you needed it, that anything can be the subject of a poem. There’s a brilliant blend of humour and threat here. Bratten seems to be poking fun at the ridiculousness of etiquette and the lengths we go to in order to fit in – even our waste has to be clean. I love those images of the mixed-up refuse, blended in with meanings and imaginings, hopes and fears. And though it’s peppered with allusions, the poem stays grounded in the physical: much of our domestic waste, after all, is concerned with bodily needs and functions. Bratten draws attention to the body as vessel – its own bag of ‘bones and fat’ – scrutinised and sanitised. When concealment is the norm, it becomes habitual, internalised. What happens when we can’t conceal, when our animal selves (even this wording has certain connotations) are in full view?

Jonathan Totman, Rubbish Day

doves are nesting in a yard i’ve stopped speaking to

Grant Hackett [no title]

Today it’s been snowing on my yellow tulips, my white bleeding heart (tiny but already blooming!), and the various blossoming trees outside my workplace and on my route to and from. I might be a little grumpy about this, making it another Cranky Doodle Day in the blog, as well as the Hump of the Week. It’s only Wednesday, but it feels like a Friday, and I’m doing laundry, so it feels like a Monday. Clearly, it’s April, the cruelest month.

I am, almost an afterthought, writing a poem a day. It’s something I do every year, providing the prompts at an internet site I participate in. This year, I almost forgot, distracted by too many personal things. Now, it is its usual absolute joy, and I am grateful.

Did I mention that clematis leaves have appeared on a trellis?! That daffodils I forgot I planted continue to surprise me by blooming, lately in the snow? That soon, possibly, my backyard will be overtaken by white anemone, coneflower, and oregano. It just keeps happening. Again, I am grateful. Maybe this year, in August, I will again read a book of poems a day outside on the glider. I don’t know what will happen next. But I am grateful to have a baby in my life. She has found her foot! [Click through for the photo.]

Kathleen Kirk, Poetry Month

In all my born days, I’ve never had a Poetry Month start off with such an abundance of publications–and, as it will probably never happen again, I’m going to post the links here.

Siren for Somebody Else” offers a mother’s perspective on waiting, unable to get to sleep, for a child who is out late on his own. It appears in RockPaperPoem.

Interpreting the Conversation from Another Room” shows up in Stick Figure Poetry #13. The poem originated during the years our son lived with us and played online multiplayer games in his room, but it morphed into something a little more sinister.

Fevered” came almost out of nowhere but resonated with some early readers who contend with mental and emotional challenges. It’s also a poem about love and compassion, I suppose. The journal Philadelphia Stories published it in the latest issue.

Gyroscope Review is a print journal that also offers a Kindle and a PDF version, the last of which is free to download, though the paper book is lovely and only $12 on Amazon. My poem “Bach and Birdsong” starts the issue off…a meditation on springtime.

Ann E. Michael, Abundance!

The solar eclipse is tomorrow, and it’s almost my (and my book’s) birthday, so may I suggest some eclipse reading material? Flare, Corona has eclipses, solar weather, supervillains, terrible diagnoses, surviving, and a surprising number of foxes and coyotes. You can order Flare, Corona from BOA Editions, Ltd., or from local bookstores like Open Books, or a signed copy directly from me. Okay, that’s enough eclipse cross-promotion for now.

I was thinking about my last birthday, and the book launch last year, and seeing my parents and little brother and friends all together. It was a really fun day. The last four years have not had enough celebration in them. I’ve been so stressed lately I haven’t taken the time to be grateful for the good things that have happened in the last year. Even in the last couple weeks, when I’ve been stressed about a) trying to get an ADA bathroom remodel done without losing my mind or all my money, b) my purpose as a writer, and c) just general depression, I’ve had so many friends encouraging and supporting me, so thank you to all of you who sent me a little note or bothered to say something nice. I am grateful to you!

And, thanks to friends’ encouragement, I’m going to run a few Zoom classes, including one on “Possible Futures: Apocalypses and Solarpunk,” and another on persona poetry.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Solar Eclipse Reading Material (and book birthdays), Flare, Corona, Under the Weather in Springtime, More Reading Notes, and Upcoming Zoom Classes and Readings

I remember singing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” in the choir of the Bulgarian Math Academy as a child. I remember my awe at learning that across centuries of warring nationalisms, this piece of music, based on an old Schiller poem and born of Beethoven’s unimaginable trials, had become the official Hymn of Europe — a bridge of harmony across human divides. I remember wondering as I sang whether music is something we make or something we are made of.

That is what Pythagoras, too, wondered when he laid the foundation of Western music by discovering the mathematics of harmony. Its beauty so staggered him that he thought the entire universe must be governed by it. He called it music of the spheres — the idea that every celestial body produces in its movement a unique hum determined by its orbit.

The word orbit did not exist in his day. It was Kepler who coined it two millennia later, and it was Kepler who resurrected Pythagoras’s music of the spheres in The Harmony of the World — the 1619 book in which he formulated his third and final law of planetary motion, revolutionizing our understanding of the universe. For Kepler, this notion of celestial music was not mere metaphor, not just a symbolic organizing principle for the cosmic order — he believed in it literally, believed that the universe is singing, reverberating with music inaudible to human ears but as real as gravity. He died ridiculed for this belief.

Half a millennium after his death, our radio telescopes — those immense prosthetic ears built by centuries of science — detected a low-frequency hum pervading the universe, the product of supermassive black holes colliding in the early universe: Each merging pair sounds a different low note, and all the notes are sounding together into this great cosmic hum. We have heard the universe singing.

Maria Popova, Marie Howe’s Stunning Hymn of Humanity, Animated

In a blurb, Melissa Allen writes of [Cherie Hunter] Day’s haibun that ‘the terrain of the natural world is vividly and precisely rendered’ which is, to an extent true but possibly understates what Day is at; it strikes me that the real strength of this writing lies in how it makes the familiar different, distorted, strange:

How to Fold a Bird

The legacy of stories told during the day are collected at dusk for safekeeping. Robins are the last entry. Night knows how to fold a bird starting with its song. The hills soften. Dust returns to dust. Everything is rounded up to the nearest whole number. Night starts its song. During the journey dust softens for safekeeping. The hills wrinkle as the first entry of morning.

the handsewn name tag
for an easy return –

The robins are both real and not, their folding a cross between origami and the fading light. The effect is underlined by the careful repetition of key words: safekeeping, song, soften, dust.

Billy Mills, Recent Reading: March 2024

This poem is a flag tied to the olive tree.
This poem is a dove perched on an olive branch.
A single strike can incinerate all three.
This poem burns
and becomes white ash.
Under the blazing April sky
it looks incongruous.
Like snow that
no longer
has the strength
to melt.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Peace

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